Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Playground Part II

If you're ever in Santa Ana playground in Santa Ana. The owners previously owned and operated The Lime Truck, which used to roam the streets of Orange County in the height of the food truck days. After winning The Great Food Truck Race in 2011, hosted by The Food Network, they were able to open their own brick and mortar restaurant in Downtown Santa Ana. I've gone previously for brunch, but this time it was for dinner.

The ordering concept is a bit confusing, as there is no hostess stand. You basically go in, find a table and sit down ... then wait for a waiter or waitress to notice you. Hopefully they've changed this concept since I've been there. But the tables are long and communal ... so make some friends!

prime 6oz hanger steak, heirloom tomato salad

baby beet salad, goat cheese, walnut, orange

buffalo pig tails

chicken fried duck confit, frisee, five spice vin, 62 degree egg

hand cut fries, green tabasco aioli, bacon fat powder

double cut bone-in pork chop, braised red cabbage

playground burger, torchon, tomme de savioe, maple bourbon onions, arugula, french vin

better than mom's thanksgiving dinner - turkey confit, cranberry maple, stuffing

creamless creamed corn, fresno chilies

handmade kabocha ravioli, sage, candied pistachios

quinn carrot cake

We had a large group with us, so we were basically able to order a lot of things on the menu. The hanger steak was fantastic (loved the big flakes of salt sprinkled over the top), as was the creamless creamed corn. The Thanksgiving dinner was amazing to me because, confit turkey?! Stuffing? The issue I have with turkey is that often the meat can end up being dry but that was definitely not the case here.

The only thing I didn't try were the baby beets because at the time, I had a huge aversion to them. Beets. Any and all beets. There's hope for me after all, because beets have recently been growing on me ... but ONLY the yellow ones. I'm weird.

playground DTSA
220 E Fourth St, #102, Santa Ana, CA 92701

Monday, March 31, 2014

Washington DC - Zaytinya

Judith's recommendation for dinner on my first night in Washington DC was to take me to Zaytinya. We both worked in her basement apartment all day (yea, I had to bring my laptop on vacation to work ... score) and then in the evening, ventured out for dinner.

Though José Andrés is famous for his molecular gastronomy dishes, Zaytinya did not incorporate any of those concepts into the dishes at this one restaurant. The concept is a combination of Greek, Turkish and Lebanese cuisine.

complimentary pita bread, olive oil

kibbeh nayeh - lebanese style beef tartare ground to order, bulgar wheat, radish, mint, pita chips

baba ghannouge - fire roasted eggplant, tahini, lemon, garlic

seasonal special - spring vegetables, artisinal feta

snail kibbeh - crispy potato crusted snails, baharat spiced labneh, heirloom lettuces

seasonal mushrooms - sauteed mushrooms, dates, toasted almonds, cumin

sea scallops - dill yogurt, sugar snap peas, radish

seasonal special - shredded lamb, puff pastry

greek yogurt and apricots - muscat soaked apricots, vanilla yogurt cream, apricot sorbet, pistachio powder

chocolate rose - rose ice cream, chocolate custard, spiced berry puree

It was a great meal. And all this food for two people ... that's me and Judith for you! I particularly loved the steak tartare, seared scallops and Greek yogurt dessert. And the lamb special (apparently I was on a huge lamb kick when I was in DC last year). Though it would have been cool to see some of his famous molecular gastronomy concepts with Greek food ... maybe as the restaurant develops in the future?

I'm going to leave you with more pictures of cherry blossoms, since they were so amazing and beautiful. Happy Spring! Hopefully the East Coast warms up soon ... it's been a brutal winter for them.

701 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Washington DC - Obelisk

It's cherry blossom time, marking the start of Spring! Look at them ... aren't they gorgeous in front of the house? That's exactly what I want my house to look like in the future except I want a Japanese maple in the front yard as well. And a lemon tree in the back. A year ago, I went to Washington DC to see the cherry blossoms at the Capitol. They were a gift from the Japanese in 1912 and planted around the Tidal Basin, which is the best area to view them. Yes, this post is ... quite late.

One of my best friends, Judith, moved to DC a few years ago for work. Though we're on opposite ends of the country, it's like no time has passed when we talk on the phone, on gChat or meet up in person. I need to see her more than a few times a year ... hurry up and move back, chica!!

I was lucky enough to have her host me in her basement level apartment for the week I was staying there. Of course this was the perfect opportunity for me to take her out to dinner. We do both love eating.

After looking around on Yelp, I finally settled on a restaurant in DuPont Circle and we headed there, not knowing much about it. The space was super cozy and intimate, like we walked into someone's living room that happened to be turned into a dining room. The menu changes every night depending on what's in season and is delightfully handwritten. After we settled on the two primi dishes, the lamb, and the desserts ... the food started appearing. And oh, did it start appearing.

My apologies in advance for the progressively dark pictures, I didn't know how to use my camera as well then.

marinated olives

bread basket

broccolini, anchovy dressing

rabbit loin, proscuitto, pesto

house-made burrata, olive oil (one for each person)

sardines, watercress salad, pine nuts

fava bean crostini, parmesan, fennel

These were just the simply named "Antipasti" section of the menu! Everything was delicious and full of great, simple Italian flavors! I was in love with this place. I'm still in love.

garagati with polpettine (meatballs)

spaghetti alla chitarra with squid, peas and pea shoots

lamb, asparagus, spinach

THIS LAMB. It was ... one of the best lamb dishes I've ever had. I was close to Easter and I hadn't eaten any lamb (does anyone else associate eating lamb with Easter?) and was craving it, so Judith agreed to order it with me since the entree is for two people. We each had one huge piece of loin and one large rib. The lamb was perfectly medium-rare, succulent, gamey and tender. I still think about it sometimes, a year later. NO JOKE.

cheese - robiola bosina, brunet, canestrato, fig jam

apricot strudel

chocolate cake, caramel anglais

mignardais - truffles, biscotti, pate de frut

All this for $75.00 per person! I thought actually that the price was a total steal for all the food that we were given. The service was attentive but unobtrusive and we were at the restaurant for over two hours. I definitely want to come back here every time I go to Washington DC. I just read on Yelp that apparently Wednesday through Friday are the best nights and we happened to go on a Thursday. Seriously one of the best meals I've ever had.

2029 P Street NW, Washington, DC 20036

Monday, March 24, 2014

Chengdu Taste

Spicy foods are generally a no for me. I'm a wuss. I freely admit that to people when they ask me why I can sometimes barely eat spicy tuna rolls. Yea, go ahead and laugh. I don't understand how other people handle it because I basically lose all sensation in my tongue, start drooling a lot, sometimes tear up and cannot taste anything for the rest of the meal. If this is what happens to everyone, then why do they like it?!

However, when a group decided to go to Chengdu Taste, I tried to mentally prepare myself. Luckily, they asked for dishes to be "small spicy" so it wasn't as bad as it could have been. The above picture is the toothpick mutton ... my favorite dish of the night.

mung bean jelly noodle with chili sauce

water boiled beef and soft tofu

fried lion's name fish

squid on crispy rice

spicy wontons

crispy frog legs with spicy sauce

kidneys in spicy green chili sauce

Yea so basically everything has the word "spicy" in it. Some of the group complained that the portions were a bit smaller than they were before. If you like that Szechuan spicy taste that makes your lips and tongue tingle and numb then definitely try this place out. I'd want to try the water boiled fish next time. Umm, maybe hold the spicy. I would 100% definitely get the mutton dish again.

If you like spicy foods, just look at those chilies! Also, try to get there early as there can be a long wait at times.

latte to cool down afterwards

Chengdu Taste
828 W Valley Blvd, Alhambra, CA 91803