Archive

Archive for January, 2011

Culinary Clash #3: L.A.’s Best French Dip

January 27, 2011 5 comments

The French Dip sandwich.  Maybe Los Angeles’s most famous contribution to the culinary world.  Thinly sliced meats lovingly paired with a crusty french roll and served “au jus” (with the natural juices that collect in the pan during cooking).  Usually the bread is dipped prior to serving but some prefer to dip while eating.  Pre-dip or self-dip, the French Dip is a fine example of The Fun Foodie’s mantra, “Less is More”.

There’s not much doubt that this popular sandwich was birthed in L.A..  The controversy comes with trying to figure out exactly which “hospital” gave it its first spank.  A gamut of legends have emerged.  They range from a simple accidental falling of bread into the pan, to the appeasing of a customer complaining about stale bread, to the kindness of a chef helping a patron with sore gums.

Clash #3 is between the two purported originators of the French Dip: Philippe’s and Cole’s.  Both are 100+ year old institutions with ardent defenders.  But that’s where the similarities end.  Philippe’s is bright and bustling, rather large with a casual feel.  Cole’s is dark and subdued, yet cozy with a retro charm.  Philippe’s menu is extensive, offering a wide range of classic American comfort foods.  Cole’s is straightforward, sandwiches and sides.  I take it as a kind of “in your face” brashness that says, “we’re so good at what we do we don’t need to try to be anything else.”

Philippe's pork dip with potato salad.

Philippe’s roasts huge bottom round roasts for their beef dips.  I was shocked to learn that fact on the Travel Channel.  I had already experienced Philippe’s and it was truly one of the best sandwiches I had ever eaten.  The problem is that bottom round is one of the cheapest cuts of beef you can buy.  And for good reason: it is awful.  The flavor is bland at best (livery, usually), and it is a terribly tough and dry piece of meat (a heavily worked muscle at the animal’s hind quarters with little fat).  I have no idea what Philippe’s does, but they do it right.  They somehow transform a bargain cut into something fit for gourmet consumption.  All it needs is a touch of their house-made hot mustard (be careful, it is really hot!).  As awesome as the beef dip is, we actually like the pork dip even more (they also offer ham, lamb and turkey).

Cole’s uses a much better cut of beef, the brisket.  It is the go-to slab for corned beef, pastrami and Texas BBQ.  It has big, beefy flavor and melt-in-your-mouth succulence when cooked properly (low and slow).  Most foodies would agree that this would give Cole’s the upper hand right off the bat.  I walked into their historic building expecting a clash of titan proportions.  But it wasn’t really that close.  Cole’s beef dip was good.  Very good, in fact.  The meat was tender and flavorful, the bread had that classic crusty exterior, and the “jus” was nice.  Philippe’s is just better in every facet of “French Dip-ology”.

Cole's beef dip. Good, but not quite good enough.

Philippe’s array of creamy side salads are all very good.  Plus, you can get a good cup of coffee for nine cents!  At Cole’s, we had their bacon potato salad, which was extremely good.  If this had been a potato salad clash, Cole’s would’ve scored a knock out.  But this was a battle of L.A.’s finest, the famous French Dip.  Regardless of who actually invented it…

Philippe’s is the best.  Hands down.

Philippe the Original on Urbanspoon

Cole's on Urbanspoon

Advertisements

P.B. & J. Cinnamon Rolls

January 15, 2011 Leave a comment

How fun is experimental baking?  No test tubes, beakers, or hydrochloric acid needed.  A generous heaping of creativity, tempered by a dash of common sense can yield inventive family favorites.  The Fun Family loves them some cinnamon rolls!  The gooey classic is always a crowd pleaser, but we also like to mix it up with blueberries or chocolate (check out our recipe here).  At Christmas time, I tested out my Peanut Butter and Jelly creation on a sort of “focus group” of teens.  The feedback ranged from good to really good.  I think they’re pretty stinkin’ good, myself.

You be the judge.

The standard dough and cinnamon/brown sugar filling was used. A couple good handfuls of Reese's peanut butter chips were added to make up the "P.B." part.

The "J" is as simple as adding 1/2 cup of strawberry preserves to the cream cheese icing and using 1/4 cup less powdered sugar.

Categories: Recipes, Sweets Tags:

Nickel Diner (Part 2)

January 13, 2011 Leave a comment
Yes, research is ongoing for The Fun Foodie.  Just wanted to share the latest findings at the downtown L.A. gem, Nickel Diner (read my original review here).  We didn’t sit down this time.  They are very gracious to pack up their sweet treats to go.  I think they do it often.

Red Velvet Donuts. A very enjoyable pastry cream, but not any legit "red velvetiness" going on (more on the Red Velvet craze in a coming cupcake clash). Still, a great donut!

The Maple Bacon and Nutella donuts were as awesome as I remembered. The Strawberry Crumble was a bit too fake tasting for me.

Their apple-filled house-made Pop Tart is many times better than what we all thought was so wonderful as kids!

Culinary Clash #2: Filipino Food Trucks

January 4, 2011 2 comments

The Los Angeles gourmet food truck craze has spawned over 2,000 mobile eateries.  They are truly unique eating experiences, sometimes over-hyped, but often times they’ll break new culinary ground.  Think about it.  With no seating and unpredictable ambience, these trucks have got to come up with creative offerings to bring in business.  From Korean BBQ tacos to burgers smothered with sausage gravy to red velvet pancakes, the menus are inspired and inspiring!  In this “culinary clash”, I’d like to highlight two of the street food scene’s newest competitors: The Manila Machine and The White Rabbit Truck.  As a Pacquiao fan Filipino, their island offerings are near and dear to my heart.  And stomach.

The Manila Machine, the brain child of two food bloggers, was the very first Filipino food truck on the scene (see my original review here).  They offer dishes that feature familiar ingredients that are presented in creative ways.  Their style is a fusion of old school and nouveau.  Excellent food from really friendly folks.

The White Rabbit Truck takes a more aggressive approach, creating a Mexican-Filipino fusion.  Traditional Filipino meats like Adobo and Tocino are paired with tortillas to create distinctive tacos and burritos.  I must admit, the thought was quite off-putting at first.  Don’t get me wrong, I loves me some Mexican food (as in King Taco not Taco Bell)!  It just seemed so very wrong to have the comfort foods of my youth served with anything other than white rice. 

This deep-seeded prejudice overwhelmed me as I approached The White Rabbit Truck while it was parked at Disney headquarters in Glendale.  I ended up ordering an old fashioned Sisig rice bowl.  No fusing cultures on my watch!  We were keeping everything separate … but equal, of course.  But as I waited for my racialy pure dish to be prepared, I had an Affirmative Action moment.  Why not give a Filipino taco a chance?  About 90 seconds after ordering my Sisig, I ordered one Tocino taco.

And it was good!

Tocino taco ... judged by the content of its character!

Really good!  Tocino is cured pork that many think of as “Filipino ham”.  It is not smoked and quite a bit sweeter.  White Rabbit serves it on two corn tortillas and tops it with a tangy and slightly spicy slaw.  The flavors work together like the colors of a rainbow.  I couldn’t believe my taste buds.  Tocino tacos … who woulda thunk it?

Sisig. Kickin' it old school.

The Sisig was also quite good.  A melody of crispy (yet succulent) bits of fried pork, sauteed with onions, garlic, and jalapenos.  It is brightened up with a splash of citrus.  I can definitely see this working fabulously as a taco, kind of a kicked up version of carnitas.  Two complaints about my first White Rabbit Truck experience: the steamed rice was a bit dry, and the tortillas were not warmed up on the griddle (they were brittle and one actually cracked).  C’mon, White Rabbit, measure out the water carefully and slap those tortillas on the griddle for a couple seconds!

Now for “The Clash”….  The Manila Machine makes their Sisig with pork cheeks, and you don’t get much more tender than those nuggets of goodness.  They add a textural counterpoint with crushed chicharrones on top.  The flavor profiles of the two trucks are very similar with this dish, but the unique mouth-feel of The Manila Machine’s rendition is truly a wonder to behold.  Score one for the bloggers!

The signature items … now, that’s a different story.  If I weren’t so full, I definitely would’ve returned to the truck to order a few more tacos.  The Manila Machine’s pandesal sliders were tremendous, especially the Beef Tapa with Achara slaw.  I’d have to call it a draw.  Obviously, more research must be done.

Both trucks are really good, and different enough to carve out their own distinct niches.  I suppose the Sisig and attention to detail (properly cooked rice and gently toasted pandesal) give The Manila Machine the slight edge.  But if they were parked on the same block, I’d definitely visit both!

Mabuhay!