Archive for the ‘cheese’ Category

California Soul: Silverlake Edition (LA)

February 29, 2008

It’s all in the air/ You hear it everywhere
No matter what you do/ It’s gonna grab a hold on you

California soul… California soul…

— Ashford & Simpson

It’s in my bones, I can’t shake it off- California is IN me. Took a week off to attend a wedding in San Francisco, and detoured through sunny LA and San Diego on my way up. It’s been a glorious trip meeting up with old friends, and most importantly, voraciously eating through each day.

My bff Sara lives in Silverlake, in LA, which I absolutely adore. It’s hipster central, but not so annoying– lots of shops and restaurants and cafes that is totally walkable (very rare for LA, or California in general).

Every morning, I walked to a Chicago-based coffee joint called Intelligentsia- an authority on fine coffees and hot baristas. Good coffee, lots of locals, minimal interior and again, hottie central.


Right next to Intell is The Cheese Store of Silverlake, which is a fancy little fine foods shop (lots of imported condiments, chesses, olives and wine), that specialize in making awesome paninis.


Look at this wrapped panini- flat and compact, like a notebook!
Turkey, cranberry, cheese, and some mysterious green oozy stuff. Who you gonna call? C’mon, laugh.
A cup of cornichons
We went to El Conquistador for my first supper- gotta get your Mexican fix as soon as you land in Cali. This place was AWESOME. I stupidly forgot my camera, but the food was satisfying (I had the enchiladas, Sara had the ropa vieja), extremely friendly service, and flamboyantly kitchy decor. You have to go to see exactly what I’m talking about, but trust me, you will have a blast.

I was super skeptical about Pho Cafe: without a sign, overrun with hipsters, and with their orange Ikea chairs. Also, my friend, an LA native, had warned me that any restaurant in LA with an “A” rating is bogus (the LA Dept of Health grades all eateries, “A” obviously being the highest).

Boy, did they prove me wrong though- the food was excellent, the real deal (dare I use the word “authentic”). Worth the 15 minutes we waited for a seat (it seems this place is packed all the time).

Banh xeo: Crepe with shrimp, steak, shiitake mushrooms and bean sprouts

Bun cha gio tom thit nuong: cold rice noodles with egg rolls and beef

Pho tai gan: rice noodle soup with rare steak and tendon. The soup was very flavorful- a little sweet, lots of depth. I didn’t want it to end.

Possibly my absolute favorite part of Silverlake- the 99cent store. The window proudly displayed their offerings ranging from food, toilet paper, foil, to toothpaste. 99cents people!! There were 2 long aisles devoted to food– refrigerators packed with eggs and milk, condiments, dried foods and canned goods. I got Sara an awesome welcome mat here. A welcome mat for 99cents!!! GO NOW!

All the above spots are all within a 5 block radius from one another on Sunset Blvd. Can you imagine not needing a car in LA? All have a pristine view of the iconic Hollywood sign.
Intelligentsia
3922 Sunset Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90029
323.663.6173

The Cheese Store of Silverlake
3926-28 West Sunset Blvd.
LA, CA
323.644.7511

El Conquistador
3701 West Sunset Blvd.LA, CA
323.666.5136

Pho Cafe
2841 West Sunset Blvd.
LA, CA
213.413.0888

99cent Store

3600 West Sunset. Blvd.
LA, CA
323.624.9901

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Burrata + Oysters: The Reckoning

May 12, 2007

tmonkey lost his mind last night.

I came home from work at 10:30. The apartment was sweltering. tmonkey was walking around, sweaty, shirtless with a small knife. He mumbling something about mozzarella cheese. He had been blogging. I knew there would be trouble.

“Do you know how to shuck oysters?” he asked. I told him no. “This is going to be harder than I thought. These Malpeques are tight.”

There was some blood on the wet paper towels. tmonkey blood. Or maybe it was from the tomato sauce bubbling on the stove. Six perfect green-grey oysters nestled atop a bed of ice, taunting us. I took a knife in hand. That was the beginning of the end…

“Bye, valve.”

That’s what tmonkey kept saying as we pried open the shells. I could almost hear the little soft bodies screaming as we slid the cold blade in and forced open their shells. But I didn’t care. I was possessed. After we had readied them for ritual sacrifice, the grey oyster flesh glistening with lemon juice, we turned our attention to the Burrata. (At this point I couldn’t control myself. I was trying to scrape off the little remaining meat off of an empty shell with my teeth. I offered some oyster juice-laced shell to the little hairless Buster, but he was entirely uninterested.)

I had never seen this before. Inside the plastic container, a plastic bag, and yet another plastic bag, tied up with a mint-green ribbon. Milky liquid collected at the bottom of the bags. The cheese was heavy and white. tmonkey carefully unveiled the Burrata mozzarella and placed it on the cutting board. It looked like a creamy tumescent heart from some unknown mythical creature, about to burst. “Get the camera,” he said. His eyes were bulging. He had a clean knife. We wanted to keep a record of this moment. The first shot was completely washed out. I turned off the flash. The knife pierced the heart and slowly made its way down its surface. Almost immediately, a viscous cream began to ooze out. The engorged cheese-heart, fell open easily against the blade. The flesh inside was not smooth and seamless like the outside. It had the look of delicate sauerkraut, shreds of heavenly string, bleeding cream.

When I saw this, I suddenly realized what we had done, and what we were about to do. It was too much. We had gone too far. But there was no turning back.

The spaghetti was boiling. We had time to kill.

tmonkey took an oyster in his hand. With a fork he jabbed into the Burrata. He wound a long shred around the prongs, and twirling it just so, daintily placed it on top of the oyster. I did the same. We looked at each other, and took the shells to our lips.

Words fail to aptly describe this ineffable experience. How can I write about the texture of the oyster as it swirled around my tongue, escaping the clutches of my teeth? Or the salty firm meat of the Burrata, spreading its flavor into the corners of my mouth? The sensations were overwhelming, totally engrossing, and then, it was over, all too quickly. Leaving only echoes of the salt and sea. Guilt at such pleasure. The remaining oysters were dispatched one after another. It was all over in less than 10 minutes.

I cleaned up the debris. The kitchen towel soaked in oyster juice. Lemon seeds. Knives. The dissected cheese-heart. I saw the bowl of empty oyster shells capsizing amidst melting chunks of ice. In a desperate attempt to cling to the experience that was already now just a lingering memory, I put my right foot in the bowl, imagining myself stepping into the ice-cold Atlantic Ocean. I let the oyster juice soak into my skin, shells digging into my toes. Melancholy sets in, when something is over. But somehow I knew this would not be the last time…

Burrata + Oysters? A Match Made in Puglia (story at 11)

May 12, 2007

*TI went to Murray’s Cheese Shop on the way home from work today and walked out a lot lighter in the wallet. Who knew cheese could do that?

One of the things that caught my eye was the package of “Burrata Di Andria”, apparently the latest import from Italy’s Puglia region that is making gastronomes on both coasts cream. Ha-ha. Heh.

OK, anyways, here’s what the label read:

Burrata Di Andria
Burratina may just be the penultimate organoleptic experience of fresh cheese.

Step one: take a delicate ribbon of pasteurized cow milk curd barely a few minutes old and stretch it into the shape of a coin purse.

Step two: fill coin purse with dairy gold: fresh sweet cream and “stracciatella” or frayed threads of mozzarella-like cheese and seal.

On its journe from Bella Italia to the U.S.A., this creamy mixture continues to acidify, creating an increasingly tart, gamy flavor.

Step three: enjoy with just about anything, oysters are a classic pairing in Puglia.

Oysters? Murray, you are ON.

I went next door to the Lobster Place conveniently located next door and got 6 Malpeques (I also purchased some medium sized shrimps for to make with tomatoes and spaghetti and garlic, for after the burrata/oyster experiment).

Stay tuned! Gotta go cook now! Aya’s almost home!

– tmonkey