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Monday, December 22, 2014

TED SOQUI
  • Ted Soqui
Not much has changed at Philippe The Original since the cafeteria-style eatery first opened its doors 106 years ago. There's still sawdust on the floor, Depression-era coffee prices and those classic French dip sandwiches are forever soaking up meaty au jus. 

But one thing has finally come around to the 21st century at Los Angeles' oldest continually operating restaurant over the weekend — you can now pay for your food with plastic. That's right: after decades of holding onto to their old school financial-transaction ways, Philippe's "Cash Only" signs are finally a thing of the past as the restaurant began accepting credit cards this weekend.

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One step inside the off-white structure on Compton Blvd. (which looks more like a house with a sign above the front door than a tamale factory) and it's easy to see why customers travel from all over Los Angeles and Orange counties to buy steamed tamales by the dozen at La Doña Tamalería

Aside from a few tables and a small waiting area in front of the register, every other usable inch of the space is dedicated to an overwhelmingly efficient (and entirely visible) tamale assembly line, where a handful of dedicated tamaleras de-husk incoming cobs, blend the ingredients in a huge mixer, steam the finished products in gigantic vats, then load them into plastic bags for sale.

The entire process — which happens consistently and continuously during operating hours — is a dazzling ode to corn.

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click image FLICKR/PAUL SABLEMAN
  • Flickr/Paul Sableman
The U.S. Labor Department has secured more than $145,000 in wages and damages for almost six dozen Southern California El Pollo Loco employees who did not receive overtime pay they were owed.

Sixty-nine workers employed at four franchise El Pollo Loco restaurants around Los Angeles will recover $72,613 in back wages and an equal amount in damages, according to a government press release. Many employees worked as many as 60 to 70 hours per week, six or seven consecutive days, but did not receive overtime pay.

The restaurants are located in Hacienda Heights, Torrance, La Mirada and Westwood. A franchisee headquartered in Hacienda Heights owns all four. 

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1994 Cune Imperial Gran Reserva - 1998 Bodegas Riojanas Monte Real Gran Reserva - 2009 Lorinon Reserva - MATT MILLER
  • Matt Miller
  • 1994 Cune Imperial Gran Reserva1998 Bodegas Riojanas Monte Real Gran Reserva2009 Lorinon Reserva
Old wines make great gifts. They’re a piece of history in their own right, giving drinkers the opportunity to taste a summer that happened ten, 20 or even 50 years ago. Unlike many affordable wines — which are pre-aged through micro-oxygenation and meant to be drunk within a year of release — the wine locked inside a truly aged bottle has had the chance to settle into itself and mature and evolve into flavors and textures that have to be experienced in order to understand.

The problem is that old, aged wines are extremely expensive, often starting at $100 for a bottle with a decade of cellaring behind it. So, how do you buy a special bottle of wine for someone that’s ready to drink, but wont bust your holiday budget? The answer, this holiday season, is in Rioja, Spain.

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Friday, December 19, 2014

Friday, December 19, 2014

Food & Events

5 Extravagant Blow-Out New Year's Eve Events

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Fri, Dec 19, 2014 at 11:10 AM
Cocktails at the Varnish - PHOTO BY ANNE FISHBEIN
  • Photo by Anne Fishbein
  • Cocktails at the Varnish
Yesterday we gave you 10 great options for a New Year's Eve for under $60. That's cheap, people! But for some of us, NYE is the one night of the year we don't want cheap. We want to blow it out, spend the year-end bonus (do those even exist anymore??), put on our fanciest outfits and hobnob with the big shots.

Here are five ideas for a super extravagant L.A. New Year's Eve, dinner included.

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SkyMall-Holiday-Gift_54_990x660.jpg
It's happened to all of us. Trapped on an a long flight (it's the holidays after all), you've already watched the film and your iPad is inconveniently in the overhead compartment. Your seat-mate is asleep and there isn't anything to look at outside the window. After a glass or two of $4 wine to while away the time, you reach in to the seat pocket and pull out one of the the 20 million SkyMall catalogs that are printed every year. And then you start giggling. 

Ah, SkyMall. For almost 25 years, the glossy magazine has been the comforting last resort for mid-air entertainment and an excellent source of unusual (okay, ridiculous) gifts. Once you have it in hand (and a slight buzz on, we assume), the next step is to get started on your holiday shopping. 

It's easy to make fun of some things they sell, but they also have a collection of off-beat kitchen tools and food-centric doo-dads that we think are sort of terrific, if not totally kitschy. We've surveyed through SkyMall's extensive foodie offerings (and there are a lot!) and rounded up the five things we can only hope someone will put under our tree. 

There's something silly, and something serious for everyone on your list. You don't even need to be on a plane to get your hands on these, since SkyMall takes orders online. Happy flying and happy shopping!

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Not Your Madre's Eggnog - GRACIAS MADRE
  • Gracias Madre
  • Not Your Madre's Eggnog
During the holidays, there are some obvious go-to drinks for the season — hot toddys, spiced cider and, of course, boozy eggnog.

Los Angeles bartenders have created both traditional and unexpected twists on the classic for their menus this year, using everything from Cognac to cream liqueur to mezcal (yes, you heard that right). Below are three local standouts that will help put a little ho-ho-ho into your holidays (or just put some alcohol in your nog).

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Zuppa di pesce for Feast of the Seven Fishes - STREGA WATERFRONT
  • Strega Waterfront
  • Zuppa di pesce for Feast of the Seven Fishes
Increasingly, going out to dinner on Christmas Eve is becoming a family tradition. And well aware of the growing demand, many of the city’s most beloved establishments are keeping doors open on this once shut-down evening, leaving those fireplaces burning and eggnog flowing on December 24.

But beyond just serving the normal dinner menus, some restaurants are using the holiday as an opportunity to embrace their culinary heritage. For Italian and seafood restaurants, it’s the Feast of The Seven Fishes. For others, it's making tamales en masse or preparing gooseneck pie. No matter where in the world you plan to take your tastebuds this Christmas Eve, there are tons of options and it's guaranteed to be delicious. Get out of the house this Christmas Eve and take a culinary journey through the Christian world — all without ever leaving L.A.

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Dak kalguksu at Hangari Balsarik Kalgooksoo - PHOTO BY CHRISTINE CHIAO
  • Photo by Christine Chiao
  • Dak kalguksu at Hangari Balsarik Kalgooksoo

During this cold and flu season, remember Hangari Bajirak Kalgooksoo, a compact noodle shop near the crook of the strip mall on Sixth Street and Alexandria. For while there’s deli-style chicken noodle soup with its limp egg noodles, mushy carrots and too-dry chicken breast, you can — and really, you should — upgrade with a bowl of dak kalguksu, or chicken knife-cut noodles.

Hangari Bajirak Kalgooksoo crafts a dak kalguksu that’s singularly Korean and yet soothingly familiar in flavor. Chicken (noodle) soup as a metonym for foods that heal your ills has deep pancultural roots, after all, appearing in at least 30 culinary traditions around the world, from Colombia to China, always simmered in aromatics and sometimes paired with a starch or three. 

The broth here is no consommé, as made by the French or Hungarians. It’s semi-translucent, almost milky to the eye, and slightly viscous, thickened by noodles and crosswise slices of russet potato. Garlic and onion are among the ingredients that build the base of the soup. They also comprise the trimmings, a few whole bulbs of garlic and white onion slices, all sweet from a spell on the stove.

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click image FLICKR/GINNEROBOT
  • Flickr/ginnerobot
Picture this: it's New Year's Eve and of course you want to go out and partake in all the food-and-booze-filled gluttony that comes with sending off the prior 364 days, but you'd prefer not to spend hundreds of dollars to dine on haute cuisine and ring in 2015 clinking your glasses while wearing a black tie. What do you do?

In L.A. – where most of the city's fine dining establishments are hosting pricey prix fixe meals and nightclubs are overcharging for the opportunity to grind around in a sweaty, drunken haze – New Year's Eve deals that won't break the bank are a rarity. That's why we've scoured the streets to find you a list of restaurants and bars that believe a good time can be had, sometimes even before the ball drops, for under $60.

Here are your affordable spots to drink and dine this New Year's Eve, in order of lowest priced to highest:

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