Dining on the Edge: Dinner with Chef Keven

There’s carnal pleasure and then there’s food pleasure. I’ve never endangered my life for carnal pleasure, but for food pleasure…I do it on a daily basis.

Growing up I was deathly allergic to many things, and over the last few weeks I had gotten mild symptoms of a severe allergy. When I decided to visit my doctor he did a few tests and referred me to an allergist. Later that week, I met with the allergist; he took one look at me said, “Have you been eating shellfish?!” I admitted that my frequent visits to the SGV for Asian food had exposed me to many fish-based sauces. He told me to cut it out for my own good, but I relented. After all, I wasn’t in the hospital. It was just shellfish and I could endure the few moments of discomfort for a few moments of food pleasure. When I got my allergy test back, it said I was severely allergic to a long list of things. The most severe being: most types of seafood, peanuts, wheat, soybeans, and many others. FML. However, I will continue to eat what I want in the sake of food and I will die a king. Not very smart, but a girl has got to have her priorities in order. Such was the case at the swanky Hollywood Hills supper club that Veronica and I attended last week.

Veronica’s a  hip lady (far cooler than I) and she had a plus one to a private 5-course meal in a private home overlooking all of LA. She asked me and I jumped at the opportunity after she told me that the chef cooking was going to be the very talented Chef Keven Alan Lee of East in Hollywood.

As a woman who still, to this day, works in a busy kitchen, I admire Chef Keven’s attention to detail. His staff is disciplined and well-trained at what they set out to do. I saw the look on their faces as we ate what they had prepared for us, and they took pleasure in our pleasure. Kudos.

Below was the night’s menu:

Thai Eggplant Larb
Fried Tofu, Pickled Shallots, and Thai Peanut Sauce

Shitake Crab Poppers
Lump Crab, Garden Fresh Vegetables,
Seared & Roasted Shitake Mushrooms, Shitake Aioli

SUPER JUMBO Turkey Tofu Meatballs
Fire Roasted Tomato & White Bean Ragu

Dragon Style “Big Eye” Tuna
Thai Green Curry Rice
Dragon Torched Live

Cheven’s Signature Bread Pudding
Chololate Toffee and milk Chocolate Ganache

My favorites of the night were the Turkey meatballs, the tofu, and the bread pudding. The meatballs were obscenely fresh and soft but not as to fall apart. The tofu was fried into little adorable packets and garnished with some edible flowers.

And then there were the shitake crab poppers. I knew I’d be the one paying for it later, but its just one one of those things you have to do for yourself. So, I selfishly took a bite. It was perfection. Later that night, the taxation for my small bite was a mild swelling. That crab was worth every bit of pain. However, I think I’ll take it easy for sometime… Maybe.

Chef Keven has been asking me to shadow him and do “A Day in the Life” kind of a piece for the blog. He tells me that his day starts off at the farmer’s market, goes from town to town to find the best ingredients, and that he, a Jew, even speaks fluent Spanish. As a Latin gal, I can vouche for Kitchenese as it is actually very good. I may do the article, but I think that the cooking in the kitchen part should be left to the true professionals. After all, the rule of any good cook is to try all of the food you prepared and for me that is a deadly option.

The cocktails were also great, although maybe just as poisonous. If they’d been any stiffer, I would’ve probably woken up next to someone I didn’t know. Thank God I stopped when I did. The drinks were all mixed by Minx in Glendale. Chef Keven has recently started working with them to perfect the new Minx food menu. I will definitely have to check it out soon. Who’s in? I may even try and kill myself again for the sake of delicious food.

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Brunchin’ with the Girls in Pasadena

It’s a mix of insomnia, hypomania, and a lot of love that gets me up in the morning to build this little thing we often refer to as UG. But on this particular morning, I woke up in a bunk bed in Malibu! The problem, however, was that I was supposed to meet Carina, Roni, and her bud Caroline who was in town from Sweden for brunch at Central Park in Pasadena!

We’ve been there only once before. Funny thing about that place is that when we went last time, Carina’s then-boyfriend said this of the pic of us: “Dude, you guys look so hungover!” Don’t be quick to judge – we were and he was right. Therefore, our memory of this place was a little fuzzy. It wasn’t a first choice place. The non-UGs were coming from the monthly Rose Bowl flea market and we were looking for a brunch spot in Pasadena. Carina wanted to try Maison Akira’s $38 French-Japanese buffet brunch. Caroline wanted something a bit more traditional and I, being jobless, didn’t want to spent that much on eggs. Go figure, right? If I could have yolky eggs on everything, I’d be a satisfied woman. But since there aren’t many brunch places in Pasadena, we opted for Central Park.

We had met Roni a couple times before through Arun, the Mayor of Downtown, and she has always intrigued me. She’s from Tel Aviv, a Harvard grad, runs a math club, is a blogette peer, and fronts a band (which she just fired everyone from). Only two words can describe this girl: F-in awesome. When talking to her, you get this feeling that this girl is running her own one-man pirate ship; she is no marginal character. We learned a lot from her and chitchatted about everything from books, movies, music, dating, and life in general. The place was packed so we talked for a bit, and well, we could’ve talked for hours more. It was nice.

Here at UG, you get a more playful and, often times, less sophisticated worldview of food. Admittedly, our blogosphere buds do this just as passionately, but more beautifully and probably a lot more couthly than we do. I’ll try my best to explain. We sat down and were all super hungry. After indecisively narrowing my entree down to waffles and eggs, an impulsive urge for a turkey club came upon me as I coveted my table neighbor’s food. Carina ordered the eggs sardu, Roni the croissant french toast, and Caroline ordered the shrimp pasta.

The meals got to us and they looked edible enough to tickle our pickle. We dove in. I try to write as honest and true as possible so that anyone sitting at the same table before me, at the same establishment, about to eat the same food can relate on some level – albeit without the company. And perhaps it was our excitement, our hunger, or the lack of Pasadena brunch spots – but these butter loving babes didn’t melt.

In fact, it sucked. I mean it was only a slight notch above typical diner fare for probably double the price.

But fear not. Like any loyal dater, we’ll just have to give it another shot. Plus, this brunch place does impress more with a hungover body…so I am sure this can continue to be a morning after place. However, after a whirlwind weekend in Malibu, it just simply didn’t stack up.

Gastrological Astrology: For The Week Beginning April 15th

Photo Credit Rae Threat

By: Your High Priestess, Nadia Noir aka DoubleDEntendre

As a Gemini, I am decidedly indecisive. Do I want a raucous, Motley Crue-esque Monday that started all because of an innocent Umami Burger Happy Hour and a few too many Allagash Whites? Or do I want to hermit away in my “Hatch” with some froyo while watching every season of Lost back-to-back, hallucinating that my cat is the black Smoke Monster? Sometimes I just need someone else to make the damned decision for me. So I look to a song, or a story, or a shaman i.e. a couple of pre-game shots. And sometimes even, I look to the stars, both of the silicone-enhanced and the hydrogen/helium-enhanced variety. I mean, what were the complex mythos of the ancient Greeks and Romans created for if not to tell some ravenous, mercurial, and slightly delusional girl from the future what to eat, drink, and be?

Aries (March 21-April 19)

The “fire of life” exists in the belly of an Aries. As an Aries, you are perhaps the most virile, aggressive and outrageously lascivious of the Zodiac; Aries people are said to be aromatic and musky much like a mesquite wood infused barbeque pit. This might sound disgusting but I know many foodies (UGs, perhaps) who might lick your armpit for smelling like that. This week for Aries is about embracing their ‘musk’; cultivating balance in their relationships, specifically influences of “modern man.” So take a step back and re-examine your relationship with food and others. Enjoying food is an instinctual, primal practice. One that comes naturally to every Aries. Put down your Yelp App, close the tabs with your Google Reader food blogs, leave your camera at home and just EAT. Like a starving baby suckling a great big milky breast. EAT.

Taurus (April 20-May 20)

Most people are horrible at baking. And I mean REALLY horrible. Sure, we eat their baked goods and say stuff like, “Oh, I normally hate sweets, but this is GOOD.” We are lying, but we don’t have the patience or heart to explain to them why their cookies suck. The irony is that their cookies probably sucked because they didn’t have patience or heart when they were baking. The point of all this is that: Taureans have heart and Taureans don’t lack patience. They are usually great bakers. Usually. Except this week when it is imperative to bake the biggest, moistest cake ever. This is the week to follow all recipe directions exactly and to remain in the present. Do not get sidelined by some other delicious, pre-prepared morsel. No. Patiently mix all your ingredients together and watch as your cake rises centimeter by centimeter. If anyone can do it, you can.

Gemini (May 21-June 20)

At a fancy happy hour last night, I was telling my friend two things about myself: 1) that my current dream is to get a motorcycle and ride aimlessly while breaking hearts and learning dangerous skills and 2) that my go-to drunk food is Cheetos. Seemingly, These things don’t have anything in common-but they do. Both of these things point to the typical and perpetual adolescence of the Gemini. Unfortunately, this week we have to sit at the grown-up table. This might entail putting down the caramel Frappucinos and Del Taco burritos of our youth and eating…salads. With dressing on the side. And drinking water. And taking vitamins. All while working at our desks through our lunch hour.  Just think of it as acting. Play the role of an “adult” now and in the future you will get a whole swimming pool of Cheetos to swim through, a hot tub full of Cherry Coke, and a motorcycle made out of candy corn. A girl can dream.

Cancer (June 21-July 22)

I’ve never met a crab I didn’t like. Especially one drenched in butter. You, dear Cancer, have been sitting around in a delicious little puddle of butter for a long time with no one willing to suck out your succulent little legs. You’ve been fine with this because, as a Cancer, you are willing to work hard and wait around for the right opportunity to give you a nibble (see: opposite of Gemini). The fact that Cancer rules the stomach should come as no surprise; you’ve been feeding others with your resources for a long time, but it’s been a longer time since somebody fed you. Or licentiously licked up the juices of your hard work from a plate. Pretty soon, someone is going to lick up those juices, so don’t give up. Keep marinating. They are right around the corner with claw cracker in hand.

Leo (July 23-August 22)

Oh, hi, Leo. Nice to briefly see you considering someone has lit the proverbial fire in your gas oven, turned you up to “extra hot-in fact-let’s just burn the whole effin’ kitchen down”, and run away without calling for reinforcements. For other zodiac signs this would be overwhelming. Not for you, Leo. This is what you LIVE for. Every pot is cooking; every item in your pantry is near charred; and everyone can feel the heat and the energy you are emanating. True, you are in your element. However, it is also true that you may need to step away from the heat for a second, pull out a nice cold piece of icebox humble pie and taste it. Contemplate it, enjoy it, taste it again. Because even though you are going more places and doing more things than everyone else, the fact that you are getting into these newly-opened restaurants or getting to taste some Michelin Star winning chef’s fancy dinners before everyone else does not mean you should brag about it.

Virgo (August 23-September 22)

“When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie/That’s amore/When the world seems to shine like you’ve had too much wine/That’s amore.” This week I dedicate this song to you, Virgo. Lately, you’ve felt like a big blob of blobbity blob nothing but really you are pizza dough being laid out to rest, bathing in the light of the moon, getting drunk on love and life and world experiences. As a Virgo, you’ve probably had a hard time recognizing all the magical things happening around you. You’ve been more focused on the ratio of pepperoni to cheese and the pi measurement of your pie. But lemme tell ya, sweetie pie; some big strong hands are coming your way. They are going to yank you around a little bit, spin you in the air, and for once you are going to enjoy it. You’ll realize that sitting around resting doesn’t mean you are a blob of nothing. This whole time you’ve been a magical pizza of love.

Libra (September 23-October 22)

A Libra knows what is like to be arm candy; often the fairest creatures of the zodiac, Librans give off a sincerely insincere sweetness that is also likely to cause teeth rot. Well, Libra, you are tired of being someone else’s little sticky candy cane. Not only are you tired of being tasted up and down, you are tired of the unhealthy consequences you are having on people. In reality, how you have been affecting other people lately is their fault not yours. They are just Augustus Gloop-ing your sweet nature. This week it is important that you go on a literal and metaphorical cleanse. Figure out how you want to taste to other people and who you want getting the Tootsie in your Tootsie Pop. Do this now while everyone in the illogical astrological world is still a chubby child in love in a candy store and high off of your sugar. You still have time to grab pieces of you from their grimy little hands.

Scorpio (October 23-November 21)

Some days you feel like a nut, some days you don’t. This week you are going to feel like a nut. Or the nutcracker. I don’t know. Life has been great for you, Scorpio. You’ve been foraging for nuts and nesting with a mate (or two). Your dining engagements have been the way you like it: intimate, controlled, and exclusive. You have all your good energy and luck lately to thank for this. But this week, someone is going to mess with your pile of well-placed nuts. It may feel like they are ruining your whole plan of feasting throughout the summer. But guess what; they aren’t. Sometimes you need to get your nuts touched in order to realize how lucky you are to have said nuts. So watch your nuts, but don’t watch too hard, or you just might crack.

Sagittarius (November 22-December 21)

Hello, and welcome to ‘Backwards Week’. Some other signs of the zodiac always live in ‘Backwards Week’ (in fact, I am pretty sure they don’t really know what the concept of direction really is), but you Sag, shot your arrow in one direction a long time ago, and are following the righteous and honorable path. On this path, you like to be with the same people, do the same things, and eat the same things. Well. Screw that. Do it all backwards this week. Eat something different. Totally different. Weird, even.  Right now you are stuck in a rut and while you say you are perfectly content in that rut, following that same old arrow, you aren’t really.

Capricorn (December 22-January 19)

I personally don’t know very many Capricorns so if you are a Cap introduce yourself to me in the comments below. My theory is that most Capricorns are smart enough to hide themselves from troublemakers like me. But this week, Cap, you are going to be the troublemaker. Your life this week is going to be like one giant, potato-salad-slippery-floor, tapioca-pudding-up-the-nostril food fight. It’s going to be what we in Hippie-land call an “epiphany” and what we in non-Capricornville call “fun”. So dirty and so slimy and so stinky and so delicious that for once you are going to have the opportunity to forget all about those important things that Capricorns like to think about. People are still using you as that iconic figure of dinner party etiquette; they might judge you, too. But just throw some coleslaw at them at scream, “I don’t give a ****!”

Aquarius (January 20- February 18)

Every other horoscope for you this week is telling you to avoid “dumb distractions” and “indulgences”. I’m here to tell you, SIN AWAY. Aquarians are never ones for moral/ethical lines and there is good reason for that. The reason is: it doesn’t suit you. Lately, you’ve been eating all the right things, watching your weight, exercising, not spending all your pennies on happy hour beers. Well, stop it. Now. Unless, of course you want to keep doing that. This week you are going to have to make a decision about whom you really are. If you are hungry and horny little billy goat, be a goat. If you are a smoothie slurping pilates fiend, be a fiend. But stop thinking that your previous life of hedonistic indulgence is a garbage way to be. Some creatures, like goats, like to eat garbage. And it makes them the happiest little things in the world.

Pisces (February 19-March 20)

Lean in and let me tell you a little secret…you might get laid this week. I know, right?!? As a Pisces, you are a slippery little creature full of ideas but you never know which way to go. A Pisces will take a bite of something and never know whether they really like it or not, whether to spit or swallow, whether they are meant to find pleasure in it or purge it. Well, this week is all about seafood. Ahem. No, not just in a sexual way. In a metaphorical way as well. Fish can change sex in order to procreate and ensure their lineage passes on. You are equally full of both eggs and balls lately- and this sexual androgyny makes you a catch to almost everyone. It also lends you an energy of transformation. Lately, you’ve felt like you were stuck in a net, flailing around, being abused by every one-eyed fisherman that has come along. Now you have a chance to eat all his bait, poke that fisherman in his good eye with his own hook, and serve him a taste of his own poisoned puffed up worm medicine. It’s only right. And also, it’s just funny.

Sticking to Kosher Meat: For Love and For Health

Photo Credit to DinnerCraft on Flickr

It has been almost a year since my last relationship ended. It was a sad situation and it came in the form of a break-up email I had to send to my ex-boyfriend who was stuck in Europe. Since then, I made new friends and choices and was told by my business and religious mentor to stick to kosher meat. He meant this in terms of trying to strictly date Jewish men. The theory behind it was that while I am still young, my heart and livelihood would be better off if I only dated people that I would consider marrying. A rabbi later pushed this point by saying that marrying a Jew doesn’t guarantee success but it does help your chances for a successful marriage. Up until that point, I have dated a lot of “interesting” people but none of which I would have ever considered marrying: an out of work actor/scientologist, a homeless man, an anarchist named Pogo, and other winners. They were all beautiful and fascinating people but I decided to get serious about dating for the sake of less broken hearts. The journey with Jewish men has been healthier, rational, but not quite the amount of intensity (i.e. drama, according to Josie) that I was looking for. Through my time on Jdate I have discovered that there are a ton of non-Jewish women on there trying to nail a Jewish man…clearly there is something healthy about this idea of kosher meat.

In fact, if you read today’s New York Times article entitled More People Choosing Kosher for Health there is definitely something to this notion. According to the article there is a huge kosher meat trend not because of religious reasons but because the public views it as healthier and safer. All of the meat has to be processed under strict kosher law and is monitored extremely carefully, from the way it is killed to the way it is butchered. All kosher meat is also heavily salted which helps to keep away certain bacteria, making it a safe choice.

I can make obvious (albeit uncouth) links about the Orthodox Union heavily monitoring the meat to the Jewish mother monitoring her son or about the careful butchering of meat to Jewish men with circumcisions. However, what do you think? Do you view Jewish men and kosher meat as a safer and healthier option? I do, in fact, that is what I intend to say to my future Jewish husband before we eat kosher brisket at the wedding reception.

After Months of Waiting, Josie Finally Got a Date

So let me get this straight: LA is a hook-up culture, right?! Well, perhaps I am too uncool, too busy with my favorite girlfriends, or maybe I’m just too busy eating too many good meals – but why is it that I can’t find a date? Men should be lining up. I’m young, I’m smart and I’m uberhip. Why then, am I so plagued in the dating space? It’s been a slow winter…

Alas, this week was different. I had a date (sort of) with a corporate guy that my Twitter peepette, Veronica in LA, set up for me. It was a basketball game and a Nate and Al’s meal all rolled into one. I took the metro into downtown and met up with (ah, the psuedo name…) “The Suit” (he’s a corporate guy and God knows I never date any of those) at his place. He lives in a beautiful loft that overlooks downtown and I was envious. My next residence will most definitely be in downtown LA. I love it. Anyway, his company gave him four tickets and we walked over to LA Live. I’ve been to several games there, but since I’m usually a commoner, I sit in the nosebleed section but this time was different. We sat with the suits up in the corporate seats. They had their own buffet and bar. I was stoked. I could really get used to this. Nate and Al’s was the caterer and since I was stuffed, I opted for a salad. I’m never usually a salad girl, but I just couldn’t do the heavy Jewish pastrami sandwich on this night. Did you know Larry King goes to the Nate and Al’s in Beverly Hills everyday for breakfast? By the way, that is Carina’s weirdest celebrity crush, she likes that he looks like a frog and she wants to do naughty things with his suspenders. Maybe I shouldn’t disclose that but…oh well. If you like the two pics below, the first was taken using the iPhone app, TiltShiftGen, that our dearest AKesq recommended. I suggest you download it; it’s so cool.

Ok, so here comes the awkward turtle of the night, well, because my life is a series of awkward turtles:

(While waiting in line and deciding what to order)

Josie: (To Suit) I’m thinking Jewish Pastrami sandwich or Chicken Caesar. What do you prefer?

The Suit: Um, I know this may be a deal breaker because you’re a food blogger, but I’m a vegetarian.

Josie: (With a nervous giggle) Ha! Funny. So which one will it be?

The Suit: No, I’m serious.

Josie: (With a devastated stare) Oh, you’re not joking… This is not good. How long have you been meat deprived?

The Suit: For a while.

Josie: Shit. So… it’s not something I can change. (With a pensive pause) Ok, this is never going to work.

Had he not seen the site? After all, “thou shall not dabble in vegetarianism” is one of the 10 Uncouth Gourmandments. Just my luck.

How will he fare? Stay tuned.

Which couple do you like better? The one above or below.