Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Hollywood: Pizzeria Mozza

Why the lack of posts during the past few days, you ask?  Well, I was dealt another cold, but things are getting back on track, including posting.

From a foodie point of view, last week was pretty awesome.  Here's why: Pizzeria Mozza, a Thanksgiving potluck dinner, my mom's cooking, Pizzeria Delfina, and Tartine Bakery.  Yes.  First in the lineup was Pizzeria Mozza, which has been called the best pizza in LA (forgive the lack of citations of primary literature, here; fortunately this blog is not a review paper).  Hua, Karthik and I drove out to Hollywood on Tuesday after the last pre-Thanksgiving lecture, arriving almost on time for our 1:30pm reservation.  The restaurant was still mostly full, but we were immediately seated, and then menu examination ensued.

We had done some pre-reading of the menu, and this was also Hua's second visit (within two weeks), but we still faced quite a quandary of equally appealing options.  Eventually, decisions made, the food started arriving.

Mussels with "salsa Calabrese."  I love mussels, and these did not disappoint.  The garlic toast was a nice - though unnecessary - touch.

Fried potatoes, with some fried sage (I think) and chickpeas.  Not super exciting, but satisfactory; I believe Karthik, who seems to be a particular connoisseur of fried potatoes, approved.

Pizza with fennel sausage, panna, red onions, and scallions:

Pizza with egg, guanciale, escarole, radicchio, and bagna cauda:

Pizza with proscuitto, arugula, buffalo mozzarella, and some [presumably very fancy, considering the surcharge] DiNapoli tomatoes:

All the pizzas had gorgeous crusts that balanced tenderness and elasticity (especially toward the center of the pizzas) with satisfying chew and crispness toward the outside.  In some places the crust was so thin as to be translucent.  Clearly Nancy Silverton & Co. understand gluten!  Toppings were flavorful, as was the pizza sauce.  My only quibbles were that I wished for more fennel sausage on the sausage pizza, and more mozzarella on the proscuitto pizza; in both cases there were fewer dollops than I'd have liked.

We didn't finish the pizzas; the three of us are a pretty good eating team, but not that good, and we had made mental preparation for dessert: Pizzeria Mozza's famous butterscotch budino with sea salt, rosemary pine nut cookies.  The combination of butterscotch pudding, salted caramel, sea salt and whipped cream is indeed memorable, but rich enough that I simply couldn't finish the portion.

Hua decided that the budino needed a foil in the form of another dessert: the espresso granita with espresso gelato and chocolate-dipped honeycomb.  Refreshing, indeed.

Sated, we left just after 3:00pm.  Pizzeria Mozza definitely isn't an everyday restaurant, at least for us grad students, but is a fantastic option when an occasion (or the most serious of pizza cravings) presents.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Westwood: Le Pain Quotidien (again)

Sophie and I like running, and we also like Sunday brunch (whether or not we go running beforehand).  Two Sundays ago, we again started the day at Le Pain Quotidien on Broxton Ave.

Yogurt and granola parfait, with green tea:

Cheddar-scallion scone with fresh ricotta, plus a latte:

Not pictured, but transported back to my apartment and consumed later, was an excellent slice of pumpkin pie on whole-wheat crust.

Tomato-mushroom lasagna dinner

Thanksgiving break is now over, so that means there are 2.5 weeks left in this block (and two weeks until exams....yikes!).  But I did manage to host a small dinner party for myself, Helga, David and Karthik on the Friday evening before Thanksgiving.

Tomato-mushroom lasagna, with goat cheese, ricotta, and basil, i.e. this favorite recipe from Food & Wine.  Instead of plum tomatoes, I used cherry tomatoes.  Instead of wild mushrooms I used a mixture of regular white button mushrooms and crimini mushrooms, and I also omitted the leeks.  Finally, I replaced half of the white sauce with canned, crushed tomatoes, a change which significantly cut down on fat and - I think - enhanced flavor.

Broccoli with chicken-apple sausage (for flavor).  Very simple, but it's always good to have some fresh vegetables.

Dessert was ready-made and, fortunately, excellent: Talenti's coconut gelato, Trader Joe's chocolate macarons.  Our beverage, courtesy of David, was a bottle of Yellowtail shiraz.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Palo Alto: University Cafe (again)

Sunday midday before a trip to SFO or SJC means one thing: brunch at University Cafe.  During the spring and summer, Andrew was the one with the suitcase in the car trunk, but now it's my turn. 

The brunch menu is pretty familiar at this point, and we know that French toast is awesome here.  So one would think that a French toast sandwich (the "Monte Cristo"), wherein brioche French toast is layered with eggs and bacon, would also be awesome.  Yet there wasn't a ton of synergy on this plate, so maybe the French toast would be better off on its own, after all....and with croissant instead of brioche (wow, typing that actually made me aware of my food elitism).

I'm also a fan of the tomato soup and sandwiches here, especially the BLT and the crab club.  Here is the latter:

Of course, we got the mocha smoothie, plus a mug of chai tea (which was nicely spiced but only lightly sweet!).  Then, all too soon, it was time to head to the airport and return to my med student life.  But as usual, I'll be back ;-).

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Mountain View: Bushido Izakaya

Last Friday I had breakfast with my Dad, studied renal physiology, and caught up with a few people at Stanford.  Andrew and I had planned to cook dinner, but by the time we met up, got back to the apartment, looked through Mark Bittman's cookbook, and picked out a recipe, it was getting late and we had lost motivation to get groceries.  So, off to Castro Street we went, with the loosely defined goal of trying "one of the other places on the same block as Xanh."

Bushido Izakaya originally caught our eye because izakayas are traditionally low-key drinking establishments serving relatively substantive food.  Yet Bushido Izakaya seemed, even through the front windows, more "trying-to-be-cool modern Asian" than "low-key Japanese drinking establishment."  And indeed, it is as food-centric as beverage-centric, and the food is pretty good.  Below, the results of Andrew's ordering.

Grilled beef tongue:

Asparagus wrapped in bacon:

Clams in a light, gingered broth.  I would have sipped more of the broth at the end of the meal, but by that point my stomach was already quite full of warm fluids:

Udon (the specific varietal of which I don't remember and am too tired to look up):

Seafood okonomiyaki:

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Santa Monica: Father's Office

Lunch two Sundays ago (the day after Valen Dolce), post-5K at Dockweiler Beach (in the rain), was again on Montana Avenue.  Karthik and I had been talking about trying Father's Office for a while, since it has been touted as one of LA's best burgers.  We arrived just as they opened at noon, and placed the very first order of the day.

The interior: lots of wood and chalkboards

Ordering was pretty straightforward: two "Office burgers," one with a side of fries, plus a side of sweet potato fries.  After glancing at their beer list, I ordered a glass of apple cider, which was fortunately not too sweet.  Speaking of sweet, the sweet potato fries came first, hot out of the fryer, with some aioli:

Then, the two burgers, with shoestring fries:

This is what "medium" looks like here.  They clearly take their definitions seriously, since this was pinker then most "medium" burgers I've had.

Anyway, it was indeed a very good burger, though not exactly life-changing (or maybe I just don't love burgers enough to feel fundamentally altered afterward).  There is some sort of onion relish on the burgers which, along with the arugula and whatever white cheese they use (not very obtrusive), adds a great flavor contrast to the meat.  I'd probably return at some point, especially with friends who like burgers and beer, but first I need to try the similarly-hyped Umami Burger....

Monday, November 14, 2011

Westwood: Angelino's Cafe

I've blogged about Angelino's at least once before, but went there again two Saturday nights ago with Sophie.  We figured it would be a good place to carbo-load before running our first 5K the next day, and indeed it was a very satisfying meal, especially on a relatively chilly night.  As always, Archie and the other chef (whose name I do not know) took good care of us.

Spaghetti with sausage:

Spaghetti with pesto and shrimp:

Tiramisu (more cake than mascarpone, with lots of cocoa powder on top):

A very generous portion for something like $3!

Upcoming posts: Father's Office in Santa Monica, Bushido Izakaya in Mountain View, and yet another brunch at University Cafe in Palo Alto.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Santa Monica: Valen Dolce

A Saturday midday excursion with Hua, at Valen Dolce on Montana Avenue.  Neither Hua nor I had ever been in that particular section of Santa Monica, but we really liked the peacefulness and the comfortable selection of cafes and boutiques.

We had a Groupon for a tea tasting at Valen Dolce, which entailed a brief "tea tour," tastings of three teas - with the option to specify our own blend - and macarons.  We tasted the Earl Grey Creme (black tea), Jasmine Rose (green tea), and Guava Ginger (white tea).  I really liked the Earl Grey Creme for its richness.  Hua, who often takes her Earl Grey with milk, found the vanilla flavor to be a bit much, and she ultimately preferred the Guava Ginger.  Initially we both found the Jasmine Rose to be promising, but it ended up being the one tea for which we didn't request a hot water refill.

Sniffing various teas

Our chosen three: Earl Grey Creme, Jasmine Rose, Guava Ginger

For our macarons, we chose pistachio, coconut, raspberry and chocolate (top to bottom as pictured).  These were excellent: both delicate and chewy.  Coconut was probably my favorite.

From the picturesque assortment in the display case we also chose two little cakes, because we're enthusiastic like that: "Romance" (champagne and lychee mousse) and "King's Purse" (chocolate mousse, almond crunch, and chocolate cake).  The former was very well-balanced, while the latter was arguably too sweet and rich.

Display case of desserts
"Romance" and "King's Purse," with macarons

Two pleasant hours passed, and then it was back to Westwood, where much renal physiology had to be learned (and, lets be honest, still has to be learned).  I suppose that transition was somehow fitting since caffeine is a diuretic and by now we have learned how the various types of diuretics work, but I'm pretty sure no one wants to read those details on my food blog, so I'll stop here.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Mountain View: Xanh

Two Saturdays ago: date night at Xanh on Castro Street.  I'd been to Xanh once before, several years ago, and had almost forgotten that it's quite a good restaurant.  The decor hasn't changed, so it's still coolly sultry: relatively high ceilings, minimalistic furniture, and lots of blue and green light installations.  We were seated at a spacious four-top, and then the menu perusal began.

Lychee martini: not too sweet, and very smooth.

"Pho you, pho me," i.e. pho gone fancy with a silly name.  The broth was nicely aromatic, if a bit salty.

Bun thit nuong with grilled pork: clean-tasting, with the noodles and vegetable accents a great contrast to the flavorful meat.

Also, catfish in a clay pot and coconut rice (not shown) were both tasty, but got overshadowed by the noodle dishes.


I'm flying back up north this Thursday evening for Veteran's Day weekend, which also happens to be Andrew's birthday weekend.  A dinner excursion to SF seems likely, so stay tuned.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Palo Alto: Mayfield Cafe

It turns out, in a happy twist of scheduling fate, that I'm heading up north with relative frequency and regularity this fall/winter.  Two Fridays ago, I drove to Palo Alto for what turned out to be a really nice weekend getaway.  Arriving at Stanford felt reassuringly like a homecoming, especially with the big hug that soon followed, and only more so after falafel, moussaka, and sweet black tea at Cafe220 (hello again, Hassan and Yusef!).

Saturday brunch was at Mayfield Cafe, where for the first time I bypassed bar seating; instead, we got a comfortable four-top.  Freshly baked madeleines to start.  We'd already had coffee, so EANCBs (equally attractive non-caffeinated beverages) were in order.

Hot chocolate with a housemade marshmallow:

Elderflower soda:

Hot apple fritters:

Flatbread with broccoli rabe, cheddar sauce, egg and pine nuts:

Then, groceries, a UPS drop-off, and a laid-back afternoon of studying and work.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Westwood: Napa Valley Grille

Last Thursday, my classmates (and a few upperclassmen) convened at Napa Valley Grille for some class/program Happy Hour bonding.  Turns out that Napa Valley Grille is my kind of place: tastefully decorated, high ceilings, not too crowded, a comfortable outdoor patio that has plenty of heat lamps, and a very reasonably priced Happy Hour menu with tasty cocktails that aren't strong.  (Exhibit B: Mantra in Palo Alto, which is also attractive, high-ceilinged, and not crowded, with tasty cocktails that are extremely strong.  That said, it looks like along with the website redesign, they've brought back their 50% off Happy Hour deal, so I may have to return during one of my trips up north.)

Anyway, I had a "Garden sage martini," which was enjoyably crisp, along with the fish tacos.  Xavi ordered and - I assume - enjoyed the white bean hummus.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Pumpkin bread

I did a fair share of baking last week: two loaves of lemon cranberry cornmeal bread, one pan of chocolate chip banana bread, and two loaves of pumpkin bread.  For the latter I used a recipe for "Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread," plus some chocolate chips and walnuts, and it turned out really well.  Pumpkin bread is definitely one of my favorite baked goods, though I tend to forget about it until I actually make or eat some, at which point I wonder why I don't make this more often.

And now that it's November, the holidays are [sort of] approaching, which is a constant reason to bake!