11.28.2009

20. Bool BBQ Truck



I have an interesting truck experience to share with you today, dear readers. I took a new friend, who has shown an interest in the truck craze, to lunch. Actually, it is the friend I met at the Nom Nom Truck a while back. I thought it would be fun to show him the truck that started it all, Kogi, and then to wander down the street and try one of their wannabes, the Bool BBQ Truck. A taste test, if you will. The Pepsi Challenge of trucks! Plus, I had been to Kogi already and needed an excuse to write about this trucksperience. Bringing Bool in seemed perfect.

As I parked in front of the Variety Building on Wilshire I could see my friend standing on top of a wall, reminiscent of Leo, sans Kate, in Titanic. I love a dramatic pose.

Alexander seemed a little anxious that no trucks were parked along that block of Wilshire but I told him not to fret - I had the skinny. So we ambled around the block to the back of the building and lo and behold, Kogi. And even bester, no line!



So I sidled up to the window and asked if they had any specials. Yes. The special was a shot of hot sauce and something else, with a strip of bacon. Huh? Well, okay. Two of those, the sliders and one of each taco, please. “Um, even the tofu?” No, thank you. With two waters, I believe my total was about $18.

As you know, I have covered Kogi’s food, so I will only comment on the bizarre “shot” of hot sauce with bacon. I did not know what I was supposed to do with it, so I just dipped my bacon in and chomped away. I did try a sip, but I just couldn’t hang. Alexander was impressed with the complexity of the flavors in our food: the tangy, the sweet, and the heat. He did find it a bit on the greasy side which I found to be accurate – unusual for Kogi. He seemed to be a big fan of the slider, and who wouldn’t be?



So a bite or two of everything, meeting the adorable Chihuahua, Pixel, a pop into LA Fitness to try to glean a workout by peering, a couple of blocks of a walk and viola! – destination Bool. We had to exert a little discipline as the Dosa truck was next to Bool. I loved the Dosa truck and Alexander, who seems to be excited and distracted by shiny things on the side of the road, was entranced by their colorful décor. But we had a mission.



I ordered a pork and a chicken taco ($1.99 each). I know it’s not much but I figured it would be enough for an accurate taste test. The pork was uninspired and very similar to Kogi but without that freshness or that something that Kogi provides. The chicken was interesting, though. It had a sweetness that none of the other food had that day. And while I’m not a sweet in my savory person, it was a sweetness that I appreciated and did not expect. Both tacos had a nice balance in regards to the meat/toppings ratio but were a little messier than Kogi. I didn't much care for the Styrofoam packaging either.



All in all I would say that Bool easily has it over the other competitors but still doesn’t quite stack up to Kogi. We had a fun afternoon noodling around mid-Wilshire, eating from trucks - Alexander and I considered the experience a success and both thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. That’s the point, right?

By the way, everyone - 5 trucks to go!

11.26.2009

Bouchon Beverly Hills: There's Laundry to Do.


Unless you are living like Ted Kaczynski (or Dixon) you probably know about Thomas Keller’s Bouchon grand opening in Beverly Hills last week. It has easily been the most widely anticipated restaurant opening this year. I know that Dixon has always wanted to go to the French Laundry like I want to go to Chez Panisse. During the the past 8 months our only dining experience together has been a food truck so I did a little dancing and drummed up a coveted reservation for last Sunday night (I made it in the opening week!). Apparently Dixon was thrilled because he responded to my text announcing our reservation with, “I’m thrilled.”

Actually, dear readers, all jokes aside, I have a very special review for you here. The day we’ve all been waiting for is upon us. I’ve always been impressed with Dixon’s palate, his taste memory, his way of expressing himself with food and his writing. And today his silence is broken! I will have Dixon’s words and thoughts on Bouchon blended with my own. ‘Tis a great day, indeed.

For the big event I wore my special green, sexy dress (because I COULD), my deep brown Barbara Stanwyck heels, and smoky eyes. Dixon wore sneakers, jeans, a blazer and his Bubbleback Rolex, and we headed to Maison 140’s Bar Noir for martinis before dinner.

I knew we were going to be in Beverly Hills where everything is newer, bigger and shinier than necessary. When I’m there I always think of Steve Martin’s lines in L.A. Story, “Some of these buildings are over TWENTY YEARS old.” And, “You’re nobody in L.A. unless you have a really big door.”

As expected, consistent with the hood, Bouchon is ginormous. It shares a courtyard with the Montage Hotel and encompasses two levels, all designed by Adam Tihany. The smaller, Bar Bouchon (Keller's first and only), is on the ground floor and is scheduled to open the second week of December; Bouchon, the restaurant, is on the second floor. Bar Bouchon will serve small plates and offer an extensive wine list.

Each floor has its own bar and dining room plus patio/terrace for outdoor seating. Guests enter from ground level to check in with the reservationist and loiter in the waiting room, if necessary. From here you mount the stairs to reach the main dining space which lands you in the "Champagne lounge" (with very plush seating) and to the left is a long hall. This leads to the dining area which boasts Keller's signature nickel-plated bar. A smaller private dining room is also available and can seat up to 12. I quite liked the floor tiles.

Dixon: I've wisely learned to temper my excitement over new culinary experiences in LA and one rule I make it a point to apply is "the greater the expectation, the greater the let down". But I have trouble maintaining that stoicism when confronted with the promise of true culinary genius.  Thomas Keller, arguably the most famous American chef, recently returned to LA filling a void palpably experienced by moneyed (if not entirely hungry) Angelinos, and I got to dine there this week with Ms. F You For Food. The  [attempted] application of my cardinal rule proved neither a bulwark against mediocrity nor a doorway to epicurian bliss but instead guided me on long and interesting (if somewhat uneven) journey of what I might conclude is Keller's passion - thoughtful French "bistro" food.

Upon being seated Dixon immediately remarked, “It looks like a Hyatt”. Indeed, it was huge, airy, and had weird, 80’s style ceilings. I would say that only about 1/8 of the tables were filled. Considering the absolute to-do of merely securing a reservation that was at least 29 days out, this seemed peculiar. Also considering the place seats 200 it’s entirely possible they were keeping it lite for the first week to minimize new restaurant glitches. Let’s say that’s the case and move on.

Bouchon Beverly Hills boasts an impressive team of culinary superheroes. In the kitchen we’ve got chef de cuisine Rory Herrmann who has culinarily kissed the kitchens of Per Se, Alain Ducasse's Essex House restaurant in New York, Ducasse's Mix in NYC, and Dan Barber's Blue Hill - and Scott Wheatfill from Bouchon Las Vegas, manning the pastry department.

The front of the house is run by Grew Rowen from San Francisco’s Jardiniere, and Head Sommelier, Alex Weil, from our own Osteria Mozza (Nancy can’t be too pleased about that).

Alright. I know. THE FOOD. 

As soon as we were seated pain de epi, or a baguette, some soft butter and warm pistachios were placed on our table. The server peeled back the little paper on top of the butter for us which was very helpful. Upon noshing on the absolutely brilliant bread we noticed the tables were covered with butcher paper and sadly, no crayons. Cruel, but probably wise, as Dixon has an anti-social compulsion to draw a particular inappropriate thing in public places.  Again, the bread was sublime and the delicately salted butter was perfect.

Dixon and I started with a dozen mixed huitres (oysters) ($34), a glass of muscadet ($9) for me, and a sparkling rosé ($9) for Dixon. We followed with the Soup å l’Onion ($9.75) and the Terrine de Foie Gras de Canard, served with toasted baguette (5oz.) ($48.50). 

Dixon: We began with the oysters (see the rest of this F You entry for the particular ethnicities of the oysters).  Keller, of course, has the cash and clout to get good ones and they were - tasty, meaty and perfectly shucked.  The underlying, strictly aesthetic bed of seaweed might have otherwise been unappetizing but it made me think of a young Darryl Hannah

The oysters were a mixed bag of Beau Soleil from New Brunswick (my favorite), which were crisp with a strong brine; Island Creek from Massachusetts, which were strong and meaty and had a flavor that held its head high; Umami from Rhode Island, which were smaller and slightly sweet. I found them interesting in that they were mild at first but became a little bitter at the end. All of the oysters were super fresh and exceptional. I will say that the seaweed upon which they rested was an odd touch. While I obviously get it, it mostly looked like a sludgy sea monster.


The foie gras, served simply in a mason jar with toasted baguette, was prodigious. Transcendent. For me, this foie gras goes unsurpassed. It was rich, supple, urbane yet approachable. I actually took it, with its mason jar (for another $10), home with me. I now own the most expensive mason jar in the world. 

Dixon: Ms. F You has already written about the foie gras so I'll be brief - what she says is true - it was such welcomed toothsome heaviness on the tongue that was, hyperbole aside, pornographic.  The accompanying French onion soup was rich and comforting and the challenge of getting a spoonful of the gratin I actually found amusing.  It was worth violent stabbing and attendant embarrassment. 

We were both tremendously impressed with the soup. The onions had been caramelized for 5 hours, the bread was house-made, and that Comté cheese, oh the CHEESE. It also sang to my love of salt to the point at which I may have even taken a sip of water (rare when a glass of wine is before me). 

Here’s where things take a turn.

I’m not a needy diner as regards service. I like to be left alone for the most part. I appreciate an overall understanding of the menu and the chef’s intention. I appreciate a confident knowledge of the inner workings of the establishment, the pace at which to order, etc. I also appreciate an eye being kept on the diminishing glasses of wine and prompt attention to remedy the horror of seeing the bottom of my glass. However, I do not need 5 people frantically scurrying about my table to peel paper off my butter and catch a breadcrumb before it sullies the table with its presence. I want to savor the meal and I usually find the omnipresent server to be quite distracting. Dixon made light of the ratio of staff pointing out that at full capacity they would need 500 servers.

The entrees. Dixon knew he wanted the Plat de Cotes de Boeuf ($34.50). This is red wine braised beef short ribs with caramelized Savoy cabbage, glazed sweet carrots, parsnips and jus de boeuf. I was craving something more along Dixon’s route, but in the spirit of trying as many different types of the food I ordered the Truite aux Amandes ($27.50). This is a pan-roasted trout with haricots verts, almonds and beurre noisette (also known as trout amandine).

Let’s do this.

Wine-wise Dixon started things off here with the Beaujolias Nouveau ’09 ($9) from the Selection du Sommelier. He wasn’t wild about it but it was a weak choice to pair with beef and odd for Dixon as he’s a big red drinker. He quickly jumped to my side of the fence with the Turley Old Vines Zinfandel ’07 ($17). We both thought this was a great glass of Zin that would work with any number of levels with our food and on its own.

The beef was fine. But I thought the vegetables were the stars of the dish. I'll let Dixon run with this one.

Dixon: Here's the rub: the entrees were just okay.  The braised short rib had a country-side heartiness and provincial appeal but was missing a certain something - that unifying ingredient that ties the dish together while elevating it (a total more than the sum thing).  This is my go to dish at similar restaurants and while it certainly was solid, I've had better from chefs of far less renown.  F You's trout was indeed a disappointment - under-seasoned and underwhelming - it made even the vin taste flat and had us tearing more bread and double-dipping the foie gras.


While a stunning presentation, the trout was a fairly big disappointment for both of us. This was a beautiful fish--a whole fish--and its life should be celebrated and revered. Its death should not be in vain. This fish was cooked perfectly but under seasoned and wholly underwhelming. The haricots verts were nicely done with a smart snap that retained the integrity of the vegetable. I have read several reviews where Keller merely attributed it’s lack of excellence to the kitchen still learning the dishes. Yikes.

Well, and so...

Dixon: The stumbling blocks I'm not sure can be attributed entirely to opening week kinks.  A "bistro" is typically small and modest.  With a 300 plus dollar price tag on our eats, modesty isn't the first adjective to come to mind.  And Keller's celebrity is as pornographic as the goose liver, which makes me think that 50 dollars for a small jar of the delicacy might be more about the owner's name than the import tax.  French onion soup isn't rocket science and throw in an abbreviated and slightly disappointing by-the-glass (I like to sample) wine selection as well as a way too obvious attempt at managing that we're-too-hot-to-get-a-reservation image and, overall, I was somewhat let down.  At Keller's level, art and artist are inextricably married, and so the journey ends with confession.  I couldn't avoid applying a higher standard when sampling the fare - a standard that ultimately wasn't met.  Perhaps visit number two will be just Jameson's and those fries Bourdain loves so much.  That ought to keep the bar low.

I actually enjoyed my evening with Dixon at Bouchon. But I guess I’m not able to wrap my head around the hype. I mean this is bistro food. It’s simple, quaint French fare. Give me something to make it stand out. Something special. Something to make me understand the difficulty in securing a reservation, the enormous accolades, and a $300 tab for two people.

I say, for those of you champing at the bit for a reservation, be relieved that by the time you get there Bouchon will have had ample time to comb out their tangles. Hopefully.



Why does Dixon think I'm F You For Food? I don't know but I thought it best to leave him, mostly, unedited. You gotta know the guy.


Bouchon Bistro on Urbanspoon


Bouchon Beverly Hills in Los Angeles

11.25.2009

19. Baby's Badass Burgers



Finally. I have been courting Baby’s Badass Burgers since truck #2, but for various reasons I have been continually deterred. Alas, yesterday I saw they were to be in front of the My Space building in Beverly Hills. Chris works in the BH and was leaving town the next day for Thanksgiving-family-times. Perfect. I could meet up with Chris for a goodbye lunch and have a go at Baby’s. Hell, I was craving a burger.

From what I understood Baby’s was the hot pink truck with the scantily clad hot chicks, serving up burgers. I suppose that’s accurate but it seems that the scantily clad, hot chick part has become tiresome (and who can blame them?) and really, more of an afterthought (fine with me) at this point. We did have a cute, young, blond girl in shorts take our order. Note the God light in the picture below.



I asked her what she suggested and I think I got my favorite response to date, “Depends on what you like.” Okay, I’ll try this a different way, “What’s your signature item?” To which I heard, “They’re all good.” Fine. So Chris ordered the Original Beauty (swiss cheese, sautéed mushrooms and Baby’s special sauce, $5), and I went with the - flinch! - Cougar (aged beef, St. André cheese, black truffles, $9). The burgers are served as sliders and you get two per order. Fries. They have curly fries and sweet potato fries. Upon asking which she preferred, our - flinch! - baby replied – and get this – “depends on what you like”. Christ. I ordered the Sweetie Pie Fries ($3).



Our wait was brief and upon receiving our food Chris and I wandered over to a low wall to sit and eat amongst the employees of the building. I will say that I liked this locale: green, shady, residential, clean, quiet, easy parking, and not crowded. Also pretty much the opposite of any place I would normally expect a food truck to be – it felt exclusive, which is pretty much the opposite of what a food truck is supposed to illicit. Anyway…



The burgers, while conceptually inspired, did not do much for either Chris or myself. The thing about sliders is you have a very small amout of meat that is served fairly thin. I mean, it has to fit on that tiny bun, right? So the meat can only be cooked well-done. So you throw all this fancy stuff like truffles on there and there is nothing to compliment them. You just have a standard slider roll and a silver dollar of ground beef. I would prefer to have that particular burger option as a grown-up sized burger, rather than two sliders. The original was fine, but the same thought process applies. WHY SLIDERS? And I might add… $9 for sliders??



Both Chris and I agreed the sweet potato fries were awesome. I couldn’t stop eating them. They were wide but thin, and super crisped on the outside with a slight give in the middle. While I am not exactly a sweet potato fry aficionado, these were pretty amazing.



In short, Baby’s aint bad but Baby’s don’t got back. At least not mine. But who knows, I would certainly never put Baby's in a corner.

11.22.2009

Pigeon-y


This is the story about a pigeon that thought she was a guinea pig.

About 6 months ago my mom’s next-door neighbor, Michael, opened his office door to find a wonky, tiny baby bird at his feet. This was a curious little nestling as it had, rather than feathers - yellow, pubic-like hairs and a distorted beak. Presuming she had fallen from her nest prematurely, rendering her tainted and unwanted by her parents, Michael took her home with him.

Michael, his 9 year-old daughter, Ruby, and my mom were utterly perplexed as to what type of bird has no feathers, but rather, hair and such a bizarre look to it. Ruby thought it was a Dodo bird. After some research they realized she was actually a baby pigeon. You see pigeons don’t actually leave their parents until they are fully grown. During their first week of life baby pigeons are fed a high-fat, high-protein diet of crop milk produced by both parents. They grow very fast.

In the case of domestic/feral pigeons, they walk well at about 18 days of age and start exercising their wings about a week later. But because they have been regularly fed by the adults and haven't done much exercising, the babies are often bigger than their parents by the time they start to fly, which is on average 30 to 32 days after hatching.

So Ruby named her Pigeon-y and Michael was her mother.


As Pigeon-y grew into adulthood she became recognizable as a pigeon and had one beautiful, little turquoise spot on her sternum (you can see it in the above photo). Michael would cradle Pigeon-y in his hands and gently thrust her into the air to try to teach her to fly. She would flap her wings wildly and plop back into his hands. Then one day she flew about 10 yards. Eventually she would circle the yard about once a day but she never, ever left the property again.

Ruby has 2 guinea pigs that live in a large, open pen in the front yard during the day and in a crate, inside at night. Pigeon-y’s days were spent in the pen with the guinea pigs, and at night in a little cardboard box in the house. 

After some time everyone began to realize that Pigeon-y thought she was a guinea pig. She would play with them, chase them, and protect them. In fact, if other birds came close Pigeon-y would scare them away. The 2 guinea pigs liked to cram into a small plastic dome, which Pigeon-y would perch on top of. Then the guinea pigs would walk around in the dome, causing it to move across the pen with Pigeon-y on top – like she was on a float in a parade.

Pigeon-y even started sleeping in the cage at night with the guinea pigs and decided she preferred their food and grass to her bird seed.

And Pigeon-y loved her mother, Michael. She would perch on top of his shoulder or head as proud as a peacock.

When Michael would go out of town my mom watched over the guinea pigs and Pigeon-y. She was in awe of this bird’s moxie and spirit. Pigeon-y became a beacon, a port in the storm for my mom. She embodied so much courage, strength and beauty. Her cooing sounds were so rich, smooth and delicate, my mom wanted to just swallow them. Pigeon-y sang the song of the canyon.

Over the past few months I have heard many tales of Pigeon-y’s adventures and antics from my mother, told with a song in her voice and a twinkle in her eye. I have even watched, in awe, Pigeon-y playing with and protecting her guinea pigs. And you have to admit it’s a pretty amazing story that speaks volumes about determination and love across species.

As you all know, we live in the canyon, which is where the wild things are. Sadly, a couple of nights ago, Pigeon-y was taken from her family, her guinea pigs and her yard by, what we believe to be, a hawk. These things happen. But with the holidays upon us, I felt it apt to share with you the story of one abandoned pigeon that found her friends and family and whose resilience, character, serenity and magnificence changed a number of lives forever.




Here we have a soup that has a surprising amount of delicate yet bold flavors, and elements that I never would have thought would have complimented each other in such symphonic unison. It starts out thick and hearty, but somehow finishes wispy and soft – almost ethereal. 
It is vegetarian.


Buttermilk Corn Soup with Curry & Mint

Serves 4

2 tbsp butter
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 cups yellow corn kernels
2 cups vegetable stock
1 ½ cups buttermilk
1/2 tsp dried mint
1 tsp fresh mint, chopped
1/2 tsp hot curry
1/2 tsp coriander
½ tsp cumin
salt & pepper to taste
crème fraiche

In a heavy saucepan sauté shallot in butter until translucent (approximately 5-7 minutes. Add corn and mix to coat corn with shallots and butter. Add vegetable stock and simmer for about 20 minutes. Add dried mint, curry, coriander and cumin. Let simmer to allow flavors to marry.

Blend using an immersion wand.

Add buttermilk, fresh mint and salt & pepper to taste. Cook down for about 30 minutes on low heat.

Garnish with a dollop of crème fraiche and serve.

11.21.2009

Boba Fett and The Matterhorn

  
My mom and Susan have known each other since elementary school and still disagree whether they were in first or second grade together. Regardless, they are dear, dear friends. They got married around the same time and got pregnant around the same time. Susan’s son, Ben, and I were born 4 days apart. I'm older! 

Ben and I were like siblings throughout our early childhood. We were always at each other’s houses; we built forts, had sleepovers, pulled each other’s hair, had food fights, and even took baths together. Ben taught me to just get the soap wet to fool our moms that we had actually cleaned ourselves. He also peed in the tub to create a “fountain effect”. One time at the state fair Ben had a total and complete freak out on the Matterhorn. It’s far from being a scary ride – at any age, and I took great pleasure in mocking him for that for quite a few years following. I'm sure I got bubble gum in my hair for that.

I remember Ben’s cherished Star Wars figures, watching Top Gun (for the 78th time) together, playing the Super Mario game thing, slinging spaghetti noodles (with sauce) at the wall from the dinner table, playing hide and seek, and often having chicken fricassee for dinner at his house. Ben and I fought like Scotsmen but we did share a love for chicken fricassee. I don’t recall us throwing that stuff onto the walls.



As Ben and I got older and discovered our own personalities, styles, and friends - went to different schools and listened to different music (he the Grateful Dead and me, Public Enemy), we drifted apart. However, we have always been apprised of the broad strokes of each others' lives through our moms. Ben is married and living in San Francisco with a really cool job as head brewer at Magnolia Pub. His beer is sold at Chez Panisse!

Mom and Susan share a history.  After all of these years, many moves away from and back to Richmond, us kids, marriages, divorces, hardship and beauty, Susan and my mom remain dear, special friends. Susan visited mom out here in LA just a few months ago. The three of us went to the Conan O’Brien Show. Ben and I are Facebook friends. I think he has a moustache now.



Perhaps it’s the cooler temperatures or perhaps it was my recent trip home and the memories getting all stirred up, but lately I can’t stop thinking about that fricassee. I can only really remember having it at Susan’s house, so I emailed her for the recipe. Here’s something wild, look at her response to me, I'm honored you asked me, since I learned this from your mother. I used to make it all the time because Ben liked it so much (your mom made it first, as I remember).”  

Well hush my mouth. How adorable is that?!

So I just finished making a batch of the stuff. It was my second try. The first one was solely from taste memory and, while good, it resembled nothing either in look or taste to what I recall as a child. The second go was with Susan’s (my mom’s) recipe, and I’ll be a monkey’s uncle – I got it! 
While devouring my heaping platter of the stuff I could see Susan and Ben’s house on Roseneath Road vivdly - like I was just there yesterday, down to the cereal boxes (Ben was allowed to eat Cap’n Crunch, unlike SOME people) in the kitchen and the clown art on the walls. I wonder if Ben still has his Boba Fett figurine. I always coveted it.

This is the recipe exactly as Susan sent it. While it is bare bones, if I could suss it out, I imagine you can do the same. I did add a dash of sherry (sherry makes everything better, right?) and some chopped, Italian parsley (for the pretty picture).

As a child this dish was probably paired with, well, milk. These days it goes beautifully with the Ridge Vineyards, “Three Valleys” Zinfandel.


Mom & Susan’s Chicken Fricassee

Serves 6-8

Boil a small chicken reserving the stock (I like to boil it with celery, onion and a little sage)
Pick the meat off the bones when it cools.
Make a roux with butter and flour. While it is doing its thing (watching for the right point), add a little lemon juice and small amount of chopped garlic.
Add reserved chicken broth.
What you're doing now is seasoning the liquid to get a nice, creamy, tasty, somewhat thickened broth.
When you like the taste of the broth, add the shredded chicken.
Add salt and pepper as needed.

Serve over rice or noodles.

11.18.2009

18. The Buttermilk Truck



Oh joy! Today was special in two ways: I finally got my hands on the Buttermilk Truck’s goods, and Dixon was there to join me! It has been some time since I’ve had good ole Dixon with me in fun food land. And it was the perfect truck for us to hit together as breakfast is his most favoritest of meals (and I owed him a birthday treat, so I paid). 

The Buttermilk Truck is all breakfast, all the time. They have two menus: a daytime breakfast menu and a late night breakfast menu. The truck is owned by the former pastry chef at Bin 8945, Gigi Pascual, who uses upscale ingredients and makes all of her pastries and batters fresh daily.

They were Tweeted to be on Cole at Sunset from 12-2pm today. We met right at Noon. The line was occupied by only a handful of folks so we got up to order pretty fast. Dixon ordered the Buttermilk Biscuit Breakfast Sandwich served on house-made buttermilk biscuit with cheese and fried egg (with a choice of applewood smoked bacon, tocino, or chicken apple sausage). He wanted bacon, but they were out (at Noon???), so he decided to be adventurous and try the tocino. He added an order of rosemary, garlic hashbrowns and topped it all off with, what else, a cup of coffee. 



I ordered the Hawaiian Bread Breakfast Sliders with Portuguese sausage, sauteed onions and shoyu scrambled eggs on Hawaiian bread and a bottle of water. The grand total: $11.50 (sweet!). I will say that considering the scant few people about, the wait for the food was a bit much – I’d say a solid 10-15 minutes.
 

While we waited a food truck friend shared with us bites of his House-made Cake Donuts (“fried to golden brown and dusted with powdered sugar and glazed with cinnamon vanilla glaze”). Dixon and I agreed that they were very tasty and reminded us of the state fair. They were crunchy on the outside and warm, soft and billowy on the inside - rich with flavor and oily delicious.
 

Dixon’s food came out first, so he grabbed some napkins and some packets of Tapatio(!!!), and went to his car to set up the tailgate - no curb for us. Dixon can be pretty cool sometimes. I met him moments later when my food was up. 

We both enjoyed our orders. It was an unusually hot day and we were smack under the sun making heavy breakfast and coffee slightly, well, wrong - but whaddaya do? Dixon housed most of his before I reminded him that I wanted to taste everything. The hashbrowns were gone. But he said it was his favorite thing that we ordered and that the rosemary was prominent and well seasoned. His biscuit was good, if dense and not very biscuity looking. Again, I wasn’t able to really get a grasp of the tocino, but it sounded real nice…



My sliders were alright. They were a bit intimidating to look at. I ate two and Dixon had one. They were certainly enhanced by the Tapatio, but were big and bold on their own. I loved the sweet, Hawaiian rolls and the Portuguese sausage. The eggs seemed an afterthought and other than an in color, I sensed little to no shoyu. Caramelized onions? Barely. 



Honestly, I was a little bit underwhelmed with the Buttermilk Truck. Perhaps it's just growing pains, but the wait was too long, they were already out of bacon (a breakfast staple, without a doubt), and they also ran out of biscuits while we were there. And all of this without a mass influx of people ordering them out of inventory. Regardless, Dixon and I agreed that it would be fun to try their late-night breakfast menu after some drinks some time. The Fried Chicken with House-made Cinnamon Waffles with butter and syrup looks amazing.
 

Perhaps we shall meet again, Buttermilk Truck. Perhaps we shall.

17. The Dosa Truck


Yesterday I was headed to Miracle Mile to finally try Baby’s Badass Burgers and found myself in a sea of food trucks. I quite seriously have never seen this many of them in the same place, at the same time. I get to say it: Food-Truck-O-Rama!!

And, of course, my indecision attacked my resolve. I ended up at The Dosa Truck. Well, they had all the pretty, dangly, colorful, streamers and lanterns and pretties adorning the truck! I’m a sucker for packaging. I also had not stumbled upon the Dosa Truck yet and I see Baby’s Badass around quite a bit.


Probably as a result of the galaxy of trucks in one location (or perhaps their karma), there was almost no line in dosa land. I asked for suggestions and was told to either go with the Shiva Shatki (1/2 sweet potato, 1/2 masala dosa) or the Slumdog (Indian “pesto” rubbed inside the dosa with paneer, fresh spinach and masala dosa potatoes). I went with the Slumdog and a homemade ginger limeade, totaling $8. The wait seemed a hair lengthy, but I never got too antsy. Plus, entertainment factor - the owner, Brooklyn-born Leena Deneroff, was frenetically scurrying about making sure everyone knew about her HOMEMADE ginger limeade. She’s in the top picture in the white shirt.


So, for those of you as yet unaware, a dosa is South Indian street food. It’s a crispy, sourdough crepe made from rice and lentil flour, stuffed with regional and gourmet ingredients, then rolled long and thin. Paru’s on Sunset makes a damn good one.


I liked this. It appeared to be a lot of food at first, but after bite #1 I knew it was going to be the perfect portion. The dosa itself retained a bit more of the oil’s taste than I would prefer, but was light, airy and nutty. The stuffing, however, was inspired, fresh and delicious. The fresh spinach was a surprising touch that lent itself beautifully to the paneer and potatoes. And the pesto was an ideal accent, and one I would have never expected! The limeade was zingy and refreshing and also a model element in enriching the meal.


As sure as the truck reads, “Ooooom good”. I finished everything in under 5 minutes and yes, I’ll be back.

Dosa Truck in Los Angeles

11.17.2009

Grilled Cheese Night at Campanile


Village Voice critic Jeff Weinstein called Campanile (opened by Mark Peel and Nancy Silverton in 1989) “the last restaurant of the ’80s”.
Jonathan Gold recently said, “it appears that Weinstein may have been correct. No restaurant since has managed to marry populist tendencies with the highest levels of culinary ambition, and no restaurant has introduced even a fraction of the number of wines, from Italy and boutique California, to the American palate.”

I have only been to Campanile a few times in the 8 years I have lived in LA - once for lunch with my dad, once for dinner with Chris and his dad, and once for Grilled Cheese Night (Thursdays) with a friend about 6 months ago. But we were only there for wine and catching up times.

And then again last week.

April and I met Yvonne and her friends, Becky and Dave, last Thursday to get our grilled cheese on. I was the only one of us that had been there before. April and I met up with Yvonne at the bar to have a glass of wine and to wait for Dave and Becky to arrive.

We decided to get a flight of wine each to share and sample - 3 ladies, 3 reds, 3 whites and 3 rosés. Taylor, the wine director, told us he would select some gems for us. Taylor is a gem. About halfway through our flights Dave and Becky showed up, and we were led (with our flights) to our table.

We started out with an order of Beer-Battered Squash Blossoms with arugula, almond, parsley pesto ($11) and two orders of Raviolo Gigante with brown butter, pine nuts & sage ($12). Taylor paired our starters with a sparkling vouvray. Upon tasting it, Yvonne, in her non-inside voice, announced, “It tastes like drinking diamonds!” She was right.

I do love a squash blossom and these were ginormous, healthy specimens. The batter was only slightly heavy for my taste. The raviolos were exceptional. Exceptional. You can’t go wrong with brown butter and sage, but I would have preferred hazelnuts to pine nuts here.

We decided that all five of us would get a different type of grilled cheese sandwich so we could each taste as much as possible. Here we go: 

BLTA with braised bacon, tomato, avocado, bibb lettuce, green goddess ($17) 
Braised Lamb with braised artichokes, roasted cherry tomato, feta cheese ($18)
Fresh Burrata with cherry tomato, garbanzo bean, serrano ham, parsley pesto ($17) 
Skirt Steak with gruyere, tomato, arugula, aioli ($18) 

Classic Grilled Cheese with marinated onion and/or whole grain mustard ($16)


Lest I forget, the “basket” of fries that comes for the table (on Grilled Cheese Night only) is really something. This is not news, however. They came in as runner up in LA Weekly’s “Top 10 Fries”. In fact, when our server tried to clear the table, and the fries with it, Yvonne went into near hysterics, screeching (also in her non-inside voice), “No tocas mi papas fritas!!” (which I’d like to add, directly translated means, “nonheadresses my chipses”.) Needless to say, we may have begun to frighten a few people at this point.

Taylor paired each sandwich with its own wine, and/or multiple wines. I cannot say enough good stuff about Taylor and his attentiveness to our table, by the way. We were able to taste so many wonderful wines that were all ideally matched with our foodstuffs.

We finished the meal up with the Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding with chai ice cream, caramel sauce ($12) and the Pear Tarte Tatin with ginger ice cream, candied hazelnuts ($12), which were paired with various ports and a Moscato d’Asti. Perfection.
 

We all loved our evening, each others' company, our conversation and, of course, sandwiches and wines beyond our imaginations. I felt like we were the happiest, most indulged, most well attended table ever. It was one of those times where I realized there was absolutely nowhere else in the world I would rather be.

I might add that Yvonne, April and I were fortunate enough to spend some time after dinner, at the bar, with Taylor and superstar chef, Mark Peel. Jealous much?

Needless to say, all three of us girls plan on returning with frequency to Campanile for grilled cheese on Thursday nights, and beyond. In fact, April and I plan to return this week to sit at the bar, order a couple of things off the menu and split a bottle of wine.

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Campanile in Los Angeles