Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Foreign & Domestic [Austin, TX]

When I moved to New York, I was floored by the prices I was forced to pay at restaurants. Everything was at least $5-10 more than what I was used to paying back home in L.A. A bowl of ramen and Japanese fried rice at, say, Hakata Ramen in L.A. cost around $13. I can't even get a regular bowl of ramen for that price at Ippudo in NYC. So going to Austin this past weekend and spending SO MUCH LESS than I would have in New York was quite a trip.

Happy campers
Joyce and Tim took me to Foreign & Domestic on my last night there. Ned and Jody Elliott, the young, hip couple who opened this place, were both formally trained but one could see that traditions were thrown out of the window after one look at the menu (and at our spread). The prices we paid for our dinner (3 main courses, one appetizer) was almost illegal if the menu was shown in New York. Seriously. A waygu beef dish for under $30. What?!

And without further ado, food photos.

Appetizer: Crispy beef tongue ($8)
So tender and juicy on the inside and only mildly crispy on the outside (that's a good thing!). The arugula and horseradish added some interesting flavors but I could happily have just eaten the beef by itself.

Braised waygu beef with potato butter, tomato jam, and poached veggies ($26)
I mean, seriously. What can I say. All the beef, please.

Vital Farms duck fat fried chicken ($18) On top of collard greens, biscuit, carrot slaw and drizzled with goats heart gravy. I could definitely have done without the collard greens (a bit too salty) and the biscuit was just okay but nothing mattered after the chicken. Even the white meat, as Joyce put it, was too good to pass up (the Chinese in us <3 our dark meat, I guess).

3 Cheese raviolo with poached egg, toasted garlic, bread crumbs ($16). This was a good dish, but nothing compared to the beef and chicken dish. I sort of wish we erred on the side of super unhealthy and ordered another meat dish.

There were SO MANY other things I wanted to try (pork brains with huckleberries as another appetizer?) but I was way too full. I didn't even have room for dessert (WORST EVER!). Definitely would go back if I'm ever in town again.

Foreign & Domestic
306 E.53rd St.
Austin, TX 78751

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Parked: Food Truck Rally

I don't know if there is a better way of spending your Saturday than going to a food truck festival with a friend who is equally in love with food as you are. You mean, I don't have to track these trucks down using Twitter and Midtown Lunch? You mean, they are all converging in one spot and I can have anything I want all in one place? Sold.

I'm very glad Hilary and I got to South Street Seaport--where the event was located--as early as we did. By the time we left, around 1:30 PM or so, the lines were crazy long and there was obviously no guarantee that the dish you wanted would still be around.

We started our gluttonous day with some meatball sliders courtesy of a stand (not an actual truck) called Mighty Balls.

The three choices they served were beef, pork, and veggie meatballs. You can choose a sauce for each slider (African Onion, Cranberry Horseradish, Not Your Average Brown Sauce, Jalepeno Jelly, and Tempting Tomato) and for a$1 more, a cheese to top it off (Parmesan, spicy Feta, Mozzarella).

Hilary and I ordered the beef meatball with the tomato sauce (top photo) and the pork meatball with the brown sauce (bottom photo). The brown sauce had a hint of sweetness which was great given the general lightly-sweet flavor of pork. We actually didn't know what the brown sauce tasted like before we ordered it, so kudos to us for choosing wisely. The beef meatball had a bit of a spice kick to it which was amplified by the tangy tomato sauce. The highlight of our food tour, for sure.

We also ordered their pomegranate lemonade, which was enticingly displayed in a clear jug beckoning us to try it in the hot weather.

Continuing our food-shaped-like-spheres theme, we decided to try another stand called Teriyaki Ball. For $6, you get 6 dough-y balls with potato, sausage, or shrimp tucked inside. It is then topped with teriyako sauce and mayo, some crispy tempura flakes, and sliced almonds. I was pretty underwhelmed with this mostly because of the price, but also because it was a lot breadier than I had expected. I SEE you sausage, but I can't seem to taste you. It doesn't help that the sausage was reminiscent of sausage that you top on a pizza from Pizza Hut. The girls working the stand were very adorable and nice though, on the other hand.

By now, the lines were getting ridiculously long. I had wanted to try a few more things from some of the trucks like Mexicue (barbequed meats on tacos) and Gorilla Cheese (fancy, gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches), but the sun was bearing down on me and I am generally a very impatient person. Neither one of us wanted to get full meals because we wanted to try as many little things as possible, so a lot of the food trucks were out (Ed's Pizza, Two Pitas, a bunch of the burger trucks).

One of the trucks with no line was Rickshaw Dumpling. I had seen this truck idling near Astor Place plenty of times but was always wary of it because dumplings = an Asian thing and I never saw any Asians manning the truck. This time was no different, but I was still hungry and again, no line. For $6, you get six dumplings that come out of this steamer-oven-type thing.

Hilary and I ordered the Thai Basil and Chicken dumplings since we realized we haven't tried anything with chicken yet (and you know that is my favorite protein). Oddly enough, it came with a sauce? As Hilary said over dim sum today, "White people love their sauce." So true. This one came with a peanut satay sauce. The dumpling consisted of minced chicken, Thai basil, glass noodles, sliced carrots. It was...okay. I get why they gave you sauce though. The dumpling skin was so dry, probably because it's been chilling on a tray for a long time. At least they offered you chopsticks to make it SOMEWHAT "authentic."

To end our food truck day: dessert. There were a bunch of trucks and stands serving desserts like waffles (Wafels & Dinges which Hilary and I have gone to a bunch of times so we didn't need to get it that time), ice cream sandwiches (CoolHaus), slushies, cupcakes, cookies, and other baked goods.

I wanted to get some Wooly's Ice again but since there was another shaved ice stand, I decided to give this one a whirl to see how it compares.
For $6, you got shaved ice with a scoop of either green tea ice cream or mango sorbet, and three toppings. The ice is then drizzled with condensed milk. The ice is your run-of-the mill shaved ice (unlike Wooly's, which is like sheets of snow ice, Taiwanese style). For $6, it's a bit more than Wooly's, BUT you do get a lot more toppings. If only I could combine the ice of Wooly's with the generous amount of toppings of Shaved Ice Shop, then it would be the perfect dessert. Regardless, still pretty tasty.

We got mango sorbet with chopped mangoes, strawberries, and matcha mochi. The mochi was a tad bit too chewy for me but I liked the freshness of the sorbet.

Since Hilary and I are both very organized people, we had a list/game plan and had taken notes as to what we both ate. Here she is in action, with her game face on.

And to end, here I am in front of an Ethopian food truck with what had to be the weirdest people working there. A girl was wearing a green wig, which can't be that sanitary around food...

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Father's Office can S a million D's [Culver City]

Because Vivian and I are on opposite coasts most of the time, we don't get to share meals very often. (We do however keep each other updated on our current and upcoming meals to a potentially weird extent.) When Vivian came home for a couple of weeks in June, we were finally able to meet up and share a meal at Father's Office. Unfortunately, that meal was balls.

Frankly, we don't get it. Aside from the overly caramelized onions, the burger was bland. Not only was the patty conspicuously non-beefy, the texture was mushy and unappealing. For us, burgers are all about the beef, and no magical combination of toppings could make up for FO's bland, mushy patty.

Combine a mediocre burger with an unnecessarily adversarial seating situation and a pretentious attitude about condiments, and you get an extremely flattering picture capturing our delight at the experience and a gchat convo full of righteous anger. Check it out after the jump for Vivian's take and for our hourlong fight for a table, won in the end by awkwardness.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Bacon fried rice

My friend Joyce had come upon some homemade bacon. I don't mean the thin strips of bacon. Oh no, we're talking about the fatty slabs of pork, smoked in-house. So Sunday night, we decided to do bacon night. She brought over a delicious portion of the bacon that is apparently Schezwan-style. And what better way to cook this than in a Chinese-style fried rice dish?

And that is what we did. And boy was it delicious.
What you need:
2 eggs, lightly scrambled, seasoned with salt/pepper
green onions (enough for a handful or two when chopped)
half a tomato, chopped
half an onion, diced
bacon (as much as humanly possible)
2 cups of cooked rice (day old rice cool. Mine was a month old--frozen for a month, I mean)
peas, carrots, corn to assuage the guilt of too much bacon fat
soy sauce

What to do:
Dice up your bacon into manageable, bite-size pieces. In a frying pan, cook the bacon. Reserve the fat.

In a wok, lightly scramble/cook the eggs with some of the bacon fat. Remove from heat. Cook the onions with some more of the fat.

Add in the tomatoes, peas, carrots, and corn.
Once the onion is getting translucent, add in the eggs. Now, the bacon! Give it all a good mix.
Now, rice. I recommend you make a little space in the middle so you can slowly drizzle some soy sauce. You don't need much since the bacon will be salty enough.
Now mix, mix mix until the rice is brown, your stomach is grumbling.

Eat right outta the wok.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Tijuana [Part 2]

Our first day in Tijuana had exceeded my already high expectations. But the second day? It was, to borrow a phrase from Teddy Roosevelt, "just constant epic awesomeness".

We started the day at El Mazateño for seafood tacos. As good a breakfast as I can imagine.

Like the escabeche at Tacos Salceados, this complimentary broth had a lot more depth of flavor than you would expect from something so non-central to the meal.

It was at this stop where I learned, from Bill, to use "taco" as a verb. Here is my taco de camaron enchilado, or chilied shrimp, pre-tacoing. And here are my taco-ing supplies:


One of my favorite tacos from the trip. Seriously. And this is a trip during which I must have eaten around 20 tacos, all delicious. Spicy, chewy, crunchy (thanks to the lightly fried tortillas), and creamy all in the right ways.

The smoky, creamy marlin taco was no slouch either. I also got to try a little of the fish taco, which had an incredible seasoned batter. Everything I'd eaten so far was ridiculously good, and this was only the first stop of the day.

We headed next to Tacos El Poblano to try some carne asada tacos.

Here they use a blend of different cuts of beef cooked over mesquite, unlike the flat top prepared carne asada in LA.

Ok, you can't see the meat here. But it was delicious. The char on the meat makes all the difference.

I also had a tostada, which had a much smokier flavor than the taco. It was nice to experience the carne asada in two distinct ways.

Our next stop was Tortas Wash Mobile, a shack named after the adjacent car wash that has since closed.

They do one thing at Tortas Wash Mobile, which is make the best damn sandwich I have ever had.

The ingredients are simple: a ciabatta-like house made roll toasted on the grill, butterfly cut steak grilled over mesquite and left to rest in its own juices, a bit of mayonnaise, vinegary tomatoes and purple onions, and creamy guacamole. It may sound simple, and it is. It's also perfect.

Okay, they don't only make amazing tortas. This horchata was ridonkulously good, with a beautiful creaminess and a subtle yet rich flavor. If I could have just one meal from Tijuana available to me in LA, it would be a torta and horchata from Tortas Wash Mobile.

For my companions, this was about the time that belly fatigue began to set in, hard. After a full morning of non-stop taco consumption, finishing this torta proved beyond the limits of a normal human being. What my companions began to realize at this time is that I am not a normal human being. According to Wasima at Tiffin Unboxed, I sat on the trolley enthusiastically eating my torta, totally tuned out to the fact that my companions were watching me in awe. It's an image in which my husband finds endless amusement and about which I waffle between pride and embarrassment.

Bill made a change in plans and instead of another taqueria, we went to El Conchal, a shack across from the Mercado Hidalgo, for some incredible Sinaloan style seafood.

The aguachile, served in a molcajete, was sublime, with spicy yet delicate raw shrimp and scallops. We also had fresh clam on the shell. A delicious respite from the heavier fare earlier in the day.

Aaaaand, sadly, those were the last my pictures for day 2. We stopped by Caesar's, the original birthplace of the Caesar salad, which had been recently reopened by Chef Javier Plascencia, and a brewery for some drinks and snacks.

Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures from our amazing meal with Chef Javier at Erizo Cebicheria. Suffice it to say that if you ever have the chance to eat his food, do not miss out. Our nine course tasting menu included tostaditas with different types of ceviche, a mindblowing octopus carpaccio, scallop ceviche in squid ink, a dreamy sea urchin "cappuccino", tacos with swordfish prepared like cochinita pibil, sopes with abalone chorizo, and seafood risotto. So much deliciousness and creativity. An outstanding experience.

We started day 3 of awesomeness with Tacos Aaron, which specializes in tacos varios or tacos de guisado. As Bill says, this style of taco "represents Mexican home cooking at the taco stand." Bill recommended the milanesa, chorizo español con huevo, and the chile relleno tacos.

I loved these tacos. They practically taste like comfort, and instantly evoked feelings I normally associate with foods I've eaten since childhood.

Tacos Aaron is one of two trucks we visited that day. The other was the legendary Mariscos Ruben.

As Bill likes to say, "Mexican Twitter is parking in the same spot for 20 years."

It is a testament to the quality of Bill's selections that each of them managed to impress despite competing for attention with each other. The marlin taquito was smoky, crunchy, and delicious beyond belief. The almejas gratinadas, or clams au gratin, are good enough to make you weep.

How else to close but to thank Bill, again, for the amazing trip? I came with high expectations and was still surprised at every turn. I cannot wait to do a trip like this again.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Lazy Ox Canteen [Little Tokyo/Downtown LA]

I went to Lazy Ox Canteen in Little Tokyo for New Year's Eve with a few friends (and friends of friends) after seeing the musical "Next to Normal." I'm a fan of gastropub restaurants/places that serve little gourmet dishes to share so I was pretty into the idea of coming here. The service was good, especially since it definitely sucks to be working on NYE.

The two gripes I had were: since there was no room inside, we had to sit outside at night. We had asked the hostess to let us know if any tables open up inside and she never once came out to give us an update. Kind of not cool. Secondly, the prices are a bit too much for me/the dishes itself. Don't get me wrong, the food was all delicious; if each dish was a few dollars less, then it would be more worth it and warrant a second visit. There were five of us, which meant we could try a whole bunch of dishes (they had a regular menu and a "blackboard" menu of specials). They also had a very nice list of unique beers other restaurants probably wouldn't serve, which was great. Since there are too many dishes to talk about (and I don't want to bore you), I'll let the photos do (most of the) talking.

Bellwether Farms ricotta fritters with saffron honey (7). I'm a huge fan of ricotta, so having them with a bit of honey was fantastic.

Dashi marinated yellowtail with avocado, hash brown and tonburi (15). The hash brown was a bit awkward in the dish, as the yellowtail and avocado has more of that citrus taste. Take away the hash brown, and this was a pretty good dish.

Beef lengua (tongue) and chorizo croquette with harissa. I didn't expect the tongue to be diced up so small but the flavor was still there. Subtle, but there.

Crispy bone marrow with lentil salad. Airy and light, I didn't even know I was tasting bone marrow! Pretty fun to try.

Rose (8) and Proseco (12)to start the festivities!

Marinated anchovies with piquillo pepper. I'm not a fan of anchovies, but I tried this anyway. The marinade was good; so were the peppers. This has a very anchovy taste which overpowered everything else...so if you like that, this is right up your alley.

Squash blossoms with ricotta and prosciutto. Basically a squash tempura filled with ricotta. The batter was very delicate and light, which gave me more of the squash and ricotta flavor. I didn't taste any prosciutto though.

Hand-torn pasta with fried egg and herbs. The pasta was really delicious. I don't know what kind of sauce they used (actually I shouldn't use sauce, more of a drizzle of something but I want to know so I can make it!

I very rarely eat lamb (not a fan of gamey meat in general), but the taste wasn't overwhelmingly gamey. Very moist and tender.

Butterscotch pudding with pine nut cookie (8). I didn't have any of the cookie but the pudding was really delicious. A hint of salt and a slight bitter aftertaste counters the sweetness and richness of butterscotch. I was worried it would be too heavy, but it was a very light pudding.

The first rice pudding (9) I actually enjoyed. Light, airy and subtle, the hazelnut on top of the pudding, as well as the caramel and cream in the other two dishes, really elevated this dish.

Lazy Ox Canteen
241 S San Pedro St
Los Angeles, CA 90012