Monday, December 28, 2009

Los Angeles Magazine Annual Food Event

Late summer and early fall marks food festival season in Los Angeles. There was a crazy amount of food and wine fests, and thanks to a certain other blog (...cough..) Kiki got to party down with the ritzy folks. Lindsay does an amazing job of writing this LA Magazine event up for LAist.

When we drove up to the Saddlerock Ranch and vineyard and saw the wild animals, the first thing I said was, "Oh man, I am totally getting a photo of a famous chef with a llama." I like to set goals for myself.

We started out with the Foundry and spent some time chatting with the supercool chefs while they made grilled cheese sandwiches. We were still moving at a leisurely pace, unaware that there was an entire other field full of food that we had not counted on.

Petrossian freaked me out at first by having chocolate caviar until I discovered it was just candy. You never know these days.

I'm always happy to see Loteria

Believe it or not, there is a skill to what we do

Cafe W as represented with their delicious bacon-wrapped figs. Was it my imagination or was Ivan Kane giving us stinkeye?

The event was well laid-out, with a DJ (none other than KROQ's Richard Blade) and a demo tent plus a seated conversational nook with couches for talks. They were all set up so the sound didn't interfere with the other events happening. The drinks were spaced out instead of lumped together, and everything seemed to flow very smoothly.

Have I mentioned a thousand times yet how much I love John Rivera Sedlar?

He is like my chef date whenever I go to these events. He always compliments my outfits. LOVE HIM. So he was doing a demo, as was Lindsay's chef pal Ludo (My chef can beat up your chef...) I feel like whenever I say the name Ludo womanhood sighs en masse. Here he prepares a spicy Jalapeño Chocolate Mousse with an Orange gellee.

And the amazing Sedlar made his signature tortillas florales. The secret is the delicious, creamy avocado butter; the word guacamole just seems to pedestrian for the whipped clouds of creamy green.

I reached the couches just in time to catch the end of the Top Chef talk.

After snapping some pics, I found myself more or less alone with CJ, who by the way, is amazingly tall. I couldn't help myself. You would have asked too. after some small talk I said, " know they have these things called neuticals for when pets get fixed..."


"So did you decide to do that, or just be natural?"

"I got a prosthetic. I didn't want to lean to the right"

Then someone pushed between us and we both awkwardly walked in opposite directions.

Lemonade served guessed it

Dakota's Steak and Gorgonzola sandwich

Co-host Jeffrey Saad worked his charm in the demo area

The chefs from the Gordon Ramsay restaurant in the London, which now has nothing to do with Gordon Ramsay, were a lot of fun and had whipped up a whimsical dessert that looked very much like an egg

Spicy tuna in a tempura cone from Onyx at the Four Seasons in Westlake Village

Butternut Squash Fritters from the Little Dom's/Dominick's

Saddlepeak Ranch came bearing meat

Tanzore's cute little samosas

Fabio Viviani was feeding carrots to a camel, so I grabbed John and we ran over to take pictures with the llama.

All of a sudden, I heard people shouting. I looked over and saw a man on the other side of the fence reaching for me. I grabbed his hands and slipped through the bars just in time as a camel slammed into the fence. I looked up in shock. A woman who worked the ranch tried to comfort me, "It's OK. He's just in heat." Yeah, like that's more comforting.

I said, "Well, then maybe you should leave the two of us alone." John and I were the only ones who laughed.

We left cradling little plates of Swirls cupcakes and the pastries from Gordon Ramsay. I dropped my cupcakes inbetween the seats of the car on the winding roads of Malibu. But at least I didn't get assaulted by a camel.

Friday, December 25, 2009

The Story of Mom Food

A long time ago, in a land far, far away I went to community college. I attended a lecture by a collage artist. She had started making calendars as Christmas gifts. That is how I got the idea to make cookbooks as Christmas gifts. I have always loved kitschy 40s and 50s housewives so I started collecting old magazines and using their graphics and ads to decorate the cookbooks.

There was a really cool lady named Dody working at the copy shop in Long Beach and she gave me a really good deal copying and spiral-binding the cookbooks. But even better, she took the project personally and worked hard to make the graphics perfect. The type was always lined up as well as any professional book.

The first Mom Food was an attempt to collect my mother's recipes along with some friend's mother's recipes. As time went on, I realized every country has moms and my recipes became more exotic. The originator of the recipe is given when known. Sometimes I've been given a recipe and later found it on a package of sweetened condensed milk, so it's not always perfect. I have searched Epicurious and the LA Times to check old recipes and have found the provenance of some.

For nine years I faithfully printed Mom Foods until the demand grew to over 100. I decided Mom Food X should be a best of. This labor of love grew so intensive I never quite finished it, years went by, and I was waiting for technology to catch up. Then at my dad's funeral someone held both of my hands in theirs and said, "Your dad was so proud of those cookbooks you used to make." So that year I printed the slightly more dense Mom Food X with all new recipes.

Now I have Printshop and I am able to scan in the original "glued-on graphics" pages of Mom Food, then switch around the graphics, shrink and expand them, and fix the many, many typos. So that is a long-term project, and blogging does eat up a lot of my free time.

This Christmas my family decided to have a green Christmas and re-work, reuse and recycle objects. My brother Glen and sister-in-law Janine brought my to tears by handing me a huge tome. They had bound all of the Mom Foods into a beautiful embossed cover. My dream realized.

I will still have to go through Printshop and fix those typos, but it was a vision of what my book can be someday. And I had no idea how many pages there were! There were almost 400 pages!

Many of the contributors to Mom Food have since passed on, and older family members have started to entrust me with our great-grandmother's recipes. I feel like this is my role in the family. I am the keeper of the family's culinary history. It is my duty to pass down these old recipes to the next generation. And if I am lucky they will cherish them the way I have.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Most Unappetizing Food Ever

I devote an inordinate amount of time to trying to make food look appetizing. I photograph a plate carefully, sometimes taking 20 pictures of a sandwich. But every now and then I just have to mess with your heads. Consider this my version of a horror movie. I found this atrocity at Universal Studios. The lines are long, the food is expensive and there is nowhere to sit. So I have no shame in my game. Gag away.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Recipe Cards on Parade: Holiday Leftovers

Who but Betty Crocker would have the balls to outright call a recipe "leftovers"?

And give it its very own card, even.

This little gem gets rid of all that leftover turkey, as well as frozen broccoli, processed American cheese, evaporated milk, cream of mushroom soup and canned French fried onion rings. That's it. Those are all of the ingredients.

Of course, if you want to go the extra mile as this food stylist did, fill canned pear halves with leftover cranberry sauce.

As long as it is served on lettuce it is officially a salad.

That's the law. The law of the salad.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Cruise: Ensenada Blows

Our second and final harbour was Ensenada, Mexico. It was a short cruise. Some people were still afraid of the swine flu and stayed on board, which didn't really protect them because the rest of us could bring it back on board.

According to Cruise Critic,

Ensenada, known as Baja's "Love Boat" port, is no longer a sleepy resort town. Each year, some 4.5 million visitors descend on this seaside city 68 miles from the border, joining 325,000 residents. Fishing, processing and shipping have made Ensenada Mexico's second busiest port.

It's quite a change from 1542 when Portuguese explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo sailed into the sheltered bay in his quest for the mythical Northwest Passage, or sixty years later, when Sebastian Vizcaino named the area Ensenada de Todos los Santos after All Saints' Day. Over the centuries, many have left their mark here, from Spanish missionaries and Russian settlers to gold miners and gamblers.

I didn't see the French people mentioned above, but as soon as I disembarked I headed straight for a restaurant recommended by my brother, who is never wrong about these things. In spite of being wary, I trusted him and became only the second diner at Ca Rey Sol. My dining companion across the room appeared to be some local dignitary and was fawned over tremendously.

The restaurant is the oldest French restaurant in Mexico and has been family owned since 1947. The vegetables come from the little family farm and the crazy pastries are made in house.

The menu boasts everything from Escargots de Bourgogne, Caesar Salad tossed tableside, Lobster Thermidor, and Chateaubriand Bouquetiere for Two. In addition to these classics, they offer original creations like Shrimp Medallion Doña Pepita (An original creation of fresh butterflied Gulf shrimp topped with capers and white wine sauce) and Duck aux "Beaux Arts" (a new specialty, with fresh fruits of the season).

I tried out a prix fixe menu that started with an appetizer platter of a simple square of cheese, a puff pastry baton, and then the most stunning quail egg covered in a rich homemade mayonnaise.

The soup, a cream of yellow pepper, was so rich and delicious I sat there for a moment stunned. It was served in a giant, old-school tureen I never thought I would finish. But of course I did.

I ordered the chicken chipotle cooked with brandy and port wine. The chicken was tender and succulent. It was very much like a mole, but the ingredients would have broken all of the rules. Outlaw mole!

The pastries were a tough choice. A strange marriage of rich French pastries and the denser, sweeter Mexican pastries, I wanted to eat them all.

Naturally I chose the most extreme. It turned out to have a lovely mocha cream and was covered with chocolate and a little dulce de leche.

The big attraction outside of Ensenada is La Bufadora (sometimes called Buffalo Snort), which is one of only three such blowholes in the world (some say it's the second largest one). The natural cliff formation causes geysers up to 30 feet high. I had budgeted myself with only cash so I wouldn't go all crazy. I had seen signs for the trip to La Bufadora at ten dollars each. So I had gone a little wild at Ca Rey Sol and I had 20 dollars left.

The "tour guides" who were actually barkers there to shuttle you onto taxis now demanded 30 dollars. They said the 10 dollar fee was for groups of three or more. Well, nobody else wanted to go to La Bufadora. I tried my best haggling tricks, but these guys were tough. They were fat and happy and were not inclined to do anybody a favor.

At one point I actually made a strange deal involving gassing up a taxi but when we got to the gas station I realized he was pulling a fast one. I got out and walked back to town alone, which totally freaked him out. Now he was willing to make a deal for 20 bucks, but he was so sneaky I decided I'd rather not drive into the middle of nowhere with someone sneaky and weird.

So then I went into the leather shop and met an American ex-pat with a tiny little dog in his arms. He offered to take me to La Bufadora in his private car. He seemed nice enough, but he had a tiny little dog, which made me suspicious. And I had met him in the leather shop.

But thanks to YouTube, we can see La Bufadora anyways. This ad for Aqua Adventures kayaking provides a unique view and some cool porn movie music in the background. It looks fun, but maybe they shouldn't show overturned kayaks in the video.

These guys are way more interested in the street performers and shopping, but they get the money shot. Huarache sandals too...

So there's your 30 bucks, Pendejo. I wandered around town, and it was your usual shops full of tourist crap and brightly painted Spring Break bars trying to get you as wasted as possible as quickly as possible.

I wandered until I was on the outskirts of town and found what I was looking for - the creepy taqueria. Sometimes the most rustic places are also the best places.

I can't tell you how to find it. It is on the big loop that surrounds Ensenada. Go to the middle of nowhere and there it is. I had eaten a huge lunch, but I wanted to try a fish taco before returning to the ship. This place delivered.

Plus they had wandering mariachis! My entire bill for a drink and two tacos was three dollars. I was able to tip two dollars, which tickled the cook/server pink, and give the mariachis 5 bucks to play my favorite song. Yes, I am going to collect a million versions of La Barca del Oro on video.

It was quite a ways back to the Malecon (maricon, teehee), but I got back safely, tummy full and happy.

Ca Rey Sol: Av. López Mateos 1000, Centro, Ensenada, Baja California Norte
Phone: 646/178-2351 646/178-2351

Friday, December 4, 2009

Cruisin' the Kitchen

Thanks to my wacky friend Shelly, we were able to get a small private tour of the ship's kitchen

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Cruisin for Insomniacs

Not only am I a total insomniac, but my room-mate snored. So I often was up wandering the deck in the wee hours. There were not the midnight buffets of my fantasies, but there was still a bit of adventure.

While the nightclubs were still open, there was a sushi bar (for pay). It closed as the dance clubs closed down.

The only 24-hour food for late-night was room service or pizza.

The room service was pretty good. There was a variety of sandwiches, a few salads and desserts, including cheesecake. This sandwich is a really weird color because I ate it in the hallway so as not to wake anyone up.

This group was celebrating a "divorce party" after a quickie Vegas wedding.

Although the divorcing couple seemed pretty friendly. That's one amicable divorce.

While up at a ridiculous hour I met my only fellow insomniac, Shelly. She started cruising about 3 years ago and just never stopped. She has been all over the world and every employee knew her by name. There are worse ways to spend your time.