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Herring season!

Just back from NYC and had one of these lovelies at Russ & Daughters'. Fatty and rich, the taste was exquisite.

I haven't been able to find them in L.A. -- and it may be worth ordering them from Russ & Daughters'...

Breakfast in Honor, Michigan

Never would we have guessed we'd find a really good breakfast in small town Honor, Michigan.

The bread was homemade, or seemed to be, as it was a tasty sourdough; Ditto for DW's whole wheat.

I had freshly made corned beef hash with crisply fried potatoes. DW's fried eggs tasted like eggs. Don't do poached, though; they were cooked on the well-done side.

Oct 28, 2013
stevebass in Great Lakes

Super Pork from Coach Stop Farms Zeeland, Michigan

Were just back from a six week road trip from California to the Great Lakes.

We found a place called Coach Stop Farms in Zeeland, Michigan, that sells home-grown pork.

Conni, the co-owner, welcomed us, and immediately said we’d have to take some kale and tomatoes as well as whatever we bought, because her garden is going crazy.

We spent the next hour plus talking to her and husband Darrel, meeting the brood sows and boar, chatting with the young pigs, cavorting with their 10 Percherons, and getting a full tour of the place. It was all a real treat.

All the pork we bought came from relatives of those free-range, naturally-raised pigs we just met; the pigs and chicken are free of additives and antibiotics.

We bought two packages of boneless pork chops, a pound of ground sausage, and a pound of kielbasa for about $26. We BBQed the pork and it was luscious: it was moist and tender, and actually tasted like pork.

I don't know if they mail order, but it's work a call.

Oct 28, 2013
stevebass in Great Lakes

Mystery Birria place from recent NYTimes article - any ideas?

I did some digging -- Googled "birrieria east la recent name change" -- and came up with the same place. That's gotta be it!

Yet you said there was a name change -- and I found a Birrieria Jalisco in Lynwood on E Imperial Hwy...

Oct 28, 2013
stevebass in Los Angeles Area

Wisconsin produce, grains, cheese, and grass-fed meat

We were in Wisconsin on our six week road trip from California to the Great Lakes, and somewhere between Fenimore and Lancaster. DW spotted a small, interesting looking grocery store; it was probably the cheese curd sign that caught her eye. Despite the name, Sugar and Spice was an amazing place, small but very well-supplied.

The store owners get most of their stock from Mennonites and Amish and almost everything was in bulk, including Jell-O, grains, and goat summer sausage. We bought a few bags for the trip -- Bob's Creamy Buckwheat cereal and sweet kernel popcorn -- as well as cheese curds, fresh tomatoes, and cucumbers. They also sold hand-rolled butter, which we passed on.

In Lancaster we discovered the Carr Valley cheesery. Their supply was overwhelming: They had sheep, cow and goats-milk cheeses, and lots of different kinds of each. The friendly clerk gladly opened several cheeses to give us to taste. What they open for tastes gets re-sealed and sold in small pieces. It was ideal way for us to get a bunch of assorted cheeses to take with us.

We were passing through Viroqua, and the main street was down to one lane due to construction, so DW was able to spot a small store -- 7 Rivers sausage. Of course we stopped and bought a bunch of jerky and other stuff including two kielbasa. All the beef is grass-fed and locally raised.

A little farther through town we spotted a good-looking store – the Viroqua co-op. DW went in hoping for good bread, and when she hadn’t come out 10 minutes later, I went in after her. It was a great store, everything Whole Foods should be. Almost everything was organic, a good selection of meats, and lots of stuff in bulk, including dish washing and laundry detergents. They even had real spoons for the coffee with soapy water for dirty spoons. The clientele was long on dreadlocks, leg warmers over leggings, and wool caps -- a real Berkeley vibe. DW was looking for dense bread, so she talked with the baker, who was disappointed and embarrassed to report that they were between bakers so their stock was low. We ended up with the store’s one remaining style – a French baguette (which turned out to be delicious).

Oct 22, 2013
stevebass in Great Lakes


"You're having the snake?" my buddy hollered from across the table.

"No," I shouted back, "the steak..."

"The RIB-EYE," I said, trying again, as he cupped his hand behind his ear.

This wasn't going well.

AltaEats is Altadena's first West Side restaurant. Unfortunately, AltaEats is also West Side loud, with a stark interior that makes the time spent a noisy, unpleasant experience.

That's too bad, because the selection of dishes is mostly good, and some choices are great. Yet what I walked away with the most, was the noise.

The server and chef Paul Ragan both promised it's being worked on -- padding on the walls, they said. That, and shades on the windows to block the bright, late afternoon sun. Me, I'd have the Schism Design, the company planned the inside, pick up the tab on the retrofit.

The food's a mixed bag: the Little Gem salad -- a tiny bite for the three of us -- is a young, small rather ordinary lettuce sliced down the middle; sadly, there were only two of the precious white anchovies on the $8 plate.

The bone-in rib-eye had a good texture and flavor, with a tasty reduction sauce, though it was cooked a tad over medium rare.

Our friend Bill ordered the unremarkable paella; the rice could have been moister, or crunchier, or something, he said, and I would have enjoyed more calamari and shrimp in the dish. It just didn't leave a lasting impression.

My wife had the clear winner: Three plump, moist, scallops, each with a different, strongly-flavored sauce, which I sopped up with the chewy, sourdough-like bread.

We all liked the roasted brussel sprouts and pancetta, but argued, as we always do, about the side of fries. Judy likes thin string fries; me, I think the first few bites are okay, but they get cold and cardboardy too quickly, and these needed a sprnkling of salt. Give me a pile of sizzling, right-out-of-the-fryer big, meaty steak fries anytime -- Lucky Baldwins has the best -- even they're off the Sysco truck.

The service was top-notch; all three servers was attentive, and the food was delivered Chinese-style: onto the table when it was ready.

And AltaEats doesn't have the ABC's blessings yet, so you can bring your own booze, all without paying for corkage. We poured a taste for the server, though we never heard if she liked it.

The place was jammed with everyone talking loudly enough to try to be heard. Yet I'd go back for another try. Next time, though, we'll go after the 7:00 crowd has left. That way Bill may even be able to hear me say what I'm ordering.

Apr 30, 2013
stevebass in Los Angeles Area

Something delish within walking distance of Nokia?

We didn't like the enormous Nokia, with its 5000 seats and rigid, wallet, phone, and belt checking security at the door.And unless you had seats in the pit ($150 and up, plus fees), you watched the show on a big TV, admittedly a bigger screen than at home, and except for the crowds, just like at home. (BTW, this Wait Wait show will air on PBS next weekend.)

Dec 08, 2012
stevebass in Los Angeles Area

Something delish within walking distance of Nokia?

Wood Spoon is a remarkable restaurant. Thanks everyone for the recommendation.

Judy's chicken pot pie, the restaurant's signature, was good, but my five star carne de panela -- "the meat was cooking in the pan" -- was truly outstanding. It's kind of a pot roast my mother was never able to cook. The meat was tender and soft, yet parts around the edges were al dente and almost crunchy; the flavor was dense and earthy. The portion was large -- I'm not complaining -- and it probably cooks for days.

Most of the online recipes were in Portuguese. I found one translated calling for "1 kg of cow outside flat," and includes powdered bay [leaf], MSG, paprika, and chili.

The side of greens was peppery and worked well with the beef. A small bowl of black beans were, unfortunately, nothing extraordinary; it was missing a flavor, maybe some cumin. On the other hand, the Polenta was soft and creamy and fresh tasting, with bits of something, either carrots or pepper. I was surprised to see a grilled and split spicy Serrano -- complete with seeds and no apologies -- surrounded by a few rings of sautéed onion. That could have gone nicely in the beans.

The service was friendly and sharp -- someone checked on us during the appetizer (those luscious Potato Croquettes, also specially priced for happy hour) -- and the main course.

The place is small: you can see the chef/owner Natalia hustling in the kitchen and serving when things got busy. And compared to most restaurants, the space is quiet; we could easily chat and actually hear each other.

Judy got the Sangria at happy hour prices -- $6. My $9 Malbec was serviceable, but not a wow. With a tip, we were out the door for $65.

And Judy was right: the Pattern Bar was an okay spot for a quick drink, but otherwise, too loud and too trendy. (The least they could have done is play some Brubeck the other night; I mean, the guy just died.)

Dec 08, 2012
stevebass in Los Angeles Area

Something delish within walking distance of Nokia?

It was quite a night on the town for you kids, eh? I understand Ralphs has an underrated goat cheese gnocci that glistens with flecks of basil pesto.

Dec 08, 2012
stevebass in Los Angeles Area

Something delish within walking distance of Nokia?

Wonderful price and wienermobile's recommendation sounds inviting. (And regards to Dommy...)

Dec 06, 2012
stevebass in Los Angeles Area

Something delish within walking distance of Nokia?

My wife loves the show; I got lucky and found a guy on Craigslist selling a pair of orchestra tix for $100, including parking.

Dec 06, 2012
stevebass in Los Angeles Area

Something delish within walking distance of Nokia?

The consensus so far is Colori Kitchen. Walking distance AND we can bring our own wine.

Dec 06, 2012
stevebass in Los Angeles Area

Something delish within walking distance of Nokia?

Thanks, I'm going through them right now.

Dec 05, 2012
stevebass in Los Angeles Area

Something delish within walking distance of Nokia?

I really am embarrassed. And thanks for the link.

Dec 05, 2012
stevebass in Los Angeles Area

Something delish within walking distance of Nokia?

Haven't been to the Nokia, but got tix for Wait Wait tomorrow and need some good eats.

Would love a 6:30-ish happy hour bar, but no good ideas. The alternative is a real meal.

And thanks to the Weinermobile, as I might have taken my wife to the Kodak theater on Hollywood Blvd... (I'm truly geographically handicapped...)


Dec 05, 2012
stevebass in Los Angeles Area

Whole Foods drops Scharffen Berger chocolate

Stopped by Whole Foods today and gone from the shelves were the big bars of bittersweet Scharffen Berger chocolate.

Long story short, Hershey, which has owned Scharffen Berger since 2005, was accused of dubious sourcing and poor child labor practices.

Hooray for Whole Foods.


Scharffen Berger Booted Out of Whole Foods Over Child Labor Concerns

Raise the Bar Hershey coalition

Nov 30, 2012
stevebass in Chains

Anything interesting in Redding?

I think my DW was referring to the "quiet dinner" as a dinner away from the 10 relatives around their dining room table...

Nov 04, 2012
stevebass in California

Costco Food Finds - 2nd Quarter 2012 [Old]

The other thing we do with the salmon skin is cut it up into bacon-like strips, gently fry it, and make a SS-LT (salmon skin Lettuce and Tomato) sandwich. I can't tell the difference and it's gotta be healthier than bacon.


Jul 16, 2012
stevebass in Chains

Merken (Chilean Spice Blend) ?

Whole Foods definitely does not carry it.

But I found a source and the price is reasonable -- $6 for a 50g jar. They charge a flat fee of $10 per order (high, I agree), so I purchased 4 bottles to make it a worthwhile order. Had I known how much we liked it, I might have ordered the 12-bottle special for $57 plus shipping.

BTW, Merken is a versitle spice and we've fallen it in a big way. We use it in lots of dishes: soups and omelettes, for instance, and sprinkled on sauteed vegetables and mixed in with canned tuna.

Nov 03, 2011
stevebass in Los Angeles Area

Anything edible in Susanville? (Lassen county)

I was startled to see just how MANY Pizza Factory we spotted while driving south on 395 from Susanville to home in Pasadena. My hope is that while they're a chain, the other locations are just as good. (Also startled to hear from someone who doesn't like pizza!)

Jun 26, 2011
stevebass in California

Anything edible in Susanville? (Lassen county)

Staying at the Super 8 motel in Susanville (read my separate review of that gem on Yelp) and it was too hot to leave the dogs in the car while going out to eat.

So the solution was to get a pizza delivered to the motel and watch TV while munching.

Important FYI: I'm critical of most pizza. I won't bother with Dominoes, Papa Johns, Round Table, or the rest of the chains. So despite a recommendation here for the Pizza Factory (gawd, what a dopey name, I thought, a factory... is it going to be like the Spaghetti Factory?), I wasn't optimistic.

It turns out the pizza was terrific. I'd even say extraordinarily good. Unlike the chains catering to middle-America's sweet tooth, the crust tasted like a good, La Brea bread and the sauce was like one we'd make at home. There were large chunks of sausage, and enough of it, too.

Two downsides, but not enough to stop the show: Delivery took 45 minutes (and their estimate on delivery time was right on the mark). The pizza was expensive. A 12-inch pizza with one topping, along with a $3.50 delivery and $2 tip ran about $22, obscenely expensive for that size pizza, as good as it was.

Jun 23, 2011
stevebass in California

Where oh where can I find a pork picnic - bone-in, skin-on - to smoke around Silverlake? Oh woe is me.

I've been sitting on a nifty-sounding recipe for a few months, and also been looking for one. But I'm reluctant to do a run-of-the-mill (read: loaded with antibiotics and water) pork butt.

I checked with Whole Foods (hastings: (626) 351-5994) and they get in 40 pound butts, and will cut it to whatever size you want. It's $7 lb organic; $5 lb natural for boneless.

For bone-in, the one I want, there's a two-to three-week wait and the price is $7 lb for natural.

Alas, that's too rich for our budget, but the thought of 99-cent pork isn't appealing. pulled pork recipe

Sep 27, 2010
stevebass in Los Angeles Area

Food at Magic Castle?

I was a member of the Castle since 1972, but recently let my membership lapse because of what I thought was an inappropriate fee assessment. That's another story, and one Slacker (see above) mentioned.

While it's true that non-members must have dinner, I just heard of a way to bypass dinner. It's the "I have to eat kosher" scam.

The kosher charge is somewhat like a corkage charge. It's a $20 fee imposed on anyone coming in on a guest pass who can't eat the Castle's non-kosher food.

So a couple of the lawyer members figured out that the Castle food is so overpriced, it's easier and cheaper to advise guests to eat elsewhere before visiting the Castle and then show up for dinner. Once seated, everyone requests kosher. When the Castle can't comply, they finish their water and dinner rolls, pay $20 each, and get in line for the next show.

The savings can be substantial and we'd pay $40 for the privilege of not eating dinner there.

Dec 12, 2006
stevebass in Los Angeles Area

Triumphal Palace not so triumphant (ordered whole pig, too)

I was there with Judybird last night. Here's my take:

Compared to the local Chinese spots, TP was terrific; compared to dozens of other Chinese restaurants in Monterey Park, TP is just so so.

TP is also expensive. It cost $100 for the four of us which included five beers.

BTW, the eggplant hot dish *was* absolutely the best dish, but it was listed in the Vegetables section of the menu. If a vegan ordered it, they'd be unpleasantly surprised by the bits of un-advertised pork. (which, IMO, made the dish!).

Dec 11, 2006
stevebass in Los Angeles Area

Hunan's Restaurant is Crown Cafe made Better

Do they serve beer or wine? If not, were you able to bring some along?

Aug 22, 2006
stevebass in Los Angeles Area

Dinners in Bangor

My wife and I (she's judybird) made it to a few good restaurants in and around Bangor. By the numbers:

1. We tried two lobster shacks, one just south of Bangor, a five minute drive from our motel by the Bangor airport; the other was along highway 178. Seating was outside at picnic tables or within a tented structure.

At Claudia’s, on highway 178 a pound and a half, steamed in salt water, hard-shelled lobster, alongside an order of surprisingly good fries and coleslaw, ran about $14. A half pint of fried steamer clams were okay as an appetizer; they were tasty, but kinda mushy. I wouldn't do them again. One of the servers -- actually, one of three women from behind the counter -- brought out the food and provided a crash course in lobster dismemberment.

On our last night in Bangor, we discovered a local lobster joint. Judy dug into a lobster roll -- shelled lobster on a strange little v-shaped wedge of white bread. Again, the fries were crunchy and good. Lobster was about the same price as Claudia’s, but they had more on the menu, and I tried a $6 bucket of steamed steamers. As with the fried steamers, they were soft and didn't have that ocean taste and smell of, say, razor clams. Everything came with a cup of oh-my-is-this-delish butter; everything -- fries, lobster, clams, and the silly white bread wedge -- got dunked.

Neither spot served wine or beer, so we stuck a bottle of fume in the car on the off chance they'd let us bring it to the table. They did and even supplied plastic glasses.

2. NewMoon: By far the best restaurant in Bangor. There was almost nothing of New England here (though they did serve the ubiquitous Haddock); main courses were more Westside California: lamb sausage and salmon mixed grill on risotto, grilled salmon, and rack of lamb. Good (and expensive) wine list, with lots from California as well as an excellent 2004 Riesling from Leeuwin Estate in Australia that cost about $30.

Service was smart and grown up -- she gave us straightforward advice about the selections, never complimented us on our choices, and avoided telling us her name.

3. Ichiban: Traditional California-style sushi bar, with lots of silly, over-the-top California-type rolls. For instance, the caterpillar roll had, oh, hell, never mind. Overall, the sushi was excellent -- hamachi, albacore (they call it "white tuna"), uni -- and all allegedly local. Scallops were fresh, though the magaro and saba were dry.

Two Cantonese sushi chefs were California-style funny and engaging. It's the only sushi spot in Bangor, so while the prices were definitely California-style, if you have more then a couple of days in town, you'll want to eat here. BTW, you can insist on ordering directly from the sushi guy rather than hand your laundry list to the waitress.

3. Muddy Rudder: Worked over Sysco supplies with a young, giggly, server. Avoid it.

4. SeaDog: Good, good beer. So, so food. Louder then hell, even outside. If you have a few days in Bangor and want good beer, this is the place to go.

5. Hannaford Supermarkets: The closest you're going to get to Whole Foods and an excellent alternative if you want to bring snacks back to the motel. We grabbed lots of sushi, seaweed salad, an octopus, squid mish-mash combo; our friends did an ersatz krab, avocado roll kinda thing and said it was excellent.