Categories
bacon hot dog musings Southern California street food

Drew Carey Joins L.A. Bacon Hot Dog War

I first wrote about the Los Angeles Bacon Hot Dog War in February, and now comedian Drew Carey has joined the food fight, featuring the ongoing controversy on The Drew Carey Project on Reason.tv. Here’s Drew Carey’s report on the issue, including an interview with Elizabeth Palacios, the figurehead in this struggle.



The main problem for licensed vendors like Palacios is that they lose a lot of money when potential customers seek out the unlicensed vendors, who are more than happy to sell them the coveted bacon hot dogs. For Palacios, it’s walking the fine line between protecting her business and staying out of jail. For customers, it’s all about the bacon.

“They don’t care about if you’re cleaner, if you don’t have a license to handle the food,” Palacios said. “They just want the bacon.”

Categories
beef Korean reviews Southern California

Cham Sut Gol

You know you’re eating well when you’re at a Korean BBQ joint feasting on beef brisket, pork belly and some beautifully marbled prime kalbi. In fact, I think you can judge the quality of the meat by whether or not you’re tempted to start eating the raw meat right when it’s brought to the table, which almost happened at Cham Sut Gol when that platter of beautifully marbled prime kalbi arrived.


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The kalbi was great and served in its most pure state—no marinades or sauces needed—just a little butter on the grill and the marbly meat would take care of the rest. I’d never had Korean style brisket and it was excellent, and I especially liked the sauce that came with it. The sliced pork belly was also pretty amazing and was accompanied by a strong but perfect salt/pepper oil that really enhanced its inherent porkiness.

But aside from the meat, a perfectly fried mackeral was another highlight, but I didn’t eat much of it because I was busy cooking and eating the meat while my wife and some friends tore that fish apart.

Ban chan selection was good, and the service was attentive. Parking might look like an issue, but they do have valet when it’s busy, and we didn’t have any issues finding street parking.

INFORMATION
Cham Sut Gol
3700 W Olympic Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90019 map
323.734.9292
Web site

Categories
Italian reviews Southern California

Angeli Caffe

I was catching up on my podcasts today, listening to one of my favorites, KCRW’s Good Food with Evan Kleiman. I’ve been listening to Good Food for a few years now, and it’s exposed me to lots of new and different perspectives on food and eating, and influenced where I eat when I go home to Southern California. Kleiman also owns Angeli Caffe, a cozy Italian restaurant on Melrose Ave. in Hollywood, and I really wanted to know if Evan the chef was as good as Evan the radio host. I’m happy to report that she is!

On our first visit, we were seated by the front window and throughout the meal, I could see my wife’s darting back and forth, watching everyone that walked by. The guy at the table next to us said that sitting facing Melrose is like watching television.

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When you walk into the restaurant, the first thing you notice is the open bread station and oven. It’s always comforting to know when a restaurant is making things in house. As we perused the menu, a plate-sized loaf of hot, freshly baked bread was immediately brought to our table. The bread was amazing…a bit salty, which was nice. It went well with the olive oil but was also wonderful on its own. I was tempted to order one of the pizzas after devouring the bread, but I’ll save that for another visit.

Categories
Japanese reviews Southern California

Maru

We were in town to celebrate my dad’s birthday, and I was eager to find a place in Santa Clarita that was worthy of our attention so we didn’t have to drive out to LA for a nice meal. I found Maru after reading several glowing reviews on Yelp, where some reviewers admit to driving all the way to Valencia from all over the Southland just to eat there. People driving to Valencia just to eat? Now I had to see if it really lived up to the hype.

Maru is not your typical Japanese restaurant because in addition to a fairly standard Japanese menu, they also feature a seasonal Market Menu that features “modern California cuisine” and includes dishes like seared foie gras, crispy duck risotto, USDA Prime steaks, and other dishes you’d find at a typical upscale restaurant. Fresh fish is flown in daily from Japan, the restaurant is committed to using organic, free-range products, and all the vegetables are hand picked by chef/owner Jason Park at the Santa Monica Farmer’s Markets. You could argue that Maru serves the freshest food in Santa Clarita, but having a great meal there depends entirely on which menu you choose.

We decided to pick dishes from both menus so we could try as many of the inventive dishes as possible, as well as see how Maru handles some of the basics. For starters, we ordered their much-heralded crispy duck risotto and agedashi tofu. Creamy duck risotto was shaped like a puck and then seared to make it crispy and was an excellent appetizer. Unfortunately, the agedashi tofu we ordered was seriously lacking. The tofu wasn’t fried very well, and it was served only in a ponzu-flavored dashi. There were no bonito flakes or grated daikon to be found, so it felt incomplete and worst of all…boring. (The dashi was good though.)

Crispy Duck RisottoCrispy Duck Risotto

(Note: I read several reports that Maru frowns up on people taking pictures of the food (allegedly because the chef is paranoid about someone stealing his ideas) so I broke out my spy camera—er, iPhone—to get these pictures.)

Categories
bacon Best of Inuyaki hot dog musings Southern California street food

The Los Angeles Bacon Hot Dog War

I had my very first bacon dog right on Hollywood Blvd. I walked out of a taping of Jimmy Kimmel Live! and this amazing smell overcame me, and I said, “Goddamn! What smells so good?” This guy on the stairs pointed me toward this woman selling bacon-wrapped hot dogs from a sidewalk cart. Let’s just say that I bought and devoured one immediately.


Bacon Hot Dog Cart

Folks in San Francisco may want to claim the bacon dog cart (above) as their own because they’re pretty popular with weekend drunks leaving bars and clubs after 10pm in the Mission District. The truth is, bacon-wrapped hot dogs really belong to L.A., and you can get them from lunchtime till the wee hours of the morning (if you know where to look).

But things are not good for the bacon hot dog cart vendors in La-La Land. The L.A. Weekly recently chronicled the plight of hot dog vendors in L.A., who are now forbidden from using bacon AND grilling their hot dogs. (Boiling and steaming are the only acceptable cooking methods.)

Sound ridiculous?

They’ve actually jailed hot dog vendors like Elizabeth Palacios, who is featured in the article, for selling grilled bacon hot dogs. Palacios once served 45 days for health code violations, a sentence she said was orchestrated to “make an example” of her.

From the article:

“Honestly, I can tell you, I’ve been a working person all my life, I’ve worked since I was 9 years old,” Palacios says. “I don’t like being bothered, I don’t like being arrested. Never in my life had I been to jail, and they threw me in jail for violating the laws of the health department.”

There’s also a racial element to this story as the City of Los Angeles tries to revitalize and gentrify the downtown area and likely considers it in their best interests to “clean up” downtown for future investment and development.

“They told me, ‘The mayor wants to make this area like New York, Times Square,’ but I told them, ‘Who told him we want that? The people who come here are not like that.’ Ninety-nine percent of the people here are mexicanos. Here, you don’t really see americanos. One or two,” she says. “Why are they coming now to get us out of here? Why the abuse? Why the abuse?”

What’s worse is that while licensed hot dog vendors see the business suffer due to the restrictions, fees, and threats placed on them by overzealous city health inspectors, police and gangs, they have to watch their customers flock to the illegal bacon hot dog carts that have flourished since the ban, serving a customer base that probably doesn’t care where they come from…they just want their bacon dogs.

Will there ever be justice for the L.A.’s bacon hot dog vendors?

UPDATE: Drew Carey joins the fight.

Categories
noodles reviews Southern California Thai

Ord Noodles

Ord Noodles is the name you’ll see on the storefront, but its Thai name is Kwayteow Hoi Ka, which means Dangling Leg Noodles. The owners previously had a restaurant in Northern Thailand along a river bank, and people would sit and eat with their legs dangling over the water.

Not surprisingly, Dangling Leg Noodles is also the name of their signature dish (#1 on the menu). It’s an amazing sweet/spicy soup filled with ground pork, red pork ball, dried shrimp, pork liver, and your choice of fresh noodles (rice stick, chow mein, or thick rice noodles). You can see the chili flake floating around the vinegar-based broth, so you know it’s packing heat. Adding Chinese-style char siu makes this a #4, which is what we ordered. The three of us split a large bowl for $5; small bowls are $3.


House Special Soup #4

We also ordered the rice plate with spicy crispy cicerenes (#21), which is basically chicharrones in a spicy sauce, and you can’t get much better than that. Our waitress said this was one of their most popular dishes and I saw at least three more orders go to other tables while we were there.


Rice with Spicy Crispy Cicerenes

We rounded out our order with some Thai-style sausages, which fall somewhere in between Chinese lap cheung and Filipino longanisa, and a mint leaf chicken dish that was good but had a bit too much cilantro in it for our taste.


Thai-style Sausage with Fresh Vegetables

If someone out there can direct me towards a Thai restaurant that’s more authentic, delicious and cheap (nothing on the menu is over $6), then by all means, point me in the right direction. If not, I’ll be happy eating at Ord Noodles whenever I’m in town and lament about not having a place like this in the Bay Area.

INFORMATION
Ord Noodles
5401 Hollywood Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90027 map
323.468.9302

Categories
beef reviews Southern California

Lawry’s the Prime Rib

Lawry’s the Prime Rib is a Los Angeles institution that has been serving basically one thing, beautiful roasted prime ribs of beef, since it opened in 1938. It made dinner a spectacle when Lawry’s founder Lawrence Frank invented the rolling silver serving carts that keep the meat fresh so that every diner can have their prime rib carved to order and served tableside. The Spinning Salad is kinda corny and isn’t that great, but watching the servers make it is always fun and adds to the “experience.” The restaurant was also a vehicle to promote Lawry’s Seasoned Salt, a key ingredient in the prime rib that is now a fixture in pantries and spice racks around the world.

I normally order the standard Lawry’s cut, medium rare, with creamed spinach and mashed potatoes. Yorkshire pudding is always puffy and golden brown and is great for picking up the excess jus. The food is almost always perfect, and the service is attentive, fast and hasn’t changed in decades. They hold several tables for walk-ins, but you should make reservations well in advance, and they’ve just started using Open Table for online reservations.



The Lawry’s dining experience makes it a great special occasion restaurant. In fact, my wife and I wanted our friends and family to enjoy the Lawry’s experience so much that we had our wedding reception there in 2005. If you’re willing to do a lunch reception, the food is so much better than hotel food, and it’s much cheaper than any other venue in the area. The entire Lawry’s staff was professional, efficient, and flexible, and they worked with our ideas to help make everything perfect. The great staff and service, coupled with family, friends and great food, helped make our reception truly memorable.

if you do decide to have your reception here, join Lawry’s VIP Rewards program. You get a $25 certificate for every 250 points ($250) you accrue, and these certificates are valid at any restaurant in the Lawry’s family. Let’s say you spend $10K on your wedding reception. This means you’ll get 40 $25 certificates. That’s $1000 worth of food! You can give them to friends, family, coworkers, or just keep them for yourself…we’ve had plenty of free meals courtesy of Lawry’s since our reception.

We all know that food tastes better when it’s free, but at a place like Lawry’s, it’s truly out of this world.

INFORMATION
Lawry’s The Prime Rib
100 N. La Cienega Blvd.
Beverly Hills, CA 90211 map
310.652.2827
Web site

Categories
bakeries dessert reviews Southern California

Dainties Cupcakes (CLOSED)

I want you to imagine a moist devil’s food cupcake, filled with flavored whipped cream (let’s use banana for this example). Now dip it in chocolate ganache to seal it, top it with an additional flourish of banana whipped cream and then garnish it with a slice of roasted banana.

Hungry?

Dainties Cupcakes are really a misnomer…but this is a good thing. The devil’s food cake and the chocolate ganache give the cupcakes a heft (without being heavy) that you just don’t get anywhere else. It makes these cupcakes — dare I say — manly!

I think I’ve finally found my cupcake.



All of Dainties cupcakes have the same base of moist devil’s food. They differ by their cream fillings. We ordered the Creme de Menthe, Tiramisu, Maple and the Stupid Chocolate.

The best of these was the Maple…just an incredible flavor combination with the devil’s food. The Tiramisu was also excellent…the cream reminded me of the mocha frosting at Goldilocks, only denser. Creme de Menthe was a really nice, subtle mint flavor. Then there’s the Stupid Chocolate, which adds dark chocolate chips to the cake, is filled with vanilla cream, then dipped in chocolate ganache twice. It’s topped with more vanilla cream and chocolate shavings. It gets its name because it’s a stupid amount of chocolate.

The actual storefront doesn’t look like much and the main signage says Flatbush and J, the catering company from which Dainties spawned. You’ll likely be greeted by Chef Bill Dertouzos, a Brooklyn native who’s the mastermind behind these amazing creations. Bill was very cool and gets extra props for giving us a sample of the roasted banana cupcake mentioned above. He said he was very proud of that creation, and he should be. It was our favorite cupcake of the bunch.

Finding Dainties is a little challenging. The address is on Santa Monica Blvd., but the entrance is actually on the side street. The easiest way to find it is to look for Winchell’s, then walk around the corner and Dainties is right there. I went there the other day and saw that they added a new mural on the wall near the entrance celebrating being named Best Cupcake by Los Angeles Magazine, so that should help you find it also.

The extra effort it takes to find the place will be rewarded. Believe you me, you will be rewarded!

INFORMATION
Dainties Cupcakes (CLOSED)
11058 Santa Monica Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90025 map
310.312.3656
Web site

Categories
dessert reviews Southern California

MILK

MILK is one of those places in L.A. where the specialty of the house is something decadent, like ice cream, but Angelenos will go in there and order a salad. In fact, since we were there around the tail end of lunch, there were plenty of folks in there eating salads.

We went to MILK for the ice cream and were not disappointed. My wife’s Blondie sundae was great even though I’m more into brownies myself. MILK’s vanilla ice cream is excellent, probably because the butter fat content is really high, and the candied pecans and whipped cream were really nice.

I ordered the Creamsicle – a scoop of blood orange sorbet with a scoop vanilla ice cream and topped with almond brittle. The brittle was crispy but soft enough that you won’t have to worry about chipping a tooth. I loved the tartness of the blood orange sorbet paired with the vanilla, but it really didn’t taste like a Creamsicle. It was still excellent, but I think a regular orange sorbet/sherbet would have captured that classic Creamsicle flavor a lot better (if that’s what they were going for).



To go with our ice cream concoctions, we split the Media Noche, a delicious Cuban-style sandwich of roast pork, ham, manchego cheese, pickles and a roasted garlic mayo. The accompanying salad was forgettable but since we had our ice cream, it didn’t really matter. Check out the cooler as you enter for a good selection of sodas, including Mexican Coke and some old-school bottles of Dr. Pepper.

We couldn’t leave MILK without trying their famous bon bons, so I got two each of coffee toffee, chocolate mint crunch and Berrynilla. The berrynilla was okay, but both the toffee and mint crunch were incredible.

I know there’s sandwiches and salads on the menu at MILK, but do yourself a favor…make sure you order some ice cream! We managed to find street parking pretty easily, but it would be a shame if you told someone you got a parking ticket because you drove all the way to MILK for a salad, wouldn’t it?

INFORMATION
MILK
7290 Beverly Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90046 map
323.939.6455
Web site

Categories
chicken fried chicken Korean reviews Southern California

KyoChon

I’m not Korean, but I can definitely say that the KyoChon in L.A.’s Koreatown is another reason why it sucks to be Korean in the SF Bay Area.

All the Koreans I know in the Bay Area lament the dearth of good Korean Food and how all the good stuff is in L.A. This is good for me because I come home to SoCal pretty often and have access to some pretty amazing food. There’s some pretty good KFC joints in the Bay Area (99 Chicken, Oriental BBQ Chicken Town), but none are really as good as KyoChon, one of the most popular fried chicken chains in Korea.



KyoChon’s chicken is great. The texture of the chicken is perfect and crispy, just like my favorite KFC, Bon Chon in New York. However, Bon Chon’s better sauces, especially their Soy/Garlic, put it ahead of KyoChon.

There’s not much to the menu (their spicy chicken duk bok kee was pretty good, too), but it’s still a bit confusing with all the different combinations and the lack of explanations. There was a bit of a language barrier also, but despite this, our order was accurate and the chicken was delicious. Waiting for KFC is pretty standard since everything is cooked to order. I don’t know of any other KFC place that has them sitting under heat lamps, which is great because you know that you’re always going to get fresh fried chicken.

Again, almost as good as Bon Chon, but then again, it’s a lot closer than New York.

INFORMATION
KyoChon
3833 W 6th St.
Los Angeles, CA 90020 map
213.739.9292
Web site