Wood Spoon: Chicken Pot Pie for the Soul & Lens

Many of us in the food blogosphere all carry around the same Canon s90 camera but very few of us actually know how to use it. There are several exceptions to this rule and one of my favorites is Julian aka DJJewelz. He uses the same camera as all of us, no Photoshop, and always manages to take beautiful pictures. Sure he has the artists’ eye but he also knows simple shortcuts for better pictures. My new friend Nastassia, of Let Me Eat Cake, and I were both talking at the Latin American Dessert Crawl about how in awe we were of DJJewelz’s pictures and how we so needed a class with him. During this crawl one of the stops we skipped was Wood Spoon, a Brazilian restaurant in Downtown LA. The two of us girls conjured up a plan: take DJJewelz to lunch and have him help us with our cameras. We arrived on a Friday for lunch so we had better lighting for our impromptu class.

We had all heard, thanks to Giada De Laurentiis episode of “The Best Thing I Ever Ate”, that Wood Spoon had a great chicken pot pie. That was obviously my main course but we decided to start with some appetizers aka photo subjects. We ordered the Pastel Portuguese, which was a shrimp stuffed dumpling with coconut sauce, and we also ordered Coxinha, which is the most popular Brazilian street food with chicken inside. Both Nastassia and I were nervous to step out of “Automatic” mode and venture into “AV”. We were both convinced that with so many options we would screw up the setting on camera to no return. Julian was a patient teacher and walked us through 4 things that we really needed to do to easily enhance our pictures. Between F-Stops, exposure, Macro settings and white balance testing we were starting to get some really good pictures.

At this point in the meal the pictures were actually better than the food. We were in during lunch hours and we were sad that out of all their exciting juices and lemonades on the menu we could order none of them and could only drink iced tea or coke. Oh well, this was school, we couldn’t be distracted by a foodgasm this early on in the lesson. We were getting confident and then came the Chicken Pot Pie. This was no Marie Callendars version, this had fresh corn and hearts of palm and a surprising amount of black pepper. It was a perfect portioned lunch and I was in love with the adorable wood spoon that laid across the crusty top. I dug in and as Julian said, “If it’s good enough for Giada, then it is good enough for me!”

Let Me Eat Cake was sad to learn that she couldn’t order cake or any dessert at all on this day. However, we really weren’t complaining. The restaurant could/should have included all items on their menu but we still got great food subjects and a Pot Pie fit for an Italian American Food Princess. It was a delicious and educational lunch and I strive to try and take better picture and get out of my “Automatic” comfort zone. Julian gave us the good advice to check these simple camera settings first because it easier than having to return to the restaurant and order the same thing for a redo…but with Wood Spoon I woodn’t (sorry, I couldn’t help myself) mind returning for another chicken pot pie lunch!

Dining on the Edge: Dinner with Chef Keven

There’s carnal pleasure and then there’s food pleasure. I’ve never endangered my life for carnal pleasure, but for food pleasure…I do it on a daily basis.

Growing up I was deathly allergic to many things, and over the last few weeks I had gotten mild symptoms of a severe allergy. When I decided to visit my doctor he did a few tests and referred me to an allergist. Later that week, I met with the allergist; he took one look at me said, “Have you been eating shellfish?!” I admitted that my frequent visits to the SGV for Asian food had exposed me to many fish-based sauces. He told me to cut it out for my own good, but I relented. After all, I wasn’t in the hospital. It was just shellfish and I could endure the few moments of discomfort for a few moments of food pleasure. When I got my allergy test back, it said I was severely allergic to a long list of things. The most severe being: most types of seafood, peanuts, wheat, soybeans, and many others. FML. However, I will continue to eat what I want in the sake of food and I will die a king. Not very smart, but a girl has got to have her priorities in order. Such was the case at the swanky Hollywood Hills supper club that Veronica and I attended last week.

Veronica’s a  hip lady (far cooler than I) and she had a plus one to a private 5-course meal in a private home overlooking all of LA. She asked me and I jumped at the opportunity after she told me that the chef cooking was going to be the very talented Chef Keven Alan Lee of East in Hollywood.

As a woman who still, to this day, works in a busy kitchen, I admire Chef Keven’s attention to detail. His staff is disciplined and well-trained at what they set out to do. I saw the look on their faces as we ate what they had prepared for us, and they took pleasure in our pleasure. Kudos.

Below was the night’s menu:

Thai Eggplant Larb
Fried Tofu, Pickled Shallots, and Thai Peanut Sauce

Shitake Crab Poppers
Lump Crab, Garden Fresh Vegetables,
Seared & Roasted Shitake Mushrooms, Shitake Aioli

SUPER JUMBO Turkey Tofu Meatballs
Fire Roasted Tomato & White Bean Ragu

Dragon Style “Big Eye” Tuna
Thai Green Curry Rice
Dragon Torched Live

Cheven’s Signature Bread Pudding
Chololate Toffee and milk Chocolate Ganache

My favorites of the night were the Turkey meatballs, the tofu, and the bread pudding. The meatballs were obscenely fresh and soft but not as to fall apart. The tofu was fried into little adorable packets and garnished with some edible flowers.

And then there were the shitake crab poppers. I knew I’d be the one paying for it later, but its just one one of those things you have to do for yourself. So, I selfishly took a bite. It was perfection. Later that night, the taxation for my small bite was a mild swelling. That crab was worth every bit of pain. However, I think I’ll take it easy for sometime… Maybe.

Chef Keven has been asking me to shadow him and do “A Day in the Life” kind of a piece for the blog. He tells me that his day starts off at the farmer’s market, goes from town to town to find the best ingredients, and that he, a Jew, even speaks fluent Spanish. As a Latin gal, I can vouche for Kitchenese as it is actually very good. I may do the article, but I think that the cooking in the kitchen part should be left to the true professionals. After all, the rule of any good cook is to try all of the food you prepared and for me that is a deadly option.

The cocktails were also great, although maybe just as poisonous. If they’d been any stiffer, I would’ve probably woken up next to someone I didn’t know. Thank God I stopped when I did. The drinks were all mixed by Minx in Glendale. Chef Keven has recently started working with them to perfect the new Minx food menu. I will definitely have to check it out soon. Who’s in? I may even try and kill myself again for the sake of delicious food.

Mi Piace: A Monday Night Happy Hour Worth Trying

One of the first places I ever went alone to in Los Angeles was Mi Piace in Pasadena. I was 17 and only a few months away from starting college at Woodbury University. I had to do some placement tests during the summer, so they knew what math and English classes to put me in. I knew no one in LA and my friend Sunshine (I am from Santa Cruz) was unable to come with me. She was several years older and we would always sleep at her brother’s house on our SoCal trips during my high school years. I had been conversing via AIM with a nice gay man that was an Interior Architecture Woodbury alum asking questions about the school. I told him I would be visiting and he said I could stay with him. I don’t know what my mom thought I was doing but I ended up staying the night with this stranger after testing all day and being to tired to drive back to SC. He lived in Pasadena with his boyfriend, actually only blocks away from where I now live, had a meditation room, and I offered to take him to dinner. He suggested Mi Piace and told me that the place was “So Sex & The City.” That was all this high school student had to hear. I was sold. I will say now with some age, experience, and knowledge that it really isn’t that great of a show. I still care for the characters but it is, with the exception of a few people and storylines, a lot of dysfunctional women and relationships that are unhealthy for females to idolize. Anyway, the show was at this time something I put on a pedestal and I was in awe of. I felt so sophisticated in this lounge and I did feel like a girl in the big city. After dinner, we went shopping at J. Crew and there I saw Kristen Davis. My first big LA celebrity sighting and it was perfection. It was the quintessential Charlotte town, store, and intersection.

Since then, 6 years have past. I have finished college, grad school, and grown up (sort of). Being in lounges and eating and drinking is now my world. I have lived in Pasadena for almost three years and rarely go out there anymore. I have become more of a downtown gal. Last month, when I was on the Gays and Dolls WeHo Bar Crawl, I met a fantastic gay man who lived in Pasadena. He told me that Mi Piace on Mondays was something that I had to do. Every Monday after 6pm almost all drinks are $5 and all appetizers  are 1/2 priced until closing. Last Monday, I met him there and we had a fun night. I had come from a large dinner so I  wasn’t that hungry, but I was thirsty. I reverted back to my 17 year old brain and ordered drinks, I never drink. I started with a French Cosmo and then went on to a Key Lime Martini. It was good and girly and took me back in time. I just tried a bit of the food and was impressed; it was more than worth the 1/2 off prices. There was mac n cheese, a salmon pizza, and chicken lettuce wraps at our table. The best surprise of all was that my new gbf (gay boyfriend) and I were joined by our matchmaker, The Minty, who also wrote about this very reasonable Happy Hour. She referred to it as, cheaper than the parking in the area.

To keep the words of my first time at Mi Piace alive and well, “It is so Sex & The City.” There is a part of me that thinks I have outgrown it and it is no longer my scene but it still has its positive sides. This Monday night Happy Hour is not to be missed! Just as I doubt I will miss the second Sex & The City movie. Josie and I actually saw the first movie while in Paris..how romantic! Of course, we had to read the subtitles but it was still worth it. Who wants to see it with us? Maybe we can follow it with HH at Mi Piace on Monday. After all, there are $5 French Cosmo all night long!

The Pasta Bible: A Mighty Unholy Book

Photo Credit to RalphAndJenny on Flickr

If you are like me, then you love Fail Blog and it brings you great joy to add new things on Twitter with the hashtag #awesometypos. When these things are food related I often say the phrase “uncouth gourmand” in my head. However, there are certain thing that are beyond a fail and beyond uncouth…they are just wrong.

In a new cookbook entitled, Pasta Bible, under the recipe for Spelt Tagliatelle with Sardines and Prosciutto one of the ingredients had a major typographical error. Was it a misprint on an unusual ingredient that is easily misspelled or confused? Nope, it was on the most common ingredient in cooking, the one that had been written correctly in more than 150 recipes in the book.

The mistake ingredient was “salt and freshly ground black people.”

Any idiot would know that this was clearly just a mistake but it is costing the publisher, Penguin Group Australia, $18,000 in reprints and a world of embarrassment.

For more on the story see:

Sydeny Morning Hearld

BBC

Yahoo

If you screw up, Food World, we will be there!

UG Commercial: iPhone + BlackBerry = Twitter Love

Here’s the story of a lovely Uncouthie
Who had an iPhone, which she used to Tweet.
All of her tweets came from an app known as Echofon,
The newest ones with a dash and a J.

Here’s the story, of a Gourmand named Carina
Who had a BlackBerry to tweet on her own,
All of her tweets came from UberTwitter,
Yet they were all signed with a dash and a C.

Till the one day when the Uncouth met this Gourmand,
And they knew it was much more than a hunch.
That these ladies would somehow form a Twitter account.
That’s the way we became UncouthGourmand.
UncouthGourmand, UncouthGourmand.

That’s the way we became UncouthGourmand
Follow Us, bitches!

Sticking to Kosher Meat: For Love and For Health

Photo Credit to DinnerCraft on Flickr

It has been almost a year since my last relationship ended. It was a sad situation and it came in the form of a break-up email I had to send to my ex-boyfriend who was stuck in Europe. Since then, I made new friends and choices and was told by my business and religious mentor to stick to kosher meat. He meant this in terms of trying to strictly date Jewish men. The theory behind it was that while I am still young, my heart and livelihood would be better off if I only dated people that I would consider marrying. A rabbi later pushed this point by saying that marrying a Jew doesn’t guarantee success but it does help your chances for a successful marriage. Up until that point, I have dated a lot of “interesting” people but none of which I would have ever considered marrying: an out of work actor/scientologist, a homeless man, an anarchist named Pogo, and other winners. They were all beautiful and fascinating people but I decided to get serious about dating for the sake of less broken hearts. The journey with Jewish men has been healthier, rational, but not quite the amount of intensity (i.e. drama, according to Josie) that I was looking for. Through my time on Jdate I have discovered that there are a ton of non-Jewish women on there trying to nail a Jewish man…clearly there is something healthy about this idea of kosher meat.

In fact, if you read today’s New York Times article entitled More People Choosing Kosher for Health there is definitely something to this notion. According to the article there is a huge kosher meat trend not because of religious reasons but because the public views it as healthier and safer. All of the meat has to be processed under strict kosher law and is monitored extremely carefully, from the way it is killed to the way it is butchered. All kosher meat is also heavily salted which helps to keep away certain bacteria, making it a safe choice.

I can make obvious (albeit uncouth) links about the Orthodox Union heavily monitoring the meat to the Jewish mother monitoring her son or about the careful butchering of meat to Jewish men with circumcisions. However, what do you think? Do you view Jewish men and kosher meat as a safer and healthier option? I do, in fact, that is what I intend to say to my future Jewish husband before we eat kosher brisket at the wedding reception.

Figaro Cafe: HH with Crab Cakes, Mussels, and Escargot

Figaro Cafe was the home of the only hot bartender on the Hot Bartenders Crawl in Los Feliz a couple of months ago.  Therefore when the Happy Hour experts, The Minty and The Vixen, asked me to join them for the Happiest of Hours, I quickly agreed. I had just returned from my trip up in NorCal and Josie had class that night so I made the trek to my old hood. I lived in Los Feliz in the giant orange building behind the post office for two years of my life and I exhausted every shop and restaurant on the two main blocks. I used to go into Figaro Cafe for a croissant and to get a spotting of Danny Bonaduce after his radio show. Side Note: My mom used to tell me she sent fan letters to Danny Bonaduce in her teenage years. After I watched the Partridge Family in re-runs I asked her, “How could you have a crush on Danny?” She explained to me that she didn’t, she loved David Cassidy like all the other teeny boppers, but she was worried that Danny would get no mail and be sad that David Cassidy got bags full. That is my mother, she is the most considerate person. I told her I would tell that story at her funeral but I might as well tell it here, while she still very much alive.

Anyway, I arrived this evening at 5:45 and walked in with the Minty. The Vixen was already there and had just downed the smallest martini in the smallest martini glass I have ever seen. She laughed when she saw us staring and said, “Well, in all fairness, it does say mini martini on the Happy Hour menu.” It was priced at $5 but it was probably half the price and size of the normal sized martini. I am not sure if that is a deal so I got champagne for $5. Minty did the food ordering and got us escargot, mussels, crab cakes, and I piped in for the carpaccio that I have had there numerous times. All of this food ordered off the Happy Hour Menu and ranged in price from $4.50-$6. There HH is everyday from 5pm-7pm. The escargot was OMG garlicky, but apparently I was the only one complaining. It costs under 5 bucks for 1/2 dozen of these snails and it is well worth it. These slippery little suckers (oh yeah, Pretty Woman reference) stick around way after they have been consumed, not just the garlic aftertaste but you can dip your bread into their butter and you get a brand new delicious dish. The carpaccio was just as good as I remembered and the mussels were also doused in garlic. The food was good quality and well worth the discounted prices.

I don’t want to generalize but what is it with bad service at French restaurants and bad service in the actor infested Los Feliz? There were several awkward turtle moments with various waiters and waitresses. We had to say “We would like bread, too” when we noticed all of of the surrounding tables were topped with baskets of bread. I had the extra table torn away even while my arm was resting on it. We also had to play musical drinks each time the drinks arrived because they were served to the wrong people. Minty ordered the exact same drink for the night, a $4 well drink with bourbon and soda, and it seems that each time was various degrees of alcohol content and different levels of glass fullness. We laughed it off and said, “We get it, you are an ac-tor” in our heads. Whatever it was a fun night with the two girls that are bringing LA the Sexy Single Soiree 2.0 next week. It was also deliciously inexpensive snails, I was happy. Although, I would have been happier if the hot bartender, Ventura, was working.