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Foodie Friday: Pancakes Are The Best Cakes!

I’m just going to come out and say it. I love, but no, like really LOVE pancakes. I really do. Not like ok, geez, pancakes sure are delicious, or I sure do think they’re swell. No I love them. I would have a torrid love affair with them. I would be very hard pressed to choose between my husband and pancakes. Is that awful? I don’t care! PAN-CAKES. This week let’s skip together hand and hand through beautiful pancake fields while staring at fluffy pancake clouds and dreaming of rice cakes…just kidding, pancakes!

This list is in no particular order. Pancakes are like children, you can’t pick your favorite.

The Spiced Pumpkin Pancakes at John O’Groats

I have a nasty habit of modifying my food orders. I’m that person that chefs probably hate. I find this is a habit that is almost exclusively relegated to breakfast time. My most recent pancake endeavor took me to John O’Groats on Pico. I’ve heard numerous times that John O’Groats has some of the best pancakes in town, possibly even THE best. I certainly had my doubts. Some random hole in the wall place is going to compete with award winning chefs’ versions? Pfft. I am particularly partial to pumpkin pancakes. I am absolutely that person who freaks out about pumpkin everything. I cannot tell you why but it’s true and I feel only moderate shame about it. In order to compare it to one of my favorite (self modified) pumpkin pancakes in town, I added chocolate chips and whipped cream (more on that other place later.) I have to say I was more than pleasantly surprised by John O’Groats. The service was some of the best I’ve received, especially in a casual diner type setting. The owner Paul Tyler greeted every guest, took my order while the waitress was busy, and checked on me numerous times throughout my meal. Mr. Taylor even suggested I order a single pancake as the rest of my order seemed too advantageous, a suggestion that made me quite happy, but would gross him about $6 less. Aside from the service what really surprised me were the pancakes. A pretty basic looking pancake ended up being thin but fluffy packed with assertive pumpkin flavor and large bursts of added melted chocolate ooze. I was certainly impressed. I don’t know if I can say it’s my favorite but the pancake at John O’Groats will definitely be added to my regular breakfast circuit.

johnogroats

 

The Lemon Blueberry Pancakes at Bouchon Bistro

You know when you wake up some mornings and you just FEEL rich? You think money doesn’t matter, I’m on top of the world, EXCELSIOR! etc, etc. Maybe you are ACTUALLY rich, well good for you. Maybe you just have a fuzzy view of reality. Regardless, when such a moment strikes me I personally tend to pick restaurant with the absolute the fanciest brunch I can think of. I just want to pretend I am one of those liberal elites the news keeps telling me about. I want to eat like a queen! Where does one go when they want to put on their fancy pants? Well, Bouchon, of course. The Los Angeles outpost of award winning Chef Thomas Keller’s Napa, New York, and Vegas restaurants but this time located in Beverly Hills (I told you it was fancy.) The star of my very posh meal was most certainly their version pancakes. Thicker cake-like pancakes are filled with light lemon flavor with fresh blueberries topped with a generous dollop of Chantilly cream. I’m not sure if these tasted so good because I had a money contact high from all of the Richie Riches surrounding me or if they really were some of the best blueberry pancakes I’ve had. No one will ever know. Pinkies up!

Bouchon’s flapjack
Bouchon’s flapjacks

 

The Buttermilk Pancakes at Jon & Vinny’s

Ok yes Jon & Vinny’s is as trendy as they come. They don’t have online reservations, they almost never answer the phone, you CANNOT get a reservation any time before 9pm on a Saturday night…ever, it is seemingly unnecessarily expensive, they have weird fees that are hard to understand (isn’t an 18% service charge in fact a tip? According to the very complicated answer by my waitress, no, no it is not.) Is all this hullabaloo worth a trip to Jon & Vinny’s? Y.E.S. Although, my suggestion would be to make your visit on a weekday for breakfast or lunch. If you do wander in during breakfast hours I wholeheartedly suggest you try the Buttermilk Pancakes. Jon & Vinny’s pancakes are a stack of 5 smaller pancakes topped with strawberries and blueberries, salted butter, and maple syrup. Sounds simple enough, right? Au contraire mon frère! These are no ordinary pancakes. Crispy on the outside, light and airy on the inside, punctuated by little pops of salt from the incredibly luxe butter. If you’re a pancake purist I would highly suggest trying these out. They are just different enough to register as special, but classically unfussy.

Jon & Vinny’s hotcake
Jon & Vinny’s hotcakes

Buttermilk Pancakes AND Ricotta-Cornmeal Pancakes at Ledlow

Poor Ledlow. This downtown restaurant was formally a local favorite formerly called Pete’s. Ledlow took over the space with Chef Jose Centro at the helm. Everyone was mad. Except me, who didn’t know about Pete’s, but loved Chef Centro’s other three restaurants, and really didn’t care either way. There is a strange cultural phenomenon that happens in the food-o-sphere where restaurants close, no one can get over it, and then they blame the new restaurant like it was some kind of hostile takeover. Ledlow has changed its name three times in an effort to shed the hate. Despite all of the poo-pooing Ledlow is still able to turn out pretty solid food. They offer multiple pancake options including a buttermilk variety with 3 topping options (I chose the strawberries with cardamom,) as well as a ricotta cornmeal variety with berries, cherry tarragon syrup, and whipped ricotta. You can tell Chef Centro is trying to bring in his innovative flavors, but is still held back by the stigma of the previous diner. I can only hope Chef Centro keeps trying to break away from the expected, and brings more of his exciting voice to the food at Ledlow.

Ledlow’s flapcakes
Ledlow’s flapcakes

 

Ledlow’s Johnny cakes
Ledlow’s Johnny cakes

 

 

‘Tis the Season Pancakes at The Griddle Cafe

The pumpkin pancakes at The Griddle Café have always been my all time favorite pancakes. The Griddle is known for serving a massive 12 inch diameter stack of pancakes. I have known many a capable eater, and have yet to meet someone who can finish a stack comfortably. It’s not listed on the menu, but The Griddle will allow you to order a single pancake…do this. Don’t be brave, you’ll regret it. The Griddle is also known for being incredibly accommodating, and will essentially allow you to modify anything as long as they have it in the kitchen. I learned early on that chocolate chips belong in pumpkin pancakes without question. Allowing me this request made me instantly loyal to The Griddle. The only thing stopping me from eating at here every single day is the unbearable line that forms outside of The Griddle regardless of the day or time. There is no longer a time I can go, and guarantee to be seated within a reasonable span of time. This, however, is a good thing. If The Griddle was easily accessible we would all be in trouble. We would all be subject to the world of fat humans in WALL-E, and while I could certainly use a hovercraft scooter sometimes, I think it’s an accessory better left to the film.

The Griddle’s flat sorta cakey breakfast breads (I ran out of synonyms for pancakes.)
The Griddle’s flat sorta cakey breakfast breads (I ran out of synonyms for pancakes.)

 

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Tea Review: Limpë Tea

I apologize for the late review, dear readers! But as certain someone once said, to paraphrase, a wizard is neither early nor late, but always exactly on time. And so, here is another Thirsty Thursday tea review!

Today’s review focuses on the second bag of tea I purchased at Geeky Teas: Limpëimage

The description reads, “White peony leaves are fair and glorious to taste and could cure all ills to joy, merriment and creativity.” Cracking open the bag, the scent of dried grass greets  me immediately. Any guesses as to what influenced this blend yet? In Quenya, limpë means “drink of the Valar” (and sometimes also wine, but as this is a nonalcoholic beverage, I’ll stick with “drink of the Valar.” Variation includes “drink of the fairies.” In John Tolkien’s Book of Lost Tales, it is said to be very fragrant and possess healing properties. Another story states that one sip could turn a human into an elf, but there was only record of one ever having done so.

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The delicacy of the white peony dictates the entire flavor profile of this tea. I steeped a teaspoonful at approximately 180 degrees Fahrenheit for 5 minutes, and the most impressive aspect of this cuppa is how mild it is. I cannot emphasize this point enough. Perhaps it has been made specifically with the sensitive Elvish nature in mind?

After steeping, the grassy aroma virtually disappears. The color of the brew is a very light maple or balsa wood – somewhat difficult to define so here, have a photo:image

 

Although even the photo cannot adequately grasp the fine wood hues with greenish undertones in the cup.

Since this tea calls for a lower brewing temperature, I can actually drink it sooner without scalding my tongue. For such a mild flavor, the tea is strangely comforting, almost otherworldly. It is very pleasant to drink, and there are no strong after tastes or particular flavors that overwhelm the blend. It is quietly fortifying and serene. Such is the nature of a drink of the Valar, I suppose.

I have had a whole cup, but I don’t feel like an elf yet. Boo. However, it is still totally worth a try. I give it 3.5 out of 5 stars.

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Foodie Friday: The Return of Glorious Food

I’m back lovely GeekGirlWorld readers!!! I’m sure you’ve been wondering “what happened to that one food girl or whatever.” I also bet you’ve been crying yourself to sleep every night hoping I would return. Long lonely nights wishing the sweet words of my stomach adventures would lull you to sleep…no? OK fine, whether you realized I was gone or not isn’t really the point. The point is I’m back!! Why had I forsaken you all? Well me, the food eater extraordinaire, came down with a nasty bout of Strep Throat and was placed on two rounds of antibiotics which resulted in the depletion of my helpful stomach bacteria. Sounds ok, but the result was constant barfing, cramps, and a super sexy distended belly. The fix was 2 full weeks of literally eating only yogurt, chicken broth, Gatorade, GoodBelly, and taking a strong probiotic pill. Wanna lose 5 lbs fast, just kill off all of your stomach bacteria! The plus side was I looked AMAZING, but was it torture…yes, yes it was. I would not wish such a fate on even my worst foe. Luckily I bounced back beautifully and managed to make up for all of my missed meals (and then some.)

Siggi’s yogurt, my savior for 2 weeks. Mmmm active cultures.
Siggi’s yogurt, my savior for 2 weeks. Mmmm active cultures.

I obviously have to talk about the elephant in the room. The previous week held one of our great nation’s most patriotic holidays; National Donut Day! National Donut Day is a celebration of all things we hold dear as Americans: fat, sugar, and freedom (to eat donuts and post the pictures on social media.) While I myself celebrated the holiday with 3 donuts I certainly did not want to write yet another donut post. So how does one celebrate such a beloved holiday without talking about the star of the celebration? By George I’ve got it! Let’s celebrate other things deep fried and sugary morsels together! My absolute favorite of donut like things was the Milk Toast from East Borough in Culver City. East Borough is a restaurant seemingly heavily inspired by the much talked about Portland restaurant Pok Pok. It is hipster, it is Vietnamese-ish but it is absolutely delicious. While East Borough’s decor has definitely upped the hipster factor I enjoyed my meal here almost as much as my meal at Pok Pok last year. The star of this particular meal was the Milk Toast, a sleeper dessert on a verbally recited 3 item dessert menu that consisted of 2 boring things that both were of the snot consistency variety (i.e. flan, panna cotta, crème brulee etc) and the Milk Toast. As I am not a fan of snot, we went for the Milk Toast. After anxiously waiting for my very very slow drip Vietnamese coffee to finish I dug into one of the most enjoyable desserts I’ve ever had. The East Borough Milk Toast consists of 2 deep fried pieces of brioche bread soaked in custard then deep fried, covered in cinnamon and sugar and is served in a pool of thick condensed milk. At the urging of our server we added a side of brown sugar whipped cream, a genius suggestion. While I’ve had versions of Milk Toast before I’ve never tasted one close to this. The result is a churro-donut-french toast-bread pudding hybrid; crispy on the outside, soft and almost gooey on the inside. I ate other things at East Borough that were also delicious, but that didn’t matter. I had some weird for of food induced temporary amnesia after eating this milk toast. Nothing else mattered anymore. Nothing except sweet, sweet milk toast.

“Milk Toast” from East Borough
“Milk Toast” from East Borough
Painfully slow Vietnamese drip thingy at East Borough
Painfully slow Vietnamese drip thingy at East Borough
“Bahn Xeo”a crab, mushroom, bean sprout filled crepe. One of the not Milk Toast things I didn’t eat
“Bahn Xeo”a crab, mushroom, bean sprout filled
crepe. One of the not Milk Toast things I didn’t eat

Here’s a little known fact about me. I used to hate bread pudding. No really, it’s true! Bread pudding is now my absolute favorite dessert. Originally the texture and genral idea of bread pudding completely weirded me out. Mushy milky bread goop. Um no thanks, I’m good. What changed? It all changed when an LA restaurant (that is no longer open) served me and my food gang an order of donut bread pudding. I was not happy. Now I was going to have to pretend I liked this globbity goop and try not to vomit. Terrific. I pinched my nose and dove in. Wait this isn’t a weird gelatinous square with raisins in it (no seriously, that’s still gross, stop doing that.) This was a glorious gooey warm pile of soft donuts holes mixed with a creamy and thick crème brulee type custard, but not overly custardy, more like a light sauce similar to a crème anglaise (if you didn’t know that’s melted a fancy word for ice cream sauce.) This bread pudding was nothing short of magical. Since the restaurant closed I have been searching high and low for a similar bread pudding like experience. I have eaten plenty of awful bread pudding on my quest. Until I found BSweet I was unable to find anything even close. BSweet Dessert Bar is a sugar oasis on Sawtelle Blvd a.k.a the newly designated “Japantown.” BSweet rotates a collection of bread puddings weekly and can include exciting options like Twinkie, cornbread, salted caramel and my drug of choice glazed donut. BSweet also serves other sweet options like the Sluttiest Brownie, an oreo, chocolate chip cookie and s’mores stuffed brownie and the Halo, a warm ice cream stuffed donut. Don’t get distracted though, the thing they do best is certainly the bread pudding. BSweet serves 2 sizes of their bread pudding “Being Good” and “Being Bad” don’t kid yourself, the “Being Bad” serving is infinitely more filling than it apprears. The “Being Good” size is more than two of us could finish. While BSweet’s version of the glazed donut bread pudding is a bit too sweet and a little too dense but by far the closest thing to my original life changing bread pudding experience. Be sure to add a scoop of ice cream on top because…uh,ice cream, duh.

The front of BSWEET on May 4th, yes that is a Star Wars TIE fighter on the roof Photo:mybsweet.com
The front of BSWEET on May 4th, yes
that is a Star Wars TIE fighter on the roof
Photo:mybsweet.com
Prepacket pints of frozen bread pudding to take home and eat later…this is dangerous.
Prepacket pints of frozen bread pudding to take home
and eat later…this is dangerous.
Donut Bread Pudding goodness Photo: @nomchecklist
Donut Bread Pudding goodness
Photo: @nomchecklist
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Tea Review: Hannibal Lecter Blend

Today’s (unfortunately) late review features Cara McGee’s Hannibal Lecter blend.

The official description on Adagio reads: “blended with assam melody, pu erh dante, orange peels, rose hips, hibiscus flowers, natural orange flavor

teas: pu erh dante, assam melody, blood orange

accented with cinnamon and cloves

steep at 212° for 3 mins

this tea contains a high level of caffeine
*it does not contain people”

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Swiggity swag the nightmare stag

Upon first whiff of the freshly opened bag, the most prevalent aroma is blood orange, a heavy and vaguely citrusy scent. For a blend that features cloves as an ingredient, it surprisingly don’t overwhelm the other components.

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Look at this gorgeous blend

I steeped a heaping teaspoon of Hannibal (haha) for about 3 minutes, resulting in a deep ochre color in my cup.  The scent of blood orange almost goes away completely, leaving mellow remnants you can barely distinguish; kind of like old-school orange peel, cinnamon, and clove mixes that I simmer in a pot on low heat in the winter to serve as a sort of a natural holiday potpourri. (Truth be told, all the above-mentioned ingredients are generally the leftovers from when I make mulled wine or cider, so…)

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Dark….like Hannibal’s soul

 

At this point, the Assam melody and pu erh dante really take over. The only clue I have that there are cloves in this blend is the slightly spicy aftertaste. It is actually a bit difficult to pick apart all the different flavored of the tea, so subtly do they mix together. However, if you find Assam melody or pu erh dante too strong, this blend may not be for you.

Overall, the  Hannibal blend is darkly smooth, rich, and strangely satisfying.  I am absolutely bring another cup while I watch tonight’s episode of Hannibal.

I know I’ve been warned about the caffeine content, but so far, so good.  Then again, I am a person who drinks a lot of coffee. I may not be the best judge of what a “high level” of caffeine feels like.

I give this blend four out of five stars. You can purchase it here .

 

*PS  this entire review was written on my iPhone and mostly with voice recognition. Hopefully the formatting is OK. Wooo, technology!

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Tea Review: Groot Root Tea

So a local favorite store of mine recently shuttered its primary location as a steampunk shop and reopened as Geeky Teas, a tea shoppe and specialty grocer (primarily British goods and snacks), with room for tabletop gaming. Obviously, I went to opening night and picked up a couple of bags of teas (and maybe also some snacks because why not). Geeky Teas’ motto is “Fandom with Flavor,” which is pretty much what I like in a nutshell.

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The first tea I picked up was the Groot Root Tea. I loved Guardians of the Galaxy and no, I never once thought about how I am potentially consuming a distant Groot relative… you know, if he were real (OK maybe I did). When you open the paper bag, it smells less of the vegetal earthiness of green tea and more of a bright, vaguely ginger spice and possibly a little ginseng. The aroma is invigorating in a way not unlike scenting fresh eucalyptus in the air.

As Groot Root is a green tea, the recommended brewing temperature is under the 212 Fahrenheit boiling point. Without a thermometer, reaching 180 degrees Fahrenheit can be difficult to accomplish, I ended up boiling a kettle, and then waiting ten minutes, hoping it cooled enough to a appropriate temperature. I am pretty sure you can Google search the average rate of water’s temperature increases/decreases, but my initial search resulted in some confusion, no definite answers, and the realization that apparently a lot of people wonder about this very thing.

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Once brewed for about 3 minutes, the gingery notes disappear almost completely, leaving the much more recognizable green tea as the main scent. The color is a faded green chartreuse in the cup, though that may be because my mug is white, and I have heard that white ceramics sometimes make green teas appear yellowish. Though the ginger practically disappears in the aroma, the first sips prove that the signature ginger bite is still there. Each mouthful has a light, refreshing feel.

I suspect now is an opportune time to admit I may be feeling a bit under the weather, and so my olfactory senses may not be as keen as usual. Having said that, this tea seems to be clearing up my sinuses gently, and the warmth is soothing, both in my mouth and going down my esophagus. This may end up as one of my go-to brews when I catch a cold or feel a little ill. Bonus!

There is no real aftertaste, like some heavier teas can leave in the back of the throat. There is just a vague, refreshed sort of feeling, with the faintest echoes of woody green tea and spicy ginger. As the tea cools, the scent of ginger rises, so I really must recommend getting as close to the suggested 180 degrees Fahrenheit for steeping as you possibly can. Green tea is more delicate than black tea, and as such, benefits from a slightly lower temperature in order to make the individual elements of the tea really blossom. The next time I try a cup of Groot Root, I think I’ll try adding a bit of honey. I have the feeling the two will pair well.

I give this tea 5 out of 5 stars. You can get it at Geeky Teas, 707 S Main Street, Burbank, CA 91506

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Tea Review: Dean’s Apple Pie Life

So a bunch of stuff from Sew Geek Austin arrived yesterday (yay) and chief among items was the Demon Hunters Tea Gift Set which I gifted to myself because 1) I love tea, and 2) Supernatural season 10 ended last week so why not. This i going to sound like some kind of paid endorsement of Sew Geek Austin (someone please get me everything, but mostly the House Snark shirt I am dying), but it’s not – I spent a portion of my hard-earned paycheck from the day job to treat myself to Supernatural fan merchandise and to try out one of the tea blends with the idea that I may get samples of the other blends offered if this one was to my liking (it was, so I guess I’ll be buying more tea to review).

It's a gift to me!
It’s a gift to me!

First off, the main component of this blend is rooibos, utilizing rooibos cinnamon apple and rooibos vanilla. Expect to get bits everywhere. When you open the cute little tin, the tart sweetness of apple hits the nose first, the lightest hints of vanilla smoothing out the overarching aroma and the caramel providing a bit of depth.

Rooibos cinnamon apple, caramel, and rooibos vanilla
Rooibos cinnamon apple, caramel, and rooibos vanilla

 

 

The tea ball is pretty good even though I’ve only  used once so far. It wasn’t able to keep all the rooibos inside – I think you need a mesh finer than a cheese cloth to achieve that, but the locking mechanism is good and the counterweight ensured the chain didn’t fall into my cup. Plus this one comes with an anti-possession insignia so my tea is always going to be demon-free. The hinge is where I can see potential issues in the future; it doesn’t always open easily, but with a slight jiggle it presented no problems.

IMG_9775
The rooibos gets everywhere

I steeped my cup at the recommended 212 degrees for five minutes. The apple notes really bloom, and the tea smells much sweeter than it does just in the tin. The rooibos really brightens this blend up (as it should, being the primary base ingredient). The tea is smooth and refreshing, with a mellow sweetness and the barest bite of cinnamon. The mouthfeel is substantial without feeling heavy, but possibly the only downside is, after finishing a cup, there is the feeling of maybe needing to brush your teeth either from bits of rooibos or that slightly sugary feel after consuming something sweet (probably from the caramel). Still, I could end up drinking several cups in a row without batting an eye, and you really ought to brush your teeth after eating and/or drinking, anyway.

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Bits of rooibos escaped the tea ball and are floating in the lovely amber-colored tea

I give this blend five out of five stars. You can purchase the tea here, or get a set like mine here.

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Thirsty Thursday Tea Review: Destiel Blend

Hello friends! I am so sorry for the lengthy, unexpected tea review hiatus. So, in honor of reviving this practice,  I offer the latest new review: the Destiel blend by Cara McGee. (This may be in direct relation to the fact that I just watched the season 10 finale of Supernatural.)

Official Description from Adagio:

ingredients & lore
blended with assam melody, black tea, natural spice flavor, cinnamon bark, orange peels, natural caramel flavor, ginger root, cloves, cardamom, cocoa nibs, natural chocolate flavor, natural vanilla flavor
teas: oriental spice, assam melody,tiger eye
accented with cinnamon and cocoa nibs
steep at 212° for 3 mins
this tea contains a high level of caffeine

Of course this tea has a high level of caffeine – are you aware of this ship?

Exactly.

So. This is a hearty yet smooth tea. The oriental spice and cinnamon provide the initial spicy punch when you first open the bag, and indeed, the scents stay strong even while steeping.

IMG_9679

The assam melody brings a bit of earthiness to the aroma, and the cocoa nibs a bit of richly dark sweetness. I steeped a heaping teaspoon of tea for 4 minutes in 212-degree water (as I usually do with black teas). After sitting in my cup for a few minutes, the scents decrease dramatically. the rounded black tea of the assam melody rising to the forefront, the spice light and chocolatey. The first taste (without burning the tongue) is a bit heavy but without the heft of a smokier tea like lapsang souchong, and almost oily in its lingering feel in the back of the throat, with a slightly spiced aftertaste. That cinnamon kick is a welcome, somewhat refreshing leftover.

IMG_9678

I’ll need to try a few more cups of this tea, and probably with a little milk, to see if I can’t make the tea just that little bit richer in mouthfeel. Thanks to the spice and cinnamon, this is a tea that you should consume sooner rather than later, although if you store it in an airtight container and away from heat and direct sunlight, it should last quite a while.

In all, I give this blend 3 out of 5 stars. You can purchase it here.

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Foodie Friday: Updated Comfort Classics

Grilled cheese goodness at Clementine Century City

Remember when I said I was going on a diet? Yeah, I don’t either. Did you know April is National Grilled Cheese Month?! Who could possibly go on a diet during National Grilled Cheese?! Well the answer is: certainly not me. My grilled cheese patriotism lead me to Clementine in Century City. Clementine is celebrating my new favorite holiday for the 14th year in a row with a special menu made up of 12 different grilled cheese sandwiches ranging from classic to more gourmet options. We decided to try 2 different sandwiches, the more classic “Parker House Pull-Apart” which was made up of 4 mini homemade parker house rolls stuffed with swiss cheese and sharp cheddar and then grilled, and the more obscure “Violet Beauregarde” a goat cheese grilled cheese with meyer lemon marmalade on organic blueberry bread adorably named after my favorite Lemony Snicket character. We regretted not ordering more sandwiches immediately, but the lunch rush deterred us. I cannot, however, guarantee that I will not attempt to eat my way through more of the menu this weekend. I would highly suggest you make your way to Clementine aka the grilled cheese mecca before the month comes to an end, otherwise you’ll have to wait until next year. If you do visit Clementine, be sure to get a chocolate chip cookie before you leave, only because it is just the most perfect chocolate chip cookie anyone could ever ask for. Actually order 2 and bring me one.

Grilled cheese goodness at Clementine Century City
Grilled cheese goodness at Clementine Century City
That chocolate chip cookie and some other pastries that don’t matter at Clementine Century City
That chocolate chip cookie and some other pastries that don’t matter at Clementine Century City

 Later that night we ended up at the decidedly more high-brow establishment, Redbird, located in Downtown LA. Redbird is the highly anticipated restaurant from chef Neal Fraser located inside the rectory of a converted cathedral from the 1930’s and was a 5 year long work in progress. Needless to say the space is beyond beautiful. Redbird is one of a handful of truly stunning spaces in LA that creates an incredibly unique background to dine in. Graced with the presence of some of my favorite food friends we selected 13 of the most intriguing dishes from the fairly extensive menu. I felt so fortunate that I didn’t have to narrow my selection to just one entrée! The food here is equally as beautiful as the space. Table favorites included the comforting chicken pot pie, sophisticated gnochetti with lobster, and the refreshing creamsicle inspired dessert. Redbird’s upscale version of some nostalgic classics certainly makes LA’s version of fine dining feel soulful. Redbird would be a great selection for a special occasion or a very memorable date night. While I would love to suggest Redbird for a dinner any night of the week, the price point is definitely a hindrance…but then again maybe YOU don’t have to order 13 things.

Everyone’s favorite Pot Pie, plus Shirmp and Grits, and Burrata Salad at Redbird
Everyone’s favorite Pot Pie, plus Shirmp and Grits, and Burrata Salad at Redbird
The artistic presentation of the Strawberry Biscuit dessert at Redbird
The artistic presentation of the Strawberry Biscuit dessert at Redbird

 

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Foodie Friday: Donut Quest

This week my growling stomach took me on a donut quest of epic proportions. Whether you prefer to spell it donut or doughnut, in the end it is still a delicious ball of fried doughy goodness stuffed or topped with more sugary bits, and no one can argue with that.

Strawberry Big Poppa at Donut Bar
Strawberry Big Poppa at Donut Bar
Selection of Donuts at Donut Bar
Selection of Donuts at Donut Bar

I decided to make the most of a mandatory wedding related task taking place in the far away land of Orange County. As the OC (as the kids call it) is not on my usual hit list, I decided to hit my top 3 food destinations while there. Prior to our meeting, I demanded we stop at Fountain Valley’s Donut Bar. While the San Diego Donut Bar location often touts their line that wraps around the block, the Fountain Valley location had just 1 person standing in the way of my donut conquest. After waiting the painful 30 seconds, it was our turn to order. I had intended to only order their famous Big Poppa but when we got to the front of the line I realized my companion had already started making a dozen box…so who am I to argue?! Donut Bar is known for their Big Poppa donut which is a 1lb donut with a full strawberry or chocolate pop-tart stuffed inside. The other options at Donut Bar are seemingly endless. They are known for over the top donuts like the aforementioned Big Poppa and the Homer Simpson, a cartoon like vanilla donut with bright pink frosting and rainbow sprinkles, a replica of the Lard Lad donut featured on the show The Simpsons. The list of crazy donut flavors is seemingly endless, and while we definitely enjoyed trying a smorgasbord of donuts, I wouldn’t say any of the flavors other than the Big Poppa would necessarily be worth making a pilgrimage to the OC. I would, however, highly encourage you to stop by if you are in the immediate area.

Sidecar Doughnuts
Sidecar Doughnuts
Box 1 of 3 to take home at Sidecar Doughnuts
Box 1 of 3 to take home at Sidecar Doughnuts

After letting my donuts settle during our wedding meeting, we decided to try the more famous donut establishment in Orange County, Sidecar Doughnuts. After all, what kind of food lover would I be if I didn’t do a proper comparison between the two donut powerhouses in the area? Our 2nd doughnuts stop (I’m changing up the spelling out of respect,) Sidecar Doughnuts, proved to be a much more sophisticated take on the wacky doughnuts flavor trend. Sidecar has a much more streamlined selection, and offers an artisanal take on the doughnuts. We, yet again, decided to order far too many doughnuts. I clearly did not learn my lesson the 1st time. Favorites from Sidecar included; the Rosemary; a rosemary infused doughnut with rosemary glaze and a fresh rosemary blossom, the Samoa; a pineapple coconut cake doughnut, topped with chocolate, caramel, and toasted coconut, and the Passion Fruit Meringue; topped with passion fruit glaze, passion fruit curd, and toasted meringue. My doughnut eating companion said his favorite was the Green Eggs & Ham filled with a poached egg, Benton’s Ham, and basil hollandaise sauce, though my aversion to ham stopped me from trying it. While Sidecar Doughnuts is definitely more expensive than other doughnut options I would say it is well worth the price. I already know I am going to be in a lot of trouble when Sidecar opens their Santa Monica location later this year.

Front entrance at Churro Borough
Front entrance at Churro Borough
A portion of the line at Churro Borough
A portion of the line at Churro Borough

Back in LA, my final stop was the much anticipated Churro Borough, which opened on Vermont this week. Churro Borough was going through a soft opening, kind of like a dress rehearsal or sorts, so we thought we would swing by and check out the inevitable scene. For those of you that don’t know, Churro Borough was a mobile food vendor that specialized in churro ice cream sandwiches, and was famous for generating record breaking lines wherever they opened up shop. This first brick and mortar location for Churro Borough was no different. We waited 45 minutes for our churro goodness, which was confusing as once inside, the line moved rather quickly. I opted for Churro Fries (small, skinny, crispy and flaky little churro sticks) and a scoop of Brown Butter cookie sorbet, as I have had their ice cream sandwiches many times. I definitely should have stuck to the ice cream sandwich formula, but I enjoyed having a slightly different experience of Churro Borough. This experience was just as positive as all of the others, though I don’t think I’ll be waiting in line another time. I would highly suggest stopping by, but maybe wait until the hype dies down.

Churro Fries and ice cream
Churro Fries and ice cream
Churro Ice Cream Sandwich with Horchata Sherbert
Churro Ice Cream Sandwich with Horchata Sherbert
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Foodie Friday: Adventures in Fried Chicken

Free Range LA Chicken Sandwich

This week, despite being on a “diet,” I ate some form of fried chicken 3 separate times. I decided diets are for squares.

My newest chicken obsession all started with a food truck called Free Range. While the food truck trend has pretty much keeled over and died a slow and painful death here in LA, this truck managed to resuscitate truck dining, for the moment. The main appeal of the Free Range trucks (besides the incredible food) is their set schedule. Following trucks on twitter an hunting them down was only fun for the people who worked at Myspace and out of work writers who didn’t really have anything better to do. For a normal person, sometimes you just wanted to eat and you weren’t willing to hope a truck you liked is still where it was supposed to be and didn’t have a Disneyland-like line. Free Range did what the other trucks should have done. You can check their website or Instagram (be one of the 23k people who current follow them) for operating hours, but they stick to an incredibly predictable schedule that is both convenient and dangerous for the hungry guy or gal on the go.

So why is this truck single handedly bringing back my desire to wait for 15 minutes on a sidewalk for food? Firstly, who doesn’t like fried chicken?! It’s crunchy fried protein! What Free Range does is make the most prefect fried chicken I’ve ever had. Yeah, I said it, and I mean it. It’s perfection. The best thing on the menu is the Original Free Range LA Chicken Sandwich which is Tempura Fried Free Range Chicken, Fresno Chili Coleslaw, Whole Grain Honey Mustard Sauce on a Toasted Portuguese Bun. I wholeheartedly urge you to add Honey Sriracha sauce to anything you order, but especially this sandwich. Free Range also has a laundry list of other things you can add to your sandwich like bacon, an over easy egg, cheese, avocado, and sausage; essentially if they have it on the truck they will put it on your sandwich. Free Range has other things on the menu (supposedly) from breakfast sandwiches to avocado toast to specials like the strawberry shortcake or beignets, but those things don’t really matter. What matters is this chicken sandwich. You can ADD other things, but if you don’t order this sandwich you’re definitely missing out.

Free Range LA Chicken Sandwich
The Original Free Range LA Chicken Sandwich with Honey Sriracha sauce, in all its sandwichy glory.
Photo: @freerangela
 The Original Free Range LA Chicken Sandwich with Honey Sriracha sauce, in all its sandwichy glory Photo: @freerangela
The Original Free Range LA Chicken Sandwich with Honey Sriracha sauce, in all its sandwichy glory
Photo: @freerangela

Free Range can be found Monday-Friday mornings in front of Coffee Commissary on Fairfax Ave. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday afternoons they are in Culver City on Motor Ave. Tuesday and Saturday find them in front of Stumptown Coffee on Santa Fe Ave. Downtown. On Sunday mornings they are at the Farmers Market on Melrose Place. For more information visit their website at: http://www.freerangela.com/

*Note: I did not use my own photos because, in most cases, I just gobbled up my food before I remembered to take a photo.

My next fried chicken meal took me all the way to the San Gabriel Valley, land of Asian food. We initially decided to make the 1 ½ hour trek from Santa Monica to Alhambra, in rush hour traffic, on a quest to find a funnel cake ice cream sandwich (I KNOW!)

Unfortunately, the trip was a bust as we pulled up to find the last funnel cake ice cream sandwich being served to the person in front of us. Determined not to have felt like we made the trip for nothing, I opened my trusty Yelp app to see what I may have bookmarked in the area. I had saved a placed called Tokyo Fried Chicken in nearby Monterey Park. While neither of us wanted fried chicken (or really anything that wasn’t a funnel cake ice cream sandwich,) we begrudgingly drove over and waited 15 minutes to be seated. Mind you we were already in quite the mood. We were angry and hungry aka hangry, the worst thing a person can be. We KNEW we were not going to be happy. Then we ate. I cannot express how pleasantly surprised we were by this meal. The concept is basically a southern style fried chicken meal prepared with Japanese flavors. The main portion of the menu is set up for 2, 3, or 4 people and is $13.25 per person. The meal comes with a choice of sides, plus chicken broth rice and house pickled cabbage. Being “hangry”, we ordered a few additional items including the truffle buttered edamame, crispy fried chicken skin, battered potato chips, because we obviously needed more fried things.

Battered Potato Chips, Crispy Chicken Skin, Truffle Buttered Edamame with ponzu and yuzu
Battered Potato Chips, Crispy Chicken Skin, Truffle Buttered Edamame with ponzu and yuzu
chicken-dinner
Chicken Dinner for 2 with chicken broth rice and pickled cabbage, Soy Glazed Yams, Mac and Cheese

We selected the soy glazed yams and upgraded to include the mac and cheese as our sides. Almost everything was a hit! A Home Run! Other sports reference! Though next time, I would probably skip the crispy chicken skin as it was completely unnecessary. We actually had a very difficult time even trying to pick a favorite dish. An early favorite was the battered potato chips, which are essentially flat French fries fried to perfection. When the main dish came out, we were already pretty stuffed. The meal is served with a spicy ponzu and a regular house made ponzu sauce that you can, and should, pour over everything. They also bring you a weird plastic glove so your chicken holding hand doesn’t get greasy, but I think that’s part of the appeal of eating fried chicken, so my glove remained unused. Another favorite was the mac and cheese with nori and rice crackers, which was gooey, rich, and very slightly briny from the nori on top. The chicken itself was coated in a thin smooth coating similar to Japanese karaage, and had a hint of sweetness which was beautifully complemented by the tangy ponzu sauce.

Overall, this was an incredibly satisfying meal. I know I would not have made the trek if I wasn’t lured under the guise of ice cream, but I’m certainly glad I did.

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