Follow Me To The Deep End!!

Aug 13, 2014

Napk-In! An App for Apps and Entrees Alike! Like to Snap, Rank, and Rate Your Restaurant Grub? Then You Need Napk-In.

napk-in iphone

Napk-In is the delicious app for your appetite! If you find yourself obsessively snapping food pix at restaurants, adding tantalizing filters, briefly describing them, and then instantly posting them, then Napk-In is an app you should consider adding to your device. Napk-In is free, and it goes beyond where something like Instagram stops. It's also very specific to food lovers and amateur restaurant critics.

Let's say you get a Philly cheesesteak at Eddie's Philly Cheesesteaks (my imaginary restaurant) and are impressed by the look of the sandwich. Instinctively, you whip out your phone and snap a pic with your Napk-In app (currently only for iOS with an Android version coming soon). Now, this is where the fun begins!

So after you take the picture, you can touch the "Wanna eat first!" button and take care of business later, or continue on to choose a filter to jazz up the photo. Then, type in the name of the restaurant, its location, and select the type of food in which it specializes. If it isn't already in Napk-In's database of eateries, simply add it to the list.

With that out of the way, you can now rate and categorize your dish. Is it sweet, spicy, savory? Eastern, Western, or a Fusion? Is it served hot or cold? Is it baked, grilled, or steamed? What's in it? Veggies, meat, or fish? What's the price point? Were you on a date or with friends? Details, people! Details! This will give other Napk-In users a better picture of your experience than just that simple snapshot. Get it?

Back to my Philly cheesesteak from Eddie's Philly Cheesesteaks restaurant. The address is 123ABC Main St. in Philadelphia. It serves American classics. The sandwich itself is savory, Western, hot, cheap, sautéed, and was eaten alone. Trust me, you don't want to witness me crush a Philly cheesesteak. It's not pretty.

I also typed up a little review saying how juicy the beef and how gooey the Cheez Whiz wuz! That's everything.

I think of this as a Yelp! having a baby with Instagram but much more fun to use. And, although I am one of the beta testers slash Napk-In Food Gurus, you shouldn't take my word for how clever and amusing the interface is. Download Napk-In for yourself and use it next time you're about to make some tasty food porn! Bow-Chicka-Bow-Wow!

Aug 6, 2014

Deep End Decade: Venturing Into Vegan at Sun Cafe Organic Cuisine. Studio City, CA.

sun cafe mac n cheese
New addiction - Sun Cafe's Vegan Mac & Cheese.

Some of you reading this may be thinking, "What's so strange about vegan food?" Well, nothing, but the cuisine still is relatively uncommon worldwide, and that's one of the culinary beats I cover.

With that established, I live in Southern California, and vegetarian, vegan, and raw vegan cuisines are very common and accessible here. Two of my favorite places run the gamut: Matthew Kenney's M.A.K.E. and Veggie Grill. M.A.K.E. is a refined and sophisticated approach to raw vegan food. Veggie Grill is in the fast-caual, vegan category and hooks me every time with its Chickin' items.

Then, recently, I learned of Sun Cafe Organic Cuisine. This place is very popular with vegans and non-vegans alike. Just steps away from Universal City, home of Universal Studios, Sun Cafe is a star in this category.

The restaurant space itself feels like somebody's cozy home. There are distinct rooms and nooks where tables are intimately placed. The lighting at night is warm and inviting. The service is quite attentive. All this is great, but I'm telling you, stay for the Mac & Cheese! I'm not even a big, mac & cheese fan, but this stuff is tasty. The mac part is made of quinoa pasta and has a great al dente bite. The cheese part is a satisfying cashew "cheese" sauce which lends just enough goo and chew. A bourbon smoked paprika adds that certain dimension and depth you can't quite pin down.

sun cafe nachos jicama side
Sun Nachos with raw jicama.

The Sun Nachos are popular here and come in vegan and raw vegan presentations. I sampled both. While the vegan baked blue corn chips were passable, the raw thinly sliced jicama version was the winner. It was simply more refreshing, unique, and satisfying.

sun cafe nachos raw baked blue corn chips side
Sun Nachos with baked blue corn chips.

The "nacho cheese" on the platters are pretty much the same as one that goes into the Mac & Cheese—a cashew cheese sauce. Many of Sun Cafe's "cheeses" and sauces are made of cashews, just a heads up if you have a cashew allergy.

sun cafe farmers market pizza
Very vegan. Very good!

A really enjoyable pizza offered at this vegan eatery is the Farmer's Market Pizza. Only a few strong ingredients maximize the flavors in this vegan pie. Fresh figs, tempeh bacon, arugula, Meyer lemon vin, and a balsamic reduction make this pizza pop with bright freshness with a savoriness from the tempeh bacon and white sauce. The white sauce is a smooth blending of cashews, garlic, shallots, and nutritional yeast. All sit atop a brown and white rice (with a bit of tapioca) crust that is texturally pleasing.

sun cafe shishito peppers
These peppers are the shishito!

My favorite amuse of the night was a simply grilled and blistered plate of shishito peppers, my current pepper of choice.

sun cafe chocolate mint chip pie
Like a huge Andes Chocolate Mint!

Although I am not a dessert guy, Sun Cafe's extremely popular Chocolate Mint Chip Pie was ridiculously good—crack factor good. Customers place to-go orders on their cell phones and do a drive-by pick up just for this beauty. I couldn't put my fork down. It's very dense and creamy with soothing mint and on point chocolate flavors. If you enjoy those little Andes Chocolate Mint candies, you'll go gaga for this pie.

It's also worth noting that our chef of the night, Roi Elam, put in some time at Matthew Kenney's M.A.K.E., so his chops in high concept, raw vegan cuisine is very respectable. However, it's his comfort food that shines. Maybe that's why this restaurant has sun in its name.

Sun Cafe Organic Cuisine
10820 Ventura Blvd.
Studio City, CA.

Bung Appétit: This American Life Episode on Eating Hog Rectum Wins James Beard Award! Deep End Dining Thrilled to be Part of Show!

TAL Pork Bung
Squork? Puid? What is it? A James Beard winner, that's what!

This is cool! The episode of This American Life in which I'm a pork colon connoisseur won a James Beard Award. A first for This American Life. I'm happy to have contributed to a bung-tastic, prize-winning show!

If you haven't had the porky pleasure of listening to the episode, here is the link! Bonus: Fred Armisen (SNL and Portlandia) co-hosts with Ira Glass.

Here's the backstory. Sometime in 2013, This American Life producer Ben Calhoun recorded a phone conversation with me about eating pork bung for an episode of TAL investigating an allegation that pork processing plants were passing off pork bung—the industry term for pork large intestine and rectum—as calamari. Yep, pork rectum for squid. Is this possible? Is it palatable? Find out if you haven't heard. Bung appétit!