Friday, April 12, 2013

The End: In-N-Out 4x4 Animal Style

In hundreds of trips to In-N-Out, from those childhood visits courtesy of my grandmother, who would pick up me and my brother from elementary school and take us to the In-N-Out three blocks away, to my freshman year of college when I often ate lunch and dinner at In-N-Out, to the years in Pasadena when In-N-Out always served as a great option when Elizabeth and I couldn't decide on dinner, I have never ordered a burger larger than a Double-Double.

So last week in Pasadena I decided to try the 4x4: four patties, four slices of cheese, all of it Animal Style. It was glorious. (It was also, if we're being honest, gilding the lily: the Double-Double is every bit as good.)

And it seemed like the perfect last post.

Take care,

- Justin

Thursday, April 11, 2013

#2: The Crab Cooker Lobster

There is no food in the world I love more than The Crab Cooker's lobster, threaded onto a skewer, brushed with butter and spices and grilled over mesquite charcoal, double cole slaw on the side and a thimble of superfluous butter. I ate there last month with my parents and they remarked that they had been coming there together for almost 45 years. I would consider myself lucky if I could have that many years of eating this lobster.

(Here's some photos of the rest of our lunch, just for the hell of it.)

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

#3: Pommes Frites

Three times I had been to Pommes Frites: on a trip to NYC in 2006; when Elizabeth and I were here in 2010 for her sister's wedding and we took a respite from an afternoon pub crawl to eat some Belgian fries (probably one of the top 10 most fun afternoons we have ever spent together); last summer when my parents were visiting.

(I often get asked if I have a favorite post out of the 1100+ I have written. I do not. But if I were choosing a top 5, my notes on that 2010 trip to Pommes Frites would certainly be on the list.)

The older I get, the less I like fries. I find fault with 90% of them. But I still love good Belgian fries. So the other day Elizabeth and I stopped in one more time. We had the smallest order (the "regular") and again it was too much for the two of us.

The sauces we tried were roasted garlic mayo, lemon-dill mayo, and "curry ketchup especial," a mixture of curry ketchup, raw onions, and mayo.)

There have been perhaps a half-dozen places in my life where I have had better fries on at least one occasion, but none as consistently as Pommes Frites. In four trips now, they've been great every time.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

#4: Yang Chow Slippery Shrimp

On the surface, the idea of cornstarch-battered fried shrimp tossed in a sauce of ketchup, sugar, garlic, vinegar, and ginger is not something that sounds all that good to me. But there is almost no food in the world that I love more. My friend Bryce had never tried them, so I made sure to remedy that on my last trip home.

"These are like candy," he said.

Indeed. I suggested we give some to his three-year-old daughter but he said no. Maybe because they wouldn't be good for her, or maybe just because she wouldn't appreciate them. But probably because that would have meant less shrimp for us.

I don't know how many foods there are that I could eat every single day. Not fries. Probably not lobster. Certainly not bacon. Hell, my freshman year of college I think I actually tried to eat In-N-Out every day and I even got (slightly) tired of that.

I could probably eat pizza every day if it were a good enough slice. And these Slippery Shrimp. That's the list.

Monday, April 8, 2013

#5: Del Taco Chicken Soft Taco

When I wrote about these a couple of years ago, I titled the post "A Somewhat Irrational Love Affair," because I am perfectly willing to admit that there is nothing too special about them. But I love them still. I always end up eating more than I should and they have saved me from more hangovers than anything except... well, not drinking, I guess.

I've heard stories that at the oldest Del Taco, in Barstow, they stuff these things full of chicken. While it might not be a quest on par with my plan to one day see the Midnight Sun Baseball Game or drive the entire length of the Great River Road, some day I will make it there.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Vacation Roundup

Tracie and I went into Mezbaan one night after having a few drinks. (If you read the last post, you realize that isn't all that rare for us.) I didn't have my camera but I used my phone: we had mixed chutneys with papadums, garlic naan, onion bhaji and shrimp pakora. (And the classic Indian lager Kingfisher, which, it turns out, is made in Saratoga Springs, NY.) All of it was good... it just wasn't as good as the meal we had at All India.

Barbecue #1
Some of the most enjoyable afternoons/evenings of my life have been spent at my friend Dave's house in the San Rafael Hills, so when he invited me over for a barbecue, I didn't hesitate.

Everyone likes chips and salsa.

Bread, cheese, the chips, and cold beers were all enjoyed on the deck at the top of the property. There were grilled sausages and salmon later on, but the pictures didn't turn out as well.

Duck Sliders at King's Row
The sliders were delicious but the fries were terrible: soggy, oily, and heavily salted. Within ten minutes I was dying for water.

Mini Wontons
The bags of mini wontons that I get at Whole Foods always hit the spot when I can't decide what I want. Boiled for three minutes and then tossed in a sauce of orange peel, vinegar, and chopped fresh cilantro, they turned out great.

Three Pizzas
A broccoli, red onion and mushroom pizza at 72 North.

I've always liked Tombstone Pizza so I decided the dipping bites were worth a try. I hated them. The sauce and pepperoni were decent enough, but the thick crust was not enjoyable, the dipping bites were even worse, and the included marinara sauce was sweeter than ketchup.

My parents asked me to make pizza one night so I did, my usual roasted garlic and basil. 

Barbecue #2
My parents' Wisteria didn't look as beautiful as other years, but it was the most pleasant-smelling year yet. So I had a few friends over to sit beneath it and enjoy the sunshine.

Our beers of choice for the afternoon.

My first experience with the Shift Pale Lager was a good one.

I wrote about the Unie Kaas Parrano the other day; here is the 6-month Gouda, which is also awesome.

Everyone likes chips & salsa.

There were two bottles of Sunshine Wheat left in the fridge so I drank them before anyone else showed up... you know, so I didn't have to share them.

Years ago at the Deschutes restaurant in Portland, I had a delicious honey mustard made with Black Butte Porter. Using a couple of internet recipes as a guide, I tried to make a clone.

It was fantastic and everyone loved it, especially when I poured shots of Black Butter Porter to sample with pretzels and the mustard.

Grilled "Sierra Madre Caliente" sausage from Taylor's, citrus-jicama slaw, roasted potatoes with bacon and mustard vinaigrette...

... and grilled corn with lime and queso fresco. Everything was great, except the corn, which was just average. ("It's not summer corn yet," Tracie added, correctly.)

I slow-cooked a four-pound pork butt when I made sliders, and there was plenty left. So we made very basic enchiladas with the leftovers. Not anything that will blow your mind, but still pretty good.

Venezuelan Hot Dogs
I once, many years ago, saw a chef on Food Network make "Venezuelan hot dogs." I'd never heard of them before but they looked good, so the other day I made my attempt: Angus beef dogs with cabbage, potato chips, mustard, ketchup and mayo. They were fantastic.

Chipotle "Catering"
My brother asked me to come by his work to help out with something. He said I should come around noon because that's when they were getting lunch catered. It ended up being Chipotle. I wonder if he did that intentionally. I have a guess. At any rate, he got me a carnitas burrito with all the fillings I enjoy, and it wasn't bad at all. So after having gone more than 12 years without eating at the place, I had it twice in less than one month. Whatever.

Empress Pavilion
As always, my friends wanted to visit Empress. I've written about it enough times; you don't need a full review. (I didn't even bring my camera.)

Back to Brooklyn
I texted my Dodgers-loving friends that this was the plane I was taking. (It was not.)

I got to watch old friend Ervin Santana while on the plane. He picked up for KC right where he left off for the Angels last year - 3 HRs in 6 innings.

I got home about 9, picked up Five Guys for me and Elizabeth, and doused mine with the Habanero ketchup that Tim gave me the other day, which was outstanding.