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Auditor’s Eats – Busy Season, Meet Vacation

April 30, 2010

When I’m in busy season, I sometimes feel like this:

However, now that busy season is over, I’m feeling more like this:

Yes, this marks the last Auditor’s Eats for this busy season! The long hours are over and now it’s time to relax.

Although I make comments about work or my hours from time to time, I really don’t mean any of them. Work may be grueling at times, but there is always a light at the end of the tunnel (and when I say “light at the end of the tunnel” I really mean “vacation at the end of busy season”). I always schedule myself a vacation when it’s all over with and done. Not just a little vacation, I’m talking VACATION. Like, two weeks of sleeping in, pigging out, getting into shape and sweet, lazy nothingness. (It’s a good life.)

Anyway, back to Auditor’s Eats, this marks the last one for this season and I think it’s my favorite one of all. Typically, Auditor’s Eats is predominantly composed of American food; however, at this particular client, it’s all about the Asian food. Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Thai – we’ll eat it all. So take a look at my Asian take-out feast! This will be the last one you see for a while…because I’m now on VACATION! (Can you tell I’m excited? Because I’m super excited.)

Starry Kitchen (Los Angeles, CA) – SK, Welcome to Bunker Hill

April 1, 2010

I went to Starry Kitchen three times this week.
On Day 1, I brought a coworker – he went back again the next day.
On Day 2, I brought a friend – she went back, not just the next day, but also the day after.

If that’s not enough to convince you Starry Kitchen serves good food, continue reading…

———-

Never been to Starry Kitchen before? That’s okay. Ordering is easy:
1. Choose your meat.
2. Choose the vessel.
3. There is no Step 3. You’re done.

One of the reasons I love Starry Kitchen so much (and why I’ve been able to eat there three times this week) is because there’s so much variety! Five protein options grace their chalkboard menu on any given day, with five vessels in which to eat them. You can get your protein sandwiched in a banh mi-like sandwich, wrapped in a tortilla, on a plate with rice or atop two different types of salads.

Each week, one of these protein options rotates off the menu; each week, a new protein option rotates onto the menu. It’s a novel concept and one I appreciate because it means that, five weeks from now, I’ll have a completely new menu to choose from. However, it also means that, once a protein rotates off the menu, you’ll have to wait a good month and a half until it comes back. (Absence makes the heart grow fonder, right?)

This week’s “bye-bye” option (as they’ve dubbed it) were the Taiwanese Fried Pork Chops. Their “hi-hi” option (as I’ve now dubbed it) were the SK Spicy Crab Cakes. I ordered them both…Twice.

Day 1 – SK Spicy Crab Cake Banh Mi; Side of Jap Chae

I still can’t get over the fact that these crab cakes were made from imitation crab. Imitation crab typically evokes an imagine of string cheese made of fake seafood with that disgusting dyed pink outside. This was flaky and actually tasted real. It was perfect in the soft baguette.

As a side note, their jap chae (i.e. glass noodles) is RIDICULOUS. I know it’s just glass noodles and mushrooms cooked in soy sauce and sesame oil and topped with scallions, but there’s got to be more to this recipe than that. A secret ingredient of some sort…like crack. Yeah, crack. (God, it’s so addicting.)

Day 2 – Taiwanese Fried Pork Chop Wrap; Side of Jap Chae

Another perfect combination of meat and vessel. Especially when you add fresh jalapenos to the breaded pork and the tortilla. (Be warned: those jalapenos have a kick to them though!)

Day 3 – Taiwanese Fried Pork Chops on a Thai Cobb Salad

In order to mix it up, I got a salad for the day. The Thai cobb salad includes cucumber, avocado, tomato, egg, blue cheese and bacon in this light honey sesame dressing. It was a perfectly healthy salad…until I added fried pork to it. (Mmm…fried pork.)

———-

Enough about their food, I have to say the best thing about Starry Kitchen is that everyone who works there is genuinely nice. Nguyen, the guy you can’t miss working the front of the house, has an energetic personality, which is so welcome after a morning of Outlook emails and conference calls. His better half, Thi, who mans the kitchen, is quiet but when she smiles, she cares. (You can just see it in her eyes!)

There’s real heart behind this restaurant, and I’ve fallen in love with that. It just makes me want to introduce people to Starry Kitchen, to introduce them to Nguyen and Thi and show them what this little establishment has to offer. I’ve already introduced two…Can I introduce you too?

Starry Kitchen
350 S. Grand Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90071
(213) 617-3474
Website: http://www.starrykitchen.com/
Twitter: @starrykitchen

Starry Kitchen (California Plaza) on Urbanspoon

Aureole (Las Vegas, NV) / Charlie Palmer @ Bloomingdale’s (Costa Mesa, CA) – CPx2

March 23, 2010

That’s right, this is going to be a double dose of Charlie Palmer, pioneer of progressive American Cuisine! Charlie Palmer + Charlie Palmer! CPx2!

(…Okay, enough of that. Can you tell I can’t think of any ideas for a lead in? I’m just going to get right into this.)

Aureole

I’m going to straight with you: This is going to be a biased review.

My mistake wasn’t making a reservation at Aureole; the mistake was keeping it after a long, hard night of drinking. The morning of my Aureole reservation, I found myself lying in bed with a hangover and a craving for the cheapest steak and eggs I could find on the Strip. After pounding down a whole steak, two eggs over easy, a side of toast and god knows how many cups of coffee, my headache and nausea had subsided…but so had my hunger for food.

I may have lost my appetite that day, I’d like to think my sense of taste remained relatively intact (whether it actually was, you can decide). Thus, taste away I did.

(The stark white exterior is a foreshadowing of its the cold white interior.)

The first thing I noticed when I descended down the staircase into Aureole’s dining room was the sterility of the restaurant. I typically love modern design but the glass tower coupled with the cavernous room made the whole area seem cold and unemotional (especially after L’Atelier’s bustling open kitchen the night before). I pictured the dining space circling Aureole’s signature 42-foot glass wine tower, making it the center of attention; however, in reality, the wine tower acted more as a dividing wall than a focus piece and I sat with my back facing the tower for the entire night.

As mentioned, I wasn’t hungry when I arrived at dinner so I ordered from the 3-course theater menu and added the starter of the trio of house cured salmon. The trio had a wide range of flavor combinations, from the familiar creamy dill in the gravlax to the unique citrus tones in the pepper crusted salmon.

My first course, the Thai popcorn shrimp, was more a soup than an appetizer. The curry flavor in the spicy coconut broth was bold and had a lingering kick to it, which was completely unexpected. To drink a whole bowl was overwhelming – I picked the morsels of shrimp from the depths of the broth and moved on.

The pork scallopini was uneventful both times I tried it (I tried it twice as I had most of it boxed up to go). The cream sauce was thick and the pork was charred…I picked out the noodles instead as they were delightfully chewy.

Dessert was a banana bread pudding – that’s all I remember about that.

Considering the circumstances and taking into account my incapacitated position, Aureole still did not meet my expectations. As I previously mentioned, this is somewhat of a biased review so take from this what you want. All I can say is, even thinking back on the experience now, I still can’t say I fully enjoyed my meal at Aureole.

Aureole
3950 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89119
(702) 632-7401
Website: http://www.charliepalmer.com/

Aureole (Mandalay Bay) on Urbanspoon

Charlie Palmer at Bloomingdale’s

(As the name implies, this is Charlie Palmer’s restaurant. It’s next to a Bloomingdale’s.)

The lounge in Charlie Palmer at Bloomingdale’s is as hip as Aureole in Las Vegas is sterile. When I walked in, I immediately thought to myself,

“I don’t think I’m cool enough for this place.”

I don’t find myself in the heart of Orange County often, but work has sent me to this far away land and I told myself I would make the best of the situation. Thus, when I discovered the nearby Charlie Palmer had two happy hours a day (with the second one going from 10PM-midnight) and that I would be able to sneak out early sometime mid-week, I made sure to take advantage.

I expected to roll in dressed in my normal number crunching uniform, find myself a little corner spot to bunker down with my ethics textbook, grab a glass of wine and a couple appetizers and enjoy Charlie’s only California establishment. Instead I find myself feeling thoroughly under dressed, awkwardly sitting in a corner booth of a place that sounded like an LA club with matching clientele. (Again, note: This was at 10:30PM on a Wednesday night. Not quite what I had imagined.)

Although I felt sorely out of place, I wasn’t going to deny myself food and wine just because I looked like an accountant in a club. I promptly ordered myself a glass of wine, and three appetizers: the bone marrow, a seafood sausage and a truffle grilled cheese.

My favorite of the three was definitely the bone marrow, with its pickled onions and slightly sugary raisins. The sweetness was enjoyable, not overpowering, and the vinegar cut through the buttery marrow, adding a touch of tang to every bite. My only qualm with the dish was that half of my toast was burnt, which resulted in my overloading the non-burnt pieces with heaping lumps of marrow.

According to the waitress, the seafood sausage was a recent addition to the menu, only added a couple weeks prior. The sausages are made in house and are composed of a mix of shrimp, scallops, salmon and bass. Reminiscent of fish balls you may find in Asian supermarkets, the seafood sausage was actually smoother in texture and much softer, almost like the inside of a perfectly cooked scallop. However, the one I received was over seasoned and required a nibble of bread with every bite to counter the salt.

The truffle mac and cheese was probably the most underwhelming dish of the three as it was simply a grilled cheese sandwich with a hint of truffle. Nothing spectacular, almost one note – I wished I had tried something a bit more adventurous instead.

All in all, once I got my food and settling in with book in hand, it was actually quite an enjoyable experience. Not quite the quiet night I expected but hey – the wine was half-off, the food met expectations and I got some work done to boot. Next time I’ll just remember to bring a change of clothes…

Charlie Palmer at Bloomingdale’s
3333 Bristol St
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
(714) 352-2525
Website: http://www.charliepalmer.com/

Charlie Palmer at South Coast Plaza on Urbanspoon

Auditor’s Eats – Welcome Back, Audit Ass

March 13, 2010

As I predicted in my kickoff to Auditor’s Eats, the next edition was right around the corner. A little over a month after the first posting, here I am again, posting about what I eat at work.

We’re attempting to fulfill our binder quota for the year.

This client wasn’t as bad as the last one – we worked long hours, but nothing beyond the norm (although, to be fair, the norm during busy season is equivalent to a 14 hour work day). There was one main difference between this client and the last one though: At this client, we ordered twice the number of meals.

When you’re ordering take-out for lunch and dinner, there’s only so many places you can order from before you’ve done it all. This current team of coworkers was (thankfully) an adventurous group so we didn’t hit our take-out plateau until the very end. We added a couple new places to our delivery list (Q-cina in North Hollywood, for example, was considered our top newcomer of the FY09 audit) and expanded our horizon in terms of cuisine. However, at the end of the day, we ended up eating the same old stuff (e.g. sandwiches, burgers, salads, etc.), which is the #1 cause of Audit Ass.

When I first started in this profession, I was warned of an epidemic called “Audit Ass”. How do you get said Audit Ass? It goes something like this:

Your job consists of sitting in front of the computer for 14+ hours a day, reading numbers in small font on an overly-bright computer monitor and then plugging those numbers into pages and pages of memos. When you’re busy, you don’t want to eat healthy. You’re mentally and physically tired, pushing yourself to the extreme…All you really want is a burger and a side of fries. Maybe even two.

Greasy, fried food + no daily movement = Audit Ass.

As you can tell by the pictures below, I haven’t been making the best food choices this month. Thus, I welcome back my Audit Ass! (…I hope you don’t stay for very long.)

Auditor’s Eats – I DON’T DO TAX.

January 23, 2010

20 consecutive working days, 200 billable hours and many, many more unbillable hours later, I am officially DONE with the first sign-off of the 2010 busy season!

FREEEEDOOOOOMMM!!

For those unfamiliar with the wonderful world of public accounting, here’s a little background:

  1. Busy season is the bane of an auditor’s existence. We work like hell for the months between January and March (mine typically runs into April, lucky me) and, when I say we work like hell, I mean work equals life. Come in at 9AM, leave at midnight – thus is our busy season life.
  2. Please do not mention tax season around me, I don’t do tax. We are busy because public companies release their financial statements as of 12/31 (i.e. year-end) and we’re the ones making sure those numbers are correct. The day these financials are released is known as “sign-off” (i.e. the day the firm signs off saying everything’s okay).
  3. Lastly, and most importantly, because we work 15 hours a day, the firm has to feed us. I mean, we’re working an extra 7 hours a day but we don’t get paid overtime? They better feed us. (Oh, thus is the salaried life.)

…Which brings us to Auditor’s Eats.

I thought it would be funny to take pictures of what I eat at work and see what crosses my desk during the course of a busy season. In better times, we would be ordering in for every meal – lunch, snacks, and dinner – but it’s a recession now and we only get dinners nowadays. Not that I’m complaining – dinner is the most anticipated moment of the day. It’s the time when we can put down our green pens and just relax for a good half-hour before diving headfirst back into our piles of paper.

So here goes the first ever Auditor’s Eats. There will be many more coming soon – trust me, busy season ain’t over yet.

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