Eater

 

 

It’s no secret that I love food. More than mere sustenance, food is one of the greatest pleasures of life. Or rather, it can be. And dang it! It should be! But I digress… As a food lover, I constantly search for the best fill-in-the-blank around. Whether Thai street food, alligator sausage or a good ol’ cheeseburger – I want it to be delicious, y’all. It feels awful to spend time and money on bad food.

 

I know there are a plethora of websites out there, rating restaurants and dishes and providing info at the snap of one’s fingers. But I rarely use these, as I don’t always trust the reviews as being honest. There are far too many stories about fake reviews for me to deem some of these sites reliable.

 

Instead, I turn to Eater. And I love it. Not only am I signed up for Eater Los Angeles and Eater National posts, I also check Eater when I’m traveling. Most major US cities have a dedicated Eater section. And when Mister and I were in London recently, Eater London’s Heatmap was a godsend.

 

I tell you this for no reason other than to share information. If you eat out – ever – I encourage you to go to Eater, find your location and sign up for regular updates. Honestly, I’ve learned about so many new restaurants I can’t keep count. And some of the posts are just plain fun. For instance, last week there was a post about the best places for Mac and Cheese in Los Angeles. Mac and Cheese! That one broke me, as you can see from the above photo.

 

Again, I encourage you to try Eater for yourself. I rely on it more than I probably should. But you know what? I don’t care! I love it! Woo-hoo!

“Top Round” in Los Angeles

 

 

Recently, Mister and I made a bee-line for Top Round, a new L.A. restaurant. The reason I was in such a danged tizzy about getting there was the promise of St. Louis style frozen custard.

 

For those unfamiliar with the stuff, it is one-of-a-kind and beyond good. There are a couple of rival stands in St. Screwy, Fritz’s and Ted Drewes. People tend to be loyal to either one or the other, and when I say loyal, I mean loyal. As in some folks simply will not abide anything except their fave, even if that means being deprived in the meantime. I’ve had both, and I am a loyal Fritz’s gal, through and through. For example, I’ve been to Ted Drewes and simply not ordered anything at all. Why? It’s not Fritz’s, is why.

 

Anyhoo, when I read we were getting an honest-to-goodness frozen custard joint here in L.A., I couldn’t think of anything else. The fact that Top Round is a roast beef stand to boot was enough to put me over the edge into obsession.

 

Here’s the deal, y’all: I didn’t take a single photo of the food. And that’s a shame, as that roast beef sammich was as good as any I’ve ever had. Maybe even better. And the “Dirty Fries” were amazing. Yes, they sound crazy, but trust me – you will like crazy!

 

 

So after Mister and I had scarfed down our roast beefs, we ordered a Turtle. When my number was called, I approached the counter to find something unrecognizable in the cup before me. My order had been completely screwed up. (I won’t go into how the dude behind the counter told me that was exactly what I had ordered, then looked at the order receipt and saw he had made something completely different from that printed chit. Apologies were made and I accepted.) Once the order was corrected, Mister and I dug in.

 

I don’t know what to tell you. I guess it’s frozen custard, but it didn’t do a danged thang for me. It sure ain’t no Fritz’s. It’s not even Ted Drewes. But I suppose I shouldn’t have expected it to be either of those things in the first place. And that’s on me.

 

Will I go back to Top Round? Dear Lord, yes. The roast beef is so good, I can hardly stand it. But – while I can’t speak for Mister – I’ll probably skip dessert next time. I mean, I can’t help it. I’m a Fritz’s girl…

 

Found Art

 

 

This is a photo of found art. It’s a work in metal, and it shows a potted tree, bursting forth.

 

Actually, it is found art. But it’s not a “work” per se. It’s just a pretty imprint left in a giant pot after cooking up some chili at my friends’ restaurant, Chili John’s.

 

 

See? And if you’re wondering how I’m privy to such kitchen-fascination as this, it’s because I am. So there.

Chili John’s

 

 

I’ve mentioned Chili John’s before, as it’s my go-to chili joint. When it’s cold or rainy out, it seems to be everyone’s go-to.

 

 

Yes, the Black Keys are fans.

 

 

When I’m there, I feel like I’ve stepped back in time. But not by myself. It’s as if all the patrons have group-stepped back, and we clearly like it. Because y’all, we keep coming back. Sometimes there’s a line, but that doesn’t deter us. Sometimes it’s a super-hot day out, but that doesn’t scare us off.

 

 

There’s just something about this place that draws some of us in. Maybe it’s the building, or the decor. Maybe it’s the family running the place.

 

 

Then again, maybe it’s the food. That chili can produce a mighty craving. And rightfully so. It’s a beautiful plate of goodness…

 

Boulder’s Oak at fourteenth

 

 

I spent only one night in Boulder, Colorado before returning home to L.A. a week ago. And I didn’t waste my evening there at some rag-tag, take-out joint. I dined, people. At Oak at fourteenth, in downtown Boulder. And guess what? I remembered to take pictures!

 

Open since March of 2010, Oak at fourteenth is one of those places that feels local. It’s a neighborhood restaurant, to be sure. (I overheard someone at a nearby table saying she’d eaten there twice in the last week.) But this neighborhood business is also functioning at a level of beautiful output, so that those who only dine there once in a while are more than happy to be there. As I fall into this category, I can honestly say I’m quite pleased to have spent my one evening in Boulder at Oak.

 

Here’s what I sampled…

 

 

Yellowfin Tuna, Fried Green Tomatoes, Yuzu Guacamole & Sambal Aioli. I didn’t even know what half of that description meant, but I didn’t need to know. I only had to taste it to discover it was an amazing dish. The tuna’s ocean freshness, paired with the crunch of the fried green tomatoes was a lovely combination. Mix in the bite of the celery and the cool smoothness of the guacamole and y’all, I was one happy gal.

 

 

Wood Oven Fired Calamari & Braised Shortribs, Fingerling Potatoes. This one sounded crazy, like it wouldn’t make sense. And yet it did make sense! It was creative and yummy. Oh, and it was delicious to boot.

 

 

Grilled Isabelle Farm Eggplant, Feta Cheese, Romesco. This one was my favorite of the appetizers. Deceptively simple, the smokiness of the grilled eggplant perfectly complimented the brightness of the tomato sauce. And the feta was so fresh and creamy. I would eat this every week for the rest of my life if I could. That’s how much I loved it.

 

 

Wood Grilled Ancho Chili Spiced Beef Short Rib. Sometimes when I can’t decide which entree I want, I defer to the sides. “Carr Valley Aged Cheddar Grits” completely persuaded me. This was comfort food at the highest levels and I was happy, happy, happy with my choice. The peanuts sprinkled on top? Not really my bag, but I understood the intent, to add some texture.

 

 

Grilled Peking Duck Breast. This was some awesome duck, yo. The forbidden rice, preserved plum and roasted turnips on the side were all super yummy. And you just can’t go wrong with duck leg confit. Heaven on a plate, I tell you.

 

 

Pumpkin Cheesecake. Now, I’m not a gal with a big sweet tooth. But I do eat dessert from time to time. And when I do, I prefer cheesecake. At this time of year? Pumpkin cheesecake is swoon-worthy. I was not disappointed by this dessert. And by the evening’s end, I felt like the Blueberry Girl In “Willy Wonka” – I needed to be rolled to the juicing room! Really, I was so happy to have been told about the place.

 

Though I try to be discreet when taking food photos (I may be a food dork, but I’m also mannered), the activity does beg the question: why? At some point, one of the owners stopped by our table and inquired about my camera. I explained my motivation and we chatted for a bit. Bryan Dayton is as attentive and charming a proprietor you could ever hope for. He and chef Steven Redzikowski have quite a cool restaurant to their credit and I highly recommend it.

 

So if you find yourself in Boulder, give Oak at fourteenth a try. But do make a reservation. This neighborhood restaurant is pretty popular – even outside the neighborhood.

 

Mizuna in Denver, Colorado

 

 

Last weekend, while in Denver, Colorado, I feasted at a restaurant called Mizuna. That joint was beautiful, intimate and I would go back there in a heartbeat.

 

 

I’m gonna tell you right now – I had gone through a glass of bubbles and was starting a glass of Colorado wine (which was amazingly good) before I remembered to take the danged camera out of my bag. By that time, all the appetizers were completely gone. That’s why there are no photos of the pan-roasted foie gras, the slow-roasted pork belly, the kuri squash agnolotti with braised rabbit leg or the lobster mac & cheese.  You may not miss the photos, but I do.

 

Anyhoo, as soon as the last appetizer dish was cleared, Mister reminded me to take photos. Once the entrees arrived, I took a moment to document the offerings. There was roasted monkfish…

 

 

…seared veal tenderloin…

 

 

…and slow-roasted duck breast…

 

 

And what autumnal feast would be complete without a pumpkin custard dessert?

 

 

The food really was divine, folks, and the service was top-notch. Our server was named “Heather” and I told her she was unlike any “Heather” I’ve ever met. She suggested that’s because I’ve never met a Heather from New Hampshire, and that all Heathers from New Hampshire are top-notch. Because she was such a stand-up gal, I believed her.

 

For the record, this wasn’t my first time at Mizuna. As it happened, I was there one week after September 11th, 2001. As most of you know, that was a crazy, devastating time. That’s when I first had the lobster mac & cheese. It was rich, creamy and comforting. And I remember being so grateful. This visit to Mizuna was no less comforting. And I am still touched at the care shown by the staff, both then, and now.

Raffi’s Place

 

 

When I wrote about the shuttering of yet another book store, I referenced my search for a restaurant. That restaurant is Raffi’s Place.

 

Many years ago, a friend introduced Mister and me to Raffi’s Place, located in Glendale, CA. They serve Middle Eastern food. I say they serve Armenian food. I say this because one of the largest populations of Armenian people – outside Armenia – is in Glendale, CA.

 

Forgive me if my information is faulty, but it is my understanding that Armenians began settling in Glendale, CA in the 1920′s. This would have been just after the Armenian genocide began (1915). There was a mass exodus of citizens from Armenia and for some reason or another many Armenians settled in Glendale. I’m simplifying history, I know. I apologize.

 

But whatever the facts, we have some spectacular food in Glendale. And Raffi’s Place is my very most favoritest Middle Eastern restaurant around. If you’re ever visiting, do yourself a favor and go there.

 

You’re welcome.

 

The Smoke House

 

 

 

It’s been around since 1946. Clooney named his production company after it. Meat is served.

 

And Mister and I walked there the other night. We drank. We ate. We drank a little more. Then we walked home.

 

Sometimes you need a simple outing to remind you that life is good.

 

And it is.