Tag Archives: chewntell

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Dogs and Cats Join Forces with Burgers and Beers at Plan Check

This post originally appeared at FlyandDine.com

If you’ve ever wondered what a meal heavily seasoned with cuteness tastes like,  LA gastropub  favorite Plan Check has the answer waiting for you this month. From June 10-July 10th, they are offering their latest menu collaboration with Hello Kitty creators Sanrio. For $39, diners will get a 5-item meal featuring the dog and cat duo of Pompompurin and Chococat.

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Holding up the savory core of the meal is the Pompompurin Grilled Sausage Sausage sandwich, made with house blended sausage, and topped with kimchi slaw and kewpie cilantro mayonnaise (kewpie mayo is a popular Japanese condiment made with rice vinegar instead of distilled vinegar). The whole thing is served on Plan Check’s signature crunch bun emblazoned with the image of the stylist beret-wearing puppy character.

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On the side, dig into Togarashi potato chips –  essentially Yukon gold potato chips seasoned with a Japanese spice mixture. Accompanying them is a very Plan Check version of mac and cheese, made with Americanized Dashi cheese, bread crumbs, and parmigiano reggiano to form a creamy, delicious umami bomb. Definitely plan to be begging your server for seconds on this one.

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Heading into dessert, you’ve got a very Instagram-worthy Chococat cookie served with vanilla ice cream, and a Vanilla cream soda with whipped cream adorned with the chocolate powder likeness of Pompompurin.

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Diners will leave with a full belly, melted heart, and boosted karma, because a portion of the meal proceeds will be donated to L.A. Love and Leashes,  an animal adoption space created by non-profit Friends of LA animal shelters.

The 2nd Annual ChewNtell Edible Gift Guide

I just took a glance back at my very first post (Gift Guide Numero Uno), almost a year ago to the day. It unsurprisingly confirmed one thing for me -my enthusiasm for all things tasty hasn’t wavered much in the last year . I still want to force feed my favorite foods to friends, and a gift guide is still a much kinder and palatable way of doing so (pun intended, of course). The fact is, I spent a good bulk of this last year trying to have as many new food experiences as possible, discovering along the way all the great edible items out there that people are putting hard work into making.  It makes me so happy to share the “fruits” of my labor with you, and for you to share them  with other people (or hoard them for yourself – I won’t judge). The holidays are a perfect time for this to happen. So,  if you have someone (or two) on your list that loves delicious food, be happy….your holiday shopping just got a heck of a lot easier.  I’ve compiled a list (and snapped beauty shots) of my tastiest discoveries of 2014….click on the names for links. Happy shopping!

Baia Pasta

photo 6 Okay, so….I freakin’ LOVE Baia pasta.  These guys are fighting the good fight in reminding the world that gluten consumption is a damn good thing.  Based out of the Bay area, they have crafted some of the tastiest noodles I have had the pleasure of eating. What really sets them apart is their  beautiful varieties of cuts – accordions, spinners, and mohawks, oh my! They are 100% organic, and they offer flavored pastas that will really take your homemade pasta dish up a notch or two. I tried their new Ajo & Olio(aka garlic & habanero) flavored pasta  for the first time a few months ago, and it was a spicy, garlicky party in my mouth. That pretty much cemented them in the #1 spot as my top pasta provider.  It’s worth mentioning that the folks at Baia are super nice….so nice, in fact, that they want to give you guys 15% off your online purchase! Enter CHEWNTELL at checkout, and try not to feel smug you got the best pasta money can buy at a discount.

 Compartés Chocolate

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If there was such a thing as a Chocolate Bar Beauty Contest,  Compartes would shut the whole thing down and send the other bars home crying.  With some of the prettiest wrappers you’ll ever lay eyes on and an array of uniquely exotic flavors , these bars have both style and substance.  Handcrafted in small batches here in the City of Angels, each of these bars feels like you are unwrapping a present sent down from the gods of chocolate. So, your shopping for that choco-lover in your life is pretty much done-zo, and you don’t even have to bother putting a bow on it.  With flavors like Donuts and Coffee milk chocolate, Cereal Bowl white chocolate, and Thailand (Ginger & Lemongrass) Dark Chocolate, your biggest problem will be keeping these bars under the tree and out of your mouth.

Laguna Salt Company Smoked Salt

photo 3The fact that I only discovered the magic of smoked salt this year is something I’m almost ashamed to admit publicly. It is, without question, a serious pantry game-changer.  Salt is already the #1 most important ingredient in your kitchen, but smoked salt is an awesome and dynamic way to change up your cooking.  Avocado toast was  the “it” girl of the food world this year, but have you tried it with a sprinkle of smoked salt? Better. Scrambled eggs? Better with smoked salt. Roasted veggies? Better with smoked salt. Hell, I even put it on chocolate chip cookies. There are a ton of different smoked salts out there, varying by which types of wood they are smoked with. After trying extensive “research”  my favorite is Summer Smoke salt from Laguna Salt company. It is smoked with pecan, red oak, alder, cherry, hickory, maple, and mesquite woods.  Apparently that’s a truly winning combo – so you can put that in  your dish and smoke it!

Flying Disc Ranch Dates

photo 5Here’s one I highly doubt you will find on any other gift guide out there….dates.  Not just any dates, though – the BEST dates you will EVER have in your life. Yeah, I know that’s a bold statement, but I have witnessed these particular dates convert date-haters into date-lovers.  For those who don’t know, I spend a lot of time scouring farmer’s markets in the LA area, sampling every possible bit of produce I can.  One Wednesday I came across an unassuming stand in Santa Monica, and what happened took me by surprise .  What looked like an average, everyday date crossed my lips and changed my life.  It was lovingly grown by the folks at Flying Disc Ranch in the Coachella Valley, who use eco-dynamic farming practices. Don’t know what that means? That will have to be a whole ‘nother post (and it’s worth knowing!).  They carry several amazing varieties, but the ones I have in mind are the Zahidi and Barhi dates.  They are pillowy, buttery bites of sun-fed happiness. If you don’t want to just take my word for it, Martha Stewart and Alain Ducasse (a fancy French chef) are both fans. The little sweet buttery babes are  just $5 & $8 a pound. The important thing to believe is that I want to be your foodie matchmaker, and this is one blind date you can count on ending well.

Plenty More

photo 2I have a LOT of cookbooks, and I love each one of them so much it practically warrants a DSM-IV diagnosis (that’s some mental health humor for those of you unfamiliar ). This cookbook came out two months ago, and I have barely been able to stay out of the kitchen since. I dare say no other cookbook has ever been as inspiring to me….the photos are absolutely beautiful, and recipes are filled with gorgeous flavors and ingredients. The fact that it is vegetarian is a minor detail overshadowed by the beauty of the dishes (and let’s face it, we ALL need to be eating more vegetables).  This is truly a wonderful gift for that person in your life who loves to cook (and hopefully they have an Amazon prime account or a Whole Foods nearby….there are some amazing exotic ingredients involved). So order away, and plan on “randomly” dropping by around dinner time, all the time.

Happy and delicious holidays to you all!

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Grand Central Marvelous: why DTLA is your next stop when hunger hits

At first mention,  DTLA’s  Grand Central Market’s name might be enough to pique your interest : it’s grand (a whopping 30,000 sq. feet), and central (-ish: because nothing  can really be central in a megalopolis like the City of Angels). Most Angelenos I talk to have no idea that it even exists. That’s easy to believe, because despite its impressive square footage, GCM is  easy to miss. Chances are, you’ve driven down Broadway a thousand times and never noticed it (ten times, if you live on the Westside). In addition to those suggested by its moniker, there are many more, less apparent qualities that should make this urban gem your next dining destination. If you are anything like me, you will find yourself going back to this open-air food bazaar again and again….and again. Wondering if you and I are kindred dining spirits? The answer lies below.

1. I like eating at the bar.

GCM has bar-eating options aplenty.  I prefer to cut out the middle man, sit where the action is, and chow down.

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2. I prefer to be overwhelmed with dining options.

Thai food? Mexican food? Chinese food? Grass-fed burger? Egg dishes of loose morals? Bratwurst? Coffee? Pastries? Cold-pressed juice? Pizza? GCM has me covered. It also helps with the classic “I thought I wanted a juice but I realized I wanted a burger” scenario (This happens to me. A lot).

Sticky Rice's Papaya Salad

Sticky Rice’s Papaya Salad: they do it right

Egg Slut's the Slut

Egg Slut’s the Slut: you know you want it…and it definitely wants you.

Blood Orange and Vanilla Cream tart from Valerie

Blood Orange and Vanilla Cream tart from Valerie: pretty pastry perfection

The organic, grass-fed Belcampo burger with beef-tallow fries: Mr. Ketchup's face says it all

The organic, grass-fed Belcampo burger with beef-tallow fries: Mr. Ketchup’s face says it all

3. I like peppers.

See below.

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Valeria’s: one-stop pepper shop

4. I eat meat, and I like to feel good about eating it.

I tried vegetarianism – it didn’t work out.  I decided that the next best thing is to eat meat that has been humanely and sustainably raised. That usually means I need to put my money where my mouth is and pay a little more. In the case of the ultra-awesome Belcampo Meat Co., I don’t mind one bit. They have some of the most beautiful, tasty meat I have ever had the pleasure of devouring. These guys are everything I could possibly hope for in a butcher shop – they raise their animals on their own farm and butcher their meat by hand, in their own processing facility. Please take a moment to look at their website to learn more about them. I also have gladly pronounced their burger  my new Favorite Burger in LA (eaten at the bar, ‘natch). Do yourself a favor and get an order of their spicy fried broccolini to balance out the meat intake while you are there – it’s the best thing a piece of broccolini could ever aspire to be.

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Belcampo Butchers giving good service

5. Sometimes, I miss New York.

I’m a LA girl through and through, but every so often I feel a pang of longing for my favorite city on the opposite coast (worth noting: this never happens anytime during December-March). No, there is no substitute for the feeling of walking the streets of NYC. But, GCM has a fantastic city vibe  that is very contrary to the non-urban experience that many areas of LA can be. It’s a little gritty, it’s not solely filled with white people, and it’s old (built in 1917 – ancient by LA standards).  Situated in the ground floor of the Homer Laughlin Building, its walls are filled with LA history, such as  housing Frank Lloyd Wright’s office space in the 20’s. There is a ton to see/eat/do within walking distance (yes- walking!!). You can even grab a bagel, lox, and cream cheese at Wexler’s  Deli and pretend you are at Katz’s (it’s a stretch, but work with me).  Like The Big Apple, GCM is ever-evolving. New vendors are announced regularly, and word on the street is that we might even have some NYC chef transplants in our midst here soon.

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So, if you have found that you like to eat all kinds of delicious food while basking in urban vibes like me, head down to GCM ASAP. There is even free garage parking, which is so rare in downtown that you might as well go just for that experience. (The downside – its only an hour, and validation can be trickier than assembling a desk from Ikea.) One of my main gripes about GCM is their hours – 8am- 6pm, which makes it REALLY hard for the under-65 crowd to have dinner. Well, as of July 3rd, the market will now be open until 9pm on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. Rejoice, my darling Angelenos, your warm summer nights just got a WHOLE lot tastier.

Grand Central Market : 317 S. Broadway. LA, CA 90013

Pop, pop, give: Your new favorite green snack

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Once  upon a magical time, on a tiny piece of  pacific paradise, my earth-loving Kauaiian friends introduced me to something sticky and green that changed my perception of life forever: spirulina popcorn.

What is spirulina, you ask? It’s blue-green freshwater algae. What else goes on this popcorn? Nutritional yeast.  Do these ingredients have your mouth watering yet? If you already know and love them, you can stop reading here. If you are feeling a little grossed out, let me drop some health-food knowledge on you. Spirulina is a freakin’ POWERHOUSE of nutrition – loaded with all kinds of vitamins and minerals that you want to be in you. It is also 60% (!!!) protein, and a complete protein, too….meaning it has all the essential amino acids your bod is probably hoping you’ll ingest, instead of the Flamin’ Hot Cheetos in your hand (yes, you). Nutritional yeast (not to be confused with Brewer’s yeast) is deactivated yeast that is loaded with B-vitamins and other good-for-you stuff. More importantly, it has a super-fab cheesy, savory flavor that really makes this recipe mo’ betta.

Have I lost you? Are you thinking that this sounds waaay too much like hippie food* and can’t possibly taste good? I know we have probably not made it far enough in this relationship to have built total trust…but, I promise you…I only like to eat things that taste amazing. Not to mention there is another ingredient that I threw into this recipe to fancy it up and reduce the “granola”  factor: white truffle salt. Boom. I know all doubt has now been cast aside, so let’s make some popcorn:

First off, pop some popcorn. Stovetop is fine, but an air popper is preferable. If you don’t already have one, it looks as though we have found the cause of that lingering feeling that something is missing from your life. Air poppers RULE and have an awesome reputation, despite being totally cheap, fast, and easy. You can get one for under 20 bucks here.

A word about some of the other ingredients:  I like to use the good stuff. That means, organic (or at least GMO-free) popcorn, as well as organic olive oil.  But…I like to get it for cheap. Trader Joe’s has organic popcorn for under $5, and Costco has some of the best organic EVOO on the market – here’s some proof. Spirulina and nutritional yeast can be found at your local health-foods market, or here and here. (Ain’t Amazon great?!?!)

  • 1/2 cup organic popcorn kernels
  • 3-4 TBS extra-virgin olive oil (plus a little extra)
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp. spirulina
  • nutritional yeast
  • white truffle salt
  • sea salt

Pop the popcorn in your awesome air popper. After it has popped, toss it into a brown paper grocery bag. Drizzle the EVOO over it, and give it a good shake. Add a generous amount of nutritional yeast, and give it another shake. Next, add the spirulina (1/4 tsp for spirulina virgins, 1/2 tsp for “experienced” spirulina eaters). Then, you guessed it….shake it up. Sprinkle with a little truffle salt,  and then embellish all of those savory flavors with some sea salt. Drizzle with a a bit more olive oil, and voilå – you just made yourself the easiest, tastiest, and (dare i say) healthiest snack on the planet.  You can even eat it instead of going to the gym – at least, that’s what I tell myself.

*Side note: No offense, hippies. I actually really like your food. Except carob.

Chewing and Telling: LA Weekly’s Food and Wine Event

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 Sunday, March 9, 2014 was a momentous day for many Angelenos. Thousands pushed themselves to never-before-reached limits of physical and emotional achievement in the LA Marathon, running through pain and fatigue until they hit the finish line. I thought of them often that day as I, too, tested my endurance and willed my body to new limits of food consumption at LA Weekly’s 6th Annual Food and Wine event .

Situated in DTLA’s LA Mart, this impeccably curated event featured 40-plus members of LA’s all-star restaurant roster. Chefs from the likes of Animal, Bestia, and Lucques had tables featuring bites of their best culinary creations. The event had sold out about a week before, and as I arrived a I was alarmed to find a seemingly endless line around the block. It became clear that the potential for this to be a culinary sh**-show was running about 99%. I finally made it to the entrance of the event about a half hour after I arrived, and as I saw swarms of people crowding around tables for bites of the city’s best, I had a realization:  there was no way there was going to be enough food for all of these people. Everyone looked like they had fasted all morning in anticipation of gorging themselves. This wasn’t going to be a casual, take-your-time-and-savor-each-bite kind of food event. No……this was going to be a real-life Hunger Games.   People were hungry, and survival instincts were about to kick in en masse. Luckily, there is one area of my life where I feel I have Katniss-level superpowers, and that is eating. “What about the lines of people, the crowds, and just plain old etiquette“, you ask? To which I say, “May the odds be ever in their favor”.  Luckily I had my fellow food zealot Melanie in tow, and quickly we devised a plan to divide and conquer.

My first stop was at Mexicali Taco Company (which I was unfamiliar with), and I immediately met my first challenge as I was presented an escargot taco (aptly named the “Taco Frances”). Snails – not really my thing. But, I made a decision that this was going to be a day of no-holds-barred eating, and down the taco went. It was the right decision – the combination of the chipotle-garlic sauteéd escargot, cilantro-lime gremolata, micro-greens and cheese hit all the right notes and made for a delicious bite.
What ensued after this was a rapid-fire onslaught of samples, detailed here:

Superba Snack Bar: Fried chicken with pickled chilies and red wine vinegar glaze. Yep, it was as delicious as it sounds -crunchy, salty, and tangy.
The Oinkster: House-cured Pastrami sandwich. It was good. It was a pastrami sandwich – no more, no less.
Nickel Diner: a trio of delectable treats: Maple-bacon doughnut holes, strawberry-jam doughnut holes, and Nickel Ho-Ho’s. (The Ho-Ho’s were the best; I had to swoop back around for a second one)
Night+Market: Papaya Salad. It was tasty, to be sure, but I guess I had hoped for their all-star chicken wings, which are one of the greatest things you can possibly eat in this city.
Bestia: octopus carpaccio. Absolutely stellar. Beautiful presentation and so delicious. Bestia can do no wrong. (Extra props to Genevieve who was plating beautiful bites while very preggo. She makes some of the best desserts in town- that kid has got it made)
Animal: Big-eye tuna crudo. Oh my, this was delicious. John and Vinny have had one of the most beloved restaurants in LA for the last 5 years, and they are clearly still bringing their A-game.
Beverly Soon Tofu: Spicy Kimchi, and cucumber salad. Fresh, light, and delicious.
chi SPACCA: Spicy spreadable salami. Yes – spreadable salami. Genius…and definitely spicy. I have had this relatively new Italian heavy-hitter on my list to try, and they did not disappoint.
Coni’seafood: Ceviche and shrimp tacos from Inglewood’s renowned Mexican restaurant. Yummy.
Jitlada: Spicy tofu curry with green beans. This was really great – I don’t particularly love tofu, but it was delicious once Jitladified. Also, extra shout-out to them because they were one of the only booths with food left at 3pm
Starry Kitchen: Singaporean popcorn-shrimp with curry leaves and red jalapeño “shooters” – consumed while an asian man in a blonde mullet wig chanted for me to “down it!!” Of course, I succumbed to peer pressure.
AOC: Lamb tartare. It was ok. I don’t really like consuming baby animals, so this one was a little hard to enjoy.
Little Sister: A super-tasty green papaya salad with shrimp, served in adorable chinese takeout containers. I will definitely have to make the trek down to Manhattan Beach to check this new asian-fusion establishment.
Drago Centro: To be honest, all I remember was that it was some kind of pasta dish, and it was savory and rich. This is about the point where it was all starting to get hazy. But fear not! I powered through….
Angelini Osteria: The restaurant’s famed lasagna verde with beef and veal ragu. Yes, it was delicious, and I was so excited to try one of the venerable Gino Angelini’s creations. Again, though, baby animals were involved, so guilt muddled the taste of this expertly crafted bite.
Hinoki and the Bird: I was thrilled to see this restaurant participating as it has been on my “to try” list for ages. They were serving up an “avocado mousse” dessert – topped with chocolate crumble and beet-juice soaked chia seeds. This was both a simple and special creation, and re-affirmed that this is a must-try LA dining establishment. At this point, supplies were dwindling, so I ate it this splendid mousse concoction with a knife (pictured above).
Sqirl: YES! I Love Sqirl! (See my last post). These east-siders did not disappoint with a delicious sampling of their Crispy Kokuho Rose Brown Rice Salad – followed by a chocolate cookie. I love Sqirl.
Craft: presented a pretty plate of avocado, tomatillo, hearts of palm, and spiced peanuts. Though it seemed a bit “light”, I was grateful..as I was hitting a feeling I had truly never had before:

I could not eat one more thing. The idea of putting one more morsel of food in my mouth made me want to cry. You see, in addition to all that was listed above, there were samples of ice cream, candy, tea, and juice – all consumed in under 90 minutes. Luckily, my stomach has “trained” for this challenge over time, but I knew I had just crossed my own personal food consumption finish line. I came, I ate (…a lot), I felt enormous pain, and in the end….I conquered (with a little help from my friend – thanks, Melanie!)  It is worth mentioning that there were still several restaurants that I was sad I did not get to try (Allumette, Chichen Itza, Salt’s Cure, and Church & State, to name a few).

On a final note, the folks at LA Weekly did an amazing job of curating a wonderful event at a reasonable price. It gave a lot of people the opportunity to try great restaurants that may normally be out of their budget. Sadly, though, most of the vendors were out of food by 3pm….with two hours left to go. At that point, most  people began channeling their efforts in to getting wasted on the free alcohol, the only thing left. (Imagine the poor, hungry schmuck who showed up at 4pm in an effort to “avoid the crowds”). Maybe next year there will be a better system to ensure that everyone gets to eat. Until then, I’ll be continuing my excessive-food-consumption training, one meal at a time.

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  • Superba’s fried chicken,  Mexicali’s escargot taco, and Oinkster’s Pastrami Sandwich
  • Trio of treats from Nickel Diner
  • Animal’s Big Eye Tuna Crudo

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  • Bestia’s Octopus carpaccio
  • Cone’Seafood’s ceviche tacos
  • Beverly Soon Tofu’s Kimchee and Cucumbers