Monday, November 24, 2008

Happy Halloween, I mean, Happy Thanksgiving

Right after writing about the bacon narcotic, I got a lot of emails/links regarding bacon. Just too many to post. But this one just had to be posted. It is terrifying to look at, yet I know someone is drooling over his keyboard right now, searching for the recipe on Google.

What the HELL is this thing? We've all seen the turducken, but this is simply ridiculous. This looks like a freshly skinned zebra in the Safari. I'm going to have nightmares for as long as I live.

Anyway, drink lots of gravy and enjoy the gift of cholesterol! Thanks to Jwong for the pic. Read more!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Bacon. The Culinary World's Most Lethal Narcotic.

If you think about it, if there's one ingredient/food that really widens your eyes upon hearing the word, it has to be bacon (unless you're a vegetarian). You're at a restaurant and the waiter is going through his specials for the evening.

"Macaroni & cheese. Creamed corn soup. Baked potato skins."

Zzzzz. Boring. But what if you added the B-word to these all.

"Macaroni & cheese with bacon. Creamed corn soup with bacon. Baked potato skins with bacon."

Now things are interesting. I've come to the conclusion that bacon is a drug, you just don't know it. It'll be raising the eyebrows of every DEA agent very soon. Look at how this narcotic has spread through the nation, onto our plates.

Google's Krispy Kreme Bacon Cheeseburger (photo from Geeksaresexy.com)
We all know that Google spends a ton of money on fattening up their employees with starch, carbs and fat so they'll forget how much they are actually getting paid. They've taken the cheeseburger to another level by sandwiching in between Krispy Kreme donuts and adding the Special B in. It pains me to even look at this image – my cholesterol just jumped up 200 pts without even trying it. A minor league team in Sauget, Illinois has also made a pact to entertain their fans with action, entertainment and a free ambulance ride to the hospital with their 1,000+ calorie burger which is sold at $4.50. Is $4.50 worth a $45,000 bypass surgery?

Nickel Diner in Los Angeles's Maple-Bacon Doughnuts
*Clenching chest. This pastry is highly reviewed by the Yelp army and it actually sounds good – if you're stoned. Try it here.

Voodoo Doughnut's Version of the Bacon Doughnut
Maybe my fellow foodblogger in Portland, Guilty Carnivore, can shed some light on what this does to the arteries. Check out Voodoo Doughnut's site.

David Lebovitz's Bacon Ice Cream
Ok now, I would actually try this. This would taste so good on nicely toasted brioche. Send me a gallon David! Visit David's site for the recipe.

Respect the Bacon Suit
How do I look? J actually thinks I'm wearing the standard tuxedo and bowtie for our wedding whenever that happens. She will have the surprise of her lifetime.

Bacon Lip Balm
The good people over at J&D's (Justin & Dave's) know how to kill two birds with one stone: why not remind yourself of the aroma of bacon while moisturizing your lips. Geniusly gross???


Archie McPhee's Novelty Store
And finally, some wacky gag gifts and novelties can be found here.

Feel free to post some links to any other insane bacon-related food or product. Thanks for reading. Read more!

My Doppelgänger?

I received an email the other day with an interesting attachment. It's a photo of me in a snake shop in Taiwan and someone who looks like me. Crazy. Dress shirt, jeans, watch, camera strap. He even got the mosaic pixelation down in Photoshop too... level 8! Thanks to CL for this. BTW, it's not a miracle to be wearing the same thing as me. I only own one pair of jeans, shirt and uh, boxers.

Read more!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Sriracha FAIL

On Sunday, I was down in Little Saigon for a monthly trip with J and her mom. While J was experiencing food coma in the car, her mom and I went to the market to buy a few goods. And I saw this...

a Sriracha bottle with not only a blue cap, but the icon of a horse/unicorn. Wait a minute! There's NO SUCH THING as unicorns in Vietnam, come on now. Where'd the rooster go? I took a closer look at the company, and it wasn't the original Huy Fong Foods based in Rosemead. This company Vi Hao Food Company took a stab at fooling customers with their version of Sriracha. For some reason, that baby blue cap doesn't look appealing to me – really reminds me of a baby bottle. Anyone try this sauce out? Can you imagine asking the waiter at your favorite pho restaurant:

"Excuse me, do you guys have the unicorn sauce? I can't eat my pho without it."

It doesn't sound right. But you know what, you never really see products out there with unicorns on it. I'm buying one.

Here's a message taken directly off the Huy Fong website:

"September 14, 2004

To our valued customers,

We would like to make you aware that we have discovered that there has been counterfeit Huy Fong Foods Sriracha Chili Sauce being sold. These counterfeits come in both 17oz. and 28oz. sizes. Since these products not only infringes upon our trademark registration, but also is produced for the main purpose of deceiving others into believing they are our products, we therefore want to warn you against purchasing this or any other counterfeits due to potential legal liabilities.

The counterfeit products are identical to our products in all regards, including the logo and wording on the label, except for the following distinguishable characteristics.

1. That taste is not identical to our product.

2. Below the green cap of our bottles, there is a protruding plastic ring, which is the same diameter of the green cap. The counterfeit product's ring is much smaller.

3. Our product's batch code consists of two lines printed with a laser etcher, which produces a clear, colorless imprint. The first line states the product/batch code (must start with an H) and the second line states the expiration date. The counterfeit does not have a product/batch code but has an expiration date that may be either be printed in black ink or or hot-stamped resulting in a colorless, blurry imprint.

4. Finally, our bottle has 'Huy Fong USA' embossed on the bottom of our bottle. The counterfeit does not.

The counterfeit products may not have been produced following quality guidelines, therefore consumption of these products may pose a health risk. In order to protect our consumers, we are respectfully requesting any information you may have regarding this counterfeit company. We thank you for your past and continued loyalty and your kind cooperation in this matter.

Respectfully yours,

Huy Fong Foods, Inc."

Somethings you can't stray away from – real Maggi, real 3-crabs fish sauce and real 3-lady rice paper haha. Definitely not the original rooster gangster.

For more FAILures, check out one of my favorite sites, Failblog.
Read more!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Stroke of Ingenuity - Introducing the Food Pyramid Lunchbox

Found this on notcot.org and I was immediately hit with the 'why didn't i think of that?' hammer. Check out one of Li Jian Ye's many fun and unique inventions/concepts/ideations. Unfortunately, one can misuse the food pyramid lunch box by adding chili, cheese and fries in the respective tiers. Or simply, gravy soup.


Read more!

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Village Pet Store & Charcoal Grill - Banksy's The New Chef in New York City

banksy1

One of my favorite artists has to be the political/controversial, underground street artist known as Banksy. Most consider his art vandalism, but I think it's pure genius. With over 500 counts of vandalism in less than a decade, it's obvious Banksy has something he really wants to tell you. A few years back, I went to his show in Los Angeles in the downtown warehouse district. I waited in a line with over 700 people along with Immaeatchu underneath the beating sun. But man, was it worth it. His biggest exhibit was a real elephant set within a living room environment. The elephant was painted with a brick pattern to match the actual warehouse brick walls. Banksy was addressing the issue of homelessness, saying that literally, "homelessness is something big that we choose to ignore."

This time, Banksy has hit something that you and I would be most interested in... food, or the lack of 'real food' or treatment of 'food'. Banksy rented out the space in a real pet store in Greenwich Village called "The Village Pet Store" and tacked on the 'charcoal grill' part for irony, as you will see in a few moments. He even hired people to work as store clerks to play the 'parts'. I haven't seen anything more genius. Enjoy. "The Village Pet Store and Charcoal Grill" is on display till Halloween.

I must admit that seeing the chicken mcnuggets really hit me but for processed meat like spam, I'm not sure I can veer away from that!







Read more!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Lipton Pure Leaf Presents...

a lot of free tea for anyone that happened to be at the Celebrity Food Show at the Anaheim Hilton this past weekend. We were asked by a PR firm to represent the Lipton Pure Leaf booth and pass out some samples. The week before, we were blessed with three 18-bottle boxes of various teas from Lipton. Why tea you ask? Believe it or not, there is a whole trend in tea pairings with food. I only knew of iced tea to be a sort of chaser for hard alcohol, but who knew you could pair iced tea with things like sushi. Anyway, we arrived on the final day of the convention and you could see that everyone was exhausted after two full-house days. I was dying for some food, only to find stuff like salsas, chocolate and more salsa and chocolate. Oh yeah, and about 50 types of olive oils. Not a great combo all together, but who doesn't like a free sample.

You may recognize this man from Hell's Kitchen – Aaron. He will be back on Season 4 of the show and ready to take more of Ramsey's orders. Chef Aaron closed the show with a cooking demo that included various foods from Ramsey's LA-project, London. He made lobster spaghetti, macadamia-encrusted scallops and a mojito made with, you guessed it, Lipton iced tea. If you missed this, look forward to the Western Food Expo this weekend at the LA Convention Center. Thanks for reading.
Read more!

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Palate Food & Wine, Glendale - Dining in David Lynch's Dining Room

Palate Glendale Menu


***Update 8/8/08***
Since writing this posting, I actually came here another two times in the SAME week. I've added a few more dishes and sat in a different part of this large restaurant. Right now, they are having wine tastings from 5-8 pm on Fridays and 2-5 on Saturdays for a limited time only. I can tell you that the back dining/bar area by the wine shop is a ton of fun. And not to mention that the flight of wines are complimentary. Sign me up please.
******

You know when you're a kid, your brain is like a sponge – soaking in everything and anything around you. You're told certain things. You're told to act a certain way. You're told to trust whatever elders tell you. Naivete is a part of the learning process that dissipates at different rates for everyone. As for soaking up things, I had a hard time putting disturbing things I have seen in the trash can side of my memory. There are two movies that have not left the better half of me because they are just not right – 'The Shining' and David Lynch's 'Twin Peaks'. Actually, I consider all of David Lynch's films to be unsuitable for a child's bedtime story. I can't remember what 'Twin Peaks' was about but there was this one scene that was just STRANGE. There was a midget in this large room decked out in black & white checkered tiling. He came from behind some heavy red drapes and insisted the viewer to sit down next to his green formica table. It made no sense – to anyone but Lynch of course. I don't know why I found it so disturbing but I still remember it vividly. And on a warm evening in July, Jeni and I decided to go out for dinner for our 2-year anniversary. It was a promising night of delectable food from an ex-Patina chef by the name of Octavio Becerra, wine from a place that not only sold and served wine, but also provided storage for those that have exhausted their Vinotemps. But all that was to change upon stepping into a place called Palate Food & Wine in Glendale.

I stepped in with J and we were immediately puzzled by the decor of this place. Very unique! All of a sudden I felt like I was in a David Lynch set. To my left was the hostess' stand. I was expecting that same midget man with a mini suit and hat to come around the corner of the stand any minute now, tapping me on my knee... asking if I had reservations and leading me to some green formica table. The dining area gave off this strong pink hue. The black & white checkered floors were now black & pink checkers. Large canvas prints with something that resembled a close-up of a biochemical lab experiment. Giant vases of grapes that only seemed to live in Alice's Wonderland. Lastly, large candles that seemed to make their way here from a Transylvanian yard sale. But I've never been into decor, so I'll have to toss the Lynch card out on this one because we heard SO MUCH about the food.

Palate Glendale Interior

Palate Glendale Candle

Palate Glendale Bartender - Antoine

Given the option to sit at the bar or eat with David Lynch, we chose the former. We were kindly greeted by the bartender, or sommelier, Antoine, who looked sharp and knowledgeable on wines. The wine prices here at Palate are really reasonable. We started off with a bottle of riesling that cost no more than $40, but was so nice and crisp. Just ask Antoine for it by name...
Schäfer-Fröhlich Riesling Spätlese Halbtrocken Monzinger Frühlingsplätzchen.

Palate Glendale Bread

What kind of butter is this? It can't be Darigold, that's for sure because it was served at the perfect temperature with a dash of Fleur de Sel. Nice!

Palate Glendale Porkfolio

Porkfolio
I really find food puns annoying, but you know what, because the selection here was very good, I'm letting it slide. Included in this 'porkfolio' (*sigh), were prosciutto san daniele, speck di alto adige and salumi gentile.

Palate Glendale Nectarines

Something Pickled... Nectarines
This goes very well with the following dish. Pickled, sweet and textural.

Palate Glendale Mason Jars

Potted Berkshire Pork - Mason Jar

I didn't know you could mason-jar things other than jam or honey. I found my new pork-love and it's totally not good for you. These are called 'pork rillettes' and are a type of force-meats. Pork is chopped up, salted for a few hours to overnight and then cooked in its own fat. After it is shredded, it is refridgerated, allowing the fat to coagulate, creating a creamy padding of fat all around the beef. I watched J as she used her butterknife to smother some pork paste on to the bread, add cheese and porkfolio on it for 'garnish'. How can you not love a woman that is so sure about the decisions she makes? This was absolutely delicious. I put Josef Centeno's (formerly of Lot 1 Cafe) right behind Chef Becerra's.

Palate Glendale Rabbit

Lapin (Rabbit) - Mason Jar
Another deadly yet lovely sin bottled up in a jar. The rabbit tends to have a leaner, lighter flavor to it compared to the gluttonous Berkshire pork. I did enjoy this and will eventually be trying the whole potted collection. But for me, I'd pick pork over almost anything.

Palate Glendale Albacore Salad

Albacore Confit Salad
Antoine explained that the tuna is 'confit-ed' overnight. The result is a moist, chicken-like taste to the albacore tuna. The salad is brought together with a VERY bright vinaigrette which really wakes the palate up like a hair-of-the-dog drink at 7 am.

Palate Glendale Summer Truffles

Summer Truffles with Poached Egg & Cream
Saying no to this dish is like turning down a double date with Natalie Portman and Scartlett Johannson. I fall weak when it comes to anything with eggs. The wine director kindly explained to me how this classic French dish is made. In a little jar, an egg is added to cream along with romano cheese. It is then tempered in boiling water for 7 minutes and then garnished with paper thin slices of summer truffles. I'm not really into truffles because of its strong aroma, but the appropriate usage of it in this simple, yet classic dish makes palatable sense. I can eat a dozen of these. I watched J, who doesn't really like eggs, eat hers and waited for her to pass it on to me. Smile.

Palate Glendale Corn Ravioli

Corn Ravioli
Another dish I cannot say no to... corn PLUS ravioli. Chef Becerra told us that before he worked for Patina, he worked in France and Italy and I'm pretty sure this is a dish that was made shortly after his trip back to the U.S. The ravioli dough is really nice – chewy and textural from the quick boiling. The corn inside is pureed and goes well with the butteriness of this dish.

Palate Glendale Scallops

Seared Scallops & Shelled Beans
Come to think of it, there isn't anything out there that I WON'T eat. I know I love eggs and corn, but I forgot to add that I adore scallops. To me, they bring back that nostalgic feeling of eating tater tots in 3rd grade. Another great dish.

Palate Glendale Veal Breast

Veal Breast and Spätzle
As I was shooting this photograph, the compound butter on top started to melt and slowly glided over the veal cliff. This is a sexy dish. Braised veal, chewy spätzle, spinach and a savoy reduction sauce. Excuse me, Antoine, where is the nearest hotel room?

Palate Glendale Pork Belly

Pork Belly with Faro & Cherries
And this is the reason why I rip up my bloodtest results. I live for pork belly. Before we even looked at the menu, we knew we were going to order this because it had mentioned so many times on reviews. And I could see why. Although the ratio of fat to pork was a bit unbalanced, the crisp texture of the perfectly fried skin, reduction sauce and moistness of the meat made me wish I could dive into this. I have to say, out of the 10-12 times I've tried some variation of pork belly, this one makes me kow-tow to the chef. Given another bottle of wine from Antoine, I might have done that, much to J's disappointment.

Palate Glendale Rabbit2

Rabbit
I love rabbit but almost everytime I eat it, it's dry. *Dylan gets down from his stool and assumes the kow-tow position* Yes, another delectable dish. You can see the beautiful pink hue of the meat, a sign of well cooked game. Also within the meat, I believe is ground rabbit mixed with nuts and herbs. All this plated over some buttery polenta.

Our bill came out to $140. If you take out the two bottles of wine, we pretty much only spent $60-70 on food, and we were full. Palate definitely offers some great food and wine at great prices. We then met the manager, who gladly gave us a tour of the restaurant, wine store and wine vault area. I can tell you that the Lynch decor didn't stop there, but it all made sense. The decor was a reflection of the variety of palatable foods Becerra offers. The decor is unique, but not tacky. The flavors are everywhere, but done in a unique way. Nothing is too over the top, and nothing is too dull. I 'got it' afterwards. I was also very drunk.

Palate Glendale Lamb

Palate Glendale Wineshop2

Palate Glendale Wineshop

Palate Glendale Octavio Becerra

Two thumbs up for the people of Palate Food & Wine. I have you marked down on my calendar for a future dinner very soon and I can't wait. I highly recommend sitting at the bar and talking to Antoine – he's cool. Thanks for reading. And thank you David Lynch for disturbing the hell out of me for so many years.

Palate Food & Wine
933 South Brand Blvd.
Glendale, CA 91204
(818) 662-9463
www.palatefoodwine.com
Read more!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Love for Food and Jeni: How Food Brought Us Together

It's 6:30 pm on a Friday in June. Jeni stands in front of me with a bewildered look. And I just stare at her. Rewind 2 years back.

When I first started my blog nearly three years ago, my intentions were simple. I was bored and the idea of writing a blog interested me. The one thing I did know a lot about and could contribute to others was a knowledge of food. My parents had raised me on the staples of Chinese food, which was basically your on-sale vegetables, noodles and soups made with bones that would normally be fated in a trash can. But what they passed on to me, was more than a simple appreciation for food and the sustenance it provided – no matter what shape or form it took. I wanted to express my appreciation for their love and care by writing about my experiences with food. And measure how much of a pig I actually am.

Three years of writing about food. Obsession. Too much time on my hands. Sure. Both if you would. As you can probably tell, I love food and I have the pounds to prove it. Just look at my profile photo. Ugh! In four years, my weight jumped nearly 15 lbs. and you know what, please give me some more because I am nowhere near done exploring the food of all cultures. I won't be done until the day I have to be forklifted out of my bed just to go to the bathroom. *beep* *beep* *beep* Dylan coming through.

During the three years of writing, I have learned a lot about food, cultural differences, myself, friends, family and mostly, respect. I have learned to never say the terms "the best in the world". I have learned that you cannot please every one in this world – no matter how good of cook you are. I have learned that denying a culture's food because of ignorance and unfamiliarity is the most insulting thing ever. I have learned that what you may not understand may be the key to another culture's survival. I have learned that food sets the stage for everything involving social interaction. And as you'll read in a few paragraphs, I've learned that food can even change the course of two people's lives. One thing remains important, food revolves around everything we do or feel – home life, work, birthdays, dating, weddings, funerals, reunions, etc.

When I first started writing, there were no more than 10-12 Los Angeles food blogs that I was interested in reading. And maybe 3-4 outside of the area. It was much easier to keep up with everyone's eating. Even within that group, the best ones were more than reviews about food; it was those that offered storytelling which made it compelling. Writers that simply said "this was good" or "this was bad" really didn't generate solid readership. Food had been such a big part of my upbringing and I was interested in seeing what/why food was important to someone. After the first year, I developed 'friendships' with many of these bloggers. Though I had never seen their photo (anonymity is a big thing) or met them in person, I could tell a lot about someone by the way they ate.

Especially with a girl named Jeni, who ran a blog called Oishii Eats.

For a few months, I read her postings. I was attracted not only by her looks, but by the food she ate. She ate everything. Low end... high end. Hole in the wall... paintings on the wall. On the street... on sticky-elbow tables. She was in a sense like me. But what I liked most about her was her open-mindedness and respect for a culture's food. We were both from the same college and had mutual friends, but we never crossed paths once.

Less than a year later, I decided to set up a long-overdue meetup between the stomachs and minds of the LA blogosphere at Musha in Torrance – and everyone was stoked. Jeni and I had already been talking to each other over IM and in a sense, we were friends that had never met. It was an exciting day for everyone that attended because not everyone had met in person. I had met Jonah of LA Foodblogging, Pam of Daily Gluttony and Kristy of Best of LA previously (my friend's fianceé). That night, I was late due to traffic on the good ol' 405. I found my group, all 16 of us, waiting outside. I said Hi to everyone, and saved the best for last... Jeni. I was interested in her and I think we could both tell that it was a long overdue meet up. I smiled at her and she waved back. She handed me Japanese books that I needed for my trip to Japan the following week. We had decided previously that we would sit next to one another because we already 'knew' each other. Everyone had a great time. The food was good and the drinks went around. But what I wanted mostly was to talk to Jeni, but I was so busy trying to play host. At the end of the night, I said bye to everyone and hugged Jeni and told her we'd talk when we get back. We ended up talking on the phone till about 4 am that night. It was just wonderful putting a face over a voice finally.

It wasn't long after when we had our first date. I knew it was a date because I could feel it. Instead of the usual nice dinner, we decided to go to a club and get stoopid. And for dinner, we ate tacos from a taco truck in Echo Park. We sat on red crates, eating tacos and drinking Jarritos. For the first time in a while, I was comfortable on a date. I didn't worry about eating properly or keeping my volume down. I didn't worry about impressing her. I was myself – dropping cilantro and onions on the ground, using like 80 napkins for 5 tacos and even broke the Jarritos bottle. We took photos of each other stuffing our faces and it just felt very natural. It was truly good times. Very Wonder Years-like. In a sense it was somewhat of a secondary coming-of-age. Jeni let me be who I wanted to be. And I hoped that she had felt the same way.

Fast forward two years to the present. It's 6:30 pm on a Friday in June. Jeni stands in front of me with a bewildered look. And I just stare at her. With a smile.

D: "Are you ready for your birthday surprise?"
J: "Ok!"
D: "Go to your closet and look under the blanket."

She runs over and lifts up some blankets.

J: "It's my brother's traveling backpack."
D: "No, it's mine. And it's packed."
J: "..."
D: "You've got 2 hours to pack. We're going somewhere."
J: "What do I bring???"
D: "The more questions you ask, the less time you'll have. I'm going to get us some food."

I watched her run back and forth like she was on some stupid gameshow with a $200 grandprize. It was hilarious – I wish I had a camera to videotape it. I left her place and headed over to Yuca's to grab a cheeseburger and cochinita pibil for dinner. She only had two hours to pack and would probably forget to eat! I came back half an hour later and found her still running back and forth. This was great. She tried to ask me questions to narrow down the possible destinations. But I shrugged every time. She didn't know that we would be flying anywhere.

It was now 8:30 pm and time to go. I had texted her brother to meet us in the carport and surprise her. We packed the stuff in the car and Jeni naturally headed for the driver side door – only to be freaked out by her brother, who was driving us both to LAX. Jeni screamed!

The next annoying question any one can ask besides 'are we there yet' is 'where are we going?" I heard this a good 30 times by the time we arrived at LAX. She kept naming off places in the U.S. and got cold shrugs from me. I told her brother to drop us off at Terminal 6 which is where Virgin America is. She screamed, thinking we're going to New York. We said bye to her brother and walked out. I stared at her and watched her puzzled looks.

J: "Are we going to New York?!"
D: "No."
J: "Where are we going then? There's only a flight to New York at this time!"
D: "We may need these."

I reached into my pocket and pulled out our passports. She shrieked in joy. At this time, I took out my camera and started recording her on video.

J: "Where can we be going?"
D: "Look at my shirt and you may get a hint."

I watched her eyes go down to my red 'Carne Asada' shirt and her eyes grew. I then pulled out some pesos and handed it to her.

J: "We're going to Mexico City!"

Jeni & I went to Mexico City (D.F.) in December and fell in love. For months on end, we dreamed about the delicious pastor tacos sliced thinly like pork belly – not the chopped up version we get here in LA. I knew there was nothing more she wanted than to be in Mexico City again. A birthday trip out here would simply be perfect. We stayed in an area called Condesa which many people compare to the East Village/Soho area of New York City. Tree-lined streets, cafes with young couples and delicious taco vendors made this a very special place for us. D.F. was only 3.5 hours away, yet worlds apart.

We had missed so much on our previous trip. We were on a tight schedule and coming back from an exhausting and emotional stay in Tulum, Mexico. We got our lovely Nikon D70 stolen on a bus when we fell asleep. We were angry and frustrated upon arriving in D.F. – we didn't want to do anything. But nothing cheered us up more than the vibrancy of the city, warmth of the locals and of course all the delicious antojitos (small meals; snacks). This is why Mexico City is so special to us; it was a turning point in our trip. And this trip was a makeup for everything we didn't get to do – such as eating at the popular restaurant, Contramar. Contramar is regarded as the hip place for young people to eat. I could care less how hip it is, I just want the food. Our friend Tokyo Astro Girl had eaten here twice and spoke highly of it – her word was reason enough to eat here!

Contramar Mexico City

Contramar2

Contramar1

Contramar3

Pickled onions and peppers. I have never had such a fresh version of these. All the ones I've eaten at taco trucks or at restaurants seemed to be reserved from last year's quinceañara . It was to our advantage to come here right when they opened to ensure freshness. I could've made a meal out of all these elements – tortillas por favor! And some water to abate the spiciness.

Contramar Tostadas de Atun

Tostadas de Atún y Cangrejo
¿Que recomiendes? Tuna and crab tostadas! You can't go wrong with a server's suggestion especially if you're in another country. When we travel, we usually try things we've never tried or can't get in the U.S. Screw the safe food. The tuna tostadas are the big seller here and I know why. 1/8" slices of tuna are marinated in soy sauce and orange juice and placed on top of freshly-fried tostadas with a spicy mayo, avocado and crispy-fried whites of scallions. A simple dash of lime and PacMan-sized mouth and you're good. Mmmmm. So fresh! The crab I loved as well, but this was the wife-stealer. For all the labor involved in removing the meat from crab, this isn't a bad deal at all. $14 for 4 tostadas.

Contramar Ceviche

Ceviche de Contramar
Next we had Contramar's ceviche special. This was not what we thought it would be. I prefer ceviche in smaller chunks and less sour. All I could taste was lime juice and mushy fish.

Contramar Pastor Fish Tacos

Pastor Fish Tacos
I like fish tacos. I like pastor. Can I have both? Si señor! From afar, this really looks like al pastor meat and even smells like it! The fish was moist, flavorful and delicious. The addition of the smoked pineapple adds the much needed sweetness to this spice-ful dish. I should have eaten more of these but at this point, I was STILL thinking about those tuna tostadas.

Contramar Caldo de Camaron

Caldo de Camaron (Shrimp Soup)
I fell in love with Mexican-style shrimp soup back in Tulum at this drive-by restaurant called La Bamba Jarocha. Because some f*ckface took our camera, our only evidence of that delicious soup can be found here. Our soup arrived in a small coffee cup with 2-3 pieces of shrimp. But what I was most stoked about was the use of Maggi seasoning in the broth. Oh how I love Maggi seasoning sauce. The soup was beautiful. I saw the rays of the sun breach through the clouds above and cupids hovered above with trumpets and harps. Absolute harmony.

Full as hell, we decided to eat even more because that's what vacation is all about. While Jeni was getting her Mexican-style ice cream (helado) at Neveria Roxy, I checked out this red truck across the street. There were about 5-6 people hovering around it like vultures. Could only mean one thing: food. I remembered this truck being mentioned in the Lonely Planet: Mexico book.

Taco Truck Guy2

We all love taco trucks, except for Gloria Molina, L.A. Count Board of Supervisors... but have you seen a taco truck, literally? This guy had his truck parked up on a sidewalk with a blue tarp connected from this truck to the nearby fence creating a portable 'roof'.

Taco Truck Guy4

Here you can see that an Asian vulture has arrived at the crime scene awaiting the grisly fate of its target.

Taco Truck Guy

A cleaver, broken piece of wood, plastic plates w/ waxpaper, meat and a truck. Simple yet beautiful.

Taco Truck Guy3

And to add some extra flavor, a juice-drenched hand tattered with spices.

Taco Truck Carnitas

Some of the moistest carnitas I've had.

El Califa Mexico City

But the party doesn't stop. After we took a nap, we were out and about again in search of our favorite pastor tacos within D.F.

El Califa Pastor Taco

Tacos al pastor is a dish that originates in Puebla, Mexico, by way of Lebanese immigrants. Which is why the use of the spit seems familiar – shawerma!

El Califa Pastor Taco2

On top of all the spits sit large pineapples like a star on a x'mas tree. The rising heat from the flames and roasting of the spit meat help cook the pineapple. After the cook slices off the meat, he does a quick flick of the wrist near the pineapple and lobs it on to your taco. Awesome. The spiciness of the pork and sweetness of the pineapple make for Mexican yin yang.

El Califa Costilla Taco

I have a favorite new cut of meat and it's not your typical ranchera steak; it's called costilla and is the rib section of the cow. Thin slices of rib meat are thrown onto an extremely hot griddle and cooks within 35 seconds. I topped these tacos off w/ some fresh onions, salsa verde and a few dashes of my favorite sauce, Maggi.

In a course of 6 hours, we had eaten at one restaurant and 2-3 taco stands. Full right? No. It was time for Jeni's birthday dinner at one of D.F.'s most popular restaurants, Pujol.

Pujol Mexico City DF

We rolled up to the restaurant in a cab and the first thing Jeni said was, "beautiful". I had done my research on this place and considered places like Aguila y Sol (closed) and Izote de Patricia Quintana. But I was interested in Pujol mostly because it was headed by a chef from the Culinary Institute of America in New York – Chef Enrique Olvera. Sold.

Contrary to reviews I had read about Pujol's service, we were given excellent service. From the beginning, we didn't have to raise our hands very often. The waiters came by quite frequently and checked upon us. The Chef de Cuisine even came out a few times for some tableside service – which was awesome. You would think that because we are foreigners that we might get neglected, but this wasn't the case. It also helps if you know a little Spanish and understand that there are no such things as burritos in Mexico City.

Pujol Aguacate Ravioli

Ravioles de Aguacate (Avocado Ravioli)
I expected to see a ravioli and was actually craving one, but I forgot that at any haute cuisine, familiar names for dishes are used quite loosely. This 'ravioli' consisted of shaved shrimp that's been lightly sautéed with spicy mayonnaise and sandwiched between two thinly sliced pieces of avocado (aguacate). Wow, so delicate and delectable. J wouldn't stop talking about this dish.

Pujol Nopales

Ensalada de Nopal Curado En Sal (Salt-cured Cactus Salad)
I tried cactus for the first time in the previous trip to Mexico – in Oaxaca specifically. If you haven't had cactus, it has a sliminess that is inherent in japanese mountain yams (yamaimo) and okra. This was served with a lemon sorbet, thinly shaved cactus, tomatoes and grated Mexican cheese. This dish was nice, and if it weren't for the ice cream, you'd be left with a slimy texture on your tongue.

Pujol Chapulines

Chapulines al Sartén
This is another delicacy I tried in Oaxaca – clay-toasted grasshoppers known as chapulines. This was Chef Olveras deconstruction of a grasshopper taco. The foam on top was made from tortillas, there's guacamole, radish and the protein. This wasn't our favorite.

Pujol Lengua

Lengua de Res (Beef Tongue)
But this was my favorite. I love beef tongue. Braised beef tongue over olive tapanade and fried onion ring. J gave me hers and I couldn't be more happy.

Pujol Fish & Mushroom Broth

Trucha (Fish in Mushroom Broth)
This was J's favorite... sous vide fish swimming in a pool of rich, earthy mushroom broth. The fish was unbelievably moist and went very well w/ the consomme.

Pujol Dessert

Pie Cremoso de Limón Verde (Fresh Yogurt & Green Lime Sorbet)
This was good as well. I've never had Mexican style yogurt.

After this 3.5 hour meal, J and I sat there looking at each other with comatosed expressions. I really needed to be forklifted back to my place – this was just too much food for us, on top of 5 different wines. The servers were very nice and hailed a cab for us as we paid for the bill, and because it was raining. I thanked the servers and told them I'd be back again, for this was truly a meal worth the money and dining experience. What I liked most about Chef Olvera's dishes was that he remained true to Mexican ingredients. It's easy for any chef to take the common items found in haute cuisine like pork belly, foie gras, diver scallops, etc. and add your own twist to it. But none of that was found on the menu.

As we sat in the cab, Jeni sat back with a tired gaze and she was about to get her last birthday surprise. And she didn't know it. We got back to our place and greeted the owner of the guesthouse and said good night. We walked up the stairs to our place. But before we could head towards the room, I took off my sweater and turned to Jeni.

D: "Are you ready for your last birthday surprise?"
J: "What?! There's more? No more, D! I'm tired."
D: "It's nothing big, come on."

I handed her my sweater and did my best terrorist-style blindfolding job. It looked like she had a black turban, which actually went well with her dress. I told her to stay there as I ran into the room. I opened the door, and what I saw, took me aback. I went back to the hallway to grab my lovely hostage and led her with one hand. We walked in slowly, hearing the creaking of the hardwood floor, and I shut the door. I took one more look at Jeni and the room we were in and asked her one more time.

D: "Are you ready for your birthday surprise?"
J: "...Yes."
D: "... Take off your blindfold, Jeni."

As she unraveled her sweater-blindfold, everything turned into slo-motion. I thought back to the time we met over 2 years ago and how we grew from two single people into a couple who could never be separated. I thought about the first time we ate on crates in front of a taco truck. And how we laughed and talked into the night. I never told her that she had a piece of cilantro stuck in her teeth the whole time, but it was okay because I didn't want to kill the moment. I thought about the sporadic weekend getaways to Santa Barbara we would take. I thought about the first time I met her parents and her brother. I thought about all the fights we had had. I thought about the time we rode on a scooter DRUNK in mainland China. I thought about how she never denied any type of adventurous food I ate. I thought about everything that happened in the 2 years that we've been dating and that it all came down to this particular time of the day in a guesthouse in Mexico City.

Jeni took off the blindfold and her eyes immediatly lit up to a room lit solely with candles, ridden with flowers on the floor and a man kneeling on one knee with something shiny in both of his hands. It took her almost 2 seconds to realize that I was on my knee and before I could speak a word, she started to cry. This was more than a birthday surprise for her, it was our engagement. And the best way to tell her that I love her.

And she said, "yes".

Read Jeni's story.

Thanks for reading.

Proposal

Taco Ring

Jumex Coleccion Sign
Read more!

Blog Widget by LinkWithin

ShareThis