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

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Still Talking About Cupcakes

We should be over it by now, but everyone's still talking about designer cupcakes. LA Magazine named Dainties the best in LA, Caroline on Crack crowned numerous categories and Magnolia (which began backing in 1996) was recently closed by the health department.
Not always the trendsetter, LA continues to see new high end bakeries popping up, including Vanilla Bake Shop. Located in a high density area near the Third street promenade, I'm sure business will be good. The mini cupcakes and one French macaron were all I tried, so the Icebox Desserts are on the agenda for next time.In stark contrast to Dainties' "it's all about the cream" slogan, Vanilla Bake Shop's taste almost solely like cream cheese (Dainties uses fresh whipped cream). Vanilla's cupcakes are much lighter than Sprinkles', therefore they don't force you into a sugar-induced comatose state. The mini-nature means you can taste more flavors, which I'm always a fan of.
To get the true dose of a Banana Chocolate Chip or Meyer Lemon Raspberry, a full sized cupcake is probably in order, but both were very tasty in the mini versions.The macaron was very crispy on the outside and very soft on the inside. This is quite different than than spongey-throughout versions at Jin and Boule. Not sure if it was sitting out all day or that's the way it was supposed to be.Overall, you can't complain too much about a cupcake or any freshly baked dessert for that matter. So I say let the cupcake competition continue.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Osteria Mozza, Of Course

Night 5. Table for 4. 8:45pm.
I don't suggest it, but I tried to incorporate Osteria Mozza into a food marathon last night. I was with one of the original food marathoners in Studio City before dinner. Keep in mind this is about an hour and a half before our reservation. We were near Henry's tacos so we each had a taco. They're small. It wasn't a big deal.
We arrived at around 8pm because we wanted to grab a pizza first. Now I've been to Pizzeria Mozza enough to know how difficult it is to get in. I realize that people reserve a month in advance and wait up to an hour for the bar. I'll have to save the rest of the story for another post because I want to talk about the Osteria. Suffice it to say we didn't get our pizza.
We were happily seated twenty minutes before our reserved time at the Osteria. Our table along the wine-lined western wall was one of the best in the restaurant.
A wine list comprised solely of Italian wine lead our wine chooser to an amazing blend of three types of red grapes from Piedmonte.
We expected a few things from our long awaited meal; stellar service, some kind of first-week-related error and most importantly, brilliant food. We got all three.
We were offered a choice of white, wheat or whole grain bread to start. An amuse bouche of pulled mozzarella rolled with sundried tomatoes and pesto was sent out compliments of the chef- always a nice move during week one. It was good- clean flavors, simple and a perfect start. The menu, which we studied beforehand, came with a few recommendations from the waitress. We chose to start with the Gnocco Fritto with Affetati misti and followed her suggestion of the Grilled Octopus. Gnocco fritto are small squares of fried dough, which in combination with salami, prosciutto and of course lardo, make for a perfect mini-sandwich. The heavy meat compliments the light dough perfectly- the salt and oil blending with the sweet absorbent bread.
The octopus had a slight chewiness, terrific flavor and disappeared quickly off of its plate. The vegetable accoutrements were good, namely the small, soft fingerling potatoes.
My favorite dish of the night was the Scarmorza Panino. The fundamental elements of Mozza, bread, cheese and meat with an added pickled cherry pepper kick combine for a glimpse into the future: Panineria Mozza (hopefully opening at the end of 2008).In comparison to the aforementioned starters, the burrata (fresh mozzarella) and bacon crostini seemed simple and almost pedestrian. Of course the cheese was flawless, but I wasn't wowed overall.The Orchiette with sausage and swiss chard was one of the richest plates of the night,
The Fresh Ricotta and Egg Raviolo, was rich as well. When cut open the egg yolk runs, making for a nice presentation and powerful flavor.
All the pasta is made to order, which is most notable in the Spaghetti with clams, pancetta and Frenso chile pesto. The thick al dente pasta was cooked to perfection, in one of the lightest sauces of the night (which allowed it to stand out in its simplicity).
The entree that caught my eye was the Guinea Fowl en Crostone. The meat, similar to turkey, was served atop crusty slices of bread, with a liver and pancetta sauce. The taste could only be compared to the richest, most decadent Thanksgiving dinner ever.
The Grilled Lamb Scottadita over sweet corn and yogurt was phenomenal. It's the simple things like the corn and yogurt that make this dish, although the perfectly cooked and marbled meat doesn't hurt either.
The side dish of charred brocoli rabe, chili peppers and vinegar was overwhelmingly pungent. The vinegar won the battle of flavor, unfortunately.
The sauteed yellow wax beans with breadcrump salsa was much better.
For dessert we ordered an olive oil gelato with rosemary cakes. Although the savory dessert idea hasn't quite made it to the mainstream, the dish was excellent.
Our other dessert was an almond croissant doused in orange blossom water, deep fried and served with Greek yogurt flavored gelato and a plum compote.The bussers, sommelier, managers, etc. all move through the room expertly, presenting plates, clearing dishes, offering suggestions and filling waters with frequency.They didn't seat every table at any one given time, allowing for some flexibility with timing in the kitchen. There was a longer than necessary wait before our pasta dish, but it was expected.
The room is much quieter than its pizzeria neighbor. Like all of Batali's restaurants, The Ramones and other similar bands were piped in overhead.
I'm sure the food bloggers will be posting often and extensively in the coming weeks.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Food 5K

Food marathons require planning, time and energy. Just because all three aren't readily available doesn't mean you're stuck eating at one boring restaurant. The Food 5K is a mini marathon, only covering two restaurants, but allowing for a wide variety of new food experience. We did a Pizza 5K recently, trying both new pizza places on La Cienega:
Vito's Pizza
It's not as good as Mulberry. That's basically all I have to say, as everyone knows LA doesn't have good pizza. Yes, Mozza is good but it's different. Thin crust New York Style pizza just doesn't exist here (I haven't tried Casa Bianca yet). The closest thing is Mulberry Street Pizza in Beverly Hills.
The Margherita is simple with tomato, basil and mozzarella. The Garibaldi is a margherita pizza with meatballs, fresh tomatoes and jalapenos.
Stone Fire Pizza
From the people that brought you The Belmont and Spanish Kitchen. Geared towards a drinking crowd, Stone Fire Pizza has an extensive menu of drinks, snacks, pizza and desserts. Sports plays on the flat screens positioned above booths on the large patio. We were the only customers at 1pm on a sunny summer Saturday. The menu suggests beer and pizza pairings so I started at the top with the Blue Moon and arugula and prosciutto pizza. The beer was ice cold and, as it's a wheat beer, went down perfectly on the warm day. The pizza was difficult to eat, with the tough prosciutto pulling the entire pizza apart on the first bite. It was very tasty, however, with a flour-dusted crust and fresh arugula.The Food 5K and 10K are part of the training regimen for a dedicated food marathoner. They also supplement well when schedules don't permit a full marathon.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

It's Just the Truth

Google maps and food marathons go together like ribs and 'wet naps'.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Fosselman's is Just Fine

Fosselman's has a reputation as being one of the best ice cream shops in LA. The ice cream is good, but I think it maintains its rep because it's been around for so long.The shop is quaint, with patrons constantly rotating through.
I'd never seen the simple invention of the double-headed cone for two scoops. We tried the chocolate covered strawberry ice cream, which was terrific. The chocolate chip cookie dough was definitely good, but not the best I've had.
The sundae is the epitome of Americana: thick chocolate syrup, fresh whipped cream and cherry on top.
To be honest, I much prefer Culvers.

Monday, July 09, 2007

The Ultimate Food Marathon?

The idea of the Food Marathon seems to be catching on. Last time Steve Plotnicki introduced a foreign chef to New York's best.
This time he brings another guest (restaurant critic for The Observer, Jay Rayner) on an astronomically priced and sized food marathon in New York City. They hit five of the city's (and possibly the nation's) best restaurants in six hours in search of the perfect meal. I've never had lobster on a food marathon- they had it twice at one restaurant:
one poached in olive oil and served with violet artichokes young fennel, chanterelle mushrooms and lemon verbena nage and Nova Scotia lobster mitts, poached in butter with tomato pain perdu, romaine lettuce, sweet 100 tomatoes and applewood smoked bacon emulsion.Steve is a masterful marathon planner, far exceeding anything I could imagine due to his deep pockets and contacts within the industry. Fortunately, he's promoting the idea of the food marathon, so someday I can make it my day job.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Tokyo Police Cooking Club

I've been a fan of Tokyo Police Club since this time last summer and I've yet to see them live. My friend said they were terrible, but I'd like to be the judge of that.
TPC hosted Dinner with the Band recently. The show is just ok in general, with the band's anecdotes providing the interesting material (as opposed to the food).
Bands I'd like to see host the show include Be Your Own Pet and the New Young Pony Club.