About Rachael

I'm Rachael Faught, a food loving, globe-trekking geek girl extraordinaire. Based in Los Angeles, I am dedicated to the life of a true bon vivant, experiencing all life has to offer and then promptly writing about it. When I'm not on the go, I'm typically at home cooking up a storm and obsessing over Attack on Titan with strangers on the internet.

Bombo by Mark Peel – Grand Central Market

Bombo Foods - Chef Mark Peel 2
Chef Mark Peel

It’s funny how cyclic the world is, you know? In what seems like the blink of eye, a place goes from “hot” to “not” to “hot” again. Case in point: Grand Central Market in downtown L.A. When I was a kid/teen, GCM was the last place anyone would recommend to eat in downtown Los Angeles. It was still listed as a place to take your visiting cousin, because, y’know, history, but chances were high you’d take them to Philippe’s for lunch. If at all in DTLA. For reference, this is also the same period of time when walking along the east side of Alameda Street in Little Tokyo was not even an option unless you were looking to score some sweet, sweet crank.


Bombo steam kettles
Steam Kettle Cooking at Bombo

I don’t know when it happened, precisely, but Grand Central Market slowly but surely received a much needed injection of vitality and innovation in the form of chefs taking an interest in L.A. History and wanting to simplify the dining experience by trading in the fine linen for counter service. Wexler’s Deli, Berlin Currywurst, Belcampo Meat Co., Horse Thief, Oyster Gourmet, and of course, Eggslut are the heavy-hitters now, packing in crowds so wrought with hunger and zeal, it’s commonplace for food to sell out. Joining their ranks is Bombo, brought to us Chef Mark Peel, regarded as one of the founders of California cuisine. Serving up broth-based seafood dishes and salads, with the majority of the cooking done in steel-jacketed steam kettles, I was fortunate enough to score a preview before Bombo opened and sample selections from their enticing menu.

Please enjoy – and try not to droll on your keyboard.


Bombo


My favorite dish of the evening was the steamed clams with pork sausage, accompanied by roasted onion, chickpeas in lobster broth atop a bed of pappardelle. Dishes I have to go back for: steamed mussels, Seattle Fish Stew and the chicken salad!


SteamedMussles
Chef Mark Peel


Have you tasted Bombo yet, or visited Grand Central Market as of late?

BOMBO
317 S. Broadway
Los Angeles, CA 90013
11a-3p
http://bombofoods.com

Osawa Celebrates Two Years in Pasadena

It’s always a happy day when a restaurant marks another successful year on the calendar, as is the case with Osawa Shabu Shabu & Sushi, which celebrated its second anniversary in Old Town Pasadena last week. I have blogged about Osawa before, so you can check out their day-to-day menu from that post. However, this was a party, so I showed up in video mode and filmed a quick one-minute Tastemade vlog. Check out the highlights from the anniversary celebration:


Osawa


Owner Sayuri Tachibe employs Omotenashi, the Japanese art of hospitality, where customers are honored guests and eating at Osawa Shabu Shabu + Sushi becomes more than just a meal, but an an elevated experience in traditional Japanese dining. おめでとうございます~! (Congratulations!)

Osawa Shabu Shabu + Sushi
77 North Raymond Avenue
Pasadena, California 91103
Phone: 626.683.1150
http://www.theosawa.com

Geek Chic: Marvel Her Universe, Sailor Moon Shoes and Wedding Tiara





It’s been a long time since I have blogged about fashion, but I missed it terribly and decided to incorporate it into my regular Moonstruck Quest regime. As “regular” as I get around here, anyway.

First up making waves across the Marvel fanbase is the collection by Her Universe exclusively for Hot Topic (pictured above). Truth be told, just going by these pictures, I’m overall indifferent to the collection as a whole, but there are a few stand-out pieces:


Black Widow Jacket is the clear star of the collection IMHO:

photo: Hot Topic

I wish there were close-ups of this gorgeous Stark Industries jacket:

photo: Hot Topic

Though I know my body type well enough to know this jaunty Thor dress would not flatter me, I do adore it. If I had one criticism for it, though, I’d say that a sailor style would be more Captain America. I’ll reserve a solid opinion each of these pieces until I see them in person, but I am curious what your thoughts are on this collection?



photo: Hot Topic


Set sail across the seas of fandom and feast your eyes on these lovely Sailor Moon accessories:



Sailor Moon Serenity Crystal Wedding Tiara | photo: Bandai


Taro Kamitani, who is known worldwide for his custom tiara creations, designed this stunning piece (going for an outrageously steep $3,500). Before now, the only officially licensed merchandise relating to this particularly unique piece was a toy:


photo: Bandai

A nice toy, lovely for any collection, but too clunky and small to truly wear – especially as an adornment for a special occasion.



photo: Bandai

Whether you want to collect it purely for collecting, or wear it at your own Sailor Moon inspired wedding (like Michelle’s Art Deco Sailor Moon wedding!) it’s nice to have a crystal tiara for us big kid Sailor Moon fans. It’s just a shame the price-tag is beyond insane for the cheap materials used for this item. My verdict? Make your own, or commission one of many lovely artists on Etsy to do so for you.




Lastly, what better finish your Geek Chic outfit Marvel wares than a pair of Sailor Moon + Tyake Tyoke shoes? According to Sailor Moon Collectibles, these lovely Senshi footwear are scheduled to debut in early September 2015. You’ll be able to preorder them on April 28 via Premium Bandai or SuperGroupies.

I’m all about those Luna flats, the Sailor Moon heels and deco-chic Jupiter pumps with the ankle strap. How about you?

Del Real Foods Party Box Giveaway

DelRealFoods0

Despite having an awful amount of free time on my hands to cook up whatever whim grabs me, I am a slave to the random amount of energy my health allots me each day. Some days I am able to whip up not only breakfast, lunch, and dinner but several snacks, prep my brother’s lunch and meal plan for the rest of the week. On other days, I am bone dead tired and can’t be arsed to do more than the bare minimum. There are also days when I am actually – gasp! – busy! Perish the thought of this hermit actually venturing out of her cave, right?

On the days when I am feeling BLAH or just have no time to even think about whipping up a dinner from scratch, I do reach for the prepackaged foods. I know, I know. Gag! Gasp! Blech! Retch! Right? When it comes to Del Real Foods, totally and utterly wrong!

Founded in 2003 and based in Mira Loma, California, Del Real Foods is a premier prepackaged authentic Mexican food company. Their products are all cooked traditionally in small batches . Owned by the Cardenas family, the Del Real Foods recipes come from family recipes past down from generations. Del Real Foods is committed to preserving the rich gastronomy and traditions of Central Mexico, offering refrigerated products with authentic taste, using the freshest, locally sourced ingredients and cooked with traditional methods.

If you’re experiencing a sense of déjà vu, it could be because I used the deliciously moist Del Real shredded chicken in my homemade Pozole Rojo last summer. I said it then and I will say it again: I would never promote, let alone host a giveaway, for a brand I had not already tasted and approved of!


Al Pastor Soft Tacos by Del Real Foods
Extreme Close-Up – whoooooa!

One of the many items that appears in the Party Box PICNIC edition is the new Al Pastor Taco Kit. Within is 20 street taco sized corn tortillas, 24 oz. of fully cooked marinated pork, and a 12 oz. container of salsa roja. I put the taco kit to the test with mom and myself, heating the tortillas five seconds on each side in a cast iron skillet as I heated up the al pastor in another pan. Between these tasks and chopping up some onions, cilantro, limes and avocado for garnish, this took me a grand total of 10 minutes from start to plating. Not too shabby, eh?




Party in a Box - Del Real Foods
Win all of this mad delicious Mexican goodness!

Now it’s your turn to get your Real Party and celebrate the dawning of spring with this supremely tasty Picnic Style Party Box! What you will receive:

1. Al Pastor Taco Kit
2. Carnitas
3. Arroz
4. Salsa Verde
5. Chicken Tamales in green sauce
6. Al Pastor pupusas
All will be arriving in the insulated picnic basket with accompanying picnic blanket – perfect for your outdoor celebration (Cinco de Mayo, anyone?). The top of the blanket features a soft rainbow gingham fleece, while the bottom has the perfect material for laying on the ground ~ even if it’s a little damp! No grass stains and bits of wet foliage mangled in my nice picnic blanket, thank you very much.

Rules: This contest is open to adults (18 and over) in the 48 continental states. Winner will be chosen at random and their email sent off to representatives of Del Real Foods. I am not in charge of sending the actual prize; Del Real Foods will take care of that. NO purchase necessary – and it will not increase your chances of winning.

a Rafflecopter giveaway




FTC Disclaimer: I am not being financially compensated to promote or host this giveaway. Del Real Foods provided me with samples of their products to assure it met my standards and they are providing the prize.


Sweepstakes at Sweepstakes-Search.com

Bite of the Beast – Locanda del Lago Santa Monica


Bite of the Beast at Locanda del Lago

photo courtesy of Locanda del Lago


Since Locanda del Lago’s opening in April 1991, the restaurant has established a reputation for producing authentic cuisine from Northern Italy’s Lombardy region. Lago is the proud recipient of the Marchio Qualita “Q”, a prestigious award given following a rigorous selection process to a select few restaurants for specializing in authentic, regional Italian cuisine. Lago’s comfortable, warm atmosphere and sidewalk patio mimic the charm of an Italian “locanda” (inn or trattoria) “del lago” (of the lake).

Lago utilizes locally sourced ingredients, uses “green” practices when possible and promotes sustainability as a business and community leader. In addition to the regular menu, Lago offers a “Chef’s Seasonal Menu” available every night featuring the most flavorful, organic ingredients from the nearby Santa Monica Farmers’ Market in conjunction with all-natural, free-range & hormone-free proteins.



photo courtesy of Locanda del Lago

The last Thursday of every month, LAGO hosts a communal meal featuring whole animal roasts and traditional, rustic dishes entitled ”Morso della Bestia” (Bite of the Beast). This dinner series features the choice animal paired with wines and seasonal ingredients from the farmers’ market. It was at one of these dinners that I, along with my friend Manik in tow, attended. The featured animal for February was Durham Ranch wild boar. Durham Wild Boar is all natural and feral from Texas, trapped in the wild and processed exclusively under the Durham Ranch label.


Morso Della Bestia - Locanda del Lago in Santa Monica
Antipasto
Herb marinated & roasted wild boar loin – bed of endive & fresh horseradish

Off to a fresh and sumptuous start, there was hardly a piece of green left on anyone’s plate – my own especially. I was even pleased that my friend Manik cleaned his plate and only just stopped himself from asking for seconds.


Morso Della Bestia - Locanda del Lago in Santa Monica
Caprese Martini

Going on the urging of the hostess, I passed over all of the more sweet-favoring cocktails to try a one-of-a-kind cocktail inspired by the traditional antipasto Caprese salad. I’ll admit, I was skeptical – but it turned out to be one of the most innovative and invigorating cocktails I’ve ever had the pleasure of consuming. It was herbaceous with just a hint of natural sweetness from the tomato. It was like drinking a garden and snacking on fresh made cheese. Really gorgeous, do not skip!


Morso Della Bestia - Locanda del Lago in Santa Monica
Primo
Housemade spaghetti with beer braised wild boar ragú

My favorite dish of the evening, and one so simple! Firstly, I do not know if there will ever be a time in my life when I will be able to perfect homemade spaghetti. Oh, I make my own pasta sure enough, but one bite of this and you know this was made by someone who has been doing it for decades. I can only guess what the noodles are seasoned with, but my assumption is salt, black pepper and a good Parmesan cheese. There could not possibly be more than that, and yet I wanted a punch bowl filled with it, tossed with these tender morsels of beer-braised wild boar.



Morso Della Bestia - Locanda del Lago in Santa Monica
Piatto de Mezzo
Risotto with housemade wild boar sausage, leek & sage

With that perfect al dente bite Arborio rice and a creamy sauce, this dish harmonized rich textures with savory hunks of boar sausage – and what better pairs with sausage than sage and leeks? Another home-run that left us wanting more.


Morso Della Bestia - Locanda del Lago in Santa Monica
Oppale 32 Beer

An Italian beer described as “very hoppy ale, top-fermented and fermented in the bottle.” The bouquet is described as having notes of caramel and toffee with hints of herbs and fruity ripe pineapple. Manik really enjoyed it.


Morso Della Bestia - Locanda del Lago in Santa Monica
Chef Gianfranco Minuz

At this point in the evening, Chef came out to personally dish up our last savory. Gianfranco Minuz was raised in Portogruaro in Northern Italy. Minuz grew up learning how to process and cure salami and prosciutto from his father, a butcher; while his mother’s expertise in the kitchen sparked his desire in cooking professionally. At age fifteen, Gianfranco attended the regional culinary school and following commencement, he immediately began working at a string of Michelin-starred restaurants and under the tutelage of the renowned Gulatiero Marchesi, considered to be the founder of modern Italian cuisine. Chef earned his own Michelin star with his Pasadena based restaurant, Trattoria Tre Venezie, where he ran the kitchen for ten years before transitioning to Santa Monica for new ventures. One bite and you can taste the illustrious career of Chef Minuz!


Morso Della Bestia - Locanda del Lago in Santa Monica
Secondo
Wild boar shoulder with braised savoy cabbage & chardonnay sauce

While I will never be a fan of cooked cabbage, I enjoyed the heartiness of this dish, paired wonderfully with a wedge of grilled polenta. The chardonnay sauce was lip-smacking delectable. A perfect bite for a chilled February evening.



Bite of the Beast - Dessert
Housemade hazelnut meringue cookie and chocolate mousse

I was so stuffed, though, that I could only take a couple of bites of the airy and rich mousse!


There is a distinct image of ostentatious and pomp I conjure up when I think about dining options straddling Third Street Promenade. Locanda del Lago breaks all of those rules and prejudices with its airy, inviting European rustic charm and open kitchen; the vibe reads “welcome to our family” loud and clear. Bite of the Beast is a brilliant way to spend a Thursday evening, and I encourage you will grab your favorite dining partner and give it a go.

Upcoming Morso della Bestia Dinners:
March (03/26): Porchetta ~ Durazo Farm Suckling Pig
April (04/23): Agnello ~ Niman Ranch Lamb
May (05/28): Halibut
five course menu: 55
free-flowing house wine: +18
premium wine pairing: +28

(not including tax or gratuity)

For more information: Bite of the Beast | Locanda del Lago

Recipe: Herb Baked Camembert

Herb Baked Camembert


When I was last in Ireland, I spent a weekend in a caravan at the Beara Penisula. Our hostess bought a whole Gubbeen cheese, sliced in half, stuffed it with fresh herbs before wrapping it in foil and baking it over an open grill. It was the most heavenly cheese I’ve ever eaten in my life. I have never in my life tasted cheese as delicious as I have in Ireland; the USA cannot hold a candle to them. Don’t get me wrong – I can always find a decent cheese – but only in Ireland can I be blindfolded in front of a cheese bin and no matter what I pick up – it will be incredible.

Unsure when I would make it back to the emerald isle, I went nuts at the Shannon Airport and purchased about €35 worth of cheese and totally stank out my fellow passengers. SORRY NOT SORRY. When I was done going through my pile of delicious creamy heaven, I nearly cried. I’ve tried to replicate the baked herb cheese a couple of times, but nothing will ever taste as good as that Gubbeen. Still – this recipe is great for a dinner party or potluck where you’re asked to bring an appetizer. Serve with Triscuits or water crackers or those mini toast crackers that are stupid addictive.

Also, you don’t have to use Camembert – use brie or another soft, creamy cheese of your choice. Just make sure it isn’t reduced fat or any other such nonsense that cheese has no business being.

Herb Baked Camembert

You’ll Need:
4-6 stems of fresh chives
2-4 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 TBS fresh oregano
3 large cloves of garlic
optional: 2 TBS fresh Italian parsley, 1 sprig of rosemary

  • Preheat toaster oven to 300 F (use proper oven as secondary option)
  • Wash your herbs, pat dry before roughly mincing. (I advise removing leaves from stems)
  • Peel and roughly chop garlic.
  • Slice camembert or brie wedge in half, lengthwise
  • Place herbs and garlic on both sides of cheese wedge before placing the halves back together.
  • Set cheese on foil-lined cookie/silicon sheet.
  • Bake until melted (15-20 minutes)
  • Remove from oven, transfer to serving dish and serve immediately.
  • Relish in your shamelessness.
  • Herb & Garlic Baked Camembert