Food Ballin’: Reminiscing on my Elite Days

I know the Super Bowl is coming up and normally my feminist response to that is always, “Oh, you mean the day with the highest rate of domestic violence.” Sure, I am a buzz kill but I just don’t get football, what I do understand is being a food baller. I believe this whole concept began on New Years Eve when A.K. told her hubby, Chuck, that we were carb-loading in preparation for the last night of 2009. He was puzzled and said, “What do you guys think you are a football team?” It was at that point when we decided we are a food balling team. We have eating marathon and can drink enormous quantities due to our properly padded tummies. Anyway, to continue on with the metaphor, last Thursday was a big game day. The line-up was insane there were many plays to be had. Okay, I really don’t know any more sports terminology or references to keep this up, sorry. First on the list, I had lunch with Minty at Church & State. This meal was then to be followed by dinner and drinks at Oinkster and last on the list was a Yelp Elite event at Little Cave. I am a strong believer that if you want strong bones than you must eat bone marrow.

We began with more than just bone marrow, we also had the brussel spouts with dates, and the mac n cheese. Now, let me start by saying, I have been to Church & State several times but normally sit at the bar and have a few cocktails and order a couple of plates. This was my first time to have a whole actual meal and also there were three of us at the table just so you know that the Minty and I weren’t the only ones throwing down. The bone marrow was fatty deliciousness. Had I been more uncouth and not sharing with two other ladies, I would  have grabbed it with my hands and gnawed the rest off with my teeth. I have had the mac n cheese several times before and it was as good (read: buttery) as I remembered. However, it was the brussel sprouts that stole the show. I feel like I say it in every post but I love fruit in almost every dish and the dates added so much to the dish (that’s what people say about me. Relax, I kid). On Thursday is when I started my seafood weekend by ordering the Loup de Mer, which was Sea Bass, chanterelle mushrooms, red flame and Thompson seedless grapes. I ordered the full order, which was good because in this small serving I needed both pieces of fish. Anyone knowing me and seeing grapes on the menu, would know this is what I’d order. It was delicious and a total Carina dish. Minty had the Bouillabaisse (full order, of course, she was on game day) and the other lady in our party had the small order of Steak Frites.

It was nice to have my first real meal at C & S. The lunch crowd rush was massive and loud but the whole time I felt like I was in New York. Things then mellowed out and I remembered I was in LA when we realized that the guy next to us was Duff from Ace of Cakes and he later was talking to Chef Walter. By the way, Josie proclaims that every time she is at C & S she sees someone famous. I am not sure I believe her but I know we did once see Mrs. Elvis (Priscilla Presley) at the bar next to us. Oh and the best part of the meal was Minty had a 30% off coupon from BBE. After lunch, I headed back to Pasadena and disgustingly grabbed a cupcake, because I was already so stuffed, and ended up detouring to my house for a nap. It was now 3:30 and I had dinner at 6:30 at the Oinkster, so appropriate I know. We were planning on doing a pitcher of Solidarity from our boys at Eagle Rock Brewery but they were sold out. I was “good” and instead got a burger, chili cheese fries, and a Telegraph White. I had a few bites of ClimbinChiro piggy fries (their version of In-n-Out’s animal fries) and the pastrami. I also had the most uncouth moment by shaking the bbq sauce, which turned out to be the thinner Carolina BBQ sauce that then flew out and landed all over the seat and table of our lounge neighbors. I called it the lounge because it is the low square Ikea tables as opposed to the normal height tables on the other side. The food was really good and I sure felt like a piggy.

Our last stop of the night was the Yelp Elite party. The theme for the night was B.Y.O.S. (Bring Your Own Sombrero). You may have heard I am sad that I don’t have Elite status in 2010. I know the solution, I must write more reviews, but it seems exhausting. Minty knows I am sad with my new position (or lack there of) so she let me be her +1. Why are Yelp Elite Events great? Free food, free booze, and you get to see somewhat awkward foodies and internet creepers get wasted. That is like all of my favorite things. We got to Little Cave on time, you have to for these events because food always go fast. I was sombrero-less for the night but don’t worry I kept myself busy. Jarritos was one of their sponsors so I had several drinks of that mixed with tequila. I ran into a ton of old friends, people I’ve dated, and one guy I just walked up to and  said, “I’ve been to a party at your house in Echo Park.” Since Dawson is no longer with Yelp LA I have been kind of anti, but the truth of the matter is that I really like Yelpers. I love the drama, I love food talkin, and I love the events. There were perfect Mexican chocolate cupcakes from Cakified and tacos from Ricos Tacos that serve every Thursday at Little Cave. I met the new CM Katie B., got my Yelp lunch box, took way too many lollipops, and had a great time. Mark my words, I will be back to my Elite Status sometime in 2010 so I can be a stronger Food Baller….I am first string material…you saw how much I just ate.

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Neighborhood Profile: Party like an Eagle Rock(Star)

Ever since we met Steve and Jeremy, owners of the Eagle Rock Brewery and father/son duo, we’ve eagerly wanted to tour their neighborhood beer headquarters. On their official opening night we got our wish. The proprietors kindly and humbly invited us into their “home” to see where this local brew is born. So after a rough week of three jobs, countless meetings and many weekday nights infused with delirious blogging, we made our way to the Eagle Rock Brewery.

As soon as we walked in we were greeted by name by the staff. We grabbed a pint of their latest, Manifesto, the second of three brews born there. The week before we tried, Solidarity, ERB’s darkest and boldest. The space is exactly how I prefer my spaces, simple and clean. No clutter, no noise. The brewery is an open space with a bar, communal tables, throw pillows and best of all, a glass garage door that facilitates an open view of the brew premises. You can order your beer, sit down and get a full view of how and where your brew is produced.

Shortly after polishing off our first pint, Jeremy came up to us and offered to begin the technical tour of the brewery. I was so excited. We’ve been a fan of these guys’ business for a year now and, well, I’m a beer snob so taking a tour of the place where this locally produced gem is born gave me goosebumps.

Some cool facts on the ERB are:

  • Takes two weeks to produce any one of their three brews.
  • The three are: Manifesto, Solidarity and Revolution.
  • In any two week period 3,200 pints of beer can be born at ERB
  • Father is a first and son is a second generation beer maker
  • They are going to begin bottling soon
  • And lastly, just to show you they REALLY care. Lin, Jeremy’s sister-in-law, designs all the beer labels and merchandise

After our tour we got to talking to Steve and he told us many stories. The place, the people, and the ambiance were all so warm. The pretentiousness that you get with many craftsmen were nonexistent. It was humble and kind in every way. It’s amazing how much the folks at ERB did themselves. From the beer, to the paint on the walls, to the propaganda-looking beer labels. All of it was in-house. You could taste the pride. It felt good to just be there – drinking one of 3,200 pints. Congrats, ERB!

During the tour I was asking a ton of questions and fascinated by the process. Carina, on the other hand, was quietly listening until Steve showed us some dog prints in the cement. It seems they mysteriously appeared. There is no dog that they know of and so they have to imagine that a dog snuck in late at night when the cement was setting. Carina was captivated as if this was a great ghost story or mystery she had to solve. She demanded I take this photo, so here it is.

After my one beer I was done, exhausted, and needing to go home. My need for for sleep was monstrous but Carina and H.C. decided to continue the night and they headed to Larkin’s, which calls itself “a contemporary soul food joint”. I am now going to pass this post on to Carina. —>

I had never been to Larkin’s before, but when H.C. said he liked it I was immediately sold. Upon arrival I noticed a CASH ONLY sign. H.C. and I both did a wallet check and I clocked in with a $20 bill and he had $25. We sat down nervous about having to stay within a set budget but then we spotted a lifesaver, an ATM machine, and we knew we had no limits. You get a lovely cold black eyed pea salad when seated. The menu was large and thoughtful, both of us went back and forth several times with what we wanted. I decided on the meatloaf and chose mashed potatoes and pasta salad as my sides. H.C. initially ordered the catfish and switched to chicken and dumplings when I was in the bathroom. The meatloaf had a great kick to it but it was really dense and much drier than what I wanted. The pasta salad didn’t do much for me either but the garlic mashed potatoes were great and I am not a big mashed potato fan. H.C. loved his chicken and dumplings, which were a special that night.

If you follow H.C. aka LAOCFoodie on Twitter then you know that he has a therapeutic ritual everyday, eating a piece of chocolate. Knowing this about the guy, I was certain that dessert would be ordered. My sweet tooth normally falls in the fruity realm so I suggested we get the berry cobbler. It was excellent.  I was not thrilled with my ordering choices but this place has an extensive menu and I fully intend to delve deeper into it again. The dishes I liked, I really liked. The funny moment came at the end with the bill where there was some confusion since H.C. switched his order. It took two tries to resolve but no harm, no foul. I was in New Orleans for the first time in February and just fell in love with the people, food, and city. This place was a fresh and unique taste on that and the building itself reminded me of all  the restaurants in Portland where you feel as though you were dining in someone’s house. I guess that’s the best way to describe Larkin’s; it’s cozy and feels like home. There was another uncouth moment where a waiter ran up to our table and blew out what was left of a completely melted down candle. Larkin, the chef in the back, smelled smoke and was trying to figure out where it was coming from. Yup, it was our table and we didn’t even notice.

H.C. and I didn’t drink at dinner because we were on a cash budget, which we stayed $7 under with tax and tip. Not bad. Anyway, afterward we thought we deserved a drink that could be paid for with a card. I recommended my neighborhood favorite, The Chalet, which has since become The Black Boar. It is basically the same owners and bartenders but they have a new name, slightly different decor, a fooseball table and darts, and they added more alcohol. Not bad improvements. We had a lovely drink and I remembered that Josie and I were both there for a drink last NYE. We always say that we LOVE Highland Park and we do but Eagle Rock also has a ton of great things to offer. Just remember to party like an Eagle Rock(Star)!

What’s Bubbling and Brewin’ Around Verdugo Road

Our social lives were once again made possible by our bff, Twitter. Speaking of which, do you think in 2010 twitter talk will become the new baby talk? Twello twits, what’s tweetin’? Anyway, the owner of Rosso Wine Shop found our post on Montrose and wrote this:

@uncouthgourmand If the UG Headquarters is in Montrose how come you have not visited us in Sparr Heights @rossowineshop?!

It was a good question and actually I was talking about visiting some local wine shops for an upcoming budget wine post. Rosso is blocks away from our office and Josie and I arrived just in time to try some champagne. The special occasion of the night was their open house which featured neighborhood businesses. Bashan restaurant is neighbors with Rosso and they offered some complimentary small bites for the occasion including tuna tartare, cauliflower soup, and a braised pork sandwich. All were delicious and that will definitely be a restaurant to check out when the UG are back in the money.

The star of the night was the wine shop that was everything you imagine a neighborhood wine shop should be. If you read our Montrose post you know that this area has earned a place in our heart and it was reaffirmed at the wine shop when I ran in to the couple that I sat next to at Fork only days before. I am now a member of the community. Rosso owner, Jeff, was charming as he poured us some bubbly and it is clear that he is living his dream of bringing reasonably priced wine to this foothill neighborhood. It says on their site that they are a “neighborhood wine shop for the disenchanted Trader Joe wine-buyer, social nomad and local wine enthusiast.” I think that is exactly what LA needs more of and it was a fantastic neighborhood find. I hope they didn’t mind meeting us because I am pretty sure we will return often to grill them on all of our wine questions.

As I previously stated this night was made possible entirely by Twitter. I read early on in the day that Verdugo Bar was going to be serving the first pours of Eagle Rock Brewery brew. This was huge news because for the last year I have been following the progress of Eagle Rock Brewery on their blog and Twitter and find myself fully invested in this story and their success. Josie and I arrived at around 7:30 and despite being at Verdugo Bar before this was my first time driving there and arriving sober. I saw Josie’s car already parked and so I parked next to it, knowing that she beat me and was already inside. I saw a group of people of standing by a lit building with christmas lights and started walking towards the crowd. I heard yelling in Spanish and beer bottles being thrown. Clearly I was not at the right place, and these lights were from a house. I called Josie who walked outside from across the street and laughed at how I missed the enormous cocktail sign. She already ordered us are Eagle Rock brew, which was a black mild ale called Solidarity. I felt honored to be served the first batch and since we were one of the first 20 people to try it we got this awesome commemorative glass with the logo.

Leave it up to Josie to sit next to someone important and she was seated right next to Chris Spradley, the LA Craft Beer Examiner. Josie showed off her beer knowledge with IPA definitions that he already knew and I showcased my beer girly-ness in saying that my favorite beer was the lavender one from The Bruery and La Fin Du Monde from Unibroue. It was great fun to talk beer. I was telling the Beer Examiner that my main problem with beer is that I drink it too slowly and then it gets warm and I no longer want it and he said that most beers, like Solidarity, should be served a little more at room temperature. Who would have known? This was the first batch of Solidarity and while I am not the biggest fan of dark beers, Josie is, I still drank the whole thing. Chris introduced us to the Eagle Rock Brewers who were busy tasting and making sure that their baby was perfect. As I have known from the blog this is a family operation headed by father and son. The son, Jeremy Raub, was sure that he already met us at the LA Craft Beer Fest but honestly we remember very little of that day. The father, Steve Raub, was quick to point out that he was Vice President and that it was his son that was President. It was such a sweet family dynamic and it was so nice to hear their story. Steve started brewing at home as soon as Jimmy Carter lifted the ban and once Jeremy was married and moved in to his house he asked his dad to make a celebratory brew and the rest is history. That is the greatest birth of an enterprise since our baby, Uncouth Gourmands, was born on the trains of Europe. Relax, I kid. Anyway, as far as first batches go, this brew was pretty tasty and this is coming from a girl that likes her beer as she likes her men: light and fruity. There was a strong roasted coffee and chocolate aroma and definitely was something I’d drink again. In the next few weeks they will be launching 2 more brews. The next one will be a crisp Belgian-style beer and the final in the trio will be hoppy, floral, extra pale ale. With all of their beer bases covered we are excited to sample the trio and may even get a tour of the brewery soon.

When it comes to wine shops, brews, and bars on Verdugo Road we are in completely solidarity and wish them all the best of luck. We will be back and we are hoping that you all have plenty more to serve us!