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!

Oh My Fudge God: John Kelly Chocolates

Truffle Fudge?!?! That is the best word combination since Uncouth Gourmands. It is the mixing of high brow and low brow and the combination is something magical. I am a strong believer that contradictions are the best complements. Take sweet and salty for example, these two things are very different but married together they are a match made in heaven. A few weeks ago we were approached by Lizzy Shaw of Lizzy Shaw PR saying that there was a chocolate place that we had to try. I had just written about my favorite cookie, the caramel sea salt french macaroon from Europane, and she said she knew of  a salted dark chocolate that had to be on the UG radar. Her enthusiasm in this chocolate was infectious and we set up a time to try these complex chocolates. The day was set for Earth Day and we knew how to get to the chocolate factory and store because she said it was near Cheebo.

I have eaten Cheebo numerous times but had sadly never been in the establishment. The orange sign and exterior was never missed as it was my favorite color and I got delivery many nights when I worked down the street. I wasn’t sure why we were having coffee first, but I wasn’t complaining. Lizzy explained that this was a great date place because the lighting inside was perfect. Josie and I took careful notes and leisurely walked to the very next building, John Kelly Chocolates. As soon as we arrived, I knew exactly why we didn’t start here.

Of course, upon entering we ran straight towards the display case and went to the samples of chocolate above. All of our senses were turned off and we simply put the fudge in our mouth and enjoyed. I started on the right side of the tray and went to the treat that I was most looking forward to, the Dark Chocolate with Grey Sea Salt. This was not the best place to start as this was the apex. It was perfect. How could it get better from that bite? This was chocolate in it’s richest and creamiest form and topped with salt that enhanced the sweetness. I still tried many other chocolates but I knew at first bite that this was my true love. Unlike my love life, this love did not waver with the more that I tasted.

After sampling a lot of chocolate, Josie and I were both not looking up or talking and were only concentrating on the chocolate in our mouths. We were in another world and when we finally snapped out of it I got out of my tunnel vision and looked beyond the sample tray. I then spotted a  toothpick tray and said, “Oh, is this how couth people eat samples?” We laughed and then we were back to reality and ready for a tour and to start listening.

We walked to the right into the mini Willy Wonka-esque chocolate factory with the owners John & Kelly. That’s right, it is two people that have combined their names. They made us laugh by explaining that they can always tell telemarketers when the ask for John Kelly on the phone. The fudge pictured above with the grey salt was my favorite and watching it being made was so cool. We saw the fudge before it was chocolate dipped, watched it get dipped and hand monogrammed with a letter P to represent that peanuts were inside. It was a whip of the chocolatier’s finger that made the “P”, Josie and I made our oohs and ahhs and we were absolutely two girls in a chocolate factory.

It was a hands on process that we were so excited to witness. The dipping stations were our favorite and as we moved on to the wrapping and packaging it was just as interesting. The dipped and cooled truffle fudge was transported and wrapped in gold foil. These wrapped pieces could then either be put in small displays for retail shops (including Neimans) or sold in their own shop only a room away.

As we circled back around to the front of the store I noticed the statues that to me were more important than Oscars. It was the coveted Gold Sofi from the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade, Inc. (NASFT), in the highly competitive category of “Outstanding Chocolate” for my favorite truffle fudge. Once again, unlike dating, I was able to pick a winner.

This trip to the chocolate factory was so much fun and oh so delicious. As I am sure you know, normally truffles are a gourmand dish with ganache centers. These truffle bars have the uncouth fudge center. This isn’t the waxy fudge you’ve eaten at the fair, this is homey and creamy goodness.

John and Kelly say, “Our mission is for everyone to have the same experience we had when we first tasted it – a creamy and silky revelation, with intense and luxurious chocolate flavor. If you love chocolate, we think you’ll be amazed at just how good fudge can be. Try it and you’ll see what we mean.”

We have tried it and we totally agree. This is THE Uncouth Gourmand chocolate of choice: sweet & salty, truffle & fudge, kosher & so good they should be illegal and something that we love! Thanks so much Lizzy for introducing us to this piece of deliciousness and to John & Kelly for the special tour. Although everyone is totally welcome to come to the shop, see how chocolate is made, sample, buy, and enjoy! This purple ribbon is a special for mother’s day and we can assure you that mama will be happy with this chocolate! If you are a fan of them on FB you will receive a code for 10% off to use in the store or online.

This truffle fudge will surely make you say OMFG: Oh My Fudge God!

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!

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.

Checkers Rush Hour Dinner = A New BFF

About a week ago, a newbie friend from the Barry Group in Venice invited us to Checkers to try their new Rush Hour menu. We love their Thursday happy hour, so how the hell could we say no. We met up with Edward on Wednesday and were in love. First we fell in love with Edward and then the food love followed. We met Edward at the bar and he took us into the dining room. We’re commoners and always sit at the bar – these girls can spend $4 on Thursday but anything at the classy Checkers dining room has always been out of the question. But things have changed at Checkers and now their $39 three course menu has made (hottie tottie) Chef Todd’s menu accessible to all. Let me not leave out the other hottie tottie running the beverage service, Tyler. That boy makes my teeth sweat. They really need their own magazine cover. Anyone? Anyone?

However, let’s not detract from Edward, as he was the most entertainment of the night. I thought Carina was going to fall into to a love-induced coma when Edward was speaking because he loved Rosie, Hillary Clinton, worked in politics, and lives in WeHo. She had finally met her Prince Charming. I loved him, too. He was so adorable. In fact, we loved him so much that we even secured the next few dates with him in the coming weeks. Why can’t I book this many dates in advance?

So what is the Checkers Rush Hour Dinner Menu? Here is how it was described to us:

Checkers’ Rush Hour prix fixe menu, priced at $39 per person, is served daily from 5 pm to 6:30 pm. Professionals leaving the office can now avoid the worst of Los Angeles’ infamous traffic while enjoying a fine dining experience at unbeatable prices.

Below is a look into some of the dishes we devoured from the Rush Hour menu:

For the first course, Carina ordered the Pan-Seared Ahi Tuna. I was coveting her food even though I could not try it. It looked amazing and she agreed that the flavors were right on. Edward opted for the Grilled Local Calamari and I opted for the Saffron Risotto without the rock shrimp, damn seafood allergy. I loved the risotto because it had large chunks of chorizo and it was heavy in cream (but in that good kind of way, that is). Tyler recommended I cut the heaviness of the risotto with some white wine, but I declined this Wednesday night and Carina and Edward had some instead. They thought the wine was lovely and that it went well with their food selections.

For dinner Carina order the Harissa-Rubbed Alaskan Halibut while Edward and I opted for the Grilled Colorado Lamb Loin. Carina’s halibut looked colorful and absolutely beautiful. She enjoyed it very much and was grateful that it wasn’t overcooked. She was also grateful that Edward laughed when she said, “I’ll have the halibut just for the hell-i-but.” It’s a good thing that Edward loved the puns because, let me just say, Carina throws them out all of the time. I had the lamb, which was beautifully cooked and the bean medley and broth that it lay above was heavenly. Even though the beans were a bit too al dente for my taste, the broth resembled a light and salty godliness. It reminded me of my grandma’s frijoles de la olla. Perfection.

And lastly for dessert Carina ordered the Gourmet Ice Cream and Sorbet, while Edward ordered the Flourless Chocolate Cake and I opted for the Vanilla Bean Crème Brulee. I think you should know that if you order the ice cream, you can only choose sorbet or ice cream. Our uncouthie, Carina, is dairy sensitive and went with the sorbet. When they asked her if she wanted mango or raspberry, she replied, “Both.” She has that way of asking by giving the waitstaff approval and more then often she gets her wish. We were at the classy Checkers dining room and did in fact feel at home. Together with the awkward conversation, Carina ordering two desserts, and me dropping my napkin and fork on the floor… well, let’s just say I could hear the song in my head…. “Pretty woman, walking down the street. Pretty woman.”

Edward ordered coffee with his dessert and it came with the usual cream and sugar. I had to take a picture of the sugars because as Carina once said, “Josie equates detail to love” and well, I do. It shows me that you care. So when I see such attention to detail, I notice, commend, and appreciate it. P.S: I also liked the silverware and the glassware as Checkers. It’s always the first thing I notice at a restaurant and yet I am so rarely impressed. If you want high-end dining attention to detail and good quality food at a reasonable price head to Checkers for the Rush Hour menu. You may not have the same great company, leave it to Carina to meet her soul mate at a media dinner, but we can guarantee you a great meal! Also for some foodie trivia: Thomas Keller was the executive chef at Checkers Hotel in the early 90s and our favorite Pasadena chef, Claud Beltran of Noir Food & Wine was the assistant chef under Thomas. Don’t say we never teach you anything!

Mo-Chica for Ceviche and Other Life Lessons

I have been wanting to go to Mo-Chica forever as I am a lover of seafood, especially in the raw form. I have video evidence of me saying I love the tang (not the pootang) so the citrus marinade of the dish is what makes it perfect for me. I feel like I have been reading about Mo-Chica for years and I always thought it was a full service restaurant and one where you can only order seafood. Both of these assumptions were incorrect. Mo-Chica is situated within the Mercado La Paloma, which is on the USC side of town, not in the best neighborhood. However, this mercado has parking attendants, eateries, clothing and accessory vendors and more. It’s far more happening than any food court. I was supposed to be meeting AK and Minty for lunch and I was the first to arrive. I did a complete circle before finding Mo-Chica. At first I was disappointed, I hate standing up to order and then the sweet women at the counter told me I could sit and order. I had the famous purple corn Peruvian drink and I knew I was in for a treat as it was far better than most purple drinks I am served. The specials board was far away but we all obviously wanted the ceviche of the day, which is Mo-Chica’s claim to fame.

When AK and Minty arrived we decided also on the crab that was featured in the potato salad of the day. The ceviche of the day (in the main picture) was by far my favorite dish. The halibut was fresh as can be and the mixture of Peruvian corn, marinated onions, sweet potato, and corn nuts was perfection. For the main dishes, I got the special of the day, the black cod with beans in a garlic sauce. AK got the dish that I was eying since I saw the menu, the arroz con mariscos. The Minty got the lamb shank, she said it could have more appropriately been a dinner entree but I am thrilled to have the kind of friend that would order it for lunch. When we each got our lunches that came with rice, pickled squash, and a slice of garlic bread, AK exclaimed, “This is all for me!?!?” Of course it was, and it was fantastic!

At the end of the meal, I was still picking at the ceviche dish after I polished off my own dish. We were all absolutely satisfied. Minty went back to work and AK and I had been staring at signs that said no alcohol in the mercado all through lunch and while our food need had been filled our hooch need was still left wanting. We walked around the mercado and she bought a wood ring that was just a simple band and I bought a purple monstrosity of a ring to match my dress for Gays & Dolls later that night. Minty, who has an entire gay posse, taught me her secret to attracting a gay man that day…big accessories. AK was cranky because both of our rings cost the exact same amount, $3. We walked to try and grab a drink at URBNMRKT a cool place we both noticed in the neighborhood but alas they are still working on getting alcohol in their establishment. As we walked back, defeated, we were whistled at by a group of fourth graders while they were doing P.E. and things were right again in the world. AK had the genius idea that we head to the zoo for a beer. I love the LA Zoo (mostly because I like listening to people complain and watching kids and animals [in a non-pervy way]) and once again I love how my friends think. Last Friday, was a fantastic afternoon with my foodie friends and the animals. Wait until you hear about the Gays & Dolls crawl (here is Minty’s account), I think I now have two gay boyfriends. Remember friends: go to the zoo when you need a beer, go to Mo-Chica when you want ceviche and wear big accessories when you are trying to attract a gay boyfriend. That is the best advice I have, I hope you take it.

Okay, I have one more piece of advice you have until tomorrow, March 26th, at 8:30A to get your Blackboard Eats code for 30% off dinner at Mo-Chica. All you need to do is go to BlackboardEats right now and give them your email address and then you will get a code and you have one month to use it. Mo-Chica isn’t that pricey but imagine your dinner 30% cheaper, holla!

Cuisine: Latin American

Neighborhoods: South Los Angeles, South East LA
3655 S Grand Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90007

(213) 747-2141

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.