Follow Me To The Deep End!!

Oct 6, 2014

There Won't Be Crossroads Sunday Brunch, Except for the Bloody Mary. A Vegan Brunch Even a Meat Eater Can Love!

crossroads bloody mary cart
Bloody Mary on wheels!

Chef Tal Ronnen (head honcho at Crossroads Kitchen on Melrose and of Oprah Winfrey's 21-day
vegan cleanse fame) doesn't like the word vegan. To Ronnen, it rings of partition, separation, and non-inclusion. He prefers plant-based. "It's less intimidating," he explains. His executive chef Scot Jones concurs.

Ironically, however, a word he does love is carnivore. "I want carnivores coming into the restaurant and trying my food," Ronnen challenges. In fact, Crossroads is known as the carnivore's vegan restaurant. It's the kind of place, depending on what's ordered, where you won't even realize the dish is entirely plant-based.

Lately I've been flirting with vegan delights more frequently (I was won over by Matthew Kenny's M.A.K.E. and Sun Cafe Organic Cuisine), so the idea of a Crossroads Sunday brunch was more than titillating.

crossroads bloody mary
Bloody Mary at Crossroads. No blood was shed for this classic cocktail.

I can't think of a better way to start a Sunday brunch than with a Bloody Mary cocktail. But, it looks like Jeremy Lake, the guy in charge of the bar program, dreamed up a better Bloody Mary—the kind that rolls to you and is prepared table side.

The Crossroads Bloody Mary ($14) is made up of a housemade Bloody Mary mix, 360 Vodka, horseradish, and Tabasco. Garnishes of tart and briny caper berries, pickled carrots, a celery stalk, and cornichon stuffed olives cascade from the rim. I also opted for the truffle dill cheese upgrade ($1). Of course, this being Crossroads, there is a gluten free vodka option called Fair Quinoa. The Bloody Mary tilts spicy, exactly how I like it.

crossroads blackberry mimosa
O.J. & B.B. mimosa.

Freshly squeezed orange juice, sparkling wine, muddled blackberries along with fresh blackberries come together for this understated, boozy, breezy, brunch bevvy. This Blackberry Mimosa ($11) is definitely not too sweet, also exactly how I like it.

crossroads benedict
The eggless Benedict.

If you're into eggs Benedict, then this plant-based one, sans eggs, may surprise you. At Crossroads Benedict's ($14) foundation is an herb chickpea panisse or fritter. On the fritter is sautéed kale, and sandwiching the whole is a fire roasted flat bread round. Shiitake bacon crowns the top as a tomato hollandaise flows from above like spilled paint. It's a creamy, light, and airy affair—not in the least heavy, as may be the case with its carnivorous counterpart.

crossroads chicken waffles
Vegan chicken & waffles that embarrass real chicken & waffles.

One bite of this Crossroads Chicken & Waffles ($14) fried "chicken"—yep, I am actually making air quotes with my hands as I write this—and you may never go back to real fried chicken again. There is nothing not to like about this fake fried chicken: the crust is crispy and salty, the "white meat" is perfectly moist. In fact, I like it better than real chicken. I could've eaten a bucket of this stuff, instead I opted for a second plate. (But, they really should sell 'em by the bucket!) The waffles, on the other hand, were fairly standard and outshone by its chicken partner. Although when the waffle (or even chicken) was dunked into the warm maple hot sauce, it was made tastier. Finger lickin' and conscience cleanin' good!

crossroads chocolate croissant
The chocolate Cross-sant.

Crossroads Kitchen's executive pastry chef Serafina Magnussen concocts a pretty great Chocolate Croissant ($5). It's light and flaky enough. Can't believe there's no butter.

crossroads french toast
Pretty real French toast.

Magnussen also whips up a French Toast ($12) filled with banana slices and sweetened with almond mascarpone as well as Combier maple syrup. The toast is sheathed with a most impressive batter that mimicked egg. It was a satisfying way to end a Sunday brunch, plant-based or otherwise.

Crossroads Kitchen
8284 Melrose Ave.
Los Angeles

Sunday brunch is from 10 am to 2 pm

Sep 22, 2014

Meat District Co. Should've Been Named Meat Shrine Because That's Exactly What it is!

meat district co ext

A couple of weeks back, I was privy to experience a preview party for Meat District Co. in Pasadena. The place flexes meat like a cocky prizefighter before a heavy weight bout.

meat district co sign

Everything about the place is beefy. Even the signage!

meat district co wall


meat district co slicer

Meat District Co. is tricked out with top end meat slicers, grinders, patty makers, and rare Australian round top grills.

meat district co prosciutto rolls

The prosciutto-wrapped dates frantically being assembled by the chefs for the big party were just a glimpse of the carnage awaiting us carnivorous revelers. Oh, there were a couple of vegetarians on hand and we gave them an intimate tour of the meat grinder. Real intimate. JK, there are veggie burgers on the menu for those freaks. Going to a restaurant called Meat District Co. and ordering a veggie burger is akin going to Café Gratitude and demanding churrasco. Get the hell outta here, bozo!!

meat district co servers

Meat District Co. staff seemed to be enjoying themselves as much as the guests. Maybe cuz they eat meat!

meat district co wall art

Did I mention the cool interior design of Meat District Co.? It's beefy, meaty, and totally fits the theme of the place—tasty, tasty carnage!

meat district co knife display

Butchery implements from cleaver to hacksaw (and perhaps even a scimitar) were on handsome display like a house of torture exhibit at the hostess booth.

meat district co alfonse galan

Who's the exec chef behind this menagerie of meat, from wet aged steaks to offals? His name is Alfonse Galan. Formerly chef at redwhite+bluezz also in Pasadena, Galan knows his meat and how to cook 'em! Valentino Herrera (Trippy Food) and I challenged him to prepare llama hearts on our YouTube show Kamikaze Kitchen and he created a truly delicious plate that even the wimpiest among you could stomach. A true chef can make anything taste great!

meat district co charcutterie

Charcuterie is all over this joint. Piles and piles of delicious salumi, prosciutto, and much more.

meat district co bar

The bar in the back boasts a few flat screens for your sports viewing enjoyment or watching the finale of Dancing with the Stars—whatever floats your boat.

meat district co int

Meat District Co.'s dining room is expansive and expanding. There's much more room in the other space past the bar. There are even future plans for courtyard dining or imbibing.

meat district co endives

Those two vegetarians enjoyed the endives too.

meat district co watermelon pop rocks

But, vegetarians and meat eaters alike went wild for the compressed watermelon and Pop Rocks. Why? Because POP ROCKS!!! Duh!

meat district co burgers

So much meat, so little time.

meat district co wet aged meat

The glass encased meat cooler aka The Temple of Wet Aged Beef is located in the dining room for all to view and drool over.

meat district co corn

Even the Mexican street corn is meatilicious!

meat district co ribs

Pork ribs also represented, complete with foil handles.

meat district co alfonse and sunny

Chef Sundeep Vohra of Kings Row, just a few blocks away, stopped by to congratulate chef Galan. Because that's what cool chefs do—they give chef love!

Meat District Co. is now open for your red meat devouring needs.

Meat District Co.
69 N. Raymond
Pasadena, CA

Sep 17, 2014

Eater National's Banned Food Words List. All of Your Favorites but Banned! Go Fondue Yourself, Eater! This is AMERICA!

We don't need no thought control!

Praise god! It's food writer fatwa time! That's when a foodie website decrees from on high what words are coolio and which ones are lame-o. The last time I read a list of so-called "banned food writing words" was courtesy of Grub Street New York. In fact, I was so grateful for list compiler Alan Sytsma's work that I incorporated every single, juicy, forsaken word into a glorious restaurant review. I thought it turned out quite well, even literary.

Speaking of literary, what is with these New York food blogs dictating which words are acceptable to use? I know New York is a literary town, but Los Angeles is a visual city, and we're not nailing dicta to trees ordering food pornographers how to snap a sexy plate of oysters or restaurant's banquettes. Although we should, right, Martha?

So, the latest dicktater (yes, that's a portmanteau of dick and tater tots) to deliver his commandments of the words thou shalt not write is Eater National's former editor, Raphael Brion (visually rhymes with prion, the thing responsible for Mad Cow Disease).

Here's Brion's abridged list (because the entire list is too snarky—Brion hates "snarky", even though his list is snark-riddled):

- toque (please do not ever refer to a chef as a "toque." A toque is a hat. Give people the respect they deserve and use a proper title.)
- douche, douchebag, douchey (be more creative!)
- foochebag (a portmanteau of "foodie" and "douchebag" - use foodiot instead)
- suck, sucks (be more creative.)
- chow
- chow down
- nigh (as in "the end is nigh." it is not the 1830s.)
- kerfuffle (it is not the 1940s.)
- brouhaha (why)
- foofaraw (seriously)
- hullabaloo (come on)
- tussle (stop it)
- Hold yea ol' britches (for real?)
- food fight (too cheap and easy. use sparingly or not at all.)
- a-snicker (as in "food blogs had been a-snicker for days." People have actually published these words.)
- pens (as in "pens an article." no one does that. use "writes.")
- penned an ode
- tome (when describing a book)
- jumping the shark (just no.)
- at the end of the day
- drool-worthy, mouth-watering, yummy
- unctuous (courtesy Bourdain)
- BBQ (or barbeque or bar-b-que. use barbecue. the only exception is the rubric ZOMG BBQ or if "BBQ" is part of a restaurant's name)
- sat down with (especially when it was a phone or email interview, it reads funny.)
- java (instead of coffee)
- vino (instead of "wine." see
- "grape juice" and "juice" (instead of "wine" too uh)
- tipple, tippling
- quaff
- healthful (just say healthy)
- amazeballs (cutesy internet lingo is silly and gets dated so fast)
- ! (exclamation points are silly. F. Scott Fitzgerald: "Cut out all these exclamation points. An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke." We have all been guilty of this.)
- boo ya

Those are but a few of Brion's pet peeve words spewage. Ironic that douchery is so despised on this list since a list banning words itself is necessarily douchey. Then, you have words he's banned with vague justification like the oh-so-reasonable "why" for brouhaha or "stop it" for using tussle, or with no explanation whatsoever for innocent words like tipple and quaff. Gee, thanks for the feedback, chief!

Many of Brion's banned words are clearly personal preference bullshizzle, but then you get to his banned word healthful and it makes him look like a foodiot, a word he loves! The word healthful describes something that is good for you or conducive to good health, like certain foods, i.e. a healthful apple. Moreover, healthy means in good physical or mental condition, as in I feel healthy. I shall eat a healthful apple, so I can feel healthy. Brion's fave (I'm sure he hates fave too) healthy has been misapplied over the decades to the point of brain-dead acceptance, even by Eater National. Therefore, neither healthful or healthy should be banned since each has a distinct definition.

FYI, his banned word unctuous, which is oddly credited to Tony Bourdain, has been used often (and early-on) by the ONLY Pulitzer Prize winning food writer ever, Jonathan Gold. It seems the word unctuous has been pretty amazeballs for the celebrated Los Angeles Times restaurant critic.

These banned words lists suck (see what I did there, Raphy?) because they are mostly based on partiality whether backed up or not. Also, I hate these lists because somebody is telling me how to write. And, that's totally un-American! Yeah! (I just threw in not one but two exclamation points!!!)

I fully understand this Eater banned words list is purposed for internal use, but then it was published as if to say, "Use these words and you're a moron!" Hey Eater, next time, keep your list in your fortress of foodiedom to torment your own staff. By the way, Paula Deen should be on your banned list, sick of seeing so much of her on Eater.

And, hey, Brion, here are some more choice words to add to your precious list—Go Fondue Yourself!

See the whole goddamn list here. I'm gonna go tipple and quaff a bottle of vino to calm myself down! Boo ya!!!