Monday, March 29, 2010

Satisfying Your Taste Buds in Westminster

I ventured behind the "Orange Curtain" on Sunday and stopped at Westminster for lunch and dinner in between a day of successful shopping. Vietnamese food is perfect on a very warm 82 degree day in Southern California; it's light, refreshing and satisfies all your taste buds.

Lunch Stop: Pho Kimmy
Pho Dac Biet - strong, full-flavored broth with tender rare beef, well-cooked beef and tripe. The tendons could have been softer but otherwise this fully satisfies all my Pho cravings.

Snack Stop: Bahn Mi & Che Cali Bakery
Ahhh. I will take a banh mi over a hamburger any day. This ham, meatloaf and head cheese sandwich went along perfectly with the creamy pate and crisp, light baguette. A lot of people eat this with cilantro, cucumbers and jalapenos but I always leave those out on my banh mi. The Vietnamese really took the best from the French and made it even better!

Dinner Stop: Brodard
If Charlie, one of my best friends who migrated to Portland recently, had been with me on this eating "tour," he probably would cry from happiness. He's the one who introduced me to Brodard.

These pork (nem nuong) and shrimp (chao tom) spring rolls are legendary at Brodard and for good reason. The pork meatloaf and shrimp paste are wrapped in a delicate rice paper with herbs, cucumber and a crunchy piece of eggroll skin. Dip the roll in the house special fish sauce and you'll be in heaven. Everyone who goes to Brodard orders these rolls. Don't miss out.

Banh Xeo
This is a pan-fried rice flour "crepe" appetizer. It is chock-full of bean sprouts and onions with a sprinkling of shrimp and shredded pork. It's also flavored with coconut milk and the crepe is served with lettuce which you use to wrap pieces of the crepe and then dip in the accompanying lime chili fish sauce. Like most Vietnamese food, this tastes flavorful and "light" even though its pan-fried with oil.

Bun Dac Biet Brodard
This main entree is under the Vermicelli section. Cooked vermicelli is served with grilled chicken, grilled pork, grilled & fried shrimp paste and a crispy egg roll. Plenty of greens, peanuts and the lime chili fish sauce make this a delicious and refreshing entree. This is what I crave on a warm SoCal day.

Bun Cha Gio, Tom, Thit Noung
This entree is also under the Vermicelli section. It's a more pared down version of the Dac Biet (that means "special" in Vietnamese) entree above. It has only grilled shrimp and BBQ pork over vermicelli, fresh, crunchy greens, peanuts, roasted shallots and of course, lime chili fish sauce.

3-Color Dessert
This dessert drink contains all my favorites in Vietnamese desserts - a mixture of red beans, mung bean paste, crunchy green jelly, sweet coconut milk and springy tapioca balls. You swirl everything together with the giant straw as the shaved ice melts and helps all the ingredients mix. You drink, you chew, you drink, you chew...

All three places I went to were hopping with customers but the wait at Pho Kimmy and Brodard was only a few minutes. Bahn Mi was a little more chaotic. The bakery was overrun with people trying to order sandwiches and various sweet and savory Vietnamese goodies to-go. There's no line or number system so you just have to be a little more aggressive in getting one of the servers' attention.

All in all it was a wonderful day in the OC. I satisfied my cravings for all my favorite Vietnamese foods and enjoyed ocean views while I was shopping. Energy burned at the gym in the early morning and during shopping balanced all the delicious food I ate too.

Thanks for indulging me, Shirly. :)

Pho Kimmy
14932 Bushard St.
Westminster, CA 92684
(714) 775-1699

Banh Mi & Che Cali Bakery
8948 Bolsa Ave.
Westminster, CA 92683
(714) 897-3927

Brodard Restaurant
9892 Westminster Ave.
Garden Grove, CA 92844
(714) 530-1744
**There's a fancier location called Brodard Chateau. I've never been but I've been advised by friends that the food at this fancier location is not as good.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Sublime Food Lounge Is Absolutely Divine!

What a revelation! The dinner I had tonight at Sublime Food Lounge was so delicious, I have to tell you about it right away even though it's late in the night and I'm a little high from the wonderful company, the good food, the wine and a delicious bourbon Sidecar. Eat, drink and be merry with friends, right?

Sublime Food Lounge just opened three weeks ago and the food is absolutely delicious. Randall, the chef/owner, is a visual effects artist and cooking has always been his passion so after studying at Le Cordon Bleu in Los Angeles and the French Culinary Institute in New York, we are now very lucky to have him in Culver City. His passion and drive is so inspiring and his food is divine; his food is so good, it defies a label - it's just good food! By the way, I don't think Randall sleeps. In addition to cooking and running his new restaurant with his partners, he's also keeping his production hours. Amazing.

My friends and I were excited and hungry so we dug into the food right away before I took any pictures (I also didn't have a proper camera with me and I do hate to keep people from food while I click away). Plus, my pictures won't do the food justice anyway so I'll try my best to be a wordsmith here.

We were sharing family-style so we started off with a few small plates:
  • House-Roasted Nuts - Aside from the wine, this was a perfect starter to our meal.
  • Crispy Confit Veal Riblettes - This was tender, moist, perfectly seasoned and had just the right amount of fat to give it a rich, buttery taste. Dipping it in a little Five-Spice Salt gave it a nice salty finish. I wish I could cook this at home.
  • Foie Gras French Toast - Heavenly. Foie Gras is so good I just can't wax poetic on it much more. We were very smart to get two orders of this.
  • Roasted Bone Marrow - A bit on the oily side but marrow lovers will like this especially with the roasted garlic on the side.
  • Tuna Tartare - Another delicious dish and it was accompanied with a light fragrant lemon truffle oil.
Then we moved on to the large plates:
  • 36 Hour Prime Short Rib - I think I was on Cloud 9 between bites of this medium-rare short rib and the yummy demi-glazed potato cake it came with. More! More! I want more!
  • Braised Oxtail - I love oxtail in all forms - soup, stewed or braised. This was braised until tender and the meat soaked up all the rich, deep flavors. Those who are afraid to handle bones in public will be glad to know that this is served boneless. The meat is shredded and served on a bed of crispy polenta with chanterelles and a cauliflower puree.
  • Seared Scallop - A perfect 10! This puts the scallops I attempt to cook at home to shame. You just can't beat huge fresh scallops seared to a degree where it is just cooked and springy to the touch instead of stiff and rubbery. This dish reminded me of the sparkling ocean on a brilliant Summer day. Again, I want more!
We were really full but there is always room for dessert:
  • Caramel Popcorn Bread Pudding - Never turn down a bread pudding, especially this one.
  • Chocolate Hazelnut Ravioli - The chocolate came wrapped inside a crispy skin, thus the "ravioli." Topped with bananas, this was a hit at the table.
  • Framboise Martini Float - I loooove this one. White Chocolate Gelato floating on top of Belgian beer served in a martini glass. I'm already a fan of stout beer ice cream floats and this is another delicious discovery for me.

See this firepit? As we were leaving the restaurant, we stopped in the back to check out its covered patio. One look at the raised firepit and I was in love and we ended up staying for another two rounds of drinks. The owners built the firepit themselves and they plan to install a sound system to play music and project classic movies in the patio. Did I mention that they already have masters like Fellini and Kurosawa playing off a projector in the main dining room? Now you understand why I'm in love with this place like a giddy schoolgirl.

I don't remember the last time I went to a new restaurant where everything is a home run with the service, drinks, space, atmosphere and most importantly, the food. You can easily spend hours here enjoying drinks at the bar (in addition to cocktails and wine, they also have bottled beers and two beers on tap, a Belgian and local craft brew), food in the dining area and then migrating to the patio for more drinks. I spent 5 hours here tonight and I didn't even realize it!

I've found a new "home." I'm definitely going to be a regular at Sublime Food Lounge.

8631 Washington Street
Culver City, CA 90232
(310) 287-2093
Open daily for dinner (dark on Mondays) and lunch service just began this week

Monday, March 22, 2010

When Life Gives You Lemons

Life has been giving me quite a few lemons lately - figuratively and literally. But when life gives me lemons, I put that energy into baking lemon treats and sharing those treats. Spring is here and it's giving me Meyer Lemons; they are my favorite because they are wonderfully fragrant and there's a sweet kick to its intense citrus flavor.

I tried three recipes from three different cookbooks. Recipes are included below; don't be afraid to try your hand at baking with lemons. Plus, it will fill your home with the refreshing smell of lemon yumminess. Enjoy!

Meyer Lemon Tart with Chocolate
Suzanne Goin's recipe for this tart crust is great; it'll give you a flaky, rich crust. The lemon curd is easy to make as long as you keep it on low heat and stir continuously to avoid burning. Extra lemon curd can be enjoyed on toast, English muffin...whatever pleases you.

Fresh-grated Meyer lemon zest. Funny how the zest looks orange. That's probably because Meyer lemons are a cross between a true lemon and a mandarin/sweet orange.

Lemon Loaf Cake
This loaf cake is in the vein of a pound cake. I used a lot of Meyer lemon zest for this but I was surprised that the lemon flavor wasn't more intense. I kind of predicted that so I finished off the cake with a simple lemon glaze before serving. Next time, I'll add more zest and maybe a splash of lemon juice and also watch the baking time more carefully because this loaf was slightly over-baked by about 5 minutes.

French-Style Yogurt Cake with Lemon
According to Molly Wizenberg, this is a classic old-fashioned cake in France. Wizenberg has an amazing story about this recipe too; she blogged about it in 2004 and that's how she met her current husband who was looking for this recipe! I made the simple version of this cake and there's a delicious lemon glaze that goes on top too but I forgot to take a picture before I took it to my dinner party.

So, here you go. I baked away all nine of my Meyer lemons. By extension, I hope I've exorcised some of the "lemons" life has given me lately too.

And yes, I know. I need to take better pictures of my food but it's really difficult to handle a camera when my hands are full of flour and butter and I'm trying to keep delicate lemon curd from burning.

Meyer Lemon Tart with Chocolate
(from Suzanne Goin's Sunday Suppers at Lucques)

For the pâte sucrée
(this recipe is enough for two crusts)
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 extra-large egg yolks
2 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 pound unsalted butter

1. Whisk the cream and egg yolks together in a small bowl.

2. In a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the flour, sugar, salt, and butter on medium speed until you have a coarse meal. Gradually add the cream and yolks and mix until just combined. Do not overwork the dough.

3. Transfer the dough to a large work surface and bring it together with your hands to incorporate completely. Divide the dough in half, shape into 1-inch-thick discs, and wrap one of them to freeze to use later (wrap well to protect from freezer burn).

4. If remaining half of the dough is too soft and sticky, put in the refrigerator for 5 to 10 minutes to firm up a little. If the dough is manageable, place it on a lightly floured work surface, sprinkle a little flour over the dough, and roll it out into a 1-inch-thick circle, flouring as necessary. Starting at one side, roll and wrap the dough around the rolling pin to pick it up. Unroll the dough over a 10-inch tart pan. Gently fit the dough loosely into the pan, lifting the edges and pressing the dough into the corners with your fingers. To remove the excess dough, roll the rolling pin lightly over the top of the tart pan for a nice clean edge, or work your way around the edge pinching off any excess dough with your fingers. Chill for 1 hour.

For the Meyer lemon tart

1 recipe pâte sucrée
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate (I use semi-sweet too)
4 extra-large eggs
3 extra-large egg yolks
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 cup Meyer lemon juice
10 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Pinch of kosher salt
1 cup heavy cream

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Prick the bottom of the pâte sucrée with a fork and line it with a few opened and fanned-out coffee filters or a piece of parchment paper. Fill the lined tart shell with beans, nuts or pie weights and bake 15 minutes, until set. Take the tart out of the oven and carefully lift out the paper and beans. Return the tart to the oven and bake another 10 to 15 minutes, until the crust is an even golden brown. Set aside on a rack to cool completely.

2. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler over medium-low heat. Spread the chocolate evenly on the crust and chill in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes, until the chocolate has solidified completely.

3. While the crust is chilling, make the curd. Whisk the eggs, yolks, sugar, and lemon juice together in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring continuously, alternating between a whisk and rubber spatula, until the lemon curd has thickened to the consistency of pastry cream and coats the back of the spatula. (The lemon curd burns easily to be diligent about the heat and stirring.)

4. Remove the lemon curd from the heat. Add the butter a little at a time, stirring to incorporate completely. Season with the salt. Let the curd cool about 8 minutes, and then strain it into the prepared tart shell. Chill the tart in the refrigerator for at least one hour before serving.

5. Just before serving, whip the cream in a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or by hand) until it holds soft peaks and serve with the tart. (I omitted this step with my tart.)

Lemon Loaf Cake
(from Dorie Greenspan's Baking with Julia)

4 large eggs (at room temperature)
1 1/3 cups sugar
Pinch of salt
Grated zest of 3 large lemons
1 3/4 cups cake flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup heavy cream (at room temperature)
5 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature

1. Center a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375°F. Butter a 9x5 loaf pan and dust with flour, shake off excess flour.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar and salt for a minute until foamy and blended - it should not be thick. Whisk in grated zest.

3. Spoon flour and baking powder into a sifter and sift 1/3 of it over the egg mixture and whisk lightly (no need to beat). Repeat in two additions with the rest of the flour until everything is incorporated.

4. Whisk the heavy cream into the mixture. Then switch to a rubber spatula and gently & quickly fold in the melted butter.

5. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 50 to 60 minutes. Check for doneness by inserting a toothpick in the center; it's done if it comes out clean. After removing the cake from the oven, let it cool in the pan for 10 minutes before unmolding and cooling to room temperature.

6. If you want to add a lemon glaze to this, see the recipe below - you won't need that much icing so you can cut the icing in half by halving the recipe.

French-Style Yogurt Cake with Lemon
(from Molly Wizenberg's A Homemade Life)


1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1/2 cup well-stirred plain whole-milk yogurt (not low-fat or non-fat)
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil, such as canola

1/4 cup sifted powdered sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice


1 cup sifted powdered sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch round cake pan with butter or cooking spray. Line the bottom of the pan with a round of parchment paper, and grease it too.

2. In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the lemon zest, and whisk to mix thoroughly.

3. In a large bowl, combine the yogurt, sugar, and eggs, stirring until well blended. Add the flour mixture and stir just to combine. Add the oil and stir to incorporate. At first, it will look like a horrible, oily mess, but keep stirring, and it will come together into a smooth batter. Pour and scrape the batter into the prepared pan.

4. Bake for 25-35 minutes, until a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Do not overbake.

5. Cool cake on a wire rack for about 15 minutes; then turn cake shiny side-up out of the pan to continue cooling.

6. Whisk syrup ingredients together and spoon atop the warm cake and let the cake soak in the syrup. Syrup will run down the cake but that's okay. Best to place a large pan or parchment paper under the rack so clean-up is easier for you.

6. When the cake is thoroughly cooled, make the icing and spoon gently over the cake. The icing will be thin and you can firm it up by chilling it in the refrigerator for an hour before putting it on the cake.

7. This cake is best if served immediately on the day it is made. And you can vary the recipe by using Meyer lemons, oranges or tangerines.

**Wizenberg said feel free to use just syrup or icing if you're short on time. I only used icing because I was afraid it would be too sweet with syrup too.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Loveless Breakfast in Bed

I've been getting over a bad cold the last few days and feeling a lot better this morning, I badly wanted to rejoin the world and check out the LA Marathon festivities in Santa Monica. But a quick check on Google Maps showed red and red & black on most side streets and the 10 freeway leading to Santa Monica so I scrapped that idea. Instead, I decided to finally break open the pound of Country Smoked Bacon, Country Ham and Strawberry preserves I got by mail order from Loveless Cafe in Tennessee.

Well, it wasn't exactly breakfast in bed since I had to cook it but I hardly ever cook breakfast at home on the weekends so this was as special as breakfast in bed. Plus, who really wants to eat in bed and not brush their teeth and wash their face first? Frying the crispy bacon filled my apartment with wonderful hickory smoke and that ham was all salt-cured deliciousness. I also slow-scrambled some eggs on very low heat so they were smooth and tender (high heat gives you rough and rubbery eggs).

You can order bacon, ham, biscuit mix, preserves and all kinds of other goodies from Loveless Cafe. Their bacon is sugar-cured and hickory-smoked with no water packed in. The ham is aged for 9 months and also hickory-smoked. The jar of strawberry preserves is really good too - just strawberries and sugar and no other additives. I still have a pack of unopened biscuit mix from Loveless...waiting for a special occasion or a big party to bake some.

Monday, March 1, 2010

My Irish Kinfolk

Saw this bar in Old Town San Diego recently. Must be my Irish Kinfolk.
O'Hungry's is supposedly known for serving a yard of beer but I didn't stop for a drink. I was in the mood for margaritas instead and I can tell you that no amount of tequila will kill a cold!