Curious Appetite


Eating in L.A.- Lukshon, Father’s Office, Bay Cities Deli & Bossa Nova

Every so often, I make the random jaunt to L.A. for family visits. I usually make a respectable effort to put my feelers out into the local food culture there, which is not too hard to do. In a certain sense, L.A. is a true foodie mecca. Its a honey pot of agricultural abundance, ethnic food gut busting hole-in-the-walls, Middle-eastern/Mediterranean food markets, raw food and all things fringe gourmets and the place where organic became “cool”. I can’t begin to describe how explosively abundant this place is for all of our gastronomic fantasies. But L.A. also represents a huge paradox as a sunshine metropolis of tormenting traffic, insanely sterile, cookie-cutter strip mall urban design, material girls, hair gel, obsession with all things vain and plastic, nonsensical local government and poor fiscal policies. Not to mention, its unyielding familiarity to some of the worst pollution in the country. You hope for a windy day here in order to blow the smog aside just long enough to get a view of the rolling canyons. I have a love hate relationship with L.A. and Orange County, my (sorta) hometown.

Prior to arrival, I do some research. I come up with a list of establishments I have hopes of visiting and believe my family would be so impressed with, but to my surprise, I am usually met with “What?! That’s on the East Side! You know how much traffic that means?”

In Seattle, people will drive 2 hours North to Skagit Valley, on a Saturday a.m. with 1.3 hrs of sleep, to get fresh raspberry french toast from a place called “Calico Cupboard”. We don’t mess around. So it was quite foreign to me, the concept of limiting yourself a scrumptious meal based on something as temporary as “traffic.” But eventually I did realize just how deep this trama runs during one of my foodie visits, which was at Bay Cities Italian Deli & Bakery. The realization was made after a conversation with a young surfer-looking Ray-Ban sporting gentleman which consisted mostly of all his traffic and parking horror stories which eventually prompted him to move to NYC and never look back. Sheesh, this guy is messed up. (Yeah- what 20somethingyearold isn’t) I just wanted to chat to someone while eating my sandwich, but now I get it, okay? Traffic steals your soul in L.A.

Anyway, I found and  read up on Bay Cities and apparently this was the legit spot for sandwiches of the grinder genre. Upon walking in, I was immediately comforted by its familiar chaos. The kind that I’ve experienced mostly in delis in Rome and Naples. Its the kind of place where you take a number, keep your hands to yourself and listen carefully for your #, for if you don’t slam it on the counter within 3 seconds, they are already onto 6 numbers ahead of you. And be careful about taking pictures, they might ask you kindly: “Hey! You! No paparazzi, aiiiight?!”

**disclaimer: these pictures are s*** quality and I fully admit that in hindsight.

Instead of all you see here, I went with the critically acclaimed: Godmother. With the WORKS. Oh man, talk about a heart attack on gluten. The crohns people shouldn’t even be looking.

Think every cured meat that exists then smother it nicely with olive oil, dijon, provolone, pepperoncini in between the chewiest buttery sourdoughy Italian roll, a heart attack and you’ve now been blessed by the Godmother.

A particularly noteworthy joint I attended was Asian fusion extraordinaire Lukshon in Culver City, L.A.. Delish delights involved soft, moist marinated and cilantro dressed duck rolls, lemongrass & coconut cream tender short ribs, chinese eggplant fries w/ fennel raita, heirloom black rice w/ lamb bacon and fried egg and little precious custard and brittle desserts on the house! Our server was amazingly sweet and enthusiastic. Another observation about an eater L.A. trend is wine on tap, this place had several dazzling Cali whites on tap (wine in kegs, not bottles) including complex Asian-flavor food-friendly Rieslings. Yum!

On the weekend I heavily enjoyed Bossa Nova, a top notch Brazilian go-to for many L.A.lalers, someone told me to not mess around with anything but the ribeye steak and plantains. But that sounded kinda too safe and boring. I’m an adventurous eater, so I went with a Coxinha (a typical Brazilian “street-food” pyramid shaped delicacy of shredded chicken and cheese and then breaded and fried) and the Linguiça Frita (sausages!) with Yucca flour, fresh salsa and extra plantains.

Then for last supper, I visited Father’s Office. Which, has a sort of following and is obviously pretentious by its purposefully inappropriate name and “Office Max” marketing theme. Oh brother, give me a break. I don’t quite get your niche…yelp reviewers praised them mostly for their carmelized onion bacon burger w/ blue & gruyere, but as I learned during my visit that this burger (by the way trademarked- eye-roll please!) was the ONLY burger on the menu’ and like 3 other menu items including random things like ribs and bacon fried brussel sprouts. So bizarre. And if you go to the website, it’s increasingly more cryptic. They have no menu’ online, however you’ll assume the tab for office supplies is a cute name for menu’. Oh no, its actually a link to get Father’s Office (FO) logo crap like shirts and a skateboard (?!).

Word to the wise: Don’t ask for ketchup.

Exhibit A: “May I have some ketchup for my fries?”…”We don’t do ketchup, ma’am.” I was pretty baffled by the attitude, fluff and snobbery in this “office”. Besides the incredulous no-ketchup policy, they don’t permit substitutions or modifications since they assume their shit don’t stink (maybe I want sweet potato fries instead of boring ol’ showstring ones ). What the hell? What if I didn’t want some greasy egg oil glob of garlic aioli for these FRIES and BACON burger…sheesh!!! But I have to say, after all the grating irritation I was totally placated by the (trademarked??!) juicy flavor stricken burger and the malty, spicy seasonal Cali beers on Tap

A couple other places I visited were Salute Wine Bar and Versailles Cuban Cuisine. Oh man, Versailles was phenomenal. The kind of random vinyl table cloth restaurant on a strip of car dealership highway-kind worthy of every woo and yay known to Cuban pork and mojito heaven. Salute on the other hand was a total crap house. Un[wine]friendly Seaweed Beignets that tasted like salt balls wrapped in nori and cream puffs, pizza with like 3 pieces of porcini on stale dry dough, and pathetic sub-par wines on that you had to self-serve using a dispensing card to keep track of your overpriced 2 oz pours. And then this off-balance, scratchy dessert of pickled fennel, orange, (dry, chewy tasteless mush) sponge cake and dots of creme fraiche that really lasted like fish. It was terrible.

One of the absolute worse and reckless establishments I’d ever seen, and I’ve never met a wine bar that I didn’t like. But this, man no. Salute really should fire its chef or give him some serious culinary intensive therapy.

Otherwise, I encourage you the very same delicious stay in Los Angeles, just avoid Salute on Main St. 🙂

The Capital Grille: Seattle

Everyone says “save dessert for last” but in some cultures, dessert is actually eaten 1st in order to properly digest a meal. I.e. sugars digest fast and protein, fiber, fat and complex carbs burn slow. Better to eat from simple burning to slow in order to prevent stomach upset. Whatever, in that case I’ll just eat my cake before and after my meal. How about that, nutrition.

I’ve lived in Seattle for several years now and I have always noticed the Capital Grille but never would have given it a thought until I attended a Foodportunity Seattle Food Blogger’s happy hour. It seemed way too fancy, you know what I mean by that. The kind of fancy that I thought only invited the symphony go-ers, the steakhouse ballers and the diamond girls. With valet men outside the door, how could you blame me in my funky boots and nose ring sporting 20something self? I mean, I’m not frumpy I just never felt that was my scene. Luckily, I did go out of pure chance back in August and I was quite impressed with the whole experience. They sampled us their entire happy hour which included marinated skewered meats, lobster sliders, parm-truffle frites, calamari, mini-caprese sandwiches and desserts. And best of all they were serving adorable cocktails  in mini martini glasses and such. And to my surprise, valet was complimentary for evening diners. The staff were extremely cordial, warm and surprisingly involved in the local food scene. Make no mistake, The Capital Grille is definitely under a massive corporate umbrella of chain restaurants and they are in the same brand family as Red Lobster and The Olive Garden. However, the Capital Grille, at least in Seattle, is seemingly committed to seasonality, green-practices such as low-energy lighting, progressive recycling programs and food donation programs that work with local non-profits such as Food Lifeline.  It just goes to show, never judge a book by its corporate cover. I am realizing, and appreciating, the corporate entities that are beginning to adopt responsible behaviors.

Anyway, aside from all thaaaaaaat…lets get down to the pudding:)

I returned for lunch this week and was thoroughly content that I did. Walk in the rotating door and you are greeted most courteously by the host staff as they seat you and LAY your napkin on your LAP. Not to mention they have coat check! I must say, the menu’ was pretty diverse and interesting showcasing creative salads and appetizers like hot pepper calamari and wagyu beef carpaccio as well as enticing sandwiches and entrees which are also very steak and seafood centric yet with a seasonal twist. However, if it is your 1st time, I would suggest the “Plates” menu’ for lunch. Which is a choice of soup or salad, sandwich and a vegetable side. Sounds boring, right? Does porcini bisque, clam chowder or lobster bisque sound boring? What about Tenderloin Sliders, Lobster Roll or a Fork and Knife BLT? Truffle pomme frites, Green Beans with Heirloom Tomatoes and Leeks sound blah too? NOT.

(I regrettably left home w/o my camera, please bear with me and my Droid shots:)

Lobster Roll w/ Truffle Parmesean Frittes

Perfectly tender melt in your mouth, savory umami stricken mini tenderloin sliders, order them medium.

This 3 course Lunch is quite the steal at $15. We were in a good mood so we also decided to treat ourselves to a bottle of bubbly Marques de la Tour Brut, which was a steal and a half. A perfect lunch bubbly that was light, crisp and low enough in alcohol that we could justify enjoying hooch at noon. But, I think anytime is wine time, just think of the Greek and Romans winos back over 3000 years ago in the Bacchanalia Era…do you think they cared what time it was?

I think this place is great for a downtown lunch trek, a perfect place to bring your boss to, to host work parties and happy hours for sure. If you are looking to experience dining in the heart of downtown with a wicked extensive wine list, I dare you to check out The Capital Grille. Its not “sceney’ or “trendy” which at times can be more pretentiously grating than seemingly upscale fine dining. They seem to have a consistent focus on what should be important in a dining experience. That is: fine service, pro-chef crafted food in a top location. Go see a show at Benaroya or The Triple Door and stop by here for Happy Hour, pre-show drinks or Dinner, the valet is complimentary so might as well save the stress of parking and treat yourself!  Also, I think this is also the spot for surf and turf on a fancy occasion splurge…or even a classy datey dinner or post-date dessert. Check out the opening photo of Creme Brulee-inspired Ricotta & Vanilla Wafer crust cheesecake….oh man good thing there were leftovers, I was quite thankful the day after:)

I hope you go and eat here at least once! It made our day:) Happy New Year!

Bottlehouse: Three (3) words…

I. heart. alot.

I was 1st introduced to Bottlehouse in Madrona by chance for a friend’s birthday gathering. Since then, I have brought a handful of friends here almost as if to vicariously relive their 1st time visit amazement. Bottlehouse is a wine bar that refers to itself as a tasting gallery, as if this were home and the owners decided to delicately decorate it with only the finest selected wines. And by the way, everyone’s invited to dwell and be happy. I was charmed. Not only by the cute little house with grapevines grazing around the patio, but  I was charmed also by Madrona itself. I can’t quite describe its extreme quaintness and how it makes me flutter but if you have ever been to London, one could say that Madrona is a bit reminiscent of Portobello Road.

The owners are genious. Wine is enjoyed here, people are here to be casual and relax, and food is intentionally paired. There is food, however there is a strict boundary that I quite respect. Meaning that there are no small plates, there are no entrees, and there are barely desserts. What they do have are only the best local artsian cheeses and renowned Armandino Batali’s Salumi cured meats as well as staple accoutrements such as meaty castelvetrano olives, fried and sea saltyspanish marcona almonds, cornichons (crunchy crisp swoon!).

For dessert they have a teeny tiny selection of deliciously moist and butterwhipcreamy whoopie pies and fresh churned ice creams.

The one thing I don’t quite understand is that they have High 5 Pies. It’s pretty cliche’ to rag on High 5, but in this case they really have no place at a wine bar like this. Especially since they are pretty mushily non-complex and have little to do with accentuating a pour. However, with still having a limited selection of bites I have to say that this is remarkable and a smart way to remain distinct as a wine and tasting bar. But don’t be fooled, the nibbles they do have are seriously selected. They have a resident cheesemonger, who has delighted my epicurious heart on the few occassions I have dwelled. The cheesemonger makes a pitstop to your table after having decided on a wine in order to inquire a bit about your cheese preferences (soft, pungent, sweet or nutty to name a few). Those attributes are then taken into consideration with regards to what wine you chose. If that weren’t brilliant enough, once the cheese and charcuterie board have arrived you might be so lucky as to get the historical background for one of your selections as I did with the Pyramide Frais Cendre.

This cheese was a soft goat chevre-like coated in ash, and seemingly was in a pyramid/cone shape but the very tip-top seemed to be missing. Anyone else wouldn’t have noticed this “minor” detail, but the cheesemonger pointed out that this cheese dated back to Napoleon I. According to historical legend, Napoleon was so spiteful towards all things Egypt after having suffered a defeat, that he chopped off the tip of this pyramid shaped cheese that his chef had developed specially for him during his time away in Egypt. Wow! Who knows if this is true? Even if it isn’t, who cares!

I have to say that Bottlehouse is, a ticket to truly unwind and pamper your senses. It is the one of the 1st establishments in Seattle to offer some of its wines on tap. They even have an BH house branded red.  I enjoy and appreciate the “market” feel and the human factor involved, where its not just some shot in the dark whether or not you’ve chosen food pairings off an inanimate menu. No, someone who knows their stuff has you covered and will talk to you about it as well as delight you with off-beat food knowledge. Many, many kudos. And the real kicker is that they have a happy hour, even on Saturday! Please do yourself a favor and relax here. And take me with you. Cheers!


Pair is a little nook in the almost Wedgewood, nearly underrated, neighborhood of Seattle.  It’s perched on a steepish hill with a tender view of a local cemetery.  The inside decor is nicely inviting, with a picnic table-like set-up and a cozy bar area where this dinner was nested.  Pair is trying to be the neighborhood date and foodie joint with an emphasis on a locally sourced, euro-inspired seasonal menu and strategically paired quality wines that the average person would never be able to pronounce.

The house white was an Italian Pinot Grigio and the red was a Montepulciano.  Eh, pretty basic.  I thought it was strange that the house wines were imports, and this joint is claiming to have a bleeding local heart.  I did eventually move up to a menu merlot/cab/syrah wine from Walla Walla that blew my socks off. Talk about delicious! Very fruity spicy and equipped with a thick body. We ordered a cheese plate along with our 3 small plates and the server asked if we wanted the cheese plate before or after the plates. And what a concept! Duh, right? Clean your palate (and surrogate your sweet tooth) with some yummy cheeses and red wine AFTER a ton of complex flavors.  

Sauteed Chard with sliced carrots, raisins and pine nuts.

Nill ingredients of which seem local. Ok, maybe the chard. But last time i checked pine nuts came from china and raisins probably from a box. Sorry im being nit-picky but if you’re gonna call yourself a locally sourced restaurant then make a little more sense. You could have used hazelnuts and cherries and ditched the carrots, actually it was like 2 pieces of sliced carrot that seemed way too robust to be from WA, as our growing season has been lame due to equally LAME temps.  The plate was OK. I could have made it better myself, by adding a lil pepper and cumin and maybe even truffle salt. For a whole lot less than 9 dollars. It was certainly anti-climatic for foodie expectations.

Manila Clams w/ Salumi Guanciale and large cannellini beans.

Ok, so Guanciale is pork cheek and Salumi is the brand that Pair sourced its Guanciale (aka THE Seattle salumeria). I thought this was going to be really unique since Guanciale has a very delicate yet porky smokey bacony melt in your mouth kind of feel. But there were like 3 pieces in the whole thing which seemed more like pancetta than guanciale and the clams were too chewy. The broth was pretty mediocre, it was as if some boxed chicken stock was poured over already boiled clams and then cooked some more. Maybe threw some sage in there to throw the eater off. The only redeeming quality were the beans. They were cooked perfectly and absorbed all the flavors of the Guanciale and Clam juices very nicely.  I liked making a little wrap of Guanciale a bean and a clam. When all nestled together, it made the dish worth while, left to their own devices: boring.

Potato Leek Gratin.  My favorite dish.

But you really can’t screw up a Gratin unless you really burn everything and even toast. Its potatoes baked with olive oil (sometimes butter) gruyere cheese and breadcrumbs, how is that not good? AND with Leeks? Delicious! But also the least seasonal and local of the bunch. Ok, maybe the potatoes were local.  Keyword: WERE,  from last season.  Nevertheless, a potato bake with heavy cream and cheese should never be a seasonally offered (advertised) plate in the summer, even if I am wearing my cable knit sweater at night here in the PNW. It was fantastic though, gruyere very creamy and gooey, breadcrumbs fried baked in the plate’s natural oils and buttery firm yet tender potatoes. NOT atkins friendly by any means.

The highlight of  the night was the 3 cheese plate. It came adorned with julienned dates with walnuts and a tiny tub of (i hope) local honey.


Le Bleu des Basques- A blue veined cows Basque cheese wedge.  It was pretty creamy, bluey, more sweet than spice. Firm and not crumbly. Cream indeed. Paired greatly when dipped with honey and crunched in a walnut.

Caprifeuille- This was a delightful almondy french goat chevre. Pretty firm, a lot of goat chevres crumble and seem too chalky to me, the firmness indicated to me good quality cheesemaking, with attention to moisture details. The cheese also didn’t have that gamey “barty” waft to it most goat cheese have, which also is a check plus for artisanship. I read in Edible Seattle that the gamey, they call “Barty”, aroma is actually pheromones produced by does in the presence of billy goats, a good cheese maker knows to separate the boys and girls for milking season.

Aragonès- A spanish washed rind cow/sheep milk hybrid. It was sooooo good, pretty firm and slicable witha nutty sweet cream sheepy finish.

Verdict: If you live in this neighborhood, you don’t have much choice for fine dining and as long as you don’t mind the view of the cemetery you got your self a descent dinner spot. I wouldn’t recommend coming to this place more than once if you are coming from cooler foodie friendly quarters of this emerald city. Its good that Wedgewood has a nook for good wines and cheeses (that are mostly French) and a good back-up of creative (so called local) small plates that you yourself can then go home and probably make better at home. In your very own, local kitchen.

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