J lives in a great spot in Los Angeles. It's close to our favorite eating spots with Chinatown, Koreatown, Thai Town and Little Tokyo within a 10-minute drive. The 101 is less than 3 minutes away. The complex she lives in has several cottage-style units, a nice courtyard for hanging out, a semi-view of the Downtown skyline and most importantly, warm neighbors. After a few months, we were all on first-name basis and pretty much knew about each of the neighbors. This is great we thought. The grass is green, birds are chirping, dragonflies buzzing around – life couldn't be better.
Or so we thought.
J and I started to notice that the soba noodles and spaghetti pasta packages were being opened. Unless it was a new design, vietnamese rice paper had small teeth marks. Cotton was being removed from J's japanese-style futon. Occasional scuffling in the walls and banging sounds in the oven.
One night, J and I were ready to go out. I went over to her closet to grab my jacket and all of a sudden, we froze to the sound of something rustling in j's wicker hamper. I turned to look at her and pointed my finger at the hamper. Her eyes were widened, eyebrows arched with concern and distraught. I signaled for her to open the kitchen door. She came back and I slowly opened the hamper. And within a flash, something black and hairy with a long pink tail jumped out. He scurried right by J. J quickly watched as it went by and let out the most delayed scream ever. 2 seconds later. It was pretty funny haha. Anyway, the rat didn't see the open door and instead, ran behind the fridge. Great. I went back there with a broom and proceeded to slam the spank the back of the fridge like it liked it. J was annoyed and told me to stop haha – I was probably releasing stress from a few months ago and forgot that I was after a rodent. Anyway, it was nowhere to be found. We moved the fridge and stove. Nothing. Rats are so clever. Did he sneak out while I was on the spanking spree?
We knew of one last option – call JR. JR is J's next door neighbor. A tall, slender early-30's drummer who proved to be one of the most handy guys around the complex. He has helped J out many times with different things. We asked him to come over and help us rat out the rat. After a few minutes of looking, we were all baffled.
JR: "Wait. Did you check inside the stove?"
Me: "You serious. It's freaking hot in there."
JR: "Be right back."
He comes back with a flashlight, and lifts the broiler door open. And sure enough, we see a trembling rat wedged in the back end of the broiler. I couldn't believe that it got through the stove from the back side. We opened the door, stuck something in the broiler and out popped the rat. Thank you JR.
But the story does not end here. Again, we found feces and opened food a week later. Was it the same one? Couldn't be. An Orkin guy was even sent out and he really didn't do anything but give J these stupid old school Tom & Jerry mouse traps. Rats aren't stupid.
Me: "You know what you need?"
Me: "You need some clear sticky tape. Just tape."
J: "And we throw some bait."
Me: "Yesssssss." *evil*
J found some sticky tape at the store. But we needed something delicious to lure that hairy bastard back in here. Thank god J had some of that delicious cashew butter from Trader Joe's. That stuff lures me too. She put a ball of the butter past the sticky tape line. And within an hour, she reported hearing noises in the kitchen - like nails gliding across the ceramic tile. She called me while I was at work and I could hear the rat making noise. She peeked in and saw the rat, about 7" minus the tail, stomach stuck to the tape - exhausted. It was relief yet cruel at the same time.
Me: "Are you just going to just let it die?"
J: "I don't know what to do."
JR comes over and picks up the tape with the rat attached to it. The rat was miserable, tired and nearly dead. JR takes the rat to the back, grabs a big stone and puts it out of its misery. I think it was the right thing to do. Thank you JR.
Now that I've whet your appetite. Let's get on to the food. As a simple thank you to JR for helping J out and for being a really down-to-earth, good neighbor, we invited him over for dinner.
We started off with some delicious cheese that J got at Silverlake Cheese store. The creamy, triple-creme kind. Stuff that looks like butter.
As an appetizer, we made some manila clams. I love the clams served up at Musha, which are cooked with sake, parsley, leeks, mushrooms, garlic and about 10 lbs of butter. Who doesn't like butter?! Our take included sake and white wine, chorizo sausage for a spice kick and korean-style sliced scallions. And it was delicious. JR and J were so hungry that they started sponging up the sake/butter sauce with bread. Not healthy, but good.
Chorizo & Sake Manila Clams
Simply wash and scrub the clams to rid them of any sand or nasties. I bought nearly 20 clams - about 2.5 lbs. First pan fry some chorizo pork sausage and break them down into small bits. Set aside on paper towel to soak up the grease. Sauté some shallots and garlic over medium heat. After you've sweated them, add about 1 cup of white wine, and about 1/2 a cup of sake. Wait a few minutes for the alcohol to burn out and add about 2-3 tablespoons of butter. As soon as the butter melts, bring the clams to the party. You'll see the clams slowly pop open. ***A side note. To identify dead clams, take a wooden spoon and tap the clamshell. If you hear a solid sound, it's alive, if you hear a hollow sound (like cracking open egg shells), it's dead. Once all of them have opened (about 4 minutes, add the sliced green onions and stir - making sure that you spoon butter into all the clams. Serve immediately with french bread.
JR is french, and we knew that he would like this. We sautéed some beef stew meat in olive oil and added a mire poix (onions, carrots, celery). Poured in some red wine and add bay leaves, garlic, thyme, peppercorn and tomato paste. To thicken up the stew, we added potatoes, a little flour and mushrooms. Baked the whole thing in a dutch oven at about 450 degrees for nearly 4 hours. The result is a hearty and savory meat dish that goes well with greens, rice and potatoes - or simply with fresh warm french bread. If you want the recipe, feel free to email me – I'm too lazy to type it out.
Any dinner party we have, J will get stoked. Her first choice for dessert is always Scoops Ice Cream over on Melrose/Heliotrope. Owned by a very nice Korean man, Scoops conjures up very interesting ice cream flavors daily. He even has a white board for people to write down suggestions for future flavors. I believe he has even made a foie gras ice cream. Mmm. Not a flavor any PETA person would like to see on a menu. Pictured above is the brown bread and chocolate, banana and cinnamon flavors. A delicious way to end a hearty meal.
Thank you to JR for being a good neighbor and friend to us, and thanks to everyone for reading. I know this was long.