Sunday, August 31, 2008

Los Angeles Barbeque Festival, Part 1

I just received my VIP passes for the upcoming Los Angeles Barbeque Festival on September 13 and 14th on the Santa Monica Pier. The event promises plenty of BBQ from the likes of Mr. Cecils (my fave rib joint), and Baby Blues BBQ, among others. Also a beer garden and live music. I know I am not going to to miss Beatles cover band Ticket to Ride on Sunday afternoon, hopefully they are at least half as good as the king of all Beatles tribute bands, The Fab Four. The VIP pass will get you access to the express food lines, an event T shirt, and a Cosmo Deck. Check back after that weekend, and I will have a post festival round up with photos.

Los Angeles Barbeque Fastival
September 13 & 14
Santa Monica Pier

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Tapas in Granada

While in Granada, we were able to make a meal out of tapas. It was so nice to forget about making reservations, and eating at just about anytime we wished. One afternoon for lunch (around 2:00), we ventured to a bar called La Ballena Allegre near the bullring and ordered two glasses of tinto de verana, which would would come with a choice of sandwiches (we choose blood sausage and jamon serrano) for about 5 Euro a round. After two rounds, we were satiated and ready to tour the bullring.

I know these pictures are not food-related, but I have to share them. We took a private tour of the bullring (the first time my Gaditano had been in one - I had seen a bullfight 5 years ago in Madrid, once was enough) and here are some highlights. If the bullfighter gets hurts, they whisk him off to the examination room. I don't think any bullfighter wants to have reason to step into those stirrups.

If surgery is necessary, they have an ER set up (note the state-of-the-art-hand-cranked operating table). They do not waste anytime shuttling the bullfighter to a nearby hospital.

He may then rest and recover in the adjacent recovery room.

They family waits for him here,

and prays for him here.

OK, back to tapas. One warm summer night, we had drinks and tapas at Oliver, in Plaza Pescadeia. We sat outside, enjoyed some wine with tuna empanadas, and another round with fried stuffed mussels and croquetas. It was 10:30 or so, and everyone was out enjoying the beautiful, warm night.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Junk Food Hangover

I think I have a junk food hangover. Beignets and coffee for breakfast, churro for mid-morning snack, corn dog and soda for lunch…yes, I was at Disneyland. Had it been the old Pre-Downtown Disney days, the rest of the day (meal-wise) would have continued to go downhill.

Perhaps fried chicken tenders or pizza in Tomorrowland, or a Monte Cristo sandwich at Blue Bayou. But ever since they added California Adventure and Downtown Disney, you are just a hand stamp away from a decent meal.

First, lets start off with California Adventure. They serve alcohol! We enjoyed a nice wine tasting in their wine bar/ restaurant (next to their own little vineyard), followed by a beer. That park needs the diversion of alcoholic beverage service, because there are really only two rides worth going on (Soaring Above California and Tower of Terror).

For a “real” meal, head straight to Downtown Disney. Several times on previous trips, I have enjoyed sandwiches as La Brea Bakery, and pizza at Naples, but this time we shared several appetizers at Uva Bar, a circular bar/resaurant in the middle of Downtown Disney. The only downside of dining in Downtown Disney, is the have new-age/Yanni/John Tesh-like musicians who set-up stands hawking CD’s and playing their music too loud. Aside from that, a good time and a nice rest is to be had. The menu at Uva is set up of small dishes, perfect to share. We started off with some fries, perfectly good and satisfying, served with ketchup and aioli. The highlight was the spicy tuna tartate, with avocado and friend wonton skins. The tuna was a nice, light, reprieve from the day’s fried carb extravaganza. The grilled steak with chimichurri sauce was tender and cooked just right.

The three sliders were straight out of a Popeye cartoon, and the calamari was great (when dipped into the aioli).

If we had this meal outside of Disneyland, this food would have been just OK, but after a morning of junk food, the protein and mental stimulation caused from using a knife and fork to eat (along with our cocktails) brought us all a well needed second wind.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

LA Vegan

In Mar Vista, right across the street from Casa Sanchez, in a neighborhood of taquerias, lawn mower shops, and bail bondsman, is this little gem called LA Vegan. It is in a small space, not particularly cute or comfortable to dine-in (read: takeout), but clean and staffed with capable and friendly servers. Similar to the other vegan cafes I have tried, California Vegan and The Vegan Joint, the menu is mostly Asian fare, with lots of ways to eat your tofu or fake meat. And they deliver!

On my first visit I ordered an appetizer of corn fritters ($6.95), which were five small corn pancakes, served with a sweet and sour syrup with cucumber. I nice sweet and savory combo. I like to call food like pancakes, french fries and sugar "vegan junk food." When I venture to the vegan cafes, I go because I want lots of vegetables, but I usually end up with at least one (or two) high-carb-fried-vegan-junk-food items, like these tasty spring rolls...

Cute little deep fried spring rolls ($4.95) with a (very sweet) sweet and sour sauce.

My next meal from LA Vegan was delivered to my home for free ( with a $12 minimum order) and this meal was healthy! I ordered one of their dinner specials: Lentil loaf with steamed vegetables and brown rice ($8.95). The lentil loaf tastes much better than it looks - it is savory and a bit sweet from the onions and bell peppers mixed in. It came with a vegan aioli which I dipped the vegetables in.

I couldn't resist ordering something fried (and I had to reach that $12 minimum), so I ordered some vegetable dumplings ($4.95). They were enjoyable and satisfied my ever-present meat/fat/salt cravings...along with a glass of Galician Albarino and the meal was perfect.

LA Vegan
4507 S Centinela Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90066

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


I wish this restaurant were in Los Angeles. Unfortunately, it is in Cadiz instead. Balandro sits right across the street from the ocean in the old town section of Cadiz. They have a dining room, but most everyone (including us) sits around the large bar for drinks and small plates. Balandro offers mostly contemporary food with Spanish influence. We enjoyed dishes like veal with caramelized onions and Pedro Ximenez sauce, mille-feuille stuffed with chicken, porcini-filled raviloi in a seafood sauce (and they were really cheap! All of the dishes pictured here were around 5-8 Euro!). We dined here three times on this trip.

Along with a small selection of Spanish wines, we also enjoyed the Spanish summer drink, tinto de verana, red wine with Sprite, which is the perfect warm afternoon beverage. A little sweet, a little alcohol, and very refreshing.

If you ever visit Cadiz, please make a visit to Balandro. It is very popular among the locals, so you may find yourself scoping out the diners, trying to figure out who will leave fist, and stake out a position next to them so the seat will be yours, but it is well worth the wait.

Alameda Apodaca, 22
Cadiz 11004
956 220 992

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Anisette Brasserie

When a friend generously offered to take me to lunch, I quickly choose the new and highly anticipated Anisette Brasserie. Anisette Brasserie is really stunning restaurant. High, tin-tiled ceilings, tile floors, and a long bar with oysters and spirits on display, it is really beautiful, and enjoyable to look at. Having never been to Paris, it is what I imagine the best brasseries must look like. Overall, the food was mostly good, the service friendly, but very rushed and unorganized.

We started our lunch off with a selection of oysters. Always a perfect start to a meal - cold, bright, saltly and light. Just enough to stimulate the senses.

Then on to the beef tartare. I usually love my raw meats, but this one was doused in mustard, which was really all we could taste, which covered up the delicate beef flavor.

The roasted beet and goat cheese salad was a nice combination of flavors, but way too much cheese to be palatable. An entire round of a brie style goat cheese was just too much on the stomach.

My favorite dish of the meal was the French classic, croque monsieur. Fat, on fat. It is an open-faced sandwich with ham, cheese and bechamel, thrown under a broiler until nicely browned. You can't go wrong. Fat on fat, my fave. Well, actually, the servers did go wrong by bringing it to the table when we were still working on our appetizers of tartare and salad. I am always afraid of sending back food that has arrived too soon, for fear of it sitting under heat lamps in the kitchen, so we consolidated our plates, and gobbled down our appetizers to make room on the small table for the sandwich. We opted for frites with the sandwich, which were not the best ever. They tasted double-fried, just a bit to stale.

Brasserie Anisette was hopping. The place was packed for lunch, and reservations were a must. That afternoon we spotted chefs Josiah Citrin and Raphael Lunetta, as well as owner/chef Alain Girard making the rounds. I love the decor and some of the food. Next time I will just grab a seat a the bar, and have a drink and some apps. With the hurried, unorganized wait staff, forget about having a nice leisurely meal. Be sure to set the pace yourself: order your dishes one course at a time.

Anisette Brasserie
225 Santa Monica Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA 90401

Monday, August 04, 2008

Tortillita de Camarones

In the south of Spain they serve this little delicacy called tortillita de camarones. They are thin, crispy fried pancakes with whole baby shrimp. I searched the web for recipes, some have flour, water, parsley, onions, paprika, teeny-tiny baby shrimp, and pleanty of olive oil to fry them in (some recipes call for chickpea flour, or a mixture of chickpea and regular flour). We had them twice on this trip: first in Cadiz, then at a well-known seafood restaurant in nearby El Puerto de Santa Maria called Romerijo. Look at those shrimp - they look as if they have been fossilized in amber! Ultra crisp, thin and pleasantly fishy, these are the favorite of my Gaditano and his family. Once I learn to speak Spanish, maybe his mother will share her recipe...

While you're at it, take a look at these fried chiperones (baby squid) from Romerijo...

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Back From Spain

I just returned from a wonderful vacation to Spain. My Gaditano and I ate and drank our way through Andalucia: San Fernando, Cadiz, Jerez and Granada. Tapas, wine, seafood, tinto de verano, sherry, flamenco, jamon, chorizo, coffee, Fanta...and much more. Lets start with the churros we had for breakfast in Granada. Look at these! A plate of light, crispy churros, with chocolate to dip them in. Much better then the ones at Disneyland!