Wood Spoon: Chicken Pot Pie for the Soul & Lens

Many of us in the food blogosphere all carry around the same Canon s90 camera but very few of us actually know how to use it. There are several exceptions to this rule and one of my favorites is Julian aka DJJewelz. He uses the same camera as all of us, no Photoshop, and always manages to take beautiful pictures. Sure he has the artists’ eye but he also knows simple shortcuts for better pictures. My new friend Nastassia, of Let Me Eat Cake, and I were both talking at the Latin American Dessert Crawl about how in awe we were of DJJewelz’s pictures and how we so needed a class with him. During this crawl one of the stops we skipped was Wood Spoon, a Brazilian restaurant in Downtown LA. The two of us girls conjured up a plan: take DJJewelz to lunch and have him help us with our cameras. We arrived on a Friday for lunch so we had better lighting for our impromptu class.

We had all heard, thanks to Giada De Laurentiis episode of “The Best Thing I Ever Ate”, that Wood Spoon had a great chicken pot pie. That was obviously my main course but we decided to start with some appetizers aka photo subjects. We ordered the Pastel Portuguese, which was a shrimp stuffed dumpling with coconut sauce, and we also ordered Coxinha, which is the most popular Brazilian street food with chicken inside. Both Nastassia and I were nervous to step out of “Automatic” mode and venture into “AV”. We were both convinced that with so many options we would screw up the setting on camera to no return. Julian was a patient teacher and walked us through 4 things that we really needed to do to easily enhance our pictures. Between F-Stops, exposure, Macro settings and white balance testing we were starting to get some really good pictures.

At this point in the meal the pictures were actually better than the food. We were in during lunch hours and we were sad that out of all their exciting juices and lemonades on the menu we could order none of them and could only drink iced tea or coke. Oh well, this was school, we couldn’t be distracted by a foodgasm this early on in the lesson. We were getting confident and then came the Chicken Pot Pie. This was no Marie Callendars version, this had fresh corn and hearts of palm and a surprising amount of black pepper. It was a perfect portioned lunch and I was in love with the adorable wood spoon that laid across the crusty top. I dug in and as Julian said, “If it’s good enough for Giada, then it is good enough for me!”

Let Me Eat Cake was sad to learn that she couldn’t order cake or any dessert at all on this day. However, we really weren’t complaining. The restaurant could/should have included all items on their menu but we still got great food subjects and a Pot Pie fit for an Italian American Food Princess. It was a delicious and educational lunch and I strive to try and take better picture and get out of my “Automatic” comfort zone. Julian gave us the good advice to check these simple camera settings first because it easier than having to return to the restaurant and order the same thing for a redo…but with Wood Spoon I woodn’t (sorry, I couldn’t help myself) mind returning for another chicken pot pie lunch!

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Uncovering the Secrets to the UG Mating Rituals: Part 1

By: Nadia Noir aka DoubleDEntendre

Biologically and chemically, most men are attracted to luscious curves, voracious fertile appetites, and a keen intellect that ensures the survival of their progeny i.e. the future sperm donors of their lineage. Biologically and chemically, most women are attracted to…chocolate. Horrible cruel and unusual studies that require women to choose between their love of sex and their love of chocolate demonstrate that more than 50% of women actually prefer chocolate over sex. This may mean that somehow scientists need to genetically mutate the male genes to create the perfect man who can both perform reliably in bed AND have detachable limbs made out of fine Amedei Tuscan chocolate. While this option might eventually be necessary for the survival of all mankind, there is currently an alternative to the invention of the “Edible Man”: the Uncouth Gourmand girls. Both Carina and Josie have all the attributes that biologically dispose them to being awesome lovers; they also enjoy sex as much as they love drizzling scorching hot chocolate sauce all over each other and licking it off –or so previous scholars studying Uncouth Mating have reported back to me. Be aware that this theory is scandalously unscientific and there is no actual evidence of this except the warped products of my overactive imagination.

Seeing as the Uncouth Girl is socially the “perfect mate”, I decided to observe them in their natural habitat in order to determine the processes of their mating rituals. My hope is that my research may encourage the Uncouth Man to gallop forth from the depths of the wild city of Los Angeles, pluck these willing and nubile young mistresses up, and teach them that some parts of a man can be edible—even if they aren’t dipped in chocolate.

My first question in the series was, “Where does the Uncouth Girl find her Uncouth Man?”

While at first the girls were hesitant to divulge their juicy secrets, once given the opportunity to put something in their mouths while talking (note: while not expressed explicitly, research has pointed to a possible oral fixation in the society of the Uncouth Girl. Do not worry. I am doing more research into this area soon), they opened up easily and with little to no lubrication.

Below is a video of my findings.

In order to aid my future studies, if you have any questions that you would like to ask the Uncouth Gourmand girls, please put them in the comments below.

UG Crew in Full Force at Sexy Singles’ Soiree 2.0

The UG Girls can be described as many things but one of our favorite classifications is single. There ain’t no man holding us down, well, if they are it isn’t in a bad way. Unfortunately, it has been a while since that has happened, or as Josie has said, “I am a born again virgin.” Anyway, we knew we had to attend the Sexy Singles Soiree hosted by our two favorite bloggers and Tweetettes: The Minty and Vixen.

Since Josie and I are not the only Single Ladies in the office (you just did the Beyonce finger move, didn’t you?) we brought in our PR and Accounting interns, Lea and Maria. We were also reunited with our first intern ever, Young Jin, who gave us all the Eating Dog post. The two hosts had specialty cocktails and, as a Jameson girl, I loved the Minty’s drink. Although the interns told me the Vixen’s gin based drink was good and strong as hell. Did I meet the man of dreams? No, not quite but one thing that made a lovely cameo was the first USDA certified organic Tequila called Casa Noble. Relax folks, we did our part for Earth Day! The interns loved this tequila and I can guarantee we will all be looking for it this Cinco de Mayo.

Did I care that I didn’t meet the man of my dreams? Nope, not one bit. We had great drinks, we were at our favorite downtown spot Drago Centro with their Happy Hour which goes all day and every day, and of course we were in fantastic company. Our friends in the blogosphere/Twitterazi made appearances including Hanhonymous, VeronicainLA, and Finer Things.

The night was fantastic and the event thankfully wasn’t a sausage fest, so I had fun with the girls. Speaking of which, what is the female equivalent of a sausage fest? If you can answer that question, you’d be a total Uncouth Gourmand. My favorite part of the event was a game that they had where everyone drew a playing card and then you had to make the best poker hand. This required the group to socialize and talk to one another. I, Carina, am one hell of a competitive girl and I had the King of Spades. I was being rude and rejecting in honor of the game (probably not that far off real life) and told people that I wouldn’t talk to them unless they were atleast a face card. May not have been the best tactic but I was the only girl amongst the four winners, I got a King and Ace Full House. I liked to call us the only winners, but truly we were all winners for getting ourselves out there and opening ourselves up…I am talking about our hearts…get your mind out of the gutter!

Brewery Art WALK, Vizzi TRUCK, & WorldFare BUStaurant

Saturday was the day that I should have been at school taking graduation pictures and picking up my cap and gown for my grad school graduation. However, that was not what I was doing. Instead I was looking forward to another school on Saturday. I was going to be attending an Italian Wine Class at Cube Marketplace. Minty and I knew we’d be attending this and set off to the Brewery Art Walk before the class. It was perfect weekend weather and it was magical to wander into and out of lofts to look at people’s collections in this art colony area.

Everything was lovely and then I stumbled into a place that I have been wanting to visit for years. I found the second Hipcooks location in the Brewery Arts District. I fell in love with their large communal tables, wood stump cutting boards, and cute aprons. I have a list of their upcoming classes and will definitely return for a class. By the way, I am so in love with their colander light fixtures.

After walking in to this cute kitchen my hunger started to grow and I was in the market for some food. Thankfully, just outside the art walk was the Vizzi truck. Minty told me that she read on Twitter that the World Fare was gonna come, however, they were nowhere in sight. Vizzi was not a second choice by any means and we ordered food. They only launched a few weeks ago and we were blown away by the fancy TV screens on the truck. I ordered the Balsamic BBQ Braised Wagyu Sliders and Minty had the Black Skillet Jidori Chicken Sliders. Both sandwiches were served atop Pimento-Spiced and Yakima salted Popcorn. Popcorn is one of my favorite food and I loved this fun side dish. I think I love that popcorn is such an uncouth thing to eat, it always feels as though it is being shoveled into your mouth and I feel like I can it unbelievable quantities. Minty and I subscribe to the school of “Sharing is Caring” so I gave her one of my beef sliders in exchange for one of her chicken ones. I liked hers better and she could sense it, so she asked me if I wanted to switch one more chicken for beef. I apologetically nodded and was happy as can be. These were good sliders  and the popcorn was a wonderful surprise. If I had one complaint it would be the buns. I am a bit of a bread snob and this tasted similar to King’s Hawaiian rolls, so I am guessing that is what they use. Not bad, but not up to par with the rest of the slider.

It seemed almost immediately after we ordered, the famed World Fare Bus arrived. They were welcomed by a line and a camera crew for promotional purposes. It took a while for them to park and set up and so we waited, plus we had to digest.  This BusTaurant is famous for Bunny Chows, “Originally a South African street worker food; a hollowed out loaf of bread with filled with chicken curry, Chef Andi has taken the concept to a new level as a portable easy-to-eat medium for serving different flavors from around the world.” It is a very cool concept and we liked the second story, even if the steps were rather scary. We were already a bit full and ordered the Bunny Chow combo to share with Chicken Curry and Short Ribs and added in the Truffle Mac n Cheese Balls. We were first given the wrong order (photographed below) but we can’t complain because it was delivered to us after we were told to take a seat upstairs. The upstairs was beautiful but unfortunately there were no seats, so we stood.

We had the order corrected and we both dug in to sample. I liked this brioche bun much better and the chicken curry was good with my favorite golden raisins, athough, the short rib was pretty watery and it soaked right through the bread. Our meal came with a perfect cookie. However, for me, the item that was the clear winner was the truffle mac n cheese balls. They were perfection and reached a level that the ones at Fred 62 just can’t match. After these two lunches at mobile eateries, I was stuffed and prepared for wine class. They are both trucks I would try again, but that mac n cheese ball is something I would drive miles and wait in line for. Anyway walk, truck, and bus on and I will tell you about the wine class in the very near future.

Malibu—> Opera—> Yelp Party

And Malibu traps me yet again! As soon as I walked in the door, I was greeted with a shriek by a girl whom I had never met before. Apparently, it was the K from FinerthingsLA and she yelled, “You’re going to think I am such a nerd, but you’re Josie from Uncouth Gourmands! I recognize your hair!” In total disbelief that my hair was more popular than I was, I replied with a ‘yes’ and we poured ourselves a drink. We talked about blogs, boys, and friends. K is co-author to Finer Things LA, which she and her bestie have been operating for about three months now. Their motto is: A Classy Guide on Getting Drunk and Fat in Los Angeles. I dig this girl’s uncouth ways, and surely, we’re bound to collaborate soon.

The night wore on and we got, what else? Hungry. Next to the Minty, our newest and freshest UG face has been Ms. Veronica in LA. The girl knows far more about what’s hip in LA than I do, and she’s been my tour guide for the past few weeks. As you can see, I showed her my appreciation up above. Anyone that knows me, can vouche that I’m a total carnivore. In fact, I kind of hate vegetarians. I’ve been debating doing a 30-day expose into the life of a vegetarian and documenting it on the blog. However, I’m not sure if I have the discipline for that. Below you can see my last meal – A medium rare piece of pork loin of tenderness – Oops! I mean tenderloin. I think the vegetarian expose will have to wait… I’m not promising anything, either.

See above: It is perhaps the most uncouth moment of the night. Liking her fingers wet after a rare piece of meat, Miss. Veronica is now an official UG.

Speaking of UG staples, Miss Minty, invited me to the opera on Sunday and being the dilettante that I am, I jumped all over the invite on Facebook. I rushed from Malibu to downtown and headed over to see the matinee showing. It was a weird show, but we liked it anyway. From there, we headed to Eagle Rock.

Minty has over 2,000 quality reviews on Yelp, so she had a special invite to the Yelp Elite party in Eagle Rock (and a plus one). Since the show ran late, we missed the first party and met up with everyone at the Black Boar in Eagle Rock. Before we could hit up drinks, we had to tend to more important orders and since food always goes before liquor for this UG, we headed the Vietnamese place on Colorado, Lemongrass. Minty was on camera duty there, so I’ll write about that one soon.

We met up with the rest of the Yelp bunch and partied like rock stars for the rest of the night. We met up with Javier from WeirdTV and I talked him up about beer, OK Cupid, and his new favorite restaurant, Mac and Cheeza in downtown on 8th. M & C comes from the guys that brought you Larkin’s. Apparently, they mix in whatever ingredients to want into your mac and cheese. Anywhere from tomatoes to wild mushrooms. I must check this place out soon. Anyone want to join me?

I got to finally meet Carina’s gay boyfriend, Paul, and I think she may have some competition. Move over, Carina! Josie’s the new gay girlfriend in town. We stayed for a long time, actually and I got to know some of the fabulous people that make up the Yelp Elite mix. I joked at the party that I married into Yelp and when asked who my husband was — I pointed to Minty. See you at the next Yelp party… Or maybe CitySearch…

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.