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Back to the Concrete Jungle

January 10, 2010

Guess who has two thumbs and is going back to NYC in 5 months?

*thumbs pointing to self*

THIS GIRL.

That’s right folks, I’m going back east! Now to start bookmarking places to go this time around…

Cooking with Fel – Frittata FAIL.

January 3, 2010

I have to write a little background bio before I get into my first FAIL of 2010.

Before you continue reading, please believe me when I say, “I CAN COOK”.

I seriously can. I promise.

When I was a wee UCLA bruin, living in my beloved apartment in Westwood, I cooked often. My business fraternity would have periodic cook-off competitions – I participated in two; I placed in both. I’ve made tiramisu from scratch (lady fingers included). I’ve prepared tri-tip roasts large enough to feed a pledge class (maybe even two). I’ve cooked Thanksgiving dinner for the past three years (minus the turkey this past year). I KNOW I CAN COOK.

That said, please don’t judge me on this post. I’ll admit today was a total cooking failure…but I can cook! I promise!

———-

When I woke up this morning, I decided: It’s 2010 now! It’s a year of action and change and awesomeness! I am going to cook a frittata and take pictures and post it on The Food Ledger and be a food blogger and this is going to rock!!

…Uh, not quite.

First off, I haven’t seriously cooked since college (some 2.5 years ago) so my skills are a bit rusty, to say the least. Excluding the annual Thanksgiving dinner, how often do I touch a stove during the year? I’ll give you a hint: I can probably count on one hand. Definitely on two. (Strike one.)

Secondly, I’ve never made a frittata before. I’ve never used a cast iron skillet before. I’ve never used a cast iron skillet to make a frittata before. I had no idea what I was doing. My onions turned out quite nicely, but the potatoes were undercooked and kept sticking to the skillet and my eggs didn’t rise as nicely as they were supposed to. Not quite the perfect frittata I envisioned. (Strike two.)

Lastly…Who am I kidding? I may be able to cook but I am in no way a chef. Things don’t come out pretty with me; food comes out on a plate, a little lopsided but tasting the way it should. But that’s not what pretty food blogs look like…Pretty food blogs are, well, pretty. I tried making three potatoes look artsy today and let me just say, it’s hard making food look pretty. I can’t even make my failed frittata look appetizing. *tears* (Strike three.)

…So I guess you can argue that I was doomed from the beginning. I claim I was just overly ambitious.

In the end, I really can’t consider it a total failure. It actually tasted okay (minus the overly pungent gorgonzola I added last minute). Plus, this gives me my first tangible resolution of 2010:

Resolution #1: Make an awesome, beautiful frittata by the end of the year.

Now onto the recipe and pictures:

Potato and Caramelized Onion Frittata with Gorgonzola Recipe
From: The Balsamic Vinegar Cookbook by Meesha Halm

ACTIVE: 45 MIN
TOTAL TIME: 1 HR

Ingredients:

Caramelized Onions:
* 2 Tablespoons butter, unsalted
* 2 large yellow onion, cut 1/8 inch thick
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 1 dash freshly ground black pepper
* 2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
* 1 teaspoon granulated sugar

Frittata:
* 5 medium red potatoes, unpeeled
* 2 Tablespoons olive oil
* 1 teaspoon salt, divided
* 3/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
* 10 large eggs
* 2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, chopped
* 2 ounces Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled

Directions:

Caramelized Onions:
In a medium nonstick skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions, salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring often to avoid scorching, until the onions are very soft and deep golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Stir in the balsamic vinegar and sugar and cook until the vinegar is reduced to a glaze, about 1 minute. Keep the onions warm. (The onions can be prepared up to three days ahead, covered, and refrigerated. Reheat before using.)

Frittata:
Parboil potatoes in salted water for 10 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water until cool enough to handle. Cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices, then chop coarsely.

In a 9- to 10-inch nonstick ovenproof skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the potatoes, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cook, uncovered, turning the potatoes occasionally, until they are browned and tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Spread the potatoes as evenly as possible in the skillet.

Position the broiler rack about 6 inches from the source of heat and preheat the broiler. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, rosemary, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper until well-combined. Pour over the potatoes and reduce the heat to medium-low. Using a rubber spatula, lift up the cooked part of the frittata and tilt the skillet to allow the uncooked eggs to run underneath. Continue cooking, occasionally lifting the frittata and tilting the skillet as described until the top is almost set, approximately 5 minutes. Sprinkle with the Gorgonzola cheese. Broil until the frittata is puffed and the top is set, approximately 1 minute.

To serve, spread the top of the frittata with the warm onions and cut into wedges. Serve hot or warm.

Yield: 6 servings

Best of 2009

December 31, 2009

My love for restaurants is fickle.

“I love you, LudoBites 2.0!”
“No, I’m sorry L’Atelier, I didn’t mean it. You’re #1 on my list. Promise.”
“Le Bernardin, forget them all – I just want to be with YOU.”

Yeah, just like that.

This year was monumental, in relation to both the volume and quantity of food I’ve consumed. I’m a girl of extremes – from hole in the wall to the creme de la creme, I’ve really had a little bit of everything. I’m extremely fortunate to be able to have tried all of these in a matter of a year and can only hope that 2010 will be just as fruitful as 2009.

That said, without further ado, I bring to you…

———-

The Food Ledger’s Best of 2009

(Note: The following only contains restaurants I’ve eaten at for the first time in 2009. First excursion in 2008? Too bad, you can’t be on my list.)

Fine Dining Rocks My Socks

(And the grand prize goes to…)

  1. Le Bernardin (NYC) – Was there any doubt about what I would name as #1 for the year? Please.
  2. LudoBites 2.0 (LA) – Foie gras croque monsieur. Oxtail polenta. Caviar panna cotta. LudoBites 2.0 at Breadbar causes me to salivate every single time I mention its name. Just thinking of it now causes my mind to wander to a happy place…
  3. Hatchi at Breadbar: Michael Voltaggio (LA) – The service? Sucked, big time. The food? Phenomenal. If you’re ever wondering if his food tastes as good as it looks on TV – it does (e.g. the sweetbreads in pea consomme causes me to do that salivating thing again). Not only was the food delicious but hearing Michael himself explain how items like horseradish styrofoam were concocted was quite the treat.

One Bite and I’m Yours

(So close, yet not quite.)

  1. L’Atelier de Joel Roubuchon (LV) – Didn’t quite make it on the fine dining list (its Discovery menu wasn’t consistent enough to stand up against the big boys) but L’Atelier’s foie gras ravioli deserves a list of its own. They’re like little pockets of happiness floating in pure bliss…
  2. Animal (LA) – Animal’s foie loco moco is composed of a hamburger, spam, foie gras and a quail egg, stacked on a pile of golden rice and surrounded in a sweet pool of soy sauce and sriracha. It’s the reason I eat meat. It’s also the reason I could never date a vegetarian.
  3. Masan (LA) – Eating live octopus is fun. It squirms on your plate, saucing itself as it wriggles through the oil, salt and pepper, and then suction cups to the roof of your mouth as you chomp down. Sashimi doesn’t get fresher than that! (NOTE: pictures and video on Flickr)

Almost…But Not Quite

  1. The Bazaar (LA) – A very close #4 on my Fine Dining list, the final decision came down to the flip of a coin (Not really…but it was close!). Without doubt, The Bazaar boasts the best DineLA menu ever and makes me that much more excited to try out Saam in the next year. (Maybe a 2010 contender?)
  2. Caracas Arepas (NYC) – The wait staff won’t divulge the secret of their hot sauce, and with good reason – it’s ridiculously tasty. Now that I’ve had that first nibble of a Venezuelan arepa, how will I be satiate the craving if/when it arises? (I’ve been told that there are no good Venezuelan arepas in Los Angeles, someone please prove me wrong!)

I Can’t Live Without

  1. Beverly Soon Tofu (LA) – Someone tell me how I ever survived without Beverly Soon Tofu?! It’s my home away from home, where I go when I’ve had a bad/good/ordinary day and just just need a big ole bowl of pipping hot tofu and rice. More often than not, you can find me tucked away in a corner by myself at 10pm at night, recuperating from a long day of work. I want it, I crave it…Again, I have no idea how I lived without it.

———-

And thus ends 2009.

Happy New Year everyone! See you in 2010!

Hatchi with Marcel Vigneron (Century City, CA) – I’m a Froupie

December 28, 2009

froupie
/’fru pi/ [froo-pee]
– noun informal
1. an ardent fan of a chef or of a particular style of cooking
2. a food groupie

I don’t quite know when but, at some point, I think I’ve turned into a Marcel Vigneron froupie. Whenever I hear the name “Marcel”, part of me wants to squeal like a teenage girl at the premiere of a Twilight flick.

Maybe it’s his engaging on-screen personality that makes my heart skip a beat or his iconic Wolverine-like hair that makes me melt? …No – it’s his food that brings out my inner froupie.

(“OMGAhhhhh!!! It’s MARCEL!”)

I was very excited for the December Hatchi event at Breadbar as this was my first chance to taste dishes by Marcel and Marcel alone (i.e. sans José Andrés, at the Bazaar). I was also hoping he’d bust out the molecular gastronomy and he did not disappoint – spherifications, foams and liquid nitrogen, we got it all.

Amuse Bouche

To begin, his amuse bouche was a simplistic spherification of pomegranate juice with a single blueberry tucked inside.

Course 1: Hamachi Sashimi

His first course (my favorite course of the night) was a fantastic hamachi sashimi. The composition of the dish – the fresh fish, the citrus of kumquats, the sweetness of the momo chan (i.e. little green baby peaches), the texture of seaweed – was thoughtful; each bite was enjoyable.

Course 2: Dayboat Scallop

The second course was a dayboat scallop, sitting atop cauliflower couscous and seaweed. The molecular portion of this dish wasn’t blatantly apparent until I overheard him explaining the dish to the diners next to me: the puree on the plate (the pink, purple and yellow) are all the same. In order for him to obtain the different colors, an acid is added to the mixture that causes the colors to bloom from purple to pink.

Course 3: Langoustine Ravioli

The third course was a tad confusing to me, only because I seemed to enjoy the avocado wrapped mango more than the langoustine ravioli. The ravioli, on its own, was reminiscent of har gao that had been steamed in a dim sum cart for a tad too long; however, when tasted with the avocado and mango, it picked up a little bit of flavor and life. (Note: I was happy to see a foam make an appearance on the menu – What is a meal with Marcel without foam?!)

Course 4: Misohoney Black Cod

The fourth course was another simple, clean dish – a miso honey black cod sitting in broth. Although I had just come off of a seafood high at Le Bernardin the Saturday prior, I still thoroughly enjoyed the buttery texture of the cod and the lightness of the broth.

Course 5: Lyonaise Salad

The fifth course was a salad with bacon and a breaded egg. Not bad, but nothing impressive.

Course 6: Vadouvan Lamb

The fifth course may have fallen a bit flat, but the sixth course was a surprising tender rack of lamb with a deconstructed tzatziki. My piece of lamb was a tad too fatty for my preferences but what meat I was able to scrounge off the bone was succulent and delicious.

Course 7: Grass Fed “Corned Beef”

The seventh course, a gigantic chunk of short rib, was daunting in size (I just can’t eat that much anymore!). I didn’t eat the entire piece but the bit I did devour was also very tender. The three types of corn (e.g. the baby corn, the pureed corn and the popped corn) were fun and did exactly as described – they added texture to the dish, keeping you interested as you made your way through the mountain of meat.

Course 8: Souffle

Marcel’s last course was a green chartreuse souffle. I tried the green chartreuse in one of the cocktails for the night – the herbaceous flavor was a bit strong for my taste. However, the flavor mellowed out in the souffle, making it a nice ending to the meal.

———-

I almost made it through the entire night without any froupie tendencies but I caved in last minute – I may not have screamed his name across the Breadbar dining room but (as you can see above) I got a picture with Marcel in the end.

I’m such a froupie.

Hatchi with Marcel Vigneron
Twitter: @MarcelVigneron

Ippudo (Manhattan, NY) – Noodling in NY

December 26, 2009

(Did the above catch your attention? Good.)

I love my ramen broth rich. None of that salt-based stuff for me, I love slurping pure liquid porkiness.

However Ippudo’s akamaru modern ramen, with its tonkotsu broth made from boiling pig parts (mmm…pig parts), is more than liquid porkiness – it has a different dimension that I haven’t tasted in a bowl from Los Angeles yet.

Perhaps it’s the addition of the miso paste and garlic oil that makes Ippudo’s broth so tasty. Or, maybe it’s the braised chunks of pork belly (a supplemental topping) that made this bowl of ramen seem so fatty and delicious.

All I know is that I dread craving Ippudo. Busy season’s coming up and there’s no time to fly to NYC for another bowl…

Ippudo NY
65 4th Ave
New York, NY 10003
(212) 388-0088
Website: http://www.ippudo.com/ny/

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