Tag Archives: pizza

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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Jan. 30, 2010

30 Jan

10:45 am

2 fried egg sandwiches

1 glass of water

I woke up craving eggs benedict, which is my favorite breakfast dish and my probable choice as my last meal. I actually had intentions of making it this morning, but who are we kidding? Making hollandaise sauce as the first thing you do in the morning is too ambitious of a task. Besides, it takes at least five eggs to make an eggs benedict, two for the dish and three yolks for the sauce, and I only had three left. So I jerry-rigged a fried egg sandwich with what I could find in my refrigerator, which ended up being basil and ham. I fried both of them as well and used olive oil as a condiment. I learned a trick for fried egg sandwiches from a Tom Colicchio cooking demonstration; after flipping over the eggs to make it over-easy, puncture the yolk with your spatula a few times and let it cook briefly. That way, the yolk’s still runny but not messily so.

3:30 pm

Vito’s Pizza

1 slice of meat lover’s pizza

1 slice of white pizza

1 medium Diet Coke

Pizza in Los Angeles is always a touchy subject. East Coast transplants, and there are a lot of them, will always make a point to tell you that it’s nowhere as good as Boston or Jersey or wherever they’re from. And don’t even get a New Yorker started on pizza. They will argue amongst themselves as much as they will with out-of-towners. Fair enough, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it in LA too. We might not have the experience of a historic 100+ year-old Lombardi’s, the fastidious nature of La Pizza Napoletana, the checkered-tablecloth ambiance at Grimaldi’s, the coal-fired slices from Patsy’s or the hairy wait-time at Di Fara’s. But the best slices in LA can acquaint themselves pretty well. I’d even argue that Vito’s, my personal choice as the best pizza in LA, is good regardless of neighborhoods or time zones. Like all good pizzamakers, Vito’s take their crusts seriously and they might make the best one in LA (outside of the charred bread from Pizzeria Mozza). It’s properly thin and crunchy but with a good amount of chew, and it has a clean, slightly yeasty and slightly salty taste of good bread. The simple pizzas, like cheese, margerita or white pizza, is a study in proper crust maintenance. The only thing preventing it from being a truly great crust is the oven, which is a high-powered gas one. The pizzas won’t cook to a blistering intensity like brick-ovens. But the flavors are spot-on, more so than any other pizza place I’ve been to in this city, and you can fold it over onto itself for about as quintessential pizza experience as you can have in LA.

I frequented Vito’s for years, back when they were at their original location across from Los Angeles Community College. Despite the hour plus wait times and pricey delivery service, my former roommate and I would order it regularly to watch football and what-not. When they took a three year sabbatical several years ago with no warning or explanation, some locals actually put candles in front of their original location to keep vigil. It’s a bit much, but I understand their sentiments. When they re-opened in their new place on La Cienega just south of Santa Monica Blvd. with no advanced notice a couple of years ago, the regulars flocked back like jilted lovers brought back. “Half my customers remembered us from our old location,” Vito’s son told me in the opening week. “I don’t know how they found out we re-opened this quickly.”  Hey, if the passion was there before, it can be re-ignited again.

8:30 pm

1 cup of instant ramen

1 bowl of white rice

1 glass of water

10 pm

Den’s of Hollywood

3 pints of Blue Moon beer

1 pint of Sierra Nevada

3 am

Del Taco

2 chicken soft tacos

1 small fries

1 small Minute Maid Light Lemonade

This is what happens when you’re not in bed at a proper hour. I accidentally saw the nutritional information for Del Taco while standing in line and this meal isn’t too bad. I’ve done worse damage in off-hours before. Beside, a bowl of instant ramen is not a great dinner. There, I justified my 3 a.m. meal pretty well.

Jan 16, 2010

16 Jan

9:30 am

Oaks Gourmet

raspberry-polenta scone

1 medium coffee

2 pm

whole 8″ inch pizza with pepperonis, mushroom and onions

4 cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon

3 cans of Bud Light

handful of Ruffles potato chip with sour cream dip

DEAR GOD, THAT’S A LOT OF FOOD. Granted, all the food and alcohol listed above was consumed over a six-hour period. That’s not too inhuman, I guess. But I still felt like I was being force-fed for my fatty foie gras liver or something. My friend Adam got a pizza stone as a gift from his wife, and he therefore made each of his guests an individual 8″ pizza, complete with homemade crust. Fuck Domino’s new pizza recipe (Oh, you brushed garlic butter on your cardboard crust? I can lick an empty Papa John’s pizza box and get the same horrible taste) It’s a lot better to have a friend who can make a pizza from scratch.

We ate a copious amount of food while watching the NFL Divisional Playoff games on Saturday. You know why we ate and drank so much? Because all the games sucked. You’d think God would love Kurt Warner enough to make his team somewhat competitive against the Saints to keep us somewhat entertained. Instead, he gets knocked on his ass and out of the game en route to a 45-14 ass-whomping. It was just like that upcoming movie, “Legion.” Both the Cardinals-Saints game and that movie involve pious gentleman. And I’d rather shove an epee in my eye socket than watch either of them. Your God made me drink seven cans of cheep beer, Kurt Warner!

7 pm

2 chicken nuggets

handful of french fries

Adam also owns a deep fryer. Where did he register for his wedding gifts? Shakey’s Pizza?

10 pm

Joxer Daly’s

3 bottles of Bud Light

I’m going to post this Band of Horses song, which sums up the day, I guess.

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