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.