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.


Generous Friends: Food Sharin’ OG Style

On Saturday, Minty and I headed to two events put on by three very generous friends. The first event was hosted by one of my favorite Yelpers, Javier J., who took it upon himself to make free bacon wrapped hot dogs for all. There was no catch; he just wanted to feed everyone some dogs. The event was celebrating the first day of Spring, the start of the new season of Breaking Bad, and was also called the “SECOND Annual Montgomery Burns Awards for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence BACON BBQ EVENT!” (Though I am not sure I understand that Simpsons reference). The event was held in Griffith Park, a place that holds a lot of memories for me from my first driving ticket when I failed to completely stop at a stop sign because I thought a serial killer in white suburban was following me when it was actually a park ranger that could give tickets to all the numerous weekends with my ex-boyfriend when we played Scrabble in the park. The site of this BBQ was in the Old Zoo, which was hard to find and harder to track down Javier and the Yelp crowd. The old cages and exhibits remain and we were eating right where I like to think all of the lions once lived.

Javier didn’t just keep it OG with grilled onions, he also had nori, ramen and kimchee for the more adventurous hot dog condiment connoisseurs. I am about to admit the cardinal foodie sin but I am not that big of a bacon fan. I’ll eat it in it’s thicker pork belly cut but I am much more of a sausage girl. For this afternoon I did the bacon wrapped hot dog and the onions and I kept it simple. It was a perfect lunch and better yet it was FREE!

After this event Minty and I headed to the March Madness Birthday Bash thrown by SauceLA and UniqueLA that share the same birthday. These are the two ladies that brought Los Angeles the LA Street Food Fest and are dual-handedly changing the event scene in LA. We arrived early to their free birthday bash which would feature food trucks, drink specials, an 80’s Jazzercise theme, and a rockin DJ. We got there early so we took a stroll down the side of Sunset Blvd. that not enough people walk through. We went into the Time Travel Mart where you can buy everything from dinosaur eggs to crazy milk bottles. Then we headed into the Gold Room at an hour when they still play Mariachi before all of the hipsters invade. I wish I would have known about a shot of tequila and a beer for $4 before I spent $7 on a mixed drink. We headed back to the Echoplex for the start of the the party. Sauce LA had cut her finger the night before so we helped her close the goodie bags in chinese takeout boxes.

The party was just getting started so we went outside and grabbed some food. The Greasy Weiner, Patty Wagon, and Cool Haus were there. Despite my hot dog lunch I grabbed another dog because, well, I loved their uncouth name. The jokes ensued and I ordered the original greasy wiener, which is a Jersey fried hot dog, and chili cheese fries.

The hot dog had the perfect bite to it and that is all I got because Kevin (aka ClimbinChiro) hit my arm and made my hot dog hit the floor….uncouth. I would have been much more angry but he was wearing tights and leg warmers. Who could get mad at a guy in such attire? Plus, the guy in the truck was so sweet when I explained the situation and he got me a replacement wiener (ClimbinChiro made a lot of dildo jokes regarding this) in a matter of seconds. I am now a Greasy Wiener convert and will happily sing their theme song. It’s is the most addictive song ever, if you go make sure they play that ditty for you. I was singing the song all night.

I didn’t eat anything at Patty Wagon but it sure did look good. And my Cool Haus was just a two biter but it was free, the girls put a coupon for a free ice cream sandwich in our gift box. I got the Meyer lemon ice cream in between ginger snaps. I thought ClimbinChiro was messing with me when he told me to eat the wrapper but it was in fact edible. I will return for a full sized architecturally inspired ice cream sandwich in the very near future.

When we got back inside, the dance floor was kickin and we were hittin it hard. We all had our $5 cocktails inspired by the two birthday girls and at one point there was even a White Guy/Girl dance off, which sadly ClimbinChiro did not win despite being the best dressed.

The birthday girls had a special cake by Cool Haus and they looked super fierce.

There is a lot of talk about friends in high places but I will tell you that there is nothing better than friends that are generous. Whether it is friends that make everyone bacon wrapped hot dogs or ones that share their birthday with you and introduce you to their favorite trucks, drinks, and nightclubs, you can’t ask for anything more. Thanks to all of you fantastic people and the UGs vow to return the favor!

Los Angeles: An Explosion in Foodie Subculture

This post seems very apropos given that the Gold Standard event is on February 28th. The event celebrates, remember this is according to Jonathan Gold, the best of what LA has to offer in terms of food. Which actually got me thinking about low-end food. I was actually inspired to write about this after I read Mattatouille’s article, “The Greatest Food City in the World” and also the one by Mr. Rotund himself, thejGold, so aptly titled, “The Hungry Metropolis.” I know there’s been a bit of backlash about LA being a food wonderland, and it may very well be a myopic point of view, but really?! It’s an editorial piece. And maybe, just maybe, we feel the need to represent for once. Especially considering that we get so much sh!@ from other critics about being sub par. In other words, perhaps we need to publicly address this so that the rumors that “LA has nothing to offer in terms of food” no longer linger. My purpose for writing this post  are two:

1. To give you a defense for why I (remember I) think that the LA’s food scene is superior:

a. Interesting trends that are almost exclusive to the LA food scene. Most notably, food and its compatibility to mobilization and technology.

b. A powerful subculture of bloggers and Yelpers  that so willingly embrace the foodie niche. (And so do their readers.)

2. Stating that LA is, in fact, a food mecca is just that, an opinion. It’s emotional. Deal with it.

We have an amazing foodie subculture that has exploded in recent years. More specifically, food trucks. Other cities only pale in comparison. The LA Street Food Fest is proof of that. And rather unfortunately, we get no street cred for this. And while NY and SF are indeed the kings of the high-end, LA is king of the low-brow. For LA, much of its culinary color is unburdened by high-brow snobbery, much of which other cities so willingly embrace. So maybe we’re a little low-end, but there ain’t nothin’ wrong with that.

Just to give you an example of how quickly this happened, I remember five years ago when I was in college the only mobile trucks were taco trucks. I was in Highland Park at the time and the only people that dared to eat from such eateries were Latinos. Ok, there were also those half-drunk bar-goers at 2:30 in the morning. (Don’t worry, they didn’t remember eating from the taco trucks the night before anyway so I guess it didn’t count.) As time passed and the rise of Twitter came about, these eateries started to become more and more popular. Suddenly, gourmet taco trucks were appearing everywhere and thousands of followers were now actively seeking these eateries on wheels. I suppose it made sense. Along with the food trucks came the poor man’s food critic, the blogger – and many at that.

Rewind and think about it. SF-based Yelp and its tech-saavy demographic is on the rise and suddenly there’s this group, The Millennials, who have more disposable income than their family-raising elders, love to dine out, and who like to be “in the know.” So much so, that people are vying over Yelp Elite statuses and every foodie wants to know what’s good before the “big time” critics ruin it with a review. The internet empowered these people to write a review and suddenly this group, the “low-end” critics, had a voice. Plus, did you know that the Yelp LA is now the biggest group of Yelpers? We blame/thank Sauce LA for this astonishing feat during her time at Yelp.

Twitter is a popular ad tool for bloggers; it helps them whore out the word about new content. It’s succinct and usually useful. With hundreds of blogs and wannabe writers (UGs included), bloggers inform their audiences about what’s good in their neck of the woods. With none of the pretentiousness that comes along with stuffy food reviews, food bloggers report on the food and their stories at these particular eateries. “It was at THIS particular place at THIS particular time that I had THIS particular experience.” Nothing more and nothing less. All of a sudden LA was equipped with food trucks popping up everywhere, bloggers eager and ready to support them, and a viewing public that is, unlike traditional media, BOTH actively and passively (in the form of news feeds) listening.

Marry bloggers, Twitter, and a relentless passion for food and you have the LA foodie subculture. That’s a powerful phenomenon. If you ask me, that’s pretty fu@!ing cool. Can you call that a competitive edge over NY and SF? I’d say so.

Which brings me to my last point, I’m biased. Maybe I’m just cheerleading because, for me, my love for Los Angeles is inelastic. And obviously, those subtle emotions influence my opinion in the matter. My point is, it’s obvious Angelenos are going to have a predilection towards food in their city. And obviously, our opinions will carry a disproportionate weight. The fact is that we prefer LA’s culinary landscape is merely our opinion – which is deeply rooted in our emotions – and which play a powerful role in evaluating our world, especially when we’ve got experience in that domain.

Conversely, perhaps our need to defend Los Angeles as a great foodie city is a guise which allows us to cope with the unspeakable culinary misery we have…;)  What do you think? Can there even be an even-handed approach to this question?

In the meantime, I’ll see you at the Gold Standard event.

The Dim Sum Truck takes it to the Streets

I love me some dim sum! In fact, as I am typing this, the closest book to my bed is the Dim Sum of All Things. It is because of my love of dim sum that I was so bummed that I missed the Dim Sum Truck sampling in the VIP section at the LA Street Food Fest last week. I was busy volunteering, waiting in line, and searching for a missed Josie that I never got to try any. Thankfully, Minty forwarded me an e-mail that they would be doing a private sampling of the truck only a day before the official launch. I emailed the proprietor, Alex, and asked if I could tag along. He agreed and I set out on Sunday to the TLofts to see this new truck that was surrounded by bloggers, Yelpers, and street food enthusiasts. The first dish I tried was the the mixed Pork & Shrimp Shu Mai dumplings and the Shrimp Har Gow dumplings. Both were quite good and something where I would normally have to drive all the way to San Gabriel to buy a decent version of these dumplings.

The buns were the next dish that I saw people eating along with dessert. There was a Baked BBQ Pork bun and a Steamed Chicken and Mushroom bun. I am normally more of a dumpling girl, but after sampling the gingery chicken I waited in the small line to get a bun plate for myself. The next few plates I tried were all caught by special sightings. Jenny, who I first met at ramen on the night of my first car accident, would suddenly point at the truck with big eyes when a new dish would emerge and we would all run over to stand in line. Everyone’s eyes got big and we all indulged in the new plates. We got some Lotus Wrapped Sticky Rice and Turnip Cake before we dug into the desserts. The Egg Tart and Lotus Sesame Balls were just sweet enough and utterly delicate, and according to Minty the tart was torched just before serving.

I really enjoyed this sampling, Alex, and the truck concept. Talking to some folks at the event I learned that Alex is an entrepreneur in his early twenties and that he is from San Jose, California. I may be biased as I also meet this profile, although I am from 20 miles west of San Jose (Santa Cruz), but I was impressed. I am very excited about what he is trying to do in terms of sharing Dim Sum with all of LA. For me, living in Pasadena gives me close proximity to very good dim sum but not all of LA (the West side) is that fortunate. I have long been a fan of dim sum in carts and being able to grab whatever appeals to you and the genius of dim sum in a truck is that it can now travel further and share it’s deliciousness with a much larger group of people. The truck is now official launched so you know the drill: follow it on Twitter and tell me what the full menu, which includes lunchboxes and Peking Duck Tacos, is like.

LA Street Food Fest: Was it Too Good of an Idea?

I have just returned from the LA Street Food Fest. Josie needed a nap and I need to reflect.  First, let me say who could have planned for that weather? It was beautiful and perfect. Hard to believe that 70% of the USA right now is covered in snow and I may have gotten a sunburn. Josie and I arrived there only 10 minutes after the event started. We were volunteers so we got easy underground parking, checked in, and got our working aprons in preparation for our 2-5 shift. Of course, we put them on immediately so we could look official and have a bib for all of the eating we were planning on doing. Minty was to be leading a crawl once inside but we arrived before her and began our eating process. At this point, all of the lines were beginning to grow and it was only 11:30. We are both sandwich lovers but if you have begun to know our taste buds than you know Josie loves fried eggs and I loved pickled things. That means Josie started with a croque at Monsieur Egg and I had a mini bahn mi from the Phamish truck.

Both sandwiches were  exactly our flavor profiles and it was a good opener that required no real waiting. It was around this time we realized some very important things. First, we were listed as the top prize on the Raffle List. Never has a date with the UGs been such a commodity.

Secondly, we realized that neither one of us was prepared. We both had cell phones that were on the verge of dying. Not smart when we were on the lookout for friends and our crawl leader. We found our group in line for the India Jones truck and they all still had some Don Chow in hand. We sampled both and would have tried more but we were on the lookout for something refreshing. You should know us well enough to know that refreshing for Josie means an ice cold beer and for me (Carina) means something fruity and/or bubbly and cold. Jose grabbed a beer and I got the most delicious popsicle from Popshop.

Now it was 12:30, that the sun was beating and the lines were growing. We were planning on hitting up Flying Pigs with the crawl group but the line was too intimidating. Instead we waited for 20 minutes for Fish Lips Sushi. I have heard great things about this truck but this was my first time trying it. While in line, Minty used her feminine ways to get some red velvet pancakes from the Buttermilk Truck that had a 40 minute wait. They were light fluffy and tasted just like you would imagine with sweet cream cheese on top.

Josie did a beer run for the crawlers but requested I order her one of her favorite foods, karagee, Japanese fried chicken. I got something I never eat a crunchy roll. My new line is, “I am SO over eating cooked fish”. However, this was a bargain philosphy. They had the temari sashimi plater for $5, which looked amazing. It was rolled into a ball and perfectly bite sized. I was going to order that until I realized that the crunchy roll was the same price, $3, as the California roll. Hold the phone, you’re telling me I can add in shrimp tempura in the roll for free. Of course, I had to order this. It was pretty good and the tempura was still crunchy. We got princess seating on the (fish)tail end of the truck.

Josie was not that into her fried chicken. I get it, this is a sushi truck and apparently that isn’t even normally on their menu. Josie is allergic to most seafood, so this is what she was stuck with. However, even before arriving we knew that there was one person’s fried chicken that everyone was dying to try and that was Chef Ludo‘s. The time now was about 1:20pm and we were already getting word that people were waiting 45 minutes to order from the truck and then another 30 to grab their fried chicken. We didn’t have time for this because we were set to volunteer, or else maybe we would have waited. Thankfully, while we were working our awesome friend Kane was sweet enough to bring us over some to try. I don’ know how Ludo makes it so moist (not trying to be vulgar) but it was such delicious chicken. Would we have waited an hour? Probably not, but it was finger lickin good.

At this point we knew the place was packed. Far upwards of the expected 10,000 people. We ran into a bunch of friends: yelpers, bloggers, interns, and more. We knew we would be working the front door and as we were walking over there we heard that no one else was going to be allowed in. We could see the line and there were thousands of people. The lines inside were getting bad and they had to put a stop to the people coming in, it wasn’t a simple problem. Being that close to the door and organizers, I can tell you that they really tried to ease the situation. Announcements were made, drinks were given out to those people waiting, and they truly tried to be accommodating. Around 3:00pm people were slowly allowed in and at 4:00 the gates were open to anyone that wanted to come in. Josie and I have been to a ton of food events and whenever it is a 1st annual there are always glitches. However, they are reports that 15,000 people showed up; no one could have predicted that. We left our shift early a little beat up from the sun and by this time both of our phones had died. We lost one another in the crowd and it wasn’t easy to get reunited. It took about 40 minutes to find each other and then we left exactly at 5:00pm, the end of the event. There were still trucks serving, people in line, and it was still nice outside. Here is a shot only seconds before we left:

I am sure that a lot of people will have a lot to say about the event in the upcoming tweets, hours, and days but I must say that all in all it was a very fun event, I really liked what DJJEWLZ tweeted:

Lines aside, @lafoodfest was a fun place to eat some food, hang out with other Angelenos, enjoy DTLA and soak in the AWESOME weather.

Also, EatingLA‘s tweet was what made me think of the title for this post:

Oh oh! Backlash against @LAFoodfest building quickly — lotsa pissed-off comments on my blog already. Guess it was TOO good an idea.

Having too good of an idea doesn’t seem like a crime to me. I truly commend SauceLA and UniqueLA for dreaming up this event and making it happen. Josie and I love downtown LA, trying new food, seeing old friends and meeting new ones. This event offered all of that. Whatever people say about LA, there are a ton of real people that love street food and are looking for a gathering place. City of Santa Monica, please take note and consider reopening the Santa Monica Food Truck Lot.

Neighborhood Profile: Exploring Venice in the Rain

Yes, the Westside is far for us Eastsiders, but Venice is one of those cool towns that is always worth going to. This last Friday was the first Friday of the month and you know what that means, First Fridays in Venice on Abbott Kinney. Abbott Kinney is not just the main drag in Venice it was also the name of the founder of the city who wanted to make the city a cultural center with art, food, and interesting people. If you have ever seen the Venice canals, that was created because he was modeling the city after Venice, Italy. This particular Friday was pouring. Josie was at a Lakers game and I was catching up with one of my favorite college friends, Nora. We made it out to the event at around 9pm. The official hours of First Fridays is 6pm to 10pm and all of the art galleries, bars, and restaurants are filled with locals getting to know the businesses. It may have been raining but there was no parking in sight. When we finally stopped, we needed a drink badly. We went to the Otheroom, where I have been once before with Nora. After that I was starving and I knew that there was a parking lot filled with food trucks nearby. We downed a drink and headed over. I was thrilled to see the Border Grill truck there, not just because I wanted to try it but also because my Pasadena food blogging friend Hot Pink Manolos was working it. I recently told her via Twitter that I missed her and she said the gourmet taco truck consumes most of her life now. This fact used to make me sad until I tried the food, now I want to her to keep on doing what she is doing.

Nora got a carne asada taco and I had the ceviche and the famous BG lemonade that I have downed at one too many events after a lot of adult drinking. Christina told me to poke the top with my straw like you would with boba. I had a funny flashback in my mind of doing such an act. A year or so ago I was deathly ill (I am a bit dramatic with illness) after 2 days of not leaving the house I decided to venture out to my favorite mall, the one in Arcadia. I bought a milk tea boba and then I thought to myself that my favorite part about boba is the insertion of the straw. At the time I was feverish and somehow poured the entire boba drink down my shirt. I left the mall in tears as clearly I was still too sick to be around the healthy people that know that a cup has to be help upwards instead of facing down while they are daydreaming. Clearly my mind, even at a normal temperature, is a wandering one. Let’s get back to the first Friday and my BG food. The ceviche was served in a corn cone that was then covered in a paper cone. The fish was very good quality and there were pickled onions on top, I wholeheartedly believe that everything should be pickled. In order to not eat our food with raindrops we headed into Nora’s car for comfort. I am sensitive to salt so the dish was too salty for me. Josie normally puts a ton of salt and lemon on everything and proclaims it is because she is Mexican. I understand the lemon element but the salt part is difficult for me to grasp. As a kid, I always loved those frozen ice cream cones with the hard chocolate on the bottom that fills the last triangle of the cone. When I got to the end of this cone I noticed a similiar thing, but this one had black beans at the bottom. When I discovered this part the whole dish totally came together. I mixed it up and it was a buffer not only  for the bottom of the cone but also for the salt that was overpowering the dish for me. The truth of the matter is that I say everything is too salty, but this was really great. Josie would tell me, “You aren’t Mexican, you don’t understand.” That is probably true. I will totally seek out this truck again, plus I think it may be the only way I can see my friend HPM again.

After we were done eating and the car smelled profusely of onions. I recommended we head to a bar in Venice that I heard about only that day. All I knew about this bar was that the bartenders wore naughty nurse outfits and it was in Venice. I asked my Twitter friends and FoodforFel and CitizenRobot came to my rescue in telling me the name of the bar was the Good Hurt. I am an overly dramatic hypocondriac neurotic Jewish woman, so it is safe to say I love going to the doctor. Despite never actually having anything wrong with me I can talk about my ailments for days and I love that my particular doctor indulges me by letting me be tested for everything. A hospital themed bar is right up my alley. The bartenders were hot and well, “Hello Nurse.” My biggest complaint with this establishment was that they only served beer, wine, vodka, and tequila. What, no whiskey? Let me go to what is right with this bar: big booths, pool tables, interesting music acts (Seeing Thingz was playing that night) and my favorite part was the lollipop jars at every table. It was the strangest most awesome bar I have ever been to; my mind was blown.

If the purpose of First Fridays is to get to know Venice better, then it completely succeeded. Sure I like the Otheroom and the other main establishments on the main drag that are hip and interesting but my style is a little more off the beaten path. I was born and raised in Santa Cruz where there are very few chains allowed in and a movement of activists and bumper stickers that say, “Keep Santa Cruz Weird.” As much as I have come to love well crafted cocktails, drive-thrus, and menus where everything taste just as you imagine it, there is something to be said for these unique finds that make a city so interesting. Thank god for Abbott Kinney and recognizing the need for cultural pockets long before every city was cookie cutter.