Archive | December, 2009

I’m off for the holidays

24 Dec

You’re better off spending more time with your family and/or loved ones anyway. I’ll return next week with a special holiday edition of “Eat With Joe,” then will come back at the beginning of 2010. Until then, enjoy this Christmas music site that I’ve been collaborating on, Jingle Blog Rock. In the words of ‘N Sync, merry Christmas and happy holidays!

Dec. 23, 2009

23 Dec

9 am

1 bowl of Special K with almonds

1 pm

BCD Tofu House

1 bowl of squid soon tofu

various banchan

1 glass of water

I forgot to take pictures again! Too bad, because soon tofu is a violent sight, a bright-red concoction that spews peppers and tofu like an angry volcano. My friend’s white sweater got Monica Lewinsky’d by an unforeseen spurt from her kimchi soon tofu. BCD was a very popular chain when it first debuted in the United States several years ago. My mom, living in Chicago at the time, asked me to freeze some and bring it back. She’s never flown post-9/11 and had no idea what security risks that’d put me under. The popularity has since died down a bit, and I thought the quality dipped a few years ago. But my friend moved right next to a BCD and I find the chain to be reliably good now. This is the second violently spicy Korean meal I ate with her in a week, and both times I forgot to take pictures. Remind me next time!

2:15 pm

Starbucks

1 tall eggnog latte

7 pm

2 piece of tonkatsu

side of asparagus

1 can of Diet Coke

9:30 pm

La Poubelle

shared molten chocolate cake

2 pints of Blue Moon beer

Dec. 22, 2009

22 Dec

9 am

1 bowl of Special K with almonds

2 pm

Wurstküche

Filipino Marharlika sausage with grilled onions and sweet peppers

side of fries with chipotle aioli

1 glass of Allegash White beer

Andrew Knowlton, the long-haired and opiniated editor of Bon Appetit who’s a frequent judge on Iron Chef America, just posted his “Top Restaurant Dishes for $10 or Less.” on his blog.  I know this is just a ranking of the dishes Knowlton ate this past year and it’s not definitive. Yet I was still surprised by #6, which was the lone entry from Los Angeles: the Filipino Marharlika sausage with grilled onions from Wurstküche. Now I’ve already worked my way through 1/3  of Wurstküche’s menu and enjoyed many a meals of sausages, fries and beers. But I also have yet to eat anything there that would rank as my favorite cheap eat in Los Angeles, much less the United States. I’d rank my Mo-chica meal from the previous day significantly higher, not to mention the countless sandwiches, Mexican food, Chinese cuisine in San Gabriel Valley and what-not in the LA vicinity.

But I’ve also never had the Filipino Marharlika before, so there was no fact-based reason for my skepticism. Since I’m not working, a 20-minute drive to test this opinion was more than reasonable for me. Waiting in line to order, I overheard the other customers in line debate between traditional bratwurst or the more interesting fare like duck-and-bacon, and wonder who amongst themselves are brave enough to order the rattlesnake-and-rabbit . On a menu with such exotic choices, the Filipino Marharlika is pretty unassuming, with the lone description humbly stating that it’s “sweet pork, natural seasonings.”

After trying it, I thought the sausage was… mild. It is sweet, and there is a subtle pork flavor that’s carried a bit by cumin seeds. You can’t add any other assertive flavors on top of it though. Grilled onions and sweet peppers are the only viable topping options that won’t overwhem the Marharlika, and I had to wipe off the mustard for ketchup, which pains me as a transplanted Chicagoan. But the ketchup and onions work and matches pretty well with the sausage’s sweetness. Among Wurstküche’s other mild sausages like bratwurst and alligator, the Marharlika is probably the best one. Sweet-and-salty is always an effective flavor combination. But I usually like the more assertive flavors there. Next time, I’ll probably stick with the duck-and-bacon, the punchy green chile and cilantro or the smoky “Austin Blues.” I am glad that Knowlton got me to order something I otherwise would’ve overlooked. But I still have a hard time believing that it’s the sixth-best budget dish in the United States. As for the Paesano’s sandwich or that $5 bag of homemade pork rinds, I’m willing to believe that.

3:30 pm

2 scoops of Breyer’s reduced-fat chocolate ice cream

7 pm

1 tuna melt

pretzels

1 can of Diet Coke

7:30 pm

5 Oreo cookies

1 cup of milk

Dec. 21, 2009

21 Dec

9 am

1 banana

1/2 cup milk

12:15 pm

Mo-chica

ceviche

1/2 arroz con mariscos

1/2 quinotto

1 glass mayurca (passionfruit juice)

1 glass water

Every time I go back to my alma mater’s campus, USC, I’m filled with blinding jealousy over some of the perks I didn’t get to enjoy. Where I stayed in cramp, decades-old dorms, there are now gleaming condo-like lofts surrounding the campus. While I spent hours editing in cramped, dingy bays, the film school now has a $150 million monolith as big as a battleship with names like “Spielberg,” “Lucas” and “Zemeckis” towering over the gateway. It’s a monument to brazen talent and money that Ayn Rand would’ve loved. I especially envy the food options. Chano’s, a dingy, late-night burrito stand, was my favorite eatery around campus at the time. Now there are Chipotle’s, microbrews, a wine bar, and across the 110 freeway, Mercado La Paloma, a Mexican mini-mall with a handful of stalls selling trinkets, crafts, dresses and food. The venerable Yucatan eatery Chichen Itza anchors one end while the other is inhabited by Mo-chica, a modest Peruvian food stand that belies an accomplished chef trained at various sushi restaurants.

It seems like every other restaurant has ceviche, tartare, sushi, sashimi, crudo and every other type of raw fish dishes, and I’ve watched many Top Chef contestants pump them out to save themselves. It’s relatively easy to prepare and easy to sell, but few are memorable. Mo-chica’s ceviche is the type you’ll remember. Sashimi-grade fish is sliced into medallions and marinated in a citrus and pepper sauce that’s a spicy slap in the face. The fish is only “seared” on the outside though. The inside is still raw, and that’s where you notice the chef’s trained skill at picking out high-quality fish. The tartness is strong but not overpowering and the peppers have a curry-like essence and gives you another flavor to contemplate. There’s boiled sweet potatoes to temper the punch, and bland ears of corn, both in hominy and puffed form for textural differences. The ceviche changes every day, depending on what’s available at the fish market. The one I had was sea bass. That’s a powerful incentive to frequent Mo-chica.

The arroz con mariscos provided the one misstep in the meal; the rice was gummy. But the flavors were still excellent, and there was a generous amount of mussels, clams and a pair of jumbo shell-on shrimps. It was our other main course that beguiled us. “Quinotto” isn’t really Peruvian. It’s a quinoa-and-mushroom dish that looks and feels like cream of wheat. Despite it’s humble look and demeanor, the flavors are deep, earthy and satisfying. It’s like a really creamy risotto, still toothsome from the quinoa grains but not gummy like rice tends to get. My friend Robyn took one bite and said, “Oh wow, that’s good.” I couldn’t argue.

6:30 pm

ham sandwich on wheat with mayo

8 asparagus spears

1 can of Diet Coke

7 pm

4 Oreo cookies

1 cup milk

9:30 pm

1 cup Breyer’s reduced-fat chocolate ice cream


Dec. 19, 2009

19 Dec

10 am

1 banana

1 bottle of water

12 pm

1 turkey sandwich on wheat

pretzels

1 can of Diet Coke

3 pm

Pinkberry

1 medium chocolate yogurt with raspberries, mixed nuts, milk chocolate crunch

8 pm

Lazy Ox Canteen

grilled beef petite tender

side of french fries

1/4 slice of toast with marrrow butter

1 bottle of Speckled Hen beer

1/2 tangerine custard

1 cup coffee

Back when I had a real job, I used to eat out more. You know, the kind of places with white tablecloth, a separate wine list and waitresses who don’t wear orange booty-shorts emblazoned with the word “Hooters” on the bottom. And I used to write about these places and mention the name of the chef, dissect each ingredient and describe how the mise-en-place worked on the plate. I was like Padma Lashki, without the pregnant bitchiness. But now that I’m on a budget, I eat more at fast-food places, less at restaurants and write less review-type stuff.

It’s probably for the best though. There are thousands of food bloggers out there now, taking pictures of their plates with their phone and ready to write about it on a free publishing site. The truth is, we don’t have the resources of a Jonathan Gold or S. Irene Virbila to go to a restaurant several times, get a handle on the ebbs, flows and recurring strengths or mistakes. What  blog allows us to do is write our viewpoints. I think the world needs a food blog that writes about my daily diet of tacos and my profanity-laden responses. But I can’t afford to be an actual critic, which kinda sucks. I’d love to be able to eat at 5-7 meals without a budget and criticize every minute detail. Who do I need to sexually satisfy to get that job?

I’m mentioning this because I ate at the brand spanking-new Lazy Ox Canteen, and despite it’s buzz-worthiness on food blogs, I can only provide a first impression. Here’s what I liked about the place: the menu is interesting, the food is reasonably priced, service is friendly and they have an interesting selection of beer and wine (including some Japanese ales that aren’t available in the US). My friend’s simple romaine hearts salad with pinenuts and caesar dressing used the best quality of produce I’ve tasted in a while. It actually tasted like, well, lettuce, nowhere close to what you’d find in a supermarket. My giant cut of petite beef tender (the poor-man’s filet mignon) came with a 1/4 slice of toast with a large dollop of bone-marrow compound butter, which was a decadent gift. The meat itself was cooked on-point to medium rare and the fries were kennebac, which is the same potato In-N-Out uses. My friend ordered hand-torn egg pasta with a sunny-side egg on top and it had good flavors. We shared a dessert of tangerine custard with rice pudding on top. The custard was very tart and the rice pudding was soothing.

There were the inevitable rough edges a new place encounters. The pace of our meal was way off; my friend got her pasta well before she finished her salad and it turned gummy from waiting around. The tangerine custard didn’t set properly and was watery. I also didn’t order properly. After my meal, I read other blogger’s takes and they raved about the mussels with house-made sriracha sauce, the braised beef poleron and the pasilla soup. My meal was highly satisfying, but nothing special. Now I wonder if I missed out on a better meal. I could go back several more times to try those dishes and see the full strength of the restaurant. Based on my first impression, the Lazy Ox can turn out some really good flavor profiles, and I probably will come back at some point . But, I’m not getting paid for this, so it may not be for a while. So, I’ll just let this post function like all the other blogs out there, and let my iphone pics speak for themselves.

9:45 pm

Golden Gopher

1 Hoegaarten beer

1 can of Pabst Blue Ribbon

Who show’s up two hours late to his own birthday party? This guy.

10:40 pm

Stinker’s

1 can of Pabst Blue Ribbon

12 am

1 slice of Carvel’s chocolate ice cream cake

My second birthday party that night served ice cream cake. Fuck yeah!

NOTE: I’m taking Dec. 20 off. You’re not going to miss much. It’ll be mostly junk food and football. I’ll be back with a Dec. 21 post. In the meantime, check out my Christmas song site: Jingle Blog Rock.


Dec. 18, 2009

18 Dec

9 am

1 bowl of Total raisin bran

12:30 pm

1 turkey sandwich on wheat

pretzels

1 can of Diet Coke

3 pm

Starbucks

1 tall 1/2 eggnong, 1/2 non-fat latte

1 bottle of water

Why I decided to go 1/2 nog is beyond me. It wasn’t that good. Next time, I have to go full-nog and not half-ass it. Lesson learned.

9 pm

Hinano Cafe

1 cheeseburger

bag of Frito Lays potato chips

1 pickle spears

3 peppers

1 bottle of Hinano beer

4 1/2 pint mugs of Bud Light

Hinano’s inspires a cult-ish devotion among my friends on the Westside, enough for one of them to throw his birthday party there on Friday. It’s easy to see why, they serve 1/3 pound burgers that are unfussy and just plain good. There might be higher-priced burger places that use fancier meat and try to wow you. But the combination of Hinano’s dive bar setting, a griddle that’s cooked thousands of burgers and accumulated “seasoning” over the year, fresh beef patty that’s always cooked to a spot-on medium, and beer served in ice-cold frosted mugs is formidable in itself and highly enjoyable in it’s own way. I ate everything, accoutrements, beers and all, in about 20 minutes.

Dec. 17, 2009

17 Dec

9:30 am

1 banana

12:45 pm

Pho Saigon

1 bowl of pho

1 egg roll

1/2 spring roll

1 can of Diet Coke

1 glass of water

This is the second time I’m eating pho this week, and the first time ever at a Korean-owned place. This is also the second time I’m eating at a mini-mall on the corner of 6th and Hobart in Los Angeles. In the words of Keanu Reeves, “Whoa…” This means that I really need to expand my horizons outside of the continent of Asia and beyond the intersection of 6th and Hobart. Pho Saigon is Korean-owned, and for some reason I went with a couple of Vietnamese friends. (as well as a loyal reader of this blog, Maybelle. Thanks!) Predictably, they didn’t like the food too much. They were right though, it was pretty bland. The broth was flavorless and required a shitload of hot sauce just to register sensations on the tongue. By then, the broth tasted like hot pepper sauce, which is very… Korean. Those sneaky bastards!

6 pm

Kyochon

5 fried chicken legs

1 bottle of Newcastle beer

This is actually my third consecutive meal from a mini-mall on 6th and Hobart. In the words of Keanu Reeves, “I’m an F! B! I! Agent!” Yes, I’m stretching. But it’s MY blog, dammit. BTW, my friend who lives near that intersection wanted a mention on this site. But I don’t know if she should be attributed with her diarrhea, so I’ll refrain. Anyway, Kyochon is awesome. Depending on my time of the month, it could be my favorite fried chicken chain in LA (Pollo Campero and Popeye’s being the other two candidates) A Kyochon fried chicken has the thinnest layer of batter that somehow packs an inordinate punch of garlic that will stink up your car and residence for days. Some of my fellow Korean friends might disagree and say it’s not as flavorful as some of the late-night bars, and they might be right. (OB Beer is still my favorite for Korean-style chicken in LA) But Kyochon does take out, and sometimes I don’t want chicken that is solely made to cut through alcohol. Kyochon is pungent enough, but you can still taste the chicken and a lingering sweetness from the glaze. I don’t need to drink alcohol with all my fried chicken meals. Although that Newcastle sure hit the spot.

7 pm

1 can of Diet Coke

9:30 pm

The Dime

2 bottle of Bud Light

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