Monthly Archives: September 2010

Druckin’ It to the Street (Restaurant)

I love celebrity chef Susan Feniger. I really, REALLY do. Not only is she adorable, warm, personable, and funny, but she held her own as the last woman standing on Top Chef Masters, and for that, I doff my imaginary toque to her. So because I love — no, ADORE — this woman, I wanted so badly to LOVE her Hollywood restaurant, Susan Feniger’s Street. And I did LIKE it. It was very good. It just wasn’t great.

Susan Feniger, you're my hero.

Located (perhaps appropriately) on a particularly gray and gritty stretch of Highland Avenue, shouting distance from Pizzeria Mozza and adjacent to a dangerously seductive Yum Yum Donuts, Street’s concept is international street food (albeit at LA prices). This ain’t the chicken (or quite possibly Shih Tzu) on a stick I had in Seoul, or the tom yum soup I slurped in a Bangkok back alley. This is street food that’s been LA sexified. Kardashianized. Recognize.

Consider this Filipino street treat — Kaya toast. Spread thickly with coconut jam and dipped in a soft fried egg with black soy and white pepper:

I know, you can barely see the fried egg -- but I wanted to show you how CHEESY it looks!

As awesome pal Adra pointed out, the main problem with this dish is that the filling that spills out of those toasty sandwich slices looks EXACTLY like melted cheese, causing at first a disconnect, then a disappointment. Not because the coconut jam doesn’t taste good. But it’s tricked you into expecting cheese — and now it’s cheese you truly want. Good thing the ricotta noquis were cheesy! And delicious:

Goodness gracious, tiny balls of cheese.

Bread is $3, which is kind of a shame, because you really want something to sop up that yummy tomatillo and chipotle sauce, and the complimentary cumin-scented rice and raisin balls don’t really cut it. I loved the Korean spare ribs — melt-in-your-mouth tender and a perfect balance of sweet/salty. I can’t find a sexy picture of the ribs, so here are some lamb kafta meatballs, which were tasty, at least to me. (Awesome pal Nicole, an expert on Middle Eastern eats — an eatspert? —  was not overly impressed.)

Mary had a little kafta kabob. It's cheese was white as snow.

Accompanied with a ho-hum Vietnamese corn salad and perfectly acceptable cheese grits, the ribs were a generous entree size, and easy to share. (Even though I polished off most of them.) Adra went rogue and ordered a tofu dish with peanut sauce and cilantro, and though I eschew soft tofu as a concept (sorry, vegetarians!) I will eat chunks of actual asphalt if garnished with cilantro, so I tried it. Didn’t love it — but experimentation is the secret behind street, anyway.

Nicole prefers Echo Park graffiti. And is apparently a closet tagger.

I love this place as a concept! It’s VERY hard to do so many diverse cuisines well, and Street comes very close. Nothing I ate tasted BAD to me, or poorly executed. (Okay, maybe those tofu chunks, but that’s a personal aversion to eating slippery gelatinous cubes in place of meat.) And I love that not only was Feniger there, working in her own kitchen, but we could actually see her through her kitchen window! CUTENESS!

As a sweet, unexpected surprise — a kindly stranger sent over dessert. (I’d like to say this happens to me all the time. Yes, let’s go with that.)

Adra's book: Eats, shoots and leaves. This dessert: pretty, good.

I have been trying to go gluten-free and was about two weeks in before this Egyptian basbousa cake arrived and I polished off 90% of it. (Not to mention that double chocolate Yum Yum donut I devoured on my way home. In for a penny, in for LOTS AND LOTS OF POUNDS.)

The cake was aiight; I liked the lime curd topping, berries and cream better than the semolina cake itself, which was kind of a bore. But the word on the Street (aka Yelp) is that this restaurant seems like a work in progress, and if anyone can get it up to its full potential, it’s Feniger. And the place was packed! On a Tuesday! Thanks to a 30% off special from Blackboard Eats, which is genius. If you haven’t checked it, please do so now. I’ll wait.

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Requiem for a Druckin Delicious Coconut Cream Pie

Last night, I made awesome pal David a coconut cream pie that looked stunning and tasted textbook awesome. Creamy, cool, coconutty. Not too sweet. Buttery, flaky, fully-cooked crust (!!!), luscious custard, billows of freshly whipped sweet cream. David loved it. Allison and Arianna loved it. And I’m sure I would’ve loved it, too. If I didn’t drop the last big slice just as I was getting out of my car.

But I jump ahead. Let’s start from the beginning. Woke up at 8am to whip cream. Why? Because I knew that by 10am my apt would be hovering around 80°, and heat + whipped cream = total druckin’ mess. So I took my chilled bowls and beater out of the fridge, and beat that drucker UP:

Whip it good.

Popped it in the fridge feeling inordinately pleased with myself for outsmarting nature, who thinks she’s all that with her stealthy summer heat wave. She did bring the heat, though. Especially when I cranked my oven up to 400° degrees, and blind-baked the crust. I weigh mine down with pie weights to avoid puffage, and this time it worked beautifully:

Crusty. Delicious in pie. Not so great as a skin condition.

And then, dropping the temp in my oven to 350° while increasing my apartment temp by an additional 15°, I toasted the coconut for about 10 minutes, watching it like a hawk because it WILL burn on you if you’re not looking:

Mmm mmm toasty.

For the custard, I followed Emeril’s Best Ever Coconut Cream Pie. This recipe calls for a mix of coconut and whole milk, which gives it an extra dimension of coconut flavor. The resulting pie was very pretty, even if the slices did get a little sloshy as they warmed up.

I have pie envy. Not because mine didn't turn out like this. But because the street ate it.

I brought the pie to the pub, where it was a smash hit, but I did manage to save one big slice for myself to enjoy, alone, in my apartment, while watching Family Guy. (Whatever, we all have our rituals.)

Unfortunately, I have a precarious pie-carrier in that the lid slides off, seemingly of it’s own volition, and as I pulled the pie out of my car late last night, tottering on my high heels, balancing pie and purse and trying to shut the door, the last of the pie hit the pavement with a satisfying splat before I could even process what was happening. There was no three second rule here. (But don’t think I didn’t consider it.) That pie was DEAD.

I assumed some lucky squirrel would take it, but NO! This morning, there it was, crust up, cream down, wholly unmolested by man or beast. My neighbor stopped me this morning just before I drove off, and the whole time I was thinking, please don’t stand in pie, because if you do, I’ll have to lie and say I’ve never seen that pie before in my life and what kind of a person would just LEAVE pie there, on the street, without at least attempting to hose it off. A clumsy, exhausted, blond person. Whoever that might be.

Emeril’s Best Ever Coconut Cream Pie

  • 3/4 cup sugar (I reduced to 1/2 cup and then used sweetened coconut)
  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup flaked, unsweetened coconut
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 (9-inch) baked pie shell
  • 1/3 cup toasted coconut
  • Whipped cream, for garnish (I used a half pint of heavy cream and piled it up on top of the filling)

Directions

In a nonstick 1-quart saucepan, combine 3/4 cup sugar, coconut milk, and 1 cup milk. Scald mixture. (Look for tiny bubbles around the edge of the milk, just before it comes to a boil.)

In a small mixing bowl, whisk the remaining 1/2 cup milk and cornstarch together to make a slurry. Whisk egg yolks with salt in medium bowl. Temper yolks by adding 1/2 cup scaled milk mixture to yolks and whisk well. Add yolk mixture and slurry back into milk mixture and whisk vigorously over medium heat until thickened. (This took me about 7-8 minutes, will vary.) Remove from heat and add coconut, vanilla, and butter. Whisk until uniformly incorporated.

Pour the filling into the prepared pie shell. Cover the pie with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator. Chill the pie completely, about 2 hours.

To serve, top with toasted coconut and a dollop of whipped cream.

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Paco’s Buttery Tortillas Make Me Druckin Happy

Few things in life are as comforting as a pillowy soft, freshly-pressed flour tortilla with (and here’s the important part) BUTTER. I like my butter cold and my tortillas hot, so that the warm tortilla softens the butter without melting it completely, thus creating a texture and a temperature contrast that my tongue particularly enjoys. Before moving to LA, I was unaware of this simple pleasure. Now that I’m hooked, I get my fix at Paco’s Tacos on Centinela in Culver City:

Kittens are comforting too. But you can't eat them.

There is ALWAYS a wait here. Always. Last Sunday night around 7pm, awesome pal Dylan and I waited about 20 minutes and that’s fast, for Paco’s. But to keep you merry, you can order margaritas in their makeshift “lobby” area, and entertain yourself with the fact that that Renée and Tom were serenaded by mariachis here in Jerry Maguire. (Don’t worry. There’s nary a mariachi to be seen these days. But there are fish tanks! FUN!)

Unlimited chips n salsa, check. Decent Cadillac margaritas with a shot of Cointreau on the side, check. Typical non-descript West LA street corner location, check and check:

Look, it's Paco Bell!

Good, fresh Mex is one of the best things about LA. (Even if they do skimp on the guacamole and most avocados I see at the store cost $2/each and are grown in freakin’ CHILE. What’s UP with that?) ANYWAY. Where was I going with this.

Oh yes. So, I’ve had BAD Mexican food before, and it sucked (obv), but when it’s good — it’s the same good everywhere. The variances between each restaurant’s version of ‘good’ are almost imperceptible. It’s like twins. One might be slightly hotter on any given day. But it’s still hard to tell them apart. Some of the best Mexican food I’ve ever had was at awesome pal Myrn’s parents’ house, while some of the worst (or at least, most overpriced and least satisfactory) was at fancy-pantalones Border Grill in SM. Go figure.

So, just for your viewing pleasure, here’s a pic of the two taco combo plate at Paco’s. (Or is it?!)

Now there's a hot mess.

YUM. I have a sudden urge to A. call Myrna and ask when I can come over for a barbecue and B. date twins. If you know any (preferably male, mid-thirties) please make introductions immediately.

And just while I’m here, quick story about that — I once went on a first date with a guy, and after 10 minutes of telling him how I find twins kind of creepy, alien and pod-peopley, the way they have their own language and do God only knows what to each other while cohabiting in the world’s smallest apartment (get a womb!), he finally interrupted me to say that he was a twin. Game over! No wonder I’m single.

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Al’s Deli in Evanston Hasn’t Druckin Changed

Walking in Evanston after Northwestern’s win last Saturday was a nostalgic affair for me. It hasn’t changed much. The foliage is so green and dense right now, after all the summer rain, that it crowds the sidewalks and tries to wrap you in a leafy embrace. To make this trip down memory lane even more complete, I was with my parents and uncle. (Why? Because they are AWESOME.)

Like any other child in her thirties, I threatened to throw a tantrum if we didn’t stop at my favorite sandwich shop on earth, Al’s Deli. (Their site is tres adorable — hopelessly devoted to all things French and foodie. You can even pay in Euros! C’est magnifique, non?)

I can call you Betty, and Betty when you call me, you can call me Al. Damn, I'm old.

It’s on Noyes Street (Al’s t-shirts read, ‘rue de Noyes’), shouting distance from where I lived my senior year, in the crappy, collegiate Parliament Apartments. An Evanston institution since the late 1940s, it’s run by two brothers (sons of the original Al!) who TRULY understand the concept of ‘sandwich artistes.’

Every single element of your sandwich is carefully measured and artfully placed — witness the delicate sliver of red onion on the Herkimer cheese sandwich —  creating a transcendent balance of ingredients that will re-define everything you thought you knew about sandwiches and their proper place in the foodie pantheon.

This reminds me of Ono's in Waikiki. Please wait, no get mad.

To my everlasting joy, the brothers are still there, just as they were in 199ahem. (A little grayer, a little slower, but perhaps even better with age. Sigh, aren’t we all.) And the kids must think that Al’s is all right, because there was a line out the door and we waited for a good half hour to get the MOTHER OF ALL ROAST BEEF SANDWICHES.

You may take better pictures, turkey boy -- but next time, order roast beef like a man.

I’ve never had anything like it, before or since. Just a tender, flaky croissant, roast beef, Havarti cheese, (lettuce and tomato if you’re into that), and a generous slather of unbelievably rich home-made Bearnaise sauce that squeezes out the sides with every bite, causing me to enthusiastically lick it off my fingers like melted ice cream. IT’S THAT GOOD. These brothers are an Evanston treasure — heck a national treasure! — and if there was a way I could keep them there, making me sandwiches for all eternity, this I would do.

The two brothers are on the left. How CUTE are they?!

In addition to the dream-wiches, they also make insanely good cookies. Word on the street (aka Yelp) is that each of their lemon-frosted butter cookies contains an entire stick of butter, and that if you don’t keep them refrigerated, they actually melt:

If I eat a butter cookie, does that make me a butterface?

My uncle took one bite of his chocolate chip cookie, and immediately got back in line to buy two more. And that’s saying something, because Cookie Monster is a sad amateur compared to George. He’s the one who introduced me to the famous/infamous Babalu chipper in Santa Monica, and shares my familiarity with the chocolatey depths of decadence at Levain Bakery in NYC.

Sometimes the best cookies don't take the best pictures. But I love you anyway, Bumpy Brown cookie.

But on a tragic note, I could only eat half my sandwich. (Mostly because my bro-in-law Dan made delicious nachos the same night, and I’m only human.) So that the defining sandwich of its generation wouldn’t go to waste, I begged Dan to eat it for lunch the next day. Which he did. And pronounced it fan-druckin-tastic. (That’s a quote.) Now that I think about it, this may have been his cunning plan all along!

But Thanksgiving will be here soon, and with another holiday, comes another sandwich. YAY!

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I Take to Chicago Like a Druck to Water

I promised you Chicago, and I’m-a gonna deliver you Chicago like it owes you money. T’sallright? T’sokay. My amazing, funny, loving family had a PARTY for me when I arrived, and my pops grilled me up a plump n juicy one o’ dem dere Chicago dogs:

The memory of this delicious dog hounds me even still.

Whilst at the party, my brother-in-law Dan dropped an entire watermelon on my mom’s kitchen floor, where it exploded like Humpty Dumpty. Cats were scurrying, my nephew was crying, my mom was downplaying, and I was laughing my damn fool head off.

Now THERE'S an idea...

Did I help Dan clean it up, you may well ask? Did I comfort and reassure him that his rare moment of gracelessness was safe with me? Oh no. I stepped outside to convey his fruity faux pas to family members who were unlucky enough to miss it.

In spite of my wicked ways, he made us all dinner the next night, which included these:

Not very photogenic, but then again, neither am I.

If there is such a thing as a dessert fry, this is it. Boiled and twice-fried in an actual Fry Daddy (!!) and lightly dusted with brown sugar, salt and a kick of cayenne, these fries would give my fave Father’s Office ‘taters a run for their money. GO WATERMELON KILLER, GO.

Speaking of cheering, I watched the Northwestern Wildcats get the W on rainy Saturday morning, and sang the fight song at least three times. I have a longstanding crush on their coach, Pat Fitzgerald, a two-time NU All-American, who almost but not quite embarrassed Auburn last year in the Outback Bowl and is an energetic and youthful shot in the arm for the tired old Big Ten:

Fitz is my FB friend.

In keeping with the sporty spirit, I got a long overdue drink with my cousin Andrew at a homely little bar in the western suburbs, and became instant drinking buddies with this awesome dude:

Joel Quenneville tells me that the strip clubs in Windsor are referred to as, "the Windsor ballet."

I made sure to thank him for coaching the only Chicago team that doesn’t suck. And speaking of both the Blackhawks (who do NOT suck) and the Bears (who do), I was lucky enough to attend the Bears home opener against the Detroit Lions, thanks again to my bro-in-law. (Great guy, right?)

The Blackhawks opened the game wearing Bears jerseys and toting the Stanley Cup, which meant that for the briefest of moments, one of the three teams on the field were NOT pathetic losers. (Hint: not the Bears or the Lions, who went 1-15 last year.)

Troy Brouwer hoists the Stanley Cup at Soldier Field and makes his Mother proud.

It was a picture-perfect fall day in Chicago. 75• and sunny, under a cloudless sky, the sun making the skyscrapers sparkle and the breeze just lightly blowing in off the lake. The game, however, was hideously ugly. The Lions got robbed. The Bears rushed for nearly 500 yards to the Lions 110, and couldn’t score 6 inches in four downs. But at least there was something beautiful on the field:

HURT LOCKER!!

Awesome cousin Linds and I comforted ourselves that even if we have to watch the Bears go 1-15, which looks likely, at least Brian Urlacher still looks nice in tight pants.

More Chicago tomorrow!

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A Big Druckin Milestone

Hello, my Drucklings! This is a big week for Mother Drucker. Why, you ask? Because we are one year old. ONE YEAR! Thanks to YOU people, this is the most successful, dare I say mutually rewarding relationship I’ve had in a long, long time. So thank you, grazie, gurrah mille mahagut (that’s Oirish!) for taking this journey with me.

Happy birthday to my alter ego.

From my first post to whatever I eat, drink or date next, I raise my martini glass to you (or sway it, sloshily, in your general direction) and say that I’d rather be here with you people than the finest people in all the world.

Remember this post? Nice try Gaga. This hipster gaga't there first.

I promise you tender, juicy Chicago tidbits tomorrow (kind of like a dress made out of meat), but for now, I would just like to thank the good people at WordPress for providing fantastic, free blogs to technophobes like me.

I had a problem the other day, emailed their help desk and within 24 hours, problem solved. Michael (we’re on a first-name basis now) was friendly, efficient and super-responsive. I don’t get anywhere NEAR this kind of love from my greedy, despicable insurance company, and I pay them $200/month.

Thanks again for coming along for the ride. I’m very, very glad to have you with me.

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Animal = Druckin Pork Lovers’ Paradise

OMG. You guys. No. Seriously. YOU GUYS. This place. It’s RIDICULOUS. If you’re a vegetarian, it’s the 3rd circle of hell. If you love meat — and pork in particular — Animal Restaurant in Hollywood-adjacent is nirvana. But we started off with something light:

Hamachi tostada. Cilantro haters, beware.

It was INSANE good — and I’m not even a hamachi lover. (A Harajuku Lover, maybe.) It was firing on all cylinders, tap dancing all over my tongue with transparent slivers of jalapeno, salty peanut, grassy cilantro, crispy tostada, crunchy fried onion, and generous cubes of prime, sweet raw tuna.

And here’s a tip, because your Mother loves you — it’s not on the menu, but pay the $2 for grilled bread. I’ve never had anything quite like it — chewy-crisp with gorgeous grill marks and a lash of melted butter. You can see it here with this cheese n chorizo bowl, that I am TOTALLY getting next time:

Melted petit basque, chorizo, grilled bread. Next time, you're MINE.

We actually started with the bread, and that ALONE made me fall hard for Animal. (Animal eat drums! They actually have a small picture of him over the bar, watching everyone feast on Miss Piggy. Can’t be easy. Good thing the place isn’t called Kermit.)

When these arrive, expect a moment of, "Oh God, what have I done?"

Okay, I loved these pork belly sliders but they are for SERIOUS PORK LOVERS ONLY. I was glad it was slightly dark because I know I was eating greasy, squishy cubes of pork fat. Animal is justifiably famous for these but I think for me, it’s like seeing Schindler’s List. It’s a one-time thing.

Thanks to my genius pal Michael’s razor-sharp ordering instincts, we followed that up with a delectable quail fry:

Quail fry, grits, chard, slab bacon, maple jus. Proving that even bird is better with bacon.

It was impeccably crisp fried bird, and the maple, bacon, grits and greens played together so nicely — sweet, salty, creamy, um… healthy? I was literally LICKING the plate when the waiter wrestled it away from me. You probably think we’re done here. You underestimate me.

Poutine with oxtail gravy and aged Vermont cheddar. It ain't pretty. It's GORGEOUS.

This is practically Quebec’s national dish, appearing all over Montreal in various iterations, from sophisticated to street vendor. Animal’s version involves perfectly crisp fries, aged cheddar, and an oxtail ‘gravy’ that tastes like it’s been simmering all day with a bouquet garni and a good bottle of red wine, much like a boeuf bourguignon.

When our amazing, friendly well-informed (and did I mention adorable?) waitress Ashley put it in front of us, I think even she trembled a bit for our over-ambitious tummies. We almost finished it. Then, to add insult to gluttony, we (okay, mostly ME) finished with this:

My mom can do better. Maybe they should hire her...

Sadly, our peach raspberry pie was kind of a let-down. The crust was oddly chewy and the fruit — just not enough of it. And the decor is minimal — it’s just one big room — but the service was impeccable and I will forgive these two dudes because CLEARLY, they are focusing on the food:

Jon Shook & Vinnie Dotolo totally want to date me. They just don't know it yet.

Luckily, this porcine paradise is in the heart of a super-Jewish neighborhood, with Canter’s just a few doors down and Schwartz’s Kosher Bakery right next door, where I stopped after dinner to buy Michael a black & white cookie. (The girl at Schwartz’s counter wistfully asked me how my dinner was, as if I were an emissary from a fantastic and unknowable land.)

I could write a whole post on how fantastic Schwartz’s is — get the politically incorrect but undeniably delicious Chinaman cookie! — but I’m sorry, I’m still too full. And I leave for Stuff Your Faceville, aka Chicago, tomorrow. Good thing swimsuit season is almost over! Happy Labor Day, everybody.

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Druckleberry in SM Is Just Okay

Huckleberry Bakery & Cafe in Santa Monica is beloved by many West Siders (including awesome pal Kristi, whom I predict will not appreciate this post) for their homespun-meets-haute breakfast, brunch and pastries. Manned by a delicious husband and wife team who are basically living my dream life, this place sounds promising. In theory.

Zoe Nathan and Josh Loeb have hot buns.

The place is super cute, almost self-consciously so, reminding me a little of Tartine bakery in San Francisco. But Tartine is in the Mission, which still whispers, EDGY. Huckleberry is on Wilshire, which screams, MONEY! And you’d better bring lots.

But where oh where is today's Tom Sawyer...

We’ll get to the pastries, keep yer oven mitts on. But for now, let’s talk sandwiches. There’s been a lot of  buzz about their fried egg sandwich. Wanna know what a $9.95 one looks like?

This sandwich appears to have eaten Oscar the Grouch. Has anyone seen him lately?

But wait. What about a $7.50 PBJ?

You know you're in SM when...

Yep, I’m serious, and don’t call me Shirley. I know there’s overhead. Wilshire don’t come cheap. And though that lovely couple clearly rolls their own dough, they don’t appear to be rolling IN IT. Plus, I must admit that sandwich is making me drool. BUT STILL. Now for some baked goodness:

Pretty tempting.

Yummy, right? Stopping by on a sunny Sunday cheat day, I waited in line for 15 minutes, paralyzed by indecision (understandably, see above!). When it was finally my turn to order, the staff quickly became frustrated and slightly snippy, like it was Santa Monica sorority rush and I’d shown up without the prerequisite attitude.

All told, I dropped a good $20 on a cup of coffee and a pastry or two, and they were just… fine. (The fact that I was there recently and don’t remember my exact order speaks volumes.) I’m pretty sure there was a doughnut (ho-hum) and a fruit tart thing, of some description. The coffee was super expensive and non-offensive, at best.

With all of that said, in my research for this post, I happened to discover this, thanks to Caroline on Crack:

Huckleberry's salted caramel bar. Oh, lord. Save me from myself.

That might be TOO sweet even for me. But I’d be willing to take one. You know, for the team.

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