Thursday, July 9, 2015

Before / During / After the Anime Expo

Since Anime Expo usually coincides with the July 4th weekend, it's been years since I've been able to go due to other holiday plans with friends & family (let's just say the last AX I went to was before its current home at the LA Convention Center.) But since this year's long weekend was relatively free of events, I snatched up a ticket and braced myself for a day of serious anime & manga nerding out.  Yes, I only got a one-day pass as opposed to the standard four-day weekender; I figured after a many years hiatus I'm better off easing myself back into this.
Grand Central Market Breakfast
To properly nourish myself before the Friday expo, I headed to Grand Central Market, where I skipped the weekend silliness of Eggslut and opted for lox on an everything bagel at Wexler's Deli with an iced almond-macadamia milk latte from G&B coffee. And it made for a divine breakfast - the translucent, silky pieces of salmon were perfectly highlighted, but not upstaged, by the lightly-pickled onions, puckery bits of capers and the perfect amount of cream cheese. Likewise, my latte was just sweet enough to show off the nut milks' natural flavors.

After the satisfying meal, I did a little urbanhike tos the convention center, where throngs of fans were already waiting for the doors to open. Just like the AX I remembered from years past... but larger.
Anime Expo collage
Some other AX observations from this old-school otaku:

Friday, May 22, 2015

Friday Nights & Caramelized Onions . . .

Whereas my friends and colleagues are planning dates, get-togethers or a headstart on a roadtrip (especially for this long weekend,) Friday nights for me mean busywork in the kitchen. Sometimes it could be batching up flavored syrups for cocktails & sodas. Or eke out a weekend dish from whatever leftovers I've stashed up throughout the week.

Or, more likely, spend the better part of an hour caramelizing onions to jar up & have on the ready for the next week or so.
I agree with Tom Scocca that there are simply no legit cooking shortcuts around caramelizing onions. It simply takes time and patience. (Yes, there's the "set it and forget it" slow cooker method too - but I always found the flavor & texture results subpar to the pan version, plus there's the room full of acrid rawish onion smell during the early stages of this method.)

However, one preparation shortcut I will take is buying pre-diced onions at the market, given my affinity for crying out a river whenever I have to cut them myself. I agree it doesn't have visual or tactile appeal of the long curls, but it's a compromise I can live with. And hey, these remind me of the grilled onions at In 'n Out!

Also — caramelized onions purists will balk at this — I do add a splash of maple syrup at the end of the process too. Not that the onions needed any additional sweetening after all that time caramelizing, but the syrup does give it a welcoming warm & woodsy depth. Oh, and a splash of balsamic or sherry vinegar to balance out the extra sugar.

But rather than lament about the time wasted on caramelizing onions, I make the best of those 45 minutes. I put on a lengthy podcast, pour a glass of wine or beer and flip through some magazines, with the occasional stir to reassure the onions that, "Yes, I'm here until you turn into burnished, brown morsels of deliciousness."

And that's more satisfying than any Friday night outing in a chaotic & crowded restaurant/bar/club can ever do.

Maple-Balsamic Caramelized Onions
Makes 12 oz of caramelized onions
Prep Time: Approx. 45 minutes

24 oz. diced white onions (or approximately 3 medium onions diced)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon maple syrup
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

1. Pour oil in a large skillet over medium heat, once it gets hot enough (the oil starts getting runny), add onions and salt. Stir until the onions and thoroughly coated in oil. Lower heat to medium.
2. Stir the onions occasionally (once ever 3-5 minutes) to distribute heat and prevent bottom layer from burning. If it looks too dry, add a splash or two of water.
3. In the meantime, relax! Enjoy a glass of beer/wine. Put on some music or a podcast. Get some leisure reading on.
4. About 40 minutes in, the onions should be a medium to dark brown. Stir in the maple syrup and balsamic vinegar. Taste and adjust as needed (more syrup/balsamic/salt).
5. Use immediately or store for up to two weeks in a fridge (if it lasts that long!)

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Eating & Drinking Options Along the Great LA Walk

Almost sunset @ Pier 
No ocean views at the end of this year's walk, but that's OK.

I can't believe it's time for the Great LA Walk again this Saturday, my favorite of the organized urbanhikes in the area. This time, walkers will be tackling "the Valley" with the fearless Franklin Avenue leading a 17+ mile hike down Ventura Blvd from Woodland Hills to Universal City, then an upward swing to NoHo via Lankershim Blvd.

Of course, equally exciting is the prospect of checking out some of the eats/drinks in the area, since I don't find myself in this area all that often...

...and this quickly turned into a behemoth list of a to-trys & to-revisits, so figured I might as well share this map with fellow Great LA Walkers too.
Hopefully, this will disprove any notion of the Valley being devoid of good food & drinks. Whether you want something casual but tasty (Mendocino Farms, BatterFish), more exotically ethnic eats (e.g. Apey Kade, DarbinZ), a refreshing glug of potent potables (Boneyard Bistro, Murph'sThe Local Peasant) or a guilt-free, healthy bite (LYFE Kitchen, SunCafe), there's something on the map that should fit the bill. And failing all else, I also put in a few markets for stocking up on hiking provisions.

Now the hard part is figuring out where I will be stopping along the way... (asides from the official afterparty @ District Pub, obviously.)