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

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Spiciest Food Marathon

We consulted Jonathan Gold, we prepared the Burn-Be-Gone-Box (you'll see what that means shortly) and we conquered Los Angeles' spiciest restaurants. It was a stunning day with one of the most well-planned, well-navigated, well-executed marathons to date. The food was fantastic, the pain was intense and the show began at:
11:30am. Orochon Ramen literally has a spice wall of fame (wall of pain?) honoring the capsicum cowboys that blazed trails before us. What better place to start.As we had a long way to go we decided to split the famous Special 2 with cha-shu pork. Upon its arrival we realized why there's a wall of fame- not really for the spice, but for the quantity. It was a bathtub of sweet, scalding, heat-saturated broth packed to the rim with firm noodles, chopped peppers, tender pork and vegetables. The volume itself could end a beautiful Saturday morning, then throw in the temperature (very hot) and spice (not that hot) and I envision a severe food coma for the wall-of-fame-worthy.
To be honest, we were surprised that the spice wasn't more intense (for the reputation it has). It was the perfect level, causing slight pain but 100% manageable.
We each ate a healthy portion which was equal to about 1/15th of the total bowl. The first to-go container of the day was almost overflowing with food which meant great leftovers for the week to come.
Orochon FM Spice Rating: 7.5
Next up was Chichen Itza, a restaurant notorious for their habanero salsa. We actually just wanted chips and salsa but we made a game time decision. Not only were we allowed to sample the sauce we were also given fresh from the oven bread, just for being there.... We bought one bottle of their milder bottled habanero version and also bought their freshly made and bottled nuclear salsa. We walked down the street and just outside the Mexican Consulate we found El Serranito, a typical LA taco truck. We ordered one carne asada taco and one al pastor. We walked across the street to MacArthur park to enjoy the sunshine and spice. As is always the case, the tacos were fantastic. Rich with flavor on light tortillas, they would become the perfect home for our newly purchased bottle of pain.
The hanabero flavor is very pronounced in Chichen Itza's salsa. It's tangy and sharp, formidably spicy and complimentary to anything it coats. Not as painful as I remembered but serious nonetheless.
Chichen Itza FM Spice Rating: 7
So in preparation for the marathon we put together the Burn-Be-Gone-Box (BBGB). The items enclosed were water, toilet paper, wet naps, cups and baking soda. Baking soda is a natural base that fights the acid found in most spicy foods. It can quell the internal burn, acting like a powder blanket on top of hot sauce. The BBGB first made an appearance at this stage of the marathon. Relief.
Next up was Kyochon. Although Crazy Hook was recommended their hours didn't work for this marathon. They'll definitely be part of the wing marathon.
After Hite Kwang-Jang I was really excited about Kyochon. (Korean chicken wings are new to me, so excuse my fervor.) We ordered 4 spicy wings, keeping portions small for marathon-sake. It took a while to get the wings, probably because of all the takeout business they were doing.They weren't spicy at all- sweet in fact. Definitely tasty, but providing a respite from the pain in what was soon to become a spice cacophony.Kyochon FM Spice Rating: 3
1:45pm. Northbound to Jitlada which I've written about many times.
In the past we've urged Jazz to kick the spice up to toxic levels so we could learn our limits. We reached our limit a few times. We haven't since returned to that level by choice... until now. The beauty of Jitlada is their Southern Thai dishes are so inherently spicy to begin with, that with a little goading you get to an incomprehensible spice stratosphere. One such dish is the phat luuk taw “Meuang Khon” (stir-fried sator beans with shrimp, pork, and squid). It's like Sloppy Joe's psychopathic cousin. We told the waitress to make it as spicy as possible and the results were numbingly brilliant.Nothing on the food marathon compared in spice or flavor, as Jitlada delivered the one-two knock out punch. The only way to battle the pain is to continue eating. Thai iced tea doesn't help, rice doesn't help, water definitely doesn't help. We hurried to pay to get to the only remedy from the BBGB- baking soda. A couple gulps later and we were on our way to Wing Stop.
Jitlada FM Spice Rating: 10+++
Although it's a chain we included Wing Stop because of it's location on the marathon path and their Atomic buffalo wings. We ordered and a hellish prophecy stared us down. $6.66. What were we in for?
After a tongue-singeing day our taste buds were affected so there was a discrepancy in our Wing Stop rating. I had 2 boneless atomic wings and Peter only had 1. The flavor wasn't good, as all thought was put into the tongue torching qualities of the sauce. And torch it did- the pain built and built. I was hurting in the car 10 minutes after finishing the wings. Peter wasn't. He thought they were weak. Agree to disagree. We'll have to wait for the chicken wing marathon to decide.
Wing Stop FM Spice Rating 5 or 8 depending on who you ask.
3:30pm. For our last stop we made our way to Ice Pan for the only soothing meal of the day. Ice Pan is a high-concept ice cream parlor- the equivalent of what you'd find in Back to the Future 2.The idea is that each batch of ice cream is made before your eyes as you order it. I chose their special pumpkin flavor thinking a nice pumpkin pie ice cream would cap the gluttonous day. Unfortunately they didn't have graham cracker topping and instead put mango and pineapple.It's a cool concept but ultimately what you're eating isn't as good as ice cream from a regular ice cream shop. So the idea is it's fun to watch ice cream but more natural and healthy. The problem is if I want ice cream, I want unhealthy, unsaturatedly fatty ice cream.
Ice Pan FM Spice Rating: -9
I won't go into the details of the next 48 hours. I didn't eat anything else that night, just drank scotch to kill any bacteria that was left. Peter had Indian food for dinner. I had Jitlada for dinner the next day, but ordered it mild (don't tell anyone). I'm not at 100% yet but I will be eating the leftovers this week.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Costume Ideas for the Food-Minded

I have nothing against sexy chef costumes for Halloween but here's some more creative costume ideas:

Super Mario Batali

Bobby Flayvor Flav

Surgeon Gemeril

Muay Thai Ice T and Coco Kripies

Peter Panda Express

Monday, October 20, 2008

The K-Town Food Marathon

This food marathon was extraordinary for many reasons:
a. It was lead by Matt and Christine who not only told us where to eat, but what to eat and how to eat it.
b. Two of LA's best food bloggers (Food GPS and Dig Lounge) rounded out the table with creative food commentary.
c. It was the first marathon where alcohol was involved- sorry Crown Royal, only beer this time.
d. As the other bloggers are gonna write intelligent exposés with vivid photographs I decided to do a pop quiz, so get your #2 pencils ready:

1. Which of these sweeping generalizations is NOT true:
a. The food marathon is actually a Korean concept (Koreans often eat at many establishments per night)
b. Koreans hate pork.
c. Valet in Koreatown rarely costs more than $2.
d. Portions in Koreatown are always twice as big as necessary, and half as expensive.

2. Bizzare Foods was filmed at which marathon stop:
a. Western Soondae
b. Hite Kwang-Jang
c. The Prince
d. Honey Pig

3. What pork product was NOT eaten on the marathon:
a. Belly of the pig that lives under the outhouse
b. Feet
c. Ears
d. Ribs

4. Boiled peanuts taste like:
a. Cardboard
b. Chicken
c. Garbanzo beans
d. Sweet potato

5. The best chicken wings in LA are from:
a. Kyochon
b. Hite Kwang Ja
c. BonChon
d. Furaibo

Highlight the following text for answers:
1. b. I might be Korean too, as I was in pork heaven.
2. a. Western Soondae
3. d. Ribs are so pedestrian.
4. c. however I actually like garbanzo beans.
5. Cannot be determined until the upcoming Chicken Wing Food Marathon.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Kassava's Carribean Kitchen

I live walking distance from a lot of good restaurants, but most are very similar. Between Le Pain Quotidien, Cuvee, Newsroom, Jack & Jill's Creperie and Breadbar, brunch options are covered. Then Loconda Veneta, Orso, Il Cielo, Gardens at the Four Seasons and The Ivy take care of the expense account meals. So when Kassava recently opened serving inexpensive home-style Carribean food I took note. It's still in its infancy but is starting strong.
The space is simple and warm.
They're aiming for lunch and dinner business, as well as take out and delivery with a menu of soups, salads, sandwiches and meat/veggie-based stews and curries. Plastic silverware and plates keep costs down with the highest priced item topping out at $18.95 for the conch stew. Average entree price is $12.95 with 3 dollars off each at lunch.
I chose the fresh mango juice to start. When it gets cooler out I'm definitely going for the pumpkin soup. For dinner I chose the spicy curry goat which comes with rice, beans, sweet plantains and cabbage.The meat and potatoes were succulent and prepared with love. The sides were fine, but nothing to write home about. The small container of spicy cabbage on the side was like curry coleslaw and worth eating straight. Overall a very pleasing dinner.For dessert some mini red velvet cupcakes. In these cupcake-filled times it's hard to beat some of the high-end confectioners, but there's still time to make adjustments.
Overall I'm happy about the new addition and will be back throughout the fall and winter for the hearty, home-style cooking.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The Hot Dog Food Marathon Pt.1

The Dodgers are in the playoffs and to me the Dodgers mean one thing- hot dogs.So on a recent excursion to the valley I did the first of what will likely be many hot dog marathons.
Shortly after the Wiener Factory closed (RIP) The Infield opened just down the street on Ventura Blvd.Their menu features a decent variety ranging from New Zealand wagyu dogs to a pastrami dog to their notorious Twinkie Dog.
As it was the first stop I just went with a standard dog with ketchup and mustard.
It's a good dog, not world changing but satisfactory.
Sitting in the stadium seats definitely adds to the overall effect, but next time I'll try the Twinkie.
Onward to QT Chicago Dog, which is just around the corner on Woodman.
I like the setup. Sharing space with a grocery store the restaurant portion of the building is sparsely filled. There's some arcade games, a tv, some tables, a miss-matched array of signs offering different types of hot dogs, sandwiches, desserts... Overall a pleasing place to eat a Chicago Dog.
The dog is smaller than The Infield's but with a better bun. The toppings were a bit limp but the flavor was fine. It sufficed for a quick snack but would inevitably get clobbered by the dog at the next stop...
Vicious Dogs in North Hollywood. I'm not sure if the whole NoHo Arts District thing is working out or not, but I do know Vicious Dogs is the best addition to the area in years.
After QT's I wanted to compare the Chicago Dog. It would prove to be a great choice.
First, the hot dog itself is 100 times bigger, fresher and tastier than QT's. The meat actually tastes like meat (even if it just lips and hooves). The relish, pickle, peppers and tomatoes all were so flavorful that I considered having another. Rationality kicked in and I just read the LA Weekly Best of LA issue instead. Jonathan Gold loves Fab so that will definitely be on the next marathon.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Great Sushi?

Once in a while my slight obsession with food leads to something good in my life (besides satisfied taste buds). For example, I've met a lot of nice, interesting people in the LA area thanks to this blog. LA has such a bad rap so I just wanted to throw that out there.
More specifically, I was at the Natural History museum and came across this:
Because I have "issues" my first thought was, "oh, this could be an interesting post. I'll see if anyone serves flamingo or its tongue." I in turn found this:
..the Flamingo Tongue Snail.
Definitely one of the cooler looking creatures on the planet. Is it wrong that I immediately thought it would make great sushi?