An Eggtraordinary Meal

“I Must Eat This” was the subject line of an email from a friend of mine in Los Angeles. It was referring to a meal inspired by the Sanrio character Gudetama at the Japanese restaurants called Curry House. According to Wikipedia, Gudetama was introduced by Sanrio in 2013 and is a gender neutral character that is the yolk of an unfertilized egg. The name Gudetama is derived from the Japanese word for lazy “gude gude” and egg “tamago”. Gudetama is known as the lazy egg.

I flew down to Los Angeles for a few days to visit and enjoy the Gudetama x Curry House meal. My friend and I had a late lunch this past Thursday at the Curry House located in Little Tokyo in Los Angeles. The meal starts with soup and salad. The generous sized salad of lettuce, red cabbage, and shredded carrots was tossed with a light miso dressing. Gudetama’s cute face is imprinted on top of a warm cup of sweet creamy corn soup.  
The entree was Keema curry with rice topped with a sunny-side Gudetama. This version of Keema curry was cooked with ground beef, enoki mushrooms, potatoes, and carrots. I broke Gudetama and thoroughly mixed the egg into the curry and rice. I thought the curry was a bit too salty, so I was glad there was an abundance of rice.  It is the epitome of comfort food.
My friend ordered the vegetarian option which was tofu katsu. Tofu is breaded with panko and deep fried. These crispy tofu patties with brown curry gave it the perfect flavor balance and were delicious. I think I would have preferred the vegetarian entree.

The meal ends with a custard pudding. It is more gelatinous than it is creamy. I liked that it was not too sweet. I would never order this if it was not part of the menu, but it was definitely a nice treat to end the meal.  
For $29, you get all of the above plus you leave with a Gudetama X Curry House beanie as a souvenir.  
Altogether, I thought it was a very hearty meal and a fun promotional event. Eggs are awesome and I think it is a way to appreciate the protein. If you want to participate in Gudetama x Curry House, the promotion runs through January 20, 2018. There are several Curry House restaurants in the Los Angeles area. If you live in the Bay Area, there is one location in Cupertino.  

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My birthday in Los Angeles

I feel a little behind in blogging, partly because I skipped last week and partly because I wanted to share some of the things I ate on my birthday, which was exactly a month ago today. My best friend and I spent my birthday in Los Angeles and aside from traffic, it was perfect.We started the morning with donuts. Sidecar Donuts originally opened in Costa Mesa and opened its second shop in Santa Monica which is where we went. I was charged from friends well in advance to get the Country Ham and Egg donut. The plump savory donut was filled with a poached egg, ham, and a house made basil hollandaise sauce. Sharing half felt lighter than I expected and was like eating a soft airy sandwich. 

We also enjoyed a salty caramel donut which had a nice caramel glaze and topped with sea salt. The lemon donut gave us the texture of cake similar to what you would get from an old fashioned. I was happily satisfied with my 1.5 donuts.

From there we made our way to the Getty Villa in Malibu. It has been about two decades since I had last visited this museum tucked away off Pacific Coast Highway. The Greek and Roman art is housed in the incredible re-creation of a Roman country house. We spent a few hours exploring the architecture, the antiquities, and the gardens. The museum is free, but you need to make reservations in advance.

Since we were still on the west side of town, we made our way to Venice Beach to grab a bite and geocache. We wanted something light for lunch so we discovered Poke Poke. We both got poke bowls, a Hawaiian delicacy. Poke bowls are actually quite popular these days. It’s a pretty healthy option, especially next to Muscle Beach. The original flavor at Poke Poke has ahi tuna marinated in onions, green onions, shoyu, sesame oil, and sesame seeds. I substituted the ahi tuna for salmon and got it over rice.  
We spent some time geocaching not only in Venice Beach, but also in Santa Monica. After quite a bit of walking, birthday drinks were calling my name at Shutters on the Beach. The hotel bar here is very popular, but we were lucky and got a table within a few minutes. With a blender in tow, we ordered pina coladas. Something about pina coladas make you feel like you’re on vacation.
Dinner reservations were for Hinoki and the Bird, which is located in Century City. The restaurant has a cool vibe and the cuisine labeled as American has a Japanese twist.  
The food is served family style, so we shared several plates. We started with the kale salad which includes both raw and crispy kale, spiced cashews, pecorino cheese, and a red wine vinaigrette. I loved the duo of prepared kale.
We ordered the Jidori chicken dumplings. There were five pan fried dumplings stuck together which is something I have never seen before. Crispy and succulent, I could keep eating this deliciousness.
I usually go for anything with uni in it. The uni carbonara with guanciale and pecorino was no exception. The creaminess and depth in flavor of this dish left me extremely pleased.
The crispy suckling pig was served with accoutrements like butter lettuce, a variety of herbs, and sauces. It’s meant to be eaten like a wrap or a taco which I found to be fun. The pork was moist with crispy skin.  
One side dish we ordered was the sake steamed mushrooms with sea salt and soy sauce. This was cooked and served in parchment paper which prominently infuses the flavors in the mushrooms.  
The other side dish we ordered were the brussels sprouts with lemon and furikake. These were a generous portion and could not have been roasted any better.
For dessert, my best friend eyed the mochi green tea affrogato. It was cool to watch the server prepare the matcha from a powder and water with a brush.  
We also ordered matcha donuts which were warm and fluffy. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the sauce that came with it.
The restaurant also provided a complimentary dessert to wish me a Happy Birthday!
I had an incredible birthday dinner at Hinoki and the Bird which made my already awesome day even more special. Thanks Jeannette!

Burger Month at Belcampo

August is burger month for Belcampo, a 5 year old meat company based in Oakland and run by Anya Fernald. Belcampo is a corporation that includes a farm, a processing plant, butcher shops, and restaurants that together supply sustainable and organic meat. The Belcampo farm is located up North in Gazelle, California and the butcher shops and restaurants are located in Larkspur, San Francisco, Palo Alto, Los Angeles, and Santa Monica.  
There was a period of time in my past where I only ate grass fed beef. Generally, I enjoyed the taste of corn fed beef more because it was more fatty and flavorful. I think when beef is grounded for burgers, grass fed beef tastes better so I was excited about burger month at Belcampo.

During burger month, Belcampo has been offering promotions to bring in more customers and create awareness. I introduced a friend in Los Angeles to the BOGO week where if you bought one burger, you would get the second one free. My friends participated in the offer and enjoyed their burgers. One review I received was “moovelous!” Another review was “freaking delicious!”  

Photo by Christy Smith

For a company based in Oakland, it’s unfortunate that there is no Belcampo butcher shop and restaurant very close to me. I didn’t want the month of August to go by and not get a chance to get a burger deal. Today was the last day for a 100 Day Dry-Aged Burger, Fries, and a Drink for $15 deal. They were marketing the special for burger connoisseurs so I went for the challenge. 

I drove out to Larkspur with a friend. My 1/2 lb burger was a blend of Wagyu and Angus meat with Raclette cheese, watercress, and caramelized onions on a sesame seed bun. My medium rare burger was served to me on a wooden platter with French fries. It was then spritzed with 100-proof whiskey in front of my eyes. This burger was definitely well thought out, including the use of watercress that provides a peppery bite. The burger was rich, juicy, and full of flavor.  

My friend ordered the Belcampo burger which is their standard 1/2 lb grass-fed beef patty, cheddar cheese, caramelized onions, butter lettuce, house-made sauce. Cooked a perfect medium rare, she ate every bite as well.  
There are still ten days left for burger month and I’m excited to hear what specials Belcampo will offer next. You’ll have to follow them on Facebook to find out. Rumor has it that Belcampo will open a shop in Jack London Square in Oakland, but no date has been identified.

Plan to Go: Plan Check Kitchen + Bar

I’m at the Burbank airport waiting for my extremely delayed flight. Instead of being negative, I am reflecting on my favorite meal of the weekend in Los Angeles. Hands down it was dinner on Friday evening at Plan Check Kitchen + Bar. It’s not a fancy restaurant, but a gastropub in the Beverly Grove, a pretty hip area in L.A. It was a last minute decision to go there and was anything but planned.

My friend and I started out with cocktails and shared a few items. Feeling like balancing our meal, I ordered the kale caesar salad which was made up of chopped kale, hearts of palm, parmesan cheese, and croutons in a caesar dressing. The kale was crunchy, but not tough. It was a bit heavy on the parmesan, but after a quick toss was quite tasty.
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I ordered the smokey fried chicken to share which came with yam preserves and spicy pickled okra. The chicken was crisp, tender, and permeated a smokey flavor. The smokey flavor was unusual and I loved it.
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My friend ordered the short rib pot roast which came with a bone marrow turnover. I tasted the short rib and it was good, but not special.
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I was excited about the turnover, so my friend gave me half. It is an interesting concept to put bone marrow in a turnover. I thought the pastry was dry and the marrow lacked flavor so I was disappointed in this dish.
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I was a bit intimidated with the description of the chefs favorite burger which has cheese two ways, bacon two ways, a fried egg, hot sauce, and ketchup leather. I decided to go with it and I was so glad I did. It was probably one of the best burgers I have had in my life. It was juicy and balanced in both flavor and texture. I liked the idea of the parmesan crisp on the burger. I also really enjoyed the ketchup leather. Imagine a fruit roll up made out of ketchup. I thought it was pretty cool because you don’t need to worry about ketchup dripping on you. I gave my friend half so he could enjoy it too.
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Plan Check Kitchen + Bar is fun and innovative. With three locations in the Los Angeles area, I highly recommend it for locals and visitors.

From Hell’s Kitchen to Cook’s County

I flew down to Los Angeles this past weekend to be a diner on the TV show “Hell’s Kitchen.” Unfortunately, I can’t blog about it because I signed a confidentiality and non-disclosure agreement. I can’t post photos because cameras weren’t allowed. I will however write and post plenty of photos about my favorite meal in Los Angeles this weekend. My BFF and I met up with two of my old friends for brunch at Cook’s County on Beverly Boulevard.
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I was looking forward to eating here because I saw that they serve Intelligentsia Coffee, which I fondly discovered two years ago. Coffee goes well with pastries, so it was an easy decision for us to order the basket of pastries. Essentially it was a plate with four items: a raspberry muffin, a ginger scone that came with cream and lemon curd, a cheddar buttermilk biscuit, and a jelly donut with strawberry-rhubarb jam. I cut each pastry into fours so we could sample them all. They were all quite different, but all delicious. It’s hard to choose a favorite, but if I had to, I would say it was the tops.
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The description of the breakfast items were appealing. The four of us ended up choosing different things and that worked well so we were able to taste each other’s food.

Plate #1: poached eggs, roasted summer squash, white beans & spinach
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Plate #2: ham & cheddar scrambled eggs, warm cheddar buttermilk biscuit
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Plate #3: braised grass fed beef hash, roasted potatoes & sunny-side up egg
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Plate #4: baked pancake with blackberry compote & bourbon-barrel maple syrup
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Side #1: Applewood smoked bacon
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Side #2: organic gaviota strawberries
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There was a lot of food on our table and everything I consumed was wonderful. I would definitely make a point of returning when I am in town. Cooks County is an awesome restaurant with amazing food. The company wasn’t half bad either.

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Cooking Cuban

My trip last month to Southern California brought me back to my favorite Cuban restaurant in Los Angeles. Versailles is no frills, just good flavor and inexpensive prices. Their pork and chicken is cooked in a delicious lemon garlic sauce. This sauce is so good that they even bottle it. I decided to buy a bottle of the sauce so I can try cooking some Cuban food at home.

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Recently, I used that bottle to cook a Cuban meal for a few friends. I marinated some pork overnight and in the morning turned on the slow cooker. By the time I got home from work, my apartment was smelling great. I had to start on the rice and plantains. One of my friends introduced me to Goya canned black beans so I wasn’t going to spend time on making black beans.

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I wanted to make a Cuban white rice or arroz blanco. If you are wondering what makes white rice Cuban, it is the added garlic flavor. I found a simple recipe from Food and Wine.

I bought some green plantains from a Mexican supermarket in Oakland to complement my meal. I was a little intimidated to work with the plantains, but Alton Brown published an easy recipe for fried plantains.

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My friends and I loved the meal. Even the canned black beans were good. I was impressed with myself and have added “cooking more” as a New Year’s Resolution.

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