Monday, January 23, 2012

South Bay Noodle Tour

In Los Angeles there is no shortage of Ramen and Noodle Houses to try.  One day my friend LT and I decided to do a Noodle tour to try a lot of the placed down in the South Bay Region that had been on our list.  Our first stop was Mottanai Ramen.  Translated, Mottani means “What a shame” or “wasteful”, once you get seated there is a little story on the menu of how the restaurant got its name. 


I loved their menu!  Of course I had to go with the Yokohama Pork Freaker, cause who doesn’t want to try the one that has the name “freaker” in it?  The ramen came with toasted nori sheets, green onions, charsiu and we added an egg in there as well. 


The broth was nice and tasty and the ramen egg had been marinated in soy so it was flavorful.  However the egg was a little cold and the char siu didn’t melt in my mouth (like some of the other places I’ve been).  But an over all good bowl of ramen, and their gyoza was great too!


Our second spot was Asa Ramen, but sadly it was closed.  So we’ll be back there later.  On to the next spot on our list which was Otafuku Noodle House!  Otafuku has a humble store front and you must enter from the back.  This place was known for their Seito Soba.  My friend LT was especially excited since they also bring you the hot water the noodles are cooked in which you add to the remainder of the dipping sauce to drink as a soup. 


The noodles were so fresh and chewy!  I am not a huge soba fan, but this was definitely fresh and we couldn’t stop eating it.  We also got some fresh tofu that was topped with bonito, green onion, ginger and shiso!  The combination was so fresh and so good.


For our last stop I had to phone a friend, since Asa Ramen was closed.  He suggested Hakta Ramen-Shin Sen Gumi.  We were pretty full by now but luckily this place lets you order half bowls of ramen and half orders of fried rice (which had amazing reviews on yelp).  What I liked most about this place was the number of options, you got to choose how you wanted your noodles cooked (hard), what type of broth you wanted (mild) and how oily you wanted it (light).  There was also a lot of condiments such as torigashi, soy sauce, roasted sesame seeds and vinegar at all the tables. 


Hands down this was our favorite of the night.  The broth was so rich and flavorful, the noodles were nice and chewy and the addition of the toasted sesame seeds added so much flavor!  We forgot to add a Ramen egg in (so we couldn’t rate that), but the guy next to us had one and the yolk looked over cooked- but not sure if it was because he saved it for last and it cooked in his broth.  The charsiu was pretty good, but so far no place has touched Jinya Ramen for both LT and I, since their charsiu melts in your mouth.  


The fried rice here totally lived up to the hype as well.  It was seriously flavorful, and the place got extra points since they had vinegar at the table, which for some strange reason I love to drizzle over my fried rice. 

There are a ton of new Ramen places opening up right near my house, so a West Los Angeles Ramen tour will be in the works too.  It will have Yamadaya, Jinya Ramen and Santokuya!!  Maybe Asahi or Ramenya as well.  Any volunteers to come with?? 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Dinner at Ink with Michael Voltaggio

Ok so I didn’t technically have dinner with Michael Voltaggio.  I did spend 95% of my dinner staring at him from my table which was right next to the open kitchen.  I think there were several moments that we made eye contact- it was special, you will just have to trust me.  =)


LT and I started off the night at the bar while we were waiting for our table.  Our cute and extremely helpful waiter made us some drink suggestions.  I went with the seasonal offering that was a warm bourbon drink. 


Up first was the Kale, Burrata, Pumpkin Seeds, Asian Pear and Yuzu.  I loved this so many things that I love that I would never had thought to pair together.  I am inspired to create my own burrata and kale dish. 

Ink2Next we had the dish that our server had recommended to us, the charred avocado stuffed with crab, topped with wild hen mushrooms, with whipped fish sauce and chicharron.  If you haven’t had grilled avocado, you haven’t lived. 


Beef tartare is one of my favorite dishes that I like to order no matter where I go.  It seems so simple, but I think it’s often these type of dishes that are a good measure of how great a restaurant is.  I LOVED M.Volt’s Beef Tartare, LT and I both agreed that we could have eaten a couple more orders of this.  It was served with hearts of palm, chimichurri, and powdered horseradish. 


This dish was a bit heavy but delicious.  Pigs Ears, Apples, Lardo and Brussel Sprouts.  The dish was really well balanced with a bit of salty, tart and savory bits all balanced throughout it. 


I’m a huge Chicken and Waffle fan, so I was eager to see what Michael would do with this dish.  LT was a little skeptical, but he let me order it since he is such a gentleman.  Good thing, cause we both really liked this dish!  The chicken was so moist with some smoked maple powder, burnt marshmallow and some hot sauce to top it all off.


Veal sweetbreads with charred cauliflower, smoked raisins and capers.  This dish was solid but did not blow my mind. (Sorry Michael)


I was not in love with this dish either, to be honest I wouldn’t have chosen this dish at all.  But since LT let me pick my chicken and waffles, I let him get this…  This was Sea Bass with a Lemon Brown Butter sauce. 


The dessert was amazing!!  My co-worker had told me to order this and she was right!  This is his apple, burnt caramel and burnt wood ice cream dessert.  Simply amazing!!  Love love the burnt wood ice cream. 

Friday, January 20, 2012

Apple Pie Cookies and Cake Pop Tips

The other day my friend MC stumbled across this recipe from Smitten Kitchen.  Little apple pie cookies, so cute right?   We were supposed to hang out that weekend so we decided to make a batch.  We altered the recipe slightly by using 2 boxes of pre made pie crusts.  You can find the recipe here, Smitten Kitchen provides great tips and pics to help you make these babies.  My friend made it again and used cute little flower cookie cutters.  The only tip we had was after we cut out all the pie crust discs, we put them back in the freezer for 10 minutes to ensure that they were nice and cold. 




So cute and the perfect little pocket of goodness.  I popped these back in the toaster oven to heat them up and they were amazing!  This is the prefect mini dessert for your next get together.  It’s sure to be a crowd pleaser. 

If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you know that recently I made a huge batch of Cake Pops for my friends son’s 1st birthday party.  The goal?  175 cake pops!!  We’ve all seen the recipes posted by many, but I thought I would share some of my tips that I learned along the way. 

  1. Use a small cookie or meatball scooper.  This ensures that all your cake pops are approximately the same size and makes the process a little faster, even though you still need to roll the balls.
  2. Be sure to freeze or refrigerate the balls long enough to get dense, it makes them a lot easier to work with.
  3. To dip that many balls and not constantly have to microwave or double boil chocolate and keep it warm- I used my mini crockpot!!!  It was PERFECT. 
  4. Chocolate seems to be the trickiest part, having a tub of Crisco on hand to work with the melting chocolates was a life saver.  If the chocolate is to heavy, you will loose many balls in the bowl of hot chocolate. 


Oh and another confession??  You will thank me for this if you are hosting a party and want to make cake pops but don’t have the time…


If you need cake pops in a rush, cake donut holes work great!!!  I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to make the 175 cake pops in time, or that some of them would break during transport.  I bought two boxes of Entemann’s donut holes that worked great!  If you are making a lot this is a complete time saver!! 


Above are the donut holes and the ones with the blue sprinkles are the ones that I made by hand.  While the homemade cake pops definitely taste better and are a lot more moist, the donut cake pops are pretty darn tasty and so quick to make too!!  Here’s the finished product. 




Everyone loved the cake pops, I heard that there were none left at the end of the party.  Happy 1st Birthday to Kellan!!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Dinner at Nobu’s in Hawaii

On Christmas Eve I went to Nobu’s for an omakase dinner with my dad and step mom when I was home in Hawaii.  I was excited to go since Nobu’s was actually one of the first “fancy” restaurants that I went to with my dad when we had traveled to New York together when I was in High School.  I remember being severed paper thin slices of raw beef that we then cooked at the table on a smooth stone that had been sitting in an oven for hours. 

We started out meal with yummy cocktails lychee martinis, pickled pear sangrias and wine.  The first course we had with the omakase was Bigeye and Bluefin Toro tartar with caviar and a Japanese berry as a palate cleanser.  The fish was so amazing it literally melted in my mouth and the soy caviar burst in our mouths accenting the tuna so nicely. 

Nobu1Our next course was a house smoked King Salmon with Maui onions and ponzu.  For those of you who have never tried a Maui onion its almost sweet with a very subtle taste that paired so nicely with the rich taste of the salmon.


For our salad course we had a Ma’o Farm salad with Botan Ebi Sashimi with soy salt and a yuzu foam.  The shrimp was amazing, my dad can’t eat shrimp, so my stepmom and I shared his as well!!


Next was my favorite course of the night, a Pan Seared Scallop with Roasted Corn and a Mascarpone Cake with Tomato and Sea Asparagus.  Not only do I love all the ingredients in here but the Mascarpone Cake literally melted in my mouth. 

Nobu4  Our other main course was a Sake-Braised Wagyu Short Rib with a Root Veggie Puree and a Mushroom Confit.  The Short Ribs literally fell apart when our forks hit it and I my dad could not get enough of the root veggie puree. 


Our sushi course was simple and excellent courses of sashimi along with a Miso Lobster Soup.  We all weren’t huge fans of the Miso Soup, but the sushi melted in my mouth. 



Just when we thought we couldn’t eat anymore, they brought out our final course.  A “Snowball” Coconut Panna Cotta and Mouse with Raspberries, Chocolate Goma Crunch and Meringue.  I am a sucker for Coconut Panna Cotta, so I just loved this!


Such an amazing meal!  Everything so well executed true to what Nobu has been known for, for years.  I definitely want to go back and try their Happy Hour menu and specials. 

Monday, January 9, 2012

Laos Inspired Shrimp Packets (Mok Pa)

The other day my friend LT came over and cooked me an amazing Laos meal that he learned while traveling South East Asia.  I was so in love with the fish dish he made (so flavorful and super healthy) that I decided to take my own twist on it!  This is perfect for those New Years resolutions we all made to eat healthier or loose a few pounds.  I promise you wont even know that you are missing anything, cause this dish packs such great flavors! 


Laos Shrimp Packets

1/2 cup cooked white rice
1/2 lb. shrimp (or any white fish)
lime, juice
3 garlic cloves, diced
1/2 jalapeno, diced and deseeded
2 Tbsp basil, chopped
3 Tbsp dill, chopped
3 sprigs green onion, chopped
1 tsp salt salt
1 Tbsp fish sauce
4 Tbsp water

Optional:  Add in any fresh veggies like shitake mushrooms, spinach or bok choy into your steam packet. 

1.  Start boiling water for steamer.  In a large bowl mix together rice, jalapeno, basil, dill, green onion, garlic, lime juice and salt in a large bowl.  Using a pestle grind mixture together so that flavors blend into a rough paste. 

2.  Add in shrimp, any additional veggies, fish sauce and water and mix until the herb mixture evenly coats everything. 

3.  Place into (2-3) foil steam packets and seal securely and place in steamer.  Depending on fish and veggie type steam for approximately 15-20 minutes. 


This is such a great flavorful meal!  I’ve had it with some white fish and shrimp and both are delish.  This is also great to use up that left over rice and any veggies that you have lying around. 

Friday, January 6, 2012

Holidays in Hawaii

Over the holidays I had the chance to go home to Hawaii to spend time with my friends and family.  One of my favorite things about going home is being able to eat all the great food that the island has to offer.  Here is a recap of some of my favorites!  (Well the ones that I was able to take a picture of before eating). 


One of my favorite things to have in Hawaii, an Acai Bowl!  Somehow the ones I have found up in LA have never measured up to the ones in Hawaii! 


The other awesome thing about Hawaii is you can eat things like grilled fish salads or poke bowls which are totally delish.  But the best part is that you still have calories left to indulge in the awesome desserts.  Two of my all time favorites:  Sweet Potato Haupia Pie on the left and Lemon Crunch Cake on the right.  From Diamond Head Grill just down the street!  


Not food related, but this was my view after a quick “jog” down to the beach.  Amazing, makes me appreciate what I had growing up!


On Christmas Eve my mom and I were running errands on the other side of town and stopped by at one of my favorites while in high school.  Mitsuken!!  They have the best garlic fried chicken bento plates.  YUM!!!


For those of you who aren’t familiar with Japanese/Hawaii style bentos they normally have a bunch of savory meats with rice.  This one had a hotdog, piece of spam, teri beef, egg omelet and garlic chicken.  So delish!


I also stopped by my classmates restaurant Pancake and Waffles.  This is one of my new favorites I love their breakfast plates and I am always torn between eating breakfast (love Hawaii style breakfast) or the Vinha D’alhos plate.  Tender pieces of pork marinated in spices and vinegar and cooked for hours.  This is on my list to try to recreate ASAP!!

HI16My friends hubby didn’t let us leave without trying one of their famous pancake creations.  This was their seasonal Caramel Apple Pancake.  Pieces of caramel in the pancake batter, topped with cinnamon apples, graham cracker crumbs and a mound of whipped cream.  


Another place on my list that I had been wanting to try was Yogurstory, while they are definitely known for their brunch, I was only able to go for dinner.  My mom and I shared this ahi topped with crab and some kalbi ribs with kim chee fried rice. 


This is just part one of my Hawaii recap, I had an amazing omakase dinner at Nobu’s in Hawaii as well!


Monday, January 2, 2012

Chicken Chili Verde

Happy New Years!  Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and New Years with your friends and family.  I’ve been MIA for the month of December, between the holiday rush, getting sick, traveling and food poisoning it’s been a crazy month. 

This is one of my all time favorite recipes that I have at one time or another made for all my friends when they have had babies.  This recipe comes from Iowa Girl Eats, if you don’t know her blog, definitely check it out!  She was one of the first eating/workout blogs that I fell in love with before I decided to start my own.  I actually lost my pics that I took of this and a couple other dishes, but head over to Iowa Girl Eats blog to check it out!!

Chicken Chili Verde
adapted from Iowa Girl Eats

1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 Tbsp. cumin
1 4.5 oz. can green chilies
2 chicken breast, cooked and shredded
1 can Northern Beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups chicken broth
salt and pepper
green Tabasco sauce
2 cups kale, chopped into 1 inch pieces (Optional)
1 Tbsp. cornmeal
1/4 cup milk

1.  In a large pot add in oil and onions, and sauté until translucent.  Add in garlic and cumin and cook for another minute.

2.  Add in all ingredients till the green Tabasco sauce.  Stir and cook and bring to a boil  Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

3.  Stir in kale, milk and cornmeal, add to the pot and cook for another 10 minutes. 

Serve with some sour cream (or Greek yogurt) and cheese!  Love this chili so creamy without all the calories too!