The Expeditor

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IGTT 300x300 The Expeditor

Our last night in LA was the entire reason we had come to there to begin with…dinner at Alma, Bon Appétit’s Best New Restaurant.

It brought us to one of the grittiest streets in downtown LA, between a hostess club (yeah, I had to look that up) & a former marijuana dispensary.

alma The Expeditor

The inside is tiny (39 seats–I’m still surprised we got a reservation!) & very minimally furnished. Within minutes of arriving we were seated along the long marble bar, right in front of the open kitchen…& The Expeditor.

The food at Alma is very seasonally-driven, relying heavily on a colleague’s half acre garden plot in nearby Venice for many ingredients, & local farmers’ markets for the rest. The portions are small, but wonderful for sharing, which is what we did to sample a good portion of the menu (now they do a strictly tasting menu).

alma beer The Expeditor

We ordered our beers & settled in to watch the cooks & chef Ari Taymor prepare each dish in front of us…each perfectly timed by The Expeditor & his intricate grid of tickets & painters’ tape & fueled by the huge glass of wine he poured directly down his throat.

It was unreal to watch. The Expeditor would bark out, “JEFFREY. One beignet.”

“Yes, Chef.”

“JEFFREY. Two soups.”

“JEFFREY.”

Poor Jeffrey. I think he made just about everything that night, except for the poor girl that dared make the mistake of putting butter in a bowl that was a little too fresh-from-the-dishwasher warm. The Expeditor snatched the bread out of that bowl as soon as she handed it over & dumped the melting butter right into the trash, then ordered her to do it again.

alma beignet and snails The Expeditor

We ordered the bread & (unmelted) cultured butter, seaweed & tofu beignet, Courtney’s snails with fingerling potatoes, sunchoke soup, beets with figs & pistachio, mushrooms with Brussels sprouts & dry aged ribeye.

alma dinner The Expeditor

& the food was good, but the show even better. I think we watched The Expeditor wide-eyed the whole time we sat there. He never faltered, never cracked a smile, never stopped to even taste any of the drinks that kept him soldiering on…juggling tickets & dishes & barking orders to the cooks. It was unreal.

Was it the best meal we’ve ever had? No. Was it the best meal of the trip? No. I think that ramen has us forever ruined. Best new restaurant? I dunno. We didn’t dislike it, but didn’t over-the-top love it…see also: ramen. Am I glad we did it? Yeah, we never regret giving a place a shot & we kept the Best New Restaurant streak alive.

Will it happen again this year? Guess we’ll have to wait & see…fingers crossed for somewhere fun!

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vegetarian chili

The calendar says spring, but winter is still toying with us. While we’re ready for warmer temps, we’re not quite ready to part with some of our favorite comfort foods.

DSC 9082 vegetarian chili

This vegetarian chili made its appearance here in 2009 & has been a mainstay in our kitchen ever since, which is HUGE because we’re constantly on to new things, new recipes, new flavors…but every so often a big pot of chili is just right.

This meal is great for several reasons–it’s warming, it’s filling, healthy, easy to throw together & freezes really well.

DSC 9087 vegetarian chili

It’s pretty damn delicious, too.

VEGETARIAN CHILI
serves 4-6 

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, diced
1 medium red bell pepper, seeded, and finely diced
big pinch kosher salt
6 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1½ teaspoons ground coriander
¾ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 (28-oz) can diced tomatoes, undrained
2 (15-oz) cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15-oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon soy sauce
cheddar cheese, for topping
sour cream, for topping
sliced green onions, for topping

Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven, or other heavy-bottomed pot, over medium heat. Add the onions and bell pepper, big pinch of salt & cook until soft, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. Add the garlic & cook until fragrant, about two minutes more. Sprinkle in the spices & continue to cook for just a minute more.

Pour in the tomatoes & using the spoon, scrape all the good brown bits from the bottom of the pot. Add the beans & soy sauce, stirring to combine. Increase the heat to medium-high to bring the chili to a boil, then reduce to simmer. Cook, covered, for an hour, stirring occasionally. Taste for salt, adding more if necessary. Spoon into individual dishes, top & serve!

slightly adapted from The Way the Cookie Crumbles

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#beercation, LA

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We’re linking up with bloggers around the world to share with you our trip to Southern California. Need to catch up? Start here.

The next morning, we really outdid ourselves with breakfast at the hotel (but hey, it was free!) before setting out to do one of the most cliché things you can do in LA: hike Runyon Canyon.

I had read some negative things online about it, that it was crowded and more like an off-leash dog park than hiking trail, but we were hoping to have a celebrity sighting & work off a little of what we had put on in the past few days, so why not?

runyoncanyon #beercation, LA

The views from the top were worth it, too.

runyonpanorama #beercation, LA

 & since we were already doing LA things, we went ahead & stopped at The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf on the way back to the hotel.

Before leaving on this trip, we heard a segment on NPR about the best ramen in LA, at a place that only serves noodles at lunch…then promptly forgot the name of the place. A quick Google search brought up Tsujita, so having worked up an appetite, we jumped in the car & headed over to West LA. There’s also Tsujita Annex across the street, but we opted for the original & grabbed the last seats along the sun-soaked bar.

We really had no idea what we were doing & we were some of the few people speaking English in the tiny restaurant, so we asked our waiter for his recommendations. In about three minutes, we had steaming bowls of Char Siu Tsukemen & Char Siu Ramen in front of us.

tsujita la #beercation, LA

The noodles were al dente, the pork delicious, & the broth a fatty, salty, perfectly balanced, heavenly product of sixty hours simmering. SIXTY. We’ve been forever ruined. Words can’t even do it justice.

We passed our bowls back & forth until we couldn’t eat another bite. I even dripped on my new white shirt & didn’t care because it was sublime. I also had a Tide pen in my purse. On the way back to the car, Tom said, “Let’s do this for lunch again tomorrow.”

Not a bad idea.

The only other thing on our calendar for the day was our dinner reservation at Alma, so we had the afternoon to explore the up & coming Los Angeles craft brewery scene. Our first stop was Golden Road, a sprawling brewery & canning facility alongside the train tracks in Glendale. I had a Heal the Bay IPA the night before that I really enjoyed, so we split a flight to get a good sampling of their brews…plus a pint each & a dessert because, why not?

photo 11 #beercation, LA

The Bumper Crop American Pale Ale, Berliner Weisse, another Heal the Bay, Burning Bush Smoked IPA, Wolf Among the Weeds Double IPA,  Point the Way IPA, & croissant bread pudding with salted caramel & whipped cream were all pretty solid, & the place was crowded for a Tuesday afternoon, so I would say they’ve got a pretty good thing going on.golden road #beercation, LA

Everything we’ve experienced about LA traffic is that it a) is unpredictable b) makes absolutely no sense and c) is gridlocked mostly all the time, so we made our next stop closer to Downtown to make our dinner reservation. I had read a little bit about Angel City Brewery, so we thought we’d check it out.

angel city  #beercation, LA

The brewery is in a historic building in the Arts District, with the bar on one end, some sort of mezzanine (complete with slide–we never did get the story on that), right in the middle, & plenty of unique seating (pews, picnic tables, etc.) all around. We sipped our way through a flight, then grabbed a few pints & walked around to check out the merchandise & the Dodgers game that was projected on a big screen in the back.

angel city brewery #beercation, LA

Out of what we tried, the (Not) White Nit Dark Ale, Berliner Weisse, & White Nite White Stout were the standouts.

As we finished up our drinks, they were setting up for trivia & we thought for a second about joining in, but we headed off to dinner instead…

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meatless monday | italian kale salad with fried eggs

After a few weeks of overindulgence, we’re resetting things this week with an entire lineup of vegetarian recipes planned, which you may have noticed if you follow us on Instagram.

We’ll do this every so often & it does wonders to boost energy & refocus our eating for the better.

DSC 8888 meatless monday | italian kale salad with fried eggsThere is one thing that we tend to miss after a few days of vegetarianism & it’s going to sound so cliché, but it’s bacon. & it’s not that we really eat a ton of it, but even a little of it’s smoky, salty crunch does a lot to add the finishing touches to salads, soups & even roasted vegetables.

Bacon or pancetta would easily be at home in this salad, but smoked almonds manage to fill that bacon void. They add the crunch, the smokiness (obviously), & together with the Parmesan provide just enough saltiness to make this a deliciously satisfying weeknight meal.

DSC 8886 meatless monday | italian kale salad with fried eggsITALIAN KALE SALAD WITH FRIED EGGS

serves 6

2 bunches Tuscan kale, torn into 1/4-inch-thick pieces
1 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced into ribbons
1 small leek, white part only, very thinly sliced
1 bunch red radishes, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons shaved Parmesan, plus a little more for garnish
1/4 cup smoked almonds, chopped, plus a few more for garnish
3/4 cup Preserved Lemon Vinaigrette, recipe follows
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Oil, for frying eggs
6 eggs

Toss the kale, fennel, leek, radishes, Parmesan, and almonds together in a large bowl. Splash with enough dressing to thoroughly coat. Mix well with your hands, massaging the kale in the process. Let sit for 20-30 minutes before serving to let the kale soften a bit.*

Just before serving, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the eggs two to three at a time, seasoning with salt & freshly ground pepper. When the white has just set, carefully flip the egg, trying your hardest not to break the yolk…you’re going to want that. Cook on the other side, just until the white is set, but the yolk is still runny.

Divide the salad onto individual plates & carefully slide the egg (one per serving) on top. Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan & smoked almonds & drizzle with more dressing, if desired.

PRESERVED LEMON VINAIGRETTE
makes about 1 1/2 cups

1 shallot, roughly chopped
1 preserved lemon, rind only, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
a healthy dose of salt & freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil

Combine the shallot, preserved lemon, honey, lemon juice, vinegar, & salt & pepper in a blender & pulse to combine. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until thoroughly emulsified.

*Kale salad is pretty great as leftovers. The kale is hearty enough to stand up to the dressing, without turning mushy, so go ahead & combine it as directed & add more dressing as necessary the next day.

adapted from Chef Mark Stark via Food Network

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#beercation, San Diego to Hollywood

We’re linking up again this week with other bloggers to share travels from all over the world via Instagram Travel Thursday.  tmp411096157389848577 300x300 #beercation, San Diego to Hollywood

It’s always a weird sort of “homeless” feeling when you’ve checked out of your hotel & are moving on, but that’s what we did this day in San Diego. We had no real plans for the day so we leisurely enjoyed some coffee in Escondido before deciding it was probably okay to enjoy the last few drops of our San Diego #beercation.

coronado brewing #beercation, San Diego to HollywoodWe ended up in Coronado for an early lunch on the patio of Coronado Brewing Company…right next to a couple we had met the day before at Ale Smith, visiting for the area for sake of the beer, just like us. We enjoyed the warm sun, good food, & several new-to-us beers, some with new accolades fresh from GABF.

societe brewing #beercation, San Diego to HollywoodOur last tasting stop in San Diego was Societe Brewing Company, which came highly recommended by our friends & several others in the area. We sampled The Apprentice American IPA, The Publican American Pale Ale, The Widow Belgian Strong Dark Ale, The Roustabout DIPA, The Pugilist Irish Dry Stout & grabbed a growler of The Debutante Belgian Brown Ale before we hit the road. We rated all but one of the beers four stars Untappd, so it’s worth a visit for sure.

We made a quick stop into Keg-N-Bottle & grabbed some goodies from the Firestone Walker Proprietor’s Vintage Series–the Parabola & Velvet Merkin–plus some Russian River Pliny the Elder, which the clerk offered up when he saw our purchases.

& with that, we were off to Los Angeles.

surly goat #beercation, San Diego to HollywoodWe dropped our bags in our hotel room in West Hollywood & headed down to Santa Monica Boulevard for Happy Hour at our favorite bar in LA, The Surly Goat, where we sipped away the afternoon in the dimly lit bar in the nondescript grey building, only identifiable by the goat logo above the front door.

hollywood blvd #beercation, San Diego to Hollywood

Next, we walked (why do people in LA not walk places? The weather is so nice!) up to Hollywood Boulevard to Blue Palms Brewhouse.

blue palm collage #beercation, San Diego to HollywoodIt’s right beyond the Hollywood Walk of Fame, which is packed with tourists & gift shops & not at all where you would expect to find a craft beer bar, but they have 24 taps & the list is updated to the minute on big projector screens throughout the room. We stuffed ourselves with truffle burgers, wedge salads, onion rings & a few more drinks before declaring the day a success.

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