Thursday, July 10, 2014

Thursday, July 10, 2014


4 Places to Get Good Poke in L.A.

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Thu, Jul 10, 2014 at 9:00 AM
Fish King - T. CHEN
  • T. Chen
  • Fish King
While even poke stalwart Sam Choy isn’t sure of poke’s exact origin, it's apparent that the current form of Japanese-influenced poke became pervasive throughout the “grindz” culture in the 1970s. Since then (and even more so since President Obama’s win), poke has become one of the go-to island food memories for mainlanders. During a hot, summer day, a bowl of poke, whether eaten solo or accompanied by rice, brings out the snorkeler in everyone . Here are 3 newish — and one that's been around for a while — L.A. restaurants for fresh poke.

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"The Bug Chef" David George Gordon - ILLUSTRATION BY ERIC DAVISON
  • Illustration by Eric Davison
  • "The Bug Chef" David George Gordon

Cricket orzo and spider tempura are on the menu at Chef David George Gordon's cooking demonstration. "Make sure you get a cricket," he advises, as assistants dish up samples. Gordon, 64, is known in entomophagy circles as "the bug chef," and his demo is taking place at the Natural History Museum one balmy late spring day, when the air and grass and trees are a veritable buffet of edible creepy crawlies.

Next up: deep-fried tarantula. Gordon removes the abdomen (urticating hairs, prickly) and dips the remainder in tempura batter (organic, Whole Foods).

People have an easier time eating bugs, he finds, if the bugs aren't staring back at them. A nice, crispy coating helps.

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Do you love potato salad? Maybe you're one of more than 4,000 backers who collectively contributed more than $40,0000 in less than a week to Zack Danger Brown's now infamous potato salad Kickstarter, whose goal was initially set at $10. With ample publicity from nearly every corner of the mainstream media — earlier this week, Brown was interviewed by Good Morning America, Buzzfeed, and participated in a Reddit AMA — the donations are still pouring in by the minute. It seems everyone wants a piece of this potato salad.

In fact, Brown is struggling to come up with new rewards for his thousands of backers. He initially promised backers a bite of the potato salad, but now he's upped the ante by offering to live stream the making of the potato salad, use better mayo and multiple recipes. He's even contemplating ordering trucker hats that say "I love potato salad." But the truth is, not everyone's going to get a bite of this Ohio-made potato salad.

It turns out, Kickstarter is flooded with a new crop of local campaigns inspired by Brown's success. Here's a look at the best L.A.-based Kickstarters from Brown wannabes — who might actually share their product with you if you go fund it. 

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Yingst Gravenstein apples - FELICIA FRIESEMA
  • Felicia Friesema
  • Yingst Gravenstein apples
For more than 28 years, the Yingst family — headed by Nancy and her late husband Charles — have grown some of the finest heirloom fruit in Southern California. Sadly, due to a combination of factors, including the  family urging a move to Arizona, Mrs. Yingst, who is 80, has decided to let the orchard go at the end of the summer.

Yingst is still, optimistically, looking for the right person or persons to take over the 18-acre ranch in Littlerock, so if you want a fantastic farm, maybe consider calling her up. In the meantime, consider heading out to visit for a perfect u-pick afternoon before she shuts the water off around Labor Day weekend.

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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Umbrella Cabinet Detail - MELROSE UMBRELLA COMPANY
  • Melrose Umbrella Company
  • Umbrella Cabinet Detail
In life, some things are sheer contrivance and others are full of such serendipity that they almost seem contrived in their coincidence. Such is the story behind Melrose Umbrella Co. — which opened in February in the former Foundry space on Melrose — a locale where Prohibition, wet weather and family history all collide in a very odd, very circuitous tale. So pull up a chair and pour yourself a drink and keep reading. 

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Elysian dining room. - JESSICA RITZ
  • Jessica Ritz
  • Elysian dining room.
Is it a restaurant? Is it an event space? Is it a home for cutting edge cultural programming? These are the questions that arise when the multipurpose venue known as Elysian in Frogtown comes up in conversation. The answer is: all of the above, and then some.

Any attempt to describe Elysian in Twitter-friendly brevity would be futile, as well as selling this place short. But fans of unconventional restaurant experiences can see for themselves this Monday, July 14, when co-owner David Thorne cooks his first public dinner in Elysian's new beautiful, slick kitchen, designed in collaboration with local Frogtown firm RAC Design Build. Thorne's menu will include a choice of local sea bass with poached cucumber, daikon, snap peas, purple barley and opal basil; or duck breast with plum, radish, blackened escarole, black rice, walnut and pickled ginger. Dessert will be an apricot tart served with rosewater cream and pistachio.

"The kind of ethos we've developed in terms of how people come and sit [is], we're not pressuring anyone to get out, we're not trying to flip the tables," Thorne explains. "The idea is to allow a different kind of atmosphere, where as a diner you're not hustled." Thorne is a mostly self-trained cook, save for two months worth of professional courses he took in New York City followed by restaurant kitchen line work.

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1356 Allison Ave., home of the new Kush Sake Bar - B. RODELL
  • B. Rodell
  • 1356 Allison Ave., home of the new Kush Sake Bar
The space formerly occupied by Cortez in Echo Park has a new tenant: Kush Sake Bar, an izakaya-type establishment serving yakitori, Japanese small plates and sake. 

The tiny Allison Ave space has been empty since Cortez's owners (who also own Cookbook about a mile away) sold the spot back in April. Kush opened quietly at the end of June. The restaurant shares ownership with Silver Lake Ramen

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Table setting at Post & Beam - ANNE FISHBEIN
  • Anne Fishbein
  • Table setting at Post & Beam
DineL.A. Restaurant Week
DineL.A.'s restaurant week, a recurring event, is back for another week, or rather weeks. Organized by the Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board and presented in partnership with American Express, DineL.A. showcases more than 300 restaurants, who create prix fixe lunch and dinner menus. There are no tickets or passes but reservations are strongly encouraged. Participating restaurants include A.O.C., Akasha, Ammo, Border Grill, Chinois on Main, Drago Centro, Jar, Josie, K-Zo, Littlefork, Loteria Grill,  Lukshon, Post & Beam, Rao's, Rivera, Scarpetta, the Bazaar — and many, many more. It's a great way to explore the city's restaurants and check out new places without blowing your dining-out budget.
WHAT: DineL.A. Restaurant Week
WHEN: Monday, July 14, through Friday, July 27
WHERE: 300 or so L.A. restaurants.
COST: Prix fixe lunch menus are $15, $20 and $25; dinner menus are $25, $35 and $45.

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Khao soi at Night+Market. - JAMES GORDON
  • James Gordon
  • Khao soi at Night+Market.
If America’s Thai food trend is heading toward the model set by Pok Pok, Andy Ricker’s famous Portland-based project, then the trend is heading northward, away from the familiar Bangkok street food that most Americans have grown accustomed to  – the likes of massaman curry, pad Thai and tom yum soup – and toward wacky Northern Thai street food: pork blood soup, herbal jackfruit salads, pork belly curries, chili dips and hand-crafted sausage.

In its entirety, Northern Thailand's cuisine is full of challenging flavors that will assault the casual American's palate. (Pig brains steamed in banana leaf, anyone?) There are plenty of dishes that are less aggressively exotic, though, and maybe none so much as khao soi, a curry noodle soup so unfailingly delicious that it can inspire devotion regardless what part of the world you happen to be from.

Khao soi — a curry-based soup whose main components are noodles, both crunchy and not crunchy, meat, cilantro and coconut milk — is easily Chiang Mai’s most digestible export and most famous dish, but its origins lie elsewhere. Most believe it was inspired by Myanmar’s ohn no khao schwe, while some contend it was initially a product of Chinese Muslim cuisine. Either way, Chiang Mai has adopted it and perfected it into one of finest street dishes in the world. In a 2011 New York Times piece, Andy Ricker described khao soi as “exotic without being weird, and, more important, completely delicious.” There’s probably not a better description. 

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Try tri-tips at Huntington Meats - FARMERS MARKET LOS ANGELES
  • Farmers Market Los Angeles
  • Try tri-tips at Huntington Meats
It was 1934, and when Blanche Magee arrived at a patch of the Gilmore family’s land and served sandwiches to hungry fruit and veg growers at the new “Farmers Market,” she couldn’t have imagined it was going to turn into one of L.A.’s biggest attractions.

Magee gambled on good food staying the course though, and this July 15, that same Farmers Market at 3rd and Fairfax - and known as the Original Farmers Market since 1992 - celebrates its 80th anniversary, and events include its 6th annual Taste of Farmers Market, which runs from 5-9 p.m.

One of the best deals in town (tickets are $35 in advance, $40 on the night), it’s an easy way to walk round the culinary world as over 50 of the market’s vendors and grocers offer samples, snacks and even snifters of their fine fare from France, Spain, Korea, Brazil, China, Greece, Asia and the USA. 

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    In Los Angeles especially, but increasingly across the country, restaurants are either switching to tasting menus, putting a greater focus on a tasting-menu option (while offering à la carte items as well), or opening as tasting-menu operations from day one. The format that used to be the calling card of only the fanciest of restaurants is becoming ubiquitous, even at places where the waiter calls you “dude” and there isn’t a white tablecloth in sight.
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    Milo's Kitchen, a part of California-based Big Heart Pet Brands, is taking its homestyle dog treats on the road this summer with the "Treat Truck." The dogified food truck is making stops all over the country, ending up in New York early September. The truck stopped at Redondo Beach Dog Park Friday morning entertaining the pups with treats, a photo-booth and play zone. Milo's Kitchen Treat Truck offered samples of the line's six flavors, all with chicken or beef as the first ingredient, and all made in the U.S.A. with no artificial colors or preservatives. All photos by Nanette Gonzales.
  • Smoke.oil.salt's Spanish Cuisine
    Smoke.oil.salt chef (and Valencia native) Perfecto Rocher is valiantly trying to bring the experience of Spain, specifically Catalonia, to the brick space (under a tattoo parlor) on Melrose that used to be Evan Kleiman’s Angeli Caffe.