Tuesday, June 21, 2016

BigManLovesFoodSr and his Father's Day Dessert
Father's day was a few days ago and I wanted to put up a short post acknowledging the man who is most responsible for me being who I am today--let's call him BigManLovesFoodSr.

We all see dozens of posts on social media around this time of people saying the exact same things about their fathers (or the person who played that role in their life)--they're all wonderful, amazing people apparently. For a cynic, this homogeneity is nothing more than proof of people disconnecting from life and using platitudes to seek fake validation on social media. However, I choose to believe that all these people are completely genuine and the homogeneity is actually a little comforting--it indicates some universality in the relationship between a child and a their "dad."

With all that said, BigManLovesFoodSr is a wonderful, amazing person. He came to this country with very little education, not knowing the language, and had to work harder than I can even imagine to make it. His only goal in life was to make life slightly better for his children and I think he and my mom were completely successful--I'm writing this immensely popular food blog* (and doing some lawyering on the side I guess), my two bros are working, and my baby sister just finished her first year of undergrad.

For whatever issues and clashes I had with BigManLovesFoodSr when I was younger, I know that I would not be as successful as I am without him. And although he is not perfect, every day I see more and more of him in myself, and I am pretty content with that.

Here is a video of the croquembouche I put together for BigManLovesFoodSr. I am kind of in shock that I made it.

Plus some pictures of the family:

*and by immensely popular I mean double digit readership. oh yeah.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

So sometimes I have short conversations with myself. Yesterday I was looking through my photos and I though to myself: "Wow, I have a lot of pictures of donuts."

My next thought was: "Yeah, no shit, you love donuts."

And let me tell you, I really do. I am 1000% on team yeast doughnut--cake donuts are ok, but they just do not compare to a perfectly risen, light and airy doughnut covered in a crackly glaze. Although I have not done a ton of work with yeast--and am a little scared by it--donuts are now on my list of desserts I need to make. So, sometime in the future, be on the lookout for that post. In the meantime, I wanted to share some of the pictures of delicious donuts I have eaten in the past few years.

Donut Man

The Donut Man is located in Glendora, CA--about 45 minutes from my house in Glendale. A couple weeks ago on national doughnut day I made the mistake of trying to go there to get donuts. Donut Man is kind of an institution, and I definitely was not the only one with that bright idea.

There must have been 200 people in line when I got there. By the time I got my donuts, that number had grown to about 250. In addition to my 45 minute drive, I waited almost an hour to get my donuts.

Plus, it turns out that they had lost power the night before and hadn't been able to make as many donuts as they needed to for national doughnut day. That means I have to give some props to this guy (and the other four or five guys not pictured)

These guys were just throwing down, making donuts as fast as they could. We basically had made to order donuts--as soon as a batch came out, it would sell out. The down side of this was that they did not have their full complement of donuts. In fact, when I was about halfway through the line, they made the sad announcement that they had run out of their signature doughnut--the fresh strawberry doughnut. If you are ever within 100 miles of this place and it is strawberry season, you MUST make the trip there for it.

Instead, I had to settle for some of their other doughnuts:

And by settle I mean immensely enjoy donuts straight from the fryer. Pictured above are two of their cream cheese donuts--one with raspberry and one with blueberries. The other one is their giant tiger tail--yeasted regular and chocolate dough intertwined before being fried and glazed. Even though I didn't get the donuts I wanted, these donuts were amazing.

Donut Friend

The awesome and awful thing about Donut Friend is that it is about 10 minutes from my house. I am glad I have at least a tiny bit of willpower--otherwise, I would be here everyday.

Donut Friend is sort of a hipster-y take on the doughnut. Their big draw is their make your own donut--you can choose between cake, yeast, or a fritter. Then you have dozens of choices of fillings, glazes, and toppings.

Even though it is fun to make your own doughnut, I've learned to just stick to the pre-made combinations they have. They ALL work perfectly.

This first picture was from one of the first times I went to Donut Friend. I can't remember exactly what we got, but I believe it was a blueberry lemon and a strawberry basil. Judging by the picture, I believe the lemon blueberry also had some mint in it. The fresh herbs really add a lot.

This most recent time I went with my friend Hemly and we just went kind of crazy. I believe we got a blueberry cake (best cake doughnut I've ever had), a peanut butter and jelly, a strawberry, a S'Morressey (must have for any Chicano who loves the Smiths), a boston creme, and a coconut creme (amazing toasted coconut flavor).

It is a real toss up for me as to whether Donut Man or Donut Friend is better. At the end of the day, I think they are just slightly different but equally good. Donut Man is more traditional but perfected, while Donut Friend is out of left-field but incredibly well done.

Doughnut Dolly

Last year a few of my co-workers all went up to San Francisco for a Giants game. As I drove up on my own, I had a couple days to just hang out in San Francisco by myself. Therefore, I had to go out and find a good doughnut. I ended up landing on Doughnut Dolly in a tiny alley in Oakland.

Doughnut Dolly is sort of artisanal. They basically only do filled donuts and have a really small menu (four filling when I went). Each doughnut is hand-filled to order using these incredibly cool old-school machines. You can also choose a glaze/frosting on top of your filled doughnut.

I had one of each of their flavors when I went. They were all good, but the berry jam with lemon frosting really stood out as my favorite. Maybe that's just because I love jam. The great thing about these donuts was how absolutely light they were--almost as light as a krispy kreme straight out of the machine (but oh so much better tasting than krispy kreme).

Donuts in Chicago

On my Chicago trip last month (when I went to Roister), I got a chance to check out Stan's Doughnuts. Really solid donuts, but unfortunately not quite as good as my LA favorites.

My picture taking skills were really lacking, but that cinnamon sugar doughnut was incredible. We also got a regular glaze and a chocolate glaze, some kind of peanut butter doughnut, and I think a jelly filled doughnut.

Just to highlight how bad my picture taking was on that trip, I actually visited another doughnut place while in Chicago--Doughnut Vault. I'm really disappointed I did not get pictures because those donuts were incredible (blew Stan's donuts out of the water). In fact, I think they rivaled my favorite LA donuts. But in the blogging world, if there are no pictures, it didn't happen. 

Dizzy's Donuts

After I finished law school, I took one final road trip from Illinois to California. On the way, I stopped for a night in Boulder to revisit the town I had lived in for a month as an organizer. On my way out of town, I stopped at Dizzy's Donuts.

They had an incredible selection of donuts. My favorites were their maple bacon, the salted caramel, and the lemon meringue. Unfortunately, I just found out that they actually closed their doors last year. I'm glad I got to try them while they were still open.

Home Made Cronuts

Even though I have never tried my hand at real donuts, I actually made a facsimile of a cronut a few years ago. A friend and I used store bought puff pastry and store bought crescent dough, deep fried it, and, if I remember correctly, made a simple orange glaze for it (powdered sugar, milk orange zest, orange juice).

They were delicious and a great, quick dessert. However, you could tell that it was store bought dough. As I'm posting this I'm actually having visions of my homemade rough puff deep fried and glazed. Yeah, that's also going to happen soon.


So this only barely qualifies as a doughnut, but for my brother's birthday earlier in the year we ended up going to this place called Afters in Long Beach. Their specialty is called a Milky Bun, which is essentially a doughnut stuffed with ice cream. I went with the salted caramel ice cream in just a plain doughnut, and it was glorious. The doughnut was still warm, the ice cream was soft and creamy. It really worked.

Churro Burough

So this is definitely not a doughnut, unless you count the fact that it is made from dough that is deep fried. But asI put Afters in here, I figured I'd throw in a little shout out to Churro Burough. They are this new-ish shop in LA specializing in churro ice cream sandwiches. They were absolute geniuses to come up with this idea and, if you're ever even close to their shop, I'd recommend you make the trek over.


Sunday, June 12, 2016

Friends, Open Kitchen, and the Best Damn Fried Chicken Ever
A few weeks ago when I visited some friends in Chicago I had one of the greatest meals of my life at Roister--the new restaurant from the Alinea group. I've been drooling over their other restaurants (Next and Alinea) for a while now, and it seemed like fate when I found out that Roister was opening a few weeks before my Chicago visit. My friend and I immediately booked their Chef's tasting table. 

So, here is the first of what will likely be many restaurant reviews on the blog. Through these reviews I hope to share pictures of the food, plus both a descriptive and also quantitative analysis of the restaurant as a whole (food, ambiance, etc).

Plus, when possible, you will get a special guest poster--this time you get to hear from one of my best friends now living in Chicago. Let's call her SheWhoEats

Roister is the slightly more casual/home-style restaurant in the family, headed up by Andrew Brochu. Even though this place was not cheap (out the door cost including a couple drinks each and service charges was about 150 per person for the tasting menu), it is amazing for that special few-times-a-year meal. In fact, next time I want to go with three other people and just order some of their large format dishes which we got previews of during the tasting menu. Especially the chicken. You don't even know how good that chicken was.

The restaurant is built around the idea of celebration and the experience centers on a big open kitchen that is integrated into the dining room. From most of the tables, you have a partial view of the kitchen and get some feel for the kitchen. However, SheWhoEats and I went one step further--we got the tasting menu which sits us at the counter directly facing the kitchen itself.

the focal point of the kitchen is a huge wood burning oven
There are about 5-8 chefs working in there at any one point, and the focal point of the kitchen is a huge wood burning oven. Don't quote me on this, but I believe almost every dish we ate (except dessert) had at least one component from the wood burning oven. One cool thing is that they have these whole pineapples just hanging form a string inside the wood burning oven.

Those pineapples were first used for a house shot that was given to us as soon as we sat down. It was delicious and set a really nice tone for the rest of the meal. Overall, the service was fantastic. We were seated as soon as we walked in (it wasn't packed), and they were fairly attentive to us.

Our only real interaction with the host/server was being seated and our drink orders. Because we were doing the chef's tasting menu, our food was just handed to us by the chefs doing the cooking with no need to order. If I had a single complaint, it was that I would have liked a little more from the chefs who handed us our food. They were nice enough, and told us what they were giving us each time. But, it felt a tiny bit like a chore for them and sometimes it was hard to hear what they said. I can't fault them too much though, as they also have to be cooking and the music is a little loud.

BigMan: In terms of ambiance/dining experience/service, this was the most fun I've had in a restaurant, earning it a solid A in that category (After the jump below, I will also be grading all the courses individually and then giving an overall grade).

SheWhoEats: Our service was fantastic. This was the single best dining experience of my life so far. It's overwhelming to be able to experience someone else's creativity so intimately. It's uncomfortable and wonderful at the same time--it's like having a taste orgasm in a room full of strangers. A+ for ambiance/dining experience/service.

"First" Course - The Starters

The "first course" at Roister was actually three separate dishes. There wasn't a ton of cohesion across the three dishes, but some of it was absolutely delicious.
Roister's "fries" . . .blistery and crunchy, and . . . topped with an umami bomb--soy and bonito flakes
BigMan: A+

I thought the standout from the starters was Roister's "fries." They were like the most perfect fried potato wedges you've ever had. The skin was blistery and crunchy, and it was topped with an umami bomb--soy and bonito flakes. The saltiness and umaminess of the topping paired really well with the fatty outside and fluffy interior of the potatoes, and there was some kind of acid plus the chives on top providing a nice brightness. The tofu mayo wasn't super flavorful, but it provided an incredibly silky creaminess to the dish. Overall, I wouldn't change anything.

SheWhoEats: A

These were truly delicious. Although, they did lack a certain wholesomeness--the taste of the potato (seriously, the utopia of fried potato) was completely overwhelmed by all the other flavor.

In all fairness, I've never met anything covered in bonito flakes that I didn't adore. Without the bonito, these would probably get a B+ from me.

"Kimchi" and Roasted Pineapple

BigMan: B+

I'll be honest, I don't remember too many specifics about this dish except that it was good. It was almost like a chili marinated cabbage/lettuce with some acidity in the marinade. I love spiciness, and this was a really great little dish to pique my interest and get my taste buds salivating. However, I am scoring it a little bit lower just because it was a little simple and not super memorable in the context of everything else.

SheWhoEats: A-

This dish made up for what the fries lacked in balance. There were grilled pineapple slices underneath the kimchi, and the combination was delicious.

[the pineapple was from the wood burning oven]

crudo . . . too many raspberries . . . could've used a pinch of salt

BigMan: C+

One of the only misses of the night for me was the crudo dish. You can't quite see it in my picture, but the fish itself was really nice--some kind of firmer white fish, great texture and flavor on its own. And, on the positive side, when you got a bite of everything on the plate in the right proportion, it worked. However, there were way too many raspberries on the plate and their tartness overwhelmed anything else. The abundance of raspberries also made the plate taste like it was missing salt and something bright to bring it all together.

SheWhoEats: B-

This could've used a pinch of salt, maybe?

Second Course - Veggies

sourdough pancake . . . muscles . . . mutant peas

BigMan: A

The second course was  a sourdough pancake topped with peas, muscles (I think), and some sort of creme fraiche. Normally I do not really like peas, but these were incredibly--giant, fresh, and really sweet. I also think they included some of the pea shoots with the peas which added a slightly different layer of flavor. Overall, the dish worked really well--the sourdough had a nice tanginess that was balanced by the creme and complimented the fresh peas. My one criticism is that the texture of the pancake was a little soft--I would have liked some crunchy edges or a crunchy bottom.

SheWhoEats: A-

I agree with BigMan on all counts. Those mutant peas were delicious.

Third Course - Salads

The third course was once again  multiple dishes--this time a duo of salads.

Asparagus salad . . . tasted like a sloppy joe
BigMan: A

There was something about this asparagus salad that completely mesmerized me. A lot of times I find asparagus kind of bitter and unexciting. However, the asparagus in this was amazing. I don't know if it was the way the asparagus was roasted in the wood burning oven or if it was the fennel, but there was such a wonderful meaty and smoky flavor to this salad. There was also some really nice crunch to the salad from the macadamia nuts. Hands down, a great salad.

SheWhoEats: B

BigMan, the reason you liked this asparagus is because it didn't taste like asparagus, it tasted like a sloppy joe.

Romaine Salad, Korean Spice, Ham

BigMan: B-

This dish was very nearly there, it was just a little out of balance. On the bottom was a good puree/dressing, reminded me of a brighter green goddess dressing. Then some spicy marinated romaine hearts. Sort of like kimchi, but a little earthier and much less pickled/fermented than even fresh kimchi. This was topped with some paper thin slices of the ham. I think if there had been twice as much ham on the plate, it would have been amazing. The saltiness of the cured ham balanced really well with the earthy spiciness of the romaine when you constructed the perfect bite. However, after about three of these perfect bites, you were left with a ton of romaine hearts and no ham . . . souring the experience.

SheWhoEats: B-

This was good, but uninspired. The only reason I'm not giving it a C is because that green sauce was BOMB.

Fourth Course - Meat

BigMan: A-

So let's get this out of the way--you can't go wrong giving me some beautiful dry aged beef, especially when you top it with a perfect uni butter. But, I don't know why, this was just ok. The piece was tiny, which is always a disappointment, but more than that it just didn't feel exciting. Maybe a tiny bit less of the uni butter would have let the steak shine. Or maybe the steak just needed more of a char. Whatever it was, there was just a tiny something missing.

SheWhoEats: B

The steak was overdone. This was delicious, but a slight metallicy-bitterness would've rounded out the flavor and made this incredible.

Fifth Course - Chicken

This is why you go to Roister. Even if you do nothing else but walk in, order the chicken, eat it, and leave, you should go to Roister to try this dish.

On the large format menu, this is actually full chicken in one dish. On the tasting menu, we got half a chicken. Basically, they take all parts of the chicken and do three different things with them. First, all the odds and end are used to make a chicken salad with a creamy dressing and a bunch of seeds added for texture. The breast is then lightly poached and finished off in the wood burning oven for a perfect roast. Finally, the thighs are boned and deep fried. All of this is served with a sun choke hot sauce, and what I would call a gravy.

Chicken and Chamomile

BigMan: B+ for the chicken salad, A for the roasted chicken

The chicken salad was good, but I've also made chicken salad myself that was almost as good. Maybe it's just my bias, but chicken salad seems a little boring. With that said, this was incredibly well done--perfectly tender chicken, great crunch from nuts/seeds, and a creamy dressing that wasn't super heavy.

The roasted chicken on the other hand was great. Perfectly tender and juicy, not a hint of dryness, a little smokiness from the roast. Dipped in either the gravy or the hot sauce, it is near the top of my list of roasted chicken.

SheWhoEats: C for the chicken salad, A for the roasted chicken

It was just really good chicken salad. The roasted chicken was tender and perfect and delicious.

The best damn fried chicken you'll ever eat
BigMan: A+

I don't even know where to start. Either magic does exist or they just put crack in the breading, but this was the most absolutely perfect fried chicken you can imagine. In fact, it was better than I ever imagined fried chicken could be. Impossibly crunchy but still thin breading. Meat so juicy it almost squirted out when you bit into it. PERFECTLY rendered fat inside the thigh. There wasn't a single bite that felt gristly or chewy from unrendered fat. When it was dipped in the sunchoke hot sauce, it really was perfection.

SheWhoEats: A+++

OMFG. This was the best fried chicken I've ever had in my life. I'm afraid it has ruined fried chicken for me forever. And those sauces. Mmmmm.

Sixth Course - Dessert

Strawberries and Cream . . . there was just something magical going on in that plate

BigMan: A+

This is the dish that reminded me I was at an Alinea group restaurant. A simple Strawberries and Cream according to the description but, again, there was just something magical going on in that plate. The complexity and thought that went into this really blows me away. So many textures and flavors and even temperatures, my mind did not even know what was going on. It just knew that it was unbelievably satisfied.

I can't even remember everything in there, but there was a beautiful strawberry jam, some strawberry ice balls, some milk ice cram, some dehydrated cake, a shortbread crumb, and probably other stuff I can't even remember. Dishes like this remind me that food really is art.

SheWhoEats: A+++++

I took my first bite of this dessert, and immediately, I felt the muscles in my face relax in a wave of pleasure as I tasted this most pure and perfect strawberry shortcake. This flavor was totally familiar, but better. It's the way all strawberry shortcake is supposed to taste. Just totally immaculate. But as I was experiencing this insane sense of flavor-awe, I suddenly realized that I was also confused--it completely snuck up on me--this felt nothing like strawberry shortcake in my mouth. The textures and temperatures and sensations were SO interesting. There was soft creaminess and fluffy crunchiness and icy tartness and chewy toffeeness and ohmygod. I don't even know the words to describe how interesting this dessert felt in my mouth. And my mouth is watering so much that I can't even think straight.

Seriously, this is the strawberry shortcake of the gods. The single most perfect and interesting dessert I've ever had in my entire life.

Foie Gras "Snicker" Bar

BigMan: A+

I thought nothing could compare to the strawberry dessert, but these little mini "snicker" bars came damn close. I'd never contemplated having foie gras in a dessert (in fact, I'm not sure I'd ever eaten foie gras before at all), but it absolutely worked in this. The chocolate shell was nice and thin, perfectly tempered. The foie was fluffy and creamy inside, there was a beautiful caramel, some crunchy pretzel-y pieces, and some salt to finish it off. A great two-bite dessert.

HomeSkillet: N/A*

*does not eat foie gras

BigMan: A+

We each had two cocktails and overall, they were delicious. We had their old fashioned made with apple brandy (not traditional, but really good), an amaretto sour made with black truffle, a sour made with roasted banana, and the resurrected panda. I don't know too much cocktail lingo, but they all tasted amazing and I was intrigued by their combinations of flavors.

SheWhoEats: A+

Delicious. Creative. Not too sweet.

In Closing

As you can tell from the description above, we both thoroughly enjoyed our meal at Roister. We were especially picky about the food because it is such a high end place that perfection is really expected, but even with a few misses the meal was stunning. 

Overall, BigMan gives it an A and SheWhoEats gives it an A-.

BigMan SheWhoEats
Ambiance/Service A A+
"Fries" A+ A
"Kimchi" and Pineapple B+ A-
Crudo C+ B-
Peas A A-
Asparagus Salad A B
Romaine Salad B- B-
Meat A- B
Chicken Salad B+ C
Roasted Chicken A A
Fried Chicken A+ A+++
Strawberries A+ A+++++
"Snickers" A+
Cocktails A+ A+


Thursday, June 2, 2016

A little more lemon curd, a little less flour and this tart would have been near perfect.
Welcome to the second installation of my obsession with puff pastry. I promise, I'll be moving on to other things shortly.

After making my triple batch of puff pastry a couple weeks ago, I wasn't even sure of everything I was going to try to do with it. The more I thought about it though, the more I wanted to find a way to include some lemon into whatever I made. Personally, citrus is one of my favorite flavors in desserts--I just can't get enough of that tartness and occasional sourness to offset the sweetness of most baked goods. I also happened to have a jar of good lemon curd in my fridge (a store bought brand with no artificial ingredients, but doctored up with some more lemon juice, more butter, and some salt). Thus began the google searching.

Initially I started to to look into pastry-lemon-berry recipes, but thought the berries would overpower the lemon. As I continued searching, I began to see lemon paired up with almond fairly regularly. I was intrigued by the thought of the very slight nuttiness of almond meal highlighted by lemon curd, and eventually landed on this recipe: Puff pastry lemon almond tart.

The end result was good . . . my family liked it, and I ate way more of it than I should have. However, it was not quite perfect. Maybe the recipe was affected by my use of a deep dish pie pan instead of a rectangular pan, but I felt like the almond layer was a little too dry and there also just wasn't enough lemon curd. So, I would recommend cutting the flour and increasing the curd (reflected in the recipe below).

But, there might be an even better option. After I made this recipe, I realized that the filling actually reminded me a lot of something I had heard mentioned on the GBBO--frangipane. I went on another google binge and realized that the filling in the tart I made was the exact same ingredients as frangipane, just in different proportions. The one common theme in most frangipane recipes that I found is that it included a lot less flour than the tart I made, addressing my main concern.

So, next time I make this, I am actually going to try this recipe as the almond filling: Laws of Baking: Frangipane. Report to follow.

The (Almost) Perfect Lemon Tart

1 Batch Puff Pastry from previous post (or, store bought)
300g (10 oz) lemon curd
90g (3oz) unsalted butter
90g (3oz) sugar
1 egg
50g (1oz) almond meal
60g (2oz) flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
Zest and juice from 1 large or 2 small lemons
pinch of salt
handful of flaked almonds

[The dainty hands in the pictures to follow belong to my baby sister who helped me make this (she's not really a baby anymore)]

Start off by rolling out your pastry until it is about 1/8 inch thick and big enough for the vessel you are going to use. I was initially going to use the black springform pan, but my dough was not rolled out large enough to go up the sides after we cut it round. So, I settled on a deep dish pie pan.

Lay the dough into your dish, and shape it into the corners/edges. Here is where you can utilize an awesome GBBO tip: use a piece of extra dough to push the pastry into the pan. This will prevent your fingers or fingernails from ripping the pastry, and will keep the dough smooth.

Put in the fridge to chill.

Next, you want to make your filling. Start out by creaming your softened butter with a stand or hand mixer. Once it is soft, add the sugar and continue beating until fluffy.

Next, you want to beat in your egg. Then fold in the almond meal, flour, baking powder, zest, juice, and salt. You should end up with something the consistency of a medium cake batter (looser than the final result on my picture above).

Remove your chilled pastry from the fridge and layer the lemon curd on the bottom. Then, spoon the filling on top of the lemon curd and spread it with a spatula. Try to keep the lemon curd under the almond filling as much as possible (a little marbling like above is great).

Then spread a good amount of flaked almonds on top. I had a lot of extra pastry, so I decided to fold it over and crimp it into a basic design. For me, there is never enough flaky pastry. But, you can also trim off most of this excess (and use it to make the cookies from my previous post!).

You then want to bake the tart for about 35 minutes at 400 degrees (take it out when golden brown, the filling has puffed, and the pastry looks flaky). Let it rest for a few minutes, but serve it warm.

You will enjoy it immensely.

Despite my need to change this recipe next time I make it, it really was good. I think with the additional lemon curd it is basically going to resemble a cake wrapped in puff pastry with sweet and tart lemon curd. You cannot go wrong with that. But, I will let you know how it is with frangipane instead.


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Welcome to my blog, where you can join me as I revel in my love of food. Eating it, cooking it, baking it, watching it on TV and even learning about it. If it has to do with food, I am probably interested.

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