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I remember the night I first tried Baco Mercat…and it was love at first bite. I was at the DTLA Artwalk in late 2011, and I knew Baco was coming…but not sure when they would be open. It just so happened that they decided to soft open that night. It was all about being at the right place and the right time. Since then I have been to back to Baco many times with various friends and my man of course. I remember when I first took him to Baco it had only been open a few months and told him that it was one of my favorite places, I was worried that maybe he wouldn’t like it. Turns out I had nothing to worry about, he’s a Baco fan.

The other night, he had to go to DTLA to pick up his new Hedley & Bennett apron (my man is a chef…I don’t think I’ve ever revealed that on this blog before – pretty fitting right?) and decided to have an impromptu date night by taking me to Baco Mercat.

Some time ago, when I last went to Baco I had ordered a bunch of other dishes besides my usual original baco, and was so disappointed. Its been a long time since I’ve been back, but this time I decided to just stick with my usual. The baco is a flatbread sandwich with crispy pork belly and carnitas. It is one of my top five dishes within the City of Angels. I could eat one of these everyday. So good.

Here is what the inside of the original baco looks like. There are some greens and an amazing sauce. The baco has tomato but I don’t care, its THAT good.

I’m not sure why I’ve never blogged about Baco Mercat…I have tons of photos from various meals in my Flickr photostream…but on this particular night we had a new dish that I’m absolutely in love with. I love bone marrow, and I’ve had it at Bestia, Mozza, Father’s Office, in menudo, and many other places. But this preparation was different…on the menu it said “crispy bone marrow” and curiosity got the best of me.

What followed was beyond my wildest dreams. Fried bone marrow served with lentils and grapes. So buttery…so different…so amazing. This trumps shrimp toast from Son of a Gun as my favorite dish in LA right now. Wow. Its not for everyone but if you love marrow and want to try it in a different preparation, head over to Baco Mercat asap. This. Wow.

I love Baco Mercat. I love Bar Ama. I love DTLA.

Baco Mercat

408 S Main St

Los Angeles, CA 90013

(213) 687-8808

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V and I talk about food a lot. We’ve been friends for what feels like ever, and I think food has kept this friendship going. So since I’m on summer break and he has a weird work schedule, we were lounging around on a lazy Tuesday and figured we should venture out. After the original Freddie Smalls plan fell through, we decided instead to just check out Black Hogg. Then I remembered we had recently been talking about Kevin Eats latest post on something called the Vagrancy Project. We didn’t have a reservation, and it was last minute, but we had read there was an a la cart menu at the bar, so we would go check it out and see if we could get in. Even though I don’t drink, I don’t mind bar seating if it means I get to try a new place.

After confronting some terrible traffic, we made it to 1320 Echo Park Avenue (just one block up the street from the famous blue corn quesadilla lady) and found a place that seemed to be undergoing renovation. After being assured we were at the right place by a mystery man out front (we also saw him when we were leaving but have no idea what his part is in this project) we went up the stairs and into the restaurant. The super nice waiter asked us if we knew about what goes on at the Allston Yacht Club on Monday and Tuesday nights. After telling him we were there for a la cart, and were prepared to sit at the bar, he said that if we didn’t mind, we could sit at a table and still order dishes off the menu.

He led us to a table that was right up against the brand new window that had just been put in. It offered great lighting and a great view of the hustle and bustle of Echo Park. As we looked over the menus, V pointed out they had a non alcoholic drink. Since I don’t drink alcohol, it was a pleasant surprise. House made white grapefruit soda. So fantastic.

Here is the drink menu.

V had a summer beer.

We browsed the menu and decided on four dishes. However they were out of the ribeye, so we ended up with three dishes and then dessert.

First dish was the chorizo.

Second dish was the scallops.

Third dish was the merguez. This was so different and full of different flavors. Definitely my favorite dish of the night. I can’t wait to have this again.

For dessert we had the cheesecake, which I really enjoyed.

At the end of our meal, we were glad that we decided to stop in and get a taste for The Vagrancy Project. We will definitely be coming back for the tasting menu very soon! Oh, and by the way, we still ended up going to Black Hogg afterwards, but this meal was definitely the topic of conversation.

The Vagrancy Project

Monday/Tuesday

1320 Echo Park Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90026

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It is no secret that Son of a Gun is one of my most favorite restaurants in Los Angeles. I first went soon after they first opened, and have been back a couple of times since then. Sharon is the one that got me hooked on their shrimp toast (she even had dreams about it) and so I always enjoy enlightening friends as to the magic of the shrimp toast.

Since we were crawling, we stopped by Son of a Gun for a quick snack now that they are open for lunch. I can’t even begin to tell you how hard it was to order just a couple of things to share because I tend to order half the menu, but since we had one more stop, I kept saying we had to pace ourselves. So we did.

I always order the lobster roll and even though it is tiny, I still love it. I had been craving this for a really long time. I should have ordered like 4 of them, but I had to save room for our last stop.

The shrimp toast may not look like much, but after just one bite, my homegirl Mai was a believer. I could eat 5 of these. This is one of the dishes I find myself craving all the time, and one of my favorite things to eat in the City of Angels.

The last dish we ordered was the poke (amberjack poke, serrano, orange, yuzu, white nectarine). This was something that Mai wanted to try, and I’ve never ordered this dish before. I am so glad we did! This was so fresh and with the addition of the fruit! Absolutely amazing. I don’t tend to include the prices, but this tiny (it looks bigger in the photo) bowl of poke was $16 which made us hesitate, but it was TOTALLY worth it. I can’t remember the last time I had fish that tasted this fresh. Absolutely brilliant.

So even though it was a super quick stop (it was either this or Mozza) we thoroughly enjoyed our snacks. The waitress knew we were food crawling and was super sweet about it! As we ate we kept thinking of ways to run away with AC Slater who we had seen earlier that day, as well as wondering what our significant others would think.

I’m not a fan of communal tables (I always get stuck with super chatty people) but the one at Son of a Gun has always been a success. One time I ended up sitting next to some teachers and that was kind of cool. Since we were in a hurry and just popping in for a quick snack we opted to sit near the bar, and it was perfect. We ended up chatting up a solo luncher who was enjoying his chicken sandwich (one of my favorites) and looked happy to have some company.

I’ve never written about Son of a Gun before, but I just love it and I love coming here with friends. The cool part is that I feel like such a regular now since the waitress recognized me from the other night. I still haven’t been to Animal, but I think Son of a Gun is more of my style.

Son of a Gun

8370 W. 3rd Street

Los Angeles, CA 90048

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If there’s one thing I’m good at, its food crawling, and Wednesday was no exception. I set out to do some Sandwich Train recon in Hollywood and it was a total success. Everything we ate yesterday, I mean EVERYTHING was amazing. No misses, just hits. I love days like that!

Our first stop on our food crawl was Mendocino Farms on 3rd & Fairfax. The flagship that JUST opened across from The Grove. First of all the space is lovely, and has parking in the back (which it shares with Trader Joes and some others shops). Just make sure you get validation and it shouldn’t be too much.

When you walk in, you place your order with the host, which is actually a very smooth system. Plus when we couldn’t think of a second sandwich to order, Mai asked what was recommended. Without hesitation, the host said the Kurobuta Pork Belly Banh Mi. Done. After the host fills out the sheet with your order, you proceed to the counter where you can sample salads. We tried the potato salad and the penne, and of course both were good.

After ordering we proceeded down the line and saw all of the dutch ovens filled with pork belly, bacon. along with all of the fresh bread on display. The counter is like an open kitchen and you can see everything. It was so heavenly and we totally took our time walking by like tourists. Or little girls in a candy shop.

The space is so airy and the seating is really neat. We snagged the table with the astroturf seats. I’m so bummed I didn’t get a proper photo of it, but its the only one in the whole place. We couldn’t pass up the chance to sit there! Plain tables are for amateurs, and we were about to embark on a crawl!

Soon our order was brought to the table on a tray and it smelled so good before we even unwrapped everything. We had ordered the shrimp po’ boy and the banh mi. One of the sandwiches was square and the other was a roll. We assumed the roll would be the banh mi, and the square would be the po’boy. When we unwrapped them we were in for a treat!

Above is the po’boy, and below is the banh mi!

THIS was one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had. A pork belly banh mi on ciabatta. It was one of those “omgz omgz omgz omgz” moments bite after bite.

As we ate and chatted, we definitely started off this crawl on the right foot. And then things got better…Mai wanted to run across the street to The Grove to buy a pasta roller and rack. Of course this meant we passed by Short Cake (we are both Nancy Silverton fangirls) but after a quick peek we were on our way to Crate and Barrel and that is when we ran into our boo. No, not my boyfriend and no, not her husband…I mean our boo!

That’s right. AC Slater. He films EXTRA at The Grove and we happened to pass by just at the right time. He was gone when we were on our way back. Probably waiting for us in the car and stuff (in our mind).

Two late 20 something girls + AC Slater = instant fangirl status.

Giggles.

These are things childhood dreams are made of.

His dimples.

That banh mi.

Such an amazing start to the day!

Mendocino Farms

175 S Fairfax

Los Angeles, CA 90036

(Across from The Grove)

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Growing up, I always remember seeing Marcus Samuelsson on television, and although I have been lucky to meet some of my favorite chefs in recent years, never thought I’d get to try his cooking here in SoCal. Yet, that is exactly what happened last Monday night! In honor of his memoir Yes, Chef being released, he has been hosting special Prix Fixe dinners throughout the states. 

On Monday, he took over the kitchen at one of my most favorite places in Los Angeles…my beloved Son of a Gun! For $85/person we got a multi course meal and a signed book. The menu wasn’t posted beforehand so it was nice to be surprised.

Helga’s Pea Soup, Mint, Ginger

Fried Misy Point Oysters, Addis Remoulade

Tokyo Salad, Mizuna, Yuzu-Shishito Vinaigrette

Gravalax, Mustard, Pickled Fennel

Cheese

Sweet Corn Salad

Fried Yard Bird, Collard Greens, Rooster Sauce, Pickles

Where has this chicken been my whole life? Now I have to go to Harlem to eat this again. Spoiled for life. Sorry Thomas Keller. This fried chicken was the best I’ve ever had.

Sweet Potato Doughnuts, Fennel Ice Cream

Although the idea of fennel ice cream sounded a bit odd to me, I really liked it. Who am I?

Throughout the dinner, Marcus Samuelsson came by our table twice to see how we were liking everything, and chatted with us briefly. Plus, we were really lucky because he personalized signed our books! One more for my collection! He is cooking a different menu at each of the dinners, as he collaborates with the chefs as to what would be good to serve. In my opinion (and those of my friends) the fried chicken was the standout of this meal. As always rare experiences like these in my beloved City of Angels are a guaranteed good time.

Marcus Samuelsson – Special Dinner at Son of a Gun

Monday, July 9, 2012

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The first time I visited Red Medicine, I was still suffering from the ill effects of being pushed into a light pole in my three week old beautiful car. So even though I’m sure it was a wonderful meal, I don’t remember most of it. However, despite the concussion I was recovering from (and the memory loss), there is one dish that I do remember clearly and that is the foie gras dish with the croissant. Swoon.

So with the impending foie ban looming, the Vinhja and I had been spending most of the last week plotting where we had to eat before the 1st. He decided to go with Animal, and I decided I needed Red Medicine to eat that foie dish one last time. You know, without the concussion this time. I found myself seriously craving that dish, but I couldn’t find anyone willing to go with me. The Vinhja told me to go alone, but I didn’t want to drive all the way over there alone.

After having a coffee break with The Hustler (who is back in town for a month) I went home and took a nap. I had accepted  that I just wouldn’t be making it out to Red Medicine before the ban, no biggie. Just kidding. I was really bummed. Then around 9pm I was awakened by a phone call from a friend saying we should go to Red Medicine. I jumped in the shower, threw on a dress, and was ready to go! As my friend drove, I made an 11pm reservation using the Open Table app (best ever) and we arrived at 11:01pm. Perfect! I told the host that we were there for the foie as he got the menus and was ready to walk us to our table.

So imagine that dagger through my heart when the host told me that they were out of the dish. Facepalm. We debated on leaving since that was our main purpose, but I had been itching to try the banh mi, and since we were already there, I figured I could try some dishes from last time again, now that I am clear headed and no longer concussed. We ended up sitting in the bar area and ordered three dishes as a little snack since we were going to go eat dinner at another place afterwards. First up were the chicken dumplings. I remembered these from last time because of the plating, but I didn’t remember the lettuce wraps or the pickles. Assembling these was great fun.

These are chicken dumplings with caramelized sugar and pork fat. Love. These totally softened the blow of not getting foie tonight. Seriously, so good.

Next was the banh mi that I had been wanting to try and is only available in the bar area. Traditionalists will probably be all snooty when it comes to the Red Med version, but at the end of the day, yeah it was good. The pork belly was the best part. My friend had never eaten banh mi before…looks like we need to pay a visit to Lee’s soon.

The last dish we ordered was the beef tartare, which apparently I had on my prior visit but don’t remember (pesky concussion). The thing is, this dish was so good tonight, that I’m sure I would remember it. Then it occurred to me that the plating might be different now? Regardless…I’ve had many a beef tartare within the City of Angels and this one was one of the best I’ve had lately.

So despite that sadness about missing out on Red Medicine’s foie dish, which along with Bouchon’s terrine, is a tie for the best foie I’ve had, tonight was a good night. I can’t wait to go back to Red Medicine and order half the menu again with a clear head this time. If tonight’s snacks are any indication, then I’m in for a real treat!

Red Medicine

8400 Wilshire Blvd.

Beverly Hills, CA 90211

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When I first heard rumblings of a Sprinkles ice cream shop many moons ago, I was instantly intrigued. I love Sprinkles cupcakes, and I love ice cream…I could only imagine how great this shop could be. When I found out the grand opening date, I had it on my calendar, but I couldn’t make it because of work obligations.

For a while, my BFF had been hearing me talk about Spinkles ice cream and how it was now open and I had to check it out. So earlier this month after going to 800 Degrees, we headed over to Beverly Hills, cruised Rodeo Drive in a BMW, blasted some music, said some Romy and Michelle quotes regarding Pretty Woman…and you can only imagine the cliche we became. Total cliche. Sup.

I have spent many minutes (once almost an hour) in line outside of Sprinkles for cupcakes. They are the perfect party favor, birthday gift, hostess gift, party snack, etc. I once waited 45 minutes to get two dozen for some of my students that won a district wide contest. I’m a pro at this…therefore I knew there would be a line outside the ice cream shop (logic). The line wasn’t bad at all, maybe about ten minutes, and most of it was inside waiting to order. Which was fine because I couldn’t decide what to order (check out the flavors above), and I got to check out the decor of the very white shop.

Sprinkles Ice Cream is not cheap, but they do use quality ingredients and I think you pay for the experience and surroundings as well. Beverly Hills prices, kids. Maybe I’ve been exploring and hanging out in LA too long (born and raised) but I wasn’t appalled by the prices like some people have been.

So as we waited, I was like a kid in an ice cream shop.

I couldn’t decide what I wanted. So many cool choices…

And then S (the history major) noticed that Thomas Jefferson’s ice cream recipe was written above us. Ha.

S decided to get the Cupcake ice cream sandwich. Now personally, I had never heard of such a thing, but now that I think about it…its genius! When she got her order we were amazed to find that it was a whole Sprinkles cupcake with the top cut off, and a bunch of ice cream packed in between all served in a cup.

Cupcake ice cream sandwich. Genius.

I ordered a scoop of vanilla bean (my favorite ice cream flavor, don’t judge) in a red velvet waffle cone. This was my second choice. My first choice was sold out. So I guess since they make everything fresh, things sell out quickly. Good to know. Anyway, I liked it. It tasted fresh and was perfect for a warm day.

However, I have left the best for last…

Since they sell ice cream sandwiches (apparently the new LA trend) they make their own cookies! I am not the biggest cookie fan (we know this by now) but when I saw “salted oatmeal cornflake” as a choice? I had to have it. Done.

Yes. It was salty and really good and I should have ordered more than one. My new favorite LA cookie hands down. Apparently these sell out too because she wasn’t sure they even had any left.

This is the seating option. Totally open, you sit where the window would be. I really like that. You can people watch, hang out, small talk with others, etc. Nice design.

So as we finished our ice cream, it occurred to me that we had yet to successfully try the Spinkles ATM! We had tried a few weeks prior around 11pm, but the line was easily 80 deep. This time there was no line! I guess people were busy waiting in line outside the cupcake shop, and you can only buy one at a time from the ATM. So it worked out! How LA is this?

Behold, the Sprinkles Cupcake 24 Hour ATM Machine!

I totally bought a red velvet to go. Awesome.

Sprinkles Ice Cream

9631 South Santa Monica Blvd.

Beverly Hills, CA 90210

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