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

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Farewell to the Factory Food Marathon

Sunday's food marathon saw many firsts: the first food marathon at night, a first time marathoner and the first farewell during a marathon. The Wiener Factory was one of our high school hang outs (Henry's Tacos being the first and foremost). With its red cabbage and chili hot dogs and outdoor tables, it is the valley's answer to Pinks. We mourn the loss, and damn the Pinkberry that will replace it, as modern times extinguish the affordable, slow-paced center of Sherman Oaks eating. In honor of the demise of a longstanding valley tradition we visited the Wiener Factory for what would likely be the last time. We obviously weren't the only ones preparing for the relocation of the purveyor of pork, as a man wearing a hot dog hat (that's a hot dog resembling a large wiener) circled a table of long time Wiener Factory regulars. Hoping not to let emotions affect their plans, the Wiener Factory will close and field offers of buyouts and helpouts during their time away from the long standing hot dog stand on Ventura. You will be missed.
As we were in the valley we continued our marathon northward, stopping at Skaf's (which would have served fantastic Lebanese food if it wasn't closed) before parking outside El Taco Llama.
In an old Taco Bell, rife with video games and a small salsa bar, we ordered a variety of tacos (carne asada, al pastor, carnitas) in addition to guacamole. The dark red salsa was a favorite amongst the group, while the gaucamole was weak and forgettable. The tacos arrived quickly, resembling a taco truck's wares in size and quality. Flavor was good but not outstanding and before we could even absorb the ambiance (or lack thereof) we were off to Tacos el Zorro.
The eastern most of the chain of three, Tacos El Zorro has karaoke on Friday and Saturday nights. The jukebox, which seemed to be full of tejano hits, blared music while we awaited our meal.
Mimicking our previous order we got 2 each: tacos de carne asada, al pastor and carnitas. The size and quality was impressive, with two bottles of homemade salsa to accompany the large tacos. Winning in overall flavor, the tacos were spicy, succulent combos of fresh tortillas and grilled beef and pork. The salsa wasn't as good as Llama's, but not really necessary either with the high quality tacos.
Hoping for a sweet end to the marathon we made our way towards Krispy Kreme, but found that the overreaching company had closed their original west coast location. Not content to end on a sour note we made our way back to Pho 999 and easily polished off two fresh bowls of pho (one steak/brisket, one meatball). The spice and broth were the warm ending to an onion-filled marathon in the central San Fernando Valley.
We'll miss the Weiner Factory and hope they resurface in a new location in the new year.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Home Cooking

With all the restaurants and food marathons I often neglect to write about home cooking. Two of the best home-cooked meals I've had this year occurred over Thanksgiving weekend.
First was Thanksgiving part one (of what would be three Thanksgiving meals). The first was a daytime affair featuring a brilliant young chef trying a challenging menu of items:
-Chestnut Soup (roasted chestnuts pureed with shitake mushrooms, lard and cognac). I don't have a good picture, but it wouldn't have done it justice anyway. The pancetta reduction might be cheating but it adds a level of subtle flavor that elevates the soup exponentially.
-Red Pepper Relish with Danish Bleu Cheese
-Toasted Smoked Chipotle Garbanzo Beans
-Potato Chips and dairy free onion dip
-Brined turkey with seasoned french bread stuffing and pan dripping gravy-Butter Leaf Lettuce with beets and dijon vinagrette-Fresh pureed sweet potatoes with vanilla and marshmallow topping
-Mashed potatoes with scallions-Sun dried tomato and garlic cornbread muffins
-Steamed white corn
-Spicy Dill Pickles-Deviled Eggs-Blueberry Cranberry relish with essence of orange
-Sourdough baguette
-Turkey-shaped cream puffs
That was just the first Thanksgiving meal of the day. The later meal was much more traditional and not nearly as tasty.
A few days later I was treated to a wonderful meal of home cooked shabu shabu:
It keeps the theme of the big family meal in tact, but loses the copious amounts of butter, fat, cream and tryptophan made famous by Thanksgiving.
The steam clouded the lense, but you can see the beef, vegetables, tofu and shrimp.
Top it off with an In-n-Out double double and chocolate shake and you have a happy holiday weekend.