Eat Drink Style Thursdays with J, M & J - Miso Chilean Seabass Recipe & Seared Scallops

When I had first met J, she was barely starting her new hobby, wine-collecting. I usually drink anything in front of me, and for a while, I was drinking crap wine like $2 Buck Chuck because I didn't know any better. I even cooked with it. But it wasn't till I met her friend MM that I started to appreciate wine more as an art/craft than a source for alcoholic debauchery.

J: "You've gotta meet my friend MM. He's teaching me about wine."
Me: "Sure. I'll drink anything! Save me from the wrath of the $2 Buck Chuck."

In no time, J accumulated a collection of wine in her beautiful Danby Wine Cooler. I eventually met MM and learned a wealth about wine. The most interesting thing to me was that a good wine didn't have to reach the 3-digit bracket. He showed me delectables wines as low as $6 (3-bottles of $2 Buck Chuck).

Me: "Hey do you know how to pair wine with food?"
MM: "Sure, I can try."
Me: "Awesome. Hey, random question. If I hold on to a bottle of $2 Buck Chuck for 10 years, will the value of it increase? Say, to $20?"
MM: *weird look*

As an aspiring caterer, it is essential to possess the lore of wine. If you're serving up haute cuisine, the last thing a client wants to see is the same bottle of wine 3-4 times. You'd be fired instantly and resort to working in the kitchens of Applebee's or Olive Garden - stuck in front of the fry-o-lator for the rest of your life making sampler plates of mozzy sticks, wings and jalapeno poppers. I'd rather die.

We decided to start doing dinners with J, MM and MM's gf, JK. I had spoken to MM earlier about pairing a 3-course dinner. I could tell he was stoked because he immediately took for the wine store the same day we talked. He purchased 3 bottles of wine/champagne for my 3-course dinner, but ended up serving 2-courses. Seafood City, a Filipino market, didn't have clams to sell. What kind of seafood market refuses to sell clams??? Here's what we had:

Goat Cheese, St. Andre Brie/Camembert & Duck Liver Pate
We started off with a selection J bought from The Cheesestore of Silverlake with some mini toastettes. We had discovered these after one of many wine tastings at Silverlake Wine. We just had whatever wine I had lying around with this. Great selection by J.

Seared Scallops with Rosé Beurre Blanc
For the appetizer, I seared some large scallops with salt & pepper in some olive oil and butter till they were light brown on both sides. About 3-4 minutes per side and medium-high heat. I reduced some Rosé with shallots and vinegar and added cream, butter and sugar to the beurre blanc. A beurre blanc means 'white butter' and is traditionally made with butter, shallots, vinegar and white wine. The wine can be substituted with any sweet wine and the vinegar can be substituted with lemon. The scallops tasted buttery and were cooked perfectly. The butteriness was balanced off by the sharp and sweet taste of the beurre blanc. I served some microgreens on top to give a slightly bitter crunch. MM served a 2004 Carl Schmitt-Wagner Longuicher Maximiner Herrenberg Riesling Kabinett with this. Wonderful pairing.

Miso Chilean Seabass with Truffle Oil, Yuzu-Flavored Edamame and King Mushrooms
I steeped the Chilean seabass fillets for 3 days in a mixture of mirin, miso paste and sugar. I boiled the three components together and added them into a ziplock with the fish once it had cooled completely. Before broiling the Seabass, I sauteed some edamame beans and king mushrooms and seasoned it with soy sauce, rice wine and yuzu juice. I set the fish on top of the edamame and king mushrooms and lightly drizzled some French Truffle oil my catering boss had given me. Excellent stuff. The fish tasted great w/ the Truffle oil, but I had added way too many beans to the dish. According to the guests, it took some "work" to eat the beans. MM served a 2004 Dönnhoff Norheimer Kirschheck Riesling Spätlese with this.

Overall, it was a great night, ending with more wine-drinking and a few episodes of Reno 911. Thanks again to MM & JK for great wine and company. Stay tuned for the next "Thursdays with J, M & J" dinner. Thanks for reading.

Eat Drink Style Dumplings: Bite-sized gifts.

Whether it be wontons, siu mai dim sum, soupy dumplings (shao loong bao), the dumpling in any form proves to be an easy and pleasant snack. And I think everyone should learn how to make it from scratch because you never know who will be knocking on your door with fork and knife in hand. If you’ve ever been to a Chinese market, you’ll see that there are just as many types of frozen dumplings as there are frozen pizzas at Ralph’s. My favorite is pork, shrimp, leek and mushroom. Sorry, but I can't provide you with the exact recipe because I'm an eyeballer. Ok here we go.

Start out with one pound of ground pork. The ‘generic’ ground pork is quite fatty and produces great flavor. I usually won’t use the ‘generic’ ground pork when cooking other Chinese dishes and go for the pork tenderloin or shoulder and have it ground by the butcher. It’s all preference. Add salt, white pepper, sugar, soy sauce, sesame oil over the meat and pour a little bit of Chinese rice wine. (I think it’s the same as dry sherry wine.) Then add 2 egg whites and tapioca/corn starch for viscidity within the mixture. No GARLIC in my recipe. Garlic overpowers the other ingredients. While those marry, start prepping the other ingredients.

Chop the following into very fine pieces: shrimp, leeks and ear wood mushrooms. Leeks are basically gigantic green onions and are great with dumplings because of the texture. They are thicker and have a strong onion taste to it.

Ear wood mushrooms, aka Black Fungus, add a perfect bite as well. This is also used in Vietnamese egg rolls (Cha Gio). Ear woods are sold in a hydrated form. Simply place them in a bowl of cold water for 10 minutes to rehydrate them; hot water if you’re in a hurry.

I like my dumpling filling to have an equal balance. As you can see, there’s a good amount of pink, green/white and black. Too much meat isn’t good. You should be able to smell the soy sauce and sesame oil after you’ve mixed everything. VERY IMPORTANT: take a test drive. Slap a small slab in a frying pan and make a patty, or wrap one in a dumpling skin and boil it. It’s better to go lighter on taste then over-salt the whole mixture.

Here’s how I boil my dumplings. Once the water is boiling on high heat, add the dumplings and boil them with the cover on. Once they start swimming around, remove the cover and lower the heat to medium-low for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and re-cover the dumplings for 2-3 minutes. Go!

For pot stickers, heat up the pan on medium and fry the dumplings for about 3-4 minutes, or until a light brown. Flip them over and pour in a 1/4” of water (or chicken broth for more flavor) and cover them for about 10 minutes. Once the water evaporates, they’ll start to brown after 5 minutes. Go!

For the dipping sauce, I like to use soy sauce, sugar, sriracha with seeds (thai chili sauce), rice vinegar and sesame oil. But soy sauce and sesame oil is perfectly fine. Enjoy.

Eat Drink Style Wonton Time - Wontons On Steroids - Alhambra, SGV

America is a nation that exercises overconsumption and completely ignores the notion that moderation is the key to anything. It seems that things are getting faster, stronger, sleeker and bigger. And we see that this ideal applies to cars, homes, fashion and of course, food. In Fast Food Nation, the author notes that to achieve this over-moderation, corners are cut and ultimately, damage our bodies. Over the years, portion sizes have increased as well. In the South, soda is sold in 3-liter bottles, not the standard 2-liter. In fast food restaurants, food is becoming tastier because nearly everything is deep fried, earning you more points on the Cholesterol chart. Places like Claimjumper's make me sick. I'm full before I've even started eating the meal. I fortunately can do without fast food and have avoided places that praise quantity over quality. But sometimes, larger portions are a good thing.

The good people over at Wonton Time in Alhambra have taken a part in America's campaign for overconsumption. But still in a way that's healthier than any fast food you'll ever eat. They come by way of Hong Kong and serve up some BIG wontons. These are the Barry Bonds and Mark Maguire's of wontons - fully roided up. I have longed for good wontons since my last trip to Hong Kong last year. To this day, I have NOT found a place worthy of being considered a Hong Kong-style wonton noodle shop. In Hong Kong, I could walk into any restaurant and order some of the best wontons ever. Wonton Time would have to do for now until my next trip to Hong Kong this Christmas. Yes, that's two trips to Asia in one year for me. No, I am not a FOB. I hope.

Wonton Time is packed tightly in a shopping center on the corner of Valley/Garfield (across from The Hat). Street parking is hard to find, so you'll have to go to the back lot. The place is usually semi-filled with customers and the employees there really don't care about yelling across the restaurant. Wonton Time is run entirely by women. You have one person working on the wontons, one person cooking the noodles and two servers asking you "wut yieu won?!" The menu is simple. There are three kinds of 'meat' you can order: Wontons, Fishballs or Sliced Beef. There are two types of noodles you can order: Wonton Egg Noodles or thin-sliced Rice Noodles. Both of which can be served with or without soup. In Cantonese, we say "Lo Mein" - which means soupless noodles hand-mixed with sauce (usually oyster sauce). "Tong Mein" means soup noodles. For your first time, go for the Wonton Soup Noodles. The beef is super bland and I don't recommend it. Here's what I had:

I told you they were big. Each one of these wontons (4 per order) packs 3 shrimps with a little pork. The texture of the skin is very light and 'ghostly'. I bit into it and tasted succulent shrimp and pork. Try this w/ a dip of vinegar and hot sauce. Good. $4

Wonton Noodle Soup
For $4, you get 4 wontons and a medium portion of noodles. The noodles were cooked perfectly with the 'al dente' bite. The soup wasn't bad. I could taste the chicken, pork, shrimp (shells) and fish in the broth. I could've eaten another bowl but didn't want to overdo it. $4

Fishball Noodle Soup
This is the same kind of fishball you'd see at a dim sum restaurant. It is made with pureed white fish, green onions, chinese sausage and orange peel. Don't worry, the orange peel is used to mask out any fishiness. These were very juicy and tasty. At Wonton Time, you also have the option of picking 2-3 items for a mixed bowl. So definitely try the wontons and fishballs. $4

Vegetables with Oyster Sauce/Sesame Oil
Traditionally, the people of Hong Kong love to eat their soup noodles or dim sum with a plate of boiled vegetables (yau choy) topped with oyster sauce and sesame oil. Nothing special. $2

For first timers, I recommend adding the red vinegar and homemade hot sauce into your noodles. It really brings out the flavor of the dish. Until my trip to Hong Kong, this place will do. It's not bad. It's definitely one of the better places for wonton noodle soup and the fact that they add 'steroids' to their wontons should be interesting enough.

Here's Jonathan Gold's review on Wonton Time.

Wonton Time
19 E. Valley Blvd.
Alhambra, CA 91801
(626) 293-3366

Eat Drink Style Bacon-Wrapped Love

Pork is one of my favorite meats to cook with because it’s very easy to infuse savory and sweet flavors into it. (Try cranberry sauce or apricot jam on the pork.) It acts as a great, edible sponge that doesn’t need days of marinating.

Last week I wasn’t able to attend my friend’s birthday party at the Union Cattle, and I thought some delicious pork would make it up. She came over around 7 and told me she wanted to watch me cook. I bought two generous cuts of pork tenderloin from Whole Foods, apple-smoked bacon and some asparagus. Only $8 for the pork!

I seasoned both sides of the loins with salt and freshly ground pepper and wrapped each one with apple-smoked bacon, securing it with a toothpick. I then seared both sides till I got a nice rich brown color and slapped it in a 375 degree oven. Twenty minutes later, I let the loins sit out and threw in some crimini mushrooms from Trader Joe’s and browned them. I deglazed the pan with some Charles Shaw cabernet sauvignon to start the sauce. Ok, I know, it’s $2 buck chuck. All the food network hosts tell you to use wine you would drink. Well I don’t mind $2 buck chuck. I’m not Paul Giamatti from “Sideways”. If I’m going to spend $15-20 on a bottle of wine…it’s going down my stomach, not into my food. Anyway, after I reduced it for about 15 minutes, I added a little chicken stock to balance out any remaining tannins in the wine. And this is what we had…

Eat Drink Style The Hungry Zombies of Thai Town - Sanamluang, Thai Town

Last night, I went to the Troubadour in West Hollywood to see the French Kicks show. After a few beers, I was drunk and hungry. I met up with J around midnight to forage for some double dinner. We didn't feel like eating tacos and decided to continue our Thai Town spree. Yes, again I'm after the perfect bowl of Thai Boat Noodles, while J, is after a delectable bowl of BBQ Duck Noodles. This brings us to Sanamluang and it's bright neon-pink and yellow sign. It had the feel of a diner located in the middle of the "Nowhere Desert". Only their lights were working properly. It'd be cool if they strobed dysfunctionally, then it would've truly been an eerie dining experience.

Outside on the tarp, Sanamluang proclaims that they have "The Best Noodles In Town". Maybe it's a direct quote from LA Weekly food writer, Jonathan Gold. Whatever the case, I was even more interested in eating at this joint. I laugh everytime I drive by a divey hamburger joint that claims they have "World Famous Burgers". This would hold true if their world consisted of a few blocks on a busy street.

We walked in and I immediately felt a weird buzz. Not because I was drunk either. The fluorescent lights projected a yellowish hue in the restaurant. The patrons stared at us like zombies - eyes fixated on us, hands slowly bringing the soup spoons to their mouths without spilling. The employees walked around slowly - tired from a long day of hustling and bustling. There were only about 5 occupied tables and everyone was spaced out. Definitely odd. Not as odd as a hospital cafeteria though.

The waitress handed us sticky menus. But again, we knew what we wanted. Here's what we had:

Thai Boat Noodle Soup
This massive bowl of noodles arrived within 7 minutes. A hot, steaming bowl of noodles, beef parts, green onions/cilantros and brothy goodness ladeled into a tacky-looking bowl. The bowl looked like it was the same ones used back in the late 80s/early 90s - possibly when they first opened. A pattern that was similar to one of Parker Lewis's many rayon dress shirts. J noticed that "Krua Thai" was written on the 80s artifact. Krua Thai is a Thai restaurant in North Hollywood, and purportedly serves up some of the best Pad Thai in LA. I don't care for Pad Thai so I won't bother challenging them. The owner of Sanamluang obviously runs Krua Thai as well. Back to the soup. Wow, this really smelled good. Things are tastier when you're drunk, but I had J try it out too. The soup was somewhat sour - more than usual. The noodles were cooked beautifully yet the portions of beef were sparse. I like a place that serves an equal balance of components - right amount of soup, noodles, garnishes and meat. This bowl was purely noodles and soup. For sure this bowl of TBN beats Red Corner Asia's. As of now, here are my rankings for Thai Boat Noodles:

#1 - Sapp Coffee Shop
#2 - Yai Thai Restaurant
#3 - Sanamluang
#4 - Red Corner Asia

BBQ Duck Noodles
J forgot to specify that she wanted yellow egg noodles. We were quite surprised that it came with thick white rice noodles - never seen it before. There was also NO SIGN OF SAUCE. Most places I've eaten at come with just a little bit of duck flavored broth - not here. The waitress was quite surprised with our request for a small bowl of broth. We saw her speaking to the chef and the chef gave us a look. Not a good sign. A chef on a bad day could add his own personal garnish if he wanted to. I could see that J wasn't too thrilled with the noodles so we switched. Either way, I was fine. I was buzzing and hungry haha. This dish came with a nice portion of fatty/savory pieces of duck. It was good.

I think this will be my new late night choice. This or Palm's - both will be good. Thanks for reading.

Sanamluang Cafe
5176 Hollywood Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90027
(323) 660-8006

Eat Drink Style Lipton Pure Leaf Presents...

a lot of free tea for anyone that happened to be at the Celebrity Food Show at the Anaheim Hilton this past weekend. We were asked by a PR firm to represent the Lipton Pure Leaf booth and pass out some samples. The week before, we were blessed with three 18-bottle boxes of various teas from Lipton. Why tea you ask? Believe it or not, there is a whole trend in tea pairings with food. I only knew of iced tea to be a sort of chaser for hard alcohol, but who knew you could pair iced tea with things like sushi. Anyway, we arrived on the final day of the convention and you could see that everyone was exhausted after two full-house days. I was dying for some food, only to find stuff like salsas, chocolate and more salsa and chocolate. Oh yeah, and about 50 types of olive oils. Not a great combo all together, but who doesn't like a free sample.

You may recognize this man from Hell's Kitchen – Aaron. He will be back on Season 4 of the show and ready to take more of Ramsey's orders. Chef Aaron closed the show with a cooking demo that included various foods from Ramsey's LA-project, London. He made lobster spaghetti, macadamia-encrusted scallops and a mojito made with, you guessed it, Lipton iced tea. If you missed this, look forward to the Western Food Expo this weekend at the LA Convention Center. Thanks for reading.

Eat Drink Style "C" Means "Clean Enough" - Sapp Coffee Shop, Thai Town

Again I'm back on Hollywood Blvd. whoring for the perfect bowl of Thai Boat Noodles in Thai Town. My last 2 experiences at Yai and Red Corner Asia were satisfactory, with Yai reigning supreme over RCA. RCA really didn't do it for me.

J and I were headed to a wine tasting at Silverlake Wine and craved a bowl of noodles before we got liquored up. I was craving Thai Boat while she was in pursuit of a good bowl of roasted/bbq duck noodles. After a year of corresponding with Yoony of Immaeatchu through the food blog, we felt it was time to finally meet the young lady behind the delicious cooking. She and Santos of Meet Me At the Corner of Third & Fairfax got us hyped on this current Thai food spree.

A friend of mine recommended Sapp Coffee Shop because she knows how much i love Thai Boat Noodles. For those that haven't had this, it's almost like pho with the beef parts, but the soup is brown and much thicker. Why is it thicker? It's because authentic TBN's are made with beef and pork blood. Don't close this window just yet - it's tastier than you think. The result of incorporating blood is a nice gravy-like soup that is packed with flavor.

Sapp Coffee Shop is a favorite of young people because it's known as a diner, with rice and noodle dishes and a list of delectable Thai drinks. Although Sapp Coffee Shop is a Thai restaurant, the word 'sapp' is Laotian for 'tasty, delicious'. And rightfully so.

J, Yoony and I met at 7 pm and piled into this hole-in-wall restaurant marked with a "C". But don't mind the "C", it really means 'clean enough'. If you're a prude, ambiance-seeking eater, you probably shouldn't be frequenting Asian restaurants PERIOD. After all, Asian restaurants are all about the food. After about 10 minutes of chatting, we picked up the menu to order food. The girls both got the dry roasted duck noodles which they fell in love with at Yai. I, of course, got the TBN's. Here's what we thought.

BBQ Duck Noodles (Dry)
J and Yoony overall liked this dish at Yai more because there was duck sauce on the bottom of the bowl. The duck is served warm here, while Yai's is cold-cut style. The noodles were cooked too long - giving it a mushy texture. If you look closely at the photo, you can see the sugar UNMIXED into the dish. If there was any sauce at all, it would've dissolved the sugar. Presentation wise - Sapp Coffee Shop loses points. No one wants to see unmixed ingredients in the dish. But after they mixed up the contents of the dish, they both quietly enjoyed the noodles. $4.75

Thai Boat Noodles (kũay tĩaw reua néua thúk yàang)
As soon as I saw the server with my bowl of TBN's, I rubbed my hands together. I always do that. She set the bowl down and my eyes lit up. My nostrils enlarged. Man, this smelled so good. I didn't even have to dip my spoon into the broth to know how thick and savory it was. I could see small chunks of beef and boiled blood pieces inside the broth - a sign that this was true beef broth. I could smell soy sauce, sugar, vinegar, cilantro and green onions. Very nice. I didn't get the works which includes liver and tripe - instead I stuck with beef slices, beef balls, beef tendon and fried pork skins (chicharrones). $4.75

Thai Boat Noodles (kũay tĩaw reua néua thúk yàang)
I lifted up the noodles from the broth and noticed that the noodles stuck together. Another sign that the broth was thick - yum. If you look closely a the noodles, you can see the beef and boiled blood bits. I was going to get the beef taste in every bite. I let J and Yoony try some and they both liked it. J agreed that it was better than Yai and RCA's. I devoured this bowl in about 10 minutes and actually thought about getting another bowl. If you're into full flavored noodles, I highly recommend the TBN's here at Sapp. There are afew TBN options and Sapp doesn't mind you customizing your own bowl of beef with different beef parts. You can also choose pork instead of beef. If you want roasted/bbq duck noodles, go over to Yai, which is down the street. $5.50

Nevermind the 'C' rating here, I give Sapp Coffee Shop an 'A'. Hurry on over here, they close at 8:30 every night and rest on Wednesdays. Here is another review by a Sapp fan from the LTH Forum.

Sapp Coffee Shop
5183 Hollywood Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90027
(323) 665-1035

Eat Drink Style Tantalizing Tofu

I went over to Zen Grill on 3rd & La Cienega with a friend and ordered the Tofu Steak with Veggies. Disappointed by the fact that it was super greasy, soggy and salty, I put it on myself to cook a better tasting, more delectable tofu steak. I started out by patting the tofu cubes (regular tofu) dry. You can cut them diagonally for presentation. I used two pieces and made a quick batter by using tapioca starch (corn works as well), water and salt. Mixed it till I achieved a medium-thick consistency. After frying the tofu about 7-8 minutes each side, I served it with a sesame/miso dressing I got from Mitsuwa market with some grilled veggies. It’s so good. I put the dressing on everything. Add a little furikake seasoning on the tofu. Enjoy.

Eat Drink Style My New Toy: The Wok - Beef Chow Fun & Beef Chow Mein (Crispy) Recipe

In a conversation that extended over 15+ emails, Kirk of Mmm-Yoso and Elmo of Elmomonster convinced me that the Big Kahuna Burner was a good investment for wok cooking and that I wouldn't be going to jail for involuntary arson. (They both own it too). For only $49.99 off Amazon, this burner reaches BTU's as high as 55,000. Just how high is that? The stove burner you use daily averages 5,000 to 8,000 BTU's. For so long I wondered why I couldn't achieve that same restaurant-quality taste with Chinese food. Why was the food cooked on the outside so beautifully, yet so gummy-tender on the indside? Why was there such a different, indescribable taste to the food that used the same ingredients I had used at home? And why did food come out in less than 5 minutes? It's called 'wok hay', the 'heat/energy of the wok'. The wok, when burning hot, sears/singes the meat nicely on the outside and adds a taste unachievable on a 10" Emeril pot and home stove. The domed shape of the wok distributes heat faster than the flat surface of a pan. (I got my 16" wok at a restaurant supply store in San Gabriel for only $9. It's decent.) Combining rocket-boosting heat and domed cookware, you get Asian-style cooking.

In Chinese, 'chow fun' means fried rice noodles and 'chow mein' means fried egg noodles. Fresh 'fun' noodles are shown on the left. Their made with rice, starch and water and come oiled up to keep from drying in room temperature and are already pre-sliced. 'Fun' noodles require the most labor because it is necessary to separate each strand of noodle for equal cooking. On the right is steamed 'chow mein'. Do not confuse these with wonton egg noodles, which come heavily doused in flour. If you were to use wonton egg noodles for the 'Beef Chow Mein' dish, they wouldn't turn out out too well because of the high flour content. Also, if you add liquids to the dish, the noodles will become thick and gooey. Not good. Steaming egg noodles removes the flour and making it easier for pan frying. 'Fun' is $1.79 a pack and 'mein' is $1.59 a pack at most Asian markets.

The key to cooking Asian stir fry and noodle dishes is having everything prepped out. I've been over to my Uncle's restaurant to watch him cook and their walk-in fridge is stocked with prepped out food. He punches out orders in less than 3 minutes because everything is ready to go. I combined the ingredients for both dishes.

Marinating the beef:
- Flank steak
- Rice Wine/Sherry (Shao Xing)
- Oil
- Salt
- White Pepper (Chinese rarely use black pepper)
- Chicken Bouillon Powder
- Corn starch

Mix those up well and let it steep for at least 30 minutes.

For Beef Chow Fun, you need:
- Green onions (green part 2.5"-3")
- Bean sprouts (handful)

For Beef Chow Mein, you need:
- Greens like Yau Choy or Gai-Lan (Chinese Broccoli)
- Green onion stalks (thick slices)
- Straw Mushrooms (canned)
- Carrots (cut into rhombus-shape)
- Ginger (cut into rhombus-shape)
- Garlic

The sauce aisle is probably the most overwhelming section of the Asian market. Who knew that they could fill up one long aisle with soy sauce, oyster sauces and oil. It'll take a while finding these if you don't already have them. You'll need soy sauce, dark soy sauce (aka mushroom soy sauce), oyster sauce and sesame oil. Disregard the jar on the left.

After prepping everything, I spent a good 10 minutes bringing out all the equipment/sauces I needed to the area in front of my apartment. Never wok cook inside a kitchen unless you have an overhead, proper stove and fire extinguisher. Those flames could catch oil and wreak havoc. Plus the smell of smoke can be overwhelming. I stood there for a few minutes getting myself ready for this mentally. There isn't a lot of time to think and you must act fast. I opened the gas valve on the propane tank and could see the gas slowly fill out throught the tube. I then opened the control valve for the burner and I immediately heard hissing. I used a stick lighter and ignited the burner. Whooom! Ok, here we go. Here's what went down.

Beef Chow Fun
Add a little oil and swirl it around the wok. It should take no longer than 30-45 seconds for the oil to smoke. Toss the beef in and stir it around. Once it's cooked through about 60%, take it out. Toss the noodles in and stir. In about 2-3 minutes, they'll be cooked. Simply add the beef back in along with bean sprouts, green onions and a few pieces of ginger. Add dark soy sauce to achieve that recognizable 'beef chow fun' color. *Note, dark soy sauce really has no taste and it's only used for coloring. Soy sauce is used for taste along with salt and white pepper. Add some soy sauce and sugar to taste. You're done when the green onions and bean sprouts are wilted. This dish came out delicious except for the fact that I used too much sugar. It kinda tasted like Thai "pad see eew". The beef was cooked about 85% with a few pieces showing some rareness, which I don't mind. Next round, I'm adding less sugar and more ginger.

Beef Chow Mein
First, add a cup of oil into the wok for shallow frying the egg noodles. Fry each side for about 2 minutes and watch that you don't burn it. It should be a light golden brown. Take it out once you're done. Throw the beef in and stir - cook 50% through and dump about 2 cups of water to make the gravy. Add dark soy sauce, soy sauce, oyster sauce, white pepper and sugar to taste. Once you get the right taste, throw the beef back in and add corn starch mixture (water/corn starch) to thicken the gravy. Next toss in the carrots, straw mushrooms and yau choy. Cook for about another 2 mins. Add about 2-3 drops of sesame oil and pour the gravy over your perfectly fried noodles. I did none of this. I really messed up on this dish because I didn't add enough water to make the gravy. The noodles were fried decently, yet I ran into some uncooked parts. The soy sauce I added had caramelized, giving it a gooey/burnt taste. No good. For the next round, I am mixing all of the sauces together into one pot.

I didn't realize how much practice is needed for wok cooking. My arms are sore from lifting the wok. Prepping this dish is the most crucial element because you really don't have much time to think/act. Overall, I'm very happy with the purchase of the Big Kahuna Burner and unhappy with the way the 'Beef Chow Mein' turned out. Stay tuned for Round 2. Thanks for reading.

Eat Drink Style A Night On Melrose

My friend Michelle and I decided we should do Melrose Night. We were going to the 1988 Gallery for an exhibit and decided to fill up at Lala’s Argentine Grill and get drinks at the Larchmont afterwards. I was in the mood for Mario’s Peruvian & Seafood but they shut down at 8pm. Lala’s it was. A few of my co-workers introduced me to Tango Grill in West Hollywood and told me that Lala’s was better. And I couldn’t agree more.

We quickly valeted the car and were immediately greeted and seated. Lala’s wore a romantic, sepia interior with candles on every table and sung Argentinean songs under the sound of the indistinct voices of other diners. I thought to myself, too bad she’s just a friend or else we’d… *Wink.

As we looked over the menu, we were served some warm baguette bread with an herb/oil dip. I believe it was called “rovini”. It consisted of parsley, thyme, garlic, garlic, garlic, red pepper flakes and more garlic. Absolutely delicious. Like the Stinking Rose’s dip, I could’ve made a meal out of it. We asked for a third round.

We started out with the Tortilla de Papas, which is a potato and onion quiche. Basically a sweet potato pie with lots of butter and garlic. Yum. To spice it up a little, we topped it off with more rovini.

I ordered the popular Argentinean dish, “Milanesa”, which is a thin, deep-fried battered steak. It’ll score you some points on the cholesterol meter, but hey, once in a while is okay. To add more artery points, I got the “Milanesa Napolitana” ($12.95). It’s the same fried steak with a warm, basil red/cream sauce topped with melted cheese. My arteries! I actually removed the cheese. It was too much. My friend ordered the “Al Champignon” ($10.95), a grilled chicken steak with parsley and garlic flavored mushrooms. On top of that, we both got a 1/2 order of fries and mashed potatoes for our entrees. And a little salsa. The mashed potatoes are loaded with butter and garlic. Probably the best mashed potatoes I’ve ever had… next to wasabi flavored mash. I didn’t even touch the fries because I had eaten the whole quiche.

Total damage for tonight was only $31.75 with appetizer and drinks. What a great deal. I admire places that don’t skimp on portions. I have to admit that it was too much of a visit to Deep Fried City. Like I said, please limit yourself to Lala’s. Your arteries will thank you. I think I’ll just have the grilled chicken next time and substitute the fries/mashed potatoes for a salad. The steaks also look amazing.

Lala’s is a great place for a date because of the ambiance and you’ll really enjoy the food. There’s outdoor seating as well, for those that like to people-watch on Melrose. Enjoy.

Lala’s Argentine Grill
7229 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90046
(323) 934-6838

Eat Drink Style Palate Food & Wine, Glendale - Dining in David Lynch's Dining Room

Palate Glendale Menu

***Update 8/8/08***
Since writing this posting, I actually came here another two times in the SAME week. I've added a few more dishes and sat in a different part of this large restaurant. Right now, they are having wine tastings from 5-8 pm on Fridays and 2-5 on Saturdays for a limited time only. I can tell you that the back dining/bar area by the wine shop is a ton of fun. And not to mention that the flight of wines are complimentary. Sign me up please.

You know when you're a kid, your brain is like a sponge – soaking in everything and anything around you. You're told certain things. You're told to act a certain way. You're told to trust whatever elders tell you. Naivete is a part of the learning process that dissipates at different rates for everyone. As for soaking up things, I had a hard time putting disturbing things I have seen in the trash can side of my memory. There are two movies that have not left the better half of me because they are just not right – 'The Shining' and David Lynch's 'Twin Peaks'. Actually, I consider all of David Lynch's films to be unsuitable for a child's bedtime story. I can't remember what 'Twin Peaks' was about but there was this one scene that was just STRANGE. There was a midget in this large room decked out in black & white checkered tiling. He came from behind some heavy red drapes and insisted the viewer to sit down next to his green formica table. It made no sense – to anyone but Lynch of course. I don't know why I found it so disturbing but I still remember it vividly. And on a warm evening in July, Jeni and I decided to go out for dinner for our 2-year anniversary. It was a promising night of delectable food from an ex-Patina chef by the name of Octavio Becerra, wine from a place that not only sold and served wine, but also provided storage for those that have exhausted their Vinotemps. But all that was to change upon stepping into a place called Palate Food & Wine in Glendale.

I stepped in with J and we were immediately puzzled by the decor of this place. Very unique! All of a sudden I felt like I was in a David Lynch set. To my left was the hostess' stand. I was expecting that same midget man with a mini suit and hat to come around the corner of the stand any minute now, tapping me on my knee... asking if I had reservations and leading me to some green formica table. The dining area gave off this strong pink hue. The black & white checkered floors were now black & pink checkers. Large canvas prints with something that resembled a close-up of a biochemical lab experiment. Giant vases of grapes that only seemed to live in Alice's Wonderland. Lastly, large candles that seemed to make their way here from a Transylvanian yard sale. But I've never been into decor, so I'll have to toss the Lynch card out on this one because we heard SO MUCH about the food.

Palate Glendale Interior

Palate Glendale Candle

Palate Glendale Bartender - Antoine

Given the option to sit at the bar or eat with David Lynch, we chose the former. We were kindly greeted by the bartender, or sommelier, Antoine, who looked sharp and knowledgeable on wines. The wine prices here at Palate are really reasonable. We started off with a bottle of riesling that cost no more than $40, but was so nice and crisp. Just ask Antoine for it by name...
Schäfer-Fröhlich Riesling Spätlese Halbtrocken Monzinger Frühlingsplätzchen.

Palate Glendale Bread

What kind of butter is this? It can't be Darigold, that's for sure because it was served at the perfect temperature with a dash of Fleur de Sel. Nice!

Palate Glendale Porkfolio

I really find food puns annoying, but you know what, because the selection here was very good, I'm letting it slide. Included in this 'porkfolio' (*sigh), were prosciutto san daniele, speck di alto adige and salumi gentile.

Palate Glendale Nectarines

Something Pickled... Nectarines
This goes very well with the following dish. Pickled, sweet and textural.

Palate Glendale Mason Jars

Potted Berkshire Pork - Mason Jar

I didn't know you could mason-jar things other than jam or honey. I found my new pork-love and it's totally not good for you. These are called 'pork rillettes' and are a type of force-meats. Pork is chopped up, salted for a few hours to overnight and then cooked in its own fat. After it is shredded, it is refridgerated, allowing the fat to coagulate, creating a creamy padding of fat all around the beef. I watched J as she used her butterknife to smother some pork paste on to the bread, add cheese and porkfolio on it for 'garnish'. How can you not love a woman that is so sure about the decisions she makes? This was absolutely delicious. I put Josef Centeno's (formerly of Lot 1 Cafe) right behind Chef Becerra's.

Palate Glendale Rabbit

Lapin (Rabbit) - Mason Jar
Another deadly yet lovely sin bottled up in a jar. The rabbit tends to have a leaner, lighter flavor to it compared to the gluttonous Berkshire pork. I did enjoy this and will eventually be trying the whole potted collection. But for me, I'd pick pork over almost anything.

Palate Glendale Albacore Salad

Albacore Confit Salad
Antoine explained that the tuna is 'confit-ed' overnight. The result is a moist, chicken-like taste to the albacore tuna. The salad is brought together with a VERY bright vinaigrette which really wakes the palate up like a hair-of-the-dog drink at 7 am.

Palate Glendale Summer Truffles

Summer Truffles with Poached Egg & Cream
Saying no to this dish is like turning down a double date with Natalie Portman and Scartlett Johannson. I fall weak when it comes to anything with eggs. The wine director kindly explained to me how this classic French dish is made. In a little jar, an egg is added to cream along with romano cheese. It is then tempered in boiling water for 7 minutes and then garnished with paper thin slices of summer truffles. I'm not really into truffles because of its strong aroma, but the appropriate usage of it in this simple, yet classic dish makes palatable sense. I can eat a dozen of these. I watched J, who doesn't really like eggs, eat hers and waited for her to pass it on to me. Smile.

Palate Glendale Corn Ravioli

Corn Ravioli
Another dish I cannot say no to... corn PLUS ravioli. Chef Becerra told us that before he worked for Patina, he worked in France and Italy and I'm pretty sure this is a dish that was made shortly after his trip back to the U.S. The ravioli dough is really nice – chewy and textural from the quick boiling. The corn inside is pureed and goes well with the butteriness of this dish.

Palate Glendale Scallops

Seared Scallops & Shelled Beans
Come to think of it, there isn't anything out there that I WON'T eat. I know I love eggs and corn, but I forgot to add that I adore scallops. To me, they bring back that nostalgic feeling of eating tater tots in 3rd grade. Another great dish.

Palate Glendale Veal Breast

Veal Breast and Spätzle
As I was shooting this photograph, the compound butter on top started to melt and slowly glided over the veal cliff. This is a sexy dish. Braised veal, chewy spätzle, spinach and a savoy reduction sauce. Excuse me, Antoine, where is the nearest hotel room?

Palate Glendale Pork Belly

Pork Belly with Faro & Cherries
And this is the reason why I rip up my bloodtest results. I live for pork belly. Before we even looked at the menu, we knew we were going to order this because it had mentioned so many times on reviews. And I could see why. Although the ratio of fat to pork was a bit unbalanced, the crisp texture of the perfectly fried skin, reduction sauce and moistness of the meat made me wish I could dive into this. I have to say, out of the 10-12 times I've tried some variation of pork belly, this one makes me kow-tow to the chef. Given another bottle of wine from Antoine, I might have done that, much to J's disappointment.

Palate Glendale Rabbit2

I love rabbit but almost everytime I eat it, it's dry. *Dylan gets down from his stool and assumes the kow-tow position* Yes, another delectable dish. You can see the beautiful pink hue of the meat, a sign of well cooked game. Also within the meat, I believe is ground rabbit mixed with nuts and herbs. All this plated over some buttery polenta.

Our bill came out to $140. If you take out the two bottles of wine, we pretty much only spent $60-70 on food, and we were full. Palate definitely offers some great food and wine at great prices. We then met the manager, who gladly gave us a tour of the restaurant, wine store and wine vault area. I can tell you that the Lynch decor didn't stop there, but it all made sense. The decor was a reflection of the variety of palatable foods Becerra offers. The decor is unique, but not tacky. The flavors are everywhere, but done in a unique way. Nothing is too over the top, and nothing is too dull. I 'got it' afterwards. I was also very drunk.

Palate Glendale Lamb

Palate Glendale Wineshop2

Palate Glendale Wineshop

Palate Glendale Octavio Becerra

Two thumbs up for the people of Palate Food & Wine. I have you marked down on my calendar for a future dinner very soon and I can't wait. I highly recommend sitting at the bar and talking to Antoine – he's cool. Thanks for reading. And thank you David Lynch for disturbing the hell out of me for so many years.

Palate Food & Wine
933 South Brand Blvd.
Glendale, CA 91204
(818) 662-9463