Monthly Archives: June 2011

Foie Gras “PB&J” Served From a Truck

The Vizzi Truck is the gold standard of gourmet food trucks.  I usually refer to the whole new wave of ethnically diverse food trucks as gourmet, but the Vizzi truck truly is gourmet. The menu changes seasonally. The Vizzi’s chef describes his cuisine as the result of taking French cooking techniques and mixing it with coastal flavors from around the globe, and finishing each bite with subtle Pacific flair. I would describe it as the food truck equivalent of Las Vegas’ Wynn and Encore Hotels, which are unique in a strip of over-the-top themed resorts in that they have no specific theme other than pure luxury and sophistication. The truck itself is the grandest of all mobile food vehicles with two flat screen televisions so you can watch movies or sports while you wait for your food.

My favorites on the truck are the Braised Wagyu Beef Sliders (maple-balsamic bbq beef with chimichurri-creme on soft Hawaiin rolls; they also have a great vegetarian version made with organic chickpea “cutlets”), Venison Burger (with maple-dijon aioli, charred sweet onion, queso panela and bacon), and Bacon Grilled Cheese Sandwich (with blu-bacon fondue, carmelized onions, swiss cheese and tomato). All of the foregoing are served on top of Pimento Spiced-Yakima Salt Popcorn. My family also loves the White Truffle Popcorn mixed with sea salt and chopped dried figs. But the piece de resistance is The Foie Gras “PB&J,” a deconstructed sandwich consisting of toasted butter brioche, seared foie gras, homemade almond butter and truffled fig jelly. This playful take on an American classic is spectacular and it’s hard to believe it comes from a food truck. It does, however, come at a high price, literally. At $21, I believe it is the most expensive item I have ever seen sold from a food truck. But I thought it was well worth the price.

The best way to find the Vizzi Truck is the schedule on their website.

Foie Gras "PB&J"

Braised Wagyu Beef Sliders

White Truffle Popcorn

Vizzi (food truck) on Urbanspoon

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Filed under Food Trucks

French Dip Fracas!

Philippe’s vs. Cole’s. The rivalry rages on. These two faux Frenchmen (and no, I don’t mean French Canadians) have been duking it out for almost a century. Both claim to have invented the French Dip, a sandwich of thinly sliced meat on a French roll, served au jus (“with [its own] juice”). Both restaurants opened in downtown LA in 1908 and each are the subject of different versions of the French Dip origin story. Is it true that Philippe’s invented the French Dip in 1918 when a hungry patron offered to eat a sandwich with a roll that had been accidentally dropped in jus left in a hot roasting pan? Or is it true that Cole’s was the first to dip in order to soften a sandwich for a customer with sore gums? We will never know the answer to these questions. But we can decide who currently makes a better French Dip. And with this in mind, my friend Josh and I did a back-to-back taste test at the two legendary restaurants.

We started at Philippe’s and had the roast beef French Dip. Philippe’s is a fun atmosphere. There is sawdust on the floor, cool vintage decor and communal tables. You order at a counter and the server prepares and dips your sandwich for you. Just tell them what kind of meat you want (beef, lamb, pork, turkey or ham), what kind of cheese you want, if any (I like the tangy bleu cheese) and whether you want a single or a double dip. You can add Philippe’s special spicy mustard at your table; it’s really great but super-hot. They also have great pickles, coleslaw, potato salad, macaroni salad, purple pickled eggs and pickled pig’s feet!

We then moved on to Cole’s. At Cole’s, there are waiters and waitresses and you order at your table. While Philippe’s has a bright, chaotic atmosphere and is great for people watching, Cole’s is a cooler, hipper scene. The decor is very old school; antique lights, dark wood and red leather booths. At the back of Cole’s is a door leading to The Varnish, a very hip speakeasy. Since we wanted to compare apples to apples, we also ordered a roast beef French Dip at Cole’s (they also have lamb, turkey and pastrami). Instead of dipping the sandwich for you, Cole’s gives you a cup of jus for you to dip as much as you want. Cole’s sides include fries, bacon potato salad and awesome spicy pickles. Cole’s also has mixed drinks (Philippe’s only has wine and beer). If you have room for dessert, the Bourbon Pecan Pie is amazing!

Which French Dip did we prefer? We both thought Cole’s was slightly better. Plus I liked the fact that you can do your own dipping at Cole’s. Also the desserts are better at Cole’s. However, I preferred the atmosphere at Philippe’s. It was a lot more fun. Plus parking at Cole’s is a challenge. Philippe’s is located at 1001 N Alameda Street in downtown Los Angeles. Cole’s is located at 118 E 6th Street in downtown Los Angeles.

Cole's sign proudly asserts they are the "originators"

Cole's contender

Cole's Dining Room

Philippe's bustling counter

Philippe's contender

Philippe's has pickled eggs!

Philippe, The Original on Urbanspoon
Cole's on Urbanspoon


Filed under Downtown

Tofu, the Other White Meat

My wife is going to kill me for blogging about this place and letting more people in on our secret. Tofu Ya is one of our family’s favorites and we go to this cozy little restaurant about once a week. It is the only Korean restaurant in a sea of Japanese eateries on Sawtelle Boulevard in West LA just north of Olympic (aka “Little Osaka” or “Japantown West”). They specialize in Soon Tofu, an incredibly delicious spicy tofu soup that they prepare in about 10 different ways including with seafood, beef, pork, dumpling (my favorite), chicken, kimchee or mushroom. The Soon Tofu is served to you bubbling hot in clay pots with an optional raw egg which you immediately crack open and cook in the soup. You also tell them how spicy (or mild) you want it. The meal starts with complimentary Banchan (small plates of traditional Korean appetizers) such as kimchi, marinated cucumbers and broccoli, glass noodles and fishcakes. They also serve very good Korean barbecue including Kalbi (shortribs) and Pork Bolgogi (my favorite; sweet and spicy barbecued pork). The best way to experience Tofu Ya is to get a combo with a small bowl of Soon Tofu and either one of the barbecued meats or the Dolsot Bibimbap (traditional Korean rice dish served in a clay pot).

There is nothing better than a piping hot bowl of Soon Tofu on a cold or rainy night! The cherry on top is that Tofu Ya is surprisingly inexpensive. After dinner, we like to visit one of the many dessert places on Sawtelle like Beard Papa, a Japanese bakery specializing in cream puffs. There are also many unique stores to check out on Sawtelle before or after your meal, such Black Market (best place in all of LA to buy cool t-shirts), Giant Robot Store (collectible vinyl toys, art books and graphic novels) and Tokyo Japanese Outlet (all kinds of cool Japanese imports). It’s also fun to explore the aisles of Nijiya Market, a Japanese grocery store with all kinds of interesting Japanese foods. And you could hit up the street’s Karaoke bars for sake shots and the obligatory duet of “I Got You Babe” if you’re so inclined…

Tofu Ya is located at 2021 Sawtelle Blvd, Los Angeles (in West LA).

Banchan (Korean appetizers)

Sweet and Spicy Pork Bulgogi


A cozy little place

Tofu Ya on Urbanspoon

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Filed under West LA

Southern Comfort

There is something very comforting about cobbler. It’s not fancy or elegant. It’s warm, welcoming and homey. And if prepared correctly, it’s very delicious. The cobblers at The Gourmet Cobbler Factory in Pasadena are baked with love from an old Southern family recipe and they are really, really good. I like to buy (and devour) them piping hot out of the oven. They have the most delicious golden brown crust, which is the perfect thickness and not too sweet. Beneath the crust is a warm, juicy, sweet and tart fruit filling.

The Gourmet Cobbler Factory is hardly a factory. It’s a very small and unassuming family-run bakery on a small side street off of Colorado (and not the trendy Old Town part of Colorado). They don’t sell lattes. There is nowhere to sit; everything is to go. The place looks slightly run down, but don’t let that fool you. It’s all about the cobbler here plus a few other baked goods including delicious pecan and sweet potato pies. The cobblers come in many flavors, including mixed berries, blackberry, peach, apple, boysenberry and blueberry. My favorite is the mixed berries. They also serve great seafood gumbo as well as bbq sometimes on the weekends, but I come for the cobbler and pies. It’s a great treat to take a couple cobblers home for dessert and serve them hot with scoops of vanilla bean ice cream. Or, even better, if you’re invited to a dinner party, show up with a couple of these babies and they will no doubt be the hit of the party!

The Gourmet Cobbler Factory is located at 33 N Catalina Ave. in Pasadena.

Sweet Potato Pies

Pecan Pies

More like a hole in the wall than a factory

The Gourmet Cobbler Factory on Urbanspoon


Filed under Pasadena

Sausage Fest

Wurstkuche (pronounced verst-koo-shah) is one of my favorite restaurants in all of LA.  It’s basically gourmet sausages and great beer in one of the coolest spaces in the city.  Here’s how it works:  you place your order at a counter for one or more of their awesome homemade sausages.  My favorites are the spicy and buttery Rattlesnake & Rabbit, the sweet and spicy Mango Jalapeno, the sweet Apricot & Ginger and the juicy Duck & Bacon.   They have 21 different kinds of sausages including several vegan, chicken and turkey options.  Next you pick two of the following toppings for each sausage: carmelized onions, sauteed hot peppers, sauteed sweet peppers or saurkraut.  Don’t forget the Belgian fries (and make sure you order them doused in truffle oil!) plus your choice of one of their ten dipping sauces (I recommend either the Curry Ketchup, the Chipotle Aioli or the Bleu Cheese Walnut & Bacon).  Then you select your drink from dozens of mostly Belgian and German draft beers, each served in a special beer-specific glass.  I love dark beer and there are  many nice ones to choose from here.  They also have a great selection of unusual sodas including Cucumber Soda, Ginger Beer and Elderflower Soda.

After you’ve ordered, they will give you a number to take to the adjoining dining room, which is one of the coolest restaurant spaces in the whole city; it’s brick and industrial; a modern indoor German Biergarten.  It’s also in a really interesting and beautiful part of downtown, the historic Arts District, very close to Little Tokyo and the Toy District.   Once you’ve found a place to sit in the bustling dining room, start collecting your mustards, which are scattered around the room.  They have five different varieties: Whole Grain, Dijon, Spicy Brown, Honey Mustard and American Yellow.  Before long, they will bring you your food.  Enjoy, meine Freunde!  It’s like celebrating Oktoberfest (with a cool LA gourmet twist) all year long!

Wurstkuche is located at 800 E. 3rd Street in Los Angeles (Downtown). They are opening a second location soon in Venice.

UPDATE (November 20, 2011): Westsiders rejoice! Wurstkuche has opened a second location in Venice (at 623 Lincoln Blvd; see map below) and it’s just like the downtown location.

A great selection of unusual sodas

The Belgian Fries are awesome! Get them with Truffle Oil.

It's a modern German Biergarten!

Wurstküche on Urbanspoon
Wurstküche on Urbanspoon


Filed under Downtown, Venice