Bestia – Los Angeles

For our anniversary, E took me to eat at Bestia, this hipster Italian restaurant located in downtown LA.  It was a rare treat to be able to eat by ourselves in a nice restaurant without the kids, thanks to my lil sis and brother in law for watching our kids.

It was so hipster that I couldn’t really understand the menu.  You know when the ingredients listed are so complicated that your brain just can’t process what it actually is? We had to look up pictures on yelp to figure out what we were ordering.

Here are my “layman’s” descriptions of what we ate.  The waiter suggested that 4 plates, 2 appetizers, a pasta and a main would fill us up and he was exactly right.

Below is the “little gems” salad.  Their name, not mine.  I have to say that this might be one of my favorite salads of all time and possibly my favorite dish at this restaurant.  A salad!  It may have been because we were seated at the counter in front of the salad chefs, watching them carefully make each individual salad, rubbing each leaf to make sure that it was covered with the right amount of dressing.  They had a bucket of tasting spoons used for tasting each salad dish to ensure it was seasoned to perfection.  Sometimes they were unsure (there were three of them) and had another re-taste for a second opinion.  I suggested to E offering my tasting services to them so that I can try some of the other salad creations we did not get a chance to savor.  The whole scene reminded us of being in Japan where culturally they value the perfect presentation of everything they create.  It was fascinating to watch.  One of the salads had three perfectly shaped green leaves laid on at the end like lily pads with a few drops of oil drizzled on to look like dew.  We came up with so many SNL skit ideas from watching them.

Anyway, I digress.  Back to our salad:  each leaf was then individually laid carefully piece by piece onto the plate to create this salad pyramid, with interlocking pieces of lettuce, radish, ricotta cheese, and nuts, herbs, seasoning for the perfect bite each time.  Even the tasters never just tasted one leaf.  They had to taste a perfect mix to ensure it was correct.

The result is the best salad I ever had.  It was the dressing that made it.  But the flavors were just a perfect balance of salty, peppery, tart/sour.. I ate every last bite and wouldn’t have minded another plate.

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Next we ordered the bone marrow gnoccetti.  We scooped the bone marrow off of the bone and mixed it in thoroughly with the gnoccetti.  This was a very hearty savory dish, with very well flavored pasta.   The taste of each piece just felt like it had a lot of depth.  Not just salty, but meaty, like it was well cooked in broth.  This was my second favorite dish of the night but you can’t eat too much of it, and they didn’t give much.

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We had asked if ordering two pasta dishes was too much but the waiter told us that the portion of the bone marrow one was a small appetizer while the next pasta dish was a full sized pasta.  Well, even the full sized pasta was tiny.  Here we started doubting the waiter’s recommendation of four dishes.  E ordered bread just in case we were still hungry and also asked for the menu in case we  needed to add more.  This pasta was like little dumplings with oxtail stuffed inside.  The pasta skin was really perfect, just the right thickness, chewiness, consistency.  The flavor was a bit too strong.  It wasn’t just salty, it had a flavor that I think was from wine?  I don’t have the food vocabulary to describe it but with first bite, it tasted good.  However, by the time I ate three or four of these things, it was enough.  E ate it together with some bread to tone it down.  It wasn’t bad or anything.  Just something overwhelming about it.

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To finish off our main meal, we had a whole Branzino and the waiter was right, this was all we needed, and nothing more.  This fish was delicious and probably tied for second with the bone marrow.  It was covered with herbs and lemon on top.

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The bones were removed and the middle stuffed with watercress.  The fish was tender and perfectly cooked, still juicy and salty with the flavor of herbs.  I like watercress and it was a nice light surprise in the middle.   The crust was a bit salty by itself but when mixed together with the meat inside, it was delicious.  E and I gobbled up the whole thing and declared ourselves wholly satisfied with room for one dessert each.

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I ordered for the both of us.  E is not a big dessert person so he usually lets me pick.  I have been ordering a lot of Panna Cotta at restaurants recently and have never been disappointed.  This one is with blood orange, grapefruit (I think) and honey.  It was refreshing, light, and the perfect sweetness.  The three thin wafers were some sort of lemon meyer cookie that wasn’t very memorable.  I think I ate half of one.

For E, I ordered this persimmon tart with ice cream and a berry compote.  It looked interesting to me and our waiter also recommended it.  I thought it tasted good, not too sweet, but also, not amazing.  I wouldn’t order this again.  For our anniversary, the restaurant gave us a scoop of pomegranate sorbet that really hit the spot.  The cold tartness  was refreshing after a heavy meal.  We finished all three desserts.

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What a nice dinner date.  Good job, E!  We should do this more than once a year.

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Salt Lake City, Utah

We are a family that just loves to travel.  While we were planning to have a low key, relaxing winter break at home to catch up on sleep and re-organize the garage, next thing you know, E and I start randomly talking about taking the kids snowboarding.  First, we were thinking Vail and Whistler, and then settled on Park City, UT.  Literally, we planned the trip the day before and next thing you know, we were in Salt Lake City, UT.

Since the kids have never snowboarded, we opted to take them to Brighton as they are well known for their ski/snowboarding school, and it was much more affordable than the ones in Park City.

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Brighton was the perfect choice.  The snowboarding instructors were great with kids and little e was able to go down the green slopes after the lesson.  Little c had to opt out of snowboard lessons due to altitude sickness which was such a scary situation.  He literally blacked out when he got out of the car and fell over on the ground flat on his back. Thankfully there was snow underneath and he had on two hats that protected his head.   Then, he was became lethargic and could barely keep his eyes open so I took him straight to the clinic.

This is where I was so impressed.  They had a pediatrician on site!  He was administered oxygen and after about an hour or so, was back to normal.  We still decided to forgo lessons but he had a great time playing in the snow.  The staff reassured us that if his symptoms returned, we could call the ski patrol and they would come to us within 2 minutes and can get him quickly down the mountain if needed.  That was reassuring and allowed us to be at peace while enjoying the snow.  Look how beautiful it was!

Now for some good food places to share.  Whenever I go anywhere, I usually go on the Design Sponge website and GOOP to check out things to see and eat.  Eva was a place recommended by Design Sponge and turned out to be a fun place to eat.  I like small plates and the opportunity to try many different things.  Overall the food was good, though I have to say, nothing really AMAZED us except for the bread which I’ll get into later.

Little e ordered the charcuterie board due to her love of salami and cheese and it was ok. The sliced brussel sprouts were tart and pretty delicious as vegetables come.  In the bowl is a Korean fusion ramen type dish with kalbi.  I have to say that this was not satisfying.  You can’t do small dish noodle soup.  Maybe because we are spoiled with really good Korean food that we just could not get into a fusion version of it, where the broth didn’t quite taste authentic, and the kalbi didn’t seem quite right in a soup base, and I just wanted more noodles.  But apparently, this soup base was award-winning.

 

The waitress highly recommended their pizzas, which I felt tasted ok, and not as good as what I would get at Blaze.  The dish on the upper left was a smoked salmon on top of latkas which was a special that night.  That was very yummy and the salad on top added a nice touch.  We also got their mac and cheese, which was a bit too fancy for the kids.  The description was, “baked greek mac and cheese: three-cheese macaroni, wrapped in phyllo, topped with a PLT salad.”   The greek flavors did seem a bit off for mac and cheese but it was interesting to try.  Lastly, we got eva’s bakery bread with their house butter.  That was so amazing and by far the best dish we had.  I know, it’s just bread.  But it came out hot, with the outside perfectly crispy and the inside soft and warm, with a delicious herb butter.  We were so stuffed already but still ate it.  Little e loves bread and butter so she could probably eat this every day.  Overall, a decent place.

We stayed at the Marriott in City Center and it turned out to be the perfect choice.  The rooms were ok, not amazing, but comfortable but the location was wonderful.  It was about a 20-30 minute drive to Brighton or Park City, and walking distance to a lot of good restaurants including Eva and The Copper Onion  .  The Copper Onion was so busy that we were never able to get reservations before 9PM which was way too late for the kids to eat.  Because of proximity, E just went and picked up to go.  This is the beef stroganoff which was delicious.  The pasta was cooked perfectly and the beef tender and flavorful.  and, this is taken to go.  I got their roasted chicken and it was amazing.  I don’t even like roast chicken that much, but this chicken was so good, I inhaled it, which is why there is no picture to show.  img_4368

The kids had no interest in this “fancy” food so we got them nuggets at the Carl’s Junior next door.  All were happy.  But I do wish we were able to eat there because if it’s already so good to go, it must be amazing eaten there.  We are already planning a trip back with a group of friends for next winter.

Another perk of the Marriott was that it had an indoor heated pool and an outdoor ice rink so the kids had a fun packed day.  Morning was snowboarding, afternoon some vintage shopping for me (scored flower vase below) and early evening, indoor swimming, and late night, outdoor ice skating under beautiful Christmas lights.  Perfection.

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Next, a day trip to Park City was fun for some shopping and food.  We were craving ramen in the cold weather so we went to Sushi Blue.  Now, this is probably the most over-priced ramen we have ever eaten at $16 per bowl.  This is a half bowl, because they split two bowls for us so that we can each have our own and try other stuff (with $2 split fee).  It did hit the spot, though.  Nothing like good ramen on a cold day.  That seared pork belly was excellent!

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Other items were ok.  Nothing to write home about and way too expensive but sometimes, you want what you want.

 

On the way home, we stopped by Tulie Bakery which was really popular and quite busy.

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They had simple sandwiches with the star really being the bread.

 

I personally wouldn’t come back for breakfast.  The deserts we took to go were better than the savory sandwiches but an overall decent place with hipster decor

 

 

So that was Salt Lake City in the winter for us.  We plan to be back to visit the canyons and see it when everything is green and lush.  Certainly much more food places to try.

 

 

 

 

New Orleans, Louisiana

I’ve recently had the opportunity to try some good restaurants in New Orleans.  In general, food seems to be good there, probably because of the richness of the food and strong flavors.  I think E would have loved it here.  I also loved the architecture of some of the homes, but being that I was busy with work, I only had time to be out at night.

The most famous food in New Orleans must be the beignets at Cafe Du Monde.  The line out of the store is typically hours long, though I hear locals know how to go through back ways into the store.  I was at the Convention Center and was told that the Riverwalk Outlets right next store actually had a Cafe Du Monde chain store, which tastes supposedly the same, though I’m sure the experience is different.  However, in the interest of time and for the sake of convenience, that’s all I could get.

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I’m actually not that big of a pastry person.  I’m an ice person who’s been known to have ice cream three times a day with every meal.  No longer, but back in younger days.  So, the only beignets I’ve ever tried was in Disneyland in the “New Orleans” area – Princess and the Frog.  They were nothing like what I had at Cafe Du Monde.  I can’t even remember what the Disneyland ones tasted like, they were so forgettable.  These beignets were perfectly fried pieces of heaven doused with powdered sugar which I nearly choked on from eating too quickly.

One order of three was like $5, I believe, and I so wished that E and the kids were there to enjoy them with me.  Powdered sugar is not that sweet and the beignet itself had a little bit of saltiness to it, which made the whole flavor just the right amount of sweetness.  It was a bit crunchy on the outside, with a little bit of soft dough underneath and then the inside being completely hollow.  It was so good I called my sister mid bite to tell her about it and ask if she would make some for me if I bought the mix.

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Well, little sis immediately knew it would have to be deep fried (I never make pastries so I didn’t even think about that) and would be too cumbersome to make at home.  So, too bad, no more beignets, only when we go to New Orleans.

Their Cafe Au Lait was also very good.  It tasted creamy and not too bitter ( I drank it w/out any sugar) because of the chicory added in.  I learned that chicory is the root of the endive plant which gets roasted and grounded and then added to the coffee to soften the bitter edge of the dark roast.  I did taste a bit of chocolate flavor, which I read is what the chicory adds to the coffee.

My most favorite meal in New Orleans was in the Garden District on St. Charles Ave (along the St. Charles street car),  Superior Seafood and Oyster Bar.  I don’t have a single picture because I didn’t want to be the weird person among my coworkers taking pictures of all our food.  All of the appetizers we ordered were amazing and there were several things I tried for the first time.  I would definitely take E here if we’re ever in New Orleans.  Below is what we had:

  • raw oysters:  these were very good.  Not slimy or fishy tasting.  Just smooth and yummy, eaten straight up with a squeeze of lemon.
  • char grilled oysters:  these were grilled with butter, garlic, herbs and cheese.
  • fried green tomatoes:  a first for me and one of my favorite dishes of the night. Anything fried is good, I suppose but I don’t really even like tomatoes, but this dish was a hit.
  • escargot de bourgogne: also a first for me.  I was a little hesitant about eating snails, but these were soaks in a garlic butter and tasted delicious spread over french bread (that soaked up the oil nicely.)
  • fried alligator:  another first for me, never tried alligator meat before and honestly, it sort of tasted like fried chicken and fried squid.  It was good and dipped in a aoli type sauce.
  • crab cake:  always a favorite but I found the crab cakes I had in New Orleans especially good

My main dish was a seafood pasta, which wasn’t that great, actually but I was already pretty stuffed from all the appetizers.

Lastly, before I left New Orleans, I picked up a print of Bourbon St. to add to my travel wall.  IMG_4174.JPG

Brasserie Séoul, Brooklyn NY

Food posts have been scarce on the blog, mainly because when I get my food, I just want to eat it, and not take pictures of it, and also because the lighting in restaurants is not that great and I’m just taking pictures with my iphone.  But I still think it’s good to document good food that I eat so I remember and can recommend to my friends when they happen to be in that area.

E, little c, and I were in Brooklyn, NY recently to check out the Brooklyn Flea and eat some good food.  We made it to the Winter Flea and Holiday Market which was located indoors, really wonderful when the weather is freezing outside.  I snagged a vintage New Yorker cover from 1973 for my travel wall (place where I hang paintings/posters, etc that I pick up in different cities) and also some snacks downstairs (none of which I took pictures of) including mac n cheese, a Shanghainese Burrito (interesting), hot chocolate, and strawberry lemonade.

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E will never substitute snacks for dinner (food is too important to him) so we looked for a proper sit down place and ended up at the Brasserie Seoul which is connected to a Holiday Inn.  It’s a French, Korean Fusion place and had the best vegetarian BimBimbap that I’ve ever eaten.  Even E liked it, and he pretty much is a carnivore, so much so that we ordered a second one to share.  E is also more Korean than some actual Koreans, and loves Korean food more than most cuisines, though you can say he loves food more than most of everything else in the world.  He really should be writing these food posts (ahem) but he’s more of a “delegater”.

We ordered the beef tartare, calamarie salad, ginger salmon, duck bimbimbap, and 2 orders of the mushroom bimbimbap.

The beef tartare was very good, but the main complaint is that they didn’t give enough toast.  E showed the waiter a picture on yelp that showed bigger portions but they said they’ve since decreased their portion size… not cool.

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Calamarie salad was ok with a spicy/sweet mayo taste, but nothing amazing.

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Now the mushroom bimbimbap, that was soooo gooooooood.  It had rice, mushrooms, quinoa, carrots , zucchini, daikon, kale  and water crest with the usual chile pepper paste you mix in.  The duck one was pretty good, too, BUT both of us wanted seconds of the mushroom bimbimbap, it was that good.  The flavor was just perfect.  It’s true that mushrooms add a lot of umami, and the texture of the quinoa was perfect with rice.  I originally thought it was weird to mix quinoa with rice and I personally have not really liked eating quinoa but just ate it because I knew it was good for me.  This on the other hand, I actually enjoyed eating, so much so that neither of us bothered to take a single picture.  It was inhaled after we each tasted our first bite.  I can’t remember much about the ginger salmon so it probably wasn’t anything special, just your typical salmon.

Now, the other memorable thing was the dessert….  oooo it was so delicious.  It was recommended by our waiter and is their take on a banana split.  Those stumps are grilled bananas topped with cream and dusted with powdered sugar and chocolate balls with rice crispies inside.  There’s a scoop of ice cream on the side on top of some kind flakey pastry. Oh, it was so, so, good.  I easily could have eaten this all by myself but I shared.  I love this type of dessert, not too sweet, not to heavy, complimentary flavors and textures, just hits the spot.

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This place is worth going to and I definitely will be stopping by next time I’m in Brooklyn.

Los Angeles Brunch: LA Chapter Ace Hotel

The Ace Hotel was recently mentioned on my favorite design blog, Style by Emily Henderson for its amazing design, which reminded me of when we went to eat there last year.  Below are some pictures that E took of what we ate at the LA Chapter Ace Hotel.  Being that this was over a year ago, my memory is a bit faded of how the food actually tasted.  I told E that we need to start writing down our thoughts while we’re in the moment of eating the food from now on.

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E ordered this Moroccan scramble with sausage, avocado, chickpeas, cilantro and peppers.  The favors were quite unique for a scramble and tasted good.  Different, but good.  For some reason, I have this recollection that it reminded us a bit of Vietnamese favors ( even though it’s Moroccan.)  Which is actually inspiring me to come up with some Vietnamese style omelet.

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Little e and c ordered these ricotta pancakes with honeycomb butter.  I remember thinking that these pancakes were very delicious, extraordinarily moist due to the ricotta and little e, being the butter lover that she is, LOVED the honeycomb butter.

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My fried chicken sandwich was ok.  I remember being on this kick to find a good chicken sandwich and being disappointed by this one.  It was just too oily, and I guess who eats chicken sandwiches for breakfast?

Los Angeles Brunch Spot: Poppy + Rose

On Saturdays, my family likes to go to different restaurants for brunch.   A more recent favorite is Poppy + Rose which is located right in the Los Angeles Flower Mart. Parking in the deck of the Flower Mart has never been a problem for us (not difficult to find a space) and is only $4.   With validation at Poppy + Rose, it’s even cheaper, at only $2 for the entire day, I believe. You can’t find parking for that price anywhere in downtown LA.

Besides the delicious brunch food, which we’ll get to in a second, I get to pick up flowers from the Flower Mart, and then walk a quick few blocks over into the Fashion District where I go with little E to pick up fabric, notions, and beads.  It’s a win win for the entire family as E and little c can leisurely finish their brunch while little e and I go do our shopping.  After brunch, E and little c head right outside to the street market where they always buy our favorite Mexican fruit drink, Agua Fresca.  There are many flavors but we get the mango and passion fruit drinks, which are really good, and packed with fresh fruit.  It always tastes surprisingly natural to me when it looks like it could be artificial tasting.

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Now, onto the Poppy + Rose menu.  Our all time favorite is this pulled pork hash on top of a potato patty topped with crème fraîche and two eggs cooked however you like, with some arugula.  This must have been little e’s order because she likes her eggs fried, while E would have liked it with runny eggs, sunny side up.  The pulled pork is BBQ flavored and cooked so that it’s perfectly tender and soft.  That potato patty is probably the best “hash brown” I’ve ever head, with great flavor and a wonderful crunchy exterior.

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E ordered a short rib french dip sandwich off of the lunch menu.  …Very tasty and the meat was nice and juicy.  I usually order the rib tips breakfast burrito  which includes ribs, eggs, cheese, brick hash (same hash that I described above but cut in pieces), crème fraîche, BBQ sauce, and mixed greens.  Having BBQ ribs inside your breakfast burrito is a very nice touch.  I don’t have a picture, though, because I realize I rarely take pictures of my food.  E always likes to take pictures and post them on yelp, so I had to go through his phone to pull out old pictures.  I probably started eating too quickly for him to get a shot.  I’m always starving at meal times.

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Lastly, we ordered steel cut oatmeal for little c.  I wanted to get him something healthier, and he tends to eat better when we can feed him things with a spoon (rather than having him pick up a sandwich, or a burrito).  Unfortunately, he was not a fan.  Nothing special about the oatmeal and the fruit was sour so he didn’t even want that (though he normally loves fruit.)  Oh well.

But otherwise, this is a great place, though the lines get long on the weekend.  However, if you have multiple people in the party, one person can wait while the others shop the flower mart.  There is so much to see!

Hardware Societe

Hardware Societe, located in Melbourne, Australia is probably one of the more unique and memorable brunch places that we’ve been to, and my family goes to brunch almost every Saturday, looking for new places to try each week.  I was there for the World Cardiology Conference a few years back and E and little c tagged along with me.  The place was small and the decor was whimsical and crafty looking with baskets of yarn and ribbon hanging off the counters and a tea cup wall installation behind the register.

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I ordered tea and E had a latte per usual.

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The food was so good and uniquely presented that I have been trying to replicate it ever since. I ordered Baked Eggs with Chorizo Sausage, Piquillo Pimento Sauce, Crunchy Almonds, and Queso de Cabra Goats Milk Cheese pictured below.  It was presented in an individual cast iron pot sitting on top of a cutting board with toasted baguettes drizzled with olive oil.  I had this dish over two years ago and can still remember slathering the perfect baguette with the runny baked eggs, cheese, chorizo, for the most delicious, savory, and crunchy bite.  Everything about it was wonderful: the flavor, the crunch, the process of compiling each bite, the presentation and even the remote, back alley location of the restaurant.

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Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve never had anything like it before or since and have been scouring the internet for a similar recipe.  I even bought mini cast iron pots and cutting boards to replicate the look.

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What I found was Rachel Khoo’s Eggs in Pots recipe.  Rachel Khoo is British and trained as a chef in Le Cordon Bleu in France.  I’m intrigued with how she cooks in her tiny kitchen. Watching her cook makes me want to cook.  I even bought her cookbook, but ended up returning it because I couldn’t see myself making any of the recipes.  They were a little too French for me (like liver, duck con fit, etc).  In any case, I tried making her Eggs in Pots recipe but felt the creme fresh made it too heavy for our taste.  However, the concept is similar with the eggs being baked in the oven.  I’m guessing that I can replicate the dish by adding chorizo, goat cheese and pimento sauce.

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E ordered this charcuterie board mainly because of the coddled eggs you see in the shot glasses.  He loves runny, even completely raw eggs.  This dish was fun to compile as well, with a bit of runny egg, salmon, cheese, prosciutto, and pickles for a bite that was salty, creamy, and sour at the same time.

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Little c got this banana loaf with marscapone and berries and he loved it.  I normally do not like baked goods at all, but remember this as being delicious.  Not quite as memorable as my dish so I can’t quite describe what it tastes like but for me to enjoy a baked dessert, it probably wasn’t overly sweet or heavy.

Because we went on a random weekday, we didn’t have to wait for seating at all. Depending on the exchange rate, it could be quite expensive to eat here, with the three of us at nearly $70, but I still thought it was worth it, especially since everything in Australia seemed quite expensive, anyway.   Australia is one of those places we love to visit.  I hope we’ll be back soon!

 

Michelin Star Dim Sum

Who would have thought that there are Michelin Star Dim Sum restaurants? Tim Ho Wan is a 1 Michelin Star Dim Sum chain located in Hong Kong.  While shopping for fabric in Sham Shui Po (which was incredibly cheap at about 75 cents to $2 per yard), I decided to try this dim sum place, which was conveniently located within a 5-10 minute walk from the fabric vendors.  When I’m traveling by myself for work, I will plan my eating around places I want to shop.  If I’m with E, we’ll plan our trip around where he wants to eat.  Priorities…

Having dim sum by myself is quite depressing because there are so many things that I wanted to try but only so much room in my stomach.  So, I only ordered 4 things, one was a vegetable which I didn’t bother photographing because it wasn’t much to write home about, but eating veggies is healthy and a must for every meal.  However, the other standard dim sum items that I typically order were pretty outstanding.

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This bean curd wrap filled with shrimp and meat was quite good.  Nothing amazing, but definitely one of the better ones I’ve tasted.

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I ordered these steam ribs just to show my sister because this is one of her favorite items, and I would say this is the best I have ever tasted.  The consistency of the meat was tender and juicy but the flavor was what really got me.  It was so flavorful and delicious, definitely a bit on the fatty side, but really good.

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Lastly, I tried the Shrimp dumplings (Ha Gao) and it was definitely the best I had ever tasted.  Prior to this, I really liked shrimp dumplings that I had in Sydney and Vancouver, but these were truly amazing.  The skin was the perfect consistency, firm and not too chewy or thick, and the shrimp was perfectly cooked, almost crunchy, and without any hint of a “fishy” flavor.  Little e can usually eat 2 or 3 bamboo baskets by herself.  I wished my family were there to enjoy it with me.  4 dishes was less than $10 and I got there early so I didn’t have any wait.

There probably are better places that only the locals know about that don’t have all the hype of a Michelin star restaurant so I’ll have to do more research next time.  However, this is still one of the best Dim Sum places that I’ve been to.  Try it out if you’re ever in Hong Kong.