Snacks and Sips at Joe’s Pub

Earlier this week I went to a fabulous show at Joe’s Pub – a great cabaret theater downtown where there is, of course, a minimum. We went far above our minimum because we were hungry, but here is what you can expect:

20141013_185323A very well made, though ill photographed, dirty martini. It’s too bad that the picture is so terrible, because the stemware used is great (way less likely to spill than traditional martini glasses), the vodka is chilled to the point of icy, and there is just enough olive juice in there to make the drink border on savory without being salty. 20141013_185824 Fries with aioli

So good. Like gourmet McDonald’s.  No parmesan cheese, no truffle oil- just crispy, hot fries with Heinz ketchup and buttery, creamy aioli. 20141013_185842 Pickle plate

Good, if not especially memorable. Who doesn’t love a plate of snappy, vinegary pickled veggies?20141013_185831Homemade farmers cheese with seeded crackers

Okay, this is craveable. I would get it again in any restaurant. It’s a dense, creamy cheese that tastes almost like melted cream cheese. It’s layered with woodsy oregano and a pool of olive oil. Served with those garlicky seeded crackers, it’s just delicious.

The food is good and so are the drinks, but they are of course way overpriced – it’s a cabaret, what do you expect? The food isn’t as great as the offerings at 54 Below, but the entertainment is great, and after just 2 of those excellent martinis, you will have reached your food minimum and be in a great mood to enjoy the show.

California Dreamin: The Fabulous Burger at The Apple Pan

I couldn’t be any more in love with the restaurant featured in this post.

This is my #1 “don’t miss” restaurant in Los Angeles. I love it more than the fancy ones. I love it more than the iconic ones. I love it more than the new ones.

It’s The Apple Pan. And I’m going to let the pictures do the talking:

20140928_104333The Apple Pan. It’s been around since the 40s. which means nothing to East Coaster, but as Californians will attest, the only thing that’s been around as long since then are the La Brea Tarpits. My mom used to take me here for lunch and she knew a counterman who must have been 100 years old. She said he was 100 years old when she went there when she was a kid.
20140928_110212Get there early and line up or prepare to wait for a seat around the long counter. Enjoy your soft drink from a paper cone stuck inside of a metal holder.
20140928_110219 The menu isn’t long and it isn’t difficult. If you get the ham sandwich, you have failed your mission. All passengers aboard the shuttle die and your home planet is blown up. 20140928_110334 French fries

Johnny Rockets, weep your eyes out. The finest American fries…yes, anywhere. Golden, insanely hot, crispy without and fluffy within. Not too salty, not at all artisanal.

20140928_110706 Hickory burger with tangy hickory bbq sauce20140928_110711 Steakburger with piquant relish and sharp Tillamook cheddar cheese20140928_110858 Toasty bun, chargrilled burger, sharp cheddar, a swath of mayonnaise…and a head of iceberg lettuce. It’s a trademark move, shut up. 20140928_111847 Banana cream pie…20140928_112105 And dense, buttery pecan pie with a glob of the best whipped cream in the city. 20140928_112542That plaid wallpaper. The styrofoam plates for the ketchup. The way that the food smells better and better the longer you wait for a seat. This is the best part of California…the nostalgic part.

California Dreamin: The Tasting Kitchen

When I was a kid, Venice Beach wasn’t somewhere you went for great food. You went there to see the sights, enjoy the beach, and maybe eat some ice cream. You certainly didn’t schlep there for dinner.

Times have changed for the better.

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The Tasting Kitchen was a recommendation from some foodie friends who said that this place had great food and a very laid back, cool, LA vibe. The vibe is VERY LA…lighting is dark, music is thumping, and the place is PACKED to the gills. However, when our reservation was late, they didn’t comp us a drink at the bar. In general, I found the service a little lacking on the west coast. No matter though, we were seated before long at a comfortable table and taken care of by a very competent server.

20140928_210640 Rillettes

Fabulous. I wish that the picture came out better because this is a wonderful starter. The rillettes are soft and savory with ribbons of juicy pork in a buttery, well salted spread. It comes with garlic rubbed toast that adds a gentle spice and some tangy mustard that kicks up the flavor quotient another notch. This couldn’t be more delicious.

20140928_214232Oysters and salsify

Salsify is awesome! That’s what I took away from this dish. It tastes a lot like artichokes and has the meaty texture of hearts of palm. Here, its’ served browned and caramlized with a few nuggets of soft, briny oysters that bring out the veggie’s sweet, earthy undertones. This isn’t something I have ever had before and I can’t wait to eat it again.

20140928_215817Ricotta agnoletti

Good, if not especially memorable. The agnoletti are soft pillows of creamy ricotta in a sweet, tangy tomato sauce. I really can’t say anything else bad or good about it – I would stick with the Calabrian sausage pasta next time, which was garlicky, spicy, and totally craveable. 
20140928_221052Whole branzino with pine nuts and herbs

Delicious. Prepare for bones and you will be impressed. The fish is flaky, light, and saturated with butter and lemon. The pine nuts add an earthy, unexpectedly crunchy taste and texture to the fish.

The Tasting Kitchen has done the impossible…it has made Venice Beach a foodie destination. Not just for rollerblades and tattoos anymore, this ‘hood is now food-approved. Can’t wait to get back and try it’s neighbor Gjelina for what I hear are some unforgettable Italian dishes. Of course, first, you may have to pry those rillettes from my cold, dead hands. 

Off the Chain at Hillstone

I never think chain restaurants are going to be good. It’s that weird, uppity NYC thing of being a foodie in the age of locavoreism and popups. It’s stupid – sometimes places are just chains because they appeal to lots of people and make money. And why? Because they are delicious!

Case in point…Hillstone. Which used to be Houston’s. And in some places, still IS Houston’s…I think it has to do with those calorie counts that chains are required to print in their menus.

I had a very tasty lunch there. Expensive, but PERFECT for a business lunch or dinner. Oh yeah, and it’s the darkest restaurant in which I have ever dined.

20140917_142511Peruvian corn

Not the wonderfully plump, buttery, sweet kernels of corn that I expect when I read this on the menu, but tasty all the same. Somewhere between southwestern and Indian, it’s tossed with firm zucchini and spicy jalapenos in a buttery, cumin and coriander dusted glaze. It’s actually a great appetizer – grab that corn while you can, because pumpkin season approaches.
20140917_145052Ahi tuna salad with mangos, tomatoes, and avocado
20140917_145059 This is legit – too legit to quit, in fact. The ahi tuna is excellent quality – meaty in texture and mild in taste, crusted in a salty, slightly spicy rub that is complemented by scallions and tart ponzu sauce. The salad alongside is filled with sweet mangos and the butteriest avocado imaginable. It’s healthy but satisfying thanks to the myriad of flavors and textures. If you like Asian fusion – which I do – you will love this. 20140917_145121Fries

Shoestring. Hot, crispy, not too salty. Served with spicy mayo and standard ketchup. Just get them, already.

Please come here if budget isn’t an issue and you are on the Eastside. Or the middle fo the country. This is LEAGUES better than what I think of fast food as being. Service is great and so is food…don’t worry, I promise to still be snobby about most things.

Nighttime Brunch at Egg Shop

What’s a gal to do when the hottest brunch spot is not only way downtown and doesn’t take reservations, but also has a 2+ hour wait on weekends?

She has brunch for dinner, of course.

20140915_203241Egg Shop is the latest darling of the brunch world. It is – as it sounds –  a sweet, small, retrofitted eatery specializing in one thing: eggs. In bowls, on toast, and in every incarnation you can imagine. Though it’s supposedly bumper-to-bumper packed on the weekends, on a weekday night, it was positively deserted except for the pleasant waitstaff and enticing, tiny open kitchen.

20140915_204526 Egg salt and pepper shakers…come on…this is adorable.20140915_204609 Avocado toast with heirloom tomatoes and a poached egg

Thick, seeded toast smeared with buttery avocado and topped with sweet heirloom tomatoes and…

20140915_204648

a gorgeous poached egg. Tender whites, gooey yolk. Warm and comforting atop those juicy tomatoes and that lush avocado. This is so simple that you could make it at home…but you know you wouldn’t. I doused this with the homemade hot sauce and it was such a satisfying meal that I may just make it for myself tonight, after all.
20140915_204619Egg salad with fried chicken

The best fried chicken I have had in recent memory. I can’t tell you how good it is. Juicy with a thick, craggy crust and not too thick – perfect for eating between two slices of toast. The egg salad isn’t made with mayo but it’s still creamy and loaded with piquant, aggressive flavors like coriander, dill, and fresh herbs. It’s light and punchy instead of stodgy like egg salad often is.  It’s more of a spread, a backdrop, for that lovely fried chicken. This doesn’t need anything – not hot sauce, not mayo…nada. Just your mouth.

This place is kind of overpriced, but it was fun for a weeknight meal. The service is great and the food is delish. I would NEVER wait more than 20 minutes to eat here – 30 minutes max. But if I was int the neighborhood again, I would be happy to eat here again and try a Bloody Mary, too.

Long live evening brunch!

BBQ Oven Fries

Did you know that if you keep potatoes in your fridge, they will last for, like, months?

I’m serious…I found a couple of potatoes in my fridge that I must have bought in 2012. They weren’t shriveled. There were no eyes growing – not one! There were no brown or mushy spots. It was like I had just bought them earlier that week. Wow.

So, I made a recipe that I haven’t ever made for the blog, even though it’s been in my repertoire since I was in elementary school. It was on my kitchen table growing up at least once a week. It’s the kind of homey, comforting food that is perfect for any weeknight meal. It’s not a fast recipe, but it’s almost stupidly easy.

And, oh, I make it with bbq sauce because my husband is WEIRD and doesn’t like ketchup.

BBQ Oven Fries

CollagesIngredients:

2 russet potatoes, washed, dried, and cut into about 8 long strips

1/2 cup of bbq sauce

2 tsp. olive oil

sprinkling of salt and pepper

IMG_14271. Preheat the oven to 425F. That hot temperature is very important, unless you want to be cooking for 8 days and nights. Drizzle  the potatoes with the olive oi, season lightly, and put them on a baking sheet. Then, pop in the oven for about 40 minutes or…

IMG_14322. Until they are golden brown on the bottom, when flipped over. They should have a nutty, savory aroma, and come on…you know what fries look like, right? Flip them and cook them for another 10 minutes or so, and then…

IMG_14363. Add the bbq sauce. Just pour it on then flip the fries over and pour a little more on those suckers. I like mine pretty saucy. Cook for another 10 minutes, or until the bbq sauce caramelizes and gets sticky and then…

IMG_14494. Serve.

Sorry there isn’t another photo, but these were gone in seconds – they always are. And why not? They are crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. They are covered in a sticky-sweet sauce that clings to the fries and eradicates the need for any dipping sauce. And…msot of all…they are homemade. Even if you get a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store and a salad in a bag, this is so wholesome and homey that you will feel like you made the whole damned meal from scratch.

Refrigerated potatoes FTW.

These Are a Few of My Favorite Burgers

As Fraulein Maria might sing: “These are a few of my favorite burgers”:

DB Bistro Moderne Burger

The first thing I said when I tasted this was “I felt like I have never eaten beef before.” This was SO beefy, with its double hit of medium rare ground sirloin, rosy and robust in taste with the tender shortribs. The short ribs were not stringy or gamy, but cooked until the flavor was mellow and deep against the vibrant ground beef. The bun was soft and squishy, but did not deteriorate from the copious meaty juices. The taste of truffle was delicate but ever-present, savory and heady next to the sweet madeira in the short ribs. The piece de resistance was, of course, the sizable disc of foie gras, melting and rich. It swam in my mouth, almost dancing, the sweet, buttery component of the dish. I still don’t know how these ingredients all worked so well together – even describing it seems like overload – but the taste is one that I will never forget. One half was perfect – more than that and I would have gone into cardiac arrest. Happy cardiac arrest.

Louis Lunch

This is all about the beef. It’s as close as you will get to eating a steak on bread. Louis Lunch uses a custom blend of 5 different cuts of fresh meat, hand rolls the patties daily, then cooks them in those old-fashioned grills. The patty is coarse and lightly salted – it is really just the taste of meat. Buttery, iron-y, almost funky in its meaty heft. This is a power-filled burger that is all about the meat.  Ignore the soft white bread, the strong white onion, and the somewhat mealy tomato – these are just there for show. The cheese, velvety smooth in texture, is also delightfully melty and provides a wonderful counterpart to the bite of the burger.

Shake Shack

Come to mama. I am so sorry In-n-Out, but I am leaving you for Shake Shack. THIS is what a classic “fast food” burger should taste like. I mean, this is just insanely good. The potato bun is soft and stretchy; pleasantly saturated by meaty juices. The patty itself is thin but not flimsy, with enough heft to have a bit of pink inside, contrasting with the salty, charred exterior. The vegetables are crisp and vibrant, and the only thing I can say about the cheese is: what have I been missing all my life?! It is, of course, some unholy fatty and carb-laden cheese flavored sauce, and it is OUTRAGEOUSLY tasty – melty, tangy, all things cheese should be. The shack sauce is almost unnoticeable between the meat, the bread,and the cheese, but it adds a slightly sharp/sweet taste towards the end of the bite. The only way that I would change this is to add some of the excellent chopped cherry peppers found on the SmokeShack burger. They have a particularly piquant heat that would be welcome here. This went down way too fast…next time, I’m getting a double.

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Lamb Burger at Greenhouse Tavern

This lamb was so strong, so amazingly lamb-y that it almost electrified me.It was juicy and cooked a perfect medium, with a funky cheese and acidic shallot topping that re-emphasized the strong lamb-y flavor. Served on a soft bun with a side of tangy spiced mayonnaise, this was the most incredible burger I have had in ages.

David Burke Burger

This burger is unreal.  It is humongous, yet it is ideally cooked. A thick, craggy crust surrounds a rosy interior. Well, two rosy interiors. Each stuffed with sharp, tangy cheddar cheese and sweetly caramalized onions. The patties are coarsely ground and so chock full of flavor that any ketchup or mayonnaise is merely gilding the lily. This burger is possibly the best I have eaten since Louis Lunch. It is really all about the meat – it eats like a steak. The patty is juicy but does not spill all over the plate – rather, it holds its moisture as you eat it. The toppings are delicious, but the meat is absolutely the star. The bun is standard, but holds up well. This burger feeds 2 easily, though if you eat it alone in 25 minutes, you get a free T-shirt. Antacid not included.

Jaleo Iberico Pork Burger

That’s right. The same Iberico pork I worship in slices. Here, it is coarsely ground and loosely packed into a juicy burger. Served on a brioche bun with sweet peppers and more of that creamy alioli, it is a very meaty and almost woodsy slider.

Restaurant Week at The Writing Room – As Corny as Kansas in August

Restaurant Week is here again, and this time I headed to Yorkville’s The Writing Room to check out the lunch menu.

20140725_121842 The restaurant is large and airy, which helps to lighten and soften the clubby, dark interior. It’s casual but still upscale – come here in jeans but not dirty ones, and maybe throw on some nice shoes – got it?20140725_124151 Parker House roll

A far superior bread service than many in more expensive restaurants. They arrive freshly baked and still warm. The tops are slick with butter and covered in crunchy salt pyramids. The insides are warm and pull apart in light, eggy tufts. This is a wonderful way to start what turns out to be a wonderful meal. 
20140725_124851 Corn soup with baby shrimp and corn fritters

I was expecting cold soup, but this arrived piping hot and very savory. Usually corn is sweet, but this soup brought out the earthy, savory flavors. It’s creamy and filled with mild, pristine  baby shrimp, buttery fava beans, and hunks of grilled corn segments. The herb swirl atop adds a spicy, jalapeno-y flavor that bumps up the flavor profile. And those corn fritters on the skewer…well, who doesn’t love corn fritters on a skewer, right?20140725_131032 Slow roasted salmon

Tasty, but nothing more. Cooked to a medium with a vibrant, firm pink interior and topped with garlicky roasted tomatoes. It’s served atop creamy, salty grits laden with more grilled corn – this time, next to those herby tomatoes, the corn tastes so sweet. This restaurant really does corn well!
20140725_134630Creamsicle with brownie

My favorite course, which hardly ever happens with dessert. The creamsicle is tart and has a fresh burst of citrus flavor inside a thick, dark chocolate coating. It’s sweet and totally reminiscent of the creamsicles of my youth from the ice cream truck – to say nothing of the uber-gooey, warm, dark chocolate brownie. Warm brownie and cold ice cream…is there anything better? Be warned, the brownie has nuts.

20140725_121849The Writing Room has a great Restaurant Week menu! All of the dishes are on the normal menu, and if you ordered them separately, they would definitely come out to more than $30 altogether. The service couldn’t be lovelier (honestly…I was seated by perhaps the sweetest maitre d’hotel in the entire city), the surroundings are attractive, and the food is really great.

It’s definitely something to write home about. 

Shut up. I love my dad puns. 

Bacon and Blue Turkey Burgers

I am trying to be healthier.

And let me tell you – it is hard.

But I have a really big birthday coming up and I hear that my metabolism is going to hit the rocks. And the chances of me exercising are probably slim to none, so I should start eating a  little healthier, at least when I cook at home.

For me, that means cutting down on the refined carbs. Blah.

But I can’t let go of the fat – I need that fat.

Well, I want it, anyway.

So this is something to make me forget that I am trying not to eat bread. It’s fatty, spicy, a little sweet, and smoky.

Obviously it has bacon.

Bacon and Blue Turkey Burgers

bacon mushroom burgersIngredients:

1 lb. ground turkey or chicken

6 slices thick cut bacon, diced

1 package cleaned and chopped mushrooms, diced a little smaller

1 onion or 1 bunch scallions, diced

2 cloves garlic, diced

1/4 cup spicy steak sauce

salt and pepper to taste

drizzle of olive oil

blue cheese dressing

wedge salad fixins

20140715_174750 1. Drizzle the pan with olive oil and then throw the chopped bacon in there over medium heat. You just want enough oil to get the bacon going. When the bacon starts to sputter and brown, add the mushrooms – expect some oil splatter. 20140715_180359 2. When the bacon and shrooms are super brown, in about 15 minutes, turn off the heat and take them out and drain on a paper towel. However, do not drain the pan. 20140715_191752 3. Combine the ground turkey, steak sauce, onions, garlic, and salt and pepper. Add the mushrooms and bacon and mix well, then form into 4 patties. Make sure that the steak sauce that you choose is a little spicy and properly salty, because this is where most of the flavoring comes from. 20140715_191946 4. Turn the pan on medium high and cook those burgers right in the bacon fat. I sometimes take the easy way out and put a lid on the pan to steam cook the burgers – you lose the charred taste but it keeps the burgers moist, and since this is turkey, you don’t have to worry about keeping them rare. 20140715_200245 5. Serve over salad or in portabella buns with blue cheese dressing. 20140715_200256I mean, this doesn’t taste like I’m missing out on carbs. It tastes like a sweet, spicy burger with crispy bits of bacon and juicy mushrooms. The raw onions or scallions add an unexpected brightness and if you steam the burgers like I do, they are especially soft and juicy. Best of all, the blue cheese is a creamy, cooling counterpart with just a bit of tangy blue cheese taste. The key here is adding the steak sauce to the burgers – it takes care of the seasoning for you. Just try to choose one low in sugar so you don’t sabotage your own healthy meal.

Especially since you are going to want seconds.

Minetta Tavern – Your Everyday 4 Star Neighborhood Joint

I have a habit of visiting hugely popular restaurants 4-5 years after they burst onto the scene. I hate scouring for reservations. I can’t stand a big scene. And I really don’t like to be like everyone else, all clamoring for the same tuna crudo.

That’s why I finally got to Minetta Tavern on July 4 weekend, when I could finally get a reservation. Yes, it’s still super hard to get.

Keith McNally’s American-French bistro is clubby and steakhouse inside – kind of Old Homestead meets Sardi’s. You can feel comfy in jeans and a t-shirt or in a suit and tie. As long as you have a reservation and are prepared to pay the prices, you are a valued customer.

20140704_175307 I embarrassingly have no recollection of what this cocktail was called, but it had sherry, vermouth, Benedictine, and some other delicious spirits in it. It was made expertly by a friendly but professional bartender who directed my husband towards a delicious, rare rye. The wines are varied and fairly priced, but the cocktails are too special to miss. 20140704_181125 Gougeres

Not to the level of Marc Forgione, but puffy, cheesy, and airy. Very appetizing. 20140704_184341 Black label burger

Don’t worry, the excellent salty thin cut pommes frites were served on the side. This $30 burger was the toast of the city when it was premiered. It was called the burger to end all burgers, beefy beyond all beefiness. I couldn’t wait to try it. This is an excellent burger. It’s soft but not mushy and there is an overtly steak-y taste to it. The bun is awesome and the onions are too. 20140704_184439 But for a fancy pants burger? I’ll go here.  For a steak-y burger? I’ll go here. This is good, but not worth its cultish status. It was neither over the top decadent nor cheekily low end-high end. It was worth $18 – not $30.20140704_190526 Cote de boef for 1

Now THIS was worth every pretty penny. I have rarely had steak this good in an actual steakhouse. Juicy, funky, umami heavy ribeye, seared until the outside is charred and the inside is bright red varying to a saturated rose color with nary an ounce of blood – perfect medium rare. It has a beefy chew but is quite tender, and the fat is rendered so it is crispy and irresistible. It comes with 2 huge marrow bones, seasoned with salt and meat drippings. It’s really the perfect accompaniment for bread. I would get this again yesterday – that’s how good it is. 20140704_200307Berry and lemon cake

Light, creamy, all-American. A whimsical end to a very good meal.

And this was a very good meal.  I didn’t even photograph the excellent stretchy, buttery aligot, the rich crab sauce of the trout Meuniere, or the truly memorable butter and thyme carrots (literally my favorite carrots ever).  The service is unmemorable – a little rushed and somewhat lackadaisical. But this is just a very good, high-end neibhborhood bistro. It isn’t mind altering fare. It isn’t the most special meal ever. It isn’t even the greatest burger ever. It’s just a great meal that is delicious if you can foot the bill (thanks, wedding gift certificate!) and love steak.

Glad that I didn’t break my back to get here earlier, because while it’s delicious, it’s also a lot of hype.