Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Gumbo Pot's Red Beans and Rice

In Louisiana, red beans and rice are traditionally served on Mondays. Monday was wash day, and once all of the ingredients were thrown in, you could ignore the beans all day while you tended to the laundry. I am obsessed with red beans and rice. The only version I've eaten that beat my own recipe was made by Mike Anderson's in New Orleans.

But I have to admit that The Gumbo Pot in the Farmers Market serves up some damn good red beans. They are chock full of ham hocks, without the slight funk or gaminess. Of course, The Gumbo Pot is situated down the lane from a meat market with the biggest, meatiest ham hocks I've ever seen. The beans have that special kind of creaminess that can only come from loads of pork fat. They are not overly spiced, but depending on the day, they sometimes they pack a wallop. They are served properly over Uncle Ben's converted rice - the true rice of New Orleans.

Cajun and Creole food are controversial, and I'm sure everyone is ready to stand up for their favorite spot, extolling the wonders of The Creole Chef or Uncle Darrow's. I will admit that there might be better gumbos out there, and there might be better jambalayas out there. But as a frequent traveler to New Orleans, I can attest that The Gumbo Pot serves a damn authentic red beans and rice. Well, maybe not so authentic - because I don't know of any restaurant in New Orleans that is this generous with the ham hocks. Order the side salad with candied pecans and homemade pickles in a buttermilk dressing, split a po'boy with your friend and prepare to be transported down to the Crescent City.

The Gumbo Pot (323) 933-0358
6333 West Third Street # 312 Los Angeles 90036

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

King's Head Clam Chowder

The King's Head is arguably home to the best fish and chips in Los Angeles. Sadly, the fish and chips get so much attention that the clam chowder is not given its rightful due. Let me make up for that now. The King's Head Pub in Santa Monica serves the chowder of the gods. All other chowders should bow down before it. Other chowders dare not speak its name.

I remember speaking to the chef the first time I ever tried the chowder, and the recipe was basically: Butter, flour, heavy cream, potatoes, and clams that have to be specially flown in. They are not commercially available. In other words, you will never be able to duplicate this chowder. You should just accept the fact that you will now be forced to drive to Santa Monica from the farthest reaches of the earth for the rest of your life.

The chowder is extremely rich and creamy. Sometimes it's almost too much and I can only dip in bits of the roll, using the chowder instead of butter. The potatoes manage to stay at a perfect consistency without falling apart. They are never, ever too hard. The English learned long ago that you don't fuck with an Irishman's potato. The clams are deliciously toothsome, with just barely a hint of the sea. Most importantly, there is never a bit of grit. Not the tiniest bit. One usually has to approach clam chowder with caution, preparing oneself for the inevitable crunch. My dad use to tease me by telling me that it was the brains. Of course, now that I've seen a dissected clam in high school textbooks, the brains are the least of my worries. Oh, but I'm supposed to be making you want to eat this soup, not freaking you out. Never mind. This chowder makes me willing to put aside all of my squeamishness.

Let's just say, The King's Head clam chowder and fish and chips would be my last meal on death row. No question. With about ten pints of Bass.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

DuPar's Chicken Pot Pie

Dupar's is known for its delicious pies, so it naturally follows that they would have a kick-ass chicken pot pie. Really, its only competition in town is Musso and Frank's, and I still think Dupar's has them beat.

The thick, comforting gravy is not too bland, and not too salty. In fact, it's just right. Huge chunks of chicken fill the pie, so there is none of that gypped feeling you always had growing up with frozen chicken pot pie. It is mostly white meat, but there is a little dark meat thrown in for depth.

The pie's crowning glory is the light, flaky puff pastry. There are simply no words to describe it - it's almost like a croissant with crispy edges. The pie is served with a spoon with which to break into the crust, and release the aromatic steam like a genie from the bottle.

Dupar's renovations did not take away the cool retro vibe. The room is still open and inviting. On a cool night at the Farmer's market, the warm room was welcome relief and escape from the chill. Plus, they are open 24 hours. Who could ask for anything more?

Du-pars (323) 933-8446
6333 West 3rd Street (in the Farmer's market)

Friday, February 1, 2008

The Cat and Fiddle's Mulled Wine

I have always had something against mulled wine. Besides it having the viscousity of blood, I just imagine Will Farrell and Rachel Dratch's "Lovers" characters from SNL drinking hot mulled wine to wash down the juices of their roasted goat meat.

Somehow mulled wine always seems to be connected to hippie pagan Ren Faire earthmother people. Not that there is anything elementally wrong with hippie pagan Ren Faire earthmother people. I have friends who dance naked in the woods. I, however, have no desire to drink mulled wine and dance naked in the woods.

When the mulled wine at the Cat and Fiddle was recommended to me, I was wary. But I love the "fiddew" as people pronounce it. It is one of the most comfortable bars in town, with wooden booths, a big patio, and no attitude. The crowd at the Fiddle are long-time Hollywood locals, old school punkers, and 20 and 30-somethings out for a raucous good time. In younger days, we used to troll the Fiddle for cute European boys from the Guitar Institute around the corner.

On my recent visit everyone was friendly, and the Buzzcocks and Sex Pistols blared out of the jukebox. A few people were partaking in the standard pub grub, and an exciting game of darts was on. We cozied into a booth in the corner and were soon chatting with perfect strangers. The hot red wine with just a splash of brandy really surprised me. I liked it! I really liked it! The spices weren't overwhelming, and there was no harsh tannic flavor. It was thick and comforting, a sweet nectar closer to punch than wine. If I didn't have to drive, I would have stayed in our little corner and drank them all night until I was drunk and sticky. Then I just might have gone for a little dance in the woods.

The Cat and Fiddle (323) 468-3800
6530 Sunset Blvd. LA 90028