Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Eat & Drink Options Along 2019 Great LA Walk Route

Even though this year's Great LA Walk takes place much closer to where I live (the route runs from Arcadia to Downtown LA via Pasadena, Highland Park, Chinatown & adjacent neighborhoods), I'm semi-bummed that I'm out of town this weekend and will not be able to partake in this pre-Thanksgiving tradition.

That didn't stop me from making an eats & drinks map for this year's participants, my own form of tribute to the late Jonathan Gold (whose attempt to dine at every restaurant on Pico Blvd. served as the dining guide for the 2007 Walk).

The map, which includes some LA classics as well as my personal faves, is available here.

Whether you're looking for a tasty jolt of caffeine, a fast grab 'n go bite, a sitdown spot to rest your legs or even a mid-hike tipple, I hope this guide will help you stay nourished & hydrated on your 18-mile trek. Happy trails! 

(& much thanks to Mike Schneider of Franklin Avenue, the Walk's organizer, for reaching out to me to put this together - it's a joy to do every time & reminds me of all the great dining options available throughout LA)

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

San Diego Highlights - May 2019

Last month, I took a semi-spontaneous trip to San Diego to visit friends (hiked up Black Mountain in the morning, board gaming in the afternoon/evening) and see Jenny Lewis perform at the House of Blues (absolutely loving her "On The Line" album, btw).

Of course, I managed squeezed in a bit of sightseeing and some tasty stops as well. Some of the highlights from the trip include:
Ramen @ Menya Ultra
Menya Ultra's Negi Miso Ramen w "Braized" Chashu - this has been on my to-try for a while after hearing about its numerous regional, national & global accolades. And sure enough, it did not disappoint. Their housemade noodles were toothsome yet tender, the broth was incredibly complex and rich without becoming greasy or heavy, and the thick-cut slices of braised-then-grilled chashu (limited to first 10 orders of lunch & dinner service) were a wonderful meaty addition to an already solid bowl of noodles. I only wish I was able to order fewer slices of the limited edition chashu or just upgrade the regular chashu for this one... just adding three extra thick chashu was a bit of a pork overload!
Porchetta Tacos
Speaking of porky, I also indulged in the porchetta tacos at Porchetta Shack (evolution of the former Carnitas Shake Shack spot in North Park); despite a little skepticism, the herb-flavored pork works well in a taco and holds it own against the creamy guacamole & guajillo chile salsa. Definitely a consideration for future SD visits if I'm looking for something a little different than California burritos & seafood tacos.
Cheese Plate + Beer
Having recently read Liz Thorpe's "The Book of Cheese"; I was eager for any opportunity to explore & sample more cheeses to broaden my palate - and Venissimo Cheese was a wonderful spot to make that happen. Besides the picture perfect cheese plate, I loved that its North Park location is co-housed with Bottlecraft Beer Shop - which made for some interesting cheese-beer pairing possibilities. (My favorite of this quartet was Noce del Piave, an Italian cow's milk cheese that's wrapped in walnut leaves and oak barrel aged for two months, giving it intense umami & nutty notes blends beautifully with Enegren's Maple Baltic Porter)
Lobster Roll + Fries @ Wicked Maine Lobster
Wicked Maine Lobster's lobster roll is one of my favorites in the West Coast, so a re-visit is almost always in order when I dive down to SD. (And I'm beyond ecstatic that they're planning a LA shop soon!!!)
Gin Old Fashioned @ You & Yours Distillery
You&Yours Distilling for their Chai Maple Old Fashioned using their barrel aged gin, which tastes remarkably close to the whiskey original with a delightfully subtle boost of florals & spices. I absolutely adore You & Yours' gins (which I encountered on the regular at SD cocktail bars) and can't wait to add their Winter or Sunday Gins to my collection soon.
Parfait Signature @ Le Parfait Paris
For my sweet jaws tooth, I return to the reliable Le Parfait Paris for their Parfait Signature, with crispy almond praline topped with dark chocolate mousse & glaze. Though you really can't go wrong with any of their patisserie creations.
Painkiller @ Kettner Exchange

The only downer of the trip, foodwise, was missing Kettner Exchange's dinner service (like most upscale-ish sitdown places, kitchen closes approx. an hour before the bar/restaurant does), but at least I got to enjoy their KPK, their painkiller variation using a blend of 7 rums + passionfruit juice. Fingers crossed that I come back to enjoy this alongside some food next time!

8141 Mira Mesa Blvd, San Diego, CA 92126
FB / TW / IG

2632 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92104

3007 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92104
FB / TW / IG

2820 Historic Decatur Rd, San Diego, CA 92106

1495 G St, San Diego, CA 92101
FB / TW / IG

555 G St, San Diego, CA 92101
FB / TW / IG

2001 Kettner Blvd. San Diego, CA 92101

Monday, August 31, 2015

Recipe: Maple Nut Toffee

I don't fancy myself as much of a confectioner, considering how anxious I get over exact measurements and a big role of candymaking is boiling the syrup the right temperature.
Maple Nut Toffee / Brittle
So I was rather surprised at how this easy and delicious maple nut toffee turned out, since the recipe is fairly forgiving. Instead of a thermometer (which I don't have), I used the cold water candy test. And it's a lot less stressful than one (including myself) imagine. Just plunge a small spoon's worth of syrup into cold water and use your hand to see what stage the resulting candy is.

Maple Nut Toffee / Brittle
(adapted from California Walnuts' website)
about 50-60 bite-sized pieces

2 cups of raw, unsalted nuts, roughly chopped (I prefer walnuts, pecans or cashews since their softer crunch is a nice contrast against the snap of the toffee)
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup grade B maple syrup*
1 cup (2 sticks) of unsalted butter, cut into smallish pieces (for faster melting)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup water
extra cold water for candy testing

*the grades of maple syrup is not about quality, but whether its color (& by association, "mapliness") — for cooking I prefer Grade B since it allows that distinctive busky, woodsy flavor to shine through.

1. In a non-stick pan over medium-high heat, heat the chopped nuts, stirring/tossing regularly. Once it starts getting toasty (you'll start smelling the nutty aromas, and the nuts will start to char around the edges), turn off heat and set aside.
2. In a stainless steel pan, combine all the other ingredients and bring to low, gentle boil over medium-high heat, stirring as needed to melt the butter and mix everything together into a syrup.
3. Once the mixture starts to boil, lower heat as needed to bring it to a simmer and allow it to heat for another 15-20 minutes. Do not stir during this time.
4. When the candy color is a medium brown, do a cold water candy test. When it hits the hard crack stage (or when it hits 300 degrees Fahrenheit — if you have a cooking thermometer), turn the heat off and remove the pan from the burner. (Per the linked page, be careful when working with the hot candy syrup)
5. Add the toasted nuts into the syrup and stir to evenly incorporate the two.
6. Pour the mixture into a baking pan (I used a 8"x12") and spread evenly to cover all edges & corners. You can use a larger pan for a thinner layer candy, making it more of a brittle than a toffee.
7. Set and allow to cool for a few hours (or overnight) at room temperature.
8. Break the sheet of toffee into bite-sized pieces to store and enjoy!