Showing posts with label travel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label travel. Show all posts

Eat Drink Style Our First Anniversary - All that We've Learned This Year

First Anniversary Dinner

On a Saturday evening, I sat with my wife in our apartment at the dining table and clinked our glasses. We finally did it. We celebrated our first year together as husband and wife. It wasn't easy but for every difficult moment, there were twenty-five or so good moments to outweigh it. Rather than showing a whole slideshow of us doing couple poses in various locations, I thought I might share the things I've learned as the husband to a very special woman and as well as the importance of having someone to turn to. If you're thinking about getting married, consider these few words of advice.

I learned a lot about life from Tuesdays With Morrie. I haven't read it in over a decade but I still remember a lot of the quotes, many of which have influenced the way I approached my relationship with Jeni.

"... there are a few rules I know to be true about love and marriage: If you don't respect the other person, you're gonna have a lot of trouble. If you don't know how to compromise, you're gonna have a lot of trouble. If you can't talk openly about what goes on between you, you're gonna have a lot of trouble. And if you don't have a common set of values in life, you're gonna have a lot of trouble. Your values must be alike."


I think the first thing we asked each other after getting married in Las Vegas was, "What do we do now? What does a married couple do right after putting the rings on? Most people will probably buy a house and have children. We decided to skip all of that for the time being.

For a lot of newlyweds, it's the first of many uphill battles. There is such a thing as personal space and it takes at least a year to really find out which buttons you can and can't push. Thank god we got that out all the way. Although I'll occasionally find unclosed drawers or those stupid hair-ties all over the place, I've learned to suck it up and take care of it myself. I know she's done something similar for me. If you don't discuss the things that irritate you, it will only get pent up and be released like an H-bomb. You can't change everyone but you can compromise.

Our First Anniversary

Children. We love my nephew to death and after several days of taking care of him, we knew that a child would not be in the works anytime soon. I know things will change when we do have a child, but for now, it's about enjoying our time together before we both get saggy with nasty stretch marks. Who knew that a 3 year old could need so much attention and sugar. God. I love him still though.

Our First Anniversary

Our First Anniversary

I've learned that you have to live each day like it's the last. Especially on the dance floor. Jeni and I have no problem being the first people to open up the dance floor at any wedding because we don't care what people think. There's no one I'd rather dance with than my Chuck Taylor-sporting wife. And when I'm breaking out into a calorie-burning workout to some 90s hip hop, you know you have a good wife when she's there to hand you a mini towel and say something sweet like, "Here. You're disgusting."

Our First Anniversary

Our First Anniversary

I've learned that even when you don't care to do something, you just have to do it because you're now one unit. I can't tell you how many times Jeni has reluctantly gone with me on taco runs because I was hungry at 1 am. She would sit in the car even if she didn't feel like downing some buche but was still happy to be hanging out.

Our First Anniversary

I've learned that she would be up for any show, even if she had not heard of the band. This photo was taken at the Bon Iver show at the Hollywood Forever cemetery at around 6 am. She was bundled up like a cocoon with dew all over her, but still smiling in enjoyment.

Our First Anniversary

I've learned that we could work together, no matter what we did. When I used to do catering, she served as a waitress and even as my sous chef. She didn't care to do cooking and prepping for all the parties, but was always there to make sure I would keep my cool and make things happen. This year, on top of our full-time jobs, we shot six great weddings and learned how to rely on each other to cover all bases. She would do the couple shots, I would cover the reception – vice versa. Wedding photography is not easy because of the high tension and shenanigans that go on but seeing how calm she was only made things flow "like the salmon of San Juan Capistrano." You can view some of our work here.

Our First Anniversary

Our First Anniversary

Our First Anniversary

Our First Anniversary

I've learned that we could not travel the same way we do with anyone else. While most people will visit scenic spots or tourist attractions, our main motive for traveling is to photograph and eat food. It's a lot of fattening fun. I remember the time we were in Rio de Janeiro during our honeymoon and heading to see the famous Christ the Redeemer statue on top of the mountain. Seeing that it was a big deal to get up there, we said screw it – took a super distant photo of it and went straight to a restaurant. This was taken after our tasty meal at Portland's Beast restaurant. If you're planning on having children, it's best to get the travel bug taken care of first... which is what we're doing!

Our First Anniversary

Our First Anniversary

A year later, we're older but we're also stronger as a couple. Instead of going out to dinner for our celebration, we decided to lay low and keep things between us. With all the new restaurants opening up in Los Angeles, it can get a little tiring eating out. Not to mention the consumption of all that butter in each dish. It can get a little much. On a cold night, we headed to the Fairfax Farmer's Market. It was a surprise menu so I sent her off towards the Grove while I headed for groceries.

I walked by all the butchers and seafood stores and really thought about all the food that we ate this year. At one point, we were heavily into places that did gorgeous plating, but that appreciation slowly faded because after a while, it didn't look like food anymore – it was art really. At the end of the day, I'll take a dish cooked by a loved one over the hottest chef's creations. It's about warming the soul, not so much the eyes.

First Anniversary Dinner

Since this was a special occasion, I decided to cough it up for one of the tastiest mushrooms around. To me, I think this is a more well-balanced, wholesome mushroom than a truffle. And a fraction of the cost although it clocks in at a whopping $20+/lb. Ouch.

First Anniversary Dinner

Risotto is one of those dishes that like a child, needs constant nurturing. It's easy to spoil it and ruin it, but with a careful hand and a glass of wine, making it can be rewarding.

First Anniversary Dinner

Cold weather is a clear indication that it's time to break out the Le Creuset and braise something. The chances of making a bad braised dish are low as you can pretty much make meat taste good with very little vegetables, stock, herbs and wine.

First Anniversary Dinner

Fanny Bay Oysters
Every day is a good day for oysters. Jeni wasn't too fond of shellfish before she met me but I'm very happy now that I have an oyster partner in crime. These oysters were from Whole Foods, and they weren't that fresh. I'd suggest Carlsbad Aquafarm at the Hollywood Farmer's Market or Glendale's Fish King.

First Anniversary Dinner

First Anniversary Dinner

First Anniversary Dinner

Seared Diver Scallops and Corn/Cherry Tomatoes with Jalapeno Creme Fraiche
I went simple with this Fall combination. I basically put together three things that I really enjoy… scallops, corn and creme fraiche. This was light and really tasty. After searing the scallops, I quickly sauteed the corn and cherry tomatoes and lightly glazed it with a dollop of creme fraiche and chopped jalapeno.

First Anniversary Dinner

Pan-Fried Veal Sweetbreads with Bacon/Brussel Sprouts and Spinach Cream Sauce
I was lucky to find these sweetbreads at one of the butchers. A big portion of it only cost a few dollars. I soaked the sweetbreads in a bowl of milk with salt for 6 hours. I then lightly dipped it in some salted-flour and pan-fried them in a little butter and olive oil. Most sweetbreads I've had are extremely moist, but because I only let them sit for 6 hours, there was still a nice bite to the already-soft sweetbreads. The combination of the spinach cream and slightly-charred taste of the bacon/brussel sprouts were really good together.

First Anniversary Dinner

Alaskan Halibut with Chanterelles, Curried Lentils and Sauteed Swiss Chard
One of our favorite restaurants is A.O.C. for Suzanne Goin's mediterranean style. I decided to do a fish dish similar to something I had eaten there a while back. As you can tell, I like pan-seared dishes because they are light and maintain a simple taste to it. To save time, we bought Trader Joe's pre-cooked lentils which is SO HELPFUL. Add some curry powder, thyme, butter and finely-minced carrots and onions and your side dish is done.

First Anniversary Dinner

Braised Short Rib with Chanterelles & Creamy Reggiano Risotto
This dish was obviously a bit on the heavier side so I only served up a small portion of it. I loved eating the tender meat with the nutty & earthy chanterelles. The risotto was flavored with Sauvignon Blanc wine, heavy cream and freshly micro-planed reggiano cheese.

As I'm finishing up on this posting, I'm staring at both of our plump backpacks. It's that time again where we escape the lovely City of Angels, and head somewhere far for some R&R. This year, we're heading to half of Jeni's motherland, Vietnam, my dad's home country of Laos and Cambodia. I could not be more excited about the street food in every country. Time for 2-legged, 4-legged and 6-8 legged delicacies. I've never been to Southeast Asia and I'm imagining some of our photos will look something like this...

Jeni & Dylan in Southeast Asia

Jeni & Dylan in Southeast Asia

Jeni & Dylan in Southeast Asia

Happy Holidays and thanks for your readership – it's been another great year.
See you in 2010!

Eat Drink Style WonderTune: What Am I Eating in Halifax, Nova Scotia?

And yet, another compilation for those that enjoy music as much as I do. I'm being sent to Nova Scotia for a video shoot. If you know of ANYTHING tasty out there, please inform me. I'll let you know how the pho and Mexican food is up there. Hope you enjoy the WonderTune Nova Scotia mix.

Download WonderTune Nova Scotia

Eat Drink Style Hello from Japan - My Yakitori Chicken Chart

Yakitori Chicken Chart

Hello from Japan! I haven't had time to upload the things we ate. It's been less than a day here in Tokyo and we've already eaten some amazing food including grilled ground chicken with torchoned cheese, flattened blocks of crispy gyoza and of course, orgasm-inducing Hakata-style ramen. Just wanted to share with you a very critical piece of food geekery. When in Japan, you're going to be eating the best yakitori ever, but how do you tell the waitress that you're more interested in trying chicken testicles than white breast meat? Or that you're ok without the chicken head mcnuggets? Feel free to use! More to come.

Eat Drink Style Portland, Oregon - A Humble Point on the Culinary Map - Ace Hotel, Stumptown Coffee Roasters, Beast PDX, Clyde Common & Broder Scandinavian

Portland Sign

A few months back, J took me to Hatfield's for a fantastic birthday dinner. When we were about to leave she told me she had one more gift. She presented me with an unsealed envelope. I opened it and found two photocopied menus from restaurants i had never heard of.

Me: "What do I do with these? We ordering delivery?"
J: "Pick one."

I looked closer at the info under the two restaurants and noticed that one was based in Seattle, the other one in Portland.

J: "They are both oyster restaurants. Choose one."
Me: "I think i'm going to have to go with Portland."

Why Portland? Maybe it's because of the strong influence of Indie music bands there? The large social movement of thirty-somethings escaping big urban monsters; seeking a new place to live and restart? The fine coffee, breweries and distilleries spread out all over the state? My coworker said, "If Silver Lake, Los Angeles was its own city, it would be like Portland."
But for whatever reason Portland is the way it is, it has claimed much attention in the culinary world in the last few years. I read a few articles recently in NY Times, GQ and Food & Wine... all had great things to say about the food of Portland.

And if that was not convincing enough to settle on Portland, I only needed to think about two gentleman in Portland that would ensure that Jeni and I ate well. These two guys are Ron of PDX Plate and Kevin of Guilty Carnivore. We have never met the Guilty Carnivore himself, but we DO know him through his 3+ years of writing. He is a man who loves to mix food and politics together and always seems to be in search of the ideal Vietnamese sandwich. And there's Ron, who some of you may know as SauceSupreme on Chowhound. An ex-Angeleno who moved to Portland for work and for the food. But his knowledge of food alone makes the "work" part a complete lie. After a few weeks of email correspondence with Ron, Kevin and another generous foodie by the name of Matt, we had the most important thing taken care of: the food itinerary. I have to say one of the best things about writing a food blog is having a connection to other bloggers anywhere in the world. And it is very likely they will do their best to make sure you enjoy your time.

Only $250 for a 2-hour flight to Portland, we arrived on an early Friday morning with nothing but duffle bags, hunger and sheer excitement. It was a different feeling entering a city much smaller in relation to New York or Chicago. But thanks to the internet, you can very much see what you're getting yourself into. We got out of the Portland airport (PDX) and hopped on a train into town.

As the train slowly slithered through the city, I could only think about one thing – green. Green as in true chlorophyll. I think the product designers of Glade bathroom spray cans based their artwork on the Portland scenery. I couldn't believe how green the trees and grass were and how clean and fresh the air felt. So THIS is what fresh air is SUPPOSED to feel like. Part of this is due to the bicycle as a common means for transportation. In LA, we have parking meters. In Portland, where there is a meter, there is a bike rack.

We got dumped off in the South West area of Portland - it's one of four quadrants in the city divided by a river and major bridge. Speaking of bridges, it IS known as Bridgetown – 12 to be exact! We stayed at the Ace Hotel franchise, which also has locations in Palm Springs, Seattle and New York. If Urban Outfitters were to have their own hotel, this would be it. It's a great combination of Pacific Northwest/wilderness chic and design. Not to mention very reasonable in price for a room that is decorated by individual artists.

Portland Sign

We walked into the Ace and smiled upon seeing the lobby area with dark wood walls. A good 10-12 people sat on the couches and chairs reading their Mercury's and sipped quietly on what smelled like some of the best coffee ever. But I couldn't attest that as I don't drink much coffee – I prefer fun juice.

Portland Sign

Portland Sign

We checked in and J already knew what she wanted to do. That coffee we smelled earlier in the lobby was none other than Portland's favorite coffee shop, Stumptown Coffee Roasters. I put this next to Vietnamese iced coffee as my favorites. But for a coffee that was unaided by velvety condensed milk and a tiny drip press, this was some asskicking coffee. A few sips of this and I was awake. We sat over in the lobby, sipped on our asskicking coffee and people watched like the creepy tourists that we were.

Portland Sign

Portland Sign

10:32 am.
Our stomach rumbles and I rub my hands together. Time to start Ron's food tour.

Portland is a big breakfast town. Ron said that even if you served the shittiest breakfasts, you'd still be doing okay because people will still eat it – something to that extent. That is how Norm's and Denny's has survived for so long. He sent us out to a place in the Southeast that serves breakfast Scandinavian style. Whatever that meant, I hope it tasted better than Ikea's breakfast and didn't require me to walk 1.8 miles through a showroom just to get to the exit.

Portland Sign

And here we are at Broder, which is known for danish pancakes called Æbleskiver, pronounced 'eh-bleh-skee-vah'. I was lucky enough to find someone on Yelp who previously typed out that Æ letter.

Broder Collage

What is an Æbleskiver? Think ball-shaped pancakes similar to a beignets and Japan's takoyaki. Its cooked in a pan with seven round grooves. Like takoyaki, once the lower hemisphere of the batter is cooked, it is then flipped over with a skewer/needle and naturally molded into a round ball. Topped with powdered sugar and a trio of dipping sauces that includes lemon cream, lingonberry jam and maple syrup.

Broder Abelskiver1

We both enjoyed these as they were very light and tasty. If you're near Solvang, you can stop over at the Solvang Restaurant for some Æbleskiver as well.

Broder Abelskiver2

Broder Baked Eggs

I saw people at neighboring tables ordering eggs baked in square skillets. I love square things. So Scandinavian to shape food into squares and present them to you in a grid layout. I had the farmer's special which included smoked trout and shallots. I am now wearing a "#1 Scandinavian Smoked Trout Fan" shirt – that's how awesome it was.

Broder Potato Latkes

And what is there not to like about potato latkes charred perfectly for toothsome texture. Served with walnut bread.

CC Collage

After breakfast we headed back to the hotel, but not before seeing a bartender extracting fresh juice from an old-school juicer through the window of a neighboring bar/restaurant. One of the things Ron mentioned was the prevalence of stellar cocktail lounges in Portland. I told them that while we enjoy places in LA like The Association, The Varnish and Rivera – $12-15 for a drink can do damage to a wallet. Enter Clyde Common for the $5 happy hour and regularly priced $8 drinks. He also mentioned that $9 is what the best bar in town will charge, so if a bar charges $9.01 – you'd better taste that extra penny. And Clyde Common did not FAIL with their drinks.

One thing you'll notice in Portland is that quite a few respectable bars/lounges will display their Bohemian Absinthe fountain. This seems to be the trend of late for a drink that was brought to attention by artists and writers – Van Gogh for example. If taken as a shot, you could find yourself feeling very ill in the style of too much Jagermeister or Ouzo. Used in moderation as an aromatic, your cocktail is taken to another level. Thanks to John, the wonderful bartender at Clyde Common, for the conversations and cocktails.

CC Collage2

A few hours later, it was time for dinner. One of the restaurants that caught our eye was a place in the Northeast called Beast, headed by a female chef named Naomi Pomeroy. She was most recently nominated as one of Food & Wine's Best New Chefs 2009, along with the two guys from LA's Animal. We made reservations a month back.

Me: "I'd like to make a reservation at 7:30."
Beast: "We only do two seatings. 6 pm or 8:45 pm."
Me: "Okay 6 pm then."

Not knowing why they only had two seatings, I just went ahead and picked 6 pm. I looked on their site and realized that the menu was what-you-see-is-what-you-get. Chef Pomeroy quotes: "SUBSTITUTIONS POLITELY DECLINED."

Our cab dropped us off in front of the cozy and quaint restaurant named Beast. What we thought would be a very strict dinner all of a sudden made sense once we stepped foot inside the square dining area no larger than a deluxe living room. On the left was a table for 8 and on the right, a table for 12-16. And right in the center was a large counter top covered in plates. This was HER kitchen AND dining area. Awesome.

Beast Naomi PomeroyAlign Center

We took a seat and watched as Pomeroy's sous chef plated salads on the counter top. Pomeroy, in a black top and black pin-striped apron, walked around her kitchen gracefully. Jeni and I felt relaxed because there was absolutely no kitchen havoc. Quite notably, a huge difference between a male and female chef's kitchen. Working in a restaurant before, I knew how noisy and stressful it could get. These two chefs could have been walking barefooted on glass, stacked dishes on their head, two monkeys climbing on their backs and still serve food with a smile.

Beast Collage

We really loved the idea of sitting with other guests, a style of cuisine that could only come from someone who loves her home as much as her food. Another thing we loved about Pomeroy's restaurant was the clear view of her cookbooks perching on shelves. Whether or not they are put to use or merely restaurant fodder, we assumed that she is a humble and homey cook, not afraid to experiment or refer to the books in a pinch. I highly doubt any egotistic chef would display books for guests to scrutinize their level of experience. We introduced ourselves and sat patiently for the meal to start. If you really want to know, she enjoys Joy of Cooking, Judy Rodger's Zuni Cafe, Suzanne Goin's Sunday Supper at Lucques and Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking – all very solid cookbooks we could not live without.

And here's what Pomeroy served.

Beast Table

Beast Chilled Soup

Chilled Fresh Shelled English Pea Soup
With english peas in season, you'll see this delicious ingredient everywhere. It's sweet, crunchy and can go well with salads, meats and of course soup. She pureed the peas with herbed creme fraiche/cream and served it quite cold. I really enjoyed this.

Beast Salad

Spring Greens with Sauvignon Blanc Vinaigrette and Shaved Sheep's Milk Cheese
I loved the presentation of this – rustic and fresh. The shaving of cheese made it easier for it to melt on your tongue.

Beast Appetizers

Shaved Fennel Salad & Charcuterie Plate
Wow. This plate had everything - variety, colors and pate-like objects. This was a fabulous carnival of hors d'oeurves. I think this is where Chef Pomeroy shines.

Beast Appetizers2

Steak Tartare & Quail Egg Toast - I read about this in a magazine and could not wait to try this out. A+ for the combination of two things I enjoy - quail eggs and steak tartare. I actually asked if I could 'buy' a few more of these but was POLITELY DECLINED. I had to try.

Pork Liver, Sour Cherry & Pistachio Pate
- what I liked about this was not the usual mushiness of a pate. This was in fact more of a terrine/cake because I could taste all the texures. The pistachios still had a decent bite to it. Similar recipe found here.

Chicken Liver Mousse & Maple Candied Bacon
- if I could eat this everyday I would. By far, the table's favorite on the charcuterie plate. The combination of creamy liver and candied bacon had a yin & yang relationship.

Foie Gras Bon Bon
- our table considered this the 'dessert' of the charcuterie plate and it sure was. it was like a scoop of really savory buttery ice cream on top of shortbread.

Beast Rabbit

Rabbit Saddles Stuffed with Brioche & Spring Vegetables and White Wine Braised Leeks with Prosecco Butter
Probably the best rabbit I have ever eaten. Flavorful seasoning on the skin, moist meat and crunchy vegetable filling. The leek was a bit strong on the wine but great in texture.

Beast Cheese

Selection of Steve's Cheese, Anise & Fleur de Sel Shortbread, Fruit & Hazelnuts
Whoever Steve is, nice job.

Beast Custard

Brown Sugar & Cream Cheese Custard

What a great casual dinner this was. The food, the service and the fellow diners really helped us enjoy our first night in Portland. I would definitely come back and ask to put in a pre-order of those Quail Egg & Steak Tartare toasts.

Portland Bridge

Ace Hotel Lobby

Ace Hotel Stairs

Day one of four came to an end. We were too tired to go anywhere else and decided to call it night. Standing in the elevator, we noticed this sign. A simple reminder that because we would be eating a lot, we needed to do something about it or buy new jeans. To be continued...

And here's a mix that I made for the Portland trip. Enjoy!