Tuesday, April 24, 2007

We went so you wouldn't have to: Trifecta - Downtown

Honestly, I don't know what we were thinking. Max and I have been attempting to explore the burgeoning dining scene downtown as it's so close to us. We had an opening to get to in Chinatown, so we wanted something close and relatively quick. Trifecta bills itself as an upscale sports bar - why that concept appealed to me, I have no idea! I wish I would have listened to my gut, but hunger got the better of me and I convinced Max to try it.

Long story short, awful in many ways. Pricey, mediocre, completely empty (I have a feeling they're packed after 5pm during the week), and a complete waste of time. Wallpapered with big screen tv's and a menu full of horseracing lingo, we were not the target clientele.

Well, live and learn.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

BBQ Competition @ The Autry 4/14

Gosh, I just hate complaining when BBQ's involved but I have to say it was a pretty disappointing event. There was some sort of traffic/parking perfect storm between the Autry, the zoo, and the Griffith Observatory so a drive that usually takes 15 minutes from Silver Lake took over an hour.

We had to park near Travel Town and it took us about a half hour to walk to the Autry, even at a clip. When we finally got to the registration table, they let us know that both vendors were totally out of food. We had come too far to turn around, so we paid our $9 each and went inside. We strolled around for a while, visited the Zeke's team and just took it all in. Truth be told, we really wanted to just plop down with one of the teams but we kept moving.

The food for the public? Very, very sad. We were intoxicated by all of the BBQ scent in the air and yet the only food that was available, after a half hour wait was chicken pizza and corn. It was fine, but obviously not as satisfying as, say, a juicy pulled pork sandwich.

In the next year, we're going to try to become official judges so that next year, we can actually try all of that amazing BBQ. Saw the picture Professor Salt took on the way out.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Jen and Brett's Dinner Party

Our friend Jen, of Epicurean Quest, and her husband Brett had us over for dinner on Friday night. You know, Jen is just amazing; her love of food is always so evident in her cooking. She's well-known for laboring for hours over dishes, often bravely taking on million step recipes. Thomas Keller and Mario Batali are favorites - a painting that Brett did for Jen is hung prominently in the kitchen. Also in attendance were Jed and Jess and their pomeranian, Pinky.

Jen made two salsas, served with tortilla chips: a clean tomato and avocado and an unusual, but wonderful black bean and mango. These were served with tart margaritas whipped up by Brett.
As Jen was cooking away, M and I assisted by tearing the stems of the watercress leaves for the watercress risotto. Soon thereafter, dinner was served:

Hazelnut Encrusted Tilapia with Watercress Risotto, Mache Salad and Sauteed Zucchini and Shitakes. As the pictures convey, dinner was incredible. Thanks Jen for working so hard but making it look so easy!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Gifts for Jennifer

My MIL has a wonderful friend, JT, who is an interior designer and who most generously helped us purchase our new McRoskey mattress (which we're in love with BTW).

As a small token of our appreciation, M and I sent her a gift box filled with some homemade goodies. M made his famous brittle and I made a batch of my chocolate truffle cookies.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Our Favorite Pizza: Village Pizzeria, Larchmont Village

REVIEW: La Flor De Yucatan Bakery

OK, am I the last person to fall in love with La Flor de Yucatan? I know some Chowhound regulars are already under its spell and so we finally gave in and tried it for lunch yesterday.

Let me back up a bit.

After our dinner at Chichen Itza on Friday, we wondered if there was better cochinita pibil to be had in LA. After a quick search around Chowhound and some local blogs, I was reminded of La Flor de Yucatan and we had ourselves an impromptu cochinita pibil taste test.

From our home in Silver Lake, it was a quick drive down Rampart to this earthy location just west of Downtown. Let me first say that Marc, the "Cake and Food Consultant" is one of the kindest, friendliest, and warmest people one could meet. Marc chatted with us while we waited for our order, sharing his thoughts on Chichen Itza, his business, Chowhound, and Mexico. I was running through my list of single women I know in my head because, let me tell you, this guy is a catch. Who knows if he's single!

Onto the food, we shared an order of cochinita pibil tacos (4), panuchos (3), and a bolobones filled with cream cheese and jalapenos. I really wanted to love Chichen Itza and we actually thought the cochinita pibil wasn't half bad. Yet all it took was one bite of La Flor de Yucatan's cochinita and we knew we had found nirvana. Juicy, so tender, and loaded with citrusy notes, it was amazing. Honestly, I was full after one taco so the panucho was good but unnecessary.

Marc came out to the patio table where we were eating lunch to ask how we were enjoying everything. We happily told him that his little bakery easily topped Chichen Itza in many ways and we would be back and spreading the word.

M and I shared bolobones for dessert as we walked to our car. Our first bolobones, we loved the combination of flaky pastry with rich cream cheese and jalapeno. Sinful, but fabulous.

Marc and a bakery worker.
The panuchos - beautiful.
This picture is deceptive...may I present La Flor de Yucatan's cochinita pibil.

REVIEW: Chichen Itza

M and I had wanted to try the new location for months and we finally went to Chichen Itza's new location last night. While we enjoyed our dinner, M and I agreed that it has ample room for improvement. Moments after we were sat, a basket of tortilla chips covered in a thin black bean puree and pico de gallo arrived. Our handsome server promptly came over, asked if we wanted anything to drink, and quickly came back with our two Sam Adams.

Food: After reading reviews elsewhere, we split the Xcatic Chile Relleno and the Cochinita Pibil plate. The rellenos (3) were special and memorable, a mellow small chili lightly fried and filled with mildly spicy tuna. Chichen Itza's cochinita pibil is well-known for a reason. Tangy and citrusy, the pork was tender and addictive.

It's served with a whole habanero pepper resting on top so M of course offered me $10 if I'd eat it. I declined, but did stab it with my fork, then quickly touching the tines to my tongue - whoa, that was a really stupid idea! Just that little touch set my tongue and whole mouth ablaze...live and learn :)

Decor: Loved it, warm colors and nice spacing, though the lighting could have been a touch dimmer.

Service: You know, as a former server at both very casual and fine dining restaurants, I think I'm pretty forgiving when it comes to mediocre or even bad service. But the flip side is that I know when there is a problem and can usually identify what it is and what the remedy could be. Our server, as previously mentioned, was very handsome, and a real sweetie, but needs a service overhaul.

First of all, I could almost imagine the owner/manager explaining to him that the new Chichen Itza is a fine dining establishment and therefore the staff needs to have a certain grace and demeanor. M and I felt like this poor guy was trying WAY too hard to be formal and elegant and it just was not working. His demeanor and delivery was forced, awkward, and just weird at times. This alone would be ok and charming in a certain way, but his timing was severely off too and this was the kicker.

The place was not busy, I think we were one of his maybe 4 tables, and it took forever, for example, to get our bill. About five minutes after our plates were cleared by the extremely efficient and capable bussing staff, our server approached, asking if we wanted to see the dessert menu. We told him that we were stuffed, so no we would not like to see the dessert menu. He said something like, "Ok then, I will leave you to enjoy your night," and then did not come back for about ten minutes. He came over and asked if we would like the bill left again and came back with our bill.

All this guy needs is a half-hour of training. What's confusing is that I'm pretty sure the chef/owner and manager were both hanging out during our dinner and obviously just were not tuned in enough to the wait staff. If my credit card is on the table for ten minutes, someone (the busser, manager, host, server) should have noticed and acted.

We'll be back because it's in the hood, the food was pretty good, and we like to support local businesses. But next time, we'll know what to expect and hopefully the service issues will be resolved.

Chichen Itza
2501 W 6th St
Los Angeles, CA 90057
(213) 380-0051

Tonight's Dinner: 4/5/07, Porcini and New Mexican Chili Dusted Mahi Mahi with an Avocado Mango Salsa, Broccoli, and Quinoa

M wowed me again with this dinner. The mahi mahi was cooked perfectly, moist and buttery and the salsa was incredible.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Passover Seder

Anniversary Dinner with the Family at Water Grill

Pan Roasted Rhode Island Striped Bass with Lemon Scented Potato Puree, Confit of Garlic with Preserved Lemon and Caper Vinaigrette
Olive Oil Poached Chatham Cod "Bacalao" with Braised Rice Beans with Cockles, Merquez Sausage, and Piquillo Pepper Gastrique