Archive | July, 2011

Would You Eat Fresh Live Oysters from a Food Truck? See what happened when I did…

30 Jul

Would you eat oysters from a Food Truck? This is the same decision I faced when presented the opportunity to eat live shell fish at a food truck lot.  But let me back up for a minute, I was on my way home and had a serious hankering for Gourmet Food Truck Fare. To my luck, it was Wednesday night and the OC Din Din A GoGo at the Irvine Lanes was in full swing with 7 trucks present. I discovered that The Lime Truck was serving full on platted dinner dishes, I was intrigued! Then learned that the platted dish for the night was Live Fresh Shucked Oysters! Holly Crap I thought!…..Fresh Shucked Oysters served from Food Truck!!! I gotta get some. But then I thought to myself, will I get sick?

So the question I present to you my readers…. would you eat raw oysters  from a food truck? For me, it is a conditional YES!, IF the truck can pass my decision analysis. (see my decision analysis below)

Decision Analysis: Should I order raw seafood from a food truck?

    1.  Is this a sketchy lunch truck ?
      1.  If yes, RUN!!!   This is a roach coach, stick to their deep-fried burritos
      2.  If No proceed to #2
    2.   Is it a gourmet food truck?
      1. If no, beware it is probably a roach coach dressed up in a fancy wrap to look like a gourmet food truck…stick to their fusion tacos
      2. If yes, proceed to #3
    3. Does the  Gourmet Food Truck have a strong reputation for serving extremely fresh food?
      1. If no, stick to the fully cooked gourmet dishes and  buy some Pepto Bismol from eating too much
      2. If yes, order raw fish!!!

I ran through this decision analysis and came to the conclusion that the The Lime Truck was not only a safe place to eat oysters,  but they would bring creativity and flare to these tasty bi-valves. I also came to the conclusion that there are only a handful of trucks that I would eat raw seafood, The Lime Truck was in that elite circle.  

Before I give you a description of each of the special “flavors”  topped on the oysters, allow me to talk about the oysters themselves. The oysters presented were the “Pacific” variety, which are caught in the Pacific Northwest. The flesh of these oysters is a creamy white with a dark ring around the mantle.  The texture of this yummy bi-valve is plump, firm and slightly crunchy. The flavor is mild, sweet and has a subtle ocean brine taste in the nose.  These oysters were extremely fresh in smell, texture and taste. The quality of the oysters were akin to those found in a high-end seafood restaurant, except I picked these oysters from the side of a food truck!

The “Special Platted Dish of the Day” as a quintet of  “Pacific Oysters”, each with their own special topping. The oysters where served over a bed of ice  and plated on a china. The themed oysters where as follows:

  • Yuzu Miso with Scallion
  • Yellow Curry with Jalapeno
  • Honey Gastrique with Lime Supreme
  • Black Berry Gelee with Lemon Supreme
  • Hatch Chili Salsa with Cilantro

Yuzu Miso with Scallion Oyster

This Miso base sauce  has a Japanese fruit called Yuzu (flavors are a mix of grapefruit and mandarin orange)  mixed in during cooking. This combination gives the normal rich miso paste a little citrus kick which brightens up the flavor and adds citrus overtones to the aroma. When the sauce combines with the oyster flesh, the sweet and briny flavors of the oysters are accentuated by the citrus and balanced by the savory of the miso. The scallion on top added a little punginess to the entire mouthful, adding a little more balance to tie the flavors together.

Yellow Curry with Jalapeno

The light layer of yellow curry had both a pleasant musk and bright aromas. The flavor was rich, pungent, sweet and slightly spicy. The flavor of the curry was complex, no doubt to it’s 20+ ingredients including curry powder, turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom, chili and pepper. With this dish, the oyster flesh played a supporting role by providing a stable structure to taste the curry.  Dont get me wrong, I could taste the Oyster perfectly and in its own glory, but it served as the Paxil to the multiple personalities of the Curry.   

Honey Gastrique with Lime Supreme

Gastrique is a sweet-and-sour sauce at its simplest. This sauce is made by caramelizing sugar (in this case  honey) and combining it with equal parts vinegar. The mixture is then slightly reduced over heat to  make a sweet and tart, thickened syrup. This sauce was poured over the oyster and topped with a Lime Supreme (lime segmented with all white pith and rind removed). This is a French cooking technique complimented the natural flavors of the oysters. When chewing the oysters,  I tasted salty, tart, sweet all in the same bite. It was very pleasant to eat and I wanted more. This flavor was a good transition after the heavy curry flavor.

Black Berry Gelée with Lemon Supreme

Black Berry Gelée is essentially fresh black berries mixed into a gelatin. This gelatinized toping provides a very sweet topping and gelatin texture to the oyster. The sweetness and brine flavors played well off each other, creating a good balance. The black berry flavor also complimented the sweet flesh flavor of the oyster. The acidity from the lemon balanced the sweetness of the berry gelee and accentuated the oysters sweet flesh.  The Berry created a subtle nose aroma, which sweetened the nose flavor of the oyster’s brine. This combination was elegant.

 Hatch Chili Salsa with Cilantro

The Hatch chilli is a variety of chile from the Hatch Valley in New Mexico and is a close relative of the elegant Anaheim chilli. The Hatch chilli is known for providing sweet and medium spicy flavors with a crunchy flesh.  The chilis appear to have  been first roasted and then ground into a course salsa. The flavors were smokey, spicy and slightly sweet. This spicy smokey flavor was intense, so it required that I chew the oyster throughly to really get a good flavor combination. In this dish, the oysters played an equal role in the flavor profile with the sweet brine coordinating an attack on my taste buds with the sweet and spicy chilli. This was the most intense of the flavors, so I am glad finished on this oyster.

My Final Thoughts

By the time I finished this “oysters of the world experience”,  my taste buds were feeling a little jet lagged but happy from visiting the flavors of Japan, India, France and North America. Although the oyster dish was much more expensive than a standard food truck meal, the dish passed the “WOW! test”, meaning I enjoyed the food so much I didn’t care how much I paid for it ($18).  This dish was a great experience and was a showcase to the culinary skills of the  talented dudes of the Lime Truck. I am giving this Oyster Dish and The Lime Truck a very rare 4.5 out of 5 on my scale. This score means I will compulsively seek out The Lime Truck and order  the Oysters every single time it is on the menu. This score also means I will be  rabidly tell my friends that they have to try it.

Note: Many times my readers will have questions about my rating scale and ask me how can I give a fine dining restaurant a low score and give a food truck such a high score. It simply comes done to this , does the food and service rise to the price tag of the final bill? A fine dining restaurant better WOW! me with their dishes if I am going to pay $30-40 for a dish. A fine dining restaurant better offer dishes that are outstanding in terms of flavors, technique and presentation in order to receive a 4 or 5 rating. In the same vein if I am reviewing a food truck, I am expecting very unique dishes, novel ingredients, use of  fresh ingredients,  use of professional cooking techniques,presentation and making the food accessible to eating standing up. Any food truck can make a “fusion taco” or “pulled pork sandwich”, but the question is can they make this dish stand out from their competition and make me say WOW! I got that for only $6?

Link to The Lime Trucks Website: http://www.thelimetruck.com/lime/Home.html

The Lime Truck on Urbanspoon
 

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Review of “K’Ya Bistro” at the Casa de Camino Hotel: Upscale European Hotstel Meets a Fusion Gastropub

28 Jul

I think I have mentioned this in a couple other food blog posts, but my wife has a serious obsession with buying Groupons. The one big advantage is that they are good for trying new restaurants, this is the case for the Groupon for the Rooftop Lounge/K’Ya at the Casa de Camino Hotel. This location is a boutique hotel that was originally built in the late 1920′s and was a getaway for Hollywood stars. The hotel retains the roaring 20′s glamour and has the ambiance of a upscale European Hostel. The Clientel at the hotel and restuarant is a 30 something hipster crowd.   The overall ambiance was provided by the guitar performer,  a group of L.A. style hipsters hanging out over cocktails in the lobby and old school  decor. Since the Rooftop Bar was closing, we tried K’Ya Bistro. K’Ya Bistro is connected to the hipster lobby of the hotel, so the good vibes were flowing.

The menu at K’Ya reminds me of a small plate gastropub, with seasonal  Asain-Fusion and Modern American Comfort food dishes. We ordered the Ahi Burger, Cheese Plate, Shrimp Cocktail, Calamari and a couple of their Signature Mojitos.

Mojitos

Flavored Mojitos

First thing to come out was the Mojito’s. I ordered the Berry Mojito and the standard. We both agreed that the mojitos had the right balance of sugar to rum and mint. These drinks were actually quite strong;  although since the bartender has some skills, we didn’t even notice until we stood up. The berry muddled into this drink added a subtle freshness to the flavor and made me want to order another.

Cheese Plate

 

Cheese Plate

The Cheese Plate was pretty standard as it included the usual suspects of  brie, camembert, blue and gouda. accompanying the cheese was  toasted bread, water cracker, dates, dried cranberries, green apples, nuts. Some of the noteworthy cheeses were the double cream brie and the highly marbled blue cheese. This cheese plate lacked a liquid topper like a fruit chutney, honey or vegetable jam, which is a real shame. The addition of this extra component could have tied all the individual parts together into a dignified cheese plate.

Ahi Burger

Ahi Burger on Brioche

The Ahi Burger was my favorite dish of te night. It consisted of a fluffy brioche bun, lightly seared tuna, tomato, arugula, and wasabi mayo dressing. The bread was fluffy, light and squishy to the touch. When I bit into the burger, the texture was soft and pleasant. The slightly firm texture of the tuna complimented the soft and lightly toasted bun. The flavors of the tuna was extremely fresh and vibrant and stood out in the dish. The wasabi-mayo dressing and arugula added a little kick to the gentle flavors and helped tie the dish together.  I would highly recommend this dish and it is one of the better ahi burgers I have tried.

 Shrimp Cocktail
 

Shrimp Cocktail

The Shrimp cocktail was also pretty standard. Not much to say about it, besides the shrimp tasted fresh. The dish came with two sauces, a red cocktail sauce and a mystery green sauce, which was pretty unexciting. No need to dwell on this dish…it was just shrimp on haphazardly assembled on a plate. This dish would benefit from a more artistic plating.  

Calamari

Calamari in a Kung Pao type sauce and dressed with veges

The Calamari was an interesting and tasty dish. It consisted of deep-fried calamari (rings and tentacles) that was wok’d in a slightly spicy Kung Pao sauce. This dish was also served with fresh shredded carrots, green onions and sprouts. When all the ingredients were mixed together, the vegetables created harmony to the flavors of this dish by balancing the salt of the sauce and the oil from the deep fry. Great textures and great flavors.  I recommend this dish.

 My Final thoughts
This restaurant was a nice discovery for dinner and as a hangout. This restaurant had a good vibe and some really good food. Two of the four dishes were amazing and two were just above standard.  I would come back here for a small plates dinner and some drinks with friends. I am giving K’ya Bistro in Laguna a 3.5 of out 5 stars. The restaurant almost got a 4, but the appetizers didn’t impress me enough. I will be back in a couple of months and will report back if I was WOWED by ALL the dishes. I think this restaurant is a gem and the staff appeared to be very engaged and friendly. I predict that my next experience will be even better.  
 

k'ya Bistro Bar on Urbanspoon

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Tonights Cooking Experiment – Greek Style Rotisserie Boneless Leg of Lamb (600 calories )

21 Jul

I had a craving to eat a nice hunk of rotisserie lamb after looking at my vacation pictures from Greece. What does a good foodie do when he has a hankering for something?  Go make it! This  blog post about making a boneless leg of lamb on your gas grill’s rotisserie. I know the rotisserie may be a sore point for some people out there. After all you probably paid extra for your gas grill,  because you insisted on having this functionality. Most likely you were having fantasies of  rotisserie chickens dancing in your head. But in reality, how many times have you used it? once or twice? Maybe not at all? Don’t worry you are not alone. This recipe is relatively easy and a great excuse to start using that rotisserie again, or for the first time.  

Here are the ingredients that you will need:

  • Boneless leg of lamb (this item can be obtained from Costco)
  • Olive Oil
  • Lemon Juice
  • Red Wine
  • Italian or Greek Salad Dressing
  • Garlic Powder
  • Dry Basil
  • Dry Mint
  • Cayenne Pepper Powder (just a tad)
  • Onion Powder
  • Dry Basil
  • Dry Oregano
  • Mustard Powder
  • Paprika

For the Side

  • Brown Onion
  • Feta
  • Pita
  • Greek Yogurt
  • Greek Olives
  • Humus

Step 1 – Take the lamb out and let it rest at room temperature. The goal is to get the lamb’s internal temperature as close a possible to the exterior temperature, about 60 minutes.

Step 2 -  Make a liquid mixture of the oil, dressing, lemon juice and red wine and either soak it for 30 minutes for give it a brush down with the liquid mixture. I personally prefer to work a drier cut of meat, so I simply brush it on. 

Next, combine all the dry seasonings and coat the lamb liberally, so that every inch of the lamb is covered in dry seasoning. The lamb will have a pasty look from the liquid and dry seasonings combining.  This paste will create a nice crusting on the meat that will lock in the juices.   I have not provided proportions on the dry or wet seasoning,  as you should cook to your personal preferences

 Next, insert the rotisserie rod through the meat and secure with the rotisserie hooks.

Step 3 - Place a cookie sheet wrapped in foil under the burner.  Next,  connect the rotisserie skewer to the rotation motor  and turn the motor on slow. Set the  rotisserie burner to high for the first 20 minutes,  this technique will  sear the meat and  ensure the moisture is locked into the meat.  The heat should stay at medium.  Be sure to also baste the rotisserie every 15 minutes with the drippings and a the liquid marinate. Be sure to close the hood when you are not basting!  

Step 4 During the last 30 minutes, place cut up brown onions with yogurt butter in aluminum foil pouch next to the heat source. The onions will brown from the heat while the lamb cooks.

The lamb should cook on the rotisserie for 20 minutes per pound. When it is done it should have a dark brown exterior and internal temperature of 150 (Somewhere between medium-rare and medium).During the last 10 minutes (assuming the meat is not too dark), crank the burner to high; as a result, the exterior will turn slightly crispy and crusty.

 Note: Please use a thermoter to cook your lamb, every gas grill is different so the 20 min per pound is NOT full proof. Check the temperature often, as it may reach 150 without warning.  You MUST avoid cooking lamb to “well done” as it will be very tough and dry.

Step 6 – Remove the meat from the flame , extract the skewer (use caution the skewer is hot) and wrap the lamb up in heavy foil.  Let the lamb rest in the foil for 10 minutes, allowing the temperature to settle and the juices withdraw back into the muscle of the meat. After 10 minutes, remove the foil carefully as the button section will have a puddle of meat juices you will retain for au juice or sauce.

Note: The meat will continue to cook in the foil, so if you wish your meat to be a little more rare, then I suggest taking it out at 145 degrees.

Step 7 - Place the meat on the cutting board and cut it against the muscle grain into half inch slices, be sure to retain the juices from the cut.

Step 8 - Finally, assemble a toasted pita with taziki, feta, tomato, Persian cucumbers and thick cuts of lamb and drizzle with the collected juices. Next wrap it over and shove it in your mouth. Yummy! (600 calories as shown).

I recommend a California Central Coast California Zinfandel with this dish as it handles the gamy lamb and pugent garlic well.  I tried this wine with the meal and it was excellent.

Candor Zinfandel ($19)” from Paso Robles and Lodi exhibits a boatload of fruit, plum, blackberry, pomegranate, nearly a syrah like nose. In the mouth this version is lush and viscous with deep spice notes and carry the soft fruit throughout the mouth. This wine has soft tannins making it easy to drink and a nice touch of oak to round it out. At this price, you can’t find a better quality zinfandel, and one which has several tricks up its sleeve” (wine review from http://www.intowine.com/best-zinfandel-money)

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Images Food from the Orange County Fair “Battered, Fried and Grilled Food Porn”

20 Jul

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Review of “Tasting Spoon” Truck -Former Ritz Carlton Exec Chef Goes Food Trucking!

19 Jul
 
image
Back Side of the Tasting Spoon Truck

I was driving back from another food truck lot and noticed a new bightly colored truck there called “Chef Joe Youkhan’s Tasting Spoon”.  I actually pulled over,  just to check it out.The truck was very fancy, with a colorful mural painted on the truck. The truck also featured a very large window on the side, so you can see the Chef making your food.

standard menu

I looked through its large window and saw a very clean  and modern kitchen, something you would see at a white linen restaurant. The truck is owned by Joe Youkhan , former Executive Chef at the Ritz Carlton  and Chat Noir, who decided to start his own catering and food truck business. 

Chef Youkham describes his menu as “Rustic Italian Street Food”, which features a gourmet twist on traditional food truck fare. Some of his gourmet food truck items include grilled artisan pizzas, pinwheel pizzas, mac and cheese bites and pulled pork sliders. This truck also carries some fine dining recipes that have been adapted for  food truck dining,  like Arancini and candied ginger creme brulee. All his dishes are made with advanced cooking techniques and high-end ingredients. For example, the Mac N Cheese Nuggets are made with a three-cheese bechamel sauce and hand coated in bread crumbs, definitely an adult foodie twist to an old food truck favorite. The daily specials were equally

The Pinwheel Pizza (almost looks like a calzone)

impressive, which included a “Tuscan Garlic Smash Burger”, crispy calamari and a pork belly sliders. I asked the Sous Chef what is the one item that I had to try, he told me the Veggie Fonduta Personal Pizza. He explained that the sauce on this pizza is made with love by taking farm fresh produce,  which is slow roasted and then simmered together to make an extremely fresh and vibrant sauce. Based on this information, I had to try the dish.

Chef Joe Youkhan as seen working through the picture windows of the food truck

I watched through the trucks giant picture window to see the chef actually preparing the pizza , “Made to order”. This scratch preparations even included stretching out the dough, assembling the pizza and cooking to order in the truck’s own pizza oven. It was pretty impressive to watch a Master Chef in action. When the pizza came out,  I first noticed that this pizza was of substantial size, about 1 foot long. I knew this dish was going to be filling, at $8 this was a deal.

 

Vegetable Fonduta Pizza

The crust on the pizza reminded me of a flatbread, with slightly crunchy edges. The crust at the center of the pizza was crisp on the bottom and slightly guey up top. The sauce was a “Fonduta” of farm fresh vegetables which retain bite sized chunks of whole vegetables  including eggplant, zucchini, tomato, mushrooms and onions. These chunks both forming the sauce and toppings. This pizza was topped with a mozzarella, whole fresh basil leaves and a dry seasoning.  When I bit into the pizza, I first tasted the slightly chewy and crunchy crust and then the acidity and savory of the vegetables. When I chewed more, the flavors of the cheese integrated. The Cheese’s base ph and sweet/savory protien flavors tied the carbs and acidic ingredients together. Finally, the sweet/pungent flavor of the basil tied a nice bow on the top of this well-balanced  dish.

My Final thoughts

By following my nose and bright shiny objects, his truck, I discovered this great new food truck. Although I only had the opportunity to try one of his dishes, I am excited to come back and try more . I am giving this truck a 4 out of 5 due to his perfect execution of the pizza, the upscale food truck menu and his open window food truck design. This Food Truck is just getting started; but in my opinion one of the best. I predict he will soon be challenging some of the more established trucks. Good Luck Joe!

Website for “Chef Joe Youkhan’s Tasting Spoon”, including his food truck schedule http://chefjoeyoukhanstastingspoon.com/

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