THINGS I ATE: New Mexican Cuisine at Jeffrey Saad’s La Ventura

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For years and years, I have been an avid fan of Food Network Star — going all the way back to its genial, awkward first season which saw two party planner guys take home the inaugural crown. Since then, we’ve witnessed many dubious winners claim the big prize (ahem, Big Daddy’s House) while more deserving runners-up go home empty-handed. Well, sort of empty handed. Some near-misses have found success with Food Network despite premature ejection from their star path. Kelsey Nixon and Adam Gertler have had post-Food Network Star runs, and so has Jeffrey Saad, whose season five loss was parlayed into hosting gigs for Spice Smuggler and later United Tastes of America.

Saad, it should be noted, also helms his very own restaurant, La Ventura, here in Los Angeles, and last week, I was invited to a media-comped dinner at the establishment. FINALLY — I would be able to sample the cooking of a Food Network star. It’s what I’ve always dreamed of.

(And yes, I’m fully aware that I could just traipse over to any of Guy Fieri’s dining establishments, but I do like to maintain a certain level of dignity.) …… (Full disclosure, I’m typing this unshowered in my underwear.)

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THINGS I ATE: Brunch Foods at Sonny’s Hideaway

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Brunch. It’s more than just a portmanteau. It’s a way of life. And in Los Angeles, I’m always on the lookout for new brunch options. There simply are not enough in this town, and any time a decent place pops up, it’s only a matter of time before it’s saddled with a 45 minute wait.

Nevertheless, when I was invited to a media-comped brunch at Sonny’s Hideaway this past week, I quickly jumped at the opportunity to go. Perhaps I’d have a new destination to add to my ever expanding brunch list.

Did the restaurant deliver the goods? Pics and commentary after the jump…

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THINGS I ATE: Steak Frites at L’Assiette

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A few weeks ago, Los Angeles endured a brutal heat wave with temperatures reaching 100 degrees or more. It was the sort of weather that left me listless and sweating; although, to be fair, most temperatures leave me listless and sweating. When the heat goes up, most people gravitate towards light fare — salads, cold soups, shellfish — but as luck would have it, I had a media-comped meal scheduled at L’Assiette Steak Frites, a new restaurant on Melrose Avenue that serves one thing and one thing only: steak frites. Hence, the name. I can’t say a heavy meal of meat and potatoes was exactly what I was in the mood for during that steamy period of Los Angeles weather, but I am a proud soldier of the blogosphere. I will brave the difficulties of this job for you, the dear reader, even if it means I must eat cold weather food IN WARM WEATHER.

You’re welcome, people. Please, no applause. Stay in your seats. An ovation is not necessary! Continue reading

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THINGS I ATE: A Whole Bunch of Good Stuff

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Over the past several months, I’ve been snapping pictures of food with the intention of writing about it on this blog. Now it’s December 31st, and I have a small backlog of meals to share. Rather than generate a post for each one, I’m just going to dump the photos here.

Long story short: all this food was good, and if you find yourself in LA, be sure to try these restaurants out. Continue reading

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THINGS I ATE: Hot Dogs and More at Dog Haus

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At a recent food event at the LA Times, I managed to sample (read: GORGE UNABASHEDLY) some offerings from local hot dog impresario Dog Haus, and needless to say, I was hooked. Imagine my delight when I was invited to a media-comped lunch at Dog Haus this past weekend. Normally, I wouldn’t trek all the way out to Pasadena for a hot dog — not even a super tasty one nestled comfortably in a warm Hawaiian roll — but as luck would have it, I was in the area to visit the Eat My Blog bake sale (which raised over $5,000 for Philippines — woohoo!). It was as if the hot dog stars had aligned.

After the jump, check out some pics of the hot dogs that my friend Jessica and I enjoyed in the Dog Haus biergarten…

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THINGS I ATE: Pretty Much Everything at The Corner Door

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It’s Autumn in Los Angeles. Well, actually, it’s Autumn everywhere. Except the Southern Hemisphere. It’s Spring down there. I think. The point is that we — as a global community — are in a different season than we were, say, two months ago, and to celebrate the leaves changing color from green to slightly less green, The Corner Door in Culver City, CA has trotted out some autumnal cocktails. What better reason to head all the way down to this nifty gastropub for a media-comped meal, replete with cinnamon smoke and beignets.

Photos after the jump…

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THINGS I ATE: Food and Adventure in Kauai

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I’ve spent so much time this summer blogging about Big Brother and podcasting about Bravo that I’ve hardly had time to post about food, but I can assure you that I have been eating. I’ve been eating a lot. Perhaps too much. Nevertheless, way back in July, I had a glorious jaunt over to the island of Kauai (that’s in Hawaii, for all of you who are geographically challenged), and in between luxuriating in the sunshine and falling off rocks in the mountains, I managed to enjoy a bite or two at some of the local eateries.

After the jump, check out what I ate and a few vacation pictures to boot. Warning: long post!

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THINGS I ATE: Korean Grub at Kobawoo House

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Kobawoo House in Koreatown is hardly a discovery. The place has been packing in eager diners for years and years, with hungry patrons lining up to taste the restaurant’s famed pork belly bossam (not to mention the expert seafood pancake also found on the menu). What exactly is bossam? It’s basically meat that gets rolled up in pickled radish or cabbage. That’s the simplistic, white-man’s version at least. Don’t worry — I have pictures.

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THINGS I ATE: Meat Cakes at Beijing Pie House

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For about a year and a half, I’ve been wanting to try Beijing Pie House — a Chinese eatery in the heart of Monterey Park, CA. The restaurant boasts dumplings the shape of overgrown hockey pucks that squirt searingly hot liquid at the most benign of pokes, and as we all know, benign poking is truly my forte. Nevertheless, while it took me many months to finally visit BPH (as I’ve decided to call it), I finally gathered up a group of friends, including Sly and Abe, and headed East for a dumpling-tastic adventure.

Our group entered the restaurant tentatively — not because we feared what was inside but more because it was so deathly silent we momentarily assumed we had wandered into a library or perhaps funeral home. Not only was there no music, but the diners all spoke in hushed tones, almost as if the bright fluorescent lighting had beaten them into submission. I suppose I naturally assumed the restaurant would be loud and convivial as patrons burned their tongues and lips and chins with scalding hot dumpling liquid. But no. If people were in pain, they bore the brunt of it in steely silence.

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THINGS I ATE: Dinner at Stella Barra in Hollywood

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After a recent viewing of Star Trek: Into Darkness, my friend jash and I felt the need to wildly decompress from two hours of explosions, Spock bangs, and futuristic 9/11 imagery. And so we too stepped into darkness by taking in dinner at the dimly lit Stella Barra on Sunset Boulevard. Attached to the ArcLight and cousin to Stella Rosa in Santa Monica, the new restaurant has a reputation for awesome pizza and killer cookies. Naturally, this was right up my (Kirstie) alley. That was a bonus Star Trek reference, in case you were wondering.

jash and I kept the order simple. He ordered a glass of wine and a spinach and kale salad with pecorino ramona, Medjool dates, shaved radishes, and mustard vinaigrette. I too wanted to be healthy, but resistance was futile. I wound up requesting a fennel bianco pizza, which featured fennel, burrata, rosemary, torn basil, and olive oil. The friendly waiter then informed us that the policy of the restaurant is that when something is ready, it’s ready, and the food will arrive as such. It seemed like a strange approach, but I figured it wouldn’t be a big deal — that is, until jash’s salad arrived five minutes later (sans wine), and we had to wait an additional fifteen or twenty for my pizza. Yes, we were warned of the policy, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

As for that salad, it was very tasty, but teeny tiny. We’re talking side-salad size. At $10, it veers into “overpriced” territory. More appropriately priced was my pizza ($15), which was strong flavor-wise, but was so soggy and oily in the middle that the slices were near impossible to hold. Still, structural issues aside, I enjoyed the burrata and fennel, and found I was able to crisp up the slices a bit more the next day when I flung the leftovers in a skillet and heated them up for five minutes.

Eventually, the waiter discovered that he had neglected to bring jash’s wine, and to apologize, he gave us a free chocolate chip Rice Krispie treat cookie that may as well have descended directly from heaven. This cookie was far and away the best part of dinner, and I would truly consider going back to Stella Barra for the cookie alone.

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