Tuesday, July 29, 2008

E Tutto Qua

I'm headed up to the bay AGAIN, this time for Shimi's wedding, for which I am making her cake (and am working on it furiously right now)...and that reminded me of the LAST time I was up here, for an entire bachelorette party WEEKEND! After driving up from LA with Cara in her fabulous but fabulously expensive-gas-guzzling Mercedes, and after a bottle of wine in the hotel, and after presenting Shimi with her goodie basket that included a his/hers joint vibrator/cockring from me and Cara, and after walking in the extreme June cold, we finally arrived, one hour late for our reservation, to E Tutto Qua, in the North Beach neighborhood.

The manager couldn't be mad, though, after seeing 18 girls totally decked out and rushing into the restaurant with nipples erect from the cold. We were seated at a lovely window table on the second floor, and I snagged prime real estate directly across from Shimi, the bride-to-be.

Cara is my food soulmate. She is also the only other non-married/engaged one out of our high school group, so we often stick together at these weddings. Now we can get officially stuck together thanks to the same-sex marriage ruling. Perhaps we'll take a jaunt over to Sacramento and make our love official this weekend.

Anyway, both of our eyes (all four of our eyes??) lit up as soon as we hit on it on the menu: steak carpaccio!

Cara: Do you want to-
Me: YES.
Cara: The carpaccio?
Me: YES.

It's pictured top. Isn't it gorgeous? Though there was too much crap on it. The parm slices should have been as thin as the meat, and they would have done with half as many capers. When I eat raw meat, I want to TASTE it, you know? WINK WINK.

This is MY kind of beet salad. Many many beets, just barely cooked through, and a mountain of goat cheese and pine nuts. Despite what the inimitable Bourdain says, I loved the verticalness of the presentation. I don't care if it's played out. It hasn't been played out in the beet salad arena!

Let me backtrack a moment to describe our server. He was extremely nice. Extremely. He also had the most over-the-top Italian accent ever. Like Mario and Luigi combined, except much more verbose, and sprinkle in a little Domenico from Tila Tequila. Blend, simmer, reduce. Using a large wooden spoon, scoop the Italian accent reduction and splash the entire mixture into someone's face. That's what it was like. It couldn't have been real.

Oh MAN! They don't have their menu online and I was too busy enjoying wine and company to take notes. Let me recreate from my memory. Alright. My entree is pictured above. It was a chestnut ravioli with sage butter and crispy pancetta. But what are those black bits?!?!? Surely not truffles?!? I don't remember truffles. What on earth are they? Anyway, my entree was the winner of the night. I'm so happy that the inside was chestnut rather than butternut squash, which I don't think is meaty enough. The salty bite and crunch of the pancetta with the chestnut - OY!

The special of the night was rabbit, which was also ordered. [Waiter: "YES-a PO-ra BAH-nee!"] This one was not a hit. The meat was just SO dry, and the time and effort it took to debone the poor thing made it all the more not worth it. I might as well fry up Cheeto (our hamster - don't tell Tinx). The accompanying veggies were great, though! I must exclaim the name of the food before I eat it, if I really love it. Do you do that ever? The carrots were so good that they made me yell, "CARROT!" before every bite.

This is Cara's gnocchi. How interesting. I've never encountered gnocchi with a clam sauce. I'm sure that's what intrigued Cara, too. And who doesn't love gnocchi? (Secret time: I don't really...but I feel like it's like proscuitto, where everyone's supposed to like it no matter what.) However, something went wrong in the execution of this dish, as Collicchio would say. I didn't even try it.

This is not a breast implant in a pile of blood. This is panna cotta with raspberry sauce. I love all jello-ey substances. As a texture eater rather than a flavor eater, I just adored the slippery smoothness of this. Despite the rather barbarian presentation, the sweetness was very refined.

For the bride-to-be, a complimentary dessert. I didn't have any of the thing in the corner, but I did partake in the poached pear and mint leaf. I believe they were going for a heart motif with the creme anglaise? Looks like something else. Labia.

I have been told that my posts follow a template. Photo, description of food that is in a city that's not LA, some mention of balls. So I thought I'd switch it up and go with labia today.

E Tutto Qua
270 Columbus Ave
San Francisco, CA 94133

Monday, July 28, 2008

Sad Food

I have many ideas for photo essays. I have these ideas, sometimes, before I even have the photos. For example, I'm currently working on my "Dogs That Should Be Named Oreo" photo essay. So far I have two pictures. Both are blurry (dogs do not stay still in the same way that entrees do) and one of them has a bandana on the crucial "creamy center" so you can't even see it.

ANYWAY! Sometimes, however, the inspiration comes from the subject. The very, very sad subject in this case.

It all started during my conference in Baltimore. Every year, there is a super cute girl who doesn't know anyone and I pick her up at the mentor-mentee reception and turn her into my BFF for three days. This year it was Betty (clearly not her real name as she would never be so unstylish as to be called Betty). Anyway, Sharisa and Betty and I and some others hit up a local sushi joint, the name of which I have now forgotten. As we, collectively as a group, didn't know each other that well and were shy, that thing happened where NO ONE touched the last piece of sushi (see top).

Isn't it sad? It's sad. This is the culinary equivalent of the kid who didn't get picked for...kickball? It's always kickball in TV shows. But it's not like this piece of sushi was sickly and inhaler-toting. It was just on one end of the roll, and we just happened to start eating at the other end.

Anyway, I had great fun framing the photo so the plate looked huge and the sushi sad as can be.


The next day, Sharisa, Betty and I went to a very very delicious Mexican place. Even being from LA, I liked it. I had some sort of beautifully proportioned bowl with guac, salsa, cheese, rice, and... carne asada.

I was innocently eating when a lone piece divebombed off my fork, bounced off the table, and came to a sad stop on the ground. We all got immediately excited. Picture #2 in the photo essay! This pic is the view from between my legs. Sad, sad piece of cow.

Then, we went to the Whole Foods down the block to pick up fruit and other organic produce that is so difficult to come by during conferences. Haha, totally lying. I wanted to get a big fucking bag of potato chips to binge on that night after stumbling back to the hotel room wasted.

But anyway! They were serving, for St. Patrick Day, samples of fun things like bangers and mash, bread with Irish butter, and this cheese made with black beer. I speared a tiny cube with a toothpick and...

GASP! Too good to be true! I inadvertently dropped the cheese! It tumbled down into a tiny and desolate crevice to live out its last, uneaten, sad existence. Giggles as Betty and I snapped a bunch of photos and the Whole Foods lady looked on like we were crazy.

I had grand visions of compiling a collection of such photos worthy of filling a coffee table book. It's difficult, though, when one's #1 rule is that this shit has to happen naturally. No fake posed sad food photos.

Fast forward to now, July, almost 5 months later, and it has NOT HAPPENED ONCE. So it's time to post this already. It did happen once to Betty, who posted this on my wall:

Betty wrote
at 3:43pm on March 21st, 2008

I had one remaining cheerio in my bowl today...it was yearning to be photographed by you.

lol. Miss you Betty~

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Western Spaghetti

I'm having a computer meltdown, sorry for the delay in posts~

Until I can get access to my own pics, here: Geekologie found this amazing PES stop-motion video of making toy spaghetti. That description does not do the video justice. Just watch it.

Now back to "fixing" my lappie (alternately pleading at it, spitting on it, and having staring contests with it).

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Sugar Butter! [Giggle]

Last night I went with Dr. Z to his ex-girlfriend's wedding. Dr. Z's current girlfriend was out of town digging up fossils or whatever it is that she does, and he didn't want to show up alone (on account of the whole EX-girlfriend thing). I assumed he scoured his friends for the hottest one to show off so I was flattered, and indeed, did my best to look smashing, but it turns out that he asked me merely because I'm "game for everything." I guess that's a compliment.

I've blogged weddings before, because for some reason they are so funny! I think it's the fact that many different people are brought together, and there are so many instances in which to display (your lack of) taste, whether it's the dress, the cake, the flowers, etcetera.

This wedding was VERY tasteful. It was tasteful, polite, tame, nice. It did not start out well, however. The invitation said 6pm; we arrived at the country club in beautiful Bel Air at 6:00:30. Apparently, that was thirty seconds too late, as the parents were already walking down the aisle and we got yelled at by the wedding planner and were not allowed to go to the wedding area, but were instead relegated to an area about 200 yards away like losers.

The ceremony went off without a single hitch. Very nice, very smooth (except for the fact that there was a guy who was golfing right next to the couple. WTF?). I enjoyed schmoozing with the wedding guests, who seemed to ALL be from Dr. Z's church. I made sure Dr. Z had a drink in his hands at all times, cooed at the appropriate moments when talking to family friends' moms, and walked the fine line of reassuring Dr. Z that yes, the bride was very very hot, but not hot enough to deserve him.

Anyway, next to me at Table 5 was David, one of Dr. Z's oldest friends and a youth pastor. Who doesn't drink. And sings really really high (he sang the upper harmony in the Indigo Girls song that they sang during the wedding). Overall, a very nice but slightly off chap.

For example. He suddenly shrieked, "SUGAR BUTTER!" and started giggling. Intrigued, I looked over and decided to document what was going on.

Step 1 [pictured top]: Put ball of butter inside your empty wine glass (because you don't drink, remember?)

Step 2: Put in a packet of sugar. You may have to raid the super fancy custom-made cappuccino bar for the sugar packets, as at this point the salads have not even been served and there is no sugar on the table.

Step 3: Mix with a fork. Be focused - do not, for example, listen to the wedding speeches, or pause to place salad dressing on your salad. Definitely eat your salad dry.

Step 4: Not enough sugar!! Grab one more packet and sprinkle the contents onto the ball, which is stuck to the end of your fork. Do this with a frenzied, trembling sort of excitement, as you are SO CLOSE to getting to eat your sugar butter!

Step 5: GRATIFICATION! Eat your sugar butter! Smooth it all over your tongue and enjoy the crunch of the sugar crystals and the creamy saltiness of the butter. If your eyes feel compelled to roll back in your head, let them.

I, for one, was much more enthralled by the MASHED POTATO BAR! A huge line there the whole night. I have recently been over mashies, but now I am firmly back in the MASH camp.

Aside from a couple awkward moments (e.g. where I had to lean over, place my hand gently on Dr. Z's shoulder and say, "Don't take that personally," when the bride's father said, "When we first met [groom's name which I've already forgotten], we instantly thought, 'Now THIS is the kind of guy we want for our daughter!'" and when Dr. Z brought a conversation to a screeching halt by saying, "Yeah, but there's a rape in it" about a book that everyone was raving about [Pillars of the Earth]), I had a surprisingly fabulous time at this wedding where I knew no one. Dr. Z kept saying, "You're doing great!" so I think he would agree.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Gas Lite Karaoke Bar

Our free margarita, courtesy of Travis.

Tinx, every night we drive home together:
OOOOOOOOH let's go to Gas Lite!!!
Me: OK, maybe this weekend.

But it never happened. Until one fateful Friday when we decided to walk Simon's puppy for him first and then hit up the karaoke bar on the way back. Tinx and I both like to sing, and when we perform we like to get dolled up. So we got semi-dolled up (our final outfits that we walked out the door with were actually quite scaled back from our original ones), walked the dog in our heels, and then headed over.

They have a parking lot, and we found a spot. Incredible. I felt like I was in Peoria, Illinois, not fucking Wilshire Blvd. Amazing.

We walked in to a divey bar where someone was singing an Offspring song. There were books strewn about with songs in them, but after seeing the rather shabby clientele and nary a skirt nor high heel in sight, I decided liquid courage was in order so we got drinks. Then we chose our songs. Tinx: Kelly Clarkson's Never Again. I sing a mean, mean No Doubt, so I put in Bathwater originally, but then re-gauged the crowd and changed my song to Madonna's Like A Prayer. It was that sort of karaoke bar. You know, where white chicks "sing" California Love (she actually really brought it - I was impressed) and a random scary white guy sings Possum Kingdom by the Toadies. If you don't know this song, the refrain is "DOOOO YOU WANNA DIE?? DOOOO YOU WANNA DIE???"

Anyway, I had been burned by karaoke bars in the past where the DJ won't play your song unless you tip them, so I put in our two songs and tipped him ten bux. The DJ was CUTE! A mix between John Mayer and Joaquin Phoenix, but cuter than both. I confirmed with him that my song had not been sung yet (to re-sing a song is a definite faux pas and a definite danger with that song). He said no with a smile and I further tipped him with a smile and a wink and single shoulder shrug.

And we sat. And waited. The drinks were good, except for the warm shot of Stoli Vanil that we did blech. We were awkwardly seated, so people kept coming in between us to order drinks/bother us. Example 1: Some girl named Laura and her friends, for whom I took several very good pictures, who were called up TWICE to sing. Example 2: Some high-powered white cougar lady who worked for Oprah. I have here in my drunken post-bar notes "fucking ugly terrible extensions." My guess is that she was rude to us. Example 3: A guy who said, "Good work!" when I popped my birth control pill at midnight. I said, "No babies!" and he flashed me a thumbs up.

Tinx is...not a patient girl. So she was getting visibly irritated and flustered (probably also due to the three thousand degree heat - goddamn), so our very cute bartender named Travis gave us free margaritas. Thanks, Travis! But then he, too, betrayed us by being called up to sing (seriously - can't the patrons sing before the staff??), where he performed a passably sexy Usher.

Like a silly, idealistic fool, I didn't want to pee in case our songs came up. But I could wait no longer so I ran into the bathroom and peed, and ran out, where I was stopped by a man named Max H., who gave me his card and asked me out. On his card he has some terrible clip art on one side, and it says his title is "Web Programmer and Rock Singer." lol. And a 323 number. He would have a 323 number. Also - weakest handshake ever, which makes me think it unlikely that he shreds anything in his rock band or can even type faster than 5 wpm when programming.

Anyway, I'm sure you can predict how the story ended. Last call and the DJ saying, "Sorry guys! That was the last song." OMGWTFBBQ?!? Does tipping mean nothing in this world anymore? Piece of shitty shit cute DJ. We drove home in a perfumed, curly-haired self-righteous huff and jotted down furious, drunken, bitchy notes, to be blogged at some later point. Done.

Gas Lite
(I see your spelling is as good as your karaoke DJ-ing)
2030 Wilshire Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90403

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

No Cookie Left Behind

As part of the Share Our Strength Great American Bake Sale, my friend Connie invited me and Burtis to her friend's 2nd Annual No Cookie Left Behind bake sale. In my head, it was a sleek, Billion Dollar Babes-esque sample sale of a bake sale. It was in Silverlake, after all. In truth, it was a darling/charming ("darming?") normal, normal bake sale on a sidewalk.

But first, Burtis, bless his heart, started whining for tacos. Every dirty, divey taco stand we drove by he would start crying like a very cute puppy. He kept asking Connie "But what are we going to eat for LUUUUNCH?" and she would keep saying, "CUPCAKES!" and he would keep replying, "NOOOOOOOO TACOOOOS!"

So we set out on foot, away from the bake sale, to score some tacos first. We walked around a couple blocks and then, like the clouds parting to let through glorious sunlight, we saw it.

Que Ricos.

It was a cross between a McDonald's and a taco shack. Love it. The menu, pictured above, is not me inadvertently stretching the picture out width-wise. That was literally their menu. (The same thing happens on their business card, I see. Someone should teach them to click "lock aspect ratio.")

It was one of those places where they have mysterious desserts that have likely existed for decades, untouched, by the register. The marshmallow-ey things on top piqued my interest, but good sense overruled this train of thought and I stuck with an asada taco with a side of rice y beans.

Drinks, made from pure cane sugar. Mmmmm. I wanted to save my cash for the baked goods, so I declined the tamarind soda, but seriously tamarind is like crack, no? I did help myself to copious amounts of their homemade salsas. They had those pickled carrot things that I really love, too.

I'm sure you could imagine exactly how this tasted. Like every other taco truck taco - fresh and perfect. The rice was freaking yum, too. It had CORN and POTATOES! I loved it.

Over our taco lunch, Burtis happily chattered away about how he had learned the art of hypnosis, and we talked about what craft he should learn next. I believe we agreed on American Sign Language for the both of us so we could (a) talk shit about people during seminars across the room at each other; and (b) go to bars and "game" girls, with he acting the part of a deaf guy and me being the translator, making girls' hearts melt with his gentle sensitivity and poeticism in his eyes.

Back to the bake sale. Why is it that the homemade goods are so much more appealing at bake sales? There were cakes and cookies from profesh shops, but the things that went first were the big cookies in good ol' ziplock bags. That's what Connie got.

I settled on three items. 1. Baklava; 2. Carrot Cake Cupcake with Cream Cheese Frosting (they should call it the CCCCCC); 3. Sour Cream Fudge Cookie.

All three were winners~! I have been on a crazy workout schedule this summer, and I believe my body is screaming at me to consume more glucose, and my usual salt-tooth was gone and replaced with a normal person's tooth. The baklava - what's that seasoning baklava that makes it baklava? Tinx says cardamom. Whatever it was, it was SO INTENSE that it went straight up my nose into my brain pleasure neurons.

The sour cream fudge cookie was tiny (the size of a silver dollar) and was neither fudgey nor cookie-ey - almost cakey, but velvety smooth and with a nice sticky sour cream smell.

Connie says this bundt looks huge and that we should have held up a dollar bill next to it for scale. This bundt cake is actually TINY, thus making the baby baby bundt cakes behind it squealingly microscopic. These were on sale courtesy of a new bakery called Kiss My Bundt bakery. Whatever you need, we've got your BUNDT covered! is their tagline. Love it.

All of this took place in front of Scoops, a gelato joint. So after the sugar bomb on the sidewalk, we went inside to explore the crazy mindfuck gelato flavors that they had to offer. Behold:

-Brown Bread
-Chocolate Guinness
-Lemon Hefeweizen
-Avocado Vanilla
-Blueberry Lychee
-Salty Dulce de Leche
-Pear Champagne
-Watermelon Triple Sec
-Maple Oreo
-Orange Rootbeer
-White Chocolate Jim Beam
-Raspberry Balsamic
-Almond Honey Ginger
-Green Tea Irish Cream

I sampled the salty caramel and my eyes rolled back into my head. Burtis got a scoop of the watermelon triple sec from one of the two hotties behind the counter, which was refreshing, though I'm not a fan of triple sec. I appreciated that refills were a mere $1.75, which we were going to exploit by eating multiple flavors among the three of us. But...the insulin spike was killing me, so we didn't.

While we lounged around, nursing our sugar comas, I turned to Vani and said, "These gelato attendants are SO freaking adorable!" From all the way across the fucking store, one of them looked up and smiled at me and half-waved. Eagle ears! I was embarrassed.

I don't know why. I should have owned it. Like "YEAH MOTHERFUCKER YOU HOTT!"

End childhood hunger by donating here

Que Ricos
712 N. Vermont Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90029

Kiss My Bundt
8104 West Third Street
Los Angeles, CA 90036

712 N. Heliotrope Dr.
Los Angeles, CA 90029