Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Zoulbia Recipe

I got a request in the comments on the previous post to reprint my zoulbia recipe here for those who hate to link. I happen to hate opening pdf's myself, so I'm happy to oblige. Again, easy and really satisfying. Do it!


This is a yeast-based batter, so allow time for it to rise. If you are working with children, take great care in the frying step, as the hot oil may spatter. You can buy plastic squeeze bottles from restaurant supply stores, or even from stores like Target, but in a pinch, an empty plastic shampoo, dish soap, or ketchup bottle with a narrow opening, thoroughly cleaned, works fine. Leave out the yogurt for a non-dairy version of this dessert.

The batter is very tangy – from the combination of yogurt and baking powder, the latter of which also imparts a distinct saltiness. All of this balances the sweetness of the syrup.

1 cup flour
1 cup water
1 Tbs baking powder
2 Tbs yogurt (optional)
1 package active dry yeast

1 cup water
2 cup sugar
1 Tbs honey
dash cardamom
1/4 C rosewater

Vegetable, corn, or canola oil to fry

Mix together batter ingredients. Let sit for 1 hour.

To make syrup, combine first four ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in rosewater.

Fill squeeze bottle with batter.

Fill a large pan with a 1-inch layer of oil. Heat over medium-high heat until a drop of water dropped into the oil sizzles. Squeeze out batter into hot oil, creating spirals and free-form designs, but maintaining a generally circular shape. The end result should be lacy and not too heavy, so try to squeeze out enough batter to maintain the zoulbia's structure, but not too much to make a solid mass. Fry for a few minutes, flipping or submerging to fry both sides, until deep golden brown. Using tongs or two forks, carefully remove zoulbia from pan and shake off excess oil. Lower gently into syrup, quickly submerge and remove. Continue making zoulbia with remaining batter, adding oil as necessary. Cool on a rack in a single layer.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Pretend You're Persian This Hanukkah

Actually, if you were trying to do that, you wouldn't really make these; you'd only just wear lots of black and kiss on both cheeks. But see, I've decided that zoulbia, a crisp lacy fritter that bursts with rosewater cardamom syrup when you bite into it, is going to be the traditional Iranian Hanukkah food from now on. It makes sense: throughout the Middle East and the Mediterranean, Jews eat various fried sweets to celebrate the oil-related miracle that Hanukkah commemorates (and yes, latkes weave this same theme through Eastern Europe). These little bits of deliciousness really should be our contribution to the grease-fest.

I really recommend trying zoulbia. They're pretty easy to make -- the batter comes together pretty simply, and it's actually really fun to squeeze out amorphous squiggles of the stuff into hot oil, then watch it bubble and expand as it fries to a golden brown. And the end result is indulgent: sticky and gooey with sweet glaze, the scent is vaguely exotic, and the crunch is really satisfying.

So, I wrote an article for the Shofar, an Iranian Jewish quarterly magazine, declaring this new tradition and offering my mom's recipe. You can check it out on page 67 of this pdf version of the issue, in addition to two other stories I wrote for the magazine: an opinion piece on Barack Obama being elected president (that's right, I wrote about politics. Crazy, no?) on page 51, and an article about the shameful scandal surrounding Agriprocessors, the nation's largest producer of kosher meat on page 58.

UPDATE: Here's the recipe right on the blog, for those too lazy to click the pdf link. What can I say, I'm a giver!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Menu for Hope V

Guys, Menu for Hope is in full swing. It's a pretty fantastic fundraising drive where food bloggers all around the world band together to make the world a little brighter. The way it works is this: bloggers put up some awesome raffle prizes, then gracious readers like yourself donate money and by doing so enter the raffle for the prizes. Last year's Menu for Hope raised over $90,000 for the United Nations World Food Programme, and they hope to beat it this year.

The prizes are varied and fabulous, but include all manner of fancy chocolates, plenty of free dinner packages at very enticing restaurants (including, for you New Yorkers, dinner for 8 at Momofuku Ssäm Bar -- amazing, right?!), lots of cookbooks and books on food, a weirdly large number of bento-related prizes, a wine vacation in Napa, all sorts of hands-on food-related seminars, tours, and workshops, a Cuisinart ice cream maker, fancy olive oils, fancy cheeses, homemade sweets, care packages ranging from Ferry Building favorites to artisanal Italian ingredients. And even a set of lingerie cookie cutters!

The holiday season is upon us and now's the time for giving. I encourage you to check out Menu for Hope. The full selection of prizes, as well as instructions for donating (at the very bottom of the post), are here at the site of its founder, Pim, and the prizes for the west coast sector are listed here at MattBites. Go to it!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Ladies And Robots

The other night my circles merged in ways that were blowing my mind. Thanks to another Jason Bernstein "what are you doing right this second phone call," I found myself at the opening of Darren Le Gallo's Ladies and Robots show at Ghetto Gloss gallery in Silver Lake. Which apparently is where it all comes together. I walk in and see the guy from work with the ironic handlebar mustache who smokes a pipe in the afternoon, who apparently is friends with the supermodelesque ex-girlfriend of my film school cousin. Snapping pics is the woman whose Glögg party I'd been invited to despite having never met her before. Tending the bar was our friend Jackie's ex-roommate. Then, of course Oki walks in. Six degrees of hipsteration.

And the art was awesome. Why don't I do this more often?

A note: We stopped afterwards for a Let's Be Frank hotdog at the cart parked outside Silver Lake Wine. It was definitely delicious, but once it's past midnight, there's something deflating about forking down 5 bucks for a hot dog and not even getting any seediness or bacon-wrap. I know, sustainable, pasture-raised, biodynamic. But, who wants to shell out 5 bucks for virtue at 2 am? Ghetto-unfabulous.

Ghetto Gloss is at 2380 Glendale Boulevard South of Silver Lake Blvd. (you know, over by the Red Lion)

Monday, December 08, 2008

A Work in Progress

Last Sunday, Jason Bernstein called with the classic Jason opener.

"Tannaz Sassooni, what are you doing right now?"

I was in my PJ's, still in bed, IMing with a friend, but quickly threw on some clothes, grabbed my camera, and walked over to the restaurant -- I know what's good for me. Jason and our friend Jim Starr are opening The Golden State -- a new restaurant in the old Nova Express space on Fairfax -- and they were in the middle of some serious building.

When I got there, someone was replastering the storefront -- it was still half black, half white, while someone else was up on the roof, installing something really big. Jason and Jim are still haranguing with contractors, but the place is coming together.

If you use your imagination a bit, you can see how the aesthetic -- a clean white space marked by one brick wall, exposed roof beams, and a few geometric asymmetries -- will complement their simple but not dumbed-down menu (designed by chef Samir Mohajer) that includes sausage sandwiches, a burger you will not believe, Scoops (!!) ice cream (the Golden State will be the only place you can get Scoops outside Tai's original store in East Hollywood), and an awesome beer and wine list -- just the kind of spot our neighborhood needs.

I don't ask when the place is going to open anymore, because if there's anything I've learned from Jason and Jim, it's how close to impossible it is to go through the hoops necessary to open a restaurant in this town, but it's coming together in the next few months. Start getting excited now.

a little angel on the concrete wall out back, compliments of neighboring artist (and owner of the property), Harry Blitzstein

[more here at Eater LA]
[and more photos here]

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Food TV, Persian Style

Watch as charming young Tian and Babak prepare kaleh pacheh, a beloved Iranian soup with some -- ahem -- interesting ingredients. It may be in Persian, but the international language of sheep's head, complete with eyes and tongue and teeth, crosses all international boundaries. Hilarious or disgusting? You make the call.

[from ParsArts]

Thursday, December 04, 2008

West Third Street Holiday Party Tonight

West Third is doing it up for the holidays! For one, there's the holiday party tonight, which you should go to because these things are always fun. It's from 6 to 9 pm, and will feature refreshments (usually this means you'll be walking down the sidewalk sipping wine, which I love), music, special sales, and more. Here's the kicker: Free Universal Valet Parking: drop your car off at any valet station between Fairfax and La Cienega, and pick it up at any station. Kind of amazing.

Some other details:
- lots of stores will be participating, but I know that specifically, Kiss My Bundt will have specials on hot chocolate, coffee drinks, and small bundts, a drawing for free bundts, and will be launching two new holiday flavors: egg nog and mint chocolate. Yum!
- Stores will be staying open until 9 pm the next two Thursdays as well.
- West Third will be offering free universal valet parking from 10 am to 6 pm every Saturday and Sunday between now and December 25th. And they're considering making this a permanent thing! Hello, holiday spirit!

Monday, December 01, 2008

On Air Raid Sirens and Apple Pie

A funny thing happens at Thanksgiving. Maybe it's something in the turkey, maybe it's just a by-product of dusting off old food traditions, cooking and eating with family, but something about Thanksgiving makes people tell stories. This year, two stories were particularly striking to me. Sure, both were interesting in their own right, but the real story was the fact that the people telling these two very different tales, from opposite sides of the world, were sharing the same Thanksgiving table.

I spent Wednesday night my sister's house. I've decided that I'm totally over baking pie by myself in my tiny apartment kitchen; the aftermath, exhausted me alone with a sink full of dirty dishes, is just depressing. Thanksgiving would be a giant feast at my cousin Sisi’s house. She was having about fifty people over: her own aunts and cousins, plus a slew of relatives on her husband's side. Sisi depends on us young'uns to provide the "exotic American" dishes (you know, pumpkin pie, mashed potatoes) for her Thanksgiving table, so staying at my sister's was the best idea ever: three spazzy kids running around, a dishwasher and a KitchenAid, plus cooking a ton of food with my sister -- what more could I ask for?

Well, Grandma Nanny's apple pie, of course. When it comes to Thanksgiving, my brother-in-law Ray is the best thing that ever happened to my family. We're immigrants, after all, so our Thanksgiving table can be a little unorthodox (gruel, anyone?). If it weren't for him, we'd never know the glory of stuffing or cranberry sauce. And every year, he makes apple pie. By the time I got to their house on Wednesday, two pies were already cooling on the counter (at some point he got wise to making two: one to take to Thanksgiving, one to tear into at home).

Later that night, with sweet potatoes all mashed and streuseled and stuffing ready for the oven, we sat down for the first round of pie and stories. Grandma Nanny, Ray's dad's mom, was known for her pies, he told us, and in her home in Maryland, she'd make at least 8 pies every Thanksgiving, and several different varieties at that. Since she passed away in 1993, Ray has been making her apple pie recipe -- well, minus the homemade crust -- every Thanksgiving. As his daughter listened intently to his story, we could see how much fondness he had for his grandmother, and how much it meant to him to share this delicious bit of her legacy with his family.

It's been a rough year for my sister's family. Then again, it seems like every year has a hefty share of both minor annoyances and significant ordeals raising three kids. Don't get me wrong -- they have plenty to be thankful for, and they know it, but there's always something. Did they really need the electric company to shut off their power one night last week at 9 o'clock? On Sisi's couch, she was telling us about this latest injustice, when Mahzad, one of the in-law cousins, interjected.

"That was my life for two or three years. Maybe ten times a day."

You wouldn't guess it seeing her today, always graceful as she walks in with her husband and two gorgeous daughters, but Mahzad has been through some things. She and her family came to the United States a few years after we did -- she was a teenager at the time -- so they were in Iran through the revolution, and into the war with Iraq. Air raid sirens became commonplace, she told us, but one night stuck in her head. They didn't have a phone in their apartment, so her parents had stepped out to the local phone booth to make a call. She was alone with her two-month-old brother when the sirens started going off. A child herself, she swooped up baby brother and started the trek downstairs to the bomb shelter. She kept her pace as people rushed past her. By the time the sirens ended, they hadn't even made it to the underground shelter, so they just turned back around. But this chilling night was the last straw for her, and one that stays in her head.

"My nightmare is thunder. And fireworks. I become that child again," she told us, as her baby brother, now in his second year of pharmacy school, sat beside her.

I have a feeling that 15 years ago, when Ray first thought of sharing Grandma Nanny's pie with his future family, he didn't have his wife's cousin's husband's niece in mind. And visions of stuffing and pecan pie in a California home surely weren't filling young Mahzad's mind when she was growing up in war-torn Tehran. But there they were, post-turkey lounging as their daughters played together in the next room. Here, it's all just family.

Grandma Nanny's Apple Pie

1 pckg. deep dish pie crust (Ritz or Pillsbury is good)
3 lbs. granny smith apples
1 stick butter (somehow Ray always ends up using more)

Preheat oven to 400F. Line pie pan with one pie crust. Peel and slice apples. Mix cinnamon and sugar. Layer apples and cinnamon sugar in pie crust. Dot with butter. Be generous and pile high. Cover with second pie crust and crimp corners together. Cut a few slits into top crust. Dot with butter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake for 50 minutes.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Great Success

I'm happy to report that my Thanksgiving Brussels sprouts were a great success. I've made it my mission the past few years to contribute a green to the turkey day table -- something to cut through the heavy, goopy starchfest that dominates (not that I don't love the heavy, goopy starches!). Last year, I did Brussels sprouts, in an attempt to convert the people who still give the cute little guys dirty looks as the words "vile green slimeballs" run through their heads. But I failed -- they were undercooked and just not that good.

But this year was a win! I took inspiration from a couple recipes, then simplified and added my own twists. I knew the key was to brown the little guys, bringing out the sweetness in their outer leaves, but for the technical details of making this happen, I consulted a recipe from David Chang, of the crazy popular Momofuku restaurants in New York (in fact, that whole recipe, while not very evocative of Thanksgiving, looks amazing. I'll have to try it another time). He didn't let me down: 45 minutes at 450 degrees may sound extreme, but it's perfect. And from this Smitten Kitchen recipe, I passed on the goopy veloute sauce, but took the brown butter: after all, it's one of the most delicious flavors in the world. I added hazelnuts and sage -- I love them both with brown butter -- and there we have it. As promised, here's the recipe.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Brown Butter and Sage

You can make this ahead, then reheat it in a warm oven, uncovered, for about fifteen minutes. Next time, I'm going to try pecans instead of hazelnuts.

3 lb Brussels sprouts, ends trimmed, halved lengthwise
olive oil
salt and pepper
1-1/2 sticks ( 3/4 cup) butter
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
about 10 sage leaves, thinly sliced
3/4 cup roasted hazelnuts

Preheat oven to 450F. In a large baking pan, toss Brussels sprouts with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a light sprinkling of sugar. Arrange them cut side down, and roast until outer leaves are well browned and sprouts are fork-tender throughout, around 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until it has a medium-brown color and smells toasted. Stir in shallots and sage and cook for one more minute. Add hazelnuts, cook one minute more, then remove from heat.

Toss roasted sprouts with brown butter mixture in a large bowl. Adjust seasoning.

Makes about 10 servings.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Brussels Sprouts: A Public Service Announcement

I've been having a really hard time finding Brussels sprouts, but I found them! The Hollywood Farmers' Market was slim pickings on Sunday -- in fact, all that typical fall stuff, like sweet potatoes and squashes was sort of slim, and the abundance of corn, strawberries, tomatoes in the middle of November was just depressing. Whole Foods had some, but not that many, and of course they were crazy expensive, and not that pretty. At Golden Farms, my local (to work) Armenian cheap produce market in Glendale, they were amazingly cheap at 89 cents a pound, but they were giant and haggard.

But in the nick of time, I've found the promised land of Brussels sprouts, and it's not even in Belgium (nar nar). The FarmBoy stand at the Fairfax Farmers' Market has a huge thing of Brussels sprouts, 1.99 a pound, and they are wee, and green, and the leaves are tightly wrapped. So, go get some!

And if mine turn out delicious tomorrow, I'll share the recipe. I'm kind of making it up, so we'll see how it goes.. but it involves brown butter, so how can it really be bad?

[thanks to flickrich for the photo]

Sunday, November 23, 2008

maybe if i put it here, i'll actually read them

books to read:

about alice -- you read calvin trillin and you think to yourself, man, this guy is just so lovable. his love affair with his wife alice is legendary.
bowl of cherries -- mcsweeneys. the first novel of a ninety-year-old man. supposed to be awesome
consider the lobster -- i never read anything by david foster wallace. this one has an essay about a grammar dictionary. clearly he was a man after my own heart.
temple grandin -- she's the foremost expert on humane slaughter, and she has autism. i want more information.
the new pinker one -- a new language one!
the new oliver sacks book -- 'tales of music and the brain'. um, hello?

Monday, November 17, 2008

11 in 11: CHINA!

Picture it: on the eleventh day of the eleventh month*, for eleven hours, starting at eleven AM, you go to 11 eateries that, according to the rules of 11 in 11 are "either emblematic of a nation's cuisine OR significant to Los Angeles". Crazy? Maybe. Amazing? Absolutely.

My dear friend Jason Bernstein, occasional AKOY contributor and soon-to-be restaurateur, has been holding down 11 in 11 for the past 5 years along with his meticulously organized cousin Mark Flaisher, the brains behind Jason's formidable brawn. I've been doing this madness with them for the last 3 years, and it's always awesome. This year, they joined forces with another mighty eater, our boy Noah of Man Bites World. Noah's been doing a different country's food every day for the last 2 months, so in a synergy not seen since someone put chocolate in my peanut butter, yesterday was 11chINa11, an epic day of Chinese eating.

how to become a folk hero, lesson one: shades indoors

This also marks the year when 11 in 11 became a media darling: among the 30 or so random people that came in and out of our crew throughout the day were Lesley Balla, editor of Eater LA, and Jeff Miller, editor of Thrillist LA, chilling and chowing until the last bite and sip. Considering I spend way too much time every day reading their writing, (hitting the refresh button 70 times a day in Lesley's case), it was quite exciting to put real live people to the words, especially people as warm and down to earth as these two. In fact, the entire crew was great, and when we weren't stuffing our faces, we were laughing giddily much of the day.

You can read Noah's detailed account here, but I'll give my short-attention-span version. Oh, and it turns out my attention span is so short that I didn't start the day until stop number 5. Here we go...

UPDATE: Here's Lesley's post on Eater. Now, here we go really...

  1. China Islamic
Or, "I'm not sure what it is, but I know it's not pork." I've been wanting to go to this place for years, as I've been fascinated by the Muslim-Chinese mashup that is Western China cuisine since a friend described their "big, slurpy noodles, tiny spicy kebabs, salty breads, and a dish that is only known as 'Big Plate Chicken'". Much of what we ended up ordering, rushed as the kitchen was about to close, was typical 'fortune-cookie' Chinese dishes, though without a piggie in sight. But the knife-cut noodles were just as big and slurpy as I'd hope, and an entire lamb section on the menu is intriguing enough to pull me back to the place.

knife cut noodles: they're slurpy

Geeky culture note: Islamic calligraphy on Chinese scrolls. Rad, and also beautiful.
  1. Yung Ho King Tou Chiang
no really, they're crullers.

This place was touted to us as doughnuts and soy milk. I was thinking sweet fried dough and maybe some delicious beverage like the roasted sesame soy milk I've had at Viet's. Silly me. While the tiny bakery was totally sweet and accommodating to our raucous takeover despite a near-hopeless language barrier, their offerings left us, well, hungry.

Forest likes soy milk.

Soy milk came in bowls (are we supposed to lap like a little kitten?), and tasted like the liquid surrounding packaged tofu. Crullers were greasy dowels of fried dough, not sweet, not savory, just extremely fried. Cruller omelet? Take two of those dowels and wrap them in a fried egg. Salted cruller roll? Heavily salt the dowel, smush on some sticky rice, saran wrap the sucker. The one redeeming item was warm silken tofu in a sweet ginger broth with boiled peanuts -- a big bowl of cozy.

No. Like, reeeeelly likes.

  1. Banh Mi and Che Cali
hi, i'm blob

It's not Chinese, but it was across the street from the cruller place and delicious, so we stopped in. Aside from shockingly cheap Vietnamese sandwiches, freshly made summer rolls, and much more, they had baby 'tacos' made from sweet rice and coconut -- just precious --, and mung bean black sesame mochi: slimey black blobs that reminded me of the slop at the dinner table that burbles right off the plate in Better Off Dead, but were oddly delicious -- to me, anyway.

cutest tacos ever

  1. Lu Din Gee Cafe
Peking duck. Duck feet (No, really. And I ate some. And it was good.). Duck soup. Blurry picture.

Peking pancakes in tortilla container. I love Los Angeles
  1. Half & Half Tea House
Witness the glory of the brick!

I think this was my favorite stop. I wish it was walking distance from my apartment. Tucked in a supermarket shopping center, it's a cozy teashop with super-friendly young servers, funky glassware, and the miracle that is Brick Toast. Take a thick square of white bread (the "brick"), spread both sides with butter, top it with something delicious like almond cream or caramel (or tuna, if you prefer), toast it in the oven until the it's browned on top, soft in the middle, has the sweet aroma of buttered popcorn, and is utterly delicious.

A mountain of brown sugar shave ice with sweetened condensed milk, boba, egg custard, and more was another highlight, and all the milk teas, hot and cold, were also nice. None of these can compare, though, to the culinary paradox that is honey, plum, and tomato juice. What does it taste like? Confusion.

tomato-honey-plum juice will Scramble Your Face.

  1. Yunnan Garden
perfectly cooked snow pea tendrils in the back there

Not sure what the cultural significance of this one was, but we managed to get our waiter to do one of those, "Are you sure you want to order that, gringo?" double takes, so I was pleased. The dish in question was fish cubes with corn and pine nuts. Random, but turned out to have a pretty simple flavor profile that appealed to the five-year-old in all of us. Good thing too, as everything else on the table was way too spicy for Baby Tannaz. But I ate it all anyway and didn't even cry.

  1. Jay Dee Cafe
The tradition of 11 in 11 is to end the night at a bar. When we got to Cotton Candy, our original plan for the end of the line, we realized the sleepy wine-and-beer-only hotpot joint wasn't nearly jovial enough to contain our growing spazziness. Thankfully, our new SGV friend Tony came to the rescue and sent us to Jay Dee Cafe. When we walked in, the jukebox was playing honky-tonk and a surly woman at the bar told us we looked like we just rolled off a film set. Also, there was a moose head on the wall and drinks were $3.50. Jackpot.

By the end of the night, we all knew each other's life stories, new food adventures had been plotted, and there was just about enough goodwill bouncing off of us that, if used wisely, might have brought world peace. Love is in the air, friends, and so I offer you, a portrait collage of some of the lovely 11 in 11 kids that made it through the home stretch.

* OK I know it was actually the 15th. But, like, branding, OK?
** Thanks to Mark Flaisher for his smooth photographic stylings on a few of these pics.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Puerto Vallarta: Fish Tacos in Paradise

Oh friends, when I started writing this post early this morning, I felt a little longing to go back to the paradise dreamworld that is Puerto Vallarta, if only to escape my life here for a little bit longer. But now, back from a coffee then brunch with a steady stream of awesome laughter over stupid/amazing jokes on a perfect sunny-in-November LA day where all the friends seemed especially ebullient, I feel completely satisfied where I am (more on that later).

But that doesn't take away from the deliciousness of the trip. You see, whenever I'm asked the question "if you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose?" I always have the same response: somewhere beachy and Spanish-speaking.

I think I found it.

In the depths of crazy overtime and 6-day work weeks, I sneaked away for five days, with some of my favorite cousins, to Mexico. Our hotel pool was 4 steps away from its own beach, the water was turqoise and clear, warm like a bathtub, with mellow waves that might rock you to sleep. I indulged on my own airy and bright room, and lying in that crisp white bed, lulled to sleep by waves hitting the shore outside my window, was more relaxation that I could have asked for.

Our food choices on the trip were fairly simple. We spent the majority of our trip splayed out by the pool, so we ate many 'meals' at the bar, sitting on the tile stools inside the pool. Big fresh tortilla chips and ample mounds of creamy guacamole (simple and perfect: avocado, sweet onion, lime, salt. the end.) were our daily bread. I had my share of margaritas -- really the drink that makes me happiest in the world -- but I mixed it up now and then with a michelada, a Mexican specialty that makes beer into what I can only describe as a savory beer-garita.

To make a michelada, they salt the rim of a beer stein, then squeeze in lime juice, and add Worcestershire and Maggi seasoning. Add ice, pour in beer, stick in a straw. A little odd, but cool and satisfying in a somewhat bloody-mary sort of way.

Hmm, what else can I tell you about the food? Well, breakfast was amazing: mild, delicious coffee with cream that's actually cream-colored, a plate of fresh cut fruit, granola, luscious yogurt, and on good days, a basket filled with a variety of pan dulce. The first day I was there, a Sunday, I got a special treat: a sweet bread specked with whole cloves, baked special for the Day of the Dead, the Mexican holiday when people celebrate the lives of loved ones they've lost.

I was in Mexico, and I was on the coast, so of course there were fish tacos and ceviche. Both were made with what Guillermo, the bar guy, called 'blanco de basa', which he translated as mahi-mahi (though I have my doubts). Both were delicious. The tacos weren't the deep-fried, cabbagy baja monstrosities we see here, but rather big cubes of fish lightly sauteed with onions and peppers over corn tortillas, served of course, with copious amounts of guacamole. The ceviche tasted fresh and citrusy -- which is to say, just right.

We did manage to venture into town for a short stint: my cousin Sam and I left the others to bronze all day and hopped on the bright green Mismaloya bus. Between admiring the awesome public art every few steps down the malecon -- Puerto Vallarta's beach boardwalk -- and freaking out over extremely perilous street performances involving swinging upside-down on a rope hanging from a spinning pole hundreds of feet high and precariously close to a stone wall, while playing a tiny flute and drum at the same time, we encountered marvels like the McDonald's 'pay de queso': take your familiar apple pie and swap out the filling with sweet creamy cheese. Globalization-licious! We also stopped at a street cart for some heavily-pierced kid to sell us a giant coconut macaroon. He had two varieties: one was the the pale color we're used to here, but we opted for the one that a much darker brown, I'm guessing due either to caramelizing the sugar, or using piloncillo, or something along those lines. It had a deep burnt-sugar flavor, and as soon as we inhaled the thing, we regretted not getting two.

There was probably much more of the city we could have explored, foodwise and otherwise, but this particular trip was all about blissful vegetating. And besides, knowing how much more there is to see just means I'll have revisit Puerto Vallarta, my own little 'somewhere beachy and Spanish-speaking'. Sadly, said revisit can not happen tomorrow. Que lástima.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Prop 2 Update

hi guys, i'm on vacation so i'll make this short, but i wanted to say that i did make a decision on prop 2, i voted yes on it, i think you should too. here's a post from a blog on that really swayed me. that's it, happy monday, catch ya later!

(the original indecision)

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Greetings from....

Puerto Vallarta! (well, technically Mismaloya.) Taking a minivacation, can't find the punctuation I want on the keyboard, only been here a few hours and already had fish tacos (while staring directly at the beach). So far, so good. Back next week!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Getting Our Nacho On

[Apparently none of you cares about the chickens, so we're trying something a little easier today: sweet, glorious nachos.]

I don't know if we've talked about it here, but I love nachos. I do. But not as much as my friend Brad does. When Brad told me that yesterday, October 21, is the International Day of the Nacho, obviously we had to celebrate.

It had to be at Lotería because they have the best nachos in town, and I'm a loyalist having gone to the Farmer's Market one five thousand times, but this time we went a bit out of our way to check out to the new Lotería Grill in Hollywood because, well, they have margaritas. So we rounded up our people, and alit on Lotería. They didn't know what hit them (mainly because they didn't know about the International Day of the Nacho. For shame!) Here are some numbers for you:

- people in our party: 13
- ginormous plates of nachos, piled on with black beans, cheese, green salsa, scallions, tomatoes, optional meats, and delicious broily goodness: 7
- times the stories of Ignacio Ayana -- the inventor of nachos, and Carmen Rocha -- the Nacho Queen of El Cholo, responsible for bringing the fantastic stuff to LA (who sadly, passed away last week, just missing the holiday that celebrates her calling), were told or mistold: 4
- frighteningly strong margaritas, palomas (that's right kids, it's like a margarita, but with Squirt. Classy!), and Bohemias: lost count at 11
- micheladas ordered, despite fascinating variations like the the one with Worcestershire and Maggi sauce, and the spicy michelada enchilada: 0
- bus boys that sang along with me when "Oye Mi Amor" came on, then hit on me incoherently en español: 1
- depressing Aimee Mann songs that came on in between the mix of fun Spanish pop: 1
- sad little Mini Coopers that got towed(!) from the deceptively amazing spot around the corner from the restaurant: 1, mine.

The moral of the story, other than that nachos are good and we should eat them often, is that the new Lotería Grill is a Good Thing. I love a place where I can get a really tasty meal (along with the all the menu items from the Farmer's Market stand, they also had awesome-sounding specials like Veracruz-style red snapper and 2 kinds of shrimp tacos) and a cocktail for not too much money, in a casual, but really energized setting that's not at all a scene, from a friendly team of servers. It seems simple, but it's hard to find. I just wish the Hollywood that surrounded it, and its obnoxious parking pitfalls, didn't suck so bad.

But still, go there! (Park carefully!) Eat nachos!

Loteria Grill is at 6627 Hollywood Blvd., just east of Cherokee.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Prop 2: What Do I Do?

Friends, I'm completely torn. I've read the Fast Food Nation, and all the Michael Pollan, The Food Revolution, Animal Vegetable Miracle, and more. I've pored through countless articles, blog posts, and stories about the sorry state of our food supply and the plague of factory farming. I know the plight of the chickens. It's pretty awful for them, and they pass on the yuck to us: in the form of diseases and the antibiotics they have to take to combat them.

So, there are all sorts of reasons that conceptually, giving chickens, as well as other livestock, adequate room to turn around and spread their limbs and wings is a good, good thing. But then, the LA Times isn't endorsing Proposition 2: They fear that the high costs will drive the egg industry out of California, just exporting the inhumanity, rather than eliminating it, all the while decreasing our options for local eggs.

So, I'm confused. Is this Prop 2 pro-farmer, or against him? Is it too much to ask our state's egg industry? What's more important -- eggs from humanely-raised chickens, or eggs produced locally? Or can we have both? After all, the Proposition's limitations wouldn't kick in until 2015 -- ample time to figure out alternatives to the current system.

I want to hear your opinions. Please share your thoughts in the comments and help me figure this out! How are you going to vote on Proposition 2?

[thanks to chez pim for the photo]