frozen planet at the hollywood bowl

Do I do anything other than cook, and eat?  Yes, sometimes I do in fact.   This last weekend it was watching the LA philharmonic provide musical accompaniment to the nature documentary, Frozen Planet.  There was no David Attenborough, unfortunately, but there was George Fenton, who composed the music, and was the conductor, and is British.  The hollywood bowl is quite scenic, as well.  And they gave us free polar bear masks.  They made us look like polar bear serial killers, which we all are, at heart.


food day

Dana Goodyear, in her excellent 2009 piece about Jonathan Gold for  The New Yorker, quotes Robert Sietsema, who describes an average day of eating for Gold:

Not long ago, Sietsema said, Gold visited: “He and I went on a typical binge. We started with porchetta sandwiches, then went to David Chang’s new bakery for foccaccia with kimchi, then we had salty-pistachio soft-serve ice cream, cookies, and coffee milk. Then we went to a pizzeria famous for its artichoke slice, where we also had a Sicilian slice, and then we took the train to Flushing and visited a new Chinese food court and had half a dozen Chinese dishes there. Then we went to the old food court down the street, visited three more stalls, and had a bunch of things, including lamb noodles, and then Jonathan had to go to dinner somewhere. After dinner, he stopped by my apartment, and we went to Ten Downing, where we ate another three-course dinner.”

Which I found, of course, impressively epic.  I think it was this article that made me more aware of the ‘food scene’ in a way that I hadn’t been before (though I had the San Francisco coffee, burrito and bar scenes pretty well covered, at one point being able to quickly list my 10 favorite dive bars in the city (I didn’t go to any other kind) in reverse order.  Those were the days.).  One of the fundamental points of the article, that Los Angeles, due to its somewhat isolating landscape, is the an “anti-melting pot,” a place where one can “get true, undiluted regional cookery” is something I have oft repeated when singing the praises of this city.  That, and the fact LA has one of the largest if not the largest percentage of foreign-born residents of any city in the United States at any point in United States history (plymouth rock is not a city).  Something like that.  Anyway, point is, probably the best way to experience Los Angeles is to spend a day travelling around and eating.  And so, with my dear friends M and VH in town, that is what we did.

left: rice wrapped in lotus leaf, right: char siu bao – pork filled bun

First up was NBC Seafood in Monterey Park for dim sum.  The three of us have been having a long-standing discussion about what constitutes ideal dim sum – indeed, if ideal dim sum even exists as such.  Basically it stems from a statement VH made that dim sum is always good, but never outstandingly perfect, or even ‘the best’ dim sum, and furthermore the ‘best’ dim sum doesn’t exist, only good or very good dim sum that is nevertheless can not ever be the best in relative or absolute terms .  Later M modified this to claim that dim sum, at its best, had in character a unpretentious ‘ordinariness’ about it, and so dim sum at its best would not be some sort of extraordinary experience; that is, the perfect dim sum is, ironically, dim sum that is not perfect.  I had never had dim sum before, but was simply interested in the philosophical aspect of this discussion (there were other additions to this conversation, with RT saying something about it being ok not have relative superlatives, and E saying that in this formulation dim sum as non-existing ideal is similar to communism).  And so, we made plans to have dim sum, at NBC Seafood, as I mentioned above, before I bored and confused you.

We had probably 12-15 different things.  I quite liked the congee, the shrimp dumplings, rice wrapped in lotus leaf, a pork and shrimp dumpling (Shaomai?), fried taro, and even this fluffy bun that was filled with pork (Char siu bau?).  Oh and the black sesame balls (Jin deui?).  I’m not confident with these names, as indicated by the question marks.

clockwise from top left: turnip cake, pork of some kind, fried taro (yum), black sesame balls

Overall it was a lovely, long experience.  I felt completely full, and thought that I might have a light dinner at most.  Little did I know…

Next, we stepped outside to a Vietnamese coffee place that shall go unnamed due to their napkin-stinginess.  In any case, I personally didn’t have coffe there,  though M’s friend M did.  I did buy a water.  More to the point, we sat outside an ate doughnuts the Michelle brought from The Donut Man.  VH and I shared their famous strawberry doughnuts, which were not too filling because they were more strawberries than dough.  The dough took in a lot of the strawberry juice and it was very good (sorry, didn’t think to take pictures).  She also got a boston creme doughnut, which is my favorite, so I picked away at that too until I ate like half.  I was then given the rest of the doughnuts to eat the following day or two.  Ok, so *now* I was full and done eating for the day.

Or at least for a while.  We retreated to my place to hang out with Peeky and play with a rubik’s cube.  But soon it was happy hour.  Wanting to be even more happy, we headed over to Blue Cow because I heard Steve Livigni talk about the barrel-aged cocktails he was making there, and wanted to maybe try one.  Blue Cow ended up being in the same plaza as Starry Kitchen, a foodie vietnamese fusion place that I don’t like (although their very peppy and annoying owner did just throw a cannabis dinner, so that’s something).  Anyway, the place was full of suits drinking and doing whatever they do after work.  It made the experience more ethnographic on the whole.  Also, they were showing the apparently inescapable Heat-Thunder game.  I tried not to pay attention, lest Chris Bosh ruin my appetite.

pink eggs and ham at Blue Cow (beet marinated deviled eggs with Mendocino Mustard, double smoked bacon & candied jalapenos)

On to the drinks, and food.  They only had one barrel aged cocktail actually, and that had tequila in it, so I didn’t get it.  Instead I got the Allagash beer cocktail that had “allagash curieux, spicebox whiskey, gran classico, apple juice.”  It tasted about what you think it would taste like – creamy and chocolatey from the beer, sweet from the apple juice, and a bit of a kick from the whisky.  Not bad; would return if it wasn’t located where it was located.  We also had some fried potatoes and “pink eggs and ham” :”beet marinated deviled eggs with Mendocino Mustard, double smoked bacon & candied jalapenos.”  Those were very creamy, and good, and cute.  I didn’t try them with the bacon, obvs.

Is this post making you feel lethargic and overstuffed (with words), yet still wanting more?  Imagined how we felt.  Again, I thought I would try a couple things at dinner, but not go overboard.  Again that didn’t happen.

We decided to go to Aburiya Toranoko, an izakaya place next to the Lazy Ox. And we ordered like ten things, and beer, and I had a cold sake.  We started out with fried shishito peppers.  The peppers are a bit sweet, but they were charred a bit on the outside and mixed with a soy sauce, which was simple and worked very well.  They also were topped with bonito flakes that danced because of the heat.

Then came two types of agedashi tofu: their regular one and one that was mixed with uni.  Both were good, but the latter was something really new and different to me.  It had a very clear uni flavor, but the texture was completely smooth, really as if it were just soft tofu.  That was amazing.

agedashi tofu in front, uni agedashi tofu in back

Next was a delectable and photogenic monkfish liver pate, decadent but light and sweet also, a crab roll which was beautiful and fresh tasting, and a kind of stuffed cucumber roll which I don’t see on the menu now.  All came with elaborately crafted pickled vegetable garnishes; they were unexpectedly pretty.  We also had a   okonomiyaki pancake, which I didn’t like as much, maybe cause it was greasy and the rest of the meal was very not greasy.  Oh, and chicken livers.  Jesus, we really ate.  As mentioned, I also had a cold sake which I think is called Mizuno Shirabe, though it might have been a different one.  Usually, I expect and almost want sake to have very little flavor; that was *not* the case with this one.  It was sweet (but not too) and actually complex; if I was actually fancy and good with words I would talk about the different notes it had, but let’s not venture into dangerous territory.  It did have notes though, several.  Definitely some notes on that one.

monkfish liver on the left, crab roll on the right

The only things this placed had going against it were a) the dave matthews-blues traveller-90s soundtrack.  Not cool.  and b) not only was the inescapable heat-thunder game on, but the heat won the championship while we there, and there were heat fans at the bar.  Were they bros wearing white tank tops?  Yes, of course they were.  Anyway,  I was pretty exceptionally full at this point, somehow more so than everyone else, but over dinner M had regaled us with stories of mysterious and beautiful young Korean mafia people who sold shaved ice that was also, incidentally, really good.  And so, why not, let’s go to korea town and have some goddamned shaved ice.  The night was young.  The place was Haus, and was filled with fashionable young k-town kids getting dessert and watching k-pop videos on mute out of the corner of their eye.  I was somewhat mesmerized by the videos, which are like N’Sync videos on steroids, not to subscribe to a Western progressivist cultural aesthetics in which Anglo-American political, economic and cultural forms ‘precede’ those of the ‘developing’ world which is, by definition, in a less advanced, perhaps primitive, technological and culture state.  Anyway, we did indeed have the shaved ice, preceded, for good measure, by a piece of their “crepe” cake, which was alternating levels of chocolate and cream with ice cream on the side and was very good but then I like all sweet things.  The shaved ice was also good, and had a texture so smooth and was so room-temperature stable as to make it not quite like ice at all.  Clearly they had done something to this ice to make it like this.  It was topped with fruit and red bean.  I could see the appeal, but I wasn’t necessarily a convert.  I would go back to Haus though, as it’s quite the scene.

shaved ice

So there you have it: dim sum, speciality doughnuts, craft cocktails, americanized izakaya, and Korean mafioso shaved ice, all in the space of 10 hours, which also allowed for a lengthy break to play with toys and cats and such.  I think M even got a hike in, in the morning  And I probably spent less than $60 the whole day.  I could see the appeal of doing this sort of thing all the time.  I leave you with pictures and  a very intense video from a band that was the food of M’s thoughts during her brief stay in her favorite city.

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soowon galbi

I have been non-vegetarian for little over a year now, and have slowly incorporated more meat into my diet, even though I don’t cook with meat, except fish.  There has been, until now, an dimension of Los Angeles meat gluttony that I have so far not participated in.  This exists, of course, in the high-ish dining scene (e.g. Animal).  But then there are also other things, like Korean BBQ.

I was therefore very happy to meet up with my friends T & T and a bunch of other people I didn’t know at Soowon Galbi.  One of this group was a Korean BBQ expert and so ordered for the group.  Ordering a lot of food and drink for a large group is a lot of fun, because it seems so decadent coming all at once like that.  Anyway, I was very excited.

First, the banchan.  Not as good as the one at Soban, but still great.  There was a really wonderful pickled cucumber dish, different kinds of seaweed, and both rice and radish ‘paper’.  The steamed radish slices were in particular a good envelope for the waves of meat coming off the grill.  I have to say, I don’t really know what all the different cuts of meat and preparations that were put in front of us were, but that we had four, and then ordered second rounds of two of them.  One of them, and my favorite, was the rich, tasty bulgogi.  But all of them were quite good, even the pork belly.  The experience was made much better by the fact that we were a big group and drank a lot of beer and soju, and by the excellent and attentive and yet laid back service.  It was made less good by the fact that I was trying to avoid watching the miami heat, and yet there they were, on a gigantic television, right next to us.  At least no sensible person in America is a heat fan, as was the case in this establishment as well.


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plant update

I recently went to the Huntington plant sale with VH and W.  Supposedly there were many obscure varieties of plants that one cannot find elsewhere, but what do I know, I just pick things that look nice.  My succulent collection had grown a bit stagnant, partially due to my inability to grow plants and also because I didn’t really have enough and the ones I had were in the wrong kind of pots.  I think one got a disease and died quickly.  But enough of these somber thoughts.  On to the new ones.

1. Gollum Jade

Like the Lord of the Rings character?  YES, my precious, like the Lord of the Rings character!  There is also such a thing as a “hobbit” jade, which has leaves that are more flat, while these are tubular.  Though humble now, it looks as it will grow in surprising, gravity defying ways without requiring repotting.  “Young plants will quadruple in size in one year only.”  How exciting.

2. pachyphytum glutinicaule

This is a very funny looking plant.  Doofy.  I’ll go with doofy.   It should have a more common name, no?  Shouldn’t all plants have common names?  Possibly it does have one, which is “moran,” but I can’t tell for sure.  Moran would be a good name in any case.  Anyway I really like this one.  I can’t find too much more (interesting) information about it though.  Very mysterious.

3. crassula arborescens undulatifolius

I think my favorite.  I love the curling but stiff leaves with the red tint (because of sun exposure).  “Undulating,” says one grower.  It is also a “comparatively recent discovery, first described by Toelken in 1974, known only from the southern parts of the Klein Winterhoek Mountains in the eastern Cape Province,” growing near jade plants.  Learn something new everyday.  Also Toelken is sort of like Tolkien and thus continues our lord of the rings theme.

Most exciting, however, is not a plant I bought but one that I’ve had for 1.5 years.  Drumroll…my orchid is blooming!  I have no idea what I did to make this happen.  When I first got this plant some of the flowers were in bloom and there were many buds on two different spikes.  The flowers and buds rapidly fell off and I was left with a(nother) sad looking orchid plant.  Well now it’s blooming.

Thus ends the plant update.

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Schubert at wd

I’ve been listening to KUSC in the car recently, because I think I’ve exhausted the hot 92 playlist and NPR is of course unbearable.  It has the effect of making driving a much calmer and less draining experience.  No matter how much I love LA, I will never love driving or the sun (yes, the sun.  That’s a separate post).

Anyway, either this, or the revelation that I can see a LA phil show for $10, or the civilizing effect that peeky has on me, but I decided to see a performance of Schubert’s 9th symphony last weekend.  Before this they played a number of “orchestrated songs” – I guess Schubert set a lot of poems to music.  These (the poem pieces) I did not like so much.  They were short and had no real development and it was weird hearing them one after another.  The crowd disagreed and several gave an almost ostentatious standing ovation with many shouts of “bravo.”  And there was still more clapping and an encore, etc.  There is all together too much clapping, really.  The symphony itself was wonderful, playful and lively and positive.  I (not an expert in music) thought that the piece was really driven by the flute sections; they were the most impressive in any case.  The conductor was annoying.  I thought it was very good.  Whether the crown agreed or not was not material, since so many of them left as soon as it was over, with no clapping, because they wanted to get out of the parking lot, I suppose.  So in that case, perhaps not enough clapping.

Speaking of the crowd, they were sort of insufferable.  True, I hate people, so maybe I’m biased.  I didn’t expect the crowd to actually be so cliché – old, and dressed up (rich), and very white.  People running into their ‘colleagues.’    Talking with barely hidden competition about the quality of their seats.  Stepping over people instead of waiting for them to let you through (!).  The upstairs bar had reserved spots.  They clapped after the first movement.  There was a guy in a white leather hoodie and Silverlake glasses in front of me who chastised a nearby Asian man for, I don’t know, making some sound with his program or something.  When I went to the proms over the summer, everyone in the center area had waited in line for an hour or two to pay £5 to stand and listen to some music.  Here, even though I bought a student ticket, I was next to the riff-raff who had paid full price.

But, whatever, it’s $10.


The criteria I have for writing about food places is 1) if it’s a place that’s worth going to and 2) if you have been there or not.  (2) is easier considering I know the majority of visitors to this blog (at least those who don’t find this blog by searching for “spring break fuck“.  Those people are even more disappointed than the average reader.).  The latter criterion is made more difficult in that I often visit these places with you, and then of course you’ve been there, so why read about it?

Why indeed.  Anyway, my most recent blogable outing was to Guisados in Boyle Heights.  As with most of the downtown-adjacent neighborhoods, I like this area a lot.  The tacos (and other food) at Guisados is slightly unconventional, as far as tacos go.  They have a list of about a dozen tacos, several of them vegetarian, that are familiar sounding and yet not, things that you wouldn’t exactly be able to find just anywhere.  Because of this, I had the taco sampler, which is six mini-tacos.

clockwise from top left: tinga de pollo, chuleta en salsa verde, cochinita pabil, chicken mole poblano, steak picado, and bistek en salsa rojo (center).  I think that’s right.  Hopefully.  Anyway,  I also got calabacitas for good measure.

In addition to being only semi-clear on what I was actually eating, I was also starving and finished all six fairly quickly, though I was trying to keep track and remember how each tasted.  All were very flavorful and ‘hearty’ but still fresh – I think they specialize in stewed meats. The tortillas are made  next door, and were fluffy but substantial.  I started with the cochinita pabil which is like carnitas, but made from slow-roasting a whole suckling pig with a fair amount of lemon or lime juice.  Yeah, wikipedia, whatever.  Anyway this version was quite spicy and very tender.

The mole was quality, light and not too intense.  The flavor of the chicken, to the extent that chicken has flavor, was not lost.  The steak dishes were very similar, both made with stewed meats I think.  The tinga de pollo was very spicy with a habanero salsa.  I was not prepared for how spicy it was going to be, but it was manageable.  I also had the horchata, which was refreshing and delicious, and the quesadilla with fried cheese, which I will be having again soon.

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I’m not sure if the below is post-worthy.  I finally ate at the Kogi truck.  It’s a little bit elusive to be honest, travelling as it does all around LA and Orange counties.  But they finally settled up to a spot near Wilshire/Western in K-town, so R and I were able to go.  It lived up to the hype.  I got the spicy pork and short rib tacos and we shared the kimchi quesadilla.   I was not a big fan of the latter actually; too bitter and salty.  Odd because I quite like picked vegetables.  Anyway, the two tacos were more than enough and quite delicious.  It is, suffice to say, a good idea: flavorful Koreanish food in tacos.  The short ribs especially were really delicious – very tender and juicy.  What else can I say?  Yeah, not a very post-worthy post, and the bar is already set well-low.  WHATEVER.

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