Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Son of a Gun - Los Angeles

Son of a Gun - Hollywood Have you seen the cover of the new Bon Appetit yet?  I just got mine in the mail and I was bowled over all over again by the gorgeous fried chicken sandwich on the cover - which I recognized from dinner last week at Son of a Gun.  It was one of those things that everyone in the restaurant was ordering, and we had to have one too as soon as we laid eyes on it. In fact, everything on the menu sounded so amazing it was hard to choose - so we made it as easy for ourselves as we could by ordering almost everything on the menu.
Son of a Gun - HollywoodWe didn't have a reservation and the restaurant is tiny - with about ten tables on one side and a small bar and  communal table on the other, so we so we got there right at six to get a spot.  We weren't the only ones - when we first drove by, about five people were in line but by the time we walked up, it was at least three times that many.
Son of a Gun - Hollywood We happened to be seated next to an adorable couple out on a date - below is a photo I snuck of their order of the King Salmon with jerk spice, kiwi, palm sugar vinaigrette and habanero.  They said it was delicious and they also recommended the Burrata with Uni.  We didn't try either one, but I'll take their word for it.  You can also see a bottle of the house fermented shandy sitting on the table here - drinks are as big a deal as the food here and they have a killer cocktail menu.
Son of a Gun - Hollywood
It was apparent that the male half of the couple was absolutely smitten with his date, and when we started chatting with them we learned this was only one of many stops they would be making, as they were doing a progressive dinner. When I asked where else they were going he showed me his list. (I had to keep it a secret from her because each stop was a surprise.)   This was in fact their second stop - the first had been Osteria Angelini, and they were on their way to Fig & Olive, then Spago and on to Craft, with a last stop at Mozza to pick up Butterscotch Budino *to go.* The date had been going since 9 AM - it started with croissants at Proof bakery, then there was a trampoline session at Sky High Trampoline Park, and a stop for a massage at a day spa before their dinner began.   Quite a day!
Epic Date Schedule we encountered at Son of a Gun :) The Kale Caesar salad - below left, was another dish that practically everyone seemed to be ordering -showered with finely grated parmesan and tossed with crisp toasted walnuts.  The avocado and citrus salad was refreshing and delicious too - nothing unusual but it's hard to go wrong with a combination of tangy, sweet citrus and buttery avocado.
Son of a Gun - Hollywood This was the smoked mahi fish dip with celery, radishes and crackers - it came with club crackers on the side.  This is the kind of thing I should make at home but never do.  The shaved celery and radish was a nice refreshing touch and it had great flavor - lots of horseradish.
Son of a Gun - Hollywood Next up came their justly famous lobster roll.  I was already aware that it was pretty small - but it is really tiny - just a couple of bites. They use potato chips to hold the lobster salad in.  The sweet lobster salad and buttery roll were delicious, but hard to share.
Son of a Gun - HollywoodMy personal favorite dish was the Shrimp Toast sandwich - pictured below. Shrimp toast is usually a crisp buttery slice of bread topped with a mixture of chopped shrimp and mayonnaise and baked until golden brown. This was turned into a sandwich with the addition of a top layer of buttery crisp bread and accented with a Sriracha sauce and a bit of cilantro.  It was insanely rich, but I could have easily eaten another one.   It would be the perfect couple of bites with a cocktail.
Son of a Gun - Hollywood Soon after that came the famous fried chicken  - topped with a sharp vinaigrette based slaw spiked with jalapenos and red onion and served on a toasted brioche bun smeared with a rooster sauce mayonnaise.  It was probably the best fried chicken sandwich I've ever had - and though I haven't tried Bake Sale Betty's up in the Bay Area, I've had a few.  Here in San Diego they serve a credible one on a biscuit at Tiger Tiger, and the MIHO Gastrotruck dishes up a similar version - but this one was special.  I definitely prefer the lighter bun, and the combination of the sharp coleslaw & fried chicken provided a nice contrast.
Son of a Gun - Hollywood There were a few other dishes in between that were ok, but not something I'd order again.  The brandade with "grainy mustard butter" arugula and fried egg was not as flavorful as it should have been, and the BBQ shrimp with warm potato salad and pickled bacon did not live up to its imaginative sounding name. One surprise stunner of the evening though was this brussel sprout dish, with chinese sausage, cinnamon, peanut and egg.  The crispy brussel sprouts mingled with the broken egg and sausage, and accented by the sweetness of the peanut and cinnamon became one of the best tasting and most original dishes we tried - very David Chang.
Son of a Gun - Hollywood We didn't have room for dessert, but the few options on the menu sounded good - especially the house made tin roof ice cream.  Some ladies next to us recommended the lime frozen yogurt, which was served in a bowl with a graham crumble and a smear of torched meringue on the side.   Reservations are hard to come by because of the size of the place, but if you get there early or late, or have time to wait, it's pretty easy for a small party to get seated at the bar or communal table. To my way of thinking, the ideal way to spend time here would be to sit at the bar with a friend or a date, have a few cocktails and graze on some of their more interesting small bites - in fact I'm planning to do just that as soon as I can!

Son of a Gun
8370 W 3rd St
Los Angeles, CA 90048

open for lunch & dinner M-F
dinner only on weekends.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Cookbook - Los Angeles

Cookbook - Echo Park Cookbook is a small grocery and food shop in Echo Park and a sister to Cortez. It's tiny, but packed wall to wall with great stuff, including fresh bakery breads, Marin Sun Farms meats, fresh pastured eggs, and a selection of fruits and vegetables from local farms including leeks, kale, beets, meyer lemons, avocados, fresh herbs, etc. They also stock pantry goods like Rancho Gordo beans, Maestri pasta, June Taylor jams, Mast Bros. Chocolate, Sightglass coffee and Straus dairy and carry a small selection of prepared foods.
Cookbook - Echo Park
Originally, the idea behind the name was that they would feature dishes inspired by or drawn from different cookbooks each week - but it seems like that has fallen away in favor of the practicality of offering their customers what they want - such as the Beans and Greens made with Rancho Gordo's Good Mother Stallards (recipe here).
Cookbook - Echo Park They were especially well stocked with great looking produce on the day we were there.   On my last visit a few months ago the selection was not quite as good, so I'm guessing it varies from day to day.
Cookbook - Echo Park The best part is their prices are not overly inflated.  They charge maybe $.50 to a dollar more than Whole Foods or a farmers market for the produce and pantry items. By contrast, Broome Street General Store's prices are marked up about 30% across the board.
Cookbook - Echo Park Next door to Cookbook, there is a small boutique called Cookbook 2, where they sell a few home goods - primarily the clay cazuelas and pottery items that they use at Cortez.  There are also some solid wood bowls, Japanese spice grinders and paring knives.  It's not obvious that it's there - we wouldn't have known about it if our friends at Cortez hadn't told us about it that morning.  You have to ask them to unlock it for you and let you in.
Cookbook - Echo Park (next door boutique) We all really liked these pottery tumblers that they use as coffee mugs at Cortez.   They not only look cool, but keep the coffee really hot.
Terra cotta mugs at Cookbook - Echo Park
I picked up some of their house made granola, a bag of Rancho Gordo cranberry beans, a package of Maestri bucatini and a jar of the avocado honey we enjoyed at breakfast at Cortez (which I just discovered they also sell at Whole Foods.) It was a good haul!

1549 Echo Park Avenue
Los Angeles
(213) 250-1900

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Roast Coach | Coffee & Tea Collective | Dark Horse - North Park

While there's certainly no shortage of coffee bars in San Diego, until recently there's been a bit of a shortage of good ones.  Three lovely new spots in the urban zone are helping with that.
You'll find the Roast Coach girls at their hand-built wooden stand in front of Sea Rocket Bistro on 30th near Upas and their brand new second location downtown at 330 A Street.  They do pour over coffee and delicious iced drinks like the "Southern Hospitality" pictured here - a blend of cold brew, fresh mint, chicory, sugar and cream.  Check out the menu here.
Most days they also do fantastic Aabelskivers - round pancakes cooked on a special gas griddle right there on the sidewalk.  There is always a sweet one and sometimes a savory - these were filled with lemon curd & blueberries.  They have a few pastries available from a local vendor, but I seldom get there early enough to get a good one.   The pour over coffee is like rocket fuel. Their Ethiopian Sidiamo actually prompted me to switch to pour over brewing at home and I haven't looked back.
A few blocks away on El Cajon Boulevard, Coffee & Tea Collective is upping the bar for espresso in the area... most of the time at least.  Though all the pieces are there, the coffee sometimes isn't as good as it should be.  The cortados and macchiatos are often a little too milky and not hot enough - but the espresso itself is good, the cold brew is delicious and they are pros at the pour over technique.
The space is lovely and the people are very nice - I keep going back because I like the environment so much.
This was a macchiato - a good one.
I especially like their ever-changing art exhibits.  The work is interesting and usually for sale  for reasonable prices.  Funny story - I bought something from a recent show and it turned out they had already sold it to someone else - they had to tell Jora to tell me to bring it back.  At least I got a free coffee out of it.
I have also enjoyed the beans I've bought from them, especially the Bolivian Yanaimo. (I may be spelling that wrong.)  All of their beans are medium roast and have great full flavor.  Since I personally like my coffee a smidge on the darker side though, I've been buying my beans at Dark Horse Roasters on Adams Avenue.  They opened just a few months ago in a tiny space on Adams near the post office in Normal Heights.  They sell their own house-roasted beans and serve pour over & cold brew and a few pastry items - including vegan donuts.  Their Sumatra is my current jam. :)
If the hipster scene at these places just isn't your thing - there is always Peet's in Hillcrest.  It was my mainstay for years, and pretty much the only place I would order an espresso.  It had slid a bit in recent months, but they have a new barista there who made me the best coffee I've had in as long as I can remember the other day.  It was a good thing, seeing as how it was a quadruple macchiato. "Yes, quadruple."  For some reason I always have to repeat that.   It was syrupy, not the slightest bit bitter, with good crema and just the right amount of foam. Most importantly, it made the drive to work immediately afterwards a pleasure, not a chore.  I'm sure the lovely chat with Vince and invigorating morning workout helped  - but there's just nothing like a perfect coffee to get your day going in the right direction - which is why I'm so glad to see these places popping up.
Camp Confab 2010 I also want to give a shout out to a couple of other great local coffee options: Dave Wasserman's  Joes on the Nose coffee truck appears at most of the local farmers markets and does catering gigs too.  He makes a great cup and some delicious island themed iced treats like the Aloha mocha with coconut whipped cream.  He's also a really nice guy, and was the first person to give me a cup of brewed coffee that tasted good without cream.  Paul and James of West Bean appear at local events (like the Camp Confab, pictured above), supply local restaurants and run an online store, though they have yet to open a cafe.  I need to try their beans again now that I have the proper apparatus for brewing.  The old percolator just doesn't extract the full flavor from their freshly roasted beans!

Monday, March 04, 2013

Polite Provisions | Soda & Swine - Normal Heights

Polite Provisions | Soda & Swine Hello there!  It has been a while hasn't it?  I sure have missed you! I hope you've missed me too, at least a little bit.  There were a few reasons for the long absence - we moved, for one thing.  This probably isn't the right place to tell that story (or at least this post isn't) but suffice it to say we have relocated to a more central "urban" neighborhood and I am pretty happy about it, though I miss my fruit trees and being super close to Jora. I have also been busier than I would like with work - which prompted me to give up everything else and make that numero uno for a time (and it still is, really) - but I have very sorely missed the outlet this blog gives me to be at least a little bit creative.  There isn't much room for that in the old law business.
Polite Provisions | Soda & swine One silver lining of the relocation is that it's easier to get out more.  We weren't THAT much farther from civilization in the old house, but that extra fifteen or twenty minutes each way just made the casual night out on a weekday that much less likely to happen.   The abundance of fun new places to check out in the North Park/Normal Heights/South Park area is also great motivation.  The other night we checked out Polite Provisions and Soda & Swine with Desi and Josh.  We got there early - because it just worked out that way and because I figured it would be a good idea with it being a new popular spot and all.  It was already packed at 5 PM and became progressively more so as the night went on.  I would also recommend getting there early because the space is so lovely and light-filled with the huge skylights.  They (Arsalun Tafazoli & Consortium Holdings, the same team behind Neighborhood, Craft & Commerce and Underbelly) really put some money into the decor in this place - it's all mirrors, marble and wood with lots of brass light fixtures.  The drinks we had were good. I especially liked the Kitty Pryde, with tequila and cherry herring.  James knocked back two of the Lawyer's Privilege with bourbon, orgeat and bitters, and the Oceanside - with gin, mint & celery, and Misty Mountain Buck with housemade ginger beer & bourbon were pretty good too - though I thought the Buck could have used more kick. The drinks seemed to lean a little toward the sweet side overall.
Polite Provisions | Soda & swine
The bar is connected to "Soda & Swine" - a more casual spot that serves food.  They will bring you food in the bar side - but you have to walk over there to order it.  I couldn't figure out if you can also drink on the Soda & Swine side, but it didn't look like it - nobody in there seemed to have cocktails and they stock lots of bottled sodas like Cheerwine and root beer.  The room features two long rows of picnic tables outfitted with swanky red stools and a huge metal-clad fireplace.  The vibe is much more casual and quieter - partly because the ceiling is open to the sky and the sound isn't reverberating.
Polite Provisions | Soda & swine The food menu is simple - it consists of several varieties of meatballs including a chicken one that was surprisingly tasty and a vegetarian quinoa with pesto which was also nice.  The chorizo tasted like a sloppy joe.  Surprisingly, the one we liked the least was the plain old beef with marinara - it was dry and the sauce was negligible.
Polite Provisions | Soda & swine You can get your meatballs in a slider, a sub sandwich or on a plate - and they have an assortment of sides to match.  The prices are around $4 per meatball and $3 per side. As for the sides, they wrap the scotch egg in the same chorizo the meatball is made of, so you probably don't need both.  The brussel sprouts with bacon were fine, but the shaved apple salad was a slightly sloppy overly sweet pile of shaved apple with small cubes of sharp cheese and celery - it needed a lot more watercress and more acid.
Polite Provisions | Soda & swine
The main problem is, if you're going to just offer one thing, it should be really good, and what we had just wasn't that great.  It could have been that they were overwhelmed, it could have been that they're still working things out in the kitchen - but the bottom line is I am in no big hurry to rush back there for another  meatball, and since there's nothing else to try, I'm in no hurry to rush back period.  The long line indicates that the place is a hit - but they're getting a lot of disappointed reviews on Yelp (especially about the pie, so fair warning there.)  Hopefully, things will straighten out a bit in the near future, but until they do I'm more likely to do my small plates dining and cocktailing at the bar at Jayne's across the street, or El Take it Easy just a few blocks down.

Polite Provisions and Soda & Swine
30th at Adams
4696 Adams Ave
San Diego, CA  92116