...the only type of marathon I will ever run.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Iron Dinner Theater

To continue with the Iron Chef theme, a while ago I came up with another possible restaurant concept. In the vein of Planet Hollywood (in that it's a tourist trap restaurant) but with Benihana's take on personal chefs per table.
Basically it's Iron Chef on a small scale in front of an audience of 20 seated around a mini kitchen stadium. Two chefs battle, serving each dish as they finish so you eat your first course while watching them battle out the second course. This continues until the meal is done and the table votes. The winning chef gets a wonderful feeling of victory.
The venue must be big enough for multiple mini kitchen stadiums. Theme ingredient should be restaurant-wide, possibly changing weekly or monthly (not sure about the practicality of a rotating menu).The Food Network probably should have a tie to these venues (the first of which obviously will be in Vegas). Attached to the restaurant is a Food Network store selling books, kitchenware and jarred sauces from the many celebrity chefs who owe their fame to the network. The employees can yell 'Bam' and slap your change into your hand after you shelled out $85 for a cookbook and Rachel Ray t-shirt.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Cooking Showbiz

The chef as entertainer is not a new concept. From Julia Child to Benihana, and cotton-candy spinners to Emeril, there is a history (especially on television) of chefs turning the art of cooking into a show that's as enjoyable to watch as the food is to eat. Food Network is basically the Barnum & Bailey (or Circue de Soleil these days) of the cooking circus, with Iron Chef as the main event. Like many television shows (American Idol and The Office from the UK), Iron Chef is a stolen from Japan, where the sushi chef is considered an artist and treated as such (cooking on display above diners at the bar). Iron Chef inspired a network-wide notion that cooking shows, although informative, weren't very dramatic. By adding competitive challenges like Bobby Flay 'throwing down' against unsuspecting chefs, a level of drama and excitement was added.
Not unlike NASCAR, the least interesting are the cake-offs, where pastry chefs create art-like cakes, only to have the idiotic task of walking them across a room and leading to their inevitable destruction on the floor. Although all of these competitions are judged in a subjective manner, the real enjoyment comes from watching the amazing work under intense pressure. I don't care who wins the Iron Chef battles. I just enjoy watching the transformation from raw ingredient to original, visual delicacies.
I saw a rerun recently of the beet battle between Iron Chef Morimoto and chef Homaru Cantu. I'd never seen Cantu's scientific take on cooking, but it was fun to watch. Chef Cantu has some of the most innovative cooking techniques in the world, including edible photographs of sushi, chemically generated champagne fizz and hollow frozen beet ice balls made around balloons (pictured). Morimoto even stepped it up, dying the napkins with beet juice and using liquid nitrogen to make his ice cream, but it didn't compare to the polymer oven or corkscrew utensils that Cantu brought. Somehow in the end Cantu was awarded less points for originality which shows how silly the scoring process is. Regardless, it was one of the most entertaining Iron Chefs I've seen, and Alton Brown's commentary only escalated it to the level of terrific television.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

It's Just the Truth

Angelini Osteria is one of the best restaurants in LA.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Why Haven't They...

I was gonna post this as a comment on The Delicious Life, but I switched it to a "Why Haven't They..."
Everyone in LA is concerned with looking young. From the amount of plastic/laser surgery, raw food restaurants, chemical peels, fake baking and botox, the market for health, anti-aging and well-being is pretty saturated. Regardless I'd like to propose a new form of renewal.
The theory is that bacon-wrapped-anything is amazing. Therefore I propose that health spas start bacon-wrapping-people. Considering how well it works on asparagus, shrimp, scallops and sausages, I can only imagine it would produce a healthy vibrant glow and reduce aging by ten to fifteen years.

Monday, January 22, 2007


Margaux alerted me to: "Tastespotting.. it’s about food. all about food. everything from the ingredients, the process, the photography, the reviews, the products… it is to delectable delights what is to design. So, you guys know the drill, if you know a food lover, are a food lover, see a food related link you MUST share, here's your new destination on the web for it!"

Thursday, January 18, 2007


Last month I went to a birthday party at Violet in Santa Monica. Chef Jared Simons is a friend of the birthday girl and offered a varied tasting menu including baked macaroni (Serrano ham, leeks, gruyere cheese),carrot soup with scallops, tuna tartare, creamy risotto and mini root beer floats (amongst other items). The wine flowed endlessly and the food was excellent.
I looked at the menu to see what else Jared offers (venison meatballs, Gimaud Farms duck breast) and for the affordable prices, Violet looks like a great restaurant. However, I haven't heard that much buzz from friends/foodies. My friend Melissa was unimpressed after her visit. A non-tasting menu dinner there is on the agenda.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

At Long Last, Ruen Pair

Ruen Pair is one of the best Thai restaurants in LA. Chowhound, food bloggers and restaurant reviewers all agree. Finally (it was being remodeled forever), I can join them in their praise.
We ordered a pot of spicy seafood soup, and it was magnificent. With stunning good looks and the unstoppable power of a sports car- it could easily be called the Ferrari of soup. It has unbridled flavor, intense sweetness, powerful spiciness, addictive saltiness, abundant seafoodiness... You could sub the soup for gas in a Ferrari and get an extra hundred horsepower.
We learned spicy soup from Palms Thai, which is a much cleaner, lighter, less oily soup. In car comparisons Palms' soup (before the bugs) is like a limousine- sleek, clean, big, bold and sharply accented.
The payoff for Ruen Pair was well worth the wait.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Idiots in Hollywood?

It's a combination of desperation to try the hot new place first, and the infrequent opening of classy, paparazzi-less bars in LA that makes new spots in Hollywood unbearable on the weekend. So now that Bar Lubitsch , Winston's and The Village Idiot have opened, you can happily spend your weeknights drinking in Hollywood. Just note that comfort, quality and convenience are almost completely lost at these same establishments on the weekend.

The Village Idiot is smaller than Magnolia and Citizen Smith, but bigger than The Bowery. They have a limited (but tasty) upscale British pub menu that puts Cat & Fiddle to shame. The brussel sprouts were outstanding, with large chunks of bacon spread throughout. Tall ceilings, dark wood, good beers on tap, already very crowded on opening weekend (the bartenders were overwhelmed handling drinks, diners at the bar and table drinks orders). These are the co-owners hoping that their investment in their gastro-pub doesn't leave them looking like financial idiots or worse, like the most famous idiot of all:

Thursday, January 11, 2007

It's Just the Truth

There are very few things in the world that are better than bacon wrapped shrimp.
More bacon here.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Once There Was

Once there was a restaurant called Atlas Delicatessen in Madison, Wisconsin. I saved the menu for all these years because they made great sandwiches.
It was located on Monroe Street, which meant Mickey's Dairy Bar was nearby. Mickeys is the quintessential heart-attack-on-plate, Midwestern breakfast joint. Atlas was a gourmet cheese shop with an extensive list of Meats, Schmears (fresh slaw, olive relish, onion relish, Sriracha Hot Sauce), Cheese, Birds, Fungus, Roots and Leaves. Their sandwich list included Wisconsin-sized sandwiches like the 'NYPD'- 3/4 lb Corned Beef, Inglehoffer Horseradish Mustard on seeded rye and the 'Fried Bologna'- 1/2 lb thick slice bologna, Malle Dijon Mustard, Atlas onions on a Paisano roll.
Atlas has since been replaced by Relish Deli which I haven't tried. I miss it.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Hot Fusion

My roommate referred me to a great food music article in Theme Magazine . Notably, they mention they have these pizza places in Jackson Heights and Elmhurst where they do regular pizzas, and this thing called Indopak, which is an Indian/Pakistani-flavored pizza... they have these sliced up onions, colorful spices, and these really hot peppers as the main flavoring for the pizza, and it’s incredible. Indopak along with the regular pepperoni and sausage.
There is also an interesting list of fusion recipes, including Crawfish Stir-fry
and Lamb Chili Mirch.

Both look a bit better than Spam Musubi
but I'd have to try them to make a fair assessment.


On Saturday we ran (drove) one of the best food marathons to date. It was well-researched, organized and executed. The food was fantastic, portions and speed were perfect and at the end of the day I felt the best I've ever felt after a food marathon (read: not nauseous).
We started in Alhambra, as all good marathons should start in the San Gabriel Valley. (What is the deal with the traffic grid there? The lights are timed so ineffectively, traffic stacks up in all directions and you wait for no less than five minutes per red light.)
Wonton Time was the first stop. The wonton soup was excellent (pictured with fishballs). Quick service, delicious broth with enormous wontons and so inexpensive ($4 per bowl). I added fishballs, which were a little oniony but good. We didn't use their homemade hot sauce until halfway through the bowls which we regretted. Great kick and flavor- I bought a bottle to take home (which I already have spooned onto numerous items unnecessarily).
The Hat is across the street but we opted against it because it is a chain. At some point we might try it, but we had a schedule to keep.
Less than a mile away was stop number two, Ba Le. A small deli in a (now Del Taco-less) strip mall, serving a multitude of custardy, mayonnaiesy dessert-type foods in a deli case. Spring rolls and other baked bread items sat on the counter. We ordered one bbq pork bahn-mi, as on a marathon you can't overdo it at each stop. The meat was flavorful, the baguette was crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside and the jalapenos, daikon, carrots were all fresh and tasty.(I've just learned that we should have ordered something different, so I guess I'll have to go back for the pate).
As this was an 'east of the 110 Freeway-only' food marathon we decided that as long as you could see the 110 it still was considered east. I say this because El Parian is about 200 yards west of the 110 and Staples Center. I can't believe this place hasn't been a pre-game stop for years. We ordered carne asada tacos which were enormous in comparison to normal taco truck sizes (double tortillas, double meat). Although El Parian is a sit-down restaurant (in the most informal sense) it still is taco truck-style Mexican food. We neglected the specialty, the barria (goat), but definitely will be back to try it. The tacos come stacked full of carne asada, which was good but not the best I've ever had. Additionally a plate of fresh tomatoes, onions and cilantro accompany chips, salsa and hot sauce (which was on the vinegary side, but terrific).
We drove by Weeneez which looked really uninspired and continued on to Clifton's Cafeteria. It's been blogged about before and is definitely an anomaly (If you Disneyfied The Shining and served senior citizen center food there).
The banana split pie was the winning choice above the other sugar-filled options (pies, cakes, pudding, and other choking hazards).

Two bites in we threw in the towel- the surrender flag/napkin representing another great journey through gastronomic Los Angeles.

Next stop Las Vegas.

Wonton Time
19 E. Valley Blvd, Alhambra, CA 91801

Ba Le
1426 S Atlantic Blvd, Alhambra, CA 91803

EL Parian
1528 Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90015

Clifton's Cafeteria
648 S. Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90014

Friday, January 05, 2007

Back to the Namesake

The first two food marathons of the year are currently in planning mode. The first, Fuck the Westside Food Marathon 2007, will only include restaurants east of the 110 Freeway. Current options include SGV, Hot Dogs, Dumplings, Sushi here, Sushi here, Vietnamese Sandwiches, BBQ, Korean, Tacos here or Tacos here.

The idea of a Las Vegas food marathon has been mentioned many times. Until recent years, a strict liquid-only diet hindered any chances of completing a successful marathon. This year I'm allotting an extra day to make sure mass consumption is achieved. One sure stop will be Lotus of Siam. There's been discussion about Rao’s, the East Harlem legend that’s served up joyful evenings of homestyle Italian food and camaraderie since 1896, and is now open at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas! I know there are fans of Pink Taco, the Burger Bar at Mandalay Bay and Hugo's. We'll have to see where this one goes...

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Belacan Grill

Rasa Malaysia, thank you. The food blogosphere is better because of you. And through your photography, writing and insight, my interest in Malaysian food has been piqued.
Per your suggestion we tried Belacan Grill.

First, Belacan Grill's location off the 405 makes it a good place to eat after picking someone up/dropping someone off at the airport (other choices include The Buggy Whip and Dinah's).
We ordered Roti Canai, Seafood Lemon Grass Soup, Char Kway Teow (stir fried flat noodles with shrimp, bean sprouts egg and chives) and Belacan Crab (seasoned fresh crab deep fried to perfection then stir fried with belacan)

The other reviews are on point, so I'm only gonna add things specific to our trip:
Of course the spicy seafood soup was one of our choices. As usual we asked for the soup to be prepared extra spicy (noting that we wouldn't send it back and can handle the spice). Our server said that it was already quite spicy. Unfortunately, it wasn't at all. It was tasty, but there was barely any kick. It seems that to ensure we get it spicy enough we should order it in Malay or Thai instead of English (thus proving our seriousness).

The room is spacious and comfortable with high ceilings, candle lighting and cloth napkins. The walls are adorned with an array of Malaysian tourism posters, as well as some unexpected decor choices (this picture of Marilyn Monroe hangs above the urinal in the men's restroom).

I'll definitely go back during the first part of the year as the food was terrific.

Belacan Grill
2701 190th St. (on the corner of Inglewood Ave)
Redondo Beach, CA 90278

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

You Could Have it So Much Tastier

For the start of the year, here's a food/music post. Sound Bites, a collection of Alex (lead singer of Franz Ferdinand) Kapranos's Guardian columns will be published by Penguin/Fig Tree, with some additional unpublished pieces and illustrations by Franz's touring drummer and keyboards player, Andrew Knowles.
I just remembered that I have this unstealthily-snapped picture of said frontman/author(from Coachella):