Monday, September 29, 2008

The Tuna Toast Ten

It's Tuesday, which means it's time for another edition of our new weekly feature, The Tuna Toast Ten (cue thunderous applause). It's just a list of ten food-related questions that will be answered by a different person every Tuesday. Who's in the hot seat this week (meaning who did I beg and plead with to do this)? It's Los Angeles-based entertainment reporter Marc Istook, with whom I have the pleasure of working with and chatting about food with on a daily basis. Marc lists Food Network's "Gotta Get It" as one of his many television credits and is currently a reporter for Hollywood 411. He makes a mean cheesecake and is the go-to guy on any cooking-related segment we produce, including one we just shot with Marco Pierre White.

Occupation: TV Entertainment Reporter
City, State of residence: Los Angeles, CA
Website/blog/thing you'd like to pimp: Hollywood 411 on TV Guide Network

1. The best restaurant meal I've had recently is:
Hamasaku on Santa Monica in Westwood. Just incredible. I'm still learning to love sushi, but the combination of creative pairings and amazing flavors made this a meal I won't forget for awhile.

2. If money wasn't an issue, I would want to eat at:
I'd want to eat at Urasawa in Beverly Hills. I used to work near there and have heard nothing but good things about the eating experience. That, or El Bulli.

3. The food I eat most often is:
I eat a lot of sandwiches. But instead of just slapping some meat between two pieces of bread, I try to get creative with meats, toppings (salsa on a sandwich? I say yes!), paninis, condiments, etc. Rarely will I make an uncooked sandwich.

4. No great meal is complete without:
A good starter. No matter what you're eating, or where, the right appetizer can set the table (no pun intended) for an even better meal.

5. The best cheap eats in my neighborhood:
California Roll Factory, 11629 Santa Monica Blvd. It's a good combination of relatively inexpensive sushi, a fun ambience and proximity -- within walking distance of my apartment.

6. There's no way in hell I'd ever eat:
I've made it this far without foie gras, and given all the uproar over force-fed ducks, I might be able to make it another 32 years without. [Ed note: I respect that, but I love me some foie...sad but true!]

7. My go-to dish I'd cook for guests is:
I make a mean guacamole. I also think salmon or tuna steaks are easy dishes that can taste great without a ton of prep work.

8. Man can't live on food alone, so my favorite libation is:
Anything with alcohol. Seriously. I'm not picky. Red wine, white. Beer. Margaritas. Jack and Coke. Whatever. And for dessert, champagne. [Ed note: ahhh, the truth comes out! Closet lush!]

9. My favorite guilty food pleasure is (c' HONEST!):
There are so many. It'd be between pizza, a good, fat steak, cheesecake or Oreos.

10. My favorite food-related website/blog is (no obligation to list TT, we're completely objective over here!):
I'm lazy. The Food Network website is easy. Especially because I can find the recipes I watched Bobby, Paula and Giada make on TV. [Ed note: Looks like just revamped their site- much better than the old one!]

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Tapas Party

It’s been awhile since I really rolled up my sleeves and got cooking, so I used one of the years most boring and unentertaining reasons to get a few friends together. If you guessed Emmys 2008, you just won your category. Unfortunately I didn’t realize just how brain-numbingly dull this year’s telecast would be (save for a hilarious bit by genius Ricky Gervais and his American counterpart Steve Carell) before we had to actually sit through it. Had I known I would have changed it to a Sunday Night Football viewing party since the game would have been way more exciting.

I recently got a book called Wine Bar Food, and although I didn’t really use any exact recipes from it for my party, I took a lot of inspiration from it and decided on a finger-food-only menu. Personally, I love going to restaurants with a friend in tow and ordering a few appetizers- they almost always seem more interesting to me than main dishes. It also gives me a chance to sample several different tastes, textures and preparations without getting too stuffed. I wonder if chefs need to make appetizers more interesting since they are the smaller, less-famous items on any menu and can’t stand up and be bold alone like a porterhouse steak or king salmon could. Whatever the reason, I love small bites packed with flavor and had a lot of fun creating several tapas-style dishes for my friends.

I did most of my prep the day before- seasoning the baby lamb chops, making the porcini risotto then creating balls with it, whipping up a batch of the always-trusty Batali tomato sauce (with an extra touch of a few squeezes of anchovy paste), and lightly blanching and shocking some vegetables for my crudités platter. After roughly slicing up some Japanese eggplant, yellow squash, sweet onions and zucchini I tossed it all with herbes de provence and whole garlic cloves and slow roasted it all together. A few pulses with the food processor and an addition of marinara turned it into a ratatouille spread which topped some soft goat cheese on toasted crostini. The day of the party I simply whipped together a white bean dip with cannellini beans, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and Italian parsley and tossed together some panko, olive oil, garlic and parsley to top off some littlenecks I got at Bristol Farms. Thank god I asked the fish monger there to shuck them for me- I had it in my head that I could give it a go but after watching his face turn bright red trying to force those suckers open, I was happy I didn’t.

For dessert I just plopped a hunk of soft, silken tofu along with a bar of melted 72% dark chocolate, 1 TBS cognac, the zest of one orange and a bit of powdered sugar into my Cuisinart, processed until smooth and poured the mixture into five small glasses. You’ll be surprised but I guarantee you that silken tofu + melted chocolate makes wonderful vegan desserts- and I don’t make them because they’re vegan, I make them because they are all fast, easy and incredibly rich.

I think the clear winner in the food category was the lamb chops, with the clams coming in a close second. Ironically those two dishes were the simplest to create. Trader Joe’s has gorgeous little Frenched racks of baby lamb and all I did was trim more of the fat off (there was quite a lot), season overnight, sear and finish off in the oven. I had some salsa verde left over from the Summer Squash Gratin (from the brilliant Lucques cookbook) that I made for my dad’s retirement party which went well with the meat. The clams involved topping each with the breadcrumb mixture and a dab of butter, then baking. Hard, I know, but someone has to do it right?!?!

To make the evening a bit more interesting I had everyone fill out an Emmy ballot, and my friend T ended up taking the prize of five mini bottles of various types of booze. So congrats T! Hope you and your mini bottle of Limoncello continued the party at your place!

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Tuna Toast Ten

Here's the first edition of our new weekly feature, The Tuna Toast Ten. It's just a list of ten food-related questions that will be answered by a different person every Tuesday.
For the very first edition, I thought it'd be appropriate to ask my fellow blogger, friend and unofficial adopted little brother, Dylan, who writes one of my favorite food blogs, Eat, Drink & Be Merry, to kick it all off. Enjoy!

Name: Dylan

Occupation: Art director/graphic designer
City, State of residence: Silver Lake, CA
Website/blog/thing you'd like to pimp: Eat, drink & be merry

1. The best restaurant meal I've had recently is:

Palate, Glendale. The food cooked by Chef Octavio Becerra, formerly of Patina, is filled with flavor and soul.

2. If money wasn't an issue, I would want to eat at:

Urusawa. I'd probably eat sushi 4 x's a week if I could afford it.

3.The food I eat most often is:

Asian noodle soup! That's easily 4 x's a week. (Ed note: Dylan is the expert on Asian noodle soup- he even taught Bourdain a thing or two about his favorite dish!)

4. No great meal is complete without:

Hookers, midgets, a keg, narcotics, strobe lights and techno music. Just kidding. I'd say company.

5. The best cheap eats in my neighborhood:

In SGV (Ed note: That's San Gabriel Valley for all you non-SoCal-ers), virtually every restaurant is a good deal. At the moment, it's Armenian 'pizza' called lahmejune. it's $.75 each at the local Armenian market!

6. There's no way in hell I'd ever eat:

Nothing I won't try eating once.

7. My go-to dish I'd cook for guests is:

Anything braised in my Le Creuset pot. You throw whatever in, throw it in a 500 oven for 2.5 hours and magic happens.

8. Man can't live on food alone, so my favorite libation is:

Belgian beer.

9. My favorite guilty food pleasure is (c' HONEST!):

Bacon, pork belly, anything with eggs, anything with chili and $.99 deep fried stuff from fast-food joints.

10. My favorite food-related website/blog is (no obligation to list TT, we're completely objective over here!):

To tell you the truth, I don't read food blogs. (Ed note: Is that why you met your fiancée via food blogging? You two are the "It" couple of the food blogging world!)
We’re back!

After an extended break, Tuna Toast is back with a new site design and a promise to keep the posts coming on a more regular basis. Hopefully the 2 ½ readers I had before are still with me (hello….?) and you’ll tell your friends to tune in for some new adventures in cooking, eating and everything food-related.

Tomorrow will kick off a new weekly feature called The Tuna Toast Ten- 10 questions about food answered by some well-known bloggers, musicians, unknown people who are known to eat and just random citizens sharing their thoughts about food with you. Could I get any less specific?!?! Anyway, hopefully you’ll enjoy it as I always love to hear about people’s favorite restaurants, best recipes and food stories.

Special thanks to Rameniac for introducing me to Sheen who totally revamped the site for me. Extra special thanks to Sheen for actually doing the work as I am not the most tech-enabled person on the planet.

Here’s to many more posts on food, wine and good times!


Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Sorry for the long absence in posting. I've just been kind of "blah" about the design of my site, and I finally decided that it's time for a facelift! Please be patient, and hopefully you'll be back to check out the new and improved Tuna Toast which should be up soon.