Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Eating my way through the Fairfax District

Here are the highlights (and low-lights) of my gastronomic adventures this week...

Bulan Thai - 7168 Melrose Avenue Los Angeles, CA 90046

Now, I'm no vegetarian, in fact I sometimes refer to myself as an omnivore. I love all things you can consume, and frankly when I'm invited out by my vegetarian friends, I shudder at the prospect of eating food that to my palette might as well be cardboard. So, it was with some trepidation that I went to Bulan Thai for dinner with my significant other.

What I experienced was nothing short of amazing! We ordered the vegetable dumplings and the Pad Thai with tofu, and it was fantastic. The combination of flavors, preparation and presentation combined with a iced mint tea was a perfect meal. If you have a skeptical carnivore who sneers at the idea of eating vegetarian, bring them here.

Cobras & Matadors - 7615 Beverly Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90036

When Cobras & Matadors first opened its doors back in 2006, it was one of the most hyped restaurants in Los Angeles. With most places that open to that hype, it's usually less about the food and more about the celebrity sightings, the crowd that's there, and the decor. Well, now that the hype has died down, what this place does incredibly well is the food!

With their distinct take on Spanish tapas, Cobras & Matadors has carved out a niche with their amazing selections. Their Bacon Wrapped Dates with blue cheese, almonds and port wine is a personal favorite, as is the Cheese Selection that's served with grilled bread and apricot jam, but at the end of the day, there's nothing bad on the menu. It is an amazing restaurant and I highly recommend it.

Morels French Steakhouse & Bistro - 189 The Grove Dr, Suite H10 Los Angeles, CA 90036

As a rule of thumb I never go into a convenience eating situation and expect to be amazed by the quality of the food. With that being said, I expect any restaurant that opens its doors to have a baseline for edible food and decent service. Recently I took a trip to the Grove with my partner in culinary crime to hunt for a birthday present. It was getting late and we decided to stop for a quick bite to eat, and went to Morels French Steakhouse & Bistro.

Upon taking our seat on the patio I immediately noticed that the table we had been seated at was dirty. The entire dining experience went down hill from there. The bread was stale, the shrimp cocktail we ordered as an appetizer tasted like it was going bad (this was one of two items that were sent back over the course of the meal) and the service was dismal at best. Since we were only offered the "bistro" menu we had a limited number of options for our entrees. Having already sent back the shrimp, I opted to order something that would be fairly difficult to mess up, the Angel Hair Pasta with Bolognese.

When my food arrived it was barely edible. It tasted like the sauce had been sitting in a pan for hours, it was discolored and had a pungent and sick smell to it. I immediately sent it back to our waiter, and ordered the fish and chips as a replacement. When the new order arrive, it was barely adequate, greasy and served with stale fries and coagulated tarter sauce.

The service was lack-luster. At one point the server seemed to have forgotten that we were there. Multiple times I had to flag down someone from the staff to get waters refilled and drinks replenished.

It was a horrible experience. Even with two items sent back, we had no member of the management team visit our table. I can't in recent memory remember having a worse dining experience. The only way this place stays in business it by holding mall-shoppers and tourists hostage. The bottom line, don't eat here unless you're in the mood for bad food and crappy service!

Honorable mentions for the week

Café Gratitude - 639 North Larchmont Boulevard
Los Angeles

Amazing vegan food, interesting crowd and a surprising birthday party experience.

Currywurst - 109 N. Fairfax

Sausage slathered in Curry. Awesomeness.

9021Pho - 490 North Beverly Drive
Beverly Hills

Always an amazing bowl of my favorite soup. This is my current favorite Pho spot in LA.

The Newsroom Cafe - 120 N Robertson Blvd
Los Angeles

A great bloody mary, an eclectic brunch selection, great music playing and the rare low-key celebrity sighting. (Sunday is was Selma Blair)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

You Say Tomato, I Say Pastrami

I've lived in the Fairfax District of LA off and on for about 2 years. It's a great neighborhood that's filled with art galleries, Synagogues, streetwear stores, experimental book stores, independent movie houses and has some of the most amazing street art in Los Angeles, if not the globe. That's counter balanced with The Grove, The Farmers Market and the LACMA. It's a damn good neighborhood.

Over the next few weeks and months I'm going to be eating my way through my hood. I'll be going online, asking my people where I should go and eat (ok, well not for EVERY meal!) and I'll head out on my trusty cruiser, go eat and report back. Today, I reached out from my Facebook Page asking where I should go to lunch. Kristen Suszek, Jeddy Hartbob Sixx (aka Jerry), Jen Wilder and homie Marjorie (how's New York mami?) all suggested that I go to Canter's Deli. In all fairness, I got a lot of responses, but I was craving pastrami!

Now, Canter's Deli is world famous for a few things. For helping launch the career of Guns and Roses, for the Kabitz Room and Pastrami. This magic meat, this amazing, over-the-top deli super-food that makes you wonder why God didn't make vegetables this wonderful! And trust me dear reader, no one get's closer to Gold-like in their preparation of Pastrami than Canter's!

It is, quite simply, epic. Even the lunch-size pastrami is pretty big, and don't even ask about the large version! It's enough to put you in a food coma. The taste is out of this world. It's the perfect mix of seasoned meat, rye bread and spicy mustard with the spicy kosher pickles that really is the perfect sandwich combination. I'm going to say this, at the risk of making many a deli aficionado fill with rage: Canter's Deli simply has the BEST Pastrami sandwich anywhere in the world. Go a head, try to prove me wrong.

If I miss more than a few weeks without a Canter's Pastrami I start to get this crazy urge... something like a werewolf might get on a full moon. I start to get a little twitchy, and start to wonder what I can to to satisfy this meat lust. Even is it 2:00AM and I'm blurry and can't spell my own name, I know I'm just a few blocks from sandwich bliss.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Hello World! (I'm in the sky...)

(The amazing Pho at Absolutely Phobulous in West Hollywood)

I'm typing this entry from 40,000 feet about the ground on my way from Los Angeles to New York City. I'm traveling now for 3 reasons. 1) I am over due a trip here to see many good friends who have migrated here. 2) I'm coming here for a business opportunity, related to my consulting business. 3) Existential dilemma. Now, this third reason is something we all grapple with. Life is now. All we have is now. And a big, BIG part of being in the now is eating.

Over the past year a lot has changed for me. My father was killed in a car accident, I met an amazing woman and I quit my day job and started my own business. The most consistent part of all of these experiences? Food. Food is a part of how we seduce, of how we grieve, of how we celebrate, and of how we transition from one kind of life and into another. Food follows us into every endeavor in our lives, from the beginning to the end.

Living in Los Angeles, and traveling as much as I do, I eat some of the most of the amazing food in the world. My hope here is to share with you, not only the food, but the experience of how we eat. From street food, to 5 star dining, I'd like to reflect what I experience, and I hope in some way that reflects what you experience too.

So, why "Friend of Pho?" Outside of the obvious play on words (and before you begin to shoot off your snarky emails, I know it's pronounced "FHA") Pho has played an interesting role in my life. Growing up in Oklahoma City, I lived in a neighborhood where there was a large Vietnamese population. I was exposed to Vietnamese culture and food at a young age, and it was a formative part of my childhood. Many years later, after not really partaking in much Pho at all, I moved to Los Angeles, where my love affair with the noodle soup continued.

All of my major life changes in the past four years, everything I mentioned above, has been accompanied by Pho. It's comfort food to me. It has magical properties. Have a hangover? Pho can fix it. Have the common cold? No problem. Problems with your relationships? Well, Pho might not help that, but it will sure as hell will make you feel better.

So this is where the culinary adventure begins. Somewhere bouncing around in the sky, thinking about this beautiful soup and wondering what will happen next.