Monday, October 5, 2009

Gourmet magazine closes and era ends for foodies

After nearly 70 years of fine eating, the lavish meal known as Gourmet magazine is over.

Conde Nast blamed the tough economic climate Monday when it told its staff it was closing the stalwart of the food media world, long considered the dean of culinary publishing.

"It's the center of gravity, a major planet that's just disappearing," said chef and author Anthony Bourdain, who said Gourmet was the first food publication to give him a chance as a writer. "There's been a lot of speculation about this happening, but I'm still stunned."

Conde Nast also said it was shuttering Modern Bride, Elegant Bride and Cookie, a parenting magazine. Earlier in the year it ceased publication of Portfolio, a business magazine, and Domino, a homes title. Sister Conde Nast publication Bon Appetit survived the cuts, and will likely absorb many of Gourmet's readers.

For those in the food world, the closure is a bit like waking up to find the old Life magazine had closed shop.

"It's certainly the grand dame of food magazines," said Tim Ryan, president of the Culinary Institute of America. "We'll never see the likes of a Gourmet magazine in that form again."

Since 1999, Gourmet has been headed by Ruth Reichl, a doyenne of the food world and former New York Times restaurant critic. Reichl ushered the magazine firmly into the 21st century, overseeing launches of award-winning Web sites and television series.

More than just a cooking magazine, Gourmet explored the culture — and increasingly the politics — of food.

It was that connecting of the dots between policy, the environment and the dinner table that food writer Michael Pollan, author of "The Omnivore's Dilemma," most lamented losing.

"They were reaching an audience that wasn't sensitive to the political and ecological implications of their eating," he said in an e-mail. "It was largely a hedonistic community that Ruth introduced to some hard issues."

In a memo to staff Monday, Conde Nast CEO Charles Townsend said the company would remain committed to Gourmet's book-publishing and television franchises and keep its recipes on the popular

It was unclear what would become of the magazine's Web site, and Conde Nast spokeswoman Maurie Perl said it is still uncertain whether Reichl will stay with the company. The editors of the other three shuttered publications will be leaving, among roughly 180 employees cut.

Few expect another publication — virtual or otherwise — will fill the vacuum. Magazines that do rise from the rubble probably will reflect the newer trends in food publishing, driven by personalities and brands, such as Martha Stewart's Everyday Food and Food Network Magazine.

The greatest casualty may be the long-form food journalism favored by Gourmet, said Dana Cowin, editor-in-chief of Food & Wine, another of food publishing's Big Three, along with Gourmet and Bon Appetit.

"Ruth definitely devoted a lot more space, time and interest to literary writing and it's a shame to see that go," Cowin said. "You're not going to see that on a blog and when you use a recipe search tool."

Since its launch in 1941, Gourmet weathered repeated upheavals of the American food scene. At its inception, people ate local and seasonal because, well, that's all there was. When processed food supplanted the farm stand, Gourmet marched on.

And when food morphed from meal to movement and Americans ate local and seasonal as a political statement, Gourmet was there.

During Reichl's time at Gourmet, she saw the rise of the locavore movement — people eating locally produced foods — and molecular gastronomy, the art of preparing foods with chemistry and physics instead of traditional cooking techniques. She highlighted both trends in her first issue a decade ago.

But in recent years, how Americans got their food media also changed. Despite Gourmet's robust Web presence, keeping a bricks-and-mortar publication afloat proved too taxing.

"The transition from hard paper to the Internet is not as easy as it should be," said celebrity chef Bobby Flay. "We just take it as a sign of the way things are going to be now."

Gourmet's demise also illustrates the change in how power is held in the food world. The ability of print media to make — or break — anything is waning. Increasingly, it is the viral aspect of social networking and blogging that gives rise to new faces, places and flavors.

And in perhaps a nod to that, Reichl's first public comment after the announcement was made via Twitter.

"Thank you all SO much for this outpouring of support. It means a lot," she wrote. "Sorry not to be posting now, but I'm packing. We're all stunned, sad."

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Deep Fried Butter!

by Ivy

Ok, seriously... I'm having a heart attack from looking at a picture. After seeing countless new fried food inventions at the fair each year, I've always joked about it this way too--"What else are they going to think of next? Deep fried butter?" lol. I guess I was right!

full article:

Unfortunately, I'd be willing to try it. :)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

El Rocoto -- I Ate an Entire Cow

by Jacki

So, I didn’t REALLY eat an entire cow. But upon exiting El Rocoto Peruvian Restaurant in Gardena, it sure felt like I did. I think I could sum it up best if I shared with you the best quote ever, said to my friend Rob by a restaurant server:

“I don’t eat til I’m full; I eat til I hate myself.”

Hate is too strong of a word here, because I know I only stuff myself to max capacity when I’m eating food that truly feels special and unique.

El Rocoto is special and unique, indeed.

I do recommend checking out El Rocoto’s online menu first as it gives you a peek into the dishes you’ll find, and features creative food categories such as “soul warmer” and “from the garden” that are somewhat difficult to navigate on a crowded in-restaurant menu.

For a storefront at the center of a strip mall sandwiched between Marukai and the Burnt Tortilla, the web site is pretty professional and upscale! It made me feel I would be walking into an eatery a little more fancy than El Pollo Inka, my other favorite Peruvian hang out. But upon arrival, you’ll feel more cozy than pretentious at your unassuming table beneath a turquoise ceiling, complemented by simplistic chairs and just enough space to throw out your elbows and dive into the massive-sized plates.

Enough with the tease: let’s talk food.

I ordered a #26: Milanesa de Carne, a beef steak pounded super thin and breaded, then served with salad and your choice of steamed rice or French fries.

ENTER THE COW: this was the hugest breaded beef steak I’ve seen in my life, and I can honestly say I’ve seen big breaded beef steak before! It was served on a plate at least 12 inches wide that could barely contain the amount of food on it!

But the flavoring, the breading, the steak – it was perfect. I didn’t run across any fatty pieces that hat to be cut from the steak. And considering how thin it was I was sure it might be on the tougher side, but I was wrong; it was tender and flavorful. The creamy dipping sauce in the middle of the plate was delicious but subtle, leaving me wondering just what was in it and why I had to keep trying it.

I’m not a big fan of steak fries, but these were cooked well and maintained a nice crunch that complimented the tender steak.

Watch out for the salad: the dressing was nice and refreshing, but the salad itself was laden with celery: one of my greatest gastronomical foes! If you’re not picky about vegetables, you’ll be just fine.

Our server was very friendly and not overly-attentive, which is just my style. They do have an extensive wine list which, because it was a workday lunch, I didn’t tempt myself with so I can't attest to the quality of it. Prices range from $9.00 to $16 (or maybe even a little higher) but if you get a dish such as the Saltado de Pollo (pictured below: lean chicken sautéed with onion, tomatoes and French fries with a ample helping of steamed rice), you’ll definitely have enough to take home for a second helping.

El Rocoto is one of those places were you see dishes being served to other patrons and automatically “oooh” and “aaah,” then want to know what it is so you can order it next time. I’m definitely going back and am looking forward to trying their Chinese-inspired offerings.

I feel lucky to have been referred to El Rocoto, definitely a diamond in the restaurant row rough.

1356 Artesia Boulevard
Gardena, CA 90247

Monday, August 24, 2009

Alinea: Precision, Artistry, Science and Food

by Ivy
SWEET sweet sweet promo video for the restaurant, Alinea. Take a look! Next time I'm in Chicago, I'll have to look it up.

Alinea/Crucial Detail - "Tokyo Taste"

is a restaurant in Chicago which opened in 2005. Its chef /owner, Grant Achatz, is known for his inventive preparations and deconstructions of classic flavors, as well as his rotating menu.

It has included a peanut butter and jelly composed of a single, peeled grape, still on the stem, encased in peanut butter and wrapped in paper-thin brioche. Alinea is known to serve 20 or so small courses over a period of hours. Customers have been known to cry out due to flavor.

Meals encompass all senses. Many entrees specifically are designed to appeal to the sense of smell or feel, in order to enhance the flavor of the food. For example, one dish is served on an inflatable pillow filled with nutmeg infused air, which is to be breathed before tasting the actual food. Some call this style overly pretentious, though the overall effect can be quite appealing.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Great Noodle bars of the West

by Ivy

Craving a taste of the East found in the West perfect for hot, Summer days?

Two mind-blowing discoveries as of late... and then some!

each link goes to their Yelp sites. Photos by Yelpers!

Oumi Sasaya / Japanese \ Torrance, CA
Easily the best Udon bar in the South Bay area with an all female staff. Perfect, chewy noodles with the right tensile strength with many variations on udon. I recommend the cold version of udon with Tempura Shrimp & Mochi. Mmmmmm! I also recently tried the very unique Shabu-Shabu like "Suki" Udon where you receive a portable stove along with vegetables/meat that you cook yourself at the table. Cool, sleek and modern decor and ambiance inside with a long bar that creates a focal point when you enter. I've read reviews that it feels very much like the noodle bars in Japan.

Yuchun / Korean \ Koreatown Los Angeles, CA
Easily the best Nengmyun house in Koreatown/Downtown LA area. They import the noodles all the way from Korea so you know you're dealing with authentic stuff! Highly recommend the combo of cold, summery noodles with Kalbi(Korean marinated short-ribs). Lines actually form at this place on weekends. You can have the noodles two ways: Arrowroot, the noodles look black but pretty much taste as the Clear ones with two styles: Mool, in "watery" broth, or Bibim, with a spicy sauce.

Tried and true...

Ma Dang Gook Soo / Korean \ Koreatown Los Angeles, CA
Jonathan Gold of LA Weekly and Pulitzer fame loves this place. Try their Kal-guk-soo, "Knife noodles". I think this place is pretty good. They have a variety of downhome, modest Korean noodles--and notably, awesome, friendly service.

Sanuki No Sato / Japanese \ Gardena, CA
Yes, an old favorite of mine and a favorite of many, including Japanese celebs and even baseballs players as noted by the photos near the entrance. They are known for their udon. Nice, perky noodles in a delicious, clear broth. Everything here is great. Try their Tempura and other a la carte items. Always a favorite.

Otafuku Noodle House / Japanese \ Gardena, CA
Handmade "Seiro" soba noodles and udon. This too was also beloved by Mr. Gold. The noodles here are served naked: Straightforward, noodles and accompanied tsuyu sauce and traditional grated radish and scallions. The taste is in the noodles. Make sure you're in a simple mood and not a sexy one--the ambiance is pretty straightforward with hardly a decoration on the wall.

Oumi Sasaya:
2383 Lomita Blvd. Unit 101., Lomita, CA 90717 (310) 530-4661

3470 W 6th. St. Ste 11.,
Los Angeles, CA 90020
(213) 389-1200

Ma Dang Gook Soo:

869 S. Western Ave., Ste 1
., Los Angeles, CA 90005
(213) 487-6008

Sanuki No Sato:

18206 S. Western Ave
., Gardena, CA 90248
(310) 324-9184

Otafuku Noodle House:

16525 S Western Ave
., Gardena, CA 90247
(310) 532-9348

Sunday, July 26, 2009

aye yi yi yi yi Porto's

by Jacki

Sometimes my mouth is faster than my camera...
This weekend, I helped clog the on-ramps of our freeways to attend Cinespia, an event that could sound mildly morbid upon first hearing of it: cult movies are shown on a huge wall as you picnic on the well-kept greens of the Hollywood Forever cemetery.

The goal of the evening was to gather with two other couples, watch The Muppet Movie, drink some wine and have a picnic amongst the dead. That picnic would include 2 Buck Chuck and Five Shakes Macaroni and Cheese. Nooshi’s co-worker, friend, and thumb-sucker extraordinaire Rebecca (inside joke) and her husband, Nick, would be bringing sandwiches from a little place called Porto’s Bakery.

It would be my first time sampling the fare of this Los Angeles institution but I was already jazzed. Always liking to know what I’m getting into, I had perused their lunch menu on Thursday and requested a Cuban. I couldn’t wait to try it…which of course, if you’re familiar with my gravitational pull on Murphy’s Law, meant I would have to.

After standing in an atrocious line with a wait-time of over an hour while hampered by picnic baskets and the eclectic actions (and fashions) only Angelinos demonstrate without shame, the grounds of the cemetery reached maximum capacity. We weren’t getting in – and were left with food that was cooling and wine that was warming.

Time for Plan B: Rebecca and Nick graciously opened up their home to me, Eric, Nooshi, and Nooshi’s Eric, as it was just a short drive up the road. Soon, I would have my Cuban, and one of the most entertaining evenings I've had in a long time!

I’m going to skip over a lot here that’s actually really important; such as how stunning, cozy, and full of soul their home was, the fact that I should have let Rebecca reheat my Mac and Cheese, and my viewing of the most awesome bathroom tile I’ve ever seen. I’m even going to give mild details on the Cuban, which was incredibly good! Roasted Pork and Ham over Swiss cheese with a spread of mustard, mayo and just the right amount of pickles on Cuban bread…what could be more satisfying?

Apparently, dessert.

I bit into a big section of heaven that Porto’s calls the Refugiado™. Yes, heaven has been officially trademarked in this Guava and Cream Cheese pastry that’s listed as a top-seller.

Me, post-bite. I can't remember when I've taken such a happy photo!

I testified I would pay at least $3 for this delightful, buttery, flaky treat with a bonanza of sweet and tart tropical fruit and bite of flattering cream cheese flavor; but you can get them for 0.85 cents each.

From the two selections I’ve had from Porto’s, I believe you could go there, order anything, and find yourself satisfied in the way only truly simple dining selections with an affordable ticket can. Porto’s is just one of those magical places that strikes like the Midas touch, and caters to a neighborhood of happy clients who know how lucky they are to live so close.

*As always, sorry for the non-professional photos!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The new kid in town: Ramen California

by Ivy

For Ramen purists, the new kid in town may be a bit appalling. He's got a new organic swagger that will fend off the loyal tonkotsu/shio, AKA porky broth fans. For the one's who are a bit more open-minded to new flavors and flavor combinations, Ramen California could be your new friend that shows you how to strut in skinny jeans and skip class. This interpretation isn't as deeply rich, creamy and heady as the original version, but it's not trying to be anything like the old and tried--it's daring to be different. Everything about this place bursts with creativity and even touches upon a bit of molecular gastronomy(he's friends with Ferran Adrià) as innovative chef Shigetoshi Nakamura offers you his culinary adventures.

“One day, I want people in Japan to think of this as California-style ramen.” Love or hate the results, what Nobu did for sushi, Sean might well do for the slurpy stuff.
-Rameniac on Shigetoshi "Sean" Nakamura

Here are some shots from two different visits. Sorry for the quality--I used my camera iPhone on both occasions.

Original Ramen California with 20 varieties of vegetables.
For the Vegetarians, you can get this without grilled chicken.
It comes with an intensely focused and clean chicken broth--
instead of the usual pork broth ramen is known for.
It also comes in 3 sizes(small, regular, large)

My first reaction before seeing it was, "I don't think I even know 20 different vegetables". Now I know! The bowl is filled with nibbly bits of edamame, carrots, cauliflower, baby corn, squash, beets, radish, arugula etc all either fresh, blanched or steamed to perfection--it's feels like a ramen with salad thrown in--oddly enough it works for me.

After all, an artist needs quality materials to work with and not only a great concept--the chicken broth is incredibly clean and pure--a standout base for all its dishes at Ramen California.

The 2nd visit for dinner, which was last night...

We were given complimentary Rosemary Kashi bread. This was pretty damn farkin' delicious. BUTTERY with an all-around crunch, sea salt mohawk on top, fluffy... Somehow they surprise you more by the texture within, more bread twirled on the inside. I could just come back for the rolls. Mmmmm

Here's the next ramen I tried.
I've heard this one sells out alot...
Reggiano Cheese-Tofu Ramen.

After my friend ordered the Reggiano Cheese-Tofu as a Tapas dish, we realized the tofu and cheese had been blended together to form a sauce.

Based on friends' reactions, I think this dish wouldn't go over well with somedue to the yogurt-like texture who ordered it tapas-style. However, I liked it.......... inside the ramen. I was confused whether to mix the sauce into the soup or dip the ramen into the cheese-tofu sauce--I ended up doing both. Also, there was an edible flower in my soup which I found to have a definite citrus taste to it(pic: see the orange spot in the greens?)! Quite original and summery.

But after comparing the two, I still prefer the original Ramen California with 20 vegetables sans cheese-tofu sauce. However, the cheese-tofu sells out the most.

Overall, I really liked it and definitely would go back--I still can't turn my back on tonkotsu or shio broth ramen. I like what it's trying to do--but I know it won't replace the good old hat. For the uninitiated, I wouldn't go in with any expectations of what ramen should taste like but go to experience a new culinary branching and artistry with, well, ramen! Their concept lies in "organic"--so they also have an offering of organic wines and lighter, brighter healthier ramen. Everything about this place feels fresh! I'd still like to go back and try their heirloom tomato ramen and Masala ramen and various proposals of Japanese-inspired tapas(carpaccio, oysters!).

Other related links worth reading:

Ramen California
24231 Crenshaw Blvd. Unit C
Torrance, CA 90505
(310) 530-2749
Tuesday - Sunday, closed Mondays
Lunch: 11:30am - 2:30pm
Dinner: 5:30pm - 10:00pm