All posts by Brian Garrido

I8tonite: A New York Pizza Experience

Pepperoni Pizza

On a recent work trip to the Big Apple, I found myself working voraciously from one area of the boroughs to another, with only an opportunity to grab a quick slice of pizza for lunch, before hailing an Uber (Who takes cabs?) or jumping on the subway, repeating this action until dinner. I did this for five days. By the end of the trip, exhausted and not feeling well plus I felt bloated from the amounts of consumed dairy and wheat. (Yes. I  realized that milk products including trace amounts of butter and I are no longer friends.)

With this said, the trip provided me a rewarding experience that only Lactaid can cure the next time I venture forth with so much mozzarella. And, although, the New York slice, the version that you dab with a napkin to relieve of extra grease, rolling-up like a New York Times straphanger, is becoming extinct like said transit-rider, it still is served deliciously — and for me, gratefully.

On Quora – the internet answer for everything — someone tried to figure out the number of shops, reckoning it’s anywhere from 3200 to 32500.  Suffice it to say it’s a broad number. They even try and figure out how many per day a pizzaiolo must toss, bake and sell (about 50) to stay in business.

Whatever the case and take this with a grain of well-tossed salt hidden in the folds of rising dough, here are my selections for a few grand pizzas – in today’s Manhattan.

Prince Street Pizza

Formerly known as Ray’s when I lived was a poor New York student in the eighties, I would stumble by for a pepperoni slice after nightclubbing, something to soak up the alcohol. Purchased a decade ago, the existing owners kept the place alive and very much a Soho tradition. Instead of the fold-and-go variety of pies, they execute a Sicilian square loaded with small circles of spicy pepperoni. When baked onto one of the gooey delicacies, they become mini-cups of flavor, holding liquid fat, ready to drip down your chin or shirt. There are only a line and a counter so may do like a New Yorker and eat while walking.

27 Prince Street (between Elizabeth and Mott Streets)

(212) 966 – 4100

Princestreetpizza.com

Farinella

Days of cheese and pepperoni

 I came by the Romanesque pizza shop after Uber hightailing from a meeting in Brooklyn to Lexington and 78th only to be thirty minutes early. Rarely do opportunities arise with time on your side, so I sought out a quick place to eat and came across Farinella Pizza and Bakery.  Here the pies are elongated rather than round and the dough stretched rather than tossed. Regardless, it’s really delicious with a crispy under-carriage while it grips onto the selected toppings. The margherita is divine Italian simplicity at it’s best.

1132 Lexington Avenue (between 78th and 79th Streets)

New York, New York, 10075

(212) 327 – 2702

Champion’s

Pepperoni Pizza

Who knew that pizza – an import foodstuff brought over by Italian immigrants – could be so delicious in the hands of a Turk? Hakki Akdeniz worked for many years making $300 per week to learn the tasks of pizzaiolo trade. The outcome is a true slice of New York pizza. Folded in half, paper plate underneath – and a walk to the subway – or hanging out at one of the few tables. Eating the chewy dough and cheese with just that right amount of giving made me feel like all is right with the world – that Andy Warhol, Deelite and Nell’s where still around.

17 Cleveland Place, New York, New York

The end. Go eat.

(P.S. Apologies for the long space between posts. Life happens.)

Burgering to Coachella & Back: 4 Must Eat Burgers Along California’s 10 Freeway

On the way to see The Weeknd, Beyonce, or Eminem for Coachella? Well, folks get hungry for burgers and food on those four wheels traveling towards Palm Springs.

Along the way, there are dozens of little towns that serve up great eats. Looking for a bit of an adventure? Maybe a little history with that patty? Look no further – travel on and dance the weekends away. P.S. They all have bathrooms.

Apple Pan Hickory Burger. Via Facebook

The Apple Pan, Los Angeles

The Apple Pan has long been considered one of Los Angeles’ oldest eating institutions, if not in the country. Think Musso & Frank’s, The Grill in The Alley, or even the tony Beverly Hills The Polo Lounge. The founder of the Johnny Rockets restaurant chain, Ronn Teitelbaum, used it as the inspiration for his throwback eateries. Upon visiting one of the faux-back diners, customers familiar with both will find paper-wrapped sandwiches and a pristine white-uniformed waitstaff. That’s pretty heady stuff for a small, family-run restaurant which was born when Sony Studios was Metro Goldwyn Mayer.

Last year, the 27-seat restaurant, which only has a wraparound counter framing the kitchen, celebrated 70 years in the same Pico Boulevard spot. Nearly three generations of burgers lovers and pie eaters have eaten at the hard to come by seats. And, yes, today it’s a thirty to forty-minute wait to belly up to that burger bar, but that’s part of the experience.  Tourists and So Cal locals chow down on the Steak and Hickoryburger. After all, the delicious food is only part of understanding the restaurant’s appeal; drenched with Hollywood sightings, you are likely to be eating next to today’s celebs like Nick Jonas, John Lithgow, or a Kardashian.

If you start your journey or end it atop one of the modest swivel chairs –  coming here is a must  – eat the Hickoryburger mentioned above. It’s a patty slathered in a delicious (secret) hickory barbecue sauce, pickles, onions, lettuce, and a toasted bun. Served since 1945, the sauce is as much a mystery as the Mickey D’s “special,” the latter being a somewhat glorified Russian dressing.

It will keep you satiated until you reach the end of the three-hour drive or more drive. (LA traffic, baby!)

Location: 10810 Pico Boulevard (at Westwood Blvd.), Los Angeles 90064
Phone: 310-475-3585
Price: $7.10 plus .50 for Tillamook cheese.

In-N-Out Cheeseburger.

In-n-Out, Baldwin Park

Driving the 10 towards Palm Springs and Coachella, another LA icon pops up in Baldwin Park. In-n-Out is now as well-known as the Golden Arches, and many burger lovers consider it an even better choice. Founded in 1948, the fast-food chain was founded right in this very Baldwin Park spot.

Apart from the zealotry that In-N-Out aficionados have for the burgers, Henry Snyder developed the first drive-thru with a two-way speaker. It was his way of making the name ring true. If you are looking for the “temple” to the burger, go no further, as a replica of the original store is in this spot. Pick up a burger, your In-N-Out towel and swimsuit for the pool in which you will be swimming between Beyonce and Portugal. The man sets.

There is no way one can go to the ultimate music festival without stopping at the quintessential California drive through.

Location: 13850 Francisquito Ave, Baldwin Park, CA 91706
Phone: (800) 786-1000
Price: Double Double $3.45

Pastrami Cheeseburger. Via Facebook

P & G Burgers, Colton

You’re in your car on the 10 freeway between Santa Monica and Coachella with your BFFs. One – the individual with the ketchup stains on their vintage Wonder Woman t-shirt – says, “I’m hungry for a pastrami cheeseburger!” Well, that’s what friends do on the way to Coachella Music Festival. You create an adventure. Someone gets on their phone, seeking out the closest spot to eat a melty, succulent, and juicy pastrami cheeseburger right off the asphalt ribbon.

Located on a corner across from another the golden arches is P & G Burgers. It’s a retro diner in the vein of Johnny Rockets, but with seating from the eighties. But your posse isn’t here to critique the interiors; it’s eating time.

And there you are chowing down on something luscious, while wiping your lips slathered in salty richness, talking about how deliciously awesome the patty with pastrami, melted cheese, and grilled onions is. In between sloppy bites, your gangsta groupies question why Colton, California doesn’t receive attention as a great burger town.

The only thing better is a sweaty Queen Bey in tight lace performing “Formation” as her hair whips about in the hot desert air…although the onion rings come in a close third.

 Location: 190 W Valley Blvd, Colton, CA 92324
Phone: (909) 824-9630
Price: Quarter pound pastrami burger with fries and soft drink, $9.95. Thank us after you’ve danced away the weekend

The Obama

Tony’s, Cathedral City (about a 45-minute drive to Coachella)

 Laid down in a strip mall off of Date Palm, the Cathedral City location of this burger emporium is a “blink and you might miss it” type place. It’s boisterous and noisy with a heavy side of conviviality, served up with beer, wine, and good old-fashioned “sit yourself down and eat.”

Names such as “Shakira Guaka-Guaka” (guacamole and chipotle mayo), “El Jefe” (ghost pepper cheese and jalapenos), or “Rainbow” (avocado, chorizo, lettuce, roasted red pepper) showcase the Latin-infused menu. And the food is right out of an episode of Fieri’s “Diner, Drive-Ins and Dives”. (They have been on the show.)

Yeah, it’s pretty IG-photograph and delicious. If you like to have a POV, order up the “Obama Burger.” He and the Mrs. supposedly bought a place in the tony neighborhood of Thunderbird Heights. They would have the secret service pick them up since they have an entourage to take to dinner. (Kind of like Justin Beiber or Kim Kardashian.) Even if it’s not true, it’s nice to know that the former president enjoys a well-made burger.

Location: 35903 Date Palm Dr., Cathedral City, CA
Phone: (760) 832-7794
Price:  A Classic Burger with Cheese, $7.25

Extra Credit: In 1940,  the “McDonald” brothers moved their food venture to San Bernardino, Calfornia at West 14th and 1398 North E Streets. The restaurant was renamed “McDonald’s Bar-B-Que” and had 25 menu items, mostly barbecue.  Eventually, it became known as just “McDonald’s.”

 

Pin for later:

Burgering to Coachella & Back: 4 Must Eat Burgers Along California's 10 Freeway

 

 

 

Top 5 So Cal Coffee Shops: A Coffee Klatching, Caffeinated Road Trip

Southern California’s love affair with coffee goes way back to earlier land settlers and cattle-drivers. The pioneers would awake to the rising sun while a blazing campfire is percolating that first pot of mud juice. According to True West Magazine (October 2001), “Cowboys were undoubtedly the most devoted group of coffee drinkers in the West. As a rule, they liked it strong, scalding hot, and barefooted (black).”

Almost two centuries later, coffee houses are a fixture on every well-driven, So Cal street – although mostly emblazoned with a green mermaid logo. True to the western American ingenuity way, the Golden State still has some independent shops crafting luscious java jolts in small batches. Coffee connoisseurs in So Cal have a myriad of baristas fashioning joe in unique ways. Here are some of our favorites, from Palm Springs to Orange County and into Los Angeles. With a full tank of gas and a thermos of rocket juice as fuel, high-octane lovers can make a road trip visiting them in a single day. Go get your jitter on!

Top 5 So Cal Coffee Shops: A Coffee Klatching, Caffeinated Road Trip

Portola Coffee Lab (Costa Mesa, Orange County)

Found in an Orange County hipster strip mall called OC Mix in Costa Mesa (in the same place as famed Taco Maria), Portola rose to prominence when the coffee industry’s major publication, Roaster Magazine, honored the caffeine maker with its 2015 “Roaster of the Year.” While already beloved by locals, the award catapulted the four-year-old shop into a nationally known bean-lover mecca. Noted for their lack of syrups and additives while using only mocha and milk for additional flavors, the single store has branched to six locations, all within Orange County. Furthermore, they use three distinct brewing methods to get to the only-in-OC taste: a manual pour-over, a siphon, and the trifecta (a combination of the siphon, pour-over, and French press). For an espresso made from a single origin bean, it’s a one-shot deal with a one-of-a-kind machine. Be prepared to stand in line for your cuppa, but It’s good to the last drop.

Rose and Cardamom Latte at Portola.Top 5 So Cal Coffee Shops: A Coffee Klatching, Caffeinated Road Trip

Portola. Top 5 So Cal Coffee Shops: A Coffee Klatching, Caffeinated Road Trip

LAMill Coffee (Silver Lake, Los Angeles County)

When LA Mill first opened a decade ago, there was nothing quite like the coffee roaster and maker. For one, it cemented Silver Lake as a destination for good eats. Menu was crafted by Chef Michael Cimarusti of Providence fame, in conjunction with the LA Mill owner Craig Min. The interiors designed were commissioned by their next-door neighbor by Silverlake decorator, Rubbish Interiors. It personified early hipster-hood. And there still is nothing quite like it, as far as coffee shops go. Coffee may be the thing to try, but you’re spending your time here because, well, the grub isn’t just an afterthought. It’s a reason to eat. Coffee is made four different ways, and then there is the $11,000-dollar espresso machine. That’s almost as much as your electric Smart Car.

Outside LA Mill. Top 5 So Cal Coffee Shops: A Coffee Klatching, Caffeinated Road Trip LA Mill. Top 5 So Cal Coffee Shops: A Coffee Klatching, Caffeinated Road Trip

Koffi (Palm Springs, Riverside County)

For those who have traveled to the Palm Springs area for two decades, Koffi is as much a destination for coffee as is tramway travel to the top of the San Jacinto mountains. The flagship spot located as drivers enter the resort town is a welcome relief. Although the line winds around the counter, it moves quickly, giving the legs movement after an hour and half driving from LA or San Francisco – which can clock in at five to seven hours depending on traffic. What started off with only one roastery has clovered into three locations, with the original, a Rancho Mirage location, and another mid-century outpost on the edge of Cathedral City. Stopping at Koffi and partaking of their java is as important as a warm desert pool on a chilly night or a hike into Joshua Tree.

Koffi and Cake. Top 5 So Cal Coffee Shops: A Coffee Klatching, Caffeinated Road Trip Koffi. Top 5 So Cal Coffee Shops: A Coffee Klatching, Caffeinated Road Trip

Alfred (West Hollywood, Los Angeles County)

Most coffee lovers would bypass Alfred, as they serve the yummy but ubiquitous Stumptown beans. Alfred, though, with its two chic shops – located just two blocks from each other – is unique without the coffee roastery…and is why it’s on this list. Made in West Hollywood, the liquid energy is chock-full of L.A.’s pretty people, tourists checking out the nearby luxury shopping, and a mélange of neighborhood folks. Matter of fact, if you felt the subway rumble or heard car horns slamming, one might feel they were in New York or Paris. Yes, it’s that cosmopolitan. Yes, it’s that fashionable. And yes, it’s as much a part of the sartorial coffee scene as City of Light’s Les Deux Magot or Manhattan’s Balthazar. If you happen to be in Japan, Alfred lovers can find two Tokyo outposts – making it even more tres, tres chic. Plus, Stumptown, a Portland roastery, is nothing to sniff at – no matter where you are.

Cakes at Aroma. Top 5 So Cal Coffee Shops: A Coffee Klatching, Caffeinated Road Trip Alfred Coffee and Donuts. Top 5 So Cal Coffee Shops: A Coffee Klatching, Caffeinated Road Trip

Aroma Caffe (Studio City, Los Angeles County)

Another mainstay of the entertainment set is Aroma Café on Studio City’s treelined Tujunga. Aroma, which started as a small house and grew into a house with a garden, patio, backyard, and sidewalk café, has served up frothy cappuccinos, bracing espressos, and sipping lattes for 20 years. That’s a long time for a television series (only The Simpsons can beat that) and a restaurant. While delicious java juices and herbal teas can be imbibed on site, the coffee house is a hybrid of a one-time java house which morphed into a full-blown restaurant. Mud-drinkers can fulfill their need for high-octane lattes while filling up on fortifying salads, crusty paninis, and savory egg dishes throughout the day. If in the Los Feliz area, the independent coffee and eatery has another tree-lined outpost on Hillhurst, serving up a twinned menu for the artistic side of the hill.

Cakes at Aroma. Top 5 So Cal Coffee Shops: A Coffee Klatching, Caffeinated Road Trip Aroma Coffee and Tea. Top 5 So Cal Coffee Shops: A Coffee Klatching, Caffeinated Road Trip

 

– The End. Go Drink. –

2017 Best Restaurant Dishes in Southern California

As the end of 2017 draws to a close, one of my favorite novel quotes comes to mind. It’s from The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The legendary character says to his friend Nick Caraway, “I don’t want you to get the wrong idea of me from all these stories you hear.” Of course, Gatsby hides behind sordid tales masking his true intentions. As a man of incredible wealth, how he came by money is dubious until the end of the book, when it is revealed that he is just a typical criminal, albeit a rich one. His cohort, Caraway is a memoirist in this context, besotted by the novel’s central character until the lies of luxury and excess become stripped away. In many ways, the allegorical Fitzgerald masterpiece is prescient today, even in our food world, as real stories of harassment come bounding out of the kitchen doors. None of this is new; there have always been hidden agendas among those that want power, whether behind a stove or a desk.

While the New York Times, Washington Post, and CNN kept me up at night, I went looking for comfort in the foods that I ate this year. I wasn’t seeking hype or multi-million dollar restaurants, but honest-to-goodness eats that were democratically attainable. I desired to eat comforting ingredients showcasing the diversity of the United States – right here in Southern California. Gratefully, I think I found it without trying too hard.

In no particular order, they are:

Chori-Man’s Breakfast Burrito (San Pedro)

I discovered Humberto Raygoza and his homemade chorizo while working with Brouwerij West, the famed craft beer brewery in San Pedro. He was a regular at the spot, cooking up his artisan chorizo under a tent with a portable flat-top. From him, I learned that nearly every Mexican state makes a different version of chorizo, a spicy sausage mixture. It even came in different colors, such as green, red, and brown. Statesiders typically find the “rojo” version, but when in Mexico, seek out the others – or head to Chori-Man in San Pedro who opened a storefront/ eatery in the summer. Food Gal Carolyn Jung once said to me, “A burrito can be a thing of beauty.” Raygoza’s are the Mona Lisas.

The Chori-Man
2309 S. Alma St.
San Pedro, CA

Chori Man Breakfast Burrito. 2017 Best Restaurant Dishes in Southern California

Tony’s Burgers, The Obama Burger (Cathedral City):

According to the waiter at the decidedly unstuffy restaurant tucked into a strip mall on Date Palm Drive, the Secret Service would come in to order this messy but incredibly delicious and satisfying burger every time the President was in town. Made of almost a 3/4 pound of ground beef served with crispy bacon, goat cheese, grilled onions, and garlic aioli on a cloud-like bun, the former President was getting his tastes on with this enjoyably messy monstrosity. If the Obama burger isn’t your favorite, then try one of the other 39 types of burgers on the menu. Order up a side of hand-cut fries too, thank you very much – get the large to share amongst your dining companions.

Tony’s Burgers
35903 Date Palm Dr.
Cathedral City, CA

Obama Burger at Tony's Burgers. 2017 Best Restaurant Dishes in Southern California

Jardineros Taco at Taco Maria (Costa Mesa)

What else can I mention about the upscale Cal-Mex food experience that Food & Wine Magazine or Jonathan Gold, the masterful food critic at the LA Times, hasn’t? That it’s a glorious dining experience? Foodophiles can’t miss eating here? Out the six or so times I’ve dined here — and not all in 2017 — I keep coming back to the jardineros taco. It’s not cheap at $14 for mostly three or four bites, but it’s perfect, and memorable, a combination of flavors in an Orange County urban-setting. With the picture-perfect blue masa tortilla, smoky mushroom “chorizo,” some heft added by papas, topped off with molten cheese (or queso fundido) and some micro-greens, I feel like I’ve eaten one of the best Mexican foods ever created in California.

Taco Maria
3313 Hyland Avenue, Ste. C21
Costa Mesa, CA

Jardineros Tacos at Taco Maria. 2017 Best Restaurant Dishes in Southern California

Tropicale Café’s Tomahawk Pork Chop with Cranberry-Pear Chutney (Palm Springs)

In the early 2000s, Los Angeles was graced with Chef Scooter Kanfer-Cartmill’s homey confections of lobster mac and cheese and animal cookies served with a shot of milk at her Larchmont restaurant called The House. After closing the doors, she went on her way to a couple of other LA stints before winding her way to Palm Springs. In the desert community, Kanfer-Cartmill has hit her stride, where she has been directing the kitchen with generous portions infused with tropical themed flavors. Hence, the mighty pork chop, butchered from a massive animal, gets rubbed in savory herbs and garlic and then pan roasted. The dish comes served with a sweet and sour chunky sauce with a mild hint of heat. It is worth a Los Angeles drive to the desert every single time you want pork.

Tropicale Café
330 E. Amado Road
Palm Springs, CA

Tropicale Café’s Tomahawk Pork Chop with Cranberry-Pear Chutney (Palm Springs). 2017 Best Restaurant Dishes in Southern California

Irenia’s Pancit (Santa Ana)

As a half Pinoy and half Caucasian American, I only have good memories of my dad and his family when we ate around a dinner table. While the memories of living with him are not fond, we ate incredibly well. So when I came to eat at Irenia’s, I had to leave my baggage at the door and go in as someone who was eating Filipino food for the first time. I’m glad I did, because Chef Ryan Garlitos created something special at the restaurant he named after his grandmother. Most of the dishes are not traditional, but something ethereal, combining his Pinoy cooking experience with those that he acquired at a variety of stints, including Taco Maria. It’s not the noodle dish I remember, but something different and more delicious. Although there are nearly four dozen versions of the Filipino dish, each with different ingredients but always some form of noodle. Garlito’s pancit bihon is all his own making. Simple, mouthwatering, and memorable. Topped with a soft-boiled egg and carrots and assorted vegetables, it’s worth going to Santa Ana and carb-loading.

Irenia
400 N. Broadway
Santa Ana, CA

Pancit. 2017 Best Restaurant Dishes in Southern California

 

 

i8tonite: One New York Woman’s Food Allergies Became an Award-Winning Bakery

Gluten-Free to Industry: Allie Luckman Overcame Food Allergies for Her Family and Found a Calling

Allison Wolin Luckman. From i8tonite: One New York Woman's Food Allergies Became an Award-Winning Bakery“Do you mind if we chat while I’m driving?” starts CEO and owner of Allie’s GF Goodies, Allison Luckman. “I couldn’t find allergen-free gumdrops, so I’m on my way to the store to buy the ingredients to make them.” With that as an intriguing conversation starter, how could one not want to talk to her via Bluetooth? The Long Island, New York-based Luckman, like many of today’s mothers, found that she had genetically passed her many food allergies onto her kids. Therefore, she started baking for them to make sure her kids could eat baked treats just like their friends – without feeling left out of any celebration.

Black and White cookie. From i8tonite: One New York Woman's Food Allergies Became an Award-Winning Bakery

Starting with a hobby crafting cakes and muffins for tiny tots birthdays and celebrations in 2012, Luckman found the flowering enterprise grew into a bakery. The certified gluten-free and qualified kosher shop concentrates on baked goods free of potential allergens such as dairy, egg, soy, gluten, coconut, peanuts, tree nuts, or sesame. Hence, most of the products are also suitable for vegans. As her business grew, Luckman developed a following among those in the entertainment business. Her clients have included rapper Snoop Dog and hip-hop impresario Steve Lobel, as well as having been featured on A & E’s Married at First Sight and on an episode of Millionaire Matchmaker.

Allison Wolin Luckman. From i8tonite: One New York Woman's Food Allergies Became an Award-Winning BakeryAlmost two years ago, Luckman found a growing need to serve the gentile and Jewish communities by turning her baking business into a complete kosher pareve (dairy-free) enterprise. “I was getting more calls to omit eggs and milk products, so we decided to make a go. Our business gets supported by the many rabbis recommending our goods,” Luckman comments.

When asked what she finds the hardest to do, she doesn’t pause. “Finding good bakers. If they have been working for as a baker for a while, they don’t understand how to work with my recipes that I have personally developed, sometimes working on them for weeks, if not months. When someone fresh comes in, I can train them to work with the types of flours we use. It’s a specific process particular to our products.”

Luckily, those with allergies can now have some of the best in award-winning baked goods (TasteTV’s “Healthy Gourmet Snacks of the Year Awards” and ““People’s Choice Award for Most Innovative New Product” at the International Food Service & Restaurant Show) in the world including bagels, black and white cookies, and challah. Seriously, what child or adult could go through life without devouring a bagel and a smear? They won’t have to go without, due to Allie Luckman and her GF Goodies. #nochildleftout.

Bagels. From i8tonite: One New York Woman's Food Allergies Became an Award-Winning Bakery

Allie GF Goodies are available online and can be shipped throughout the U.S. Follow on Facebook, website: www.alliegfg.com, or by calling (516) 216 – 1719.

Allie's GF Goodies. From i8tonite: One New York Woman's Food Allergies Became an Award-Winning Bakery

Food People Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

What is your favorite food to cook at home?
I love to make either a full roasted turkey or chicken. My family loves it, giving them the feeling of comfort. Along the same lines I love to make them traditional chicken soup, and they have always loved mine the best.

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
In my fridge at home, we have freshly sliced turkey breast, a variety of cheeses, and kosher pickles, both half sour and garlic dill.

Mandelbread (Jewish Biscotti). From i8tonite: One New York Woman's Food Allergies Became an Award-Winning Bakery

What marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
I enjoy eating with people who enjoy and appreciate good food.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
I hate eating with people with bad table manners.

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
I am definitely a wine person.

Your favorite cookbook author?
My favorite cookbook author has always been Mark Bittman.

Buddies. From i8tonite: One New York Woman's Food Allergies Became an Award-Winning Bakery

Your favorite kitchen or bar tool?
I have three favorites in the kitchen. Every baker/ chef needs a whisk, a KitchenAid stand mixer, and a food processor.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
I like to cook all types of cuisine as long as there is flavor, room for personal flair, and not too spicy (although my husband will eat as spicy as I give him)!

Beef, chicken, pork, seafood, or tofu?
I’m either a chicken or beef person. Never tofu.

Favorite vegetable?
I love asparagus and broccoli, although I’m not personally allowed many vegetables.

Chef or culinary person you most admire?
I admire Florian Bellinger, the pastry chef.

Hamantaschen. From i8tonite: One New York Woman's Food Allergies Became an Award-Winning Bakery

Food you dislike the most?
I truly dislike mushrooms. I loathe the texture. However, I don’t mind the flavor in a sauce or soup.

What is your favorite non-food thing to do?
My favorite nonfood thing to do, aside from catching up on sleep, is spending time with my husband and grown children, either watching television or traveling.

Whom do you most admire in food?
I admire Ron Ben Israel for his cake business that he’s created.

Where is your favorite place to eat/ drink?
I live on Long Island. My local faves are 388 Restaurant, where they make excellent family style Italian food. They carry and use my products, and are hyper vigilant about my celiac disease so that I can eat safely. I have always been a Peter Luger’s fan—like every New Yorker. And my go-to in Manhattan these days is Felidia, where they take celiac disease very seriously.

Crumb cake. From i8tonite: One New York Woman's Food Allergies Became an Award-Winning Bakery

Do you have any tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
I do not have a tattoo, nor will I ever. I’ve had so many surgeries that I’m marked up enough.

Recipe: Allie’s Banana Bread

Recipe: Allie's Banana Bread. From i8tonite: One New York Woman's Food Allergies Became an Award-Winning Bakery

Ingredients:
2 c Allie’s flour
3/4 c sugar
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 t salt
1/2 c unsalted butter or Earth Balance, softened
1 t baking soda
1 t vanilla
1/2 t cinnamon
2 eggs
1/3 T lowfat or hemp milk
1/4 c chocolate chips or blueberries (optional)

Directions:
• Preheat oven to 350.
• In a mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar
• Beat eggs in separate bowl and add butter/sugar to the mixture. Then add bananas, milk, and vanilla until well blended.
• In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking soda, and salt. Then add to the banana mixture until fully blended.
• Add chocolate chips or blueberries, if desired.
• Pour into greased pan and bake 50-60 minutes for loaf.

 

 

– The End. Go Eat. –

The i8tonite 2017 Gift Guide

It’s that time of the year to start thinking about gift-giving. At i8tonite, we are all about the kitchen. Instead of giving a general blanket list of ideas, we thought about fun cookery suggestions for different types of folks on that holiday list. Here’s our gift guide:

The Culinaire

This person has pretty much everything as it relates to cooking. Give the gift around “decolonization,” its cooking knowledge using indigenous plants and meats associated with the Native Americans or the First Nation, as known in Canada, and their diet. Our suggestion is simple and inexpensive: the three sisters, a combination of corn, bean and squash which is the bedrock of many tribes, specifically those in the Southwest. Sow True Seed has a gift collection of the trio. $6.95 plus shipping and handling.

The Non-Cook

In every group of friends, there is one that can’t boil water. We make them a designated bartender. West Elm has a very chic set of bar tools. $63.00.

The i8tonite 2017 Gift Guide

The Person that Wants to Cook, but Complains They Can’t Because They Don’t Have Time

This busy bee has one of those all-important jobs like being an entertainment publicist, a life-coach, or an event planner. You know the type, they are always working on someone else’s life and they don’t have time for themselves. We recommend D’Artagnan Food Lover’s Gourmet Gift Basket. It can work two-fold: as dinner with leftovers, or dinner plus a guest. Costco, $99.99

The i8tonite 2017 Gift Guide

The Vegan or Vegetarian

Most likely, this individual is a vegetarian that will order the salmon special at a newly opened restaurant. It’s also easier just to go vegan with a gift basket. Pangea, the online, non-meat food store has the perfect one which comes with a bumper sticker, which says “Go Vegan!”. It will look perfect on their BMW or Mercedes.

The i8tonite 2017 Gift Guide

The Fitness Fanatic

Those who are really into fitness – bless their hearts – love to go on and on about burning calories. Eating with them consists of a salad and maybe a protein like fish – hold the butter or oil. However, occasionally after a HIIT class or a de-stress yoga session where they have perfected their sun salutations, expect some form of a juice cleanse splurge. Skip eating with them unless they are cooking.

And…Merry Christmas, Joyous Hanukkah, Jolly Kwanzaa, and Happy Holidays!

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i8tonite with Vicente del Rio of Frida’s: A LA Mexican Institution & Roasted Pork with Mole Recipe

i8tonite with Vicente del Rio of Frida’s: A LA Mexican Institution & Roasted Pork with Mole RecipeWhen Frida’s first opened in 2002 along the forgotten strip of Beverly Drive in Beverly Hills, there was a lack of well-crafted Mexican food in Beverly Hills. The world-renowned town at the time celebrated tomahawk steaks with martinis rather than reposado tequilas and molés. Upon opening, the small but mighty restaurant fostered a growing interest in the cuisine outside of the standard Tex-Mex that populated the City of Angels. More than 17 years later while other area restaurants have come and gone, Frida’s still stands, crafting south of the border dishes one might have in the very cosmopolitan Mexico City.

Owner Vicente del Rio, who was born in the metropolis’s historical and well-to-do borough of Coyocan, said during a phone interview, “I learned how to cook from my mother and grandmother, and I wanted to bring that authentic experience here. I feel that’s why we are successful.”

After a fruitful debut year, del Rio started to spread out to other parts of Los Angeles. As CEO of  FriMex Hospitality, he has launched eating experiences throughout Los Angeles County with Frida’s Tacos in five locations (Brentwood, Old Town and East Pasadena, Melrose, and Campus Village) and a Taco Libre in Santa Monica. His team has also expanded the original experience of Frida’s to Westwood, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Cerritos, and opening soon in Sherman Oaks.

i8tonite with Vicente del Rio of Frida’s: A LA Mexican Institution & Roasted Pork with Mole Recipe

Asked about why he thinks Frida is so successful, he says, “We don’t reduce the quality of our food to increase profits. We also have a great team of people working to make sure that we embody the Mexican culture. We want everyone to enjoy our delicious history.”

Food People Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

What is your favorite food to cook at home? 
Barbeque and paella

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
All types of fresh fruits, vegetables, and proteins

What marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
That they enjoy the food that they ate and are interested in trying diverse foods

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
They complain about the food and service

i8tonite with Vicente del Rio of Frida’s: A LA Mexican Institution & Roasted Pork with Mole Recipe

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Martini

Your favorite cookbook author?
Laura Caraza

Your favorite kitchen or bar tool?
Knives

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Mexican and Spanish

Beef, chicken, pork, seafood, or tofu?
Beef

Favorite vegetable? 
Mushrooms

Chef or culinary person you most admire?
My mother and grandmother, who taught me everything

Food you like the most to eat?
Besides Mexican and sushi?

Food you dislike the most?
Cheese

What is your favorite non-food thing to do?
Golf

Whom do you most admire in food?
Jose Andres

Where is your favorite place to eat/drink?
Mexico City

What is your favorite restaurant?
Frida Beverly Hills

i8tonite with Vicente del Rio of Frida’s: A LA Mexican Institution & Roasted Pork with Mole Recipe

Do you have any tattoos?
And if so, how many are of food?
None

Recipe: Roasted Pork with Green Mole

i8tonite with Vicente del Rio of Frida’s: A LA Mexican Institution & Roasted Pork with Mole Recipe

Total time: 3 hours, 15 minutes, largely unattended.  Serves 8

Ingredients:
3 1/2- to 4-pound pork shoulder roast, fat trimmed
Salt
Pepper
6 tablespoons oil, divided
6 cups chicken broth, divided, plus 1/4 to 1/2 cup if needed
1 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, chopped
5 tomatillos, husked and chopped (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup shelled raw peanuts
1/2 cup raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds), hulled
1 bunch cilantro (tough lower stems removed)
1/2 bunch epazote (1 cup leaves)
1 cup chopped iceberg or romaine lettuce
1 corn tortilla, torn into pieces
1 bolillo roll, sliced
3 whole jalapeno chiles (not seeded)
2 whole serrano chiles, seeds removed7 poblano chiles, seeds removed, chopped (4 cups chopped)
1/2 cup toasted pepitas

Directions:
1. Season the pork with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a Dutch oven. Add the pork shoulder and sear on all sides. Pour 2 cups chicken broth into the pan and cover.

2. Place in a 325-degree oven and cook until the meat is tender and easily pulled apart with a fork, about 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

3. Heat the remaining oil in a large skillet. Add the onion, garlic, and tomatillos and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the peanuts and the raw pepitas and cook for 2 more minutes.

4. Add the cilantro, epazote, lettuce, tortilla pieces, bolillo slices and chiles. Stir in the remaining chicken broth and bring to a boil.

5. Reduce heat. Simmer until the chiles are soft and flavors have melded, approximately 15 to 20 minutes.

6. Let the mixture cool slightly, then blend in batches until smooth. Add a little water or broth (one-fourth to one-half cup) if necessary to make a thick but pourable sauce.

7. Return the sauce to the pan and heat to serving temperature. Season with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt or to taste. Makes 6 cups sauce, ½ cup per serving.

8. Serve on shredded pork, arrange on a serving platter. Sprinkle with pepitas.

 

 

– The End. Go Eat. – 

Weigh-to-Go: So Cal’s Best Hot Food Bars

While attending my New York City fashion school during the eighties, my academic cohorts and I would venture out for lunch. It wasn’t often, as most of our money was taken up in the purchase of school supplies. We’d take the elevator from our seventh-floor institution to Park Avenue South below, just south of 23rd Street. We smoked a couple of cigarettes, chased by a styrofoamed cup of coffee, and then we bustled into the market with the rest of the noonday office crowd. Owned and operated by, we assumed, a Korean family, we never knew their names but were always greeted with a pleasant, “How are you!!!?” It came across more as, “hey, good to see you,” rather than an actual question about our welfare.

At the center of the grocery were two large stainless steel table tables, one for cold eats and salads, and the other filled to the brim with piping hot multi-ethnic delicacies. Once you filled up your plastic container, it was weighed by the cashier, and you were given your choice of wooden pull apart chopsticks or plastic utensils. It was $4.00 by the pound at this particular market, but at times, if you searched down in Wall Street or the Upper West Side, prices could be lower. Somewhere in the back, cooks were making varieties of kimchi, Filipino lechon, Chinese American fried rice, refried beans, roasted pork, cool sautéed string beans tossed with sesame and soy, white and brown rices, cold tofu in peanut butter sauce, kefta, and on and on went the menu. At times, there were more than 30 to 35 items on the hot buffet, and equally the same on the cold including many glass rice noodles salads.

After leaving the Big Apple for Los Angeles in the early nineties, I didn’t think about the weigh-to go food bars. It wasn’t until I started seeing them at Whole Foods did I remember dining from them. Recently, I’ve noticed more at a variety of markets, and have been pleased by the array of eating choices from these familiar metal stands.

Over the past decade or so food, grocery bars seem to be making a comeback. It’s a natural choice for many, especially when you’re single, don’t feel like cooking, or just want to grab and go. Each store has a distinct selection of items they offer.

Here are my top five Southern California picks for best places to eat and go.

Bristol Farms: Gourmet American Comfort Food

Steam Tabled for Your Supper with Weigh to Go Food Bars: Southern California’s Best

Bristol Farms are Gucci eats compared to the low-rent items at other well-known stores. My fave is located in the building which formerly housed the celebrity old-school restaurant Chasen’s. Here, ghosts of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton roam the pasta aisle looking for cuisines of the past; occasionally, you might catch a glimpse of Ryan Seacrest or even Diana Ross wheeling a cart.

Steam Tabled for Your Supper with Weigh to Go Food Bars: Southern California’s BestOffering all three meals at the warm and go, I would often pick-up an almost two-pound breakfast burrito in the morning. Heavily packed with roasted potatoes, eggs, cheese, and bacon or sausage, it was the perfect beginning to a day. Additional fare included scrambled eggs, French Toast, pancakes, egg, cheese, potatoes, and biscuit egg sandwiches – with or without sausage or bacon. During lunch and dinner, items include macaroni and cheese, chicken in many forms (stewed, roasted, fried, boneless), spaghetti, warmed rolls, individual pizzas, vegetables medleys, sometimes with tofu, and the menu goes on.

Steam Tabled for Your Supper with Weigh to Go Food Bars: Southern California’s Best

Sometimes, the pastas do get a little dried out from sitting on the table. At the end of the day, for something hot and satiating, Bristol Farms is the chew!

Seafood City: Filipino Foodies’ Fantasy

Steam Tabled for Your Supper with Weigh to Go Food Bars: Southern California’s Best

This was recommended to me by OC Weekly food writer Anne-Marie Panoringan, whom I met at a press dinner. We discussed our Filipino-ness. She said there was great adobe in her former Nor Cal home base. Living in the OC – she is an actual neighbor – she pointed out that I could go to Seafood City to get pancit for a birthday party. Pancit is to Filipinos what spaghetti Bolognese is to Italians at a gathering – a must. Just like the world-renowned slurpy strings, pancit’s base begins with vermicelli-like rice noodles, tossed with a variety of ingredients such as fowl, beef, goat, Chinese broccoli and string beans, green onions, carrots, etc. The list is endless.

Steam Tabled for Your Supper with Weigh to Go Food Bars: Southern California’s BestAlthough technically not a grab-and-go but more of a buffet, Seafood City features traditional cuisine from the archipelago, such as brothy stews like nilaga with boiled oxtail, potatoes, and bok choy, or singang, a savory pork stew with tamarind and jalapeno. Of course, there are the pinoy faves Filipino sausage, lechon (slow-roasted pork), and lumpia (eggrolls), as well as the traditional adobe. When native Filipinos bring their families to dine on food from the store, you know it’s going to deliciously authentic.

Steam Tabled for Your Supper with Weigh to Go Food Bars: Southern California’s Best

Bonus points: Buy your seafood from the fishmonger, and then they will clean and fry it for you. You can take it home to the family.

Cardenas: Ceviche, Corn Tortillas, and Mas Comida

Steam Tabled for Your Supper with Weigh to Go Food Bars: Southern California’s Best

Like Seafood City caters to its native and non-native Filipinos, Cardenas market, a Latin grocer with almost 30 outlets throughout the Southern California area, does the same. Ingeniously, instead of trying to go against the tide of political opposition, the markets carry piñatas and play mariachi music. The grade school Spanish never mastered comes in handy when trying to find everyday items from the store’s employees. It’s almost like being in rural Mexico without ever having to get on a plane. That’s a compliment.

Steam Tabled for Your Supper with Weigh to Go Food Bars: Southern California’s BestFrom the morning desayuno to the evening cena, eaters can stock up on weigh by the food, including birrias, tamales, guacamole, and molacajete salsas, which are made right before your eyes. All their masa made on site can be purchased, and include unusual types such as blue corn and nopales. Regular white corn available to for those looking to make homemade tamales. Using leftover tortillas cut into triangles, batches are fried and salted into hearty housemade chips, making them the best in the land.

Steam Tabled for Your Supper with Weigh to Go Food Bars: Southern California’s Best

Bonus points: Watch them make fresh tortillas in at their tortilleria and then buy them still slightly warm.

Whole Foods: A Better Balanced Bar

Steam Tabled for Your Supper with Weigh to Go Food Bars: Southern California’s Best

Since its beginning – sort of like when God created man – Whole Foods has always had a prepared food table. On the massive metal stages, which include breakfast, it almost a combination of Bristol Farms, Cardenas, and Seafood City – meaning it’s appealing to the masses and those who like ethnic foods. American eats are available but it’s “Hey, here is some macaroni and cheese as well as roasted chicken quarters for those who aren’t into it. “ Personally, I’ve always found Whole Foods to be underseasoned, needing more salt and pepper for brightness.

Steam Tabled for Your Supper with Weigh to Go Food Bars: Southern California’s BestWhole Foods does have the most extensive salad bar, with everything from freshly cut vegetables to dips and about a dozen salad dressings to appeal to vegans, vegetarians, and omnivores. Chilled pastas and meats. Whole and chopped hardboiled eggs. Fresh beets, not that jelly stuff that comes in a can, as well as an array of cheeses and nuts.

For additional cooked treats, the Whole Foods kitchen makes excellent pizza and flattops, where burgers and paninis can be whipped up to its adoring masses.

Wholesome Choice: Irvine International

Steam Tabled for Your Supper with Weigh to Go Food Bars: Southern California’s Best

A food lover’s dream come true, Wholesome Choice ostensibly is a Persian market, but it caters to every ethnic group who lives in a the Orange County area. Located in a strip mall, next door to a Wells Fargo, this is a food bazaar. There’s no need to go anywhere else. A sangak bakery pleasantly assaults customers on arrival.

Steam Tabled for Your Supper with Weigh to Go Food Bars: Southern California’s BestLong curtains of unleavened Middle-Eastern bread, baked throughout the day by a team of Latins, draping over the front of shopping carts is a common sight. Waiting for the aromatic freshly baked dough is a global community of Asians, Middle-eastern, Africans, and Europeans from Central and eastern Europe. Additional baked goods such as Barbari, mashadi, and Persian sweet bread get doughed in-house too.

Head over to International Food Court, where a hot buffet tables offers an array of global cuisines. Patrons can choose from six different fares to satiate their appetite, including Persian, Mexican, Chinese, Thai, Indian, Italian and American. Over in the cold cuts area, all six varieties of feta are on offer, as well as dolmas, a selection of olives, and spreads such as hummus and tabbouleh.
If you are shopping to make food at home, I’ve counted about a dozen tahini sauces. Bundled tangles of chives, rosemary, oregano, thyme, or other branchy herb are on sale for $1.99, and will last you a lifetime. The butcher area is not for vegans or vegetarians, as there are often many sweetbreads and organ meats available, including testicles of lamb and goat. Longon, loquats, bitter Indian melon, fresh unshelled almonds, and grape leaves sell faster than the store can keep them in.

Steam Tabled for Your Supper with Weigh to Go Food Bars: Southern California’s Best

Never in all my travels, which include 30 countries and nearly 250 cities, have I seen such a Western grocery store offering a selection of international goods.

Bonus Points: The store proves that world peace can exist if we shop together for food.

Pin for later:Southern California Tips: top 5 places to eat and go!

 

The End. Go Eat. 

 

Whole Foods photos, courtesy Brian Garrido. All other photos courtesy respective stores via facebook. 

i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

Irvine, a bedroom community in Orange County, is often spoken about as a homestead of possible Utopian living with green trees, cookie cutter homes, and maybe an ethnic market selling something as exotic as dark chocolate or unroasted nuts. In truth, it’s a thriving urban area with an incredibly diverse population – and food to match.

i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

Close to Disneyland, 10 miles from the Pacific Ocean, and roughly an hour and a half drive from the City of Los Angeles, resides Irvine, opened in 1965 as a “new town.” The area’s conception was a bedroom metropolis budding out of the 405-freeway connecting LA, OC, and San Diego counties. Its sole purpose was to be a pedestrian, and yes, a conformist archetype of 20th century modernism.

Now, in the 21st century, ironically, it is the largest city in the continental U.S states with an Asian diaspora, ranging from Indian to Korean, Filipino to Chinese, Malaysian to Japan. Irvine has become a blossoming food center, offering cuisine not only throughout Asia but Mexican, Italian, Indian, and Middle Eastern – and sometimes, a fusion of several.

For residents, the town’s proximity is close enough to enjoy Pacific Ocean breezes from Newport and Laguna Beach without having to pay for the pricey coastal real estate, although that, too, is changing as it continues to grow. Indeed, the area measuring 65 square miles is home to several higher learning schools including University of California, Irvine, Concordia, Brandman and Chapman Universities, and has a median income of a little more than $93,000 per household compared to the entire state at $63,000.

During the mid-sixties, people were the leaving urban centers for places like Irvine, which quickly become synonymous as a landmark of social and political conservatism. Often a hidden tag line, going to any city within Orange County such as Anaheim, Huntington Beach, or San Juan Capistrano was said to be “visiting behind the Orange Curtain,” a post-WW II reference to communist countries and much of the then area’s non-liberal viewpoint. Much of that has changed, as OCs head into the first quarter of the 21st century.

Matter of fact, Irvine proudly stated that for the first time since WWII, the entire area went “blue,” attributable to the shifting and dying demographics that once reigned in the area. Now Irvine, also called “SoCal’s Silicon Valley,” is one of the leading centers of the state’s diverse eats and eaten by internet company denizens from Google, Houzz, Microsoft, and Oracle populating each side of the 405.

No, Dorothy, this isn’t Kansas, it’s Irvine.

Breakfast: Hotel Irvine’s Marketplace

If you’re staying here, this yummy place offers well-made grab and go sandwiches, pizzas, and salads throughout the day. However, it’s the ideal spot to grab a great sausage and egg on an English muffin ($3) or a breakfast burrito ($4). Want to order a la carte? Go for scrambled eggs ($2), any breakfast meat ($2), and a side of potatoes ($2). It’s far better than anything heated up at a chain coffee of fast food spot. Indeed, many of the young office workers start their days at Marketplace because the prices are low. Coffee is standard Starbucks, but you can have a breakfast meeting with the ample seating. Free wi-fi included so it’s easy to start up a Powerpoint presentation. Come back during the never-ending happy hour and enjoy inexpensive glasses of wines, unique cocktails, and beer along with a stellar small plate eating menu that is equally as delicious.

 

Breakfast at Hotel Irvine’s Marketplace. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

17900 Jamboree Road
Irvine, California, 92614
866.396.4201

Lunch: Wholesome Choice

You did well on that 26-slide Powerpoint presentation during breakfast, but that was at 8:00 am. It took hours to get through, and you’re famished, but the chain restaurants which proliferate in Irvine – and they do – aren’t what you want. Head to Irvine’s possibly greatest food spot: a grocery store called Wholesome Choice. At lunch (or even dinner), they have one of the best ethnic food hot bars probably in the country. Running the gamut from Chinese-American, Persian, Indian, Mexican, traditional American, to Middle -Eastern, it’s a food person’s dream. Enter in on the right side by the vegetable and fruit area, and you’re walking into a Turkish bazaar stateside.

Lunch at Wholesome Choice. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

The bins are overflowing with pomegranates, Persian cucumbers, key limes (in season), parsley, ginger, and other items not seen in traditional grocery stores.

Lunch at Wholesome Choice. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

Before getting there, though, you have to sidle by the sangak bread bakery and its bakers (who are Mexican). In line waiting for the unleavened curtains of whole wheat, which drape the shopping carts, are people of all backgrounds – Latin, Korean, Jewish, Russian, Filipino, Persian, Arabic – reflecting the neighborhood and the locals.

Lunch at Wholesome Choice. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

Buy a bottle of orange water, rose water, lily water, or drinking water. Nearly a dozen varieties of tahini rest in the sauce aisle – it’s hard to choose. If you’re a little queasy about meat products, don’t head to the butcher cases. Whole sheep and cow reside there in pieces. An eye there, a testicle here, and a little bit of tongue. (Don’t forget trying a little bit of the house-made Turkish delight. There seem to be nearly as many choices of the confection as there are stars in the sky.)

Lunch at Wholesome Choice. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

18040 Culver Drive
Irvine, CA 92612
(949) 551-4111

Cocktails

After shopping through one of the many malls, including Irvine Spectrum complete with a ferris wheel, head to Angelina’s Neapolitan Pizzeria, located in another strip area across the 405. Even though it’s a cement block with all the appeal of a wood chip, inside, the Italian bistro is light with grey, burgundy, and white.

Cocktail at Angelina's Neapolitan Pizzeria. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

Additionally, it’s well-appointed with racks of wine bottles (mostly Italian), a full bar, and a pizza-oven creating robust aromas. Although you could order a glass of Pinot Grigio with maybe a pizza to share for as an appetizer before a meal, my recommendation is a flight of Italian food and wine. It consists of three tastes, with a trio of wines of about 3 to 3.5 ounces each. For example, the Sophia Flight ($12) focusing on rosatos, imbibers sip a sparkling from Setteanime, Raboso Marca Trevigiana, paired with a bruschetta of shrimp, garlic, and bell pepper. Another pairing is a Sangiovese rosato from Il Poggione Brancato in Tuscany coupled with a bruschetta of brie, olives, and micro-basil and lastly, from Puglia, a beautifully dry rosato, Tormaresca Calafuria Negroamaro, is combined with goat cheese, artichokes, and parsley slathered onto toast. There are others, but it’s a tasty way to travel the Italian wines without going bottle by bottle. Granted, you can do that, but there are checkpoints in Irvine.

Flights of food & Wine at Angelina's Neapolitan Pizzeria. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

Los Olivos Marketplace
8573 Irvine Center Drive
Irvine, CA 92618
(949) 536 – 5200

Outside the Box of Irvine: Union Market

Union Market is one of my favorite destinations in all of Orange County, both for eating and retail shopping. It’s a unique one-of-a-kind retail and food hall destination showcasing the best of the independent shops.

Outside the Box of Irvine: Union Market. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

Located in Tustin, a small town to the north of Irvine, it’s based in another mall, called The District.

Outside the Box of Irvine: Union Market. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

There are about seven full restaurants, including Hatch which serves only sliders, Kettlebar, a New Orleans steam cooking experience, and several others. In the center of the mini-mall within a large mall – sort of like the Russian stacking dolls — lies a horseshoe shaped bar, appropriately named Central.

Outside the Box of Irvine: Union Market. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

 

Here you will find locally-sourced beers, hand-picked wines, and craft cocktails served to a robust gathering of area workers. Order a deliciously messy Country Fried Chicken Poutine ($9) from The Kroft (the tagline is “comfort food re-invented.” ‘Nuff said.), or Market 2 Table’s freshly made rigatoni served with Bolognese ($8.95), and eat at any of the tables. How much fun is doing a buffet to your liking?

Outside the Box of Irvine: Union Market. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

2493 Park Avenue
Tustin, California 92782

Dinner: Puesto

Across the parking lot from Angelina Neopolitan Pizzeria lies a Mexican restaurant created by three brothers in San Diego. Offering a variety of tacos and other South of the Border goodies, Puesto is a unique offering in the world of California Mexican food.

Dinner at Puesto Taco. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

Begin the evening in the kitchen, where four dining tables are close to the culinary action. If the meal conversation lags or your companion is completely dull, start watching the sous chefs make batch after batch of perfectly pressed blue corn tortillas. Monthly, their Executive Chef Katy Smith creates a taco, of which a dollar from each sale goes to a local charity. It’s not always a taco, either. Sometimes, it’s a margarita, and in April of this year, a frozen horchata was chilled up. The inspiration comes from a variety of Mexican states, including the street food of Distrito Federale. It’s also one of the few restaurants where I’ve had freshly made chicarrones (pork skin deep-fried). Lightly salted, they can be a gluten-free or an alternative to corn chips. Fresh, intensely flavorful, and charitable all at the same time. What more can you want from a dining experience?

Dinner at Puesto Taco. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

8577 Irvine Center Drive
Irvine, CA 92618
(949) 608 – 9990
www.market2plate.com

Hotel Irvine

Within the confines of staying in the city area of Irvine, hotel choices are limited. However, a nice casual business stay is the Hotel Irvine.

Where to stay: Hotel Irvine. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

Looking more like a seventies securities exchange building, the 536-room property is nicely appointed – free Wi Fi – with a thriving food scene. Some of the rooms have balconies but overlook a business park and freeway. Regardless, it’s a quick escape from either North or South on the 405 and comes complete with a pool. (My motto: No pool. No stay.) The restaurant is called Eats Kitchen & Bar, which in January changed executive chefs. It’s now overseen by Jeff Moore, who comes from a fourth generation Palos Verdes-based grocer. The atmosphere of the restaurant is conflicted between being a gastropub, as is seen in the décor, and an industrial edifice.

EATS Kitchen & Bar Dining Room. Breakfast at Hotel Irvine’s Marketplace. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

EATS Kitchen & Bar (Nicoise Salad). Breakfast at Hotel Irvine’s Marketplace. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

Regardless, it’s a great place to stay – hell, it’s really the only place to stay in Irvine.

Where to stay: Hotel Irvine. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

 

– The End. Go Eat. – 

 

Word photo courtesy creative commons: Derek Liang 

i8tonite: How to Put a Million Dollar Hollywood Landscape in a Bottle with Moraga Vineyards Winemaker Scott Rich & Recipe for Tuna Wasabi Canapes

i8tonite: How to Put a Million Dollar Hollywood Landscape in a Bottle with Moraga Wines Winemaker Scott Rich & Recipe for Tuna Wasabi CanapesA cursory internet search on Los Angeles wineries pulls up lists such as 10 Best Places to Go Within 50 Miles or 18 Spots to Go Wine Tasting. Although we are sure the wines are good, they don’t have the star power of, say, Napa’s Opus One or Santa Barbara’s Au Bon Climat. But, as they say, times are a changin’, and last year Australian media mogul Rupert Murdoch purchased Moraga Vineyards in the tony neighborhood of Bel-Air.  Celebrities who have resided in the area include actress Meg Ryan and rocker Avril Lavigne; Star Wars creator George Lucas recently purchased his only Los Angeles home in the wealthy community, according to Variety, at nearly $34 million. Other residents over the years have included Elizabeth Taylor, Michael Jackson, and Candy and Aaron Spelling. Therefore, Mr. Murdoch’s winery, once owned by Tom Jones, CEO at Northrup, and the former home of Gone With The Wind and Wizard of Oz director Victor Fleming, is probably one of the most expensive pieces of land in the United States…and possibly wine world.

i8tonite: How to Put a Million Dollar Hollywood Landscape in a Bottle with Moraga Wines Winemaker Scott Rich & Recipe for Tuna Wasabi CanapesEmbedded in the Santa Monica Mountains, winemaker Scott Rich, who started the making the wines under the Jones ownership, spoke to us from his home in Sonoma, where he lives part-time, tending to his vineyards and grapes at Talisman Vineyards. He travels down to the City of Angels once a week, staying three to four nights, crafting Moraga Wines under the new owner. He says, “It’s a unique grape growing area. It’s like a refrigerator at times, as we get cold Pacific Ocean air, which is only 9 miles away. We consider it hot if it reaches more than 85 degrees.”

i8tonite: How to Put a Million Dollar Hollywood Landscape in a Bottle with Moraga Wines Winemaker Scott Rich & Recipe for Tuna Wasabi Canapes

He continues, “Because of that, our wines are soft and elegant, not big and overpowering, as most associate with California.”
Rich also says that the wines they produce are from soils much like that of Bordeaux. However, true to California form, the vines sit on a fault line. “We are bisected by the Benedict Canyon fault. On one side, we have ground that was churned up two plates millions of years ago. On the south side, we have primarily uplifted sea bed. At one time, this was the Santa Monica Bay.”

i8tonite: How to Put a Million Dollar Hollywood Landscape in a Bottle with Moraga Wines Winemaker Scott Rich & Recipe for Tuna Wasabi CanapesBut at the end of the day, it’s not about the growing region so much as how they taste on the palate. Rich says, “We don’t do lots and lots of things to the fruit. We have perfect grapes, and we try not to mess them up while we craft our delicious wines.”

At the winery, the winemaking team only makes an Estate Red and an Estate Sauvignon Blanc. The white’s aromas are of peaches and nectarines, while the red is soft with currants and tobacco, which is indicative of the limestone soil. Only 10,000 bottles are produced annually, and are generally over a $100 per bottle. Not inexpensive, but it’s definitely more economical to taste the terroir in the bottle than it is to plant your mansion in the multi-million-dollar neighborhood.

i8tonite: How to Put a Million Dollar Hollywood Landscape in a Bottle with Moraga Wines Winemaker Scott Rich & Recipe for Tuna Wasabi Canapes

Food Questions with Winemaker Scott Rich (with a nod to Proust):

What is your favorite food to cook at home?
Meyer Lemon and Ricotta Puffed Pancake with Macerated Strawberries. It’s this beautiful lemony doughy-bottomed, airy-topped steroidal (pan)cake with slightly sweet clouds of ricotta, topped with strawberries from the garden that have been soaked in Meyer lemon and Grand Marnier

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Tortillas. Coffee. Milk (plain and chocolate). Veggies. Fruit. Leftovers.

i8tonite: How to Put a Million Dollar Hollywood Landscape in a Bottle with Moraga Wines Winemaker Scott Rich & Recipe for Tuna Wasabi CanapesWhat marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
A love of food and flavors. The sharing part is important. Curiosity.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
Lack of the above.

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Do you have to make a choice? There’s a lot of territory to explore in everything.

Your favorite cookbook author?
Christopher Kimball and the whole gang at Cook’s Illustrated. They do a remarkably rigorous job of testing and tweaking recipes to arrive at the best result.

Your favorite kitchen or bar tool?
A sharp knife and a corkscrew.

i8tonite: How to Put a Million Dollar Hollywood Landscape in a Bottle with Moraga Wines Winemaker Scott Rich & Recipe for Tuna Wasabi Canapes

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Italian and California/Mediterranean. It’s all about the best, freshest ingredients, rather than the process. I have a pretty decent garden and lots of fresh produce most of the year. My go-to dish during tomato season is caprese – simple preparation, rather than cooking.

Beef, chicken, pork, seafood, or tofu?
Yes.

Favorite vegetable?
Bok choy.

Chef or culinary person you most admire?
Daniel Patterson of Coi (and a few other ventures). Daniel is curious, creative, discerning, demanding, humble, and very thoughtful in his pursuits. His interests run the gamut from creating the finest, fussiest, artistic food in San Francisco to providing delicious, wholesome, inexpensive fare in one of L.A.’s poorest communities. Then there are his projects in the East Bay.

i8tonite: How to Put a Million Dollar Hollywood Landscape in a Bottle with Moraga Wines Winemaker Scott Rich & Recipe for Tuna Wasabi Canapes

Food you like the most to eat?
I’m a sucker for really good French fries. Crunchy outside, soft pillowy innards.

Food you dislike the most?
Mayonnaise.

What is your favorite non-food thing to do?
Play.

Whom do you most admire in food?
See the question four above this one.

Where is your favorite place to eat/drink?
At home with a bunch of friends.

What is your favorite restaurant?
Coi in San Francisco for something mind-blowingly fancy and beautiful.
Pizza Azzurro in Napa for their margarita pizza and an Anchor Steam beer.
Any number of taco trucks in Sonoma.

Do you have any tattoos? And if so, how many are of food/wine?
No.

i8tonite: How to Put a Million Dollar Hollywood Landscape in a Bottle with Moraga Wines Winemaker Scott Rich & Recipe for Tuna Wasabi Canapes

No-Recipe Tuna Wasabi Canapes

• Pound of Ahi Tuna
• Package of won ton wrappers (found in the Asian section of your grocery store, by the tofu)
• ¼ cup of grated fresh wasabi (Japanese markets)
• Vegetable Oil
• Wok or deep skillet
• Alfalfa sprouts
• Freshly made aioli or grated garlic, mayo, and a dash of lemon juice to thin.
• Salt and Pepper

In the center of each wonton wrapper, smear some grated wasabi and alfalfa sprouts. Fold the wontons like a miniature taco and quickly fry them in about a quarter inch of oil. Drain on a paper towel. Salt and pepper the tuna and then sear in a hot pan about two minutes on each side. Cut the tuna into bite size pieces and place on a wonton. Add a dash or two of mayo for a little fat and the perfect appetizer to accompany our Moraga wines.

 

– The End. Go Eat. –