Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas To All

I'm going to take a few days off from blogging. I hope you all have a fun, safe, happy holiday.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Frito Pie

Elizabeth and I had walked all over Old Town, doing shopping, spending too much time in stores that were too hot. After we were done she offered to take me anywhere I wanted for dinner. I knew exactly where I wanted to go: home. Sometimes there is nothing better than a simple dinner and spending the evening on the couch watching TV.

On the way home it occured to me what I wanted: a Frito pie. We ducked into a store and bought a bag of Fritos and a can of chili. Back home I heated the chili, spread some chips out on a plate and topped it all with cheese. After a minute the cheese started to soften, melting slightly, and I added a couple dollops of sour cream.

It was the perfect dinner. 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

My Top 10 for 2010

Someone asked me to compile a top 10 list of the best things I have eaten this year. That seemed like a simple request - anything for my readers - so here it goes:

(Note: I started to make this list by looking at all post from 2010 - 224 of them so far - and jotting down my favorites. There were 14. The first thing I did was bump two items: the lobster at Crab Cooker and the Wild Boar Burger at Green Street Tavern. Sure, they were unquestionably two of the best things I had this year, but I've also had them in previous years. So I decided to remove them from the list. But honestly, there might not be a single thing in the world I enjoy eating more than that lobster, so any year that I have it - which is most years - it belongs in the top spot.)

10) Beef pancake at Dumpling House. I know there are probably better beef pancakes in the San Gabriel Valley, but this was the one I ate. It was great at the restaurant; it was even better reheated at home.

9) My Little Pizzeria. Although the state of pizza in California has been improved dramatically in the last few years, there still is no substitute for a great slice of New York pizza. This little shop in Brooklyn, which Elizabeth had been telling me about for more than two years, was fantastic.

8) Cochinita pibil taco at La Cabanita. Possibly the best taco I have ever had.

7) New York Steaks and salted caramel gelato for Father's Day. While I prefer thinner cuts of steak that cook quickly and melt like butter on the tongue, there is something to be said for a perfect, thick steak, and Father's Day certainly seems like a good occasion for that. The Bearnaise sauce I made didn't hurt, either.

6) Lobster roll at Fish King. It's 7:26 in the morning as I'm typing these words, watching the Today Show and bracing for the next round of rains... and all I can think is how much I would love to have one of these in front of me for breakfast.

5) Fish & chips at the Village Idiot. Well, maybe not so much the chips, but the fish was fantastic. For the first time ever in L.A. I had fish & chips that I loved.

4) Stuffed flank steak. This post generated more compliments from friends than almost any I wrote this year, although that seemed to be more because they enjoyed my baseball memories. But the fact remains that this might be the best steak I have ever cooked. Well, except for...

3) Steak sandwiches. I am in love with the prime flatiron steak at Taylor's, and I have cooked it perhaps ten times in the last half-year, but this was by far the best one: rubbed with butter, cooked on the indoor grill, sliced thinly and piled on a soft roll with caramelized onions and spinach. It's possible I have never made a better sandwich.

2) Langer's #19. I made it 32 years without eating at Langer's.  Man, I'm an idiot.

And my favorite thing I ate this year?

1) The filet mignon at the Hitching Post II. Would it have been my favorite if it hadn't been Elizabeth's 30th birthday weekend, eaten after a day wine tasting with some friends on the Central Coast? Yes, I think it would have been. It was simply spectacular.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Sharky's Woodfired Mexican Grill

Elizabeth didn't get home from work until almost 8 on Friday. You gotta love rainy Friday traffic. We ran out to Macy's on Lake Ave to look for something specific. (They did not have it, but at least we weren't subjected to a DJ booming house music like we were on our last trip to Macy's a month ago, by far the most annoying hour I've spent this year that didn't involve watching The Expendables or a UCLA football game.)

"What would you like for dinner?" I asked.

"Fish tacos," she responded promptly.

"From where?"

"What's the place I like?" she asked.

"Sharky's? It's right around the corner."

So we went there - about a block away, near the corner of Cordova and Lake - not long before they were closing, but the guy behind the counter was very friendly and said as long as there were people there he would be open.

I first ate at Sharky's almost seven years ago, out in the Valley. My dad had a doctor's appointment that I had driven him to and I had a couple hours to kill. Someone had told me that Sharky's had, of all things, great pizza, so I went by to try it. I thought it was merely good so in my visits to Sharky's since then (admittedly we're probably only talking about three times) I hadn't bothered to try the pizza again. But it sounded good to me this time, so I ordered a chipotle barbecue chicken pizza and a tempura-battered mahi mahi taco. Elizabeth ordered two of those tacos.

We took a booth by the window and watched the rain for a few minutes. Our food did not take long to be brought out to us.

There were three things about this pizza that struck me: 1) it was much bigger than I remember the one seven years ago, 2) it was loaded with toppings, and 3) the crust was incredibly thin. I don't mean New York pizza-thin, I mean tortilla-thin.

And it was very tasty. Nothing spectacular, and imagine if I return to Sharky's someday I will probably revert to eating tacos, but I'm very glad I got this pizza. The sauce actually had some chipotle flavor to it (my surprise at that fact is a measure of how few places that claim to use chipotle sauce actually come through on that promise) and went nicely with the chicken and cilantro flavors.

Like I said, the crust is a very thin, cracker-like crust. 

Piled under all that cabbage is a couple pieces of fried fish. It was delicious - crunchy batter and perfectly cooked, moist fish - but I'm not going to lie: at almost four bucks each, the mahi mahi tacos are pretty skimpy on the portions of fish. That's not a ridiculous amount to pay for each taco, but if I hadn't had the pizza, it would have taken at least three of these to fill me up. (One thing I learned on my taco crawl last month is that there are plenty of places in town where you can get a filling taco meal for under five bucks.)

Overall, I was satisfied with the meal, but it was not anything spectacular. For a chain, Sharky's is ahead of Rubio's and Qdoba and miles ahead of Baja Fresh. And I will be glad to return to Sharky's on a rainy Friday night if I'm just around the corner. But as for seeking it out as a destination? Nah, I don't think I will ever do that again. The fish taco at La Estrella was cheaper, better, and more filling. (And there is a place in Duarte that my friend told me about that I look forward to trying over the holidays.)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christamas Caroling, The Legend of the Beer Wagon Revisited, and Random Weekend Eats

Saturday, I was running errands all morning, Christmas shopping mostly, and stopped by my parents' house. We'd talked about possibly going to lunch, but after dealing with traffic and the number of inconsiderate people at all the stores, I had no desire to go out. I stopped by Taylor's and bought stuff to make burgers.

My burger had garlic pickles, Provolone cheese, thick-cut bacon, and grilled red onions. It was fantastic.

In my early 20s I lived with a couple of my good friends from high school. The grandmother of one of them is English, and she had given him a can of spotted dick (a suet pudding popular in the UK). We kept it in the pantry for two reasons: 1) it was always hilarious to ask guests if they wanted some spotted dick, and 2) no matter what, we would always have something to eat.

I had told Elizabeth that story before but I think she thought I was joking, just making up the name of the product. But sure enough, we saw it at Fresh & Easy on Saturday afternoon.

For a couple weeks I have been thinking of making Reuben egg rolls. It has been years since I've had them - at the Forge in the Forest in Carmel, one of my favorite restaurants in the state - and I don't know what has been making me crave them, but I picked up ingredients at Fresh & Easy to make them.

I got pastrami instead of corned beef, and layered it on top of a piece of Swiss cheese on an egg roll wrapper. I put some sauerkraut on top of that, rolled up the wrappers, and fried them for a couple minutes. Elizabeth mixed up a sour cream/mustard concoction and I made a basic Russian dressing.

They were very tasty.

I grilled three pizzas for dinner. I have written about grilled pizza many times here so I will not write much here: one was barbecue chicken, one was basil, one was cheese and sausage. 

This was Elizabeth's breakfast Sunday morning: a slice of funfetti cake and a fried piece of thick bacon. Yep, she's all mine.

I wrote about this one year ago, but I will repeat it here. My friend Zach's parents have a Christmas caroling party every year. For many years, when we walked around the neighborhood caroling, we would stuff our pockets with flasks of whiskey and bottles of beer. If you preferred the latter, as I always have, you had to run back to the house every once in a while and pick up more beer.

One morning in 2002, Zach and I were looking at ads in the paper, and we came across one for Harbor Freight Tools featuring a wagon for a very low price. We decided it would make a great wagon for the Caroling party. That first year, we just dumped ice in the wagon and filled it with beers. The next year it had a thermos of cider attached to the back. In the years since, it has constantly been renovated, sometimes in ways that don't even make sense. Like the Winchester Mystery House for drunks.

This cooler contained the "Corona & Lite beer," as if those are two separate things.

Zach's dad, Jack, said he had a problem: someone had given him a bottle of Glenlivet and he wasn't sure if it was still good. We had to try it to make sure.

It was still good.

Q: What's the only thing better than a giant wheel of cheese at a party?

A: A giant leg of prosciutto. 

There was lots of food. I made myself a plate with Caesar salad, spaghetti, bread, and mac & cheese. All of it was great.

There were plenty of desserts, too, but all I could manage to eat was a mini cupcake. 

As I was leaving the party I sent Elizabeth a text, asking if she wanted me to get any food for her. She wanted an Original Chicken Sandwich from Burger King. As I have written before, I do not like BK. But, as you have seen, I had just eaten dinner, so I didn't care. When I got to BK, I saw a promotion: buy one chicken sandwich, get one free. So I got a sandwich all to myself. I ate a couple bites but did not think much of it. 

I may not eat again until next weekend.