Sunday, September 26, 2010

Burgers and Pie

Across the street from my work is a Los Angeles institution, The Apple Pan. Famed for their hickory burger, they are a little slice of lunch counter heaven on Pico in Westwood. Their menu is only one page and includes very little, most people order the Steakburger or the Hickory Burger, and French fries. The French fries are crispy and delicious, and the burgers include a lot of quality beef and a huge slice of iceberg lettuce which really cuts the deepness of the dish and makes you feel like less of a bad person for eating a giant burger with a giant plate of fries. 

The key to the Apple Pan is the ambiance, the men working the counter have been doing so for years, and adeptly take your order, deliver your food, constantly refill your drink, and keep the counter moving. It's frequently standing room only and don't forget to order pie. Their cream pies are the best even though their apple pie is the golden standard.

The Apple Pan
10801 W. Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90064

Closed Mondays

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Real Animal

Every month my boyfriend and partner and crime Eron and I alternate choosing a restaurant, choosing a place for drinks or something special afterwards and hosting a date. The dates range widely depending on our budget at the moment. This month, for our slightly more special six month anniversary, Eron took me to Animal.

Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo are the chefs behind Animal. They have been awarded with accolades and press attention for their restaurant as well as their book, Two Guys One Pan. The menu is heavy on all parts and kinds of meat, and is created using the products of local farms. The menu changes daily according to what's fresh as well as the whims of the chefs.

We started the night with the Quail Fry with collard greens, slab bacon, and grits. This decadent take on Southern cuisine was tender and crispy, though somewhat difficult to eat politely. I struggled taking the meat off the tiny bones with the suddenly too-big fork. 

The next course was a dish that can only be served in LA, and only in the summer; Heirloom tomatoes with blue cheese and cornbread. The tomatoes were what all tomatoes want to be, but only a very few ever will.

The next course, which overshadowed the others was the seared foie gras over a biscuit with maple gravy. It was overwhelmingly rich and decadent, tastes that I savored and absorbed, shushing my boyfriend while I closed my eyes to taste the sweetness of all three levels of fat. What really made this dish special was the pepper on top. Without it, it could have been too rich and too bland but the pepper helped it to step back, and helped me to enjoy it. This is one of Jonathan Gould's 99 things to eat in LA before you die, and with good reason!

Still hungry (portions are small) we ordered the Foie Gras Moco Loco. Imagine if you will, Rice, then hamburger steak, spam, and seared foie gras with a tiny quail egg on top. Levels and levels of what meat is meant to be, soft, strange, and with spam. 

We finished the night with the chocolate bacon bar. The cream which was surprisingly savory, really made the bar what it was and I was disappointed there was not more. The dessert felt more like it was falling into the hipster trend of bacon with everything instead of doing something really revolutionary with the sweet and salty taste in the dessert. 

The white wine list was impressive, but I felt the red wine list was really lacking in the fun and interesting reds that can hold their own next to the food.

We rolled down the street afterward, full of fat but happy. Animal to me isn't a place to go every night, it's a bit too pricey, and definitely too rich to make it a weekly or even monthly affair, but a place I would go again for a special occasion, or if I really just wanted some delicious meat.

Animal Restaurant
435 N. Fairfax Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90036

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Buying Produce in Los Angeles

Farmer's Markets have the best produce. This is the truth. They usually have good prices for the quality of food that they have, but if you're not looking to spend a lot of money it's not the best place to be. It's really easy to go overboard. The best farmer's market is in Santa Monica. They have the best produce you have ever had, and will usually let you taste it before you buy it. If they don't have what you're looking for they can usually direct you to a stall that does have it. This is where most top restaurants in LA get their produce, with good reason. There are other farmer's markets in Los Angeles, they are all good and definetly worth a visit!

Santa Monica Farmer's Market
Arizona Ave and 2nd Street
Los Angeles, CA

Trader Joe's is usually affordable, occasionally has great unusual things, but for the most part I find that the produce is lackluster and doesn't have the best prices except for their bag salads. I really enjoy their bag salads, and I really enjoy Trader Joe's for a lot of things, but produce is not one of them.

Ralph's, VONs, Albertsons, Pavilions, Etc. All these places are fairly typical grocery store fare. Yes they will have everything but no it won't be in season, and you may end up paying for it.

Whole Foods is out of my price range.

Marina Farms in culver city is as close to a Farmer's Market as you can get on a daily basis. They have a tremendous selection of delicious looking, tasting, and smelling produce as well as inexpensive herbs and a great bulk section with lots of beans and grains and odd sauces, spices, and other additions to your latest creations.
Marina Farms
5454 S Centinela Ave 
Los Angeles, CA 90066-6964

My secret?

Korean Grocery Stores.

The produce is dirt cheap, and usually very fresh. 4 bunches of spinach for a dollar? $1.99 for a pack of organic blueberries? Their selection ranges wildly, but can include tasty $.99 watermelon. Most American items are ridiculously over priced, but they have them. I get out of there with two bags full of produce for $20, and my penchant for expensive shoes is just too great to ignore the glory in that.

I go to the grocery store in Little Tokyo, but there are Korean and other Asian grocery stores all over the city.

Little Tokyo Marketplace
333 S Alameda St
Los Angeles, CA 90013

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


Broke? You'll love my latest favorite!

Black bean noodles are a korean dish, with braised beef, onion and a deep smoky brown sauce. It's not spicy at all, but totally filling and delicious. I don't even know the English name (Jam Pong?) but it is one of my top Korean food favorites.

I found a place that serves giant bowls of black bean noodles for $5! Also huge delicious minced pork dumplings, 8 for $5!

Protip: you won't be able to finish the bowl of noodles, and the pork dumplings (named King dumplings there) are delicious and huge. Bring a friend and split it, tell them you're sharing and they'll even split the noodles into two bowls. They only serve one type of kimchi at the restaurant but you're both only going to be spending $5 plus tip. I think you'll live.

Yu Ga Ne
698 Irolo Street
Los Angeles, CA 90005

It is the restaurant in the center of the parking lot for the strip center at the intersection of Irolo and 7th Street. The only english words on the sign are "Authentic Korean Dumpling" if I remember correctly.

Huckleberry Cafe

Huckleberry has become what many restaurants aim to be- the hot neighborhood spot.

Although I have never been in the afternoons, I have also never seen Huckleberry without a line. Frequently creeping out the door, the line to Huckleberry is part of the experience, waiting for your number and then swooping in and grabbing the next available table (never the other way around, let's not be assholes). Their menu is ever-changing and full of daily specials based on what is fresh at the farmer's market (where they get much of their produce).

My favorite part of Huckleberry is their pastries. The ingredients are put together in really solid, really innovative ways. The #1 thing to get is the Maple bacon biscuit. Some may narrow their eyes and wonder if the addition of bacon is just jumping on the hipster trend, but the combination of sweet and salty in the flaky biscuit doesn't even need butter.

Many of their pastries are adorned with giant pieces of fruit, never soggy, always tasting like the original fruit was made to taste. Their Cheddar chive biscuit inspires jealousy from all of Red Lobster. Their fried chicken was recently lauded as the best fried chicken in Los Angeles by Bon Appetit, I will get back to you with my opinion. I had their brisket hash bowl with fried eggs, I loved the greens put on top, but it was still very heavy simple food and not nearly as revolutionary as their pastries.

The interior of Huckleberry is large and airy with beautiful light and comfortable wooden chairs. The only problem with the interior is that it is loud. All the customers eating and waiting make it very loud and raucous. Despite this, the service is very good. Food comes out quickly and when they gave me the wrong item once they gave me my correct item in addition to the wrong item with a strong apology.

My recommendation? Go to the phone order pick up line, pick out two pastries, and take them to go, the beach isn't that far away! Or if you're at Rustic Canyon, order a dessert. You'll be getting the best of Huckleberry regardless.

Huckleberry Cafe
1014 Wilshire Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90404