Monday, January 30, 2012

The Oinkster: Eagle Rock

On our way home from Santa Barbara the other day we stopped for dinner at The Oinkster located at 2005 Colorado Blvd., Los Angeles (Eagle Rock), CA 90041 (phone: 323-255-6465). 
I'd heard that Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives had done a feature there, featuring the pastrami sandwich, so we decided to check it out. It was busy and we couldn't really see the menu until we got to the counter to order, so we mostly relied on the person at the counter to guide us to the most popular items. Judy and I could not agree on getting different sandwiches, and I refused to share one with her, so we both got the Oinkster pastrami sandwich. It consists of pastrami cured for two weeks, smoked with applewood, then the addition of Gruyere cheese, caramelized onions and red cabbage slaw. 
I have been to a number of Triple D restaurants and not been extremely impressed, but this was a home run with the bases loaded. An absolutely unique sandwich with amazing, amazing flavor. Pastrami is not usually high on my list, but this was incredible. The pastrami was juicy and full of flavor and the add-ins provided both different textures and taste. 
Then we shared an order of Piggy Fries and there again, absolutely unique. 
1000 island dressing, carmelized onions and shredded cheddar cheese on the fries, and we're not talking small quantities of onion, but massive amounts. It was more like a potato and onion casserole, I had to eat mine with a fork. 
On the healthier side, I also got some tomato soup. I ended up taking it home and eating it the next day. Even with some distance between it and the flavorful sandwich and fries, the tomato soup remained bland and unexciting. This is a Triple D hit that is on my list to try again. I subsequently watched the Triple D show and now need to try the pulled pork sandwich and the chicken salad sandwich (as well as another Oinkster). 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Jane (Restaurant): Santa Barbara

I had a continuing education seminar in Santa Barbara recently and Judy accompanied me on a beautiful, sunny, January Saturday. After my three hour seminar ended at noon, Judy guided us to a restaurant she scouted out on  Yelp called "Jane," located at 1311 State Street in Santa Barbara, California 93101 (805-962-1311). 
The unusual name comes from the first name of the owner's grandmother. Jane is found throughout the restaurant in wonderful black and white photos, my favorite, Jane sitting on a camel with a pyramid in the background. Although sunny, it was windy and a little chilly, and we loved the large fire roaring in the center of the restaurant in a glass enclosed fireplace. The downstairs is airy, with high ceilings, while additional seating is upstairs on either end, on a second floor. It is clean with a mixture of old and new, including some fun old plank tables and large wooden candlesticks. We started with goat cheese pancakes, topped by smoked salmon, sour cream and golden caviar. 
The gold caviar was centered in a dollop of sour cream and my initial impression was that it was  a sunny-side up egg. 
It was a very nice starter. Judy got the Idaho trout salad with avocado, cucumber, tomato, spinach, butter lettuce and creamy dill dressing. 
The two trout filets were moist and soft and complemented the butter lettuce perfectly, as did the dill dressing. I got two lamb chops with french fries and arugula topped with a lemon vinaigrette. 
The french fries were good, particularly accompanied with a forkful of lemony arugula and the lamb was good. I would have preferred it a little less cooked (I ordered it rare), but lamb is always good. Finally, we got a slice of the coconut cake with creme anglaise sauce which many raved about on Yelp. Creme anglaise is a light pouring custard and is really what makes the cake. 
The cake itself is very light, but made much, much better by saturating it in the sauce. The white topping/frosting was a different texture, not very sweet, not creamy, and for me, was saved only by the copious amount of shaved coconut on top of it, which I love. We left much of the frosting, but ate all of the cake itself to get every bit of the creme sauce. Over all, it was a fun menu and a nice atmosphere. Good, not fantastic, food and a tad bit on the expensive side. I would recommend it as a place to visit, but was not so enamored with it that it will be a must visit on our next trip to Santa Barbara. 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Bottega Louie

We visited Andrew and Lauren this weekend and they suggested we eat at Bottega Louie, located at 700 S. Grand Ave in Los Angeles (phone: 213-802-1470). 
I'm glad we visited late on a Saturday afternoon. Downtown was not crowded and we had no problem getting around or finding parking. It is located among the high rises 
and has a European feel to it. Inside it has extremely high ceilings, lots of whitish marble (the restrooms were beautiful) and French tables. Because of the high ceilings and spacious room, it felt a little like eating at an elegant train station. The servings for the most part were quite small and it is expensive. When we walked in we passed a refrigerated section with European type sandwiches and soft drinks. On the way out I bought a hard bread type sandwich with prosciutto and burrata cheese which I ate in the car. It may have been the best thing I ate. Nice and chewy, flavorful and European to the core. I had to gnaw on it for a while to get each bite, and then chew and chew, but the texture and taste were wonderful. Further into the restaurant we passed displays of wicked looking desserts 
which we also purchased some of on our way out. I got a praline pecan creme brulee which I ate at home when it was cold, but it was still very good. It reminded me of some of the beautiful French desserts we saw on display in Montreal. Finally, once at a table, Andrew and Lauren ordered a clam pizza which was clammy with surf clams and mozzarella and Pecorino Romano cheese. 
It was nice and mild, surprising because Pecorino is very salty and strong. It was pretty good as far as pizza goes, but I'm just not much of a pizza person. 
Judy got trenne pasta with prime rib eye, kale and shaved Grana Parmesan cheese. 
I only tasted one piece of her pasta and it was kind of hard and crunchy, but I'm not a pasta person either. Judy had read a review on Yelp that raved about the trenne pasta, but she was disappointed with it. She said the ribeye with it was good, but did not like the pasta much. I got what was identified as a lamb porterhouse which was two very small lamb chops with small baked potatoes and garlic cloves. 
I asked for medium rare lamb, but they said it was small and would be cooked through. Of my two pieces, one was thicker than the other, and was thus rare, and I enjoyed it more than the more cooked piece. It was good, but not great. The vegetables were tasty. The portabello mushroom fries were truly unique, with a thin crisp coating and a nice green, quite flavorful, dipping sauce. 
The fries were crisp on the outside, but with the meaty, juicy portabello taste inside. 
They were a truly nice dish and a nice value, comparatively, even at $10.00. The other menu item that was very nicely cooked was grilled octopus. 
It was $12.00 for a very small amount, but it may be the best octopus I've ever eaten. It had a nice, firm, grilled exterior, had a nice taste and was not rubbery.  Finally, we all shared a chocolate souffle dessert there. A hole was punched in the top of the souffle and cream poured in. 
The souffle was very light and fluffy and the cream not very sweet. 
It was fun and different, but I would not pay $15.00 to eat it again. Bottega Louie was fun to visit, but given the cost I would probably not go for a sit-down meal again. However, I do look forward to trying some more of their take out sandwiches and desserts. I love the crusty European bread and need to try some more of their luscious looking desserts.

Update: May 2016

Andrew was visiting from New York and wanted to visit Bottega Louie, his favorite restaurant in Los Angeles. We had brunch on a Saturday morning. He got smoked salmon benedict, I got lobster hash and we shared some lemon ricotta pancakes. Then we shared our dishes. They do poached eggs very well. They were soft and full of runny - I don't think you can do them any better. The lettuce on the benedict was a different touch. Although it was good, it was not outstanding.
On the other hand, my lobster hash was incredible. The potatoes were cubed in smaller pieces than I've ever seen. The effect is that virtually the entire cube has an outside frying surface and has the nice fried, crispy, buttery taste. The small lobster pieces were very savory and as good as any lobster I've ever eaten. They were tender but had some sort of added cooking and/or flavoring that added an extra element to it. The smoked paprika hollandaise sauce was a bright lobster red and really set the dish apart visually. It also had chunks of brussels sprouts that added a different texture and taste.
The lemon ricotta pancakes were good, but I didn't really taste the lemon or notice the ricotta. They were soft and had small blueberries accompanying them. What really made them was the maple syrup that came with them.
I ordered two desserts to take home. The strawberry tart was very bland and not very sweet. It was a big disappointment.
On the other hand, the passion mango dessert had a powerhouse mango flavor on the outside and a milder, but very nice passion fruit flavor inside, along with a crunchy filling of some sort. This was truly outstanding.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Ground Kangaroo Hash

I purchased a pound of ground kangaroo from Charlie Brown Farms in Littlerock, California. 
I'd previously had kangaroo medallions, which were okay, not great, and I thought the ground meat, with some additional add-ins, would be a fun variation. I was cooking a goose at the same time and added the goose liver and kidney (but not the pictured neck) to the meat. 
I put some olive oil and cut-up red pepper, garlic cloves, turnips and onion to a frying pan and partially cooked it, then added the meat 
and cooked it all together. 
For the same meal, Judy had prepared a potato casserole, with shredded potato, that was good on its own, but fantastic when added to the kangaroo mixture. The kangaroo is quite lean, but mixed with the vegetables and potato, it added a nice texture and flavor. 
Unfortunately, I don't have a picture of the potato casserole. We had the LDS missionaries over for dinner, one in particular, from Fiji, who was an adventurous eater. In fact, he detected the taste of the liver and asked if some was included. I sheepishly admitted it was, because I knew the other missionary did not like liver, but figured it was diluted enough it would go undetected. They were thrilled to try the unusual meat and it made it a meal for them to remember. 

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Nilgai Antelope Shoulder Roast

The nilgai is an antelope primarily found in India, eastern Pakistan and southern Nepal. 
They were also introduced to Texas in the 1920s and there are now about 15,000 wild nilgai in that state. For a pre-Christmas dinner, I purchased a 4.54 nilgai shoulder roast from a Texas free range animal. 
I found a recipe for antelope pot roast from Texas hunting site and hoped for the best. I'd previously had antelope steaks from a Wyoming antelope and it is probably my least favorite game meat ever - the sage brush diet does not translate into great meat - it was lean, dry and very gamy. I hoped this would be better. The meat was very lean and very dark. 
The recipe called for wrapping the meat with six slices of bacon (I had seven and wished I had more), a good idea for lean meat, and baking it in the oven for 40 minutes per pound. I made a rub of 1/2 tsp of garlic powder, 1/4 tsp of black pepper, 3 tbsp of cider vinegar which was rubbed on before putting on the bacon. I then cut up about four potatoes, two turnips, quite a few small carrots and a large onion and cut them into approximate one inch pieces. The roast and a 1/4 cup of beef broth were placed in a roasting pan and into an oven at 350 degrees. 
About every hour I added another 1/4 cup of beef broth and with an hour left, added the vegetables. 
The result was way short of what I hoped for. It was cooked too long which made the otherwise dry meat even dryer and it was quite gamy. I did find the pieces that had a little fat on them better tasting. 
The vegetables, on the other hand, were very good. Everyone was a good sport and had some, but it was not a best seller and we had quite a bit that ultimately was not eaten. 
There may be a good way to cook antelope, but I haven't found it yet (I do hope to keep trying). 

Friday, January 6, 2012

Grilled Iguana

A number of years ago, when our children were young, a friend of ours gave us some iguana meat that had been brought into the U.S. from Mexico and cooked by his Mexican workers. It was excellent. We finished off what we had quickly and the kids were asking for more. I've wanted to try more iguana since that time. 
This year, for Christmas, I found some iguana meat for sale on the internet and ordered two pounds of it. What recipes I found were mostly for whole iguanas and so I ended up adapting one of them. I wish I could find out how the Mexican workers cooked their iguana because it was really excellent. Our two pounds included what looks like a portion of the torso and hind legs and half of the back bone and one of the front legs. 
I cooked it for our family the day before Christmas. The recipe called for soaking guajillo and pasilla chiles and blending them with vinegar, oregano, salt and pepper, then marinating the iguana meat in that mixture for two hours or more, then roasting it at high heat until tender. I got a mixture of three different types of dried chiles from our cupboard and soaked them for several hours and then blended them with apple cider vinegar. I was concerned that it would overpower the meat and I was right. Fortunately, I only marinated half of it. 
The other half I coated with olive oil and cooked all of it on our outdoor gas grill. 
As strange as it sounds, iguana meat is actually quite a bit like chicken. It is a white meat and has much the same consistency and is very mild. I did not like my combination of peppers and was not fond of the meat cooked in the marinade. I quite liked the meat that was coated in oil and grilled. It was mild and had a nice grilled taste. 
I was a little disappointed with my experimentation and would really like to try cooking a whole iguana someday with a better recipe. Below, the backbone portion is much more recognizable with most of the meat pulled off.