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Baked Quinoa Adobado

My favorite quinoa recipe - definitely a winner. Short list of ingredients, you can get everything but the chipotle at Trader Joe's. If you don't have, or don't like Queso Fresco, you can substitute feta cheese - nearly the same thing, surprisingly. You can also cook the whole thing in a dutch oven if you want to avoid the transfer process.

Jan 06, 2014
BobtheBigPig in Recipes

Fondue help

We just got a raclette maker for Christmas so will be clogging our arteries in a similar, er, "vein!"

The "classic fondue recipes" which have been posted here are great and will make the dish you are expecting.

However, last year I had the good fortune to spend a week in Switzerland, where I became a Cheese Snob. Fondue is truly all about the cheese. The cheeses there are mind-blowingly good and significantly funkier than most in the USA, although good cheese shops stateside can set you up.

The fondue we ate in the Valais region was made from Vacherin and Gruyere cheese. Other renditions are made with raclette cheese. We even had an amazing gorgonzola version.

They also use a distinctive and delicious white wine, Fendant, which I cannot find in Los Angeles anywhere, but will keep looking.

My plan this winter is to recreate these fragrant apres-ski treats at incredible expense.

If you have a good cheese shop in your area that stocks real imported swiss cheeses (the artisan cheeses made by Rolf Beeler are the real deal) and are up for a Euro-splurge, you and your son are in for a real treat!

Dec 26, 2013
BobtheBigPig in Home Cooking

Worst. Food Writing. Ever.

Ha yes that is funny. Yelp reviews - no doubt about it. I love it when someone reviews a Thai restaurant and begins with, "I actually really hate Thai food..."

Nov 14, 2013
BobtheBigPig in Food Media & News

Construction at Zam Zam Market?

While stuffing my face with their chicken biryani (and setting a new personal record for Best Meal Ever Eaten In The Car) I noticed there was a lot of construction going on to the exterior of the building. Does anyone know if maybe they're planning on expanding - making it into more of an actual restaurant? Or, an actual market? Which might be good or bad, depending.

Nov 14, 2013
BobtheBigPig in Los Angeles Area

Food near LAX on Thanksgiving

I'd be tempted to try Chalet Edelweiss, which is making a turkey schnitzel that looks pretty good.

Nov 14, 2013
BobtheBigPig in Los Angeles Area

Worst. Food Writing. Ever.

This isn't a food book review. More like a public service message.

Glancing upon Danyelle Freeman's “Try This” in the public library, I thought, Why not? There were cute food pictures on the cover. An endorsement from Rachael Ray. The author has her own blog on the Interweb. And the price was right.

This has got to be one of the worst food books ever conceived.

We begin innocently enough with the introduction, in which we learn Ms. Freeman's background and qualifications (apparently, she's frequently hungry). And a promising mission statement: “I'm writing this book for anyone who's ever looked at a menu and had a question. Anyone who's had a plate put in front of him and wondered what the hell they (sic) were about to eat.” I'm hooked—but what follows is a dining manual written for third-graders suspicious of any cuisine not represented by a clown. Let me share a few gems.

Ms. Freeman on her own qualifications: “Long before I imagined a career in food, I made it my job to visit every respectable restaurant in the Zagat guide.”

On discovering new tastes: “How could I resist a dish called bangers and mash? Mind you, I had no clue what it was, but I was game.”

On trying Sichuan for the 2nd time: “This time I brought a mala interpreter who wanted me to love Szechuan as much as she did...she ordered for us, and I added 'Mild!' at the end of every dish.”

On Cuban dining: “And they booze at lunch. (How great is that?)”

On French cooking: “The French 'meuniere' everything, from scallops to chicken; 'au poivre' everything, from salmon to lamb, and 'a l'orange' everything...When you think about it, it's not terribly difficult to speak 'menu French.'”

On French cheese: “As if the French haven't conquered enough culinary territory, they are also, arguably, the finest cheese makers in the world. Ugh. They remind me of that perfect girl (or guy) you hated in high school for their (sic) lack of flaws.”

On getting a table: “If you're attempting a walk-in table, dress to fit the part—dress to fit in, but not so much that you blend in...As superficial as it sounds, restaurants like to fill their seats with attractive guests because it tends to draw regulars with money who just want to sit in a room with pretty people.”

I would have to shake my head in wonder that anyone who, by her own admission, cannot tolerate spicy food (“...Now, I can hack kung-pao chicken—easy on the POW”), thereby eliminating perhaps ¾ of the world's cooking, can become the restaurant critic for the NY Daily News. But, we live in a world in which the publicity value of outrage may outweigh that of excellence. So perhaps we should consider Ms. Freeman Rebecca Black of food writing, and “Try This” a sort of parody for those hip enough to be in on the joke. Anyone know if this book was released on April 1st?

Nov 14, 2013
BobtheBigPig in Food Media & News

IKEA, a recent visit to their marketplace

Yes I saw the cheeses too. Pretty sure this is a new thing for Ikea. There are a lot of great places to get cheese around here, so I decided to pass this time. Sometimes I'll have a plate of meatballs while I'm there. Maybe not the best I've ever eaten, but the best I've eaten seated next to a palette of desks named "Dork."

Oct 22, 2013
BobtheBigPig in Chains
1

Room Service Tipping Question

I think you just answered your own question:)

I too pretty much order room service only at starvation or gunpoint, visualizing the kvetching faces of my parents at how I'm being overcharged. But on a recent business trip to Snowmass, CO, we found ourselves hungry—and thirsty— late at night. There was a bar down the street, but it didn't serve any food. The hotel was kind enough to serve us room service in the lobby, so we could hang out, and have a beer down the street while waiting. Expensive, but decent turkey sandwiches. SInce there were no other options, was glad it was available.

Oct 22, 2013
BobtheBigPig in Not About Food

IKEA, a recent visit to their marketplace

I went last week. I usually buy some teeth-breaking crackers, lingonberry jam and some surprisingly decent gravlax-style smoked salmon on the cheap. The thing I always have to get, though, is the herring, in jars in the refrigerated section. I like the mustard sauce. They used to have the delightfully-named "ABBA" brand; now they have another that tastes as good but not so great on the herring/sauce ratio.

The lingonberry jam is classic on Swedish pancakes of course but also goes well with wild game/venison meats.

Oct 22, 2013
BobtheBigPig in Chains

Cherry on Top Yogurt coming to Culver City/Mar Vista

Is it just me, or does CC already have enough yogurt places?

Jul 22, 2013
BobtheBigPig in Los Angeles Area

Mitsuwa Japanese Gourmet Fair 2013

I'm planning to go on Sunday to experience the "greatly boasted tastes." Just to clarify, it looks like the Torrance store has the special ramen but not Costa Mesa?

Jun 13, 2013
BobtheBigPig in Los Angeles Area

Muddy Leek

After reading so many glowing reviews on this neighborhood place we decided to check it out for ourselves, and found cuisine and service to be something less than expected.

They get the basics right. Arriving for our reservation on a busy Saturday night, we were greeted and seated promptly. The indoor dining space isn't divided from the boisterous bar, so we chose outside. They have a really nice outdoor patio which manages to be hip, industrial/modern and homey at the same time. The area was populated by young families with small children.

Our server explained the menu and lengthy list of specials. Although seemingly designed for a host of food issues—vegan, gluten-free, etc.—the menu is not ideal for herbivores as most dishes have some meat content. We settled on the egg and leek appetizer, the spinach/potato tart and the roasted king salmon, topping off our meal later with a shared dessert of blackberry/lemon verbenia pie.

The egg and leek appetizer, served over a bed of meaty oyster mushrooms, was delicious and cleverly put together. The salmon was perfectly cooked—crispy skin, moist filet—and the grilled romaine a nice accompaniment. This was a very fresh filet and almost certainly a true king salmon, as opposed to sockeye (or horror of horrors, a "farm raised Atlantic salmon"). The dish was garnished with a rich, exotic masala cream sauce that brightened up the lettuce without overwhelming the delicate fish. The spinach/potato tart was bland and underwhelming. Dessert pie had a delicious filling put the pastry shell was somewhat tough and rubbery.

Service was friendly and considerate, but multiple errors: a salad appeared with the wrong dressing (this was graciously corrected), plates were snatched away at the first sign a diner might be finished (we wondered if perhaps the kitchen was running out of dishes). Other nearby tables received bread and olive oil; we were never offered any, which was too bad as it looked like good bread.

Prices were not unreasonable for these labour-intensive dishes, but portions were quite small. Wine and cocktail prices were mainly in the double digits.

In short, while I wouldn't rule out returning, I'd be more inclined to check out their happy hour specials or lunch deals.

It seems like Muddy Leek, like many new places, is trying to be the new "neighborhood restaurant," the local eatery now updated with farm-to-table, organic, sustainable and other adjective-rich menu choices. While they are certainly getting their share of positive reviews, I think they will have to step up their game a bit at this price point.

Jun 09, 2013
BobtheBigPig in Los Angeles Area

5i Indochine: A New Star in Culver City

Thanks for clarifying blimpbinge. I believe you, which is why I went when I went to Singapore last summer I didn't post a CH trip report for fear of sounding like an idiot. The cuisine there has layers of influence which could take years of study to unravel. From my understanding, the so-called "true" Singaporean food is the Nonya-style cooking which is surprisingly hard to find. I actually thought the curried noodles I had were perhaps Indonesian influenced.

I also saw hot pot dishes which I'd thought were Japanese but weren't. And even Hainam chicken rice, which we sampled at a hawker stall with a local guy, is considered a favorite Singaporean dish although it too originated in China.I did my best to sort through the confusion, but was mostly too busy stuffing my face.

May 07, 2013
BobtheBigPig in Los Angeles Area

5i Indochine: A New Star in Culver City

Not sure about the hours but feel I should clarify: though the dim sum is excellent, it's a fairly limited menu, not like the giant palaces of the SGV. It's just a small place. Might want to check the menu and see if your fave dim sum specialties are on it. The har gow were quite good though!

May 07, 2013
BobtheBigPig in Los Angeles Area

5i Indochine: A New Star in Culver City

Pleasantly surprised by a new hole-in-the-wall place in our hood. 5i Indochine had several strikes against it: wedged into an unsightly shopping center between two bars. Nearly invisible from the street. Then there's the cuisine: "pan-asian," which calls to mind legions of specialties, all done poorly, on a menu designed by some corporate marketeer who's figured out how to make 75 dishes from nine countries with twelve ingredients.

5i is no such place, though. Yes, the menu has a combination of Chinese dim sum, noodle dishes, Vietnamese pho and a few Thai specialties. But at a guess, I'd say this is the result of a chef who grew up with a number of culinary influences and appears to be creating his favorites.

The finger foods are solid, and the dim sum is Monterey Park quality. A curried noodle dish brought back Singapore memories. Haven't tried the traditional pho yet, but a hybrid chicken soup with Thai Tom Yum flavors and pho noodles worked very well indeed. Prices are small, and portions generous. To me, it's like Starry Kitchen for grown-ups. But tables are starting to fill up.

Anyone tried the beef pho dishes here? How did they stack up?

May 06, 2013
BobtheBigPig in Los Angeles Area

Best Place to Buy Fish in Culver City?

Agreed this guy's fish truck is the best option for fish in CC, although the buying experience is sort of like doing maritime business with the Sopranos. Would not be a bit surprised if his scale had calibration issues. OTOH, the fish is exquisitely fresh and well cared for. They even give you a small block of ice to keep it cold on your trip home. The price is only slightly less than an upscale fish market, but he really seems to be the only game in town.

The proprietor is also, inexplicably, very popular with the ladies.

On a non-Tuesday, sorry to say your best bet is probably to brave the traffic over to Santa Monica Seafood.

Apr 30, 2013
BobtheBigPig in Los Angeles Area

ISO cheese shop

Is this why brie in France tastes so wonderful, and the best ones here—even imported—are a poor comparison?

Mar 14, 2013
BobtheBigPig in Los Angeles Area

ISO cheese shop

Weighing back in with plugs for Wally's. The fragrant Appenzeller and even stinkier Vacherin Fribourg are totally the real deal. Saving up for some raclette. Thanks Jwsel!

Mar 05, 2013
BobtheBigPig in Los Angeles Area

How to cook Elk RIbs

Picked up a frenched 2-rib portion of Cervena elk at Surfas, from Broadleaf Game, and wondering how to cook it. The package weighs slightly over a pound and I'm guessing is a restaurant portion for two or one very hungry diner.

I've seen a few recipes for elk ribs online on hunter sites that call for long, slow BBQ-style cooking of elk rib racks, but I'm thinking this is a farmed product and likely to be far less tough and fatty than a wild animal. I wonder if this was designed to be split into two "chops" and lightly pan-fried to medium rare.

Any ideas on cooking technique, sauces or recipes most welcome!

Mar 05, 2013
BobtheBigPig in Home Cooking

ISO cheese shop

These all sound great thanks everyone. I'm probably gonna hit up Wally first as he's closest to me and his selection of Swiss cheeses looks very impressive.

Of course, they're over $30/lb—a higher cost than I've paid for any food not involving endangered species on the black market. But I'm a desperate man.

The sandwich menu there sounds mighty tasty too.

Jan 22, 2013
BobtheBigPig in Los Angeles Area

ISO cheese shop

Recently returned from Switzerland and suffering serious cheese withdrawal. Specifically, I'm missing stinky Appenzeller, mellow Vacherin (both the brie-like Mont D'or and the firmer variety), Zermatter Bierkase (visualize various umlauts) and a strange but wonderful concoction labeled in the supermarket as "Sennerei Mustair/Bio (organic) Bergkase).

Anyone know of an LA cheese shop or online specialist that sources these precious gems of Swiss milkfat?

Jan 22, 2013
BobtheBigPig in Los Angeles Area

Octopus, downtown LA

After seeing some positive write-ups in the usual spots, we popped into Octopus downtown for some inexpensive Japanese cuisine, an experience which ended up proving two time-honoured maxims:

1) You can't believe everything you read, and

2) You get what you pay for.

Food quality was passable. Introductory miso soup was hearty and promising. Tempura vegetables were decent. Sushi was somewhat disappointing, however, as it seemed the fish had logged some serious freezer time. Chef did nice takes on spicy tuna roll and more exotic creations, so lovers of these may find enjoyment here. For the nigiri or sashimi aficionado, though, I'd recommend eating elsewhere.

Service was pleasant but distracted; we were asked to wait several minutes for a vacancy despite numerous open tables, and you get the feeling the staff is too hip to be there.

Anybody have better luck here? Did we order the wrong things?

Oct 23, 2012
BobtheBigPig in Los Angeles Area

Restaurants near Douglas Theater in Culver City

I love Bawarchi, but it's a bizarre and surreal experience reminiscent of Seinfeld's Soup Nazi. Annother sleeper Indian place in the area: Annapurna on Venice. Not as cheap as Bawarchi - more of a sit-down restaurant, and southern Indian which is a different cuisine entirely than Bawarchi, but they do have a buffet a couple of nights a week. I like their dosas, especially the spicy Spring Dosa.

Oct 18, 2012
BobtheBigPig in Los Angeles Area

Westwood?

For anyone joining this thread now, check the dates. Most of us would no longer recommend Noodle Planet (hit and miss these days, at best) and though I too liked Acupulco, it's long gone.

I still like Falafel King.

Oct 17, 2012
BobtheBigPig in Los Angeles Area

Catalina for a Day

I wish I had something positive to offer, but last time I was there (about a year ago) I sorely wished I'd brought my own food. Nothing was remarkable, with the lowlight of the visit being the Mexican place (Mi Casita?) which would not compare favorably to El Torito, Taco Bell or your high school cafeteria.

Oct 15, 2012
BobtheBigPig in Los Angeles Area

Fox Hills Branch of 101 Noodle Express Re-Tools

Bumping this back up as I ate there last night and am starting to think this place is getting its act together. The chicken rolls were fresh, tasty and not too oily; the scallion pancakes are gradually acquiring enough scallions, and the magisterial green condiment worked wonders. I bugged the manager/owner re: the dan-dan noodles; he said nobody ate them, but he strongly recommends the minced chicken noodles (zha jiang mein).

He said pork is actually traditional for this dish but most people seem to prefer chicken. I will have to give this a try.

Oct 10, 2012
BobtheBigPig in Los Angeles Area

Yamakase: A Pictorial Review

I find it a bit of a turnoff too. This is a well-written review of an obviously excellent restaurant, but I'm not a fan of the you-have-to-know-somebody dining concept. Amazing how well it works in LA, though.

Oct 10, 2012
BobtheBigPig in Los Angeles Area

Mole festival

Scoping out the action in back seems like a great idea. Juan's had a really nice setup with a huge variety of food which led me to believe they would have premade a lot of it. Too bad the pipian mole was subpar. Agree about the annoying lack of signage everywhere.

Oct 08, 2012
BobtheBigPig in Los Angeles Area

Mole festival

Anybody attend the Feria de los Moles (Mole Festival) at Olvera Street yesterday? This event, closely followed by the Laundering-Brown-Stains-Out-Of-Your-Shirt Festival, drew huge crowds seeking rich sauces of chilies, ground seeds and chocolate.

Like any other food event in LA, many of which you smarter chowhounds have learned to avoid, crowds were massive and actually getting some mole required determination. Even with the huge number of vendor booths, lines were long. Much of the offerings looked nearly identical, and I'm not sure a strategy of picking the longest line would have been justified as some less popular booths really looked terrific.

I liked the looks of the plates coming from Tacos Manzano, so I braved the line after ensuring that the customers waiting to the side were eventually getting fed. I went with the mole combo: chicken drumstick and thigh smothered in rich mole poblano sauce with a side of Oaxacan white rice embedded with corn and peas. The mahogany sauce was delicious and as complex as a fine Napa cabernet.

The most popular items were Tlayudas, a pizza-like creation of a giant flat corn tortilla (some looked like whole wheat) topped with black beans, avocados, cabbage, cheese and mole sauce, among the ingredients I could recognize easily. Most of the moles were standard mole negro or mole poblano. I'd hoped to encounter a green or pipian mole but didn't see any, although some booths may have had them. A trio of enchiladas seemed to be a favorite at Manzano, and I also saw tamales wrapped in corn husks and banana leaves.

One of the longest lines was for Juquila, a small restaurant on Santa Monica Blvd in WLA which I find quite good, although I slightly preferred (and miss) the former great Guelaguetza on Palms.

In retrospect, there were probably easier ways of obtaining mole, especially given the traffic-jamming trifecta of Obama's fundraising event downtown and the massive Ciclavia bicycle-fest happening, which closes off many downtown streets to car traffic. I'd arrived by metro and bike and felt great sympathy for anyone attempting to drive or park yesterday. However, a true mole fanatic out for a comparison study would have had much to enjoy. Musical performances, games and other activities sweetened the pot.

Oct 08, 2012
BobtheBigPig in Los Angeles Area

Best coffee shop for plain old coffee...

These all look great thanks everyone. Gonna have to make a coffee run to Mt Pleasant soon. Fmed I have to admit I haven't tried pour-over coffee (too impatient) but it sounds like a great idea. I like French press but every time I have it I'm awake for a week:)

Sep 11, 2012
BobtheBigPig in B.C. (inc. Vancouver)