The writing funk continues. I've been putting most of the effort onto Eater, especially with the recent cocktail coverage that we've had, but there's no reason to keep all of you two readers from the glories of my food blog's writing! Also, nothing like having to blog for Eater National - I'm sort of glad that I don't have that job to do daily because I would have sky high blood pressure. Once in a while doing a live-blogging/editting scenario for a publication of that magnitude I can deal with. Super respect for the editor, Raph Brion. I've been on the cusp of some great food writing opportunities of late, and I can see that it's resulted in my inbox getting a lot more full. I'm glad that right now I have the flexibility to freelance. It's one step closer to potentially landing a semi-full time position writing daily about food. I'll take my chances once that comes along, but until then, blogging on my own lousy site to get the juices flowing!
I tend to have a minimalist policy toward photos, but it doesn't quite do the justice to just write about all the wondrous things I've put inside my mouth recently (now don't get dirty thoughts!), so I'll be happy to share a few of the hits that made into my Instagram account, and then a few that didn't make it.
Just a note, the iPhone 5 might be the single greatest food photography camera for a number of reasons. 1) The shareability is unbeatable with Instagram, Facebook, Twitter 2) there are a bazzillion apps that you can use to modify or enhance photos 3) you'll almost always have it on you, unlike your snazzy Canon T3i digital SLR 4) the low light settings are pretty awesome 5) you can use it take notes while you eat, in case you're into that thing 6) you look sorta cool holding an iPhone - you look sorta lame holding any other phone, especially the monstrous Galaxy Note II, and 7) it's super fast at taking pictures, so you can click and get it over with, and get to the EATING.
Picca recently released a slate of new dishes from the genius mind of Ricardo Zarate. His cooking and approach is so beyond and so on another level right now that many chefs in L.A. can only marvel at what he's done. I still remember some of the more humble meals that I had at Zarate's Mo-Chica in Downtown, the original location that was deserted and offered ceviche for like ten bucks. I could already tell that he was onto something, but Picca seems to be the full incarnation of Zarate's capabilities as a chef. He's playing around with a palette of flavors that no one else in L.A. has explored, and this dish is proof. There's uni tiradito, topped onto fresh scallops. That's already like sex on a seafood puck right there (literally sex - uni is sea urchin gonads for you). But Zarate laces the delicate and luscious of those two ocean critters with leche de tigre, a ceviche mother sauce with tang and spice all in one, with chiffonaded shiso leaf. Uh, someone kill me now. And give me another plate.
The Hart & The Hunter might be my favorite new restaurant in L.A. this year, mostly because the whole endeavor is decided amateurish and awesome at the same time. Obviously these guys are good chefs that know how to put together a great meal. They just haven't had the opportunity or investment to go into a full blown restaurant space. They started out at the Capri with Wolf In Sheep's Clothing, a name that was stolen and is now being used for a rather terrible reincarnation of Lilly's on Abbot Kinney. The H&H guys rebooted at the Palihotel on Melrose and instantly became the best restaurant on the block. The Southern-slanted cooking might be the best of its kind of L.A., and I'm a firm believer that the work that Husk started in Charleston is starting to overflow into the rest of the U.S. as not only a bona-fide American regional cuisine, but a pervasive one at that. The fried chicken liver dish might not be perfect (I think the livers could be slightly more tender), but the rest of the salad has an ideal balance of crunch and acid. The chopped steak (steak tartare) is one of the better versions I've had, a Bourdain-esque labor fest that involves some poor chef de partie having at it with a 10-inch chef's knife in the back of the kitchen, yielding the ideal texture for tartare. It's marvelous, dripping in light oil, and heck, served with a roasted bone marrow log.
Proof Bakery has taken a ridonkulous amount of my money this year, and it's taken a lot everyone's money lately, and for good reason. The croissants are great, the pastries are awesomely consistent, and the coffee, well, Mr. Yeekai Lim is doing something right with the Cognoscenti Coffee side. I'm obviously biased here - Yeekai is a good friend and I'm always going to pull for him. His new place in Culver City is going to be my second home on the Westside after Scoops (Westside). But what Proof does really well is the subtle, the intricate and detailed that you won't really find at many other bakeries. I tend to find the majority of talked-about bakeries to be rather over-the-top. It's the American way to load everything to the max with butter and sugar and everything in between. Proof's Na Young Ma is a little more, shall we say, Japanese about the whole thing, with more of a balance struck between all the lovely bits (even though she's Korean like myself). I tend to love the less popular items, like the fresh-from-the-oven apple tart with just the right amount of natural sweetness coaxed out of the apple. I know I could eat an ENTIRE tart. Because unlike the more graceful presentation and composition of the baked goods at Proof, I am a total fatty, and like to eat much more than my poor body can handle. I could honestly make a breakfast out of every single thing on that marble counter every morning, except my wallet and good sense of justice prevent me from doing so.
Seoul Sausage to me, is a little bit of a sore spot. It's mostly because I'm completely annoyed that they stole my idea for Kimchi fried-rice ball arancini, which I wrote about years ago on this blog. And I only have myself to blame - I didn't copy right the darn thing, and I published the recipe for free! It's not like the three Korean dudes who started the truck and now brick-and-mortar joint on Sawtelle are going to give me credit. I tasted one a few weeks ago - it's pretty good. And so is everything else. The menu is sparse at Seoul Sausage - a trio of Korean BBQ-inspired sausages, fried chicken, those rice balls, and poutine. Ah, it's the poutine that got me. Freaking genius - put the best parts of galbi chim (braised short rib) and top over fries and balanced out with kimchi pickled red onions. Seoul Sausage reminds me of the cool Korean guys that went to my high school, and wore baggy black pants, sported the long bangs (this is the late 90s), and had that swagger, whereas I would mope around carrying my textbooks in a rollaway and hang out in the library reading Silas Marner to myself and scheming to take over the school's computer network via the library's workstations. Yeah, just a tiny, terrible view into my formative years. Thankfully, I consider myself to be sort of cool now (sort of), and Seoul Sausage has taken the elemental parts of Korean-American hip and gelled it into the quagmire of American junk food staples. And to make it worse, they blast Kaskade at 11.
All of this has been in the context of a vision of myself that I might have thought would have materialized a few years ago, before I started Scoops. After I quit my last job as a banker, I often wondered if I could cut my teeth as someone writing full time about food. I read everything I could see in sight, but the Internet and blogosphere didn't have the demand requirements that it has right now. As traditional media dies out, there's a greater demand for internet writing. I've had many offers to write in the last year, offers that I didn't think were possible in 2009.
And now the tides are turning, where marketing dollars are following the readers, where sites like Eater can command its own national advertising campaigns because it has such a widespread reach on a niche industry. So then there's the lot like me, people who get paid small sums of money to write about food. It's hard to make a distinction sometimes because I remember I used to write to communicate an idea or expound upon an experience I had. Now, it's mostly reporting, getting the word out. It's sad that stories aren't quite stories anymore. I hope I continue to have stories to tell.