Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Water Tasting @ Ray's & Stark Bar

Water Assortment @ Ray's & Stark Bar

When I read Joel Stein's piece on water menus & water sommeliers several years ago, my first thought was "oh, how precious." Shortly followed by "this is definitely going to be an L.A. thing."

Martin Riese
So when I was invited to taste the water menu at Ray's & Stark Bar with their general manager/water sommelier Martin Riese, my only initial surprise was "what took L.A. so long?!"

Also, a good amount of skepticism that these waters have a flavor profile.

Shockingly though, they actually do - and that's something I learned tasting all the different waters in together (and yes, Ray's will offer a water tasting flight for water-curious patrons too.) Some waters had a smooth body, others left lingering notes. Some were almost sweet while others had a distinct minerally savoriness. Most of this is attributable to where the water came from & how it is processed, which affects the dissolved minerals & gases that translates into effervescence & flavors.

Naturally, all these varying characteristics means they can pair with different dishes, an experience Martin highlighted with this snippet from Ratatouille.

However, my experience was more like this:

Thus, I'd still much sooner go for pairing with a more potent beverage. But it's nice to know that even for something so neutral as water, there are still tell-tale flavor differences, and in the future I'll try to refrain from being judgy when I overhear some patron inquire about some brand-specific water.  
Vichy Catalan Water

And personally, I'm OK with my municipal tap, but I did make note that Vichy Catalan is my favorite of the tasted waters (it's also got the most dissolved minerals, so there is a definitely pop of flavor in there,) and I might even be inclined to order that one if I'm looking for a refreshing, fizzy sip -- even though I remain sketpical of their cholesterol-lowering claims.

Other thoughts around the Web on Ray's water menu:
Caroline on Crack
Gourmet Pigs
LA Times
LA Mag

5905 Wilshire Blvd, 
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 857-6180

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Finally made it to Lone Pine's Alabama Hills Cafe

Alabama Hills Cafe Mural
For three consecutive return trips from snowboarding weekends at Mammoth, I've missed this pitstop on the way back. Who knew it would take me doing a summer hike at Mt. Whitney to actually make a visit here (twice!)

The menu is straightforward and void of the frou-frou you'd see in the "diners" of LA (good luck asking for quinoa or kale,) but the fare is solid and the portions are lumberjack-sized, and we can't imagine a better way to carbo load and recover before and after our mountainous trek.

Post Hike Breakfast
For lunch the day before the hike, I ordered their special of the day cheesesteak (on their housemade jalapeno-cheese bread) and for our brunch before taking off, I followed FoodGPS' lead and got the chicken fried steak (FYI, if you're ordering breakfasty dishes here, for an extra buck you can swap your toast for biscuit & gravy -- totally worth the price & caloric guilt!)

As tasty as they both were, I finished neither, and for good reason...
Tripleberry Pie
... their triple berry pie a la mode, which had perfect proportion of flaky crust and filling that's not-too-sweet, bursting with ripe tanginess & just goopy enough for a little pie porn. Warmed up with a scoop of ice cream and you got a little slice of heaven right there.

I already can't wait for another excuse to make a re-visit, even if it means racing down the 395 to make it in before their 2 p.m. closing time.

Alabama Hills Cafe
111 W Post St
Lone Pine, CA 93545
(760) 876-4675

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Keeping Fitness Fun...

I've never been one of those exercise-obsessed folks, but I'm aware - as someone who eats & drinks enthusiastically - an active lifestyle should probably be a priority to keep the scales in balance (metaphorically & literally.)

For me, the best way to do that is to keep that lifestyle fun, so I don't start dreading the routines and consequently, make excuses to avoid it altogether. And given the pleasantness of this summer, here are a few things I've been doing regularly to keep fit & have fun doing it.
Urbanhiking - which also makes for a great opportunity to check out the various scenes of the city that's too often ignored when we just whiz by on wheels.
Not-so-urban (purists will call this "real") hiking - for those times when I just want to escape from the city and get an extra challenge from rocky trails & hilly inclines.
Rollerblading - my more convenient alternative to biking, since I don't have to dismantle/reassemble anything or have to install a rack on my car.
Playing dance performance games (Dance Dance Revolution/Pump It Up/In The Groove) - still the first cardio exercise that I ever truly loved. I only this doesn't do me any wonders on a real dance floor but at least I have a better sense of rhythm & beat.
Tennis - another early exercise love from my grade school days, though I guess I should invest in a new grip.

While these are my favorites, there are still routines I do because of their proven effectiveness (running for calorie burn, weightlifting for strength, pilates/yoga for flexibility, etc.) But it's always reassuring to know that I still have a mix of enjoyable exercises to swap in when I feel like having more fun instead (while still helping me keep fit.)

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Desserting it up @ Patisserie Chantilly

One of my must-stops whenever I'm in the Torrance area is Patisserie Chantilly. My own words can't really do their desserts justice, so I'll let you salivate over the photos instead . . .
Chantilly Sweets
Chantilly Desserts

Simply put, being a Japanese-French bakery, what Chantilly does really well are mousse-y desserts that are light as clouds but vibrant in flavors. My particular favorites include the Mousse Au Mango topped with coconut milk, tapioca and mango chunks, and the Othello - a heavenly combination of chocolate mousse & cake layered with sesame paste.

Also noteworthy is their freshly filled choux puffs that puts Beard Papa's to shame. The sesame one is especially good, but sadly, just ran out on my last excursion there.

So in short: go, enjoy and get some to-go edible souvenirs too. You won't regret it!

Patisserie Chantilly
2383 Lomita Blvd #104
Lomita, CA 90717
(310) 257-9454

Friday, July 5, 2013

Recipe: Hawaiian Itch

Hawaiian ItchFor July 4th, my friends wanted to do a Hawaiian themed potluck. Given how hot the day turned out, I'm glad I opted out of cooking duty. Instead of slaving over the hot stove making spam musubi and garlic shrimp (even the "no cook" poke sounds iffy, considering the prep work is done in that warm kitchen,) I opted to make tropical-ish cocktail instead.

Now, I'm not saying that this drink is anyway Hawaiian, but it combines a spiced rum with some fruits, spices and orgeat (a fragrant almondy syrup that is central to a Mai Tai) so I think this Hawaiian Itch evokes the spirit of an island vacation. It's got a few shortcuts as far as ingredients go, but the addition of fresh lime & nutmeg gives it a wonderful bright & aromatic note.

And from how fast it is downed by the party crowd (not sure if because of its coolness or deliciousness--I'd like to think it's the latter,) I think I've got a winning recipe to add to my repertoire.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Beer Tasting: Hangar 24's Essence

Hangar 24's Essence beerI have always loved Hangar 24's Local Fields series of beers, which utilizes locally harvested fruits (and in the case of their delicious winter Warmer, spruce from nearby mountain forests.) The summer Essence is no exception. A substantial IPA that clocks in with over 8% ABV & 75 IBUs, I loved how its distinct hoppiness is balanced by the bright, refreshing aroma of citrus (from Redlands-grown grapefruits, blood and navel oranges.)

However, don't mistake this for squeezing a wedge of orange into the likes of Shock Tops and Blue Moons, Essence is rather dry with a bracing bitterness and a heftier-than-norm body. Think of it as a more masculine cousin of their year-round and ever-popular Orange Wheat (another great warm weather beer that's approachable and worth trying, particularly for those used to the "orange in my Belgian-style wit" crowd.)

So get it while summer's still around. In the meantime, I'm looking forward to its autumnal Gourdgeous.