May 26, 2010

Leaving for North Carolina

I'm off to Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and Charlotte for an extended long weekend.

I plan to eat this:

Soul food

And then this:

North Carolina whole hog barbecue

And then this:

Fried chicken

*All images are from Google images

May 25, 2010

Eat and Drink: Fraiche (Los Angeles)

Although I lived two blocks from Fraiche for a year, I never went. Why? Because with entrees hovering around $24 a pop, it seemed more like a special occasion restaurant than for everyday dining. Then there was Groupon with a $25 for $55 worth of food deal, and then my sister came to town. I know when opportunity hits me in the face with tasty discounted French food.

I arrived first and was seated inside. Fraiche has a lovely covered patio, but I was afraid there might be a lot of dogs. I saw my sister arrive, but she walked past the entrance twice before realizing she had to enter through the clear plastic curtain that covers the patio.

To start, we shared the beef tartare. The beef was beautiful and lightly dressed in a citrusy and peppery sauce. The arugula was a crisp contrast to the meat and bread. 

Beef tartare

After reading so much about the monkfish, their signature dish, I had to order it even though I typically do not enjoy fish dishes other than black cod. I took a risk on this dish because I had never had monkfish before and I also heard that it tastes like lobster.

The fish was served as three medallions over a bed of spinach and potatoes. To me, the dish looked like crusted chicken, but when I bit into it, I was met by a spongy, buttery, rich fish. Fraiche's monkfish was also a much heartier meal that most fish dishes out there. I wound up taking half of mine home with me.

Monkfish "Francaise" with
spinach, white wine, potato puree, shallots

I am not sure why we ordered dessert. I think it was my doing and I really wish we hadn't. This was by far the low note in our perfectly yummy dinner. I found our torta to be bland, and texturally, it reminded me of cheesecake. Overall, I found it boring.

Torta della Nonna with
fuji apples, pine nut streusel, mascarpone ice cream

Unfortunately, I will definitely not be visiting Fraiche again before my move east. There are less than 40 days left and so many new things to try still!

Fraiche Culver City
9411 Culver Boulevard
Culver City, CA 90232-2616

May 18, 2010

Fun with Animals and Robots

This is what happens when you leave your boyfriend in another city with an iPhone and stuffed animals/toys.

This piece is entitled "Eva, Wake Up."

This piece is entitled "Pre-Irene Arrival Party."

Take a Hike: Escondido Canyon Water Falls

LAist turned me onto this amazing hike off PCH in Malibu. The hike to a set of very lovely waterfalls was probably the most sketchy hike I've been on in the Malibu area, but it was well worth it to see this most unexpected place in the city.

To get to the trail, we parked in a lot off of Winding Way and then walked about a mile along a paved road to a sign marking "Edward Albert Escondido Trail and Waterfalls." We found an assortment of wildflowers and greenery along the road.

Wildflowers along the paved road
A Christmas tree and a broccoli tree along the road

Once we made it to the trail, we crossed a small creek a number of times before reaching the base of the lower falls. We were met with a strong smell of sulfur but this scent may have just been a result of the moss covered pool at the bottom of the falls.

Wildflowers along the trail

The lower falls

We decided to continue onto the upper falls and were met with a number of fellow hikers who had a difficult time coming back down from the falls. The second part of our trip required a great deal of rock scrambling and there were parts where there was nothing to grasp onto. It wound up being more dangerous than we had wanted, but what we were met with was a beautiful sight.

The upper falls cascades down from four mossy tiers into a large pool at the bottom.
Views from the bottom of the upper falls:

Our return to the trailhead resulted in one minor injury, so please make sure you are careful on your way up and down from the upper falls.

Escondido Canyon Park
27200 Winding Way
Malibu, CA

May 11, 2010

Notes on a Wall

- Not only is Spirit Airlines charging $45 for carry-on baggage. They now also feature seats that don't recline or in Spirit Airlines lingo are "pre-reclined" (

- Anne Lamott hates Mother's Day and so do I (

- Beavers in Canada built a dam that is visible from space (The Sun)

- UCLA never bestows honorary degrees, but it will this weekend to former Japanese-American students who were removed from school during WWII and placed in internment camps. (UCLA Today)  

- Before I go to a new airport, I try to look at the airport map to see where the local eateries are (say bbq in Houston), but undoubtedly, there will be a last minute gate or terminal change and I am stuck eating at Burger King. Now, there is GateGuru, which helps you locate amenities in airports around the world. (GateGuru)

May 10, 2010

Eat and Drink: LudoBites 4.0

Ludo Lefebvre was featured this week by Time Magazine as their third "Chef of the Future." He is the chef making food on his own terms, without boundaries and without walls at least in terms of the physical location kind.

My LudoBites 4.0 meal was undoubtedly one of my top 5 culinary highlights to date but getting in required some advanced planning and waiting. I was more than slightly disappointed when I tried to make a reservation for LudoBites at Royal/T Cafe and failed! It would not happen again. I signed up for the LudoBites email list, happened to check my phone right when the email blast for LudoBites 4.0 went out and made a reservation for 7:30 pm on a Saturday no less!

Upon arrival at Gram and Papa's, which is a sandwich/salad shop during the day, we were promptly seated by Krissy Lefebvre, Ludo's lovely wife. The walls were decorated with Ludo's rooster logo, which he told us he had tattooed on his arm two days prior, but they didn't hide the fact that this isn't their restaurant. The sandwich menu hung prominently on the wall.

LudoBites is usually BYOB, so I brought a bottle of Samantha Starr 2006 pinot noir for us to have with our meal. This also significantly cuts down on the cost of a nice dinner. After reviewing the menu, we decided to go heavy on the appetizers and share one entree.

After placing our order, we had a few minutes to look around. The kitchen is completely open and the chef was working furiously along with his small team to prepare our meals. First up was the white asparagus veloute. This was my favorite item of the night. The combination of flavors was so delicious but fresh. The dish was balanced with so many different flavors and textures. Creamy, salty, and crisp.

White asparagus veloute, mozzarella mouse, fennel, candied olive, salmon roe

Next up were the scallops. I noted that the magic of Ludo's cooking is the absolute creativity. These are things that I have never thought of or seen on a menu, let alone tasted. The scallops were perfectly cooked, but the trick was getting all of the components in each bite. I found the pickled grapes too vinegar-y for my tastes, but I enjoyed the rest of the combination. 

Scallop, almond puree, pickled grapes, capers, curry oil and cauliflower ice cream

For me, this was the most disappointing dish, and I love escargots. The escargots did have an interesting texture though. It was slightly crunchy on the outside and the inside was the normal tender but slightly rubbery feel that you would imagine a snail to have. Where this dish failed for me was the saltiness.

Burgundy escargots, garlic flan, green jus, violet flowers

The foie gras was so inventive. The pina colada part was a rum gelee and pineapple ice cream and coconut foam. There was the rich, melt in your mouth foie, the shock of rum, while the tropical flavors even it all out.

Seared foie gras "pina colada"

I loved the lamb with goat cheese, but I didn't quite get the smoked eel. I found it to be a little odd, but again, these dishes were so well executed and so creative that I didn't really care too much.

Rack of lamb, fresh goat cheese, smoked eel, artichokes, mint

The entree included a side of potato mousseline, which I thought was to die for, but then two staff members called the dish "potato flavored butter" and that disturbed me a little. Of course, it didn't stop me from eating all of it.

Potato mousseline
Activity in the open kitchen

Chef at work

For dessert, I had (because Raisin Bread is allergic to chocolate) the world's largest dark chocolate souffle with a side of chocolate. As chocolate souffles usually are, it was fluffy, rich and decadent and I poured lots and lots of chocolate sauce on top and took bites with the vanilla ice cream for good measure. It was amazing. 

Dark chocolate souffle, vanilla-whisky ice cream, hot chocolate cream

Near the end of our meal, the restaurant was starting to fill up with people for the next seating, so Ludo made the rounds. I found him modest and friendly, not exactly how he was portrayed on Top Chef MastersAnne Hathaway happened to be there that night with a large group of Hollywood types.

Chef Ludo and me

For me, this was a great experience. It was fun, creative, a little exclusive, and something I wanted to do before I left LA for good.  

LudoBites at Gram and Papa's
Closes May 28th
Reservations are no longer available but you can check for cancellations

May 6, 2010

Easy, lucky and free - How I Met My Man

People often wonder how Raisin Bread and I met. (Raisin Bread and I formed a committee of two and decided that we could both live with this moniker.) The conversation usually goes something like this:

Inquisitor: How did you met?
Me: Online.

I: Oh, really??? Which site?
Me: eHarmony

I: Did you initiate it?
Me: No, he did.

I: So what happened?
Me: Well, we finally met after messaging online for a while and then talking on the phone, and then we went on a couple of more dates.

At this point, I don't know what else to say because really that was it. Well, that wasn't IT. There was so much more. There was laughter, kisses in the night, chasing each other down hotel hallways, conversations, greeting cards, and love limericks. I usually describe as it as "easy." I mean all relationships are hard and require effort from both parties. By "easy," I mean that I knew. I knew that I could love him. I knew that I could tell him how I felt and what I wanted and knew that he would still call me the next day, instead of falling off the face of the earth like some men in the past. I knew that he thought about me a million times a day. I also knew that I was lucky. Lucky, not confused, worried, scared, or upset. And happy. I was very, very happy.

Most importantly, though, I knew I was myself and he was okay with who I was. But not just okay, he also wanted to be my best friend and wake up next to me in the morning and would pout when I didn't cuddle the entire night.

What was different? I think it had a lot to do with me and a little to do with him. I finally felt free enough to say what my needs were from a man and from a relationship. I finally knew that keeping my mouth shut was worse than being afraid of how he might react to what I might say. It took about 9 months of therapy for me to fix this part of me, and I was lucky to have met Raisin Bread soon afterward. Otherwise, I don't think it would have worked anyway. 

In fact, one month after we started dating, we became a couple because he claims that I said, "I'm not going to Mexico unless you're my boyfriend." How is that for speaking my mind? I didn't actually say that, but that is what he heard and four hours later, he called me back and said, "Okay, we can still go to Mexico."

And that was it.  

May 3, 2010

Notes on the Wall

- My last blog post talked about visitors to the Poppy Reserve trampling the poppies. Apparently, there is a Facebook page to "Eradicate the Poppy Stomper" (Facebook)

- A few theories on why ginger ale is a popular beverage on flights (Upgrade Travel Better)

- Have you seen these ridiculous high resolution photos of Paris (26 gigapixels) and Dubai (45 gigapixels)?

- Make your own mobile applications at Ovi App Wizard and you can even charge for them. I would but I don't have any fresh ideas.

May 2, 2010

Explore: Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve

When I was growing up in Texas, I would go over to my friend, Stacy Jackson's house after school on a regular basis. Hanging out with her usually meant watching one of two movies, Mary Poppins and The Wizard of Oz.

Last weekend, Raisin Bread was in town so I took him to the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve to see the poppies at the height of their flowering season. The reserve is located about an hour and a half northeast of Los Angeles. It is kind of a drive, but well worth it to feel like Dorothy in a field of poppies. We just didn't get high and fall asleep. 

It's nap time for Dorothy

Wildflower season typically occurs between March and May, but the peak viewing season for the poppies is usually mid-April. Timing and color varies from year to year depending on rainfall and other factors. As you are driving to the reserve, the hillside is completely covered in orange, and we realized that many of the wildflowers actually exist outside of the reserve. We took this opportunity to take some photos in these fields because once you get inside the reserve, you must stay on the trail although many people were breaking this rule. It is unfortunate because you can see patches of missing flowers from where people must have trampled.

The park has 8 miles of hiking trails. Raisin Bread and I weren't really wearing appropriate hiking attire so we did the 2.5 mile loop. I wanted to go to the top of the hill to give him a smooch.

Rolling hills of poppies
Poppies, poppies, poppies.
Snow-capped mountains in the background
wildflowers in the foreground
A closer view of the orange poppies
A cluster of poppies
The reserve holds a variety of wildflowers, not only poppies

I'm always amazed at the beauty that can be found in our fair city/state/country if only we seek it out and, very importantly, if we protect it. I feel very fortunate that smart men and women decided this place was special and deserved to be shared.

Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve
15101 Lancaster Road
Lancaster, CA