Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A Sunday Surprise

Greetings, Readers!

Recently, I visited a local eatery that had only become known to me.

Harvest Moon is a quaint stop on a quiet stretch of Magnolia Boulevard in Valley Village. On the day that we stopped here, they were happily celebrating their 2nd anniversary. Quite an accomplishment tin a city with high turnover of eateries.

Walking into Harvest Moon with its wooden tables, great views, and fantastic food on display, I was initially distraught. The menu was written on a chalkboard the size of one of the walls and was covered in chalk with all of the options available.

This was obviously going to be a bit difficult. My eye is always drawn to a cubano, though most of the times I have to talk myself out of it, unless of course it is highly recommended, lest this blog become strictly about that type of sandwich. Turning down the cubano here was tough, though when the menu stated that their BLT was highly rated, I was intrigued.

A BLT is not something I ever seek out at a restaurant. To me, it's incredibly easy to make at home, and I can't remember the last time I ever heard someone tell me about a mind blowing BLT but here it was, in front of my eyes. How could I refuse?

Besides the standard ingredients, I also opted to add in avocado and a fried egg. Joining these two friends between the slices of grilled white country bread were a few slices of sweet and spicy bacon, arugula, roma tomatoes, and lemon aioli. The bacon was amazing. A slightly sweet glaze along with a peppery kick melded together on top of the thick cut slices.

It was honestly some of the best bacon I've ever had.

Combined with the peppery kick of the arugula, the creamy avocado and the savory fried egg, this really was one of the best BLT's I've ever had, and a top sandwich overall. Even if you're not a big bacon fan, I urge you to try this. These strips may change your mind on the matter.

My only thought though is that while I enjoyed the grilled white country bread, I wondered if the sandwich might be more enjoyable with sourdough.

Besides the sandwiches, Harvest Moon has a delicious looking menu with plenty of options for lunch, brunch, or even breakfast. With its location in a quiet part of the city, this is a great restaurant to meet up with friends for conversation and great food.

Oh, and while you're there, make sure to pick up a box of Celia's Gourmet Toffee while you're at it.

Until next week, Readers...

**** Stars
Harvest Moon Kitchen and Marketplace
12456 Magnolia Blvd.
Valley Village, CA

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

In Tune With Taste

Greetings, Readers!

You know, sometimes a true gem of an eatery can be so close to home that we end up missing it, or seeing it all together.

Take for example the Tuning Fork in Studio City. There are literally less than three blocks between my desk and their front door, but somehow a visit to this gastropub has evaded me for quite some time.

That all changed this past Friday.

For starters, I highly recommend making reservations for dinner. The Tuning Fork is not a big space at all, and so it fills up quickly, especially on a Friday night for dinner. The size of the restaurant provides a lot of the charm though. It's definitely a space that many other restaurants in the city would have tried to pack another row of tables into, instead there are wide open aisles allowing the place to not feel cramped when at full capacity.

Along with the low light and partially mirrored walls, the space is an inviting and comfortable place to wind down after a week of work.

The exceptional beer list will help with the relaxing while you try to decide which sandwich to get. For me that included a bottle of Aprihop by Dogfish Head as I eventually settled on the Capo Loco burger.

A thick beef patty topped with mozzarella, slices of prosciutto, citrus balsamic glaze, tomato, red leaf, crispy basil and goddess ailio between two slices of a ciabatta bun.

I am a big fan of ciabatta bread, and thoroughly enjoy it when used for burgers, but in this instance it didn't hold together that well until the end. The aioli, the balsamic glaze and the deliciously juicy beef patty conspired to break the bun apart by the end. Aside from that though, the bread was delicious and a good choice.

The beef was cooked to medium and had a fantastic flavor that kept pace with the strong co-ingredients. The prosciutto added a little saltiness to an otherwise mildly sweet burger from the balsamic glaze. The tomato, red leaf and basil worked together to bring a fresh contrast to the overly meaty sandwich.

A bit of sweet, a little salt, and a lot of savory. That's the Capo Loco, and it's delicious.

If you happen to be near Studio City, The Tuning Fork is a great place to meet up with friends for dinner, or to have date night with your significant other. The atmosphere is conducive to whichever way your night is headed, and the food is top notch.

Until next week, Readers...

The Tuning Fork
**** 1/2 Stars
12051 Ventura Place
Studio City, CA 91604

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Swimming Upstream to Boulder

Greetings, Readers!

Last week I told you about the first part of our adventures in the great state of Colorado. Denver and its Beer Festival were fantastic, but there is so much more to CO than just great beer it seems.

Though to be fair, the beer is spectacular. But as could be seen from last week's entry, their food can be equally enjoyable.

Especially after a lot of beer.

Preparing to leave Denver, we decided to round out our trip by visiting Boulder, specifically at The Corner Bar on the main floor of the Boulderado Hotel.

The hotel itself is gorgeous and definitely worth taking a peek inside to see its architecture. A definite look back in time, the classic look will take your breath away. The outdoor seating at The Corner Bar is enjoyable, presenting the relaxing atmosphere of downtown Boulder.

While everything on the menu definitely sounded delicious, how could I ever skip on ordering a sandwich noted as "Boulderado's Famous Salmon Sandwich"? Not only am I a fan of that specific fish, but when something is listed as the top sandwich on the menu, I must have it.

A thick portion of salmon is topped with horseradish aioli, spinach, and red onion marmalade on a roll in this offering. The salmon was delicious, tender, moist and incredibly savory without the typically overpowering fishy flavor usually associated with this fish.

The horseradish aioli offered a bit of kick while also providing that umami sensation while the spinach and red onion marmalade offered contrasting, slightly bitter flavors to the mix. Overall this sandwich was a knockout combination textures and complementary flavors.

The roll was fairly standard, though it did hold together until the end and offered a slightly sweet flavor to the mix. I think a ciabatta roll would have worked slightly better though, but this was still an enjoyable component of the sandwich.

Enjoying this sandwich, taking in the feel of Boulder, and sitting out with the impending approach of Autumn in the air all combined to make an incredible combination that I look forward to repeating sometime in the near future.

If you happen to be in Boulder at any point in your life, I highly recommend you make this stop.

Until next week, Readers...

Boulderado's Famous Salmon Sandwich
**** 1/2 Stars
The Corner Bar at The Boulderado Hotel
13th and Spruce Streets
Boulder, CO

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Next Evolution Barbecue

Greetings, Readers!

I write to you after surviving the onslaught of food and beer that I was subjected to in the great state of Colorado.

But I am not complaining. What I did find out firsthand this past weekend is that not only does Colorado have numerous fantastic craft breweries, but their food is also worth the trip.

While I did not find any sandwiches I would say were specifically from Colorado, I did find two excellent places that I would revisit in the future.

The first stop, which came after a day of driving through the Colorado countryside and visiting three breweries (New Belgium, Odell, and Grimm Brothers), was Smokin' Daves BBQ and Taphouse in Estes Park.

After an exhausting day of sampling 12+ beers at each stop, we all took our time with the menu and relaxed in the atmosphere of this barbecue joint in the middle of the Rocky Mountains. A  I had a hard time deciding between all of the great options, but our waiter easily put the issue to rest.

"So what would you recommend? The Texas Beef Brisket sandwich or the Pitmaster?" I asked, and without hesitation he responded:

"The Pitmaster. It's got three meats." As if the choice was self evident.

Well, good enough for me.

The Pitmaster comes on a fresh hoagie roll and is packed with Carolina Pulled Pork, Texas Beef Brisket and Elgin Cheddar Jalapeno sausage. It's just as intense as it sounds.

Despite the three different meats, the barbecue sauce, and the tangy barbecue mustard I added to it, each bite showed off the three different meat flavors. The overall sensation was filled with tangy, spicy and smoky notes with the savory combinations of the brisket and pulled pork and the kick of the jalapeno sausage.

The roll was a standard hoagie roll that held together well until the end, but it wasn't entirely a noticeable part of the sandwich, not because the roll is bad, but because the barbecue was so good. It was a collection of balanced flavors, textures and smells.

It's also a pretty hefty sandwich, one large enough to help cure a hangover, though you'll probably be taking some home in the end for your next hangover. Now, if you're not huge on barbecue, this may not be the sandwich for you, as it is truly the next stage in the evolution of barbecue excellence.

But then again, if you're hanging out in Colorado for the weekend, why not go for gold?

Our first sandwich excursion in Colorado turned out to be an incredible success, and I think all of us would agree it was a great way to wrap a day of exploring Colorado's beers, but could next week's entry from Boulder top this delicious barbecue offering?

Until next week...

The Pitmaster
**** 1/2 Stars
Smokin' Daves BBQ and Taphouse
820 Moraine Avenue
Estes Park, CO 80517