Monday, March 29, 2010

Good Pesach - Good Macaroons

Homemade coconut macaroons, regular and chocolate (dipped in Scharffen-Berger chocolate). A most impressive Passover dessert that takes no more than 30 minutes from start to finish (plus drying time for the chocolate).

Adapted from the New Basics Cookbook:

1. Beat two egg whites with a pinch of salt until soft peaks form; add a tablespoon of sugar and beat until glossy with stiff peaks.

2. In a separate bowl, combine 5 oz. shredded coconut, 2/3 cup of sugar and one teaspoon vanilla extract (warning for the observant: vanilla extract is not technically kosher for Passover, but I can't bear to use artificial vanilla). Fold into the egg whites.

3. Using a half-sphere tablespoon or a mini ice cream scoop, scoop batter out onto a buttered cookie pan covered with buttered parchment paper.

4. Cook for 12-15 minutes at 325. Cookies are done when browned on the bottom and lightly browned on top. Makes about 20 cookies.

5. For chocolate covered macaroons, melt chocolate (I use equal parts Scharffen-Berger 62% and 70%). Remove chocolate from heat to a bowl. Dip cooled macaroons in melted chocolate and let cool.

Put them out and watch these babies disappear.

Good Passover to all!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Crepes and Nem Nuong Behind the 99 Cent Store - Brodard Garden Grove

Hidden off an alley behind a Garden Grove 99 Cent store, Brodard Restaurant is a Vietnamese restaurant which is home to some wonderful seasoned pork and crispy crepes. While it's hard to find, Brodard is no hole in the wall. It features an almost trendy looking dining room featuring large wall murals, including one of stampeding mustangs, and numerous decorative wall hangings.

Nem nuong, Vietnamese pork sausage patties, are the specialty of the house, and indeed, the awning outside the restaurant says only "Nem Nuong," with the word Brodard listed in small print on the door. Nearly everyone at the restaurant will have a plate of nem nuong cuon, a serving of nem nuong in the traditional Vietnamese rice paper spring rolls. The filling includes a big strip of the tasty pork sausage along with regular accompaniments carrot, daikon, cucumber, lettuce, mint and unidentified crispy bits(fried rice paper perhaps). You can see why this is a popular dish. The pork sausage is juicy and succulent, and the stretchy rice paper and herbs are given perfect texture by the addition of those crunchy bits.

The most perfect dish at Brodard though was the banh khot - luna rice cake (pictured at right), a rice flour crepe filled with shrimp and scallions. The crepe is crispy, slightly chewy and oh, so buttery. Paired with the shrimp, wrapped in lettuce and dipped in fish sauce, it is beyond any other Vietnamese crepe I have had, a taste and textural wonder. I could have easily eaten a whole second order and now long to try their other crepe dishes (banh xeo).

Bun cha Hanoi is bun (vermicelli) accompanied by greasy bowl of nem nuong and thick-cut bacon in the regular sweet lime and chili sauce. It's delicious but can be a bit overwhelming in the grease department.

Not everything at Brodard is spot on. The goi du du bo kho, gan chay, shredded green papaya topped with beef jerky and pork liver is a bit bland, though the beef is good. The egg rolls (cha gio) commit the cardinal sin of being made with flour-based egg roll wrappers instead of rice paper; like a devastating fall in Olympic figure skating, there is simply no recovering from it, no matter how artful the rest of the program. But the truth is, there are a number of venues with excellent cha gio, while the quality of banh khot and nem nuong at Brodard are hard to match.

Brodard Restaurant
9892 Westminster Ave.
Garden Grove, CA 92844
(714) 530-1744

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Cheese Break: Gres des Vosges

Today's cheese break is for the lovely Gres des Vosges [gray day vozsh]. This wash rined, soft cow cheese comes from Alsace. It's got a good stink to it. I find the rind unpleasantly grainy, but the soft, creamy cheese inside has that perfect balance of straw, nuts and a bit of the stink, similar to a young Taleggio. It's a bit pricey, $12 at the Cheesestore of Silverlake for a wheel the size and shape of a small anchovy tin. Oh, and that thing on top is a little fern leaf.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Whiskey Wednesday: WhiskyCast - Are you listening?

If you are a whisky lover who likes to keep up with goings on in the whisky world, you should be listening to WhiskyCast, the "cask strength podcast" by Mark Gillespie. Mark Gillespie has been on the web delivering whisky news since 2005! He covers new releases, industry news and does whisky ratings, but the real meat of the show are his extended interviews with people in the news; this often includes interviews with distillers, critics, retailers and others who are making whisky news.

Last week's episode included fascinating interviews on the new 70 year old whisky from Gordon & MacPhail and the new posthumous edition of Michael Jackson's Complete Guide to Single Malt Scotch. And the show isn't limited to Scotch, Mark is an equal opportunity whisky fan. If some guy starts distilling whisky from a cave in Antarctica, you can bet that Mark will be interviewing him.

Mark is running a pledge drive this month, not to raise money - the podcast is free - but to try and recruit new listeners to the show. No word yet on whether there will be free mugs and tote bags.

And while you could always listen to the podcast directly from your computer, WhiskyCast now has an iphone app. I actually get to listen to the show while I'm walking to work (yes, I live in LA and walk to work, get over it), which has improved my commute immeasurably.

So head over to WhiskyCast and get your whisky news.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Louisiana Best Seafood

C. Thi Nguyen, a food loving UCLA grad student (in philosophy no less) has, over the past few years, been showing himself to be one of the finest food writers in LA. He started as a frequent poster on Chowhound but is now an occasional contributor to the LA Times' The Find column, which reviews downscale joints and hidden gems. In the city of Jonathan Gold, it's hard to break out as a food writer, but Nguyen has both a knack for new finds and for describing them in a way that makes you want to drop everything and speed out to whichever restaurant he's reviewing. I open the Times food section every Thursday hoping to find one of his reviews.

One of the places I learned of through a Nguyen review last year was Louisiana Best Seafood in Long Beach. Louisiana Best is the real thing, similar to the take-out shacks that dot the landscape in Southern Louisiana.

Louisiana Best makes some of the best fried shrimp and oysters in town. The shrimp are far better than most southern style shrimp in that they manage to keep their moist, buttery flesh beneath the cornmeal batter. The oysters properly burst open with juice when you take a bite, and benefit for a dip in some Louisiana hot sauce. Those oysters would make for an excellent po-boy, but you'll have to make it yourself because the menu at Louisiana Best is pretty much limited to fried fish.

Along with shrimp and oysters, they have a list of fish of which I have so far tried two: the catfish and red snapper. The catfish was excellent; the firm, perfectly fried pieces had an addictive quality to them. It was tough to stop eating. I also really enjoyed their homemade tartar sauce, which is far less mayo-heavy than most. I did not care for the red snapper which was dry and fishy tasting. Nguyen loved the sand dabs, but I haven't gotten around to them yet.

Louisiana Best is pretty much a take-out only establishment, but be forewarned that transporting the goods can leave an odor that will haunt your car for weeks. After my first drive home with a family bucket of fried fish, I tried sprays, leaving the windows open and other tricks to no avail. Now, before a trip for fish, I just prepare myself for the several weeks of seafood scent I will enjoy each time I open my car door.

There's not much other than fish at Louisiana Best. The hushpuppies are well fried and tasty, but the fries are just average. There are a few pre-made desserts in the case, but why do that when Jongewaard's Bake N' Broil is only a mile or so north; those cream pies make a fine coda to a fish fry.

Louisiana Best Seafood
2400 Atlantic Ave.
Long Beach, CA
(562) 424-0298.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Long Beach Sweets: Jongewaard's Bake 'N Broil

Jongewaard's Bake 'N Broil is a venerable Long Beach diner that has been putting out fine baked goods for many years. They have all sorts of family-restaurant type dishes as well, but the regular food I've had has been pretty mediocre. This is a place for the sweet tooth.

The cream pies and creamy cheesecakes are wonderful. Coconut cream pie is thick and creamy with a strong coconut taste but not too sweet. I also love the lemon cream cheese pie, consisting of lemon curd piled on a light and creamy cheesecake base; all the crusts are perfectly flaky. While I like all the cream pies I've had, I do wish the chocolate cream pie had a stronger chocolate flavor. Jongewaard's other cakes, from red velvet to German chocolate, are also very good, but I go for the creamy ones.

Jongewaard's Bake N' Broil
3697 Atlantic Ave
Long Beach, CA 90807
(562) 595-0396

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Whiskey Wednesday: New Whiskey Minute Videos

I've uploaded some new videos on my YouTube channel: whiskyminute. Tune in to see:

We are now up to 19 videos! Hey, I'm no Ralfy, but on the other hand, you can probably watch all of my videos in the time it takes to watch one of his.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Whiskey Wednesday: Two New Ardbegs

Ardbeg is one of the most popular distilleries among Scotch lovers, famous for its strong peat flavors. For years, Ardbeg issued special and limited bottlings but didn't sell them in the US. Americans were left to read about these fanciful new releases while our shelves only held three distillery Ardbegs: the 10 year old, Airigh Nam Beist and Uigeadail. Luckily for us, that started to change last year when Ardbeg released its hyper-peated Supernova to the US.

This year, we already have two new Ardbegs to celebrate. The Corryvreckan, which will become a regular feature of Ardbeg, replacing the Airigh Nam Beist, and the new limited edition Ardbeg Rollercoaster. It is about as good time as any to be an American Ardbeg fan.


Ardbeg Corryvreckan, 57.1% alcohol ($75).

Corryvreckan is named for a Scottish whirlpool. It has no age statement. The nose is pure Islay goodness with smoke, straw, and a little bit of caramel in the background. The flavor is everything you would expect from a new Ardbeg. It comes on with big peat, followed with a bit of sweetness that picks up for the finish. Like the popular ten year old, there is a nice balance of smoke and sweet. I'm left with smoke in my nose and sugar on my tongue. I wouldn't say that it's my favorite Ardbeg, but it's a solid smoke monster that will please the peat heads among us, myself included.

Ardbeg Rollercoaster, 57.3% alcohol ($80).

The limited edition Rollercoaster is a high concept whisky. It is a blend of Ardbegs distilled in each year from 1997 (when the formerly closed distillery was reopened) to 2006, and the label even tells you the percentage of each year that went into the bottle. The nose on the Rollercoaster has some peat, but it's nowhere near the level of the Corryvreckan. You also get the agave/new make notes typical of young whiskies. When you taste, you immediately get the punch of a young whisky, with those slightly acidic qualities that have yet to be barrel tamed. Smoke is present, but much less prominent than the Corry.

These were two very different whiskies. If you are a real peat head, you should definitely get yourself a Corryvreckan. While the Rollercoaster is nice enough, I wouldn't necessarily recommend it unless you are an Ardbeg fanatic and want to taste something with some real youth characteristics to it.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

True Blood Part 2: 8th Street Soondae

In my second Korean bloods sausage excursion I hit up 8th Street Soondae, alternatively titled, according to the menu, 8Ga Soon Dae, 8th Korean Sausage Restaurant and Korean Sweet Rice Blood 8th Sausage Restaurant; there is no English on the storefront, but it is in the corner of a strip mall on the north west corner of Hoover and 8th Street.

The menu is nearly identical to that of Western Soondae, which I reviewed last week. I again had the soon dae plate with sausage and "assort pork intestin." The dish was two dollars more expensive than Western ($11.99 vs. $9.99) but had a bit more of the pork stomach.

I definitely preferred the plate at Western Soondae. The sausage at 8th Street was nearly the same in flavor and appearance but was drier then the very moist Western sausage. I missed the moistness of the sausage innards and the soft but stretchy quality in the casing at Western, which made it taste freshly made. The sausage is also served with the same accompaniments used at Western: pork stomach, tongue and liver. The tongue, which I really enjoyed at Western Soondae was also much too dry at 8th street. The liver was equally dried out at both establishments and the stomach seemed fine at both.

Soondae is fairly bland so condiments are important. Both restaurants served salt with them as well as a fish sauce and chili condiment, but the sauce at Western was a bit more funky and had more character, making it a better foil to the strong offal flavors in the dish.

The winner of this soondae match was Western. Thanks to the Chowhounds who pointed me to the two contenders. Oh and there are a few others out there I will be trying, but for now, I'm going to take a break and let the iron content of my blood ease back down a bit.

8th Street Soondae
2703 W. 8th Street, #D
Los Angeles, CA 90005
(213) 487-0038

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Ho Dduk at the Green Market

You can have your Sprinkles Truck and other mobile dessert stands. Is there anything better than a hot rice pancake with sweet syrup? The Korean dessert ho dduk has long been available from a truck labeled Koo's Grill outside the California Market on Western and Fourth Street (known locally as the "green California Market" to distinguish it from the "red California Market" on Beverly). The pancake has that nice, stretchy texture you get from rice flour, like a flattened, fried mochi, but beware your first bite, because that syrup is slightly hotter than molten lava. At a dollar a pop, these babies may be the the best food truck deal around.

Koo's Grill
Outside the Green California Market
450 South Western Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90020

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Whiskey Wednesday: The Party Source

The Party Source sounds like one of those stores that sells balloons and paper plates featuring the Disney Princesses, but it is actually a fabulous Kentucky whiskey store. Kentucky liquor stores, which tend to feature huge Bourbon selections, generally don't sell on-line for legal reasons, but the Party Source has ventured into new territory by offering its specialty, single barrel bottlings on-line. These are single barrel bottlings of American whiskey and Scotch made specially for the Party Source. They include American whiskies from Buffalo Trace, Heaven Hill, Four Roses and the Willett Bourbons bottled by KBD. They also offer single barrel Scotch from a number of different distilleries including Bruichladdich and BenRiach.

Among the most exciting offerings are specially made versions of the Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection, and at a reasonable price. For the last few years, the innovators at Trace have been doing all sorts of strange things to whiskey and bottling it in 350 ml bottles as the Experimental Collection. These bottles are exceedingly hard to find outside of Kentucky and environs. In fact, the only one I've seen on a California shelf was priced at $200, while they go for $50 to $60 in Kentucky. The Party Source is offering two specialty bottlings of the Experimental Collection, a wheated whiskey aged in rye barrels and a rye whiskey aged in dessert wine barrels. They are $60 per 375 ml bottle.

I picked one of the ryes up as well as a young Willett, which I will review in due time. Meanwhile, check out the Party Source.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

True Blood: Western Soondae

Every once in a while I get a vampyric blood lust, a taste for blood sausage that can only be sated by a fresh kill. Usually, I satisfy these gothic hunger pangs with the Latin American version of blood sausage, morcilla. La Fonda Anteoqueño does a particularly excellent version. Occasionally, I'll also get one of the Middle Eastern variants. Lately though, I've been hitting up Korean joints for the Korean blood sausage known as soondae.

Western Soondae lies in a strip mall at the corner of Sixth and Western. It's hard not to like a place that bills itself as a "Korean Sweet Rice Blood Wurst-Sausage Restaurant." I mean, talk about getting it all out on the table.

I went in for the small soon dae plate. For ten bucks, you get a large pile of blood sausage, I'm talking six or seven sausages, plus what the menu describes as "assort pork intestin," which actually appeared to be small servings of liver, tongue and a third unidentified offal which may have been heart or even stomach, but in any case had some muscle quality, which means it probably was not intestine.

Soondae tends to be milder than morcilla in terms of spices, and the Western Soondae was very mild, though it had a nice, straightforward blood sausage taste. It was stuffed with cellophane-type noodles instead of rice, and the texture was fairly soft though not mushy.

The tongue and unidentified offal were both very nice, and again, very straightforward, but the liver was far too dry. I like my livers moist.

The specialty at soondae is soondae kuk, which is a blood sausage soup, but I was more in the mood for the big pile of sausages. I also was intrigued by the oyster bosam on the menu; perhaps on a return trip.

Western Soondae makes a good, solid blood sausage and certainly gives you bang for the buck, but I can't say I was blown away by it. In the coming weeks, we'll see how it stacks up to some soondae competitors.

Western Soondae
543 S. Western Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90020
(213) 389-5288

And another location at:
809 S. Ardmore Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90005
(213) 381-1520

Thursday, March 4, 2010

99 Things I Already Wrote About

Last week, the food blogging community was all agog over Jonathan Gold's 99 Things to Eat in LA Before You Die. Now, I'm a big Gold fan, and I dutifully compiled the list of those 99 that I had tasted (34), but these lists always strike me as mostly a retread job. There was nothing on here particularly unexpected, and a regular Gold reader probably could have come up with more than half the list off the top of her head. (Gold likes Mozza Pizza -- who knew?)

For those of us who aren't as food obsessed or for out of town visitors, I would definitely recommend tucking the list in your pocket and eating your way through, but for those of us who are regular readers, it didn't offer much that was new or interesting. And formatting-wise, it was a pain in the ass, taking 15 clicks to get through the whole thing.

Oh, and is it just me, or did Gold's piece on Oki Dog seem to be channeling our own Mr. Pyrite?

UPDATE: Check out SinoSoul for a similar take (and if you're not reading him already, you should be!)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Whiskey Wednesday: Battle of the Really Expensive 23 Year Old Van Winkles

A few months ago, I reviewed the new Jefferson Presidential Select Bourbon and talked about the cult of wheated Bourbon from the old Stitzel-Weller distillery. Little did I know that the Stitzel-Weller cult was just getting started. Shortly after the release of the Jefferson Presidential, the Van Winkles, heirs to Stitzel-Weller, announced the release of the new 23 year old Old Rip Van Winkle Bourbon. While it did not say so explicitly, Van Winkle leaked news that the 23 year old was made with whiskey from Stitzel-Weller.

The new Bourbon is remarkable, not just for its pedigree, but also for its look and price. Mimicking some of the recent high-end Scotch releases, the Old Rip Van Winkle is packaged in a large, leather-lined wooden cube that's almost big enough to qualify as furniture. It is bottled in a crystal decanter, made by the Scottish Glencairn Crystal Studio, known for their high-quality whiskey glasses, and comes with two rocks glasses also made by Glencairn. Why they included rocks glasses instead of tasting glasses, I don't know. The retail price is a whopping $350, though it's up to $400 at some stores. This is certainly the highest priced Bourbon I have seen on the retail market. Though, to be fair, it is priced comparably to similarly aged Scotches from closed distilleries like Brora and Port Ellen.

Curiously, Van Winkle has long had another 23 year old Bourbon on the market that is made from old Stitzel-Weller stocks. The Pappy Van Winkle 23 year old Family Reserve is expensive, but coming in at the $220 range, it is more than $100 cheaper than the new release. So what is the difference between these two 23 year old Stitzel-Weller whiskeys? Well, on the surface, other than the packaging (the Pappy is modestly bottled in a little cloth bag), the main difference is that the Old Rip is higher in alcohol. Of course, the only real way to tell the difference is to taste these babies, so here we go.


Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve 23 year old
47.8% alcohol (C series).

The nose on this is very Van Winkle with a bit of heat to it, slightly spicy almost as if it had rye, which it does not. The first taste you get is sweet, followed by a bit of heat. The overall taste is a bit flat. This isn't as well rounded or as complex as the 20 year old version of Pappy, though it has a few of the savory notes.

Old Rip Van Winkle 23 year old
57% alcohol, not chill-filtered

The nose on this is beautiful. It's sweet, it's caramel with bits of oak, like walking in an enchanted candy forest. The aroma is lush and complex; the Pappy is much lighter in aroma. Flavor - they nailed this one. Sweet yields to savory with that chewy, aged Zinfandel mouthfeel. Waves of flavor wash over you, gone before you can name them. Trying to pin it all down I get big wood, wine and some citrus; at the end of the palate you get the sweet corn. Water brings out sweeter notes, but as with most whiskeys, I prefer Old Rip neat.

Going back to the Pappy after tasting the Old Rip is inadvisable. It tastes weak and one dimensional in comparison.


The Old Rip 23 is a lovely whiskey, while the Pappy 23 was very disappointing. Is the Old Rip worth the big price tag? Well, that's hard to say, but it is a great whiskey, and compared to other great whiskeys from closed distilleries, I don't think you can call it overpriced. Of course, there are other great Bourbons that are much more affordable. The William Larue Weller that I reviewed last year is another phenomenal wheated Bourbon for about one-fifth the price of the Old Rip. If you love wheated Bourbon and you don't mind spending a good wad of cash to try an old Stitzel-Weller, I would definitely recommend the Old Rip. Now if I only knew what to do with an large, empty, leather-lined wooden box, I'd be all set.