Grand opening: The Blue Cow kitchen & bar

When I’m craving a quality sandwich in downtown Los Angeles, I head over to Mendocino Farms. Their seasonal menu of soups, salads, and sandwiches are made with fresh ingredients and prepared to order.  And I admit, you can’t beat their rainy day special for their Ham And Gruyere grilled cheese for just $6.50. But why am I talking about them when this post is about The Blue Cow?

My food blogger pal, Lynn Chen, told me the Mendocino Farms folks were opening a sit-down restaurant and bar in downtown Los Angeles. Immediately, my tastebuds perked up when I heard this! Lynn then invited me as her plus one for one of the preview days where we had our meals comped. How could I resist!? The new restaurant is called The Blue Cow kitchen & bar. It’s located in California Plaza where Casa used to be and grand opening to the public is… today, Monday, February 13, 2012.

From the moment you approach the restaurant to scanning the interiors, the aesthetics is very Mendocino Farms – rustic and comfortable.

And yes, this place has a bar with bars on tap and a menu of specialty cocktails. For this trip, we didn’t have any alcoholic beverage but I’m hoping to head back one of these days to check out their happy hour – yes, they have one!

Let’s talk about the food. They have a lunch and dinner menu. We chose from the lunch menu. We started with the “Baked and Fried Potatoes” that came with housemade horseradish ketchup and sour cream-onion whip dip.

The potatoes had a perfect crunch when you took a bite – and it was hot and soft in the middle – perfectly done. These are large potato wedges and perfect to share for 2-3 people as an appetizer. We also got an order of the “Root Chips ‘n Dips” which is basically crispy roots that are thinly sliced and crunchy like potato chips served with a side of sour cream-onion whip dip.

For the main course, I wanted to be different and get a plate but I couldn’t resist the hamburger. It’s an 8 oz. grass fed Marin county beef paddy with butter lettuce and some spicy remoulade on a buttermilk bun… also added a applewood bacon to indulge myself a little. I figure if you can serve up a simple burger well, other stuff on the menu is worth coming back for. I was not disappointed.

The burger paddy was juicy and flavorful. The buttermilk bun and stuffing was a perfect combination. It’s a tall burger so I had to smash it down but despite that, they kept the burger simple yet refined. I hate it when burgers are complicated – it should be simple where you can taste each of the layers between the bun. Well done, Blue Cow.

Across the table from me, Lynn ordered the “BarbaFaux’s Torta” which is a vegan dish.

The torta roll is stuffed with seitan and pinto beans that have been braised in chipotle agave BBQ sauce. There’s also some tofu, avacado, and lettuce. I’m usually on the fence about seitan and tofu because if it’s not marinated properly, it’s pretty tasteless. I have to say, Blue Cow did a great job of putting flavor into this torta. Granted, I only had a bite of it. If you want the close-up photos and more info, check out Lynn’s post here.

We had hoped to try their dessert but they only serve that for dinner. Guess I’ll have to go back for that… and happy hour!

The Blue Cow kitchen & bar
350 S Grand Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90071

This week at Starry Kitchen: Taiwanese Fried Pork

When Starry Kitchen arrived to downtown Los Angeles over a year ago, it was a saving grace to downtown workers – like yours truly! Finally, there was some quality Asian food that kept you on your toes. Why do I write “on your toes”? Well, the menu changes weekly and you have the choice of having your protein served over rice, in a wrap, or sandwich (a banh mi) with a side order that also changes weekly.

Last week, they were serving up one of my favorite choices that I hadn’t had in a while: Taiwanese Fried Pork. Check out this photo of my Taiwanese Fried Pork served in a banh mi with a side of shallot fried rice. I often get the banh mi because I love the baguettes they use.

One of the reasons why this pork is perfect in every way is the green. See it? It’s flash fried basil! Last time they had this dish, I remember just picking one leaf off and the flavor of the light and delicate basil crunch when I ate it.

Next, the pork is battered with 5 different spices and sweet potato flower and fried according to their menu. This savory dish looks even better up close.

I can’t forget the side! Starry Kitchen has a few side dish choices, one of them is usually a fried rice. The week I was there, they had the shallot fried rice which has bits of shallots mixed in. I love this fried rice because it’s not super oily or greasy. I admit I often take a bite of the sandwich, then a bite of rice, and switch back and forth because I don’t know which part of the meal to give my attention to because I love it all.

Hopefully, if you’re in the downtown area this week, you’ll be able to catch this meal before it’s gone.

Also, a special note about the staff – they are always in a good mood and they remember their loyal customers, like me!

Starry Kitchen
350 S Grand Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90071

Simply sweet at Semi Sweet Bakery

If you ever need an excuse to explore downtown Los Angeles, check out the monthly Downtown Art Walk. It happens the second Thursday of every month. I know a lot of people go for the art but… I also go for the food.

Last year, hoards of food trucks made their way for the event. Recently, the food trucks haven’t been around but businesses have moved into some of the empty storefronts – businesses like Semi Sweet Bakery.

Right when you walk in, it’s brightly lit with an array of sweets behind the glass. They have several type of “ding-a-lings” which are like specialty mini Ding Dongs.

It was obvious they had a lot of sweets but what I was craving something savory. I ended up ordering a short rib empanada. They have three flavors – mushroom, beef, and short rib. I admit I was questioning myself on why I did that but the guy at the register handed me a fresh empanada – I put my nose to the bag and inhaled and all questions disappeared. I made a good choice.

The exterior was buttery and flaky. The short rib was tender and moist. It’s actually a perfect snack or something for an appetizer tray. Also, I got something sweet – a homemade Pop-Tart… um, I mean pocket tart!

Yes, a pocket tart looks like a Pop-Tart but it definitely doesn’t taste like one. The strawberry pocket tart I ordered didn’t overwhelm me with sugar. The shell was a hearty crust with strawberry preserve in the center. The glaze was subtly sweet – all the flavors worked together really well.

When I ordered, I also got a complimentary triple chip cookie that just came out of the oven. Basically, it’s a chocolate, butterscotch and potato chip cookie. There’s a slightly salty aftertaste from the potato chip that lingers after each bite.

The name of the bakery is perfectly fitting and I’m definitely looking forward to getting more treats!

Semi Sweet Bakery
105 E 6th St
Los Angeles, CA 90013

I heart ramen!: Daikokuya

I have so much to do with my trip to Korea just around the corner but I couldn’t help myself to a perfect night at the Museum of Contemporary Art and ramen. My friend Alex from Minnesota is visiting LA and I suggested we go eat at Daikokuya in Little Tokyo. I’m used to waiting in long lines there – one time I came by during lunch and it was almost a two hour wait! Sorry to say, I had to walk away because I was starving. Alex and I waited about 20 minutes which wasn’t too bad.

So why is this place amazing? Simple – the food is good. The ramen noodles aren’t too mushy and the broth – oh the broth! – is savory and when you take a sip, it feels like a big fleece blanket that’s warming you up on a cold night. Here’s a photo from one of my previous adventures to my favorite ramen house in LA. It’s the house ramen with a side of the shredded pork over rice.

Bon appetite!