Sunday, February 26, 2012

KCC Farmers' Market (Honolulu, HI)

When vacationing in Hawai'i, my priorities are twofold: 1) food and 2) beach time. In that order. While I normally busy myself with visiting old favorites, over this Christmas vacation, I added a few new stops to my "To Eat" List. The KCC Farmers' Market was at the top of that list.

Hosted every Saturday, the farmers' market takes place at Kapiolani Community College, in the shadow of the iconic Diamond Head. Hawai'i is home to some incredible local produce and unique food items, and I was eager to see and taste the market's ono (delicious) offerings.

KCC Farmers' Market (Honolulu, HI)

We arrived promptly at 8:00AM in order to get the best picks and to beat the crowds. Given the early hour, I had breakfast on the brain and quickly began to take stock of my options.

Big Wave Country @ KCC Farmers' Market (Honolulu, HI)

My best friend, a KCC Farmers' Market veteran, recommended the Pesto Grilled Pizza from Big Wave Country, a boutique grower that harvests hundreds of varieties of tomatoes year round. My friend also advise me that the line can often get quite out-of-hand. No need to tell me twice. Pizza for breakfast, it was!

Big Wave Country @ KCC Farmers' Market (Honolulu, HI)

Big Wave Country @ KCC Farmers' Market (Honolulu, HI)

On top of a thin, crunchy crust sat vibrantly colored tomatoes from the town of Wailua on the North Shore, fresh basil pesto and hand-stretched mozzarella. This simple slice beautifully showcased all of its delicious local ingredients.

J, however, craved something "more breakfast-y" and stumbled upon Chef Hardy's, a stand run by Chef Eberhard "Hardy" Kintscher, the executive chef at Michel's at the Colony Surf. Chef Hardy's title isn't the only impressive thing about his farmers' market offerings; everything is prepared with the help of his food-safe electric car, modified to include gas grills and a flat-top.

Chef Hardy @ KCC Farmers' Market (Honolulu, HI)

Chef Hardy @ KCC Farmers' Market (Honolulu, HI)

Chef Hardy @ KCC Farmers' Market (Honolulu, HI)

For his breakfast, J opted for the Chef's Special-- a chewy flatbread topped with ham, kalua pork, gouda cheese, local pineapple, glazed onions and roasted garlic and capped with a fried egg. Although the flatbread to topping ratio was a bit off, the smoky flavors of the meat played wonderfully off the sweetness of the pineapple and onion, and the fried egg added a tasty and textural note.

We also scoped out North Shore Cattle Catering...

North Shore Cattle Catering @ KCC Farmers' Market (Honolulu, HI)

North Shore Cattle Catering @ KCC Farmers' Market (Honolulu, HI)

...but decided that we were too full for their hearty-looking plate lunches.

After all of our grubbing, our group turned its attention to finding something to wash our breakfasts down.

PacifiKool Ginger Cooler @KCC Farmers' Market Farmers' Market (Honolulu, HI)

PacifiKool Ginger Cooler @ KCC Farmers' Market (Honolulu, HI)

My best friend and her boyfriend stopped at Pacifikool Ginger Cooler and ordered a Gingercooler and a Passion Fruit Cooler, both of which were fresh and fizzy, with his Gingercooler just slightly edging out its competition as the tastier of the two.

KCC Farmers' Market (Honolulu, HI)

Jonesing for some caffeine, I slurped down a Vietnamese Iced Coffee.

With drinks in hand, we continued wandering around the market to visit some specialty stands.

Naked Cow Dairy @ KCC Farmers' Market (Honolulu, HI)

Naked Cow Dairy, the only dairy on Oahu, offers a variety of flavored butters and cheese spreads. Admittedly, I sampled all of Naked Cow's butter flavors and loved each more than the last. If not for my concern over how they would handle the flight back to LA, I would have bought them all, too!

Naked Cow Dairy @ KCC Farmers' Market (Honolulu, HI)

After seeing a sign for fresh strawberry mochi, I made a beeline for Made in Hawaii Foods. Unfortunately, they were all sold out, but I took a look at their other items and purchased a jar of unbelievable liliko'i (passion fruit) cream cheese that I'm torn between devouring and hoarding.

Made in Hawaii Foods @ KCC Farmers' Market (Honolulu, HI)

Made in Hawaii Foods @ KCC Farmers' Market (Honolulu, HI)

Made in Hawaii Foods @ KCC Farmers' Market (Honolulu, HI)

As we began to waddle our way to the exit, I caught sight of OnoPops, which I had read about only the day before in Honolulu Magazine's "Sweet Treats in Honolulu" issue (perfect beach reading!). OnoPops uses local, organic ingredients to create completely unique flavors of popsicles that pay tribute to both the Mexican paleta and Hawaiian flavors.

Onopops @ KCC Farmers' Market (Honolulu, HI)

Onopops @ KCC Farmers' Market (Honolulu, HI)

Pineapple Li Hing, Guava Tamarind, Liliko'i Cheesecake and Mauna Kea Green Tea...these are not the boring popsicle flavors of your childhood summers!

Onopops @ KCC Farmers' Market (Honolulu, HI)

On this day, OnoPops also had a selection of special flavors, including Plantation Iced Tea (iced tea infused with pineapple), Almond Float and Rambutan Kaffir.

KCC Farmers' Market (Honolulu, HI)

As a guava fiend, I chose the Guava Chiffon as my parting farmers' market bite and was blown away by the creamy, true to taste flavor of the pop.

For all those visiting Hawai'i, the KCC Farmers Market provides a wonderful and ono opportunity to taste some of the island's best at its most pure. I only wish that I had visited more when I lived there!

KCC Farmers' Market
7:30AM-11AM, every Saturday at Kapiolani Community College
4303 Diamond Head Road
Honolulu, HI 96816
www.hfbf.org

Sunday, February 19, 2012

LudoBites 8.0

People love them some Chef Ludo Lefebvre. The passion that the food-obsessed feel for the Pop-Up King presents itself most fervently on two occasions: 1) when LudoBites reservations go live online (inevitably crashing the system); and 2) when one fails to obtain a reservation. On occasion number deux, said passion often turns on Chef Ludo and his wife Krissy, and scathing emails flood Madame Lefebvre's inbox. In an effort to indulge the love but avoid the crazy, LudoBites 8.0 utilized an orderly, random lottery system for reservations. Apparently, your chances of scoring a reservation hovered around 5% but, still, orderly. And it's hard to argue with a cold, unfeeling algorithm.

Fortunately, for those of us in the 95%, LudoBites 8.0 at Lemon Moon offers six walk-in seats a night, which is how Justin, his mom and I visited this latest iteration of the pop-up restaurant. Justin and his mom, in town for just one evening with her heart set on LudoBites, arrived at Lemon Moon right at 6:00PM and were seated without a wait. While I wrapped up at work, the two began with a few dishes they knew I wouldn't lament missing out on.

LudoBites 8.0

The mother-son dining team began with Chicken Tandoori Crackling ($5.00), crispy chicken skin topped with scoops of chicken liver mousse and sprinkled with sea salt. The two both enjoyed the combination of the airy mousse and the crunch of the crackling.

LudoBites 8.0

The next Noms-free bite was the Uni Creme Brulee ($18.00). In this savory take on a familiar dessert, an uni custard was topped with not only the traditional sugar coating but also salmon roe. Both Justin and his mom were floored by each rich bite of the inventive dish.

LudoBites 8.0

I arrived just in time for the Black Truffle Seaweed Brioche ($5.00), and thank goodness I did! This thick, crusty slab of brioche with more than its fair share of truffle flavor was one of my favorite bites of the night.

LudoBites 8.0

Next up was the Duck ($25.00). Although many duck dishes are often to be too gamey for my taste, Ludo's version was delightfully sweet and enhanced by the citrus notes of mandarin orange wedges and orange slices.

LudoBites 8.0

Our party then turned its attention back to the sea with Crab Meat, Avocado Guacamole and Pomelos ($25.00), mounds of shredded crab and dollops of guacamole and pomelo (a Southeast Asian citrus) in a broth. To this relatively new fan of shellfish, the dish was a little fishier than I was prepared for, and I let Justin eat my share.

LudoBites 8.0

For our last shared entree, we chose the Jidori Chicken ($22.00). Never one to settle for the familiar, Chef Ludo dressed his version of jidori chicken with broccoli, a parmesan soubise (a French onion bechamel) and walnut and egg sauces. Although chicken can seem boring compared to, say, uni creme brulee, the different components of the dish blended surprisingly harmoniously and were anything but a snooze.

LudoBites 8.0

Although we were nearly stuffed, the three of us convinced ourselves that the Goat Cheese Profiteroles ($15.00) could serve as a palate cleanser. On our plate, creamy goat cheese spilled out from a fluffy puff pastry and was drizzled with a pistachio oil and garnished with crispy leaves. Although "cleansing" this was not, it certainly was tasty.

LudoBites 8.0

For dessert, we ordered the Lemon Meringue Tart ($13.00), a deconstructed tart with poppy seed "crust" crumbles and fluffy mounds of lemon, meringue and vanilla. Each component was scrumptious on its own but decidedly kick-ass when mixed each of the other elements on the plate.

LudoBites 8.0 wraps up in just a few days on Wednesday, February 22nd. If you don't have a reservation for the pop-up's final days, be sure to give the walk-in seats a shot or check Twitter for any last minute cancellations!

LudoBites 8.0 at Lemon Moon
www.ludolefebvre.com/ludobites
www.twitter.com/frenchchefwife
12200 W. Olympic Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90064
(310) 442-9191

LudoBites 8 at Lemon Moon on Urbanspoon

Monday, February 13, 2012

Mexicali Taco & Co.

To all those experiencing vampiro withdrawals (myself included), fear not! They shall return in all their garlicky goodness on Wednesday, February 15th when Mexicali Taco & Co. opens its brick-and-mortar restaurant in downtown LA. If you’re a Mexicali newbie, prepare to get grubbing.

Two and a half years ago, best friends Esdras Ochoa and Javier Fregoso found themselves craving a taste of home and took matters (and meats) into their own hands, opening a taco stand-- the Mexicali Taco & Co. The duo set up shop in a parking lot on 1st and Beaudry and quickly gained a loyal fan base with their simple, delicious and reasonably priced menu items, including tacos and quesadillas. They were even voted as the best taco in LA. After issues arose with their lease, however, Esdras and Javier decided to upgrade Mexicali’s digs.

Mexicali Taco Co.

Last week, Esdras, Javier and their new business partner Paul Yoo offered a sneak peek of their new restaurant at a friends and family night.

With red picnic tables juxtaposed against the modern woodwork on the walls, Mexicali’s interior is a charming combination of their O.G. roots and a sleek look befitting the downtown space. The casual, communal feeling of the taco stand was so integral to the Mexicali experience that I was happy to see that the place wasn’t overly gussied up.

Mexicali Taco Co.

Mexicali Taco Co.

Topping Bar @ Mexicali Taco Co.

Central to the Mexicali Taco & Co. experience is the salsa and topping bar stocked with items such as pico de gallo (my personal favorite) and pickled onions and radishes.

Nachos @ Mexicali Taco Co.

One of my friends ordered nachos ($6.00), a new addition to the menu. These nachos had all the comfort of the ballpark variety but with a tastier and heartier kick because of the Mexicali fixings.

Cachetadas @ Mexicali Taco Co.

A menu staple is the cachetada ($3.00)-- a tostada topped with your choice of meat (carne asada, chicken or chorizo) and drizzled with an aioli chipotle sauce. We ordered one of each to maximize our enjoyment of the cachetadas’ unbeatable crunch.

Cachetada with Egg @ Mexicali Taco Co.

Another new option is to order your dish "ranchero” style with a fried egg ($0.75) because a beautiful, runny yolk makes everything taste better.

Zuperman and Vampiro @ Mexicali Taco Co.

For the indecisive who can’t choose just one type of meat, there’s the Zuperman ($4.75), a mix of chicken, chorizo and carne asada sandwiched between two tortillas.

Vampiros @ Mexicali Taco Co.

Finally, there is my personal favorite-- the vampiro ($3.75), a garlic-infused quesadilla filled with your choice of meat. In my vampiros, I always opt for the carne asada, which, according to Street Gourmet LA, is the most authentic carne asada you'll find in LA.

Churro Borough at Mexicali Taco Co.

For Mexicali's soft opening, Javier and Esdras recruited their friends from the Churro Borough, purveyors of churro ice cream sandwiches. J and I ordered a Spanish Latte version as well as an Horchata and loved the sugary crunch of the round, seashell-like churros as well as the flavorful ice cream.

Huge congratulations to Esdras and Javier on the restaurant’s opening. As a friend of these two wonderful guys, I’m so happy and so proud to see where they started and what their dream has become. Salud!

Mexicali Taco & Co.
www.mexicalitaco.com
Follow them on Twitter
702 N. Figueroa St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 613-0416

Mexicali Taco & Co on Urbanspoon

Friday, February 3, 2012

Closing Night at Angeli Caffe

On January 13th, after 27 years of service, Angeli Caffe hosted its final dinner. The Melrose Avenue fixture, owned and operated by Chef Evan Kleiman, was a trusty, go-to option for delicious, seasonal Italian cooking for many, including myself. In fact, my love for food owes a great debt to Chef Kleiman and Angeli.

When I first moved to LA to attend college, food was not a particularly important part of my life. Its relative unimportance to me was rooted in several different factors, not the least of which were my struggles with an eating disorder in high school. In my sophomore year, however, I sampled Chef Kleiman’s food and learned of the Slow Food movement, seasonal cooking and locally-sourced ingredients. My exposure to these concepts radically changed the way I looked at food and fostered my appreciation for it. Since then, I have turned to Angeli Caffe for all manner of events: (real) first dates, birthdays, dinners with parents and out-of-towners, and graduation dinners (for both J and me). When J and I heard that Angeli Caffe was shuttering, we knew, without a doubt, that we’d have to pay a visit to the restaurant for its closing night.


Angeli Caffe

Although it was the restaurant’s final night, the mood amongst the diners was convivial; we were celebrating the restaurant’s run, not mourning its closure. Everyone around us seemed to have their own Angeli story, their own connection to the restaurant that made it feel uniquely “theirs.” A well-known actor sitting nearby told me that he’s eaten there since childhood, even rolling pizza dough in the kitchen as a small boy. People from all of the restaurant's nearly three decades had gathered for one last bite of Angeli.

Suppli & Croquettes de Patate @ Angeli Caffe
Suppli (rice croquettes stuffed with mozzarella) and Croquette di Patate (potato croquettes with salame and smoked mozzarella)

Pizza con Salcicce @ Angeli Caffe
Pizza con Salcicce (caramelized onion, Italian sausage, fontina and sage)

Special Pizza @ Angeli Caffe
Special pizza with sausage, artichoke, sweet pepper and fontina

Special Lasagna @ Angeli Caffe
Seasonal lasagna

Tiramisu @ Angeli Caffe
Tiramisu

My love of, appreciation for and steps towards developing a healthy relationship with food can all be traced back to Angeli. Thank you to Evan Kleiman for the love you poured into the food at Angeli Caffe over 27 years--particularly the 5 which I enjoyed!—and for the passion for good food that you awakened in me. I already miss that hot, pillowy bread but can’t wait to see (and, more importantly, eat) what comes next. Cheers!

Previous posts about Angeli Caffe:
Dinner (one of my first posts on Noms, Not Bombs)
Passover Seder