Monday, October 29, 2007

Pizzeria Mozza (LA)

I don't really read up on restaurants from other cities unless they're featured in the NYTimes. As such, Mozza was ingrained into my memory after reading this article. Lots of celebs frequent new LA restaurant hot spots, and Mozza is no exception despite the fact that the food is actually good (is it obvious that I'm not the biggest fan of LA?). On this trip, we saw two C-list (or D-?) celebs, including a childhood favorite Rider Strong (too bad Cory Matthews was not in tow) and some minor character on Felicity (the guy who raped Felicity's roommate?). Not quite the Scarlett Johansson debacle we were hoping for.

Curtis and me pretending to pose for a picture, but only so we could sneak a shot at good ole Shawn Hunter

Letdowns aside, Mozza is good. Our party of 6 shared two appetizers (chicken liver bruschetta, fried ricotta-stuffed squash blossoms) and 5 pizzas. The flatbread (base of the pizza) that they're famous for was definitely as the press has described: thin, bubbly, and fired to perfection. The bianca with fennel sausage, as LA Weekly recommended, was my favorite, but all were pretty good.

Goat cheese, Prosciutto, and Bianca w/ fennel sausage

The dessert menu was full of uncommon (at least to us) Italian names so we had to sit our waitress down for explanations. They have a nice selection of gelati that they'll focus on after the osteria opens, but we opted for the plated desserts. We had no idea what "spiced ginger pigs" were supposed to be, and that instantly intrigued us. The dish ended up being a play on pigs in mud - not as mind-blowingly delicious as the waitress made it out to be, but interactive food is always fun. Curtis got a pumpkin gelato pie which I thought was not worth $7-8 at all. Reminiscent of Baskin Robbins ice cream cake, sorry.

"Spiced Ginger Pigs" + Italian chocolate pudding, Pumpkin gelato pie + candied nuts

If I were to rate this place, I'd give it 3 stars (bill came out to $25/person). It was good, but honestly... I like Cheeseboard better.

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Saturday, October 13, 2007

Ode to Bilbo Baggins... OF THE SHIRE

So one of the things I love about pastry is that it makes such a great gift. One of my parents' friends commented at the wedding... "How does Kathy bake so much but stay so thin??" Well the thing is... I don't really eat much of what I make. I taste it to make sure it tastes good and the way I want, but I don't really eat any more of it than that (at the restaurant, however, is another story. Butter-laden pastries are usually my breakfast. Or apples since I have to peel so many gah!). The rest of it is given away - my roommates, coworkers, other misc friends etc. There's just something about making something that can make people happy....

My friends don't bake that much, so it's always fun when they do. Cynthia's bf Elvin just had his birthday, and she wanted to make a cake and asked me for suggestions. I gave her quite a few, and she settled on this hazelnut cake recipe (and a banana cake recipe from this blog she found through another friend).

For the birthday party, we went to dinner at Patio Filipino in San Bruno (review to come), but Mike and I had to leave early to go see Rogue Wave at Bimbo's (which, by the way, was pretty cool because Zach did an improvised acoustic rendition of a requested song down on the floor in the middle of the audience. Pretty awesome). Since we had to leave early, Cynthia made us mini cakes we could take with us! Totally wasn't expecting that, and it was extremely thoughtful. =) She also included this silly letter from back in the day she never sent to me while she was studying abroad in Ghana. I'm assuming she didn't have much studying to do... haha that dork.

The cakes turned out really well! I was afraid the hazelnut one might be dry, but the roasting liquid she used for the pears (instead of peaches) was poured over it, so I think it kept the cake nicely moist. The banana one tasted basically like a banana muffin with chocolate chips, but the smooth ganache sheath over the cake was an elegant touch that elevated its simplicity. Bravo!

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Everything's bigger in Texas

So true. I just got back from Houston for my sister's second wedding reception (her husband is from there). The weekend really just consisted of lots and LOTS of eating. I decided that I don't like Texas, but they do have much better steak.

Our first night, we went to Taste of Texas, this monstrosity of a steak house. They're so popular that they have 3 hour waits, and a huge waiting area with popcorn, chips & salsa, drinks, and tvs to keep you busy. They had a pretty wide selection of different cuts, but I went with a 16 oz ribeye. That's right, friends, sixteen ounces. I would've gotten less (like 10 oz), but the ribeye came at a minimum of 16. Whatever, I finished! (with a little help). Their cheese rolls were like crack, especially when they were fresh from the oven. Warm, soft, and laden with cheesy goodness. I would've taken one for the road if it could fit in my stomach.

The next day we went to Pappasito's, a tex mex restaurant that's basically a better version of Chevy's. Everything tastes a lot better at this place, and they're known for their fajitas. My sister's friend Jen got what looked like a normal kabob when it was hanging, but down on the plate all the chunks were ginormous.

For the second wedding reception, we went to a very fancy steak house called Vic and Anthony's in downtown Houston. They cooked all their steaks at medium, but I specifically asked for rare. I was converted after having some of my brother-in-law's rare prime rib from Taste of Texas. It's so soft and tender... I don't know if I'll ever go back to medium rare.

I had to leave with my little sister a day early, but the rest of them had BBQ. Too bad. We forced ourselves to take advantage of the hotel gym, solely to help us digest our food. Ughhhh.

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Thursday, October 04, 2007

Tinderbox

803 Cortland Ave (& Ellsworth)
(415) 285-TBOX


Experimental American in Bernal Heights (or, "An Ode To Blair")
L: a peek into the kitchen, R: fresh popcorn, with lemon grass and butter and a bunch of other stuff :)


L: kampachi crudo, R: rabbit hot pocket


L: saffron infused lasagnanette, R: black cod, coated with cliantro paste, caviar dressing


L: grilled and candied tri-tip, R: pork love


L: basil panna cotta, R: raspberry-beet beignets


Molten chocolate cake baked with a blue cheese center

sorry for the late upload of pics :) GG
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The food at Tinderbox is described as “experimental” and the ambience, “green.” So basically a fusion restaurant with tacky d├ęcor, how very SF. The dining experience was somewhat of a roller coaster ride, starting with just trying to get to the damn place (Bernal Heights = who knew it existed) all the way to the end of the meal, when you can’t believe it’s over.

Tinderbox opened a few months ago and is co-owned by the Head Chef, Blair Warsham. With a long list of credentials spanning all over the United States, including a few James Beard nominations, it is no surprise why his creations, while strange, are intelligently put together. This does not mean that everything tasted great, but it certainly made the diner really think about each course and what the chef was trying to say about the flavors.

We had a few starters including a rabbit hot pocket, saffron infused lasagnanette (one with fried zucchini and another with fried calamari) and a kampachi crudo with melon and crisp prosciutto. Although a combination of two things I despise (Hot Pockets and rabbit), the Rabbit Hot Pocket turned out to be a fave among the group. The pastry shell was crisp and buttery, definitely not a product of heating with an aluminum/paper sleeve in the microwave. The other few dishes were either under seasoned or over seasoned. Salt can be your friend or your foe, in the case of the lasagnanette and kampachi, the kitchen clearly had issues (maybe a bad break-up where one wants to be friends but the other still wants to hook-up).

My favorite among the main courses was the Pork Love- pork loin and shoulder with blueberry mole, a great combination of flavors and was a creative twist on a classic dish. The most boring item on the menu was the grilled and candied tri-tip served with marrow butter, fennel gratin and creamy corn. Well prepared but unoriginal.

The dessert items hit some high points. A fragrant and creamy basil panna cotta was the perfect way to end a heavy meal. Although an interesting idea, raspberry-beet beignets were a miss, with little flavor and texture contrast. However, I could see where the chef was trying to go with this one--beets being sweet and raspberries being tangy, it would have been awesome with a little more tweaking.

Best thing on the menu? Molten chocolate cake baked with a blue cheese center. If every dish on the menu could match the innovation with this dessert, the restaurant is sure to succeed. The sweet blue cheese, while somewhat potent really did complement the bitter chocolate flavor. The whole dish became heightened, every bite had a multitude of flavor experiences all happening one right after another. Served on the side was a pistachio gelato with pine nuts, a great way to bring out the nuttiness (those crazy thangs) of the cheese.

The food makes you think, which makes the dining experience very different than say, a steak at Outback. I guess that’s what I liked about the restaurant, the menu is intelligently put together and dares to be different. Tinderbox is worth a try, but definitely for the adventurous. Oh and just as a side note, Chef Warsham is a hottie and if the name of the restaurant is any testament to his personality, this Aries girl is all in! Tinderbox: a person or thing that is highly excitable, explosive, inflammable, etc. I love a man that lives on the edge.

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THE WEDDING, non-professional

*** UPDATE ***
In case you weren't sure... Yes, I DID make all of these! I took off work the week preceding the wedding, and basically spent 24/7 in the kitchen. I didn't take any pre-wedding pictures because I was too consumed and stressed out with getting the food out, but our dining room table housed the 200 tart shells after they were baked, half of the living room had about 400 cupcakes scattered all over the floor... and the rest was kept in the fridge and assembled the morning of.

Thanks to people who helped during the week, and everyone who helped the day of! Stressful, but I'm glad I did it. There were about 900 items total, and everything was made from scratch (except for the dollops of whipped cream on the mousse. Making that would be too unstable). Phew! I'm so glad it's over.

Here are pictures of my sister's wedding dessert table. I'm sure the professional pictures will look really good, but I have to wait awhile for them. In the mean time, these are pictures courtesy of Jon (modern Abe Lincoln).

If you've been following my blog, you'll notice that I've posted about almost every one of these desserts before... that's because I was practicing/experimenting with the menu!


L: view of the table
R: Valrhona truffles - Grand Marnier rolled in chopped hazelnuts, Coffee Liquer rolled in cocoa powder, cinnamon & cardamom coated in chopped pistachios (not pictured)


L: Lavender cupcakes with lemon frosting & garnished with candied lemon zest "confetti", Mascarpone cheesecake with pomegranate champagne mirror glaze & garnished with pomegranate seeds
R: Coconut tapioca with red & yellow watermelon, drizzled with basil lime syrup


L: Valrhona chocolate mousse
R: Fruit tartlets with vanilla pastry cream (blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, baby kiwi, and pomegranate seeds), Lemon Cream tartlets garnished with candied nasturtium petals



One of everything for the "Midnight Snack" box
(not mentioned above: Red Velvet Cupcakes with cream cheese frosting)

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