May 6, 2010 – The Gorbals

6 May

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9:30 am

1 peanut butter and jelly sandwich on wheat

1 glass of water

1 pm

Gen-wa

1/2 dol sot bibimbap

various banchan

1 glass of Diet Pepsi

I ate at Gen-wa a couple of months ago with a former co-worker. I met another former co-worker here for lunch (due to it’s proximity to the Comcast offices), who’s only experience with Korean food was BBQ. She was amazed by the banchans and bibimbap and enjoyed herself greatly, and I forgot how exotic Korean food can be to some. It’s fun to be that friend sometimes.

6:45 pm

The Gorbals

2 matzoh balls wrapped in bacon with horseradish mayo

shared order of grilled octopus and chicken gizzards

shared order of roast bone marrow with oyster mushrooms and candied walnuts

shared order of cucumber, chickpeas and za’atar salad

1/2 Welsh rarebit

1 glass of Anchor Belgian ale

The Gorbals is one of those places designed to get you to talk REALLY LOUDLY. For one, the noise level in the box of a dining space, made entirely of hard surfaces, is deafening. Even at an early dinner at 6:30 pm, when the dining room was only a third full, it seemed loud. Secondly, well, just look at the menu. Octopus and gizzards. BLTs made with fried chicken skins. Matzoh balls wrapped in bacon. These are dishes designed to fuck with your head, get you to take a bite and then talk about what you just ate.

Chef Ilan Hall is best known for winning season two of Top Chef. On that season, he was the skilled but conservative chef who stuck to his expertise, Spanish cuisine. Meanwhile, his rival, Marcel Vigneron, was the molecular gastronomy guy who tried to push boundaries as much as possible, for better or for worse. In a bit of an ironic twist, it’s Vigneron who worked at a Spanish restaurant, although it’s for Jose Andres at Bazaar, the molecular gastronomy hotspot in Los Angeles. Meanwhile, Hall decided to open a restaurant based on “new and diverse ideas.”

Somehow, that comes out to “Scottish-Jewish.” The aforementioned matzoh balls are wrapped in bacon. It’s designed to flaunt the religious sacrilege of the dish, but they’re also very tasty. The aformentioned pork belly, unfortunately, was not on the menu. The Gorbals used to sell mini-haggis, and they sometimes have chicken balmoral on the menu, but outside of the matzoh balls, there was nothing Scottish nor Jewish when I ate there. Instead, the menu was more about clashing ideas together that should make sense on paper. Even though Hall was the “conservative” chef in the Top Chef finale, he was also responsible for one of the most infamous dish in Top Chef history, a chocolate truffle stuffed with chicken liver. So if you’re a fan of his from the TV show, don’t expect Spanish tapas.

Instead, you’ll get a pairing like grilled octopus and gizzards, both of which makes sense because of their textural similarity . The octopus was a bit overcooked though and the gizzards was the tastier half of the duo, but the pairing did make sense once you tried it. The matzoh ball and bacon pairing is more a cultural oddity, but it tasted good. Matzoh soaks up bacon fat well and it was a decadent little bite. Bone marrow was topped with a salad of oyster mushrooms, candied walnuts and some type of sauteed greens. The mushroom’s earthiness and unctuous marrow makes sense, but I wish it had a beefier tone. Even the pumpernickel bread we got to spread it on overwhelmed the marrow. The Welsh rarebit, which could be on the menu through Wales’ proximity to Scotland, is actually a pungent version, made with red wine instead of beer, served on pumpernickel and topped with a fried egg. It was good, though I prefer a richer and cheesier sauce. A cucumber salad with fried chickpeas and za’atar spices was decent, and considering it’s the only fresh vegetable on the menu (the other two vegetable sides are either fried or cooked in butter), it was a necessity. It was one of the most popular dishes at the restaurant for that sole reason.

It was an interesting meal to say the least. Even if some of the dishes read oddly on the menu, once we tried it, the food was pretty good, and it didn’t seem as odd. They were all based on sound decisions. We just didn’t love anything we’ve eaten there. Eating pork and matzoh, or comparing the rubbery textures of octopus and gizzard, are good enough ideas. But neither are the ideas revelatory. In other words, I won’t crave anything I’ve eaten there. (FYI, I know I should’ve tried the toffee pudding, which I read was the best thing there. But we were full and couldn’t think of dessert. Next time) The Gorbals is like a Noah Baumbach film, in that way. Smart enough and likable too, but not as easy to love.

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Cinco de Mayo

5 May

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10 am

2 strawberry Pop Tarts

12:30 pm

Trader Joe’s chicken chile verde burrito

handful of tortilla chips

20 oz. Coke Zero

4:30 pm

Barragan’s

2 margaritas

chips and salsa

nachos

En honor del Cinco de Mayo, estoy escribiendo todo este puesto en Español. Esta es la primera vez he utilizado efectivamente mis cuatro años de clases de español. También considerar este los alimentos blogger, equivalente a “Los Suns” jerseys. Como puede ver, todo lo que yo comí suponer algún tipo de comida mexicana. Fue este por coincidencia? Por supuesto que no. Me gusta ir todos en celebrar fiestas. Especialmente vacaciones que nada tienen que ver con mi origen étnico. La cosa divertida es que el Cinco de Mayo es una de las principales vacaciones en México. Como St. Patrick’s Day, y la Navidad (especialmente si tienen que pasar tiempo con la familia de huevo nog), es un Norteamericano-izada que hay vacaciones que convirtió en una excusa para beber. Cinco de Mayo conmemora el Ejército Mexicano, malestar victoria sobre la mucho mayor francés en la Batalla de Puebla, en 1862. Aunque se trata de un momento de orgullo para México, el holiday sí es ampliamente ignorado. De hecho, México, próxima batalla con Francia, en el grupo etapas del 2010 Copa del Mundo, probablemente significa más. ¿Qué, como estadounidenses, debemos hacer sobre esta supervisión cultural? Beberemos, de curso.

10:00 pm

Cha Cha Lounge

4 cans of Tecate

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May 4, 2010 – Gift Wrapping Is the Work of Satan

4 May

Today, I wrote a post for my friend’s blog. Here’s an excerpt.

This past Saturday, I went to a co-ed baby shower for my friends Sherry and Rich, and I dreaded it as the day approached. Not because I have anything against Sherry and Rich, they’re two of the nicest people you’ll ever meet and their future child is lucky to have them as parents. No, I dreaded the moment for a completely stupid, selfish reason.

You see, baby showers entail bringing gifts. Gifts need to be wrapped. I am the worst gift wrapper ever. I HATE GIFT WRAPPING. Some people look at birthday parties, baby showers, Christmas and weddings as joyous occasions. Not me. I think of them as potential pitfall where I might be forced into doing something I’m not good at and revealing my shortcomings as a man. That’s a horrible scenario I can’t live with…

Click here to read the rest.

May 3, 2010 – Eat With Muldo

3 May

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Today, Ryan Muldowney of Muldo.net is my guest blogger. This is what he ate yesterday. In return, I am writing a guest post for him tomorrow. Check that out as well.

UPDATE: Here’s my post for Muldo.

9:30 am.

1 bowl of generic “Honey Bunches of Oats” with strawberries

It seemed like a good idea to start the day off right with a hearty breakfast.  Instead, I had generic cereal that I opened 5 months ago.  Unless the name brands are on sale, I tend to buy the generic brands since they taste the same for less in price.  I’m not a cereal snob like Jerry Seinfeld.

When I say the cereal had strawberries, I meant the freeze dried kind that came with the cereal, not fresh ones. Surprisingly, they were strangely chewy and the cereal was a little stale.  It was promptly thrown in the garbage even though the box is about 1/5th full.

12:20 pm

1 peanut butter and jelly on 100 calorie buns

2:00 pm

1 mozzarella stick

The mozzarella stick is a snack that has had a renaissance in my life.  It’s a kids snack that I used to enjoy for lunch as a child attending Catholic school.  They’re the perfect size, and are tasty.  Just don’t eat too many of them or you might end up having a run in with a nun in the boys bathroom.

One day, I was in the restroom after lunch.  I did my business and reached into the toilet paper dispenser, but nothing was there.  Panicked, my 6-year-old brain decided the best thing to do was to waddle to the paper towel dispenser without putting my pants on, and wiping in plain view of anyone that happened to enter the room.

I moved next to the sink and, seconds later, Sister Mary Jude came in and horrifically asked what I was doing.  I froze, and she made me clean up quickly and go back to class.

And that’s how a nun saw my bare ass.

4:15 pm

1 banana

I always buy a bundle of bananas when I go shopping.  They’re healthy and a good snack.  Without fail, there’s always one banana that goes bad before I can eat it.  Even though it seems like I eat them daily, I can never finish that bundle.  It would be perfect if I could make banana bread, but since I’m far too lazy to do that, they end up in the garbage.

8:00 pm

1 bag of shrimp stir fry

Again, I was too lazy to cook something home made, so I went with a pre-made, frozen stir-fry meal.  It includes lots of veggies and I like baby shrimp as much as any other red blooded American man.

I overcooked the contents in the skillet in fear of undercooking the shrimp.  The finished product was a little mushy, but it’s nothing that Siracha sauce couldn’t cure.  The package said it had 3 servings, but that’s bullshit.  I had to eat the entire damn bag to feel satisfied.  Sure, it was 90% of my sodium intake for the day, but it also meant no leftovers to put away and fewer dishes to clean.  I’ll take that trade off anytime.  It’s also a feeling of accomplishment to eat an entire bag of something in one sitting.

11:20 pm

1 handful of almonds

1 glass of almond milk

I concluded the day with a real hankering for almonds.  Unfortunately, I had no almond butter to complete the trifecta.  But two out of three ain’t bad, just like Meatloaf said.  Now that I mentioned it, meatloaf would be tasty right now.  Hmm.

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May 2, 2010 – What to Eat at Dodger Stadium

2 May

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I got a chance to sit in the all-you-can-eat Right Field Pavilion and I could’ve had the same experience paying full price to see “The Human Centipede.” Two Dodger Dogs. One nachos. A half a bag of peanuts. Three sodas (Diet sodas). And I actually ate less compared to my friend Ryan (“I’m going to eat five Dodger Dogs,” he said. He failed after 2 3/4 and two nachos) and the girl who sat next to me, who stuck a leftover Dodger Dog into her purse. I’m pretty sure this is how Jonestown was like, where everyone consumed themselves to death. Instead of cyanide-laced Kool Aid though, it was death by Dodger Dogs.

Even though I’m a Cubs fan, I’ve been to Dodger Stadium more than any other ballpark. That’s what happens if you’ve lived in Los Angeles for 15 years of your adult life. I like Dodger Stadium. It’s the third-oldest ballpark in baseball, and the first of the modern stadiums. Unlike the other cookie-cutter stadiums from the 60’s-80’s that followed and were later destroyed, Dodger Stadium retains it’s Kennedy-era charm. I’ve gotten a chance to eat pretty much everything at Dodger Stadium, so I thought going to my first game of 2010 gave me a good excuse to give a quick primer on food there. I am somewhat apprehensive to share my opinions of Dodger Dogs since Dodger fans can get um, stabby when provoked. But this blog is called “Eat With Joe.” And I did eat two Dodger Dogs yesterday. So with that…

Dodger Dogs

Dodger fans speak reverently about their beloved hot dog as if it’s communion bread and wine. To eat a Dodger Dog is to instantly spark wonderful memories of Dodger greats like Darren Dreifort, Gary Sheffield and “Manny being Manny.” Since I’m a Cubs fan, I can eat a Dodger Dog more objectively and can unequivocally say that they’re disgusting. Dodger Dogs are less hot dogs and more a pink meat sponge that tastes vaguely of pork and immensely of salt. The problem is that there’s no casing, which a self-respecting sausage MUST have. Because of the lack of casing, it’s just a steamed, ground meat product that’s very soft and mealy. At the back of the Stadium, they sell grilled Dodger Dogs, which is better than steamed. The grilling process chars the exterior a bit, and that adds some contrast to the pallid wieners. The grilled Super Dodger Dogs, which is all-beef, is probably the best option. But even then, they’re pretty poor. While Dodger fans might feel nostalgic eating a Dodger Dog, I feel, I don’t know, gay eating these sponge-y meat tubes.

Gordon Biersch garlic fries

This is by far the best thing you can get at Dodger Stadium. While most ballpark french fries soak up oil like tampons, Gordon Biersch’s fries are actually semi-crispy. All this is absolutely smothered in crushed garlic and oil. Your breath will smell like a dead pet afterward, and your heart might croak soon afterward. But at least you ate the only decent thing at Dodger Stadium.

Mentioning bad breath gives me a good excuse to go on a completely illogical tangent about Kiss Cams. For some reason, I’ve always wanted to get on the Kiss Cam. Of all the stupid ballpark video-screen gimmicks at every sporting event, I’ve always enjoyed the Kiss Cam. People always react the same. They look bored, realize they’re on the Jumbo Tron, alternately panic and get excited over the short moment of fame Andy Warhol promised them, then get it on with their loved ones. You can tell a lot from how couples kiss. If it’s a young couple making out like a soft-core, they’ve been dating for no more than a month and having sex several times a day. If it’s an old couple who give each other a quick peck, then they’re stuck in a sexless marriage now that their kids left for college. And if it’s two platonic friends, then as a cliche would say, you can cut the awkwardness WITH A KNIFE. This situation can only lead to a Meg Ryan romantic comedy afterward.

I always wonder how I’d react if I was on a Kiss Cam. Would I push the limits of PG-13? Would it be a polite peck on the lips? Would I dare ruin a platonic friendship if I was there with a female friend and try to slip a tongue, just so I don’t look like I got shot down in front of 40,000? I don’t know. I don’t think I’ll truly discover what kind of person I am until I get caught on a Kiss Cam. I almost got on once. I went with a friend and after the sixth inning, I went to the bathroom. When I came back, my friend said, “you missed the Kiss Cam. The camera guy was walking around” and she was annoyed that I did. That moment said a lot about our “friendship.” You see? The Kiss Cam reveals all. YOU CANNOT HIDE FROM IT.

One more thing, the bratwurst from Gordon Biersch is also pretty good. Try to stick to Gordon Biersch at Dodger Stadium, if possible.

Peanuts

I actually looked up AYCE Right-Field Pavilion at Dodger Stadium on Yelp. A Yelper named Sabrina L. described peanuts thusly, “PEANUTS ARE MAD SALTY!” So true Sabrina. So true.

For some reason, she also warns Asian Yelpers not to eat here. For all you non-Asian Yelpers though, go right on ahead.

Popcorn

Dodger Stadium might have the worst popcorn I’ve ever ate. They’re literally like packing popcorn. They might very well be leftover packing popcorn after Frank packed up Jamie McCourt’s stuff and shipped her ass out.

Cracker Jacks

I love Cracker Jacks. This is usually my side dish of choice, since it’s surprisingly not bad for you (compared to other ballpark fare). What I do not like are the prizes, which gets you initially excited (ooh! free prize!), but then disappoint you like family members. Normally, it’s a “tattoo” that barely sticks on your skin. In fact, most of it absorbs into your epidermal layer and there’s a good chance you’ll get cancer from it. Screw the toy, the sailor and his cute dog. Don’t get in the way of me shoveling as much caramel covered popcorn and peanuts into my mouth as possible.

Carnation Frozen Malts

I also love Carnation Frozen Malts. I like the flavor that’s vaguely reminiscent of chocolate and malt without being either. I even like the crappy wooden spoon that can barely make a dent in the frozen hunk of ice cream. I swear global warming can melt a glacier faster than the amount of time it takes to work your way through a malt with the wooden spoon. I’m also a fan of Frosty’s from Wendy’s, so I have a soft spot for all things chocolate-malty. Except I looked at the list of ingredients on these things and found out that what I actually like is guar gum. Damn. Sometimes, it’s better to keep an illusion and not face reality.

Cotton candy

On 60 Minutes yesterday, chef Jose Andres, he of the Bazaar at SLS and all the molecular gastronomy stuff, said that cotton candy is the most complex way of cooking sugar. Man has truly achieved all there is to achieve then. BTW, cotton candy at Dodger Stadium costs $4.50. The foie gras wrapped in cotton candy at the Bazaar costs $5. I call shenanigans.

California Pizza Kitchen, Panda Express

Fuck these places. If you eat here at a Dodger game, then you probably hate baseball. And America. Only Democrats would eat at these places.

Camacho’s

They used to have King Tacos at Dodger Stadium several years ago. That used to be the best thing to eat at Dodger Stadium. Now it’s replaced by Camacho’s, a Mexican restaurant subsidiary. Fuck Camacho’s too.

Stadium Club

I’ve never eaten at the buffet here. It’s for rich folks, and I’m definitely not one of them. They auctioning the chance to eat at this buffet with Tommy Lasorda, Fernando Valuenzuela and Ron Cey, for charity. Eating at a buffet with Tommy Lasorda is like going on a drug bender with Lindsay Lohan. It’ll be both mind-numbing and scary. I wish I could afford to win this. The buffet, not the drug-bender.

UPDATE:

My friend Bobby asked why I didn’t mention beer. That’s because I don’t buy beer at Dodger Stadium. That’s what 24-packs of Bud Light and parking lots are for.

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May 1, 2010 – Shabu Shabu at Home

1 May

9:30 am

1 banana

1 pm

1 burger

1 chicken breast

side potato salad

side mac n’ cheese

side spinach salad

Coca-Cola

I’m writing a guest blog for my friend Muldo this week. I decided that this meal will be the basis for a 1,000-word post. You can read more about it later this week. This meal was for my friend Sherry and Rich’s co-ed baby shower. I didn’t think I ate a lot when I was there. Everything fit on one plate. But after typing it all out? Yeah, I’m a pig. Oh well.

7 pm

shabu shabu

2 cans of Asahi beer

1 glass of shochu

I’m not a huge fan of shabu shabu. Something about the thought of eating boiled meat that seems underwhelming to me. I’ve gone many times though, thanks to two of my friends who do like it and have taken me to various restaurants. But I heard that shabu shabu, if done properly, can be great. So I was curious when my friends Rob and Yuki decided to throw a shabu shabu dinner party. I visualized this to be like a Japanese-inflected 70’s fondue party, straight out of the “Ice Storm,” without the key bowl (thankfully). What awaited us was a massive array of meats, beef, pork slices, pork belly, chicken, shrimp and oysters, as well as leafy vegetables, carrots and shiitake mushrooms. This made for a much more interesting cooking broth, and it solved my main issue with shabu shabu, flavorless boiled meat. It takes high-quality ingredients and a deft touch (ie, not boiling your food to tasteless rubber) to enjoy it. Shabu shabu is the one-pot meal that keeps on feeding. After you cook the meats and vegetables in the boiling water, you then throw udon noodle in the broth for the next course. I ate too much at the end and enjoyed the experience.

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April 30, 2010 – What Chimichangas Mean to Me

30 Apr

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11 am

supermarket sushi

1 can of Diet Hanson black cherry soda

3 pm

El Chaparral

shredded beef chimichanga

Diet Pepsi

For some reason, I remember that the first Mexican food I’ve ever ate was a chimichanga. It was at a Chicago Mexican restaurant chain called Pepe’s. I came to the United States when I was four and growing up, Mexican food was a completely foreign concept to my family. But deep-fried food, that’s a universal language. Pepe’s advertised a deep-fried burrito and deep-fried ice cream. My brother and I thought it was the greatest idea ever conceived (deep-fried ice cream?! mind=blown) and begged our dad to take us. He finally did one day when I was either seven or eight. The deep-fried ice cream was awesome. As for the chimichanga? I don’t think I liked it as much. I’m pretty sure I almost crapped in my pants on the ride home.

This chimichanga from El Chaparral was the first chimichanga I’v eaten since my formative years as a young rabble-rouser roaming the “rough” streets of Chicago. Surprisingly, it’s not a common dish outside of the Southwest part of the country. Most restaurants that do serve chimichangas also scare me with their inevitable heavy-handed cooking. The odds are, if you see a chimichanga on a menu outside of Arizona, you’re probably at a real greasy spoon. El Chaparral, a 40-year-old institution in Sylmar, is such a place. This is the type of Mexican restaurant where the bar is just as prominent as the dining area, where customers prefer to watch MLB baseball over Guadalajara futbol on the many TVs, and where the biggest draw is the fine Mexican tradition of the all-you-can-eat Sunday champagne brunch. The most exotic thing on the menu is the sopes, deep-fried masa with refried beans and meat. Otherwise, it’s your standard tacos, burritos and large fajita plates. And then there was the chimichanga, and my mild curiosity to revisit a faint childhood memory was piqued. At El Chaparral, the chimichangas can either be described as two small burritos or giant taquitos. Either way, it had the same effect as the first one I ate many years ago, bowel-inducing. Ah, nostalgia.

7 pm

1/2 brownie

9:30 pm

a LOT of beer

2:30 am

Damiano’s

1 slice of sausage pizza

After midnight, if you crave pizza but are too drunk to drive anywhere in LA, then Damiano’s is your only option. This is really the only reason why Damiano’s is well-known by locals, because they’ll burn the midnight oil to serve every last drunken appetite. If you can’t make the actual pizza joint, this means that delivery can take over 2 1/2 hours, as I found out many years ago at my then-girlfriend’s place in the Santa Monica area. Hey, ordering pizza from a place over 10 miles away seems like a sound idea when you’re drunk. Damiano’s best virtue is their beer selection, which is sizable. There are several imports and microbrews you can’t find anywhere else. You can only take advantage of this before 2 am, and only at the actual restaurant. But if you’re far, crave pizza and can’t go anywhere to get it? Meh. It’s not bad, and not great. The pizza’s nothing to go through too much hassle to eat. It’s much faster to cook a DiGiorno’s pizza in the oven than ordering one from Damiano’s. That’s exactly what we started doing after that 2 1/2-hour wait.

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