Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Black Hogg

Black Hogg is a restaurant I've been meaning to try for some time now, hearing rave reviews, and knowing the chef, who I've yet to meet, attends my church. It's located in the Silverlake area, meaning parking and traffic are slightly tricky, but that's Los Angeles for you. And make a reservation: it's not the craziest, but it is small, and I wouldn't want to wait through that.

Walking in presents you with a strangely tranquil environment considering the street just outside - calming wood accents and a cozy restaurant, intimate in tables, though not crowded nor too noisy. You have a sense of peace that waves over you, and I found it fairly hospitable.

Lacking is a full bar, but wine walls the back, and its derivative aperitif cocktails do the trick in some ways - quite tasty, by the way. I texted a few friends asking for recommendations off the menu, but then discovered shortly that the restaurant had just undergone a redesign, to open two days before my visit. Awesome!

Vietnamese Five Spice Chicken Liver, Pickled Carrots, Thai Chili, Crispy Ham

First course out, the liver toast. It had a very nice flavoring and was thoroughly enjoyed, sans bacon - I'm not a fan. Sure, it's not really bacon, it's "crispy" ham, but...still. The liver was tasty, the tiniest bit of spice to your resident Korean, and a tad crumb-y too, though that falls in the relative nature of toast. The pickled carrots added a nice coolness befitting of a mild appetizer, meaning that for the purposes of the course, I was satisfied.

Grilled Street Corn, Roast Marrow Bone, Cotija Cheese, Chili Piquin

I expected something along the lines of corn on a cob, but this was so much better - less messy and much easier to eat. The corn, cheese, chili, and bone marrow are all presented to be mixed together to your pleasure, and the flavors really surprise in how well they blende, maintaining separate yet pleasant tones while combining for harmony. Bone marrow as an additive surely made for a much more expensive plate, but it was worthwhile and different from just about anything else out there.

Roasted Pork Belly Ends, Honey Gem Lettuce, House-made Kimchi, Fermented Spicy Dip

Ohhh my goodness. Please order this dish if you come. The pork belly cubes, which I shall now forever call this dish thanks to a James Cho, are seriously wow. The rest of the dish is just okay - lettuce presented a few light red spots indicating age, the fermented spicy dip, familiar to all Koreans, was pretty standard. Kimchi was okay, perhaps a tad sweet, but nothing notable. But the pork. Ah, yes!

Confitted Mary's Chicken Quarter, House Radish Pickles And Jalapenos

If you have to appoint a weakest dish of the meal, let the young one order it. I'm not sure why she likes fried chicken so much, but hey, it was still decent overall - just a slight letdown after the previous.

The skin in particular was cooked very tastefully, and the chicken consisted mostly of dark meat, allowing for a richer, wetter flavor. The jalapenos were a bit on the spicy side, but they were also light and fresh, a bit more pure in spice than others you'd typically enjoy.

Secret House Burger Blend, Slow-cooked Onions, Roast Marrow

When you read a description indicating bone marrow burger, you don't expect a chunk of bone marrow to arrive on the side - nice. Here, you're presented with what you pay for. Typically the bone marrow substitutes butter in the cooking process or something instead of serving as a spread, and you have to take the whole bone marrow concept on faith. Luxury ingredients in cooking are typically stringently portion controlled or even lied about, added to jack up a menu price and title while adding little to the flavor - I'm looking at you saffron and truffle, and especially Kobe. But not at Black Hogg.

The burger's blend was interesting and tasty, likely a beef and pork combination, but definitely lacking in anything exotic or gamey. It was soft, tasty, flavorful, and a tad salty - especially so on the edges. What made it particularly strong was that the flavor, though very strong, was just so, allowing it not to go over the top; the burnt ends were a start in kicking off the palette, and the mixture of pickled vegetables (carrots, cauliflower, jalapenos) were thankful. I don't think I've ever had pickled cauliflower before.

Brioche, Brown Butter Apples, Toasted Pecans, Salty Vanilla Ice Cream

To my open-eyed surprise, this came out not as I had imagined, though I suppose I can only blame not reading the menu for that. I'm not a particular fan of bread pudding, and five milks to it sounds a bit heavier than I'd add to an already typically thick dish. Which this was thankfully not.

I'm a sucker for fruit + pastry + ice cream combination desserts, combining hot and cold, citrus and cinnamon, and delicate richness. It was a lot lighter than expected, and not as sticky too. The apples were often enough but sparse enough to be a treat, and the ice cream - delicious. It's just a solid combination overall, a nice finish to a meal that doesn't overwhelm the stomach, and a representation of sorts of Black Hogg's philosophy to food.

In Los Angeles, it can seem a bit scary in how fast the crowd moves from trend to trend. Equally appalling is the prices on some of said trends - on the Westside, you can expect to pay disgusting amounts of money for relatively unappetizing food. I have no idea why.

Black Hogg would be the stiking contrast to such restaurants: located in the SilverLake area, the restaurant is relatively quiet looking from the street, doesn't have lines of people waiting for a table, and actually offers great pricing. I wouldn't call it quiet, but it certainly isn't loud enough to stifle a nice conversation, and it lacks a full bar - something trendy restaurants tend to take advantage of with their overpriced and watered down "craft" cocktails, void of any alcohol whatsoever.

The menu is small enough that the majority of it is plausibly very good; for regulars though, and especially among foodies, it might be a bit tiringly small. Then again, foodies rarely frequent the same restaurant, and regulars tend to order the same thing again and again, so that may not be a problem at all. As it is Korean owned and chefed, expect things to be pickled and salted here and there, but fear not - it's quite good, and the pickles always placed on the side.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Dr. Hubert!

Dr. Hubert Park is a Pediatric Dentist and Master of Public Health in Boston. If you're in the area, definitely check him out! He is one of the most passionate, sincere, and dedicated men I have had the pleasure of working with and meeting in my life.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

water, then fire

The destructive powers carry a strange magnetic beauty, though difficult to explain. From the experimentations of Doctor Death to hypothetical alien invasions, humanity always had a fascination with its temporal existance, entranced by possibility and brevity.

Of these, two of the most mesmerizing are two that I would consider not only essential to life, but the only that one could stare at unceasingly without tiring: fire and water. Most interestingly, these too are the two chosen to destroy the world.

Even this very thought, though it has been some many years since my conception of it, continues to take my breath away.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Bourbon Steak

Pull up and the valet takes your car from you, complementary. Check in. Receive a card and Uber $20 voucher, and be greeted with a choice between coffee on the patio or a drink at the bar. A dark, fun interior, something almost out of Mad Men or the mobster casino scene in Silver Linings Playbook presents, an opulent steakhouse of older times perhaps, polished. Live music throughout the night. Intimate lighting. It was a scene of contrast and class.

I pulled up to the bar for a first drink, a fizz, before dining was announced, making light conversation with neighbors though ambient noise was a tad loud. No matter - that's what drinks are for! Upon the announcement of dinner seating, I went ahead and chose the seats with of course the best lighting - thinking about the pictures.

fizzes became famous in the early 1900’s when in new orleans, bars would hire multitudes of bar keeps to work in teams to shake the fizzes
del maguey vida mezcal, st. germaine elderflower
lemon, egg white, champagne

Yum. A cinnamon Yelp logo on top of the drink, which I particularly enjoyed.

Since the night was Elites only, few people really knew each other well. The slight awkwardness was dispelled by a free-flowing bar and the shared experience of wonder: a four-course menu upon seating? Nice! A Yelp Elite beach towel on our seats? Cool! Waiters placing napkins on your lap? Thank you!

We're explained to that the menu was crafted just for this night, including a super-special agnolotti that's "much better" than the regular one on the menu. At this point, drink orders were (sort of) taken; rather, service came around with trays of all drinks for the taking.

lucky lindy
hangar one mandarin blossom vodka, aperol
kaffir lime-honey, lime

Wait, surprise? A trio of duck fat fries came out first, flavored as follows: pastrami/BBQ, Parmesan/Caesar, and pickled/pickled aioli, listing by the fries and accompanying sauces.

Now as someone who can eat French fries all freaking day, this was more than just a treat, and the flavors (especially the pickle) more than great!

Truffle cornbread with sea salt: surprise number two! Wow. This was probably one of the more interesting flavors of the night, though it may not look that way - expecting a sweet soft bun for some reason (and perhaps I just had too much to drink too soon), I found that the sea salt and truffle made for a delightful but distinctively unsweet combination (duh!). I'd definitely like to try this again sober one day.

sours were first described in jerry thomas’ book ‘how to mix drinks’ in 1862. made with a base spirit, sweetner, citrus juice and egg white. the texture should always be light and fluffy
gin, rhubarb-strawberry-pink peppercorn syrup
egg white, lemon juice

Requested was a fizz made instead with Scotch and ended up with this. The bartender explained that this cocktail would complement the flavors and intricacies of the Scotch better than try and fizz it - okay! It was tasty, sweet, dark, but was light in the mouth and alcohol taste, too. I didn't regret it! Oh, and ours was made with some type of whisky.

Hass Avocado: (Spec Ham, Compressed Melon, Crema, Pickled Radish)

Fresh and light, a very nicely prepared avocado with Spec ham and melon finished in a way I've never seen before - visually, I thought it was ginger. Probably great for soothing the stomach and whetting the appetite.

old fashioned
bourbon, water, sugar, bitters

Okay, I'll just admit it, I'm probably an alcoholic. Not. Classic with a spherical ice ball, a nice touch as always, intended to melt slower than cubes due to a smaller surface area.

ahi tuna tartare 
Asian Pear, Pine Nuts, Ginger Aioli

Ah, another surprise. Tuna tartare! Plated beautifully,  servers went ahead and mixed the concoction table side, resulting in a fat cluster of tuna alongin some flavorful additions. The tuna was of pleasing quality and could easily make for a star of most meals; in a specially crafted tasting menu though it made for a pleasing but underwhelming surprise. Thankfully received though of course, and I enjoyed the spice!

Bone Marrow Agnolotti: (Garlic Streusel, Upland Cress, Parmesan, Lemon)

For some reason I think everyone including myself was expecting a gigantic bone on a dish, ready for the bone marrow to be scooped up. What we got instead was in fact so much better: agnolotti, a tiny pasta, surrounded by a bone marrow soup base, offering incredible flavor and richness with every bite. Lemon shavings, lemon zest, a garlic streussel crunch, and an admittedly red wine do an incredible combo on the tongue, making you amazed food could ever make you feel this way. And as a side note, the red really does leagues better here than the white. I tried.

I think it's around this time that we met the executive chef, Joseph Conrad, who autographed my menu. Very cool dude.

Brandt Farms Bavette Steak: (Chanterelle Mushroom, Smoked onion pudding, Bordelaise, Parsley)

By default, the 6 oz. steaks were all cooked "about" medium unless a request was put in, likely due to the quantity they had to have been cooking for us all at the same time. It had a lot of texture and flavoring, and the mushrooms - love. I loved the way the steak cut, and the quality of it meant that seasonings and sauces were kept to a thankful minimum, not needing it really at all as the steak itself instead provided. Brandt farms, as we were told, was a local (and obviously high-quality) shindig. We were happy.

In the picture, you can see the damage my waitress had done in knocking over my wine. My shirts were stained but promised to have been dry cleaned, on the house. Though I have reached out, I have yet to receive that promised service.

Maine Lobster Pot Pie - served family style
Brandied Lobster Cream, Market Vegetables

Wait, what do you mean there's another surprise? There were murmurs of hope at the very beginning of the night regarding this dish, and seeing it come table side only made the room squeal in delight. As another table-side preparation, the pot came out pie-crusted which then formed the bottom of the plate, the innards scooped and 2 pound lobster decorating. A very rich lobster cream, market vegetables, and quality fresh seafood? Yum. By the way, this signature dish of chef Michael Mina's usually runs a market price of ~$75, so it was indeed a very appreciated gesture.

Mascarpone: Mascarpone: Basil Ice, Compressed Peach Carmelized oats

This is probably the most interesting dessert I've ever had, and I mean that in a surprisingly good way. Seriously, basil ice? I don't even know how you come up with such things; rich and sweet, it made for a very nice finish.

Ah. LAMILL vanilla coffee. I don't drink coffee, but those who had this seemed to enjoy it quite well.

A few more notes:

The general manager's name here is Michael Main. How cool is that?

Also, can I customer order that bone marrow agnolotti when I dine here? It's a custom creation for the night and I'd like it paired with the very same red wine, please.

Service was absolutely top notch here. Folding napkins when you got up, directions to the bathroom, bringing out plates, refilling drinks before you ask, scooping up crumbs. It's incredible that you can do this so well when the night is so very busy - a full tasting dinner for the entire restaurant? And quite honestly, I've never been to Yelp Elite event that so gracefully handled the quantity of drink orders while making sure every one of them was attended to.

There was a moment when a waitress spilled some wine on me, but club soda and napkins were immediately brought out, along with the assurance that Bourbon Steak would be taking care of the dry cleaning (and the general manager's business card given, too). As a side note, I did email the manager but have not received response.

Add to all this that the staff were able to seem genuine and excited, this seriously made for a great night of service and food.

But that's not all - being an Elite only event, nobody really expects to have a GREAT time socially, but our hopes were fortunately saved. Table conversations, introductions, and drinks all around made for a wonderful time, and I'll gladly come out again to Elite only events, knowing yet that Bourbon Steak set the bar.

Upon leaving, we were presented with a raffle for a 3-course tasting for two as well as drink vouchers for everyone. And bringing up the cars at the valet? Small touch, surely, but a bottle of water awaited us. Ah, what an end to a very good night.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Photography: Closing and Conclusion

Over the so many posts about photography I've crafted, I reflected that these might be very well unique in perspective and intention. I asked for no money in any form, no deals, no attention. I wasn't look for mentees or mentors, partners or friends. But amongst this, I don't think people truly understood what I was driving at or wanted to accomplish. Did I?

I showed you how I do things. How I think. How I see light. People. How I edit, arrange. And how it is all so different from mainstream photographic thought - it was distinctly me.
Yet I didn't want to teach you to think like me, to shoot like me, to edit like me, to see like me, to be me, if even possible; I was trying to teach you to see that in every situation, there was a different way of looking at things, a different way of doing things, a different way of living - to be distinctly you.

Like you've heard probably a thousand times before, the most important part of photography isn't the camera or lens; I'd take it one step further. It's not necessarily your skill or brain or eye, or your creativity or genius or talent - the most important part of photography, no matter how good you may think you are, is your soul.

Without that, photography could hardly be called an art; it's not about showing up and pressing a button, but rather capturing an essence - an emotion. And strangely enough, that's what sells best of all.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Warren's Blackboard

Warren's Blackboard sounds like the Wallace, at least if you're only looking at the first letter. Which led to a mistaken reservation on my part, whoops. Oh well. Warren's Blackboard is over in a hotel at Studio City, though it deceptively offers decent food, and more thankfully, a relatively quiet restaurant.

This is the bar side of the restaurant in the hotel, which at this time of day was relatively abandoned. Honestly I'd imagine that people hadn't even woken up, and if they had, the bar wouldn't exactly be a prime hangout in a hotel so closely located to the city and Universal Studios.

Water and lemon. The service was preemptive and nice enough, offering things before asked.

A view of the menu, though not the one designated for DineLA restaurant week. There's a menu on the wall written in chalk, but only applicable to dinner service. I suppose it would be too much to ask to rewrite it three times a day.

Burrata Crostini with Grilled Corn and Heirloom Tomato Relish,
Basil, Sea Salt

It's a crostini, kind of like a bruschetta. Burrata is a now-trendy type of cheese. There's a very large amount of corn covering this dish - not typically my preference, but the mixture the Burrata came with was delicious. There's basil, a very nice fresh tomato relish, and I liked this one very much despite the presence of corn.

Watermelon Salad, Humbolt Fog, Watercress, Hazelnuts, Aged Sherry,
Honey Vinaigrette, Fruit Cart Seasoning

Watermelon and Mexican seasoning is interesting. Though I might have enjoyed it, I probably won't ever pursue the idea on my own culinary concoctions. The cheese though added a balanced taste in contrast, not mild in the American way though not strong as Europeans tend to prefer; there is a sharp taste that pairs well with melons. The jicama addition? Just okay. The nuts gently decorating the cheese were enjoyed.

Homemade Granola $7
Bellweather farms yogurt parfait

We added this onto our meal for the sake of pumping up our dining bill - we needed at least $21 per person for an American Express coupon, and this sounded like fun.

The granola was house-roasted with almonds and sunflower seeds, a very large portion resembling almost a cereal bowl, with considerably fresh fruit and a balance of sweetness, meaning it wasn't overly thus. Raisins and cranberry raisins added a fun texture to my personal delight, and the yogurt base topped off the texture. I enjoyed it.

Korean Braised Short Rib Sandwich, Port Salut, Fiscalini Cheddar, Parm,
Grilled Scallions

Ah, it says Korean! Haha it's more a grilled cheese than a beef sandwich, meaning's it's quite filling and heavy in a way that thicker grilled cheeses inevitably are. Delicious, scallions, and french fries! Speaking of which, the fries weren't overly salted for flavor, instead covered in something lightly pink or orange. They have a vague In-N-Out type of taste, nice and crispy yet chewy and soft.

Stone Crab Melt, Tomato Jam, Pepper Jack, Grilled Sourdough Bread

Ah, crab. The fillings were more than generous for the size of the bread, meaning that the sandwich was difficult to pick up, much less eat, without things falling out. Not that that's really a bad thing. The interior combination proved quite pleasing, and the tomato jam formed a nice though thankfully not overwhelming addition to it all, adding but not blocking the crab - what you ordered, after all.

Overall, the taste of the ingredients was lighter and more nuanced than most restaurants, which I actually enjoyed. It wasn't that it wasn't fresh or that it was bad, and it also doesn't mean that it wasn't filling - quite the opposite.

The restaurant was pleasingly quiet, though the interior proved chilly and the exterior patio baking under the Los Angeles sun. Later the restaurant did get a tad bit busier (not overly so, but the servers were lacking in quantity perhaps), and it did take a while to get the check as requested. During the meal though, we received new plates, settings, and whatever else was necessary before asked, meaning that the attention to detail was there. And ah, it was a nice napkin.

Sunday, September 28, 2014


We are all born into culture, which skews us to perceive aspects of ourselves as natural, when really they were taught to us. The haunting question then would be: what would we be like if that which we were taught were different? Throughout history, greed has been associated a trait of evil, to be vanquished by light. The same association does not seem to exist today, as selfishness and greed are normal, even expected, and people are to make decisions only on what conveniences themselves. I don't merely mean the ultra rich and powerful - I've touched upon this before talking about ridiculous costs of medical care in keeping the most stubborn of people alive - they lived lives so shallow that they cannot mentally plunge into the next, and doctors are obligated to help.

I find myself at times guilty of this as well - what is texting while driving? Speeding obnoxiously? Taking up extra few inches in parking to make sure someone else cannot fit, or perhaps even accidentally? It's all putting your own needs before the needs of literally everyone else.

Credit card points are an example of companies that solely profit off of taking advantage of your greed: bring an individual some small reward for their shopping, but charge exorbitant fees to merchants just to accept the money, leading to higher overall prices in order to compensate. Eating practices: is it really a requirement to eat so much meat, bacon, and the latest trendy fish? People managed without for centuries, but today culture goes as far as to say to eat bacon is to be a man. But if America stop consuming beef, it would be the carbon equivalent of taking 20 million cars off the road - imagine that. And food for thought: is it really that tasty, or is someone telling you it is, altering your mind's perception?

We screw people over through our broken hiring practices, manufacture cheap goods that fall apart all too quickly, and screw over business partners for profit, not realizing how short termed the game we play is. Happy employees and happy partners do a better job, and dissatisfied ones go out of their way to get back at you, even at personal loss.

People respond to incentive, but the incentive that guides them is largely guided by the short term, even knowing that their vices are destroying them. We're a culture addicted to the sex, drugs, adrenaline, money, and power. Bankers and salesmen will create ways to manipulate and guide clients based on what profits them best, not what might be best for the client. Late people will run, knock others over, speed, and lie. And don't consider nobler practices immune - statistics show that medical procedures go in and out of style based on profit.

But can we create short and long term incentive to make people actually want to make the world a better place?

We knew for a very long time that healthy eating, exercise, quitting smoking, and maintaining a stable and health family unit was good for a person's quality of life. But despite the efforts of doctors and the government, health eating habits, exercise, quitting smoking, and marital fidelity proved more dream than reality. It would have been ridiculous to imagine a world where smoking in public was illegal, where people paid hundreds of dollars for yoga pants worn as fashion, rode bikes to work, or paid extra for kale and quinoa over McDonalds. Well.

A cultural shift happened and stunningly people now do such things not because they are good for you, but because it became a part of our culture. An extraordinary amount of power is held in ideas, but that manipulation or shift does not happen naturally. Is it possible then to move culture so revise stances on other vices too? A change in how we handle personal finances, honor, time, and relationships? I am convinced we all inherently want this, as we goldenly remember a world that we never lived in and never once was where men were gentlemen and women were ladies. What if people actually used their resources to help each other, instead of charging four digit interest rates or hoarding? What if we made decisions with the goal of making the world a better place, knowing that it would benefit ourselves too in the long term? Would you want to live in a world where we didn't have to destroy other people's lives in order to get ahead? Isn't that the idea of community?

But what would it take? Smart campaigns by Madison Ave, promoting a lifestyle actually benefiting the world? Human rights campaigns? Social consciousness? It is possible: we are so much more caring than we care to believe. Just generations ago, people threw away dogs and children, refused to adopt, wasted resources, and littered freely - including excrement. It used to even be a status symbol to own others.

I recognize that this is a process, but greed is the one trait that humanity must rid itself of. Money was never the root of all evil, it was the love. The love of oneself above all others. There was once one who loved himself above all else - we now know him as Satan. Whether or not you believe this or not, let's not seek to model ourselves after representations of evil, but the reverse. And the best part? Based on a study of history, we know that such change is actually possible.