Sunday, June 22, 2008

From L.A.

Recently I've been coming to terms with the idea of being from L.A.; I moved here five years ago, and it looks like I'll be here another five, so at some point I will probably identify myself as "from L.A."  This identity change will take a while to get used to, but I've realized that there are a lot of great food opportunities here that I appreciate.  While some folks in other parts of the country, and even the state of California, do not have many food choices, I have options representing many ethnicities and cuisine trends.  I thought I would share a few photos of food I've eaten out just in the last week in L.A. - and by L.A. I mean everything in the L.A. Basin, from the coast on the west, north to the edge of Ventura County, south to the edge of the O.C., and east to Pomona.

The photo above is from a vegetarian restaurant in Eagle Rock called Fatty's; my friend ordered this lovely pear gorgonzola salad which made me quite jealous after the one bite I had.  The cheese was pan seared and breaded crispy on the outside but melty on the inside, the pears and oranges were sweet, and the vinaigrette light but tasty.  I love how the slice of blood orange sits on the cheese like a hat.

This is dessert at Babalu on Montana Street in Santa Monica - a trendy hangout that a friend introduced me to - a fabulous follow up to excellent entrées.  In the foreground you see the opera cake, made with thin layers of white cake filled in with cream and lots of almond chunks, coated in dark chocolate and served with thick, sweet whipped cream.  In the background you can see a bit of the Italian wedding cake, which is covered in cream cheese frosting and coconut on the outside, packed with walnut bits between the cake layers inside.

Back at Fatty's, this appetizer was a hit: whole dates, stuffed with walnuts and wrapped in veggie bacon, drizzled with a balsamic syrup.  Definitely something I'll try to replicate with turkey bacon - the smokey flavor of the pseudo-meat with the sweetness of the date was a marvelous combination, as was the crispiness of the bacon with the soft chewy date.

Not a great photo, but one of my childhood favorites: Beef Chow Fun.  As a kid I called it "fat noodles" (although these noodles aren't that fat), and it was one of the things alongside of sweet and sour pork that I would gobble up at the time at Chinese restaurants.  Usually smokey flavored, greasy, and great.

My current dim sum favorite: Siu Mai, or shrimp and pork meatballs.  Certainly not kosher nor vegetarian, but so, so good.  The best are at NBC in Monterey Park, where I practically go into raptures while I eat their siu mai and exclaim after every bite "these are so good!"  I don't know how the juicy flavor is the way it is, but I will not ruin the experience by overanalyzing it.  NBC also has the best general dim sum offerings and squab lettuce wraps, among other things.  Monterey Park is the current living Chinatown of L.A., and the place of my birth.  If you go for Chinese food in L.A., you gotta go here sometime.

I felt I had to represent Malibu in some way; these are the hugest glasses of Diet Coke ever (another unhealthy vice of mine; there's something classic about picturing unhealthy diet vices in Malibu...) at Paradise Cove, a restaurant where you not only can see the beach and the waves, but you have your feet directly in the sand.  Very pleasant on the evening of one of the hottest days of the year.

Last and far from least, some crême brûlée french toast with fresh strawberry sauce at Julienne, a quaint French-ish café in San Marino.  The inside of the bread barely has a bread texture, as it probably has been soaked in egg and cream for a tremendously long time, and the top has a small layer of torch-burnt sugar.  This was not as sweet as I was expecting, and the bread was a bit eggier than I prefer, but this was a unique breakfast with excellent sauces.  I would order it again to work out the secret of the bread texture - but then again, there are so many other things I want to try on the menu, and so much to browse in the attached store...

1627 Colorado Blvd.
Eagle Rock, CA  90041

1002 Montana Ave.
Santa Monica, CA  90403

NBC Seafood Restaurant, Inc.
404 S. Atlantic Blvd.
Monterey Park, CA  91754

28128 Pacific Coast Highway
Malibu, CA  90265

2649 Mission Street
San Marino, CA 91108

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