Bon Vivant's written and pictorial diary of her culinary adventures that will amuse and excite your virtual taste buds...

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Boil, Boil, Toil, and Trouble*; Fire Burn and Cauldron Bubble!

Talk about conjuring up a great meal at Mon Land Hot Pot City! Below, three views of our Chinese hot pot.

The broth as a symbol of the yin yang: one spicy and one rich and mild.

Yummy bits found in the broth. In this picture you can see sliced ginger, whole cardamon pods, and green onions. Also, included were whole cloves of garlic and plenty of piquin chile peppers.

A big hunk of tofu bobs in the spicy broth.

So five of us foodies met here on a very cold Sunday afternoon (geez! it was just 90 degrees a few before!) for some good food, good company, and good times. Mon Land Hot Pot City, which is located in San Gabriel across the street from the Western edge of the Great Mall of China, did not disappoint.

Below, some photos of our our dunkins:

Thinly sliced lamb.

Thinly sliced pork.

One of my favorite greens, Shungiku (Chrysanthemum leaves).

We also ordered daikon radish (delish!), egg dumplings, shrimp balls, tofu, ong choy, vermicelli noodle bundles, and enoki mushrooms.

Below, some of our side dishes:

Crisp, and not at all greasy, scallion pancake.

Very juicy lamb dumplings. These were like the infamous Din Tai Fung/Luscious Dumpling soup dumplings - they were spewing broth.

We didn't order these lamb pancakes but we were the recipients of Divine Intervention - they totally rocked! You must order these when you go.

Below, some photos of the finished product:

A comforting noodle bundle atop some ong choy in mild broth:

A thick slice of daikon radish nestled in ong choy in spicy broth:

And what does a bon vivant do after eating spicy soup? She balances it with something sweet. So I walk across the street to Tea Station and order a Passion Fruit with Jelly Shaved Ice. This would have been perfect for the 90 degree weather we had early last week but it was in the low 60s so...but it was so tasty you could eat it whenever.

*For you Macbeth (or if you are in a theater right now "A certain Scottish play") freaks, I know the line is "Double, Double, Toil and Trouble" but it often gets paraphrased as written above - it just worked better, ok?

Mon Land Hot Pot City
251 W. Bencamp Street (it's actually on Abbot just south of Valley Blvd.)
San Gabriel, CA 91776

Tea Station
158 W. Valley Blvd.
San Gabriel, CA 91776

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Monday, November 20, 2006

A Sunday Night Dinner at Jar

Below, a perfect girly-girl martini: the delicious and pearlescent litchi martini at Jar.

Hey, Stubborn Gourmet T, look, a person in my blog: our totatally fun waiter Kevin outside the restaurant. He really wanted to be in my blog (might it have been because he looked at mumsy's credit card and saw that her name was nearly identical to that of a famous casting director's?)

My Doppelganger held an event here just before my bday as a part of her steakhouse series. The last time that I was here, which was for mumsy's bday, the food was excellent but the steak so-so so I decided that I was going to order something other than steak on this night. Not a smart move. Overall, the food was great but there were some disappointments - the kitchen seemed a little off.

Below, my first course of house cured salon with a sour cream dressed cucumber salad and red onions. This was excellent and a huge portion. I took home half and luckily had some bagels at home and I have to say the excellence carried over to my breakfast for the next two days.

Below, the big mistake of the evening: coq au vin. You may remember Dear Reader reading the entry for Le Petit Bistro (click here) wherein I raved about their coq au vin. Well, I had that coq au vin one night and Jar's lousy version the next night. It was really bad because the sauce was too thin and tasted of smoked bacon fat, and the chicken was dry and stringy, and it tasted liked it had been reheated more than once.

Below, some of the best fries in the city.

Below, the braised brussel sprouts. Last time that we ordered these they were fabulous. This time however they had too much acid in them so they were a little unpleasant to eat.

Below, another great side dish: the duck fried rice.

So what do you do when you've had a lousy entree? Order dessert! Below, two of the best puddings that I've had in a while (and I had just had some two nights before!) : butterscotch and chocolate. Both were beyond divoon.

8225 Beverly Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90048

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Milwaukee Day 4: Three Brothers Restaurant

A bottle of Golden Pheasant beer from Slovakia and below that, a still life with beer and stuffed grape leaves. This beer was good and complemented the Serbian food extremely well.

So, as I mentioned earlier, we had planned on going back to Coquette Cafe for some steak frites and more Rendezvous beer but when we arrived, the place was dark. Oh, no, what do we do now? As we were trying to figure out where to eat, mumsy said, "What about that Serbian place that you really wanted to go to last time?" and I responded, "Huh? What Serbian place?" But as we were driving around Downtown Milwaukee it hit me! I saw in my head the Jane and Michael Stern article that was published in Gourmet magazine about Three Brothers. Thus, our quest to find the restaurant started (it was very frustrating and took a long time so I'll leave this part out.)

We finally managed to find Three Brothers, and what greeted us was wonderful hospitality and food. I wanted to order everything on the menu, it all sounded so good. Three Brothers will definitely be a must the next time (and the time after that) we go to Milwaukee. Also, I might add that this is a perfect foodie destination restaurant.

Below, mumsy and I split and order of stuffed grape leaves and the Serbian hors d'oeuvre platter to start. The stuffed grape leaves were served with yummy olives and a hard cheese similar to a tangy aged provolone. The platter included fantastic salami, tomatoes, olives, cheese, and "Russian Salad" (potato salad).

Below, my fabulous Serbian salad with chopped tomatoes, onions, and bell pepper, topped with grated Serbian cheese (kind of like a mild, soft, feta cheese.) I could eat this everyday.

Below, my stuffed zucchini with potato dumplings. I haven't had stuffed zucchini since I used to go to that great Armenian/Lebanese place that was on the northwest corner of Hollywood & Normandie (unfortunately it closed but it was one of my childhood favorites.)

Below, mumsy's roast duck with duck dressing, carrots, and sauerkraut. This dish was fabulous! The duck was extremely fresh (and fresh roasted), the dressing was very unique and tasty, and the sauerkraut was some of the best that we had in Milwaukee.

Three Brothers Restaurant
2414 S. St. Clair Street
Milwaukee, WI 53207

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Upscale Homebrew - Limoncello (Part 2)

Well, Dear Reader, the Limoncello is at the half-way point. All I have to do tonight is add a few more ingredients and let it sit another 40 days or so and it will be ready for Christmas.

I hope that you can appreciate it's rich yellow hue. Most commercial Limoncelli are cloudy and are a pale yellow so you know homebrew above is going to be molto bene!

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Friday, November 10, 2006

Milwaukee Day 3: Karl Ratzsch's

A glass of Sprecher's Oktoberfest beer. I was surprised to learn that this beer won a gold medal in the Oktoberfest category at this year's LA County Fair. I suspect that this beer does not have the de rigueur Wisconsin high alcohol content because I didn't have a buzz at the wedding afterwards. Ok, I had a buzz but not a beer buzz: I was just so happy for my niece Jenn - she was the most beautiful bride!

Karl Ratzsch's is another Milwaukee institution. Sis and Grill Master took me here about two years ago and I have always wanted to come back and try some more items. While Mader's has the reputation, Ratzsch's has the good food (and the food came out hot!) Mumsy and I decided that the next time we go to Milwaukee we are staying at the Hotel Metro which is conveniently located about 30 feet from Ratzsch's.

Below, cream of mushroom soup. Not the canned kind Dear Reader. This was very comforting and had a great texture, but was slightly bland.

Below, what would a trip to Milwaukee be without a brat? Last time that I was there I ate a brat everyday - I think that it's a local law that you have to. The sauerkraut was good (it was too sour at Maders); I think that it was cooked with some caraway seed and some type of cured pork. Not pictured is my red cabbage - while the red cabbage at Maders was soft and tasteless, it was flavorful and still had a slight crunch at Ratzsch's.

Below, dreamy potato pancakes. They were as good as they looked!

Check out my pimp mobile. It handled fairly well for a rental car so I started driving it like the M3 but then I nearly skidded off an offramp - hey, I'm just used to accelerating around curves rather than engaging my brakes (or maybe it was all that beer that I drank?)

Karl Ratzsch's
320 East Mason Street
Milwaukee, WI 53202

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Thursday, November 09, 2006

Milwaukee Day 2: Mader's and The Spice House

Below, a large glass of "Spotted Cow" - another beer locally brewed in Wisconsin. This one was brewed in the Old World Swiss Village of New Glarus, WI. Need I add that this beer has a high alcohol content? This beer was good but I liked Rendevous so much better (A shout out to Orlando and Adam and all the guys at Lakefront Brewery!)

Mader's is a Milwaukee classic. You've probably read about it in Roadfood or saw it on one of many Foodtv shows (like on what's her name's show? the perky one?) After my great sup at Coquette Cafe I was in the mood for another culinary adventure and somehow I found my way to Old World Third Street even though the GPS system was en bonne forme (meaning it was more demonic than ever - I'm not even going to tell you what it did on our way to the rehearsal dinner.) The last time that mumsy was at Mader's was right after my brother was born and both sets of grandparents met each other for the first time - if you knew my grandparents you would know that this was a complete disaster!

Below, two of Mader's specialties: Sauerbraten and Wiener Schnitzel. This was actually my second plate since my first one was ice cold and they insisted on bringing me new food instead of just heating up my initial plate (the second plate wasn't that much warmer.) The Schnitzel was good but the Sauerbraten was a disapointment: the meat wasn't very good quality and the sauce didn't have that much of a contrast between the sweet and sour.

Below, the oxtail soup. How often do you see that on the menu? This was really good and it was nice to have something different and perhaps somewhat classic.

Below, mumsy's beer stein.

After lunch we went to The Spice House which was the original Penzey's before Bill Penzey opened Penzey's. It has many of the same spice and seasoning blends that Penzey's has but it is much more quaint and inviting than Penzey's. Also, I like their garam masala much better - the Penzey's version has too much clove in it.

So, I bought whole cardamon pods (green), Tandoori seasoning (this is a gift), "European" style peppercorns (black and white), smoked Spanish paprika (sweet), ground coriander, and whole cumin seed. The piece de resistance is a blend called Milwaukee Iron Seasoning (I don't think that Penzey's has this one). It is so good! It's like a southwestern seasoning but much better: it has chipotle in it so it's smokey and it also has lots of garlic. I'm dying to get a bone in rib-eye and douse it with this stuff.

Also on Old World Third Street is Usinger's sausage store and The Cheese Mart which sells Green Bay Packer's cheese.

1041 North Old World Third Street
Milwaukee, WI 53203

The Spice House
1031 North Old World Third Street
Milwaukee, WI 53203

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Monday, November 06, 2006

Milwaukee Day 1: Coquette Cafe

Below, a glass of the refreshingly smooth beer "Rendezvous." This beer is specially brewed for Coquette Cafe by Lakefront Brewery in Wisconsin (no wonder the alcohol content is so high!)

Several years ago Gourmet magazine named Coquette Cafe one of America's top restaurants. I didn't get to indulge in this French style bistro the last time that I was in Milwaukee so this time I made sure that I went within an hour of landing despite my demonic GPS system (how can one go West on a North/South street?)

I was all set for some onion soup (good cheese in Wisconsin) and some steak frites but they had a special 3 course Alsatian menu that night that I couldn't pass up (plus it was already a given that we were going to come back on Sunday night.)

Below, the first course of my Alsatian menu: Flammekueche (in other words an Alsatian cheese and bacon crisp). This was quite good, what made it was the fabulous bacon dotting the top. Note to my LA fans: if this looks good to you get thee over to Mimosa where they have an excellent Flammekueche. The bacon's not as good but the cheese is better.

Below, mumsy's white bean and vegetable soup with some more of that excellent bacon. This was so friggin' good! I could eat this forever; add some cheese toast and white wine (or a cold beer) and you have yourself a fabulous meal.

Below, my main course: wild salmon with sauerkraut (with more bacon!), spatzle, and a whole grain mustard sauce. This probably would have tasted better with a piece of smoked pork but I still liked it.

Below, the salmon is cooked just right and you can see the delicious sauerkraut (I think it was so good because it had obviously been soaked long enough and had gobs of fat in it - the fat gives it a creamy texture - plus some more of that bacon).

Below, a whimsical variation on the classic salade nicoise: instead of tuna a piece of duck confit is placed on top.

Below, the cranberry and currant crumble. This was so simple and yet so divine. The crumble topping was one of the best that I've ever had.

Coquette Cafe
316 N. Milwaukee Street
Milwaukee, WI 53202