L'Epicerie Market, date night with a Black Hanger Steak

Friday night, a double date with friends, Mr. Borscht and I sit down with good company at L'Epicerie Market in Culver City at 8:00 PM.  

I decide to start with an appetizer, a pizza-like starter made up of four small thin slices topped with black olives, carmelized onions, anchovies and balsamic vinegar (pictured above). What I was expecting from the description of the appetizer was bread topped with carmelized onions and anchovies, I suppose that is what I got but in a completely different form than expected. The taste was robust and dark from the balsamic, a slight tang and sweetness from the carmelized onions and fishy from the anchovy. Had the anchovy flavor been a little less prominent I may have actually liked this appetizer, although G, the boyfriend of my friend liked it very much due to the prominent anchovy flavor. Thus, if anchovies are your thing you'll probably take a liking to this starter.

Mr. Borscht's parents love L'Epicerie Market, which is how Mr. Borscht and I came to be introduced to this charming restaurant, they love the risotto at L'Epicerie Market and our waiter on this night's occasion suggested risotto as it is a popular and a very good dish.  Thus Mr. Borscht orders the Beef Risotto (pictured below) which should not be mistaken to have beef, it is made with beef broth but does not actually have any beef in the risotto.  The risotto grains do have a bite and are not completely soft all the way through, I suspect this is due to the grains being cooked al dente. The risotto is topped with greens and thinly shaved parmesan.  The flavor of the risotto is light, and personally, not a favorite of mine which many have something to do with the grains being al dente.

I don't get to eat steak very often and so decide on the Black Hanger Steak cooked medium-rare (pictured below), topped with carmelized onions, laying ontop of roasted potatoes and sauteed mushroom. The steak was soft and flavorful, the sauteed mushrooms completed the dish to a very well-rounded dish in terms of flavors adding the earthy aspect to the beefy.  The potatoes were cooked to perfection, soft and moist all the way through. The steak was in no way the best steak I've ever had but I have to admit was quite good for a restaurant who only has a couple steaks on the menu. Between the Black Hanger Steak and the Beef Risotto, the Black Hanger Steak was definitely the winner.

Limon Creme Brulee (pictured above and below).  It's always fun to crack the sugary top (the first, and probably not the best reason to order a dessert) but I also felt that the added limon flavoring would be quite exciting to a creme brulee.  After a few spoonfuls of the limon creme brulee I can definitely say that the limon creme brulee, although very fancy and delicate sounding is probably not a good choice of dessert. The  overall taste of the limon creme brulee was too citrusy, ideally the vanilla and limon flavoring would have danced in and out together, intertwined delicately and equally- this was not the case as the limon flavors were too powerful.  The texture of the creme brulee itself was also too thin and risked even being called "watery".

One out of three is not a very good outcome for a dinner but I still I had a fine time with good company and good conversation.  The ambience of the restaurant is dim, casual but nice and quite pleasant and though I could imagine having a more delicious dinner I cannot imagine having a more delightful time. It seems that when it comes to L'Epicerie Market one most know what one likes on the menu and stick to that.

Total Damage:  $50.00 +/-
Carmelized onions & anchovy on bread
Black Hanger Steak
Beef Risotto
Limon Creme Brulee

9900 Culver Boulevard
Culver City, CA 90232
(310) 815.1600

Frozen Pie Crust, Pillsbury VS Trader Joe's

Even with all my zest and enjoyment in the kitchen I have to admit that baking is not really my forte.  I'm a 'pinch here and two shakes there' kind of gal, baked goods never turn out the way I want and my guess is it's due to the whole "pinch there, two shakes there" mindset.  

Because I can't bake (or perhaps I just don't have the patience for it), but love to make pies I've come to appreciate the frozen pie crusts you can buy at the market.  Most likely, the frozen pie crusts can't compare to homemade ones but if you just haven't the time or simply don't want to trouble yourself with it the frozen ones are pretty darn good.

So here we go, how does the Trader Joe's Pie Crusts and Pillsbury Pie Crusts compare?  Is one better than the other?

Ingredients: Unbleached Enriched Flour (Wheat
flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mono-
nitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Palm Oil (citric
acid added), Water, Butter (Cream [milk],
Natural Flavor, Annatto [for color]), Sugar,
The frozen pie crust I usually bake with is usually the Pillsbury brand, but on this day I was at Trader Joe's and lazy me didn't feel like making a second stop to pick up the usual pie crusts, besides the Trader Joe's brand may be healthier or maybe I should more accurately say "less worse for you" - (this was my subconscious backup excuse).  

Trader Joe's only has one kind of pie crust to choose from- this made it quite easy, a simple grab and go. One box comes with two rolls of pie crusts large enough to cover a 9" pie pan.

I thawed out TJ's pie crust as directed.  I allowed the pie crust to thaw overnight in the refrigerator and allow the crusts to sit out on the counter for 45-55 minutes before using.  When it came time to line the pie pan with the thawed ready-to-use pie crust I realized upon unrolling it that the pie crust was tearing easily where cracks had appeared on the crust. I assume the cracks had formed there during the freezing process and was no fault of my own.  Because of the amount of cracks and easy tears from the cracks it was difficult to simply pick up the pie crust and lay it in the pie pan, so instead I picked up the pie crust still attached to the wax paper it was rolled in and flipped on to the pie pan, aligned just so, and peeled away the wax paper.  At this point the pie crust is very thawed out and easy to mold, if you have the patience you could probably try to cover all the tears and cracks, I didn't try that hard, I simply put the crust with more tears on the bottom of the pie pan.  I layed out the top crust as I had the bottom using the wax paper to hold the crust together as I flipped it over on top and then peeled away the wax.  I then crimped, cut long slits at top and baked.  The pie crust browned normally, was thicker (yay!) and tasted delicious (very similar to that of Pillsbury, the taste is so similar one wouldn't be able to tell the difference), the only odd thing about the TJ's pie crust (save the cracking and easy tearing) was the way the crust looked once out of the oven, a bit more blankety with less crust definition, this may be due to crust being thicker and the way it bakes because of this thickness. This thickness also resulted in the vents that I sliced ontop to be baked over, as the crust became more doughy in the oven the crust sealed most of my vents as it heated then baked over the vents entirely< luckily this proved to be not such a big problem and didn't do any damage to the end results of the pie (just remember to make longer and/or bigger slices).

Ingredients: Wheat Starch, Lard Partially Hydrogenated, with BHA and BHT To Protect Flavor, Wheat Flour Bleached, Water, Sugar, Rice Flour, Salt, Xanthan Gum, Potassium Sorbate Preservative, Sodium Propionate Preservative, Citric Acid, Color(s) with Yellow 5 and, Red 40

Pillsbury Pie Crusts was the only pie crust I ever baked with until now, rolled and frozen in wax paper I always found Pillbury pie crusts easy to use.  Once thawed according to the directions the pie crusts are easy to use and unroll, no cracking and easy tearing to worry about.  The Pillsbury pie crusts are thinner than the TJ's brand however, this characteristic and the nutritional differences (largely due to the differences in thickness) between the two brands is what really sets these two crusts apart, otherwise the crusts pretty much tastes the same.

Surprisingly the Trader Joe's pie crusts contains double the Calories in Fat than Pillsbury, double in Saturated Fat and double in cholesterol.  As I said before, most likely due to the thickness in the crust. So while I may be tempted to feel that Trader Joe's has healthier pie crust- this isn't so and next time I will stick to my thinner but better-for-you pie crusts from Pillsbury that are also easier to handle.

Blu Jam Cafe, Sunday brunch with Migas and an iced mocha

Sunday brunch at Blu Jam Cafe with Mr. Borscht, Brother Charles and his new wife Webbie Mouse.

Trying to get a table at Blu Jam on weekends will most likely consist of a wait but the owner of Blu Jam is well aware of the customers and set up pitchers of ice cold water for customers to help themselves to a cool drink in the mid of waiting to fulfill their Tummies' wishes in the Los Angeles Summer heat.

I'm determine to get a table indoors and occupy one of the hosts with this request, he is nice and sweet and very accommodating.  I immediately take a liking to his cheery demeanor.

First thing is first, upon sitting down we all order iced mochas, absolutely delicious.  Do give this a try on a warm summer day, there's nothing like a 2 in 1 drink, it can cool you down and wake you up!

I'm always up for trying something different, "better to write a review on and better to keep my adventurous ways" :)  Today I order the Migas (a *g dish) which is an egg scramble dish that consists of chorizo, jalepeno, tomato salsa, chipotle, red bell peppers and is served with a few corn chips for garnish and corn tortillas and a side of breakfast potatoes.

The Migas is flavorful with a slight spicy kick to it, you can taste the bell peppers, the tomato salsa adds a freshness and brightness to the smokey deep flavors of the other ingredients that is much needed and resolved by the salsa.  The Migas is even more delicious when eaten wrapped in the tortilla.  If what you desire is a Mexican scramble with lots of deep flavors that will wow your senses this, the Migas, is a good dish to consider.

The Loxex, another egg scramble dish.  The Loxex consists of smoked salmon, chives, onions, tomatoes, brie cheese topped with sour cream and served with a side of toast and breakfast potatoes.

I dislike smoke salmon dishes where the smoke salmon is completely overpowering resulting in a semi-too-salty dish.  The Loxex is a good example of the perfect balance of smoke salmon and egg.  The Loxex is probably one of the best smoke salmon scramble dishes I've had in Los Angeles, the chives and fresh tomatoes adds another level that can be described as adding a bite (via chive) and freshness (via tomatoes)... and the sour cream? Must I explain the greatness of the smoke salmon and sour cream pairing?  I think not.

And thus started our Sunday at Blu Jam Cafe... a very good start.

Total Damage:  $37.00 +/-
2 Iced Mochas
1 Migas
1 Loxes

7371 Melrose Ave
LA CA 90046
(323) 951.9191

Cooking At Home: Kimchi Stew (AKA Kimchi-Chigae)

The first thing that people seem to think about when you mention Korean food is either Korean BBQ or Kimchi (in my personal opinion Kimchi wins out).  Kimchi is marinated cabbage in hot spices resulting in a spicy pickled vegetable served as a side on the table to be eaten with rice.  There are of course a variety, a variety of kimchi out there, ones that are red, ones that are served in clear brine, ones that are spicy, onces that aren't, ones that are made of cabbage, some that are made of radishes- the list goes on. 

Kimchi can also be used to make kimchi fried-rice and... kimchi stew (one of my favorite ways to eat kimchi), kimchi stew in Korea is called kimchi-chigae (the Korean word, chigae: "stew").  Kimchi chigae is spicy and tangy with all the deliciousness that kimchi has to offer.  I often use old kimchi for this recipe (a great way to get rid of that last kimchi that's stinking up your refrigerator- I ain't gonna lie about that, everyone knows kimchi smells).  Using freshly made kimchi for this recipe isn't recommended. I bought fresh kimchi to be eaten as a side with rice (fresh kimchi is my preference when eaten as a side), 3 weeks later I still had this kimchi in my refrigerator and so I decided to make kimchi-chigae in order to get rid of that last bit of well marinated 3-week old kimchi sitting in my frig.  Kimchi-chigae is my preferred way of eating well-marinated kimchi.

What you will need to make kimchi-chigae:
1.  Well marinated kimchi (you can use as little or as much kimchi as you'd like, just remember to have the appropriate size pot to cook it in, a small amount of kimchi will need a little pot and a lot of kimchi is going to need a big pot- you know what I mean).

2.  Enough water to come up just even with your kimchi (when in the pot).

3.  A few bite-size pieces of pork (as much or as little as you'd like, none is okay too if you're a vegetarian).

Directions on how to make kimchi-chigae:
1.  Heat-up the pot you will use to make your kimchi-chigae in over medium-high heat, add a tablespoon of vegetable oil to cover the bottom of the pot, add the bite-size pieces of pork meat and cook to brown on all sides.

2.  Once the pork meat is browned and just cooked through add the kimchi and all of its juices into the pot with the pork meat.  Stir the kimchi around so that it is in an even layer (this will make it easier to see how much water you will need to add).

3.  Add water to the kimchi and the meat in the pot, add just enough water so that the water line is even with the top of the kimchi (the more water you add the less spicy and tangy the chigae will be, for best results I suggest adding just enough water to make it come even to the top of the kimchi in the pot).  Once the water is added, stir all the ingredients together in the pot.

4.  Let the pot come to a boil then turn the heat down so that the pot is at a simmer, allow the mixture to simmer for 45 minutes to a hour, partially covered. During this time the kimchi will wilt more so and the liquid will evaporate just a tad bit resulting in a more flavorful kimchi broth for your kimchi-chigae.

Serve your kimchi-chigae hot or warm with rice and a couple of other side dishes if you'd like, although I always found it pleasant to have a simple dinner of a bowl of rice with just a bowl kimchi-chigae.  Enjoy the tangy, spicy kimchi-chigae!  And if you're anything like me about using this method to get rid of old kimchi you can also feel good about making the best of what you've got to create a whole new delicious dish.

Cooking At Home: The Perfect Iced Coffee

On hot summer day's I rarely want hot coffee, hot coffee on a hot day or even warm evening= an uncomfortable stickiness to the skin (for me anyways). So, for one warm Friday evening I decided to prepare an after dinner coffee, iced.  This drink is refreshing and absolutely delicious, you may ask "how can iced coffee be delicious?" Well, just wait until you try this iced-coffee recipe.

The downside of this iced coffee, you'll have to prepare a couple hours ahead of time which means you'll need to either wait for your coffee or know before hand that you're going to want it.  On the upside, it's totally worth it.

let me first begin with directions for simple syrup (for those of you who don't know about simple syrup). I always keep a bottle of simple syrup in my refrigerator, it seems to last a while bottled up and I always have it in handy when I need to make cocktails or in this case, iced coffee. Therefore, I never always make just a little simple syrup but a whole jar full, not that simple syrup is hard to make but just a hassle for... something so simple.

For simple syrup I heat up equal parts water and sugar. You can use any sugar you want but I always use organic cane sugar which is a bit darker in color (almost tan).

Directions for simple syrup:
Put equal parts water & sugar in a pot and heat it up on low stirring every now and then to dissolve the sugar.  I try not to bring the water to a boil or even a simmer but let the mixture slowly heat up, stirring often.  After a few minutes you'll find that the sugar has completely dissolved, if you're using organic cane sugar that is a bit darker in color then your simple syrup will also be darker in color (this is normal). - And that's it!  Easy as that.  After cooling the simple syrup for about one hour I store it in a glass jar in the refrigerator for future use.

What you will need to make the perfect iced-coffee:

  • Decanter (or any large glass container to store your coffee if making more than a single cup)
  • Drip cone & coffee filter (or any other device needed to brew coffee)
  • Coffee ground of your choice (always remember the better the ground the better the coffee)
  • Simple syrup (I use homemade simple syrup made from organic cane sugar)
  • Ice (I use three cubes per glass)

Directions on how to make the perfect iced-coffee:

1.  Whether your using a drip cone or a coffee maker you will need to first make your coffee. I always use a drip cone to make my coffee (probably due to the fact that I actually don't have a coffee maker but I also like to believe that drip cone coffee tastes much better).  Because I'm using a drip cone I'm making my three cups of fresh coffee in a wine decanter.  For three cups of coffee I'm using roughly three tablespoons of coffee ground. Of course you will be adjusting your measurements depending on whether or not you like your coffee stronger or lighter.

2.  Once your coffee is made you will need to refrigerate it in the glass container chosen for 2-3 hours (or until your coffee is cooled all the way).

3.  When you're ready to prepare your iced-coffee, put three cubes of ice (more or less to adjust to your liking, I like the way three cubes fits nicely in the glass with room to spare).

4.  Fill the cup with coffee and then add 1/2 -1 tablespoon of simple syrup.  Give it a stir and taste.  Should you like your iced-coffee sweeter simply add a little bit more simple syrup (but always add a little bit at a time, remember you can always easily add more).

And now you can enjoy a nice refreshing after dinner iced-coffee (out on the patio, if you have one)!

Mao's Kitchen: Ginger-Ale! Commune Eggs and Dan Man noodle special!

I've been hooked on watching Bones, a bunch of nerdy anthropologists and scientists linked with the FBI to solve murder cases usually through the use of their high-tech labs that analyze bones, they constantly eat Chinese food in this show, so naturally after watching show after show I've been craving Chinese food... with a vengeance!  Chopsticks and Chinese take-out boxes totally get me in the mood.

After 3 days of staving off the craving I finally caved and drove to Mao's Kitchen on Melrose for some Chinese food.  My first choice would have been ChinChin's- I haven't been there in a long time and have yet to do a review on their food but it's also all the way on the west side where traffic is pretty heavy during this time of day (rush hour) and so decide to venture a bit closer, Mao's Kitchen on Melrose should do.

A slight, attractive, soft-spoken waiter named Josh takes our order, he suggests I have the ginger-ale which is "very good" says he, I take his suggestion and order the ginger-ale. And... IT IS QUITE GOOD.  Sweet, ginger-flavorful, carbonated too, refreshing.  Apparently the secret is Sprite mixed with fresh ginger juice, the drink is fantastic and I highly recommend it to ginger-ale drinkers and/or ginger lovers.  

One of the things that always sticks out in my head about Mao's Kitchen is the complimentary Fried Wonton Skins and sweet & sour dipping sauce.  These fried crunchy things are one of the reasons I come to dine at Mao's, it's simple and obviously plain but there's something about it that makes you want more, I try to eat healthy most times but the crunch of these fried wonton skins definitely is an exception. 

A second item I always order when I'm at Mao's is the Chicken Lettuce Cups. Flavorful small bites of chicken and vegetables that you roll up into fresh iceberg lettuce, the Chicken Lettuce Cups is also a great example of how much (and I mean quantitative) Moa's can feed you for your money.  While I may like the Chicken Lettuce Cups elsewhere just as much the Chicken Lettuce Cups at Mao's always seems to be a little bit better here from the sheer joy of getting a good deal.  The chicken lettuce cups can easily feed 4-5 people, and the amount per price is extended to all the other dishes at Mao's as well, except maybe the pot stickers.

I always eye the Commune eggs on the menu when I come to Mao's, it's a very odd occurrence as the dish doesn't sound all that appetizing on the menu: scrambled eggs, tomatoes, fresh green onions served with rice. Hmmm... I decided to get it anyway (I'm a true adventuror!)  

The Commune eggs weren't bad but it wasn't fantastically good either. "I should have stuck with my usual Mapo Tofu" is what my first thought was. Tomato-ish scrambled eggs with green onions over rice, I have to admit, hit some kind of spot- I'm just not all too sure what that spot was.  I suppose if you really love scrambled eggs and tomatoes then this is dish for you, as for me? There's only so much scrambled egg I can eat, so... not so much for me.  Besides, I prefer my eggs sunny-side up if I'm eating it over rice.

Mr. Borscht's is trying to be a little bit more adventurous lately I've noticed, and I do commend him for that for I know how hard it is for him to stray from his usual comfortable habits. In his endeavor to be adventurous Mr. Borscht opts to order something from the Specials, Dan Man Noodles, which consists of wheat-noodles tossed with ground pork and sauteed vegetables such as carrots, spinach and bean sprouts.  I found this noodle dish to be quite flavorful and light, the texture of the wheat-noodles wasn't to my liking and probably would have much rather have the Dan Man Noodles with flat rice noodles instead (which you can ask them to do btw).

Total Damage: $30.00 +/-

1 Ginger ale
1 Chicken lettuce cups
1 Commune eggs entree
1 Dan Man noodle special

7313 Melrose Ave
LA CA 90046
(323) 932.9681

Le Pain Quotidien: Farmhouse Avocado Salad, the perfect salad for a hot day

Living in an non-airconditioned home means escaping the heat during the stifling L.A. Summer, at almost 100 degrees I decide to take my book, The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand (which I am completely engrossed in btw) and run away to La Pain Quotidien where I'm sure it'll be airconditioned.

The summer heat has got me craving something fresh and uncooked, I peruse the specials and immediately know what I want to try which I've never had here before, the Farmhouse Avocado Salad.

A large pile of shredded red cabbage, carrots, thinly sliced red radishes, fennel, arugula topped a small portion of farro sitting at the bottom of the plate, all this is topped with slices of avocado and drizzled with avocado dressing that has flavors of citrus, cilantro and is tangy but refreshing.  I opted to add chicken for a couple more dollars, and do think it is worth it if you like your meat.

The dressing wasn't overwhelming in the least bit and if anything accented the natural flavors of the salad which was crunchy and fresh in texture, a quality that was most welcomed and appreciated on a hot day.  The nuttiness of the farrow was a bit undermined due to the small quantity that was given in comparison with the fresh vegetables that topped the grain but this didn't bother me as the the mixture of spicy arugula, sweet crunchy carrots, herby red cabbage and the earthy radishes melded with the fresh tanginess of the avo dressing was near perfect.  I'm not a fan of salads where the dressing is all one can taste and this salad, the Farmhouse Avocado Salad at La Pain Quotidien, is the opposite of that.  This salad features the fresh flavors of the vegetables and I found it to be quite uplifting; the salad is healthy, light but filling and fresh.

Trader Joe's g* (gluten free) Penne Corn Pasta

Gone g* for the past few months I have been craving one thing, pasta!  Then one day as I was shopping at Trader Joe's I found in their pasta section Corn Pasta penne that is... Gluten Free!  I got immediately excited but not too excited, I didn't want my hopes to get dashed by gluten-free pasta that  just didn't taste quite right< I have run into such problems recently with g* bread that is either too dry,  too dense and nearly always too bland- it's always such a let down especially since I do love my occasional sandwiches.  Given this problem with finding perfect g* edibles I naturally thought it would make a great informative post to do, a product review on Trader Joe's g* penne pasta made of corn for those gluten-freers.  This review is not about the pasta recipe but about the g* penne pasta itself; the texture and the taste being the two main factors to be discussed.

I prepared the g* pasta as directed on the package.  Upon boiling and draining in the colander one can see that the pasta pretty much looks identical to regular pasta (as seen in the picture above).  The pasta texture was slightly chewy but soft all the way through and tasted a mere hint of corn, some may not even taste anything at all- in this way the g* corn pasta is most similar, nearly identical to regular pasta in taste.  The texture was slightly chewy but soft all the way through, the pasta didn't seem too dense and didn't crumble or fall apart easily- the g* pasta once again is very similar to that of regular pasta in texture.

After draining the pasta I tossed it into a pan that was heating up plain marinara sauce, salmon and bits of onion.  When the pasta was served and my bowl finished I concluded that the g* corn pasta by Trader Joe's is pretty darn good.  One can't tell that it is g* free at all, the texture is perfect as well as the taste.  This is one g* item by Trader Joe's that one shouldn't be afraid to try, it's absolutely fantastic!

Veggie Grill

Vegan friends are over for the weekend which undoubtedly means one thing, Mr. Borscht and I will be eating vegan food.  Eating vegan doesn't scare me as much as it may scare some others the only thing I find slightly creepy is when vegans try to pretend their eating meat via tempeh or soy made to look like and taste like chicken and such, unfortunately the faux-meat is available in most vegan restaurants and this includes Veggie Grill.

All Hail Kale: Marinated kale and red cabbage, corn salsa, agave-roasted walnuts, ginger-papaya vinaigrette.

Veggie Grill is popping up everywhere and recently opened a location at the Farmer's Market, a sit down restaurant where orders are taken at the counter by very helpful, friendly and vegan-ecstatic employees. One can't help but be charmed by it's very red, modern decor, the interior is clean and tidy looking, and sparkles in the eyes of the customers with its minimal, modern-interior.

All-American Stack: Grilled veggie-steak, pickles, lettuce, tomato, crispy onion rings, thousand island dressing.

One of the things to be really excited about at Veggie Grill was the refillable drink bar which not only had the regular soda dispensers but also had a row of fresh drink such as, strawberry lemonade, lemonade, pomegranate green tea & etc.  Strawberry lemonade was my choice for the day and it tasted of fresh strawberry ice-cream bar- that good! I went back for seconds naturally.

For a vegan dinner I opted for the Blackened Chicken Plate, which also is gluten-free.  The blackened chicken was made from tempeh that was topped with papaya salsa and included as side of steamed kale and quinoa pilaf.  None of which was all that flavorful except maybe the papaya salsa.  The blackened tempeh chicken tasted of char and that was the end of that.  The plate was completely edible but definitely failed to wet my apppetite, on the other hand, I felt really good about myself from eating so healthy.

Blacked Chicken Plate: Papaya salsa topping, steamin' kale, quinoa pilaf.

Crispy Chicken Plate: Fried chickin', cauliflower-mashed potatoes, porcini mushroom gravy with fresh rosemary, steamin kale.

Mr. Borscht probably had the best tasting plate between the two of us, then again it does no good for his Crispy Chicken Plate to be compared with my bland Blackened Chicken Plate, the Crispy Chicken Plate was really pretty good.  Once I was able to get past the faux-chicken I was able to appreciate the crispy chicken that tasted very much like McDonald's nuggets.  The Crispy Chicken Plate included cauliflower-mashed potatoes, porcini mushroom gravy with fresh rosemary and steamed kale.  The porcini mushroom gravy with fresh rosemary that topped the cauliflower-mash was equally amazing, the cauliflower-mash tasted of regular mashed potatoes and the porcini gravy tasted of flavorful, delicious mushroom gravy (unless you happen to dislike mushrooms, I on the other hand absolutely love mushrooms) so the gravy was quite a treat.  For a first timer at Veggie Grill I do suggest ordering the Crispy Chicken Plate, it'll probably have you wondering whether the chicken is actually chicken, thumbs up to Veggie Grill for that.

I have yet to meet any non-vegans who would go to a vegan restaurant simply because the food was good, but this one might be worth giving a try for the sake of eating something different and being a little bit adventurous, aren't you the least bit curious to taste vegan-chicken that actually taste like chicken?

Total Damage: $28.00 +/-

1 Blackened chicken plate
1 Fried chicken plate
2 drinks

(LA's Farmers Market)
110 S. Fairfax Ave
LA CA 90036
(323) 933-3997

Weekday brunch at Blu Jam Cafe, Rancheros

A spontaneous sleepover with girlfriends almost always calls for brunch the next day if you've got the time, which is exactly what we had: time. And there's really no better time to catch brunch or breakfast  at Blu Jam Cafe unless it's a weekday, which it was, Monday to be exact. 

If ever you catch yourself craving Blu Jam Cafe on Saturday or Sunday morning just stop yourself right there, let me save you the effort and your time (since we're on the subject), the line is long and you'll have to wait, and in the LA summer heat that's just not an option, for me at least.

But like I said, it was Monday and there was no wait, we were sat immediately and was waited on by a young man with a scruffy mustache, he wore a plaid shirt and cutoff jean shorts, he was funny, nice and had a rather cute humour that made you smile and feel uplifted.

As Blu Jam Cafe is my new place of extreme interest I'm up for trying new things and am looking to try something different with my every visit, today for brunch I decide on the Rancheros, one of the many gluten-free items on their menu.

The Rancheros consists of "Two fried eggs, red bell peppers, chipotle, cilantro & black beans, topped with cheddar, tomato salsa, avocado and sour cream all on top of crispy corn tortillas, served with potatoes."

Having had two consecutive delicious meals at Blu Jam Cafe I was expecting to be wowed again, which unfortunately I was not.  I have to say that the Rancheros probably ranks the lowest on my experiences at Blu Jam Cafe.  First and foremost I am not in favor of the fried corn tortilla, the fried corn tortilla made it not only impossible to eat since the texture was flat out hard and gave the impression of a staleness (for I even had a hard time cutting through it with a knife), thus when trying to hold up the corn tortilla with the toppings on it instead it just became even harder and much messier as you can imagine.  Secondly, as contrite as it may be I do like to eat with my eyes as well as my mouth, piling ingredients upon ingredients in a mound that is all-around messy is not my idea of delicious, if anything it just gives me anxiety for how do you even go about tackling such a challenge (especially if you can't even cut through the fried tortilla)< In this way it probably would have been much better if the Rancheros dish was served with plain heated corn tortillas instead. And while each individual ingredient was delicious: black beans, bell peppers, cilantro, eggs, avocado and such, the result as a whole (the big picture of taste) was very ordinary, and the twist of adding bell peppers and chipotle into the mix just didn't cut it.

Total Damage:  $12.00 +/-

1 Rancheros

7371 Melrose Ave
LA CA 90046
(323) 951.9191

Cooking At Home: Sun-Dried Figs

Now that I have a fig tree that just keeps on giving {during this time of year, that is} I've been hopping onto the web to find out ways to dry figs without actually having a dehydrator.  The problem seems to be that without a dehydrator one must use the oven and with the oven one must have an oven that goes as low as 170 degrees F, which of course as you know is rarely the case.  But the sites take this into consideration and suggest propping open the oven door during the duration of the drying process to lower temperature which of course takes many MANY hours.  I was beginning to think that drying figs would be great but actually doing it may be a huge problem and much too troublesome for me to actually try.  But after days of mulling it over in the back of my head I realized that I would just do it the old fashion way, sun-drying.  If drying figs in the oven would take many hours than surely I can stand a few more hours while these figs sun-dried naturally, plus I wouldn't have to be stuck around the house all day baking into a puddle of sweat as a result of a propped oven door.

I created my own little drying area for my figs, I know I know, it looks absolutely amateur, funny and not all too attractive but it does the trick.  I used my cooling baking rack to place the figs, as the baking racks have little feet it insures air flow all around the figs and not just on top {I'm no pro but I think this may be important}.  I used stray bricks to make a short wall, short because you want the figs to get as much sun as they can {shorter the wall, shorter the shade}.  Then I used a small window screen on top to shield the figs from bugs and birds and things while still allowing ample sunlight to pass through.

I check my fig tree every couple days for more figs to try and dry, I simply add them straight to the drying rack after being washed.  I put out the figs on the racks in the morning when the sun is out and take the rack with the drying figs when the sun goes down to protect them from the night time moisture.  I've been doing this for about a week now and I can see the figs drying, withering away into robust flavor dried figs.

The figs aren't nearly dry enough to be considered dried figs but I went ahead and ate one today anyway just so that you can see what it looks like on the inside.  the fig has only been drying for a week in the sun so it wasn't completely dried, it was absolutely delicious all the same, the skin was pretty dry and wrinkly, the inside was beginning to get real jammy and gooey, and tasted of fig jam too!  Hence you don't even have to wait for the figs to completely dry to eat them, I believe they'll taste wonderful at any stage.  A little bit of blue cheese and half-dried jammy figs on a cracker would be pretty tasty {just a little tip}.

A majority of the sites seem to say that the surest way to know your figs are fully ripe is if they fall from the tree.  If you've got a fig tree like mine where they just burst when they ripe and don't fall at all, pick the figs when they're just about to ripen and allow them to ripen fully on your kitchen counter, once ripe you can add them to the drying tray.


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