Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Steak Dinner and Lunch

I set the fire alarm off at least 10 times last night. I was just trying to cook a steak.

I swear it's not my fault. Nothing burned, nothing bubbled over, and nothing caught on fire. I think our sensors are just too sensitive. Now I'm almost scared to cook another steak.

That being said, it was a pretty damn good steak--worth the scrambling around trying to deactivate the alarms. I found some Prime New York steaks from Ralph's that were absolutely amazing. The even marbling on these bright red steaks were beautiful--and at such a reasonable price. Only $6 per steak! You can't beat that.

To go with the steaks, I made a tasty red wine, mushroom reduction. I'll be honest, I used a Two Buck Chuck Merlot from Trader Joe's for this, but trust me, it worked out just fine. The wine turned the mushrooms into an intense purple color. They bore a striking resemblance to kalamata olives...


Red Wine Mushrooms
1 shallot
1 clove of garlic
1 cup crimini mushrooms
1/2 cup red wine
1 tablespoon butter

1. Melt 1/2 tablespoon butter in saucepan
2. Add minced shallots, garlic, and sliced crimini mushrooms
3. Salt and pepper the mushrooms
4. Add red wine and let it reduce
5. Finish the sauce with the other 1/2 tablespoon of butter

Medium Rare New York Steak
1-inch thick New York steaks, at room temperature
coarse sea salt
freshly-cracked black pepper

1. Salt and pepper both sides of the steak
2. Sear in a nonstick skillet without any oil for 5 minutes on each side, 10 minutes total
3. Remove from pan and let rest for 5 minutes to allow juices to redistribute
4. Slice and marvel at the gorgeous medium rare pink color
*This is now my fool-proof method for medium rare steaks. I surprised myself with how well they turned out. The 5 minute rule is great! Trust me.

I have to confess: I am currently having a shameless affair with fennel--and I mean the bulbous kind of fennel. I may or may not have made a trek to Ralph's today just for a single bulb of fennel. I've been making this simple apple fennel slaw with just thinly sliced fennel, apples, lemon juice, salt, and pepper and going through a bulb a day. Today, I added it to my leftover-steak sandwich on deliciously toasty ciabatta bread from the BreadBar in Century City with some sliced Campari tomatoes on the vine and crumbly French sheep's milk feta. It was ridiculously good for being leftovers.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Apple Pan

Sometimes a girl just needs a good burger.


To me, the Steakburger at the Apple Pan, with a pile of crisp, juicy iceberg lettuce thicker than the meat patty itself and a tangy tomato relish, is that quintessential Californian burger. The bun was pleasant and soft, not overly buttered, and the patty had a nice beefy flavor. It's the more substantial version of the In-n-Out burger, with a gooey slice of natural Tillamook cheddar cheese instead of processed American cheese.

With an old-fashioned cash register (in fact, this place only takes cash) and a U-shaped counter around the smokey kitchen, the entire place seems stuck in the 50's. However, it's happily stuck in the 50's. I actually found the ambiance of the place rather cute and quaint. The staff might appear to be old and grumpy, but in fact, were quite charming. All I know is, as I was sitting there wolfing down my burger (sans plate) and drinking diet soda from a paper cone cup, I felt ridiculously content.

The Apple Pan
10801 West Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90064
tel: 310-475-3585

The Steakburger [$6.75 + 50 cents for cheese]
Apple Pan sauce, mayonnaise, pickle, lettuce


Fortunately my mouth, and unfortunately for my waistline, The Apple Pan is on the way to and from my ceramics studio. There's no doubt that this is only the first of multiple visits. I see a hickory burger and slice of pecan pie in my near future.

P.S. my name is Christina, and I'm a Cross Process-a-holic

Monday, October 18, 2010

TestKitchen--Ricardo Zarate

Finally, a trip to the TestKitchen that warrants a blog post!

Ever since I had Ricardo Zarate's cooking at the BreadBar last year, I've been thinking about him. Not in a weird, creepy way, but in an admiring, appreciative way. First of all, he not only introduced me to Peruvian cuisine, but also made me love it. Secondly, the man is just the nicest man I've ever met in a kitchen, not to mention extremely talented--obviously.

This past year I kept mentally willing Mo-Chica, Ricardo's contemporary Peruvian restaurant, to be closer to the Westwide. Obviously it didn't happen, and I still haven't made it over there. However, the TestKitchen is about as close to where I live as one could hope for, and the upper floor of the building is about to be Zarate's permanent home--a restaurant focusing on Peruvian skewed meat to be named Anticucho. Let's just say I'm pretty excited for some skewered meat.

9575 West Pico Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90035
tel: 310-277-0133
Don't know what TestKitchen is? Check this out.


Ceviche Shot
Uni, Scallop, Pisco, Leche de Tigre

A skewer of perfectly "ceviched" scallops were hidden in the briny leche de tigre--the liquid from the ceviche. After getting the scallops off the skewer, I chased it with the rest of the liquid in the little shot glass. This is a shot I'd like to do over and over again.

Santa Barbara Spot Prawns
with Yuzu Kosho

I've yet to meet a spot prawn I didn't like. I'd like to meet this spot prawn over and over again. From the head, to the tail, to the roe, the entire thing was delicious. The yuzu kosho added a spicy heat to the sweet meat and roe.

Anticucho de Corazon
Rocotto sauce

There was a nice bite and meatiness to each slice of skewered beef heart grilled to a smokey perfection over an open Japanese charcoal grill. The rocotto sauce, bright crimson red, added a dimension of freshness to the typical beef heart anticucho.

Crispy Pork Belly, Feta Cheese Sauce, Sarsa

Smokey, crispy bits of fatty pork grace the top of a rustic slice of bread, and although tasty, it was a little too filling for me as a bar bite. There was too much bread to it for me. Thankfully, this was the last of the bar bites.

purple corn bread/foie gras/aji amarillo marmalade/fig compote

These smelled a lot sweeter than they ended up being. Thank god for the awesome buttery foie gras and sweet marmalade/compotes because these little balls of bread were a little dry. However, the accompaniments were very good. I detected a hint of cinnamon to the fig compote that I really enjoyed.

peruvian red pepper soup/queso fresco sauce/croutons

The soup was rather unremarkable to me. Granted it had a velvety smooth mouth feel, but taste-wise it was like a little one-dimensional for me. Even the little sprinkling of chorizo on the crouton didn't add much. It just tasted like red bell peppers blended with chicken stock.

smoked salmon causa/aji amarillo yogurt/crispy quinoa

I've had Ricardo's causa at his Hatchi dinner, and I remember absolutely loving them. This time around, it was even better than I remembered. The causa was not only plated so much more sophistically (I thought those colors were gorgeous together in that stark white plate), but also more complex in flavors and textures. The small cubes of salmon were lightly smoked, and a sprinkling of crispy quinoa added a crunchy texture to the smooth, rich potatoes.

japanese aji carpaccio/garlic/ginger lemon sauce

The mackerel, without doubt, was very fresh, but it was the raw red onions, crispy garlic bits, and cilantro sprinkled on top combined with the sauce of aji amarillo, ginger, and sesame oil that really took the fish to another level.

grilled octopus/roasted potatoes/tofu jalapeno chili sauce

The octopus was also grilled on the Japanese grill, therefore it had that same lovely smokey flavor. Unfortunately, I wasn't a big fan of the texture of it. It was kind of dense, though tender, and without any kind of chewiness I like to associate with octopus. The tofu jalapeno chili sauce, however, was very interesting. I thought it was a little on the acidic side, but the dish definitely grew on me as I ate it.

lamb ribs/huancaina sauce/peruvian risotto

To me, this was upscale, stick-to-your-ribs, comfort food. It something that I could crave on a cold, rainy day. The lamb rib literally fell off the bone the second I barely touched it with my fork. Glazed in a slightly sweet sauce, the shreds of meat blended into the creamy peruvian risotto. Each forkful was a delight.

sweet potato & pumpkin donuts/chancaca sauce/vanilla ice cream

Dessert consisted of two warm, perfectly-fried nuggets of dough. The subtly sweet fritters were tastiest when eaten with the ridiculously rich, house-made vanilla ice cream.

Definitely my favorite meal at the TestKitchen thus far.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Spago (DineLA)

There's nothing harder than the gut-wrenching heartache that comes from learning a loved one is sick.

During times like these, the only thing that can make things better is having good food in your stomach. However, sometimes even comfort food at home, like a warm steaming bowl of chicken noodle soup, is not enough to stop your mind from running through the worst possibilities. Sometimes only lunch at a really spectacular restaurant can make things better--even if it means getting out of those sweats and putting make-up over tearstained cheeks.

I chose Spago as our escape. From the moment we valeted behind a yellow Lamborghini and walked through the restaurant doors into a spacious bar area, we began feeling a more alive than we had in days. The hostess led us to one of the tables that spilled out from within the restaurant and onto the beautiful outdoor patio. The lavender umbrellas created a sense of seclusion from stress and worry, and the trickling fountain induced a sense of calm. The Beverly Hills crowd, with their tailored suits and quilted Chanel bags, exuded that quintessential L.A. glamour mixed with the laid-back vibe that only comes from being in California.

As plate after plate of upscale Californian fare arrived with colors so vibrant and bright, my mom and I couldn't help but be a little more hopeful and a little more optimistic.

176 North Canon Dr.
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
tel: 310 385 0880

Lavash, Olive Bread

A server came by and offered us a selection of bread. My mom and I both picked the lavash and olive bread. The crispy crunchy lavash bread was sprinkled liberally with parmesan cheese and herbs--resembling a large a salty, cheesy cracker. The olive bread was wonderfully soft and studded with kalamata olives. Both were actually very good.

Proscuitto and Burrata Mozzarella
Tenerelli Farm's Fig, Old Balsamic and Micro Arugula Salad

This was a delicious mix of creamy burrata, salty proscuitto, and figs done two ways--fresh, perfectly ripe disks, and a bed of sweet fig compote. I can never say no to burrata, and this was one of my favorite preparations.

Crispy Monterey Bay Calamari
Marinated Cucumbers and Black Bean Vinaigrette

One of the main reasons I decided on Spago, out of so many choices for DineLA lunches, was because their menu offered fried calamari. My mom loves fried calamari. My mom loved this fried calamari. A lot of times, calamari can be kind of bland. This was boldly seasoned. However, I'm pretty sure it wasn't served with a black bean vinaigrette. It seemed more like an herb aioli.

Pumpkin Agnolotti with Safe Butter and Reggiano [$12 supplement]
Pine Nuts and Mascarpone

Spago always has some kind of agnolotti on its menu. The fillings change with this seasons and this pumpkin agnolotti literally tasted like fall. It was definitely a worthy supplement to the meal.

Pan-Roasted Casco Bay Cod
Ratatouille Vegetables "Provencal", Jerusalem Artichoke Puree and Saffron-Champagne Beurre Blanc

For my entrée, I chose the cod. It was the only dish we had that wasn't that mind-blowing. The fish itself wasn't overcooked or anything, it just did not have that much favor.

Tagliatelle Pasta with Maryland Soft-Shell Crab
Garlic, Chili, Baby Arugula and Sun Dried Tomatoes

This dish itself was probably worth more than the $28 DineLA set menu price. There were more than enough pieces of succulent soft-shell crab, hidden within the tangles of freshly made, al dente pasta. I enjoyed the subtle asian flavors in this pasta dish.

Chocolate Bon Bon
Creamy Manjari Chocolate Shell, Cherry Cordial Center

This dessert rekindled my love of chocolate. The chocolate shell was so smooth, so creamy, with a thin, crispy chocolate feuilletine on top. The cherry filling and the sorbet were both slightly tart, adding a nice acidic dimension to the chocolate dessert. It was very, very sinfully good.

Strawberry Shortcake
McGrath Farm Strawberries, Buttermilk Cake, Crème Fraiche

Unfortunately the adorable strawberry dessert was slightly less memorable when compared to the chocolate dessert. The strawberries were so ripe and so fresh. Very simple, but still very good. It seems Sherry Yard can do no wrong. I also had some desserts at WP24 that I really liked.

We felt infinitely better after our meal. Everything, from the the attentive servers to the beautiful dishes, was just what we needed. Wolfgang Puck also came by our table and shook my hand. Yeah, I definitely smiled then. It's funny how just a satisfying meal can leave you feeling so much more optimistic about the future.