Sunday, April 10, 2011

Bouchon Saves the Week + Kitchen Tour

These past couple of weeks at work has been like a freeway pileup...on the 405! The work keeps piling every day and I've spent many nights catching up and savoring the peace and quiet at home to finally get some projects started. But all work and no play makes Hungry Kat a very insane girl.

So, I'm very thankful that Coolia organized a group outing to Bouchon this past Tuesday. Coolia, Ron and I shared cocktails as we people-watched at the bar (Tom Cruise and Katie with kids in tow slipped behind us into the dining room). The dinner was a 3-hour extravaganza that made me forget about work. The cherry on the top was the kitchen tour that Ron hooked us up with via his friend who's a chef at Bouchon.

*Apologies about the dim photos. I was using my phone and I didn't want to use the flash to disturb other diners.
 Bouchon started our meal off with warm cheesy bites of gougères, mushroom tarts and french baguette. I would have been happy with just those items for dinner. It was a beautiful start.

Salmon Tartare
Fresh, creamy fish to get our appetites going. Ha, as if we needed help.

 Potted Foie Gras
Best $50 ever spent! This pot of creamy, buttery heaven was enough for the five of us and Bouchon paired it perfectly with thin, slices of chewy bread. I don't eat foie gras often but you just have to have it at a Thomas Keller restaurant where you know it will be prepared perfectly and taste out-of-this-world. With so much food, we couldn't finish it so lucky Coolia got to take it home and enjoy it for breakfast the next morning.

Asparagus Salad with Poached Hen Egg
Now, why can't I cook asparagus like this at home? Well, first I can't quite get the same quality of asparagus as Thomas Keller. This asparagus was tender with no stringiness at all. The anchovy vinaigrette paired very well with the sweetness of the asparagus and the rich yolk oozing from the poached egg.

Veal Tenderloin
I love veal. I pretty much order it whenever I see it at a nice restaurant. Needless to say, this veal was tender and each bite bursted with the meaty veal juices. The veal was sous vide and then seared before serving which explained the extreme tenderness. The rest of the table ordered off of the special prix-fixe from our Blackboard Eats deal and everyone got this amazing glazed pork belly with bean cassoulet. I stole a bite from Coolia...nom nom nom.

 Dessert Time!
The house treated us to these lovely macaroons, shortbread cookies, jelly candies and chocolates. Just judging from the pastries we got at the start of dinner and these goodies, the Bouchon Bakery that'll be opening next to Bouchon soon will be a great contribution to LA.

Ile Flottante
I've never had a Floating Island before but I figured Bouchon would be the best place to finally try it. It was a bit too sweet for my taste but maybe it was because I already overindulged in the macaroons. Still, I admired the art in making the egg meringue and the nut topping was really good.

Kitchen tour with Ron and Coolia for size comparison to those giant stockpots. Bouchon's stockpots are going all the time with different stocks (beef, chicken, veal...).  

 The chef told me how many pounds of chicken they use in the chicken stock but I forgot. They also add vegetables to the stock and it gets boiled down until the stock is very concentrated - about one third of the size of the stockpot.

The chef said if you have no Sense of Urgency, you don't belong in Thomas Keller's kitchen or any respectable kitchen for that matter. 

 More baguette anyone?

Chickens drying in the meat refrigerator. Ron has tried Bouchon's roast chicken and he said it's the best roast chicken he's ever had. Chef said they brine the chicken first, then air-dry it in the meat refrigerator with a running fan before it's ready to be roasted. And they roast the breast separate from the thigh and drumstick because they have different cooking times and this simple method prevents overcooking and dry chicken. I did that a few weeks ago at home and I can attest that this is true.

By now, I'm sure all the vegetarians and vegans have stopped reading this blog but here's a picture of the produce refrigerator. All the vegetables and herbs are lovingly organized. 

One amazing thing I noticed was that the kitchen was almost spic and span when we toured after dinner around 11:00pm. The kitchen staff was cleaning every pot, pan and cooking utensil and their cooking station was practically sparkling. Thomas Keller is very strict with the cleanliness and organization of his kitchens so the kitchen is cleaned every night after meal service is over.

I had serious kitchen-envy while walking through Bouchon's multi-million dollar kitchen. The All-Clad pans, giant stockpots, and rows and rows of organized spices, produce and ingredients in the various refrigerators and cooking stations were very inspiring. It was like peeking into Willy Wonka's chocolate factory. 

235 N. Canon Dr.
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
(310) 271-9910

Saturday, April 9, 2011

One Bite to Ensenada - Ricky's Fish Tacos

Unbelievable that it took me so long to try Ricky's Fish Tacos!  Ricky Pina's Baja-style fish and shrimp tacos have been legendary in Los Angeles for several years now but for some reason, I've never been able to haul myself to Silverlake to his taco cart. Don't get me wrong; I'm willing to travel long-distances for food alone. Day-trip to San Francisco for Golden Gate Bakery's egg tarts? Ha, no one can stop me on the 5 Freeway. Drive to Buellton for steak dinner at the Hitching Post? Hop in the car and let's go! 

I guess I just needed a crazy fish taco craving to get me weaving traffic from Culver City to Silverlake on a Saturday morning.

Ricky's sort of like a jack-of-all-trades. He built his first taco cart out of a filing cabinet he had at home!  Find out more about Ricky and how he started his taco business in his recent interview with LA Weekly (Part 1, Part 2).

Place your order and Ricky will get the frying going. If you're lucky, he'll have lobster sometimes. Then grab one of the three fold-up tables he has in front of his stand and wait for deliciousness. The line can get a little long and you might have to share a table but who cares? Everyone is there for good food.

Fish Taco Heaven
Served in each warm mid-size tortilla are meaty pieces of fish, fried to crispy perfection in a light batter and topped with crunchy cabbage and fresh pico de gallo. Drizzle some of Ricky's special mayo and salsa verde or rojo. Then close your eyes and one bite will transport you to Ensenada. 

Shrimp Taco Heaven
This shrimp is serious. Good-size, plump and deveined. It's fried in the same light batter and comes with the same toppings. You've got to get a shrimp and fish taco.

Wash everything down with cups of Ricky's agua frescas and you've got a perfect start on your weekend.  

Dan and I have been to Ricky's twice in the past three weeks.  We order four shrimp and four fish tacos every time. Yes, that's a lot of food.  I admit we indulge at Ricky's but how could we resist when faced with such deliciousness on a hungry Saturday morning?! 

Ricky's Fish Tacos
1400 N. Virgil Ave., 
Los Angeles, CA 90027
*Follow Ricky on Twitter to find out when his cart is open.  He's usually open around 11:30am or Noon and he'll sell out in four or five hours. 

Via-Mar Seafood
5111 N Figueroa St
Los AngelesCA 90042
*If you're in the Highland Park area, I also recommend Via-Mar for Baja-style fish and shrimp tacos.  One downside with Via-Mar though is their shrimp aren't deveined but they've got delicious fried and grilled fish tacos.