Happy New Year from Consuming LA! As the food scene in Los Angeles continues to get more and more innovative and exciting, I will be there to bring the best (and sometimes the worst) to your attention. I’ve got a great 2012 planned for this blog and have already made a few changes. Please check out my new Manifesto. Also, I’ve created indexes to make it easier when you’re using the blog as a reference guide to pick a place to eat. Now you can search not only by neighborhood, but also alphabetically and by type of cuisine. There are also separate lists of dessert places, food trucks and places which are suitable for special occasions. More changes will be coming in the New Year. See you on the other side!
Monthly Archives: December 2011
Short Order, which opened a few weeks ago in The Original Farmer’s Market (next to The Grove), is the latest in a number of upscale, hip, artisanal hamburger joints popping up around LA. Short Order is the creation of local celebrity chef Nancy Silverton (Osteria and Pizzeria Mozza, Campanile, La Brea Bakery) and chef Amy Pressman, who tragically died a few months ago before the restaurant opened. I’ve been there a few times already and while I don’t think Short Order’s burgers are as good as Umami’s, they are pretty darn good. They’re juicy, have brioche-type buns and ultra fresh ingredients. The menu features seven burgers, only three of which are beef; the others are turkey, pork, lamb and tuna. My favorite beef burger is Ida’s Old School Burger (pictured above) made with grass-fed beef, cheddar, pickles, tomato, griddled onion, iceberg lettuce and secret sauce. I also really like the unusual Pork Burger, which has rapini, Stracchino cheese, bibb lettuce and a lemony flavor.
Short Order is a two-story restaurant and I recommend sitting on the top level. I like the vibe up there better, probably because there’s a really cool bar with great cocktails designed by uber-talented mixologist Julian Cox. If you don’t want a burger, Short Order has “rafts” (open face sandwiches), melts, corn-dogs, as well as “pretzel pups” (two short dogs with kraut and mustard on a La Brea Bakery pretzel bun) which is the only thing I’ve had there which I didn’t really like. To accompany your burger or sandwich, I recommend getting a basket of the Short Order Spuds, which are closer to crispy potato skins than fries, along with the sour cream dipping or truffle sauce. Like any respectable burger joint, Short Order has rich, creamy shakes, and Short Order makes theirs with house-made frozen custard. You can finish your meal with a yummy seasonal mini pie or an awesome chocolate chip cookie.
If you want more of a dessert selection or a snack for later, walk over to Short Cake, the bakery sister of Short Order, which opened in the Farmer’s Market this past weekend. Short Cake’s array of gourmet baked goods is quite impressive. They have several savory items, including an excellent Anson Mills Corn Muffin with Aged Cheddar and Hatch Chiles, a very good Quiche with Bacon, Leeks and Comte cheese, and a delicious Feta Scallion Scone. The sweet offerings include Twice-Baked Hazelnut Croissants, Chocolate Cinnamon Babka, Sesame Date Scones, Chiffon Cake with Orange Curd and Meringue, Chocolate Bun Bread Pudding and amazing “Brunette” Bars with Pine Nuts and Thyme. Short Cake shares its Farmer’s Market stall with Single Origin Coffee, which serves pour-over coffee brewed to order.
I love King’s Hawaiian Bread, especially their irresistibly sweet, soft and buttery rolls. I used them all summer as the buns for my signature barbecue sliders. So when I discovered that King’s has a Hawaiian retail bakery and restaurant in Torrance, I hightailed it down to the South Bay to check it out. The restaurant reminded me of places I’d been to in Hawaii. It was very large, diner-ish and somewhat kitschy (in a fun way); a great place to take kids. There is an aquarium, a giant pineapple and right now it’s totally decked out for Christmas.
While I’m not sure King’s would appeal to hardcore foodies, I thought most of what I ordered was really good, and some things were great. All lunches and dinners begin with a basket of King’s famous Hawaiian rolls with butter. Their extensive menu features all of the typical Hawaiian comfort foods including Poke (Hawaiian marinated sashimi, which is really good here), Spam Musubi (basically a sushi roll with slices of spam instead of fish), Kalua Nachos (tortilla chips topped with Kalua Pork, black beans, cheese and sour cream, and served with guacamole and spicy pineapple chutney), Portuguese Bean Soup, Grilled Mahi Mahi, Huli Huli Chicken, Kalbi Ribs and great fried rice. There are several holiday specials which are on the menu until the end of the month, including a really yummy pork chop stuffed with King’s Hawaiian bread and Portuguese sausage, drizzled with guava glaze and served with “Hawaiian mashed potatoes” (which have cabbage in them and are really good), baby bok choy and fried onion strings.
The best part of the meal were the desserts. King’s most celebrated baked good is its Hawaiian Paradise Cake, a colorful and delicious three layer (guava, passionfruit and lime) cake with a whipped cream frosting and a fruit glaze. It was thankfully not too sweet and totally lived up to the hype! They also have an awesome Macadamia Nut Cream Pie. Make sure to stop at the bakery on the way out for Hawaiian bread, malasadas (Hawaiian doughnuts), delicious cookies (I highly recommend the snowball cookies) and other sweet treats. The cakes (especially the Hawaiian Paradise Cake), pies and cookies make great holiday gifts. Just write on the card “Mele Kalikimaka” (Merry Christmas).
King’s Hawaiian Bakery and Restaurant is located at 2808 W. Sepulveda Blvd. in Torrance.
A soup dumpling is a wonderful thing. For the uninitiated, a soup dumpling is not a dumpling that is found in soup like a kreplach or wonton. It’s the reverse; the soup is actually inside the dumpling. Soup Dumplings, also known as Shanghai Soup Dumplings or Xiao Long Bao, are a Chinese delicacy that were traditionally part of a Jiangnan-style morning tea. Nowadays, you can get them throughout the day and at restaurants located in places like Alhambra, Arcadia, Monterey Park and San Gabriel. My favorite place for soup dumplings is Din Tai Fung in Arcadia. Din Tai Fung serves over a dozen different kinds of dumplings, including chicken, melon & shrimp, shrimp & pork, vegetarian, sweet taro and red beans, but my favorite by far is the Juicy Pork Dumplings. These dumplings have a chewy and moist skin, which is wrapped around hot savory soup and delicious minced pork. They arrive at your table by the dozen, freshly steamed and ready to eat with vinegar, soy sauce, chili sauce if you are so inclined, and shredded ginger.
For novice soup dumpling explorers, here’s some instructions on how to eat these tasty treats:
Step 1: Use your chopsticks to pick up a soup dumpling by its ridged tip and place it on a Chinese soup spoon.
Step 2: Add a few drop of vinegar, soy sauce and chili sauce, as well as a few strands of shredded ginger.
Step 3: Bite a small hole in the top of the dumpling to release steam (so you don’t burn your mouth in Step 4!).
Step 4: Put the whole dumpling in your mouth.
Step 5: Bite into the dumpling, let the savory soup explode in your mouth and enjoy the hot, wet, doughy goodness.
Step 6: Repeat.
Din Tai Fung serves other things besides dumplings. They have pretty good noodles and decent fried rice. But why fill up on other carbs? Just eat more soup dumplings! Din Tai Fung is located at 1108 and 1088 S. Baldwin Ave. in Arcadia. UPDATE: Din Tai Fung is opening at the Americana in Glendale in September 2013. Now most of us won’t need to make the long schlep out to Arcadia anymore to get our soup dumpling fix!
For me, there’s nothing better than following a great meal with live entertainment. However, with driving and parking hassles in LA, it’s often too much of a schlep to go from a nice restaurant to a live concert or show in the same evening. The 1714 Vermont Group has provided the perfect solution. Their beautiful building in Los Feliz has three separate spaces: Vermont Kitchen and Bar, an elegant fine dining restaurant; Rockwell VT, a cool and casual multi-level bar with a beautiful patio and a seasonal small plate menu; and Show at Barre, a fun and intimate cabaret-style space which puts on incredible shows and also serves food and drinks. This past weekend, my wife and I had a great dinner at Vermont and then walked into the room next door and saw one of the most enjoyable shows I have ever seen in Los Angeles.
I hadn’t eaten at Vermont in several years and although I always liked it, I think the food is better than ever now. All of the things we ordered were very good and some dishes were excellent. I absolutely loved the Harvest Red Quinoa Salad with tangerines, Granny Smith apples, dried cranberries, scallions, baby arugula and toasted pecans with a blood orange-lime vinaigrette. The butternut squash soup was also great. For entrees, we ordered two winners: Asian Ahi Tuna, which was lemon grass marinated, seared rare and served with stir-fried vegetables, basmati rice and a mushroom soy sauce; and Muscovy Duck Medallions, which were stuffed with apples, wrapped in bacon and served on top of celery root puree and calvados sauce. The menu also offers Rib Eye, a Double Cut Pork Chop, Pan Seared Mahi Mahi, Port Wine Braised Short Ribs, Butter-Poached Jidori Chicken Breast, and Goat Cheese and Truffle Ravioli. For dessert, I highly recommend the decadent “Chocolate Chip Cookie,” which is baked and served piping hot in an individual skillet with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream and chocolate caramel sauce on top. Vermont also has a very nice wine list and great signature cocktails.
As much as I enjoyed the dinner, what really blew me away was the show. It’s called “For the Record: John Hughes Holiday Road” and it’s hard to describe. It’s essentially a musical revue of songs from the soundtracks of John Hughes films such as The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Pretty in Pink and Weird Science, as well as Hughes’ holiday classics such as Home Alone and Christmas Vacation. There’s a rockin’ live band and an uber-talented cast of six including, in some performances, NCIS-LA and Broadway star Barrett Foa who perfectly portrays all of the Anthony Michael Hall characters (as well as Ferris Bueller) and performs a hilarious version of “Bust a Move.” The actors not only perform the mostly ’80s songs, but also snippets of memorable dialogue from the films. The cabaret-style space is small and intimate and the cast utilizes the whole room, performing in the aisles, on top of the bar, and on a couple small stages throughout the room, so, as an audience member, you almost feel as if you’re actually in the show. The producers refer to it as a “360 degree live theatrical concert and dining experience” and it’s hard to imagine anyone who wouldn’t love this show. Keeping with the John Hughes theme, they serve speciality cocktails before and during the show with names such as the “Griswold” and the “Long Duk Dong.” Past “For the Record” shows have had the same format and included a Quentin Tarantino show and a Coen Brothers show. I hope they bring those shows back again because I can’t believe I missed them. A Baz Lurrman show starts in January which I can’t wait to see.
The current John Hughes show runs until December 30th. Tickets can be purchased on their website and are $35 each (plus a two drink or food item minimum), but you can get them for $20 right now by using the code GRISWOLD. Vermont Kitchen and Bar, Rockwell VT and Show at Barre are all located at 1714 N. Vermont, Los Angeles (in Los Feliz).
UPDATE: Vermont Kitchen & Bar and Show at Barre have been combined into one large dining/cabaret space. It is now called Rockwell Table & Stage and while the food is good (not amazing) the shows are better than ever! In addition to the John Hughes show, I have now seen shows based on the movies of Quentin Tarantino, the Coen Brothers, Baz Luhrmann and Paul Thomas Anderson. Each show was fantastic. I highly recommend this place.