Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Ricky's Fish Tacos

Ricky's Fish Tacos. The name of the popular spot explains why I have declined many an excited text and tweet about a taco meet-up: fish. Because of this terrifying word, I long neglected to look at Ricky's Fish Tacos' Twitter feed. If I had, I would have seen that they also serve shrimp--a seafood I love and will eat in any incarnation. Whoops.

Deciding to make up for lost time, I recently visited RFT's new location in Silverlake.

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Whereas RFT's friendly namesake used to serve his tacos from a cart, he now runs a larger operation with a full-sized deep-fryer as well as tables and chairs--all in the shade of several large tents.

Upon arrival, we were greeted by smiles, the bubbling sounds of frying food and enormous jugs of brilliantly colorful, homemade agua fresca (on this day, the flavors were watermelon and hibiscus). The casual, cheerful atmosphere perfectly suited my lazy Sunday vibe, and we happily ordered two shrimp tacos (for me, $2.50 each) and two fish tacos (for J, also $2.50 each) and took a seat.

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As we waited for our lunch, we also watched it being prepared, which I--as a generally nosy person--enjoyed.

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*Bubble bubble*

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The tacos come topped with fresh, crunchy cabbage and a flavorful pico de gallo. From here, you have your choice of several different salsas and a creamy mayo sauce to further dress your taco.

To his fish tacos, J drizzled on the mayo sauce and a smoky chipotle salsa.

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To my shrimp tacos, I added Ricky's recommendation for the least spicy salsa. Upon hearing J's recommendation the mayo, however, I also added a generous squirt of that sauce.

The superlative praise lavished on Ricky's Fish Tacos is deserved: these are no joke. The batter which coats the fish and shrimp is suprisingly light and, despite being fried, the tacos are neither weighty nor greasy. The cabbage and pico de gallo add a firm crunch to the tacos, and the salsas are all uniquely flavorful. Although I do not particularly love mayo, the cool, creamy sauce provided the finishing touch on both the shrimp and fish tacos (or so I'm told, with the latter).

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We also thoroughly enjoyed our sweet hibiscus agua fresca, made with pressed hibiscus leaves. Like its color, the flavor of the drink was deep and complex. My only complaint is that the drink was so good, but the cup was so small!

I weep to only learn now that Ricky's Fish Tacos sells more seafood than the kind mentioned in its name.

Ricky's Fish Tacos
1400 N. Virgil St.
Los Angeles, CA 90027
www.twitter.com/rickysfishtacos

Ricky's Fish Tacos in Los Angeles on Fooddigger

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Bludso's BBQ

One recent evening, as J and I sat in the car, our conversation turned to a familiar topic: "What should we eat for dinner?" On this evening, we both craved something heavy. Hearty. Filling. And we were willing to make a trek for it. We quickly arrived at the same conclusion: BBQ.

Although questions of where to find good BBQ in Los Angeles are often polarizing (any given BBQ joint is often the absolute "best" or "worst" place someone has eaten), the praise has been almost unanimous for one place--Bludso's BBQ.

Bludso's BBQ

Located in Compton only a stone's throw away from the Long Beach city limits, Bludso's BBQ serves Texas-style BBQ in Texas-sized portions. Owner Kevin Bludso hails from a barbecuing family and relies on the BBQ techniques of his great great grandfather and the recipes of his grandmother. I'm a sucker for food with history.

As J and I examined the menu, we vacillated over what to order: Should he order ribs? Or perhaps pork? Should I branch out from my favorite--pulled pork--in order to try something new? Finally, something caught our eye: the Texas Sampler ($28.50) which comes with two large sides and one of every kind of meat except beef rib. Except beef rib? We then added two beef ribs to our already sizeable order for $4.00.

Bludso's BBQ

Although Bludso's tiny interior holds a countertop and barstools, there is also an area behind the restaurant with a picnic table and chairs. The area is also home to Bludso's two large smokers so, while you wait for your food, a preview of what is to come may waft through the air.

Bludso's BBQ

Although Bludso's of course provides napkins and wet wipes for its messy fare, the restaurant also gives you two slices of white bread with your order--an edible alternative for your face-wiping needs.

White Bread @ Bludso's BBQ

The greens--our first side--were less than impressive, lacking the depth of flavor usually imbued to greens by the smoked meat with which they are cooked.

Greens @ Bludso's BBQ

The mac and cheese was a surprise--dry and crumbly rather than creamy and gooey as with most Southern versions of this dish. Despite its unexpected consistency, this mac and cheese was none the less rich and cheesy, which is what really counts.

Mac and Cheese @ Bludso's BBQ

Then our Texas Sampler arrived. As the weighty styrofoam container was placed in front of me, I marveled at just how full the little white box was, so full, in fact, that the lid was far from closed--unsurprising given the fact that this combo includes pork ribs, beef brisket, rib tip, BBQ chicken, chicken links, beef links, pulled pork and pork shoulder.

Texas Sampler @ Bludso's BBQ

Although the meats were all stacked on top of one another, each retained its unique flavor--the beef links, dark and smoky; the pork ribs, bright and tangy. Every item was technically "BBQ" but at no point did the flavors become redundant; every meat was completely different than the others and delicious in its own right.

Texas Sampler @ Bludso's BBQ

Despite the fact that we already had enough food to feed us for days, we also had our two extra beef ribs. Almost the size of my forearm, these were wonderfully meaty and tender. Although I rarely order ribs and generally avoid spicy food, I ate every last piece of meat off my rib.

Beef Ribs @ Bludso's BBQ

We did our best, but our box still did not fully close when we left, and the Bludso's crew jokingly voiced their disapproval. In the end, our substantial Texas Sampler platter from Bludso's provided around five separate meals--each of which was somehow even tastier than the last. I foresee a return trip in my near future. After all, I still need to try the pulled pork sandwich...

Bludso's BBQ
811 S. Long Beach Blvd.
Compton, CA 90221
(310) 637-1342

Bludso's BBQ on Urbanspoon
Bludso's BBQ in Los Angeles on Fooddigger

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Salinas Churro Truck

With the continued popularity of gourmet food trucks, many OG food trucks have been lost in the shuffle. Salinas Churro Truck is not one of them.

Located in Echo Park, the truck advertising funnel cake and "churros y chocolate" continually draws a diverse crowd including area locals and dessert fanatics who gladly make the drive for a bagful of the sugary sweets. After hearing numerous positive reviews (OK, ecstatically positive reviews), I decided to investigate Salinas Churro Truck for myself.

Salinas Churro Truck

Upon arriving, my curiosity was piqued by the various desserts pictured on the side of the truck. The Salinas Churro Truck offers more than its name might suggest, including platano frito (fried plantains) and bionico (fresh fruit topped with condensed milk, dried fruit and granola) as well as savory snacks such as nachos. After watching several patrons happily dig into their bags of churros, however, I opted to try the truck's namesake.


Salinas Churro Truck

A large window provides an up-close view of your churros being prepared--first squeezed out of a large metal tube as dough, then cut by hand and fried and, finally, rolled in a mix of cinnamon and sugar.

Salinas Churro Truck

Salinas Churro Truck

I ordered the churros con fresa (churros topped with strawberry jam and drizzled with condensed milk, $3.00). My friend Nguyen of Starry Kitchen once said, "Condensed milk is the bacon of the dessert world; everything is better with it," a sentiment which was certainly applicable here (and is particularly fitting since he is the Mayor of Salinas Churro Truck on FourSquare). Although it was the mention of strawberry that hooked me, it was the sweet, rich condensed milk that kept me munching and desperately dipping my churros in any little pools of it at the bottom of my container.

Churros con Fresa (Strawberry)

Honoring the original, we also purchased an order of five regular churros ($2.00). Yes, I said $2.00. Having previously only sampled stale, overpriced churros at Disneyland, my expectations were low. How good could these really be? The answer: very, very good. Salinas Churro Truck churros exemplify the potential of simple dishes made well. Served piping hot, the churros presented a delightful mix of textures--crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside. I also enjoyed the coating of sugar and cinnamon, which was sweet but not overpoweringly so. As scrumptious as my churros con fresa were, these original versions beat them by a mile.

Salinas Churro Truck

Salinas Churro Truck

If you've only ever eaten Disneyland churros, do yourself a favor: try these. And get the OG style.

Salinas Churro Truck
Echo Park and Sunset Boulevard

Salinas Churro Truck in Los Angeles on Fooddigger

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Great Food Truck Race: How Do the Trucks Stack Up?

Tonight, the Food Network launched "The Great Food Truck Race," a reality competition in which seven gourmet food trucks travel cross-country, cooking in competition for a grand prize of $50,000. Since the food truck craze began in earnest in Los Angeles, it is fitting that four of the seven trucks are LA-based...and that I have visited all of them.

Here are the four Los Angeles food trucks featured on "The Great Food Truck Race":

Crepes Bonaparte: Although I previously avoided crepes both sweet and savory, Crepes Bonapartes' HazelBerryAna, featuring strawberries, banana and Nutella, made me a believer!

HazelBerryAna Crepe @ Crepes Bonaparte
Click here for the full post.

Grill 'Em All: The toppings on Grill 'Em All's "Waste 'Em All" burger were satisfying, but the lean beef lacked any juiciness, and the bun was too thick for my taste.

Waste 'Em All Burger @ Grill 'Em All
Click here for the full post.

Nana Queen's: Although the store-bought wings were a disappointment, Nana Queen's multiple variations of banana pudding were all delightfully simple and sweet.

StrawNana Pudding @ Nana Queens
Click here for the full post

Nom Nom Truck: Although I had yet to start Noms, Not Bombs when I first visited the Nom Nom Truck (no relation), in true Asian fashion, I still took a picture of my banh mi. The sandwich's ingredients were fresh and tasty, but the hard baguette tore the roof of my mouth apart. Phamish and Mandoline Grill have since launched and serve superior Vietnamese fare.

Banh Mi @ Nom Nom Truck

If you missed tonight's episode, I won't spoil the secret of which truck was asked to hit the road first. Tune in on Sundays at 10pm/9c to the Food Network to see which truck reigns supreme!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A Night at the Roosevelt: 25 Degrees and Library Bar

Hollywood: with the Walk of Fame, the Kodak Theater and numerous iconic streets, it's quintessentially LA. In other words, it's an overcrowded tourist trap that most Angelenos avoid at all costs. Last Friday, however, I celebrated the arrival of the weekend at the Roosevelt Hotel, home to both 25 Degrees and Library Bar. After all, after a long week at work, what more does one need than a good burger and a strong drink?

The Roosevelt Hotel

Located on the busy Hollywood Boulevard but in an historic landmark, 25 Degrees represents an intersection between the past and the present, which is reflected in its design. Although chandeliers, oversized quilted booths and luxurious crimson crushed velvet walls evoke images of old Hollywood, the two flatscreens above the service window firmly root you in 2010. Even these, however, nod to both the past and the present; when we arrived Beyonce was on one TV, and Casablanca was on the other. Surprising was the restaurant's relatively small size, with only seven to eight booths and counter space. With a waiting list for the tables, we sat ourselves at the counter.

25 Degrees

25 Degrees

J and I ordered the Number One with onion rings and the Number Two with french fries, respectively. Our side dishes arrived first, a practice I neither love nor understand. Fries should definitely go with my burger!

The fries were average, tasting store-bought with too much rosemary thrown on them.

French Fries @ 25 Degrees

The onion rings, on the other hand, were a sound choice--crunchy and not too greasy.

Onion Rings @ 25 Degrees

After hearing much praise for 25 Degrees' burgers, I, as a burger junkie, was thrilled when my whopping Number Two ($12.00) with pesto, prosciutto, burrata and a roasted tomato arrived. Despite my trepidations about burrata on a burger, this dish delievered on every level. The juicy patty and soft brioche provided a solid, quality foundation for the Italian accoutrements. To my delight, the combination of the salty prosciutto, tangy tomato and creamy burrata with the burger was not at all overwhelming-- just mind-blowingly tasty. The brioche also held up surprisingly well, becoming soggy only towards the end of my meal.

Number One @ 25 Degrees

J's Number One ($12.00) with prelibato gorgonzola crescenza, caramelized onions, bacon, arugula and Thousand Island was also quite enjoyable. With a generous serving of cheese and a hearty slice of extra-crispy bacon, what is not to love? Again, the thick, juicy patty set the foundation for this delicious burger.

Number Two @ 25 Degrees

We passed on ordering drinks at 25 Degrees in favor of saving ourselves for Library Bar. Despite its name, Library Bar is more like a lounge with seating in the form of leather couches and oversized chairs. In an impressive touch, Libary Bar does not have a set menu. Rather, you provide your desired ingredients or flavor profile for your drink, and the bartender does the rest.

Library Bar @ Roosevelt Hotel

For my first drink, I requested something with rum and fruit. The amiable Ryan responded with his take on a Lemon Maid-- Strawberry Maid with rum, agave, cucumber and strawberry. Sweet and refreshing, this drink was dangerously delicious.

Library Bar @ Roosevelt Hotel

For my second drink, I opted to stick with the sweet and fruity flavor profile but left the specifics in Ryan's more than capable hands. He handed me a cocktail with Laird's Applejack brandy, lemon juice, muddled pear and cinnamon and topped with fresh figs. When I asked him if the drink had a name, he said "No" but suggested George Washington's Pie because our nation's first President liked the brandy so much that he asked the Laird family for their recipe. This drink, which reminded me of a cider, begs to be drunk near a roaring fire.

Library Bar @ Roosevelt Hotel

J asked for a savory drink and received a Breeder's Cup, made of Hendrick's gin, beet horseradish, cucumber, lime juice and agave. I loved the color imbued by the horseradish, and the sharp kick it added to the otherwise mild drink.

Library Bar @ Roosevelt Hotel

J's second drink was also gin-based, this time with apricot, basil, lime juice and agave. The basil dominated, lending a lovely, light and refreshing flavor and scent.

Library Bar @ Roosevelt Hotel

All of our drinks were $16.00 each. Although they were slightly pricier than the average cocktail, they were all outstanding--some of my best and most memorable drinks to date! With its talented and affable bartenders and incredible drinks, Library Bar is my new favorite bar.

25 Degrees and Library Bar set a very high standard for my weekend. I can't wait to return to both.

25 Degrees
7000 Hollywood Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90028
(323) 785-7244

25 Degrees on Urbanspoon
25 Degrees in Los Angeles on Fooddigger

Library Bar
7000 Hollywood Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90028

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Bouchon (Las Vegas)

From what I have gathered, there are two cross-sections of people who particularly enjoy Las Vegas: those who have fairly recently turned twenty-one and Asians--especially those from Hawai'i. Although I meet the criteria for both, my inaugural Vegas trip came only this summer, when J, Christine of folie a choisauce and DJJewelz and I headed to Sin City for the weekend.

While others might plan their Vegas vacations around which nightclubs to hit up, we instead spent our energy plotting what to eat. One of J's requests was brunch at Bouchon in the Venetian. Although being awake before lunch is not my idea of a vacation, J's family has long raved about their brunch at Bouchon, and I was curious to investigate the fuss for myself.

Bouchon (Las Vegas)

With its high, vaulted ceilings, grand mahogany columns and kitchen-related wall paintings and oyster bar, Bouchon's interior is an inviting mix of sweeping grandeur and French bistro. As I walked to my seat, I felt simultaneously relaxed and swanky--neither of which is normally part of my vocabulary.

Bouchon (Las Vegas)

Bouchon (Las Vegas)

J began with a glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice ($3.50), which was pleasantly sweet and light.

Fresh Orange Juice @ Bouchon (Las Vegas)

Although downing overpriced drinks in a crowded club is not my style, a little bubbly with my breakfast is; a fruity bellini ($12.50) was the perfect partner for a vacation morning.

Bellini @ Bouchon (Las Vegas)

As J and I relaxedly sipped on our drinks and sank into our oversized booth, a woven loaf of bread roughly the size of my forearm arrived with jam and butter. The thick, bread was enjoyable enough on its own but heavenly when topped with the creamy butter and dense jam.

Bread, Butter and Jam @ Bouchon (Las Vegas)

Because traditional breakfasts fill me up quickly but leave me hungry around an hour later, I ordered a more substantial dish--a croque madame (sans egg) served with pomme frites ($19.00). With its thick slices of perfectly toasted bread and a generous serving of ham, the dish was hearty but not overpoweringly so, as the bechamel sauce accented rather than drowned the sandwich. The accompanying pomme frites were outstanding. Twice-fried in peanut oil and tossed with salt, these were impossible to stop munching on long after I was full. I asked for my remaining fries to-go, telling our waitress that I would probably eat them throughout the day as I shopped. She laughed, telling me I was her funniest customer of the day...I was dead serious.

Croque Madame @ Bouchon (Las Vegas)

J ordered the dish that is famed in his family--the French toast ($12.00). Deceived by the unassuming name, I was surprised when this beautiful, glazed, apple-topped cylinder arrived at our table. Bouchon's signature breakfast dish is more closely related to bread pudding than the French toast to which you are accustomed and features layers of brioche, custard and apples. After one decadently sweet and pillowy soft bite, I immediately understood the fuss and wished that I had ignored my carnivorous desires in favor of this.

French Toast @ Bouchon (Las Vegas)

If all brunches were even half as delicious as those from Bouchon in half as lovely a setting, I might wake up more often for them!

Bouchon
The Venetian
3355 Las Vegas Blvd.
South Las Vegas, NV 89109
(702) 414-6200

Bouchon (Venetian) on Urbanspoon
Bouchon in Las Vegas on Fooddigger