USA Dine Out: Eat, Drink and Fight Hunger


For the 4th year now S. Pellegrino has held the USA Dine Out fundraising event. In Los Angeles, Chicago, San Diego and San Francisco participating restaurants offer a $25 lunch or $35 dinner prix fixe menu with your choice of S. Pellegrino or Acqua Panna water. For every Dine Out meal served S. Pellegrino donates $1 to Share Our Strength, a national non-profit organizations fighting hunger.

Now that's music to my ears. And my wallet. Most of the restaurants on the Los Angeles list I haven't been to. But at the same there were only a few I was interested in. Here they are...

**Ciudad** {Lunch}

Chile Lime & Seeded Tortilla Crisps with Olive Tapenade & Latin Hummus
Argentine Empanada with Chipotle Crema & Tomatillo Sauce
Brazilian Shrimp Salad
Goat Milk Cajeta Flan

beautiful flan.... but rubbery flan

Friday was such a beautiful day. Perfect weather and no work (took the day off) I headed to downtown to meet my boy for lunch at Ciudad. I had heard some good things about Ciudad so I was excited to try some of their dishes. The tortilla crisps, tapenade and hummus were really good. The mushroom Empanada wasn't very good at all and the accompanying sauces very bland. Not impressed.

Then Brazilian Shrimp Salad also sucked. It was a shrimp and crab salad with carrots, beans, crispy fried potatoes and aji dressing. The potatoes weren't crispy but was soggy and stale. I didn't taste the aji in the dressing. The whole salad just looked and tasted like it had been sitting around waiting for someone to order it. I barely ate any of it. It shouldn't have been sent out of the kitchen. Just bland, flat, stale and even looked unappetizing.

If I were to make improvements upon it I would have served the salad minus the shrimp with a lil height over a bed of fresh watercress, placed the shrimp whole on top of that and then piled the FRESHLY fried shoestring potatoes on top of that with a sprinkling of cilantro. I'm not asking for new ingredients or new cooking technique. Just serve me my dish fresh and appetizing.

Then the Flan. It tasted good, looked beautiful but was very rubbery. Overcooked maybe? All in all Ciudad was a big diappointment.

445 S. Figueroa St

**Lucques** {Dinner}

Soupe au Pistou with Amaranth and Grana Breadcrumbs
Steak Frites
Chocolate and Pistachio Terrine with Pistachio Lace Cookie

Lucques has been on my Go To restaurant list for ages now. So I was really happy this opportunity came up. Everthing was soo good! We started off with some delicious cocktails, the Lucques Jasmine and Hangar One Mint Gimlet. The Gimlet is a must try. It's minty, mojito-y and completely addicting.

The Soup au Pistou was so yummy. Pistou is a mixture of basil, garlic and olive oil used in variety of ways including on pasta, in soups or as a condiment or sauce. The crispy breadcrumbs soaked up the delicious soup but still retained its texture til my last spooning. The Steak Frites was delicious! The steak and fries were perfectly cooked and served with a small handful of arugula which were wilted and nutty from the heat of its neighbors. I was very happy and very satisfied. That's one yoony in a good mood.

The Chocolate and Pistachio Terrine was okay. Kind of plain. Nothing to flip out over or something I would order again.

8474 Melrose Ave

**Xiomara on Melrose** {Dinner}

Organic Baby Green Salad with Citrus Shallot Vinaigrette and Cilantro
Churrasco Nicaraguense with Porcini Mushrooms, Huitlacoche and Cabrales Mash
Caramelized Chocolate & Finger Banana Cream Cake with Mango & Raspberry Sauces

We were pretty starving from taking advantage of MOCA'a free Thursday 5-8 entry to check out the Jean-Michel Basquiat exhibition. By the end I was too hungry to look at any more art. We shot over to Xiomara on a quiet stretch of Melrose. My first impression of the restaurant was: low key and beautiful.

Unfortunately the service didn't live up to that split-second hope and expectation. We order mojitos from the bar and chomped on the complementary bread basket and black bean dip. The bread was hot and the dip was completely cold! Not the most pleasant combination. We weren't served water until I was practically dying of thirst and had to ask for it. We weren't given any menus until about 10 minutes into dinner.

My Salad was delicious though. Then there was about another 10 minutes during which we just twidled our thumbs til the entree came out. Geez the restaurant only had three tables occupied that night. I wonder how they handle their weekend service.

However the Churrasco Nicaraguense was so frickin delicious. The skirt steak was cooked perfectly and laid upon a mound of blue cheese mashed potatoes and a mixture of beans and corn. I was just happy to get some meat in me, you know? The Cake was good but nothing special. And anyways I was so full from the generous portions of salad and skirt steak.

The other dessert we order was a plate of three flans, each made with a different tropical fruit: guanabana, mamey and guava. Also delicious. The food here was really great and our incompetent waiter very sweet. I would definitely go back but get your shit together Xiomara. Good food + bad service =unimmaeatchu.

6101 West Melrose Ave


LA Tofu Festival 2005: TofuZilla!

"When Giant Tofu Takes Over Little Toyko"


My third annual Tofu Fest experience and I still got a little bit sunburned. It's always so hot on the tofu days! Anyhow it was fun and I got to chomp on some interesting tofu foods and some good non-tofu items. I got to the festival right when the tofu eating contest was taking place. I think I would do really well if I were to enter it. My tofu eating skills may really shine through. :) Last year I saw Chef Morimoto who was there giving out his bottled marinades and autograph. I got his autograph on my little tofu fan which is now... somewhere under all that other stuff collecting dust.

Where the tofu girls representin?

The first Tofu Festival was held in 1996 by the Little Tokyo Service Center and the proceeds still goto the center to help the community. A brief descript from the tofu site:
"The Little Tokyo Service Center (LTSC) is a nonprofit community based organization in Los Angeles that provides services to families who are economically disadvantaged, physically challenged, homeless, and/or face language and cultural barriers in everyday life."

There are over 40 vendors there offering mostly tofu and soy dishes. Here are a few we tried...
Okonomiyaki - the "Japanese pizza"

Onigiri - rice ball

Taiyaki - carp-shaped waffle-like cake with sweet red bean filling

Soyrizo by El Burrito Mexican Food Products
**This one was surprisingly good. It really looks like scrambled chorizo and egg and tastes like it too. As always these chopped up hybrid names are funny to me. Like "Huevos SPAMcheros."

It's a fun time. Go get tofued.



A's Birthday Lunch Update


Last minute changes to the Plans...
I was very thrown off when I had to suddenly cut down part of the menu for a lunch gathering which suddenly composed of less than half the original number of guests. Definitely better than upgrading to more guests though.

No grill...
I did not make the Grilled Vege Sandwich nor Grilled Quesadilla. I changed up the quesadilla and combined the two types into one: Oven Toasted Shrimp, Roasted Pasillo & Garlic Chip Quesadilla instead of 1) shrimp and 2)roasted pasillo/garlic chip. The combination was definitely better with all the different flavors bursting with each bite and plus the deliciously refreshing mango salsa.


Reliable salad...
The Mixed Greens w/Balsamic Onions, Toasted Walnuts & Gorgonzola was delicious. I will have to make Balsamic Onions more often. Just cut two red onions into rings and season with salt and pepper and drizzle well with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Stick it in a hot oven for about 30 minutes. Until it looks soft, roasted and smells good. Take it out and douse a bit more balsamic vinegar so it can soak up that goodness while it's hot. It's an easy way to dress up your salad greens. I know there's an onion hanging out somewhere in your kitchen so try it. Sweet balsamic onions, tangy blue cheese with nutty, crunchy walnuts. That's good stuff.


The pavlova problem....
My pavlovas tend to collapse a lot as it cools down. Very stressful indeed. So I made another one which came out opposite of the first. Meaning it came out flatter and not so collapsed. Now I was stuck with two undesirables. Then I got a brilliant idea to turn the first pav base upside down and place the second one on top to make a high base. Yay! But I didn't think people would be able to finish the double decker pavlova by themselves so I just took the first upside down base. It worked perfectly and people flipped for it. Pavlovas do that to people. It's so simple and so good. I think it's the freshly whipped creeeaammm...


A's Birthday Lunch

I am honorary cook for my friend A's birthday tomorrow. This is my first time cooking for a group of people at an event I am not hosting so I am excited! Almost done with all the preps but the pavlova is giving me trouble. Arg. The first pavlova base collapsed too much and I am working on my second one. I am desperate to make this work because it is subbing for a cake. I looked for tips online before I made it but no luck here. Any tips please?

Pavlova is named after the Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova, who was touring during the 1920s. Both New Zealand and Australia claim the creation of the pavlova but the first creator is unknown. It is a meringue base topped with fresh whipped cream and fresh fruit. The combinations are flexible and endless but I do really like beautiful, plump and deep berry-colored raspberries on it. So delicious to the eye and the mouth. This second one better make it or I'm drinking a beer and going to sleep.

Anyhow, for the rest of the menu I'm keeping it pretty casual. It's a lunch/barbeque deal so this is what I came up with:

Grilled Shrimp and Roasted Pasillo/Garlic Chip Quesadillas
Watermelon Gazpacho
Grilled Vege Sandwich with Ricotta & Sun-dried Tomatoes
Mixed Greens with Balsamic Onion, Toasted Walnuts & Gorgonzola
Watermelon-Vokda Granita
Raspberry-Chocolate Pavlova

Pictures and update soon...


Polenta with Chanterelle


n. An edible mushroom (Cantharellus cibarius) that is yellow to orange in color, trumpet-shaped, and sometimes fragrant.
*French, from New Latin cantharella, feminine diminutive of Latin cantharus, cup (from its shape), from Greek kantharos.


I picked these beauties up at the Santa Monica Farmer's Market. I had eaten them only once before when my brother and I cooked up some fresh pasta with chanterelle and cream. This time I sauteed them in olive oil, a bit of butter and minced fresh rosemary. The chanterelles were lil stronger than last time because they were drier. I served them with some soft polenta. Truthfully I only ate a tiny amount of the mushrooms. I think the tiniest drop of white truffle oil I sprinkled on the sauteed mushrooms made them a bit too strong for me. Next time I think I will mix up the chanterelles with some giant oyster mushrooms and more herbs. Rosemary was what I had at the time but I would also definitely use thyme. Maybe some lemon thyme.

Horror Film, Ice Cream & Ribs... Perfect Summer Mashup

I discovered that the Korean Culture Center Los Angeles has free film screenings every month. To my delight they were showing a few horror films, the Ghost School Trilogy. We watched Memento Mori in their super airconditioned screening room. The film was pretty spooky and it was really nice to get away from the heat.

But then the movie ended and we shuffled back outside into the very hot afternoon. Ice cream seemed like a perfect idea so we headed up to Mashti Malone's, the famous Iranian ice cream shop. Two brothers, Mashti and Mehdi, bought the spot in 1980 and not having enough money to replace the previous business's sign, replaced "Mugsy" with "Mashti" for the interesting mashup name of "Mashti Malone's."

(la times)

I usually get the Mashti which is a scoop of ice cream sandwiched between two wafers. Mashti Malone's introduced me to my first rosewater ice cream. Floral, subtle and fragrant, my first time with the Creamy Rosewater Ice Cream was an experience.

This time I decided to mix it up and got the Rose Sorbet (Faloudeh) plus the Pomegranate Sorbet. It's the perfect refresher when you feel like you're melting away. The Faludeh contains rice starch that has been spun into threads, boiled and frozen and then mixed with the rosewater sorbet. Lemon and cherry syrup are available for light or liberal dousing on the sorbet. The Pistachio ice cream and the Rosewater Saffron with Pistachios are also delicious.

As we drove back down La Brea I began get a bit hungry. The sorbet must have upstarted my appetite. Now my tastebuds were wishing for something savory. How convenient that The Pig is on La Brea too. We had the Baby Back Ribs, which are hickory-smoked dry-rub ribs, and the St. Louis-Style Spare Ribs which have a vinegary tang. I personally like the dry ribs better. The sides are just so-so but their sauces are great.


I've read so many bad reviews about The Pig. I don't think I'm as picky when it comes to ribs so I'll leave the ratings up to the experts and keep my fingers bbqued up.

Mashti Malone's Ice Cream
1525 N. La Brea

The Pig
612 N La Brea Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 935-1116


Campanile: Monday Night Dinner


Monday Night Dinner at Campanile consists of Chef Mark Peel's three course meal served family style.

Menu for Monday, August 1, 2005...
Summer Tomato Soup
Filet Mignon Salad
Dark Chocolate Mint Chip Ice Cream Cake

Dinner started off with a basket of country bread and baguette. We were also served a plate of warm olives and almonds while we waited for our first course. I usually serve olives at room temperature but I really liked it warm. I got a glass of the 2001 Dolcetto di Dogliani "Siri d'Jermu," Pecchenino, Piedmont. Whew, long name. It was on the menu as "(Highly) Recommended Beverages." Made it easy for me because I didn't have to choose. It was delicious by the way.

The soup was really delicious. I have never been that attracted to tomato soup but this one really set the bar. It was indeed summery and light but still filling because of the basmati rice. I really liked the littleneck clams in this dish although one was really sandy. Must have been a hungry clam.

The salad consisted of mixed greens, wild mushrooms, roasted potatoes and pickled onions. The filet was soooo delicious. It was cooked to rare which I think is the best way to eat a filet. Nice peppery smoky crust. The salad was overflowing with wild mushrooms. I usually eat mushrooms in moderation so I could not even get close to eating all of it. In case a wait staff were to see our salad plate left full of mushrooms and think us mushroom wusses I did my best to hide it under the few lettuce leaves left. Tee hee.

I don't like mint ice cream. Especially when it's green. I saw the ice cream on the menu and I didn't expect it to be green but I wasn't sure how much I would like it. I liked it a lot actually. The combination of the dark chocolate and fresh mint was so refreshing and the thin layer of chocolate cake topped it off. I love fresh mint... summery.

So everything was delicious... except for the tea. I ordered green tea to finish off the meal but it didn't taste like green tea at all. I'll get their coffee next time.

Interesting history of Campanile and Chef Mark Peel at