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

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Rick's Drive-in Featuring "The Spuderito"

For the last 10 years, on and off, I've worked in Pasadena. On many occasions I've driven by the intersection of Walnut and El Molino and noted to self to one day eat at the very popular burger place on the southeast corner. Well, I never got there and the note to self faded into the netherworld.

But one day I read that Rick's Drive-in was closing. Mon Dieu! That's the burger place that I always wanted to go to in Pasadena. As it happened, My Doppelganger and I were starting a Great Burger Challenge series and we made the decision to get to Rick's tres vites before it closed.

Is it fair to compare a Rick's Drive-in burger to one from Father's Office? Perhaps not. I realized after eating at Rick's and speaking with my fellow foodies that there is definitely a burger hierarchy in Los Angeles: you have your fast food/drive thru burgers (Tommy's, In N Out, Rick's, etc.); your well known restaurant burgers (Dish, Pete's, Village Idiot, etc.); and then your "elite" burgers (Father's Office, 25 Degrees, Lucky Devils, etc.). Is a burger that's not made with kobe style beef and served with a posh cheese and chipotle aioli worthy of a foodie's accolades? Even though the elite burger might always win out, due to the quality of ingredients and level of skill that goes into the preparation, I think that a fast food burger could easily have a place on a top ten list.

Check out Mr. Taste of Thai's thoughts on his double cheeseburger:

Actually, off camera he admitted that he thought that a Rick's Drive-in burger was better than In N Out. I have to agree: I thought that the burger was really tasty.

LAgourmet ordered one of the special french bread burgers and was quite disappointed:

The big hit, with me at least, was "The Spuderito." While we were standing in line, and then waiting for our burgers, nearly everyone who went to Rick's said, "What's a Spuderito?" Here, find out:

See my passionate reaction to "The Spuderito":

One of the other retro items that we ordered was the Taco on a Bun. It was essentially an americanized taco (seasoned meat, lettuce, tomato, and cheese) on a burger bun with mustard. Check it out:

Pursuant to MaxMillion's request, I've mixed it up a bit. My homage to French New Wave Cinema:

As an added bonus, here is a photo of my Crema di Limone gelato from Bulgarini Gelato Artigianale in Alta Dena. One spoonful of this stuff and I was transported to my favorite sea side resort in Sicilia.

Rick's Drive-in
680 E. Walnut Street
Pasadena, CA 91101

Bulgarini Gelato Artigianale
749 E. Altadena Drive
Altadena, CA 91001

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Sunday, April 22, 2007

Beacon, an Asian Cafe

Below, two views of the luscious yaki udon: glistening strands of udon noodles stir fried with slivers of tender pork, green onions, cabbage, and kim chee. The kim chee is what makes this dish for me - it highlights the other flavors (mostly bland) plus the funkiness of the kim chee gives this everyday dish a little oomph.

Beacon, although officially located in the City of Los Angeles, is a big part of Culver City's dynamic dining scene. Situated in the southern corner of the Helms Bakery Complex (right across the street from The Jazz Bakery and my favorite cheap steak frites place, La Dijonnaise), Beacon became, right from the start, not only a destination restaurant but a favorite with the locals as well.

Below, iced green tea and pomegranate sake. In the past I've had the pleasure of sipping the lychee infused sake as well as pineapple.

Below, the Beacon Roll: no rice nor nori, just salmon, crab, and avocado wrapped in a thin layer of cucumber topped with the distinct ponzu gelee and sesame seeds. I feel like Violet Beauregarde, before she inflates, as I chew one of these delicious little morsels: each component's taste comes through yet they all blend so perfectly with one another.

Below, a beautiful sugar snap salad with radishes and goat cheese, diffused with daikon sprouts.

Below, the delicate and very elegant avocado salad with mixed greens, cilantro, Tokyo negi (a Japanese green onion which tastes kind of sweet - the flavor reminds me a bit of fennel), and kuro goma (black sesame seed) with a rice wine vinaigrette.

One of my other favorite salads, the stir fried mushroom salad. I hate to admit this, but I never knew that this salad existed until I saw a Rachel Ray show (this is so embarrassing!) several years ago and she was knoshing on this salad. The next time that I went I ordered it out of curiosity and it has been one of my standards since. I especially love the flavored almonds and the marinated carrots.

Below, a carnivore's delight: a half pound burger with carmelized onions, bacon, and a posh cheese, and the meat has a sweet soy glaze on it.

Below, Les Beaux Cheveux, Esq. ordered the upscale Ring Ding for dessert. I am not from back east so I didn't know that a Ring Ding is a Ding Dong; had I known, I would have ordered one too since I am a Ding Dong fanatic.

3280 Helms Avenue
Los Angeles, California 90034

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Sean's Burgers, Yuca's Hut, and Burrito King - the Great Silver Lake/F'iz Burger Crawl

A preview of coming attractions:

On top: the Double Chili Cheeseburger from Sean's Burgers.

Middle: the Double Chili Cheeseburger from Yuca's Hut.

Bottom: the Double Cheeseburger from Burrito King.

I've been tempted to do a Silver Lake/F'iz (Los Feliz) burger crawl since reading two recent threads on the chowhound LA board. In the first one, lil mikey tells us of his burger adventures at Sean's Burgers (the new place that is now in the old Jay's Jayburger stand), and in the second, Burger Boy ponders the merits of a burger from Yuca's Hut and waxes nostalgic for the burger from Burrito King.

Sean's Burgers:

When I said "charcoal" flavor what I meant to say was "grilled" flavor (sorry, my mind must still be on charcoal Korean bubbaque). Speaking of grilled flavor, my next stop was at Yuca's:

Burger Boy mentioned that there was too much mustard on the burger. I have to admit I took my few bites from the perimeter of the burger and didn't taste any mustard; however, when I got the burgers home and dissected this burger, there was a huge splat of mustard right in the middle of Yuca's burger.

Burrito King:

I think that the best overall tasting burger was from Sean's but if I had ordered the burger from Yuca's without chili I think that one would have been best. The meat was of higher quality and it was really charred giving it a wonderful flavor.

While dissecting the burgers I couldn't help but notice how well Burrito King's burger held up: the lettuce on the other two burgers had already wilted but Burrito King's lettuce was still really crisp. If one just subbed Yuca's patties into the Burrito King bun and accoutrements, it would be a fabulous burger.

Sean's Burgers
4481 Santa Monica Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90029

Yuca's Hut
2056 N. Hillhurst Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90027

Burrito King
2827 Hyperion Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90027

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Thursday, April 05, 2007


The first appetizer to arrive: the bacala crostini. It was creamy and yummy, and not salty at all. The drizzle of fruity olive oil and the black olives were the perfect garnish.

And to drink with it a carafina of Rosato produced by Joe Bastianich's vineyard in Friuli:

I have to admit, I was all prepared to hate Mozza on my first outing there. Mumsy had already been a few weeks ago and she brought home some leftovers that were absolutely dreadful! "Nancy's" Chopped Salad had a virus killing amount of vinegar on it (plus it tasted like something that one would get at a big corporate chain) and the special sausage had a casing the texture of parchment paper plus the sausage meat tasted mealy. Mumsy said that the pizza was excellent but she ate it all before I could try it.

So I met a dozen women there this last Sunday for My Doppelganger's surprise bday party. Boy, was she surprised. And so was I by how damn good the food was!

One of my favorite things to eat is arancine. These arancine were smaller and more like suppli al telefono (so called because when you pull them apart the melted cheese looks like telephone wires):

Ooh, watch the bubbling roasted olives fresh out of the oven:

These smelled divine! However, there was too much rosemary in the dish and I thought that Lucques olives were too firm - I would have preferred a softer olive. But the garlic in the dish was fabulous and the oil/herb mixture made a great dunk for our leftover pizza crusts.

A must to order at Mozza, the chicken liver crostini with guanciale. The flavor combinations were great as were the contrasting textures of the smooth liver and the crispy guanciale:

Below, the squash blossom, burrata, and tomato pizza. This was good, but the burrata cheese was way too cold and clashed with the hot pizza crust. It would have been a lot better if the cheese were slightly warmer - it would have been a nicer contrast with the crust.

See the different pizzas that we ordered:

The special "pizzetta" in the second video had mascarpone, peas, ramps, and pancetta on it. I figured out right after I filmed the pizzetta that the weird flavor was anise seed. That pizza did not need that much anise seed, if any.

Here was the special on Sunday, the lasagne al forno:

I loved this but most people in our party did not because the dish did not conform to what they know as lasagne, i.e., it wasn't the Italian American lasagne, or what passes for Italian American lasagne in this City. This was perfect to me: the noodles were like silk hankerchiefs, a wonderful bolognese, and a creamy balsamella (bechamel); just a simple minimalist Italian dish.

The best dessert ever:

I don't mention it on the video, because I hadn't tried one, but the little cookies served on the side were absolutely incredible, nearly as good as the butterscotch budino. They were like a shortbread but I think that the fat was olive oil instead of butter and they had some carmelized pine nuts and fresh rosemary sprigs on top. Divoon!

I have to admit that Mario Batali's Lupa is one of my all time favorite restaurants, and while Mozza is not as good as Lupa, it's still an excellent restaurant.

641 N. Highland Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90036

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Sunday, April 01, 2007

Cham Sut Gol

Raven exclaims, "Bulgogi chuseyo!" ("Korean bbq please!")

A couple of years ago, Soot Bull Jeep was the standard for me when it came to Korean bubbaque places that used real charcoal in their grills as opposed to just gas (come to think of it, Soot Bull Jeep was the only place that I knew of that used charcoal). Then a friend told me of this legendary place that was better than Soot Bull Jeep. It was hard to find since there was no sign in English, but the name in Korean meant "House of Charcoal."

I never did find out exactly where this place was (I knew that it was on Olympic somewhere) until I posted a comment on eatdrink&bemerry's site and mentioned the legend of the "House of Charcoal." He responded that he thought Cham Sut Gol might be the place that I've been looking for. Since Raven and I were going to see "The Host" and I knew that I would be craving Korean afterwards, I suggested to her that we try this place.

Cham Sut Gol might just be the "House of Charcoal." It's on Olympic, there is no English sign, and it definitely has charcoal grills. Is it better than Soot Bull Jeep?

Smoke gets in your eyes (and in your clothes and in your hair...)

Cham Sut Gol has fairly high quality of meat but it's not a large amount and it's rather expensive. The Galbi (short rib) was nearly $24 and the Bulgogi (thinly sliced marinted beef) was nearly $18. We probably could have ordered an additional meat, since we were still hungry, but we really didn't feel like paying an additional $10 - $12 each for it. At most places that I go to ordering one plate of meat per person is a sufficient amount of food. However, in their defense, they do have lunch specials that are a combination of meat and some other dish like naeng-myun (cold noodles). I didn't look at the price of the lunch specials but I'm assuming that they are considerbly cheaper.

Below, the waitress suggested that I add a slice of the wasabi marinated daikon radish to my beef and rice noodle wrapper (not only did it look pretty but it tasted great.)

At this outing we received rice noodle sheets and lettuce salad to make our bangja gui but I think that my preference is towards lettuce leaves, rice, and scallion salad. We received a variety of dipping sauces: fermented bean; chile garlic; and sesame oil with a healthy dose of salt added to it.

A tour of the panchan. Good but nothing stood out.

Below, beautiful and tasty seaweed salad:

The de rigueur kim chee:

Slices of raw garlic and jalapenos that we put on the grill (notice the bean sprout salad in the background):

Now to answer the question posed above. Even though I like the sides better at Soot Bul Jeep (that scallion salad is fabulous!) I think that I'm leaning towards Cham Sut Gol. I thought that the quality of the meat was higher and the service was quite good. I like the fact that parking was pretty hassle free at Cham Sut Gol (lot and plenty of street parking.) It's probably not too much more expensive than Soot Bull Jeep because SBJ charges an additional $2 per person for rice and panchan.

Cham Sut Gol
3700 W. Olympic Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90017

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