Saturday, February 28, 2009

My Missing Caramels

I was squiring some out-of-towners around LA today, including my mother. We lunched at Loteria in the Fairfax Farmers Market (one of my favorite eateries in one of my favorite Angeleno attractions - best horchata anywhere). While we ate, I spun them a tale of the tastiest French macarons, the most luscious gelato, the most imaginitve breads, and ... I don't want to oversell this ... THE ABSOLUTE BEST CARAMELS ON THE FACE OF THE ENTIRE PLANET THAT HAVE EVER EXISTED.

Fleur de sel caramels, to be exact. Rich, buttery, soft, deeply flavored caramels balanced by delicate flakes of gourmet salt crystals, which enhanced all the notes. These were one of Oprah's favorite things for Jimny's sake.

We're talking better confections than the ones Chef Smurf would whip up once a year, giving a small supply to all who lived in the Smurf village. The flavor of which was enough to pit Smurf against Smurf until they started smurfing each other with big, blunt smurfs until there were puddles of smurf all over the smurf and Chef Smurf decided the candy was too smurf to ever smurf again. Smurf.

Anyhoo ...
After lunch, we were all fired up to go get our caramel on. We lion tamed our way out of the viscious parking lot, headed down 3rd, took a right on La Cienega, found rockstar parking and ... had our hearts (mine mostly) broken by a sign on the door thanking the shop's patrons for their support (past tense slathered on), and stating that both the La Cienega and Beverly Hills locations were now closed.

A peak through the window (as if the sign might have merely proved a cruel hoax) confirmed that all that was left of my beloved confectionary shrine were its trademark robin's egg blue walls, now stripped completely bare.

If anyone has the recipe for their red wine bread, please send it to me.

the delightful macarons of many colors (photo courtesty of

My Answer

Last week, I asked you to guess what the scary food product on my plate was.

The answer is *drum roll* SEA CUCUMBER. Yes, that selfsame squishy little ... mollusk? ... you got to poke and prod in the SeaWorld tide pool exhibit as a kid is now a part of this balanced breakfast.

The winner, selected at random from the hordes of correct responses, is ... no one. Not a single soul. Nobody guessed it. Maybe I need to start with super-zoomed-in photos of more-familiar foods, like potato chip crumbs.

Monday, February 23, 2009

My Unidentifiable Edibles

Taiwanese friends are the best. They introduce you to all kinds of weird foods.

Here’s a sample. There’s a lot in the picture, but I’m specifically interested in the bumpy brown thing stage center. Comment in your guess as to what it is. I’ll announce the winner at the end of the week.

This particular feast was courtesy of my friend’s wonderful parents, who were throwing her new baby (hi, Kai) a Welcome to the World party at Mandarin Restaurant in Fountain Valley. Interesting point: There are no visible hills in the area, so how can it be a valley?

This is not your PF Chang’s, egg fu yung, crispy noodles on top Chinese food. It’s authentic, taste of the homeland, “Oh my gosh, I’m white and don’t recognize anything” Chinese food.

But it’s tasty.
This was an appetizer platter. All cold meats and ... and ... noodles?

Orange shrimp and garlic shrimp. The Americans sighed relief.

Roast duck. It's surprisingly meaty, if that makes sense. Only a couple little pieces, and you feel like you ate a petite fillet of beef.

And speaking of beef, this thin-sliced steak over baby bok choy was perhaps the most tender I've ever had aside from Crock-Potted.

Steamed sea bass with ginger and scallions. REE-diculously tender, moist, and buttery (from the fish fat, not actual butter). Leftovers were Monday's lunch. And since it's a mild fish, I was able to microwave it without fishing up the kitchen. Apologies to all who stopped by my cubicle and beheld fish vertebrae on my plate.

Dessert. A kind of rice pudding cratered out like mashed potatoes and filled with sweet red bean paste. There were juicy raisins, maraschino cherries, crushed peanut, and some green and yellow things that I couldn't identify. Super tasty ... I'm still working on leftovers.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

My Blogging Style

I'm not usually one to believe in the accuracy of online personality quizzes ... which never stops me from taking them. But this bemusing gem requires no interaction at all, and -- in my case at least -- was surprisingly accurate (aside from the fact that I'm not a chick; and especially not a drunken bar fly, despite the picture).

Oh, and if any of my bosses are reading this, the part about me not being good at management is also wrong. Please promote me soon.

What's your blog reveal about you? Just drop your URL in this tool:

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

My Trick for Free Lunch

I'm all about saving money, especially these days. I accomplish this mostly -- as you've seen in this journal -- by cooking large batches of food to feed me through a week, not eating out for lunch, and bringing home leftovers on the rare times I eat out.

But a lesser-appreciated method of saving a buck while not getting stuck in the PB&J trap can be summed up in one beautiful word: friendship. Making friends with those who work -- and eat -- at the desk next door often results in anything from the rest of their fries, to a few pieces of their gourmet bacon chocolate discovery, to (in my case) full home-cooked meals.

Today, one of the developers on my team brought me homemade lentil soup and some sort of Indian buns made of lentil flour with sides of spicy coriander sauce and a sweeter lentil chickpea sauce. (I think maybe her lentil tree just had a new crop)

If you find yourself wasting away at work, you're probably not well liked and need to sew seeds of harmony ... or just get really rich so people will be nice to you. Though at that point, I guess you can just buy your own food ... but then where's the love?