How I Became A Food Writer - I get the inevitable career question a lot. Why did you become a food writer? How do you become a food writer? For those who have asked me this in IRL, I p...
Monday, June 23, 2008
The "burger of the future".Pljekavica!!!
When you call for reservations at Aroma Cafe, the only Bosnian restaurant in LA to my best knowledge, they ask,"are you calling the right place?"The Aroma Cafe name is shared by many throughout the greater Los Angeles area and doesn't exactly conjure up a Bosnian imagery, not that we would know what that was anyway.
Aroma Cafe is a destination full of surprises, the deli counter and fresh in house baked bread, and the shelves of familiar food items from the homeland.A little kajmak to go?
My dining class really enjoyed this place and many were pleasantly surprised by this humble and satisfying eatery.Evelyn very generously ordered the meza platter for all to sample.This included the Lukmira(cheese onion dip), Bosnian prosciutto,olives, and other scrumptuous items. Burek, the labyrinthian sculpture of filo pastry stuffed with spinach, another with cheese, were a huge success at our table.We shared the combo plate of pljeskavica(Bosian burger patty), cepavi, and shish kebabs.They were all made of ground beef, but each had a different spicing, Bosnian cooking uses many spices applied in small amounts.The pljekavica was dominated by the smack of onion, cepavi by garlic, and the shish kebab was more understated.
Aroma Cafe let us bring in our wine, a Hungarian vintage we found at the Trader Joe's down the street, thanks Jackie! It was called Bull's Blood, Goat's Blood, or something like that but it went just fine with our Eastern-European themed evening.
Several of the fine traditional desserts were sampled along with thick Turkish coffee elegantly served on ornate Turkish coffee cup and saucer.
Cafe Aroma serves classic Bosnian food that is delicious and quite affordable. Bosnian cuisine reflects the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian occupations in its unique fusion of east meets west, but 100% Bosnian.
2530 Overland Av.
Los Angeles, CA
Monday, June 16, 2008
Guelaguetza's hearty Oaxacan caldo de res.
The fiesta de moles.
Especial de carnes:tasajo, chorizo, y cecina.
Mezcal with el gusano( the caterpillar found on the maguey-usually called the worm) and el sal de gusano.
Guelaguetza is one of the most reputable Oaxacan restaurants in Los Angeles, and rightfully so. They have five of the seven moles on their menu, and a wide selection of other traditional plates and appetizers. Why doesn’t any Oaxacan restaurant ever do the mole manchmanteles, I wonder? Chapulines, the infamous grasshopper snack of Pre-Hispanic origin is also served when in season.
Our table ordered a variety of moles and botanas(snacks) like the Oaxacan clayudas, known as a type of Mexican pizza for lack of a better reference. Every effort was made by all of us to use every available resource in order to mop up the most minute trace of mole left on our plates.
I’ve been to many of the excellent Oaxacan restaurants in Los Angeles, a well represented region of Mexico in the City of Angels, and Guelaguetza remains a favorite. The big surprise for me was the Mezcal cocktails. I had the frozen mezcaladas as they are called with lime and chiles called the "garra de tigre", and Johanna, across the table from me ordered the "coctel donaji", a mixed drink consisting of mescal,orange juice,salt and lime.These were a hit among all who indulged in the mezcal cocktails at our dinner. I followed with a shot of mescal topped with a critter, the maguey worm, actually a caterpillar. The “gusano”, as it’s called in Spanish, is found in many mescal bottles, originally placed there as a marketing tool, if you can imagine such a proposition. Hey, people will buy more mescal if we float a worm in it! Many think tequila contains this little chewy treat, but it is only mescal. Many producers are beginning to omit the “gusano” as it serves no real purpose, but it’s always a conversation piece as all at our table watched with discomfort, shock, and surprise as I downed this tiny victim of the ad man.
Guelaguetza is expanding, now with several branches, but the original on Olympic is still my choice of venue for great Oaxacan in LA.
3014 W. Olympic Blvd.
Los Angeles California.
(213) 427 06 08
Fax. (213) 427 36 35
Monday, June 9, 2008
Yakitori artists at work.
Junmai-Jingo Sake, chicken broth to cleanse the palate,(saboro) ground chicken with rice and a quail egg, and my chicken liver skewer.
A well marbled chicken breast done the yakitori way.
Hearts and livers!
Chicken breast skewers with okra and eggplant.
A group of friends went out to partake in the after work tradition and Japanese cultural experience that is yakitori cuisine. The art of barbecued chicken skewers. Yakitori is a style of food that goes with alcohol, a way to pass the time before heading home after a long day at the office, to talk, eat,drink, and muse your worries away.
I went with the 5-course tasting menu, they offer a 10-course as well. It consisted of chicken breast, liver, gizzards, hearts, and thighs, all barbequed with a delicious sauce. I ordered my chicken skewers to be cooked medium which meant that I was subject to the health code warning on the wall extolling the dangers of eating raw chicken.I was the only person in my group that ordered this medium cooked tasting course, but it was recommended by our waiter as the ideal presentation of their yakitori.Oh, and the saboro, ground chicken with rice topped by a quail egg is pure decadence.
It's instinctual to fear raw chicken but for the first first time I was able to appreciate the more refined flavors of quality chicken cuts.Each offering of the bird sang its own virtues in soft and deep tones of savory bites.It looked fabulous too!The smooth texture of the chicken breast skewer dotted with vulpine specks of wasabi, but not enough to distract from the main event.There were two dipping powders, one being very potent and the other mild, as condiments.
But, what is the point if you aren't drinking?The newly arrived Yebisu, a Japanese fine brew, and a junmai-jingo sake were my after work Yakitori accessories of choice.Gotta love the Metro!
Kokekokko is a refined Yakitori-ya.I look forward to some more rustic Yakitori experiences, but this is a great place to start.
360 E 2nd St
Los Angeles CA
Enter on Central Ave.
The completo(Chilean hot dog)
Pastel del choclo.
La Paila marina, a favorite of ours.
The hearty and delectable cazuela.
Empanadas Chilenos, weon!
A fresh and colorful salad from our friends at Los Chilenos.
I love Chilean slang, which I'm only recently discovering.Ciao pescado! Literally, goodbye fish, is the Chilean equivalent of "See you later alligator".Chileans have alot of style and so does their food.
I made a couple of trips to Los Chilenos for an eye opening experience, cachai?(you know)My Chileno friend recommended this place as did others in the Chilean community here in LA. They preferred it to Rincon Chileno, the most well known of the few restaurants presenting this great yet unsung cuisine of South America.I tended to lump Paraguay, Uruguay and Chile together as presumably less hearty and substantial than Argentine or less creative and exciting than Brazilian or Peruvian.That was before my recent studies on this diverse cuisine, and visits to Los Chilenos.
There were some items on the menu that I recognized from the many Argentine restaurants I've frequented like the steak cuts and milanesa(pan-Latin), but the menu at Los Chilenos soon revealed the treasures and pleasures of Chile.Pastel del choclo, locos mayo,completos,paila marina,cazuelas,congrio margarita,pastas, salads,ceviche,congrio margarita,humitas,carnes,chacarero, and a list of daily specials.
The food:empanadas-just like the Argentinos, Chilenos bake their empanadas with fillings of seafood, beef,cheese, and chicken.There are also small empanadas of seafood and srimp and cheese, not typically offered at Argentine service.These emapanadas were soft to the bite yielding a pleasurable blend of filling and dough.
Pastel de choclo-the glorious corn and meat pie is one of the best comfort foods I've experienced.I'd never tried one before but Chilenos rave about this dish, and they are correct to do so.This and all the other appetizers on their menu are not cheap, but of the highest quality ingredients and an ample amout.Locos mayos are fresh abulone in mayo with a potato salad.Oh, yes, the Chilenos do love their mayonaisse!The humita with a salad is the Chilean home-style corn tamale with a salad, and is large enough to be your entree.These are dishes to share.They also have arrollado(rolled stuffed pork) and ensalada Rusa(Chilean potato salad).
We were all given mixed salads which were beautiful, simple, and so fresh.They claim quality ingredients on their website and these are substantiated.On another visit I had palta con camaron(stuffed avocado with shrimp), a salad with split avocados in a thousand island like sauce, a dollop of mayo, and filled with succulent shrimp.This was brilliant.Ensalada de la casa, consists of chopped celery, avocado, and hearts of palm in olive oil.Great salads.
Paila Marina-The Chilean style seafood hot soup cooked in white wine was my entree the first visit, an unforgetable light yet densly flavored broth with a bounty of seafood and herbs.
Cazuela-The house soup of the day was non other than this famous dish, similar to a cozido, with vegetables and beef.Chile is known for its tantalizing soups, and Los Chilenos delivers superior flavor and execution in this area. I had cazuelas at the now closed El Parron which was given positive reviews for its cazuelas, these are better.
Congrio Margarita-King klip fillet in white sauce with shrimp, mussels, scallop & clams.I didn't get to try this, but a member of our party left no trace on their plate.The presentation was a nice touch.
On Friday night I stopped by with a craving for a completo, the Chilean style hot dog with sauerkraut , chopped tomatoes, mayonnaise & mustard.The ingredients of the dog are packed into the bun and then sealed by an ample spread of mayo, served with nice fries.It packs a mound of texture and felicity in every bite.South Americans know hot dogs, I wish they had these at the movie theater.After the avocado and shrimp salad and the Chilean hot dog I was "completo".I tried but couldn't finish.
The gatheringMy entertainment this weekend was an Argentine tango musician, singer, and comedian named Pepe doing his one man show called, La Peña de Pepe. A peña is a community cultural meeting place.Pepe was telling jokes, singing classics like "Volver" from the great Carlos Gardel, interracting with the expatriate crowd of 40-70 somethings, and even invited a woman from the crowd to sing the tango "Uno".The entertainment menu consisted of the shared beef and chicken dishes between Argentine and Chilean cultures like entraña, and milanesa de pollo but also asado Chilena and the Argentine milanesa pollo Napolitana.I asked for the completo, a worthy spectator eat to enjoy this intimate show.A nearby couple in their 70's, or 80's sat so low in their chairs I could hardly notice, but they looked 30 years younger with twinkling eyes when "Uno" was sung so passionately.It's a kick, and even if you can't follow along you will delight in the laughter, smiling, and interplay.
Los Chilenos has Peruvian beer,can't get the Chilean, and a nice selection of Argentine and Chilean wines.We shared a bottle the first dinner I had there which was inexpensive and fabulous, a cabernet from Chile.
The pastel del choclo is worthy of a return trip alone, but everything I had on both visits were Bakan! Quando tenemos los dientes largos(when we are hungry), Los Chilenos is a place to dine with friends in a comfortable and hospitable setting.
8406 Topanga Canyon Blvd
Canoga Park, CA - 91304
Tel : (818) 716 -4169
Fax : (818) 716 -4169