for July, 2011
I recently invited my mom over for a quaint pizza party—two whole wheat pies were involved, one topped with sun-dried tomatoes and goat cheese, the other with sausage, spinach and mushroom. She arrived with mysterious grocery bag in tow and announced that she would be making fried sweet plantains for dessert, to be served with vanilla ice cream for a banana fosters effect. She’d had some the weekend before at the Lotus Festival in Echo Park, she said, and now she was hooked.
It’s silly, but it never occurred to me to fry plantains at home. Usually I just enjoy them at Cuban restaurants or the homes of Cuban friends. Turns out it’s really easy to do, and I highly recommend it.
Here’s the easy recipe adapted from Yummly—it makes 4 servings:
Long anticipated or dreaded, depending on your point of view, Mohawk Bend is finally opening in Echo Park later this month. The “drinking and eating outpost” has taken over the former Ramona Theater space next door to Elf restaurant and will be serving a mostly vegan menu along with some vegetarian and meaty dishes.
Last night I attended Mohawk Bend’s media preview party, and I have to say I was pretty impressed with the transformation. Designed by Spacecraft, the once-forlorn theater is now an impressive modern space, boasting high ceilings, patio seating, skylights, exposed brick, vintage beer signs, and an atrium-like room with long communal tables and a fireplace.
Food-wise, it wasn’t bad. While I wasn’t blown away by anything, I did enjoy most of what I ate. High marks go to the Petite Sirah dipping sauce that came with the Fire Roasted Artichoke and The Flash Gordon Salad with flash-grilled Little Gem lettuce (similar to hearts of romaine), grapefruit, avocado, pickled onions and dill dressing. Owner Tony Yanow says the locavore/organic menu will change weekly to reflect the seasonal comings and goings of produce.
Lately, I’ve been steering clear of food festivals. As much as I love to gorge, I don’t have the patience for marathon line standing or the competitive streak required to elbow my way to a fresh tray of sliders, fried balls, mini grilled cheese, etc. etc. In short, I don’t have the “in-it-to-win-it” spirit you need for a successful food festivaling.
However, I made an exception for this year’s East LA Meets Napa event, which was held last Friday at Union Station. I’ve always wanted to go, so when I got an invite, I couldn’t resist. Thankfully, this AltaMed fundraiser wasn’t your average food festival–no long lines, no pushing, and no food shortages. Just lots of great LA Mexican food (though not all East LA restaurants by any means) and wine from Latino-owned vineyards in California.
One of my first bites of the night was a sweet green corn tamale with cheese (I want to say aged cheddar) and mole. I was a little surprised with how much I enjoyed this dish. I’m usually pretty ambivalent about El Cholo–I love the fact that it’s a historical LA restaurant, but they’re food never really wowed me. This tamale was ridiculously moist, though, and it ended way too soon. I guess it’s pretty famous, but nobody told me.
When it comes to Italian, I’m pretty flexible. Sure, I love a beautifully crafted plate of handmade pasta that conveys old world sensibilities or modern restraint, but there’s also something to be said for an over-the-top, heaping bowl of spaghetti that’s been sauced with a heavy hand. Add a dimly lit dining room, red vinyl booths, tchotchke décor, snazzy chandeliers and a house band playing Van Morrison covers, and I’m sold.
Eagle Rock’s Colombo’s is that kind of place exactly. Loved by locals since 1954, this Italian Steakhouse is total throwback, complete with a long, narrow bar that serves up stiff martinis and $7 carafes of house Chianti or Lambrusco. It’s also a rather raucous place to be on a Friday night, when the volume is high, almost every seat is occupied by a devotee, and the wait for a table is about 30 minutes without a reservation.
The menu is what you’d expect—there’s a wedge salad, plenty of steaks, Chicken Cacciatore, mix-and-match pasta and sauces, baked cheese-laden specialties and Spumoni Cake.They even offer something called a “meatball steak,” pizza and 7 ravioli variations.
Being the standard by which I judge all “red sauce” Italian restaurants, Spaghetti Bolognese was my entrée choice. Colombo’s rendition is rich and meat heavy with sweet-bold flavor and a touch of cream. The bottom of the bowl is filled with sauce, first, then topped with more spaghetti than you would ever want to eat in one sitting. A sprinkling of fresh basil makes it pretty. Kind of perfect.
The rest of the food was fine. The corn chowder soup was no big deal, the Caprice Salad—fresh mozzarella, roma tomatoes and cucumbers—was a nice start, and the linguini and clams was good enough. Averaged out with the entire experience, I’d say Colombo’s is a great place to slurp some spaghetti and take in a heavy dose of mid-century kitsch.
1833 Colorado Boulevard (Map It)
Eagle Rock, CA 90041