Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Sandwich Tricks or Treats?

Greetings, Dear Readers!

And a Happy Halloween to you all!

As a child, I had wondered what it would have been like for people to give out sandwiches while I would Trick-or-Treat in the neighborhoods. Thinking back on it, I believe this would have been a terrible, and notably heavy, bad idea.

This past week though I decided to visit a local chain shop that a lot of people have been telling me about: Which Wich.

I don't normally review chains. I would never review a subway sandwich, but I was curious about this place because of all of the recommendations. Could it offer decent sandwiches?

This sandwich shop allows for a lot of customer customization.  Each type of sandwich filling has five different premade sandwiches listed for you. The rest of the sandwich is left up to your customization. You can even do away with the bread and get the ingredients in a bowl.

But who would want that?

To order at Which Wich, you pick up a long brown sandwich bag and check off the options that you would like. I started with the Italian Grinder, made up of salami, pepperoni and capicola. On top of that I added spinach, banana peppers, pickles, deli mustard and pepper jack cheese all toasted inside of a wheat roll.

Now with a chain, I don't usually expect much. If I order from one, it's usually because of convenience, but Which Wich's sandwich was actually pretty decent.

I would never rank it above the quality crafted sandwiches I've mostly reviewed here, but if I was in a hurry to grab a quick lunch, like I did yesterday, this would be an absolutely suitable place to go.

But that brings up the question of whether they actually provided me a sandwich on their own. Sure they gave the basic ingredients, but everything else on my sandwich was my own choosing. This is a fundamental problem/benefit of customizable sandwich shops (The Counter included): Yes, you can get the exact sandwich you want, but the restaurant doesn't really offer a signature sandwich, and hence never really gains a defining characteristic of small local shops.

So, with this review in the books, here's hoping you don't have a terrible trick of a sandwich before you this week, and have an excellent Halloween.

Until next week, Readers...

Grinder Sandwich (customized)
*** Stars
Which Wich?
12048 Ventura Blvd.
Studio City, CA

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Burger and Broadway

Greetings, Readers!

Hopefully the cooling temperatures have treated you right this past week. I was lucky enough to be taken out by Charlene to see The Book of Mormon at the Pantages Theater last Wednesday.

It's hilarious. Really it's an amazing show, and if it's playing in your town you need to check it out.

But prior to our evening's entertainment, she suggested visiting the Blue Palms Brewhouse, a place I had visited before but never ended up reviewing their sandwiches.

Settling down with a snifter of the excellent special edition Deschutes Brewery's Black Butte XXIV, I decided to get the Truffle Burger.

The burger is topped with black truffles, Maytag blue cheese, P&W peppers, crimini onions, all of which are cooked in duck fat piled upon a white truffle glazed bun.

Delicious? Oh my, yes. The blue cheese seems a bit more muted on this sandwich than on others ones because of the contributions from the onions, truffles and truffle oil which all have a say in the flavor of this sandwich.

The full flavors in this sandwich will make you want to keep taking more and more bites before you even put the sandwich down, and that's a good thing because if you put the burger down, the bun falls apart too quickly.

I mean, there are so many things packed onto this burger, the first bite I took, half of its contents got pushed out of the bottom. By the fourth bite, the bun was disintegrating and disappointing.

I really had high hopes for this burger, and the ingredients between the bun definitely were living up to the hype until the bun failed. It was a real disappointment, but from what did taste well, I was curious in trying some of their other sandwiches.

If nothing else, their beer selection is absolutely worth the visit.

Until next week, Readers...

P.S. - Have you bought your tickets for The Book of Mormon yet?

Truffle Burger
*** 1/2 Stars
Blue Palms Brewhouse
6124 Hollywood Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90028

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Short Rib, Shorter Days

Greetings, Readers!

Is it Autumn in your town yet? Because here in Los Angeles it's still in the mid 90s, which is definitely making it hard to enjoy grilled cheese sandwiches and thick tomato soups.

So instead this week I headed over to a fancy little shop in Toluca Lake called Olive & Thyme which had just popped up on my radar.

I had wanted to try their Middle Eastern Chicken sandwich, but was sad to find out that this sandwich is only served during lunch hours. Not to fear though as their menu also had a Braised Short Rib sandwich that also sounded incredibly delicious.

I'll be sure to report back to you on the Middle Eastern Chicken sandwich if I try it out in the future.

The Braised Short Rib sandwich is stacked high with succulent shredded short rib, horseradish creme fraiche and caramelized onions between two slices of grilled country sourdough bread.

The short rib had been cooked just right, so that it just melted away in your mouth with every bite. Combining that with the caramelized onions gave the sandwich a faintly sweet taste.  The horseradish creme fraiche provided a flavor contrast with the occasional burst of heat.

The grilled sourdough bread stayed together until the end, despite being under pressure from the heavily stacked short rib. It also added its characteristic suor flavor, providing a third flavor contribution to the mix.

Overall, this was an excellent braised short rib, though the trip was still a disappointment as I missed out on the Middle Eastern Chicken sandwich. Ah, next time!

Until next week, Readers...

Braised Short Rib Sandwiches
**** Stars
Olive &Thyme
4013 Riverside Drive,
Toluca Lake, CA

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A Burger Paradise

Greetings, Readers!

The temperatures have finally started to drop in Los Angeles, and it's actually beginning to feel quite a bit like fall here.

Granted, "fall" in Los Angeles really just means that it won't be 90 degrees every day now.

Craving a delicious burger recently, I was surprised to find in my sandwich research that a Studio City branch of Stout Burgers and Beers had opened a short walk from my apartment.

Sitting down in the restaurant and perusing the menu with New Belgium's Peach Porch Lounger (a delicious peach flavored saison), I knew I had picked a great spot to dine with a friend. The menu is short and sweet, but this did not make choosing a burger any easier. It was even more difficult to decide on what to order when we were informed of the special: a burger with truffle aioli.

I decided to go with the Stout Burger though (maybe it was because it had bacon), which came out in a delicious medium rare (it's the standard by the way make sure to ask for it to be cooked longer if this isn't your thing).

The Stout Burger, a delicious beef patty topped with blue cheese, Gruyere, rosemary bacon, caramelized onions, horseradish cream and roasted tomatoes, is an excellent combination of elements for a burger.

According to Stout's website, the burger meat is ground daily, in house.

According to this website, the beef is delicious.

The blue cheese, along with the Gruyere, adds a smooth dry flavor with a mild tanginess that complements the savory meat. The cheeses, especially the blue cheese, were also a bit more muted than usual, but this wasn't a bad thing.

The rosemary bacon was delicious. Not only was it crisp (adding a different texture to the sandwich) but it also added a smoky flavor which was an excellent contrast to the savory meat flavor and smooth cheeses. Add to this the slightly sweet caramelized onions and roasted tomatoes, along with the garlic flavor from the aioli and you have a delicious, savory burger.

Add to the delicious food the fact that we had excellent service, and that the low light atmosphere is relaxing and enjoyable, and you have an excellent experience out for burgers.

You know, for all the praise of Umami Burger here in Los Angeles, I have to step out of the typical LA thought here and say that Stout Burgers and Beers is leaps and bounds better than Umami. It is a hands down, knockout decision for Stout Burgers and Beers.

There, I said it. I don't think I'm the only one in the entire city who thinks this, but let's start this conversation for those that have tried both: Stout is better than Umami.

Argue for or against in the comments below.

Until next week, Readers...

The Stout Burger
Stout Burgers & Beer
11262 Ventura Blvd.
Studio City, CA 91604

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Big Flavor, Little Bear

Greetings, Readers!

Wow, here we are. The first full week of the Fall, and it's still over 90 degrees in Los Angeles. But do not let that deter you from enjoying the flavors of the season, as I have not.

I've had pumpkin everything so far, especially a number of pumpkins beers, but one of the best sandwiches for the season for me tends to be grilled cheese sandwiches. Paired with a delicious tomato or pumpkin soup and you have a definitive taste for Fall.

Keeping this in mind, I headed to a place I've been wanting to visit for quite some time: Little Bear. Located in the Arts District downtown, this restaurant has some amazing atmosphere. Dim lighting, with exposed steel and wood interior, this place is a perfect example of dining architecture in the downtown area (which just so happens to be spreading outward into the city).

Two problems here though.  1.) the beer menu. It is huge and very difficult to determine what I wanted to drink. Should I start off slow or go for one of those beers that those Belgian monks are famous for with 9% and above ABV? 2.) Which of these delicious sandwiches will I end up eating as there are five different grilled cheese melts available.

After settling on a Rochefort 8 Belgian amber tripel, I settled on the sandwich decision: Grilled Cheese Meat Loaf. A half inch thick slice of meat loaf topped with Vermont cheddar, housemade pickles and crispy onions of lightly buttered and grilled bread.

This melt was amazing. Like hands down one of the best sandwiches I've had in quite some time. Point, Fall.

The meatloaf is thoroughly seasoned, but not too overpowering.  Savory beef flavor with Italian spices added into it will honestly make your taste buds dance. The melty Vermont cheddar adds a smoky and smooth flavor to contrast the high points of the meatloaf. The crispy pickles are there to add some contrasting tang and the crispy onions join the grilled bread in adding some crunch.

Oh, and the bread? Lightly buttered, lightly grilled and held on until the end. Excellently done.

This sandwich is one of the most flavorful and well-made sandwiches I have had not only in the past few months, but overall since I've begun this blog. Toss in a few Belgian beers, and this sandwich is an excellent choice for dinner and unwinding on a Friday night.

Despite being a little out of the way for some Angelenos, Little Bear is definitely worth the trip.

What an excellent way to ring in the first blog entry of Fall with an excellent grilled cheese melt and some delicious beer to accompany it. Now the only problem becomes living up to the first week of the cooler seasons.

Until next week...

Grilled Cheese Meat Loaf
***** Stars
Little Bear
1855 Industrial Street
Los Angeles, CA 90021