Tuesday, April 28, 2009

STK:Bringin' Sexy Back

It's Vegas Baby!

Not your Daddy's steakhouse!

wagyu Lil' Big Macs

tomato four ways

The cowboy ribeye, worthy of a fine STKhouse.

You know, my wife doesn't do stands, dives, or trucks. She is from Sao Paulo, Brazil likes Brazilian and Italian food, but it must be glamorous and flashy. Sao Paulo is loaded with restaurants of style and substance, not always mutually exclusive here in LA. When I talk about all my finds the wife usually responds with," what were you saying?" But, when I brought up STK, her eyes darted in my direction."It's very..........chic, elegant...........celebrities!" "Ok, I want to go." "Sure!" It takes a little more than setting for me, but after my multi-course tasting and cocktail degustation at STK, our household now has something we can agree on. Owned by the One Group, STK is well aware of their modish appeal, but at the same time they have brought in a Four Seasoned chef Todd miller and creative mixologist Paul Moix to rise above the surface as a place for serious food with some LA sexy thrown in.

This special bloggers dinner was a blast. Abby, friend and Pleasure Palate founder put us all together, along with Emily Olsen of the One Group. Also invited were: Alli 411 (who made an true effort to mingle and talk with all), Choisauce, Gastronomy, Gourmet Pigs (shared a nice conversation about Brazil travel) , Kung Foo Panda, The Liquid Muse , Mattbites ,Mattatouille , Seeking Food, Sinosoul(to your health) , Teenage Gluster (at last we meet hermanito), Wandering Chopsticks,When Tara Met Blog, and Food, She Thought ( it takes a trouble maker to know one).

Upon arriving from the metro ready to booze during the cocktail meet and greet I grabbed an Uva Caiprinha(Leblon cachaca, red grapes, lime, clover honey).Paul, you make great cocktails, man, but lose the Leblon. Woops, I had ordered a drink not realizing that they would be flowing throughout the course of the night, and I brought a bottle of Artiste wine, too. Love the metro!The green intensity was complex and cool(aviation gin, lime juice serrano chili slices, basil leaves). I really am a straight liqour kind of guy, and these types of cocktails often lose me, but Paul knows what he is doing and captures the essence of the STK style in each of his creations.

Todd Miller came out, and it was clear that the restaurant intends to be a place of cuisine, which is refreshing in a place that probably doesn't have to.He came out swinging with the first plate, an off menu tomato four ways, which riffed on 4 tastes of various tomatoes magnificently. I thought this was a hit with many of us.

The standout plates of the evening were the Lil' Big Macs, mini wagyu beef burgers with special sauce on a sesame seed bun. These were hedonistic. The truffle fries had me comin' back for more. The roasted beets were well balanced with all of chef Miller's ingredients, all flavors blending so well. The sweet corn pudding, delicious, a fan of polenta and the like, not bad at all. Looks like I found some guy food amongst the fancy plates! The cowboy ribeye, after all, this is a steak house, pleasurable, tender and nicely seasoned.
"Dirty babe...You see these shackles? Baby i'm your slave
I'll let you whip if I misbehave!It's just that no one makes me feel this way"

STK, is not your daddy's steakhouse. But, even folks like us who care about food won't be embarrassed to be seen in such a posh restaurant. And, I can get even my Paulista wife to doll up for the red carpet.

Not Your Daddy's Steakhouse
755 N La Cienega Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90069
(310) 659-3535

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Mexican Burritos in LA

Burrito de queso con rajas

Burrito Norteño de deshebrada with avocado and a smack of mayo

Burrito de Carne at El Tio in Inglewood

El burrito norteño

Traditional Gordita de Huevo Con Nopal 

Gabachos, Angelenos, hounds and pochos. What am I going to do with you? Burritos, tacos, tortas, carnitas, guacamole, shrimp cocktails, and chips! That’s all you ever talk about. You eat authentic Chinese in the SGV, poopoo our best ramen joints as being nothing like the ones in Japan, are in lock step in regards to the Izakaya Bincho’s, do Indian in Artesia, you know how lame the latest fad restaurant opened by a celeb chef really is, you give only golf claps to our best Italian, and every last one of you seems to know authentic Thai. Yet, you can’t wait to have your next Hollenbeck, carnitas and margaritas at some hipster fave like Alegria, or chow down on a plate loaded with cheese, rice, beans, and enchiladas. Que paso?

Well, don’t be discouraged, help has arrived to wean you off these vices. Yes, there are Mexican burritos, which originated in northern Mexico, but there is a difference between the burritos nortenos and the American version, a slop envelope of flour tortilla. For the purpose of this post I’m calling all non-Mexican burritos American. That includes Cal-Mex, Tex-Mex, East LA Mex, Mexican-American, etc.

The burrito was born in Chihuahua where popular tradition attributes the invention to Juan Mendez, who would would store guisados in flour tortillas and transport them by burro to Ciudad Juarez for sale.Hence the name, burritos! Today the fine Chihuahua burrito tradition is famously represented in Villa Ahumada with their famous burritos of asadero cheese, where motorists driving from Cd. Juarez to Chihuahua stop to pay homage to the burrito norteño. In Sonora, burritas de machaca are a must have snack, along side a bit of frijoles maneados (refried beans made with two cheese and chorizo mixed in). Northern Mexican burritos are thin, usually made with wheat flour, and have a single guisado, but no more than two ingredients. The best ones I’ve had recently were in Jalisco at a burritos norteños stand, a burrito with picadillo and another with rajas con queso (chile strips with cheese)--great 2AM street eats.

Sergio of Mariscos Chente turned me on to Ricos Tacos El Tio in Inglewood. These burritos can be found in Sinaloa and other northern states. Here they are known as all-meat burritos, or de pura carne. El Tio is a ‘hood joint frequented by local blue collar types and itchy scratchy armed street characters, another great people watching opportunity. Here I ordered a chicken burrito, which had a dollop of slightly runny refritos to give the burrito a more stew-like texture. These aren’t the norteño burritos, but Mexican in their simplicity of a meat with some cilantro and onion, and saucy beans. There is no rice, sour cream, lettuce, or guacamole. As the chef said, no one puts rice and all that stuff in a burrito. This was good, but not the dish I was craving.

On my way to La Casita Mexicana, racing down Florence I caught the word Norteña on a sign out of the corner of my eye. I pulled over and there it was. Gorditas Norteñas in Bell has typical foods of Mexico: tacos, sopes, quesadillas, some Americanized comida corrida(fast food), and a burrito menu.

The burrito norteño comes with deshebrada with avocado, and a light spread of mayo. It’s rolled thin and then finished on the grill. But you can request any guisado to be done norteno style. They have many interesting stews despite their rather ordinary menu: nopal con huevo (cactus and eggs), carne de puerco en chile rojo, requeson (Mexican version of ricotto cheese), choriqueso (chorizo and cheese), chicharron en chile verde, and of course frijoles con queso. This a Mexican loncheria and the various cooks hail from Zacatecas, Aguascalientes, Morelia, and other Central-Mexican cities of central Mexico. The gorditas are excellent from this part of Mexico, and you should them here as well, they are thin and airy like you would find in Mexico. Pick any guisado from the menu to stuff it with.

So, the next time you get a craving for Mexican, but aren’t ready for a rabbit mixiote, sautéed ant eggs, or a breakfast of barbacoa and morcilla (blood sausage), you can eat an authentic northern Mexican burrito, guilt-free. When your food snob, or Mexophile friends start hating you can have your savory revenge. Just don’t’ order the wet burrito!

Gorditas La Norteña (open 'til 7PM), 3309 E Florence Ave., Huntington Park, (323) 584-0275

Ricos Tacos El Tio, 4200 W Imperial Hwy., Inglewood, (310) 671-8133

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Bandwich!

The despicable,loathsome catering meal lunchbox

Enough plastic wrap to cover your head in shame after playing "I will Survive" for the millionth time

No, not another bandwich!

I'd like to share something with you.A little known food that is unique to the working musician.Now, I'm not talking your Rolling Stones, Madonna, or P. Diddy, I'm talking the sideman. The sideman is a working musician of varying levels of recognition and accomplishment that backs up name artists, records in the studio, plays on TV shows, travels in every imaginable touring situation, plays bars, and yes, weddings and corporate events.

I'm talking about the "bandwich".Simply put, the bandwich is a catered lunchbox meal with a generic sandwich,Lay's potato chips, and apple, potato salad and a cookie.All foods are wrapped in cellophane.This is the lowest form of catered meal for the working musician, several notches down from what the guests at the wedding are eating, exponentially so.The bandwich is specific to American functions, especially the elite.Mexicans, Armenians, Persians, Italians, etc. will give you the food that they are eating, unless they are very Americanized. The guy that books you at the Beverly Hills hotel will give you the bandwich, make sure you don't talk with any guests, and that you enter and exit through the loading dock.

The bandwich has such a negative connotation in the musician community.In its toxic plastic sheath resides a lifetime of sub-human treatment;layers of mush,mal-nutrition, and taseless provision tossed into a cardboard parody of luxury.It's a white-gloved bitch slap.Two hours of rehearsal, four hours of music, one and a half hours drive, and the bandwich.

This last weekend I lucked out.I met a friend at Mariscos Chente on my way to play a wedding at the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach for a magnificent feast along with a bunch of wines she brought. When I arrived at the green room in Newport Beach and saw the bandwiches all in neat rows, I thought HA!! You didn't get me this time.I showed up happy, fed, and sated.My fellow musicians were not so fortunate.I had to watch their sour expressions and long faces as they had a sad and bitter dining experience.

So, shame on you Balboa Bay club, Beverly Hills Hotel, Four Seasons, and Hotel Coronado! And, for those of you who choose to start your new life as a couple together by giving the musicians bandwiches?!! Let karmic justice intervene during your honeymoons.

I've got a better idea. Have someone pick up some tortas, cemitas, banh mi, subs from a decent Italian deli,or let a taco truck pull up and give us $5 vouchers each.It'll cost even less and give us our dignity and put a smile on our faces so that we can play Brick House, Get Down Tonight, Sweet Home Alabama, You Shook Me All Night Long, Old Time Rock n Roll, and Proud Mary with gusto.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Antojitos Bibi-Honduran delights from La Ceiba to Teguc

The exquisite sopa de caracol at Antojitos Bibi


baleadas, the famous street bite from Honduras

tamales Hondurenos

Alex, the freindly manager at Antojitos Bibi

I had several adventures a few years back driving through Honduras, courting a catracha and getting my diver certification on the island of Roatan. It was a six day trek that took me from Tegucigalpa to La Ceiba and a ferry ride to the island of Roatan. I encountered a dangerous highway that cut through the rainforest, bands of men walking with machetes, kids playing way to close to the side of the road, the ruins at Copan, absolutely zero public safety presence for days, and wonderful food experiences along the way.

I had the rich sopa de caracol(conch soup) at Caribbean beach shacks, dined on the famous fried fish at Lago de Yojoa(lake Yojoa) where the fish are hauled up to rustic stands and deep fried and served with plantains. Several visits to the reknowned El Patio in Teguc gave me a glimpse of many typical Honduran foods.One evening we tipped a borracho(drunk) with a machete attached to his belt to watch our car while we had our way with a tasting of Honduran antojitos(little whims) at El Patio, at must try when in Teguc. Buying chirimoyas from chidren on the side of the road, and that young waitress on the way to San Pedro Sula that starred at us as we drove away from their lonely little restaurant in the middle of nowhere, as if she had never received a tip. Oh, and those were some damn good baleadas. I do miss Honduras.

There are several decent Honduran places in LA, but a recent visit to Antojitos Bibi has made it my current favorite. Barbara Hansen did a fantastic review of this place several years ago. The specialties at Antojitos Bibi are of course the antojitos, but the sopa de caracol makes a case for the best version in town. The caracol is imported from Honduras where many places around town use canned caracol.

I tried the baleadas(Honduran flour tortilla with filling) with beans and cream, very delicious and decadent. The pastelitos(meat stuffed turnovers) were nice but a tad salty, too bad, maybe I'll give these another whirl next time. The enchiladas appear to be a Honduran tostada, but lightly sauced with ample amounts of cabbage and cheese.The catrachitas are similar in construction, but are smaller and have a ground beef layer on the bottom. These were both a messy good time, the quintessential Honduran antojitos. My neighbors ordered the carne asada and the chuleta which both looked great.Honduran tamales stuffed with pork and rice begged for my attention, but I had the sopa de caracol to contend with.

The coconut dense and richness of the broth in Antojitos Bibi's soap de caracol taste of fresh ingredients and has a spectrum of aromatic sensations.The caracol, while not chewy like the other canned versions around town, were not all tender.About half of my caracol were a little tough.The caracol that were cooked to a supple texture were sensational when taken with the elegant broth, some yuca and green plantain.Oh, and the rice on the side?Just heave it in with the soup.

Antojitos Bibi has other fine soups, main dishes, and appetizers that remind me of the tastes from Tegucigalpa to La Ceiba.I don't suppose I can get one of those beautiful Lago de Yojoa fish from the MacArthur Park lake?Maybe not.
Antojitos Bibi
2400 W 7th St Ste 109
Los Angeles, CA 90057