Sunday, October 30, 2011

101 Noodle Express: Acceptable for the West Side

It's well known that there is no good Chinese food on the Westside; we are all resigned to driving to the east of Downtown, like San Gabriel Valley, to get our fix of Chinese / Taiwanese / Vietnamese food. I was relatively encouraged when 101 Noodle Express, a restaurant with at least three locations in Arcadia, Alhambra and Rowland Heights, opened up a stand in the food court of the Westfield Culver City mall on Sepulveda by the 405. I don't think I've ever seen any Chinese restaurants from the eastside open up locations on the Westside, so I was eager to give it a try. We ordered a beef noodle soup, minced chicken with pickles noodles and the beef roll, the most popular menu item on the east side location. The food was decent; I would definitely hit it up again if I had a craving for Chinese food. The noodles of both the beef noodle soup and minced chicken noodles had decent texture and weren't mushy. The beef in the noodle soup was a little dry and stringy (sadly with no tendon, my fave) and the broth wasn't as complex or deep as really good beef noodle soup, but honestly accidentally I put so much spicy chili oil in it that I couldn't really tell. Beef noodle soup is one of my favorite foods in the world, so for me, any beef noodle soup is better than no beef noodle soup. The minced chicken with pickles and tofu noodles was quite good as well, with decent flavor, and even refreshing with the fresh julienned cucumbers. The beef roll was just slightly oily, but not nearly as oily as it could have been (I don't like it oily), so it wasn't bad either. Definitely acceptable for westside Chinese comfort food, and more than acceptable for food court fare. I don't think that it's doing too well in the food court; they were offering 30% promotion off of the entire check, it may just not be the right location or them.
101 Noodle Express
6000 Sepulveda Blvd
Culver City, CA

Friday, October 28, 2011

Kogi Revisited: No More Line!

Now that the various Kogi trucks have established relatively regular weekly routes around Los Angeles, the long lunch lines have died down, so it's worth checking out if the wait was the previous deterrent. We stopped by the Olympic and Butler location and were on our way with our food within 5 minutes; much better than waiting over half an hour to order and for the food. We got 2 short rib and 1 spicy pork taco and the kimchi quesadilla. Definitely a little salty and greasy, but totally hits the spot for satisfying flavorful comfort food truck eats!
pics taken with new iPhone 4S, a vast improvement over my old iPhone camera

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Spaghetti Squash with Zucchini and Tomatoes

Spaghetti Squash. I swear that skin is impenetrable
I've been wanting to try something new with all the winter squash in abundance at the farmer's market, so S's sharing of a spaghetti squash recipe from True Food Kitchen was a timely recommendation. I altered the cheese used in the recipe as well as the ingredient proportions. As soon as I started on the recipe however, I remembered how much I dislike working with squash because they are so impossible to open! I tried using brute force with a cleaver as well as various kitchen knives (at the peril of my fingertips), but just could not slice it lengthwise no matter how much force I used. Upon S's suggestion, I ended up poking the thing all over with a carving fork and cooking the entire thing in a sheet pan filled with water at 375 degrees for 30 minutes, until it was soft enough to slice open. The casserole turned out to be quite good; it's hard not to like anything baked with lots of cheese, but it was a nice fall / winter dish with good texture from the squash and zucchini, moisture from the tomatoes, and lots of flavor with all the cheese. A little time consuming with the various steps (and pots and pans to wash), but a good side dish to our roast chicken tonight.
After roasting it whole at 375 degrees for half an hour, I was able to slice the squash lengthwise and scoop out all the seeds and stringy stuff around the seeds. I seasoned it with a little salt, pepper and olive oil, and placed it cut side down on a foil lined baking sheet and baked it for 25 minutes at 425 degrees until it looked like this. Let it cool for 20 minutes before handling.
This was the fun part. When the spaghetti squash is cooked, as you scrape it with a spoon, it turns into noodley threads.
While the squash is cooking / cooling, fine dice 1/2 onion and 2 cloves of garlic and saute in a little oil over medium heat for about 8 minutes, seasoned with a little salt and pepper, and remove into a bowl. Grate 1 zucchini and measure out two cups of diced tomatoes and combine in the bowl. Combine with the scooped out spaghetti squash, 1/3 cup of parmesan, salt and pepper and mix thoroughly
Scoop the mixture into the pan, top with 1/2 cup of grated gruyere / comte, 1 ball of buffalo mozzarella, cubed, and more parmesan. Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes until bubbly and brown on top

Friday, October 21, 2011

Fusilli with Sundried Tomatoes, Artichokes and Sausage

Thanks A. for the Giada recipe recommendation! With the cooler weather, simple yet hearty pasta recipes are my go to for quick weeknight dinners. This dish really hit the spot and was even good the next day reheated for lunch. All the ingredients are fridge / pantry staples, so it's easy to make on a whim. I've used the white wine / chicken stock base for sauce in pasta before and it's always good; I should experiment with it some more with different ingredients. Sausage is often a good shortcut for meat in pasta since it's already well seasoned. I used Whole Foods organic whole wheat pasta, which is not bad for whole wheat pasta; not as gritty grainy tasting as Trader Joe's whole wheat pasta, and went well with the hearty dish. I also substituted 2/3 lbs (2 links) of hot chicken sausage from Whole Foods and used about 1/3 lb of fresh buffalo mozzarella, although I think the dish is fine without the mozzarella as well.

Fusilli with Sundried Tomatoes, Artichokes and Sausage Recipe (adapted from Giada de Laurentiis)
  • To prep, dice 1 lb (2 cans) of artichoke hearts and 2/3 cups of drained sundried tomatoes (reserve 2 TB of oil). Mince 2 gloves of garlic. Bring a pot of water to boil for the pasta
  • Heat 2 TB of oil in a large pan over medium heat, add the links of hot chicken sausage, casing removed. Cook until done, about 8 minutes, breaking up with a wooden spoon. When sausage is done, transfer with a slotted spoon onto a paper-towel lined plate and set aside
  • In the same pan, saute the garlic and artichoke hearts for about 2 minutes. Season with a little salt and pepper
  • Add 1/2 cup of white wine to deglaze the pan a bit. Then add 1 3/4 cups of chicken broth and the sundried tomatoes. Bring to a boil, then reduce and simmer for about 8 minutes
  • Cook the pasta for about 9 minutes, until short of al dente. Cube 1 1/2 balls of mozzarella, grate 1/2 cup of parmesan, chiffonade a handful of basil (optional: handful of parsley)
  • Transfer the pasta and sausage all into the large pan with the sauce. Add the parmesan, basil and toss thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper if necessary (depends on how seasoned the sausage is). Finally, add the mozzarella, mix and serve

Thursday, October 20, 2011

List and Molly Moon's: Seattle Trip Wrap Up

On our last night in Seattle, we headed to the Belltown area of downtown Seattle for List's Monday all-night happy hour. The food was quite good, especially for the price: half off of all small plates ($4-$7) and a $14 bottle of wine. I can't recall a better happy hour special. We ordered way too much food, with 9 plates split amongst the three of us. The place is small, dark and trendy with a lit up red bar, red chandeliers and lots of mirrors.
Truffle gnocchi
Octopus salad
Spicy meatballs
Pear and goat cheese salad
Sea bass
Bacon wrapped shrimp
Roast chicken with mushrooms
A nice $14 bottle of chianti
We managed to find enough room for dessert afterward at Molly Moon's in the University District / Wallingford, close to where we were staying. All in all, a great trip Seattle

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Lululemon Gratitude Wrap Review: Believe the Hype

Lululemon Gratitude Wrap in Black Swan / Black Swan Heathered Black Skeletonbone (second part refers to the herringbone inner lining that no one can see except for me). Worn with MiH Marrakesh Kick Flare jeans and Toms red striped wedges
For some reason, the Lululemon Gratitude Wrap is one of the most popular item that Lululemon has ever made, with quite the cult following. It is particularly coveted as it hasn't been released in the last few years, so Gratitude Wraps on EBay often sell for many multiples of the retail price. I never quite understood it as I had never seen one in real life before, even though I've been buying Lululemon for several years now. Lululemon re-released the Gratitude wrap to the Canadian stores over the last few weeks, but only to US customers through the online store last Thursday. I wasn't planning on being up for the release; usually they upload new items around 7am pacific, but I happened to naturally be awake at 6:50am on Thursday, so I hopped online. I managed to snag a Black Swan (dark purplish blue) in my regular size 4 as soon as it was uploaded at 6:59am; I was amazed to see the size 4 quickly sell out not a minute later. Unfortunately many people were not as lucky with website failures and canceled orders, shades of the Missoni for Target debacle.

The Gratitude Wrap arrived via fedex today and I have to say, I am in love. I was originally planning to think about it for a few days, and possibly wait for different colors to be released, but I couldn't help myself and tore off the tags so I could wear it immediately, which is quite unusual for me as I often vacillate on these kinds of things. I know the pictures aren't really that great and it does look a little like a potato sack, but I just love the Gratitude Wrap, even more than my beloved Savasana Wrap which I bought on sale for half off and wear as much as I can. The photos probably make it look bulkier since I'm wearing jeans as opposed to workout pants, but I plan on wearing the wrap with both workout gear as well as casual wear. I love the warm ribbed sleeve details with the thumbholes of the Gratitude Wrap; it's like wearing gloves and keeps me a lot toastier than the Savasana Wrap. The double breasted rows of buttons keeps the wrap buttoned up more securely, pockets at are a more accessible angle and I like how the wrap is nice and long in the back; looks proportionally better on me than the Savasana Wrap. I love the little contrast details like the elbow patches, back triangle patch and drawstrings. It's a lot more structured with interesting details than the Savasana Wrap, even though it's the same retail price. It's perfect for LA weather; I'm comfortably wearing a long sleeve shirt underneath and it will keep me warm and toasty for the LA fall / winter. I'm sure my usual top size 4 is the right size for me as I can still layer a long sleeve or thin sweater, the shoulders and sleeves are comfortable without any noticeable tightness but keep me warm, and the vertical edge of the wrap falls straight up and down, even if I have some bulk in the pockets like my hands. I'm really grateful that I was able to snag one and I know that I will have to restrain myself from wearing it everyday, neglecting all my other clothes, for the next few months. I've been pretty good at keeping my Lululemon purchases under control except for last week where I also bought a bulerias tank and my first pair of still pants, both on markdown. This should keep me covered for awhile... Oops, realized most people wear the Gratitude Wrap buttoned all the way up. Too lazy to take another picture at the moment.
Lululemon Gratitude Wrap: I love the thumbholes; makes the wrap so snug and cozy
You can faintly see the ribbed elbow patch
Nice and long in the back
Lululemon Savasana Wrap in  Coal / Coal Strata Stripe (also a size 4)

Monday, October 17, 2011

ink. Review: Voltaggio on His Own Terms

I don't think I've ever been as excited about a restaurant opening as I have been about Michael Voltaggio's ink., which I first heard about almost a year ago in November. Michael Voltaggio has been my favorite Top Chef winner by far and I've been eager to try his food ever since he won several years ago. I may have had some of his cooking at the Bazaar pre-Top Chef, but I never made it to the Langham in Pasadena and missed out on various one night pop-ups that he has appeared at. Ink only opened a few weeks ago in late September, and I was lucky to score a Saturday night reservation for 2 for K's birthday early one morning.

We were a little late for our reservation due to typically brutal traffic on Santa Monica Blvd, but they were really nice about it when I called and we were seated right away. The restaurant was about 3/4 full when we got there at 7, although completely full by the time we left. The space is nice, clearly very masculine with dark paint, but relatively open feeling with high ceilings, a sushi bar and bar on the right as you enter, and a open window into the kitchen, much like at Test Kitchen, where you can see the chefs, including Michael Voltaggio and Cole Dickinson, constantly hard at work. The restaurant doesn't feel formal, stuffy or intimidating at all; definitely more on the casual side. Service was great, very friendly, helpful and prompt. Pretty much each course was served one at a time.
We definitely over ordered a little, with 8 courses plus a dessert between the 2 of us. We were really eager to try as much as we could from the menu so we really stuffed ourselves. The food was really good; lots of big, contrasting yet complementary flavors and textures in the dishes. Clearly a lot of thought was put into each and every component of the dish. The descriptions on the menu were a little vague, so you really didn't know what to expect until the dish was in front of you, which was quite fun. Before the visit, I assiduously avoided all reviews of the restaurant like the plague in order to preserve the surprise. Some dishes were a touch on the salty side, but I would rather more flavor than less flavor. There's not really a discernible theme or ethnic cuisine to the menu, it's probably just food that Voltaggio enjoys eating and cooking. While there were a lot of new flavors, it wasn't quite as "avant garde" or as "modern" as I would have expected, given his background at Bazaar and from what I remember of his cooking on Top Chef, but that could be an unfair comparison because it may not be his style anyway. Also, it's not necessarily a negative, as modern cooking is sometimes unnecessarily fussy and more about the technique over taste. In any case, good or bad, it definitely wasn't as innovative as the food I had in Barcelona and Madrid earlier this year. But it was definitely tasty and an overall good experience. His food is flavorful and comforting and not overly precious or refined. It's quite approachable, which is also the vibe of the restaurant. I think he changes the menu quite often, as the opening night menu (via kevineats) only had a little overlap with our menu, so I would definitely like to return to see what else he comes up with. The wine list was short but well edited with good by the glass selections that matched up to the food, and the cocktails were excellent.
Dungeness crab / smoked mayo, bok choy kimchi
Spaghetti / giant squid, squash, hazelnut-ink pesto, piment d'espelette
Bay scallops / lamb neck and chickpea poutine, yogurt curds
Kale / burrata, pumpkin seeds, pumpkin preserves, yuzu
Seaweed mashed potatoes / sea grass, sea beans
Quail / banana polenta (not pictured, served in a separate bowl), beet juice, sorrel salad
Berkshire pork tenderloin / charcoal crust, macaroni and cheese, leeks
Veal cheek / red curry, nante carrots baked in salt, fried sticky rice
Apple / creme caramel, burnt wood sabayon, walnut
Tequila / serrano, lime, grapefruit, soda
My favorite dishes were the ones where every component worked perfectly with the other components without overwhelming the others. Favorite dishes included the bay scallops; I loved the crispy chickpea fries, the rich lamb ragu, the sweet seared scallops and the tangy yogurt. I also loved the super tender veal cheek, which had a bit of Southeast Asian flair with the curry. The kale with burrata as well as the buttery and creamy seaweed mashed potatoes were a bit salty, but so delicious as well. We were totally stuffed at this point, but the apple creme caramel was amazing; airy, creamy, crunchy all at the same time with luscious caramel, tart fresh apple and smoky flavors.

We also bought the Voltaggio brother's cookbook, which the chef was nice enough to sign for us.
8360 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90069
(323) 651-5866

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Paris Fashion Week SS 2012 Review - The Best for Last

Louis Vuitton. Images from
I have to say, the Paris shows are just on another level overall as compared with the fashion week shows in other cities. The shows just have this thrilling magic to them; from the beautiful clothes, to the dramatic styling and themes, to the set design. I was blown away by so many of the shows. Alexander McQueen freaked me out quite a bit; I love how Sarah Burton has beautifully carried on McQueen's legacy. Miu Miu had a dark, gothic feel with a mix of lace, capes and straightjacket-esque silhouettes. On the other end of the spectrum, Marc Jacobs' Louis Vuitton was stunningly lovely, continuing the pastel fresh looks from his Marc Jacobs collection in a gorgeous set, and Chanel was full of typical beautiful, dreamy, delicately frothy ethereal Chanel looks. Givenchy and Lanvin had some great party dresses, and I'm a recent fan of Haider Ackermann, who I first noticed at a store on Abbott Kinney during Fashions Night Out. I'm usually a big fan of Chloe and Stella McCartney, but I had a hard time finding some looks that I really love. Nevertheless, lots of beautiful, inspirational eye candy from the Paris collections.
Louis Vuitton. Images from
Louis Vuitton. Images from
Chanel. Classically Lagerfeld looks, with tailored jackets and floating ruffly layers. Images from
Chanel. Gorgeous ladylike dresses. Images from
Chanel. Images from I like the first sporty look.
To the twisted side: Alexander McQueen. Love the lacy headpieces and gladiator sandals. Images from
Alexander McQueen, simply stunning. Images from
Miu Miu: also quite dark.
Miu Miu: I'm not usually a lace person, but I love these looks.
Haider Ackermann. I'm not sure I could pull off these complex looks, but he's a master of tailoring. Images from
Lanvin. A little darker than expected for a spring show. Images from
Givenchy. Some beautiful party dresses. Images from
Stella McCartney. Some of the lines reminded me of waves. These were the overall most wearable looks. Images from
Chloe. Carrying on the pleats / sheer theme of SS 2012. Images from
Giambattista Valli. Rather restrained collection for him. Images from I really like the looks from the Giambattista Valli x Macy's collection, but I suspect I will be disappointed with the quality of collection in person, like with Karl Lagerfeld x Macy's. Image


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