Thursday, November 30, 2006

Drowning in work..........!

After an amazing trip to Japan, a bout with the flu and new responsibilities at work, I've had no time to update my beloved TT. Hope you all stay tuned as I do plan to keep it up after I get my head above water at work. In the meantime, here are some photos from our recent trip, which honestly was one of our best ever, if not a learning experience that perhaps I may be getting too old to party all night and not suffer the consequences afterward. Ah, to be 21 again, if only for the bounce-back-fast aspect of it all............

Renkon no kimpira

Castella shaped like little men......(castella is a sweet cake)

Close up of the castella.......

Fried. Pork. Sandwich. 'Nuff said, right???

More to come.....

Friday, November 24, 2006

One post before we leave Japan......

An eki-ben to tide you over......

See you all back online soon!

Sayonara Nippon....mata sugu aitai ne!!!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Last Post Before VACATION: Yuzu Miso Pork Chops

Vacation, all I ever wanted.....vacation haaave to get away...........Yes, dear readers, the time has once again come for another trip to one of my favorite places on earth. JAPAN! I guess my last trip was only six short months ago, but this time J's band is going on a one week tour and I've decided to tag along, groupie-style. Ok, not groupie-style but wife-style. We'll start off in Osaka, then go to Tokyo and finish up in Nagoya. Although we'll miss Thanksgiving, we'll have plenty of non-turkey items to nosh on. I'm particularly looking forward to okonomiyaki, ramen, hot corn soup in the can in the vending machines (hey- it's GOOD), thick toast with good coffee, and lots of izakaya eats! It will be nice to be in a place that actually feels like winter, since Los Angeles refuses to cool down. It's difficult to feel the holiday spirit when it's 85 degrees out.

Miso mixed with yuzu, mirin, egg, sugar, yuzu kosho...

In honor of our upcoming journey, I'd like to share with you a Japanese-inspired dish that I snagged off of Chubby Hubby. I made a few tweaks (like using pork instead of lamb) and skipped all of the garnishes, but it came out very well. My parents bought a yuzu tree that is now filled with the little citrus, and I was lucky enough to get one last weekend when I went over for dinner. I'd clipped and saved the CH recipe months ago and finally had the chance to try it out!

Browning the chops.......

Placed in baking dish........

I purchased three boneless pork chops and brined them in water, brown sugar and salt for 2 days (I brine most of my chicken and pork these days- it makes ALL the difference). Since Chubby Hubby's recipe is for 10 servings, I did my best to whittle it down and convert the measurements. I mixed some white miso paste, mirin, sugar, one egg yolk, yuzu kosho and the grated peel of one yuzu in a bowl and set it aside while I browned the pork chops in a pan. After generously smearing each pork chop with the miso paste, I sprinkled each with a bit of panko and a few slivered almonds before placing them in a baking dish in a 400 degree oven for about 10 minutes.

The chops came out great, and the flavor of the yuzu mixed in with the sweet miso was fantastic. Served with some steamed brown rice, mushrooms sautéed in butter and soy sauce and a green salad, it was a nice, healthy dinner. Next time I will definitely try it out with lamb chops, although this yuzu miso would be good on pretty much anything, including halibut or chicken. I think it will make repeated appearances on our table. Thanks CH!

Dinner is served!

I doubt I'll be able to blog during my trip, but I will absolutely make it my duty to eat as much good food as I can- after all, it's my responsibility to you, dear reader!

Hope you all have a beautiful Thanksgiving and lots of delicious food!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Sourdough pancakes

I can't remember the first time that J and I had the sourdough pancakes at Campanile, but I do remember being completely blown away by them. J, particularly, fell hard and fast for the thin, light and slightly tangy discs of pure delight, and has ordered them on every single brunch outing to Campanile in the years since. We've looked long and hard for other restaurants that serve these beauties but have never found another place in Los Angeles that featured them on the menu. Not that it'd be easy to top Campanile's version- they truly are moutwateringly sour and absolutely delicious. The tanginess combined with creamy butter and sweet maple syrup is something that everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime.

I knew, one day, that I'd want to attempt to make my own sourdough pancakes, but first I would need a starter. Call it laziness, fear of the unknown or both, but I never got around to creating the mix of flour and water that would grow into an active starter. Yes, it's been on my cooking list-of-things-to-make for awhile now, but I got distracted by shiny photos in Food & Wine or Gourmet of other foods that just cried out for my attention.

Then, one day, as I was perusing one of my favorite food blogs, I noticed one sentence within the post about sourdough pancakes. The post itself wasn't even about the pancakes, but when I read that the Raven-haired Goddess of Seattle Food Blogging had a recipe courtesy of her brilliant fiancée, I didn't waste any time asking her for some advice. I was unrealistically hoping that the recipe didn't involve a starter, but of course it did. Then, Ms M came to the rescue by actually offering to mail me some of her own starter! "How on earth was this possible?" I thought, but let Ms M take charge. Sure enough, a couple of short weeks later, a jiffy pack arrived on my door containing a Ziploc filled with broken pieces of dried starter and instructions on how to reanimate it. How brilliant!!

Dried, crumbled starter arrives!

I quickly got to work and by the next day, I had a bubbling caldron (ok, Pyrex bowl) of live, active sourdough starter!! In my house!! On my counter!!! I carefully followed Ms M's instructions and fed it daily for about a week, after which time I had enough to make a batch of pancakes. I looked up a recipe online and the batter came together so easily. Although Ms M mentioned that baking soda or powder may cancel out the sourness, the pancakes did retain a good deal of tang.

Crumbled starter soaking in water....

It's ALIVE!!!!!!!!!!!!

Close up of active bubbles....

It just so happens that I work with Campanile owner/chef Mark Peel's wife Daphne, and he was kind enough to give me some advice on how to make the pancakes without the baking powder and soda. He suggested separating the eggs, mixing in the yolks and then whipping the whites to form soft peaks, then folding them into the batter. I will definitely try it that way and see if I get tangier sourdough pancakes. Thanks Daphne and Mark!!

Pancakes getting ready to flip out!

And thank you, Ms. M, for sending me a little piece of your starter which will hopefully live a long and glorious life in my refrigerator for years to come. I hope that you don't get flooded with requests for starter (please don't, dear reader!)- I simply had to give a shout out for giving me something I've wanted for so long.

Beautiful, airy, light and delicious....

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Happy Blog Birthday: Tuna Toast Turns One Today!

I can hardly believe it's been twelve months since I dipped my toe into the food blogging waters. What started as a cautious and unsure journey has now turned into one of my favorite hobbies, and I have you, dear reader, to thank for that. After trolling on several wonderful food blogs for months, I finally got up the nerve to start Tuna Toast. Had it not been for the many beautiful, well-written and fabulous food blogs out there (either created or read by you all!) I would have never gotten the inspiration to start my own. For this, I am forever grateful.

Domo Arigatou!

Friday, November 10, 2006

Restaurant review: MOZZA

Last night I had the chance to preview MOZZA, the much-anticipated (talk about an understatement) and much-hyped pizzeria owned and operated by Mario Batali and Nancy Silverton. Foodies and pizza-lovers have been waiting for the opening, and much as already been written about the place, including a story on a recent salami theft there. Yes, people break into restaurants to steal $700 worth of it must be good, right?

Good can't even begin to describe it. I must warn you- if you get annoyed by raving restaurant reviews, stop reading now because it's all love from me, baby. And before you start accusing me of working for them or getting paid to do this, let me stop you. In the interest of full disclosure, I do know the Executive Chef and the Manager/Sommelier very well- we've been friends for a while. That said, I would never pretend to like something that a friend made if it wasn't good. Never. Well, maybe if my 96-year-old grandma ever made me cookies and asked if I liked them and I didn't, I may fib a little and say yes. Other than that, why would I insult my friends or family when they are well aware of my obsession with food?

Now that we've gotten the formalities out of the way, let's begin.

The space is medium sized, with high ceilings and a "pizza bar" where you can see the wood-burning oven surrounded by several chefs in full view. It's casual in a very refined way and not at all formal. There is a beautiful bar that takes up one wall but it has a nice, relaxed atmosphere and was certainly bustling last night. The service was friendly, informative and helpful. One thing- the place is LOUD. In fact, I must say it was one of the loudest restaurants I'd been to in recent memory. Hopefully something can be done to remedy that problem.

We started with 2 glasses of the Tuscan Morellino di Scansano Sangiovese ($10) which came in larger-than-I've-seen personal decanters. Since I had viewed the menu online awhile back, I knew the one starter that I had to have- a bruschette of Chicken Livers, Capers, Parsley and Guanciale ($8). I absolutely love chicken liver- my dad used to make it for supper and I've loved it ever since. I don't see it often on restaurant menus so I jumped at the chance to try their version. What can I say? It was the ultimate bruschette. The chicken livers were sautéed and slightly mashed but still very chunky. Spread on thin slices of grilled bread and topped with paper-thin crisps of guanciale, it was MADE for consumption with the sangiovese and just heavenly. I must warn you how decadently rich it truly is, but my god- food just doesn't really get much better than this. The guanciale is extremely salty but the chicken liver mixture is not, so balance is achieved.

Bruschette of Chicken Livers, Capers, Parsley

We chose the Eggplant Caponata ($6) which ended up being the perfect compliment to the salty bruschette in that it was tender, cool and sweet. The small bowl had large chunks of melt-in-your-mouth eggplant tossed with pine nuts and currants all coated in a sweet glaze. I must say, there were way too many pine nuts in the dish and I would have preferred to have a slight sprinkling of them on top, but overall the flavors were delicious. It really was a nice contrast to the richness of the chicken liver. J and I agreed that these two small plates would be the perfect after-work dinner, washed down with a bottle of wine, of course;).

Eggplant Caponata

Margherita with Mozzarella, Tomato & Basil

And now, what the place is famous and will eventually become legendary for, the pizza. Oh, the pizza my friends. Of course we had to start with the classic Margherita with Mozzarella, Tomato & Basil ($10). The minute our waiter sat the pie down on the table, we were hit with the aroma of fresh was intoxicating. The pizza was thin in the center and absolutely bulbous with air bubbles around the perimeter. We dug right in and yes- it was truly the best pizza I'd ever eaten in my life. The Mozza Margherita is perfect in its simplicity of fresh, crushed tomatoes, torn basil and a light sprinkling of mozzarella. The crust was thin but held everything together well and had the perfect chew and slightly yeasty flavor. This was special.............until.........

...the next pie came. The Burrata, Escarole, Bacon & Caramelized Shallots pizza ($13) arrived at our table, topped with obscene globs of creamy white burrata and small chunks of pork belly. I love how Mozza means "smoked pork belly" when they say "bacon." I took a bite and promptly went to confession. Ok, I didn't but how could anything this good not be a mortal sin??? The same glorious crust of the margherita was now holding the beautiful green escarole, the chunks of richly fatty pork and topped by the coolest, creamiest burrata. Each bite was a combination of the slightly chewy crust and all the flavors of the freshest toppings. Now THIS was something truly special.

Burrata, Escarole, Bacon & Caramelized Shallots pizza

2005 Moscato d'Asti (left)

We'd consumed quite a bit of some glorious food, but nothing could prepare me for what was yet to come. We were served two different dessert wines, and although the pale, sparkling Stella Rosa Il Conte d' Alba ($7.50) was smooth and flowery, the 2005 Moscato d'Asti ($8) was a revelation. It's red color defied it's crisp, moscato flavor and it was, quite truly, like eating the grape itself. Such a wonderful find!

Soffiata w/ Yogurt Gelato and Amarena Cherries

And what did we eat with these lovely glasses of wine? The Soffiata w/ Yogurt Gelato and Amarena Cherries ($7) was nice-almond puffs, tangy gelato and sweet cherries topped with a light sprinkling of pistachios. A classic flavor combination. However, it was completely overshadowed by what I will, on record, say is the best dessert I've had at any restaurant this year. The Butterscotch Budino with Rosemary-Pine Nut Biscotti ($7) was the richest custard I've ever eaten with a deep caramel/butterscotch flavor. One bite is rich enough to send you over the edge, yet somehow, you find your spoon going in for another scoop, and yet another. Then you see that now your spoon has taken a dollop of the budino and put it on top of one of the two crunchy cookies that come on the plate and before you know it- it's all in your mouth. Your senses pick up the slightly burnt caramel sweetness combined with what must be the best sea salt and it all comes together with a hint of rosemary from the biscotti. If you've been looking for the ultimate in butterscotch puddings, your search has just ended here.

Butterscotch Budino with Rosemary-Pine Nut Biscotti

As we rolled ourselves out of the restaurant, we made plans to hit the treadmill with extra vigor and, of course, to return to Mozza many times over. I implore you to take a trip to Mozza with an empty stomach and prepare to eat some of the finest pizza, if not THE finest pizza, Los Angeles has ever seen.

Mozza opens Tuesday, November 14th and is open 7 days a week from noon to midnight.

Pizzeria Mozza
641 N Highland Ave
Los Angeles
323 297 0101


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Lunch at Lucques

Ah, hump day. There really isn't much to like about Wednesdays except for the simple fact that you know there are only two days left in the work week. Well, there is 30 Rock......and LOST...(Sawyer, if you're reading this, I love you)......and Top Chef (Tom Colicchi, if you're reading this, I love you).....Alright!!! Maybe there are quite a few good things about Wednesdays but none could be as good as a special little present that I received on this particular hump day. What, you say? A lunch a Lucques. A lovely, lovely lunch at Lucques. A luscious, lazy lunch at Lucques. Could there BE anything better on a working Wednesday, or any day, for that matter? I'm wracking my brain but I cannot think of a single thing that would be better.

Yes, my friends, I am no longer a Lucques virgin. As shocking as it might be, I had never been to the famed restaurant until today. Actually, until a couple of hours ago. Yes, I have the cookbook and have gone to chef/owner Suzanna Goin's other popular eatery, AOC, but never to Lucques. When a foodie/cook/restaurant-lover coworker heard of this travesty, he insisted he take me to lunch straight away and promptly set a date. After waiting anxiously for a week, that day finally came!

These are non-alcoholic.....they really are.....

We made the short drive from our Hollywood office to the Melrose location, valet parked and went into the mostly-empty restaurant (we went for an early lunch). The lovely hostess/manager greeted my friend the way you'd greet family- he's a regular there and knows the staff well. She let us choose whatever table on the patio we wanted. As I sat down, I took a good look around the beautiful surroundings and knew I was in for a treat. Our waiter quickly brought the menus, followed by water and the bread basket along with sweet butter and sea salt, plus the famous olives and almonds tossed with olive oil. We ordered beverages and perused the menu.

After about ten minutes, we finally decided on what to order. Although the beloved BLT is no longer seasonal and therefore not on the menu, all of the choices sounded delightful. I chose to start with the Fatoosh Salad with Cucumber, Cherry Tomatoes, Ricotta Salata, Parsley and Fried Pita. Once it came to the table, I could see that it was a beautiful salad of what looked to be sliced romaine lettuce along with the other elements- chunks of the salata, half-moons of yellow and red baby tomatoes and broken up pieces of fried pita. When I ignorantly asked the waiter where the "fatoosh" was, he answered that fatoosh refers to the kind of salad and is not the name of an ingredient. Well- ya learn something new every day right?! The salad was absolutely delicious and I loved the creaminess of the ricotta salata with the crunch of the fried pita pieces. It had a nice, greek-salad flavor and was a refreshing start to the meal. My friend D had the Arugula and Heirloom Apple Salad with Romao, Pomegranate and Almonds. The dark green leaves of arugula glistened with good olive oil and the pomegranate seeds sat like little rubies on top. The romao cheese were a nice, sharp compliment to the tartness of the apples and the spicy arugula.

Fatoosh Salad with Cucumber, Cherry Tomatoes, Ricotta Salata, Parsley and Fried Pita

Arugula and Heirloom Apple Salad with Romao Cheese, Pomegranate and Almonds

Our empty plates were cleared and we waited for the main event. Did I mention how lovely the patio at Lucques is? Oh yes, I did, but one cannot emphasize enough the peace and tranquility one feels sitting in the middle of the Lucques patio....on a workday. There's something so naughty about driving away from work, slipping into such a beautiful restaurant and dining on such gorgeous food in the middle of the day. If you haven't done such a thing, go and treat yourself! I highly recommend it and plan to do it more often.

Stuffed Quail with Beluga Lentils, Kabocha Squash and Orange Butter

Back to the food! My main entree of Stuffed Quail with Beluga Lentils, Kabocha Squash and Orange Butter arrived. My little quail sat perched on two meaty slices of kabocha and surrounded by the tiny black legumes, tiny legs and all. The tender quail meat was wrapped around a delicious stuffing, and the lentils were just skipping happily in the rich butter which also coated the sweet and moist kabocha. My friend had the Grilled Organic Chicken with Cornbread, Mizuna and Butternut Squash Agrodolce. When I saw the thick, grilled slice of rustic cornbread peeking out from underneath the fleshy chicken and colorful vegetables, I resisted the urge to bend over the plate and take a big bite out of it. That would be rude now, wouldn't it? I patiently waited until D told me to try it (don't you love it when friends TELL you to try instead of ask if you want to? It makes life so much easier) and carefully made "the perfect bite" of cornbread, chicken, roasted pepitas and vegetables. Talk about the ultimate comfort food with a gourmet twist. We both pretty much polished off everything on our plates and sat back feeling pretty damned groovy.

Grilled Organic Chicken with Cornbread, Mizuna and Butternut Squash Agrodolce

As we exited the restaurant, we talked about how it takes a special talent, or actually a gift to combine such different and unusual ingredients which all come together to make one, delicious dish. I would never think to pair lentils and kabocha, thinking the two would be too heavy together, but it worked so well in my quail entree. I certainly do not know Suzanne Goin, but she must get such sweet satisfaction from achieving such wonderful success doing what she quite clearly was born to do. We should all be so lucky......but at least we have the luck of enjoying the fruits of her labor....and what delicious fruits they are!

8474 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA
323 655 6277


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Weekend wedding.....

Last weekend, two of our very dear friends were married at The Paramour in a beautiful ceremony surrounded by lots of friends and family. It was an affair that we'd all been waiting for, and everyone put on their best dresses and suits to welcome the couple into their new life together.

The weather was absolutely gorgeous, and we could see all of Los Angeles from the hilltop where the ceremony and reception were held. There was a Mexican trio playing love songs and the officiant made jokes throughout. The 15-minute ceremony was the sweetest and shortest one in recent memory, which was great since everyone was eager to get the party started!! After lots of hugs and photo taking, everyone converged onto the pool area for cocktail hour and hors d`oeuvres.

Pool area at The Paramour........

First of all, I must say that The Paramour is a beautiful place. Apparently it used to be the residence of silent films star Antonio Moreno- now it's pretty much used for weddings, events and the taping of that awful show, Rock Star. As we stood around the marble pool and toasted the couple's happiness, I couldn't help but be awed by the serenity of the trees, the view of downtown and the gorgeous building. It was lovely, to say the least. The waiters passed trays of ceviche on mini tostada rounds, marinated chicken skewers and mini chorizo and cheese quesadillas- all were delicious. They were so yummy that I completely forgot to take photos.

First course salad.......

We reconvened on the hillside where the tables had now been set up to start the reception. We started with a light salad of mixed baby greens topped with fresh oranges and jicama tossed with a chile dressing. It was sweet, slightly spicy and very refreshing. For the main course, J got the Chile En Nogada plate which came with a piece of grilled, marinated chicken, beans and rice. Chiles En Nogada is a green chile stuffed with a meat mixture, then topped with a white walnut sauce and pomegranate seeds. The red, green and white represent the colors of the Mexican flag and this dish is apparently a favorite on Mexican Independence Day. I had long read about this fascinating dish and was thrilled that I had the chance to try it. I got the chile rellenos plate which came with the same chicken, beans and rice as J's dish did. We split the chiles to have a taste of each, and both were excellent, although my I got a super spicy chile in my chile relleno. The Chile En Nogada was delicious- not as sweet as I had imagined. Each table got a basket of flour and corn tortillas and we all happily noshed away.

Chile relleno plate........

Chile en nogada plate.......

By the time we got to the cake, everyone was pretty...well......let's just say happy! I think I took one bite of my gigantically enormous slice that someone heaved onto my plate, then we kissed everyone goodbye and headed home, satisfied. The party favors were bottles of hot sauce with custom labels which had the couple's name, the wedding date and other funny details. We'll be enjoying those for weeks to come.

Parting gifts........

Congratulations R & L!!! We couldn't be happier for you both, and thanks for being such wonderful friends to us!