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

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The "Why Isn't There" Rant

Why hasn't anyone come up with a comprehensive food website yet- an for food. The major food magazines are doing a good job but they're not comprehensive enough. I want searchable, aggregated restaurant reviews from pros and bloggers alike (like what Rotten Tomatoes does for films) with up to the minute information on new restaurants like Eater. Sorry Zagat and Citysearch you're as antiquated as the Yellow Pages. I want message boards like Chowhound and eGullet tied to reservation capabilities like Open Table with photos like Tastespotting and chef interviews like Just One Plate and social networking like Yelp or Myspace. A one stop shop.
With their wide market share, I think the Food Network is best equipped to do it.
Side rant: Unfortunately, FN's narrow minded focus is sucking the life out of me. Not all Food Network fans are Walmart shopping mid-western housewives. We don't really want to see a lifeless battles of which Holly homemaker makes the best "'hoppin' jalapeno cornbread." Anthony Bourdain isn't the only guy out there that makes food look interesting- he's just the only one that has a TV show about it (sorry Daniel Boulud, I don't get MojoHD).
Jennifer points out that there's a lot of food sites trying to capitalize on the growing foodie market. Hopefully one of them will either buy up all the good food sites and blogs and combine them or take the reigns and get a comprehensive food site together. We're out here and we're hungry for it.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The 30 Going on 13 Food Marathon

The scents, sights and sounds of food provide the sensory experience that most often trigger nostalgia. So as my 30th birthday rolled around I thought back about my life and the best times- many of which involved food. As a youngster in junior high school, before I had the freedom of a car, I was bound to locations in a walking radius from home and school. I'm pretty sure my affinity for Taco Bell comes simply because it was the closest fast food location (besides Pioneer Chicken and Wienerschnitzel). In 7th grade we weren't allowed to leave campus without a teacher/escort. I'm sure we were a nuisance, begging daily for teachers to walk us down to Taco Bell or Yum Yum donuts. At an even earlier age in elementary school, the best award of all was a trip down to Henry's Tacos, which was a rare and lauded event. To commemorate all these good times I decided the perfect way to spend my birthday was on a 30 Going on 13 Food Marathon- hitting all the old spots in one final calorie-filled night.Henry's was obviously the first stop. One item each (a taco and burrito) with their delicious sauce was all we ordered as it was gonna be a long night.I could drink this sauce:Next was Carney's, which I've written about before . This time we ordered a spicy polish Red Eye New Yorker (sauerkraut, mustard and peppers) to go with the chili cheese fries. Both were greasily delicious.
Stop three was a quick dessert of In N Out milkshakes. The only comment I have here is about how dirty the Universal City location was. The trashcans were all overflowing, there weren't any paper towels in the bathroom and the overall quality of the operation was not being maintained. Just a mile away, the busy Hollywood location on Sunset is twice as crowded and five times cleaner.
Stop four was the second dessert stop at Yum Yum Donuts. When I was young I ordered an old fashioned glazed but they didn't have any. So what does one do when they can't get their second dessert of the nigh- they have a Taco Bell Nacho Supreme instead. A fitting end to marathon celebrating birth, old age and suburban youth. These pictures actually make the food look gross... If there ever was a final food marathon this should be probably be the one- but I'm not ready to quit just yet.

Monday, March 24, 2008

The End of An Era

This trip to Vegas was the final blowout trip of my 20's. Decadence is the best word to describe it; a decade of fun ending with a debacle of a party and ridiculous meal.
Not wasting any time, we went straight from the airport to Lotus of Siam. The hope was that it would rival Jitlada but it fell short across the board. Jitlada's Southern Thai specialties and Spicy BBQ's Northern menu both feature tastier dishes packed with spicier spice and more flavorful flavor. The fish cakes were weak, the tom yum was average, the egg noodles were good but not great, the jackfruit was totally disappointing after my last two jackfruit experiences and neither the nua sao renu (beef with tamarind sauce and fried dry chili) nor the nua yum katiem (beef with fresh garlic and spicy sauce) could touch Jitlada's khûa klíng Phat Lung. The trio of sticky rice (sans mango as they said it was out of stock...), coconut ice cream and fried bananas were redemption but far too little too late.
Luckily the crowd favorite Joe's Stone Crab delivered the following afternoon. I could easily eat their hash browns with any meal, any time, any day- with sushi, salsa, soup or spaghetti. Large oysters rockafeller, cool cracked stone crab and college basketball on every screen provided a perfect midday meal. Just a note that the Key Lime Pie was too cold and obviously was kept in a freezer or fridge that made it unenjoyable.
Miss and hit were followed by another miss at Carnevino, where before we even checked in for our reservation I was worried. I should have trusted yelp as the complaints were totally on point. The restaurant is split across a large casino walkway. Slot machines can ring through your meal with billows of cigarette smoke spread like fog machines at a hair metal concert. Cheesy couples parade by like an H&M dressing room webcam come alive. Luckily we got a private room off the main dining room, but it proved to be too small for the service to properly place plates in their proper positions. The prices were through the roof, the food was typical Batali but everything else fell flat. There was a lot of effort put into the service but nothing delivered. The plates were served in unison but not to the right table positions. The meat carved tableside couldn't be seen, and as a result the show was a waste and should have been served whole for us to cut ourselves. The best suggestion of the night was a value bet on El Dorado rum at $15 per glass. $160 per person, however, was too much for the mediocre display and left a bad taste in our mouths.
Poolside days and tableside nights are the standard for our vegas trips. Twelve hours of basketball are the norm and anything else is just icing. So it was out of our element to book a table at Guy Savoy for our final night. The theory was that it was a once-in-a-lifetime 30th birthday celebration and whoever had won big could afford the lucrative prices for the finest French meal most would ever have. It was no surprise that true to Vegas odds no one was up big by Saturday night. As a result the reservation for dinner at Guy Savoy dwindled to three for the only die hards who cared more about their meal than their gambling allowance. What followed was an intensely rich, elaborately long masterpiece of a meal spanning 4 1/2 hours, over 15 courses and almost $500. Stay tuned for the full run down....

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Two-Cents Plain

I'd never heard the term before but I saw Two-Cents Plain on Marty D's menu. It reminded me that up until recently my grandparents had bottled seltzer water delivered to the home every week. Growing up there always would be large glass bottles with metal taps strewn about the table at holiday meals. They often let out a carbonated hiss once they were emptied and sometimes splashed all over the table when they were shaken before use.Been eating a lot lately but not taking a lot of pictures: Ago, Kappo Ishito, Canele, LA Mill, Mr Cecil's, Apple Pan and a food marathon tonight...

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Munch Madness

We're headed back to Las Vegas and this time we're gonna eat better than we ever have before. For over ten years of March Madness trips we've been building up to this trip. The 30th birthday extravaganza will feature meals at Jitlada-competitor Lotus of Siam, Prime steakhouse, perennial favorite Joe's Stone Crab and the ultimate, Guy Savoy. Although Hugo's and Rosemary's seem to be the blogger favorites, I won't be able to pull the whole crew off the strip for dinner. Lotus of Siam will be an early bird special to start off the trip, but other than that I don't anticipate seeing much sunlight... unless it's after a long night out.

Monday, March 10, 2008

3 Things

1. LA is much more than just the strip of densely populated real estate between downtown and the ocean. Jonathan Gold proves this daily in his food writing. On par with Gold, Food GPS travels throughout southern California with the same fervor and frequency. From Little Saigon to Santa Barbara and Bell to Laguna, he blogs with attention to detail, clear photographs and a diverse palate. He also writes about food outside of LA, which is a great addition from a trustworthy blogger.
2. J Restaurant & Lounge is a good place to go before, after or during a Laker game. At 25,000 square feet I always worried that quality would suffer for quantity, but they manage to maintain good service and food despite the size and crowd. We had dinner in a curtained off room that had a flat screen playing the Laker game, a couch, table and view out to the patio. The food was flavorful (with large portions) and the scotch pairings (an added bonus) were terrific. Which leads to..
3. Oban scotch is fantastic and I want to drink it all the time.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The LA Marathon Food Marathon

I've said it before and I'll say it again, a food marathon is the only kind of marathon I will ever run. 26 miles is about 21 miles too long. I could run for a short distance... maybe- No, I don't like running. I played baseball through my formative years. I kickbox. Those are sports that don't require copious amounts of running and those are sports that I like.
We began the food marathon in Hollywood, not far from where the runners started their their four hour tour of pain. They ran endlessly while we sauntered lazily towards the Hollywood Farmer's Market. We figured with the distraction and road closures the farmer's market would be less crowded and I finally could try the famous pupusa stand. We were right. No line at 10am is a rare occurrence. We ordered pork and cheese pupusas with strawberry and pineapple lemonades. We sat on the dirty curb and enjoyed a salty breakfast of champions. Not far away real marathoners were jealous, whether they knew it or not.
Next up was Hollywood's newest breakfast spot, The Waffle. With the success of places like The Griddle, Toast, Swingers and the Alcove, combined with a prime location, The Waffle shouldn't have any problems getting business. It's too bad their decor, music and food sucked. We had a bacon infused waffle- yes, a waffle with bacon in the batter, AND IT WASN'T GOOD. You won't hear me say that a lot, but the bacon wasn't flavorful enough. The waffle (as in the namesake of the restaurant) wasn't hot, wasn't light, wasn't airy... It didn't matter whether the side of hash browns with jalapeños and cheese was good or not, because they screwed up the waffle and wasted bacon. They're dead to me. Throw in Shawshank Redemption-looking uniforms, a country-pop version of Raspberry Berret and twelve clashing colors on the walls and you have the recipe for hot plate of suck.
Luckily we were redeemed tenfold at our next stop. Evan Kleiman's Good Food is always a good source for local restaurant info. She has great guests including Thai correspondent Jet Tila. He suggested a northern Thai-specializing hole-in-the-wall called Spicy BBQ. I was intrigued because I love Jitlada's Southern Thai menu, and looked forward to comparing the Northern with the Southern. Like all the best restaurants in LA, it's located in a strip mall. It's next to Falafel Arax which will definitely be on our next marathon. The tiny restaurant actually plays Thai music (as opposed to Jitlada and Torung which play weird covers of oldies). The owner took our order than ran in back to prepare the food- just like eating in someone's kitchen. We had the egg noddle and spicy jackfruit (jackfruit on back to back food marathons). Both were phenomenal- the egg noodles were like the Thai version of Fettucin Alfredo.
They even have a rotating spinner of spicy sauces.To all of the people who ran the marathon, I'm very proud of you. I hope you built up an enormous appetite and ate something really good after.