Day 319: Persimmon Bread

Persimmon Bread.

Persimmon Bread.

Thanks to family and friends, my wife and I were able to make our first batch of persimmon bread this weekend. We made two loaves and they were delicious.

My sister-in-law and one of my wife’s friends gave us the persimmons, then I got my friend’s mom’s recipe for the bread. With the holidays coming up, it felt like we got a great start on the good times with our friends and family.

Day 316: Tomato Basil Soup

Tomato Basil Soup and Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Tomato Basil Soup and Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Another cold-weather craving has been satisfied. My wife whipped up a batch of her genius-level tomato basil soup in the slow cooker tonight. I had a big ol’ bowl of it, along with two grilled cheese sandwiches.

I never ate tomato soup when I was a kid, but this tastes like comfort food to me. And dunking the grilled cheese sandwich in it just feels right.

Day 307: Cold Night, Hot Pho

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Tonight was the first cold night we’ve had in a while, so that meant my soup craving kicked into high gear. The local pho spot had a line out the door, so my wife and I tried a new place. It wasn’t quite as good, but it was still delicious and the filet mignon pho satisfied my craving.

Day 305: Street Food Cinema

Shaun of the Dead

Shaun of the Dead

A few years ago my wife and I experienced our first Street Food Cinema in Hollywood. It’s a terrific event of live music, food trucks, and a classic movie shown outdoors in different parts of Los Angeles. I love the picnic atmosphere; it’s family friendly with a laid-back  vibe.

For Halloween last night, my wife scored tickets to the final event of the season at Exposition Park for one of my favorite movies: Shaun of the Dead. Since we’d already dressed as zombies this year, we decided to do a DC/Marvel crossover with my wife going as Spidergirl and myself as Clark Kent-changing-into-Superman (an easy costume for me since I already have the eyeglasses).

We arrived in time for the last song of the band, found a spot near the front to lay down our picnic blanket and beach chairs, then did a quick scan of the food trucks before deciding on our dinner: shish kebabs for my wife and a shrimp po boy and chicken/sausage/corn bisque for me. The food was delicious and we cracked open a bottle of a wonderful wine for the movie.

I was surprised that more people weren’t dressed as zombies or the characters from the movie, but there were some terrific costumes. I particularly liked the McDonald’s Hamburglar I was in line with for dinner.

The crowd seemed to enjoy the film as much as I always do. Shaun of the Dead is such a smart, funny movie, brilliantly versed in its zombie cliches as it pokes fun of itself and the genre. The weather was perfect last night and I couldn’t have asked for a better way to spend Halloween.

Day 299: Taste of Santa Barbara

The Habit's Charburger, Santa Barbara Style.

The Habit’s Charburger, Santa Barbara Style (double charburger served on toasted sourdough with avocado).

When I was a student at UC Santa Barbara, In-N-Out had yet to invade the area. Thankfully, The Habit was around to take care of my hamburger cravings. So was Cal Taco, another fast-food joint that served a charburger that tasted like The Habit’s signature burger. I’m not sure which came first, but The Habit was the restaurant that went on to expand locally and then nationally.

The original Habit was located a few miles from UCSB and students and locals love eating there. The charburgers were consistently delicious and made for a filling lunch or dinner. Rumor has it that the original restaurant still serves its delicious chili as an off-menu item. I used to devour their chili cheese fries on a regular basis. Not surprisingly, I weighed more back then.

While I don’t think The Habit has taken the throne of best fast-food burger from In-N-Out, they’re up there. I definitely prefer them over Six Guys and other contenders for In-N-Out’s best burger crown.

It’s nice having more Habits pop up around Southern California, though, since I can now enjoy a taste of Santa Barbara closer to home.

Day 276: Random Saturday Thoughts

Tastykakes from the freezer are the best!

Tastykakes straight from the freezer are the best.

A few random thoughts on a Saturday night:

  1. Tastykakes: They’re an East Coast treat, but over the years I’ve seen them more frequently in Southern California. My local grocery store was having a 2-for-1 sale and I couldn’t resist the power of the Tastykake.  I LOVE the peanut butter Kandy Kakes, which taste like a Reese’s peanut butter cup in mini-cake form. They’re even better when frozen.
  2. Dodgers: The good news is they won the NL West again and are going to the playoffs. The bad news is long-time organist Nancy Bea Hefley is retiring after this season. I hope the Dodgers don’t get rid of the organist position; as much as I love the snippets of today’s pop music during a game, there’s something very soothing about being at Dodger Stadium and listening to the between-innings notes from the organ.
  3. Jeopardy!: It’s always fun to see a player dominate on my favorite game show and Matt Jackson’s five-show run has been terrific. I liked this first-person account from one of his vanquished opponents.

Day 270: littlemeatsLA

Cast-iron skillet kimchi fried rice with smoked pork belly and 14-hour smoked brisket.

Cast-iron skillet kimchi fried rice with smoked pork belly and 14-hour smoked brisket.

Over a month ago, my Yelp buddy Alex posted some photos from a supper club in L.A. The food looked delicious, but when I saw the 14-hour smoked brisket I knew I had to drive out there as soon as I could get on the list.

I’m a sucker for anything cooked low and slow.

My wife and I made it for tonight’s dinner and it lived up to all the hype and then some. Not only was the food phenomenal, but the company was fantastic. Our host Robin and our chef for the evening Stevie were personable and passionate and it was easy to see how much love went into our tonight’s #EthnicAmerica get-together.

littlemeatsLA was successful in creating a space where strangers could have a family experience. Old school hip hop served as our background music as we got to know our fellow diners. Conversation flowed freely and easily; one minute I was talking to an attorney, the next an owner of a popsicle business.

It was an amazing and inspirational meal, highlighted by the kimchi fried rice with 14-hour smoked brisket. It was comfort food elevated to an art form, with every bite savored and enjoyed by all of us.

On the way home, my wife and I couldn’t stop talking about the experience: the food, the conversations, the sense of community when people get together like this … and, of course, our next visit.

Tonight’s menu:

Appetizer:

“Ants on a Log” with Ssamjang butter

Main: 

Cast-iron kimchi fried rice and accoutrements, with smoked pork belly and 14-hour smoked brisket.

Dessert:

Pineapple shiso sorbet

Day 255: Huy Fong Foods

Special 35th anniversary bottles of sriracha

Special 35th anniversary bottles of sriracha

I was fortunate to score a pass to the Huy Fong Foods factory tour today, the first day of the chili-grinding season at the world-famous sriracha maker. Last year I tried to make reservations too late and everything was booked, so this year once the announcement was made, I immediately booked online and got a 2pm slot for today.

My wife and I took our good friends Dave and Liz, fellow foodies whom I consider family, not just friends. We arrived early and saw lots of people milling around with all kinds of sriracha gear, from hats and shirts to socks and capes(!).

Here’s a pictorial of our day at the factory’s open house and tour (click on the photos for a larger version):

Truck full of chilis.

After checking in and putting on the required hairnets (and a facial hairnet for yours truly), we began the self-guided tour. We walked through the ginormous space filled with crates and crates of sriracha (think the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark) and found ourselves at the loading dock, just as a truck full of chilis pulled up. While none of us could smell the chilis when we got to the factory, we could definitely smell them in this area. It was a sight to see … and smell.

Chili grinding

Chili grinding.

We watched the truck dump its contents into the grinder. So cool! These are some potent peppers and my wife was really feeling it. Once we re-entered the building into the main processing area, she was having trouble breathing. Note to any of you potential tour-takers: the smell is strong inside the this part of the factory. If you don’t do spicy, beware. And even if you do like sriracha (like my wife), it can still be pretty overwhelming.

55-gallon drums of the magic sauce!

55-gallon drums of the magic sauce!

It was quite a sight as we walked a few stairs for an overhead view of the entire operation. There were 55-gallon drums of hot sauce everywhere and I couldn’t help but crack Breaking Bad jokes: “Now we know the secret ingredient: crystal meth!” Later, my wife joked, “There was a fly in there.”

Chinese Lion Dance.

Chinese Lion Dance.

We finished the tour in about 30 minutes. There was a cool Chinese lion dance that wound through part of the facility and continued outside, where the free samples were located.

Free sriracha food samples!

Free sriracha food samples!

As part of the open house tour, each guest received free food samples: sriracha popcorn, sriracha potato chips, sriracha croutons, sriracha beef jerky, and sriracha ice cream. Surprisingly, everybody liked the ice cream the best. Each bite was cool and creamy ice cream with a bit of heat as you ate it. We were all impressed by how well they pulled off this balancing act of flavors.

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Free sriracha swag.

Along with the free tour and free samples, we also received a free plastic Huy Fong Foods cup, t-shirt, and bottle of sriracha. Awesome! We stopped by their gift shop, which was filled with sriracha-themed clothing, food, and novelties, all priced reasonably (I scored a $5 shirt for my dad, a $1.50 I Love Sriracha button for myself, and a few other things).

I almost forgot to mention that we got to meet David Tran, the founder of Huy Fong Foods! We all took photos with him and it was an honor to meet this living legend. His sriracha has saved many a mediocre dish for me and elevated a few of my better meals as well.

A fantastic day spent with fantastic people. I could get used to celebrating chili-grinding season like this.