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Monday, June 30, 2008

Costa Brava!!!!!

So, last weekend we went to Costa Brava for tapas for lunch.

http://www.costabravasd.com/

This place is on Garnet in PB across from Vons. If you haven't been there, you should go whenever you have a special occasion or something. The atmosphere is really cool - it makes you feel like you are in Spain.

So we went on Saturday for lunch, and we were literally the first ones in. They must have opened a few minutes before. We sat on the front patio, which is now covered with a red awning. When we first sat down it was stifling, but then the air started to circulate and it was fine. The dining room looked amazing. There are skylights in there, so it was all lit up so that it looked like it was outside. Then there is the back patio which is for big groups - I hope to sit out there one day. The other aspect that makes you feel like you are in Spain is the waiters. They all seem to be literally imported from Spain. The FP was joking about how I like to go to Costa Brava because I like the waiters. They are all pretty good looking, but not really my taste - spanish pretty boys. I like them kinda dirty - you know, like the FP.

We got a carafe of sangria, which was so good that we got another after the first. They put the soccer game on, which made the FP pretty damn happy.

So the first two things we got were the pulpo a la gallega and the boquerones. Here is the pulpo:

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So this dish was is thin-sliced octopus with smoked paprika, extra virgin olive oil and sea salt. The octopus was nice and tender, and the sea salt really added that extra something that made it just a really beautiful dish.

Here is the boquerones:

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These are some of the best anchovies there are. They do not resemble those tinned anchovies packed in salt. People who say they hate anchovies taste these boquerones babies and fall in love with them. They are preserved in vinegar, olive oil and salt. These are served cold, and this particular dish was garnished with fresh garlic, parsley and extra virgin olive oil. I would like some boquerones right now!

After that, we got an order of morcilla frita con cebolla.

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This is blood sausage fried with onions. It sounds scary. It tastes so rich and good. It's made with pig's blood. Sound gross? It's not. Cooked blood is very different from raw blood, just like flesh. Generally when we get blood sausage, it's kind of on the dry side, because there's all that blood in it that has to be cooked. Not so with this order of morcilla. It was firm, yet moist - just like I like my....never mind. Anyway, I can't describe to you how tasty it was. If I fed it to you and didn't tell you what it was, you would probably cream your pants with delight. I swear.

After that we had something very unscary - patatas a la brava.

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They are fried potatoes that are tossed in spicy alioli. So yeah, it's like a warm potato salad, but better. It's funny because I used to deal with alioli, or aioli so much that I got sick of it. Now that I never deal with it or eat it, it is delicious when I do have it. It's like mayonnaise - except it's made fresh with (scary) raw egg. It's a sad day when people are frightened of raw eggs...

So at this point, we were on our second pitcher of sangria, and there was one more thing not on the menu that we wanted. The FP had looked up Costa Brava on the net, and he read that they had Jamon Iberico. This is the prized ham that is similar to serrano, but it is made with fancier pigs. These are black footed "bellotas". Part of the reason the foot is left on the ham is so you can see for yourself what color the foot it, and it looks creepy and cool too.

So the waiter asked if we wanted anything else, so I asked, do you have Iberian ham? And the waiter replied in his modelish spanish waiterly way, Jamon Iberico? Yes we have it. I think he wasn't expecting this question. So he put our order in. We didn't ask for the price. I think we would have gotten it, no matter how much it cost, but it was better not to know before we ate it.

So after a while, we got this huge plate of the stuff, thin, thin, thin sliced.

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I'm afraid the picture just doesn't do it justice. When we first got the plate, it was fairly dry. The flavor was good, but not nearly as rich as the ham we had had at Rio Mar in New Orleans. I think it hadn't sat out long enough, and the oils had to start exuding from the thin slices. I know this sounds gross, but you have to see and taste it to understand. It's all flavor. As it began to "heat up" it started to get that sheen. Sometimes I could hold up a piece and see through it like stained glass. It definitely got more flavorful. I swear, I could taste the acorns that the pig had eaten. It is such an earthy flavor, but in a mellow subtle way. It's just an experience that I would like to share with all of you, but until I win the lottery or something, that will not be. Because it was pretty damn expensive....but it was worth it. So yummy. Such a lovely texture. I can't explain it to you, but it was sublime.

So as we received the bill, we had already finished our sangria. The waiter was nice enough to pour us another glass free of charge. Good way to soften the blow of the check. But we were thoroughly satisfied, that he didn't have to do that. But I think he wanted to....

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Fancy Man's Sloppy Joes

So this Friday it was our friend's birthday, Mr. Interested In You. So now that he has a girlfriend, I think his birthday party was a little different than it would have been, had he still been single. His girlfriend, Valley Girl, planned for Lefty's Pizza at his house, then we would be going to the Pink Elephant after.

So I offered to bake a cake. I made a chocolate cake from the box. Now any of you who are scoffing at me, I ain't no baker. I could find a cake recipe, and spend more money on all the ingredients, and get my dirty kitchen even dirtier. Or I could buy 2 boxes of cake mix for like however much it costs and mix with eggs, oil and water, and go over to Miss Birthday Girl Today But She's Out of Town's place and bake it because our oven is very unpredictable.

The fun part anyway for me is decorating the cake. So I had 2 layers. I evened them up as much as I could. I slathered marshmallow fluff on top of one layer, then I put the other layer on top. It looked like a giant ice cream sandwich. Then I melted chocolate chips, and I stirred in a little nutella and condensed milk. Then I poured it on the cake and let it sit a bit. I put 33 little cake decoration candy dinosaurs in the cake, like they were sinking into tar. Then I decorated with whipped cream and I froze it until it was time to go. I wasn't going to win any prizes, but it definitely would have earned a C for the effort.

Anyway, the FP decided to bring an appetizer. Since there would be people in their early 30s, we thought, something a little more grown up. So he wanted to do finger food. So I said, why don't you do profiteroles. He had just done something in a cooking class the other day that made me think of it. He had done gougeres actually, which are like profiteroles with cheese mixed into the pate choux dough. So that's what he made. They came out perfect and I think I ate 4 or 5 of them.

The birthday was much fun. Almost everyone, except for me, shotgunned cans of PBR, there was an adult pinata that had airplane bottles of vodka, condoms and candy in it, then we went to the Pink Elephant. That's when Mr. Interested in You Got completely over the limit and had to be escorted home. All in all, it was a fun night! I will try to recreate the recipe for you.


The Food Pimp's Fancy Sloppy Joes

Short Rib Filling

1 pack boneless shortribs, diced
1 onion, diced
1 carrot diced
2 cloves garlic minced
salt and pepper
red wine
oregano or thyme

Basically, put all the above ingredients in a pot. Cover with water and let it simmer for about 2 hours until the meat is tender. Season as needed.




GOUGERES

1 cup milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup flour
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4 eggs, at room temperature
4 ounces grated smoked gruyere cheese
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
In a saucepan, combine the milk and butter and bring to a boil. Add flour, salt and pepper and stir quickly with a wooden spoon. Stir until smooth and batter pulls away from sides of pan, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in eggs 1 at a time, stirring well after each addition. Stir in the cheese.
Line a baking sheet with parchment and place spoonfuls of the mixture 2 inches apart. Bake for 10 minutes, reduce heat to 350 degrees F, and continue to bake for 25 minutes, or until firm to the touch. Remove from the oven and serve warm.

To assemble, cut the gougeres in half, but leave a hinge at the back so it's still attached. Fill with some shortrib filling. Then place on a platter and wow all your friends!

Vo's Cafe

So the Food Pimp and I alway whine about not having any Vietnamese food right here in our neighborhood. When we want a quick cheap take out, we have to settle for chinese food.

A couple of months ago, the walk up taco stand across University Avenue changed owners. It looked like it was a yogurt stand, judging from the picture on the window. I wasn't really interested, but it was good to know. So later on, I saw a banner across the side of the building of Vo's Cafe. It said "now serving Vietnamese food". I think I hit the brakes, and if someone was behind me they probably would have hit me. S

So I went home and told the FP the news. I think we went to Vo's a day or two later. So it is about six blocks away from our apartment. With the fuel crisis and prices skyrocketing, we drove there. It was still kind of hot, we just wanted to get food and sequester ourselves in the apartment for the evening. So yeah, we drove there. It turns out, Vo's has a huge parking lot for being a small walk up food stand. And it has a little covered dining patio out back too.

So we walked up and looked at the menu. It was very simple, but I still took a while to order. So we were getting food to stock up. I got the chicken bun (vermicelli noodles) and the stir fry combo with pork, and it came with an eggroll and rice. The FP got the beef pho and the beef stir fry combo. He (Vo) asked us how hot we wanted it. I asked for about a 6, and the FP asked for really spicy. I think the total came to about 22 bucks. Not bad. So we put our order in, and the guy told us it would be a while, so that we should go wait in the back.

So we went and sat in the patio. It was cute. It had like bamboo shutters, and there were Vietnamese decorations on the wall. All they needed was to serve drinks and allow smoking back there and we would be regulars. We were just hanging out. It was nice. A little while later, Vo came out and said it would be a little longer, and he apologized. So it took about 15 minutes or so.

We went home and opened everything up and looked at it. It looked good. Everything was freshly made, which was a nice change, compared to the chinese fast food we usually get out of laziness.

Here was the pork stir fry:

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So the eggroll was really good. It was crispy, but not greasy. It had pork and rice noodles in it. The stirfry tasted very fresh. It had carrot, broccoli, chili paste. The pork was really good, meaty, not chewy or gristly. The rice was nice and hot and it was a medium grain rice, which I prefer because that's what I grew up with.

The FP ate his pho. He enjoyed it.

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It had all the condiments, the broth was nice, the meat was tender. So we were both happy with our first meals.

Later on, we ate our other meals, me - my vermicelli noodles with chicken, the FP, his beef stir fry. I have to say, I had tasted a piece of chicken when we brought the food home. It was really good, marinated, then cooked to order. It was garnished with a lot of peanuts, which I like, and the shredded cabbage and pickled carrot, which was a nice touch. I didn't bother to reheat the chicken, which would have made it really good. But still, it was a good bun dish. No complaints. Here's a picture, but disregard the dirty stovetop....

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The Food Pimp ate his beef stir fry. He was happy with that. It wasn't very hot, but it did have the chilis in it, which added to the yummy flavor of the dish. We were glad to have this place right in our neighborhood.

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So a couple of weeks later, we went back. Vo remembered us, and he thanked us for coming back. We both got the pork stir fry this time. The FP got it very spicy, and I got it medium spicy, again. We waited in the patio again. This one girl had ordered before us. We watched her sit back there and chow down her food. I guess she was enjoying it.

Once again, we got our food home, and it was good. It was fresh tasting, and it was very light on the thick sauce. Sometimes Vietnamese places are heavy handed on the cornstarch. But Vo's is not. The eggroll was good again. The rice was nice. So it's a pound or two short of being as much food as the great wall, but they cook it fresh and it's not quite as heavy. You all know how Chinese food sits in the stomach. You're really hungry, so you eat it really fast. Then all of a sudden, you're sickeningly full. Then an hour or two later, you have to go to the bathroom right that instant. The heavy chinese food has pushed everything through your system, gotten the gears grinding, and then it's time to empty out the basement to make room for more trash.

So for what it is, I give Vo's Cafe on University Avenue a rating of \/\/\/\ seven chopsticks. The thing is, I rate places against my expectations of the place, not necessarily against other restaurants. With Vo's, one can't expect a spectacular meal, but it's much better than a little fast food joint. If you don't want to wait on your food, the best bet is to call ahead and then pick it up when it's ready. Maybe call the order in, and then walk to there. That way, you help to do your part in prolonging the depletion of fossil fuels from this earth.

A real flop of a dinner

So a ago when it was really hot outside, I didn't really want to cook dinner, but I didn't really know what I wanted. I had been wanting pesto pasta for a while, which is a strange craving, so I thought that would be quick and easy to make. I put water on to boil, then I went to Albertson's. I came back and I cooked what should have been an easy meal, but it turned out to be an annoying meal that made the apartment even hotter.

Not the Best Chicken Pesto Pasta Recipe

1 bag arugula
1/2 bunch parsley
1/2 bunch cilantro
3 oz walnuts
5 oz extra virgin olive oil
salt

3 lbs chicken thighs (make sure they're frozen if you're going to recreate this mediocre recipe)
1 eggplant large dice
1 onion medium dice

1 lb "mezze" penne cooked (it's baby penne!)


So at the store they didn't have basil. I knew that I should have gone to Pancho's or Von's, but I was too lazy to drive the extra 2 miles. So I got arugula instead. I ended up spending more money than I wanted to, because Albertson's can be pretty pricey. I blended the pesto. The arugula, parsley and cilantro, and the walnuts and olive oil all went in the blender. The best way to make it fast is to put the oil and nuts in first, then the greenery. I of course was hot and bothered, and not thinking properly. I put the greenery in first, then the nuts and oil. The problem with this, is there isn't enough liquid in the bottom to get the whole pureeing process to happen fast enough. So I got annoyed and I added a little water to help it along.

So I was boiling the pasta, but I only put half the package in. I could have put the whole package in, but it was too late. Oh well, no biggie, but just another annoying mistake.

So I cut up my veggies, and I started sauteeing them in the biggest pan I had on hand. It is this annoying stir fry pan with a loose handle. Then I opened the pack of chicken to cut it up. The chicken was frozen. I was very over this meal at this point, that I just cut it up and I put it in the pan with the veggies, overcrowding the surface. So at this point, I wasn't sauteeing the chicken and veggies, I was kind of steaming it, or boiling it, because the water was coming out of the chicken as it was defrosting in the pan. So the chicken looked anemic, and it took way longer to cook than it should have.

The Food Pimp came home, and it was hot. He looked at the chicken and asked what it was. I told him, I wanted chicken pesto pasta. He was not thrilled at all. I made him eat it anyway. The move was to put the pasta and chicken in a bowl and then mix some pesto into it. That way the pesto would stay fresh and green It wasn't bad. I, myself, really liked the pesto, which made the dish not bad. But I could tell the FP was eating for biological reasons, not for the joy of it. Well, anyone who says they've never cooked a bad meal has probably not cooked very much at all.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Ocean Seafood Restaurant

So, that is a great name. Maybe I'll open a place next door called Pasture Beef, or Farm Vegetable. Anyway, this is a blog entry that should have been written almost 3 weeks ago. But once again, I am falling behind.

So on June 1st, which was our wedding anniversary, my sis's bday and our friend's bday as well, we went to Chinatown in LA for dim sum. We were there because we were going to see the Cure that night. So we parked and walked around. So Ocean Seafood had a huge sign on the side of the building. So, we thought, why not. It was upstairs. The Food Pimp pointed out how it was like the Phoenix in Chicago Chitown. Upstairs with a huge dining room. There were tanks of lobsters, dungeness crab and these big prawns when we first walked in. Then we were ushered to a table amid an already filling up dining room.

Have you ever noticed how some Chinese restaurants, mainly dim sum that I've seen, set the tables up so the chairs are pushed together at the corners, rather than equally spread apart in the middle of each side? If you don't know what I'm talking about, go to Jasmine on Convoy and look at the seating of the 4 tops. It's pretty interesting. Anyway, we sat at the corners of this table, and we were immediately assulted by dim sum cart after dim sum cart. Frankly, I'm used to having to wait so long that it is agonizing. I really didn't like this. There were just not enough people in the dining room yet, so that carts were all bunched together and they happened to be right in our vicinity. So we almost always get something from the first cart. I think it's a pressure tactic. And of course we waited for 5 minutes to get water that never came, so the FP had to walk up to the service bar and ask someone to bring us water, which took another 5 minutes. But this is a common occurence in ethinic restaurants with us. I don't know if anyone else has this problem, but I would like to hear from you if you do. I sometimes feel like maybe we just need too much water for the supply that's available.

So the first thing we got was a soup with a dumpling in it. So I guess it was similar to the soup dumpling, except it was a dumpling in soup, rather than the other way around. Anyway, it had shrimp and pork in it, and it was garnished with imitation crabmeat.


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Awww! Imitation crabmeat. Such a strange manmade invention. Who decided, I must serve crab, but all I have is fish, so I'll process it and make it stringy and shape it like crableg? What an evil person...

Anyway, the star of the soup was the broth. The dumpling flavor had infused into the broth, so that it tasted like sweet dumpling dough. I can't explain to you how it tasted better than I describe it. It was a comforting homey taste, though.

So the food kept coming, and before we knew it, there were a bunch of dumplingy things on our table. I nagged the FP to calm down and be patient and don't feel pressured to order something off of every cart. Anyway, we had like a chicken dumpling which was okay. Nothing special. We had this one shrimp dumpling with some cilantro in it. The first bite, nothing special. And then I tasted the shrimp. It was fishy. It was very ammonia tasting. Yuck. So we passed on the rest of those. The braised pork knuckles came. Now those were good. Very tender, nice broth, a little chili, but not hot.

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Then we ended up with another shrimp dumpling on our table. But this one was with a spinach dumpling, with shrimp and spinach inside. It was pretty. I'm sure that's why we got it. It was really tasty. The dumpling wrapper definitely tasted different. The spinach added a fresh taste. And the filliing tasted lively, fresh as well. This was really good. Pleasant taste.

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Then came the chicken feet. We didn't get them. They were boiled. They were white, and it looked like there was a sauce on the side. I have never seen them like that, and I was unadventurous because they looked like they had no flavor and the sauce looked too thick and sweet like plum sauce.

Then came the duck and roast pork. We got both. The duck had a good flavor, but it was cold! I don't mean room temperature, because we've had duck at room temperature, which is fine. This was cold. It was maybe 55 degrees cold. Which was a shame because it was cooked nicely enough. The pork was slightly warmer. The skin was still crispy, but at the end it kind of was chewy and got stuck in my teeth. The pork meat itself was not very exciting at all. So so so unfortunate. These are usually the more exciting dishes in dim sum. Here's what the pork looked like. I don't know why I didn't take a picture of the duck.

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Then the last thing we got was the rice in lotus leaf. This is a must have at any dim sum place. It's got sticky rice and other fillings, all steamed together. Common fillings are chicken and chinese sausage. So at Ocean Seafood, they come in 2 small packets. So one for me, one for the FP. They were hot. The meat in them was tasty. The rice was nicely sticky and cooked. It was great. Very standard, very hearty and satisfying. I think I ate half of mine and the FP ate his and the rest of mine.

So we were pretty full. We were ready to leave. I went to the restroom, and the FP went to pay. The thing is with dim sum, you can get a lot of food for a little money. They use different stamps for different price levels, but it's in Chinese, so it's always a surprise how much it will be. This time it was quite a surprise! It was $48. Granted, I guess several items were in the more expensive tier, but it seemed like a lot compared to other places we have been to. I guess we were in LA at a very obvious, maybe very touristy dim sum place. Which would have been fine, had most of the food been fabulous. But unfortunately, it was just okay, which in dim sum terms is below average. So for my one time review, since we have a 99.9999% chance of never going back there, I give this Ocean Seafood Restaurant In Chinatown, LA,CA, a mere \/\/ four chopsticks. If you find yourself in Chinatown with lots of money, go to another restaurant and spend the rest of the money on lead based toys and coconut buns.

So writing of coconut buns, we wandered around afterward, looking for a bakery with coconut buns. I have to tell you, that when we went to Chicago about 4 years ago, we had the best coconut bun ever! It was a religious experience. We had bought it, and we were walking out of Chinatown to the train, when we took our first bites. We just stopped and stared at eachother with gigantic pupils. It was so light and tasty with yummy rich coconut filling. We've been chasing the coconut bun ever since. There is this one place on El Cajon Blvd. that has good small coconut buns, but they are different. I can't remember the name of the place, but it's across the street from Hing Long Supermarket.

Anway, we went in many Chinese bakeries, and most did not have coconut buns. I think there were one or two places with coconut buns that did not look right. Finally, we saw a bakery on the other side of a parking lot in which we were walking through. As indecisive as we are, we had a discussion about whether we should check it out. I think we were both getting a little tired of walking in circles and were ready to get in the car and leave without our mandatory coconut bun. So we went to the bakery. They had coconut bun. Once again, I don't remember the name or the street we were in. I'm sorry, I failed you as your Food Ho food blogger on this one. I have to start taking more notes right away from now on.

Anway. This coconut bun was big. And it was only like maybe a dollar. It was garnished on top with fresh coconut shavings. I took a bite. It was light, just a little hint of sweetness. The FP took a bite. He got the first taste of coconut custard. It was so sweet and coconuty and rich. His eyes lit up. I took a bite, I got the bun, the custard and the coconut shavings. Perfect. The light roll, the rich, dense, sweet custard, the fresh coconut. We were full, yet we traded bites. We couldn't finish it, though. It was a big rich dessert. Such a tease these

Chinese bakeries can be very deceptive. They have dirty windows, plain names, some have blank storefronts. Then you walk in, some have elaborate decorated cakes, cookies, french pastries. Then there's the Chinese pastries. They look like plain rolls and buns. They hide this secret filling, red bean, mung bean, savory fillings, and of course, coconut. Coconut. A sweet cloud or pillow of sweet bun with a heavy cloud or pillow of sweet, almost too sweet coconut custard. Bliss....

Thursday, June 19, 2008

pork chop

So, did I ever write about how my nickname was once Pork Chop? I think I did. But I'll retell the tale in order to inform those of you who are not avid Food Ho fans! I used to work at Whole Foods on Magazine Street in New Orleans. And these two guys who were brothers worked there. The one whose real name I don't recall, worked in prepared foods with me and my sis. Let's call him Dirty. He was a dirty looking guy. He was fun to work with, though. A bit later his wife started working there too. Not really pertinent to the story, I just think it's kind of mildly interesting. Anyhoo, he and his bro used to work at the Whole Foods on Esplanade. There was some lady in the prepared foods department who looked like me but I guess a little older. I really don't know why they called her Pork Chop. But anyway, when Dirty started working at Whole Foods on Magazine, he saw me and thought I was Pork Chop. I wasn't. So he and his Bro started calling me Pork Chop. I told the Food Pimp about this, and he thought it was hilarious on account of me having pork chop thighs and me loving pork and all. Great story. Should I enter it in the 2008 Short Stories Contest?

Anyway, a couple weeks ago I went to the store with the Food Pimp. He was shopping for work. I mentioned how I didn't know what to cook for dinner, so he grabbed some pork chops and some other stuff. This might not seem funny to you. It was funny queer more than ha ha because we never get pork chops. I do like them, but I never think to cook them. The last time I probably ate one was when I worked at the Mango House and we had jerk pork chops there. OMG those were good!

So I was being lazy, (as you readers may say I have been lazy!) and I decided to braise them. I kind of hate to admit this, but I first saw this technique when I worked at the Patrician, a retirement community. So here was the night's dinner:


Lazy Ho Pork Chop Dinner
vegetable oil
salt
Tony Chachere's Seasoning
6 pork chops
1 onion, sliced
1 bulb garlic, minced
12 oz water
2 oz coconut vinegar
4 oz apple cider vinegar

4 bunches mustard greens, chopped and rinsed
1 oz hazelnut oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch ginger, minced
water
Tony Chachere's

2 cans blackeyed peas
4 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper

So get a wide bottomed heavy pan hot. (insert obvious ass joke here)(now grow up to adulthood again) Coat the pan in vegetable oil. Season the pork chops with salt and Tony's. Place as many chops in the pan as you can without crowding them. They are very clausterphobic, these little piggy chops. So then let them sear. Or you can be lazy like me and halfassed sear them if you want. I didn't really have much oil to work with and the chops weren't browning nicely. But anyway, sear them, then sear the other side. If you couldn't fit them all in. Take the first batch out and repeat the process with the rest of the chops. Then you saute the onion and garlic for a bit. Just like a couple minutes until the onions start to become translucent. Then you add the water, coconut vinegar and apple cider vinegar. Let it come to a boil, reduce the heat to a low simmer, cover and let it go. You'll know when it's done when the chops feel done. You want them tender, but right before they start falling apart. That's the best. Then you can take the chops out and reduce the sauce a bit.

For the greens I confess that I only used hazelnut oil because that is all the culinary fat I had in the apartment. Funny story. There was this white block of something on a plate, uncovered on the top shelf of the fridge for a few days. One of the FP's leftovers. The light in the fridge burned out maybe last year, and we never replaced it. So it's kind of dark in there. Anyway, I thought that block was butter. I was going to use it for the greens. So when I went to start the greens, I realized it was not butter. It was actually some cheese. Ha ha! Boy am I stupid. I would never pass one of those challenges on Hell's Kitchen or Top Chef.

BTW, I have a culinary boner...I think Andrew from Top Chef stole that line from me. I must have come up with that before him. Anyway, I wish I had....

So, oh, yeah, this is a recipe. Don't run out and buy hazelnut oil just to make this. Use whatever fat or oil you have around the house. But cheese doesn't really work. Anyway, put your oil in a big, big pan or pot. Saute the garlic and ginger for a bit. Then add the greens. Saute those for a bit. Let them all touch the bottom of the pan for a bit. Then add some Tony's, maybe 2 inches of water, cover and let them cook. Every once in a while, peek in and stir everything around. These are done when they are easy to cut with your teeth and they taste good.

Blackeyed peas. Damn, we hadn't had these in a while. The FP came home and did these. I think he just opened the cans, sauteed the garlic, threw in the beans, added salt and pepper, let it cook for a bit and that was it. They were really good! I know it was just beans, but they were really good! Really!

So here is what Lazy Ho Pork Chop Dinner looks like:

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Urban Solace

So memorial day weekend Sunday. The day after the crawfish boil. I know, that was a long time ago. I'm a busy food ho. I got all my fingers in everyone's stewpots and whatnots.

Sunday. The Food Pimp's dad drove into town. His job has the home office in Irvine, so whenever he's up there, he drives down here to take us out to eat, and then he basically drives back up. I mean, I understand that it's hard to take us for more than a few hours. So this time, he came down around brunch time. So we went to Urban Solace. I had not been there up until this point, but unfortunately, I would have rather gone for dinner my first time. Oh well, I'm not complaining.

So we went and waited for a bit at the bar for a table. The whole patio was full, but the dining room was sparsely populated, so I guess the patio was where it was happening. I quite enjoy sitting at the bar and having a drink first anyway. That's something we do often with the Food Pimp's family. I'm not saying they are alcoholics or anything. They do drink a lot when we are all together, I guess to ease the tension. And some of them drink a lot when we are not all together, I guess to ease the tension or something.

Anyway, the space itself is amazing. It was completely renovated to look like a French Quarter building in New Orleans. Except it's new, and standing straight, and I don't think there are any leaks or cracks or rats or roaches. The bar is pretty big, and if we had money I would probably go there more often and hang out at the bar. Here's a picture...

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that's the dining room

So we had mimosas at the bar. Then the hostess was ready to seat us. I believe she let us transfer our drinks onto the tab for the table. I want to say that that is a very nice little extra thing. Like I said, I didn't pay for it, but I know how annoying it is to stop and let them ring up your tab, pay with your card, and then have a second charge for dinner. It's just easier to have one bill.

Anyway, we went outside to sit, and they placed us right in front of the band. It was like this bluegrass band with a mandolin and upright bass and all that shit. They were fine, but they were really loud. I'm really an old fart about that kind of stuff. If I'm eating, I don't like loud music. I want to listen to loud music when I'm listening to music. Even at bars, sometimes the music is too loud, and I can't hear any conversations. The problem is that I have the hearing of a 65 year old. So background noise drowns out foreground sound for me under normal conditions, say like talking on the phone. So anyway, I'm an old fart.

So we ordered. The FP got the mussels with smoked tomato butter and another mimosa. The FP's dad got the roasted pork loin sandwich. I got the shrimp with grit cake small plate.

So we were looking around. I think all the food coming out looked pretty good. I was excited to have shrimp and grit cake. I haven't had that shit in a long time.

So I believe our food came in a timely manner. I really don't recall. But anyway, it got to our table. The mussels looked nice. They were fresh. They were open. They had that tomato butter. It was good. Very nice dish.

The shrimp and chili grit cake. It was simple. It came with 3 shrimp, but they were nicely cooked. There wasn't really a sauce, but they were fine without it. The grit cake could have had a little more pepper in it. It tasted very similar to Herbsaint's grit cake. I don't know if they got Susan Spicer's cookbook or not, but they did a great job on the grit cake. It was nicely seared on the outside and still had a creamy texture on the inside. Very nice. Well executed.

Then the pork loin sandwich with caramelized fennel, whole grain mustard, and arugula on an egg bun with sweet potato fries. First the fries. They were great. They were crispy but cooked thoroughly. I love sweet potatoes fried. If done right, they come out nice. We used to put a basket of sweet potato chips on every table at the Mango House. People dug on that shit. We fried them pretty often and we held them under a low watt heat lamp so they arrived at every table nice and warm and still crispy. Anyway, the fries were great. Cooked properly and perfectly seasoned.

The sandwich. Luckily for the FP and I, the FP'd dad has all kinds of digestive discomfort a lot, so he usually doesn't finish his meals when we go out to eat. We weren't really hungry, but when the FP's dad gave up the second half of his sandwich, we jumped at the offer. The egg bun was nice. Soft and fresh, but not sogged through from the pork, like what sometimes happens. The pork loin was tender and flavorful and with the combo of fennel, mustard and arugula, that was an effing delicious sandwich. In fact it was the best in show! Just a well put together sandwich. It also took me back to Susan Spicer, and her gourmet market she had in... 1997 or so. It was called Spice, Inc. and she had amazing sandwiches with the best flavors and combos. That place was sadly way ahead of it's time. That was a fun job. The first week or so it was overstaffed in case we got bumrushed, so there would be about 5 of us standing around talking about food and stuff. And I got to take the leftover bread and sandwiches home!

Anyway, so the brunch menu wasn't really exciting. But what we ordered was solid. I hesitate on giving my chopsticks rating until I've had dinner there. I don't know what to expect, so there are no chopsticks to award at this time....

Sunday, June 8, 2008

two different burgers

So last weekend we went up to LA. We went to see the Cure on Sunday at the Shrine Auditorium, so we checked into a hotel Saturday night to just relax. We had had a tiring week, and I just needed some good sleep. So we got to the hotel and we were waiting to check in. We drove around and found out that we were way closer to Manhattan Beach than I imagined. We'd never been there, so we drove around, got lucky with a parking space and walked around.

It's funny because coming from the eastern seaboard, we have both always had this prejudice against LA. We only heard of it in a negative light. So as we are slowly discovering more of LA, we actually love it. I feel like Hollywood is the least interesting area that we have been to.

Anyway, we got back to the hotel and we vegged. We watched TV. We had margaritas. The Food Pimp usually is not so good at making cocktails, but this was good. Not a "margarita" in a textbook way - just tequila, fresh lime juice and sugar. Oh, and mint too, so it was like a tequiljito. So he brought a knife and a lime press and made drinks. And we watched TMZ. We were in LA, so that's what you're supposed to watch, right?

So the FP was scamming to get room service. He has this thing for getting steaks by room service in hotels. It's such a luxury that I would never even consider ordering if I never hooked up with him! So we had scoped out the area within walking distance and the most promising place was a thai restaurant. We started to make an attempt to dress, but then somehow, he just grabbed the room service menu and decided that's what we were doing for dinner. I relented. I was tired and didn't really want to go out for what would inevitably be a crappy thai dinner.

So the FP got a steak. I think it was new york strip. I really don't recall. I got him to order me a burger with mushrooms and avocado. So there were 3 different burgers on different menus. One was with lettuce, tomato and onion. One was with avocado, lettuce, tomato and onion. The half pounder was with your choice of mushrooms, different cheeses and some other stuff. So of course they brought the more expensive half pound angus burger and probably charged extra for the avocado.

So the FP's plate looked standard. Some steamed veggies, asparagus, zucchini maybe, something else - which were actually still green, a potato gratin, his steak, and a mushroom demi sauce. I guess the steak, which he asked for rare was super rare. The quality of the meat itself was not too good, it didn't have a nice sear, so all that usually lovely fat was pretty much inedible. But amazingly, his sides were great. The sauce was really good, the veggies were perfectly cooked, the gratin was not mush, not too cheesy or creamy. Usually one expects these kinds of hotel sides to be made in a huge batch that sits for a while before being served. So that was a nice surprise.

Now my burger. I ordered it medium. I don't trust midrare burgers. Most people don't. The only way that would probably be good anyway is if it were with some fantastic high quality cut of meat that was ground in house fresh. So it was pretty much well done. Which was really disappointing. It was very tasty, but just kind of dry. Not horribly dry, but dry enough to make it not as enjoyable as it could be. You know, like one of those english sit-coms that don't have laugh track, so since english humor is so dry, you have to pay attention to know when to laugh. At least there was avocado, mushroms and swiss cheese on it to "moisten" it up. The funny thing is that when the FP ordered he didn't ask for cheese. Which is fine because I wanted cheese but didn't think of it.

Oh and not to belittle my fries. They were delicious. They were golden. They were seasoned with like seasoning salt. They were hot. I scooped almost all the mustard out of the teeny bottle and some ketchup and dug in. I pretty much ate almost all my food. Guess I was hungrier than I thought. For dessert I ate the chocolate chip cookie they gave me when we checked in. It was still soft and yummy. At Doubletree they give each guest a warm cookie at check in, which is nice. They have like a holding oven under the desk.

So the next morning we checked out and headed to Chinatown. We had never been there, so we were excited to check it out. I will save that for it's own blog, though.

Actually, I'm just going to skip the rest of the day to the drive home. I will write about everything else later.

So I had to work Monday morning at 6 am, so we had to leave LA right after the show. The FP was still impaired, so I drove. We stopped somewhere in OC to get gas and food. There was In N Out Burger, which we had never been to, so we went there. It was about 12:40 and they closed at 1. We made it. Usually, when ordering fast food before closing, I get the sense that they don't want me there. Not so with this In N Out. They welcomed us in, took our order very cheerily, and cooked it very happily. We sat near the counter, so we watched the guy cook our burgers and fries to order. He seemed to have a sense of pride about it. Amazingly, people kept coming in, and they kept happily taking orders.

So we got our burgers and fries. I guess we only ordered one fries, but it was late and we had to get home so I could at least get a couple hours of sleep.

So the fries. They were obviously fresh cut fries. They were a little light. I would have liked them more cooked. But with fresh potatoes, they take longer than blanched frozen fries. Anyway, it's a small complaint. They were very good. Nice and hot and fresh from the fryer, but not greasy. They were actually too salty, which I believe is a first for us. We gobbled them up anyway.

Then the burger. I think we got double doubles. I made the mistake of unwrapping the burger from the sleeve. I think when I was little my parents wouldn't fully unwrap their burger, and maybe I view this as the way old people eat burgers. So I always unwrapped my burgers completely. Is this weird? At any rate, it was a mistake because the two patties and the tomato and stuff kept sliding around and I had to insert the filling back into my buns. I'm sure you've heard that story before.....

Anyway, the burgers were obviously fresh, hot, and they tasted like beef. Sometimes burgers just taste like dirty grill or flattop, but these had a clean meaty taste. The FP just loved it. He raved on about how impressed he was. And it's hard to impress him with burgers. He's just not a big burger fan.

And the thing is, it's hard to convince him something's good if he's never had it. Of course everyone says, In N Out, have you tried it? And he says no, and he doesn't even seem impressed when people tell him the fries are cut in house. But to the Food Pimp, tasting is believing. He's like that with music too. I have told him about some band forever, and he doesn't care or really listen. Then one day he happens to hear that band and he acts like he discovered them. That's just how he is.

So anyway, it was a great meal. And even at 12:58, the staff was still welcoming people in! It's as if they took lots of pride in their jobs! Now that's a strange concept!

So then the FP tried to drive home, but he was too tired/drunk to drive. So I took over after a few miles, and we got home pretty damn fast. That burger gave me just enough fuel to haul ass down the 5 to make it to my bed. I got 3 hours of sleep.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

El Salvadoreno Revisited

Holy Mole! El Salvadoreno is one of my new favorite places! You know how when you start dating someone and they are all you think about, randomly in the middle of the day, when you're driving home, in the shower(!!!) in your dreams.....that's how it is with El Salvadoreno. Thankfully, the Food Pimp is not a jealous man, as some food pimps can be - you know, it's ugly but it's true. Some food pimps beat their food hos with eggplants, plantains, pig's feet, sugar cane, even grapvines. So you have to watch out, all you food ho's out there. Not everyone can be as fortunate as me to get a benevolent food pimp.

Back to the topic of my food lust - El Salvadoreno.

El Salvadoreno. The name just rolls off the tongue - cow tongue that is!

So we went to El Salvadoreno exactly a week ago from now. It's on Imperial Avenue in Logan Heights near the intersection of 28th, right off the 5. Unfortunately, I didn't take my aging camera, so we have pictures on the Food Pimp's phone, but I have to see if I can email them and get them on here.

Anyway, we were both anxious to get there. It was like going to Disneyworld! We got in, and there were a few tables of people, not much. So we perused the menu, and you know how long it takes me to order. I had to make a decision when the waitress got to the table. I did one of those, "you order first" jobs. So the FP got the lengua. We ordered a cheese and jalapeno pupusa, and an "everthing" pupusa. I got the plantain stuffed with beef, and a pork tamale.

Where to start? I guess the pupusas. They were good. Not as good as last time. I think the everything one had too much going on, lots of cheese, pork, and other stuff. The jalapeno and cheese one was definitely better, but both were a little greasy. Don't get me wrong, they were still good and if you've never had a pupusa you would most certainly eat the shit out of them. The trick is to not eat all the slaw when they bring it to the table - which is difficult because it's really good - and put some hot sauce and slaw on the pupusa. That makes it really special.

Then my plantain filled with ground beef. This was something else. It was a fairly large plantain as far as plantains go. So it was grande, not chiquita. So it was split down the middle and beef and beans and crema. The plantain was kind of on the unripe side, so it wasn't very sweet, but the filling with the crema was so sweet that it was fine. This was a rich starchy meaty creamy dish. I can see how some people would not go for it, but I liked it. The FP was not thrilled with it.

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Let's talk about tamales baby, let's talk about you and me, all the good ones, all the bad ones.....

Okay. (Deep Breath) I need to organize my thoughts...let's start at the very beginning, a very good place to start. When you read you begin with abc, when you sing you begin with do,re,mi. Sorry.

Tamales. Tamales...ooh, tamales. When I first encountered tamales, it was at culinary school. That was ages ago in the bustling urban landscape of Thibodaux, LA.


So we had this one professor who the FP lovingly nicknamed Chef BigPoop (not to her face). She was a big older mean lady who was not so good at teaching. She seemed to have this self esteem problem/inferiority complex. She had this attitude like she knew more than us. But wasn't she supposed to? Wasn't she supposed to embrace our youthful culinary innocence and school us in the ways of the chef knife?

Anyway, I was pretty bright back then, not like now. I got good grades. I admit I'm a nerd. One time I got like a 100% on a test, but she marked this one question wrong so I didn't get the extra credit. I was sure it was right. So I looked it up in the book and in our notes. So she had told us one thing and the book had told us another thing. So she marked it wrong. I took her the book and showed her the answer. She said, "but you still got a hundred". But I said, "But my answer was right and you marked it wrong, it's the principle." She had wacked principles.

Anyway, she taught this southwestern cuisine culinary class. She would basically give us each 3 recipes to complete by the end of class. These were, you know, those recipes with 30 ingredients. So we would do them, and 3/4 of the dishes were shit, really. I remember doing tamales. They were heavy, dry, boring.

So through the years, I've always been excited to try tamales because I love corn. I've had good ones. They seem like a whole lot of work for little reward. At the Mango House (RIP) in New Orleans my boss would do these chicken tamales with this mole negro. Boy that was pretty good. But it was mostly due to the delicious mole. It was so rich and yummy.




Getting back to present day... tamales at El Salvadoreno. I got the pork tamale. It was wrapped in banana leaf. So I unwrapped it. There was no sauce. I took a bite. OMG OMG OMG OMG... I'm sorry, I'm having a taste memory orgasm. I know, it's kind of personal, but we're all intimate acquaintences here, right?

Where was I? (wipes herself) This tamale was like no tamale I've ever had before and maybe would never have again. It's like that first shot of heroin - so I hear. It was like eating a corn cloud with tender piggy meat nestled inside. It was corny, and it was, oh, so light. And fresh tasting. The striking thing about these great latin american restaurants is the freshness of the masa dough that just tastes and smells so good. They should have potpourri or hanging car air fresheners with the scent of "fresh pressed tortilla". You have to try this tamale. As soon as you get a chance go to Imperial Avenue near 28th street and order a tamale, and other stuff too. And tell them the Food Ho sent you. You'll get nothing, and they will probably look at you strange, and if they understand you they'll ask, "who's the Food Ho." But later on they will know. Oh will they know. Some for better, some for worse. El Salvadoreno, for best.

And then the Food Pimp got his stewed tongue. It had the rice and beans. That was good, but the beans were not quite as good as the first time. But the star of the plate was really the stew anyway. This tomatoey, meaty stew was just impeccable. I think this is the best tongue (cow tongue that is) I have ever put in my mouth. It was diced and it was tender and it was fresh.

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Now my experience with tongue growing up was not too great. My mom would cook it whole in peanut sauce, and it would look like a big tongue. That didn't really bother me, but it was chewy. She simply didn't braise it long enough. Which was really a shame because her peanut sauce was really good.

So since then I've had tongue cooked very nicely. Usually it's cooked to shreds for tacos, and it has the dark meaty flavor.

But this stew. I've never encountered such tongue. It was fresh. Sometimes tongue is too strong and you eat it anyway wondering how it will sit in your stomach a few hours later. But this tongue was rich and meaty, but not overly strong like old tongue. It was tender, but not falling apart. It was the perfect doneness. I don't know if I rated El Salvadoreno before, but I am giving them \/\/\/\/ 8 chopsticks! I mean, they have not given me anything bad or okay. The worst thing I've eaten there has been very good! And I don't hand out praise that easily, even though it might seem so.

You should also try this tongue dish. Even if you've never had tongue - go ahead - put that tuna salad sandwich back in the fridge and go to El Salvadoreno. I don't care if you're far away. Book a plane ticket and head over to sunny San Diego. When you get here, hop in a taxi and ask them to take you to El Salvadoreno on Imperial Avenue in Logan Heights. Or you can call me if you want, and I'll pick you up. We can share a wonderful sensual tasterbating tonguegasm.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

pork ribs

So I went to Albertson's about 2 weeks ago and didn't know what the hell to buy for dinner. Then I saw spareribs for a pretty good price. I don't recall the last time I cooked spareribs - the Food Pimp usually ends up cooking them. Why is it such a manly thing to cook up ribs and stuff, but womanly to cook up roasts? And why is it manly to grill hotdogs and sausages? Manly in a gay way. Come to think of it, I can picture many of my straight male friends eating hotdogs with gusto, but I can't think of any gay guys I know eating hotdogs so crudely.

Sorry, I'm really tired. That is TBE in another blog. I don't know if that is an official acronym - but I mean to be explained. Why did I not just write to be explained? Well that is TBE in another blog about why I'm tired.

Anyway, spareribs.

So I got home and fired up the oven. It was pretty late, but I was going to try to get them cooked sometime in the next few hours.

Here's how I did them:

Vinegary New Mexico Chili Pork Spareribs

vinegar rub for the ribs:
1 T Tony Chachere's seasoning
1/2 T new mexico chili powder
1/2 T arbol chili powder
2 oz vinegar
1 t cardamom

for the sauce:
1/2 an onion chopped
6 cloves garlic
1 c apple cider vinegar
1 oz hot sauce
1 T Tony Chachere's
6 dashes Angostura bitters
3 oz brown sugar
1 oz coconut molasses - or regular molasses if that's what you have
1 T new mexico chili powder
3 oz nuoc mam

4 c cooked rice
2 heads broccoli, florets and stems
1 ear corn off the cobb
3 handfuls pea sprouts rinsed


So it was kind of late. I got home and turned on the oven. I put the ribs in foil and rubbed all the rub ingredients on them then wrapped them up and threw them in the oven, even though it wasn't hot yet. Then I took all the sauce ingredients and pureed it in a blender. Then I put it on the stove, brought it up to a boil, stirred with a wooden spoon, then dropped the temperature until it was at a simmer. I like wooden spoons because you can leave them in the pot and when you touch it later, you don't burn your hand. I know, I'm a cook, can't I take the heat? No, not really. I still burn my fingertips and it hurts.

So as I was prepping my veggies, I checked the oven. It wasn't really getting hot. This oven is very finicky. Sometimes it heats right up. Sometimes it takes an hour. I didn't have an hour to waste. So I took the ribs out of the oven and cut them up into individual ribs and I threw them (figuratively) into the sauce pot. I know it's not the same, but I just needed to cook them as fast as possible. It took about 2 and a half hours to cook them. They could have gone for 20 minutes more, but they were edible that night. The sauce was tangy goodness. For the veggies, I prettty much just put them in a pan with a little water and covered them and steamed them. They didn't really need any flavorings or fat because the ribs and sauce were so rich. I have to say that the next day, the ribs were so damn delicious after they really soaked the sauce up overnight!