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!

A Little Sex with My Moroccan (Food)? Yes, Please!

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I am sad to say that most restaurants nowadays have been unable to seduce my palate. Have I become my biggest nightmare? And have I, to be totally frank, turned into someone that does not find love and pleasure in anything anymore? The UGs have always said that context and memory play a powerful role in how a dining experience is perceived. But it seems, that no matter how unimportant price may be at the dining time, I always find myself rationalizing the cost to pleasure ratio in my head. Uncouth! Have I really become so cynical? Oh, I remember what it was to be a blithe and carefree employed citizen…Oh the days…Have the fireworks given way recently? Fortunately, Marrakesh livened my senses once again.

After an afternoon of much deserved slumber, I opted to get my boring self up and head out for dinner. My friend Brian and I had been planning to check out Dine LA week so we headed to Marrakesh in Studio City. Upon entering the elaborately decorated place, I noticed that there wasn’t only one dining area, but in fact, there were three. We sat down and were educated on the evening’s offerings. The place doesn’t bore its guests with a menu, but instead takes a chance on the city’s local produce and meat offerings and the whim a chef in charge. Of the four choices for us that evening, we went with the chicken and the lamb. The lamb was to be served with couscous and the chicken was to be paired with an assortment of fresh vegetables. At Marrakesh every entree comes with a robust veggie salad, lentil soup, Moroccan Chicken Almond Pastilla pie, and baklava. The pie, entree, and baklava were of most interest to me.

Marrakesh,

Marrakesh, Studio City

The meal started of beautifully. We sat in a booth that was very low to the ground and upon ordering a young Moroccan waiter came up to us with a pot of lukewarm water and a bowl. We quickly washed and dried our hands. Finally the meal process was now officially ready to begin.

Now I hate to sound like a total dip s@!t and bring it all back to sex, but the belly dancers were phenomenal. A place where I can order sex with my Moroccan is a pal’o mine. Marrakesh was a perfect confluence of food, sex, smell, music, taste, and good company. Two enthusiastic thumbs up for Marrakesh, if I had more extremities to raise they would be up as well.

Josie Mora, Uncouth Gourmands, UG, Marrakesh

The Big O: October

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October is the month of many good things: my birthday, the completion of my graduate studies, the start of many new UG businesses, Halloween and Dine LA Restaurant Week. This past Friday, the second day of October, had all of the usual suspects. Lunch at the Jonathan Club with our business partner Chuck and later Shabbat dinner at Barrett’s house. One exciting addition to this particular October Friday was our newest member of the UG crew, programmer extraordinaire, Alex from Germany. We wanted our full team of empire builders to meet and, most importantly, eat together. Chuck has connections at all place but especially at his fancy club. The Downtown Jonathan Club is missing something that Beach club is not, the cute ultra talented Chef Benjamin. We met Chef Benjamin on our first trip to the JC Beach in August when his foie gras caused Josie to utter, “If God made butter…” This Friday was no food exception to Chef Benjamin’s talent. Per Chuck’s request he came up with a menu on the fly that blew the UGs mind!

calamari, ahi and scallop, and urchin

duck and stone fruit

The first course for the table was a calamari looking linguine that at first glance I could have sworn was udon noodles. It was served with something I had never seen before a piece of seared ahi fused together with a fresh scallop. If only the UGs knew this fusing technique, we would never be in need of a Friday night date. The new species of fish was then topped with sea urchin, which was awesome and I haven’t had since my trip to Tokyo last year. This dish showed Benjamin’s creativity and skill. Josie, of course, threw the man another curve ball of the afternoon by declaring that she could not have any shellfish. I think we can all remember when Chuck and I almost killed her with the Shrimp Incident. We would get a higher percentage with her gone, do you blame us? Relax, I kid. I love Josie in the most enormous platonic way a friend can love a friend. Anyway, in order to keep my other UG 1/2 with a pulse, Chef Benjamin created some duck with stone fruit. I imagine it was great as not a bite was offered to the rest of the table.

Halibut cheeks and lump crab risotto

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The second course was risotto, which for the fish eaters was laced with addicting amounts of lump crab and paired with halibut cheeks. By the way, I apologize in advance, if ever I am served halibut I will say, “I am eating it just for the halibut”. I am pretty sure I am the only one that thinks I’m punny (or for that matter, funny). Josie remains moronically oblivious (0k, maybe just unimpressed) by my self-amusing puns and just rolls her eyes; my love of puns remains unrequited. But as the author of my own jokes, “my charming” verbal wit is not in vain because they bear fruit here on the UG blog. Am I the only one laughing right now?

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The third course the whole table was able to enjoy. It was  beef with pickled cucumber and  apple slices. It was all unbelievable and packed a strong wasabi pow, which we all enjoyed. I, a hardcore pickle addict, went nuts and said that I could eat a whole container of those was shocked when upon leaving the JC Chuck provided us with not one but two containers full of those vinegary delights. Total side note, my freshman year in college I was living in the dorms with one of my best friends from Tokyo who would love to make me cucumber salad. Every Sunday, we’d go rollerskating on Chandler Blvd. then roll in to Ralphs to buy 4 cucumbers and 2 bottles of champagne to accompany our weekly Sex & the City nights. It wasn’t until recently that I realized that this might be an odd sight. I was an Uncouth Gourmand, long before Josie and I ever coined the name for it.

Josie cheesecake

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poached pear and chai creme brulee

cookies and creme

chocolate banana cake

I don’t know what has gotten into Josie but my savory girl has grown a sweet tooth. Either that or she realizes that our Fridays with Chuck may be the only substantial four course meal she will have all week. She has now become the girl that will have one of everything when the dessert cart rolls around. She was delighted by the cheesecake. I had the chai creme brulee with a poached pear that blew my mind. Josie and I both devoured Chuck’s cookies n’ creme dessert and I, a produce poacher, stole some bananas from Alex’s chocolate and banana cake. By the way, if you get Josie drunk enough she will disclose a scandalous story about me and my favorite word fruition.

Jonathan Club Beach

BIG NEWS: Our brilliant technology mastermind, Alex, has agreed to help the UGs in launching something very cool in the near future. We can’t disclose too much now but check this and our Twitter for announcements. We are going to need some testers in the beta stage and want you, uncouthies, to be part of the unveiling. Let’s just put it this way, our ideas and his talent stretch beyond the amazing ocean views at the beach club. Stay Tuned….

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We left the Jonathan Club after a record breaking 5 hour lunch. Traffic was horrendous and let’s just say one UG was ready to throw another UG out of her car when all of the sudden we were saved. Did we get a message from the divine? Nope, even better we found the pickled cucumbers in my car and found a hilarious psuedo bumper in the parking lot that Angelenos like to call “The 10” during rush hour. We stunk up my car with the smell of vinegar and got our hands more than sticky in the process but it was well worth it as we were instantly back to our laughing selves. After taking the 110 to then end and arriving in Pasadena we made a stop at Bev Mo for some kosher beer, He’Brew -The Chosen Beer, for Shabbat dinner later that night. One second out of the car and blocking the middle of the road we see Chuck, who left his own club hours earlier to get back to that thing called a “job”. He was more surprised to see us then we were to see him and he said, “Didn’t you girls drink enough at lunch?”

Barrett, our business mentor and my religious guide, played rabbi for the day and we wanted to celebrate with a few l’chaims with the Friday Night Live crew. Barrett often tells me to stick to kosher meat and was thrilled when I brought a Jewish date to dinner. My date was shocked that we were the kind of girls that arrive for dinner at 11p. He doesn’t know us at all. It’s always right between the fish course, which Josie can’t eat, and the meat or dairy course and shotgunning. Josie cut open a Bud(lite) and competed like a champ. She is the only girl I know that doesn’t mind a wet shirt, even when a wet t-shirt contest is not involved.

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after beer bong

kosher lasagna

As we see most Fridays, Barrett’s girlfriend and her cooking talent are always impeccable. She out does her self every shabbat with a different theme. So far we have had kosher kabobs, Chinese, and Indian themed dinners. This October Friday had the Italian theme and with that came two amazing lasagnas. In order to be kosher, they had real cheese but fake meat. I wouldn’t even have known. Josie and I both went nuts over the white lasagna and took more than our fair share.

Saturday, the UGs flew solo as it was my last weekend of my MBA program and I had a billion pages to read. I then spent all of Sunday day at school continuing to work vigorously. Josie on the other hand still partook in the typical UG weekend. Parties Silverlake, Tony’s bar, and getting Dine LA restaurant week off to a great start with a meal at Asia de Cuba. Am I jealous? Maybe a little but have no fear we met up Sunday night at karaoke with our downtown crew. We had been to the Brass Monkey once before but that time was a Friday night and was late. This time it was early on a Sunday, it wan’t quite as bustling but the bartender did refer to us as the “Giggle Puss Corner”. I stayed long enough to find Waldo, aka Kane, and listen to John, from the charity event and party bus, bolt out a Neil Diamond (The Jewish Elvis) song. I even stayed long enough to add some dangerous songs to the pile for suicide karaoke but left before I had to draw from the assortment. Josie told me she pulled, “I Touch Myself” and while I am sorry I missed it, my fingers are crossed that it will end up on Facebook or YouTube.

Brass Monkey

karaoke

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Josie and I both seemed to have very good luck last night, as we learned today while gossiping as our cars were being washed in Highland Park. FYI, the UGs getting their cars washed is the surest chance that it will rain in the next few days. We have better odds than any weatherman.

I have been wearing pearls in each of my ears since I realized a few years ago that it would make me one step closer to being a First Lady. Josie who wore a pearl necklace (no euphemism) last night has discovered that it is her lucky charm as well. Anyone who reads our posts knows that her dating luck has not been cashing out lately, but maybe October is her month. *fingers crossed* By the way, about halfway through karaoke she lost most of her pearls on the floor but the magic had already happened. We were planning on starting Dine LA Restaurant Week tonight but a cash flow problem made us opt for something slightly more reasonable and Josie took me to her old stomping ground Chicos in Highland Park. It looks a yellow shack from the outside and is just as charming on the inside. Vitamins and digestion pills line the shelves and murals adorn the wall. The owners recognized Josie right away and we were made to feel right at home. We shared some albondigas soup and a chicken torta. I was immediatly impressed by the homemade tortillas and chips and there salsa. It was a perfect size meal and the meal came to under $15 for two. Beat that Dine LA!

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Final Thoughts: It is my, Carina’s, birthday on Monday, the 12th, and we need help brainstorming on what to do. I have my last class on Thursday night and then I am a virtually free woman. We need some help with 3 things:

-Anyone have any great weekend plans/ideas? We will share ours when we have some. In other words (or in UG salacious fashion), “we’ll show you ours, if you show us yours.”

-What restaurants on Dine LA Restaurant Week are worth trying? Anyone want to take out the UGs? Next week we are open for all lunch and dinner options. Sorry we are shameless and building an empire is tough on our wallets.

-The UGs still need Halloween costume ideas, have any? Of course, we are a dynamic duo and need costumes that showcase this.

Dine LA: Drago Centro

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First: I love that you can see us in this photo, it was a strange surprise.

Josie and I were very excited to dine at Drago Centro for lunch on Friday. Celestino Drago is an amazing chef who recently had Stefan, of Top Chef fame, working under him at his other restaurant, Enoteca Drago. Drago Centro opened the end of November with a $7 million dollar budget. It just received a very creditable 2.5 stars from the LAT. The LAT warns that the restaurant is nearly impossible to park at and find. Josie found this out the hard way by parking across the street and paying $58 for less than 2 hours. I, luckily, valeted for $5 with validation.

Anyway, on to the important part of the day…the food.

These were are Dine LA lunch choices for $28 a person:

Josie:

first course
rigatoni, smoked pork jowl, onions, tomatoes, pecorino

second course
veal milanese, lentil ragout, caper berries

third course
ricotta cheesecake

Carina:

first course
rigatoni, smoked pork jowl, onions, tomatoes, pecorino

second course
wild mushroom risotto

third course
chocolate mousse, pistachios

We also added the venison carpaccio appetizer which was easily the best part of the meal. Service was fantastic, the food was good, we are sure that if we looked through the whole menu we could have ordered far better mind blowing food. Unfortunately, the rigatoni was one of two pasta made not on site and it was sadly noticeable. However, we were thoroughly impressed by the wine cellar in the middle of the restaurant and the private dining room which was an old bank vault.

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Uncouth Moment: When I arrived at the restaurant 5 minutes after the reservation and went straight to the hostess and said “Ost, party of 2” she then pointed to Josie, who was in sweats with a Hef in the bar. She waved to me and I as I walked over an eager woman arose and said, “Hi, I am Vanessa”. I nervously shook her hand and said, “pleasure to meet you”. Josie was in the back laughing and the woman embarrassed said, “Oh, I thought you were my blind date”.

Gourmand Moment: Having one of the managers act as our sommelier for the meal and our very own private tour of the vault room.

Restaurant Week: The Dining Room at the Langham

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So Dine LA Restaurant Week continues and last night we hit up the Dining Room at the Langham. The Langham took over the Ritz Carlton Pasadena about a year ago and the Dining Room is the only hotel restaurant in LA with a Michelin Star.

Josie got stuck in that mess on the 134 yesterday and I was embarrassed giving my car to the valet with the intense smell of nachos that permeated it left over from lunch. Oh well, we made it, grabbed a drink at the bar before dinner and met up with our dining companion, our local neighborhood bartender at Lucky Baldwins (our favorite beer bar). Apprarently, our bartender had either served or slept with everyone at the Langham because we were hooked up left and right. We got a delicious lentil and ahi salad, a green tea and rose hip panna cota, and awesome wine pairings on top of our regular 3 courses. Here was their special Dine LA menu:

$44 Dinner

DINNER
Appetizers
Choice 1 Squash Blossom Tempura – Stuffed with Brandade, Microgreens and Romesco Sauce
Choice 2 Motnerey Baby Calamari – Bread-Stuffed and Sauteed, served with Aioli Sauce, Arugula Salad, Parmesan, Lemon Dressing
Choice 3 Heirloom Tomato Carpaccio – Mixed Greens with Balsamic Vinaigrette and Aged Goat Cheese
Entrees
Choice 1 Catalan Cod – Torta Espanola, French Green Beans, Chorizo, Brown Clamshell Mushrooms, Escabeche and Olive Oil Chive Broth
Choice 2 Farm Raised Pheasant Breast and Leg Confit – Salsify, Pecan Cream, Chanterelle Mushrooms, Pumpkin Froth and Truffle Vinaigrette
Choice 3 Muscovy Duck Breast – Sauteed wtih Duck Leg Confit, served with Basil Potato Mousseline, Cipollini Onions and Huckleberry Sauce
Desserts
Choice 1 Poached Pear and Hazelnut Cake – With Dulce de Leche Mousse and Creme Fraiche Ice Cream
Choice 2 Milk Chocolate and Cardamom Mousse – With Banana Fritter and Myer’s Rum Ice Cream
Choice 3 Apple Creme Brulee – Cinnamon Ice Cream and Pastry Garnish

We all got different appetizers and our bartender who tried all three, said Josie’s carpaccio was the best. She never gave me a bite, so I can neither confirm nor deny but I liked my calamari. Jose and I both had the duck and the apple creme brulee and I think we made smart choices as they were delicious. Especially, the basil potatoes under the duck, those were phenomenal.

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Our dining companion was an awesome addition because not only did he know most of the wait staff, he also introduced us to a fabulous hybrid, a champagne beer called DeuS. It would have easily been my favorite drink of the night but then his friend, the sommelier, gave us a dessert wine that left us all speechless. It was lovely, a sonnet, a poem, and everything else with rainbows and hearts. Sorry, I don’t remember the name but I do remember that we were the same age, yes, the bottle and I. Anyway, it was just fabulous. Our whole service for the evening was equally spectacular. Whenever a new course would come out we would each have our own waiter to lay our plate down in perfect unison. Josie’s favorite line of the night is when I only had a fork and a spoon and couldn’t cut my apple which acted as the bowl for my creme brulee. I said, “Where are my four waiters? I need a knife”. Our dinner date said, “Here, I’ll cut it for you. I feel like you are my 5 year old daughter”.

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I was thrilled to have my dessert back in my hands and in bites sized pieces that could go directly into my mouth. Overall, a great night. The Langham is shockingly beautiful and the service is impeccable. Also don’t forget to hit up Lucky Baldwins between February 14- March 1 for the 10th Annual Belgium Beer Festival; I am sure we will be there – maybe daily

Restaurant Week: Vertical Wine Bistro

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Since I was out of town most of last week, we didn’t get started on Dine LA: Restaurant Week until Week 2. We have both been wanting to try Vertical Wine Bistro forever and were quite impressed by their menu for the Dine LA week, so naturally it was a good fit to kick off our 3-course price fixed adventure.

It was Super Bowl Sunday and Josie was at a football party prior to our meal and I was studying for an accounting midterm the next day (today, what I should still be doing right now). I am not really a sports person and as I was doing homework and watching Sober House I was listening to people screaming and I was like “Oh my good someone is dying” I then remembered it is just Super Bowl Sunday. Not to be a complete Debbie Downer (as I was called last night via a text) but Super Bowl Sunday is the worst day for domestic violence. My ex boyfriend use to always say, “Makes sense, I can imagine how many wives and girlfriends think it is important to stand in front of the TV at the most important moment of the game and have a “heart to heart” long talk.” Asshole, but it is a little tiny weeny bit funny.

Back to the meal. This is the special Dine LA menu:

$34 Dinner

DINNER
Appetizers
Choice 1 Steamed P.E.I. Mussels with Chili, Mint and Tomatoes
Choice 2 Roasted Beets with Avocado, Orange and Watercress
Choice 3 Salt Cod Brandade with Bitter Greens, Pine Nut-Raisin Relish and Grilled Croutons
Entrees
Choice 1 Lamb Osso Bucco with Harissa and Couscous
Choice 2 Braised Mustard Rabbit with Roast Carrots and Gingered Pears
Choice 3 Grilled Red Snapper with Bouillabaisse Broth and Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes
Desserts
Choice 1 St. Agur Bleu Cheese with Grapes and Walnuts
Choice 2 Chocolate Molten Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream
Choice 3 Ricotta Cheesecake with Fresh Berries and Whipped Cream

I started with the restaurant week Wine flight and Josie started with a Chimay.

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Josie ordered:

  • Beet Salad
  • Lamb Osso Bucco
  • Ricotta Cheesecake

Carina Ordered:

  • Salted Cod
  • Rabbit
  • Riccota Cheesecake

Josie won for doing a better job clearing all 3 of her plates and for her uncouth gourmand moment of the night. She spilled roasted red pepper tapanade on her shoe and sent the butter knife flying.

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Carina wins for the awkward turtle moment of the night when I said, “It feels strange of me to put rabbit and a carrot on the same bite.” Ah, irony. My favorite course was the first. I loved the toppings as golden raisins and pine nuts are my favorite toppers, the only thing that could have improved it was dried cranberries. I like fruit paired with all food and the pears with the rabbit were also fantastic, what can I say I am a fruity girl. The salted cod brandade was delicious, I looked at Josie and said, “I have had this exact dish before, where was it at?” She correctly remembered at the Champs Elysees in Paris. I have to say the version at Vertical Wine Bistro was better.

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Overall, a great meal and ambiance (we were right next to the fireplace)  hopefully we will be able to try some more places before Restaurant Week ends on Friday. When I got home and watched the only part of the Super Bowl Sunday I cared about – The Office, Big Love, and the United States of Tara (MNFS- my new favorite show) I got a text that said, “I just ate the biggest cheeseburger, jealous?” The answer is N-O!