Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Shake Shack - More Than Just Fast Food (New York City)

Shake ShackShake Shack

Shake Shack

When I was told by my friend Dan that I had to try Shake Shack when I'm in NYC, a simple fast food burger a la In-N-Out wasn't something I really had in mind. Mind you, I love In-N-Out. I worked there in High School, I know the entire operation (though I HATED working the dining room cleaning crew, along with wearing that giant diaper pin), In-N-Out to me is legit! Though when I found out Shake Shack is the brain child of Danny Meyer, the owner of Eleven Madison Park and Union Square Cafe, I was ready to try it out. It doesn't hurt that Shake Shack offered the frozen concrete treat, which are pretty popular in the Midwest.

Shack Stack

Shack Stack - Cheeseburger and 'shroom burger topped with lettuce, tomato, and Shack Sauce


French Fries


Hopscotch Concrete - Hot caramel sauce, chocolate toffee and Valrhona chocolate chunks


Chocolate Malt Shake

I adhere to the motto: Go Big or Go Home. Since I was in NYC, I pretty much had the "fuck it" mindset and ordered everything. So what you saw above was for an army of one, me.

The Shake Stack was fantastic. One of the best burger I've had in awhile. In fact, it probably rivaled the burger I had at Peter Luger, but definitely behind the Black Label Burger at Minetta Tavern. The crispy fried portobello mushroom was just amazing, it definitely enhanced the flavors of the burger.

The French Fries looked pretty ordinary, but was a lot better than I expected. Fried to a nice crisp, I definitely enjoyed munching on them.

I came here for the concrete, and I went with the one with the ingredients I liked. Caramel, chocolate, and toffee. Sign me up please! I had debated on getting a shake instead, but I went ahead and ordered both. I enjoyed the malt chocolate shake, but if you're only allowed to choose one, I'd go with the concrete.

In the end, it was a bit too much food for an army of one. However, I left stuffed, happy, and ready to visit Shake Shack again when I'm in New York City again. I have much love for In-N-Out, but I did like Shake Shack just a tiny bit more. So I guess I'll be eating here again in a month!

I do apologize for these poor pictures. Taking pictures and eating in the cold definitely had some downfalls.

Shake Shack
11 Madison Ave
New York, NY 10010
(646) 747-8770

Monday, January 17, 2011

Saddle Peak Lodge - A Hidden Gem (Calabasas)

Saddle Peak Lodge

Saddle Peak Lodge

Saddle Peak Lodge has been a place I've been interested for awhile, especially after reading kevineats' post awhile back. From what I've heard about Chef Adam Horton, I was pretty interested when our dining party was offered a special tasting menu that night. I made sure I ate a light lunch in order to not kill my appetite for dinner.


Top: Brioche. Bottom: Butter & Sea Salt

The meal starts with the usual bread course, and on this night, we were served a butter brioche, which was delicious by itself without the accompanied butter and sea salt. I was tempted to ask for a second brioche, but I figured it would have been wise to save space for the upcoming dishes.

My Darling Clementine

My Darlin' Clementine

Always a sucker for cocktails, I went with something on the Nouveau cocktail menu. My Darlin' Clementine consisted of fresh lime juice, pineapple juice, ginger elixir, and Svedka Clementine Vodka. All the ingredients were right up my alley and the final concoction was refreshing and delicious.

Roasted Tomato Soup

Amuse Bouche - Roasted Tomato Soup

The meal started off with the amuse, and in this case, a hot cappuccino cup of a roasted tomato soup. Even though it's not in season, the tomato soup was delicious. In fact, I regrettably finished my brioche or I would have dipped the bread into the soup. I wished the cup was much larger, but it was not meant to be.

Egg Caviar

1. Egg Caviar - oscetra caviar, dill yogurt espuma, house smoked salmon

We started the tasting off with egg caviar. The hollowed out egg was stuffed with smoked salmon, dill yogurt oscetra caviar, and of course, the egg itself. I loved the rich flavors of the egg yolk, and the salty flavors from the smoked salmon and caviar, which was finished off by the refreshing dill yogurt. A very pleasant start to the meal indeed.

Albacore Sashimi

2. Albacore Sashimi - cauliflower, green apple, almond, soy, mirin, ras el hanout

Here, we're presented with an albacore tuna sashimi dish which was served with crispy green apple, cauliflower and two delicious sauces. The tuna was fresh and the green apple gave it a nice crunchy texture, but the thing I loved were the two sauces that accompanied the albacore tuna. It offered a lot of flavors, but never overpowering. I really enjoyed this one.

Crispy Skin Wild Striped Bass

3. Crispy Skin Wild Striped Bass -
Variations of Salsify and Brussel Sprouts

The worst thing that any chef could do would be overcooking a piece of fish or steak, and the bass here was cooked perfectly, while leaving a delicious crispy skin. The variation of brussel sprouts were quite nice, and the fish as a whole was fantastic.

Guinea Hen "Galantine"

4. Guinea Hen "Galantine" - wild mushroom agnolotti and shaved perigord truffles

Next up, Chef Horton served us a bed of mushroom agnolotti with a delicious and tender guinea hen. To top all that off, shaved truffles finished the plating. Can you really get too much truffles? I think not! The guinea hen was juicy and tender, the agnolotti was cooked perfectly al dente, and truffles, I don't think I need explain that part. This was probably my favorite dish of the night!

Wood Grilled Muscovy Duck BreastWood Grilled Muscovy Duck Breast

5. Wood Grilled Muscovy Duck Breast - persimmon, sweet soy, yuzu, ash and flowers

We're then presented a bed of flowers, trees, and ashes. In the center of it all were perfect slices of grilled muscovy duck breasts accompanied again by some pretty amazing sauces. I enjoyed the forest-like presentation, but the most important thing was the duck was fantastic. I savored every bite.

Seared Foie Gras

6. Seared Foie Gras - sherry maple sauce, brioche, and a study of organic apples

I truly love foie gras, and it pains me to know it'll be banned in California soon (I guess it'll mean more trips to Montreal for me). The foie gras here was rich and soft, which literally melted in my mouth. The apples used here helped diffuse some of the richness from the foie gras which was definitely appreciated. All in all, it was quite delicious.

Texas Antelope

7. Texas Antelope - cauliflower, truffle, pear and foie gras

If I ate "thumper," I might as well eat "bambi" as well. This was my first time eating antelope, and I have to say I liked it. The antelope itself was cooked to a perfect medium rare and a piece of foie gras was served onto of the antelope. Finally, shaved black truffles finished the dish. Is there such a thing as too much foie gras or truffles? The answer to that is no and this was another winner!

New Zealand Elk Tenderloin

8. New Zealand Elk Tenderloin - celery root, sweet potato, crispy bacon, arugula, currants and hunter sauce

The last savory course of the night and we end it with a bang, in the form of elk tenderloin that was so tender, a knife was deemed unnecessary. The elk tenderloins was placed in a bed of some delicious "baby food" puree and topped with fried sweet potato strings. All the components were delicious, but the tenderness of the elk meat was truly memorable.


9. "Intermezzo" - Lemon Meringue ice cream, cherries and ginger

As we moved to the dessert portion of the meal, Chef Horton turned over the reins to pastry chef Kasra Ajdari. We started off we a palate cleanser of lemon meringue ice cream and cherries. The dish was tart and sweet, a nice way to switch up the palate.

"Flan Abstract"

10. "Flan Abstract" - Bell pepper croquante, flan, spiced yogurt and pepitas

Next, we were presented with a beautiful plate of almond ice cream with flans and a bell pepper croquante. I thoroughly enjoyed the almond ice cream, but I wasn't sure what the use of the bell pepper croquante, other than for aesthetics purposes. The flavor of bell pepper didn't really mesh well with this dessert in my opinion and the flan was slightly too rich for my liking.


11. "Chocolate" - Crustless chocolate torte, white chocolate namelaka, cocoa nib brittle and chocolate sorbert

Finally, we end the meal with a rich chocolate dessert. Although it was a rich dessert, which I thought could have used a fruit element, was much stronger than the previous dessert dish. The flavors was intense and rich, a chocolate lover's dream, though upon finishing this dish, I was ready to wave the white flag. I was stuffed!

Although Chef Adam Horton made us a special tasting menu that night, this was by no means a "media dinner." I truly enjoyed his cooking and I would glad to drive all the way to Calabasas again to try some of more of his cooking. However, as what he told us that night and announced on his Twitter page, Chef Horton will be leaving Saddle Peak Lodge next month for a new venture. Don't worry folks, he will be staying in the greater Los Angeles area. Follow his Twitter page for more updates. There are many exciting young chefs in our area and Chef Horton is definitely one of them. I'm excited to try more of his food in the coming months, but if you want to try his cooking at Saddle Creek Lodge, you better do it soon! This was definitely a great meal and hopefully many to come for me in 2011!

Saddle Peak Lodge
419 Cold Canyon Rd
Calabasas, CA 91302
(818) 222-3888

Friday, January 14, 2011

Katz's Delicatessen - Pastrami Heaven! (New York City)

Katz's DeliKatz's Deli

Katz's Deli

When you're in New York City, there's just certain place you HAVE to visit. Katz's Delicatessen would definitely fit that bill. Heck, if you don't believe me, I'm sure you'll trust him. What do you order here you ask? Well, I'm sure the sausages and the various other products are delicious, but you should only order one thing here: Pastrami on rye!

Katz's Deli

Complimentary Pickles

Katz's Deli

Dr. Brown's Black Cherry

Since I had the cherry soda in Montreal to go with my smoked meat sandwich, it's only appropriate to keep it the same deal here.

Now for the main event!

Katz's DeliKatz's DeliKatz's Deli


There's really nothing better than a pile of tender pastrami, along with some hot yellow mustard between two pieces of bread. I can see why Katz's has earned the numerous acclaim over the years, it's really that good. While I personally prefer the smoked meat at Schwartz's just a tad bit more, Katz's pastrami sandwich definitely hit spot. While I planned a quick stop at Russ and Daughters post Katz's, I quickly squashed that idea. Do what the Nike slogan tells you: Just Do It!

Katz's Deli


If you don't trust me, you can trust BoA!

One thing to note though, I've yet to try Langer's here in Los Angeles, so I'm curious how does Langer's stack up to Katz's!

Katz's Delicatessen
205 E Houston St
New York, 10002
(212) 254-2246

Katz's Delicatessen in New York on Fooddigger

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Fraiche Culver City - A New French Sheriff Is In Town (Culver City)

Fraiche Culver City

Fraiche Culver City

A little over a year ago, I met a young French chef named Ben Bailly at a dinner hosted by Jo of MyLastBite at Petrossian in West Hollywood and was immediately hooked to his cooking. At first, I honestly didn't think much could come out of the kitchen of a caviar specialty shop, but boy, was I wrong! Fast forward a year from that dinner, the news of Chef Bailly's move to Fraiche in Culver City began to spread amongst the Los Angeles food community, I was excited by the move. While I'll miss his cooking with caviar, I was truly excited to see what Ben can do when he's able to form his own menu. In this post are my two recently dinners at Fraiche Culver City. Just a note, Chef Bailly is in the midst of changing some menu items, so some items seen here might not be available when you visit the restaurant.

Complementary OlivesChampagne

Top: Complementary Olives. Bottom: Champagne

Olives are always given gratis when seated, and while I don't eat olives, my dining companions always seem to enjoy these. What I do enjoy are champagne and the various cocktails Fraiche's Bartender Kiowa Bryan churn out for my trips there. Just a few recommendations on my part. I thoroughly enjoy Ben's Breakfast, Poison Ivy, The Grape, and citrus drink (I cannot remember the name) with an absinthe rinse. Also, just to note, the Happy Hour cocktail drinks are $6 and beers on draft I believe are $3. What a great deal for Culver City!

4 RillettesPate and Smoked Trout Rillette

Various Rillettes

The rillettes have become a staple during my visits here. There are 6 rillettes available, but during my last visit, I was able to try the new pate rillette that's likely to replace the chicken liver version. The smoked trout has always been my favorite, as I've enjoyed the flavors of the trout. Also, the piquillo cheese spread was also a winner, as the spicy flavors of the cheese complement with the bread exceptionally well.

Hamachi Tartare

Hamachi Tartare - Shaved Turnip. Lime. Espelette Pepper

Here, we have a dish that we're probably more used to at a Japanese restaurant, but I quite enjoy the version served by Chef Bailly. The hamachi was accented well by the use of the lime and the slight heat of the espelette pepper. Using the turnip as a sandwich-like device was a nice touch that added a nice refreshing element to the dish.

Vitello Tonnato

Vitello Tonnato - Veal Steak Tartare. Arugula. Parmesan

There was definitely a change compared to the beef tartare with carviar that I was used to having made by Chef Bailly. The veal tartare was tender and the tuna based tonnato sauce added a nice contrast to the dish. A definite enjoyable dish.

Brussel Sprouts

Brussel Sprouts - Chorizo. Manchego. Dates. Almond. Piquillo Vinaigrette

This is probably my favorite salad at Fraiche. I enjoy the flavors of the chorizo, manchego cheese, dates, and the piquillo cheese vinaigrette all meshed together with the brussel sprouts. The flavors are strong, but it complement well together.

Belgian Endives

Belgian Endives - Coppa. Apples. Pecan. Goat Cheese. Truffle Vinaigrette

This was another salad dish I adored. I enjoyed the flavors of the coppa, the apple, the crunchy texture of the pecan, and of course, the strong flavors of the truffle vinaigrette all combined together with the refreshing endives. This was definitely a winner for my dining mates as well.

Frisee aux Lardons

Frisee Aux Lardons - Oeuf Pane. Bacon. Bleu Cheese

Bacon and crispy soft boiled egg, what can go wrong with that? Though I don't eat bleu cheese, the rest of the ingredients were delicious!

Bouchot Mussels

Bouchot Mussels - Fava Beans. Tomato. Chorizo

This was the first time I had mussels served this way and I'm a bit indifferent on it. Although I did enjoy the taste of chorizo in the dish, I did think the tomato was slightly too overpowering. Though it might be more of a personal bias towards too much tomatoes in a dish.

Seared Foie Gras

Seared Foie Gras - Frisée. Rhubarb. Pomegranate. Speculoos

Next, we have a perfectly cooked foie gras with a sweet/sour flavors of the rhubarb and pomegrante. To balance the richness of the foie gras, the use of a sweet ingredient is vital and I thought it's used wisely here. It's hard to go wrong with a foie gras dish in my book.

Basil Risotto

Basil Risotto - Escargo. Lemon. Tomatoes

Here we have a basil risotto, which was quite noticeable with its neon green color from the basil. The risotto itself was well cooked and delicious. The addition of the escargot added a nice flavor and texture element to the dish.

Sunchoke Risotto with Truffles

Sunchoke Risotto with Truffles

I'll be honest here, I really liked this dish. Maybe it's the addition of the truffles? That probably didn't hurt, but this was definitely a hit at our table. As of right now, it's an off menu item, but I hope Chef Bailly would make the addition to the menu soon. The risotto had wonderful flavors with or without the truffles, so try it!

Taglierini Neri

Taglierini Neri - Maine Lobster. Cherry Tomatoes. Basil

This is another delicious dish. Here we have squid ink pasta topped with Maine lobsters, basil and a lobster foam. It was definitely a favorite with most of us at the table. If you're coming to order an a la carte dish, this is definitely one to consider.

Lamb Papardelle

Lamb Papardelle - Tomato. Olives. Onetik Goat Cheese

Chef Bailly definitely cook up some damn tasty pasta dishes, and this was no exception. The hearty flavors of the lamb went exceptionally well with the tomatoes and goat cheese. Of course, the papardelle was cooked well and the flavors of the sauce went with the pasta perfectly.

Bucatini Carbonara

Bucatini Carbonara - Slow Poached Egg. Pancetta. Parmesan

This bucatini carbonara was definitely not a light affair. To say the flavors were rich would be an understatement. The rich flavors of the soft poached egg and the parmesan went well with the bucatini pasta. In addition, I loved the flavors of the pancetta, though who would really have a problem with anything with bacon or pancetta added to it?

Truffle Spaghetti

Truffle Spaghetti - Wild Mushrooms

Again, truffle spaghetti, can one get enough truffles? The answer would be a definitely No! The flavors of the sauce, highlighted with the mushroom and the truffle was definitely heavenly. The smell of this sauce was worth the order alone. Again, this dish is not yet on the menu, so I'm not sure if it would be offered down the road by Chef Bailly.

Pea Ravioli

Pea Ravioli - Ricotta Cheese

I think I'm running out of adjectives here. I'll take one from Amy of theroamingbelly. These raviolis were "sweet little pockets for my big mouth." Delicious!

Rabbit Garganelli

Rabbit Garganelli - Leffe. Mustard. Prunes. Tarragon

I love rabbits. I love eating them even more. Sorry animal rights activists, wherever you are. I'm Chinese, and I don't care about your fight. Animals are great, especially if they're a tasty one. This above dish was actually from one of Chef Bailly's father's recipes. The use of prunes, and mustard to combine with the rabbit and the garganelli pasta was genius. What a great dish! Just ask for the rabbit pasta when you're at Fraiche next time!

Hand Cut Maltagliati

Hand Cut Maltagliati - Pork Ragù. Scallion. Gruyère

This is the last pasta dish of this post and it's definitely another flavorful one. The scallions came across as an important element to cut the richness of the pork and gruyere. Surprisingly, I thought it tasted even better the next day when I had it for lunch.

Seared Daurade Royale

Seared Daurade Royale - Braised Endives. Orange. Black Rice. Farro

Onward to meat and seafood courses! Here we have a perfectly cooked daurade with flavor complements from the oranges, black rice and endives. A perfect blend of tastes and texture. Very nice!

Sear Scallops

Seared Scallops - Cauliflower Puree. Roasted Cauliflower

The scalloops were seared perfectly and I really enjoyed the cauliflower puree with the addition of the roasted cauliflowers. A well executed dish to say the least.

Crispy Loup de Mer

Crispy Loup de Mer - Sunchokes Soubise. Crosnes. Salsifi Mushrooms. Bordelaise

The loup de mer is probably my favorite dish outside the pasta menu. The three times I've had this fish were always cooked perfectly. The skin has been crispy, the fish itself was flavorful, and the accompaniment sunchoke soubise and the mushroom added a nice flavor to the dish. Another highly recommended course.

Duck Confit

Duck Confit - Farro. Black Rice. Wild Mushroom. Baby Spinach

I like rabbits and I like ducks. I especially love eating both of them. The duck confit at Fraiche was fantastic. If only I wasn't stuffed that night, I would have grabbed the darn thing by its bones and gnawed on it. I also enjoyed the bed of farro the duck was placed onto of. A pretty delicious dish I have to say.

Braised Beef Cheeks

Braised Beef Cheeks - Celery Root Puree. Horseradish Gremolata. Barolo Sauce

Tender, beef cheeks. Quite a good way to end the meat and seafood portion of the menu. The star of this dish surprisingly was the celery root puree. I truly adored it. This was definitely a flavorful dish.

Truffle Burger

Truffle Burger - Onion Fondue. Boschetto. Truffle Aioli. Egg

The truffle burger is something found on the bar menu, but I'm glad to have tried this at Fraiche. The burger itself was truly trufflicious, if there's such a word. I loved the fried egg option here and also enjoyed the onion fondue added to the burger. The only suggestion I'd have to say, which wasn't a problem on my first visit here was the fact the burger might be slightly overcooked. I definitely prefer my burger medium rare, though it really doesn't hurt the flavors of the burger in anyways. This burger cost $12, a steal in my opinion. This definitely has to be one of the best burger I've had here in Los Angeles.

Soft Polenta

Soft Polenta - Wild Mushrooms. Slow Poached Egg

This will be the last savory course of the night, the soft polenta. The mix of creamy polenta, wild mushrooms, and a soft poached egg, what can really go wrong with this combination? Not much from what I could tell, it was delicious!

For the sake of your reading convenience and my writing sanity, I'm going to post the pictures of the dessert and a final summary in the end.

Caramel Pot De Crème. Meyer Lemon Pot De Crème

Caramel Pot De Crème. Meyer Lemon Pot De Crème

Manjari Chocolate Pot De Crème. Chestnut Tiramisu

Manjari Chocolate Pot De Crème. Chestnut Tiramisu

Pistachio Creme Brulee

Pistachio Creme Brulee - Apricot Sorbet. Rosemary Crumble

Panettone Bread Pudding

Panettone Bread Pudding - Gianduja. Hazelnut. Mascarpone Gelato

Chocolate Coulant

Chocolate Coulant - Toffee. Peanut Butter Ice Cream

Chocolate Tart

Chocolate Tart - Tres Leches Gelato. Almond Crumble

Apple & Pear Clafoutis

Apple & Pear Clafoutis - Brown Butter. Candied Brioche. Salted Caramel Ice Cream

Key Lime Tart

Key Lime Tart - Grapefruit Sorbet

In terms of the desserts I've had at Fraiche, there were definitely a few that stood out. While I did enjoy all the varieties of dessert I've tried here, I definitely have to say the key lime tart was fantastic. I also enjoyed the various pot de crème, especially the caramel one. Also, the pistachio creme brulee I've always enjoyed since Chef Bailly's stint at Petrossian. Finally, the chocolate coulant was definitely one for chocolate lovers. You can't really beat warm chocolate lava cake with a peanut butter ice cream. In addition, Chef Bailly will be bringing back his pop rock panna cotta to Fraiche, so I'll hopefully try that out on my next visit.

In the end, I'm impressed with what Chef Ben Bailly has done to transform the menu at Fraiche in Culver City. While I know there are definitely a few people who yearn for the old Italian menu that was available in the previous regime, I say give Chef Bailly a chance to show you what he could do. I'm loving the rustic French menu that's available here, and I'm really happy that he's willing to change some dishes on the menu due to seasonal ingredients, as well as to the tastes of his clientele. While I've probably tried most of the dishes here, there are more stuff to be discovered. Come by for happy hour, lunch, dinner, or hell, even for brunch during the weekend. I enjoyed my first brunch experience recently as seen here from cattycritic, and I can't wait to go back a second time for brunch. Trust the Panda, check out Fraiche!

Fraiche - Culver City
9411 Culver Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232
(310) 839-6800
Fraiche in Los Angeles on Fooddigger