Tinga: Giving Fresh Mex a Good Name

Cochinita Pibil - $6.50

With my 9 to 5 located west of Miracle Mile, I’ve had more than my fair share of lunch option challenges. Though many scoff at the food truck phenomenon that seems to never run out of steam, it’s actually been the first silver lining  I’ve had since I’ve resigned to witnessing the vast majority of my coworkers with Trimana sandwiches at their desks around noontime.

Grilled Cumin & Garlic Rubbed Pork Loin - $6.50

Thanks to Pat of Eating LA for the tip-off on Tinga on La Brea and thanks to Blackboard Eats for offering their dine-in only lunch 30%-off code last week. Well, I’ve still yet to use it, since I’ve been the take-away supplier to a couple coworkers weaning themselves off tuna salad. (Proof that Blackboard Eats PR works?)

However, the memory of a particular taco plate compostable cardboard box ($7-9 for two tacos and chips) will forever be a chapter in my book of office follies, and the Cochinita Pibil tacos are to blame. Or thank. The advice I can offer here is to, upon finishing both these tacos, go to the bathroom and wash your hands five times. Do not rub your nose with your cross-contaminated, salsa-stained forehand. Do not wipe your forehead, either. Do not pass Go. Not quite sure where that salsa is? A tingling sensation (dubbed: The Tinga Tingle) on any given extremity will tell you for sure. But like I said, best wash your hands in case your curiosity does not feel the need to be satiated. Put it in your stomach, instead.

Chorizo Quesadilla (with goat cheese, pickled red onions) - $9.50

My upper lip and the skin lining my nostrils burned til 4 o’clock.

The ego behind my heat-bearing palate became even more defeated when, after doing a search, I found Jonathan Gold made no mention of this salsa when he mentioned these very tacos in his write-up back in September. No matter. Egos aside, deliciousness typically transcends pure heat. I take that back: Bearable heat, anyway, because that burning sensation on my face for the duration of the afternoon sure was distracting.

But I digress I’m beating the dead horse. The other favorite pork dish on their menu was definitely the Grilled Cumin & Garlic Rubbed Pork Loin Tacos ($6.50), served with pepper jack cheese, pasillas and salsa. The Flat Iron Steak Tacos ($8.50) came in chipotle tortillas and topped with tomato avocado relish, “dog snout” salsa, pickled red onions, queso fresco and lime chipotle Escabeche. The strips of steak were really the best cuts I’ve had of any fresh mex in memory.

48 Short Rib - $8.50

And the quesadilla was amazingly still crisp by the time it got to our destination. The goat cheese melted with chorizo in a quesadilla is perhaps blasphemous to the most diehard of diehards but a nonetheless a brilliant combination. Though I’ve yet to try many of the sides, the Arroz Con Crema ($5) came deliciously roasted and covered with a not-too-sweet cream. Lime juice is to thank for its twist and tang.

Next up: The Dirty Horchata, or horchata with a shot of espresso in it. I’m guessing it’ll be the refreshment to accompany my first dine-in experience at Tinga. There are plenty of other menu selections I’m dying to try, so I’m certainly looking forward to the next adventure a glass of that stuff will be washing down.

Though I’m loath to call Tinga “Fresh Mex,” I think I’m already too late. I apologize for the Baja Fresh associations, because Tinga is so much, much more than that. Their food is creative, colorful and best of all, absolutely delicious. It’s a welcome departure from the $1 tacos of York and Breed Street because they’re not even in the same class. Contemporary decor, check. Compostable wares, check. This is Fresh Mex worth appreciating.

All taco plates come with 2 tacos and chips.

Tinga
142 S. La Brea Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90036
323.954.9566

Food Trend Watch: For the Love For Finger Limes

Photo credit to dtpearson1975 on Flickr

Los Angeles loves the Australian finger lime. I’m no expert on the little doodads but I do know a curious fruit with spritely packages when I see one – especially when the cylinders pop up in multiple places across different applications. And I do know how to Google. Citrus australasica, yes, came to the States from Australia over 100 years ago, yet “only in the last six years have disease-tested, legal budwood became available to nurseries for propagating the trees” (LA Times’ Market Watch). They’ve reached my palate only recently – but in a small span of time.

Almost-invisible finger limes on crudo at Cube

The source of inspiration in our local kitchens goes undisputed. In an age where a commonplace gastronomic trend is to make little spheres of everything, these round, dense bursts of flavor are naturally occurring and sold by James Shanley at the Santa Monica farmer’s market. Laura Avery recently talked to him on KCRW’s Market Report and David Karp gives the skinny on the fruit with the “gherkin” exterior in LA Times’ Market Watch.

Personally, it started out with a dinner at Cube on La Brea. The picture doesn’t capture one of my proudest photography moments but what was memorable were the little citrus caviar scattered across the delicate crudo. It was the perfect way to highlight and accent the fresh flavors of the fish.

Valerie Confections' Pomelo Finger Lime Marmalade

Next, came the amuse bouche by Matt Biancaniello at The Roosevelt Hotel’s Library Bar. For the record: If it were anyone’s cocktails that would warrant an amuse, it would certainly be Matt’s. He cut the 2-inch cylindrical fruit in half, injected a bit of cachaça into the vessel and instructed me to squirt it and the little roundlings into my mouth. The sweet-tart combo beautifully awakened my senses and it was extraordinary to experience what an onomatopoeia like “pew pew pew” (in the non-lolcat sense) might literally taste like: Lazrs.

Finally, during my most recent trip to the Sunday Hollywood Farmer’s Market, I stopped by one of my favorite booths – Valerie Confections. The label on one of their preserves caught my eye – a Pomelo & Finger Lime Marmalade. At this point, it was none other than a sign, so I had to pick it up (and it’s already almost gone.)  The sour twists of the pomelo and finger limes brought out more of the peel in the delicious marmalade. Tiny lime finger slices were imbued in the light orange preserves – and with the help of crackers and goat cheese, the marmalade was a delicious way to snack at work.

I have my eye on these marvelous citrons. I can’t wait for more kitchens and bars to creatively incorporate them into more recipes. Oh – and as far as “food trend” – it may have to wait until next year since we’re already past season, which ended in December. Regardless, restauranteurs, artisans and mixologists have a new fruit with which to experiment.

Mentioned in this post:

Cube
615 N. La Brea Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90036
323.939.1148

The Library Bar at The Roosevel Hotel
7000 Hollywood Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90028
323.466.7000

Valerie Confections
3360 W. 1st Street
Los Angeles, CA 90004
213.739.8149

Dine LA Restaurant Week Happens Now: My Picks

Duck "Shawarma" With Oven-dried Tomatoes, Fig Confit & Garlic Spread on Homemade Whole Wheat Pita | Momed

I’ve been kind of sleeping on this one, because we are already half-way through the first of two weeks of this season‘s restaurant week. But don’t let me be the example, because if there are a couple restaurants in LA you’ve been meaning to check out, now is the time to see if they’re participating in Dine LA. From the Quickfire Challenges that have been held around the city (and culminating last night with Chef Eric Greenspan of The Foundry on Melrose winning the dessert challenge finale) to the incentive to dine at least three times with your American Express (but not before registering your card here), there has been a good amount of hoopla surrounding this fall’s Restaurant Week installment. You get a prix fixe 3 courses for varying price points.

So, if you have an American Express and plan on dining out at least three times, be sure to register it because if you spend at least $21 each time, you’ll get a $20 statement credit.

Of course, not all restaurants nor menus are considered equal. I browsed the list and pulled the ones that I’d be most interested in. Keep in mind there are three different price points each for lunch ($16, $22, $28) and dinner ($26, $34, $44) – and not all restaurants serve a Dine LA prix fixe for both. I also highlighted a menu item that particularly piqued my interest.

The Bazaar by Jose Andres ($$$) – Catalan Pork Sausage
Bistro LQ ($$) – Ham Hock
District ($$) – Venison Chile Relleno
Drago Centro ($$$) – Veal Osso Bucco
Eva ($$) – Cod and Caponata
FIG Santa Monica ($$) – Red Beet Risotto
The Foundry on Melrose ($$$) – Miso Honey Glazed Duck
Laxy Ox Canteen ($) – Veal Breast with Pee Wee Potato Salad
Locanda del Lago ($$) – Lobster-Dill-Ricotta Ravioli
Ortega 120 ($) – Petite Sterling Silver, Pasilla Pepper, Queso Oaxaca, Red Chile Potato Hash
Petrossian ($$$) – Crab Risotto
Piccolo ($$$) – Pumpkin pasta w/Black Truffle Filling
RH Restaurant ($$) – Roasted Boothbay Harbor Lobster
Rivera ($$$) – Banana leaf-braised pork shoulder
Urban Noodle ($) – Urban Noodle House Special Noodles

I admit, there is no way I’m going to make it out to half on my list so I’m leaving it up to you. They are all restaurants that I’ve had good experiences at so you can call these educated guesses. So get out there and experiment. You’d be remiss to not take the opportunity to try the restaurants you’ve always been curious about.

Sunday – Friday

October 3 – 8, 10 15, 2010

Lunch, Dinner (Not all restaurants serve both)

Dine LA List

All over Los Angeles

Tillamook Love Loaf Tour Wraps Up Metro LA

Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler With Tillamook Cheddar at Akasha

You may have heard the Tillamook name being touted around food news lately – more specifically as a result of their recent Love Loaf Tour, which actually wraps up their Metro L.A. leg of good will and free cheddar goodness today. Well, that is with exception to the Grilled Cheese Invitational, which they are the official cheese sponsor of.

Tillamook Baby Loaf (yes, they really are small!)

A couple weeks ago I joined the ranks of a few other food bloggers, writers and all-out cheese lovers at the Baby Loaf’s stop at Akasha Restaurant in Culver City. We enjoyed platters of triangle-sliced Tillamook as well as Chef Akasha Richmond’s creative genius in incorporating the cheddar into her recipes. We garnished toasts with her mango chutney and fig-avocado spreads, enjoyed her baked mac ‘n cheese and gobbled up half-baked fingerling potatoes. My favorite bite, however, was definitely the pulled pork sliders which came encased in biscuits and sandwiched with coleslaw. The hands-down most creative usage of Tillamook was the White Tillamook Cheddar melted atop Chef Akasha’s Strawberry-Rhubarb Cobbler! It gave the otherwise sweet dessert a nice cheesy tang and made the dish quite savory. Truly, you can do anything with cheese.

Good thing Angelenos can still get their free samples of Tillamook … today, only. Check out the locations below for the Baby Loaves’ stops for today, only. Looks like if you’re in Mid-City, South L.A. and Century City today, you’ve lucked out.

Food at Akasha Restaurant-Tillamook media event was hosted; pictures of Chef Akasha Richmond’s and my cats were shared.

Further reading:

My Life-Long “Loaf” Affair With Tillamook Cheese – Diana Takes a Bite

Akasha Means “Enlightening One’s Tongue With Joy” – My Last Bite

My Tillamook – Charles at 1HundredMiles

Love Loaf Tour LA concludes today (Monday, April 12, 2010) at:

Food 4 Less
1717 S. Western Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90019
12 – 7 PM

Food 4 Less
1091 S. Hoover Street
Los Angeles, CA 90037
12 – 7 PM

Ralph’s
10309 W. Olympic Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90064
11 AM – 6 PM

@TillamookCheese
@AkashaCC