Tuesday, November 30, 2004

roasted citrus herby game hens

i cooked on thanksgiving. yay. actually, boo, i was hoping to have it all catered but we waited too long. anyroad, there were only three of us, so i decided to mess about with little hens instead of a giant turkey. i'm not a particular fan of game hens (i wanted to cook duck, but it was a last minute decision, and cooking duck rarely goes well with last minute decisions), and i wasn't sure how to season them, but the birds turned out well enough that my aunt gnawed on one in traffic on the way home. whey hey.

i made a brine from kosher salt, brown sugar, fresh lemon rind, dried orange rind, tri-colour whole peppercorns (black, green, pink), rosemary, thyme, pineapple sage, and bay leaves (i cribbed the basic ingredients from a mix from williams-sonoma. it sounded good.). boiled it in water and orange juice, and set it aside to cool.

after the brining liquid had cooled, i submerged the cleaned hens into the brine, and set them in the fridge overnight. after i had thoroughly rinsed out the birds, and discarded the brine, i stuffed the cavities with more fresh herbs and orange wedges, and made a basting sauce from olive oil, butter, orange and lemon juice, and used a long sprig of rosemary as a baster.

the hens were placed in a roasting pan over a rack, in an oven preheated to 450˚F, basted occasionally and cooked until a thermometer stuck into the thigh read 175˚F (79˚C), about an hour later. i left them to rest for about 15 minutes before serving. they turned out to be quite tender and meltingly soft, and the citrus flavours worked well with the herbs. not my cup of tea, though, but i'm glad to know i can do it!

DUB magnum

photo from auto.consumerguide.com

last saturday, on my way to my new crazy storage space on la brea, i was following a motorcade of cars that looked like a strange hybrid between an armored assault vehicle and my dad's last station wagon from the seventies. all of them had super-dark tinted windows--which i thought was illegal in la--and had the word 'DUB' plastered on every surface imaginable. ?? isn't DUB magazine a music thing? does this have anything to do with a magazine? payola? something for their top execs?

and while i'm on it, i've seen similar cars around town, most notably ferrari's SUV (don't know what it's called). as a pre-21st c. volvo 240 station wagon owner, i admit to being drawn to its boxiness, but for the price someone pays for these luxury vehicles, he or she's gotta know it still looks like a stupid station wagon.

oh, duh. i should always check the website first.

Monday, November 29, 2004

fire king

i used to collect fire king jadite tableware, back in my thrifting and swap meet days. the colour is what attracted me, and the fact that many of the pieces were a bit chunky and sturdy. also, the price was reasonable to dead cheap, and it was somewhat easy to find. until of course, martha stewart "discovered" it, and ebay took advantage of that, so now prices are through the roof. thanks, martha, for leaving me with a half-finished collection i can no longer afford to collect.

hm. i wonder what the prices on blue pieces are like....

aloha honolulu

honolulu airport lounge

honolulu. hot. sticky. rainy. tourists going home and thinking it's perfectly alright to wear shorts and sandals back to the freezing mainland climes.

as promised, the coveted ice bucket in the exec lounge.

back, jack

back on island, but i shall be updating this blog along with green bananas at least until the new year, as there was much i did not get to.

plane ride uneventful except for the odd food offering of a burger, or, since it was an all-island crew on board, "hamburger sandwich, nene". and apparently i was on the plane with jasmine trias, ex-american idol contestant. not that i can identify her. i can only assume she's not the oldest nor the youngest in the photo below.

Ric A. Eusebio/Pacific Daily News

Sunday, November 28, 2004

come fly with me

ah, travelling on the busiest travel weekend of the year, not my idea of a good time. my airport tip: pack all electronics and accessories--ipods, cords, phones, digital cameras--in a resealable plastic bag, throw it in a bucket at xray with your shoes, and you'll be flyin' through that security checkpoint. (unless you forgot to dump the kilo of cocaine in your handcarry, of course) airport blogging, interesting, i wonder who is airport blogreading? the only time i ever feel like going to a starbucks is pretty much at airports, but er, not today, thanks. what does that gingerbread latte taste like, i wonder.

at least i am in the exec lounge, which is the most crowded i have ever seen it. free web access, sure, but a very sad doughnut museum, indeed.

if i get my act together, i shall document the HNL exec lounge when i get there. much more interesting food options, ginger ale on tap, and an ice bucket i covet with jade green eyes.

¡hasta luego! wish me and my dodgy tummy luck.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

leaving on a jet plane

i'm leaving tomorrow. am i packed? no. did i do any holiday shopping? no. am i suffering from a tinge of food poisoning? yes. am i pissed? yes.


griffith park holiday lights

every year for the past eight years, the department of water and power has put up holiday lights on a one mile stretch of griffith park. it's supposed to be a "magnificent display" but feels more like an overeager home project of a dedicated dwp employee. still, it does have its charm, and if the music is right (note to dwp: ixnay the neil diamond already), it can be a sweet walk/drive/environmentally friendly shuttle ride amongst the thousands of lights.

i HIGHLY suggest parking at the zoo and walking through it, or taking the shuttle. the drive through has two hour waits and the carbon monoxide can overwhelm you [cough]. bring the keikis. it's really for them anyway.

Friday, November 26, 2004

damien's car

damien's car is so big, i can't fit it all in the frame.


Thursday, November 25, 2004

giving thanks

click on photo to enlarge

i thank the following for all the obvious reasons, and all the not-so-obvious ones, too (in no particular order):

the staff at st. vincent's hospital, all the doctors and their staff here and in guam, everyone at good sam, radiology and itc. the clergy and congregation at st. victor's and the cathedral of our lady of the angels. friends i didn't get to see here, and those i did. friends on guam. nyc and uk friends. late night radio friends. the wacky neighbours. the staff and nice people i've met at arclight, the grove theaters, chinatown and farmers market, where i've spent A LOT of time. all the courteous drivers on the streets and freeways (more than i thought). everyone who lives in la and loves it and it shows.

everyone in my blogosphere for your kind words, comments, humour, and for thinking the things you think and then writing them down.

family. those related and not.

thank you.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

tree lighting at the grove

when they said there was going to be a tree lighting ceremony at the grove, we didn't think they meant this.

la zoo

the best thing that can be said about the la zoo (which you might remember from the opening credits of "three's company", o seventies telly lovin' children) is that it has the potential, one day, to become a really fine zoo.

an 'a' for effort, kids!

is this the komodo dragon that ate mr. sharon stone's toe?

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

olives vegas

final day in vegas was spent exclusively at bellagio, which is less like lake como as they tout it to be (snort), and more like a steroidal vision of a (W)WMD (what would martha do/weapons of mass decoration) interior designer run amok. vegas for crafters. not that it's a bad thing.

i've only ever eaten at café gelato, which seriously has the best gelato i've ever had in the west, but other restaurants in the hotel have had good reviews from friends and family. since me mum is still in recovery mode, buffets have been out of the question--too much walking, too much food. we decided to eat at olives, which actually does not have an la outpost, although there are several others around the world. the restaurant is owned by todd english, whom i knew from an appearance on the ill-advised iron chef america. despite that, i went. it's also a good thing i didn't read the website before i went, as his online bio and the site's self-aggrandizing comments makes him seem way too sexy for his toque. bleah. i'm almost annoyed that it was a damn. fine. meal. fantastic, actually.

the restaurant is sort of sexy--dark woods, wrought iron, golden lighting and fabrics in black and olive green (of course). and as we were seated, we were asked (once again) what cocktail we'd like, but settled on water. a basket of breads and crackers was set down, with a dish not containing butter, but green and black olives, and green and black olive tapenade. i am rather sensi to olives, so i didn't try them, but the breads were wonderful. each was just a little cube so you could try different ones without filling up--there was a parmesan cracker, onion loaf, walnut, and olive oil bread.

almost immediately, we were brought our starter, a fig and prosciutto flatbread--rosemary dough "pizza" with fig and balsamic jam, prosciutto, and gorgonzola. a nice balance of salty, sweet, savoury, and earthy flavours. the crust was light and crisp, the figs small and intense, and the prosciutto fresh and flavourful.

we loved every bit of the flatbread and looked forward to our entrees. and looked and looked. it took another 20 minutes before they arrived, with no explanation. good thing we still had the bread. finally, the food.

i don't remember all the elements involved, so bear with me. mmm. seared ahi tuna with a salad of baby greens, tomatoes, and avocadoes, topped with fried sweet potato strings.

mmmm. grilled swordfish sandwich on grilled challah with aioli, served with potato chips flavoured with a gremolata made from lemon, lemon peel, parsley, garlic and olive oil.

mmmmm. seared grouper on a bed of roasted tomato sauce, arancini fried rice cakes made from risotto, and topped with an orange and shaved baby fennel salad.

we ended the meal by sharing a roasted pineapple tart, made from a generous chunk of roasted fresh pineapple on a puff pastry base, topped with a coconut cream sorbet, and garnished with passionfruit caramel and a paper thin slice of dessicated pineapple. aaaaaaaah.

a perfect meal to finish out our stay. what made it slightly more perfect was that as we were walking out, we decided to try our luck at the slots--on a $10 investment and several pulls on the one-armed bandit, we managed to make back all the money spent on lunch and just a little more.

at bellagio
3600 las vegas blvd south
las vegas nv 89109


go to café gelato at the bellagio. now.

Monday, November 22, 2004

border grill vegas

yes, i know, it's insane, eating at all these los angeles establishments when i've got vegas at my feet. all i have to say in my defense is never underestimate the power of sharkvision and a giant bathtub.

i went to border grill at mandalay bay because it was a gorgeous day and i knew for a fact it has a patio overlooking the pool, we woke up totally late and lazy and didn't feel like leaving the hotel, and i knew it would take a minor miracle to get me out to the santa monica restaurant as i rarely venture to that part of town--i do love them two hot tamales, but it's fairly easy to reproduce their food with the help of their cookbooks, and a few of their menu items can be found in the prepared foods section of whole foods markets.

i love the look of border grill. bold graffiti'd murals and images adorn the warm walls, and the chunky, clean-lined furniture is painted in equally bold colours. it's a clean, modern space with few adornments outside of the murals, but the star of the show is the food. the supervising chefs and owners, mary sue milliken and susan feniger, take the same aethetics they have in decor and apply it to their mexican-inspired food: it's clean, bold, warm, modern. chunky.

i don't know if this is true of all the joints in town, but wherever we went, the first thing any server at a restaurant asks you is what kind of alcoholic beverage can they bring you. oh vegas, you like your ladies loose and liquored up, dontcha. (in the grill's defense, it has an extensive and interesting tequila collection, and it makes a great margarita--unblended please!) we declined and instead opted for the grenada limonada, pomegranate lemonade. oh, that i had shares in pom, as this was a truly wonderful discovery, although i think grenadine was also thrown in there, as it was on the sweet side. if i made this at home, i'd keep it out. or, i'd add vodka.

our starter plate, two of each: chicken panuchos--"stuffed" fried tortillas with shredded marinated chicken, guacamole, and onions pickled in beet juice; green corn tamales, wrapped in corn husks and served with a fresh salsa and sour cream; and these fantastic empanadas made from a dough of mashed plantains, then stuffed with black beans and served with a little crema. i couldn't try the panuchos (avocado allergy), but the green corn tamales were sweet and delicate (if i recall, their recipe calls for very little besides fresh corn), and the plantains were sweet and bold. a thin, crunchy layer of plantain, filled with creamy and smooth black beans. mmmm. i forget what these are called in spanish (cousin says that guelaguetza, a popular local restaurant serving oaxacan cuisine, serves these), but they are sort of a cross between alcapurrias and tostones relleños.

my mom ordered the grilled turkey platter: turkey breast meat, pounded down into a paillard and marinated in epazote, oregano, garlic, and black pepper, then grilled, and served with black beans, roasted peppers and onions, watercress salad, and warm flour tortillas. dang, that was one fine turkey. despite it being lean white meat and grilled, it was juicy and flavourful. turkey tastes like something! the generous spicing helped, and was complemented the sweetness of the roasted peppers and onions.

i ordered cochinita pibil--pork loin marinated in citrus juices, annatto, garlic, oregano and other spices--at the urging of our server. i have had a pretty good version of this at lotería, a favourite taquería in the farmers market, but the border grill version knocked me off my socks. unlike most versions of this which are shredded, it was served in fat chunks, because the marinade is so strong, the pork needs a little heft to fight back. the citrus oregano flavour was so strong it was almost like eating a marinara sauce, but with many an undercurrent--cumin? cinnamon? garlic? pumpkin?! ah, good thing i found the recipe because i need to make this back on the island. the strong entree was tempered by warm corn tortillas, fried plantains, black beans and rice. i highly recommend this if you ever find yourself in a border grill.

needless to say, there was no room at the stummy for dessert. i've had their sweets before, and all of them were exceptionally good--torta de tres leches with prickly pear and passionfruit puree, flan, and a mexican flourless chocolate cake come to mind. the nice thing is you can order half-sized portions of two or four of the desserts on the menu if you want to try them all. i say, bully for you if you can manage it!

border grill
near the convention center entrance/shark reef
mandalay bay
3950 las vegas blvd south
las vegas nv 89119

canter's vegas

my mom wanted to go to one of those french-canadian-modern-interpretive-dance-unironic-homoerotic-in-a-circus-context circuses here in vegas, so we did. afterwards, we were starving, and noticed there wasn't a line at a crazy men-in-black-set-meets-70s-LAX-airport diner. we wandered over to see what it was, and was surprised to see it was the las vegas outpost of la's canters deli--a jewish delicatessen well-known to club kids, night owls, metal bands, and their ganse mishpochah. it's not the best deli in la, but probably the best known.

i was only a little surprised that there was a vegas outpost; a ton of restaurants from los angeles have local branches. i was a lot surprised, however, about how completely different the decor is between the two. the la deli brings new meaning to the word 'brown' and is decorated in early seventies naugahyde; the vegas store is stainless steel, leather bench seating, and resin doodads everywhere. the vegas branch has only a few menu items, where the original's menu is like a mini-encyclopedia of deli creations--everything from borscht to varnishke. the la canter's is also well-known for crazy large deli sandwiches, the most popular (i'm told) is the one called the canter's fairfax--half a pound of warm pastrami and corned beef piled on rye--although the only one i actually remember by name is the danny thomas--fried salami and bologna on rye. no, never ordered it, and it's not on the vegas menu.

we ended up ordering the grilled reuben sandwiches--one with pastrami (pictured above), and one with turkey, piled onto grilled rye bread slathered with a layer of saurkraut, and served with either potato salad or cole slaw, which is inexplicably made with lettuce here, not cabbage. actually, i don't remember ever having potato salad nor coleslaw at canter's so i can't compare it. the sandwich was good, not great, although i can't pinpoint what it is that didn't do it for me. i think perhaps the bread was a commercial brand, not one fresh from the canter's bakery, and even though there was a hefty portion of meat, it wasn't the same amount you'd find in la. i recall not being able to bite into a sandwich without a little fork work first. the quality of the meat itself though, was fine--lean, flavourful, mildly spiced. i was slightly taken aback to find that the sandwiches are served on disposable plates with disposable silverware. huh? if i'm paying close to ten bucks for a sandwich (which i was), i'd think that there'd be real silverware involved.

even weirder was that real china and real silverware was used in our order of matzo ball soup. wtf? i guess they couldn't find disposable stuff that could withstand the weight of the single giant matzo ball bathing in the schmaltz-iest chicken soup i've seen in a long time. all that chicken fat can't be good for you. but it does wonders for the soup.

overall, the food was okay, but the whole canter's in vegas thing was a little too overwhelming. i think the ambiance and the familiarity of the la shop actually adds to the tastiness of the food. however, it was nice to see that despite the space age airport lounge look, the clientele remains eclectic as ever--senior citizens, families with babies, unemployed magicians, et al. perhaps in time, it will gain its own vibe that would make a return visit more enjoyable.

near the race and sports book
at treasure island
3300 s. las vegas blvd
las vegas nv 98101

Saturday, November 20, 2004

thehotel at mandalay bay

we went to vegas to visit folk, not really to visit vegas, but since we're here, we might as well make the best of it. señor amor says the motor lodge at circus circus is the way to go, but i'm with my mother, so perhaps not this time around. i admit a preference for the hard rock hotel, because even though it's showing its age and the lobby is filled with drinking frat packs, the casino is tiny and completely avoidable, the rooms are pretty big, comfortable, and non-vegas-y, and it's the only casino'd hotel where you can actually open the windows (in this case, french doors). i guess suicide is not considered an option at the hard rock. i also have a great fondness for the pool, which looks like a beach and has speakers underwater. i once swam there when it was 65˚F outside and raining, and since i was the only one in there, the music was completely subdued and actually fantastic-- imagine swimming alone in a misty lagoon to roxy music, nick drake, and peggy lee.

this time around i decided to stay at thehotel at mandalay bay. not mandalay bay at mandalay bay, not the four seasons at mandalay bay, but thehotel at mandalay bay. one word. and 'the' inhouse brand, apparently, as everything in thehotel is 'the'something--thelobby, thecoffeebar, thelounge, even theeffing thetoilet paper and thedoodlepad on thedesk.

thehotel is in a separate building from the rest of mandalay bay, and all the rooms are suites, the standard size being 750 sq.feet--mondo huge for here. as you can see from the photos so far, it's not like being in las vegas, but more like a new york boutique hotel--lots of dark woods, sleek lines, subdued colour palettes, modern art, and most importantly to us, no casino and no smoking in a good portion of the hotel. there isn't a pool, but there is a two story spa and gym, and you have access to the pools at the mandalay bay site.

each of the suites has a separate living room (pictured above), which has a wet bar, a comfy sofa suite, a 42" plasma tv with wireless internet access, dvd, high-speed modem internet access, a fax/copier/printer, and a powder room with toilet, away from the main bathroom.

(no, you cheeky observant ones, there isn't a difference of night and day from living room to bedroom--i took bed photos in the morning.)

the bedroom either has a king-sized or two queen-sized beds, another flat-screen tv, a cd and radio, frette bathrobes and slippers, and down (or down-like) covers.

the bathroom has a separate room for the toilet, double vanities, a glass-enclosed shower, and a tub with a waterfall fixture.

and yet another flat-screen tv. do *not* drop the remote for the tv in the bath. trust me on this one. bath amenities galore, including cottonballs and cotton swabs. i love complimentary q-tips.

the rooms are so comfortable, you don't want to leave. fine for us as we're not big gamblers (first night take: $2.75 from a 25¢ investment), the mandalay's on the quiet side of the strip, and my mom's not up for a trek just yet. even though thehotel is one of the hotels at the moment, the crowd is nicely varied--lots of seniors, typical tourists, and businessmen, so the snob factor is kept at bay. everyone in the staff is very nice and very helpful. i booked online through their site and i received the off-peak rate at $89, which i think is extraordinarily reasonable considering the amenities, but i imagine you can get a better rate from a discount hotel site. well worth it, i say.

thehotel at mandalay bay
3950 las vegas blvd south
las vegas nv89119

Friday, November 19, 2004

vegas, baby, VEGAS!

keanu sighting!

i saw a scuzzy homeless looking guy eating at campanile, which was sort of surprising. hm, maybe someone has taken pity on him (hey, holiday spirit can invade hollywood too) or was it a scene straight out of last week's episode of "arrested development"? no, it was keanu reeves.

sorry, no camera with me. let's just say dude needs a facial, a seamstress, and a cobbler, pronto.

later i think i saw une petite scarlett johansson at la brea bakery (not on atkins?), but that could have been wishful thinking.

carbo loading at la brea bakery

la brea bakery bread is available throughout the country, but there is only one actual la brea bakery (okay, okay, outside of the big eff-off industrial ones pumping out licensed product, and the one at disneyland). nancy silverton started this little bakery on la brea avenue when she, her husband mark peel, and wine buyer manfred krankl, opened their very lovely restaurant, campanile in a 1920s building once owned by charlie chaplin. at first it was just there to provide bread for the restaurant, but the popularity of their artisanal loaves exploded, and soon it was difficult to find anything available after noon in the tiny, narrow bakery. as the restaurant expanded its menu to include breakfast, so did the bakery to include pastries and cookies, then later café items like coffees and sandwiches, and gourmet food items.

nancy eventually sold the bakery name to a large corporation, which, if anything has improved the product somewhat as it is consistent in its quality throughout the country. i have to say, one of the major drawbacks of her breads for me in the beginning was the fact that the crusts were so hard that 'crusty' no longer covered it and moved into the 'bleeding gums' territory. sure a great sign of a well-crafted loaf, but hell on the periodontist bills.

the little bakery on la brea still bakes its own bread, and there is a wide variety of items still not available nationwide. i picked up a few of my favourites: a round loaf of dried cranberry and walnut bread, french loaf, an almond tart filled with chopped almonds and marzipan, brioche, an apricot jam thumbprint scone, and a lovely, savoury rosemary scone. i stopped by in the afternoon, so there weren't any cinnamon rolls that chika and i have had a running lament over, but i imagine i'll be back in time next time. sometime.

la brea bakery
624 s la brea ave
los angeles 90036

dinner from philippe's.

all photos by eddie david

what time is it? man, am i ever stuffed. we were just going to go to the chinatown farmer's market today, but it looked rather sparse (a little cold, a little dark), so we made a quick detour to the edge of chinatown and stopped at philippe the original, home of the french dip sandwich.

philippe's, established in 1908, is a no nonsense bit of culinary history that sits just down the street from the main post office and union station. the claim is that the first french dip sandwich was made here in 1918, a creation of the original owner, philippe mathieu, who was making a sandwich for a police officer, and accidentally dropped half of a french roll into the roasting pan dripping. the officer loved his sandwich so much, he came back the next day with friends and requested a "dipped" sandwich. thus, the "french dip" sandwich was born--so named because the owner was french, he used a french roll, and oh ho! the police officer was officer french.

whether or not this story is true, philippe's makes a darn fine sandwich, and makes a lot of them. you order at a long counter where you step up to one of the hard working serving ladies and place your order. you have a choice of beef, ham, turkey, pork, or lamb, which is thinly sliced and heaped onto a crusty french roll that is dipped in the roasting meat juices. i always ask for my sandwiches to be "double-dipped" (i forget if you have to specify getting a single dip) so that both halves of the roll are dipped in the rich dripping (various cheeses can be added for an extra charge). you wait for your order as the women prepare your sandwich in front of you (sort of--the counter is a glass display case filled with cold salads, pies, pickles, and pickled pig's feet, so you don't really see what's going on), place your money on the little plastic tray provided (leave a tip in the tray for the nice ladies), then sit down at one of the long communal tables in the dining area on the sawdust covered main floor, or if head on up to an upstairs dining room. besides the french dip, there's chili, stew or soup available, a tasty coleslaw, green, potato or macaroni salad, and various desserts. i like their apple pie or their ice cream which is made locally by balian, but during the winter months they also have baked apples which are so popular they are always sold out. i have never actually seen nor had one in my many years of going there (albeit it always at dinner time or later--philippe's is open for breakfast and lunch as well). they also makes their own mustard for the 'wiches which is so spicy hot it might strip paint, but definitely will clear your sinuses. this is a must mustard.

there's sodas, teas, and lemonade to drink, as well as a cup of decent coffee that is only 9 cents--a dime with tax. the price of coffee was 5 cents up until 1977, when it finally was raised to the current 10 cents. there's also beer on tap, and supposedly a decent selection of wine which you order by number. i always get the lemonade even though it probably comes from a mix. it tastes like a cross between and mix and the real stuff, which it might well be.

no matter, philippe's is the real thing all the way--a great piece of los angeles' past that thrives today, filled with reasonably priced tasty food, and very fine folk. i hope it stays around forever.

philippe the original
1001 n. alameda street
los angeles 90012