Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Pound of Butter

As an homage to the impending holiday, I share with you a poem




My mother loves butter more than I do,
more than anyone. She pulls chunks off
the stick and eats it plain, explaining
cream spun around into butter! Growing up
we ate turkey cutlets sauteed in lemon
and butter, butter and cheese on green noodles,
butter melting in small pools in the hearts
of Yorkshire puddings, butter better
than gravy staining white rice yellow,
butter glazing corn in slipping squares,
butter the lava in white volcanoes
of hominy grits, butter softening
in a white bowl to be creamed with white
sugar, butter disappearing into
whipped sweet potatoes, with pineapple,
butter melted and curdy to pour
over pancakes, butter licked off the plate
with warm Alaga syrup. When I picture
the good old days I am grinning greasy
with my brother, having watched the tiger
chase his tail and turn to butter. We are
Mumbo and Jumbo’s children despite
historical revision, despite
our parent’s efforts, glowing from the inside
out, one hundred megawatts of butter.

“Butter” by Elizabeth Alexander. From Body of Life, published by Tia Chucha Press. Copyright 1996 Elizabeth Alexander. Used by permission of the author.

Source: Body of Life (Tia Chucha, 1996)

Happy Gobbling, felicious.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Dino's Chicken and Burgers

Okay, so I live in Koreatown and I admit I haven't sampled much (if any) Korean restaurants in the area. I had a roommate senior year who had spent some time in Korea, and she stored a jar of Kimchi in the fridge. The odor of fermented vegetables is very particular, and seems a good accompaniment to fishy-smelling fish. So that's out.
I have eaten Pho, and tacos and burritos from the truck around the corner from my apartment. Muy bueno! Last night I even drew up the nerve to order in Spanish. Un burrito de pollo y un horchata. Para llevar. Ay yi yi! They make a cool cilantro-avocado sauce. Pile on the fresh lime and munch on some peppery sliced radishes and you're good to go.

We found Dino's Chicken and Burgers.
2575 W Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, A 90006
Neighborhood: South Los Angeles

American-sounding. Mexican-run. Highly rated.

For $5.50 you get half a chicken on a bed of French Fries, a side of coleslaw, and a few fresh flour tortillas. So juicy, so spicy, and the fries are completely soggy, but who gives a crap. There's a small white plastic fork in the box, but I'm convinced it's just for show. You'd be a fool not to piece the chicken directly from the bone. I had a regular Coke, perfectly syrupy sweet for lunch on a late summer day.

This place totally looks like a dump of a burger joint, built in dusty maroon tile and linoleum tables. While ordering I see the grill man, turning some 15 chickens at once, covered in their red sauce, sizzling. A guitarist walks in wearing a rasta beanie for a 5-minute serenade; a few Mexican folk songs for our lunchtime entertainment. He seems like a familiar face. My favorite part is throwing the trash into a aluminum door built into the wall. It is clandestine, out of the way, perhaps a huge room full of styrofoam, soggy fries and chicken bones. Charming in it's no-nonsense.

Delicious, cheap, and quick. I will go back, after other conquests in the effort to eat at new places in my neighborhood. Korean BBQ still looming.


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Cheddar Beer Soup

You can make SOUP out of THOSE?

This past winter, I was the busiest I have ever been in my life, working full time and rehearsing 5 nights a week, and I had little time to eat and enjoy myself, much less sleep. C invites me over for a late night surprise dinner, and I arrive to Cheddar-Beer Soup. I had Beer and Cheese soup once before, in a pub-grub in Helena, MT, and back then I thought it was revolutionary. I was only then beginning to drink beer for taste. Like wine, cooking with beer is meant to enhance the food. And it's undeniable. Here's the link to the recipe we used.

We made it again a few weeks ago, only this time we used Dubliner Irish Cheddar with Whiskey, changed the chicken broth for beef broth, and had to settle for a Leffe ale, instead of Bass. (They were out. Stupid Ralphs.)

The recipe calls for dry mustard, and we thought there was a can of Colman's laying around, but it appeared there had been a mustard powder theft. (Suspect? Former roommate. Motives? Clear. Investigation? Concluded.) So, we used some grainy wet mustard instead. This would also work if you are making homemade mac and cheese as well.

As for the bacon garnish, well, why wouldn't you want extra bacon in your soup? Bacon enthusiasts at your service. Bacon appetizers? Great plan. We will cook more to eat more.

2 medium leeks (white and pale green parts only), cut into 1/4-inch dice (2 cups)
2 medium carrots, cut into 1/4-inch dice (1 cup)
2 celery ribs, cut into 1/4-inch dice (1 cup)
2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
1 3/4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth (14 fl oz)
1 (12-oz) bottle ale such as Bass
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 lb extra-sharp Cheddar (preferably English; rind removed if necessary), grated (4 cups)
4 bacon slices (3 1/2 oz total), cooked and crumbled


Wash leeks in a bowl of cold water, agitating water, then lift out leeks and drain in a colander. Cook leeks, carrots, celery, garlic, and bay leaf in butter in a 4-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally,

until vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to moderately low and sprinkle flour over vegetables, then cook, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes. Add milk, broth, and beer in a stream, whisking, then simmer, whisking occasionally, 5 minutes. Stir in Worcestershire sauce, mustard, salt, and pepper.

Add cheese by handfuls, stirring constantly, and cook until cheese is melted, 3 to 4 minutes (do not boil). Discard bay leaf.

Serve sprinkled with bacon.


This soup is incredibly rich, and is perfect served with fresh bread and a bottle of beer (preferably the one
cooked with). Beer, cheese, and bread are practically cousins, much of their flavor from yeast and fermentation.
To lighten things up, I made a simple Spinach Salad. For dessert we had Balsamic Strawberries with Angel Food Cake.

Cook this soup. You will slip into a cheesy coma,

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Yelp -vs- Help

Because of my most recent job, I have had the opportunity to meticulously read and critique each Yelp post for Fleur de Lys Patisserie. Since it's opening in November, we've had a number of reviews, giving us a total average of 3.5 stars. Not a bad rating from what I hear.

Check it out.

I use Yelp all the time. If I'm hungry in a new neighborhood, I type in my location on my iPhone to see if there are any interesting coffee shops or restaurants worthy of my time. I'm steered correctly 90% of the time. It's a fine resource to discover general information about the quality of the food, employee service, and customer favorites, and the 'thumbs-down' items.

It gives us all a chance to try and distinguish our Latinate grammar structures from one another in the distant hope of a print/paid position as a food critic. The first immediate benefit is marginal Internet fame, like having 1,000 friends on Facebook, or being the girl that wrote the really, really, audaciously nasty review. The second is feeling like your opinion is effective, and that it encourages or discourages future patrons on how to spend their hard earned.

As one who takes into account the comments and accusations made by the poorer reviews, I have difficulty in wholly accepting them as good, constructive judgment of the business. Some comments are irrelevant, i.e., 'there is little to no parking', or 'it's a very noisy street'. That is location-based, and to each establishment its own. Others are irrelevant because their information is incorrect, i.e. writing about an ingredient that is not in a particular dish, or about an item we don't even sell.

What I dislike is that Yelp reviews are sometimes a coward's way out. You can complain all you want, twisting the actuality of your experience into a hyperbole of what it was. I'm more in favor of constructive criticism as a worker at a new business. How are we going to know what you want if you don't let us know when we've done something wrong? If you think your latte isn't hot enough, let me heat it up for you.

To any and all Yelpers out there, the next time you have a complaint that you believe can be corrected, bring it face to face with a person. It takes a little courage to do, (and believe me it takes a little bit to receive), but in the end everyone will be more satisfied.

In the immortal words of Jerry Maguire, "Help me help you!"


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Wurstkuche--Purveyor of Exotic Grilled Sausages


800 E. 3rd St. at the corner of Traction Ave.

Los Angeles, CA


Sausage Kitchen? Yes, please.

The past few months of my life I have been exposed to the glories that downtown L.A. has to offer, and Wurstkuche does not disappoint. It's a gastropub smack in the Arts District, near the American Apparel factory and various hip cuisine joints, like the fusion Sushi place across the street. They specialize in a gloriously varied list of classic and gourmet sausages and German and Belgian imported beers.

I had no idea what was going on. I walked in and ordered a Rasputin Stout as I waited for the mini birthday party to arrive. I noticed the mustards on the table but didn't KNOW what people were eating, and here comes my friend V, and to our table comes a bratwurst covered in sauerkraut, with a side of belgian fries and chipotle ketchup. Damn! I wish I wasn't full.

Then the rest of gang arrived, touting a red velvet cake for H's birthday. We traded sips of our respective beers, one of them being a Koestritzer Schwarzbier, a sweet and malty dark German beer that R was drinking. Something tells me I should have at least gotten a Chimay when I walked in, but then again, I didn't know.

Then the sausages arrive! J got a bratwurst with caramelized onions, H got the bockwurst, and R sampled the gourmet dogs, getting a Duck and Bacon sausage, and the Mango-Jalapeno. These, in my face with a side of fries, and numerous moans of pleasure from my friends. I eventually broke down and decided I shouldn't wait until next time to try this sausage.

The main entrance with the sign is on Traction Ave. Entering from here you see the display of raw meat in the case, including the Rabbit and Rattlesnake, and the Alligator and Pork, and can stare perplexed at the solitary white sausage, the Rabbit-Veal-Pork seasoned with white wine. It's a small operation, one grill, and two little fryers. There's a lovely display of all the non-alcoholic options, i.e. the quirky lines of sodas, including ginger beer, sasparilla, and a Republic of Teas Darjeeling. (I have never seen this stuff bottled before!)

Reisdorff Kolsch: a light, crisp German beer. When a bartender says it's their favorite I'll go with it. I ordered the Hot Italian, pork sausage with spices. My go to dog.

When it finally came, it was generously covered in peppery caramelized onions, and came on an excellent 'italian' hot dog roll. Bread with character for a sausage full of flavor. I don't think I've ever had a better sausage. Homemade and carefully cooked, these people know what they're doing. I said it best with "there's a big difference between this and store bought."It was served in a metal container designed specifically to house my sausage. Here and there I put some of the Dijon mustard, but it was pretty much fantastic unadulterated.

Earlier there was a chorus of curse words going around the table exclaiming the deliciousness of the eats, and I joined in.

It was great ambiance. In the middle of the dining room there are long tables, much like military mess hall tables, or what I imagine to be the layout of a Belgian Brat&Beer house. We sat at a booth on the wall, and the tables were in the shape of coffins. There was cucumber water available. I was surprised that this place existed. It seems like you could be most anyone and enjoy yourself without too much pretense. I hear the line goes out the door on the weekends, so that I may avoid.

I will definitely return this summer for a longer night to sample the beer selection and talk about life over good food.


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Rabbit Stew for Easter Sunday

Easter Birthday BBQ Menu:


Rabbit Stew
White Rice
Tri-Tip(thanks Drew)
Grilled Chicken
Nathan's Hot Dogs
Grilled Veggie Skewers
Grilled Sweet Corn
Caprese Farfalle Salad (by B.d-s )
Fruit Salad
German Potato Salad(by AvB)
Chocolate Cake(by JGC)


Stella Artois
Hop-Skip (a Vodka-Lemonade Party Punch)
Sierra Nevada Lager
Coke/Diet Coke


This past Easter Sunday, I had a small dinner party/BBQ for some friends. It was the occasion for some rabbit! I have eaten rabbit once before when I was Paris three summers ago, baked in a dijon mustard sauce. It is similar to chicken in color, but a little moister in texture.

I had concerns about finding rabbit to cook here in Los Angeles, short of applying for a hunting license and taking care of the killing and skinning parts myself. I thought I would have to go to Chinatown, or even to a specialty poultry store downtown, but I found a 3-lb packaged young rabbit at Bristol Farms. It wasn't cheap, mind you, at $10.99 a pound, but it was a sacrifice that was made for novelty.

Having never made stew before, I found a perhaps oversimplified recipe for Rabbit Stew on Cooks.com:



1 (2 1/2 to 3 lb.) rabbit, cut up
6 peeled, sm. white onions
1 1/2 c. diced celery
4 1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
2 qts. boiling water
2 c. diced carrots
2 c. diced potatoes
1/2 c. flour
3/4 c. cold water
1 tbsp. chopped parsley

Wash and dry cleaned rabbit. Place in kettle with next 6 ingredients. Cover; simmer 2 hours or until rabbit is tender. Add potatoes; blend flour and water. Stir into stew. Cook until thickened and add parsley.


I assumed since the meat package was rather rabbit-shaped when I bought it, that I would have to debone the rabbit myself. Sure enough, this was true. (No head, thank god! But I had to remove the liver, heart and lungs.) I consulted with Julia Child in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, but there were only written instructions, not illustrated like I had hoped. I held it, and as I ran my thumb over its backbone I was reminded its resemblance in size to a common housecat.

So I got to quizzically exploring with my knife, hacking away a little bit, then remembering some basics. Separate the front and hind legs first, and follow along the bone with the knife to remove the meat. A chef's knife for the big pieces and to chop through the bone, and a sharp paring knife doing the trick for the legs. I don't think I got every piece I got, but with trimming the fat, et cetera, I was ready to start cooking the damn thing.

With a satisfying pile of meat, I put it aside in a bowl and began prepping the veggies. 6 small white onions, a few stalks of diced celery and diced carrots.

The instructions were really simple, and didn't detail any pre-cooking of the onions or making a burnt roux with flour to give the stew a browner color. But I was pressed for time, so I cooked the raw meat in a bit of olive oil for 5 minutes before adding the boiling pasta water that I had handy.

I don't have pictures of the result, (or the diced potatoes for that matter), but after a couple hours' simmer you add the diced potatoes and the flour-cold water mixture to thicken the stew. At the finish you stir in the fresh chopped parsley, and Voila! we have our rabbit stew.

I suppose like a good roast chicken, a stew should not be rushed. People got hungry before it got stewy enough, but the results were bound to be good because of the amount of onion. I have been dying to make a good Guiness Beef Stew, which includes caramelizing the onions as part of the recipe. I love dark beers, and this would be a perfect weekend dinner.
*Additionally, this was a Birthday BBQ, and cake was made(Thanks JGC)! Quite good chocolate cake, using Semisweet Baker's Chocolate and fresh brewed coffee to enrich the chocolate flavor. Rich and fudgy, good with milk. There are only twelve candles, but I am twice that.

Happy 24th, and welcome back Zombie Jesus.


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Parmesan Chive Biscuits

Had a free evening last night, so after I made some fresh lemonade using the ones from our tree in the backyard, I decided some cheap bread making was in order.

From the New York Times Cookbook.

2 cups flour, sifted
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup butter
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
2 tbsp fresh chives
2/3 cup milk, approximately
extra flour for kneading
extra grated cheese (optional)
fresh ground pepper(optional)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Sift flour, baking powder and salt together. Add the cheese and chives, and with two knives or a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the dry mixture until it is the texture of coarse cornmeal. Stir in the milk using a fork. The batter should be soft, but not sticky.
Knead onto a floured surface, about 20 times. Roll out dough until smooth and use a biscuit cutter (or a small glass) to cut the biscuits. If you'd like an extra bit of delicious, sprinkle a little parmesan and a touch of black pepper on the top of each biscuit. Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.

YUM! Very easy. You can add all sorts of combinations you want: nuts, other herbs, dried fruit, garlic!


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Mexi Salad

Mexi Salad
Serves 2-3.

You will need:

1 head romaine lettuce
one or two leaves red cabbage
1/2 cup black beans, drained
1/3 cup salsa verde
2 oz queso fresco, crumbled
olive oil
1/2 tsp dried oregano (optional)
6 or 7 tortilla chips, crumbled (optional)

Chop off bottom of the head of romaine. Wash and/or clean lettuce if necessary. Begin chopping strips 1/2 to 3/4 inch wide. Dice the red cabbage and incorporate with lettuce. Crumble the queso fresco onto the bed of lettuce. Add oil and vinegar, just enough to coat. Grind fresh pepper (6 to 8 turns of the mill, depending) and sprinkle 1 tsp dried oregano. Add 1/2 black beans and 1/3 c salsa verde, and toss ingredients together. Sprinkle crumbled tortilla chips on top.

Serve with Chicken Enchiladas, Tortilla Soup, or your favorite main course.

Ay yi yi!