Thirsty Thursday: FOUR at Checkers & Chef Todd FTW!

We have written about Checkers and their Thursday happy hour called FOUR for a long time, but it is truly our favorite weekly deal. The man on the left, Tyler, takes care of the drinks and the man on the right, Chef Todd, handles the food. They have fine-dining expertise and skill that is made affordable so you can easily indulge to your belly’s content. They offer four plates and four drinks for four hours (from 4p-8p) on Thursday for $4 each. It is the deal of the century. Last week after John Kelly Chocolates and before the Sexy Singles Soiree 2.0 we sampled all four of the dishes.

Last week the theme for FOUR was “Best of FOUR” paying homage to people’s favorite bites and drinks. The food served was calamari salad, braised beef shortribs with risotto, halibut fish tacos, and a roasted red pepper and tomato soup. The drinks ranged from, my favorite, the Secret Garden to an Old Cuban. I know what you are thinking, why am I telling you about all of the delicious things you missed? There are a couple of reasons: 1. I am mean. 2. It featured edamame beans in the new ways that Chef Todd was interviewed about. 3. To make you go today and discover more FOUR deliciousness.

Here is what is on today’s FOUR Menu (all items are $4 from 4p-8pm):

2007 SANTA BARBARA SAUVIGNON BLANC – A gold medal recipient at the West Coast Wine Fair, this is a lively and bright example of the varietal, with lush flavors and a clean finish!
2008 SANTA BARBARA CHARDONNAY – Creamy on the palate with pear and citrus notes, this chardonnay is well-balanced and expressive.
2007 SANTA BARBARA PINOT NOIR – a great little pinot with hints of earth and cigar, foiled by ripe blackberry and lively acidity.  91+ PTS, WINE & SPIRITS MAGAZINE
2007 SANTA BARBARA COUNTY CABERNET SAUVIGNON – Deep and rich, with a velvety texture.  An ideal pairing with the Sonoma duck!

CALEDONIA PRAWN SCAMPI – beautiful large prawns with stewed tomatoes, tarragon, and house-made herb fettuccini!
CANNELLINI BEAN STEW – with charred Spanish chorizo and fresh lemon and basil…
MAITAKE MUSHROOM TOAST – served on grilled sourdough with a mushroom butter.
PAN-SEARED SONOMA DUCK BREAST – paired with caramelized cauliflower, spring onion and Medjool dates; spectacular!>

As someone that is from the Central Coast, I love that they are partnering with Summerland Winery this Thursday for FOUR. I don’t know if it is from my childhood dream of owning my own boutique hotel or my love of good quality cocktails and well prepared food but I just love Checkers. If you are unable to enjoy it tonight…shoot for next Thursday. Also, I just heard that Checkers will be giving away Mother’s Day gifts for all of the moms out there. Here are all the details:

MOM EATS FREE BRUNCH

The a-la-carte brunch will be served on Sunday, May 9 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Checkers Downtown’s newly renovated dining room replete with style and artwork evoking the hotel’s 1920’s origins. Checkers’ Executive Chef Todd Allison has culled a menu certain to sate the desires of the most finicky of mothers. For the traditionalists there are Checkers’ Buttermilk Pancakes filled with strawberries, blueberries or bananas and walnuts, or for the more adventurous there is the Open-Faced Fried Egg Sandwich on grilled sourdough with prosciutto, stewed tomatoes and arugula. But, if she is the elegant-at-all-times type, she’ll certainly enjoy the Maine Lobster Risotto, the Seared Maine Diver Scallops with Moro blood orange, fork mashed fingerling potato and pomegranate glaze or the Grilled Colorado Lamb Loin with Rancho Gordo heirloom bean ragout and natural jus. Whatever her tastes are, mom will dine in style – and the host will save enough to buy her some flowers too.

The “Mom Eats Free” offer is valid up to $30 in value and does not include alcohol, tax or gratuity. Certain conditions and restrictions apply. Prices range from $9 to $30 and the full Mother’s Day brunch menu can be viewed at http://www.hiltoncheckers.com/files/mothers_day_menu.pdf. Reservations can be made by calling 213-624-0000 or online at http://www.opentable.com/checkers-downtown?rid=276.

Times are tough and Checkers is making things easier for you. Whether it is by offering you four plates and four drinks for $4 on Thursdays or  by giving your mom a Mother’s Day meal, they have won our UG hearts! I don’t want to get in trouble with the other UG….but one of the UGs is working on winning Chef Todd’s heart! Hint: It isn’t me.

P.S. If you wanna know how Checkers makes the UGs feel, then order the plate of gooey chcolate chip cookies…yup, it’s kind of like that!

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Being Couth: Meeting Thomas Keller in Pasadena

In my almost three years of living in Pasadena, I’ve met some great people at various signings around the city. Bill Clinton, Barbara Walters, Chef Curtis Stone are just some of the authors I have shook hands with in the Crown City (technically I met Martha in Glendale). The locations of the events have either been Vroman’s or Sur La Table but when I heard that Thomas Keller would be in town I was surprised to see that he’d be at Williams-Sonoma. I love the high-end kitchen store, my mom buys those $20 apples for everyone on her Hanukkah/Christmas list and I normally walk in for samples or sale items. I put the date in the calendar, but with Josie in Berkeley for the week I wasn’t sure, the night before I decided to head to the event solo. As my dinner was in the oven, I ran to the store 20 minutes before closing to get the book Ad Hoc at Home with the receipt, so that way the following day I just had to wait in line. I live a few blocks away so this morning I walked by the store maybe an hour before he event. The line didn’t look that intimidating so I decided to run to SBux for an Iced Venti Soy Chai Latte. I finally got in line and began to sip and twitter.

The line was filled with Le Cordon Bleu culinary students, housewives, and some of my foodie friends. Kung Food Panda and Limer35 were just behind me. The weather was beautiful and it felt fantastic to be outside on a Thursday before noon. The event was so well coordinated and executed. Thomas Keller arrived early and the event began early. We were given cupcakes and faux pomegranate martinis in line and a dog was served water in a beautiful glass bowl from the store. One person in line asked if they could have a photo signed and the staff was super kind even when saying no. They said they asked Mr. Keller and he wasn’t comfortable with that because he’s not a celebrity but that he would happily take photos.

As I was approaching the Williams-Sonoma door on my way to Keller, once again everything was beautifully handled. They were letting in people three at a time, the Post-Its with the correct name spelling were in the book, and we were instructed to have our cameras on and hand it to the woman in the blue shirt.

Within moments it was my turn. He got up, shook my hand, sat back down, signed the book, and then stood for a picture. He called me Carina and he was sweet and shy. I had no uncouth statements and I didn’t slip him a business card, as I have done with others. He’s not that kind of guy. He is classy and respectable. Sure meeting someone like Richard Simmons is fun because they are outrageous and kiss you without asking and Chef Curtis is a guy that is begging for you to flirt with him but Keller, well Keller, is a man to respect and act appropriately around. He shows up early and starts early and I left feeling pleased, not starstruck and giddy. Williams-Sonoma was a great venue for him as they are a proper store that delivers exactly what you would think: good service, products, and no surprises.

I am sure that it is his demeanor, properness, and attention to detail that has restaurants constantly rank some of the best in the world, whether it is Per Se or The French Laundry. I was impressed and I was on my good girl behavior. I thanked him and if I knew how I would have curtsied. The Williams-Sonoma staff took my book and dried it with their hands. It was the smoothest retail operation I have seen and I am sure it was up to the Keller standards.

I grabbed my book, asked my blogger/twitter friends to join me for lunch, and a had a lovely stroll through my neighborhood. It was the most couth I felt in a long time and I thank Keller for this feat. What’s next, drinking milk and reading the bible? I am lactose intolerant and a Jew so instead I went for jalapeno yellowtail sashimi from Japon Bistro and looked for the Anais Nin journal about incest at Cliff’s Books. I want to make a joke about Keller’s inscription and a book on incest but I will restrain…if only you could take the uncouth out of this girl for good.

Good Times at Great Chefs of LA

UGs at Great Chefs of LA

Josie and I have attended a great deal of food events this year. Sometimes we are on the list, sometimes we are not, and sometimes we volunteer just to attend. This was our first year at the Great Chefs of LA and we were more involved in this event than any other. We had the honor to be guest judges on the 944 Webfire Challenge webisode and got to give away two tickets in our contest. We somehow ended up with enough tickets, through being on the media list and after our investor already purchased us two tickets, that we got to bring dates. Shocking, I know. It has become clear that most of readers just assume we are lesbians. We are still photographed dateless, so let the rumors continue.

great chefs of LA ice sculpture

One of the first people I saw on the way in was Andee of LA Easy Meals. It was the first time we met her but she was our contest winner and one of the people we wanted to meet most. She was so sweet and looks identical to one of our good friends who is also a marathon runner and foodie. Our friend Lauren, Andee’s lookalike, can be seen in third picture on this post. Maybe it was her similar appearance or her food and business knowledge but we are sure that she is a new UG friend! Plus, she described better than anyone what it means to be a UG.

Carina’s Favorites:

We mention it all the time but Josie has an unfortunate allergy to seafood. It is not a problem for me, Carina, because it means I can always order it when I want her to not steal my food. Or I can have dates take me to my favorite restaurant, Boiling Crab, because I never get to go with my UG other half. I have to say that despite my attempts to kill Josie, read the Shrimp Incident, I am really saddened for her because she has to miss out on the best dishes like the scallop on the 1/2 shell from East. It was served with lemongrass sambal, wasabi crème fraîche, shiso dust, and cilantro and was one of the best things I ate all day. Totally fresh and perfectly seasoned. I even got to bare witness to when My Last Bite had her first bite of it and proclaimed it her favorite. Well, I more than watched this, I instigated the entire process demanding she try it immediately.

scallops on the half shell

The other dish I loved was the mushroom soup. Maybe it was their display of fungi but my heart belonged to this creamy soup. This soup was from Giacomino Drago at Il Pastaio in Beverly Hills. Now if only I can find a man that would wear a “I’m a Fungi and people lichen me”  shirt.

mushroom soup

Josie’s Favorites:

One of Josie’s favorite’s also had the mushroom theme. It was the delicious wild mushroom risotto from Cecconi. It was the richest dish of the day and it was so beautiful that every plate got shaved parmesan and black truffles only seconds before serving.

wild mushroom risotto with truffles

Josie’s other favorite of the day was the blood orange and brie panini from Bottega Louie. We have only been to the restaurant once for brunch but we will definitely be returning for dinner in the near future, if anyone wants to join us.

bottega louie

josie bottega

Yes, the main cause and focus of this event was that it raised money for the Southern California Kidney Foundation, an incredible organization, but it also turned the spotlight on the great chefs of LA. The chefs of other cities are sadly more celebrated than our own. It is rather unfortunate and Josie and I want to take a second and recognize our favorite chefs of the city. First off, the amazing Drago Brothers: Celestino, Calogero, Giacomino, and Tanino. These men bring Italian food in LA to a completely different and delicious level. They were all in attendance at the event and they all impressed us to no end.

drago

Our second hats off is to Jorge Chicas from the Bazaar. The clientele may not be our favorite but the food is always so imaginative and a great addition to any event. Plus, I was thrilled to see that hot pastry chef Michael again. I am sure Josie was very happy to see Marcel once again. In case you don’t remember, let’s just say that our first time at the Bazaar brought out a great deal of carnal hunger from the UG girls.

bazaar

Strawberrylicious girls and uncouth gourmands

We know that the very talented and funny George Lopez was the host of this event as this is a cause close to his heart/kidney but there were four lovely ladies that may have stolen the show. They were the Strawberrylicious cupcake girls from Leyna’s Kitchen. They were almost as adorable as their cupcakes were yummy!

george lopez kidney foundation

After the event, my date and I needed a nap (insert wink emoticon) but I told Josie to hit up Laurel Tavern, my favorite bar in the area. It was a good choice as it turned out to be the unofficial after-party for the event. She loved the place as much as I do and raved about the chorizo fondue. Only Josie could want sausage and cheese after a day of eating.

Laurel Tavern

chorizo fondue

Josie Mora and Carina Ost

The event was wonderful and we are so thrilled that we got to be so involved. We owe a big thanks to Slife PR and 944 for putting on this event. Another thanks to Girari for their furniture contributions and making us smile all day.

Here our some great recaps from:

My Last Bite

Weezer Monkey

Food Marathon

Food, She Thought

Shop Eat Sleep