Monday, May 31, 2010

Scoops

In my circle of friends, the question "What's for dessert?" immediately follows the last bite of dinner.

True to form, as my friends and I wrapped up a recent lackluster dinner at Charcoal Grill, we began discussing our next (sweet) stop. After throwing around a few ideas, my friends were appalled to learn that I had never visited Scoops. Thus, it was settled and to Scoops we went.

Located near LACC, Scoops uses fresh ingredients to make ice cream in an eclectic selection of flavors that rotates daily. Among their most popular flavors are brown bread and Guiness chocolate.

Scoops

"One scoop" for $2.75 actually gets you two flavors rather than one, as the name implies. Because of the impressively low prices, I almost ordered the "one scoop + one" for $4.50 (which comes with your choice of three flavors), but my friend Josh warned me that this was quite a bit of ice cream.

Scoops

Because we arrived only about an hour before Scoops closed, the selection was relatively limited. In fact, perhaps the biggest piece of advice to impart to any Scoops newbie is "Go early!"

Fortunately, there were more than enough delicious flavors left to sample, and the Scoops staff was generous with letting us try as many flavors as we liked. With a dynamic selection of flavors--including chocolate tomato this night-- which may or may not agree with one's tastes, this is a great (and much appreciated by me) system.

Scoops

I ordered "one scoop" with black tea and strawberry passion fruit ($2.75). The black tea was a delightful combination of tea and cinnamon flavors, with the cinnamon brightening up the otherwise dark tea flavor. I couldn't get enough of this. Although the strawberry passion fruit was heavier on the former than the latter, it was, none the less, also enjoyable. Finally, as any ice cream fanatic knows, texture is crucial, and this was wonderfully soft and fluffy.

Scoops

Where does Scoops get its eccentric flavor ideas? From its customers on its suggestion board, apparently. I second the suggestion of whomever wrote "Prosciutto & Cantaloupe."

Suggestion board @ Scoops

I still can't believe that a generous amount of some of the best ice cream I've ever eaten was $2.75. I now think of Scoops every time I'm in the area and find it hard not to make many an impromptu dessert stop!

Scoops
712 N. Heliotrope Dr.
Los Angeles, CA 90029
(323) 906-2649

Scoops on Urbanspoon
Scoops in Los Angeles on Fooddigger

Friday, May 28, 2010

Shaherzad

When I first moved to LA, my palate was far from adventurous. As a picky eater, I was terrified to branch out of my comfort zone and try any of the vast array of unfamiliar cuisines presented to me by the city.

My first trip to Shaherzad, however, marked a turning point in my attitude towards and appreciation for food and was one of the first places I uttered the brave words, "I'll try it." As such, the Persian restaurant in Westwood remains one of my favorite go-to dinner spots.

Shaherzad

Perhaps one of the strongest indicators of an ethnic restaurant's authenticity is whether or not people of the same ethnicity bother to eat there. Shaherzad passes this test with flying colors. During every visit, without fail, the mid-sized restaurant is packed with customers, many of whom are Persian, enjoying their stews, kabobs and meat plates.

Dinner begins with hot, fresh-baked flatbread. The basket presents a delicious mix of pieces of bread that are fluffy and chewy and ones that are crunchy. With the refills continuously placed within snacking radius, it is almost impossible to not overload on this carb-y goodness.

Fresh bread @ Shaherzad

Because this was my friend's first experience with Persian food, we ordered the combination of appetizers (#11, $11.95), which includes olivieh salad (chicken and potato salad with pickles and sweet peas), kashk bademjan (seasoned eggplant with yogurt sauce, sauteed onion and mint), dolmeh (grape leaves stuffed with ground beef and rice) and cotelette (ground chicken and potato cutlet).

Although J and I usually pass on this enormous appetizer combination when we dine by ourselves, any Persian food or Shaherzad newbie should give it a try. Every individual dish is delicious and, hey, that's what to-go boxes are for, right?

Combination of Appetizers (#11) @ Shaherzad

Although I frequently visit Shaherzad with a firm resolve to try a new entree, the bademjan (baked eggplant cooked in tomato sauce, #32, $13.95) is too delicious to pass up. The dish is available with veal, chicken or vegetables, but I recommend the lamb, which is tender and, with its mild flavor, plays nicely off the tang of the tomato sauce. Served with a large plate of rice (see photo below), this savory and hearty dish is the meal that keeps on giving; I usually get dinner, another meal and a snack out of this.

Bademjan @ Shaherzad

On this night, J was feeling more adventurous than I and did branch out, trying the fesenjan (chicken stew with sauteed, ground walnuts in pomegranate sauce, #35, $13.95). Although he enjoyed the first few bites of this stew, the sweet, tangy pomegranate flavor soon became overwhelming, and he began to eat more rice than stew with each bite (and steal bites of mine).

Fesenjan @ Shaherzad

For its delicious dishes served in behemoth portions and for inspiring my present-day love of and appreciation for food, Shaherzad is always at the top of my dinner list.

Shaherzad
1422 Westwood Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90024
(310) 470-3242

Shaherzad Restaurant on Urbanspoon
Shaherzad in Los Angeles on Fooddigger

Thursday, May 27, 2010

LudoBites 4.0 x Trois

Despite attending the FoodDigger LudoBites 4.0 preview and visiting again on opening night, my appetite for LudoBites 4.0 was not yet satiated. After all, the menu has seen many changes in its seven-week run with additions (such as braised beef cheeks) and subtractions (such as the egg and potato mousseline with lobster) nearly every week. As such, I decided to visit LudoBites 4.0 once more at the end of its run to sample Chef Ludo's new dishes and to celebrate my recent graduation.

I was delighted to see that the warm baguette with honey-lavender butter and smoked lard ($4.00) had survived the entire LudoBites run. The salty, crusty bread is the perfect canvas for the sweet spreads. The honey-lavender butter was particularly sweet this visit, and I quickly ran out of bread trying to eat as much of it as I could.

Tartine Plate "Warm Baguette" @ LudoBites 4.0

Our second appetizer was the Santa Barbara prawn with avocado, passion fruit and cocktail sauce ($28.00). Although the name is straightfoward, the dish was actually full of surprises: the avocado was frosty, the cocktail sauce, smoky and the passion fruit, a powder. I thoroughly enjoyed the creativity and adventurousness of this dish.

Santa Barbara Prawns @ LudoBites 4.0

If the number of laudatory blog posts and tweets (and happy TwitPics) are any indication, the crispy soft shell crab cone with mango, red spicy mayo and Corona granite ($19.00) has been one of the standout dishes of LudoBites 4.0. With this in mind, I brushed aside my lifelong boycott of crab because, apparently, LudoBites inspires a sense of adventure in my normally wimpy palate (Sidenote: Is it just me or is soft shell crab strange because you eat the whole thing?)

Crispy Softshell Crab Cone @ LudoBites 4.0

Although I avoid seafood (except shrimp) at all costs, if this is crab, then I love crab. The breading gave each bite a pleasant crunch, and the full-bodied red spicy mayo--reminiscent of the coating on slippery shrimp--made the dish feel both comforting and indulgent. This was the perfect introduction to crab.

J and I both also loved the Corona granite, which instantly made us wish we were lounging poolside with about 50 more of these little cups in a chilled glass (OK, mug).

Crispy Softshell Crab Cone @ LudoBites 4.0

New to the LudoBites 4.0 menu but not Ludo's fans are the "Peppites" of fried chicken with coconut polenta, grilled baby corn, bok choy and diablo sauce ($18.00) a.k.a. "LFC "(Ludo fried chicken) or simply "LudoBalls" (which is far more fun to say). Although J and I loved the incredibly tender, rosemary-flavored fried chicken and the accompanying crunchy veggies, part of us yearned for the greasier, down-and-dirty version with sweet and spicy dipping sauce from the LA Street Food Fest. We, however, definitely appreciated waiting several minutes for these rather than several hours as we did at the festival.

LFC @ LudoBites 4.0

Our second entree was the rack of lamb with goat cheese, artichoke and mint--one of the chief reasons I had to return to LudoBites. Can anything that is roasted in its own fat be disappointing? Highly doubtful. Every bite of lamb was tender and rich, and the flavor was amplified by a nice layer of salt. The creamy goat cheese was also a highlight of the dish, and I had to stop myself from licking it off the plate.

Rack of Lamb, Goat Cheese, Artichoke @ LudoBites 4.0

Also accompanying the lamb was a silky potato mousseline. Although I enjoyed the potato mousseline with lobster from the first weeks of LudoBites, I did wish I could enjoy a heftier portion of the potato-y goodness. Wish granted!

Potato Mousseline @ LudoBites 4.0

Although, I was fairly full after our appetizers and main courses, dessert was a must, particularly because the strawberry, macaron, lemon-verbena meringue ($12.00) was the other reason for my return. With fresh strawberries, pillowy macarons and whipped cream, this dessert was the epitome of every synonym for "delicious" for this strawberry-obsessed, pink-loving blogger. I would be hard-pressed to think of a dessert that I could love more than this.

Strawberry, Macaron, Lemon-Verbena Meringue @ LudoBites 4.

Strawberry, Macaron, Lemon-Verbena Meringue @ LudoBites 4.

Former Strawberry, Macaron, Lemon-Verbena Meringue @ LudoBites 4.0
Evidence of our love for our dessert

Merci to the incredibly hard-working and talented Chef Ludo and his one-woman-army wife Krissy for another wonderful dinner! I hope that you can get some sleep once LudoBites 4.0 finishes its run.

LudoBites 4.0

LudoBites 4.0 @ Gram & Papa's
227 E. 9th St.


LudoBites @ Gram & Papa's on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Cart for a Cause: The Lazy Ox Canteen

Cart for a Cause combines two things I love: good food and social causes.

The truck, which hits the streets every Tuesday, offers $10.00 meals (including a drink and cookie) prepared by a top LA chef. Previous Cart for a Cause guest chefs include Chef Alex Becker of Nobu WeHo, Chef Dong Choi of Comme Ca, Chefs Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo of Animal and Chef Eric Greenspan of The Foundry on Melrose. $6.50 of every $10.00 goes to St. Vincent's Meals on Wheels, which allows the organization to feed one person for a day.

Cart for a Cause (Lazy Ox Canteen)

This week, it was Chef Josef Centeno of the Lazy Ox Canteen who served up gourmet food at a rock bottom price for Cart for a Cause.

Cart for a Cause (Lazy Ox Canteen)

This week, the truck was parked in Santa Monica starting at 11:30. After hearing about Cart for a Cause selling out within an hour in previous weeks, J and I tried to get there reasonably early. Fortunately for us, however, there was no line when we arrived at 1.

Cart for a Cause (Lazy Ox Canteen)

On Chef Josef's menu were two types of báco-- "a hybrid of a flatbread pizza and taco." To this description, I'd add "with a dash of pita-like quality." We, of course, ordered both.

Menu @ Cart for a Cause (Lazy Ox Canteen)

Although I usually avoid pork belly because of its spongy consistency, it worked quite well in the original báco. Both the pork belly and carnitas were tender, and the savory flavor of each played nicely off the other. The greens added a lightness to the overall dish, and the salbitxada, a pico de gallo-like topping with tomatoes, parsley, chiles, garlic and vinegar, tied all of the flavors together.

Original Baco @ Cart for a Cause (Lazy Ox Canteen)

Our second báco--the resco báco-- was even tastier than the first. With crispy shrimp and a cabbage salad, this handheld lunch had a satisfying crunch. Again, the sauce (this time, chive) elevated the báco from good to great. Bonus points also for it being less messy to eat.

Resco Baco @ Cart for a Cause (Lazy Ox Canteen)

Resco Baco @ Cart for a Cause (Lazy Ox Canteen)

After sampling the Lazy Ox Canteen's food at Cart for a Cause, I am eager to visit the restaurant and try the real thing. I am also eager to visit Cart for a Cause again in the coming weeks. Be sure to check their Facebook page or Twitter to see which celebrity chef will be preparing delicious food for this good cause next.

Cart for a Cause
Here's their Facebook page

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Komodo Truck

I can say with utmost certainty that I inherited my love of food from my Dad (a.k.a. the human garbage disposal), who appreciates everything from lunch in a styrofoam container to five-star dining. As such, when in Los Angeles recently, he was excited not only for my graduation but also for the opportunity to finally partake in the city's food truck craze.

On one of our less hectic days, we learned of a Children's Day Festival in Little Tokyo where the Komodo Truck would be parked. Hopeful that the day would provide fun for my nephew and food for my Dad, our group headed to Little Tokyo.

Komodo Truck

The Komodo Truck boasts a diverse menu that includes both Asian inspiration (the Asian Marinated Chicken) and American fare (the Burgerrito). Its eight entrees are available as either a burrito ($7.00-$8.00) or taco ($2.00-$3.00) and can be accompanied by a selection of sides ($5.00), which include fries and meatballs.

Menu @ The Komodo Truck

As this was our first visit to the Komodo Truck, we opted to order several different types of tacos in order to sample as much as we could.

First up were a Komodo Signature taco (sirloin, guacamole and cotija cheese, $3.00) and a Asian Marinated Chicken taco (orange-marinated chicken with Asian stir-fried rice, $2.00). Although the beef in the Komodo signature was competently prepared, the taco's potential was limited by the guacamole, which was relatively bland and had a watery consistency. With its dry and decidedly un-orange chicken, the Asian Marinated Chicken taco was similarly disappointing. I did, however, enjoy the mixture of textures added by the rice.

Komodo Signature Taco & Asian Marinated Chicken Taco @ Komodo Truck

We also ordered a Blazin' Shrimp taco (spicy Indonesian-style shrimp with sour cream salad, $3.00) and a Seoul Food Special taco (BBQ short ribs with pickled cucumber salad, $2.00). Although, ideally, the cool sour cream would balance out the kick of the shrimp in the Blazin' Shrimp taco, the salad was overpowering and somewhat sloppy. Everyone, however, enjoyed the Seoul Food taco, which featured deliciously-prepared and juicy Korean short rib meat. I would order this entree again as a burrito.

Blazin' Shrimp Taco & Seoul Food Special Taco @ Komodo Truck

The standout dish of the afternoon was our order of truffle fries ($5.00). The crispy fries were tossed liberally with tasty truffle oil, and the result was a side of which none of us could get enough. These are a must-order for any stop at Komodo Truck.

Truffle Fries @ Komodo Truck

Although I won't hunt down the Komodo Truck any time soon, if I saw it again, I'd gladly order a Seoul Food Special burrito and one (or two) orders of truffle fries.

Komodo Truck

Komodo Truck in Los Angeles on Fooddigger

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Side Street Inn: Aloha to LOST

After six seasons, my love affair with the survivors of Oceanic flight 815 comes to a tragic (and completely unacceptable) end this Sunday, May 23. For years, I looked forward to a new episode of LOST every week and, even when when the season ended, I knew it was coming back. Now I don't know what to do! I suppose I'll start with the tips in this final Dharma Initiative Orientation video from Jimmy Kimmel Live.



As a tribute to LOST and the 120-ish hours I've spent watching the show (not counting the time spent watching episodes more than once...), I thought I'd write a Hawai'i post about one of favorite places to grind (a.k.a. stuff my face) when I'm home.

Located in an industrial area near Ala Moana Shopping Center more immediately recognizable for its seedy bars and strip clubs than award-winning food, Side Street Inn is a hidden hotspot that is a favorite with locals. Don't let the shady exterior (or interior with neon signs and dart boards lining the walls) fool you; Hawai'i's premier chefs have long visited Side Street Inn after closing up their own kitchens for the night, and even Anthony Bourdain was bowled over by the food on his Hawai'i episode of No Reservations.

Side Street Inn
Photo courtesy of thegirlsny

At this point, my family and I have our Side Street Inn ordering down to a science.

We always start with the Farmer's Salad ($12.00), which combines local greens, tomatoes, onions and avocado with shrimp, capers and lemon vinaigrette. This salad uses so many delicious local ingredients, and I never cease to be delighted by the juxtaposition of the mild flavors of the shrimp and avocado against the tang of the capers and vinaigrette. So ono (delicious).

Farmer's Salad @ Side Street Inn

On my last visit, we gave the shrimp scampi (black tiger shrimp sauteed with mushrooms, zucchini and capers in garlic butter, $13.00) a try. Although each bite of the perfectly cooked shrimp resulted in a satisfying *snap*, the veggies were a little overcooked and too soft for my liking. Oh well, nothing tons of garlic butter and parmesan can't cure.

Shrimp Scampi @ Side Street Inn

We Hawai'i natives love our white rice. Thus, an order of musubi ($3.50) to accompany dinner is a necessity. Although musubi are frequently served with spam, Side Street Inn serves them as little triangles of rice wrapped in nori and topped with furikake (dried nori and sesame seeds).

Musubi @ Side Street Inn

Any meal at Side Street Inn is incomplete without their kalbi (Korean shortribs with kimchi, $20.00). With the meat's rich soy flavor and the perfect amount of char, these shortribs epitomize kalbi and are the reason I'm so picky about my kalbi. Whereas some cuts of shortrib are so thin that your teeth chomp right through each bite, these are satisfyingly thick and juicy.

Kalbi @ Side Street Inn

Mfjkoe;rithertlwkejr. Look at them!

Kalbi @ Side Street Inn

Also popular and a must-order are the pan-fried island pork chops ($21.00). These two-bite-sized pieces of pork with their wonderfully crispy, golden brown outer layer have the power to keep you eating even once you're dangerously full. Because they're on the drier side, the pork chops benefit from a dip in the ketchup.

Pork chops @ Side Street Inn

Finally, we have the liliko'i (passion fruit) creme brulee ($5.00). Until I recently devoured the passion fruit creme brulee from Mo-Chica, this dessert from Side Street Inn was my gold standard for all creme brulee. The liliko'i-infused custard is on the thinner side of creme brulees and, as a result, each tart spoonful immediately spreads throughout your entire mouth. Also, even the paper thin caramel layer at the top of the custard tastes like liliko'i.

Lilikoi Creme Brulee @ Side Street Inn
You have to love the touch of Hawai'i at the top!

And so, I pay tribute to one of my favorite television shows with a post about one of my favorite restaurants. Argh, I love both so much. Now, I'm just sad about the end of LOST and really, really hungry.

Side Street Inn
1225 Hopaka St.
Honolulu, HI 96814
(808) 591-0253

Side Street Inn on Urbanspoon

Friday, May 21, 2010

Pita Pockets

Although Northridge lies outside my everyday eating radius, I recently made the trip for the grand opening of Get Shaved's store. With dessert covered, the big question was, "What to eat for dinner?" Opting to try something new (sorry, Brent's), J and I settled on Pita Pockets.

Located in an unsuspecting strip mall, the casual, family-run Pita Pockets serves Israeli food including pitas, kebabs, falafel and babaghanoosh. After seeing the size of the portions, I wasn't sure just how "healthy" my meal would be, but so long as it was "fast," "homemade" and "delicious," I was happy.

Pita Pockets

Pita Pockets

Here, a member of the Pita Pockets staff makes fresh laffa, a pillowy, chewy pita which is very popular in Israel and is one of the restaurant's most popular items.

Pita Pockets

Pita Pockets also roasts its own meat. Check out the two spits behind this employee.

Pita Pockets

For those who would like to munch while waiting for their food (*raises hand*), there is a big bowl of crispy laffa near the register. The combination of a delightful crunch and light salting kept me more than happy while waiting for my dinner.

Crispy Pita @ Pita Pockets

J's lamb kebab plate ($10.56) came with fries, salad, hummus and pita and was much larger than we had expected. Unfortunately, however, what the plate provided in quantity, it lacked in quality. The lamb was overcooked and almost rubbery, and the hummus, although clearly fresh, was disappointingly bland.

Lamb Plate @ Pita Pockets

Like J's plate, my shawarma laffa ($7.75) was also jumbo-sized. Here it is compared to the pita. I was tempted to take a picture holding it up to my head for scale.

Pita vs. Laffa @ Pita Pockets

Unlike J's plate, however, my shawarma laffa was delicious. Jam-packed with chicken straight from the spit, vegetables, rice and tahini sauce, the laffa was akin to an Israeli burrito. The cool tahini sauce and veggies paired nicely with the spice of the meat, and I found myself eating as though someone was going to take it away from me if I didn't quickly stuff it down my face. The fluffy, chewy laffa is the perfect wrap for this; the whole thing would fall apart with any other wrap.

Shawarma Laffa @ Pita Pockets

Shawarma Laffa @ Pita Pockets

Although the lamb plate was disappointing, the laffa was a delight and truly saved the night; there was enough food for me to get full, share with J and have leftovers for the next day's lunch.

Pita Pockets
9127 Reseda Blvd.
Northridge, CA 91324
(818) 709-4444

Pita Pocket on Urbanspoon
Pita Pockets in Los Angeles on Fooddigger