Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The dosa truck

Much of the buzz at Track 16 art gallery one night was surrounding the Dosa Truck parked outside. Thanks to their menu of samosas, masala fries, and their main attraction, filled dosa "wraps" at reasonable prices, there was a constant buzz around the truck.

Leena Deneroff always dreamed of turning her love for central Indian food into a career someday. She imagined a little cafe somewhere. The recent popularity of food trucks has given her the opportunity to realize her dream. A relative newcomer at only a few months, Leena was happy to discuss the process of getting the dosa truck on the road.

The logistics of making dosas to go was a little more complicated than expected. According to Leena, with a traditional taco truck you can fry the meat and heat the tortillas, doing all of the cooking in the truck. But Indian food requires a lot of prep work. Everything is made from scratch. Just perfecting the dosa batter recipe and figuring out fillings that would not ooze out of the delicate fermented bread was a laborious task, but a labor of love. 

She resolved the matter of messy dosa fillings by coming up with an Indian pesto based on methi (fenugreek leaves) white sesame oil, garlic and chili. Her masterpiece is "The Slumdog" which includes the pesto, fresh spinach, potatoes and paneer.

I asked, "Did you consider a heartier bread, like naan?"

"But it's called the Dosa Truck"

"Well, then it would be called the Naan Truck."

"But I love the dosa."

Other items on the menu are samosas, mango lassis, and dosas with stuffings like spinach, mushrooms and cheese, sweet potato masala and "Mumbai Madness" a masala dosa with potatoes. If you are lucky, they will be serving their special masala fries. They wisely use a generous spice mix instead of drowning the fries in sauce, keeping them nice and crispy. The menu is strictly vegetarian, and items can be made vegan upon request. Most of the menu is priced at 6 and 7 dollars, except for the fries, which are a well-deserved 2.50.

Ganeesh, you will catch your death of cold in there!!

Since they serve samosas, I asked whether they might be considering serving my favorite dish, samosa channa, where the samosa is covered with insanely spicy chickpea channa and a variety of condiments. Leena said that since they now have figured out how to make huge amounts of potatoes of the grill, they may be branching out to channa.

Leena tries to avoid the typical truck spots, like Wilshire, and focuses on art openings and (surprise) yoga studios. Leena says her next stop will be at the Highland Park Art Walk this Saturday. Follow them on Twitter to get the latest location. Try some masala fries yourself and you'll be hooked. As their business card says, "ommm good".

Monday, June 28, 2010

Suicide Food


One of my favorite websites is Suicide Food. Sure they are probably vegans on a mission. But at least they have a sense of humor about it. I'll admit to having been a little squeamish about prancing cows on the wall of the steakhouse.

What is suicide food?

"Suicide Food is any depiction of animals that act as though they wish to be consumed. Suicide Food actively participates in or celebrates its own demise."

 And since it was pointed out to me, I see suicidal food everywhere. I even sent them my favorite porcine butcher.

This pig and cow seem very relaxed as they show off their butcher's diagram of innards. Other than the heart though, some pig organs are mysterious. There are the blue hot dogs, and the lemon,  orange, lime and ...plum???

This steer at Jocko's looks satiated, picking his teeth as though...he ate a steak? Maybe that's what the naughty secret behind the smile is -- mad cow! Revenge is best served cold.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Meet the Pink's Family!

Pink's Hot Dogs has always had a varied fan base, from Sugar Ray Leonard, Bruce Willis, Snoop Dogg, Karl Lagerfeld, Leroy Neiman, who once sketched the stand, and most recently Betty White, who just famously unveiled her favorite hot dog, "The Naked Dog". We eagerly await their newest stand in LAX.
Paul and Betty Pink opened the original stand, which at the time was just a pushcart, in 1939. The corner of LaBrea and Melrose was considered to be out in the country at that time. The area has been built up to surround Pink's, but they have remained in the same location for over 65 years. Now Paul's kids, Gloria and Richard Pink, run the business along with Richard's wife, Beverly Pink. LAist chatted with the Pinks at last night's Beastly Ball., a benefit for GLAZA.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Massis International Grill

It is a common misconception that authentic ethnic food has to be hidden away in some hole-in-the-wall with a "C" rating on the door. Some fantastic eats are hiding in plain sight. In the case of Massis International Grill, it is hiding somewhere between McDonalds and Hot Dog on a Stick.

This Persian-Armenian kabob shop (kabobbery?) has occupied the same location in the Glendale Galleria since 1976. It was one of two original restaurants in the food court, and there is a good reason why it still stands. The addition of giant decorative 3-foot rotating kabobs to celebrate their 30th anniversary only adds to their coolness factor. The family-run business has three other locations in the Westfield Fashion Square Mall, West Covina Plaza and Montebello Town Center.

Massis serves your standard beef and chicken kabobs, but the star of the show is the Cornish game hen, succulent, yellow with saffron and perfectly spiced.

Another favorite is the Chelo Kabob Bargh which is filet mignon pounded until it is tender (It's what pirates order). Plates come with the familiar Middle Eastern rice, grilled tomato and Shirazi cucumber-tomato salad. They also feature Kaubideh, a ground beef or ground chicken kabob

Although this is one meatarific spot, a vegetarian could make a nice lunch out of sides. They have Homous Dip, Red Cabbage Salad, Cucumber Yogurt Salad, Shirazi Salad, Eggplant Dip (Ikhra), Borani Dip, Russian Bean Salad and Garlic Fries. They also offer a wide variety of seafood, like Idaho Trout and Tiilapia, shrimp, Mahi Mahi and Salmon.

So let's do lunch -- and then hit the Sephora!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Club Culinaire's Picnic des Chefs was all about Dessert

Sunday, the 30th annual Picnic des Chefs was held in Elysian Park. The event benefits several charities, including the Concern Foundation and The Hope Program at Children's Hospital. The Picnic is one of several events held by Club Culinaire, a nonprofit organization of gourmands and people in the restaurant profession who specialize in French food.
Participating chefs included the adorable Josie LeBalch,and let's admit it, the adorable Neal Fraser. Sebastien Archamabault is now setting up restaurants for private corporations, but was once at L'Orangerie, which seems to have been a law for all chefs in Los Angeles at one time. Domenique Raynal of The Regency Club was charming at flirtatious, turning away anyone with an empty wine glass, "Come back with eet full, zen you come see me!"

The large, grassy pasture was divided up into various regions: Alsace, Burgundy, Provence, and the rest. Each chef was responsible for a different portion of the meal, which seemed to be loosely set out in courses.
I ran around taking some pictures I was really happy with, doing my thing. The Picnic went green this year, so each gift bag contained plates and forks for you to reuse. I didn't notice, and immediately ran around greeting chefs, sniffing out the Pernod, and begging scraps of tri-tip. Although there were no lines, a few specialties were devoured by the time I returned with a plate.

So I had an interesting menu:

Tri-tip (Francis Bey)
Rotisserie Chicken (Sebastien Archambault)
Hollywood Blonde Beer
Potato Salad and Tarte a l'onion (Sebastien Pfeiffer)
Dandy Don's Blackberry-Burgundy Sorbet
The World's Biggest Chocolate Cake
Cheesecake (Josie LeBalch)
Pate (Akira Hirose)
Dandy Don's Chocolate Ice Cream with Marshmallow, Chocolate Syrup and Whipped Cream
Dandy Don's Strawberry Sorbet

All of the meats were charred and moist, although Raynal's leg of lamb was rumored to be the big hit of the event. The Tarte was very thin, but light as air and the potato salad had a nice sting of horseradish. The pate was rich and buttery, and I made it into a sandwich like you would buy in a French train station.
Dandy Don was out of control. The Blackberry-Burgundy Sorbet was rich with a great depth of flavors. The other flavors were winners too, but it is the Blackberry that will linger in memory.
The huge chocolate cake turned out to be light and moist, which seemed odd for such a monstrosity. The person next to me commented, "It's moister than giant cakes usually are." I jumped the shark with Josie's cheesecake, but c'mon, it was Josie. The cheesecake was nice and cool on such a warm day.

There were over 30 wines to taste, but at some point wine talk turns into gobbledygook, like "Mmm, nice mouth feel, and I detect a hint of Christmas tree with notes of clown car." The Hollywood Blonde Beer was more my style. It was rich and intense without being too hoppy. Drinks were also provided by Pernod-Ricard, Perrier, Hansen Natural Beverages, and so many more it would be really boring to go on any further.
I was disappointed to miss the Frisee Salad with Duck, Bacon and Croutons by Neal Fraser and the Beet Salad with Goat Cheese and Arugala by Joe Miller. But why crowd the dessert?
The families laying out on blankets, people playing volleyball, women dancing to the live bands, and children running through the grass were perfectly sated and content. It was a lovely day for a picnic.

When I got home I almost had a breakdown. I had taken pics all day without a card in the camera! I had just been taking too many pics that weekend and didn't do my usual check. Luckily I took the cake pic with my point-and-shoot because it has a wider lens. Whew.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Food Crimes: Hold the Mayo

According to SF Gate, a 74 year-old woman has been arrested in Boise for pouring mayonnaise in the county library's book drop.

Joy L. Cassidy is "a person of interest in at least 10 other condiment-related crimes."

For the past year, library employees have reported finding books in the drop box covered in corn syrup and ketchup.

"Cassidy was released from jail and faces a misdemeanor charge of malicious injury to property."

Photo by Jeffrey Beale via Flickr

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Kiki Bourdain has a ring to it

Last week Anthony Bourdain was scheduled to speak at Royce Hall, but as I rounded the corner near the artist's entrance, our eyes met.

"Kiki! I haven't see you since Istanbul!"

"Ah yes, the sumac. I remember it fondly"

"Kiki!" he cried, "Come away with me, now, before anyone can stop us."

"But what about your life, your family, your career?"

"I don't care about any of that" he waved his hand as if dismissing it all "together we can travel the world, listening to the Dead Boys, making snide remarks and getting drunk off of locally distilled beverages."

But I simply could not take him away from his child, and his wife would have kicked my ass. So here is what really happened:

Royce Hall was packed to the gills Thursday for Anthony Bourdain's book signing and speaking tour. Really, his lecture was more like stand-up comedy, with his acerbic wit with razor-sharp observations. He machine-guns bon mots so fast, so smoothly, it's easy to believe he does 40 speaking engagements a year.

The reason Bourdain can get away with talking so much shit is that he lets the audience in on the joke. It's like the two of you are sitting at a bar together as he elbows you and says, "Look at that guy." Maybe you are the guy wearing shorts in the Louvre and eating at McDonalds in Rome, but there is a temporary suspension of belief. The quick-witted author is engaging, mesmerizing, and makes you feel like you are in the club.

Bourdain started out with his usual patter about The Food Network, which, much to his chagrin, has bought the Travel Channel. He bemoaned the Food Network's replacement of chefs with "personalities." He imagines a Godfather-style scenario: "Hey Emeril, Mario wants to talk to you in the parking lot. Bang! Hey Mario, Emeril wants to talk to you in the parking lot, Bang!" So by the time they got to Bobby Flay, he was willing to compete in chili cook-offs with anybody anywhere.

There are his horror stories of staring into "the dead doll eyes of Sandra Lee" and his detente with Rachael Ray. He gives a run-down of his favorite shows. He likes the original Iron Chef but not so much Iron Chef America. Bourdain spent a good five minutes tearing into Hell's Kitchen. He likes Top Chef and admits when he judges they are plied with gin and tonics (Eddie Lin also recently mentioned the excessive wine pourings). "By the time Padma says 'Pack your knives and (slur) go' we're sloshed to the gills." He admires Andrew Zimmern, because he himself only has to eat weird shit once in awhile, but Zimmern eats nothing but that every day. He is convinced they are actually trying to kill "the kid on Man vs. Food."

As the evening wore on, he became serious and went on a diatribe against the state of our food supply. Outer cuts of meat that used to only be used for dog food are now being used for hamburger. Why does the burger have to be served well-done? He believes we shouldn't have to treat our food like toxic waste. "Now hot dogs, there is an implied consent there. You're on your own."

As a parent he is concerned about the lure of fast food clowns and toys. He understands that some people don't have a lot of choices; it is cheap and convenient. But for those who have the option, how do you combat that? He feeds his child organic foods, and is on a brainwashing campaign to convince his daughter that "Ronald McDonald has cooties" and kidnaps children.

He advises the audience on travel etiquette: Dress nicely, try to observe local customs, every once in awhile take one for the team (i.e. eat the "difficult" food when offered by a host). Eat politely. Be grateful. Understand that in most of the world people express themselves through their food. He calls it "the grandma rule." No matter what awfulness you are offered, imagine it's your grandma offering you her dry turkey, and say, "Thank you! Yes, I would like seconds."

He tells us that in Russia, people don't become friendly to strangers until half a bottle of vodka. Expect to be drunk the entire trip, breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Accept that in Japan, you are instantly a big, hairy, offensive oaf. And don't you dare swish your wasabi into your soy sauce at a sushi bar in Japan or you are dead to them.

Finally, live in the moment and enjoy the serendipity. Your memorable meal is not some 12-course French Laundry meal. It is a meal eaten with someone you love as you run into a shack giggling to escape the rain.

When it came time for audience questions, I asked, "Beyond your LA show, have you explored the Los Angeles food scene, and what do you know about it?" He walked over to where I stood at the mic and spoke directly to me. I feel like we made a connection.

Not much. Not enough. I'd love to spend more time -- I'd love to spend some time here in Jonathan Gold territory. I mean, I think the real stuff in LA from what I can see is in the strip mall. You can spend a lot of time arguing, who's got Eric Ripert? I think the high-end, tweedle-dee is probably in New York, but what we don't have is the low-end, ethnic-y. stuff you have. We don't have food trucks. And we don't have In-N-Out Burger. Every few years someone starts a hoax that In-N-Out is coming to like, Queens, and New Yorkers go batshit, "They're coming!" Then it's, oh, just kidding.

And where did he eat that night? In-N-Out.

I wanted to reply, and mention Young Turks like Animal, Church and State, and Ludo Bites. But the woman had turned off the mic. I whispered 'I want to reply' she said, 'I don;t control the microphone'. I wanted to say 'I just saw you turn it off. You don't bang musicians for 25 years and not learn how to turn on a mic'. But I didn;t want to get kicked out so I shut up. Then later Bourdain talked about "Young Turks and I was pettily annoyed that I didn't get to say "Young Turks" first.

Only people who had purchased VIP tickets were able to attend the book signing and "meet-and-greet." Luckily, we got in. We spent most of our night talking to this guy.

I hadn't brought my good camera because Royce Hall has a strict policy. Unbeknownst to me they had let up for the night. So these are like iPhone pics. Bourdain was cool about it, and extremely patient. He seemed pleased with my gift of a Dead Boys bootleg.

Wilshire catered, with hamachi, a beef crostini and heirloom tomato crostini, brownies and meringues with raspberry.

For as eye-rolling and cantankerous as he may seem, Bourdain gave every fan his full attention. He looked them in the eye. He showed interest in them. He listened politely, he responded and laughed and smiled. As much as it may kill him to smile and smile and smile, he spent hours signing books and posing for photos like each fan was his best friend. He could not have done more to earn my respect.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Congrats to Bill Esparza!!!!

Last week local blogger Bill Esparza appeared on Bizarre Foods, giving Andrew Zimmern a personalized tour of Baja. The viewing party was held at Guelaguetza Restaurant, a place I used to stop in on the way home from my old job.

They came up with an innovative and affordable menu for the party, a nice alternative to having to host or making your friends shell out.

$5 appetizers happy hour

Botana de molotes ( corn dough with chirzo and potatoes)
Taquitos fritos (3 crispy chicken taquitos with guacamole or mole)
Crispy Quesadillas ( 2 tortillas stuffes with queso fresco and epazote leaves)
Clayudas con mole Negro
Clayuda choriqueso

$5 Drinks happy hour.

Garra De Tigre Mezcal reposado, lime, sweet syrup and agave worm salt

Donaji Mezcal reposado, OJ grenadine, and agave worm salt

Real Mexican Tequila Blanco, agave, cilantro, pineapple and jalapenos

Beso Real Tequila Blanco, agave, Pomegranate juice, lemon juice and mint

We tried the Clayuda choriqueso, a sort of tostada on a giant tortilla.


Kevin and Esther

Rachael of Chicks with Knives looking mysterious.

Our hostess, Marisa, Marrisa? Marisol? I'm sorry, you can't pour that much tequila so freely and expect me to get your name right.

I tried the "Real Mexican Tequila Blanco, agave, cilantro, pineapple and jalapenos". It was a little spicy for me. But the "Beso Real Tequila Blanco, agave, Pomegranate juice, lemon juice and mint" was so refreshing, I kept drinking as long as Marissa kept pouring tequila in the glass until I was just drinking straight tequila. Then I saw this, and decided it was time to stop.

Baile Dammit! Baile!

I am still on my mission to get as many versions of La Barca del Oro as possible.

Adios, mujer, adios para siempre, adios

Friday, June 18, 2010

Revenge of the Insects

{DUBBED} You ate my brother! Now I must kill you with Kung Fu! And Hopping!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

OMG I Ate a Bug!!!!

I know no one will believe that I willingly ate a bug. I am terrified of bugs. I mean, I do know what flies taste like; they taste like soap. I did have four older brothers. I also know what cat food tastes like.

But when I decided to blog, I thought it only fair I try everything. But I drew the line somewhere - insects and eyeballs. NO INSECTS. NO EYEBALLS. I ate moose, antelope, buffalo. ox heart and seagulls eggs. I regularly eat bone marrow and foie gras and even rabbit and yes, I'm sorry they are cute.

I knew hanging out with these trippy deep end food guys would land me in the hot seat eventually. I innocently went to a viewing party for Bill Esparza, to watch him on Andrew Zimmern's Bizarre Foods, no biggie. Then our lovely hostess started pouring the tequila.

When I said hi to Rachael, I saw one reason they had chosen this location -she had a plate of grasshopper tacos. Fuck me. So I had to get Eddie Lin, Mr Big Stuff, to pose eating a bug. Then this little sister dare thing kicked in and without anyone making me I decided it was time to just jump off the cliff.

I have photographic evidence AND video evidence because I know I am going to blow some of your minds. The grasshopper is dry, like the hull of barley or wheat, which is good considering the alternative.

But be it man or nature, this thing was not made to be eaten. Its carapace (pleasedontgagpleasedontgag) is hard and spiny, and ribbed (NOT for her pleasure). It sticks halfway down your throat and will not go down. Then you have to pick the legs out of your teeth.

Thank God for tequila. Thank you, Rachael, for letting me collapse in your lap, thanks HC for making me do it again. Why did you make me do it again?

So you all know what this means now - eyeballs.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Philadelphia's Best Cheesesteak: Campo's

Campo's on Market in Old City made the top of my list for the best cheesesteak I ate in Philadelphia. Granted, I didn't make it to South Philly or Tony Luke's. The Campo family opened a little corner grocery in 1947. The next generation took over in 1975. There is still a mom and pop homey feel.

The steak is chopped, and the sandwiches come with onions and peppers. The bread is from Sarcone's Bakery. It was definitely the best cheesesteak I ate in Philly and the only place I returned to more than once.

Little peppers stuffed with prosciutto and cheese were addictive.

Besides cheesesteaks, they had a stunning menu. Check this one out:

chicken, steak, pepperoni, bacon, fried onions, marscarpone cheese

I took home the Mamma Mia for lunch the next day. God, I wish I had this sandwich right now.

Mamma Mia - $8.00
Prosciutto, sopressata, old-fashioned capocolla, sharp provolone, hot & sweet roasted peppers

This is the best hoagie and cheesesteak place in Philly, and I will stand behind that! Especially if some of those meaty Italian cooks are standing behind me.

Jim's Cheesesteak Review