Category Archives: Food Stories (written by me)

Phil’s Food Fest

One of the joys of writing a food blog is getting positive feedback from readers, friends and family. Naturally, I expect my own family to be supportive and not criticize me (too much) for spending almost all my waking hours consumed with thoughts of food.

Dinner w/ "My Life As A Foodie", MyLastBiteAt first, when complete strangers complimented my writing or photographs, I felt sort of stunned because I couldn’t believe anyone (who wasn’t forced via family ties) would take the time to visit My Last Bite. I thought each visitor HAD to have found my website by accident, and very much appreciated each and every comment left.

I still do, and as a “Twitter Fanatic”, I can appreciate how difficult it is to read a blog post that has more than 140 characters these days. It’s a bit frustrating because I’ve found myself becoming impatient when I click on a link to read a detailed recipe or even a two page food story.

What I’m learning to do now, is to stop myself, shake out of “Twitter Mode”, and force myself to relax. This way I can enjoy the words that someone has taken the time to share with the world.

So to those of you who take the time to visit my blog, I want to say THANK YOU! And a very special appreciation of thanks to my good friend Phil Nigash (aka my most frequent commenter!).

Phil and I first corresponded via email after he commented on a Molecular Gastronomy Class post I wrote last year. He was at that time, just thinking about dabbling in “Modern Cooking” and during that first class, we got to make Ferran Adria’s FAMOUS Pea “Ravioli”.

Phil was downright angry that he didn’t know about the class and even spoke about it on his radio show (audio link below). His blog is called “My Life As A Foodie” and focuses on every part of the food industry… not just the pretty side either! Check below for links and more info.

After I heard that first radio segment, I thought, “Wow, what a really generous and solid guy”, and felt totally thrilled that he even mentioned me on his show. I wanted Phil to be my new best (foodie) pal, but of course I was wary about making friends with a complete MALE stranger.

We continued emailing, FaceBooking and getting to know each other’s spouses through photos. Our daily messages consisted of shared food articles, restaurants we wanted to try, or chefs we dreamed about meeting someday.

With my good buddy Phil, MyLastBite.comIt wasn’t until two months later, that Phil and I actually met in person. In February he drove up from Orange County with a friend to attend another fun Molecular Gastronomy class at Sur la Table. My husband Peter and nephew Cody joined me for the class again, and this time we focused on making groovy “Airs and Spheres”.

Soon after I got to meet Phil’s wife Katrina, and we planned an evening at the Bazaar by José Andrés (molecular cooking heaven!). Ever since then the four of us have shared more and more of our lives with each other, including spending some great evenings with my sister’s family and friends.

Since late Spring, Phil and Kat had been trying to organize a dinner party for us at their home in Irvine. The dinner was not only for myself and Peter, but for my sister Janet, her husband Paul, plus family friends; Afaf, Ray, David and John.

Due to scheduling conflicts, the dinner didn’t happen until last month, and it was so worth the wait! The food was fantastic (Phil is an awesome cook), but more importantly we all enjoyed the warm friendship and delicious fun of the evening.

Less than a year ago we were all complete strangers, and because of that first blog comment by Phil, we now get to share this friendship (plus lots of tasty food!) for the rest of our lives.

To this day, Phil is usually one of the first readers to leave a comment on any of my posts or photos, and each message is so thoughtful and supportive. Thank you Phil for your ongoing encouragement and for being my wonderful food-obsessed friend!

Phil’s Food Fest:

Dinner w/ "My Life As A Foodie", MyLastBite
Photos Top Left: Shrimp Cocktail and Bisque.
Top Right: Poke Tacos
Bottom Right: Calçots and La rouille sauce
Bottom Left: Serrano Ham

Dinner w/ "My Life As A Foodie", MyLastBite
Chorizo Sarta, Green Olive Piquillo Pepper Anchovy, Serrano Ham

Dinner w/ "My Life As A Foodie", MyLastBiteCantimpalos (cocktail chorizos) and Aoli

Dinner w/ "My Life As A Foodie", MyLastBite
Potato Blini, Creme Fraiche and Smoked Salmon

Dinner w/ "My Life As A Foodie", MyLastBite
Savory Lobster Ice Cream w/ Chervil, Horseradish Cream and Caviar

Dinner w/ "My Life As A Foodie", MyLastBite
Phil in the kitchen (Savory Lobster Ice Cream)

Dinner w/ "My Life As A Foodie", MyLastBite
Cassoulet (white bean stew, duck confit and garlic sausage)

All Flickr Photos from Phil’s Food Fest


Dining Date: 8/29/09


Phil’s Blog: MyLifeAsAFood.com


Phil’s first mention of MyLastBite on his radio show


At Molecular Gastronomy Class with Phil


Phil’s radio show on Molecular Gastronomy Class


The first Molecular Gastronomy class


Dinner at the Bazaar with Phil & Kat


Sur La Table Cooking Classes


About Twitter


Follow Phil on Twitter


Follow Me!

19 Comments

Filed under Food Stories (written by me)

LudoBites – Chefs Are Rock Stars

My first hard-core rock star crush happened when I was twelve years old. All I wanted was Peter Frampton to “Show Me the Way”. To what or where I wanted him to lead me I wasn’t sure, but I was certain I wanted it. Not only did I sleep with the “Frampton Comes Alive” album cover every night, but I obsessed about him so much that I wanted to LOOK like him.

Chefs are like Rock Stars, MyLastBite.comOn a weekend visit to my grandparents house in San Marino, I succeeded in talking my grandmother into letting me get a perm. Unfortunately she took me to a local beauty school in Pasadena, and the outcome was not even close to the tousled, carefree ringlets on the glossy photo I kissed goodnight. I was a half Japanese, half Scottish girl with an AFRO. It wasn’t pretty. Enough said.

I still have that “Frampton Comes Alive” double album (from 1976). As a matter of fact I still have ALL my favorite albums from my childhood, which is pretty amazing considering the fact that I moved no less than eighteen times before settling in my current home, here in Studio City. Some of the moves were global: Okinawa to California (when my parents divorced), Maryland to the Virgin Islands (during my first marriage to an airline pilot), but most of the moves were throughout California, and it really is a miracle that my delicate record collection survived at all.

Chefs are like Rock Stars, MyLastBite.comEven the two albums I brought from Okinawa (in 1972) are still intact, although they’re now so shabby I finally placed them in protective plastic sleeves. “Peter Pan” and the soundtrack from the film “Oliver!” always take me back to our home in Takahara Heights. I can listen to them on my iPod of course, but there’s nothing better than popping open my battery-operated Japanese record player and spinning vinyl with a cocktail or two.

Looking through my old records over the weekend, I had to laugh at some of my “favorites” way back when. Some of the more embarrassing 33′s I’ve held on to are albums by Leif Garret, Shaun Cassidy, Andy Gibb and the “love of my life” at fifteen, General Hospital’s own Dr. Noah Drake, aka Rick Springfield. Two of my multiple vinyl collections that I’m MOST proud to have, are Elton John and David Bowie.

As I entered high school, like most of my girlfriends, I crushed on Eddie Van Halen, David Lee Roth and Sting. A few of the bands I still listen to on a regular basis are the Pretenders (Chrissie still rocks), X, Motley Crue, Poison and of course, “classics” like the Stones, the Clash, and the Runaways.

On stage at the Whisky-a-GoGo, MyLastBite.comI was eighteen when David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” was released, and drove my big sister crazy playing “Modern Love” every morning for an entire year. Not only did I listen to the music, but I also grew up playing piano and writing my own songs. This passion for music is now shared with my husband Peter, who I thank on a daily basis for teaching me how to play guitar, and with my niece and nephews. For my 40th birthday, Peter even rented out the world-famous Whisky-a-GoGo so I could have a “rock star” fantasy party. It was amazing.

Growing up, there wasn’t anything more exciting than watching my favorite musicians on stage, but these days I get that same happy rush when I spend time with some of my favorite chefs. I get a little star-struck even, whether it’s watching Vinny & Jon at Animal, chefs Voltaggio* and Vigneron in the open Rojo kitchen at Bazaar, or even strolling from chef to chef at the recent Taste of the Nation event. Call me a “super chef fan” or a groupie even… I don’t care because I’m having so much fun!

To me, chefs ARE ROCK STARS, and the restaurants (at least the ones with open kitchens) are my favorite type of THEATER. The food they create is ART, and I’m just one of the the lucky fans who get to devour each tasty NOTE.

LudoBites, MyLastBite.comOn July 8th, I had the pleasure of attending what I am calling, the BEST DAMN GIG in town. LudoBites (at Breadbar on Third) starring the immensely talented, (and super hot) ROCK STAR Chef Ludovic Lefebvre.

LudoBites is described as “a guerrilla style pop-up restaurant event… that teams up with restaurants that only have breakfast and lunch service… LudoBites will move to a new space every few months, similar to an artist exhibition”.

My friend Charles made the 7:30 reservation for the four us: myself, husband Peter, Charles and his partner Robert. When my friend Bob saw me tweeting about my dinner plans that evening, he called and asked if he and his boyfriend Andrew could join us for what Peter called, the “Food Rave”.

LudoBites, MyLastBite.comThe six of us were giddy after we were seated at the table closest to where Chef Ludo would be working. The setting was surprisingly intimate, and right off the bat, Krissy, Chef Ludo’s beautiful wife made us feel comfortable and welcome. Come to think of it, rock stars always have gorgeous model wives don’t they?

Throughout the evening we went about ordering almost everything on the menu. I THOUGHT we had tasted every main dish, but in fact we missed one (the duck) which I’ll have to order on my next visit. I tried to pick out my favorite bite of the evening, but I couldn’t. Even the lavender honey butter was phenomenal!

Like a well-crafted piece of music, everything Chef Ludo prepared simply ROCKED MY WORLD. Hopefully I’ll be able to score a few more “front row seats” at LudoBites before the tour ends in August.

What we ate:

LudoBites, MyLastBite.com
Shrimps, Sweet and Sour Emulsion, Rosemary $10

LudoBites, MyLastBite.com
White Asparagus Veloute, Mozzarella Ice Cream, Shaved Fennel, Dried Black Olives $14

LudoBites, MyLastBite.com
Grilled Hangar Steak “Kobe Style”, Black Sesame Miso, Potato Chips, Shallots and Charcoal Oil $24

LudoBites, MyLastBite.com
Sauteed Diver Scallop, Red Port-Creme Fraiche, Candied Bacon, Potato by $14

LudoBites, MyLastBite.com
Seared Foie Gras with Corn, Passion Fruits by $22

LudoBites, MyLastBite.com
Creamy Polenta, Cantal Cheese, Oxtail Beef, Black Truffle $14

LudoBites, MyLastBite.com
Lacquered Pork Belly, Mustard Ice Cream, Napa Cabbage, Imaginary Choucroute $18

LudoBites, MyLastBite.com
Heirloom Tomato Salad, Red Onions, Feta Mousse, Oregano $14

LudoBites, MyLastBite.com
Chilled Chorizo, Cantaloup, Cornichon Soup $11. Foie Gras Tart, Maple Syrup, Lemon Paste, Hazelnut Oil $18

LudoBites, MyLastBite.com
SORRY this is so blurry! Poached Egg 65 Degrees, Caramelized Savory French Toast, Smokey Mornay Sauce. $9. Bottom: Kumamoto Oyster, Chablis Wine, Iceberg Lettuce, Borage Flower $12

LudoBites, MyLastBite.com
Chocolate Mousse, Ganache, Chantilly $10

LudoBites, MyLastBite.com
Cheese Course, $35
Photo missing: Halibut, Spiced Butter, Fresh Porcini, Fresh Almonds, Tonnato Style, $22

LudoBites, MyLastBite.com
Chef Ludo, his tats and one of his cool art pieces

All my LudoBites Photos on Flickr

LudoBites at Breadbar
thru August 22, 2009
8718 West 3rd Street
Los Angeles, CA 90048
310 205 0124
Dining Date: 7/8/09

About Chef Ludo

Check out his gorgeous book, “Crave”

More about LudoBites

About Kristine (“Krissy”) Lefebvre

Mentioned above:

Peter Frampton Video “Show Me The Way”

Charles (website)

Bob (website)

Peter (his band)

Playing guitar with the twins

Animal Restaurant

The Bazaar by Jose Andres

Taste of the Nation

Chef Marcel Vigneron

Okinawa

Whisky-a-GoGo

*Chef Michael Voltaggio (formerly at the Bazaar) is now working at The Dining Room, Langham Hunginton Hotel

Dr. Noah Drake / Rick Springfield

With a few of my favorite Chef Rock Stars

Ludo Bites (@ Breadbar) on Urbanspoon

More LudoBites Visit @BreadBar >

Photos from ALL LudoBites @BreadBar

LudoBites @RoyalT Cafe

27 Comments

Filed under Eating Out, Food Stories (written by me)

Church and State (1 & 2)

Chef Walter Manzke’s smile is infectious. Wait, maybe I shouldn’t say “infectious” since we’re in the middle of the H1N1 Flu scare (I refuse to call it the OTHER name because I love my bacon).

Church and State, MyLastBite.comOn my first visit to Church and State, I didn’t get to meet the chef until evening’s end, when I stole a few seconds of his time to tell him how much Peter and I enjoyed the restaurant. During our entire dinner though, from across the room, I was carefully watching him as he expedited orders and finished off each plate in the open kitchen.

Between bites of the luxurious beef short-rib bordelaise and the perfectly baked (and cute) tiny ramekins of escargot, I would look over and see Chef Manzke’s face beaming. It’s almost like I could feel his joy drifting through the kitchen, then up above the beautiful, antiquated string of lights, and finally, smack down onto my plate.

Delicious food always makes me happy, but seeing chef Manzke’s ear-to-ear grin in the kitchen definitely made me more aware of the joy and care he (and his crew) puts into each dish.

Church & State, MyLastBite.comI love everything about this restaurant; the exterior, interior, the decor. It resides in a beautiful, old brick building that used to be the loading dock for the Nabisco Biscuit Company, and the downtown location makes me feel like I’m in New York City, or at least “New York Street” at Universal Studios. I was shocked how nearby it was as well: Door to door (with no traffic), it’s only fifteen minutes from our home in Studio City.

The bistro is casual enough for jeans and charming enough for a little, black dress. But personally, it makes me feel like dressing up in a boho-chic skirt, over-sized hoop earrings and chunky, cork platforms (something I imagine Ali MacGraw wore in the seventies, on fabulous trips to Paris).

The bar sits directly across from the kitchen, and we were seated near the large, front windows on our first two visits, with perfect views of both. There’s an antique absinthe dispenser on the bar counter which reminded me of the vintage absinthe spoons I started collecting back in 2001, when Peter worked on the marketing campaign for “Moulin Rouge!”

I think Toulouse-Lautrec himself would have loved one of the small tables along the cool, brick wall along the back. And just because I want to try a different view of the gorgeous room, that’s where you’ll find me on my next visit. Just look for the platform shoes and over-sized hoop earrings.

Church & State, MyLastBite.com
The entrance
Church & State, MyLastBite.com
Escargots de Bourgogne: Snails baked in Garlic and Parsley Butter, $12 (for 6). We will always order these on every visit!

Church & State, MyLastBite.com
They were SO GOOD.

Church & State, MyLastBite.com
Pied de Cochon: Pig’s feet and cheeks (made into a fritter cake), lentils, frisee aux lardons with a poached egg on top, $9. My FAVORITE dish so far! (Pied de Cochon means “pig’s foot” in French)

Church & State, MyLastBite.com
Tarte Flambée: Caramelized onions, Bacon, Gruyère cheese, $11. I love thin pizza crusts, and this was perfection.

Church & State, MyLastBite.com
Steak Frites: French fries, Sauce Béarnaise. Classic and DELICIOUS, we got the smaller “Petite Assiette” (small plate) size for $15 (full size, $25). Note: All the main dishes or “Plats Principaux” are offered in two sizes.

Church & State, MyLastBite.com
The whimsical interior.

Church & State, MyLastBite.com
Oreille de Cochon: Pig’s Ears with sauce bearnaise, $7. Courtesy of the nice couple sitting next to us. Crispy, Fatty, Goodness! (the pig’s ears, NOT the couple!)

Church & State, MyLastBite.com
Our wonderful server/pastry chef Marge (aka Mrs. Manzke!), showing us the dessert offerings for the evening.

Church & State, MyLastBite.com
I forgot what dessert we chose TO SHARE. Instead this incredible plank of sweetness was brought to us by Chef Manzke himself!

Apricot Tart, Pot de Crème au Chocolat, I loved the quenelle next to the chocolate (if I remember correctly, there were tiny delicious bits of toasted hazelnuts underneath), Apple Galette (I think), Croustade aux Fraises: Warm strawberry crips, vanilla ice cream.

I didn’t have the heart to tell the chef that I’m not really “into dessert” (one bite and I’m good). Luckily, Peter is INTO dessert, so even though we were full from dinner, we finished most of it!

Church & State, MyLastBite.com
The bar and Absinthe sign (it’s blurry, you’re not drunk)

Church & State, MyLastBite.com
Desserts and Cheeses in front of the open kitchen

Church & State, MyLastBite.com
The kitchen

Church & State, MyLastBite.com
Chef Manzke finishing two dishes, ticket orders

Church & State, MyLastBite.com
Top Left: Immersion Circulator (for cooking Sous Vide). Bottom Left: Chatting with chef Manzke. Right: Chef Walter Manzke expediting. I wanted so stand there all night and watch!

With Chef Walter Manzke, MyLastBite.com
All Smiles with chef Manzke.

Our perfect dinner was made even better by a chance meeting with Tasting Table’s Lesley Balla (former Eater LA editor). We’re “friends” on Twitter and Facebook, but it so was nice to say hello in person!

Church and State BistroChurch & State, MyLastBite.com

1850 Industrial St
Los Angeles, CA 90021
(213) 405-1434

Website (with pdf menu)

Reservations on OpenTable

Dining Dates:
4/5/09
5/2/09

Mentioned Above:

Moulin Rouge!

Toulouse-Lautrec

Absinthe (about)

New York Street, Universal Studios

Ali MacGraw

More about Chef Walter Manzke (work history)

Beef Short Rib Bordelaise that we had on our first visit

All my Church and State photos on Flickr

Church & State on Urbanspoon

9 Comments

Filed under Eating Out, Food Stories (written by me)

Casa Vega

Casa Vega restaurant in Sherman Oaks has always meant “pure comfort” to me. Peter and I have been regulars since 1994 (when I moved from San Diego), and for years we ate there at least once a week. That was before the smoking ban came into effect (not that either of us ever smoked), and before hungry patrons were forbidden to drink cocktails outside.

They’ve never taken reservations, and back then we didn’t mind sitting out in the waiting area for an hour or more, because the covered patio felt like an extension of the inside bar. We always had the same drink; Two large “Tres Generaciones” Margaritas on the rocks.

After making our way into the actual bar, we’d wait a bit longer and loved watching the crowd. It was such a wild mix of people: Studio execs (like Peter), families with small kids, single gals and guys on the prowl, and a fair share of San Fernando Valley’s aspiring porn stars.

Our favorite tables were (and are still) one of the wall booths in the back right, larger dining room. If you’ve never been, and like people-watching, they’re well worth waiting for. From there, you can keep an eye out for whoever is coming into the dark room, and over the years we’ve spotted (to name just a few); Jennifer Aniston (several times, pre and post Brad), Mickey Dolenz from the Monkeys, and the one and only (“give-me-another-margarita-so-I’m-brave-enough-to-say hi”) George Clooney.

After settling in our booth, we never had to pick up a menu or actually order our food. The waiter would look at us and say, “One Casa Vega salad, one carnitas combo to share, flour tortillas, and a chile relleno on the side, right?”

Our love for the restaurant extends throughout our family. When my brother Greg visits from Scotland, the first place he wants to go in ALL of Los Angeles (straight from the airport) is Casa Vega. It’s legendary even in far away Bridge of Weir and Glasgow, although like most locals he refers to it as simply, “Vega”.

On the afternoon of 9/11, like everyone, we were glued to our television re-watching the footage and listening to a frightened America shut down. Our good friend and neighbor, Nelson, was with us and we sat around in tears, holding our dogs and feeling helpless.

After awhile I just got angry and didn’t want to sit home and cry anymore. I jumped up and said, “That’s IT… we are NOT going to stay here and be afraid… we’re going to Vega”. Thank goodness they were open. It was early (5pm or so) and there were only a few other people in the bar. Slowly, the restaurant started filling up and although the mood was somber, the camaraderie in the room made it okay to be out getting drunk and socializing on such a horrible, tragic day. Nothing could take away the shock of what happened earlier in the morning, but that meal at Casa Vega was one of the most comforting I’ve ever had.

Admittedly, the food isn’t pretty to look at, but it is ooey gooey delicious. We’ve spent many a crowded Cinco de Mayo there and no matter what the occasion, we never stray from our favorite dishes: One Casa Vega salad (a crisp tortilla with chorizo, spiced beans, lettuce, tomato, beets and parmesan cheese), one Carnitas combo to share (tender pieces of seasoned pork, served on a bed of shredded lettuce with freshly made pico de gallo), flour tortillas, and a chile relleno on the side. And of course at least two “Tres Generaciones”Margaritas on the rocks. Now, that’s pure comfort if you ask me.

My Favorites at Casa Vega, MyLastBite.com

Casa Vega
13301 Ventura Blvd (at Fulton Ave)
(818) 788-486
Website

Cinco de Mayo 

Bridge of Weir, Scotland

Tres Generaciones Tequila

My brother Greg

Our friend Nelson

More Vega Photos 

Dining Date: Since 1994

6 Comments

Filed under Eating Out, Food Stories (written by me)

Kogi

The Kogi Taco Truck made me miss being in my twenties. Especially over the last couple of months, since I started following their Twitter updates on my cell phone. Late at night I’d be in bed reading a book, and have to stop so I could see the incoming Twitter text: “10PM-2AM@The Brig – Abbot Kinney and Palm in Venice”. I couldn’t stop wondering, “Who ARE these people partying EVERY night of the week, chasing down the Kogi taco truck at 2AM?”

It was sort of depressing, because I wanted to be out there chasing the truck too, but then again, I didn’t want to be OUT THERE chasing the truck (or chasing anything for that matter). The Alibi Room in Culver City actually runs a Kogi kitchen (monday thru saturday), but still, I had no desire to fight rush-hour traffic and wait in a ridiculously long line, just for a TACO. 

I admit it, at 45 years old, I’m definitely more of an OpenTable, “reservations a month in advance” sort of eater these days, but of course, that wasn’t always the case.

Twenty-Something, MyLastBite.com

Shortly after I turned twenty-one, I moved to Pacific Beach in San Diego, then spent the next couple of years partying non-stop with my friends. Our days consisted mostly of working in retail during the day, sunning ourselves on our days off and planning “girls night out” EVERY single night of the week.

Most of us were on pretty tight budgets, but we knew which beach bars served free “happy hour” food (drinks bought by the fellas), and it usually consisted of nachos, taquitos or plates of bacon-topped potato skins. Remember when potato skins were the cool, new appetizers?

Roberto's Taco Shop, MyLastBite.comOur favorite drinking holes back then were places like the Beachcomber or the Pennant, and we never missed a Tuesday $1 Margarita night at Diego’s on Garnet Avenue. Quick trips to Mexico for cheap lobster and margaritas were followed by dancing all night at the local clubs.

These nightly adventures always ended with a trip to Roberto’s Taco Shop in Mission Beach, which was steps from the shore, next to the aging Big Dipper roller coaster. The giant, carne asada burrito was my favorite and I always ordered it with extra guacamole. I can’t recall ever eating there during the day, or going there sober for that matter, but back in the day, Roberto’s Taco Shop was MY Kogi.

All-You-Can-Eat Kogi Event, MyLastBite.comIf you’re not familiar with Kogi BBQ, then you probably don’t live in the Los Angeles area. The first time I read about Kogi was on an EaterLA/Lesley Balla post back in December (boy, do I miss her on Eater these days). Ever since then, Kogi has been the “it” taco truck in the city, offering the flavor of spicy Korean barbecue, conveniently wrapped in a fresh tortilla. Kogi gained even more followers when they started using Twitter to communicate upcoming locations with their customers. It was a simple (and brilliant) way for Kogi to keep in contact with hungry, usually late-night, eaters.

All-You-Can-Eat Kogi Event, MyLastBite.comLast Thursday, I just happened to be reading the Kogi website, when I noticed a post titled, “What 20 Bucks Can Buy You”, and was thrilled to learn that it was for a fundraiser in nearby Burbank the same evening. The Gina Alexander Philanthropy Project partnered with Kogi to offer All-You-Can-Eat Kogi tacos for $20, with the proceeds benefiting the Center of Hope Village (for abused children) in the Philippines.

I called Peter and made sure he could make it home early so we could finally try the now-famous Kogi tacos together. Just last week the Kogi truck had been on the Fox lot where he works and he hoped to try it then, but the line was just too long for a my workaholic husband, who doesn’t like to break for lunch anyway.

We arrived at the event 30 minutes early, and after paying our $20 donation (each), we headed for the Kogi truck line, quite pleased to be very close to the front. It was another hour before the truck actually showed up, but there was plenty of entertainment to keep us occupied (photos below), and we didn’t mind because it was all for a good cause.

Peter and I both ordered two Korean Short Ribs and one Spicy Pork. The All-You-Can-Eat Kogi Taco offer, was limited to three at a time, which made sense because when I looked back at the line behind us, there must have been at least 150 hungry people waiting on the street. 

The tacos were terrific (LOVED the spicy pork), and we were content with the three that we tried. Of course if we didn’t have to get back in line and wait again, we would have definitely made it a furious pig-out session, but mostly it felt good to make the donation (Peter later told me he slipped them another $20), and to FINALLY get a taste of the Kogi phenomenon!

Afterwards we headed home, took our pups for their evening walk, and then I fell asleep next to my husband reading my favorite, new book. And guess what? I was tickled pink, NOT to be in my twenties again.

All-You-Can-Eat Kogi Event, MyLastBite.com
Peter saving our spot in the Kogi line

All-You-Can-Eat Kogi Event, MyLastBite.com
DJ Derek Basco entertaining the kids (and us grown-ups too!)

Wrestling at GAPP Event, MyLastBite.com
Waiting for the wrestling event

All-You-Can-Eat Kogi Event, MyLastBite.com
The Kogi Taco Truck arrives!

All-You-Can-Eat Kogi Event, MyLastBite.com
Peter almost up to order… and check out the line behind him.

All-You-Can-Eat Kogi Event, MyLastBite.com
The Kogi Truck menu

All-You-Can-Eat Kogi Event, MyLastBite.com
Korean Short Ribs and Spicy Pork!

All-You-Can-Eat Kogi Event, MyLastBite.com
GAPP founder (Gina Alexander Philanthropy Project) Gina Alexander, with Kogi owners Caroline Shin-Manguera and Mark Manguera.

Upcoming All-You-Can-Eat Kogi Taco dates: 

Thurs, June 25
Thurs, July 30
Thurs, August 27
You must rsvp for your name to be placed on the list.
Email/RSVP or Get more info by contacting
gapp@ginaalexander.com

More Kogi photos on Flickr

Mentioned Above:

Kogi Website

Gina Alexander Website

Center of Hope Village in Philippines

Kogi on Twitter

About Twitter

The Alibi Room

All-You-Can-Eat Kogi Event Info

Eater L.A. – Lesley Balla on Kogi

Lesley Balla currently writes for Tasting Table

OpenTable

Eater LA

My current, favorite book (that I’m reading again)

With Peter

Our Pups

Roberto’s Taco Photo Courtesy of David C.

The Pennant Bar

The Beachcomber

Dining Date: 4/30/09


Kogi Korean BBQ on Urbanspoon

13 Comments

Filed under Food Events (festivals, classes, etc.), Food Stories (written by me), Food Trucks

Greek Lemon Chicken

Allergy season in the San Fernando Valley is, by far, my least favorite time of year. It’s now been a month since my spring-time symptoms kicked in, and I’ve been feeling pretty lousy the entire time: Itchy and watery eyes, non-stop sneezing, postnasal drip (with congestion, which I don’t understand), loss of smell, and the worst part, for me, are those dreadful hours when I loose my sense of taste.

I’m currently taking two different prescription medications that definitely help ease the symptoms, but living with three dogs (who sleep in the bed) only adds to the problem. Peter and I will never get rid of our dogs (aka our “kids”), and honestly, most of the time I just feel really grateful that seasonal allergies are my only health issues.

But last week, on top of dealing with my sensitive sinus problems, I came down with a nasty, head cold. I didn’t even know it was a cold for the first few days because I hadn’t had a good night sleep in weeks, and already felt drained and depressed. I tried to shake the blues by drinking extra cups of green tea, reading my current favorite book on the sunny porch out front, and also by taking extra walks with the pups.

When I woke up Thursday morning still feeling gloomy, I suddenly remembered that one thing that was missing from my days. Talking aloud to myself (with my dogs tucked in snugly beside me), I sat up in bed and said, “cook, stupid”.

Because I was suffering from both allergies and a head cold, I hadn’t cooked a proper meal all week. Hot tea and cereal for breakfast, cold meds for lunch and “frozen entrées” for dinner. No wonder I felt like crap. Physically, I wasn’t getting any real nutrition, and I’d forgotten to do the one thing every day that makes my spirits soar.

I then decided to make one of my very favorite, super EASY one pan meals. Greek Lemon Chicken with Roasted Garlic and Potatoes. I first had it when I visited friends in the Greek Islands over twenty years ago, and it’s always a comforting plate of food. And as you can imagine, I felt amazingly better after just one bite.

Greek Lemon Chicken w/ Roasted Garlic and Potatoes

Ingredients:

3 1/2 to 4 pounds of chicken pieces (I prefer thighs and legs) with skin.

3 medium lemons (juiced, but save lemon halves)

3 pounds of baby potatoes (your favorite)

1 tablespoon of oregano

2 to 3 teaspoons of salt (to your liking)

1/2 teaspoon of pepper

2 medium heads of garlic

1/2 cup of olive oil

Greek Lemon Chicken 2, MyLastBite.com
Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350°F

Clean the chicken and potatoes, dry then place in large baking pan.

Cut tops of garlic (be careful) to expose cloves, and set face up in pan.

Next add olive oil, the juice of 2 lemons, then rub over everything.

Make sure there’s a nice coating of oil on the bottom of pan, so the chicken doesn’t stick.

Add oregano, salt and pepper. Coat everything in the pan.

Add the last two lemon halves in pan and let bake with the other ingredients.

Now, turn chicken pieces so the skin in facing down on the pan bottom.

Greek Lemon Chicken 3, MyLastBite.comCook for about 90 minutes total:
After 30 minutes, carefully remove hot pan from oven and gently turn over the chicken pieces so the skin is facing UP. This way you’ll get a nice, crispy and flavorful skin.

At the same time, turn over the potatoes and then place back in oven for 60 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.

To serve: After the garlic heads have cooled, you can pop out each roasted clove with a knife and serve the sweet, mushy cloves on top of the chicken. Or, do what I did and serve the entire half of the clove itself. They’re delicious smashed into the potatoes or added to warm, crusty bread as well. The extra lemon halves (now soft and baked) can be eaten too. Enjoy.

Greek Lemon Chicken 4, MyLastBite.com

Note: The dish is terrific on it’s own, but it’s even better with a Horiatiki Salata (classic Greek country salad). I didn’t think to get the Greek salad ingredients at the market that day, so I tossed together a side dish with things I had at home: clementines, fresh green beans, and roasted beets.

Mentioned Above:

Horiatiki Salata: Recipe for Greek Country Salad

My Pups

In Greece

Cuties California Clementines

Current favorite book: “A Homemade Life” by Molly Wizenberg

“Cook, Stupid.” written by Jo Stougaard ©MyLastBite.com All Rights Reserved. No usage allowed including copying or sharing without written permission.

Greek Lemon Chicken W/ Roasted Garlic & Potatoes on Foodista

15 Comments

Filed under Food Stories (written by me), Recipes

The Flirtini Incident

The last time Peter and I hosted Easter brunch at our house, it was sort of a disaster.

We invited my sister Janet, Peter’s sister Susan and both their families for a late Sunday brunch. I spent a few days getting the back garden perfectly decorated with new flowers, and set up a long dining room table outside with my great aunt’s hand-painted china. I even got out my Scottish (clan Maxwell) grandmother’s antique linen napkins and gently ironed each piece, which wasn’t so easy to do because of the hand-embroidered “M” sticking up on the corners.

It was a gorgeous Easter Sunday and our backyard looked like a page out of House & Garden magazine, especially with the flea-market chandelier hanging above the table. Peter secured the heavy fixture to a large branch on our oak tree, even though we didn’t need the light of course. The glass made the garden so pretty, twinkling in the sun through the leaves.

I always like having a “signature” cocktail when I entertain for a large group (even for brunch!). It makes it easier for the hostess (so I don’t have to set up a full bar) and it makes it fun for the guests, especially if the drink is something new.

A few weeks before the disastrous Easter, I was watching the Sex in the City episode where Samantha befriends the transvestites in her new apartment building. Throughout most of the episode she and the “ladies” were arguing over late-night noise outside her bedroom window and Samantha couldn’t get any sleep. After an ongoing catfight with the “guys”, including throwing water on them from her apartment window, she finally decided it would be better just to make nice, and hosted a roof-top barbecue for the whole gang. The episode ended with Samantha raising a glass, toasting Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda and her new “girl friends” with a cocktail called, “Flirtini”.

Samantha’s Flirtini Recipe:
2 oz. Vodka
1/2 oz. Apricot Liquor or Triple Sec
1/2 oz. Pineapple Juice
Splash of Champagne, garnish with a strawberry

I thought it would be so fabulous to serve Flirtinis for Easter lunch. They sounded so “fresh and fruity, like springtime”! It was about noon when our guests arrived and the grown-ups started drinking the first of several pitchers. I had never gotten a buzz so fast before (I’m sure it was the vodka mixed with champagne), and by the time we sat down to eat, we were all stinking DRUNK.

What type of food did I serve for our beautiful Easter brunch? I can’t remember (or maybe I don’t want to remember). I had a hangover by late evening and spent the next two days cleaning and packing up the antique dishes. All that effort setting up the garden, gathering our family together, and the memory of the day is just a painful blur.

I haven’t had a Flirtini since, and only remembered it when I suggested to Peter that we should host Easter at our house this year. But he had a much better idea: How about we treat our family to Easter brunch at the Bazaar?

*Brunch at the Bazaar by José Andrés [visit 10]

Bazaar Brunch, MyLastBite.com
Huevos a la Cubana “Andy Garcia” (12 Tiny Eggs Sunny Side Up), $12. One of the three new brunch items on the menu at the Bazaar by José Andrés. I know this LOOKS like a lot of yolk, but these were small quail eggs. Lightly crispy underneath with a savory tomato sauce on top.

Bazaar Brunch, MyLastBite.com
Eggs Benedict “New Way”, Iberico Ham, $18. So beautiful that I couldn’t stop turning the plate and taking photos! The piece of ham was CRISPY and crackled when I bit into it, and the foam tasted like butter. I’ll never be able to have Eggs Benedict anywhere else again.

Bazaar Brunch, MyLastBite.com
Savory Spanish Torrijas: Iberico Ham, Egg 63 (egg was poached at  63ºF.) and Idiazabal Cheese, $18. This was my favorite new brunch item. It was very similar to french toast under the ham… but so much better of course!

Along with the new brunch items, we shared dishes (that I’ve had several times before) from both the regular Traditional and Modern menus including:

Bazaar Brunch, MyLastBite.com
Tuna Ceviche and Avocado Roll, $12. My sister Janet’s favorite.

Bazaar Brunch, MyLastBite.com
Crab Meat Steamed Buns with Pickled Japanese Cucumbers, $18. Three per order (about two bites per little sandwich), never enough!

Bazaar Brunch, MyLastBite.com
Croquetas de Pollo (Chicken and Bechamel Fritters), $8 This is ALWAYS a favorite at the table. Perfect bites (like large tater tots) of little “chicken pot pies”.

Bazaar Brunch, MyLastBite.com
Bloody Mary: Freshly made tomato juice with a celery-wasabi foam, $16. Definitely could have been a meal in itself! I loved the wasabi foam on top.

Bazaar Brunch, MyLastBite.com
In front: Tableside “Nitro” Blood Orange Screwdriver: Frozen liquid nitrogen blood orange and vodka, $20. House-made Lemonade (freshly squeezed lemon juice, rosemary syrup), $6. Bloody Mary (back, left).

Bazaar Brunch, MyLastBite.com
Felix Meana making the “Nitro” Blood Orange Screwdriver: Frozen liquid nitrogen blood orange and vodka. I love when the liquid nitrogen cart comes rolling up to the table. This screwdriver was velvety smooth and strong! We all loved it.

Bazaar Brunch, MyLastBite.com
Clockwise from top left: Jade (partial), my nephew Cody, Peter’s niece, Chanel.
Top Right: My niece Kindal and Cody’s girlfriend Jade.
Bottom Right: Peter’s sister Susan and her boyfriend, Jerry.
Bottom Left: Chanel, Peter and Miles (Peter’s nephew).

Bazaar Brunch, MyLastBite.com
Clockwise from top left: Miles and my friend, Laur.
Top Right: Susan, Jerry, my sister, Janet and nephew, Chace.
Bottom Right: Jo (me!) and Peter.
Bottom Left: Cody and Chanel.

Bazaar Brunch, MyLastBite.com
Clockwise from top left: Miles digging into dessert, Chace gets comfy on the Blanco couch. With the twins, Chace and Kindal.

Bazaar Brunch, MyLastBite.com
Peter holding court in the Blanca room! The Rojo room was closed for the restaurant’s first official brunch.

Bazaar Brunch, MyLastBite.com
Chef Marcel Vigneron invited the twins (my sister’s kids, Chace and Kindal) back to see the kitchen. They are both fans of “Top Chef” and have been cooking since they were really little, so this was heaven! Thanks Chef!

Dishes we also shared, that I’ve had on previous visits:

Sweet Potato Chips with Yogurt Tamarind Dip, $10

Philly Cheesesteak Air Bread, $8

‘Pa amb’ tomaquet (bread with tomato in Catalan)

Foie Gras and Quince on mini Brioche Bun, $15

Nitro Coconut Floating Island Dessert, $10

We also shared a pitcher of Sangria Rojo, $42. (no photo)

The Bazaar by José Andrés, SLS Hotel
465 South La Cienega Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 9004
(310) 246-5555
Dining date: 4/12/09

Bazaar Brunch, MyLastBite.comAn extra treat for me was meeting Chef Katsuya Fukushima (in photo, at right). I had seen him on an episode of “Gourmet’s Diary of a Foodie” and was wowed by his knowledge of “modern” cuisine. Chef Fukushima works closely with José Andrés at MiniBar in Washington D.C.

A very special THANK YOU to Bazaar Manager, Felix Meana (also in photo) for taking such good care of us. You made the day extra special.

Thanks also to William and Audra for organizing our large (table of twelve) reservation!!

All my Bazaar photos on Flickr

Mentioned above:

Sex in the City: Episode 48

Top Chef

The twins cooking

House & Garden

“The Flirtini Incident” originally published April 15, 2009

The Bazaar no longer serves brunch.

18 Comments

Filed under Eating Out, Food Stories (written by me), Molecular Cooking

Animal’s Loco Moco

ilikai hotel, MyLastBite.comI first tried Loco Moco back in 2003 while on vacation with my husband in Hawaii. It was Peter’s first visit to the islands, and I insisted that we stay at the Ilikai Hotel on Oahu. I’ve always been a huge fan of  “Hawaii Five-O”, and if you remember the opening credits with the cool, balcony shot of Jack Lord (aka the legendary Steve McGarrett!), then you’ll recognize the Ilikai Hotel. We had such a fun time visiting random locations from the show, and we definitely made an effort to eat like the locals.

Loco Moco Hawaii 2003, MyLastBite.comOur favorite dish was (of course) the Loco Moco. The traditional version is made with white rice, hamburger, fried eggs and brown gravy. We first ordered the burger version for breakfast at our hotel, and also tried a SPAM version (instead of beef) that I loved.

It’s been almost six years since I enjoyed that first plate of Loco Moco and I guess I just never thought about searching it out in Los Angeles. So when I read about Animal’s version on TastingTable last week, my heart skipped a beat and I sent Peter a text: “WE NEED TO GET TO ANIMAL NOW!”

Animal’s Loco Moco (below) is anything but “traditional”, and should probably be called “Beyond Loco Moco”, or simply “WHACK”! The dish exemplifies the reason I love Animal so much… because chefs Vinny and Jon are absolutely FEARLESS. Their version doesn’t come with just the burger or a piece of SPAM. It comes with BOTH, and they top it off with an insanely decadent piece of seared foie gras and a fried quail egg.

Foie Gras Loco Moco! MyLastBite.com

It was so good that Peter and I couldn’t stop laughing while we ate it! You know, that guilty “we should be ashamed but we’re NOT” sort of laughing. I can still taste the runny egg yolk spilling over the seared foie gras, through the crispy spam and tender beef, then down to the bottom of the gravy soaked rice. 

Foie Gras Loco Moco! MyLastBite.com

Of course it was rich… and I admit that I made sure Peter and I both took our 81 grams of heart-healthy aspirin afterwards. A few days later, I’m pretty certain I still haven’t worked off the calories, but it was SO worth it! Foie Gras Loco Moco, Quail Egg, SPAM, Niman Ranch Burger, Anson Mills Gold Rice, $35

Crispy Hominy and Lime, MyLastBite.com

I try to order only new things when we eat at Animal, but Peter insisted on getting his favorite Crispy Hominy and Lime! $5

Fluke Crudo, MyLastBite.com
Along with the Loco Moco we did select a light and healthy dish (above) that we loved. The palate-cleansing and refreshing Sliced Fluke, Citrus, Mint, Sea Salt & Jalapeno, $12. (See? They make healthy dishes too!)

[Visit #11)

Animal Restaurant
http://www.animalrestaurant.com
435 N. Fairfax Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 782-9225

Mentioned Above:

Tasting Table

Opening Scene of Hawaii Five-O

Ilikai Hotel

More SPAM

Loco Moco on Wikipedia

A few more Hawaii Photos:
Hawaii 2003, MyLastBite.com   Hawaii 2003, MyLastBite.com

< Animal Visit #10

Written by Jo Stougaard ©MyLastBite.com All Rights Reserved.
No usage allowed including copying or sharing without written permission.

10 Comments

Filed under Eating Out, Food Stories (written by me)

Smokin’ Hot

My nephew Cody, who turned 20 on Valentine’s Day, has always found immense joy in his food. He’s one of those people who can’t help but express the sheer deliciousness of each bite he takes, usually with a moan or an “oh my gawd, you HAVE to taste this”.

With Cody in Okinawa, MyLastBite.comWatching Cody eat is one of my favorite activities, second only to sitting down and actually sharing a meal with him. Always a “happy-go-lucky kid”, Cody has grown into a happy, grateful and very caring young man. Of course my sister Janet and her husband Paul get most of the credit for being great parents, but I appreciate how hard Cody works at it too. Not surprisingly, he’s also a terrific big brother to the twins.

I’m proud to say that just last month, he passed his first two exams for EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) training. He’s following in his firefighter dad’s footsteps, and I’m looking forward to visiting Cody at his own fire station someday. When he’s not out rescuing people or putting out fires, he’ll definitely be cooking up a storm in the station kitchen!

"Not Your Grandma's Thanksgiving" MyLastBite.comEvery year we celebrate Thanksgiving at my sister’s house, and usually after we’ve finished our turkey feast, Janet brings out the “Thanksgiving Box of Questions”. Basically it’s a stack of Thanksgiving-themed quotes or questions that we each have to read aloud to each other. This year, Janet pulled a question card that read “Say something you appreciate about the person sitting to the right of you”. Her eyes started welling up as she looked at her big, handsome son, then she said, “I appreciate Cody because he ALWAYS says ‘I love you mom’… even if he’s in a bad mood, or if we’re disagreeing on something… he never misses a chance to say ‘I love you’.”

Cody with the twins, MyLastBite.comTwo years ago, for his high school graduation gift, I asked him if there was some trip he’d like to go on with his Aunt Jo (that would be me) and Uncle Peter. He said he really wanted to visit his grandpa (Janet’s and my dad) in Bridge of Weir, near Glasgow, Scotland. Cody had visited his Okinawan family before, back when he was just three years old, but this would be his first trip to visit his Scottish side of the family… the Maxwell Clan!

I was really excited to plan the trip because it meant we’d get to spend some quality time together. If you have teenagers in your life then you probably know how busy they can be with after-school jobs, friends and girlfriends. This trip was a gift for Cody getting good grades, but it was also a really special gift for me. My husband decided to stay home so it would just be “Cody and Aunt Jo’s Great British Adventure”, and it was. Thanks again Peter!

Before I even booked our flights, I started emailing and calling Jamie Oliver’s “Fifteen” restaurant in London. I wanted to make sure we could get a reservation during our brief stop in England. Cody and I are both big fans of Jamie Oliver, and it was Cody who, as a little kid, first introduced me to the “Naked Chef”. A celebratory dinner at Jamie Oliver’s restaurant sounded like the perfect first night in England.

We arrived in London on June 21st and after checking into our hotel, hopped on the Tube and easily made our dinner reservation. Fifteen’s tasting menu was fantastic, and it was an excellent start to our British food adventure.

Our dinner at Fifteen Restaurant, London

Fifteen Restaurant London, MyLastBite.com
A little Jet-lagged but excited to be at the restaurant!

Fifteen Tasting Menu, MyLastBite.com
The Fifteen Tasting Menu

Cody & Carpaccio at Fifteen London, MyLastBite.com
Peroni Beer (in the UK, you can drink at 18!) and Carpaccio of Buccleuch Beef (hung for 28 days) with minted marinated asparagus, oregano from Jamie’s garden, wild rocket and pecorino.

Scallop Crudo at Fifteen London, MyLastBite.com
Scallop crudo, pomegranate, coriander, deep-fried ginger and yuzu

Pasta at Fifteen London, MyLastBite.com
Papardelle “fatte in casa” with a Scotch beef ragu, freshly grated horseradish

Salmon at Fifteen London, MyLastBite.com
Char-grilled line-caught wild salmon with peperonata, beet leaves and basil pesto

Pete Gott's Pork at Fifteen London, MyLastBite.com
Pan-roasted shoulder of pork from Pete Gott’s farm (cooked in milk, sage and Amalfi lemon) with turnips and rainbow chard from Thurrocks Farm
Panna Cotta at Fifteen London, MyLastBite.com
Vanilla Panna Cotta with English Strawberries and Biscotti

Lemon Tart at Fifteen London, MyLastBite.com
Lemon Tart with Roast Apricots and Lime Creme Fraiche

With my nephew Cody at Fifteen London, MyLastBite.com
A fantastic “Fifteen” dinner experience!

More Fun Eats in London

Wagamama! MyLastBite.com
Wagamama in Camden Town

Wagamama! MyLastBite.com
Chili Beef Ramen (Noodles in spicy pork and chicken broth topped with grilled sirloin steak, fresh chillies, sliced red onions, bean sprouts, coriander, spring onions and a wedge of lime) at Wagamama in Camden Town, London
Wagamama! MyLastBite.com
Cody with Chili Chicken Ramen (Noodles in spicy pork and chicken broth topped with grilled chicken breast, fresh chillies, sliced red onions, bean sprouts, coriander, spring onions and a wedge of lime) at Wagamama in Camden Town, London

The best Sausage Rolls, MyLastBite.com
Killer Sausage Rolls!

Delicious Sausage Rolls, MyLastBite.com
Cheap and delicious breakfast on the go.

Late Night Indian Dinner in London, MyLastBite.com
A Late night Curry! Garlic Naan, Chicken Korma at Connoisseurs Indian Tandoori 8 Norfolk Place, Paddington (near our hotel).

Late Night Indian Dinner in London, MyLastBite.com
Kingfisher Beer and Pappadums at Connoisseurs Indian Tandoori.

We had two days to spend in London before flying up to Glasgow. I had been to London more than a dozen times over the years, so it was easy for me to give Cody a “turbo-charged” sightseeing tour. We did all our travel via the Tube (cabs were too expensive!), including visits to Covent Garden, Piccadilly Circus, Camden Town, Portobello Road and of course the great Food Hall at Harrods.

On our second morning in London we had planned to tour the Tower of London after breakfast. Unfortunately, we decided it would be fun to drink Guinness FOR breakfast and ended up racing through the tour in about ten minutes. But later in the afternoon, we slowed down enough to ride the spectacular London Eye. At over 440 feet, the Eye is the largest ferris wheel in Europe and we had beautiful views of Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace.

Family Dinner Scotland, MyLastBite.comArriving in Scotland was very emotional for me. I hadn’t seen my dad in a few years, and Cody was the first of my sister’s kids to visit their grandfather. I knew it was going to be an unforgettable visit, especially if I could get my dad and his grandson in the kitchen together. Whenever I visited my dad in the past, I would always talk about how Cody loved to cook, and how someday it would be so great to see them cooking together. It was a silly little dream of mine, and I was happy to see it come true.

Our visit to Scotland couldn’t have gone better. We did so much in the week we were there, and the best moments were when we slowed down to enjoy a meal together. Whether it was my dad’s heart-warming comfort food, a Scottish feast at the pub or a deep-fried snack at the chip shop… we definitely got to eat the very best of Scotland!

Blood Pudding! MyLastBite.com
Breakfast in Scotland. My dad made sure Cody tasted everything, including the notorious “Black” (or Blood) Sausage /  Pudding!

Delicious Haggis! MyLastBite.com
Chieftan ‘O’ The Puddin’ Race – Haggis with Bashed Neeps and Champit Tatties (which was absolutely delicious!). At the Huntsman Restaurant, Fox and Hounds South Street, Houston, Scotland

Scottish Salmon, MyLastBite.com
Scottish Salmon is the WORLD’S BEST. At the Huntsman Restaurant, Fox and Hounds South Street, Houston, Scotland

Paul's Chip Shop, MyLastBite.com
Deep-fried Sausage and Chips at Paul’s Chip Shop in Renfrewshire near Bridge of Weir Scotland

Paul's Chip Shop, MyLastBite.com
Deep-fried PIZZA at Paul’s Chip Shop in Renfrewshire near Bridge of Weir Scotland

Paul's Chip Shop, MyLastBite.com
And let us not forget the infamous deep-fried Mars Bar!

Cooking in Scotland, MyLastBite.com
Cody cooking with his grandpa

Let's EAT! MyLastBite.com
Ready to eat (and lovin’ his new found Scottish heritage!)

St. Andrews Golf Course, MyLastBite.com
As a graduation gift, my dad and stepmom treated Cody (who loves to golf) to a day at St. Andrews! In Photo: Greg (my younger brother), Cody, Jo.

Cody's in St. Andrews, MyLastBite.com
Ready to tee off!

Edinburgh Scotland, MyLastBite.com
A wonderful day in Edinburgh (castle in background)

Scotland, MyLastBite.com
6/29/07 Cody and Jo (channeling “Braveheart”), goofing around in my dad’s garden on our last day in Scotland. The entire trip was an amazing food and family fun adventure!

Happy Birthday to my Smokin’ Hot (firefighter-to-be) nephew, Cody!

More photos of Cody & family here

Mentioned Above:

The Twins (Cody’s younger brother and sister)

Bridge of Weir (village where my dad lives)

Fox and Hounds (fantastic traditional Scottish food)

Fifteen Restaurant, London England

The London Eye

Tower of London

Wagamama

Thanksgiving Box of Questions

The Bazaar by José Andrés

“Smokin’ Hot” Written by Jo Stougaard ©MyLastBite.com All Rights Reserved. No usage allowed including copying or sharing without written permission.

7 Comments

Filed under Eating Out, Family Stories, Food Stories (written by me)

Michael Mina – San Francisco

My niece Kindal and nephew Chace recently turned thirteen, which I think is the very first “milestone” birthday that most of us celebrate. At thirteen we’re “cool” teenagers… at sixteen we get to drive (if we’re lucky)… at eighteen we’re “grown-ups” (although I personally disagree with that one!). Turning twenty-one means cocktails, cheap Happy Hour food and getting a real job…. while thirty means we’re done making the stupid mistakes we made in our twenties (hopefully)!

The Twins, MyLastBite.com

To celebrate the twins 13th birthday, I wanted to do something extra special with my sister’s amazing kids. They have never been on an airplane (except on a film set!), so I figured this was the perfect way to celebrate them becoming bona-fide teenagers.

I first thought about a Las Vegas trip. That would work out well for me because of the long list of restaurants I want to try in “Sin City”. Places I’m dying to eat at are Jet Tila’s Wazuzu, the freshly flown in Mediterranean seafood at Bartolotta (both at the Wynn Encore), and the legendary Joel Robuchon at MGM. But the twins had been to Vegas before, during family boating trips to Lake Mead and I wanted this birthday celebration to be a whole, new experience.

San Francisco sounded perfect. It’s a short flight (just over an hour) and we could fly out of Ontario airport (CA) which is near my sister’s house in San Dimas. I started checking flights online and noticed that the airplanes from Ontario to San Francisco were small (30 seat turboprop) commuter planes. For this, the twins first flying experience, I thought it would be better to board a large, roomy jet where they could do a little exploring in flight… meaning strolls to the back to check out the lavatories (remember, as a kid, when that was fun?). However, this route was more expensive (and a bit of a drive for my sister), but I went ahead and reserved flights from Los Angeles to San Francisco on January 24th.

After I cleared the dates with my sister, and got my husband to agree to step away from his computer for two consecutive days, I booked the trip. Even though the twins thought the “gift” was going to be the airplane ride, I wanted to find a restaurant that would provide a wonderful memory for this special occasion. We had one night in San Francisco, and half of the next day for sightseeing. The only two restaurants that popped in my head were Hubert Keller’s “Fleur De Lys” and Michael Mina’s flagship restaurant “Michael Mina”. Both chefs had guest-starred on previous episodes of “Top Chef” (I’m obsessed with the show), so those were my top choices.

I started doing a little research on both restaurants and came across food blogger, KevinEats posting about his visit to Michael Mina in 2007. The pictures were incredible (his photos always make me drool) and after reading a few more recent reviews, I decided on the Michelin Two-Star Michael Mina.

Flights booked… restaurant booked… now on to finding a hotel.

For years, my favorite San Francisco hotel had always been the Miyako hotel (now called Hotel Kabuki), which is located in Japan Town. I used to love the deep, traditional Japanese bathtubs which always made me feel like I was back in Okinawa. In 1982, my sister was crowned “Nisei Week” Queen here in Los Angeles (a big deal in the local Japanese community). Luckily for me, I got to tag along with her to various Japanese events including the Cherry Blossom Festival in San Francisco. Hanging out with the “Queen” was cool. While she was busy with her official duties (being photographed with every business owner in J-Town), I was off (with a chaperone) eating my way through festival food stalls filled with Yakitori, Udon, Mochi and anything else in site. That was the first time I ever stayed at the Miyako hotel and for years after, it was the only choice… until now.

St. Francis Hotel, San FranciscoWhen I read that Michael Mina restaurant is actually located inside the St. Francis hotel, I figured it was a “no brainer” to stay there just in case our incoming flight was delayed, and to also make sure the twins were comfortable. Driving around San Francisco can be a little scary at first, and rushing from hotel to restaurant, a few hours after their first flight experience, didn’t sound like fun at all. The St. Francis seemed the logical choice.

Our flight left LAX at 12:50pm and I had the best time watching Kindal and Chace take in every moment. They listened carefully to every announcement, checked to make sure they each had their own”barf” bag, and actually read the emergency seatback cards. Just a week before our trip, Captain “Sully” had crash-landed on the Hudson River (everyone survived), so we were all a little more sensitive about the flight.

Air travel has always been a huge part of my life, and I admit that I’m STILL excited when I board a plane, because it means I’m “going somewhere” (and hopefully it’s somewhere for fun!). My sister and I had been flying since we were babies, when our dad was based in Okinawa. Those were incredibly long flights from Okinawa to California (with stops in Tokyo and Hawaii) during the Vietnam War. By the time I was three and Janet was six, we had crossed the Pacific Ocean multiple times to visit family in Los Angeles. That’s probably why this flight to San Francisco felt extra special to me, because I was taking my sister’s kids (who I love like my own) on their first official airplane ride.

Thankfully, every step of the trip went as planned. In less than 24 hours the twins had their first flight, their first Michelin star dinner (which was fantastic), a beautiful hotel room, and an incredible tour of Alcatraz.

I wished we could have fit more in on this trip. We didn’t get to North Beach, China Town or my beloved J-Town, but we did exactly what I had hoped for in the first place… we made a whole new batch of unforgettable memories together!

Our Dinner At Michael Mina
All ready for dinner at Michael Mina, MyLastBite.com
Ready for dinner!
Michael Mina Restaurant, MyLastBite.com
There were birthday cards waiting on the table for both Kindal & Chace (from the restaurant). Bottom left (out of focus) is popcorn with shaved truffles. I was happily surprised that the twins loved it!

Trio of Lobster Amuse Bouche at Michael Mina, MyLastBite.com
Trio of Lobster, the Amuse Bouche.

Course One at Michael Mina, MyLastBite.com

Trio of Dungeness Crab at Michael Mina, MyLastBite.com
Trio of Dungeness Crab (my first course): Poached, Butter-Roasted and in Cioppino soup.
Trio of Pork at Michael Mina, MyLastBite.com
Trio of Pork (Peter’s First Course): Terrine with Cornichon Gelee, Pork Belly with Frisee au Lardon and Quail Egg, Bourguignon

Kobe TrioBeef Trio at Michael Mina, MyLastBite.com
The twins both ordered the Kobe (Wagyu) Beef Shabu Shabu in Dashi Broth, with Foie Gras.

Kobe TrioBeef Trio at Michael Mina, MyLastBite.com
They didn’t like the Foie Gras, but I was proud that they both tried it! Peter and I happily ate it for them. The Wagyu Beef Shabu-Shabu pot was a fun start to the evening. They both LOVED the exquisite beef of course!

Course Two at Michael Mina, MyLastBite.com

Seafood Trio at Michael Mina, MyLastBite.com
Peter’s second course: Bouillabaisse “Mina Style” with Barramundi, Scallop & Octopus.

Trio of Duck at Michael Mina, MyLastBite.com
For my second course I had Liberty Duck “Three Ways”: Duck Breast with Parsnip Puree, Seared Foie Gras with Laird Brandy Gastrique, Duck Rillette Croquette with Apple Butter. ALL FANTASTIC.

Beef Trio at Michael Mina, MyLastBite.com
For their second course, the twins each selected Brandt Farm Beef “Three Ways”: Filet, Short Rib and Rib-Eye. I had a bite of the La Ratte Potatoes and they were the creamiest ever.

Beef Trio at Michael Mina, MyLastBite.com
Kindal working her way through the second course… (“hey mom, those Cotillion classes worked!”)

Chace done with Course 2! MyLastBite.com
As you can see, Chace really loves his beef!

Course Three at Michael Mina, MyLastBite.com

Passion Fruit Panna Cotta at Michael Mina, MyLastBite.com
For the third course (dessert) Chace selected Panna Cotta with Passion Fruit, Chocolate & Banana.

Citrus Trio Dessert at Michael Mina, MyLastBite.com
Peter had Meyer Lemon Marmalade, Lime Curd, Grapefruit Gelee and Tarragon Ice Cream.

Cheese Course at Michael Mina, MyLastBite.com
I went for the Cheese Course: Pata de Cabra, Pear Puree, Hazelnuts. Vermont Shepherd, Quince Puree, Marcona Almonds. Persille du Beaujolais, Cocoa nibs, Turbinado Sugar.

Tres Leches Cake at Michael Mina, MyLastBite.com
Kindal had Tres Leches Cake with Guava and Cajeta Ice Cream.

Kindal, Michael Mina, Chace, Sammy Mina at Michael Mina, MyLastBite.com
An extra treat at the end of dinner, was a personal happy birthday wish from the man himself! Chef Michael Mina and his adorable son, Sammy (who was working too!).

Kindal, Jo, Chace  at Michael Mina, MyLastBite.com
A wonderful evening!

Chace, Kindal, Peter after dinner at Michael Mina, MyLastBite.com
Leaving the restaurant… “we have NEVER been so full!”.

After Michael Mina "Food Coma!", MyLastBite.com
Back in the hotel room… “oh… this is what a food coma feels like!”

Room Service Breakfast, MyLastBite.com
Early morning room service to get us up and about!

St. Francis Hotel, MyLastBite.com
Checking out and waiting for our rental car.

Boat to Alcatraz, MyLastBite.com
Windy and COLD boat out to Alcatraz (Golden Gate bridge in background).

Alcatraz, MyLastBite.com
Kindal, Chace, Jo at Alcatraz.

Alcatraz, MyLastBite.com
The Audio Tour was fantastic! Chace, Kindal and Peter

Alcatraz Kitchen, MyLastBite.com
The kitchen at Alcatraz.

Alcatraz, MyLastBite.com
Waiting to catch the boat.

SFO Airport Snack, MyLastBite.com
A little snack at San Francisco Airport!

San Francisco Trip, MyLastBite.com
Flying back to L.A.

Michael Mina Menu, MyLastBite.com

Michael Mina
335 Powell Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
415 397-9222

Note: the Restaurant has a new location

Website

Dining Date: 1/24/09
Three Course Prix Fixe Menu $105 each

Mentioned Above:

KevinEats – Review of Michael Mina

Wazuzu Restaurant (Vegas)

Joel Robuchon Restaurant (Vegas)

Bartolotta Restaurant (Vegas)

St. Francis Hotel

Michael Mina Restaurant

Hotel Kabuki

Nisei Week Queens (My sister: Janet Barnes 1982)

About the Twins

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Filed under Eating Out, Food Stories (written by me)