Archive for the ‘Foie Gras’ Category

The hot summer days lends perfectly to grilling weather. As an American tradition, citizens officially start the grilling season on Memorial Day weekend, as that signifies many things. First off, on that weekend, Americans celebrate an important federal holiday to celebrate and honor the lives of those lost while serving for the United States Armed Forces. The weather starts to significantly heat up by this weekend, following the inconsistent weather of April and much of May. As a result of the warmer weather, Americans take advantage of a holiday weekend off of work until the next federal holiday, Independence Day, to gather some friends & family for a party involving grilling. When thinking about grilling for a group of people, what food exactly comes to mind? I guarantee that hot dogs and hamburgers top the list. The notion to purchase these items in bulk contributes to the misconception that these foods do not taste good. The phrase “You get what you pay for” has never applied as much as it does now, as most who purchase in bulk tend to pay low per individual unit. If you seek quality, you will have to drop extra money for it. Hot dogs tend to bear questionable ingredients, but true hamburgers still exist in this world. If you happen to find yourself in Southern California this summer, check out these five places to grab some of the best burgers you will ever have. One bite into these will change the way you look at hamburgers forever.

5. Grill Em All‘s Suicidal A.K.A. Rey Fenix

When someone comes to Los Angeles from out of town, they may feel inundated by all the wonderful food that Southern California has to offer. When travelers want the most unique and ridiculous food, I send them to a select few places known for insane, wacky foods. If a traveler asks to eat the best burger ever, I will not send them to In-N-Out like most Californians would – I would send them to Grill ’em All in Alhambra. When it comes to insane burgers, no one comes close to Grill ’em All. When death metal and professional wrestling influence the ideas behind burgers, you know they will have something crazy going on, such as the Suicidal A.K.A. Rey Fenix, the July 2017 burger-of-the-month. Grill ’em All’s signature burger, The Behemoth, uses two grilled cheese sandwiches as buns. In the Suicidal, two double-decker quesadillas filled with refried beans and cheese replace the burger buns. The half-pound burger comes with shredded lettuce, queso fresco, chipotlé hot sauce, and diced tomatoes, making this slightly resemble a taco or burrito. The world has seen burgers in a quesadilla, but the world has never seen quesadillas used as burger buns quite like this before. But hurry – as the burger of the month, you only have a limited time to go try it out!

4. Pizza Port‘s BBQ Bacon Cheeseburger Pizza

A burger by any other name would still taste just as savory. A burger can look like anything, even if it takes on the form of an entirely different food. When a restaurant specializes in one food but still wants to make something else, they get creative, which Pizza Port has done well. As the name suggests, Pizza Port specializes in pizzas and other foods that one would expect to find at a pizzeria, such as chicken and salads. For the traditional folks out there, Pizza Port carries a handful of traditional pizzas. For the adventurous, Pizza Port has crafted some gourmet pizzas, such as their BBQ Bacon Cheeseburger Pizza. This pizza pit comes topped with tangy barbecue sauce, beef meatballs, bacon, mozzarella & cheddar cheese, and red onions. It basically tastes like a western-style cheeseburger, just in a different shape. For best results, ask for this pizza on Pizza Port’s signature whole-grain beer crust. Like all their pizzas, this pizza comes in three sizes: small for $9.50, medium for $18.25, or large for $22.

3. Melt’s Bulgogi Burger

When it comes to Melt, word-of-mouth has never applied so much before. Tiny does not describe Melt, as they simply exist as a food counter in a supermarket, kind of like a mall’s food court. In Diamond Bar, a local H Mart houses its own food court with a plethora of unique food counters, ranging from unique desserts to traditional Korean food to all the fusion, which leads us to Melt. From a distance, glancing over at the Melt counter makes them appear like some ordinary burger counter, with hamburgers and fries shown on their menu. However, upon closer inspection, you will discover that Melt does the fusion thing here, and they do it well. They cross Korean cuisine over to the world of burgers and fries, such as with their Bulgogi Burger. Though it appears small, this makes for the perfect lunch portioned perfectly, as Melt tops their regular 4oz Angus beef patty with green lettuce, grilled onions, mayonnaise, and bulgogi aioli. At just $4.50, this makes for the perfect lunch that will break the monotony of bland lunches out there.

2. Working Class Kitchen‘s Chianina Beef Burger w/ Foie Gras

Five years ago, a ban on the sale of Foie Gras in California went into effect. However, that ban mysteriously went away in early 2015. While California restaurants may now legally sell Foie Gras once again, many restaurants have felt the aftermath of the ban, and most avoid serving it for fear of the ban returning. As such, it takes some dedicated hunters & searchers to locate where to obtain Foie Gras, such as at Working Class Kitchen in Long Beach. Although located in the middle of a bustling city, Working Class Kitchen resides off the beaten path, so in order to discover it, one must actively look for it as opposed to passing by it. But if you do decide to visit Working Class Kitchen, you will discover some fresh, natural food that you can feel proud to consume, such as their Chianina Beef Burger with Foie Gras. The base burger costs $7 and comes with simply caramelized onions and remoulade spread on a potato bun. For $4 extra, Working Class Kitchen will throw an ounce of Hudson Valley Foie Gras onto the burger. As if the beef burger did not already have enough juices oozing out, the Foie Gras will add even more meaty goodness to the burger. Consider this a cheat meal, because if you eat this, you ought to eat clean the rest of the day.

1. VaKA Burger Express‘ The Vaka

In a condensed city such as Los Angeles, hidden gems and hole-in-the-wall places exist in every nook & cranny. If you discover or someone tells you about VaKA Burger Express and you decide to go look for them, you may require more than one try to actually locate them. If you simply drive to the address, you may completely pass by them, as they have virtually no signage visible from the street. You have to actually enter Whittier’s The Real McCoy and make your way to the bar to find the counter for VaKA Burger Express. Once there, you will discover a mini burger paradise with some of the best hidden burgers this side of Los Angeles, such as The Vaka. Blitz your taste buds with this burger that features a beer-battered tempura ring, muenster cheese, bacon jam, and VaKA’s signature smoked barbecue sauce. Do note that they store their barbecue sauce cold, so the first few bites may feel like a blend of hot and cold. For $11.50 for this burger, you will never taste another burger like this again.

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People get finicky over trivial things because of how “viral” those things get. For example, the world goes into an uproar over the death of one lion, yet hundreds of people get murdered on a daily basis. According to human nature, people get deeply involved with things that have no direct impact on their lives. A few years ago, California voted to ban the sale of foie gras due to the inhumane method of procuring it. That ban lifted earlier this year, but all the negative propaganda the past few years means that many restaurants still fear serving it. Little by little, Californian restaurants have slowly integrated foie gras back into their menus, and by now, people can savor this delectable delight in select places, such as at Shin-Sen-Gumi Yakitori in Gardena.

Southern Californian food fans swear by the name Shin-Sen-Gumi. Heralded as one of the premier Japanese restaurants of Southern California, Shin-Sen-Gumi does not follow American norms in terms of in-house dining. All of the staff at any Shin-Sen-Gumi live by the traditional eastern culture, as apparent by the shouting of the staff inside. At a normal restaurant, staff communicate face-to-face. At Shin-Sen-Gumi, staff shout their orders overhead for EVERYONE in the restaurant to hear – you can kind of hear it in this video. Shin-Sen-Gumi restaurants fall into a number of different categories based on what they serve. This post focuses on their Yakitori restaurants, a category that focuses on small eats A.K.A. tapas style. Three of these exist in Southern California: Gardena, Monterey Park, and Fountain Valley. I recently visited the Gardena location and discovered that they do indeed serve seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras from their Specials menu. I had not savored foie gras in years, so having this opportunity presented in front of me again meant I had to brace myself for the incoming wave of meaty goodness about to attack my face.

Sure it costs $14.50 for a small piece of this seared piece of animal fat, but how often do people get to treat themselves like this? I obtained this from the Gardena location, so I do not know if the Monterey Park or Fountain Valley locations carry this.

Welcome to 2015, an odd year that some may consider a passing year rather than a destination year. Unlike 2014 and 2016 that have significant worldly events going on, no one truly expects anything extraordinary to occur in 2015 other than news as it occurs. With nothing public to look forward to, we must take control of our lives and make something happen for ourselves. Living a bland, boring lifestyle leads to an unproductive life, so get your adrenaline pumping by exploring new things out in the world. If you live in the greater Los Angeles area, check out these five burgers that will definitely add some zing to your life.

5. Slater’s 50/50‘s Faux Gras Burger

California had not seen foie gras sold in restaurants since June of 2012. Animal activists won a battle that made it illegal to sell foie gras in California. However, as of very recently, that law no longer upholds, so foie fans can rejoice! It will take a while until restaurants start to reintroduce foie gras into their menus. In the meantime, the folks over at Slater’s 50/50 have something to relieve our hunger for foie gras. Slater’s 50/50 truly has an international legacy, having graced the front page of Reddit recently, so an introduction has no place here. Moving on to the meat of the business, their January burger-of-the-month has come to us in the form of their aptly-named Faux Gras Burger. Although it does not contain actual foie gras, the flavor comes awfully close. This burger utilizes their Pepper Brandt beef patty instead of their signature 50/50 patty, and honestly, the 50/50 patty would probably muck up the rest of the flavors in the burger. To add to this, the burger comes with fattened chicken livers, Granny Smith apple & onion marmalade, white cheddar, fried onion strings, whole-grain mustard, and arugula on a brioche bun. Some people see liver and immediately turn the other way. I strongly urge you to give this a chance this month, especially since it only costs $12, a bargain compared to many of their past burgers of the month.

4. Restauration‘s The Other Burger

Long Beach may have its ghetto areas laden with crime and death, but outside of those areas, Long Beach has some highly hip and trendy areas. As long as you avoid the bad areas, you will discover some cool places such as the East Village Arts District, Belmont Shore, or Retro Row. Retro Row especially has some great hidden gems, and even beyond the official area of Retro Row, you may find some other great hidden gems, such as Restauration. Formerly 212 Patio Bistro, this quaint little gastropub makes visitors feel right at home with their humble front area and spacious patio seating in the back. The menu contains standard gastropub faire, which means food with a greater concentration of quality, as most apparent in The Other Burger. This grass-fed beef burger, cooked to order, comes with bacon, Fiscalini white cheddar, shredded lettuce, house pickles, caramelized onions, and garlic aioli on a butter-toasted bun. Each ingredient’s unique taste lends well to the support of this amazingly juicy burger, not to mention the crispiness of the toasted bun. You can nab this burger during business hours for just $12, and it comes with your choice of side.

3. 38 Degrees Ale House‘s The Thirty-Eight Burger

In the debate of opening a restaurant that serves craft beer, one must ask: what do I want the people to recognize us most for, the food or the beer? This balance would materialize itself like a seesaw, as focusing on one aspect often leads to neglect of the other. I mean, sometimes some places that swear by their food may have a different perception by the public. Finding the right balance takes practice, something that 38 Degrees Ale House has done. The folks at 38 Degrees know their craft beer, and they know their food. Their residence in Alhambra may not help them (a city known for its traditional Chinese population), but they use their industry knowledge to hit homers all year round. When I first tried The Thirty-Eight Burger, I knew immediately that they have the recipe for success in their hands. They use triple-grind angus chuck for their beef patty, and garnish it with garlic aioli, onion relish, Point Reyes blue cheese, and baby arugula on a Hawaiian sweet bun, served with shoestring fries (upgradable to sweet potato fries for $2). With the sweet potato fries upgrade, this meal basically eats like a dessert, since only the blue cheese has a non-sweet flavor. Although I rarely modify burgers, I may try this again with hot sauce or something spicy to add some more kick to this burger. Luckily, this burger only costs $13, so it will not break the bank or anything.

2. Mohawk Bend‘s Whitson Burger

Los Angeles has so many unique eateries that one often has a hard time keeping track of all of them. Add to the fact that Los Angeles had so many different named neighborhoods, and you’d have to spend days exploring every neighborhood in Los Angeles County. From Silverlake to Lincoln Heights to the Miracle Mile and more, named neighborhoods all have something that make them stand out. Echo Park, for example, has some great historic sights to see, as well as businesses to visit. If you find yourself in Echo Park, take a look around for a lovely place called Mohawk Bend. Not coincidentally located at the bend of Sunset Blvd at Mohawk St, this restaurant dares to transcend above that of the gastropub label, as they refer to themselves as simply “a restaurant and bar in Echo Park dedicated to bringing you California craft beer and fresh, locally-sourced fare.” I will not lie – the interior looks gorgeous, and stepping foot in here makes you feel like walking into a movie set. If you can get past the scenery, you will find their substantial menu, which contains yummy eats like the Whitson Burger. Only available during dinner hours, this mammoth burger has three types of meat: ground beef for the patty, bacon, and pulled short ribs. Along with this meaty threesome, it comes with cheddar cheese, sliced pickles, shredded lettuce, and sriracha aioli on a brioche bun. Just for the heck of it, Mohawk Bend had to label this burger as (NV) which I assume means “never vegan.” Blast those vegans though – this burger costs $15 and comes with a choice of side, while vegan food usually costs more since it requires more careful preparations.

1. Bachi Burger‘s Ronin Burger

Las Vegas draws thousands of visitors every weekend as they visit for vacationing. Most people come to Las Vegas for the partying, while others come for the gambling or shows. Do people go to Las Vegas for the food? Probably not – most visitors who travel to Las Vegas end up dining at their hotel’s buffet, a cesspool of leftovers with less quality than serviced restaurants. Las Vegas restaurants that thrive on the quality of their food should look to expanding elsewhere, such as the case with Bachi Burger. Originally based out of Las Vegas, this restaurant chain has landed in Southern California with two locations: West LA and Pasadena. So what makes Bachi Burger so good that they had to expand to California? One word: fusion. Bachi Burger brings Japanese and island flavors to the west by introducing them to a form that Americans easily recognize: burgers. Visitors can savor this fusion best in the Ronin Burger, the first burger listed on their menu. This angus beef burger patty gets topped with caramelized onions, Japanese cole slaw, miso goma (sesame) dressing, a fried egg, and katsu BBQ sauce, served with yuzu citrus aioli on the side. Anyone who loves Asian food will fall in love with this burger, as it basically represents Asian-style BBQ in a burger. The price of this burger depends on the location; for example, this costs $13 at the West LA location. Sadly, burgers do not come with any side, but once you sink your teeth into this burger, you will not require a side, as you will want to prolong this experience as long as you can.

On a weekend where I traveled to Seattle, Washington for the 5th Annual International Food Blogger Conference (IFBC), I felt vastly overwhelmed by traveling to another city for the first time. Prior to this trip, I had done extensive research on Seattle, looking up various towns & cities in the area, sights to see, locations to visit, restaurants to dine at, breweries to drink at, etc. I arrived in Seattle with an already-full list of places to go to, and I would continue to add to that list as the weekend progressed, meaning that I could not visit every place I wanted to in this short weekend. In order to cover all of the places to go and things to do, I would very well have to return again sometime in the future. With minimal free time available this weekend due to the conference, I knew that I had to settle in right away in order to make the most out of this weekend getaway.

As mentioned during my recap of the 2013 IFBC, my plane got delayed three hours, so I arrived in Downtown in the early evening, meaning I could not attend any of the optional conference sessions taking place that day. As I rode to downtown on the Link Light Rail, I passed by the Old Rainier Brewery Complex and Safeco Field, pictured above. Once I reached my hotel, I had plans to meet with Meagan Davenport and Gary House to share a drink locally before venturing off to explore the nightlife of Seattle. Following that Happy Hour break, I returned to my hotel room to decide which restaurant to have dinner at.

My decision landed me at Local 360, a gastropub in Belltown that fully utilizes locally grown ingredients in their food and drinks. I fully support restaurants using sustainable ingredients, and Local 360 lives up to its name with their mission statement. For dinner, I ordered the unoriginally named Fried Chicken. Where its name lacks creativity, this dish more than makes up for it with bursts of flavor in every ingredient. Unlike normal fried chicken, this one gets stuffed with a bacon mousse chicken roulade, so you have the sauce inside the chicken, which then gets deep fried. Add on top of that a sunny-side up egg, then place it all on a bed of cheesy grits and collard greens. This dish not only satisfies your savory taste bud, but it hits every single taste bud in your mouth. Surprisingly, the collard greens tasted tangy and slightly sweet, so I ate that up like a salad soaked in chicken and cheese drippings. For dessert, I went with their S’More Sundae – vanilla ice cream with graham cracker brownie (more a blondie than brownie), salted chocolate sauce, and bourbon marshmallows. On its own, the bourbon marshmallows tasted strongly of bourbon, but together with the rest of the bowl, it adds a nice hint at the finish. If I did not get full so fast, I would have stayed here longer for more food and drinks.

In order to walk off all this food, I took a bus down to the Seattle Space Needle in an attempt to visit the top for a bird’s eye view of Seattle. Unfortunately, the Space Needle had closed earlier that day at 3:30 pm for a private party, so I could only just walk around the immediate area.

Friday morning started with a visit to the historic Pike Place Market. An open market unlike any other, Pike Place Market combines the concepts of a farmer’s market with a swap meet, then escalates it to a brand new level. For breakfast, I visited The Crumpet Shop, an old shop making fresh crumpets daily for over 36 years. Craving something more savory than sweet, I ordered a ricotta, pesto, and ham crumpet.

The open market contains dozens of diversified shops and stands, selling many different products from prepared hot food to fresh seafood to fresh flowers to fresh produce and more. Technically, a person can find every item necessary for living all in this market, due to the great variety of goods & services offered here.

Across the street from the open market, plenty of historic shops called this busy street their home. A local Seattle staple, Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, caught my attention with not just the giant cheese-making contraption visible through the window, but with the scent of fresh cheese wafting from their storefront. Beecher’s sampled a variety of their cheeses, but nothing compares to their Flagship cheese. A cheese unlike any other, this unique blend tastes much better cold than cooked, and if you try it with their cheese crackers, you have an irresistible snacks that you cannot simply put down. Wanting something to munch on in my hotel room, I bought a small wedge of their Flagship cheese, as well as a bag of their cheese crackers.

On the next block, I visited the Le Panier Boulangerie Française French Bakery, which had a huge crowd of people inside already on a Friday morning. I strolled inside to behold a wide arrangement of pastries and treats, a lot of which I would normally have to hold myself back on. However, as a vacation, I opted to order a few items to try out, so I obtained a Normandie Feuilleté, a puff pastry with chicken and cream sauce, and a mille-feuille bar.

Continuing down this road, I stumbled upon the first Starbucks ever opened. With a line this long for a Friday morning, I opted not to attempt to enter the store. Just a few spaces down from Starbucks, I discovered Pear Delicatessen & Shoppe, a quaint deli & market that sold mainly products of higher quality. I saw that they sold Beecher’s Cheese here for about the same price – not surprising, as any customer could visit the actual Beecher’s just down the road. Pear Deli not only sold, prepped, and cooked food of substantial quality, but they sold craft beer as well, carrying a handful of California beers in their cooler. I appreciate seeing California beers make their way to other states, as that shows the prowess and impact of craft beer in today’s market.

Fast-forwarding to Friday evening, I met up with Meagan again, and together with Jonathan Piercy, we took a bus to Elysian Brewing in Capitol Hill for a beer prior to our dinner event. Each of us got to try one beer before the rain starting to just dump it all out on us. We originally had plans to visit Bluebird next door, but decided to push that to another time, due to the rain influencing us to return to the conference.

Moving on to Saturday evening, prior to the Urbanspoon Dine-Around Dinner, I met up with locals Madeline Moy and Bee Tangsurat, and we drove over to Bluebird Microcreamery & Brewery in Capitol Hill. This funky ice cream shop serves ice cream, craft beer, and craft beer ice cream. You do not see this often in Southern California, and if you do, it does not last year-round like this! With craft beer on tap, and some ice cream flavors made with local craft beer, any beer fan would love this place. In fact, I wonder if they will ever open a shop in Southern California, home to hundreds of micro breweries, and home to warmer weather throughout the year? Anyways, I loved coming here, and I loved my Theo Chocolate Milk Stout & Elysian Stout Float even more. Thanks to both the gals for bringing me here to try a Seattle treat.

On Sunday morning, I returned to Pike Place Market in order to meet up with other conference attendees to walk through the market with them. Unable to locate any of them initially, I strolled through the market on my own, observing all the goods available, and watching the workers set up shop for the day.

I eventually discover Storyville Coffee, a hip coffee shop with a steampunk look to the interior. Although still operating under a soft opening, the staff allowed me to enter after I recognized some of the conference attendees here in Storyville. I met up with Dr. Jean M. Layton, Erica Dermer, Kate Neschke, Michael Wangbickler, and more as they discussed the modern culture of food. Storyville allowed each person here to receive a complimentary pastry and drink – I selected their Ham & Cheese Croissant and Café Mocha. I have no idea how they made the croissant, or who made it, because the ham resembled kurobuta pork. They also brewed the mocha to the most perfect temperature I could ask for – not too hot, but still hot enough to enjoy leisurely.

On my way back to the hotel, I stopped by Cupcake Royale, whom I had sampled ice cream from on the first day of the conference. Those who know me personally know how picky I get in regards to cupcakes, as few bakers can get the cake moisture and/or buttercream flavor right. I swear by Suite 106 Cupcakery in Southern California, as they get the moisture right and the cream right. Ordering two cupcakes, I sampled a piece of each to get a feel for the cake and the cream. I shall cut to the chase – you will get your money’s worth or more, since these cupcakes measure wider in girth than other cupcake places. If you seek a quality cupcake, I would still recommend Suite 106 over Cupcake Royale.

Once I conference had ended, I still had the rest of my day to venture out and seek some of the spots that I wanted to visit. I received a reply from Suki that they planned to head to Fremont, where I had five places in mind to visit. Together with Ryan Valentin and Mary Cowx, we drove up to Fremont, unknowing that we would all travel into an afternoon of exploration and excitement. The three planned to have lunch at Paseo; however, they do not open on Sundays. They decided to join me instead as we made our way to Uneeda Burger. As one of the restaurants on my list of places to visit for over a year, I had greatly anticipated this visit ever since I decided to travel to Seattle half a year ago, and boy did they exceed my expectations. Appearing as a shack on the side of the road, Uneeda Burger crafts some of the funkiest tastiest burgers this side of Oregon. In addition, Uneeda Burger pours a great selection of local craft beer, and serves refreshing craft sodas.

The burgers in order: Crispy Emmer Veggie Burger, BBQ Smash, Crimini Mushroom Burger.

Now that we had visited the main place I wanted to seek out, I joined them as they visited a nifty shop called Book Larder. This cookbook store sells a variety of cookbooks, and frequently hosts classes on cooking and food knowledge, similar to Hipcooks. If I had more room in my luggage, I would have bought a grilling cookbook or two. For now, I will have to wait until I can potentially return here again.

The three had the rest of their day open, while I still had a few spots to check here in Fremont, so they decided to stick with me for the meantime. Driving down south through Fremont, we end up in a small neighborhood of local businesses, with the streets full of parked cars, which strongly reminded me of Belmont Shore in Long Beach, CA. Once we parked, we visited a Bluebird Microcreamery location here in Fremont. Unlike the Capitol Hill location, this smaller shop did not serve any beer. They also appeared to carry less items overall than the Capitol Hill branch. The staff mentioned plans to renovate and expand, which relieved me of the no-beer thing.

As we finished our ice cream, we could not help but notice a strangely strategically-placed sign on the sidewalk. Curious as ever, we followed the sign down through an alley, and discovered this Russian Dumpling shop in the bottom of the building we just exited. This hole-in-the-wall restaurant serves dumplings and only dumplings. Customers can order beef, potato, or both in their dumplings. After boiling them for a good five minutes or so, the staff coats it in spicy oil, sprinkles curry powder, dollops a type of cream that resembles either sour cream or yogurt, dashes it with cilantro, and serves it with rye bread. I would not rate the quality that high, but what makes this concept work appears on their sign. They open until super late night, sometimes closing at 4am, so they cater well to late-night crowds. Also, everyone knows this food, so they will not question it, much like how Southern Californians know about tacos.

Across the street, we finally found 9 Million in Unmarked Bills, a whisky bar I had wanted to check out with my prior research. Having just had lunch, we sat at a table here just for drinks. Many people wonder how this place got that name. If I remember the story correctly… Sometime during the prohibition era, a robber made off with a large sum of money during a heist. He attempted to escape via a plane, but the authorities pursued him ruthlessly. Knowing he could knot evade capture, he tossed all the money out of his plane to the world below. These 9 million in unmarked bills would all land near what would turn into the current location of the whisky bar with the namesake here in Fremont. Anyways, Ryan and I had a local beer, while the gals each ordered a Southern Baptist cocktail.

After this stop, we drove back to downtown where I got dropped off back at my hotel, and we all went our own ways. Thanks so much to the three for allowing me to join them on this exciting adventure through Fremont. I appreciate meeting such awesome people whenever I travel, and hope to see them again soon, possibly in Seattle again next year.

I had less than 24 hours left in Seattle, and I still had not gotten the chance to eat foie gras, since we can no longer legally buy it in California. Determined, my research brought me to Capitol Hill to check out two restaurants that served foie gras. First, I visited Tavern Law, a speakeasy-themed pub, from the same chefs over at Spur Gastropub, where I had dinner the night previously. Two items on their menu stood out to me, so I ordered the Foie Gras Terrine and the Natural Beef Burger w/ Pork Belly. The word terrine jumped out at me, as I recognized it and knew immediately how I would receive the foie gras: raw. Much like rillettes, you eat this by spreading the terrine onto the crostini, and taking small bites. The foie gras comes off as so intense that you truly cannot handle eating too much of this delicacy at once. As for the burger, the burger tasted best after removing the top bun and eating it open-faced. The top bun drowned out the flavor of the rest of the burger, so removing the top bun allowed full absorption of the meat.

Recall that I mentioned a speakeasy theme above – this restaurant pays homage to the old times of speakeasies. Visitors may notice an oddly-placed giant door on the wall. This door serves a greater purpose than just decoration! By picking up the phone on the wall by the door, a visitor can ask to come upstairs to a hidden upstairs lounge, as long as a staff member can answer the call from upstairs to buzz the visitor in.

Having just had foie gras in terrine form, I craved something more, as I can have terrine whenever I want. I craved cooked foie gras. I wanted that seared fat tasted to resonate all over my taste buds. Luckily, right around the corner, I would find Quinn’s Pub, a location I had wanted to check out thanks to my research. Without hesitation, I immediately ordered the Seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras, an emulsion of foie gras that sits on a plum cake, coated with an Italian plum compote. Finally a foie gras I can feel proud of, this reminds me of what a lot of Southern California chefs used to make prior to the ban of foie gras sales. Every ingredient on this dish works out so well for each other. Nothing else provides a meaty or savory flavor, allowing the foie gras to take center stage. The plum cake adds a smooth texture to each bite, while the plum compote balances the flavor with its sweet and sour flavor.

On Monday morning, before taking the train back to the airport, I made one final trip to Queen Anne to Toulouse Petit, a French restaurant best known for their breakfast Happy Hour. I recently discovered this location this past weekend after receiving a suggestion from another conference attendee, and I could only visit this place for breakfast on the last day here. I got to try both the Duck Confit Hash and the Snake River Farms Kurobuta Ham Benedict, both with unique tastes, and both oh so good.

That concludes my intense weekend in Seattle! I hope you enjoyed my photos, notes, and memories all this past week, and I hope this motivates you to make a difference in either your own life or other people’s lives. Remember that you have the power to make change, and never feel smaller than normal. Want to attend the conference next year? I highly suggest starting a blog, even if you only plan to post pictures. With 50% of Generation Y referring to themselves as “foodies,” the trends in food will shift drastically only a short period of time. For example, remember Cronuts? Everyone raged about them in the early summer, but now everyone has gotten over those in favor of Ramen Burgers. With food trends constantly shifting, having a solid online foundation to keep track of information will not only benefit all of your readers, but yourself as well. The new food movement shifts from bad foods like high fructose corn syrup and GMO’s to safer, healthier alternatives, namely the local and sustainable foods. Look into everything going on in the world of food, and decide for yourself if you will continue to drink the Kool-Aid, or if you will stand up and support local growers.

The nation’s top conference for food bloggers moves from Portland to Seattle this year, as the 5th Annual International Food Blogger Conference (IFBC) returns this weekend, starting Friday afternoon. This highly-acclaimed conference focuses on prime aspects to any writer that creates content related to food, beverages, cooking, and anything else in the culinary field. Covering a broad diversity of educational topics to choose from, each attendee may devise their own program of sessions to attend. Sessions/workshops will cover anything from food & cooking to writing skills to technology. I still have yet to formulate my full itinerary, but I get to pick one from each of these groups:

Friday, 4:30pm:

  • Making your blog work for you – how to design your blog to cater to your audience
  • Building Your Food Blog Media Business – how to turn your blog into a successful media business
  • The Elements in Building Traffic – how to utilize SEO and social media to increase site traffic

Saturday, 2:15pm:

  • Artisan Olive Oil Tasting – learn about different types of olive oils
  • Live Blogging: An Exercise in Writing with Bordeaux Wines – taste wines and write about them on the spot
  • Food Photography Workflow From A-Z – how to take your photography to the next level

Saturday, 4:00pm:

  • Food & Wine: Unexpected Pairings – how to rethink food & wine pairings
  • Story Telling: The 7-Part Structure of Stories – how to keep your audience wanting more
  • Sous Vide Cooking Demystified with Seattle Food Geek – everything you want to know about sous vide

Sunday, 9:45am:

  • Low Salt Living – how to maximize flavor without the need for more sodium
  • Snap Out of It – how to escape writer’s block
  • Google Plus, AuthorRank, and Where Search Is Going – the importance of SEO and key words

All weekend, attendees will get treated to many other exciting tastings and activities, such as the Taste of Seattle, a photography demo, an expo to discovery new products & ingredients, a Taste of Alaska Seafood, a dinner crawl (pub crawl for restaurants), and more! Want me to cover/write about a particular session? Post a comment here or on my Facebook page, or tweet me. I will post something Saturday morning detailing my first day at the IFBC.

During any downtime this weekend, I can freely roam the city, so if you have any suggestions of places to visit, please do send me your suggestions! I appreciate all of the suggestions so far, and the following places have caught my eye.

For the longest time, I have wanted to visit Uneeda Burger, just north of downtown. This burger shack proves that you cannot judge a book by its cover. For a small place, they pack punches in their burgers. I definitely have to try their BBQ Smash burger.

As a craft beer enthusiast, wherever I travel, I always check out the local craft beer scene. Up in Seattle, no other micro brewery stands out more than Elysian Brewing. Elysian has crafted quite a name for themselves since opening 18 years ago. With the increasing popularity of craft beer in the nation, Elysian’s reach into other states would only take a matter of time to manifest. I first tried one of their beers as a collaboration between Elysian, Stone Brewing, and The Bruery – a 5.0% pumpkin ale know as La Citrueille Cèleste de Citracado. Elysian loves their pumpkins, and they even throw a Pumpkin Beer Fest every year. Unfortunately I will have already returned to California by the time that fest rolls around. In the meantime, I will gladly enjoy a nice pint of any Elysian beer.

Moving on to more recent discoveries, Quinn’s Pub appears similar to Haven Gastropub here in Southern California. Unlike in California, restaurants can serve foie gras here in Washington, so I will likely chow down on this calorific delicacy.

Another gastropub-like restaurant caught my eye because of its name. The restaurant named 9 Million in Unmarked Bills operates similarly to URBN in San Diego’s North Park neighborhood, with the craft beer, craft cocktails, and the gorgeous presentations of their cuisine, such as this Caprese.

Seattle also contains a handful of “firsts” businesses, such as the first Starbucks, the first Crossfit, and the first bikini coffee shop. Coincidentally, Seattle will see its first ever International Food Blogger Conference this weekend. I will also set foot in Seattle for the first time later today. How many more “firsts” will occur this weekend in Seattle? Only time will tell, and we will find out in a few days.

The annual Los Angeles Epicurean Festival brought the best of food, wine, and spirits together under one roof this past Sunday at Vibiana in Downtown Los Angeles. One of the largest fests of its kind, the LA Epicurean Fest lives up to its name, especially since the name contains epic. A food fest typically sees guests sampling food from various vendors. Epicurean allows guests more privileges than merely sampling – guests gain a full experience in small packages at a time. With abundant wines to taste and pair, wine connoisseurs could not easily taste everything within the three-hour event duration.

All around the main hall, attendees could try many different foods as well, most of which have no substitutions. Take, for example, these cake truffles from Velvet Rope Bake Shop:

If you have eaten cakeball pops, think of these little bites of heaven as a cake pop, but intensely more dense. One of these truffles contains the same density as four cake pops. In addition to traditional flavors like Red Velvet and Double Chocolate, Velvet Rope Bake Shop crafts “adult flavors” such as Guinness, Chardonnay, and Dirty Martini. After sampling these flavors, I believe that Velvet Rope Bake Shop truly epitomizes the phrase “Often imitated, never duplicated.”

Right beside Velvet Rope Bake Shop, I tried this all-natural ketchup with sweet potato fries:

The sweet potato fries did not stand out, but the ketchup completely amazed me. I normally do not consume ketchup anymore because most ketchup out there contains high fructose corn syrup, which I try to avoid entirely. This all-natural ketchup still tasted sweet like it did have high fructose corn syrup, but also had a tomato tartness, where you can tell that the ketchup does not contain unneccesary added sugar.

I continued my scroll around the hall, slowly browsing through all four aisles of the fest:

Eventually, I circled around and discovered that an opened side door led to an entire outdoors area of the fest!

As I started to explore outside, the very first thing to catch my eye had the most important food words on its sign:

Ladies and gentlemen, Foie Gras had returned to me. I knew I recognized the sign from the petition back in June to attempt to overturn the Foie Gras ban, but for now, simply getting Foie Gras back in my lips satisfied me to no end.

Immediately past the Foie Gras booth, I found a French gentleman sampling not just any old iced coffee – nothing “any old” about this coffee. This gentleman carried glass bottles that resembled beer bottles, but contained pure black coffee. Consumers should drink this coffee straight up black – no sugar, no creamer. For a hot day, I definitely needed something cold to cool me down, so I humbly accepted an entire bottle.

Across from the iced coffee, a booth contained chips with gourmet salsas:

In front of that booth, a woman sampled shots of Hazelnut Espresso Vodka. It sounds strange, but after trying it, I really wanted to buy a bottle… but my wallet said no.

The next booth over from the salsa booth contained Caribbean food:

The last booth in that row had exotic meat sausages. From left to right: Llama, Kangaroo, Wild Boar. Finally, I could cross llama off my list of meats to eat.

Continuing my tour of the outside area before stepping back in to the main hall, I discovered a booth with meatballs made with 100% grass-fed beef:

Next to that booth, I spotted a giant rotisserie with various meats already spinning inside it:

Another booth outside had cold meat samples: Smoked Turkey, Applewood-smoked Bacon, Canadian Bacon, and Smoked Liver Pâté.

On my way back inside, I noticed a sign that said SooFoo in giant bold letters. This grains mix reminded me of quinoa, but with different grains and nutrients. Personally, I would stick with quinoa, but this healthier alternative (as they claim) could find its way into mainstream soon.

Back inside, after having sampled all that food, I searched for something cold or sweet. My search did not last long, as I stumbled upon this bakery serving cappuccino cream puffs topped with a caramel ring candy:

Going around to the next aisle, a lady served a few varieties of latkes:

Samples of crème fraîche lie in wait just beyond the last lady:

Continuing down this aisle, I saw these cute little fruitcake-like logs resembling works of art:

The best part of this aisle came at the end: chocolate truffles.

Down the next aisle, I finally found the escargot, which I as a foodster knew I had to try. Once you get past the fact that you just ate a snail, the texture and taste does not seem that bad.

Further down this aisle, a pastry chef set out mini pastry dishes for display:

Up near the main stage, a French gentleman named Stephane Treand worked away at crafting food art:

During the entire fest, cooking competitions took place on the main stage. These competitions pit two chefs head-to-head to cook dishes for the judges, in a similar vein to what Food Network shows.

That concludes my pictorial of the Los Angeles Epicurean Festival. Costing $100 per person to enter, do not take this fest lightly – should you attend next year, embrace everything around you, and take advantage of everything available to guests. I guarantee you will discover amazing food and drinks here.

Today is the last day to enjoy Foie Gras in California before the CA Foie Gras ban settles in. That being said, there is little time to consume as much of this delicacy as you can before you have to find alternate means of acquiring foie gras. Luckily, there is a place where you can consume a large portion of foie gras in one sitting. When I say large portion, I mean more than what the average person should consume in a day. Of course you could settle with The Playground‘s small foie gras dishes, but you ought to take a look at their 6 oz Grade A Hudson Valley Foie Gras “Burger” before ordering anything else.

There are no words to describe this burger. You are receiving a “burger” made entirely of foie gras… six ounces of it. The average human should not consume more than two ounces daily – any more than that greatly increases cholesterol levels. The intensity of this foie gras will linger in your mouth for days, and you will savor the foie gras’ aftertaste for that long too. You would expect such a fine dish to come with great add-ons. Unfortunately, The Playground never actually describes what is on the burger. In every menu iteration, it simply says Foie Gras “Burger” and nothing more. I can say that there are some kind of caramelized onions (or shallots), a mustard sauce, and lettuce. If there was anything else, it got lost in the madness of the burger. If you want to experience burger madness, this all can be yours for $50 at The Playground in Downtown Santa Ana.

Long Live Foie Gras!

Perhaps you have a favorite restaurant. Perhaps you have a favorite butcher, meat market, or carnicería. Perhaps you have a favorite kosher deli. Perhaps you have a favorite coffee & tea house. Perhaps you have a favorite bar. Perhaps you have a favorite donut shop. You may have all of these already set in your mind, but perhaps you did not know that there is a mecca where you can find ALL of these in one place. That place is the legendary UMAMIcatessen.

The Umami series of restaurants is renowned in Southern California. Umami Burgers are plentiful throughout Los Angeles and Orange County. Umami is fine dining at affordable prices, because there is no competition for their offerings. Nothing can compare to what Umami serves. I can honestly say that Umami holds the #1 spot in many of my Top X lists because it is THAT good. However, this post is not about all the Umami restaurants – this post is about what UMAMIcatessen carries, and that is the Foie Gras & Jelly (FG&J) Donut.

The FG&J Donut resembles a filled donut. The donut is filled with Foie Gras mousse & forest berry jame, and topped with powdered sugar & peanuts (yeast). The filling is not mixed together – one side will have the jelly, while the other side will have the foie gras. Many people I know who have ordered this mouthwatering dessert start from the jelly side. I urge you not to start from the jelly side – ALWAYS start from the foie gras side. You want that instant rush of foie to hit your palette like a ton of bricks. Once you savor the foie gras mousse all over your mouth, then you can get to the jame (I really do not know why it is spelled that way on the menu) and other parts of the donut.

If you are reading this while foie gras can still be served, you can splurge on this donut at UMAMIcatessen for just $8. But why stop there? There is a wide expanse of delights to devour at UMAMIcatessen, so even with foie gras gone, your choices will remain abundant.

You should not judge a book by its cover. If you do, you may miss these treasures right in the middle of our neighborhoods. Without prior knowledge of what to look for, you may drive right by it. One of Orange County’s most famous restaurants is situated in what appears as an office building from the outside. Once you step inside, a new world unfolds before you… a world known as The Ranch Restaurant & Saloon.

The Ranch Restaurant & Saloon features cuisine from all regions of America. A glance at the menu would give the impression of a steakhouse. Further inspection of the menu reveals that Foie Gras is available as well. Knowing that foie gras will be banned in California soon, I did not hesitate to send the order in.

The Ranch’s Seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras comes with Honeycrisp Apple Bread Pudding, Hen of the Woods Mushrooms, and a Port Compote. For the full flavor rush, get a little of every layer – combine the compote, bread pudding, mushrooms, and foie gras. You can experience this explosion of all the senses working together to create a soothing symphony for $20 at The Ranch Restaurant in Anaheim. Get on over here quick – you only have a few days until it goes away!

Alternate photo

My Twitter followers know how much I have been talking about this ever since it was announced about a month ago. I had been meaning to track this down for the longest time, but every week I always had plans that kept me away. This time, I knew I could not wait any longer for it to come closer to me – I had to go to get it. I am referring to Vizzi Truck‘s “Hot & Cold” Foie Gras Torchon Slider.

Vizzi Truck is no stranger to foie gras (Spring 2011 menu). With the CA Foie Gras ban starting in a few days, this “Hot & Cold” Foie Gras Torchon Slider is their final saluting farewell to foie gras. This slider comes with Cherry 8 Brix (Verjus) Marmalade, Truckmade Almond Butter, Bacon Bits, and Greens (tasted like Arugula). Let that settle in for a moment. Once you recall the flavor of each ingredient, you will quickly realize that all of your taste buds are working hard to absorb everything going on this little slider. The marmalade brings the sweet & sour, the almond butter brings the smooth nutty taste, the bacon bits add that strong salty kick, and the greens add the bitter veggie taste. In the middle of it all is a THICK slider of pure foie gras. That is not a patty – that mound of foie gras is coated with bacon bits. The foie gras itself is cold and velvety, containing all the foie gras-ness in its purest form fit for this slider.

You only have a few days left to find this! Track down Vizzi Truck before this weekend, and nab yourself a Foie Gras Slider for $15. Believe me, this is time & money well spent.