Posts Tagged ‘sushi’

NYC to Los Angeles: Foodie Reflections

April 28, 2015

It’s really hard to believe that it’s been almost two years from this date that I have touched this blog.  My last entry was right before I enjoyed Camp Blogaway in California and I dreamed about being here since that time. Fast forward and my journey has led me here to the city of Angels as of this past July.

I love blogging and I love writing. I love food. None of that went away when I wasn’t blogging here, but there was always a little sensation, a passing comment or curiosity peaked when I mentioned that I have a blog related to the culinary adventures I had documented here. Those little moments kept the blog alive for me even while I wasn’t faithfully writing.

So with that in mind, after a nearly two year respite of writing here, it only makes sense to me to share you with, dear readers, a journey from nearly 10 years in NYC to one in Los Angeles, a place I had wanted to be and now am, on this greater journey called life.

I was really fortunate to have experienced all the culinary delights I had the chance to explore in New York City – from City Lobster to Bell Book & Candle, Kaia Wine Bar, The London, Social Eatz, Koi, B. Smith’s, Dardanel, and my all time favorite (yes, I’m revealing it!) David Burke Townhouse, to name a few – these are not only the places I remember and have documented, but the moments I truly cherish in looking back on the delicious experiences – culinary and company wise, almost as if they were yesterday.  I remember exactly who I was sitting with and what the experience was like. After all, good food is supposed to take you right back to that moment you experienced it, right?

I don’t have a verdict yet on NYC vs. Los Angeles like you might be wondering as I’m still new-ish to Los Angeles, I can give you some compare and contrasts.  The biggest is certainly the distance. While in NYC you can easily get from delight to delight, Los Angeles is a bit harder in that way as it is very spread out. Both NYC and Los Angeles boast great chefs and great establishments so those are a fair comparison, and there are definitely hidden gems in both cities.

So what are some of my favorite haunts in Los Angeles thus far? Read on…

Greenbelt (36 Pier Avenue, Hermosa Beach, CA) – Greenbelt serves everything using local farmer’s market produce and the dishes are delicious for it. I’ve now been for brunch, lunch and dinner and can tell you that you can’t choose a wrong item on this menu.  Depending on what meal you’re going for, I recommend the Grilled Avocado benedict with basil hollandaise. Best part? No bread and you get the healthy fats from the avocado with other great seasonal vegetables that’s filling and it’s also gluten-free for those who have any allergies. Lunch?  Go for a shared pizza like the burrata, mushrooms, fresh tomatoes, basil and pesto. Simple and yummy. Dinner?  I love tuna so the Grilled Yellowfin Tuna with coconut black rice, shitake mushrooms and thai curry is great. Spicy alert on this one though, so the faint beware.

Grilled Avocado Benedict

Grilled Avocado Benedict

Grilled Yellowfin Tuna

Grilled Yellowfin Tuna

Uncle Bill’s Pancake House (1305 Highland Ave., Manhattan Beach, CA) is the ultimate comfort food. I went on a weekday holiday with friends which was great as only on weekday holidays and weekends do they serve the eggs benedict which was delicious.  We also opted to share a side of what they are famous for – pancakes (when in Rome, right?) with coconut and chocolate chips. And for the view alone, the picture says it all.

Eggs Benedict

Eggs Benedict & Coconut Chocolate Chip Pancakes

Uncle Bill's

Uncle Bill’s

Manhattan Beach

Manhattan Beach

Others not pictured?

Mediterraneo (73 Pier Avenue, Hermosa Beach, CA) because of its can’t beat shared apps like the Deviled Eggs with harissa oil, Roasted Dates prosciutto wrapped and stuffed with cambozola blue cheese (my favorite on the menu), Polpette beaf meatballs with San Marzano tomato sauce and parmagiano (really you can’t go wrong with anything here), in addition to the very carefully crafted cocktails, do yourself a favor and check it out. Plus you can walk off dinner as you’ll be right by The Strand for a lazy afternoon or crisp evening beach walk.

Manhattan Beach Post (1142 Manhattan Ave., Manhattan Beach, CA), it’s called a “Social House” for a reason. It’s always busy. And the food and scene is why. I also came on a Sunday for brunch when it’s likely at its peak. But it’s entirely worth the wait starting with some Bacon Cheddar biscuits with maple butter like the tasty ones at Red Lobster (but better) and for shared plates like the French Toast stuffed with house ricotta, bartlett pears and candied almonds and the benedict (yes of course I had to try it, lest you forget the name of my blog).  What else is cool?  The fact that the menu changes seasonally and on the whim of a chef. Can’t hate on that.

Zinc at the Shade Hotel (1221 N. Valley Drive, Manhattan Beach, CA) come for brunch, walk the beach later. Or come during the week and enjoy one of the festive cocktails like the Are You Man Enough? with the Patron Silver Tequila, Veev acai spirit, agave, lime and muddled jalapenos or for a less spicy option the Aviation with gin, lemon juice, maraschino liqeur and creme de violette.

Ok, ok, you’re asking where are all the places not at the beach?  Don’t worry, my friends, I have you covered!

Check out:

Taste on Melrose (8454 Melrose Ave, West Hollywood, CA) – their tagline is “eat, drink, indulge” and that my friends, you can do. I came with some friends who also happen to be awesome work colleagues and we shared the calamari and Pommes Frites with garlic aioli and remoulade. They have great dishes all around whether you’re going healthier with a grilled natural salmon, or more indulgent like the Rigatoni Bolognese I tried.  Fun fact: Grilled cheese night is every Tuesday and you can add their housemade Pommes Frites for only $5. Yep.

Sugarfish by Sushi Nozawa (Multiple locations, I went to 4722 1/4 Admiralty Way, Marina Del Rey, CA) – You can’t explain this sushi, you just have to try it for yourself. It’s served warm and melt in your mouth worthy. I know what you’re thinking. After I was in NYC for so long, can it get any better?  But this truly is an experience.  If you’re really hungry, go for the Nozawa Trust Me. It’s worth it. It includes organic edamame, tuna sashimi, albacore, salmon and yellowtail sushi, halibut sushi, Toro hand roll, Blue Crab hand roll and the daily special.

041 Bacaro (9552 Washington Blvd, Culver City, CA) Chef Conrad came from NYC so that’s almost enough to be said there, but there is true Italian love in this food. Try the roasted brussel sprouts or french fries with truffle oil to start (or both if you’re sharing) and the entrees speak for themselves though I enjoyed the risotto with mixed wild mushrooms. It’s like a slice of Little Italy NYC. Go.

And of course there are more to come.  Have a must try place for me to check out?  Feel free to comment here whether you’re an Angeleno or just know some great spots here in the City of Angels.

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2011 New York City Wine & Food Festival

October 3, 2011

It’s a foodies’ dream to have the opportunity to attend one of the biggest food landmarks of the year – the New York City Wine &  Food Festival.  Fortunately, I had just that opportunity working with one of my food clients, Welch’s, over the weekend.

New York City Wine & Food Festival

My, oh my, especially at the Grand Tasting Pavilion do they offer row upon row of food, wine and spirits available for sampling.  Some of my favorites?

  • American Express offered a VIP lounge catered by Tao and Lavo, with Tao offering a variety of selections including cucumber and spicy tuna sushi rolls, chicken satay with peanut sauce , a spicy thai dumpling soup and satay of chilean sea bass with wok roasted asparagus. Lavo provided infused cocktail selections with passion fruit and mango, among other flavors, as well as appetizers and signature sides such as its baked clams oreganato with toasted bread crumbs and butter and meatballs.

American Express VIP Lounge at the New York City Wine & Food Festival

  •  Equinox offered coconut water in real coconuts!

Equinox at the New York City Wine & Food Festival

  • Buitoni brought the spirit of Italy alive with its staged photo on their tricked out Vespa and also offered samples including their Chicken and Mushroom Ravioli and Wild Mushroom Agnolotti which you can buy in-store and prepare at home.

Buitoni at the New York City Wine & Food Festival

  •  Anolon Gourmet Kitchenware always had a line as they served up crowd-favorite mini burgers topped with carmelized onions and basil mayo.

Anolon Cookware at the New York City Wine & Food Festival

  • And Welch’s (whom I can’t fail to mention), had a photo booth vineyard, complete with fun props like purple boas, hats and purple mustaches, as well as copies of its new Taste the Harvest 2012 Guide with the good folks at Zagat, along with samples of its 100% White Grape Juice and 100% Grape Juice.  Alton Brown even paid a visit as the team coordinated media interviews with him prior.

Welch's Taste the Harvest Guide with Zagat 2012 at the New York City Wine & Food Festival

Welch's Taste the Harvest Photo Booth at the New York City Wine & Food Festival

Me with Alton Brown

  • Curious to try your hand at hosting the Next Iron Chef? (Alton Brown, here I come!) Time Warner offered the opportunity to stand on stage and announce the show and sent participants their own personal video to share with friends. Here it is!

If your mouth is watering already, you can imagine how it felt navigating this place! One Twitter-er wrote that he was trying to keep it under 4,000 calories which sums it up pretty well.  For more on the festival, visit: http://www.nycwineandfoodfestival.com.

What’s up next? I think Napa is in the cards.

Hamptons Part 2: B. Smith’s, Sen and Round Swamp Farm

July 24, 2011

If you read my part 1 Hamptons post, you know that going out to the Hamptons is a favorite pasttime of mine.  To continue my culinary adventures out East, last weekend I ventured to a few popular (and tasty) spots including B. Smith’s  and Sen in Sag Harbor (also the sister restauant to Phao Thai Kitchen in my part 1 post) and ended my journey at the renowned Round Swamp Farm in East Hampton.

B. Smith’s at Long Wharf at Bay Street in Sag Harbor is a long time favorite of mine, especially because the view is spectacular as it’s right by the water where the million dollar plus yachts dock.  My friend Kris and I enjoyed a lunch after the long traffic in, complete with some of the best East Coast oysters I’ve ever had (if you know me, West Coast Kumamotos are typically my first choice), grown right from the bay, along with a fresh watermelon margarita (super refreshing) and mussels.  If you’re in the mood for people watching, great views, and of course, some of the best seafood around, this is a must stop!

View from B. Smith's in Sag Harbor

Oysters at B. Smith's

Watermelon Margarita at B. Smith's

Mussels at B. Smith's

The second stop on our journey was dinner at Sen at 23 Main Street in Sag Harbor.  If you referenced my part 1 write up on its sister restaurant, Phao Thai Kitchen, you can imagine that the food here is just as much up to par. We enjoyed a starter course of Tuna Tartare with nori chips and sweet chili mayo to share and then moved to a collection of sushi rolls including the Rainbow Roll, Jalapeno Roll (warning: this one is very hot as expected) and the Garuda Roll (spicy tuna) which was a favorite among the table.

Cool tidbit: According to the site, Sen uses a Tensui Water Perfection System which means that all water used in food preparation, drinking and cleaning is filtered through a state-of-the art Tensui Water Perfection System to ensure the freshness and purity in everything that’s served.

Tuna Tartare at Sen

Sushi rolls at Sen

Rounding out our weekend, we made it just in time before the popular Round Swamp Farm market at 184 Three Mile Harbor Road in East Hampton. This market basically on the side of the road looks humble from the outside, but inside you can enjoy fresh, local produce, sauces, homemade pies and more.  It’s on the pricier side, but once you taste it, you can not only see the home grown love that goes into the food, but really the flavor of the ingredients grown right in their 20-acre backyard. And if the line is too long for you (or you’re trying to occupy the kiddies), you can say hi to the cute bunnies outside and the chickens running around. I enjoyed the guacamole and blue corn tortilla chips and sesame noodle salad.

Round Swamp Farm

Guacamole from Round Swamp Farm

Sesame Noodle Salad at Round Swamp Farm

Alas, another amazing weekend of eating out East.

Food from the Bay

August 30, 2010
Last week, I had a chance to visit the City by the Bay (San Francisco) for a quick business trip. Of course, the trip wouldn’t have been complete without some fine eats in what I heard was a culinary haven.

After settling in at the hotel, my colleague and I ventured to one of the few restaurants which remained open at 9:45 p.m. with less than 10 minutes before the last seating (this ‘aint New York, folks). I had a hankering for sushi, so we made our way to Kyo-ya at 2 New Montgomery Street, touted as “San Francisco’s premier Japanese restuarant.” According to the website, Chef Akifusa Tonai was a 2007 winner of the Master Sushi Chef competition (who knew?) 

I enjoyed the “Celebration roll” (which certainly looked like a party for your mouth) which featured lobster, avocado, tuna, white fish and tobiko:

Celebration roll at Kyo-ya

After a jet-lagged meal, it was time to call it an evening.  The second night we enjoyed a dinner out at Absinthe Brasserie & Bar on 398 Hayes Street. The darkly lit French bistro was exactly what I needed after a long day and still feeling the time difference. 

Absinthe Brasserie & Bar

Absinthe Brasserie & Bar

Top Chef Season 5 contestant Jamie Lauren was previously at the helm of this fine establishment, however, Adam Keough (of the Michael Mina dynasty of great eats) has now taken over as of August 17, so I got to enjoy food from the very newly appointed which I must say was absolutely delectable.  I started with the french fries served up with a homemade smoky tomato ketchup and sweet onion aioli, a side of marinated mixed olives, followed by the pinot-noir braised beef short ribs – exceptional.  To end the meal, we chose a selection of cheeses including the Stilton, Ossau Iraty (sheep’s milk) and the Robiola Bosina (cow’s milk). 

French fries

Marinated olives

Beef short ribs

Cheese plate

While it was only a short trip and I realize I have a lot more exploring to do, I ended my culinary adventure on a high before flying at the Virgin America Clubhouse. The Clubhouse serves up food, drinks and more while providing a comfortable area to relax, work and even shower. 

Virgin America Clubhouse

I cozied up to the bar and enjoyed a Virgin Kiss (essentially a cosmo), and a lunch of mixed greens salad with strawberries, walnuts and gorgonzola cheese followed by a wild mushroom bolognase.  I topped off the meal with a vanilla panna cotta (which I was told from the Sodexo Executive Chef was newly added to the menu).  Quick tip: If you’re an Elevate member on Virgin, you can access the Clubhouse by paying a nominal fee without having to be in First Class or Main Cabin Select (in SFO only).

Virgin Kiss

Mixed greens salad

Wild Mushroom Bolognase

Vanilla panna cotta

Needless to say, I’m definitely due for another trip out West in the near future.

High Notes from the Weekend

March 29, 2010

Literally and figuratively, this weekend was full of high notes as my parents came into town from Ohio to support me at my performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony (“Ode to Joy”) with Dessoff Symphonic Choir and the Budapest Festival Orchestra.  It was quite an experience to sing with one of the world’s finest orchestras and they positioned us right in front of the stage in front of the first row of people, so those with the orchestra seats in the first few rows definitely got what they paid for.  Apparently this was how it used to be done in the 19th century before they started moving choirs onstage – very cool.

Of course, the weekend wouldn’t be complete without diving into some good culinary treats while the ‘rents were in town. One of their favorite parts about coming to see me in the city (besides seeing me of course) is exploring all the amazing delicacies NYC has to offer.

On Saturday night, I took them to Churrascaria Plataforma at 316 West 49th Street (http://www.churrascariaplataforma.com/) billed as “the steakhouse even vegetarians would love” for a lot of belly filling meats cut off the skewers and a taste of Brazil with the live music – fantastico!  You can enjoy the prix fixe here for $59.95 which comes with a great salad bar to start. And might I tell you this isn’t your typical salad bar, folks. The waiters will even tell you not to fill up on the salad bar which is very easy to do. My favorites were the asparagus risotto, fresh sushi (one of the rolls was wrapped in thinly sliced cucumber with fresh mango), cheeses and shrimp. 

After you haven’t sufficiently stuffed yourself on the salad bar (if you were following directions), you can turn your red sticker (a.k.a. stop bringing me meat – I’m a beached whale!) to green (a.k.a. bring it on!) for all types of meat delivered to your table – from lamb to pork loin to ribeye to chicken to turkey to flank steak… it’s certainly worth your $59.95.

On  Sunday, as I have been wanting to try this place for quite some time, we went to Bar Boulud, one of Mr. Daniel Boulud’s fine establishments near Lincoln Center – 1900 Broadway(http://www.barboulud.com/barboulud.html/). This bistro is billed in the vein of Parisian charcutier Gilles Verot and features a seasonal menu of French bistro cooking.  Check out the cool architecture which features the design of Thomas Schlesser of Design Bureaux – he’s a 2002 and 2005 James Beard Foundation award winner for Best Restaurant Design. He created a long, vaulted ceiling, a communal table (I sat here for a while while waiting and the meat slicer is quite an accouterment in front of you), and intimate booths.

For weekend brunch, they offer an incredible four course prix fixe for $26 which includes a pastry and coffee, your choice of hors d’oeuvres, a main and a dessert. 

I started with the croissant filled with chocolate:

Followed by the Soup De Chou-Fleur (cauliflower) – this broth was so creamy and buttery…

Followed by the Croque Madame (only difference in this and the Croque Monsieur is the egg on top) and features ham and melt-in-your-mouth gruyere:

And to finish off the meal the Floating Island – a meringue in a floating round of cream anglaise and topped with crusted almonds.  This is quite a bold statement, but I think if I was asked (and this was a question asked when I filled out my Zagat Guide Survey), this would be the dessert I would request as part of my last meal (with even more cream anglaise so the meringue was drowning!)  Absolutely can’t stop thinking about this.

As if this meal wasn’t enough to satisfy and I didn’t get enough meats on Saturday evening, my roommate’s family treated us to a dinner at Del Frisco’s on 1221 Avenue of The Americas (http://www.delfriscos.com/). I had the pleasure of enjoying a jumbo lump crab cake, shrimp cocktail platter accompanied by creole mustard, Italian marinade and classic shrimp sauce, followed by a delightful trio of 4 oz. filet mignons in a Merlot demi-glaze and topped with jumbo lump crab meat:

So many high notes I’m surprised the glass didn’t break or I didn’t burst.

These are a few of my favorite … burgers

January 31, 2010

When you live in Manhattan, the choices for cuisine are so vast, you get spoiled.  That’s why I’m super picky when it comes to burgers because I truly believe I’ve had some of the best the city has to offer.  In fact, a couple of these places seem to have the perfect formula down  – and not just because they have two letter initials in their names and red or green checkered table cloths (hint, hint, wink, wink), although I’m convinced there must be something to this.

1. J.G. Melon – 1291 Third Ave (at 74th Street) – By far, the best burger I’ve had.  A few things to keep in mind: They don’t take reservations, it’s cash only and the space is tight, so you’ll have to wait quite a while to get a table here. But if you hit it at the right time (around 1 or 2 a.m.), or don’t mind sitting at the bar, you can get in reasonably quickly.  Plus, I can say it’s definitely worth the wait.  I opted for the burger with bacon and cheese and you can’t pass up the side of cottage friend potatoes.  (Green-checkered tablecloths here).

2. P.J. Clarkes – 915 Third Ave (at 55th Street) – Any location will do, but I personally like midtown. This place was established in 1884, so you know they’ve got something going on. The Web site says, ” Its colorful history has entertained the famous, the infamous and everyone else who appreciates the ambiance and food of a real saloon,” which is certainly fitting. One of my native New Yorker friends refuses to sit with his back towards the door here as legend has it some of the most infamous mobsters often ate here (a.k.a. if you know what’s best for you, you have to see who’s walking through the door).  I recommend the burger with blue cheese (medium), a side of fries, and the creamed spinach, which is to die for. Finish it off with a Hoegaarden on draft and you’re set. (Note: Red checkered tablecloth).

3. Upstairs at Bouley – 130 W. Broadaway (at Duane Street) – Chef David Bouley just knows how to do it right and I won’t ever forget the “Bouley Burger” I had here over a Sunday brunch. The burger is made on a toasted english muffin and served with cucumber, lettuce, red onion, fresh herbs, french mustard and ketchup with cheese (swiss, cheddar or blue).  Amazingly delectable.  (FYI: Upstairs also serves up sushi, sashimi and a selection of sake if you’re not craving a burger). 

Runners-up:

4. Five Guys  Famous Burgers and Fries – I like the one on 296 Bleecker Street (near 7th Ave.). Burgers and fries (and a few other selections like grilled cheese if you’re not feeling meaty) – tasty, simple menu and you see the stacks of the bags of potatoes from the outside … I like it.

5. The Burger Joint  at the Le Parker Meridien Hotel – 119 W. 56th Street (between Sixth and Seventh Aves.) – Don’t be confused that it’s in the Le Parker Meridien. It’ s not fancy at all, but there is some weird charm to this place because people are all lined up in a small corridor inside a luxury hotel since there are only about four booths inside. Fun fact: Time Out New York’s recent issue says that they go through 150,000 pounds of beef per year.

Some other burgers/burger joints still on my list to check out:

  • Pop Burger – 60 Ninth Ave. (at 15th Street) – It’s in the Meatpacking District and it’s called Pop Burger. Curious.
  • DBGB – 299 Bowery (between Houston and First Ave.) – I can’t wait to try “The Yankee.” (FYI: The Web site music is kinda rad).
  • Noho Star – 330 Lafayette Street – The “Popeye Burger” comes recommended.
  • Burgers & Cupcakes – 265 W. 23rd Steet (at 8th Ave.) – I think this is a fascinating concept.

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

September 7, 2009

No one is counting calories when it comes to baseball stadium food, and why should you?  The new Yankee Stadium has a variety of culinary delights from steak sandwiches to sushi.

Hard Rock and NYY Steak at Yankee Stadium

I went for more of the “traditional” baseball food — chicken tenders and Nathan’s cheese fries… mmm. 

Yankees vs. Tampa Bay Rays - September 7, 2009 013

But check out this dog – a streaming of ketchup down the length of this bad boy and the lucky recipient was ready to go (I’m not a huge fan of hot dogs but I’m sure it was delicious!) 

Hot dog

Top all these American classics off with a souvenir glass of Miller Lite and you’re good to go. My roommate who went with me to the game didn’t even need a beer to keep her spirits up – the Pepsi gave her enough energy to dance to “New York, New York” the plus five times they played it after the Yankees won tonight (I’m not exaggerating).  For you baseball fans, Yanks won 11-1 against the Tampa Bay Rays.