Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Meals by Genet

Genet was gracious enough to open up for us on a Tuesday night to taste her gourmet Ethiopian cuisine.We were able sample so many of her divine wats, tibs, and the succulent kitfo.All devoured with injeera bread from Rosalind's across the street.

A little Tej and some Ethiopian beer and I felt like I was in Addis Abbaba.This was a fantastic banquet.I hope to return soon to this master of the celebrated cuisine of Ethiopia. That kitfo and doro wat are killin'.

Meals by Genet
1053 S. Fairfax Avenue
Los Angeles, CA
(323) 938-9304

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Passport #5 Havana Nights-La Bodeguita de Pico

Havana is truly an amazing city.It's timelocked state is unique in this disposable world of fast food and short attention spans.Adults play dominos in the street at midnight under a functioning streetlight.Groups of revelers sing sweet songs on the malecon to the hypnotic clave, and children race down the pavement in homemade scooters crafted from crates and spare parts.La Rampa, La Habana Vieja,Miramar, Parque Central, Central, all sizzle with the rythyms, joy, and animated lives of the fiery and infectious Cuban people. At night tourists and Cubans frolic in the carnavalesque atmosphere of the night clubs.Mojitos, Cristal, Bucanero, Havana Club, puros, Cuba Libres, Pina Coladas,salsa, La Casa de Musica,dancing in the steets..........

For food you have amazing Paladares(privately owned restaurants in homes)serving up Lomo Ahumado with moros y cristianos and incredible homecooking if you are lucky enough to be invited to someone's house for arroz con pollo!State run restaurants are not always as exciting, but there is an excepion, El Aljibe. This restaurant serves up a special roast chicken marinated in seville oranges, garlic, and secret spices cooked to fall off the bone perfection. I have dreams about this restaurant and this dish.

Last Tuesday, 25 members of my Passport class, including current and former students and their friends, met at La Bodeguita de Pico, a little bit of Havana in Los Angeles. I arranged this dinner due to the presence of the El Aljibe chicken, which is the name of the recipe as well as the restaurant in Havana. We ordered the Gran Plato del Chef appetizer plate which included the delicious pappa rellena(my favorite),platanos fritos,chicharrones, y platanos fritos rellenos de camaron y carne molida.A few mojitos later were served the El Aljibe chicken with frijoles negros and arroz blanco, cuban style.The chicken was delicious and quite a genenrous portion.It was not as great as the chicken at El Aljibe in Havana, but was also different.The manager said that the recipe comes from La Bodeguita del Medio, the restaurant/bar in Cuba made famous by Hemingway and the hordes of tourists that now frequent the place. These two restaurants have a relationship in recipes and things including the La Bodeguita de Pico mojitos which are assembled with ritualistic authenticity down to the way they are muddled. La Bodeguita has a fabulous menu including many classic Cban dishes not found at other Cuban restaurants in LA. The outstanding EL Aljibe feast was well received by all.I hope to return to this restaurant to sample their other offerings, but I may not make it past the El Aljibe chicken, whose flavor and aroma are what sultry Havana nights are made of, without the humidity, of course.

La Bodegita de Pico
5047 West Pico Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90019
(323) 937-2822
Open Wednesday through Sunday
Cigar club 1st and 3rd Tuesday each month

Monday, October 8, 2007

Passport Class #3 Tacos Baja Ensenada

East Los's finest!

These chiles gueros are quite amazing.

TBE's taco de pescado.

Last Tuesday, there were 14 of us in attendance for the world famous fish tacos, Ensenada style.What there to say that hasn't been said about Tacos Baja Ensenada?As Jonathan Gold said it best,"entire religions have been founded on miracles less profound than the Ensenada fish taco." The stock value of some local restaurants here in LA are entirely driven by people's hunger for this wonderful food.

A double fried battered fish wrapped in a warm flour tortilla, dressed with cabbage, pico de gallo, pickled onions, crema mexicana, a squirt of lime, and some salsa or hot sauce to finish.This is the ultimate stret food in Ensenada and throughout Baja California.

TBE would not be out of place stashed behind the tourist hoards that clog the first three streets parralel to the malecon in Ensenada.Once you get to fifth street in Ensenada you are in Mexico, where the best fish taco stands are frequented by the locals.With the famous Tacos El Fenix and La Floresta. No barkers or bad versions of the Mexican Hat Dance to blow your fish taco high. But thanks to TBE these sublime creations are right around the corner in here in East LA.

Some class members were surprized by this choice of cuisine. Fish tacos?Is that all?But, it was soon love at first bite. The fish tacos at TBE are crisp and crunchy on the outside with a delicious seasoned batter that accented the yummy pollock inside.The shrimp tacos, interminably second fiddle to the fish tacos, were excellent offerings as well.The only thing I missed at TBE is the ritual of assembling the fish taco myself as you do at the fish taco stands in Ensenada, and all the choices of salsas. But, they have some wonderful chiles gueros. These chiles pack a medium heat but are the most flavorful of all the fresh chiles in my presumption. I also enjoyed the campechana, a perennial favorite at seafood joints all over mexico. This is the mother of all "cocteles".

This night wouldn't have been complete without Herman's generous donation of beers to further the cause.I surreptitiously poured rounds for Dennis, Herman, and myself on the advice of the owner of TBE, who doesn't have a liqour license.

Tacos Baja Ensenada is one of the best Mexican food experiences to be had in Los Angeles. Its authenticity tranports you to one of those little stands in Baja California where time stands still and it's just you, the fish taco, a cold cerveza, and the warm embrace of a Mexican sunset.

Tacos Baja Ensenada
5385 Whittier Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90022
(323) 887-1980