Visitor from Toronto - Reporting back
Here’s my review of food-related L.A. entertainment. It was a great experience overall. Unfortunately, due to some unforeseen travel issues, our trip was cut short by a full day. So I didn’t get a chance to try out all the places on my list (esp. Babita, Father’s Office, Tacos Baja de Ensenada). So, in order of appearance:
In-n-Out Burger: We needed something quick on the way into town. Really good fast food burger. Had to try it because it seems pretty famous. The fries, though, were limp and not as good as McDonald’s.
Grand Central Market: Really neat place. I loved the layout and the food stalls. I had a couple shrimp tacos from Maria’s seafood. Pretty bland, I have to say. But as far as atmosphere and overall experience goes, this place was cool. One of my big regrets is not having a beef cheek taco or something like that. Or one of those hunks of pork with wonderful looking crackling. What was I thinking?
Langer’s: My apologies to those I may have offended in saying “since I’ve been to Schwartz’s and Katz’s, what’s the point in going to Langers?” I’m not a true deli aficionado, but know a good deli sandwich from a bad one. This was first rate pastrami. Ordered it hand cut. Nice flavour, good fat content and not overly salty. Bread had a good chew factor as well. I wish I had a chance to try out more stuff (chopped liver, tongue sandwich). My wife really liked the Langer’s cream soda.
Park’s: I’d been to a few Korean BBQ’s, but mostly the all-you-can-eat versions all over the place here in Toronto. Park’s was definitely a notch above that. Unfortunately, I was limited in the amount I could order since my dining partner (wife) wouldn’t be eating as much as I could. So we ordered two varieties of meat instead of the 4 I would have liked. Anyhow, first with the pickles/condiments. Definitely different from the ones I’m accustomed too. Kimchi was some of the best I’ve had. And there was this cold beef in a brown sauce that was really nice. And a dollop of squash or something. I did miss the pickled daikon and spicy soy sprouts, though. About the meat, very nice. Had the “kobe style”, which was delicious and tender. Second meat was the “Tokyo style” marinated pork belly. Also very nice. $2 valet service to boot..who’s going to complain about that?
Santa Monica Farmer’s Market: Such a bittersweet experience. Let’s start with the sweet. Well, the plethora of fruits and vegetables was truly amazing. I know it sounds cliché, but it’s great going to markets and the wheels start turning in your head on how you can buy whatever looks good and whip up something amazing without actually doing much to the ingredients. Great sampling and nice vendors enrich the experience. I had about a dozen oysters from the place near the west entrance. Then, my wife and I bought some lovely heirloom tomatoes (ours won’t be in season until August), some buffalo Mozzarrella (great deal at $8/ball. We pay ~$12 for the imported stuff), hunks of bread, some peaches and strawberries. Went to the park facing the ocean and had a ploughman’s lunch, of sorts. It was great. So what about the bitter part? Well, for starters I couldn’t buy as much stuff as I wanted and actually go home and cook it. Second, you guys have this stuff year-round and we don’t.
Antequera de Oaxaca: Last place on our little LA journey. Dinner at an authentic Mexican place. I don’t know much about the food outside of the bad tacos, burritos and enchiladas we serve up here. For appetizers, we had chips and guac. Pretty standard fare. But when I saw grasshoppers on the menu, I knew I had to have them. Well, the waitress (nice young lady) gave me a sample size of about 100 grasshoppers. They didn’t taste like much, but now I can say I had grasshoppers. For dinner, I had the mole rosso (sp?). I’ve never had mole, so no point of comparison. What can I say other than it was deeply flavoured and complex and truly delicious. My wife had something resembling a taco, with shredded chicken and a black bean paste on the tortilla. I forget the name, but she liked it. I was disappointed they don’t serve beer there, but hey, I discovered Torritos Tamarind soda. Nice stuff.
Thanks again LA CH'ers for all your advice and suggestions. I hope to make it back one day to fill in the missing gaps from my itinerary. If ever you're headed to Toronto, post on our board, we're usually pretty helpful.
It sounds like you had a fantastic time -- thanks for reporting back.
Most places sell Bubalus Bubalis buffalo mozzarella for around $6 a ball (though, admittedly, it has been a while -- I am waiting for the best tomatoes), so $8 seems expensive. Still, it's enough protein for two and it tastes great. Unfortunately you've just missed cherry season (which is early in Southern California).
Chapulines -- the grasshoppers -- are really meant as chile-delivery devices. You add chile, salt and lime to them and they're meant really as bar snacks or to add texture to an existing dish. Mole rojo (more often known as mole coloradito) is delicious, but my favourite is actually mole negro, which is just unbelievably complex, with mole manchamanteles ("sleeve stainer" -- made with fruits) a close second.
If your wife's dish was thicker tortillas with black bean paste, shredded chicken and pickled red onions, what she had was panuchos, which are one of my favourite Mexican "masa objects"
re: Das Ubergeek
re: Das Ubergeek
The masa objects at AdO are actually memelas - Oaxacan sopes.
Yucatec Panuchos are the tostadas filled with frijoles negros colados and occassionally a sliced hardboiled egg and topped with veg, cochinita or eschabeche de pavo.
Panuchos are my favorite antojito in all mexico.
the dish your wife had might also have been a clayuda/tlayuda. you can google them and look at the pictures and see.
at in'n'out, for crispy fries - order them well-done. not limp at all, then. Pity you had to leave early. (in'n'out menu is online with all variations - wikipedia has the most complete list
Looks like you got a good cross-section of the LA experience. Glad you enjoyed it!
I've been travelling a lot lately and hearing from friends in other cities that their farmer markets have recently opened for the season and I'm like, "what? you mean they close?" Yeah, we're spoiled.