…Saturday, 10am: It’s a four-hour drive into Phoenix, which means you’ll need a cup of strong coffee and at least some scrambled eggs to get you in the right mood for the road. RIght outside of Alcazar’s front door is Cheeky’s (622 N. Palm Canyon Drive; 760-327-7595), a bright breakfast spot that also does a brisk to-go business. Or, better yet, set the alarm a little earlier and dip over to TRIO (707 N. Palm Canyon Drive; 760-864-3211) for their popular brunch. The fried egg sandwich with smoked bacon is probably exactly what you need to get going, but don’t nibble in their comfortable chairs too long. Pizza awaits.
Saturday, 2pm: Head straight to Pizzeria Bianco (623 E. Adams St.; 602-258-8300), just off of downtown on East Adams Street. Since the four-hour drive from Palm Springs hasn’t deterred you, don’t get discouraged at the line that’s formed out front. This is, after all, America’s best pizza. Hop into the fray and start smelling the bready aromas pushing through the 40-odd seat restaurant. Soon enough, you’ll be inside. If you came with a group (and why wouldn’t you?), send a search party next door to Bar Bianco (623 E. Adams St.; 602-528-3699) for a beer, then trade off when the pint is done. If you’re starved from your time spent crossing the Arizona border, order up a supremely snackable pile of spicy, roasted pecans from the bar. They’re guaranteed to make the line move a little faster (or at least seem that way). Once you’re inside, order to your heart’s content. The Wiseguy, with roasted onion, smoked mozzarella and fennel sausage, is a popular option, as is the traditional Margherita. To taste the quality of Bianco’s own line of canned tomatoes, go for the cheeseless Marinara, which gets dusted with oregano and garlic only.
Here’s my first travel piece for KCET’s Living series. Pizza in Phoenix!
Metro Balderas is a well-known taqueria in Highland Park. Actually, you might as well just say “it’s a taqueria in Highland Park”. The concentration of high quality tacos that come from this sliver of land northeast of downtown Los Angeles is remarkable, from the fantastically fried fish at Via Mar Seafood to the permanently parked La Estrella lonchero. What Metro Balderas is said to do exceptionally well, though, is carnitas.
Carne asada fries don’t travel well, practically and ideologically speaking. They’re increasingly hard to locate as you drive north from San Diego county, and surprisingly rare in Los Angeles, a city teeming with Mexican food, college students and medical marijuana cards. Piles of freshly fried spuds, laced with spoonfuls of guacamole and sour cream, don’t tend to fare well on the short drive home, either. Wait too long to dig into a mound of the late night favorite and you’ll have some seriously bloated french fries on your hands … and on your shirt … and on your pants.
Earlier this year, we shared with you the positive side of purchasing (and frequently filling) a growler from your local brewery. You get to drink fresh beer that may not be commercially available beyond the taproom doors (and at a reduced price, no less), while the breweries lean on the support of growler lovers to help them grow and thrive in their local craft beer environment. In short, growlers are great. Except when they’re confusing, apparently.
The normal process of purchasing and filling a growler is as such: pay for the glassware and the first fill (say, around $17), then bring the growler back to the same brewery you purchased it from at a later date for another fill, minus the cost of the jug itself. It’s a simple, easy transaction that may lead to collecting a few different growlers from the various breweries you frequent, but it’s nothing that a little bit of shelf space can’t solve.
Except, lately, an online rumble surrounding the legal abilities of breweries to fill blank growlers (or even growlers from a competing brewery) has begun to gain a voice. There are some that feel their two liter Stone Brewing growlers aren’t getting the attention they deserve, and they’d love to be able to legally have them filled at their local brewery of choice, instead of waiting to make the haul back down to northern San Diego County. It’s an interesting idea, and could hypothetically solve the issue of growler clutter for some hardcore craft beer fans (or do away with the first time cost of purchasing new glassware), but it’s not exactly legal. Or is it?
Today I wrote about 1,000 words on the proper labeling of craft beer growlers in California. Let’s get specific, y’all!
Around many kitchens, the lowly potato simply serves as a starchy filler in the absence of meat or a supporting role to meat. After all, potatoes are cheap, easy to cook and season, and readily available all over the world. But at El Atacor #11, the Cypress Park outpost of a dwindling Los Angeles Mexican food chain, the potato tacos are legendary.
Across the tacosphere, the tacos de papas at El Atacor #11 are considered bona fide members of the L.A. Mexican food discussion. They are no low-level vegetarian stand-in for a supreme carne asada or otherworldly carnitas. They themselves are the object of so much attention. Jonathan Gold, that living seal of approval for all things food in L.A., has waxed poetic about the airy tacos he found at El Atacor #11 in 2006. Just this year, L.A. Weekly listed those same tacos in one of their always-divisivetop ten lists. All this for a simple potato taco? Apparently so.
Let me preface all of this by saying that I’ve never been to a Yoshinoya Beef Bowl, and I’m willing to bet that you haven’t either. In fact, I don’t know anyone who has dined at a Yoshinoya Beef Bowl, and my contacts folder reads like a who’s-who of questionable eaters. Yet, inexplicably, those orange and white huts are everywhere. There is an off chance, I suppose, that you’ve experienced a taste of the namesake beef bowl on some late night, after confusing the Yoshinoya logo with the Jägermeister logo and stumbling your way inside. It’s not hard to do.
For the rest of us, there are questions. What’s it actually like inside a Yoshinoya Beef Bowl? Where did it come from — and why won’t it leave? More importantly: How’s the food?
When it comes to lagers, ales and all sorts of craft beer wizardry, the snowy state of Colorado tends to lead the way. The state tops the nation in beer production per capita, spread out over nearly 150 breweries, with four of those standing tall in the top 50 breweries in the nation. Yet perhaps their most indelible mark so far has been the resurgence of craft beer canning.
Of course, Colorado didn’t do it all by themselves. While the Oskar Blues Brewery north of Denver began canning their craft concoctions in earnest around 2002, it didn’t take long for breweries right here in the Golden State to follow suit. California - which, surprise surprise, leads the nation in total breweries per state - soon had 21st Amendment Brewery to thank for canning on the Left Coast. This was back in 2006, well before the title wave of aluminum adoration we’re currently in the midst of. So why cans? And why now?
Read the rest here.
Here’s a thing I wrote about canned beer in California.
What’s in a name? For downtown’s The King Eddy Saloon, perhaps everything - and nothing.
Often dubbed the last authentic dive bar in Los Angeles, the Skid Row staple is slowly preparing for a change of ownership, and that’s got some folks nervous. Fans of the corner bar’s grimy appeal are worried that new owners Michael Leko and Will Shamlian won’t be as gentle with the aging space as time has been. Leko and Shamlian are in familiar territory with the purchase, having previously become partners in Library Bar, Pizzeria Urbano and a host of other revamped downtown spaces. For their part, Leko and Shamlian have expressed an interest to the LA Times and elsewhere that they would simply like to revive the sagging saloon with the purchase. If anything, it seems, the men would like to trade on its history against the backdrop of a revitalized downtown Los Angeles. What that means for the barstools and the patrons who frequent them remains to be seen. At least they’re keeping the name.