Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Park's Barbecue-Best in LA?

Hearing about Ludo Lefebvre's return to Los Angeles, we were excited to hit up Ludo Bites again. Almost two years ago, we experienced what many of us still consider the best meal we've ever had. Since we'd decided to have our next blogger dinner at Ludo Bites, we had even more reason to revisit Ludo.

Walking through the door of Breadbar brought back many memories. "William?" I looked up at the attractive waitress, and it was none other than Krissy, Ludo's wife. She seated us and we began our meal. Since Ludo was having opening week doldrums, and especially since Jonathan Gold rolled in, Ludo asked if we could meet at another time to discuss our future event. We decided to meet for Korean Barbecue.

If you hop onto their website, Park's BBQ has links to press from Irene V and J Gold pretty much proclaiming this joint as the best in K-Town. Although very decent, I would disagree. The meat was good, the soups were decent. The seafood pancake was heavenly, though. The best part of the evening was the conversation with the Chef himself. His passion came through in every word he uttered. Unfortunately, Krissy couldn't make it because their dog was mending. She is just as sweet and genuine as Ludo is...I would say they're the perfect couple.

The meal was solid, but the best? Not in my opinion. The experience with dining with Ludo? That was the best.
Park's BBQ on Fooddigger

Thursday, August 7, 2008

To know the best of LA, we have to venture out sometimes

My trip to The French Laundry was a culinary I embarked on 3 weeks ago, when I got an email that Thursday, July 17th.

'French Laundry, 8:00 Saturday. You in?'

By Thursday afternoon, we had booked a flight to Oakland, and reserved a car for the drive into Yountville. We arrived Saturday afternoon, about 1:00 pm and rented our car. We met up with Jan and Brian and they led the way in their rental. During the hour and a half drive, we spoke minimally of our expectations for that evening's meal. At one point, Marshal was saying he would be happy if the quality matched that of Todai.

As we arrived in Napa, Brian called and said he wanted to visit a winery before checking into his hotel. We debated whether we should hit the Eagle or the Crow, but decided we would be better off hitting Sterling. Although the wine was below par, the vineyard was gorgeous...a nice amuse-bouche, if you will, that really helped us mentally segue from the hectic LA life to the relaxed, rolling hills of vines feel of Napa. By the time we left Sterling, it was 6:00...only two hours til our reservation. We barely drive 20 feet, following Brian and Jan, when Brian stopped and hopped out.'We wanna go see a's only 15 minutes away. There's plenty of time!'OK...we're relaxed. Why not. As we exited the vineyard, Brian again stopped...this time on the side of the road. He hopped out of the car and ran over.

'Jan and I are gonna pick some wild blackberries!'

'ok Brian', Marshal says. For the next few minutes, we watched Brian and Jan pick wild blackberries from these bushes on the side of the road. I thought to myself...what the hell? I hopped out and joined them. After 15 minutes, we headed for the geyser, which was in Calistoga. Brian was right, it was 15 minutes away. Unfortunately, it had taken us an hour to get to Sterling from Napa, with the traffic and all. The geyser erupted every 40 minutes or so, with the next eruption expected in 15-20 minutes. We waited around and fed the animals. Finally, steam started rising from the hole in the ground, and for ten minutes after that, water spewed into the air. 'The sky is officially pregnant', whispered Marshal.

At that point, it was 7:00. Luckily, Brian saw another route on the map and we made it back to the hotel. He checked in and we were able to change. We got to the restaurant at 8:15...not bad, considering I had visions of us eating chicken pot pie at Marie Callendar's. To this day, I don't understand how he does it. If it were me and Marshal, we would have been waiting at the door at 6:00...not berry picking or geyser watching. But Brian has this calm about him and we knew we'd be on time.

The four of us met Jane and John. From the moment we walked in, the feeling that everything was taken care of set in. Someone politely took the wines we brought, and someone else seated us. Within mere moments, the sommalier, Christopher, came to us and informed us that our bordeaux was uncorked and decanting, and our reisling was on ice. Upon explanation of the two tasting menus, we were prompted to choose. Then, Christopher came and discussed with us how we wanted to approach the meal with the wines. Considering their wine list is 105 pages long, we quickly decided to give him a price range and gave him carte blanche to choose two additional bottles to go with the two Marshal brought, and the two John brought. Unsurprisingly, we all chose the normal tasting menu over the vegetarian one. Within the 9 course tasting menu, there were choices.

In order, we had:
-a wild salmon amuse-bouche in a cone

-oysters and pearls-oysters and osetra in a warm tapioca sabayon. Paired nicely with a Meursault Chris chose.

-choice between a summer truffle salad or a foie gras terrine for an additional $30. Never have I had such an amazing interpretation of this dish. Those of us who ordered it sat in amazing quietness, as we savored the smooth texture of the terrine.

-choice of seared sea bass or grilled Japanese giant fin squid. Both of these were unremarkable, but I believe anything that followed that terrine had no chance.

-lobster claws poached in butter. These were tender, young more than a pound, pound and a half. I thought I was tired of lobster, but this presentation was amazing.

-choice of all day long braised Berkshire pork belly or veal sweetbreads. The belly was tender and sinful; the sweetbreads crispy on the outside, and tender on the inside. Both were incredible.

-aged sirloin, flanked by two different sauces, baby corn and morels. This is by far the best piece of meat I've ever had. It was rare, tender and extremely flavorful. We paired the bordeaux with it.

-Break time- They encourage you to go outside and relax on the patio for a bit, but we stayed in.

-Blue cheese panna cotta with a melon gelee. I can't say how amazing this dish was.

-cantaloupe sorbet with compressed melon. Sigh...

-choice of chocolate mousse cake topped with popcorn or cake topped with summer fruits. At this point, we were so full it was difficult to continue.

The tasting menu ended, and they proceeded to bring by four sweet dishes and coffee to end our meal. There was a nice creme brulee, a custard with hints of basil, shortbread cookies and candied nuts. After that, our waiter brought a tray of house made truffles. He offered six different types, and encouraged us to try them all. Throughout this meal, we were able to relax and enjoy the food. Seemingly, every thought we had was taken care of before it was even voiced. Our waiter provided us with impeccable service. Our sommalier provided us with great wines and even greater conversation. We stayed until 12:30 am, talking with Chris and with each other.

Did we think every dish was earth shattering? No. But that's the beauty of The French Laundry.

'In the end, a great meal is not about the food and the wine. A great meal is an emotional experience...a great meal is a kind of journey that returns you to sources of pleasure you may have forgotten and takes you to places you haven't been before.'

For three weeks, I've been trying to decide how I felt about our experience, how I felt about the food, how I felt about the restaurant. Then I browsed their website, and this quote from their Philosophy page said it all. Looking back, I realize how much just the thought of going to The French Laundry influenced our trip. From the initial email, to the flight two days later, to the sightseeing and berry was all a part of what The French Laundry inspired in us. Tasting the small samplings of each dish, we could almost see the thought put into the journey. With no ingredient repeated, we were subjected to memories of things past and experiences of things never encountered.

By the time Marshal and I got to the airport at 4:00 am(after a harrowing stop at a questionable Indian casino), we were emotionally spent and physically fatigued. We slept for 30 minutes in baggage claim, while waiting for TSA to open up the security checkpoint. We arrived at the gate and boarded our 6:00 am flight back to reality. The question this really the 5th best restaurant in the world? I think it is. The French Laundry gave me a memory and an emotional experience I shall never forget. Long lost feelings of home, comfort and a worry-free existence were brought back for one special night...feelings I thought gone. Since then, I've thought about The French Laundry almost every day. I've dreamt of her. It's almost like a love lost...a love I wish to have again. I've missed her dearly since I last saw her...I will see her again

The French Laundry in San Francisco

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

I love cheese!

Beverly Hills Cheese Store
419 N. Beverly Dr
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
I can't say that I've been to a lot of cheese stores. I'll buy cheese at Ralph's, Whole Foods, Trader Joe's and Bristol Farms. All of these places have some decent choices, with Whole Foods being the best of this bunch.
It's a completely different beast at the Beverly Hills Cheese Store. Not only do they have an incredible selection of cheese, wine, cured meats, olive oils and spreads, but their staff is incredibly knowledgeable on the different items.
When you first go in, you usually have to wait for someone to become available to help you. When you do get some assistance, you get the sole attention of that person. The salesperson then asks you what you like, and he will then give you samples of as many different things as you'd like to try. I don't know why, but I can't leave there without 5 different cheeses or meats, minimum.
The Beverly Hills Cheese Store is truly an amazing where you can sample some amazing cheeses and meats from around the globe. I learn so much every time I go there, and the service is great. The only time my salesperson takes his attention off of me is to say hello to regulars that steadily stream through the door. Pictured above is what I walked out with last, as a late afternoon snack. We couldn't come close to finishing, but it was a truly remarkable journey for our tastebuds.

Little Next Door

8142 W 3rd St

Los Angeles, CA 90048


There are so many amazing places for breakfast in LA. Some of my favorites include John O'Groats, with their amazing buttermilk biscuits; Amandine, with their freshly baked french breads and croissants; and Urrth Cafe with their amazing chocolate muffin.

Little Next Door is quite a drive from West LA, but I've never had a problem driving out there on a Sunday morning. Going there always reminds me of my time people watching in Paris cafes. I really miss those days, so it's great to come here and have a taste of France. The majority of the waitstaff is French. From speaking with the manager, I learned that many of the ingredients are shipped from France, including the flour used to make their pastries. They serve packaged butter, but they also make their own. The croissants are the best I've had in LA, and the latte is up there, as well.

Pictured above, we have eggs benedict with Spanish ham served with a side salad. Interesting to have salad for breakfast, but it works surprisingly well with the rich hollandaise. We also have house made granola, with house made yogurt. The fruit isn't house made, but fresh. The granola and fruit in the yogurt is truly an amazing sensation to the mouth.

Little Next Door is a great place to come. They always bring little treats to my son, and make us feel welcome. Service can be suspect at times, but overall, they are great. The menu offers different preparations of eggs, sandwiches...including merguez, which is a sausage brought to France from North Africa, and eaten 'in the bad part of' Paris, according to the manager Roman. They also have quiche and a host of other items, and are open for dinner.

Lucky City

These are some of the dishes I had for dinner last night at Lucky City in Monterey Park. It's located at 415 W Garvey Ave, between Garfield and Atlantic. Above is a shrimp chow mein. The noodles are pan fried in oil, so one side is super crispy. It's flipped onto the plate, and topped with a shrimp and chinese broccoli in sauce mixture.

Above we have geoduck clam prepared two ways. The belly is deep friend, and the neck is thinly sliced and sauteed in oil with garlic, soy and other spices. This native of the Northwest tastes so amazing, with the differing textures. By far the best dish of the night.

Above here is a winter melon soup prepared using the melon as a serving bowl. The soup, made with chicken, dried shiitake mushrooms, dried scallops, among other things, is garnished with a little crabmeat. Quite tasty, but more impressive visually.

The three dishes above are calamari, fried and topped with fried chiles; lobster in garlic and green onion sauce; and cod over veggies. All three were prepared perfectly. The calamari was crispy and light. The lobster was sweet and tender. The fish was light and flaky.
For this meal, we had about 9 dishes. Not pictured dishes were a chicken, some pork spareribs, fried tofu and chinese vegetables. My parents and older brother live in Monterey Park, so we've been to a lot of restaurants out there. Lucky City has been in our regular rotation for the past 6 months or so. I have to mention, like many restaurants, they have an issue with consistency. My favorite dish, the geoduck, was horrible the last time we were here. But last night, I couldn't get enough of it. I've been thinking about that dish for 26 hours now.
The menu here is similar to most of the other Chinese seafood restaurants in Monterey Park. To generate business, they have specials, such at buy 1 lb of lobster, and you get one free. I believe the geoduck special is five dollars a pound, but I forget. For geoduck, that's an amazing price, since wholesale of sashimi grade geoduck can run $12 a lb. The food is fresh, and when they're on their game, among the top 10 Chinese seafood restaurants in Monterey Park.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Cantaloop now open in Culver City!

3835 Main Street
Culver City, CA 90232

What's the best frozen yogurt in LA? It's kinda tough, since there are so many different new names popping up. I can't even keep up, to be truthful. When Pinkberry started up, I tried it out and really enjoyed the texture and flavors. It was so different than anything that was around, and it was healthy. I moved on to BareNaked at the Century City Mall, then on to a host of other places. Though mostly good, I found myself not liking the product as much anymore from many of these places. Seemed like the quality was going down.

That's why I was so excited to hear that Cantaloop was opening up in Culver City. I first had their yogurt a couple of years ago at their Hollywood location, and was really enamored with their fruit flavored yogurts such at the pomegranate flavored one. Unfortunately, Hollywood is a trek from West LA, so I rarely went back.
I stopped by the new location on Friday, July11th, for their free yogurt giveaway. The lines were long, but the servers were friendly and attentive. You could tell they were quite new to the experience, but they were friendly and courteous, and that goes a long way for me. After I ordered my yogurts, I spoke with the owners and they gave me a little tour. They showed how they used all fresh powders, and explained how the flavors and smooth texture could only be derived by using fresh ingredients. They mixed a batch of the pomegranate-blueberry yogurt for me and walked me through what they did.
I was really impressed with the entire operation. Sure, they're new and they will have some kinks, but the entire package was great. The store was simply decorated, but bright and fun. The service really fit into the Culver City family vibe. The yogurt was creamy and really flavorful and delicious. The prices were not super cheap, but not ridiculous like some places. They offer free wi-fi, as well, so you can surf the net on the Loop while having a little dessert.

Until I find a better place, I would say that Cantaloop is the best frozen yogurt in LA. I'm sure people have different preferences, but at the least, this should tell you that they have quality yogurt that is fresh, and service that leaves a lasting impression. If you don't believe me, believe Hillary. She loved it so much, she tried eating it with her foot.

Monday, July 14, 2008

LA Winefest 2008

The 3rd annual LA Winefest was held this past weekend at Raleigh Studios in Hollywood. The two day event, starting on July 12th, was an intriguing collection of booths featuring vineyards, wineries, olive oil makers and a host of other vendors.

I went on Sunday the 13th and luckily was able to procure a ticket at the front. Entrance was $45, and it included all the free pours you could handle. We went along and tasted a wine from almost every stand. Quite honestly, it was nice tasting the different varietals in the beginning. But after a dozen or so, they all started tasting the same. Some interesting highlights included an '01 tempranillo from Spain, grown on vines that were 125 years old; and a champagne made from Pinot Grigio.
The vendors were friendly, the sun was out, and the wine was flowing. Compared to some of the events I've been to recently, this one stood out. The Long Beach Sushi and Sake festival, held a few months ago, was embarrassing. Their were more taco trucks than sushi stands(there were two taco trucks). This event, however, lived up to its name...and then some.