Founded in 1982, St. George Spirits turned 30 with a bang last Friday (photos on Facebook). My own visit, however, was a long time coming. I recently visited family for Thanksgiving in those parts and got to steal away for a day. I used that day to tour the distillery of a long well-regarded craft spirits company I’d become familiar with thanks to wonderful cocktails I’ve had in Los Angeles and beyond. Master distiller Lance Winters and Continue reading
There is a short list of reasons I will get up before 9 AM on a Saturday morning. A very short list. Of course, I wouldn’t be a food blogger without a few of those having to do with food (e.g. beating the dim sum crowd), and I’ve just added “Taiwanese food tour” to that list.
So if you choose the “Delicious Dumpling” Six Taste food tour, be prepared that Arcadia is where you’ll have to drive on a weekend morning – but you can rest assured that the trip is well worth it. You won’t have to get in your car again until the conclusion and when you do leave, you’ll be properly sated as you depart (unfortunately, this does not apply to vegetarians).
Arcadia is the 3rd largest Taiwanese population outside of the native island, with San Marino to the north being the 2nd (meanwhile, my own Taiwanese parents decided on Wisconsin). As always, it’s best to go to the source, or at least where a majority of ex-pats migrated to from the source.
Krista (Brand X), Marian (Marian the Foodie), Cathy (Gastronomy Blog) and I started out at J.J. Bakery, guided by Arcadia native Michael, our tour guide for the morning. We learned about common characteristics of Taiwanese pastries. Then, we moved on to the notorious Din Tai Fung, the definite focus of the tour. The Taiwanese dumpling chain known for their delicate skinned pouches filled with soup and pork rarely disappoints. Michael showed us tea etiquette and how to properly eat our shiao long bao, by poking or biting a hole into the dumpling and pouring out the soup onto our spoon. No soy sauce – just black vinegar and ginger – should accompany the bite-size dumpling.
Afterwards, we walked to the neighboring plaza to try out SinBala, so-named after the chantings of a Taiwanese dice game. Here, we tried Taiwanese sausages with various dressings, like traditional garlic slices, shredded basil and mango. We also tried chili wontons, an oyster pancake (a common Taiwan night market treat) and fried pork chop. Most were not too keen on the oyster pancake (in fact, I like the egg runnier than it was prepared) but the sausages and the wontons went over well.
Our last stop was a goods shop that shared a space with a Lollicup bubble tea store. Beef jerky and dried foods were stored in bins and we were free to taste anything that so pleased us. It reminded me of my last trip to Taiwan, when we visited a Hakka village with tons of dried goods. Preserved and pickled goods were made very popular when food was scarce since they were made to last longer.
To close out the tour, we of course had some Taiwanese shaved ice with condensed milk, mangos and ice cream. It was definitely a treat – though it raised questions about the fluffier shaved snow. That will have to wait until our self-guided Taiwanese tour that a few bloggers and I will inevitably do another Saturday.
Though I’m Taiwanese in blood and have visited the Motherland enough times to count on both hands, I still learned a lot on the tour about Taiwanese food and community in Southern California (not being fluent or literate will stunt things in that area). Six Taste also conducts tours in so many other areas of Metro LA, with the Taiwanese tour being the east-most based tour. For the uninitiated, with visitors and residents alike, it’s a great way to get shown the ropes on the neighborhood you’re most curious about.
On Sunday, I joined Josh Lurie of Food GPS and a good showing of food bloggers, writers and fans for a Beverly Blvd walking tour. It was really nice to get a flagship bite from each of four stops as well as glean some history from a couple landmarks on the way, such as CBS Studios and Pan Pacific Park.
We started off at Eva where Mark Gold was reminiscent of his posh tenure with Patina and his subsequent move to his own venture, occupying the old Hatfield’s space. Left to his own devices, he is free to thrive, free to fail – but free, nonetheless – and it certainly looks like it’s the former case for him a mere 10 months later.
Tuesday night is a popular night at Eva, when guests can enjoy his famous buttermilk, duck fatÂ and tabasco battered fried chicken and beer to their heart’s content for just $25. The restaurant as a whole – for lunch or dinner – is a place you can rely on for good bang for the buck, as there are consistently solid dishesÂ that emerge from Gold’s kitchen at reasonable prices. I could eat Eva’s creamed corn – infused with bay leaf and bechamel – and fried chicken for days.
Afterwards, we walked two doors down to BLD, which is owned by Neal Fraser (Grace). Chef Diana Stavaridis runs the kitchen, which prepared steamed, tomato and white wine mussels for the tour group. They were delicious with a surprisingly deepÂ flavor to the lightÂ broth.
On our way to MILK, we passed the formerÂ location of Grace, whichÂ Josh divulged was relocating to the Vibiana Cathedral in Downtown Los Angeles. A location reversal of sorts will occur, asÂ Chef John Sedlar of Rivera in downtown will be expanding and serving up more casual eats under the name R26 in Grace’s former space. It’s slated for fall of this year.
At MILK, we enjoyed an array of ice cream served different waysÂ and inÂ a largeÂ variety of flavors. I was luckyÂ to be first in line (or shall we say, prompt?) and secured a cookie sandwich with oversized, flat green macarons encasing watermelon sorbet with chocolate chipsÂ mixed in, which somewhat resembled watermelon seeds for that delicious and cute factor.
Equipped with a nose drip and 30 squares of toilet paper in my purse, I had the chance to see BjÃ¶rkâ€™s Voltaic in Hollywood at The Montalban on Vine and, well, Hollywood Blvd. Voltaic is essentially a compilation of the Paris and Reykjavik legs on her Volta tour. Though it looked like it was mostly from Paris (complete with BjÃ¶rk graciously exclaiming â€œMerci, Paris!â€ to conclude her songs), the movie had me convinced that I really need to see BjÃ¶rk live. It was such a treat to see her perform in the flesh â€“ that is, by way of widescreen â€“ and they made whatever memories of studio recordings I have of hers come to life.