Sunday, January 31, 2010

Angeli Caffe

It was love at first bite for me and Angeli Caffe (a bite of pumpkin lasagna to be precise) and it's been my go-to Italian restaurant ever since. Located on Melrose, Angeli Caffe serves rustic Italian food with seasonal, fresh ingredients. The food is simple but incredibly delicious, which is no surprise when you consider its owner.

Evan Kleiman is a chef, cookbook writer and host of KCRW's Good Food. She's also the founder of Slow Food LA, a non-profit organization that promotes good, clean and fair food production and consumption. Basically, she's a total superstar in the foodie world...and one of my heroes.

As part of its connection to the Slow Food Movement, Angeli has a year-round menu and a seasonal menu. When I visited this weekend, I was stoked to get to try the winter menu!

Angeli Caffe

J ordered the Lasagna Angeli, lasagna with a tomato-basil sauce, ricotta, parmesan and seasonal veggies including spinach. Although I prefer heartier, meatier lasagna, this is so good! You can actually taste chunks of tomato in the sauce, which makes it feel like you're eating a home-cooked meal rather than a restaurant-prepared one. I also love that the lasagna's flavor will always be different depending on the season during which you visit the restaurant.

Vegetable Lasagna @ Angeli Caffe

My out-of-town visitor ordered the seasonal gnocchi, which was beet. I passed on trying this one, but my friend ate every bite! Not a bad sign. I just love that they're pink!

Beet Gnocchi @ Angeli Caffe

My other friend (and Angeli-newbie) opted for the Special Pizza with winter squash, fontina cheese and walnuts. Squash is not something that I'd ordinarily think of as a pizza topping, but the soft, sweet squash played nicely off the crunchy dough. I had food envy over this one!

Special Winter Pizza @ Angeli Caffe

I ordered the Penne with Ricotta, Garlic and a "hint of chile." The dish was good but very rich. I didn't quite anticipate that the pasta would be bathed in ricotta, and I got full very quickly. It needed a little more chile to counteract all of the creamy cheese.

Penne with Ricotta Cheese, Garlic and Chile @ Angeli Caffe

Our first dessert was Chocolate Chunk Bread Pudding. The consensus was that it was yummy with just the right amount of chocolate but that it could have been a little gooier (although this is a matter of taste).

Chocolate Chunk Bread Pudding @ Angeli Caffe

We also ordered a mixed berry tart. I loved the fruit, but the tart itself was a little dry and definitely needed to be paired with ice cream rather than whipped cream.

Mixed Berry Tart @ Angeli Caffe

Angeli Caffe is a must-try for homemade, rustic Italian!

Angeli Caffe
7274 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90046
(323) 936-9086

Angeli Caffe on Urbanspoon
Angeli Caffe in Los Angeles

Friday, January 29, 2010

Slice Truck and Get Shaved

Pizza is one of the latest foods to join in on the food trunk fun. When I first heard about Slice Truck, I thought, "This will either be epic...or terrible." So, last night, I decided to give them a try.

Slice Truck serves up pepperoni and plain slices--both topped with fresh mozzarella cheese and basil. You can also choose from a list of additional toppings for an extra charge. I ordered the pepperoni.

Slice Truck

I can sum up the pizza in one word: "YUM!" In my book, Slice Truck is second only to Mulberry Street, which is saying a lot given the fact that Mulberry Street is an LA pizza institution and Slice Truck is a start-up food truck. I definitely hope, though, that they branch out in terms of their menu soon. Sometimes you want more than just pepperoni or cheese!

My slice had the perfect amount of cheese, and the mozzarella was delicious. There was also just the right amount of basil, which was really what made the flavor of the pizza for me. My favorite part of the pizza, though, (and my criteria for good pizza) was the dough. It was the perfect combination of crispy and dough-y. The sauce and the actual pepperoni were just OK, but, overall, I was a big fan of the pizza.

Pepperoni Pizza @ Slice Truck

Next stop, Get Shaved--a truck that serves shaved ice Hawaiian style. The ice for shaved ice should be light, fluffy and not too densely packed while the syrup should be soaked all the way through but not poured so heavily that the ice collapses. Verrrrrry tricky. And Get Shaved always does it perfectly--better, in fact, than a lot of places in Hawaii.

Get Shaved was started by a husband-wife team who aren't from Hawaii but who love it, and their appreciation for Hawaii and for getting this ono treat right definitely show. From the consistency of the ice to the homemade flavors, I love everything about Get Shaved.

Get Shaved

Take advantage of the flavor choices and get three. Be bold and branch out from standard American flavors and try something like guava or lychee (you can't look at the flavor list and honestly tell me that you want grape).

You can also add ice cream or azuki beans (sweet red Japanese beans) to the bottom and condensed milk, sour spray or li hing mui (dried plum powder) to the top.

Menu from Get Shaved

I always order the same thing at Get Shaved: Blue Hawaii (a combination of vanilla and coconut), Passion Fruit and POG (a juice from Hawaii with passion fruit, guava and orange flavors) with ice cream at the bottom. So yummy!

Passionfruit, Blue Hawaii and POG Shaved Ice @ GetShaved

One of the great things about Get Shaved is that they really value and listen to their customers. For example, they added the sweet cream topping and li hing mui to the menu and made POG a regular flavor rather than a special after getting requests.

Yummy night!

Slice Truck

Slice Truck on Urbanspoon
Slice Truck in Los Angeles

Get Shaved

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Making Spam Musubis

One of the first things that people usually ask me about Hawaii is, oddly enough, not about the beaches or the weather but about the food. The question, usually asked with a combination of interest, incredulity and a tone that indicates that the asker is slightly grossed out is, "Do you really eat Spam there???"

Yes, we do--especially in the form of spam musubis. You can get them as a dine-in or take-out option in many restaurants, grab one from a grocery store or gas station on your way to the beach or snag one at your school's cafeteria. The Honolulu Advertiser even has a "Best Spam Musubi" category in its "Best of the Best List" every year.

And before you say "Ewwww," let me tell you that I wasn't always a fan (the mysterious meat in a can doesn't have the nickname "Spare Parts And More" for no reason). I was disgusted by the stuff until I started eating it teriyaki-style rather than just grilled straight out of the can. Since realizing that I don't hate the stuff, I've started making them myself and kicking them up a notch and have even converted a few other Spam-haters.

Here's what you'll need to make your own nommy musubis:

Ingredients:
1 Can of Spam
Rice (The amount depends on how big you want your musubis to be, but 2 cups should be good)
Nori (or dried seaweed--for wrapping)
Soy Sauce
Sugar (I prefer to use brown sugar)

Optional:
Furikake--a Japanese condiment with dried nori and sesame seeds. (You should be able to find this in the Asian food section of your local grocery store or, if not, try a Nijiya Market, Marukai or another Asian grocery store)
Musubi maker

First, slice up your spam. You can make the slices as thick or as thin as you'd like--depending on how many musubis you want to make. I usually end up with about 10-12 slices.


Place the spam slices in a pan on medium heat and cook them until they are slightly firm (this isn't an exact science. You just want them to be less squishy than when you first put them in the pan).


While the spam is cooking, mix up equal parts soy sauce and sugar--be sure you have enough to cover the bottom of your pan. If it's not salty enough for your taste, add more soy sauce! Not sweet enough? Add more sugar. This is all about your tastes.

Pour the mixture over the spam. When the spam is brown on the underside, flip it over. Keep cooking until your soy sauce/sugar mix has fully soaked into the spam.




Next lay out your nori. If you have a musubi maker, center it on the nori. Add a thick layer of rice in the musubi mold or, you don't have one, just plop the rice in the middle and, if you'd like, a layer of furikake.


Next, add a slice of spam, another layer of furikake and another layer of rice. Now, if you have a musubi maker, put the musubi maker-top on top and press down hard. If you don't have one, your musubi will be less firm but don't worry!


Wrap one end of the nori around the rice. Use a dab of water to wet the other end so that it'll stick. And voila! Spam musubi!


If you have leftover rice and spam, try making some fried rice or chop up the spam and add it to instant ramen to give it new life. Either way--enjoy!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Haiti Truck-a-palooza @ T-Lofts

Today, for the first time in over a week, LA saw sun. AND, for the first time in weeks... Angelenos saw the mountains! with snow! and the hills! and a blue smog-less sky! Los Angeles after the rain is truly a beautiful sight.

All of these cars on the 101 were slowing down just to take a look at the mountains. I don't blame them.

It's a good thing my windshield was clean!

The rain is supposed to come back next week but cleared up just in time for the Food Trucks for Haiti benefit at the T-Lofts. Good cause and good food? I'm there!





Even though we arrived at 1 PM, I hadn't eaten anything yet and was craving breakfast. The Buttermilk Truck to the rescue! The line was ridiculous--one of the longest at the event--but I knew that the wait would be worth it.


The Buttermilk Truck specializes in breakfast foods and late night noms that include Red Velvet Pancake Bites, Hawaiian Bread French Toast Sticks and Hawaiian Breakfast Sliders with portuguese sausage. I ordered the Buttermilk Breakfast Sandwich.


I only eat eggs under two circumstances: 1) in a breakfast burrito under the effects of a dire hangover and 2) in the Buttermilk Truck's breakfast sandwich. The buttermilk biscuits are buttery and covered in melted, gooey cheese. I chose Applewood smoked bacon as my meat (you can also order Chicken Apple Sausage or Tocino), which is UNBELIEVABLE--thick and crispy. YUM.


Next up, lunch food. I'd heard great things about a new Greek truck called Louk's and decided to give it a try.


Louk's serves up traditional Greek fare such as gyros and salads, but it was their fries with feta cheese and honey that intrigued me. I thought that the saltiness of the fries might play off the sweetness of the honey and the tang of the feta but, instead, the dish, overall, tasted more like a dessert than anything resembling fries--almost like a funnel cake. Yum!


Next up was Phamish, a Vietnamese food truck which serves banh mi, spring rolls and even pho--pretty impressive for a truck!


My friend got a Grilled Steak banh mi and really enjoyed it. I can't believe she added the jalapeno! I'm a total wuss when it comes to spicy food.


I ordered the Lemongrass Pork Spring Rolls. The pork was scrumptious, but I couldn't help but be disappointed by how loosely they were rolled. Also, it felt like the rolls were missing a crunch--perhaps crunchier bean sprouts or some peanuts in the dipping sauce. Flavor-wise, however, this was great.


Willoughby Road BBQ just got started and serves up BBQ and a few dishes with Asian flavors.


They were out of meats by the time we got there, but we decided to try their mac and cheese. J liked it, but it was a little too creamy and bland for my taste. Don't think I'll order this one again.


Our tummies were full, but we were thirsty and decided to go to the Thai food truck Yum Yum Bowls. I've ordered and loved their Panang Curry and Satays and figured their drinks must be equally tasty.


Yummy Thai iced tea. And it matches their truck!


My first visit of the day was actually the Sweets Truck because I cannot get going with my day until I've had coffee. Their Peppermint Mocha is the best!


I was also going to buy and save one of their Extreme Red Velvet Cookies which is one of the best things I have EVER eaten. Period. But they were all sold-out. Fortunately, they had Red Velvet Shooters. UNFORTUNATELY, everyone ahead of me ordered at least two, and they were all gone by the time I reached the window. I did manage to snag the last pink cupcake, though!


They were actually unsure of what it was, but, upon opening it up after dinner, I found out that it was a red velvet/chocolate swirl topped with strawberry frosting, sprinkles and espresso beans. YUM. And, suddenly, I wasn't so sad about the red velvet cookies...


What a delicious day! And it feels great to have helped out such an important cause.

Please check out the American Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders or the United Nations Population Fund and make a donation to help Haiti if you haven't already. Every little bit helps!

The Buttermilk Truck

Louks

Phamish

Willoughby Road

Yum Yum Bowls

The Sweets Truck

Friday, January 22, 2010

Sushi Gen

Hailing from Hawai'i, I know and like (ok, love) good Japanese food. And I'm not talking about overpriced Japanese food from restaurants with TMZ permanently camped outside. I'm talking about solid places that remind me of home, and Sushi Gen is one of those places. After a long day at work, I needed a little dose of home.

Sushi Gen, located in the Honda Plaza in Little Tokyo, has a bad rap for having somewhat pricey dinners, but this fails to take into account the A) how fresh their seafood is and B) the sheer amount of food they give you if you order a dinner combination. If you visit Sushi Gen be forewarned that there will be a little bit of a wait, but take this as a good sign.


J ordered the Sushi Deluxe Combination, which came with a salmon skin salad, mazurka (a combination of sweet potato and seaweed) and a pretty big sampling of sushi.

I didn't give this a try, but it looked good enough for someone at the next table to ask what it was!

The mazurka. I had never tried this before, and it was an interesting combination of textures and sweet and salty flavors.

For those of you who know me, I clearly ate none of this, but it looked beautiful--particularly the orange of the eggs.

I ordered the chicken teriyaki dinner combination, which includes miso soup, sunomono, pickled vegetables and tempura.

At a lesser restaurant, these dishes can be throwaways, but, here, they're truly part of the meal. The miso's flavor was almost perfect, and the rice noodles were a nice addition to the seaweed and the crunchy cucumber.

And then there's tempura. Shrimp, zucchini, pumpkin and potato. There are few things sadder than soggy tempura, and this was satisfyingly crunchy.

And, finally, the chicken teriyaki. Their teri sauce isn't heavy like other restaurants. Instead, it's light and sweet. Delicious!

Happy Friday!

Sushi Gen
422 E. 2nd Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012
213-617-0552

Sushi Gen on Urbanspoon
Sushi Gen in Los Angeles