Hipsters: You Voted in Garcetti, Now Nominate Bludso’s for the Hoodies
Once in a blue moon, when I can’t stand another re-reading of NPR’s morning news, I starting flipping the stations via the steering wheel thumb scroll. Sometimes, I end up at Steve Harvey’s Morning Show. Sometimes. And not very often, I give it a listen in hopes some form of transformational R&B which doesn’t involve whiny singers will be played.
This week though, the Steve Harvey morning show serves a different purpose. Harvey runs the ‘Hoodie awards every year in conjunction with iheart radio/radio free LA/lord knows who else. Nominations for different categories run through May 29th. May 23rd happens to be for the “best hoodie BBQ”. I don’t want get to get into the denotation of the word “hoodie”. Surely, it’s not simply an abbreviation for “neighborhood” as the Steve Harvey attempts to portray. What you’re nominating on May 23rd, really, is the best BBQ in the stereotyped ‘hood. So please, respect the word, and do not bother writing in something obscene like Boneyard BBQ in Sherman Oaks. Don’t dare nominate Bludso’s West Hollywood because Noah Galuten would end up being the only Jewish pitmaster in the MGM auditorium on August 10. Don’t do that to Noah, nominate Bludso’s in Compton between 6:00 AM and 6:00 PM Pacific time. You will needs its address: 811 S Long Beach Blvd, Compton, CA, (310) 637-1342
After you nominate Bludso’s, tweet Radio Free KJLH to offer Mr. Bludso some social media support Bludso’s. Bludso’s now active twitter account is @bludsosbbq1. With Steve Harvey show now moved to LA, Bludso’s will be up against an extremely tough Atlanta-Chicago crowd this year. Top 4 LA nominees continues onto the local awards, and the winner of the local hoodies go to Vegas in August against the rest of the country. It’s worth mentioning Bludso’s won against a Gary, IN fave, Big Daddy’s Place, in 2012.
Ignore the fact the award show absolutely flummoxed Bludso’s actual residence. That’s Compton, not Long Beach. C-O-M-P-T-O-N — where Mom’s is at. Ignore the fact George Wallace wanted award categories for pimps and ‘hos. Recognize this: ‘hood or not, Compton or not, Bludso’s clientele, on a typical weekday lunch, is more than 50% non-Black. Hipsters, Garcetti would want you to vote for Kevin Bludso. Garcetti was once a BBQ championship.
LAX-C Express: #jbfa THIS, New York.
The most graceful of blogditor in LA, Daniela Galarza, in her new role at LA Magazine, beared the world of pain bestowed upon this fair city by James Beard Foundation Awards like a champ. We’re not discussing the literary components of the awards which is akin to the technical awards during the Oscars. The literary awards are won the day before the “A”wards, and LA, which apparently is better as a city of writers than chefs, usually takes a few medals here and there on Sundays. During the restaurant JBFA’s though, LA has been dogged year after year. Some say the LA contenders were undeserving this year. I say the LA finalists are picked to lose year after year. After all, what superman can beat Le Bernardin on its own turf when nominated in the same category. Certainly not anything from Lucque’s empire. And Animal versus the best of San Fran and Napa? Never going to happen. Anyone would predict the proper loss to Incanto and Benu.
However, there’s one James Beard Foundation Restaurant Awards category which truly fails Angelenos: the “American Classics. This year, some gringoed Chinese joint in Sacramento won one of the four available slots. No one knows why except a bunch of State legislators make shady handshaken deals there. The criteria for this category is almost inane — the restaurant has to be classic (which means open for many years — let’s call it 100 and serve “regional” American cuisine. Dear James Beard members, may I offer you one of the finest classic LA dining establishments, if one can call a deli counter in front of a working kitchen contained within a bulk food supply warehouse? It is located within LAX-C Market in Chinatown. It’s not a “food court”, since food court implies there a multitude of vendors surrounded a central eating area. There’s but one vendor, and the chairs invade the aisle space of a Thai cash and carry.
There have been a few reports by “mainstream” LA restaurant bloggers, but not really “get” the depth of steam trays at LAX-C’s food deli, known formally as LAX-C Express. The “deli” portion of the LAX-C Express alone is worth a Saveur mention. During Songkran, they have kanom tian, a savory (and sometimes sweet) little pyramids of sticky, spicy (!) rice wrapped in banana leaf eaten as snacks. Every day, they have house made curry pastes for those too busy making mole with their molcajete. LAX-C Express is far more fascinating than the permanent food stalls that serve satay, papaya salad, and khanom krok by the LAX-C parking lot. LAX-C is a full blown take-out restaurant, and the stuff they have soaking in the kaengs underneath the sneeze guard is far more interesting than 90% of all Thai restaurants in Los Angeles.
There’s Issan-Lao-Chinese style kaeng hang leh, pork knuckle/feet stew jammed with five spice and herbs. There’s now also a fantastic khao man gai. This is the khao man gai that offers the most performance to price ratio in all of LA. A huge molehill of seasoned rice (slightly salty, slightly jasminy, a more fluffier and less al dente than many other Thai versions) sits under slightly more than a quarter pound of mish mashed, skin-in dark chicken meat — white meat is available, mixed is not. A few slices of cucumber insert themselves, in a super Thai style fashion, next to the rice and between the sauce container. Few sprigs of (not very fresh) cilantro adorn the whole schbang. Nothing looks extraordinary until the 2 ounce SOLO sauce holder is popped. This is the perfect Thai khao man gai sauce. It might be the most perfect Hainan chicken sauce ever. Starting with the base of a light sweet soy paste, minced ginger, a bit of acidity and a hint of garlic is added. The texture is perfect as the thickened soy paste adheres to the chicken. But it’s not so thick that it can’t also serve as a rice enhancer. It’s not as sweet as the tamarind-nuoc mam served at Dong Nguyen, and it’s not too salty as Siam Sunset’s (which was previously covered in the Thai Town Khao Man Gai survey).
It doesn’t end there. LAX-C Express is a classic “khao kaeng” / “khao gang” joint as described by Chef McDang. It’s Thai fast food joint that serves a working man’s lunch, to Thai restaurant buyers, in a cash and carry and qualifies as one of those Asian “fast food” joints so loved by Bourdain, except this isn’t Vietnam, it’s Bangkok. And really, as much as I love a bowl of mi quang, there’s no equivalent of a Thai khao kaeng in the Vietnamese foodsphere of LA. The food here isn’t precious, the ingredients are from the market, which is to say, it’s on par with just about every Thai restaurant in Hollywood. LAX-C Express has faults, too. They overcook beef and chicken (except for the khao man gai), just like every Thai restaurant in Hollywood. So go with something more funked. The fish ball has been stewed in the green curry for hours, especially if you go late afternoon. Get that. Kaeng som with a basket full of bamboo shoots is available as part of the pick-3 item bento. Get that. In fact, always get the sour spicy curry, always. Two spice-laden curry & kaengs is just too overwhelming, so go with the bittermelon pork ball bland soup to round off the 3-item combo. Now, a properly done-up bitter melon bland soup should be stuffed with the ground pork, instead of being spotted floating alongside pork balls. However, if Bazaar can deconstruct a sentiment as American as the Philly cheese, then LA ethno-fressers should be able to allow this Thai interpretation, done by Thais, for Thais. Granted, LAX-C’s freezer isles are full of CAFO’d swine and beef, and majority of the seafood is farm raised and shipped frozen from overseas, but this is the fault of the US food system, and doesn’t lower the tasty factor of LAX-C Express. This restaurant using the best ingredients they can, at the price point tolerated and accepted by their clientele, and they’re doing the best they know how, as taught by the generation before them, to these ingredients. Just don’t bitch about the imperfect health department grade and the uncrispy fried catfish upon arrival as the superlative 3-combos are $7, and there’s no tipping. Outside of the Hoy-Ka/Pa-Ord situations, there is no better complete Thai meal for a single-person (or a starving babysitting parent) on a lazy Saturday. NB: order the pre-stir fried noodle dishes at your at risk. Don’t be stupid about it.
Stella Barra Sneak Peek
This is a total lazy post. I could write a counterpoint to the ’10 Best Hainan Chicken” piece on LA Weekly, I could dissect J Gold’s regional Chinese piece (I’m so far about 200 words-deep in), but they’re writers, I’m not. Plus, in case any one missed it, I had to churn through a day of Grub Street posts last Friday, which means I’m literally as spent as a farang in Phuket’s sex shops as far as words go. This is all I can manage for the first week of May…
Stella Barra is LEYE’s third venture in Los Angeles. I may have said this before — I know I’ve said it to many Chicagoans and Ex-Chicagoans — there’s this deeeeep love-and-hate relationship for LEYE that rides on my back constantly. Everest made the Chickie fall in love with fine-French dining, Mon Ami Bistro made the Chickie fall in love with French bistros. We’ve have some really fun meals at Ba-Ba-Ree-Ba. L2O was the first fine dining/Michelin star we had after the human addition arrived. One of the foulest meals I’ve ever had in Chicago was at a Wildfire in the burbs. National 27 was a mad clusterF, and everytime I drove bye Wow Bao + Big Bowl I want to jam a knife down my throat.
Thankfully, it’s Stella Rossa that’s opening a second restaurant in Hollywood (as Stella Barra), and not National 27 arriving in LA. Here’s a peek:
One item worthy of note: there’s Goose Island beer. Of course, as NYT Magazine noted, Chicagoans, being Chicagoans, will always get their own.
Stella Barra (Part of LEYE)
SoCal Burmese Association Thingyan Festival, April 14, All Day.
If you’re not at Coachella this weekend, and you love Asian food, you should be at the SoCal Burmese Association’s Thingyan Festival this Sunday afternoon. If you’re not a fan of Asian food, I’m unsure why you clicked through to the site but… maybe you live Sinaloan ceviche?
In all seriousness, the following are the deets.
Entrance is free
There should be around twenty to thirty booths of Burmese food.
You don’t need to speak Burmese. This is America. The Burmese ladies knows how to collect your money.
You don’t even need to know WTF you’re reading.
There will be more than a handful of mohinga vendors (see above)
There will be noodle salads.
There will be house-made tofu salads.
There will probably be kulfi ice cream.
This may be the most exotic food festival in Los Angeles, right after the Armenian festival in nearby Montebello. Alternatively, you can eat more tacos as interpreted by none other than Inaki Aizpitarte (of Le Chateaubriand) for $50.
Below is a map directing you where to go, where not to go, where to park.
While WhereLA’s non-Coachella weekend round-up is nice, it actually lists Coachella as a weekend event. You know what else will be at Coachella? Free Coffee Bean Mocha blasts. You know what won’t be at the Thingyan Festival? Free Coffee BEan Mocha blasts.
SoCal Burmese Association
8001 Garvey Ave
9 A.M. to 4 P.M.
El Coraloense: (562) Mariscos Powerhouse
There are couple of things you don’t need to do before driving down to Bell Gardens to eat seafood at Coraloense: you don’t need to sign-up for a lottery online*, you don’t need to hit the ATM, you don’t need to be Hollywood art director who just banked a multi-picture deal, and you don’t need to call to confirm the presence of a chef who grills up the zaradeando.
freshly shucked bloody clams with pico de gallo, and a splash of soy sauce!
El Coraloense is currently under the culinary directives of “Leonardo the IV” and “Natalie Curie” Coraloense. Leo seems to be the second (or maybe third) “Leo” in his family to sling “sushimi Mexicano”. Both he and his sister attended culinary school in LA. The Mexicans are all about the familia thus Leo Sr has been actively funding a new, larger Downey branch, but to no avail. An aside: we all know what kind of city Downey actually is. It’s a city that also overpays its officials despite making little progress to improve the crime rate, yet it’s still stuck in some make-believe Puritanical era. Back to the grub report: By no means is this a claim of a Columbus-like discovery of the Coraloense family. Since 2003, Leonardo the II operated Leonardo’s Ceviche in Downey without being “discovered” by the internet. Zagat contains a review to the original Downey outpost circa 2007. A couple of years ago, most probably due to aforementioned despots within Downey’s city hall, Leonardo’s Ceviche shuttered, leaving El Coraloense (opened in 2009) to its own “monkey of flavors”.
Country Koko Chicken: Korean Friend Chicken Revival
Bullet point: $20 gets a “whole chicken” at Country Koko — 3 drumsticks, bunch of dark meat, a wing, or two, and couple of pieces of chopped white meat (if you’re unlucky).
Every piece has thin crispy skin, without the offensive crutchiness of some Korean (and even American) style tung dalk. The low grease style is similar to that of Chicken Day, but the “wheat” flour crust is much thinner here. There’s no doubt the chicken is double-fried and carefully trimmed of excess fat, which means the pro-tip of the day is to phone in the order the moment you leave the house, ie: “full order, spicy, [name]“. The spicy sauce, which essentially turns the chicken into “yang nyum” style, isn’t as evenly coated as Kyochon, but a little goes a long way, as the meat itself is marinaded with the non-spicy chicken carrying a healthy dose of seasoning.
Country Koko, an Orange County export, replaced the perpetually downtrodden Jja Jang Roo, famous for its $3 jja jang myeon. Has anyone actually seen Jja Jang Roo open? Despite repeated calls during Fall of ’12, no one ever answered. Apparently it was already shuttered and being converted to Country Koko, which opened last December.
A huge downfall here though, is the lack of a beer license. As enjoyable as yang nyum tong dalk may be, water simply can’t tame the heat packed under the wings of these birds.
Nonetheless, I am a huge fan. This is fresher than Kyochon and the service is friendly. Country Koko doesn’t fry the chicken to the point of mutilation by dryness, and they don’t charge for kkaktugi (white radish kimchi). Final bonus: the spiciness level is just a tad lower that of the spicy-spicy at Kyochon, which means the bowels will still attempt to purge the aftermath within 8 hours, which means eating CKC is a zero gain weight proposition after the first bathroom visit. Bottomline: Country Koko Chicken is more pleasurable than Kyochon on the way in, and just as effective as a water weight reducer on the way out. Order the spicy fried chicken, and experience the inner Korean han in you.
El Sarape: Yelp Leads Gringoes to Mariscos in Boyle Heights
El Sarape is one of my favorites in East Los Angeles (Boyle Heights) right now. I don’t know which family owns it, but it’s probably the same ones that owns the automotive junkyard/repair shop in the back.
I also don’t know what type of fish is being used in the zarandeado — it’s definitely not red snapper at only $10 — but I do know that the sarandeado is ala plancha’d (not a real verb) on a backyard gas grill out in the back. There’s simply no room in the tiny kitchen sized for a Tokyo apartment in the front shack that also acts as a take-out waiting room. I also know there are tchotchkes everywhere in this front room: weird? or awesome? Now that Bahooka’s closed (RIP), why not find some substitutional food kitsch in Boyle Heights? If you’re taking out, this is where you place the order, and wait for said order. If you’re doing the “aqui” thing, head on back to the covered patio.
Shortly after a visitor digests the scene [tarp covered patio, random folding tables covered with plastic, a sometimes working juke box, a few children playing on the side, the BYOB situ, the communal-only tables, the fact one could be facing the driveway while noshing on raw shrimp, the fact a BBQ is nowhere near the actual kitchen, the fact this location could be marked for demolition, ad nausea], a small order of pescado ceviche will be offered with a stack of commercial tostadas con limon, along with a side of watery salsa verde. Eat that knowing it’s an amuse, but understand the salsa verde packs a bit of heat.
LA Weekly’s Plate, Ms. Rodell’s Conumdrum, and Green Shower Farm, Rowland Heights
As I was wrestling an iron horse on the I10 after the Weekly’s Plate event, I kept on replaying the conversation with Critic Rodell over the importance of late-night dining in Los Angeles. I replayed the 3 A.M. drunken (food) orgies in Barcelona, I replayed the 2 A.M. soju fueled bowls of yukkehjiang in Flushing, I replayed 4 A.M. burger runs to Wiener Circle in Chicago. Supposedly these cities are all on the list of Rodell’s “great food cities”, as far Memphis, Atlanta, etc. Critic Rodell previously voiced her displeasure in not finding late-night good eats in L.A., but it was brushed off by loud claims of: she is new, she doesn’t know where to go.
A year later, Critic R is still voicing the same displeasure regarding the LA dining scene. Now she’s a bit older, a bit more “L.A.”, she’s has had to clarify: a good restaurant that serves tasty food, and good booze, until after the other cooks get off work. I couldn’t come up with one, mostly because, well, by the examples she gave, Critic Rodell wanted Red Medicine to open until 03:00 and serve their cocktails until 02:30. It ain’t happening because… California doesn’t allow this.
The conversation irked me to no end as Garret Snyder and I vehemently defended El Lay with its options of K-town dive bars that break liquor laws, East Side al pastor stands that care not whether you’re barely standing straight. In the end, I felt rather smug knowing, by this set of definitions, SF can’t be a great food city either. And, as the giant rays from the glorious sun drenched every inch of the warm leathers I was wearing while speeding into the vastness of the perfect LA weather, I really could care less whether hungry cooks had to suffice with eating bowls of won ton noodle soups in ABC Cafe at 1:00 A.M.
Before I forget, above is the obligatory food pictures from The Plate. It’s Allumette’s citrus custard with grape fruit gelee, poppey seeds, and some kind of playful, sweet, dirt? This is The Plate’s first year without Jonathan Gold. Since Critic Gold took the “Gold Standard” with him to the Times, LA Weekly was left to its own vices. This mostly means some rather flimsy paperware and a Case of the Curiously Missing Forks by 3:30 P.M. On the other hand, knowing turn out may be much lower than the earlier Gold Standards, LA Weekly released a some early bird tickets at half off, thus creating just about the perfect number of food tweakers. Unlike the LA Wine Festival, there was no one tripping over table clothes and trying to jump off the second floor of The Petersen’s Museum.
Here’s LA Weekly’s official recap.
Here’s Eater LA’s official recap.
2 person mentioned the Oinkster’s dish as the best of the day, 2 others said Lukshon’s sparse offering of scallops were the tastiest.
Me? I essentially ate nothing, but instead drank about a bottle of wine from the 20+ vendors as “curated” by Buzz Wine, downtown. As a not-very-active wine drinker, it was mad pleasurable to see so many natural wines featured that day. Thanks to the non-exist lines in the center isle, it was easy to drink the ticket’s value in within a 3 hour span. Some folks on Chow said the lack of food means they will not return again next year, but really, take it from a guy who ate nothing (because he didn’t pay to attend), $37 for this? And you get to talk back to your local alt weekly food critic? Are you kidding?
The other item of interest this week: Green Shower Organic Farm in Rowland Heights. This tiny 2-acre farm started producing enough greens last summer (around August) to release very limited Asian greens at its own stall. Last month, they expanded and started offering extra greens picked the day before at the Alhambra Farmer’s Market. The bundles of a-choy, bok choy, and spinach, etc. aren’t as pretty, or big, as the ones at the Hmong farmers’ stands, but the fact that this small operation, from a former bonsai-farmer, is only 15 miles away from the farmers market boggles my mind.
The Eastside folks have always have Silver Lake Farms. But they hardly grow any veggies I eat. We’re all about a-choy, bok choy, gai-lan, empty heart veggie, tung ho, Taiwanese bok chyo. In fact, I should really start buying some seeds from Tainong — they carry nearly all the Far East Asian vegetable seeds, available for mail order to Los Angeles. Most CSAs, with their rainbow chards, squash, bundles of parsley, and brussel sprouts, are pretty pointless to me, which is why Green Shower Organic Farm is a game changer. They’ve become certified FDA organic since forming in July of 2011, and the prices are still really reasonable. Small bundles (good for typically a small stir fry dish for two people) remains cheap, at $1.50 each. The prices are far cheaper than the other Taiwanese farmer at Irvine/Cerritos/Alhambra, and the variety, though not as great as the Hmong farm stands, is extremely tightly focused. If you’re one of the 1.4 billion Chinese in the world, you’ll find enough vegetables for at least 5 dinners at the stand. Greenshower is also picking their greens (possibly in a rush to meet the demand of the new farmers market stall) a lot younger than the Hmong markets, which means the spinach and Taiwanese bok choy are always tender. Prices work out to about $3-4 a pound for nearly all the produce.
Let’s hope Greenshower Organic doubles their stall size and bring more volume to Alhambra Farmers Market this year.
Greenshower Organic Farm
The Alhambra Farmer’s Market is Sunday, 8:30A.M. to 1:00 P.M.