Getting Our Connect on: ProjectConnect

Did you win our contest for the Project Connect event on Tuesday at the Coloft in Santa Monica? Because if you didn’t, you really missed out on a great evening. It was a ton of networking and meeting new people. This was an unusual event because it highlighted a few things that you don’t normally see at a networking event. Rather than focusing on who you had to meet the focus was on who you can introduce other people to. The event was organized by Stephanie, owner of Social Bling, and the main themes of the night were: listening, complimenting, and gratitude.

It was hosted at the coloft building in Santa Monica. The coloft is a space that allows entrepreneurs to come together and rent out workspace for the month – kind of like a much better Starbucks. I am rereading The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki and the energy from that book is surely true at the Coloft, which enables a free flowing work environment and collaboration between entrepreneurs. The main thesis of the book being that any given crowd is collectively smarter than any individual expert.

We all mingled for a little bit in the beginning and drank some Mary Jane relaxing soda, which contains kava – a plant which has marijuana-like effects on the mind and body. We should’ve known better because the label clearly says “Do not consume more than two a day.” We failed to read the label and were giggling all night. Although Carina and I are often referred to as “Giggle Corner” even without this magical soda.

The evening was full of laughs and getting to know other entrepreneurs that do the same thing we UGs do. Being an entrepreneur is probably the scariest but most exhilarating thing one could ever do. It’s truly an incredible roller-coaster. It’s nice to be surrounded with people that have the same sentiment about our passion. Particularly because so many people really don’t understand entrepreneurship. My mother, for example, really doesn’t get it. The same was true of the mother of the Coloft’s owner, Cameron. Cameron said that when he told his Persian mother that he was going to be an entrepreneur, she said, “Oh, what kind of doctor is that?” We chuckled because we know how hard it is to have a good support system as an entrepreneur. We were all looking at each other that night with the same hope and willingness to help each other in some way or another. We’re a good, but quirky, race of people. Among some new friends in attendance were: Lizzy Shaw, Blair Goldberg, Alaia Williams, and Jenda.

Some of the other sponsors were: Social Couture (who’s the woman who brings you parties in a box), the Writer’s Boot Camp, and Bodega Wine Bar. There was a challenge at one point in the night to see what we could make happen using social media. Thankfully, a woman from Kind Plus bars was there and ran out to share some bars with us. It’s a gluten-free bar and a company that takes social responsibility very seriously. In fact, Kind was named one of BusinessWeek’s Most Promising Social Entrepreneurial Companies. Their new campaign is their ‘Not so random acts’ of kindness cards. Via the web you can track these acts with a uniquely branded card. Visit here for more details.

We are ladies with food always on the mind, we can’t blame the Mary Jane soda for our munchies, but we felt the need to bring a snack for everyone in attendance. Where did we turn? Our favorite truck  The Border Grill truck came to the rescue.

Since this was a social networking event, we pulled our social network together (i.e., Twitter) and asked for some help to feed these tired kava-drunken souls. Border Grill came through for us like a good friend and, since they were across the street, brought everyone little dulce de leche churro bites and whipped cream. They were life-giving to our pseudo stoned brains. Special thanks to the Border Grill truck, Nick, and Christina, the kindest Border Grill employees in the whole wide world. Who says you can’t transcend the boundaries of Twitter and real life? It’s been our experience that Twitter friends are often more reliable than real life friends. What made this instance special was that this time it was a company pulling through and not an individual person. Border Grill, like so few other businesses, do social networking right and realize that human connection is just as important!

The night ended with song and all was well-documented by an E! camera crew. The video should be out soon and will include an interview by all the sponsors and, of course, yours truly, the UGs. It will be hypertexted and will be streaming soon to a UG channel near you. Many thanks again to everyone who came and the two lucky ladies who won our contest, Veronica in LADoubleDEntendre, and Amanda – You ladies have become very near and dear to our hearts. Thank you for your support on this here blog and your unfailing friendship to the UGs, who may very well be crazy and passionate enough to turn the world upside down with their antics and love for all things food, fun, and friends. Remember folks: listen, compliment help each other out, and be grateful in real life and on the interwebs…If you don’t we WILL come after you!

Office Bonding Buffet: New Delhi Palace, Pasadena

The picture above is reason enough for you to believe me when I say, I absolutely and totally love my job. For all you Uncouth Gourmands fans out there, I’m Meryl aka the CFO: nice to meet you. I love trying out Indian cuisine in LA; I moved here from India two years ago, and I’m constantly on the prowl for any semblance of the food I dearly miss. So when Carina mentioned Indian food, I was ecstatic!

The UG team (missing two members: Lea and Maria) set out early to the buffet at New Delhi Palace. I liked the vibe here; they had statues and ethnic decorations all over. I picked up the camera and got clicking, while the rest of the team headed over to the buffet, which definitely did not lack variety. I found the salad particularly amusing, it was a combination of potatoes, corn and carrots among other food items, but I don’t think I’ve seen this anywhere back home.

I was delighted to see the ‘basmati’ fried rice, always a favorite, which went hand in hand with the ‘Dal Makhani’ (a creamy lentil delicacy). The ‘Chole’ (chickpeas) was not as spicy as I would have expected, but then most Indian food I’ve eaten here is toned down on the spices front. The Chicken curry was simple and delicious, cooked in typical North Indian style, and along with the ‘Palak’ (spinach) curry, worked well in combination with the ‘naan’ (Indian oven-baked flat-bread).

My top choice of the buffet would definitely be the ‘Baingan Bharta’ (eggplant curry). It had just the right blend of sweet and spicy although I think they took the liberty of changing it up by adding potatoes. Anyway, it tasted just right with the fried rice. The ‘raita’ (a traditional yogurt side dish) was good, but the ‘Tandoori Chicken’ was a bit of a let down though the chutneys were appetizing. They had a mango pudding and rice pudding for desert, which were both great, but I guess I was hoping for the more traditional ‘Gulab Jamun’ or ‘Halwa’.

I think among all of us, Josie had the best time (refer to food plate above). I lost out on the garlic naan, and had to settle for the regular naan as I was too involved with getting the right pictures for my first post on this prestigious blog. But Josie and Carina both argued that it was in good faith: they didn’t want me to be embarrassed just in case I did get kissed anytime soon(!). Below is a shot of the rest of the team; to the left is Ian, our website designer, on the right is Kristiana, our marketing intern, and that’s me in the center. Overall, it was nice team lunch and good bonding time; we all had our fill and blissfully drifted off to sleep in Carina’s car on the way back to the office. In light of our food comas, I doubt we will be returning anytime soon, but I do know the buffet selection is changed daily. A definite must-try!

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.

Figaro Cafe: HH with Crab Cakes, Mussels, and Escargot

Figaro Cafe was the home of the only hot bartender on the Hot Bartenders Crawl in Los Feliz a couple of months ago.  Therefore when the Happy Hour experts, The Minty and The Vixen, asked me to join them for the Happiest of Hours, I quickly agreed. I had just returned from my trip up in NorCal and Josie had class that night so I made the trek to my old hood. I lived in Los Feliz in the giant orange building behind the post office for two years of my life and I exhausted every shop and restaurant on the two main blocks. I used to go into Figaro Cafe for a croissant and to get a spotting of Danny Bonaduce after his radio show. Side Note: My mom used to tell me she sent fan letters to Danny Bonaduce in her teenage years. After I watched the Partridge Family in re-runs I asked her, “How could you have a crush on Danny?” She explained to me that she didn’t, she loved David Cassidy like all the other teeny boppers, but she was worried that Danny would get no mail and be sad that David Cassidy got bags full. That is my mother, she is the most considerate person. I told her I would tell that story at her funeral but I might as well tell it here, while she still very much alive.

Anyway, I arrived this evening at 5:45 and walked in with the Minty. The Vixen was already there and had just downed the smallest martini in the smallest martini glass I have ever seen. She laughed when she saw us staring and said, “Well, in all fairness, it does say mini martini on the Happy Hour menu.” It was priced at $5 but it was probably half the price and size of the normal sized martini. I am not sure if that is a deal so I got champagne for $5. Minty did the food ordering and got us escargot, mussels, crab cakes, and I piped in for the carpaccio that I have had there numerous times. All of this food ordered off the Happy Hour Menu and ranged in price from $4.50-$6. There HH is everyday from 5pm-7pm. The escargot was OMG garlicky, but apparently I was the only one complaining. It costs under 5 bucks for 1/2 dozen of these snails and it is well worth it. These slippery little suckers (oh yeah, Pretty Woman reference) stick around way after they have been consumed, not just the garlic aftertaste but you can dip your bread into their butter and you get a brand new delicious dish. The carpaccio was just as good as I remembered and the mussels were also doused in garlic. The food was good quality and well worth the discounted prices.

I don’t want to generalize but what is it with bad service at French restaurants and bad service in the actor infested Los Feliz? There were several awkward turtle moments with various waiters and waitresses. We had to say “We would like bread, too” when we noticed all of of the surrounding tables were topped with baskets of bread. I had the extra table torn away even while my arm was resting on it. We also had to play musical drinks each time the drinks arrived because they were served to the wrong people. Minty ordered the exact same drink for the night, a $4 well drink with bourbon and soda, and it seems that each time was various degrees of alcohol content and different levels of glass fullness. We laughed it off and said, “We get it, you are an ac-tor” in our heads. Whatever it was a fun night with the two girls that are bringing LA the Sexy Single Soiree 2.0 next week. It was also deliciously inexpensive snails, I was happy. Although, I would have been happier if the hot bartender, Ventura, was working.

Checkers Rush Hour Dinner = A New BFF

About a week ago, a newbie friend from the Barry Group in Venice invited us to Checkers to try their new Rush Hour menu. We love their Thursday happy hour, so how the hell could we say no. We met up with Edward on Wednesday and were in love. First we fell in love with Edward and then the food love followed. We met Edward at the bar and he took us into the dining room. We’re commoners and always sit at the bar – these girls can spend $4 on Thursday but anything at the classy Checkers dining room has always been out of the question. But things have changed at Checkers and now their $39 three course menu has made (hottie tottie) Chef Todd’s menu accessible to all. Let me not leave out the other hottie tottie running the beverage service, Tyler. That boy makes my teeth sweat. They really need their own magazine cover. Anyone? Anyone?

However, let’s not detract from Edward, as he was the most entertainment of the night. I thought Carina was going to fall into to a love-induced coma when Edward was speaking because he loved Rosie, Hillary Clinton, worked in politics, and lives in WeHo. She had finally met her Prince Charming. I loved him, too. He was so adorable. In fact, we loved him so much that we even secured the next few dates with him in the coming weeks. Why can’t I book this many dates in advance?

So what is the Checkers Rush Hour Dinner Menu? Here is how it was described to us:

Checkers’ Rush Hour prix fixe menu, priced at $39 per person, is served daily from 5 pm to 6:30 pm. Professionals leaving the office can now avoid the worst of Los Angeles’ infamous traffic while enjoying a fine dining experience at unbeatable prices.

Below is a look into some of the dishes we devoured from the Rush Hour menu:

For the first course, Carina ordered the Pan-Seared Ahi Tuna. I was coveting her food even though I could not try it. It looked amazing and she agreed that the flavors were right on. Edward opted for the Grilled Local Calamari and I opted for the Saffron Risotto without the rock shrimp, damn seafood allergy. I loved the risotto because it had large chunks of chorizo and it was heavy in cream (but in that good kind of way, that is). Tyler recommended I cut the heaviness of the risotto with some white wine, but I declined this Wednesday night and Carina and Edward had some instead. They thought the wine was lovely and that it went well with their food selections.

For dinner Carina order the Harissa-Rubbed Alaskan Halibut while Edward and I opted for the Grilled Colorado Lamb Loin. Carina’s halibut looked colorful and absolutely beautiful. She enjoyed it very much and was grateful that it wasn’t overcooked. She was also grateful that Edward laughed when she said, “I’ll have the halibut just for the hell-i-but.” It’s a good thing that Edward loved the puns because, let me just say, Carina throws them out all of the time. I had the lamb, which was beautifully cooked and the bean medley and broth that it lay above was heavenly. Even though the beans were a bit too al dente for my taste, the broth resembled a light and salty godliness. It reminded me of my grandma’s frijoles de la olla. Perfection.

And lastly for dessert Carina ordered the Gourmet Ice Cream and Sorbet, while Edward ordered the Flourless Chocolate Cake and I opted for the Vanilla Bean Crème Brulee. I think you should know that if you order the ice cream, you can only choose sorbet or ice cream. Our uncouthie, Carina, is dairy sensitive and went with the sorbet. When they asked her if she wanted mango or raspberry, she replied, “Both.” She has that way of asking by giving the waitstaff approval and more then often she gets her wish. We were at the classy Checkers dining room and did in fact feel at home. Together with the awkward conversation, Carina ordering two desserts, and me dropping my napkin and fork on the floor… well, let’s just say I could hear the song in my head…. “Pretty woman, walking down the street. Pretty woman.”

Edward ordered coffee with his dessert and it came with the usual cream and sugar. I had to take a picture of the sugars because as Carina once said, “Josie equates detail to love” and well, I do. It shows me that you care. So when I see such attention to detail, I notice, commend, and appreciate it. P.S: I also liked the silverware and the glassware as Checkers. It’s always the first thing I notice at a restaurant and yet I am so rarely impressed. If you want high-end dining attention to detail and good quality food at a reasonable price head to Checkers for the Rush Hour menu. You may not have the same great company, leave it to Carina to meet her soul mate at a media dinner, but we can guarantee you a great meal! Also for some foodie trivia: Thomas Keller was the executive chef at Checkers Hotel in the early 90s and our favorite Pasadena chef, Claud Beltran of Noir Food & Wine was the assistant chef under Thomas. Don’t say we never teach you anything!

UG Team Profile: Princess Lea

Name: Lea

Position: Marketing & Management Intern

What makes you an Uncouth Gourmand? If you look at my picture you can see the uncouth side of me. I am a straw in a pitcher of sangria kind of girl. The office jokes that I am the loud uncouth intern and Maria is the reserved gourmand intern. I also have a gourmand side that has developed over time. I am a foodie that loves to indulge and thankfully I come from a family where dining out and exploring the nooks and crannies of Los Angeles were a way of life.

What would your last meal be? Definitely filet mignon with homemade mashed potatoes and sautéed veggies. I’m a total carnivore!

What’s the funniest thing you’ve heard in the office? The funniest/weirdest thing I’ve heard in the office was an anonymous person’s LIGER story. Apparently a guy they dated purred like a kitten during sex and ROARED like a lion when they… You get the picture. It’s creepy but hilarious!

What do you love/hate about being a part of the team? I love everything about my job! I have like the coolest bosses ever! There is never a dull moment in the office, that is for sure. My job combines my passions for business and food 🙂 I love that I’m learning about all the great spots in LA. What I hate is that I know about all these great events and dinners in LA and I can’t go…so whoever invites the UG girls to the events/dinners let them bring an intern and a plus one 🙂

What do you want people to know about you? I’m the fun and talkative intern. I’m also not the one who never heard of Mick Jagger prior to the Ke$ha song.

Pho in Pasadena? Adventures on North Lake

I hate when I start sentences like this but here we go: Not to be a snob but….I hate to eat pho outside of San Gabriel and I rarely go north of the 210 on Lake. Sure my new favorite hot dog place is up there, there’s good Salvadoran food, Bulgarini gelato, and those cupcakes that I try weekly to try (even though Polkadots is ALWAYS closed) but it is not an area I explore very often. On Super Bowl Sunday we had a strange run-in with the people at Coffee Gallery. We were giggle corner and had the weirdest day of eavesdropping. First, the counter girl with no provoking said she hated people on Yelp. Not smart when you have two yelpers in front of you. One of these ladies has almost 2,000 Yelp reviews and you better believe she is going to write about this. This afternoon spent in a coffee shop was hilarious. Zombie bunnies, eyepatches, and a secret reservation line for the coffee shop were amongst the topics discussed. I even did a bit of celeb sighting. I had just returned from the bathroom and noticed a pretty woman walked in and I was “star stuck” trying to place her. I then realized that I just saw her picture in the hallway and that she was doing a concert at the cafe in a few weeks and tickets were $15. Everyone seemed to know one another and people were taking naps on the couches. It was this bizarre world that I felt that I accidentally entered. We were so out of place we began to attribute new names to the people we were in contact with,  I called them “Mountain Folks” and Josie called them “Renaissance Fair Goers.”

After all, this area is where our friends the Climbing Couple live and all they does is hike and do crazy things like exercise…daily. I kid, but the difference between North Lake and South Lake are vast. I live on the South Side so I normally stick to that side. Yesterday, on my way home, I decided to drive up Lake because I had to get a new cord for my Tivo/TV connection. I drove past a coffee shop that I have seen numerous times but this time I noticed a banner that said that they are now serving pho in addition to their regular menu. Now this regular menu is sausage, eggs, and pancakes so Vietnamese soup didn’t necessarily complement it, but I was fascinated. I looked for The Reyn on my Yelp App and saw that filet mignon pho was quite popular. I called in an order to go while I was S-Video cord shopping. When I went to pick up my soup I was amazed by the aqua blue diner interior and that you could buy lotto on the right hand side of the restaurant. My pho was double what I pay at Golden Deli, around $9, but any dinner under $10 is good for me. The owner was charming and when I asked if I could take a photo he said exactly what the infamous sticker says, “People on Yelp love us.”

I have tried several different pho places in Pasadena and they were all less than mediocre and yet I had slightly higher hopes for this place. I went home and rather then first eating I decided to go to an area that scares many, the back of the entertainment center. I am the kind of girl that never needs a man to program my Blu-Ray player. It took me probably 20 minutes and then I decided to break into my pho. I have ordered pho to-go at numerous places and I know the drill. The large container of broth/meat, the box of noodles, the bag of just cilantro and onion, and a bag of produce additions, and then little containers of sriracha and hoisin sauce. I started to add the noodles in and then I saw that there was a bag that I had never seen before, a plastic bag with raw filet mignon. Normally, I wouldn’t have minded except I was worried my broth may no longer be hot enough to cook the meat. I instantly dropped it in and when it wasn’t changing colors I rushed it to a pot and put it over heat.

I was laughing the whole time and it was one of those UG moments that should’ve be on camera. It was funny because I was reading a review on Yelp where the girl didn’t like that her filet mignon was served already cooked. If I was in the restaurant that also would have bothered me. However, I was not, I was at home and had a bag of raw meat to deal with. I think Reyn needs to change their meat serving protocol: raw meat in the restaurant and cooked meat for take-out. I poured my soup into a new bowl, dressed it up, and finally got my first good pho from Pasadena. Is it better than Golden Deli? No, but I will definitely go back and eat a bowl there. I love Vietnamese food and if I had to spend the rest of my life slurpin pho and eating bahn mi, I would die a happy woman. Thank you North Lake Avenue for giving me funny situations and adding a new element to my Pasadena (or Passédena) life!

Coffee Gallery
Neighborhood: Pasadena
2029 Lake Ave
Altadena, CA 91001
(626) 398-7917
The Reyn
Neighborhood: Pasadena
635 N Lake Ave
Pasadena, CA 91101
(626) 449-5768