Winter holidays…

17 Jan

Sam and I have just had the most brilliant time during the last two and a half weeks while we holidayed with relatives in Canada and New York over the Christmas and New Year break.  Yes it was absolutely FA-REEZING!  So so so terribly cold that at one point whilst walking a New York street and complaining of my “ice-cream” headache (with not an ice-cream in sight people!), Sam realised he could no longer feel his chin.  And after much poking and prodding of said chin, we had both summed up that yes it had gone completely numb thanks to the arctic temperatures and it was probably best to find ourselves a nice warm diner to thaw out in.

But for Sam and I (and most Australians), sub zero temperatures like these and snow in the streets during winter, is such a whacky and wonderful phenomenon that frozen chins and all, there ain’t nothing that’s going to ruin the novelty of the experience.

And aside from mastering the art of ice-skating (picture below), what else was there left for us to do but our most favourite thing in the world… EAT!  We ate a lot of food, drank a lot of plonk and played a lot of word games like Bananagrams and Catch Phrase!

So many fantastic culinary experiences were had on this holiday that we lost count!  So I have highlighted two of our favourites…

First stop Toronto: SWISH by HAN (http://swishbyhan.wordpress.com/)

My fabulous cousin Mira and resident Toronto local recommended this modern Korean restaurant to us.  Swish by Han is the brainchild of two Korean-Canadian-American food loving brothers Leemo and Leto Han.  Their philosophy is to present traditional Korean flavours – and without bastardising any particular dish, they believe that food can “marry interracially” so to speak.  So what you have at SBH is an exciting and contemporary Korean inspired menu, demonstrating that there is so much more to Korean cuisine than the common Bibimbap.

First up, Spicy Pork Neck Tacos $10

Spicy Pork Neck Tacos $10

The following two dishes were absolutely to die for.  Super fresh, bursting with flavour and cooked perfectly.

Thinly sliced, slow cooked beef $18

8 hour slow cooked beef, charred on the board with spicy salad $18

Grilled Pork Belly “Ssam” set $15 – this means the pork is accompanied with Kimchi, lettuce and rice, and you  go about stuffing all the goodies into the lettuce leaf, in the quantities you desire.  Sooooo good.

 

Next stop New York: LA ESQUINA – Brasserie (http://esquinanyc.com/)

Sam and I had the pleasure of eating at La Esquina back in 2006 when it first opened, and were completely wowed by the food , location and decor.  So impressed were we with our first visit, that we felt compelled to return this time round.  And once again, not only were we not disappointed, we were simply blown away!  Again!

For all you Melbourne Mamasita fans, La Esquina is where it all began.  And if you ever find yourself in NYC, do yourself a favour and book a table at this super duper impressive restaurant!  La Esquina has everything going for it.  From the sneaky set of stairs and passages that lead you down through an Alice-like maze through the kitchen, round a few bends, past the ridiculously well stocked underground tequila bar (and when I say underground, I mean that literally…you are now underground) to an intimate table in a dining room basement setting that leaves you feeling very clever with yourself for even knowing that such an establishment exists, to the friendly staff and delicious Mexican food… La Esquina doesn’t put a singe foot wrong!

La Esquina - Brasserie

Now how is this for a feast!  This visit, Sam and I had the following:

PEPINO DIABLO cocktail – Tanteo Jalapeno tequila, cucumber, agave nectar, fresh lime $14.00

Pepino Cocktail $14

COSTILLAS DE PUERCO Charred Chipotle-Guava Pork Ribs, $11.00

Charred Chipotle-Guava Pork Ribs, $11.00

The following Taquitos $10 each

PESCADO char-grilled market fish, red  onions, salsa verde

COCHINITA PIBIL slow-cooked pulled pork, pickled onions, habanero

Taquitos $10


CHILE PIQUIN GRILLED CALAMARI Calamari, Smoked Chickpeas, Roasted Tomatoes, Lime Citronette $12.00

Calamari $!2

CAMARONES A LA PLANCHA grilled gulf shrimp, butternut squash, spanish chorizo, cherry tomatoes, chayote $22.00

Yummy prawn stuff $22

And lastly, as we just didn’t order enough food…

ELOTES CALLEJEROS grilled corn $4.00 (The waiter even offered to cut one piece in half for us, but us piggies wanted a piece each)

Corn goodness $4

Sigh.  Am nostalgic for the food already.

Till next time,

this little piggy…jxxx

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Keeping it real….

9 Dec

I know it’s been a few weeks since I last posted, but let me explain my absence. It’s not from a lack of food adventures – far from it!  This little piggy has chowed down on great dumplings, fancy pants Japanese, delicious Mexican and the list goes on.

But come dinner time, when Sam and I are out and waiting for our food with excitement, what happens tends to go a little something like this:

Joels: I’m so hungry.

Sam: Me too.

Joels: Must remember to take photos for my blog.

Sam: Yes you must.

Waiting.  Waiting.  Waiting.  Then….FOOD ARRIVES!!!

Joels:  Yay!

Lots of clapping.  Happy tummy dancing.  Eating.  Mmmmming.  Ahhhing. Then….

Sam:  You forgot to take photos!

Joels:  Ah crap!

And that’s generally how it goes!  When I’m hungry (which is often) everything goes into neanderthal-shut-down-mode.  I’m not thinking about anything else other than: “Must get food”.  And then when the food arrives, this quickly switches to: “Must eat food”.  Yes I’m pretty simple.  Feed me and I’m happy.

So not an excuse for not posting, just an explanation.  I will get better!

And recently, I experienced a rare moment where I was able to restrain the little piggy inside me from hoeing straight into her food, and was able to take some photos.  Hurrah!

Which brings me to this week’s post about keeping it real… an Italian gem of a restaurant called Little Dom’s.

This was our second visit to Little Dom’s (located in Los Feliz), a no fuss restaurant that dishes up flavoursome, rustic food – where hot bread is served in little white paper bags and where the pasta is just like Nonna made it.

For starters, Sam and I chose to share the Wood Oven Roasted Littleneck Clams with Garlic Oregano Butter & Grilled Ciabata.  Having never had a clam before and only being a very recent convert to mussels, ordering this was a “living on the edge” moment.

Wood Oven Roasted Littleneck Clams w/Garlic Oregano Butter & Grilled Ciabatta, 15

The shells were super hot to touch thanks to their wood oven treatment, and if I am being honest, the fact that they were scolding hot is the only reason that I paused to take photos. (Actually, if I am being 100% truthful, I was already totally in “must eat food” mode, grabbed a clam shell, went “ow, ow, ow, hot!”, put it back and then while I was impatiently waiting for them to cool down, a little light bulb went off “oooh photos!”).

The clams were good – fleshy and bigger than I expected.  And the garlic oregano butter was to die for.  My only criticism is not of the dish, but of the species itself. I think.  I don’t believe it was the preparation, but I may be wrong, but the texture of the clam was kind of chewy.  And unlike a mussel, it was really hard to get the clam out of its shell.  It was attached to the shell at two points and was very hard to budge.  Not ideal when you’re a hungry piggy!

Next up though, for our mains we both ordered pasta.  I ordered the same pasta as I had three weeks earlier because it’s just so damn good and I had been dreaming about it.  The Rigatoni with House Made Sausage, Fresh English Peas & Ricotta.  De-freaking-licious.

Rigatoni w/ House Made Sausage, Fresh English Peas & Ricotta, $16

What absolutely makes this dish is the house made sausage.  Porky, bit salty, perfect.  Another thing I love is the serving size.  Just spot on.  Little Dom’s knows just how much pasta is enough pasta.  There is zero risk of feeling like you’ve just eaten a lump of lead and could explode.

Sam had the evening’s special – a knotted pasta with wild bore ragu. (And was in total rapture until he tried my rigatoni and then got a mild case of food envy).

Knotted pasta with wild bore ragu, $19

The sauce was simple and was jam-packed with very finely chopped bore.  Just look at it!  What’s not to love?

There’s a bunch of other good-looking items on the menu.  Wood oven pizzas with a variety of fresh toppings, gnocchi with kale and porcini cream and oven roasted chanterelle mushrooms to name a few.  Little Dom’s knows all about keeping it real.  Good, hearty, honest food.  Yes, please and thank you!

http://www.littledoms.com/

this little piggy xxx

Fried piggy bits….

17 Nov

Sam and I have what we call “the happy tummy dance”.  This is when our tummies are so happy at what they are about to consume or have eaten, that they break out into a jig.  Imagine a mexican wave in your stomach.  Repeated.  Over and over.

On a good night, “the happy tummy dance” can make multiple appearances.  Last night was one of those.

Sam and I headed out on foot to our local, which just so happens to be the Roosevelt Hotel – yeah that shabby little place – and made ourselves comfortable in the lush chesterfield booth.  Well I did, Sam sat in the chair opposite (yes I always get the booth seat).

In atmosphere and decor, The Roosevelt is a combination of my two favourite places back in Melbourne – Comme meets The Supper Club.  Decadent, old world glamour – the kind of place that demands red lipstick and brylcreem.

Roosevelt Hotel - Public Kitchen

When a menu is as good-looking as the Roosevelt’s Public Kitchen menu, the Will Power Gods are furiously summoned before any ordering takes place (we have been known to over order on many occasions…like all the time).  So exercising what we thought was reasonable restraint, we settled on two entrees to share, two mains and a side.  Yes well done us.

Very quickly we decided we couldn’t go past the Blistered Shishito Peppers.  Taking a gamble that this was an alternative name for the fried pepper goodness we fell in love with in Spain, the happy tummy dance took over as soon as we saw that we were not mistaken.

Blistered Shishito Peppers $7

Simple, fried with a bit of salt – what’s not to love?  The cooking of the peppers takes out any heat that they hold – so for the most part you can happily chow down to your hearts content.  However, always be prepared for the one or two renegade peppers that somehow withstand the process and set your mouth and eyeballs on fire.  Sam and I both fell victim to the Russian Roulette pepper attack last night.  But hey, that’s half the fun.

The Chicharrones with chilli and lime also piqued our interest – but having no idea what they were, we asked our very helpful waitress if she could please explain.  When the first two words to come out of her mouth were “fried” and “pork”, Sam and I looked at each other in delighted shock.  Hush now lovely waitress, you have said enough.  Chicharrones have debuted at Number 1 on my Best Ever Piggy Products list, and I see them holding that coveted spot for a long time to come.  Imagine the best pork belly you’ve ever had, and then add some.  The power here lies in the cut and the cooking – Chicharrones are a bit drier as all the fat  is rendered so that all that is left is perfect, crispy pork bits.  And at $7 it really, truly is the greatest thing in the world.

Chicharrones with chilli and lime $7

 

And a close up shot just because they deserve it!

Chicharrones with chilli and lime - close up!

Our waitress was exceptional and guided us on all of our menu choices.  So under her tutelage, I ordered the Shepherd’s Pie with lamb neck, carrots and potato while Sam ordered the Suckling Pig terrine and loin with braised red cabbage and quince jus.

First the Sheperd’s Pie.  This was like no other I have ever eaten.  It was the light and airy L.A. version.  There was no heavy, stodgy layer of potato.  Rather in its place was potato whipped so delicately, that it was so light and had the consistency of whipped cream.  This sat on top of a slow cooked lamb neck that was melt in your mouth tender.  My only negative with the dish was that it was over seasoned.  I think someone in the kitchen got  a bit too “free pour” happy with the salt.  And I like my salt, so that’s saying something!  But I did pass on my feedback to our waitress and for what it’s worth, she was all too happy to pass on my comments to the kitchen.  With less salt, this would have been an absolute cracker!

Shepherd's Pie with lamb neck, carrots and potato $19

 

As for the Suckling Pig terrine and loin – this was a real treat.  Again, this was an original take on a meal with expectations.  To our delight, the terrine was not so much a terrine, as a pulled pork patty/croquette.  Warm and completely ungelatinous, the pull pork was held together with a thin bread crumb batter.

Suckling Pig terrine & loin, braised red cabbage, mash potato and quince jus $25

 

With our mains, we also ordered a side of brussels sprouts with bacon, balsamic and bread crumbs.  We have noticed this seems to be the side de-jour of late.  Our expectations were high for two reasons:

1) We had this exact same side (minus the balsamic) at the Rosewood Tavern steakhouse last week as per last blog post, and it was unbelievable

2) Due to unbelievable nature of aforementioned side, Sam decided to replicate the dish at home, and with his special additions of lime juice and apple smoked bacon, trumped the lot!

And the verdict?

Brussels sprouts with bacon, balsamic and bread crumbs $7

 

Whilst the dish looked delicious and tasted good, it did not live up to the standard of charred brussels sprouts that we’ve come to expect.  I had two issues with the dish.  Firstly, the inclusion of balsamic vinegar made the greens taste too sweet and overpowered the flavour of the vegetable itself.  And secondly, I was unable to taste  or find any bacon bits.  Ba baow.

However, there are a number of other good-looking sides to choose from next time….and without a doubt, there will be a next time.

So in summary – great service, great food, great atmosphere, so-so brussels sprouts.  Lots of happy tummy dancing.

We will be back!

this little piggy xxx

http://www.thompsonhotels.com/hotels/la/hollywood-roosevelt/eat/public-kitchen-and-bar

A good pork chop…

8 Nov

On Friday night just gone, on what was an unusually cold night in Los Angeles, Sam and I found ourselves rugged up and excited to be heading out to dine in the big wide world.  Our most favourite thing to do!  However in one fell swoop, the pep in our step vanished as we were confronted with the all-too-common-and-all-too-heartbreaking news that the restaurant of our choice had a two hour wait!  And that was just to sit at the bar!

We left our phone number with the hostess at the door and watched forlornly as she scribbled it down in the margin of her notebook.  Never a good sign when the digits are illegible and in the handwritten equivalent of 3 point font.  Cold and hungry, not a good combination, we set about walking the street in the vague hope of finding somewhere else to eat.  Things were not looking good.

These were the stats:

– The car was parked (anyone in L.A. knows this is no small feat!)

– We had a comedy show to attend in two and a half hours.

– The car was parked strategically between the two-hour-wait-restaurant-of-choice and the theatre.

What to do?

And then, there is no other way to put it, just as we were about to fall into pits of despair….we were saved!  The food Gods were looking down on us, their faithful disciples, and presented us a tavern… Rosewood Tavern.  A neighbourhood steakhouse.  Sam and I were sold and sold.

And wow wee.

Rosewood Tavern is everything the modern day meat lover dreams a steakhouse should be – unpretentious, rustic yet stylish and with a cracking steak, beer and scotch menu.

Of course being the little piggy that I am, I couldn’t go past the pork chop.  And seriously it was the pork chop of my life!  Charred and cooked to medium-well perfection.  I was literally mmming after every bite.

 

Bestest pork chop ever! $20

 

Sam on the other hand, went the 12 oz ribeye steak, cooked medium-rare.  He too was mmming.

Ribeye steak goodness, $25

 

As pictured, all of the steaks and chops on the menu are served as is – with no sides or accompaniments.  Just a simple butter and garlic sauce.  And an enormous pirate knife!

So to round out the meal, we ordered two delicious sides and upon tasting, began high-fiving ourselves over the spot-on-ness of our decision making.  The charred brussel sprouts with bacon were sensational!  As were the puy lentils with caramelised onions.

Brussel sprouts with bacon, $6

 

Lentils with caramelised onions, $6

 

For those not a fan of red meat, there are fish options in the way of steamed mussels, pan roasted salmon and a saffron risotto with asparagus and peas.  All of which I have no doubt would be delicious.  But if we’re keeping it real here, it’s all about the meat and how it is cooked.  Charred and cooked to exact order.  There is clearly no guess work going on here, the gang at the Rosewood know how to cook a steak to your liking.

For Sam and I, it was just such a great dining experience.  Had we not had a show to go to, we would have stayed longer.  Sam was keen to put in the hard yards and “investigate” their extensive scotch menu (something like 50 odd scotches ) and their beer tasting plate (“Flight of Beers” – four beers, $13), but alas a comedy show beckoned and we had to limit our detective work for the evening to only two scotches and a couple of frangelico’s.  But we will return.

That night two little piggies left with very happy tummies, a resurgence in their appreciation of all things charred and a renewed faith in the food gods.  Tick, tick and tick.  All is right in the world.

Till next time,

this little piggy xxx

http://rosewoodtavern.com/

 

Vampire pumpkins…

30 Oct

So today saw Sam and I attend our first ever Halloween Pumpkin Carving Party!

It was a labour of love from the beginning.  A trip to the supermarket saw us agonise over which pumpkin to get – What was the best size?  Shape?  Too orange?  Not orange enough?  Tough questions for two novice pumpkin carvers like ourselves!

Finally, after settling on what we thought was the best pumpkin and not knowing what to expect, we came to our shin dig very well prepared (thanks to Sam’s art department background and my virgo-ness).  Armed with a stanley knife, a leatherman, a kitchen knife and three different sized spoons, we sat down and got to work.  Well, Sam got to work while I watched and cheered him on.

We very quickly decided that our pumpkin actually harboured a deep-seated desire to be a vampire – so it was out with the Jack, and in with the Eric.

And here it is!  The making of…. Eric the Vampire Pumpkin!

Cutting his brain

Opening up his brain

Revealing his brain guts

Getting rid of his brain guts

Working on an eyeball

All carved! Introducing Eric the Vampire Pumpkin!

Family portrait

Eric at home - keeping watch by the front door

Happy Halloween y’all!

this little piggy xxx

The C herb…

25 Oct

Ok… I have recently become a little in awe of the herb coriander, or cilantro as they call it here in the U.S.

I picked up an organic bunch of the stuff from the heavenly supermarket Whole Foods (cue angels singing “halleluja”!) (seriously am in love with this supermarket, but more on that later), and found myself absent mindedly chopping it up and whacking it in a simple salad the other night.  Well… cue more freaking angels, as the result was A-mazing!

The salad was as minimal as you can get, but super delicious and it came down to a few quality ingredients.

It consisted of:

Organic heriloom tomatoes, organic cucumbers, organic coriander/cilantro, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, cracked salt and pepper.  (On another occasion I also added baby spinach, olives and parmesan cheese, but I kinda like the simpler version better).

Tomato, cucumber and coriander salad

Here in the U.S. organic food is much more readily available, accessible and affordable compared to back home in Australia.  Back in Melbourne I would rarely buy organic vegetables because I just couldn’t justify spending a gazillion dollars on one bag of organic carrots, and watch my husband and my dog (yes he eats carrots too) turn the colour of oompa loompas as we couldn’t afford to buy/eat anything else.

But here it’s a no brainer.  And can I just say, where I have noticed the most difference in flavour is in the heirloom tomatoes.  They are a taste sensation.  So for all the Aussies, if you can afford to take out a second mortgage, organic heirloom tomatoes are well worth the debt!

Another salad that I whipped up last night was an oldie but such a goodie – and whenever I eat it, I always marvel at the freshness of the flavours.  Once again I did use organic ingredients, but I have made this dozens of times back home without and it tastes just as good.

Ingredients/method: 1 x tin chickpeas/garbanzo beans (drained), baby spinach, handful of chopped flat leaf parsley, shaved parmesan cheese, 1 x chopped clove of garlic, juice of 1 lemon, olive oil, cracked salt and pepper.

Chickpea salad with baby spinach and parmesan

And there you have it!  Some easy peasy, super tasty salads that should come in handy for all you Aussies facing a hot summer and for all the Californians where summer seems to have no end!

Till next time,

this little piggy xxx

Getting cosy…

24 Oct

Two weeks ago, my husband Sam and I landed in Los Angeles.  One week later we found ourselves a beautiful little sublet cottage in the Hollywood Hills. As we both love to cook and had both begun to feel the onset of homesickness as a result of being away from our well stocked kitchen in Melbourne, we set about making ourselves feel at home.

Purchase number 1… Aprons!

I found myself this gorgeous little 50’s inspired apron from store extraordinaire Anthropologie.

Everything from their measuring spoons to butter dishes to ceramic egg crates is detailed, beautiful and affordable.  Well worth a look:

http://www.anthropologie.com/anthro/catalog/category.jsp?pageName=Kitchen&popId=HOME&navAction=top&navCount=0&pushId=HOME-KITCHEN&id=HOME-KITCHEN

And luckily for Sam, not one for being left behind, during our meander through the Studio City Sunday Farmer’s Market, we stumbled across a fantastic little stall run by Cattle Headquarters.  Here we found some aprons made from old flour sacks, with printed vintage graphics.  Sam couldn’t resist!

Cattle headquarters have many more great designs and an array of products including the above mentioned aprons, pillow cases, t-shirts and tea towels.

http://www.cattleheadquarters.com/

And finally…. to really, truly, 100% make ourselves feel at home in our L.A. digs… we simply had to buy:

Purchase number 2… Sodastream!

For those of you who know us, this purchase will be of no surprise.  For those of you who don’t, please know that neither myself or Sam have any affiliation with the product, but we love it so much we/I could go on and on and on about it till all the little piggies come home.  I think there is a misconception that sodastream involves sugary, syrupy drinks.  You can put flavours in it if you want, natural or otherwise.  But essentially, its a bubble maker.  So if your household is sodastream-less and you’re as obsessed with sparkling water as I am, here is my plug:

1 – bubbles on tap!  bubbles on tap!  bubbles on tap!

2 – you’re reducing waste – nothing to lug from the supermarket and nothing to throw away

3 – the sodastream bottles don’t have the BPA plastic nasties and you can even get glass ones

4 – 60L gas cylinder makes around 60L of delicious bubbles

5 – you know what you’re drinking, we fill ours with filtered water

6 – you can choose how much bubblefication you want – super bubbly or just minimal bubbles

7 – when you’re out of gas, you swap the empty cylinder for a full one and only pay the cost of the gas refill

Seriously, do yourself a favour!  http://www.sodastream.com/

And on that note, my glass is looking a little empty… best I go and get me some soda!

Till next time…

this little piggy xxx

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