Monday, November 3, 2014

Donut Friend & Town Pizza - York Blvd, Highland Park, CA

First, Donut Friend - a DIY donut house. They also have some on their list that are already made. I like ordering off their menu because well, they spent a lot of R&D money to make sure some of these ingredients work together. When left up to my demise, the donuts I create end up tasting off. 

My favorite off their menu is the Jets to Basil and Nutella Vision. This one below is neither of these. I don't even quite remember which one this was but it contained reese's pieces and it wasn't as good as the two aforementioned donuts.

You end up ordering at the cash register but the setup looks almost like you order it when you walk up to it and follow the donut maker to the cash register. That is not how it works here. You just order at the cash register and someone makes it for you (and you're allowed to watch this person make it for you). Yes, it is a confusing set up and I get annoyed as well. 

Another place we go to frequently just because it is convenient and because sometimes you just want one or two slices of pizza - not having to commit to a whole pie or the temptation of one - is Town Pizza. Three doors down from Donut Friend and 2 down from Scoops. We love this corner.

Here is the Mole Pizza and the Cheese Pizza. The Mole Pizza is really good but not the kind of good that you want to keep eating after having tried it once. So you don't feel like you wasted your money ordering it because it is indeed good, but you order it more for the novelty anyway. The next time you're there you end up getting the Cheese or Sausage (they use Lindy & Grundy's sausage) or one of their vegan ones if you feel healthy (well, healthy for a pizza).

Making Mocochinchi


I get really excited when I can think of a food or drink that is solely Bolivian. I admit there isn't too many Bolivian dishes that are not influenced by the many countries that it borders. Even the Saltena, Bolivia's most famous empanada looking pastry comes from a woman who came from Salta, Argentina, to Tarija, Bolivia. 

So when I'm researching Mocochinchi, my favorite childhood and now adulthood drink, made from dehydrated whole peaches, sugar, and cinnamon, and I find that it's a "Bolivian"drink, I get really really excited. Bolivia Bella goes on to describe regional favorites. 

In Santa Cruz, you can buy the dehydrated peaches in the open markets. I snag a pound of dehydrated peaches because you really can't find these in the U.S. except maybe in Miami or Virginia, where there is a huge population of Bolivians. Using sliced dehydrated peaches don't really work for this particular drink because the fun is eating the reconstituted peaches afterwards like a dessert.

Here is a lowdown on how to make your own mocochinchi if you ever find yourself with whole dehydrated peaches.

My recipe is very non-scientific but I basically tossed a handful of dehydrated peaches into a huge vat of hot water, cinnamon sticks, palm sugar (or reg sugar), to taste. I've had different variations of this from really sweet (almost syrupy) to more cinnamony. I like it less sweet and more spicy/peachy but it's all up to you.

Once it is done, serve the drink with at least one or two dehydrated peaches. Some people like to eat this at the end and others just like the drink without the peach since the texture takes some getting used to. I personally love sucking on the peach and the seed once I am done drinking it.

Serving it in a nice wine glass could up the luxe factor. Haha.

Monday, October 21, 2013

La Tranquera, La Paz, Bolivia


Where do you eat when you are in La Paz? How about La Tranquera? It's a steakhouse with a huge salad bar. Technically speaking, you can just have the salad bar but the price difference is pretty drastic so if you eat meat, it's a better value to get the sizzling steak with chorizo (or just the steak) since it comes with the salad bar.


Then, you can stuff yourself with protein and carbs!

Fried Yucca, The pasta dishes, the key lime pie dessert, and the veggies. It's not so easy to find good veggie dishes in the carb and protein laden Bolivian diet so eat up when you can.

If you're not stuffed already, please do yourself a favor and order the Arroz con Queso. It is a Bolivian version of risotto, but more gooey and less rice-y. Very cheesy and pungent but amazing with the llajua and the steak juice. Yum, I'm dying here just thinking about this. I also ordered the Silpancho, which is a traditional Bolivian dish with rice, a thin layer of schnitzel-style meat (aka milanesa), followed by a layer of chopped tomato/onions/beets/parsley (Bolivian pico de gallo), and a fried egg.  This dish reminds of loco moco.

The pricing is a bit more hefty especially compared to how cheap you can eat in La Paz but if you're staying in the Camino Real Aparthotel, closeby, or want a nice gourmet meal to offset all the street food you're eating, you won't regret it. Bolivian steakhouse culture is different from American steakhouse culture so you might as well chalk it up to culinary research and dig in.

La Tranquera
Located inside the Camino Real Aparthotel
Calle Capitan Ravelo #2123
La Paz, Bolivia

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Finca Altozano, Baja California, Mexico

The latest trip down to Baja California with my girlfriends was super fun. We stayed at a really cute B&B in the Valle de Guadalupe called Casa Encinares and stumbled upon Big Gay Weekend and were welcomed into a fun filled crazy weekend. The three of us were the only estrogen in the group and also the most tired. How the heck do people have so much energy??

We had some time to ourselves and got away to check out Finca Altozano, another one of Javier Plascencia's restaurants. It was pretty much in the middle of nowhere, though the Valle de Guadalupe is pretty much in the middle of nowhere. But we were excited to find a cute little area with interesting outdoor seating made from giant barrels. The vista was incredible.



We came right around when the sun was setting, which made for a beautiful dinner out, but not the best for pictures.





The setup is basically outdoors, with the majority of the restaurant underneath a roof (but no walls).


I took a pic of the menu at the time that we were there (prices are in pesos).

IMG_1110-16 IMG_1111-17

And now the bad pics will start:

Pulp del Pacificos a las brasas.
The octopus. So good.

Calabazas rellena de quesos oreado.
Cheese filled zucchini. These were a good accompaniment but not mind-blowing.


Borrego (lamb) de Rancho Cortes a la Caja China
This is the dish that everyone talks about. If you're a lamb person you'll love it.
If not, you will feel so so about it. Ours was cold by the time we ate it so it wasn't the best.

The night grew dark and cold really fast and service kept slowing down. It was to the point where once we got the food, it was pretty cold. We weren't sure if it was the weather or the lag but in any case it definitely took away from our experience. No one wants to eat congealed animal fat.

Cordoniz (quail) Asada en Leña
This dish could have been good if it wasn't cold. Just saying.

Polenta Vaquera (comes with chorizo and egg).
I would eat this hot or cold, day or night but it would be especially good

I don't remember what this chuck of meat was to be honest.
I was so drunk by this time (to keep warm) that I don't remember.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Corazón de Tierra

One of the most amazing places I've eaten this year was in Baja California, in the Valle De Guadalupe, in an intimate garden restaurant called Corazón de Tierra, a restaurant that frequent Baja Bound foodie, Chuy Tovar, recommended. We had just done wine tasting at Vena Cava, the winery on the premises of the restaurant and the hotel Villa del Valle. The winery was an interesting space, with three different reclaimed fishing boats used as roofs.

(photo courtesy of Dawn Kim)

The architecture of Vena Cava was interesting to say the least. It's built underneath a hilltop, creating its own man-made cave. Eileen & Phil Gregory, ex-Hollywood producer and artist/musician from Los Angeles/Europe are the owners of the adjacent Villa del Valle hotel, Vena Cava winery, and the restaurant Corazón de Tierra (with chef Diego Hernández).

 (photo courtesy of Dawn Kim)

Underneath a reclaimed fishing boat roof.

 (photo courtesy of Dawn Kim)

All the wood here are recycled, reclaimed wood. So eco-friendly. So hipster. One step ahead. Never saw a winery that looked like this!

(photo courtesy of Dawn Kim)

This is the entrance to Vena Cava and the bathroom is behind the people standing.
We had our very own private tour!

(photo courtesy of Dawn Kim)

So lucky to get the whole winery to ourselves for our tour. Everyone who worked here spoke so highly of Phil and his vision for the winery. All the choices seem deliberate and thoughtful. 

After our wine tour, we bought a bottle of wine and headed over to the restaurant, Corazón de Tierra.

We weren't sure if we wanted to eat here or at Javier Plascencia's Finca Altozano but hunger took over and when we asked what the menu was, a server told us simply, "the garden" and we were immediately taken over by how fresh and beautiful and organic and awesome the garden was.

 (photo courtesy of Dawn Kim)

The flowers and vegetables were in full bloom and bountiful. I was seriously jealous of this garden. I'm no horticulturist but I didn't know half the things thriving here.
 (photo courtesy of Dawn Kim)

Looking at the restaurant from the garden. I loved how the restaurant and garden were seamlessly woven together in this landscape. How perfect.
 (photo courtesy of Dawn Kim)
 (photo courtesy of Dawn Kim)
 (photo courtesy of Dawn Kim)

From inside the restaurant now, looking out into the garden. We wanted to sit where those kids were, having front row seats to the garden but obviously it's not cool to kick out people who are already sitting there, especially children. So, we got our red faced bums over to the side so we could keep ourselves from creating a scene.

 (photo courtesy of Dawn Kim)

Some pictures of the decor inside the restaurant.

(photo courtesy of Dawn Kim)

Plus the chairs here were awesome. They were made with hand-woven textile from Chiapas. I wanted to take all of these chairs home with me.

I really wanted to take all this furniture home with me. I had to remind myself that I was not to act like an entitled foreigner, asking the price for everything as if it's even for sale.

 (photo courtesy of Dawn Kim)

Annabelle, containing her glee for what is about to happen.

 (photo courtesy of Dawn Kim)

Dawn and I, right before we lost ourselves for a few hours in the gastronomic delight that was presented to us.

On to the food. The best part of this experience actually. The Pre-fixed meal was $65-68 USD and they use a higher exchange rate so it ended up being more like $68 USD (something to ask about before you commit, if that matters to you).

The amuse bouche was a smoked tuna with avo on a tostada. It was bite sized and the tuna tasted almost like a smoked jerky. The green powder reminded me of furikake but not sure. I want to know more about their preparation!

Cheese plate: Dicot and green beet flowers; fresh greens, and almonds decorate the Valle cheese (tasted like a medium hard farmer's cheese), and Asian mustard. This plate completely woke up our palate. There are so many herbs that I've never tasted before all on this plate. Like, what is green beet flowers or dicot? WTF.

Oyster flowers with Geoduck, avo, red seaweed, alfalfa, and a taquito. The taquito was okay. but the geoduck was refreshing and it went wonderfully with all these herbs. The oyster flowers tasted like oysters but we were sort of tipsy by then so we would have believed anything.
(photo courtesy of Dawn Kim)

If I could eat like this all the time, it would be a no brainer going low-carb! Minus the taquito, which I could live without.

  (photo courtesy of Dawn Kim)

The soup course was really interesting. It was Asian flavors all the way...well, almost.

   (photo courtesy of Dawn Kim)

They poured a dashi soup over the other soup ingredients which included shiitake mushrooms, wakame seaweed, and CHICHARRON, beans, cilantro, mint, and coriander flower. Yes, chicharron with all these Asian flavors = AMAZING.

(photo courtesy of Dawn Kim)

The Seabass, the catch of the day, was decorated with celeriac puree, winter purslane, green beans, and rapini flowers.

(photo courtesy of Dawn Kim)

Yup, I had to look up a few ingredients. So cool that there are things I've never eaten before right there in their garden!

(photo courtesy of Dawn Kim)

Next up we had the braised oxtail dish with swiss chard and beet plant. It reminded me of a really hearty meat stew shaped like a meatloaf. I can't say I was a fan of the texture but the flavors were powerful and deep. Like poetry.

(photo courtesy of Dawn Kim)

By this time we were just being wild and erratic. We didn't finish our 2nd bottle but dinner was drawing to a close.

The palate cleanser (mint gelée, lemon and water) came at an opportune time to rinse out the fat from the oxtail dish so we could coat our mouths with even more creaminess.

(photo courtesy of Dawn Kim)

Chocolate sorbet, pink beet cake and sauce with orange cream, flowers, apples, and some nuts. By this time we were a bit sloshed so not really taking too many notes.

(photo courtesy of Dawn Kim)

But it was obviously good. The entire meal was amazing. Even the oxtail that wasn't what I expected, was still actually really tasty. Chef Diego Hernandez is a genius and locavore's dream. He seems to rotate dishes frequently, based on the fact that I couldn't find the dishes we ate online anywhere (yet).

Next time I have to try a bit harder to pay attention or film all the dishes, not just some. Thanks to Annabelle Oh for taking extensive notes on the food and sharing it with me and Thanks to Dawn Kim for taking good photos as I ran out of batteries on my camera and my camera phone worked only when I was sober enough to take pictures. As I'm writing about this restaurant, I am just dreaming about the next time I can go back.

If you wanna go check out Baja California (esp Tijuana and Valle de Guadalupe), and you don't want to drive there like we did, Bill Esparza from Street Gourmet LA is hosting some tours with Club Tengo Hambre in conjunction with Jason Thomas Fritz (Tijuanalandia), and Antonio and Kristin Díaz de Sandi (Life and Food).

Another great resource is Dave Lieberman from the OC Weekly.

Corazon de Tierra 

Valle de Guadalupe, Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico

646 1568030

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