Tuesday, July 28, 2015

GROM GELATERIA (MALIBU, CA)

Grom Gelateria
3888 Cross Creek Road
Malibu, CA 90265
http://www.grom.it/en/index.php
Tel: 310.456.9797
$ (under $15)
Cuisine: Ice Cream/Desserts
Sun, 07/19/2015, 12:00pm walk-in
     (4.5 Piglets)



It was National Ice Cream Day and my friend and I decided to take a stroll through the unbearable heat on a Sunday through the Malibu Farmer's Market. This summer in Los Angeles has been horrendous. The humidity has made Los Angeles into a sauna analogous to summers in London or NYC. I needed something cold and satisfying STAT. To be honest, I really just needed to celebrate National Ice Cream Day!

Grom Gelateria is situated in the Malibu Country Mart amongst all the lovely restaurants and apparel stores. The gelato shop is quite small with no seating other than al fresco. The number of flavors is extensive.

Outdoor seating
The interior

All the gelato is premade in Turin, Italy where it is then distributed to their retail stores for whipping. The gelato is natural, with no artificial ingredients; just high-quality fresh milk, cage-free eggs and 50% fresh fruit for their sorbets. Grom obtains their fruit from their organic farm Mura Mura in Piedmont, Italy. With the use of quality elements, the result is a fresh-tasting, smooth and creamy concoction.

Grom's way of making gelato

Some of the flavors...
The menu
MEDIUM ($6.25-3 FLAVORS):
1. FIORDILATTE AND CHERRIES: "Flavor of the Month" with fresh milk, candied cherries, and "Teyuna" chocolate chips. This flavor was so damn good.  The gelato was smooth and not overly sweet. The cherries added some tartness while the chocolate chips added sweetness and texture.
2.  MY FAVORITE FLAVOR: CREMA DI GROM: "Signature Flavor" egg cream with corn biscuits and Columbian "Teyuna" chocolate chips. I can see why this is their signature flavor! It's sweet and creamy with crispness from the biscuits.
3. NOCCIOLA: with Tonda Gentile hazelnuts. I always get hazelnut flavored ice cream cause it is one of my favorites. Who doesn't love hazelnuts? This was a good, well, constructed gelato. You can definitely taste the hazelnut flavor. 

Overall, Grom Gelateria offers delicious, creamy gelato straight from Italy. The quality can be tasted upon each bite and I appreciate the different flavors of the month. Sorbets are magnificent here if you prefer that over creamy gelato (I had a sampling). I wish they had a place to dine indoors, but being that it is located in Malibu, you can't really go wrong sitting al fresco. There are multiple locations throughout and they recently opened up a Grom in Hollywood. 

Notable dishes: Crema di Grom and Fiordilatte and Cherries

Monday, July 27, 2015

WINNER OF THE LUCKYRICE'S LOS ANGELES FEAST, JULY 30TH



Congratulations to Raymond Hahn, winner of two VIP tickets (each worth $150) to Luckyrice's Los Angeles Feast on July 30th, hosted by Andy Ricker! Remember to check out my blog and my instagram @thefoodseeker for any other giveaways. Thanks to all who participated and a special thanks to Luckyrice! 

If you would like to purchase tickets to the event, please go to: http://luckyrice.com/event/los-angeles-feast/ See you there! 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

THE INDEPENDENCE (SANTA MONICA, CA)

The Independence
205 Broadway
Santa Monica, CA 90401
www.independencetavern.com
Tel: 310.458.2500
$$ ($15-$30)
Cuisine: American
Fri, 07/17/2015, 7:00pm reservation
    (4 Piglets)




Goodbye Buddha's Belly! Hello The Independence! 

Jonathan Chu has abandoned his old restaurant Buddha's Belly and turned it into a cool, hip gastropub-like restaurant known as The Independence. Opened since February, the place is quite open with artistic murals throughout the restaurant. It's not at all stuffy or pretentious, but rather a chic yet casual place to sit, drink, eat and relax with friends (or by yourself if you prefer...). 


The Interior
Another section of the interior

Tom Block, who had stints at BLT Steak acts as Executive Chef for The Independence. The creativity and talent of chef Block can be seen throughout the menu. Geared towards providing local ingredients to hungry eaters, the food is fresh and Californian.   

The mixologist Vincenzo Marianella of Chu's other establishment Copa D'Oro runs the cocktail menu. The cocktails cater to everyone's needs, from the sweeter-end like the Strawberry Smash to the no-nonsense man's drink like the Smoke of Scotland (Laphroigh Cask Strength Scotch Whiskey, Extra Dry Vermouth, Elderflower Liqueur, Amaro Averna). 

The Independence offers a fantastic happy hour and dinner menu and lucky for me, I've tried both (for the piglet that I am). 


DOHENY COCKTAIL ($6.00) FROM THE HAPPY HOUR MENU: Bourbon, Apricot Brandy, Jerry Thomas Bitters. When it comes to this drink, Vincenzo doesn't mess around. If alcohol is what you want, then alcohol is what you shall get. The drink is ideal if you don't want a girlie girl's drink and want something strong and satisfying. I seem to have enjoyed it (as seen below)!
Enjoying the Doheny Cocktail
PULLED PORK SLIDER WITH SPICY VINEGAR AND SLAW ($4.00/EACH): For a happy hour menu, this is a great item! The pork was a little dry, but it offered a tangy, spicy and vinegar slaw for flavor and texture. The slaw was crisp and gave the acidic component the dish needed. 
HANGER STEAK SKEWER WITH CHIMICHURRI (3 FOR $6.00): This was so good and probably my favorite happy hour item off the menu. The meat was tender and the chimichurri sauce was a little tangy while offering a substantial amount of spices and boldness to the dish.
PECORINO AND GREEN PEPPERCORN GRAVY FRIES ($5.00): Man, oh man...I love me some gravy fries. This starchy gift to mankind was good, luxurious, and rich. The fries were crisp, just the way I wanted them. I couldn't get enough of these and by the end of it all, they were all gone! 
NETTLE AND RICOTTA GNUDI ($5.00): This was a light dish with the same consistency as tofu. The ricotta was prominent in the dish (as it should be) and the flavors meshed well together. 

NOW ONTO THE DINNER MENU...


KALE CHOPPED SALAD ($15.00):  Iceberg, smoked egg, baby carrots, green beans, feta, candied walnuts, citrus, pear, lemon mustard vinaigrette. This beautifully presented salad had a lot going on, but somehow, it all actually worked well together. You could taste the smokey flavor on the egg and the citrus cut through all the ingredients. The nuts added the texture it needed while the feta offered the salty and creamy component. It was refreshing, satisfying and a well made salad.
VENISON RAGU ($22.00): Pappardelle, marsala, truffle oil, pecorino. The ragu was not overly gamey and had a richness that would be similar to a bolognese. The pappardelle was made thin and was well-coated with the ragu. It was definitely satisfying and even tasted great as leftovers the next day! A good dish overall. 
ROASTED WILD MUSHROOMS ($15.00): Toast, 62 degree egg, yuzu kosho hollandaise. This was absolutely delicious. I love the creaminess of the egg yolk, the satisfying and delectable mushrooms and the crispy toast to soak up all the goodness. One of my favorites of the night! 
RASPBERRY TART ($9.00): Candied kumquat, walnuts, fennel. This dessert is for those who prefer something not overly sweet. It includes fennel, which is quite different to use as part of a dessert ingredient. The fennel offers a crisp, fresh texture, while the kumquats give it a slightly bitter taste. Although the ingredient says it includes walnuts, we actually received pine nuts instead. The crust was a little softer than I would like. My friend enjoyed it, but I prefer something that is a little more decadent. 
STRAWBERRY SMASH ($12.00): Vodka, strawberries, mint, honey ginger syrup, orange bitters. This was a perfect girly drink that is reminiscent of summer. It is similar to what a strawberry mojito would taste like and is simply downright refreshing. I loved this drink! 

PICK ME UP ($12.00): Rye whiskey, espresso liquor, amaro Montenegro, Jerry Thomas Bitters. If you started off with some strong drinks and still want to stick with them without it being overpowering, then this is the drink for you. This has a great whiskey taste. It is similar to an Old Fashioned with a subtle coffee flavor.


SMOKED WHITEFISH TOAST ($10.00): Pickled shallots, apple, fried capers. This dish was plated beautifully. It wasn't overly fishy and you could definitely taste the smokiness of the dish. The apples created a nice, crisp texture. The capers offered that tangy saltiness it needed.
HEIRLOOM TOMATO AND MOZZARELLA ($14.00): Local market heirloom tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, honeydew, cucumber, spicy calabrese salami, basil, balsamic. I appreciate that Block utilized local ingredients into this dish. It was beautifully presented and everything was fresh, but it wasn't one of my favorites. I felt this dish needed something more in terms of flavor.
SHISHITO PEPPERS ($6.00): Smoked paprika, lime. I liked this dish a lot. The peppers were cooked well and had crispy texture. It had a southwestern feel with the smoked paprika and the lime just enhanced the flavors.
MY FAVORITE DISH. SPAGHETTI DI MARE ($24.00): Santa Barbara ridgeback prawns, manila clams, chorizo, white wine, pepperoncini, herb breadcrumbs. The spaghetti was cooked perfectly al dente and the chorizo added a little spice to the dish. The clams were tasty as well as the prawns. All the ingredients meshed well together and I definitely appreciated the texture with the herb breadcrumbs.  
GRILLED OCTOPUS ($17.00): Smoked beans, grapes, celery, pickled chili. The octopus had a fantastic char to them and you can taste the smokiness of the beans. The grapes added a nice sweetness to counteract the spiciness of the pickled chili. I just wish the octopus was grilled slightly less accompanied with a thick sauce to bring the whole dish together (but I'm also comparing this octopus to Maude where I had the best octopus I ever had just a week prior to visiting the Independence).
CHILI FRIES ($8.00): Cincinnati style, pickled chili, red onion, cheddar. According to my friend, the chili is pretty authentic coming from an Ohioan. Similar to what is known as skyline chili in Ohio, the chili contains cinnamon that makes it stand out from the others. The only difference is that the cheese is usually grated thinner than this version. These were good chili fries and I guess if you want to try some real, authentic Cincinnati style chili fries, this is the place to do so. 
SNOW CRAB AND SANTA BARBARA UNI FRIED RICE ($22.00):  Sweet soy, egg, scallions, Thai chilis, carrots, fried shallots. Alright, so I'm very particular when it comes to fried rice. I want it good! I grew up eating fried rice and well, this version was good, but not amazing. I wanted something a bit different and I was expecting that with the uni, but to me, it didn't deliver. 
ROSEWATER PANNA COTTA ($10.00): Macerated Strawberries, pistachios, meringue. The texture of the panna cotta was smooth. I liked the strawberries, giving the dish a bit of tartness to counteract the sweetness of the panna cotta. The pistachios and the rosewater was slightly overpowering. I definitely am a huge fan of the meringue, which added a nice touch.  Overall, I didn't love this dessert as I felt there was too much going on. I also wanted something a bit sweeter and with chocolate, and hence, see below! 
WALNUT BROWNIE A LA MODE ($9.00): Vanilla ice cream, salted caramel sauce. Mmm...brownie and ice cream and salted caramel? You can't really go wrong with this combination. I enjoyed it as well as my tummy. The brownie was a little on the thinner side, but who cares? It's saving me some calories! 

Overall, The Independence is a great happy hour spot with reasonably priced food items to accompany your drink of choice. The dinner menu is tasty as well. Chef Block seemed to have accomplished the ability to serve up good food without being over-the-top. Drinks are downright superb. It's Copa D'Oro cocktails with the option of having delectable dishes at a sit-down restaurant. The service here is exceptional and the ambiance is not too stuffy. I definitely wouldn't mind coming back if I wanted something casual and within my vicinity.  


Notable dishes: Spaghetti Di Mare and Venison Ragu

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

GIVEAWAY: WIN TWO FREE TICKETS TO LUCKYRICE'S ANNUAL LOS ANGELES FEAST ON JULY 30, 2015!





Come join me on a food seeking adventure featuring dishes from up-and-coming chefs as well as Asian-inspired cocktails in the Los Angeles area. One lucky winner will be awarded two free tickets to Luckyrice's Annual Los Angeles Feast on Thursday, July 30th hosted by Andy Ricker, James Beard award winning chef and owner of Pok Pok restaurants. There are two ways to enter in the giveaway: via Instagram or Twitter.

INSTAGRAM: Like the pic and tag two people in the comments.


TWITTER: Simply follow me and Luckyrice on twitter @the_food_seeker and @luckyricedotcom and retweet my post

And if you this doesn't float your boat and you want more info or to purchase tickets, visit http://luckyrice.com/event/los-angeles-feast/.

I will announce the winner on my blog on Monday, July 27, 2015 at 7:00pm.

Monday, July 13, 2015

LOTUS OF SIAM (LAS VEGAS, NV)

Lotus of Siam
953 E. Sahara Ave, Ste A5
Las Vegas, NV 89104
www.saipinchutima.com
Tel: 702.735.3033
$$ ($15-$30)
Cuisine: Thai
Sat, 07/04/2015, 5:30pm reservation
     (5 Piglets)



Chef Jet Tila and Anthony Bourdain: "Don't order Pad Thai. Go to the back of the menu and order Northern Thai specialties."



Thai food, more specifically, delicious, authentic Thai food is almost impossible to find. Being a traveler, I've been seeking something that would be comparable to what I've tasted when I was in Thailand. For me and my friends, we had to travel to Las Vegas, Nevada in order to experience what I believe is to be the best Thai food outside of Thailand...and it's only an hour flight away from LAX.

Saipin Chutima is a James Beard Award recipient offering traditional, authentic Northern Thai recipes that were passed down from generation to generation. It is a step away from the sweet and tangy flavors that so many of us have been exposed to and are familiar with.

A line congregates outside of the restaurant before opening its doors for service. The menu sits like a book, with numerous dishes to choose from. The d├ęcor is simple, casual and a little outdated (but who honestly cares when you're here for the food). Photos of famous people who have visited the restaurant line the walls. And the food...well, it's simply superb. 


The interior

MY FAVORITE DISH. EN TUAN (HOT POT: $13.95): Spicy and sour soup with beef tendon, bean sprouts and beef slices. I seriously dream about this soup day in and day out after I had my first taste. The broth was full of flavor....bold, luxurious with a lot of depth. Hints of garlic can be tasted in the soup that was seasoned well. The tendon was perfectly cooked with the best texture that ever was put forth in soup. I could slurp this forever and never get sick of it! Thank goodness we got a bowl. It was more than enough for a group of four and the fire in the middle definitely kept the soup hot. We asked for a spice level of 5 and could not taste any spiciness unfortunately (maybe we just have a high tolerance). 
LARB WITH PORK ($10.95): Ground pork, chopped onion, green chili, and lime juice served with fresh cabbage. The salad was fresh, with a nice balance of acidity and refreshing. Slightly spicy and nicely seasoned. I enjoyed it but the next time I'm there, I wanna try the Northern larb salad. 

DRUNKEN NOODLE SOFT SHELL CRAB ($22.95): Deep fried soft shell crab with homemade fresh chilis and Thai basil served on top of pan fried flat rice noodle. I loved this dish. The crab was extremely crispy and retained its crispiness throughout the remainder of the meal (although it wasn't long since we scarfed everything down pretty quickly). The noodles were nicely cooked and was a bit spicy. They didn't ask our spice level and I assumed they kept it at a 5, which was the perfect spice for a good kick. 
CRISPY DUCK WITH PANANG ($24.95): Crispy duck topped with Thai style red cream curry sauce with cognag. This was absolutely delicious. The duck was extremely crispy. The panang curry was rich and spicy. It was slightly sweet, yet savory and full of flavor. This was definitely one of my favorite dishes and a must order. 

THUM KA NOON- POUNDED AND SHREDDED YOUNG JACK FRUIT ($10.95): This local dish from the north is unique to the northern part of North Thailand. Made of shredded young jack fruit, ground pork, tomatoes, northern Thai spices and seasoning. This was seriously my second favorite dish. I loved everything about it. It was sweet, a little tangy and a bit sour and spicy. The texture was similar to shredded meat. As full as I was, I couldn't stop eating this dish. 

MANGO WITH SWEET STICKY RICE- SEASONAL ($8.95): Sweet, delicious, good. The mangoes were ripe and the rice was perfect. Enough said. 

Overall, you can't go wrong when ordering at Lotus of Siam. Chutima managed to bring dishes that you normally wouldn't find at your local Thai restaurant. It's a special place when literally everything you order tasted phenomenal. I had a difficult time deciding my favorite dish amongst the amazing dishes. When you dream about the food and can't get it out of your head, then you know you've found a gem. The next time I visit Lotus of Siam, I need to try the Nam Prik Noom (just sayin'). Word of advice: Book a reservation because lines form before the place even opens (as seen in the pic). 




Notable Dishes: En Tuan and Thum Ka Noon