Thursday, June 4, 2015

A Question

What's the one way you'd want the world to change?

Friday, May 1, 2015

Poppy and Rose

A cute little place, Poppy and Rose is located in basically the greatness of Los Angeles's Skid Row neighborhood, though during the daytime it's a bit more hospitable, if just as smelly. Parking is as ever a bit of a hassle, but the LA Flower Mart garage works, leading you right into guessed it! The flower mart. For what it's worth, parking at the flower mart is validated temporarily with a purchase of $15 or more. Otherwise, bring cash, as this neighborhood in general is pretty cash-only heavy.

The restaurant itself comes a bit gentrified, perhaps expected for a place that looks and sounds like this in a neighborhood as such. Oh well, that's what's cool in Los Angeles now, right? Prices reflect such, as do the menu descriptions. What the f*** are Kennebec fries? Read on and find out how special those are...

Forge Coffee

I actually don't drink coffee, preferring instead things that aren't drugs, so my memory's a bit hazy on this one issue. But if I do recall correctly, the Forge coffee here is free, so more power to you imbibers of liquid scourge. My companion of the day enjoyed the drink, but she's also a fan of Starbucks, so I expect the discerning third-wavers to naysay that opinion immediately. I still think it's a nice touch.

buttermilk fried chicken+waffle

This dish was decent, and a bit better than what I've had before in the realm of chicken & waffle. This one hasn't quite converted me though, and I still don't think the combination is something I actually believe belong together in principle. The ingredients don't clash nearly as much as they did in Black Hogg though, and the chicken was fried nicely, pleasantly moist rather than stringy. The waffles proved better than Ihop, a high honor from the five year olds out there, I'm told.

eggs benedict

This formed a much better companion to brunch, a restaurant typical and for a good reason. The taste was absolutely winning, and the poached egg, hollandaise, and salmon combined delightfully. The plating obviously leaves a lot to be desired, not just in plate itself but the salad and benedicts too. Even so, I can wholeheartedly recommend this one, and it does the job.

Kennebec fries

We got these because we're complete and total suckers, meaning that the name sold it to us. A quick Google search informed us that Kennebec is actually just about the single most common species of potato ever, at least in the United States, meaning not a single thing at all is unique to this dish, nor outstanding as a side. Quite honestly, they were disappointingly normal french fries that took a little extra effort to finish, partially due to the quantity of food ordered for the table and partially because they just weren't that great. I wouldn't bother.


Delicious, as even though we were full by the time the pillaging of this one commenced, it was fully pillaged. For those wondering, that succulent is from the adjacent flower market, courtesy of my very good friend.

Conclusion? This is a cute place, very cute, in fact, and a nice brunch in general. Seating is a bit awkward here, as it's a bit of a free for all, first come first serve. That also means service can be a bit off, and I don't there's individualized water pitchers either. It's shared, a bit like camp back in your school days, except now you don't talk to the people who might defile your drinking water. But hey, it's freaking Skid Row, the streets smell like a sewer anyway! For the area, it's not at all a bad place to come.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Eggslut - Grand Central Market

Eggslut is located in Grand Central Market, an area with the all-too familiar parking predicament expected anywhere downtown. Many interesting and somewhat pricey shops line the marketplace, reminiscent of something more foreign than domestic in layout and feel. Eggslut's location is streetside, facing the sun for those morning escapades, tables placed outside for should the weather fare well and the bar be filled.

The lines are typically long here, though winding down from their peak months ago, perhaps. I believe Eggslut may have actually started as a food truck, meaning their success translated well into retail presence, unlike some recent memories. Eating into the stomach and mind is the deliciousness Eggslut's kitchen produces, swamping in smell all nearby areas with in Grand Central a hunger and desire. It seems a fair number of people order to-go. Onto the food!

Freshly Squeezed Orange Juice

Served up by the Press Brothers next door, Eggslut's (I mean...) orange juice offering is nice, clean, fresh. I recommend it over the boxed water, sodas, beer, or water offerings. Just do it.

soft scrambled eggs, chives, cheddar cheese, caramelized onions and sriracha mayo in a warm brioche bun

Easily the winner of the shop, and quite possibly the best thing I've ever tasted for breakfast, we have something that could keep me coming back again and again. Sriracha mayo is listed both on the menu and Yelp and you think nothing of it. I'm Asian, after all, and have had that combination a number of times in fushion and experimentals. But oh my god, look at that face, you could be, my next mistake - that mayo is simply delicious, delicate, and unholy amounts of satisfying. Soft scrambled eggs melt in your mouth, cooked up with some microgreens, and that brioche bun is heavenly. I seriously can't find a fault with this sandwich other than I had to split it (and everything else for the day). Oh. My. Noms. It's also a mess to eat.

a coddled egg on top of a smooth potato purée, poached in a glass jar and served with a demi baguette

Pretty? Very. The baguette is a bit hard though, and not much to satisfy your imagination, but that little jar of magic does stir up thoughts. A dozen or so glass jars are basically cooked up sous-vide at the same time, or in a boiling plastic container, individual lids keeping on the pressure. You receive something relatively clean looking nearly a white and beige throughout, but stir it up and the yolk pops, the potatoes swirl, and you get a striking new look to your breakfast. My opinion though - it's a bit pricey for the amount of food you get, offset perhaps by the cooking method; I would opt for the arugula salad substituted free of charge over the baguette on this one, as the potato does get a bit heavy and overwhelming, something the hardened bread doesn't help, but greens may. I don't regret getting this once and sharing it, but come again and the Fairfax has a significant lead.

hardwood smoked bacon, over medium egg, cheddar cheese and chipotle ketchup in a warm brioche bun

This one was a popular one the grill, and after eating the small portions of the slut, decided to tack this one on to the meal. A fat piece of bacon is griddled up, an over medium egg obviously good and adding a delightful effect to the broiche bread. But it's not not nearly the satisfaction and strength the soft scrambled eggs the Fairfax mustered: chipotle ketchup was a bit heavily overwhelming in proportion and flavor, and overall, though it would have satisfied me at perhaps any restaurant before, once you taste the Fairfax, a new standard is set - why compromise? This doesn't compete, no matter how much bacon you add.

Conclusion? I love Eggslut, and I'm getting the Fairfax every time I come back. The Slut is worth an order on your first visit as well, you. And you get to call your friends sluts, as if you didn't already everyday.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

On the Nature of Giving

There is a 1/1700 chance of death, or 0.06%, while donating a kidney, meaning if you elect not to donate a kidney, even to a stranger, you believe that your life is worth 1700 times more than another. Many people die every year because of the lack of available kidneys despite the fact that everyone is born with a spare - we could easily save every single one of those lives through a collective generosity.
(note: this is not a personal example in any way. just a random one)

If our collective body forms the organism of the world, each of us compose a single cell rather than concrete living organisms;  society and Christianity operate on a flock mentality. The singular person isn't the importance that makes life and civilization possible, rather the cooperation and collaboration of many. If one cell in your body had the ability to prevent another important cell from dying, a process carrying 1/1700 chance in its own death for the process, would you not direct it to do so?

We are all cells within an organism, looking for our divinely appointed personal purpose while ignoring the obvious. Passion is a result of action, meaning we should be working first as an exploration, given to us by what we experience and see. We must experience in order to discover, give in order to grow.

I'm not completely advocating a Spartan lifestyle devoid of pets, luxuries, and such as the right answer, though. People who are more thankful will give more, or at least it would seem. Pets, though prohibitively expensive when considering their cost compared to taking care of someone in the third world, can increase your emotional well-being, making you more likely to reciprocate those feelings onto other people.

One hiccup to fully giving that I find is the nature of money in itself. For example, if I stored away 10,000 USD a year, invested at an index fund with a annual average growth of 6%, the laws of compound interest (which investment and retirement advisers will happily talk you through) will grow that money at a faster rate than inflation, meaning by holding onto that money you can do even more 'good'. Of course we wouldn't want to hold back from doing good in the present in order to do good in the future, but wisdom might dictate in times where you don't have direct cause to contribute financially, investments becoming future donated stock might be a better vehicle than charity at random. I find leveraged giving (donor matching) especially attractive; holding onto funds until that opportunity presented would easily compound donations.

Of course, I did say that that last paragraph was a hiccup; in the least though, it makes the assumption of giving, and intentionality.

On parting thought I'll bring things back to the first paragraph. Do you value your retirement more than someone's entire lifetime? Do you value your life 1,700 times more than a stranger's? Heck, do you value your pet's organic meals and veterinary checkups more than your brothers and sisters around the world? Sadly even for me, I don't have that answer yet.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

George's California Modern

Seating tonight was a lucky one: right next to the window. Unfortunately, it matters less during winter dinnertimes as the sun has long since set and all you see from this section out the window is darkness. I can attest though that during the summers, dinner here would be rather marvelous - the kind of Southern California dinner you see in the movies.

One oddity is the bathroom situation: the women's is on the same floor, but the men's a flight up. Otherwise, you're set to enjoy the casual luxury downtown La Jolla has to offer.

Presentation of the menus. Options range from a four course tasting to a la carte, and I believe a longer 8-course meal priced at $130. We elected the four-course with a la carte additions; the menu, too, was interesting and a pleasure to look through.

Bread, accompanied by pepper, sea salt, spiced sea salt. The assortment was good, though the spiced sea salt was actually a bit overpowering; my favorite was actually the pepper. Decent bread, too.

Zinfandel: Orin Swift 'Saldo', California, 2012

Saldo. It's an excellent wine bottled in a relatively nondescript glass, something that may not as a result sell too well in the public marketplace. It's delicious on first taste, opens up as you drink it, and very warm to the heart and body. Fruity, bodied, and not bitter at all, it made a fine accompaniment to the meal and something I would happily buy for home, if only I could find it.

Amuse Bouche

It's difficult to remember what composed this dish, something that came so early and quickly in the meal. Foie gras mousse, hibiscus shell, honey on the bottom? That may be what I can recall pronounced tableside from memory. Nonetheless, it was creamy, floral, and a beautiful presentation to whet the appetites for the evening. I love eating flowers (though they never taste how they look or smell), and to someone who really dislikes honey in general, it wasn't bad at all.

Albacore Crudo
charred jalapeño, cucumber, pear, yuzu kosho, shiso 16

Albacore, and the quality of freshness that allows it to simply melt in your mouth. The dashi sauce is poured in tableside, adding a bit of flavoring to everything, though not at all overpowering to the fish. While the quality of the fish was expectedly very good, the combination of ingredients really made this dish a delight; on a side note I wouldn't drink the dashi alone, which I would normally with age dashi tofu. The spicy jalapeno is controlled in temperature, meaning that though it might not impress a Korean dish, it works very well in this particular combination. The shiso is ace.

Grilled Octopus
chorizo, smoked potato, roasted radish, salsa verde 17

To someone who's never had a truly fresh octopus, it's difficult to describe how it can come out: not in the least rubbery or chewy. Though I don't believe the octopus this time reaches the same level of purity my last visit had, it's still an always unbelievable and satisfying texture when done right, grilling apparently a large part of the secret. I did really like the presentation this time as it gave a lot more to cut through and have fun with; the rooted veggie and kale topping were great to the eye in both color and texture, and I just loved how everything came together. The baby potatoes were a tad starchy though not in a bad way at all, almost like a cousin potato, available in a number of enjoyable interior colorings (regular and purple).

Grilled Half Lobster

This dish came out a bit of a surprise, meaning I don't have the menu description to wow you with. But here's what I do remember: a lobster, live the same day and caught in the bay, cut in half and grilled, prepared with fennel butter (or fennel and butter?). It's a presentation I've never seen before but really quite extraordinary, and remarkably simple to eat: the edible pieces just came on out. Inaccessible were the inside components - the legs, the little claws and such; I'm quite okay with that. In taste, the lobster was fresh, clean, with the slight grill and butter; the fennel and lemon really helped it glow.

Pork Tenderloin
pancetta milanese, salsify, quince mustard, sauce gribiche, mustard greens 36

Panko breaded and flash fried, cut into medallions. Sauce gribiche is beneath it, composed of fine herbs, terragon, and basil chopped fine, grated with egg whites. Egg yolk composes the yellow dollops and quince mustard the other yellows, parsely puree the greens, and a roasted salsify rounding it all out. To me the pork tastes honestly a bit like ham, though my companion certainly enjoyed it. The presentation is fun and light hearted, colorful in a way that could almost be Seuss-ian, with an ingredient mixture to match. Not my favorite dish but by no means a loser, it was cooked well and presented nicely. There is something about it though: it some ways, it really reminds me of childhood.

Warm Chocolate Tart
feuilletine, whipped crème fraiche, Chino Farms mint,
barley malt chocolate meringue, mint ice cream 12

A surprisingly good dessert and a bit of a classic, we have here an ice cream, a chocolate, and a liquid center, at least in essence. Fresh and relatively local mints (a bit outside Los Angeles) are used rather than a cloying creme de menthe, and beneath is feuilletine, made from rice and chocolate coated. Dehydrated barley malt meringue is used as a garnish on top, and rather deliciously I might add; overall, all good flavors, all good textures, and a delicious molten brownie accompaniment.

Chestnuts Roasting / 15
Bulleit rye whiskey, gomme syrup, George’s
autumn bitters, house walnut liquor, flamed
orange, atomized mezcal

Though no fault of the server at all, it was between this and Lagavulin, and this is certainly no Lagavulin. Regrettably I did not take a picture, though I can say that it tastes fairly like what I expected - a farmier, almost homier version of an old-fashioned. One advantage this cocktail does have over the Lagavulin though? I won't be able to make this one at home anytime soon, despite the homier taste.

Overall, the night was excellent - service was wonderful, a casual conversation with the servers the same combination of factors comprising downtown La Jolla and appropriate for a restaurant of this nature. Appreciated touches were applied such as the steam ironing each tablecloth, and the accommodations did prove pleasant: the seating was comfortable, somewhat colorful yet muted, and the tables themselves cushioned. The cutlery and glassware was appropriately changed based on course selection, and more bread was offered at the beginning of the meal, though we declined, electing to fill ourselves on the later foods.

What as in particular very nice was the knowledge of our server. He was able to freely converse on not only the menu items, as expected, but the peatiness of various scotches, and a runthrough of the wine menu, helping us to make an appropriate decision regarding the evening's imbibements.

And on a final and rather offbeat note, my companion had taken up ceramics recently and remarked on the quality of the dishware. The finish was mostly matte but with slight gloss, an unpopular decision in the world of amateur pottery but far more appropriate to the restaurant and atmosphere here. In my honest opinion, I've never liked much the glaze used by most ceramics students, finding them too shiny to be subtle, so here George's proved excellent.

Conclusion? My second trip to George's California Modern reshaped my opinion of the restaurant, and is a worthwhile step up from the Ocean Terrace visit that I enjoyed (minus the tourists). The food all came out great and well prepared, the service was on point, and overall, we felt the evening pass on with a joy, reluctant only that it came to an end. The clientele will still largely be on the side of older white people - WASPs, as my very white friend explained to me recently; yet I did not feel that much out of place. I recommend.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Black Hogg - Breakfast

From 9am to 1pm, Tue-Sat

Black Hogg. I earlier reviewed dinner here stating it was a fresh and good entrance into the Silver Lake area, making me excited to come back and experience the new breakfast menu. There was a coupon for 30% off breakfast available through Blackboard Eats, an enticing enough offer to make the drive (though I forgot to use it).

At dinnertime you walk in and are greeted before being seated, but not so with breakfast. It's very much a seat yourself affair, taking orders in front at the counter - I wish this were made more clear, as normally that counter serves as a bar, meaning a crowd is interpreted as a group hanging out, not a line to order. It took a while to figure out what to do, and nobody said anything to us or really even greeted us.

Menus. A short offering, the prices seemed decent for what I imagined would come out.

Once ordering and paying, you receive a number to take back to your chosen table. This will summon your food from kitchen to table as it is readied. It's a bit strange of a feeling though, paying your tip before any service at all is rendered. I much prefer the restaurant during dinnertime, where a check is brought out to your table post.

BYOM $1 Stumptown (limited time only)
“Bring Your Own Mug” for this price

I personally don't drink coffee, so I'll have to relay to you what my partner communicated. Though the coffee is just $1 if you bring your own mug, it comes up at $2.50 if you need a cup, a curious bump in pricing. The coffee itself comes a bit under-roasted, slightly sour in taste, and doesn't taste particularly novel or quality in any way. Each refill is an additional $1. Since it is self-serve, the coffee-pot seemed to be empty here and there, leading to a few annoyed patrons during my visit.

KFC and Scallion Waffles 13
Korean Fried Mary’s Chicken, Spicy Maple,
and a Crispy Scallion Waffle

Chicken and waffles. I was a bit stunned by the portioning at the moment it was brought table-side - a very small amount of chicken, with the ratio of chicken and waffle seeming quite off balance. Nonetheless, the waffle was cut and dipped into that, oh! Spicy maple syrup, an odd combination between the two. The waffles were scallion waffles, tasting healthy in an odd way (and I love scallion), healthy even without the scallions. It was non-sweet, and tasted significantly better with butter. The chicken was thigh and leg, a nicely crisp finish and a much better combination with the spicy maple, altogether with the waffle. Of course, the combination wouldn't last very long considering again that odd proportioning; if the chicken had been cut into two pieces rather than one, it would have made the dish seem a slightly better value, even without increasing the food offering. But it did need more chicken.

*Hong Kong French Toast 11
Thick-Cut French toast, Condensed Milk,
Peanut Sauce, Crushed Peanuts, Raspberries

I wish it had said you were getting brick toast. If we had known, we probably wouldn't have ordered this for breakfast - it's very carb-y, very heavy with peanut butter, peanuts, and best probably in very small portions. A bit pricey at $11 considering what it really is, and I wouldn't hesitate to call this one a disappointment.

So there you are. I don't really know - this place just didn't meet my expectations. Service was virtually non-existent: no water refills, no check-ups, and the dishes came out separately. I suppose those wouldn't be horrible, considering this isn't a Michelin-grade restaurant and we are talking about a breakfast spot, but at the same time, if a 15% tip is paid before the meal even begins, I do expect more, reinforcing the brokenness of the tipping system, especially when paid beforehand.

To top it off, there was a kid crying and yelling right next to us for the meal, which uh. I like kids, but do people really bring infants to sit-down restaurants these days? Service brought out a baby stool, so I guess they were paying some attention.

In the end, I felt the food was lacking and overpriced. The menus felt a bit unfinalized in their preparations and recipes, with some flavors clashing oddly or just not fine-tuned in the way that dinner was. Top that off with the relatively unfilling portion control, the lack of service, and paying tip before service is rendered, and it just left an odd taste when leaving Black Hogg - a shame, because I really did enjoy my dinners here. If you're here after 11am, I might suggest trying out the Soppresata lunch menu rather than breakfast.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Pomegranate II

These pomegranates are natural, forgotten, aged in the sun. Their character comes from the struggles the drought this year provided, harassed by insects and birds, split and then healed, beaten upon by the heat of the world. Their character offers a complexion no Ralph's quality fruits can hope to offer. This is the fruit of nature.