Follow Me To The Deep End!!

Apr 17, 2014

Life Imitating Art. Or Is it the Other Way Around? Feasting on a Tasting Menu with the Star & Director of Tasting Menu the Movie!

Eddie & actress Claudia Bassols of Tasting Menu.

When you're a food writer in Hollywood, sometimes the worlds of food and film collide. Such was the delicious case with my magnificent meal at The Bazaar by José Andrés at the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills. On that night, I had the pleasure of dining with actress Claudia Bassols and director Roger Gual of the new foodie-focused film Tasting Menu.

Tasting Menu director Roger Gual.

The bite-sized synopses: A couple, Rachel and Marc (Claudia Bassols & Jan Cornet), booked a table one year in advance at a crazy famous restaurant Chakula with extremely tough to get reservations—paralleling real life and defunct elBulli restaurant in Spain—now find themselves estranged and separated but still intending to dine together at this last night of the world renown establishment. With a mélange of misfit characters, from dueling investors in competition for Chakula's star chef Mar Vidal (Vicenta N'Dongo) to a suspicious lone diner named Walter (Stephen Rea), this multi-cast, multi-course, multi-storyline plot unfolds with an elaborate meal as the backdrop.

In real life, my modernist dinner at The Bazaar with my dinner companion Claudia Bassols was also epic. We indulged in the restaurant's "Jose's Favorites Tasting Menu" which included 20 courses of creative Spanish accented creations and 3 dessert courses.

Philly Cheesefake but still super delicious!

One of my faves was a masterful take on the Philly Cheesesteak that erupted with molten cheddar upon beaching the puffy "air bread." Topped with shavings of rare cooked Wagyu beef, this course was the highlight of the tasting menu.

Oxtail between buns. Like nature intended.

The Oxtail Buns made with watermelon radish, cilantro and steamed buns, was moist, meaty and a perfect bite of savory oxtail.

Cheers to croquetas!

Claudia gravitated to the foods of her Catalan roots favoring the plates of Croquetas de Pollo, Olives and Manchego Bread. Director Gual loved it all as a food filmmaker should.

Dungeness crab done The Bazaar way.

Tasting Menu hits theaters Friday, April 18th. Check out the trailer below.

Apr 1, 2014

Taco + Ramen = Tacomen. By Taco Bell! (Who Else?!) Someone Stop the Mash-Up Madness!!!

taco ramen
Coming soon to a Taco Bell near you: Tacomen.

Sometimes I don't know if it's a blessing or a kick in the crotch to be a sought-after food writer. At my profession's best, I get to rub elbows with chefs and am invited to preview grand restaurant openings like Roy Choi's POT and the new, lavish Downtown L.A. restaurant Faith & Flower — definitely one of the perks and I'm not complaining.

waffle bacon taco
El Baco Loco! Taco Bell's new Bacon Waffle Taco.

On the flip side, the underbelly of the food writing racket is a chance to call firsties on dubious, fast food experiments. Last week I was one of the schmoes who risked his colon and arteries for a taste of the much hyped Breakfast Waffle Taco by Taco Bell. I got the the sausage and bacon versions. They were passable for fast food chain breakfast fare, although I preferred the bacon Waffle Taco over the sausage which surprised me since I'm a big sausage patty lover.

waffle sausage taco
Sausage Waffle Taco. Almost good.

Ultimately, the Breakfast Waffle Tacos didn't inspire me to run for the border every morning for breakfast. Maybe if Yum Brands (Taco Bell's parent company) offered a Chapuline Waffle Taco, I'd be more down with their new breakfast program.

Taco Bell's latest attempt at mashing up two food things, like a toddler playing in her Fisher-Price kitchen, is the Tacomen. Sadly, yes, it's a taco combined with a bowl of ramen. Two of L.A.'s most popular food items forcibly cohabiting in the same dish, like an edible episode of "Trading Spouses."

taco ramen 2
Taco Bell's attempt at destroying ramen.

As an Asian foodie, I feel patronized. But as an honorary Mexican—my nickname is "Loco Chinito"—I am appalled. Taco Bell has for decades bastardized the cuisine of Mexico and effectively turned one country's national treasure into stoner food, e.g. the Waffle Taco.

Because this is what I do for a living, I subjected my poor palate and GI system to this abomination named Tacomen by participating in a secret tasting at one of Taco Bell's test restaurants. Like my motto says: I eat it so you don't have to. I wish I had changed that motto before being confronted with Taco Bell's Tacomen terror. (Can't Homeland Security charge Yum Brands with domestic food terrorism?)

To break it down for you guys, Taco Bell's Tacomen is a blend of pork broth and mild tomato salsa soup combined with chuka soba aka the famous curly noodles. Topping this hot ramen mess are slices of avocado, green onion, cilantro, and spicy, saucy, marinated ground pork. Then, to crown this ravaged ramen, Taco Bell had the nerve to spear the bowl with half of a crunchy taco shell, like a taco tweak to your nose. ¡Oy vey caramba!

The experience is what you would expect: severe confusion leading to an uncontrollable urge to tear one's tongue out of one's mouth. Fortunately, since I am a professional eater, I was able to overcome any urge to inflict harm on myself. You, however, may be too weak.

Please, as a favor for me and your fellow humans, tell Taco Bell vociferously to leave ramen alone! Tweet and Facebook Taco Bell with #TacomenEqualsTacoHell. We have the power to stop this insanity. It has gone too far!

taco bell poverty

Mar 2, 2014

The Cray L.A. Cronut Line at Barney's New York, The Grove. Dominque Ansel Brings the REAL Cronut to the Land of Fakes aka Hollywood.

Dominique Ansel, the Creator of Cronut. Let there be Cronut!

Rumors of Dominique Ansel and real Cronuts —the insanely popular and delicately delicious donut-croissant hybrid— touching down in Los Angeles have been brewing for months. This past Saturday, those rumors transformed into Cronut reality, making a multitude of Cronutjobs joyous beyond belief. It was like Christmas all over again but with Cronuts. That's actually not too bad an analogy, if I do say so myself, because the line that snaked back on itself over and over again, more resembled a line at Walmart's Black Friday in Porter Ranch than a queue for Cronuts.

I got a sample, and it was awesome — flaky, airy, and sublime. However, I likely wouldn't wait up to 4 hours for a taste but, hey, this L.A. Cronut pop-up at Barney's New York, The Grove was entirely for charity. Every penny of the proceeds went to Heart of Los Angeles, so that alone justifies the wait.

I've been asked repeatedly whether I think it's worth the hours long wait. My simple opinion is that Dominique Ansel has created an exceptional pastry that is worth waiting for but exactly how long is up to you. I know Ansel himself never in his wildest dreams believed his Cronut would be such a sensation but now it is, turning him and his deluxe donut into rockstars.

It's been less than a year since the Cronut was unleashed onto the unsuspecting public back in May 10, 2013. And it's still a very big deal. How else can you get Angelenos to come out in monsoon conditions on a Saturday, wait in line for hours, super early in the morning, at The Grove, just for a donut? When it's a Cronut personally brought to you by Dominique Ansel himself, that's how.

If you weren't there Saturday, this is how Cronut's first visit to L.A. went down. And it didn't act like a tourist, more like a superstar.