Sunday, December 13, 2015

Baroo: Pure Imagination in World of Chef Kwang Uh's Creation

The feeling you get when you first pull into the non-descript strip mall where Baroo holds ground, and when you first step into the quaint yet pleasantly unsettling nook, is a version of what I would imagine the kids who won Golden Tickets felt when they first set foot in Wonka's factory.

Except that Baroo is tiny, where Wonka's factory was gargantuan, and Baroo is obsessive with natural ingredients, fermentation and locavorism, as Wonka was about sugar spun confections produced en masse...but it's that core feeling of wonder, and being unsettled in a simultaneously fantastic and unnerving way.  Because you are greeted by things you may not ever have even thought to think of.

When you first step into the 'free-style experimental kitchen', you see a big wooden communal table, barstools by the counter, and a back wall with shelves packed with every-color science-lab-like jars of things quietly fermenting.




You don't see any staff for a while (because the hardworking staff of two are busy in the kitchen whipping up dishes for hungry diners), so you take the time to peruse the jars.  (Yes, most of what Baroo will feed you has to do with mold and foods in various stages of breaking down.  And you'll love it.)

You wander to the fridge, packed with housemade kombucha in flavors from elderflower to rose & passionfruit to yuzu to lemon verbena.  (And tepache (fermented pineapple juice))  Healthy and tasty - though a menu of fermented foods, those not into that intense fermented taste of kombucha may not want to double up.

You read up on the chef, who after spending time in the kitchens of Daniel in NYC, Nobu Bahamas, Noma, Quique Dacosta and Piazza Duomo, and in the halls of the University of Gastronomic Sciences in northern Italy, earning a masters degree in Food Culture and Communication: Food, Place and Identity, that he has decided to pour his passion into Baroo, a place where he can combine natural ingredients and fermentation and let his creativity flow.

But you would never know about his fine dining background, on meeting the owner/chef, as he seems to embody the humble philosophy behind the name of his restaurant: Baroo means "a bowl that Buddhist monks are allowed to possess and use for their meals until their last breath," which also seems to symbolize the minimalist approach to life in order to focus on what's really important: respect, trust in and love to nature and people.  This he channels through food, using local, sustainable and organic ingredients.  He is not a big talker either, but lets his creative dishes speak for themselves.

My favorite seat is at the counter, where you can glance over the collection of cookbooks, dry ingredients, and peek into the kitchen.  Homey, like being invited over to a friend's house for dinner, and checking out their life as a collection of knick knacks on their shelves, while waiting for the party to commence.

And when the food arrives, it's understated but very simply spectacular.  Some dishes are composed of ingredients you'd never heard of, which you excitedly Google.  Some are twists on more familiar favorites.

Though Chef Uh loves all his dishes, when pressed, one standout he and partner Matthew Kim would recommend is Noorook (Koji) ($12) Job's tears, kamut & farro, roasted koji beet creme, concentrated kombu dashi, toasted seeds (sunflower & pumpkin), macadamia nuts, finger lime, and rose onion pickle.  Every grain makes its presence known here, perfectly cooked and clean, distinct, made cohesive with the beet creme and dusted with super finely grated cheese (?).  It has risotto qualities, but is at the same time unlike anything you'd ever tasted, especially with the umami and subtle tartness of koji (edible mold) kombu dashi, crunch of seeds, nuts and exquisite tiny bursts of brightness via finger limes cutting through the grains which are rich yet light at the same time. Confounding in the best way.  The only thing I knew was that a few forkfuls in, I was hooked, and had already decided this was my favorite and I needed to come back for more.

 Gim (Seaweed) ($12) has a similar mix of grains but with different 'toppings' / 'mix-ins': Job's tears, kamut & farro grains with amaju, assorted seaweed compte with shiitake, tofu, spirulina, nasturtium, nori chip, mixed berries, wasabi daikon, lime onion jalapeno, pickle.  I didn't think that berries would go with warm grains (the only time I'd encountered the two together would be in some kind of cold salad) - but the earthiness of the mushrooms, grains and tofu were well balanced by the vibrant juicy sweet/tart of the berries, punctuated by the slight heat of wasabi, jalapeno, and acidity of pickle and lime, and the crisp crunch of the nori chip.


Then there were new takes on dishes familiar to LA food lovers: my favorite is the Kimchi Fried Rice ($9) pineapple fermented kimchi, amira basmati rice, 63 degree sous vide egg, gremolata, pineapple jalapeno salsa, purple potato chips, roasted seaweed, toasted buckwheat & quinoa, and micro greens (option to add slab bacon for $2)

Changing up the rice to basmati apparently makes a huge difference! Again, many ingredients and tastes you wouldn't think to combine, come together to blow your mind.  This one, like Chef Uh's other dishes, also pay amazingly detailed attention to balance of levity and density, juicy, crunchy, crisp, sweet, sour, spicy, savory all in harmony - and again every grain of rice is clean and distinct.  Chef Uh's Kimchi Fried Rice is the new crack.



Then there is Baroo's Ragu Style ($15) spicy oxtail faux ragu, tendon puff, gochujang gremolata with cherry tomatoes, krout powder, three years aged parmigiano reggiano with handmade pasta.  With mostly recognizable ingredients, this dish may seem the least exciting of Chef Uh's limited menu, but you'd be remiss to skip it - it may be one of the most flavorful, and again shockingly rich AND light at the same time of any pasta dish you've had.


And then will also make you realize that most of the other dishes don't have any meat in them: and you never even missed it, because the flavors and textures are so amazing.  And when you get up from a meal at Baroo, you are fully satiated, but not lethargic like you might be at a gluttonous meal at many other restaurants in town.  I love that the taste is amazing first, and that the 'health' aspect makes it even better (and there is no 'sacrifice' or forced abstinence of any sort).

Baroo's dessert menu consists of baked goods and one fancier option.  Don't overlook the goodies under the glass dome on the side counter - they are incredible, like the savories.

The Classic Shortbread ($2) 84% butter cacao nibs and citrus bursts is probably the best, most clean crumbly piece of shortbread I've had in recent memory.

The Caramel Pearl Chocolate & Oat Cookie ($2) 70% Valrhona chocolate, nocciola is delicious and fun to eat with the chocolate and white 'pearls' sprinkled throughout.

The fanciest dessert on the menu is the Passion Fruit Tart ($7) vanilla bean tart, macha yuzu chiffon, passion fruit curd, elderflower meringue.  Elegant and decadent.  Definitely do not leave without trying this tart.


Jonathan Gold referred to Baroo's cooking as "a taste of the future".  Along those lines, I think that when looking ahead, and considering mass nutrition needs of the species, and moving to vegetable/grain-based diets, some people choose to reduce the things that inhibit efficient energy use and food production, and in doing so remove the human element (Soylent for example seriously makes me think of the slop they funnel through feeding tubes to human incubators/battery farms in The Matrix).  Others, like Chef Uh, choose to celebrate the beauty of nature and pushes in all their efforts with their vision to sustain it.  For the sake of humanity, I hope that Chef Uh's way is the winner.  Please 'vote' for that future by supporting his restaurant :)  Thank you!

On a 7 point scale:
Flavor - 7 bites  
Presentation - 6 bites
Originality - 7 bites
Ambience -  5 stars
Service - 6 stars
Overall experience - 6.5 bites
Price - $$ (2 bite marks)
Probability of return visit - 100% 


______________________________________________________________

Baroo
5706 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90038
Ph: 323.819.4344

Website: baroola.strikingly.com  
Parking: free, in attached strip mall open air parking


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Baroo Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, December 4, 2015

LA Weekly Sips & Sweets: December 12th at The REEF!

LA Weekly is presenting their second annual Sips & Sweets event, this time at The REEF in Downtown LA.

If you missed last year's inaugural event, my public service announcement to you would be to prep like you were about to run a sugar marathon, while hydrating with endless holiday spirits.

From the moment you enter the historic and appropriate named the Majestic / the Reserve, it's a wonderland of desserts and cocktails as far as meets the eye, from some of the best pastry chefs and mixologists in the city.  From adorable cream puff snowmen by Heirloom LA (buttercream stuffed profiteroles, almond financier, meringue & 'ice glaze')...









...to treats with a festive sheen (hazelnut and coffee torte by Patina) and peppermint ice cream pie by Roxana Jullapat of Cook's County, to classics from masters like sticky toffee pudding by Shannon Swindle of Craft LA and tiramisu from Osteria Mozza...







...to Patina's helpers with dramatic pours of liquid nitrogen into peppermint meringue bites (so much fun to eat: breath smoke out your nose and mouth!) and macaron trees...

...to spreads of inventive savory-sweet pastries from Proof Bakery (like Walnut Sweet Potato Mezze Lunas with cinnamon sugar and Zimsternes almond cinnamon cookies) and Sugarbird Sweets and Teas (every flavor scones from pumpkin almond to green tea), it's an AYCE sensory feast that will satiate the most shameless glutton.








Part of the fun last year was exploring the different spaces - my favorite was the Reserve's entrance to the lounge, converted from a former bank vault.

Inside the vault is where a lot of the best craft cocktails are to be found, including concoctions from Raymond 1886 (Southern Sling) and Corazon y Miel, Cana Rum Bar and Pour Vous.  The best part of the event is that the mixologists were personally serving up the drinks for you, and you get to meet and chat with them about their creations (as much as the patience of the line behind you will allow).

My favorite sip of the show though, had to be this one by The Corner Door, called French Exchange Student with cognac, earl grey tea, lavendar tincture, orgeat and lemon juice plus a giant orchid on it (because every drink tastes better with a tropical flower on top).

Pours and portions of edibles are all more than generous, so by the time I dragged myself out of the event I was well into a sugar coma.  If I would have one suggestion it would be to break it up a bit with a few savories, but then again...the event wouldn't really be Sips and SWEETS. 

This year, the event is curated by Roxana Jullapat and LA Weekly's food critic Besha Rodell.  I'm excited to check out sweets from Shannon Swindle, the brilliant chef behind the fantastic pastries at Craft LA, Mariah Swan of bld Restaurant and ICDC, Luis Ayala of Broken Spanish, and from those whose restaurants I have not been to yet, like Superba Food + Bread, Hatchet Hall and Ledlow.  Some of my favorite ice cream purveyors will also be there including Choctal and McConnell’s.

Also looking forward to craft cocktails by Mikki Kristola of The Varnish, Mike Lay of Broken Spanish and B.S. Taqueria, Chris Whelan of Sassafras Saloon, Ryan Wainwright of Terrine, Ben Scott of Alexander’s Steakhouse, Christiaan Rollich of the Lucques Group, Jesus Gomez of 1886 Bar, and sampling from places I have not been to yet like EP + LP and Sonny's Hideaway.

Plus, today only through Saturday at 10pm, general admission tickets are on FLASH SALE for HALF OFF!  See deal alert below for details.

Wishing you a sweet and buzzy start to your holiday!

_________________________________________________________

LA Weekly Sips & Sweets

When: Saturday, December 12, 2015 8pm – 11pm (VIP Hour 7pm – 8pm)

Where: Magic Box @ The REEF 1933 S. Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 9000

How much: $45 GA (but get half off with flash sale today - see deal info below) $60 VIP


Website: laweekly.com/sips-and-sweets

[Deal Alert: Flash Sale 50% off General Admission tix only from 7am today Friday Dec 4th through Saturday Dec 5th 10pm! You can thank #NationalCookieDay. Buy tickets here: http://ticketf.ly/1MLJ5M9]




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Sunday, November 29, 2015

EMC Seafood and Cambodian Hot Sauces - Sea Change Coming to Suburbia?

The tide of rising-quality-food-venues has been moving north in LA, as seen most particularly in Top Chefs / chefs from Michelin-starred kitchens setting up in Studio City and Sherman Oaks in recent years.

So I was excited to see the upgrading of dining in shopping complexes, like at Westfield Century City and The Americana at Brand, to offer affordable good food was hitting the SFV as well, namely at one of my new favorite shop/dine/play spots - The Village at Westfield Topanga with EMC Seafood.

EMC Seafood's first location is a highly successful and popular one in Koreatown.  That location is attached to the City Center Mall - a shop/dine/play complex with good foot traffic due to a giant Korean supermarket, cute beauty and novelty shops, and a top floor of entertainment / fitness from a karaoke bar/club to a korean spa that also features a gym.

Smart play to replicate the new-school-mall-based strategy in Woodland Hills, a sprawling suburb in need of better quality dining venues - especially seafood with a dash of excitement - a psuedo-blue ocean strategy localized edition, if you will (irony intended).


I LOVE the set up and vibe, actually much more chill than the one in Ktown.  There is a mostly al fresco seating plan (with a few tables under a 3-walled, glass roofed area), including a lovely raw bar where you can slurp down oysters, clams and take down fresh shellfish while enjoying a glass of local wine under the gorgeous SoCal sunshine pretty much year round.  On a November day, after putting in my pre-meal burn time at YogaWorks (newly opened on the 2nd floor) - I had a beautiful Sea Urchin in one of the most simply artful presentations of the creature I've seen in the city.

(And yes, I also may have a #foodporn bias for this location thanks to the gorgeous natural lighting that makes even iPhone photos look much better)

Then I double-downed with the decadent Uni Pasta ($21) with Cream, Fish Roe, Chives, Dried Seaweed.  I was in Sea Urchin umami / carb heaven between the two dishes.

It may not be destination dining for those who already live ocean-side - but it's another fantastic option for those who don't.

Hoping that the local community will support and sustain it - so far since its opening in September, looks like there has been a solid turnout.

And, foodie-night-owls-in-the-SFV take note: this location of EMC Seafood is also open for late night dining (til 2am, daily)!  Now there is an actual tasty option beyond corporate chains, and an alternative to 24 hour diners!

So, although foot traffic to OG malls have been declining, I'm a big fan of the NEW complexes that make it convenient for you to spend the day doing the key things you need to get done without needing to fight LA traffic.

For me, that's usually: work out, eat, food / juice shop, and the occasional bit of clothing / accessories / beauty shopping.

You can do all this at The Village: YogaWorks is there as I mentioned, 24 Hour Fitness too if you're into that, and FlyWheel is coming soon; Burke Williams spa if you feel like splurging; EMC is there now, GoGreek yogurt, and there are other restaurant options I have yet to try; quite a few small chain / boutique shops (big chain stores if needed are just across the street like Nordstrom), Pressed Juicery, and then Costco for your grocery / home needs.

BUT ON TOP OF ALL THAT:  they also host a Farmers Market every Sunday from 9am-1pm!

It spans about 2 blocks in the parking lot by Pressed Juicery, and beyond local produce vendors, they also have a fresh fish stall, artisanal Breadbar, and the fantastic Vagabond Cheese stall who is very generous with samples and with sharing knowledge about cheeses and meats (Lactaid is even offered in consideration of those who neeed it)!  They carry some great gourmet selections of both, including moliterno truffle cheese, iberico bellota underloin, and white truffle salami made with berkshire pork.

The one stall I was very surprised (and delighted) to find was Yeak Inc. Cambodian hot sauces ($8/ bottle) - definitely not something I would have expected in a mall farmers market in this part of town!

The local, handmade, small batch sauces on offer include: 
Krahom (red) made with Tien Tsin Chilies & Charred Garlic, Baithong (green) made with roasted seasonal green chilies and garlic charred and blended with palm sugar, vinegar and touch of fish sauce, and Kmao (black) made with dried Bird's Eye chile and Tien Tsin chilies wok-fried with garlic, that will set your mouth on fire, and still make you come back for more with its complex and nuanced flavors.  Each is recommended to go with anything from eggs, breakfast burritos, fried rice, grilled steak, roasted chicken to crawfish tails to oysters to dim sum and potato chips.

In addition to the hot sauces, Yeak also offers seasonal pickled chiles called Chruk, which I will need to try next time.

The two-person team behind these tasty sauces are passionate about sharing culture through food, and that's the beauty of the farmers market setting, that you get to chat with them about their heartfelt project! (If you don't live in the area or can't make it over there, some of their products are available for sale online)

I anticipate that we'll be seeing a lot more of and about these sauces in the food world - will be rooting you guys on, Melinda and Allen!


On the way back, along the row of shops next to the Farmers Market, I noticed a charming shop called Bitter Root Pottery, which was advertising classes for just $35 a person.

Exciting for another fun activity to do at The Village.  Sadly, though, I noticed on closer inspection that the classes are only on weekdays.  Hoping that they will offer weekend options soon for those of us who are not independently wealthy, self-employed or HousewivesTM, but actually holding down full-time jobs during the week.



All in all though, a big fan of the changes afoot on this side of the city, and hoping the shop/dine/play concept with local small businesses mixed in will catch and spread within the SFV.  But this is a solid start - sometimes, it just takes The Village.

______________________________________________________________

EMC Seafood & Raw Bar
6252 Topanga Canyon Blvd. #1695 (Inside The Village at Westfield Topanga)
Woodland Hills, CA 91367
Ph: 818.704.1899
(Other location: 3500 W. 6th St #101, Los Angeles, CA 90020. Ph: 213 351 9988)

Website: emcseafood.com  
Parking: in mall parking structure

Farmers Market at The Village at Westfield Topanga
Sundays 9am-1pm 

Yeak, Inc.

Website: yeakinc.com

Vagabond Cheese
Website: vagabondcheese.com

********** 

Not food, still delicious:
YogaWorks
6256 Topanga Canyon Blvd., Woodland Hills, CA 91367  
Ph: 818.337.3571
New users get a free week here.

_______________________________________________________________








Saturday, November 28, 2015

Holiday Bites: Top 12 Gift Ideas for Your Fav Foodie 2015

The holidays are officially upon us again. If you're wondering what to get the food / drink lover in your life, here are some ideas: this year, I'm combining edibles and non-edibles into one master list.

All gifts are under $150, and where scaled options or deals / discounts are available, I have noted them below each product description.




1. For the Holiday Enthusiast (Who Just.Can't.Wait.For.Every.Day.In.December.)


Photo source: Vosgeschocolate.com
Let them countdown to Christmas...with a daily dose of gourmet chocolate.  Housed in a beautiful keepsake advent calendar table box, with an individual drawer for each day in December til Christmas.  There's also a fun 'secret message' element - flip each drawer after indulging in that day's chocolate, and eventually a holiday greeting will be revealed.  Drawers filled with Caramels, Organic Peanut Butter Bonbons, Toffee and Mini Exotic Chocolate Bars.
The drawers are refillable too of course!  Just contact the Vosges "Chocolate Concierge".  Awesome, right?


Buy from: Vosgeschocolate.com $135

[Deal Alert: 20% off $100 spend at Vosgeschocolate.com on Cyber Monday only! No code required.]






Photo source: Honolulucookieco.com
2.  For Island Dreamers

Take them to the islands in the thick of winter, with Honolulu Cookie Company's insanely delicious shortbread cookies in the shape of pineapples, often dipped in chocolate.  

Get a sampler assortment like in the keepsake holiday box, which contains 8 cookies featuring 6 flavors: Pineapple Macadamia, Butter Macadamia, Chocolate Dipped Macadamia, Dark Chocolate Coconut, Dark Chocolate Peppermint, and White Chocolate Peppermint.

You can even get the pineapple shaped cookies in a fun clear pineapple shaped ornament, in case they can't get enough of...pineapple.

Buy from: honolulucookie.com









Photo source: Anthropologie

3.  Fit to a Tea

Fancy a cup and saucer set with some holiday sparkle?

Tea connoisseurs would also raise their pinkies to this floral loose leaf tea from Palais des Thes, in a highly civilized and sophisticated cup and saucer set tinged with holiday sparkle.

For an excellent locally handcrafted tea, check out Art of Tea.  They have the most incredible Egyptian Chamomile herbal tea with actual floral buds in a beautiful tin, or you can go all out and gift the leatherette box with a mix of their most popular teas in tea bags.
Buy from: 





4. For the Constant Caffeinator Concerned with Consistent Temperature

Because every.single.thing.you.own. needs to be 'smart' nowadays.  This smart mug keeps coffee or tea at the perfect temperature up to 2 hours on the go, or use charging coaster to maintain desired temperature all day

The Ember app then lets them customize their mug with a "name", temperature presets, and notification preferences.



Buy from: embertech.com / Indiegogo $129


5. For the Star Wars Fanatic
Because this won't just be ANY old holiday this year, it is as you're sure to have heard by now, the #SeasonoftheForce. Don't let your favorite Star Wars enthusiast hyperspace jump into their every day battles without fueling up with Rebel-worthy bites / sips.

Photo source: ThinkGeek
Let R2D2 take over duties for time watch, and precision with a cool measuring cup set that stacks up to the image of the charismatic droid.  Then, break out the Death Star for some Wookie...I mean...cookie containment.  And, give the gift of the best theme party ice breaker with Han Solo in Carbonite ice cubes made with the special shaping tray. And unleash dark forces with the Darth Vader corkscrew and bottle opener.

Buy from:


[Deal alert: sign up to Bed Bath & Beyond emails / texts for offers: often 20% off.  Then go through eBates first for 2%-4% cash back (varies by day), before clicking over to BB&B site and applying coupon.  Also go through eBates for ThinkGeek first to get 2.5% cash back]


6. For the Nostalgic / Luxe Sweettooth

Happy as a kid in a candy store...well now that expression can apply to adults as well, with a new crop of stores that offer upscale experiences and gourmet confections in beautiful packaging.
Photo source: Sugarfina

The first set that I love is Sugarfina and their store in Beverly Hills.  You can get a 'candy bento box' of treats of your selection, without the mess and unsanitary condition of bulk bins.  Gourmet candies like champagne flavored gummy bears and candied apricots in delicately painted chocolate egg shells, come in small plastic squares that can stack into beautiful bentos like a tasty puzzle.  Or, you can grab curated sets with fun themes like "Cocktail Hour" with brut & rose champagne bears, peach bellini gummies (my fav), chocolate "olive" almonds, kir royale cordials, Jamaican Rum snowballs and more, or "Happy Holidays" with pumpkin pie caramels, gingerbread cookies, candy cane caramels, peppermint malt balls and more.

 If you've ventured into either of the major malls in Sherman Oaks or Glendale lately, you might have noticed what looks like an old-timey sweets shop with an elegant old-world / classic European aesthetic.
You'll literally feel like an adult in a candy shop, and may be at risk of whip lash trying to take in all the wonders of sugary confections in every direction at once. 

There are bulk bins of delectable chocolates and candies that you can fill gummy bear shaped glass jars, mason jars or beautifully etched nostalgic tins with.  And designer artisanal often single-origin chocolate bars wrapped in the most gorgeous handmade paper you may have ever seen.  

These aren't run of the mill confections either - you'll see anything from Mr. Stanley Turkish Delights with rose & lemon, champagne mimosa / croissant and almond flavored chocolate bars, Remy Martin Cognac filled bonbons to Harry Potter pez dispensers.

Create your own tin, basket for your favorite sweets loving foodie - then double the order for yourself, as it'll definitely not be easy to part with your selections.  

Buy from:


[Deal alert: sign up for eBates (free) to get 3% cash back, then click through from the eBates Gilt City page to buy Gilt City voucher $50 for $75 store credit to Sugarfina here (deal ends 12/14)]


7. For the Novice Chef / Home Cooks Strapped for Time

Photo source: Blue Apron
This ready-to-cook-meals-in-a-box-to-your-door subscription service is fantastic: saves the headache of fighting traffic and crowds at the grocery store or planning your meals for the week out to ensure you use up all the ingredients.  Each week that you sign up for a box they send you all the fresh ingredients you need + simple recipe cards to make 3 curated dishes, and they are often very creative ones as well, using ingredients you may not normally encounter or think to use yourself, like finger limes, hominy (for pozole) and tomatillos. The great thing is that you can skip a week or as many weeks as you want in advance, with no penalties or fees.

Again, especially for single eaters - this service prevents food waste as well: they give you exactly the amount of ingredients you need to make the dishes of the week - for example, if your recipe calls for 1 stalk of celery, they will send you just the 1 stalk, so you don't have to buy an entire head that may go to waste if you don't have any use for it outside of that recipe.  And you can save the second portion of each dish for lunch or dinner the next day.

Buy from: Blue Apron $59.95 per week of your selection (for 3 meals x 2 servings per meal = 6 total meals)

[Deal Alert: save 3% + 35% + 25%!!! Do it in this order:

  • eBates - Gilt City (free to sign up) for 3% rebate this weekend (must go through desktop, not mobile) to save $0.94 (3% on paid amount if you follow the steps below, which will be paid by check to you after you accumulate $50 worth of rebates from various shopping within their vast network of partner sites)
  • Buy Gilt City voucher: pay $39 for $60 value to save $21
    • Use code: BLACKOUT25 for extra 25% off the order (ends Nov 28 11:59pm EST) to save $7.80]

Total cost with all 3 steps = $30.26; savings with all 3 steps = $29.74]





8. For the Love of Art

Gift a unique experience to remember: an after hours tour of LACMA galleries with an  art expert, learn about master works based on a theme, then dine after the tour with dishes around that theme (often at Ray's and Stark bar on the terrace of the musuem). Or learn to cook dishes around the theme.  

Previous themes have included Dali and Surrealism, German Art, and in January there is a Spanish Art & Tapas tour.

Photo source: Artbites.com


Buy from: artbites $80 or $110 gift certificates good towards artbites classes









9. For Wine / Spirits Lovers


Wine is always a welcome gift, and the Oremus Tokaji is sure to please even connoisseurs' tastes (afterall, if it's good enough to be served at Chef Curtis Stone's restaurant Maude in Beverly Hills...)

Pinnacle Iced Cider is another dessert wine I loved from our visit to Montreal - still trying to find out how to get a hold of a bottle in the US though - stay tuned!

And, not that anyone would reasonably have any leftovers after opening these wines - but for ahem, future other wines, should there be any remaining, get them a Savino Wine Carafe, an elegant glass cruet that they can not only serve from, but also preserve the wine for up to a week after opening.


Photo source: The Grommet
For Whiskey fans:

From the inventors of Corkcicle, the icicle shaped device that lets you chill your wine quickly, comes The Whiskey Wedge: a silicon form that allows you to create a slanted wedge of ice inside a specially designed tumbler to cool your drink while slowing dilution of flavor —as the ice block melts at a slower pace than regular ice cubes.  Works for whiskey, bourbon.

Buy from: 




10. For DIY Fans


Know someone who loves to add spice to everything?  The DIY Hot Sauce kit with let them create their own unique blend with cayenne, ancho, curry, and chili spice packs, peppers, vinegars, and brown sugar. 

Photo source: Uncommon Goods


      For spirits / cocktail enthusiasts: the absinthe kit has everything they need - besides their favorite high proof neutral spirit - to brew their own "Green Fairy" beloved of 19th century artists and writers (obviously without wormwood or the notorious hallucinogenic neurotoxin). Add complexity with a blend of 11 certified organic botanicals including fennel, anise, licorice, hyssop, angelica, and artemisia. The kit also includes a custom labeled 500ml Tortuga antique green bottle, 4" funnel, natural coffee filter, and  instructions. 

Buy from: Uncommongoods.com



11. For the Breath Obsessed / Those Who Tend to Overindulge in Holiday Spirits


Photo source: Breathometer

Let them check the quality of their breath, and be safe whether for the road (or on a date), with a personal portable smart breathalyzer, as seen on Shark Tank.



Buy from: Indiegogo  $49.99



12. For the Food Styling / Modernist Cuisine / Foodporn Enthusiast
Photo source: Darby Smart





Whether they are creators of food art or just want to style their food like one, this kit gives them all key tools to play with their food in a sophisticated way: includes precision tweezers, fine scissors, scalpel + 2 blades, culinary syringe + 2 syringe tips, oil mister, spatulas

Buy from: darbysmart $45





BONUS: Stocking Stuffer ideas:

Photo source: The Grommet
Wine2Go

For Hollywood Bowl Frequenters / Picnic Lovers: the foldable Wine2Go travel plastic bottle is easy to fill with your favorite wine (it holds a full bottle and are BPA free!), much more lightweight to carry than glass, with less risk of breakage.  Just roll up when you're done and it fits easily into your bag.

Buy from: The Grommet $12.99


Pressed Juicery

Photo source: Chalkboard magazine
Regular readers know that Pressed Juicery is one of the only ways I really get my veggies in, and actually enjoy it. Toast to your fav foodie's health with gift cards from Pressed Juicery - take advantage of their annual Black Friday deal to get more for your money too (see deal alert below).

Buy from: Pressed Juicery any denomination

[Deal alert: get 20% off gift cards any denomination, ends 11/29, in-stores only excluding Montecito, Paseo Nuevo, Manhattan Beach]



Tip:
For any of your other holiday shopping, first check eBates to score any retail rebates available, simply by clicking through the site first (free to sign up).
Ebates Coupons and Cash Back

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

LA Weekly The Essentials: Presale Tickets Now Available: Use Passcode: THE99BITE!

LA Weekly The Essentials

What: LA Weekly's signature food and wine extravaganza curated by award-winning food critic Besha Rodell: taste signature bites from select restaurants from the 99 Essentials list while enjoying wine, cocktails and beer and checking out artisanal vendors.


When: Saturday, February 20th, from 6pm-10pm (VIP Hour 5pm – 6pm)

Where: California Market Center, 110 E 9th St., Los Angeles, CA 90079





How much:
  •  General Admission:
    • Presale: $60 (November 17th @10am – November 22nd @10pm)
    • Super Advance: $60 (November 23rd @10am – January 3rd @11:59pm)
    • Advance: $65 (January 4th @12am – January 31st @ 11:59pm)
    • Pricing: $70 (February 1st @12am – February 19th at 5pm)
    • Door: $75*
  • VIP 
    • Difference from GA: 1 hour early entry + VIP gift bag
    • Presale: $95 (November 17th @10am – November 22nd @10pm)
    • Super Advance: $95 (November 23rd @10am – January 3rd @11:59pm)
    • Advance: $100 (January 4th @12am – January 31st @ 11:59pm)
    • Pricing: $105 (February 1st @12am – February 19th at 5pm)
    • Door: $110*
*If available.

Buy tickets here: ticketfly.com (use my passcode: THE99BITE to access presale tix: get them before they open it up to the general public!)



Event site: laweekly.com/essentials/2016/


Anticipated drool factor: 100%, perfect for those who want to sample before committing to a full dinner at some of the hottest / best and some of my favorite restaurants in the city including Providence (which you won't see at very many other food events like this!), Broken Spanish, Cassia, SqirlLA, ink, Le Comptoir, animal, Baroo, Chengdu Taste, Republique, and Redbird!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

North Pole Snow Cream: Snowburger Mashes Tropics with Arctic

Frozen treats have always been one of my Achilles heels - but the extent of creativity in this area has mostly been new flavors and ingredients in ice cream / gelato / shaved ice / custards.

Until Churroborough created an ice cream sandwich with churro discs instead of cookies.

And then people started substituting other carbs.  And then, the Snow Burger arrived and upended the ice cream sandwich inside out.  I was hooked from the first time I had it.

North Pole Snow Cream makes their Snow Burgers ($4) with snow (a frozen treat shaved down from large blocks similar to shaved ice, but whose consistency is creamier than shaved ice, but more airy and light than ice cream) + any topping (really more of a mix in, in the case of a Snow Burger) + any drizzle of your choice, then finishes it off by sticking that between two hawaiian buns.

Then here's the magic touch: the whole 'burger' is then pressed so that you get warm buns + cold snow cream, for an amazing interplay that is simultaneously comforting as hot cocoa, while wrapped up in a snuggie, by a roaring fire on a night in the frozen tundra.  While watching a travel show about some place in the scorching tropics, and ukulele music is playing in the background.

Yep, that is North Pole Snow Cream.

You can choose from more than 20 different flavors of 'snow', including dairy free ones, more than 20 toppings, and six different drizzles.  I LOVE that in this part of the San FERNANDO Valley, you can choose from flavors of snow that include black sesame and taro, as well as fun flavors like tiramisu, horchata and pistachio; toppings that include various flavors of boba, as well as red bean, and drizzle that includes condensed milk.

The snow cream creators behind the counter may be young guys, but they really know their flavors - and have been super helpful with recommendations for combos every time that I had been there.  After heeding their advice and trying the melon snow + fruit jelly + strawberry + condensed milk Snow Burger, I was hooked, and although I'd made it my mission to try as many combos as possible since I love this dessert so much, my favorite has remained that one that I had the first time, for its subtle sweetness cut through nicely by the hint of tart from the strawberries which all played well with the hawaiian buns.

A definite must try for those who live / work in the area, and also a great alternative dessert stop for those who may have traveled to Universal Studios Hollywood but looking for a change of pace from Citywalk.

Also of note, it can be difficult to find good coffee in this immediate area, and North Pole Snow Cream serves Intelligentsia coffee!!!

AND, it's open late - til 11pm Mondays to Thursdays and Sundays, midnight Fridays and Saturdays.

The strip mall parking lot in front of the shop is really small, so parking can be challenging during the day / evening, but later at night it's easier to find street parking on Ventura.  Or, you can risk parking in the free Rite Aid / Ralphs lot across and down the street and take a short walk.

___________________________________

North Pole Snow Cream & White Drop Espresso
11048 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, CA 91604
Ph: 323.203.1114

(Other location: 201 E Magnolia Blvd., Suite #119, Burbank, CA 91502)

Website: northpolesnowcream.com
Twitter: @northpolesnow 

_________________________________

North Pole Snow Cream with White Drop Espresso Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato





Sunday, November 8, 2015

Hanjip: Seoulful Elevated Korean BBQ in Culver City

With the largest Korean community outside of Seoul, Los Angeles food lovers are spoiled in the best way by the abundance of amazing restaurants concentrated in Ktown.

While I definitely have my much beloved 'everyday' type restaurants on regular rotation, few have tried to elevate the cuisine to more of a luxury dining experience.

Now, two brilliant minds have paired up to bring fine dining korean bbq westward to Culver City.

Chef Chris Oh, who brought playful inventive Korean to Westsiders in the form of Seoul Sausage (and now to Little Tokyo with Seoul Sausage Company), and restauranteur extraordinaire Stephane Bombet, who is responsible for one of my absolute favorite restaurants in the city (Faith and Flower) as well as many successful launches including Picca, Paiche and the newly opened Viviane are even taking it a step further - creating new sure-to-be-staple dishes while paying homage to the classics.

Even the banchan (complimentary side dishes) that are first to arrive at the table were impressive: high quality, fresh ingredients for familiar dishes like kimchi, potato salad, fish cakes, and inventive ones like marinated octopus tentacles in thin tasty slivers, and acorn jelly which is typically topped with just a spicy sauce, with crisp nori as well.

Then to the main attraction: the meat menu is carnivore nirvana with beautifully marbled staples like ribeye, skirt steak, short ribs and sliced brisket in prime cuts, pork belly ($23-$31 a platter) and - this I love - options that are more unusual to see this side of town, for the more adventurous, like pork neck / jowl, tongue, intestines and baby octopus. 

Hanjip like many others offers their meats both marinated or not - the latter so that you can control the intensity of flavor if you wish, using their dipping sauces.  I personally always prefer pre-marinated, for even flavor that has infused throughout the meat, and trust the chef here - the flavors are skillfully controlled and well balanced.

Definitely try the hamachi (yellowtail fish) collar as well - an item more familiar on Japanese menus than Korean ones - with its fatty juicy tender meat, and wake-up-the-next-day-with-a-need-for-another-fix delicious marinade, made addictively smokey over the grill.

As another fun element that makes every guest feel VIP - Hanjip will break out gold grillz for you to cook the meats on.
The award for most dramatic cut of meat - that is sure to become Hanjip's signature - is the gargantuan Tomahawk steak ($120) that is on a bone so big it looked like it came from a pterodactyl, cooked sous vide with FOIE GRAS BUTTER for the most luscious tender texture and earthy umami, captured within a light and crisp char when seared on the grill.

Part of the reason I love Korean barbecue so much is for the very interactive, social aspect of the dining experience.  While the chef of course does all the prep for you, you get the chance to actually finish the cooking yourself, with your dining companions, as a shared activity.  The fun of it is in working together to complete your meal, alternating roles of cook / server/ eater all while at the dining table.

The tomahawk takes that to the next level and will definitely make for a very memorable night out (for up to 4 people to feed on, I would say!) - and one that will have people reminiscing for weeks after. (Read again: FOIE GRAS BUTTER!!!)

Beyond the amazing meats, the 'Bonus' section dishes are stars in their own right as well.

As with his other restaurants, Stephane's team really pays attention to every detail here: even the humble Kimchi Fried Rice ($10), ubiquitous to most korean restaurants, gets an upgrade in taste sauteed in brown butter with lovely runny egg + seaweed toppings, and in presentation in an elevated version of the lunch tin (shikdorak).


A bonus dish that was not only a fun photo opp, but an example of Chef Oh's creativity, is the Bone Marrow Corn Cheese ($15) with shaved parmesan and bonito flakes.  The luxe 'meat butter' is scraped down and mixed up into the sweet kernels of corn punctuated by counterbalancing textures and intensity of savory with bonito flakes, and creamier with parmesan.



My favorite of the Bonuses was officially called Uni Steamed Egg ($15), but what I like to call Egg on Egg on Egg Trifecta.  Chef Oh takes the steamed egg that is commonly found in korean restaurants, and adds bright creamy umami sea urchin on top, with salmon roe for additional bursts of brine, and tops the whole thing with furikake in a steamy, fluffy cloud of foodgasmic eggporn deliciousness.  Seafood lovers will defnitely have their dishes to love beyond meats as well!!!

(If for some bizarre and unfathomable reason you do not like sea urchin, this dish is offered sans uni as well, for a very good deal of $5.)
Which reminds me...my actual favorite of the 'mains' was the Carabineros Prawns ($88 for 3).  These prawns - some of the biggest in the world - typically come from Morocco, and I haven't seen this on very many menus in LA yet at all.  They are the MOST delicious prawns I've ever had. With intense, concentrated flavorful meat that is in perfect balance between savory and sweet, with texture more robust and meaty than shrimp but softer and less muscular than lobster, these divine sea creatures are a MUST get whenever you encounter them, and definitely at Hanjip.  Foodies who are also shrimp/prawn-head lovers will appreciate the giant treasure troves here, of precious roe, tomalley, and clean structured dark orange flavor bombs that had me disregarding all sense of decorum and going all in, juices dripping down to both elbows or not.  Even other food bloggers used to seeing all kinds of gluttonous debauchery were slightly (or majorly) appalled at the spectacle - but these were SO GOOD that I didn't care one bit.

Besides the luxe food offerings, another point of difference with Hanjip from most other KBBQs is that you can get great wines to pair with your meal. I don't know anything about wines but expert @pleasethepalate was happy with the list!

All in all, Stephane can count this as another hit in his portfolio of super successful dining destinations.  It's become an instant favorite for me at least, and I will be back again as soon as I possible can.

Til then, I will remain in severe #foodenvy mode with all the Sony employees who have Hanjip right in their backyard.

_______________________________________

Hanjip
3829 Main Street, Culver City, CA 90232
Ph: 323.720.8804


Website: hanjip.com


Parking:  Structure on Cardiff next to Bank of America.  First 2 hours free.

Look for reservations (and rewards points!) at OpenTable.

________________________________________

 
Hanjip Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 



*Disclaimer: this meal was hosted.
 

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