Tuesday, February 22, 2011


I made these during a weekend in Fresno, when I went home to pick up my puppy and for the first time in my life, had the entire house that I grew up in to myself. Of course, the only place in the house that really mattered to me was the kitchen, and that was where I spent most of my time alone. It was an overcast weekend, with grey skies, no breeze, and a serenity about our garden. Minnie kept me company in the kitchen as I methodically measured out the almonds and sugar, ground them to a fine powder, and whipped my egg whites into tall peaks. I folded my batter in silence and carefully piped out little rounds on my silpats. I was in my own little world, dusted in sugar from head to toe.

I love these little things--maybe even more making them than eating them. I revel in the preciseness of the process. I love watching the rows of perfectly lined-up macarons grow their little feet in the oven. There's almost nothing I enjoy more, and all the while, Norah Jones would be playing in the background.

There really is no other point to this post. There are no recipes, no new tips--just a little insight on my affection for macarons. Also, I'm rarely as proud as I am of these photos. This was the first time I felt like I connected with my new DSLR. It did exactly what I wanted it to do, and I was so happy with these pictures, I could've kissed my lenses. Is that weird?



These little beauties are all gone now. But don't fret, there will be some more at Scoops Westside tomorrow!

Saturday, February 12, 2011


I got a little preview of John Sedlar's Playa during the Test Kitchen "reunion" that preceded its opening night. I STILL haven't made it to Rivera (unacceptable, I know), but I have had his tortillas florales which I absolutely love. I was looking forward to this dinner not only because I was excited to try more of Sedlar's food, but also because of its connection with Test Kitchen. During its run, I actually visited Test Kitchen quite a few times. Not many of those meals were blogged due to ridiculously dark lighting, but I have very fond memories of my dinners there. It was not always about the food for me--it was more about the ambiance of the place and the company I had while eating there.

Our table of four tried a few of the dishes on the condensed menu offered that night. The menu at Playa now includes everything that we tried, plus some more. Everything was decent, but in the end, the most impressive part of Playa was the awe-inspiring wall of liqueur. Throughout the night the bartenders climb up and down a ladder to reach the bottles on the upper shelves. It was almost like a live dinner show, and I was actually a little nervous for them when they got up to the upper rungs. Call me easily amused, but I was very entertained by it.

The vibe in the restaurant is nothing like the dark, intimate setting of Grace, which occupied the space previously. The wall of alcohol is brightly lit, and there are large light fixtures overhead that reminded me of furry sea urchins--weird, but perhaps an allusion to the beach? I still haven't decided how I feel about them. Overall, Playa feels young and lively, and the playfulness is reflected in the food.

Playa Restaurant
7360 Beverly Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
tel: 323-933-5300

We all tried various cocktails throughout the night, but sadly I don't even know what my favorite one was called. All I know is, it was pink, it had strawberries, and Mr. Julian Cox made it. Maybe that's all you need to know. The one that's pictured here had St. Germain liqueur in it (my favorite), but actually turned out to be a little too strong for me.


Grilled octopus, palm hearts, scallions, oven-dried cherry tomatoes, oven-dred red onion

Maybe I just don't like grilled octopus. The texture just wasn't what I was wanting. I miss the octopus in Spain.

Sweet peppers, crab, corn, olive oil, sorbet morado, rosemary oil, sal de colima, citrus beet pintura

Interestingly cold...and interestingly named...


Flor de Calabaza
Squash blossoms, Spanish bacalao, veal reduction, chorizo jus, capers, castelvetrano oil

Salty, but I guess bacalao is just always salty.

Maize Cake Breakfast
63 degree egg, pan-searned potato, espuma de queso, black trumpet mushrooms, truffle cheese

This one is a winner. Runny egg, woody mushrooms, and truffle-perfumed cheese. I want this for breakfast!

Arroz con Pato
Duck confit, baby vegetable pickles, arroz blanco jus, fresno chilies, chives, micro cilantro

I've had some bad duck confit, but I still always order it if it's on the menu. This preparation was actually really good. Not too salty and falling off the bone. The baby vegetables were so tiny though, I don't know if they were cute or a little ridiculous.

Tamalli Chateaubriand
Wild mushroom duxelle dumpling, filet mignon, chipotle béarnaise

This was my favorite savory dish of the night. I loved the mushrooms in the masa, and that chipotle béarnaise is so rich and delicious, I needed something to mop it up.


Indian Spices, green chilies, chana crisp

A little ambivalent about this...


Pastel Café
Mocha sponge, espresso crème, toffee honeycomb, colombian chocolate ice cream

When this dessert arrives, the server pours a warm chocolate sauce over a chocolate sphere, which melts the shell of the sphere and exposes some fresh raspberries. The toffee honeycomb adds a nice crunchy texture in contrast to the soft, sponge cake.

Luna Mescal
Chocolate cake, chocolate glaze, mescal ice cream, caramel popcorn, spanish peanuts, hibiscus sauce, blackberry basil sorbet

Also so good! The caramel popcorn was sweet and crunchy, and the tart sorbet was great with the chocolate cake. Most interesting component on the plate, however, was the mescal ice cream!

So basically, the best part of this meal was the desserts! So good, and such a perfect ending.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Super Bowl Ribs

My first attempt at making ribs was actually quite a success. I doubted myself, but I just went for it, and I got pretty close to what I was aiming for. I'm a little embarrassed to say this, but I may or may not have consulted a Paula Deen recipe during my pork rib research. In the end, I just sprinkled on some Tyler Florence brown sugar rub (courtesy of Matt), rubbed it in, and let it go for 3 hours at 250 degrees Fahrenheit, flipping once. Then I basted with some bottled BBQ sauce we happened to have in the fridge, and put it back in the oven for another 30 minutes. The final touch? 5 minutes under the broiler for that nice charred color.

The resulting ribs were juicy and much more tender than I had expected. They were finger lickin' good! For how simple they were to do, I was pretty satisfied. Now with one rack behind me, I'm definitely going to concoct my own rub and sauce next time.

So I had made these ribs in honor of the Super Bowl, but really I just wanted an excuse to make ribs. We had the Super Bowl on TV while we ate the ribs, but mainly for background noise. Also, I may have taken a nap during the 4th quarter as a result of a rib-induced food coma.

Obviously, I am a hardcore football fan.

Friday, February 4, 2011


This is most peoples' train of thought:

Sang Yoon --> Father's Office --> BURGER.

now we can add on --> Lukshon, because it is not only next door to Father's Office, but also a Sang Yoon establishment.

Ironically, I had my first Father's Office burger after my visit to Lukshon, so I really had no prior expectations of Sang Yoon. I just knew I was a lucky girl to be one of the first to try out his newest venture during a "friends and family" dinner. After much speculation that Lukshon would be a noodle bar, it turns out that it is actually a modern southeast Asian restaurant. Before the dinner, I'd heard everything from "Sang Yoon is very handsome" to "Sang Yoon is the David Chang of the west coast...maybe even a better chef."

Still, I had no idea I would be in for such a treat that night. Our table of six literally got a taste of almost every single dish on a menu. I didn't get pictures of everything we ate, but trust me, I've never experienced so many positive dishes on a single menu.

3239 Helms Ave.
Culver City, CA 90232
tel: 310-202-6808

singapore sling

I tend to enjoy "girly" cocktails, but unfortunately, those tend to usually be on the sweet side. I started the meal with this singapore sling, and it was actually very well balanced. It was still girly and fruity with the pineapple juice, but not too sweet at all.

spanish mackerel
coconute vinegar, jalapeno, lemongrass, green papaya

Tasted exactly as it looked. I really appreciated how thinly sliced the green papaya strands were. It had all the typical flavors of a green papaya salad (which really went well with the fishiness of the mackerel), but the way the vegetables were prepped made it more delicate.

beef tartare
pickled cucumber, chiles, onion, herbs, aromatic rice powder

Loved that the tartar was served on little rounds of pickled cucumber, although they were a little difficult to pick up. Fantastic texture on the beef--not mushy at all. This was the first time I've ever had beef tartar with Asian flavors and I'll say it works!

shrimp toast
rock shrimp, cilantro, chiles, tiny croutons

I'm always a fan of shrimp toast and these arrived in the unconventional shape of a ball. The sweet rock shrimp paste was rolled in tiny croutons before being deep fried. Tasty little balls.

baby monterey squid
chiang mai pork sausage, candlenut, mint, rau ram

The sausage stuffed inside the baby squid was such a nice surprise. Juicy and slightly sweet, the pork sausage was really the star of this dish, although the squid did provide a nice tender vessel for the meat. The tentacles are always my favorite part of any calamari dish, so I loved that the tentacles were fried and piled on top.

duck popiah
cilantro stems, pickled jicama, house-made hoisin chile sauce

The skin on these reminded me of the thin pancakes you get with Peking duck. Actually I guess the entire thing was kind of reminiscent of that, with the duck meat and hoisin sauce and all, but the pickled jicama added a nice crunchy texture.

spicy chicken pops
shelton farms' drumettes, garlic, kecap manis, spicy sichuan salt

These little frenched drumettes are the perfect thing to share family style, but you won't want to! The meat is gathered into a juicy ball at the end of the bone while the tangy sweet glaze and the dusting of spicy sichuan salt made these little flavor bombs tongue-numbing, yet addictive. I'm not sure why I'm so obsessed with these. I thought the flavors were great, and I could just barely handle the heat level, but really, it must just be because they were also so adorable!

kurobuta pork ribs
spicy chicory coffee bbq sauce

These were really nicely cooked ribs and the sauce was good--not too sweet or sticky. They just weren't the most exciting dish on the menu.

lamb sausage roti canai
chana dal, cumin, mint, pickled cauliflower

Too greasy. But tasty enough for me to want some again.

foie gras ganache
carob, ceylon cinnamon, tamarind gastrique, almond, puffed rice

This is one of the only dishes on the menu I'd say "PASS" to. It really nothing special. It looked and tasted like a cube of mildly flavored foie gras mousse. I know it's hard to say no to foie gras, but this just wasn't worth the stomach space.

prince edward island mussels
green chile rempah, coconut, tapioca, thai basil, lime

Some of the best mussels and best green curry I've ever had. There were surprisingly little pearls of tapioca (the kind you would usually find in Asian desserts) in the broth that were an interesting addition, and the mussels were fat and tender. I could've mopped up that curry with bread, rice, noodles, you name it. Heck, I would drink it straight, but I'm a lady.

sonoma lamb chops
market spices, herb butter

Really well-spiced, well-cooked lamb. You can't tell in this picture, but underneath that nicely charred surface is a bright pink and tender flesh. It's the most expensive entrée on the menu but if you love lamb, it's worth it.

short rib rendang
malay spices, red chile lemongrass rempah, coconut cream

That brown smear of sauce on the plate is amazing! I have no idea what is in it or what is it, but it really made the dish. The next best thing on the plate were the little crispy rice cakes. They look like hash browns, but they're really fried rice cakes! The crispy exterior had a texture that was just like McDonald's breakfast hash browns (which I LOVE) but the interior was soft, slightly sticky rice kernels formed into a square patty. I know the meat was probably supposed to be the star of the dish (and it was a meltingly tender, well-marbled piece of meat), but I just could not get over the rice cakes.

garlic pork belly
do ban jian, rice cakes, cabbage, garlic chives

I would say this is the entrée to get if you're only picking one. The pork belly wasn't too fatty, and the do ban jian was so flavorful it was kind of ridiculous. The rice cakes on their own were a little bland (which they usually are), but with the rest of the dish, it was a nice balance. It reminded me of the Shanghainese dish chao nian gao, but so much better!

wok charred baby eggplant
panch puran, tomato sambal, mint

We tried all of the sides on the menu, but my favorite was actually the eggplant, and I don't usually like eggplant. It wasn't cooked to mush and actually retained a nice firm texture. Although I'll be honest, I was so full by the point the sides came out, I was no longer sure of what I was putting in my mouth.

chiang mai curry noodles
yellow curry, lemongrass, pork belly, prawn, rice noodles

Based on its appearance, I wasn't expecting too much of this noodle dish. However, it ended up being one of my favorite dishes of the night. Sang Yoon must know his curries, because this yellow curry was also fantastic. I didn't get any of that giant prawn laying on top, but I didn't really need it. The noodles by themselves with the curry sauce was already delicious. The little crispy bits of shallots on top were also a nice textural addition.

dandan noodles
kurobuta pork, sesame, preserved mustard greens, sichuan peppercorns, peanuts

If you're a bit of a spice wimp, STAY AWAY from the noodles! I'm still having nightmares about this dish. Supposedly the sichuan peppercorns are a mild numbing heat, rather than a straight up burning heat, but what I felt was more like a trip to the dentist. I felt like someone gave me a syringe full of local anesthesia on my tongue. It was tingling, and everything tasted weird after I had a bite of these noodles. Thankfully, it was the last dish we had. I've had plenty of dandan noodles, but I have never experienced such a peculiar sensation before. Having said that, the noodles were actually a very nice texture. I can't say much about the flavor because my tongue gave up on me after a few bites.

Eduardo, the sommelier, provided us with some fantastic Riesling pairings throughout the meal (and all the girls at the table were practically swooning over his charming manner and good looks). My family often pairs Rieslings with Chinese food, but the bottle of 2002 von Hövel Riesling Kabinett that Eduardo brought out was unbelievable. I might be in love...with the wine of course ;) It smelled of faintly of petroleum but tasted of sweet, ripe pineapple. However, he gave up on pairing a wine with the dandan noodles because of the spices and did a beer pairing instead. The beer was nice on its own, but it only aggravated my tongue more after my bite of dandan death. Yes, it was that bad for me.

Dessert is always complimentary and always random at Lukshon. That night, we got a kiwi jasmine soup with chunks of pineapple and a coconut pandan panna cotta with a sesame rice crisp. Both were refreshing and much needed after a meal of heavy flavors.

I really loved Lukshon. I really hated the dandan noodles, in fact, I might be scared of them. But really, it's the best pan-Asian, Asian-inspired, Asian-influenced, Asian fusion, straight-up Asian restaurant I've been to in a long time. It's rare for me to eat at a restaurant and then still be thinking about it days afterwards. All the flavors were really flavors that I just crave. I can't get that dou ban jian sauce out of my head, and I just want to pop chicken pops in my mouth all night. If you couldn't tell, I can't wait to go back.