Thursday, November 15, 2007

Last (!) LA Post

by Xani

First part of Last LA Post here.

Just moments after we polished off our delicious Pinkberry treats, we stopped into Jin Patisserie, an adorable little sweet shop with an even cuter tea garden outside.

As I write this on a dreary mid-Atlantic November morning, I realize it's probably sunny and warm at Jin's. Wow, that is NOT fair!

Anyway, we stopped into the shop and marveled at the absolutely beautiful little cakes, cookies and candies. I wish I had taken more pictures in the store, but I didn't want to get in trouble or anything (I had just broken the rules by taking secret pictures at Pinkberry, so I didn't want to push my luck!). You see can plenty of pictures of their amazing edible art at http://www.jinpatisserie.com/.

We picked up a box of multi-flavored macarons, which are traditional french pastries made of meringue-like cookies sandwiched together with various fillings (not to be confused with macaroons, the coconut-based Passover treat). Too full to eat them right that minute, we headed back to Ann and Steven's adorable Santa Monica apartment, where Steven brewed up some good strong coffee and we dug in to the macarons.

Great packaging makes a difference...

As does good plating!

Coffee cup included for scale; tiny=cute!

It's been a while now but I believe the flavors included in our little sampler were: lavender, rose, strawberry, caramel, chocolate, pistachio... and two I can't remember. The macarons were very yummy, the flavors were pretty subtle, but they were a delicious afternoon treat to enjoy with coffee and great company!

It seems like only minutes later we were getting back into the bar for a quick dinner (!!!) at 26 Beach before I needed to be at the airport. 26 Beach also has a cute semi-outdoor dining area, although the only picture I snapped is this blurry one of several tiny chandeliers hanging near the front door:

Blurry photo, cute idea

We somehow managed to put even more food into out bodies (just salad for me this time-- I AM NOT A MACHINE!) and have more great chats before it was time to head back to LAX. I had such a great time in LA and I must thank Jenny, Ann and Steven for being such wonderful hosts. Looking forward to my next trip to California!

X

Monday, November 12, 2007

Last (?) LA Post

by Xani

My final day in LA was one for the record books, eating-wise. I finally got together with my cousins Ann and Steven, who you might remember from EP's visit to LA a while back. As soon as they picked me up we were off to the first (of many) eating experiences of the day.

Meltdown, etc is a grilled cheese restaurant that is only open for lunch. Once I heard about this place I HAD to try it so I could compare it to the other grilled cheese restaurant I visited while in Cleveland just a few days earlier, Melt Bar and Grilled. So here's a head to head comparison:

Melt Bar and Grilled is a restaurant and bar, with a funky vibe (check out the bread and crossbones logo on their web page-- love it!) and an extended beer list. My friend Hayley and I went for a late-ish dinner on a Friday night, and were impressed with the tattooed and pierced servers, interesting decor, and especially the ginormous grilled cheese sandwiches we saw on other people's plates! Melt offers a BIG selection of grilled cheeses but we finally settled on two, the chorizo and potato (sharp cheddar, spicy Mexican sausage) and the spinach pie (wilted garlic spinach, roasted red pepper, grilled onions, feta). We sipped our beers and soon enough, out came the sandwiches... all I can say is WOW! First of all, they were HUGE-- thick cut, crunchy grilled bread absolutely stuffed with hot, melt-y fillings. Alongside each was a massive pile of really great boardwalk style fries. Serious Midwest-sized portions, and did I mention each one was only $7.50!? What a bargain!

It barely fits on the plate!

Chorizo and Potato Grilled Cheese

Spinach Pie Grilled Cheese

Love this backlit glass art piece above the front door

Both sandwiches were great. The edge goes to the Spinach pie, which was super-tasty with a great balance of flavors. Chorizo and potato was also very good, but, and I can't believe I'm saying this, had a little too much potato. Who knew that was even possible? As much as I LOOOOVE potatoes, once you put them on bread, it starts getting a little ridiculous. Even for me. But overall we both loved Melt, I would love to go back and spend an evening nibbling grilled cheeses and sampling a bunch of those interesting beers... and then sleep for 14 hours.

But this is an LA post so let me get back to Cali, and discuss Meltdown, etc. Meltdown is a tiny little place with mostly outdoor seating (only about 10 tables). We ordered an array of food, paid at the counter, grabbed a table outsitde, and a few minutes later, out came the sandwiches. Between the three of us we shared a Classic 3 Cheese (sharp cheddar, muenster, and fontina on sourdough bread) with applewood bacon, a Caprese (fresh mozzarella, roma tomatoes, basil, olive oil, vinegar, and walnut pesto on ciabatta bread), and a Turkey Melt (brie, oven-roasted turkey breast, arugula, cranberry-horseradish mustard on walnut bread). These were definitely more "west-coast" portions-- the sandwiches were on standard-sized bread, and had a more manageable amount of cheese, etc on the inside. The favorite of the group was the classic 3 cheese with bacon, which had perfectly crunchy bread, lots of melted cheese, and, of course, bacon. Runner up was the turkey melt, which was very tasty (especially the cranberry horseradish mustard) but which we all agreed was not really grilled cheese, it was a turkey melt! Caprese came in last-- the mozzarella, oil and vinegar made the bread pretty soggy. Bummer.

Caprese: looks amazing, tastes mushy

Melted cheese+bacon=delicious

Turkey Melt: delicious but disqualified

The final verdict: Melt Bar and Grilled in Cleveland trumps Meltdown, etc in LA. While outdoor dining and reasonable portions make sense in SoCal, I'll take the enormous sandwiches (and fries) at a great price in a funky, dive-y atmosphere. Also, Melt had beer!

After lunch at Meltdown, we ended up stopping for not one, but TWO desserts that afternoon! We took a short drive to Venice Beach and ended up at Pinkberry, which is apparently a big LA phenomenon (although I see from their website they also have locations in New York. Go figure). So, of course, I was skeptical; what's all the fuss over some frozen yogurt? Pinkberry claims to be "swirly goodness" and offers only two flavors (vanilla and green tea) and traditional candy toppings as well as fresh fruit. I was willing to try it. I ordered a small vanilla topped with pomegranate seeds (their featured fall season topping). As much as I was ready to dismiss Pinkberry as a silly fad, I have to admit it was really good. Unlike other frozen yogurt, which tries, unsuccessfully, to taste like ice cream, Pinkberry actually tastes like yogurt-- creamy and sweet but with a tangy flavor (Steven said it reminded him of cream cheese). It has a texture similar to ice milk, not ice cream, so its not overly rich. The slightly sour, crunchy pomegranate seeds on top were absolutely great with the yogurt. If you are anywhere near a Pinkberry, go get this right away. I can't believe I'm saying it, but I LOVED Pinkberry! Next thing you know I'll have a bejeweled cell phone and be carrying a dog in a purse!!

Beautiful and delicious!

There was a sign banning photography inside Pinkberry

so special thanks to Steven for hiding me

while I snapped a couple pics!

We strolled around the shops and even stopped into the Smart Car dealership for a few minutes before moving onto our next snack. Next we were off to Jin Patisserie... but that, my friends, is a post for another day! Don't you just love a cliffhanger??

X

Sunday, November 11, 2007

And the Beet Goes On

by Erin and Xani

In our family, when it's someone's birthday, not only does the Birthday Girl/Boy get taken out for fancy dinners, but he or she ALSO gets his or her favorite meal (or a meal of his or her choice) cooked at home. We apparently take this policy very seriously, because when EP turned 25 this summer, she got her fancy meal at a restaurant, but she had not, as of last Sunday, received her home-cooked meal. Well, rules are rules and as a family of attorneys (and an attorney-in-training), we know how to follow rules. So last Sunday, we belatedly celebrated EP's birthday with another extravagant meal.

Here was the menu:

  • Cocktails
  • Shrimp with Green Goddess Sauce and Cocktail Sauce
  • Raw Oysters
  • Beet Carpaccio with Goat Cheese and Mint Vinaigrette
  • Prime Rib with Yorkshire Pudding and Asparagus
  • Concord Grape Sorbet

For our cocktails, the ladies enjoyed Champagne Cocktails (champagne, angostura bitters, and a sugar cube) while Dad enjoyed a good strong Martini. No pics of these since they've been fully chronicled here and here (wow, we're starting to look like alcoholics here...).

Next we had our first course, which was cooked, cold shrimp served with Green Goddess Sauce (we also served some Cocktail Sauce with them). Green Goddess Sauce is a sauce to be served with cold, cooked seafood, and it made its first appearance in our repertoire back in the day at our Bastille Day party. We used the recipe from The New York Times Cookbook and it is really delicious and very easy to make. Just take chives, parsley, tarragon, and garlic and pulse together in a food processor. Then add anchovies, lemon juice, and mayonnaise until combined. Finally, fold in sour cream. We added extra garlic, anchovies, and lemon juice - big shocker there. It is a rich sauce but it's very flavorful, and is a huge hit at parties since it's so delicious and an unexpected turn from traditional cocktail sauce.

More anchovies, please...

Next, Dad and Xani shucked some oysters (including an absolutely gigantic one, as big as Dad's hand!) and EP ate her first oyster and LIKED IT! Hooray! (Actually, technically it was her second oyster which she tried several years ago and did not like, but now it seems her palate has finally figured out that she's a foodie, dammit, and foodies like oysters!). She was inspired to try them again since Mom, Dad, and Xani said they were just about the freshest oysters they've ever had.

EP before the big slurp

After our first course, we moved on to the salad course. Thanks to Epicurious, we found a recipe for Beet Carpaccio with Goat Cheese and Mint Vinaigrette, which was absolutely delicious. We really wanted to have a salad with roasted beets since they are so yummy and have such a unique texture and flavor. This recipe was perfect for us! The beets were roasted first and then peeled, and then to slice them thinly, Xani got to play with one of her favorite toys: the mandoline! The vinaigrette was easy, consisting of shallot, rice vinegar, mint, olive oil, and sugar. (The recipe actually instructs you to put minced shallot on the plate instead of in the vinaigrette, but we threw it in the food processor instead and it added an onion-y level that was present but too powerful.) The sweetness and tartness of the vinaigrette was great against the sweet beet and the goat cheese.

Next we got to the main course: PRIME RIB! Some of you long-time readers may remember that we made prime rib for our very first post! We used the same recipe from James Beard, where you (cardiologists avert your eyes!) smother the prime rib with butter and salt and pepper, and then roast at 500 degrees at 5 minutes per pound. After that time is over, DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN for two hours. Now, back in the day before we started using an instant-read themometer when we cooked meat, this was a failsafe technique. But now, we leave the oven closed until the meat hits (food safety professonals avert your eyes!) 123 degrees, since it will continue to cook as it rests. As you can see, it turned out perfectly!! Oh we are drooling as we discuss this glorious dish...sooo delicious...

Dad supervising Xani's carving

Gellie at the ready

As one of our side dishes, we wanted to have the traditional accompaniment to prime rib: Yorkshire Pudding. Usually, we use the James Beard recipe for yorkshire pudding, but in past years it has failed us - the yorky (as BCD Mom calls it) comes out flat and not puffy as it should, and it is entirely too greasy (even for us). So, Mom and Erin hit up the internet and came up with Tyler Florence's recipe. We liked this recipe because it called for a moderate amount of pan drippings/fat (not too little and not too much) and it said you can use a cast-iron skillet. (Clearly we had not made enough dirty dishes at this point and we needed to make sure every dish, pot, and pan got some face-time.)

The yorky came out okay - after all that grease-phobia, it turned out that our well-trimmed roast (thanks to Dad and Xani's butchering skills) did not create enough grease! Also, we doubled the recipe and therefore used 6 eggs in the dish, which made it very eggy. Not great. Ah well...

We also steamed some asparagus. End of story on that one. Here is the finished plate:

For dessert, Xani and Erin went back to their favorite Gelateria in Fells Point, Pintango (see our love at first taste here), where they picked up some Concord Grape Sorbet (insert Manischewitz joke here). It was sweet and delicious but light after that ridiculous meal.

It was another great meal and a Sunday Dinner for the books. With the exception of Gellie's 3rd birthday next weekend (or, 21st for all you party animals), no more birthdays until January (Mom) and February (Xani). No worries though - that usually means dinner at Charleston!!!

Happy Birthday Gellie!

Happy Eating,

E & X

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