If you’re searching for breakfast or lunch near San Dimas, check out Twisted Sage Cafe. My Jonathan Gold scouting report for the L.A. Times.
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When I was twenty-two years old, I had the ridiculous pleasure of living in the Caribbean for a few months. It was 1986 and my then-boyfriend Perry (a newly licensed pilot) scored a winter job flying for Air St. Thomas / Virgin Air (no connection to Sir Richard Branson). The small island-hopping airline was based in the U.S. Virgin Islands on St. Thomas, so we made our home above the hills in the capital city of Charlotte Amalie.
Always a photo buff, I spent most of my time photographing and getting to know the island. I loved pretending to be a “local” for those few months, and on Perry’s days off we would rent a small boat and head to the nearby British Virgin Islands.
Our favorite spot was Sidney’s Peace and Love in Jost Van Dyke Island’s Little Harbor, just 7 miles northeast of St. Thomas. Once docked, I would pick out a live lobster from a trap near the shore and the cook would grill it on the spot. Perry always ordered barbecue chicken (he didn’t like seafood) and we BOTH drank heaps of rum at the attached open-air bar. It was “serve yourself” at Sidney’s, and also “total the bill” yourself if you weren’t too drunk. An honor system that you just didn’t mess with in the Caribbean.
My favorite shop on St. Thomas was called Sunny Caribbee, where I picked up island spices, oils and trinkets for the kitchen. There was an elementary school nearby and I loved listening to the students pounding on steel drums in the afternoons.
We left the Caribbean when Perry was offered a job with United Express, the commuter division of United Airlines. He now lives with his wife and kids near San Diego. (More about Perry here)
Walking into Roy Choi’s Sunny Spot for the first time made me smile from ear to ear. I flashed back to 1986 and was suddenly transported to my carefree, twenty-two year old, vagabond self.
After several visits (including dinner and brunch) I still get that happy feeling when I walk in the door. It’s a mini-holiday, a few hours of vacation. A delicious and less expensive trip to the sunny Caribbean, that’s for sure.
Left: Fleur-De-Lis: Gin, Hibiscus, Honey, Chartreuse, Lemon
Middle: Death in the D.R.: Dominican Rum, Lime, Honey, Absinthe, Champagne
Right: Dry Harbour: Pot Still Rum, Lime, Absinthe, Habanero Pineapple Shrub
822 Washington Blvd
Marina Del Rey, CA 90292
Steak, Guinness and Cheese Pie with a Puff Pastry Lid
If you’re searching for a St. Patrick’s Day supper recipe (or a hearty meal to warm your spirits), this is a delicious alternative to the traditional pot of corned beef and cabbage, especially if you’re a “meat pie” lover like me.
The recipe is from Jamie Oliver’s terrific cookbook “Jamie at Home”, which coincides with his show on Food Network. The episode with this recipe is called “Pastry”, in case you haven’t seen it yet.
This dish is now a St. Paddy’s Day tradition in our house, and it’s always a hit with friends and family.
My changes to the original recipe are noted in orange.
3 medium red onions, peeled and chopped
3 cloves of garlic peeled and chopped
1 oz butter plus extra for greasing
2 carrots peeled and chopped
2 sticks of celery trimmed and chopped
4 field mushrooms peeled and sliced
2 1/2 pound brisket or stewing beef cut in to 1 inch cubes
a few sprigs of rosemary, leaves picked and chopped
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 can of Guinness beer
(Instead I used 2 bottles ofGuinness Draught, 11.2 oz size bottles)
2 heaped tablespoons of flour
7 oz freshly grated cheddar cheese
2 sheets of ready made good quality all butter puff pastry
1 large organic free range egg, beaten
(I also added 1 chopped Jalapeno for heat)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
In a large ovenproof pan, heat a glug of olive oil on a low heat. Add the onions and fry them gently for about ten minutes – try not to color them too much.
Turn up the heat add the garlic, butter, carrots, celery, jalapenos and scatter in the mushrooms. Mix everything together before stirring in the beef, rosemary, a pinch of slat and a level teaspoon of pepper.
Fry fast for 3 or 4 minutes, then pour in one bottle of Guinness, stir in the flour and add just enough water to cover. Bring to a simmer, cover the pan with a lid and place in the preheated oven for about one (1) and 1/2 hours.
Remove the pan from the oven and give the stew a stir. Put it back in to the oven and continue to cook it for another hour or until the meat is very tender and the stew is rich dark and thick. (I added another half bottle of Guinness at this point).
Jamie notes: “A perfect pie filling needs to be robust, so if it’s still quite liquidy, place the pan on the hob (stove top) and reduce until the sauce thickens.”
Remove it from the heat and stir in half of the cheese, then season carefully and leave it to cool slightly.
Cut about a third of the pastry from the block. Dust a clean work surface with flour and roll both pieces of pastry out evenly with a floured rolling pin to the thickness of a pound coin.
Butter an appropriately sized pie dish then line with the larger sheet, leaving the edges dangling over the sides.
Tip (pour or spoon) the stew into your pastry lined dish and even it out before sprinkling the remaining cheese over it.
Brush the edges of the pastry with a little beaten egg.
Cut the other rolled sheet of pastry to fit the top of the pie dish and criss-cross lightly with a sharp knife. Place it over the top of the pie and fold the overhanging pastry on to the pastry lid to make it look nice and rustic.
Brush the top with beaten egg then bake the pie directly on the bottom of the oven for 45 minutes until the pastry is cooked puffed and golden.
Serves 4 to 6
Jamie Oliver’s Official Website
“Jamie at Home” on Food Network
If you have the U.K. version of the book “Jamie Oliver at Home”, it’s on page 342.
I use this Gram Conversion Calculator
Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry
Originally posted Mar 13, 2009
I loved watching the recent “Street Food Special” episode of “No Reservations”. It brought together my very favorite Anthony Bourdain clips; the scenes when he’s out and about eating “real food” with the locals, and also recapped Tony-visits to Singapore hawker (food) centers. It really made me wish we had something similar here in Los Angeles.
As Bourdain so eloquently stated: “Whereas in America the food court is the nexus of all things generic and awful, in Singapore these open-to-the-street food centers, coffee shops and hawker centers offer a near limitless variety of Malay, Chinese and Indian dishes”.
In a 1991 LA Times piece, my favorite food writer Jonathan Gold wrote: “The closest thing to a hawker center in Los Angeles is, of course, the Grand Central Market downtown… Among the fruit stalls and the poultry stands, there are 10-odd places where a hungry person can get something to eat”. I haven’t been there in years, and look forward to rediscovering the Grand Central Market again soon, but still it’s not exactly what Bourdain calls, “a ONE chef, ONE dish vast food court”.
It’s true that our multicultural city is filled with delicious strip-mall eats, and I personally plan to spend more time searching them out (hint to my foodie pals). But the large food courts I’ve been to (at various local shopping malls) would never be a destination dining trek of sorts. Well, except for “Hotdog-On-A-Stick”. I’m a sucker for any type of food on a stick.
Susan Feniger’s Street Food
When I first read about Chef Feniger’s new restaurant, I envisioned it to be a sort of miniature hawker center. An enclosed space filled with individual street carts from the around the world. In my mind, I even imagined individual cooks (in traditional attire) selling the dishes at these tiny indoor food stalls. I don’t know WHERE I came up with these ideas, but reading Jonathan Gold’s description in LA Weekly certainly added to my fantasy:
“Street is a virtual museum of world street food, snacks and savories from every part of Asia — Korean-style mung bean pancakes studded with bits of anise-braised pork belly; hollow, potato-stuffed Indian ping-pong balls called paani puri, moistened with a bit of spicy broth; a juniper-laced salad of roasted beets and crumbled walnuts; even a take on the classic Singaporean breakfast dish of toast with coconut-jam kaya and a runny egg. There are dense dal fritters, a delicious version of the do-it-yourself Thai bundles of roasted coconut, bird chiles, peanuts, tamarind jam and minced lime, among other things, sensibly wrapped in bits of collard instead of the traditional betel leaf.”
So no, Susan Feniger’s Street is not the culinary “It’s A Small World” experience that I fantasized about, but it is a wonderful, exciting (and fun!) restaurant that brings my dream just a little bit closer.
What we ate:
My FAVORITE bite: Kaya Toast, a uniquely Singapore experience; toasted bread spread thick with coconut jam; served with a soft poached egg drizzled in dark soy and white pepper (link to recipe below!)
Top Photo: Vietnamese Corn – wok cooked medley of fresh corn, spring onion with glazed pork belly.
Bottom: Saag paneer with Kokum Dal and Rice Plate – A South Indian spinach dish stewed with homemade paneer cheese, tomato and spices; served with dried plum dal and yogurt rice.
Susan Feniger’s Street [CLOSED]
742 N. Highland
Los Angeles, CA 90038
Dining Date: 5/30/09
with Peter, Julian & Wendy
More about Singapore Hawker Centers
Kaya Toast Recipe via LA Times
Jonathan Gold’s LA Weekly Street Article
Jonathan Gold’s L.A. Times Food Stall Article
Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations Official Site
Seriously, I’m a twit for not posting all week! Even though I have at least twenty stories (including many restaurant visits) to share.
After downloading Tweetdeck (for free) and realizing I could actually organize my Twitter subscriptions (aka friends), I decided to search out and “add” as many tweople (twitter people) as I could in one week. I didn’t want to add just anyone, but instead wanted to take the time to search out twitterers with common interests.
Using Tweetdeck, I can now organize the people I’m following into various groups such as: restaurants, L.A. restaurants, chefs, food writers, home cooks, music, publishing, travel, krav maga, entertainment and friends.
I currently follow 1288 people on Twitter and plan to keep on adding more, but will get back to the writing first. If you’re on Twitter and haven’t tried Tweetdeck yet, it will make your experience so much better and definitely more organized.
After multiple visits to the Bazaar (this being number eleven), Peter and I get most excited when we’re bringing in “Bazaar Virgins” (first timers) to the restaurant. It’s even more fun when they’re big time foodies like our friends Ron and Diane. Thanks to the wonderful staff (William, Felix, Alison, Audra!), we were seated at my favorite table in the Rojo room, with a direct view of the open kitchen.
It’s always a delight when Amanda rolls up to our table with the liquid nitrogen cart (or caviar or cotton candy). And I love when servers that aren’t even working our table (Calvin and Hugh) stop by for a quick hello. I’ve had several people ask me why I keep returning to the Bazaar, when there are so many other places to try, and honestly… besides the incredible food and fun atmosphere, it’s because they make me (and my “virgins”) feel perfectly welcome on each and every visit.
THANK YOU to everyone at Bazaar and SLS!
The Bazaar by José Andrés, SLS Hotel
465 South La Cienega Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 9004
Dining date: 4/26/09
Dining in the new Saam restaurant makes you feel special. It’s located behind a secured, nondescript door near Bar Centro, at the Bazaar by José Andrés. Each of the twenty courses (one or two bites each) are brought out on individual plates, while you sit at one of the exclusive, coveted tables. To me, it feels like a sleek and sexy modern-day speakeasy.
The service? Impeccable. I haven’t been to Alinea yet, but I’m guessing the experience is close, or at least as close as we’re going to get here in Los Angeles! It’s like flying first class, where you’re treated like a celebrity and you know it. Especially true for an early dinner on opening weekend. We were one of the first to be seated for the Saturday evening service, and at times there were four staff members looking after the two of us.
The food? It was my ninth visit to the Bazaar and I knew the menu backwards and forwards, so I was pleasantly surprised to find each dish “kicked up a notch”, and thrilled to try a few new bites as well. I found myself mouthing “wow” to my husband Peter, especially when we were served updated versions of dishes we tried on previous visits.
“Saam: The Chef’s Tasting Menu” is printed on top of each take-home menu (rolled up and tied with a little black ribbon), a great souvenir to remember an elegant evening. But throughout our wonderful dinner, I couldn’t help but feel there was something missing. The food was the best I’d ever had at the Bazaar, so that wasn’t it. Our server Charlie was attentive, engaging and throughly knowledgeable. Carolina was nearby in case we had any needs or questions as well. Managers William and Felix stopped by to ensure that we (and later, each and every table) were enjoying the evening, but my dinner still felt incomplete. Why?
Because “Saam: The Chef’s Tasting Room” was missing the one thing I love most about the Bazaar (besides the food), it was missing the chefs.
My favorite tables at the Bazaar are one of the two “Tron” tables in the Rojo room. They’re not officially called “Tron” tables… that’s just what we call them because they have cool laser-like red lights beneath the surface. The few times I’ve been lucky enough to have a seat facing the open kitchen was at one of the these tables. I loved watching Chef Voltaggio warm up the “smoking” gun to finish off the salmon dishes. And as a fan of the show “Top Chef”, could there be anything better than seeing Chef Marcel Vigneron working the foam? By the way, I think the show portrayed him as an arrogant nitwit, because in person he’s a real sweetheart.
After we finished our evening at Saam, we made our way to the Rojo kitchen where the kitchen staff was in full swing. It was busy, crowded and the room was filled with the frenetic energy that I missed. It sort of felt like I had been at the wrong party earlier.
Do I recommend Saam? Absolutely. Especially if it’s your first visit to the Bazaar. It’s quieter and more focused than either the Rojo or the Blanca room, and you’ll be carefully guided through a palate pleasing, high-flying experience. Heck, it’s not that I don’t like flying first class (the few times I’ve experienced it), it’s just that I like watching the crew even better.
Tasting Menu is $120 per person.
Course #4: Olive Oil Bonbon This was such a treat!! I first saw this being made on “Gourmet’s Diary of a Foodie” by Chef Andrés and his Minibar Chefs: Ruben Garcia and Katsuya Fukushima. It’s like a candy shell filled with olive oil. Into your mouth and it crumbles. SO AMAZING.
Course #8: Jose’s Ham and Cheese. I LOVED the Jamón Ibérico with the soft La Serena cheese inside the “air bread”. This was one of the “kicked up” dish updates, similar to “Philly Cheesesteak”. La Serena is a creamy, aromatic (aka really stinky which I love!) cheese from Extremadura in Western Spain.
Course #17: Tournedos Rossinii 2009. Wagyu beef, truffle and foie gras. MORE PLEASE!
Course #18: Dragon’s Breath (caramel popcorn “cooked” in liquid nitrogen). Currently only served in the Saam room, we’ve enjoyed it several times before. It’s FUN!
465 South La Cienega Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 9004
Watch the episode with the Olive Oil Bonbon!
In the kitchen with the chefs
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
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
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.
Cook 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.
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.
Horiatiki Salata: Recipe for Greek Country Salad
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.