Tag Archives: Los Angeles

genna found a home in tucson, arizona (to the tune of “get back”)

Upon arriving in the Tucson airport, I rushed down to find my hiking backpack which had beat me to the city by almost 12 hours. (More thanks to United!)  It was locked in the United office for about twenty minutes, and when I finally got it, I realized that my Dr. Bronner’s had leaked everywhere. The bottle didn’t even break–it just opened and poured out. At least my bag smells (very strongly) of lavender!

My stay has covered walking through Sabino Canyon with my friend Sam, meeting some very cool folks (including a young Iraq war vet and some students researching the border) at the Roadrunner Hostel & Inn, and getting a substantial haircut while showing myself around downtown Tucson. There is lots of cool art and landscape to see in this city. I am excited to return for a longer time.

And now, for the moment you’ve all been waiting for: a highlight reel of my Tucson eats. My complimentary Belgian waffle with prickly pear jam, fruit smoothie, and Dairy Queen dipped cone were all camera shy, so apologies. All were delicious and were excellent at their job.

Queso Suizo with Chorizo and Tortillas at La Parilla Suiza

Chips, Salsas, and Pickled Onions & Jalapenos at Pancho Villa Bar & Restaurant

Torta with a Roasted Pepper - $4.99!!!

I officially need to live somewhere with a large Mexican population. Bolillo (torta bread), tortillas, and mole are all officially on my list of things to learn how to make, and the best place to cook a cuisine is where the ingredients are readily available (and hopefully cheap).

Now, I am on my way to get a Sonoran hot dog with my friend Rob and the journey to Los Angeles will begin.

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still dreaming

When I went up to Los Angeles, I intentionally left San Diego early so I would get to LA early enough to eat an authentic Mexican breakfast. Talk about living to eat. I, most certainly, got what I wanted at La Noche Buena, a restaurant on Olvera Street right next to Union Station. Olvera is lined with shops and stalls that sell authentic Mexican products, but it seems to be the restaurants that really draw the crowd. La Noche Buena had the friendliest waiters,  the most extensive menu, the cheapest prices, and the most dive-y feel, all of which attracted me to have a seat and order a horchata while mulling over my options. I finally decided to order huevos con chorizo y papas.

The literal translation of “la noche buena” is “the good night,” and I recently found out it typically refers to Christmas Eve. This is a seriously fitting name for this restaurant, with smells wafting over from the open kitchen to the small dining room that create the kind of excitement a child feels on the night before Christmas.

While chomping on homemade tortilla chips and a variety of salsas, I tried to understand all of the Spanish being spoken around me. I took French in high school and Italian in college so I can definitely understand some but can barely produce any. I stopped really caring about words, though, when my food arrived. The heaping mound of chorizo-infused scrambled eggs was packed with potatoes and served along side yellow rice and refried beans. The provided tortillas and assorted salsas begged for prompt taco assembly, so I gave in.

Four of these babies later, my plate still looked untouched. I asked for a refill on my horchata and stuffed my fatigued, travel-drunk self with the rest of my breakfast. After I was done, I stood up, thanked the gentlemen in the kitchen for a truly wonderful experience and walked off, worried that I would never be able to feel hunger again.

By the time I reached my destination, my level of satisfied discomfort decreased to a state of, “Well, I guess I could eat,” and we went to another hole in the wall Mexican joint. I tried the lengua (tongue) taco because I’d always heard pretty great things about this body part on Top Chef, and it had a pretty good texture, but every fourth or fifth piece had discernible taste buds which made me pretty unhappy. I suppose the fact that I was tasting an organ that once allowed a cow to taste made me feel uneasy and privileged. Maybe I’ll get over it the next time I try tongue.

candles

At Johnny’s Bar in LA’s Highland Park, I had an Allagash Belgian White. It was absolutely delicious. I love that white beers are served with orange slices because a nose-full of orange smell enhances the experience of the beer. I really wanted to capture an image of the glass but it was so dark in Johnny’s. The only light came from a couple of televisions, the backlights of the liquor shelves, and candles. Some improvisation with the candle led to this stately photograph.

Looks like something an oracle would be proud to own.

lemon butter (and other, less spectacular things)

The process of bringing ingredients from their raw form to a complete meal with just a sharp object, some heat, and perhaps some cold will never cease to amaze me. My default example is onions: they phase-shift from spicy crispness to unmatched savory sweetness in about thirty minutes over heat. Put yeast in wort (the sweet, nutritious, warm soup of barley and hops), let it do its thang, and after a few days (in a brewery) or a few and then you have beer. Magic!

It is essentially a form of art therapy, which I think contributes to why I like it so much. You have the power to create something beautiful and delicious from start to finish, choosing the ingredients and how you will treat them. It is an excellent way to unwind. Even better, though, is sharing this experience with someone. I find few things more fun and relaxing than cooking with a friend. They’re there to tell you that your dressing needs a little more salt or that the meat should be taken off the grill a few minutes earlier than you were planning to remove it. It also shaves the intimidation off trying a new recipe or working with a new ingredient.

This past weekend, I visited my friend Adam in Los Angeles. I brought a bag of vegetables with me (two giant artichokes, summer squash, asparagus) which contributed to the makings of an excellent meal. We were both craving summer fare, so we agreed on gazpacho. A trip to Figueroa Produce rounded out the menu: grilled shrimp, grilled vegetables, grilled bread, steamed artichoke, tabouleh.

As long as you have the proper tools, making gazpacho is a cinch. A high-power blender or food processor is necessary to massacre your ingredients into a creamy, tasty soup. We threw in four heirloom tomatoes, half a red onion, one green bell pepper, half a peeled cucumber, three large cloves of garlic, four slices of baguette bread, a glug of extra virgin olive oil, cumin, salt, pepper, and some water. This amounted to monstrous amounts of yumminess, especially when served with ice cubes, homemade croutons, chopped cucumber, and diced red onion. After the first spoonful, Adam and I high-fived; it was that kind of meal.

The grilled veggies were standard but very good; the asparagus and summer squash had come from a farm merely days before, and I thought it was pretty clear when you bit into them. Grilled bread is good on its own, but this was drizzled in olive oil and rubbed with a tomato. It was everything I love about the bread of a tomato sandwich but more elegant. The bread was also a very good edible spoon for the gazpacho. Also, the tabouleh was excellent, refreshing and gorgeous.

The star of the dinner, though, was most definitely the lemon butter. Lemon juice + melted butter = religious culinary experience. The artichoke was pressure-cooked in water with some cloves (um, neverwouldathought, but sofreakingood), and Adam instructed us to dip it into the lemon butter. This caused the artichoke, which was certainly delicious, to become a mere vehicle for lemon butter transfer.

Even though this meal consisted of light, summer fare, it took about two hours to rest off the food coma it induced. This was probably worsened by the amount of beer I had been consuming, but either way, it was a very welcome coma. Very, very welcome.