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The Fairest Food of All

by Jo Stougaard

I hate dieting. I hate it especially because I love writing about food. Trying NOT to think about food makes me depressed and cranky. Dieting means I can’t eat out at the newest brasserie. Dieting means I can’t make pork belly in my gorgeous Le Creuset braising pan. Dieting means I can’t watch José Andrés eat his way around Spain. It also means I can’t fantasize about sharing salmon tartare coronets with Bourdain and Ripert at the French Laundry. And most importantly, dieting means I can’t talk or write about my favorite foods… which for me equals NO LIFE.

Thankfully, I officially gave up dieting a couple of years ago and decided just to work out more everyday. I know…Duh. With my three dogs it’s easy to get in extra runs each day…. especially living in sunny Los Angeles.

If I have a really big food night planned (a new restaurant or food event) then I’ll cut out carbs for a few days, but that’s it. No regular restrictions on any of the things that bring me so much happiness. The days of morning after guilt and self-loathing are gone. It’s all about joy now. It took most of my adult life to get here, but at least I’m HERE. 

Fried Food Heaven by MyLastBite.com

Last month my sister invited me to go to the L.A. County Fair with her kids. I hadn’t been to a county fair in years and wasn’t interested… until I remembered all the scrumptious fried foods. Having been a relentless dieter for the past TWENTY years, I would have felt guilty and shameful even stepping near a junk food carnival stand in the past. But this was a whole new fried freak show experience!

Fried Food Heaven by MyLastBite.comWe arrived at the fairgrounds around sunset, just in time for dinner. With my niece and nephew in tow (twins, ages 12), we made our way through the late summer crowds and headed straight for the infamous Chicken Charlie’s. We stood there a little dazed under the huge neon signs. So many choices… too many choices! I was so excited my heart was racing. There were Deep Fried Poptarts, Deep Fried Cheese Ravioli, Deep Fried White Castle Cheeseburgers, Deep Fried Frog Legs, Deep Fried Twinkies, Onion Strings, Zucchini, Avocados and more.

Since only the three of us would actually be eating the delightfully greasy entrees, we settled on just four plates. Deep Fried Spam, Deep Fried Poptart, Deep Fried Oreo and my personal favorite, the Fried Food Heaven by MyLastBite.comDeep Fried White Castle Cheeseburger. The WHOLE burger, battered and fried. It was SO good! I’m a huge fan of SPAM and thought that would be my favorite, but I was all about the cheeseburger. My niece Kindal loved the fried Poptart the best and nephew Chace devoured the fried Oreos.

The next morning I woke up feeling a little bloated, a little gassy and not really in the mood to lace up my running shoes. But I did. I took my dogs for a morning run and then ran again in the afternoon. No lingering guilt about the THOUSANDS of calories I consumed the night before. Just a cheerful feeling, remembering a fun evening with my family. Which is what going to the fair is all about right?

Fried Food Heaven by MyLastBite.com





 Chace & Kindal


Deep Fried Poptart by MyLastBite.com  Deep Fried Poptart

Deep Fried Spam by MyLastBite.com  Deep Fried Spam   

 Deep Fried Oreo Cookies by MyLastBite.com Deep Fried Oreo Cookies

Fair Visit: 9/17/08

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MAX Restaurant (now closed)

Note: Max Restaurant in Sherman Oaks is now CLOSED.

 

Max, Shrimp Firecracker by MyLastBite.com

Max Angus Burger by MyLastBite.com

Above dining date 9/25/08

9/28/08: We returned with Ron, Diane, Jade & Cody. Started with the Steamed Pork Buns (filled with scrumptious Pork Belly, Pickles and Kimchee)… AWESOME! A must order for our next visit. Cody had the Beef Shortribs- Two Ways, Jade had the Seared Ahi, Ron had the Hangar Steak (so did Peter), Diane and I each had the Angus Burger. Really fantastic meal.

Max Restaurant
13355 Ventura Blvd. Sherman Oaks, CA 91423 (818) 784-2915

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Dreams do come true…

Jose Andres and Jo Stougaard MyLastBite.com

with the fabulous José Andrés at the American Wine and Food Festival
Note: His new L.A. restaurant is slated to open before the end of the year.
“The Bazaar by José Andrés is a modern-day indoor piazza where guests and locals alike can enjoy pioneering culinary creations and intricately-concocted libations throughout several spaces: Bar Centro, Blanco, Rojo and the Pâtisserie.” More about José Andrés

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Filed under Food Events (festivals, classes, etc.), Little Bites

The Paris I Never Knew

By Jo Stougaard

From my Travel Journal: 11 September, 1989 – Paris, France.

“I’m staying at a youth hostel near the Faidherbe Chaligny metro station. It’s clean and filled with budget travelers, but very much like sixth grade camp! Co-ed bathrooms (with no walls separating the toilets) are quite a Jo in France Sep 1989laugh. There are four bunkbeds in my assigned room and since we are all complete strangers, each of us (nonchalantly) carry our precious belongs with us at all times, even to the toilet. Such a change from my London accommodations.

Earlier today I made my way to the American Express office near the Arc de Triomphe. Perry was supposed to wire me $500 but it hasn’t arrived yet. I can’t believe I am in Paris and running out of money. Even worse, I can’t believe I stole a piece of cheese today at the hostel cafeteria. It was an oozy Brie… and it tasted SO GOOD.”

12 September, 1989 – Paris, France.
“I met up with Leslie last night and I’m staying with her at the ‘Hotel des Grands Boulevards’ on Rue Gustave Goublier. Not much better than the hostel actually. Our room is at the end of the hall and built on a slanted floor. We have to get a running start just to jump on the high bed! The Moroccan owners (brothers) are nice but just a little bit creepy. They insisted we have dinner with them in exchange for keeping the hotel front door unlocked after midnight. Ahh… someday I will return to Paris when I’m not on such a tight budget!”

Train from Paris to Nice Sep 1989The next day I picked up my precious $500 at AmEx and took the night train to Nice. The South of France was a totally different experience of course because I had a lovely little hotel room and money for real food! In the evenings I met up with friends for dinner, and lazily slept on the pebble beaches during the day.

I’m sad to say I’ve never been back to Paris. Even sadder… I never had a decent meal in Paris! In the South of France, yes. Paris no. Tokyo, New York, London, Edinburgh, Florence, Frankfurt, Turkey, The Greek Islands, East Africa and the Arctic yes. Paris no.
Jo in France Sep 1989

So thank goodness for the recent French Brasserie/Bistro craze in Los Angeles! Someday I’ll visit France again but I want to make sure I can afford to eat at all the bistros, brasseries and boulangeries! With the U.S. dollar so weak, it may be awhile before I make the trip. For now, I’m grateful I get to experience some of the tastes and ambience of the Paris I never knew… right here at home.

Let’s start with…

Comme Ça

I love the cheese program at Comme Ça! Walk in and look to the right. They have an amazing cheese station. My husband, Peter, and I love to go for drinks and just gorge ourselves on stinky cheeses. Époisse, Livarot, Tete de Moine and Cabrales are favorites.

The first night we ate a full dinner at Comme Ça was on 12/19/07. The brasserie was still pretty new and Chef David Myers was on hand to watch over everything. I like his energy. His relaxed surfer vibe instantly makes you feel at home. Oh and he’s super cute too.

We ordered “El Diablo” Cocktails (tequila, ginger, lime, soda), Roasted Beef Marrow with Oxtail Jam, Glazed Sweetbreads, Steak Frites & the Cheese plate for dessert. Everything was wonderful but our favorite was definitely the Marrow. After a couple of cocktails, it felt like we were in Paris and I loved the noisy, bustling atmosphere.

Dining at Comme Ça with a larger group (of nine) was even more fun. Our friend Andrew’s family was visiting from Comme Ça 2/19/08North Dakota to celebrate his 21st, and they wanted to try something “L.A. and Fun”.

Peter and I ordered the Beef Marrow and Oxtail Jam of course. It is just so CREAMY and salty. My mouth is watering right now. We pretty much shared everything else that was ordered: Duck Confit, Beef Bourguignon, Veal Shank, Steak Frites, and for dessert an amazing Brioche Pudding and a Cheese Plate.

Chef David Myers & Jo

Before the evening was over, Chef Myers came to our table to chat. Oh… did I mention he’s super cute?



http://www.CommeCaRestaurant.com
8479 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood, CA 90069 (323) 782-1104
Photo of Main Dining Room

Foxtail

Being “Top Chef” fans (on BravoTV), in March we just had to check out Foxtail and taste the food or our local girl, Chef Antonia Lofaso, before the final episode aired. She didn’t win the competition, but was a favorite to watch and ended up in the “final three”. The restaurant decor is sort of “out there”. Kind of “Studio 54” with bright art deco lights. I half expected to see Andy Warhol in a corner seat. The food was opposite of the atmosphere. Classic simple, tasty bistro fare.

Our Dinner At Foxtail:

Oysters at Foxtail

Oysters on the Half Shell

Croque Monsieur at Foxtail

Croque Monsier

Steak Frites at Foxtail

Steak Frites

Berry Cobbler at Foxtail

Berry Cobbler

Chocolate Bread Pudding at Foxtail

Chocolate Bread Pudding

http://sbe.com/foxtail
9077 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood, ca 90069 310-859-8369


The Foundry on Melrose

The L.A. Times Restaurant Guide describes The Foundry as a “modern bistro”. The food seemed pretty classic, so I wasn’t sure what they meant by that. It’s a little loud inside with cool, crazy jazz playing throughout the space. A great place to meet up with friends and enjoy cocktails and dinner… in the patio area if you want to talk! We ate there with Diane & Ron back in May. Chef Eric Greenspan had recently won the “Grilled Cheese Invitational”. His Short Rib and Tallegio Grilled Cheese w/Apricot Caper Puree won first place in the “Kama Sutra Sammich” category (any kind of bread, any kind of butter, and any kind of cheese, plus additional ingredients). The large tacky trophy was on display above the bar. It was totally out of place and felt just right! My favorite was the Grilled Cheese and of course, the Pork Belly.

Our Dinner At The Foundry:

Beet & Goat Cheese Salad, the Foundry

Beet & Goat Cheese Salad

Grilled Cheese w/ Tallegio, the Foundry

The Award Winning Grilled Cheese!

Pork Belly, the Foundry

Pork Belly

Halibut & Ramps, the Foundry

Halibut with Ramps

Hangar Steak & Braised Shortribs, the Foundry

Hanger Steak & Braised Shortribs

BLT – Bistro Laurent Tourondel

In June we had dinner at BLT with good friends Marty and Kathy. I had read about the “amazing” popovers, but thought “seriously… how good can they be”. UM.. pretty damn good! They were crispy on top, pulled apart easily, steamy and airy inside and came with a small recipe card.

It turned out that Marty was a regular at BLT, so the sommelier spent extra time with us making sure we (especially Marty) were well cared for throughout the evening. Before dinner, Peter and I had a drink in the bar and nibbled on the nondescript looking popcorn on the counter. It was fantastic…. tart, salty and spicy.

My two favorite dishes were the appetizer of Artisanal Slab Bacon (of course) and the Onion Rings. The steak was fantastic, perfectly fine… but I’ve had plenty of fantastic steak in Los Angeles (my favorite steak is at Mastro’s served up with lobster mashed potatoes). But still, I did enjoy the steak here and totally recommend the slab bacon, onion rings, and the addictive popcorn at the bar!

BLT KILLER Popovers, MyLastBite.com

Killer Popovers!

BLT Popover Recipe, MyLastBite.com

Popover recipe (included)

BLT Slab Bacon, MyLastBite.com

Amazing slab bacon!

BLT OnionRings, MyLastBite.com

Crispy and light onion rings

BLT Steak, MyLastBite.com

BLT Steak!

BLT Doughnuts, MyLastBite.com

 

Cinnamon Doughnuts, Blueberry Compote & Lemon Verbena Ice Cream

http://www.bltrestaurants.com
8720 W Sunset Blvd. West Hollywood, CA 90069 (310) 360-1950

 

Anisette

This brasserie is so lovely. The high ceilings and white glazed tiles make the room look so “clean”. The bar wall is massive, and I’d hate to be sitting there during a quake since the bottles are displayed all the way to the ceiling, secured only with a thin strip of metal. It looks impressive though, and that’s the point. Peter and I went with friends two weekends in a row. First with Jeffrey and Rina. Then again the next weekend with Paddy and Clara. Chef Alain Giraud came to our table a few times on our first visit. He was very gracious and made sure we were enjoying our meal. On our two visits, there were two repeat orders that we had to have both times. The Foie Gras and the Beef Cheeks. We’ll be back again soon.

What we ate at Anisette Brasserie:

Foie Gras with Figs on Brioche

Anisette Brasserie

Scallops with Fennel in a Basil Sauce

Anisette Brasserie

Provencal Beef Daube (aka Beef Cheeks),
with Glazed Root Vegetables & Creamy Mashed Potatoes

Anisette Brasserie

Steak Frites with Bearnaise Sauce

Anisette Brasserie

Vacherin Glace (Lavender Ice Cream and Perfect Summer Strawberries)

www.AnisetteBrasserie.com
225 Santa Monica Blvd Santa Monica, CA 90407, (310) 395-3200

Updated 10/12/08

Cafe Was 

Pork…. the other white meat. If you enjoy tubed meats as much as I do, then you’ll surely love the Boudin Blanc at Cafe Wa s. Chef Alex Reznik’s plump pork sausage was for me the perfect comfort food. Each bite topped with a dollop of velvety potato purée, with kale and tart red grapes on the side. My husband Peter had the Daube de Bœuf (red wine braised pot-roast) and it was delicious, but this morning I woke up craving a full English breakfast… banger sausages, fried eggs, grilled mushrooms, tomatoes and beans on toast. That’s what Peter and I have every year on Christmas morning. It’s our yearly special celebration breakfast feast. The Boudin Blanc last night tasted like Christmas morning!

Our evening at Cafe Wa s definitely felt special… like Baz Luhrmann and his production designer wife Catherine actually created the whimsical “ooh lala” Moulin Rouge decor. The revolving piano… the staircase to nowhere… and of course the Absinthe bar… bring on the green fairies!

We went with our good friends Tomy, Lacy, Dean & Steph. Our table was directly next to the wonderful (and slowly spinning) piano player. It really made us feel like we were part of something special. Owner Ivan Kane dropped by several times to check on us (he is a friend of Tomy & Lacy), and I noticed that he really made an effort to greet EVERYONE… not just his friends. A very gracious host indeed.

What we all shared: Blinis aux Saumon Fumé (scottish salmon / crème fraiche) $5. Médaillon de Crabe Napoleon (lump crab / heirloom tomatoes / avocado) $15. Pâté de Campagne (country-style paté / cornishons / radishes) $13. Escargots (garlic confit / european butter / pernod) $14. Betterave (roasted beets / goat cheese / arugula / lemon oil) $11. Boudin Blanc (pork sausage / potato purée / red grapes / white kale) $18. Daube de Bœuf (red wine braised pot-roast / potato / red wine jus) $24. Gratin de Macaroni (mac ‘n cheese) $6. Pot de Crème (langues de chat / cardamom banana brulé) $8.

I didn’t take many photos because there are BEAUTIFUL shots of each dish (and of the restaurant) on the official Cafe Wa s website. Food Photos here and Interior photos here

Boudin Blanc at Cafe Was by MyLastBite.com Boudin Blanc

Crab Napoleon at Cafe Was by MyLastBite.com Crab & Tomato Napoleon

Cafe Wa s Address: 1521 N. Vine St. in Hollywood (just north of sunset)
Hollywood, CA 90028 (323) 466-5400  
http://CafeWas.com/

Note: Boudin is the French term for the blood sausage, or ‘pudding’, made with the blood of the pig. Boudin blanc is a white sausage made with pork but no blood. Boudin Noir A dark-hued French blood sausage.


For what I think is the BEST Classic French Fine Dining Establishment
(not a bistro or brasserie) in Los Angeles,
click here

I hope this post helps you find your own little bit of Paris, right here in Los Angeles.

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Animal [1]

It’s not all about bacon at ANIMAL Restaurant. Before the first of my many, many visits, I read a review that noted there was “too much” bacon on the menu. Of course that made me want to go ASAP, but in reality the restaurant is more about being adventurous… as chefs and as an eater.

Two of my favorite dishes were actually bacon-free. The Raw Amberjack and the Foie Gras with Strawberry & Grits (pics below). But there were plenty of pork accented plates that made me think I had died and gone to bacon heaven. Especially the Bacon Chocolate Crunch Bar dessert!

That very first dinner at ANIMAL (Aug 29th) was so good, that my husband Peter and I ate there again the next evening. The servers (Jeff on Friday night… Victor & Arlene on Saturday) were convivial and very helpful.

Chef Jon Shook stopped by our table a few times to chat and to recommend dishes. Chef Vinny Dotolo never left the busy kitchen but I blame that on our table… we just could not stop indulging ourselves and had to taste everything we could.

Simply put, the food at ANIMAL is fearless, delicious and full of passion. See you there soon!

Raw Amberjack, Nectarines, Orange, Mint and Serrano Chili, MyLastBite.com
Raw Amberjack, Nectarines, Orange, Mint and Serrano Chili $14

Crispy Squash Blossoms, MyLastBite.com
Crispy Squash Blossoms $14

Softshell Crab, Kimchi, Pork Belly, Chili Soy, MyLastBite.com
Softshell Crab, Kimchi, Pork Belly, Chili Soy $20

Pork Ribs, Balsamic, Heirloom Tomato, Rocket and Bread Salad, MyLastBite.com
Pork Ribs, Balsamic, Heirloom Tomato, Rocket and Bread Salad $15

Bacon Chocolate Crunch Bar with Creme’ Anglaise, MyLastBite.com
Bacon Chocolate Crunch Bar with Creme’ Anglaise $8

Foie Gras, Strawberry, Hasty Pudding, MyLastBite.com
Foie Gras, Strawberry, Hasty Pudding (old school grits) $20

Wine: We love the Joel Gott Zinfandel wine that we first tried at Animal. More info here

Dining Date 8/29/08

– > Animal Visit 2

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

Animal on Urbanspoon

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The Key to Red Meat

By Jo Stougaard

I love SPAM.

There… I said it. The salty, mystery meat has been an absolute favorite my entire life.

With my big sister Janet, MyLastBite.comFrom 1964 to 1972 I lived in Okinawa, Japan during the Vietnam War, and our family struggled through the usual war food rationing. We rarely had fresh meat unless we were visiting our Obachan (grandma) in her village. She slaughtered pigs in the same area as she bathed us, which was out back behind her kitchen. Obviously this should have made me uncomfortable eating pork, but it didn’t.

Back at our home near the Navy base, my older sister Janet did a lot of the evening cooking since both our parents worked nights. I used to jump for joy when she would pop off the key from a can of “red meat” (as I called it). I would wait impatiently as she would slowly wind the sharp metal around and around… as gelatinous SPAM juices would squeeze over the top and onto her little fingers.

Sugar cane in the backyard, MyLastBite.comJanet usually fried up thin slices and served them with white sticky rice. Our house was next to a beautiful sugar cane field, and dad had built a little picnic table and chair near the edge of our property. I remember being so happy with my bowl of “red meat” and rice, listening to the workers chopping the cane in the distance. Sometimes, before it got too dark, Janet and I would jump the small concrete fence and steal a sugar cane or two. We would laugh as the workers chased us with their machetes! Out of breath we’d hide in our garden shed and hurriedly slice the ends of the cane, chewing and sucking out the sweetness.

Dinner time wasn’t always so perfect. I remember one evening when Janet wasn’t home and I was left alone. I tried to open a can of SPAM by myself but the little key BROKE. There was nothing to grab the little “starter” tin ribbon. I remember smashing the can against the edge of the kitchen counter, but only the juices escaped. My fingers were cut from the sharp edges. Thank goodness we had our friend Chef Boyardee in the cupboard that night.

Throughout my adulthood, when I felt a little blue or wanted to recall those days in Okinawa… I would simply go to the market and grab a can of SPAM. Not the “light” or low sodium version. It has to be original “classic” SPAM. The problem with this was that I would eat the entire can of SPAM in one or two sittings. I mean heck, it’s opened in front of me (no more darn key!). It’s crispy, greasy and just so tasty!

So along with my Okinawa memories of Moon Beach, Naha and Koza Village, I would also become flush with a sort of sodium overdose, burning eyes and severe bloating. As I got older, of course, I cut back on my beloved SPAM. Maybe eating it once a year, usually with my sister’s kids on a special occasion.

Spam Single!Then a few weeks ago, as I walked up the canned meat aisle…. I stopped dead in my tracks. There next to my beloved cans of classic SPAM were individual portions of my favorite mystery meat! Bless you Hormel for embracing moderation in your packaging! One easy open pouch of a “SPAM Single” has a 3 oz. slice (instead of the 12 oz. can). Just zip off the top and toss into a hot frying pan.

The single portion is just enough for me to savor my childhood… without bloating until my eyes burn.

So is the key to red meat the key to my happiness?

Whatever brings you joy, don’t you think?

==============

My Recipe for Spam Baked Pasta (It’s a family favorite and the kids love it!)

Ingredients:

1 can of Spam, sliced into thin pieces and fried

1 lb of pasta cooked (in unsalted water) and drained

5 tablespoons butter

4 tablespoons flour

3 cups milk

2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 cup mayonnaise

2 cups grated cheddar cheese

1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese

1 cup chopped red onion

1 teaspoon each hot red pepper sauce, Worcestershire sauce, nutmeg, pepper

Instructions:

Spam

Slice spam and grill or fry until browned.

Bechamel Sauce
5 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
3 cups milk
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

In a medium saucepan, heat butter until melted.

Add flour and stir until smooth.

Over medium heat, cook until light golden brown, about 6 to 7 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat milk in separate pan until just about to boil.

Add milk to butter mixture 1 cup at a time, whisking continuously until very smooth and bring to a boil.

Cook 10 minutes and remove from heat.

Stir in Parmesan cheese.

Season with salt and nutmeg and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Mayo Onion Sauce

1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 cups grated cheddar cheese
1 cup chopped red onion
1 teaspoon each hot red pepper sauce, Worcestershire sauce, nutmeg, pepper
Mix all ingredients together and place in a pie plate or any baking dish.

Bake until golden brown on top, approximately 30 minutes.

Lower heat to 250

Mix Mayo Sauce with Bechamel sauce and add spam & pasta.

Bake in oven to warm through, then add cheese to top and broil top for a few minutes.


Okinawa – The Island of Pork

http://www.spam.com

http://www.okinawa.com

“The Key to Red Meat.” Written by Jo Stougaard ©MyLastBite.com All Rights Reserved. No usage allowed including copying or sharing without written permission.

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Anisette Brasserie (now closed)

Anisette brasserie is so lovely. The high ceilings and white glazed tiles make the room look so “clean”. The bar wall is massive, and I’d hate to be sitting there during a quake since the bottles are displayed all the way to the ceiling, secured only with a thin strip of metal. It looks impressive though, and that’s the point. Peter and I went with friends two weekends in a row. First with Jeffrey and Rina. Then again the next weekend with Paddy and Clara. Chef Alain Giraud came to our table a few times on our first visit. He was very gracious and made sure we were enjoying our meal. On our two visits, there were two repeat orders that we had to have both times. The Foie Gras and the Beef Cheeks. We’ll be back again soon.

What we ate at Anisette Brasserie:

Foie Gras with Figs on Brioche

Anisette Brasserie

Scallops with Fennel in a Basil Sauce

Anisette Brasserie

Provencal Beef Daube (aka Beef Cheeks),
with Glazed Root Vegetables & Creamy Mashed Potatoes

Anisette Brasserie

Steak Frites with Bearnaise Sauce

Anisette Brasserie

Vacherin Glace (Lavender Ice Cream and Perfect Summer Strawberries)

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

www.AnisetteBrasserie.com
225 Santa Monica Blvd Santa Monica, CA 90407, (310) 395-3200
This restaurant is now closed

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