Nov 142011

Loving this post from Boing Boing editor Cory Doctorow describing the tools he uses to brew coffee on the road.

I know how it feels. When I was traveling earlier this year I used to bring a pouch of coffee beans (initially Four Barrel beans from San Francisco, then Anomali coffee from Jakarta, Indonesia) in my traveling bag wherever I went. I also brought with me a Hario Mini grinder, and a supply of paper cone filters, the last of which I would drape over the hotel coffee mugs if they have them, or if not then the small tumbler that you could easily find on most hotel bathroom sinks.

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HOWTO attain radical hotel-room coffee independence – Boing Boing

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Mar 092011

Cortado at Cognoscenti Coffee

The LA Weekly recently wrote an article on the cortado, in which they described the coffee drink as falling somewhere in between a cappuccino and a macchiato in terms of the proportion of milk added to a shot of espresso. The article specifically talks about the cortado at Cognoscenti Coffee, the operation run by Yeekai Lim co-located at Proof Bakery on Glendale Blvd in Atwater Village. It’s to hard not become addicted to the stuff. I’m tired of requesting a cappuccino at other coffee shops and being handed back an overly-milky latte–I want to be able to clearly taste the coffee, not use it as a flavoring agent for the milk. The cortado turns out to be ideal for my palate, where I prefer just enough milk to balance out and take some of the edge off the shot of espresso. Yeekai uses whenever possible organic dairy from Strauss Family Creamery and he stocks single-origin beans from Four Barrel Coffee of San Francisco, which I find a lot smoother and more well-balanced than those from just about any other roaster.

Probably the only thing keeping my addiction in check is the unfortunate fact that Atwater Village is quite a bit of a drive from my home in the west side. For the time being, I have to treat a visit to Cognoscenti as more of a special treat, for when I happen to be running errands or checking out stuff around that area. Strangely enough, I’m starting to notice that increasingly I’ve been making more excuses to run errands or check out stuff at places that are close enough to Atwater Village, making it possible for me to do a quick detour to Cognoscenti Coffee.

Cognoscenti Coffee at Proof Bakery
3156 Glendale Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90039
Twitter: cogcoffee

Mar 092011

PRI’s The World had a report on the tapping of Kate the Great beer, an annual event that makes the Portsmouth Brewery in New Hampshire look like an Apple store on iPhone release day.

This year, about 200 people lined up in the freezing rain. At the very front of the line was John Anastas, along with his uncle. They got in line the night before and set up two chairs and two umbrellas, and made a make-shift tent
[...] Their 11-hour ordeal may have been a hardship and a bit extreme, but well worth it, to them and the others in line, to taste a beer that’s only available once a year.

I thought the guys waiting in line for two hours for Russian River’s Pliny the Younger were nuts, but eleven hours in the rain for a sip of Kate the Great takes it to a new level of insanity dedication.

I’m going to hazard a guess, that there’s absolutely zero chance of Kate the Great making it to Los Angeles. Fortunately we do have other Russian Imperial Stouts such as North Coast’s Old Rasputin, Stone’s Imperial Russian Stout, and Victory’s Storm King. None of these are probably worth sitting in the rain for eleven hours to wait for a pint, but in my opinion nothing is.

Mar 042011

I don’t profess to have a lot of knowledge about Cambodian cuisine, apart from the couple of times I ate on the streets not too far from the massive temples of Angkor Wat. The food there by and large was mediocre at best. The most popular street food there at the time was probably Mama-brand instant ramen imported from neighboring Thailand. Even if you order fried noodles, you’d probably get rehydrated Mama noodles, which are then stir-fried. Quality ingredients were simply hard to get, which in turn affects the overall quality of the dishes you get there.

Just south of Los Angeles proper, the city of Long Beach here hosts a large community of Khmer immigrants and by extension, a large number of Cambodian restaurants. A few of us went to one of the largest, Siem Reap restaurant, to check out the food.

The first problem we had was weeding out the Thai, Chinese, and Vietnamese items from the menu. We drove 40 miles all the way down here specifically to eat Khmer food, not damned pad thai or banh xeo (which they have listed here as banh chiao).

After consulting with our friendly waitress we settled on four Khmer dishes: amok trey, sadaw salad, pahok ktiss, and a beef soup whose name escapes me right now.

Pahok ktis

After some time fixated on the Cambodian karaoke videos playing on their TV screens, the pahok ktiss came out of the kitchen. It kind of looked like a platter of crispy raw vegetables with dip you’d likely serve at a lame party. But instead of cauliflower this has Southeast Asian veggies like Thai eggplant, cabbage, long beans and carrots, and instead of blue cheese dip this came along with a small bowl containing a savory dip of ground pork, coconut milk, chili and spices, not too much unlike a thin curry. I think most of the Southeast Asian cultures have dishes similar to this, anywhere from Thai nahm prik to Indonesian lalap. If you could imagine dipping into a bowl of Thai curry with a cucumber slice or a wedge of cabbage, you’d get a rough idea od what this tasted like. Superb.

Cambodian water spinach soup

Our soup emerged next. This is a homey, rustic peasant soup, with water spinach (sometimes called ong choy or morning glory), beef and beef tripe. It has a hearty beefy flavor, with just a little sour touch from what I guess must be either lime juice or tamarind. This soup felt very authentic, as memories of a similar soup I had at a forgotten dingy street stall in Siem Reap flashed back in my mind. Indeed the bits of beef in this soup was similarly tough and chewy, though the tripe was nice and tender. This is nothing fancy, just good old comfort food.

sadaw salad

The sadaw salad was the most unfamiliar dish I had that night. I didn’t know what sadaw was when I ordered it, but whatever it is, it announced its presence in a huge way. The bitter herbal flavor easily cuts through that of the bean sprouts, cucumbers, and all the other stuff–I can’t remember all that was in the salad because all I could taste was the sadaw. I didn’t think it was bad–not exactly–but the flavors were so alien to me that I had to take some time to figure out whether I like it or not.

Amok trey

Amok must be Cambodia’s national dish. When I was in Siem Reap (the town, not the restaurant) last time just about every single eatery there proudly featured their amok. Amok is a kind of light curry made with young coconut. Here it’s attractively served in a coconut shell. Thai restaurants have a similar dish called ho mok. The main difference between is that the amok’s flavors are more nuanced and delicate, as to not to overwhelm the subtle flavors of the fish, while in the ho mok the red curry spices is predominant. I don’t know if it’s because the ingredients are fresher or what, but this amok is probably better than the ones I had in Cambodia. The fish is velvety tender, and the spices are very delicately balanced.

In the end if I had to rank the dishes, I would definitely put the amok trey on top, though the pahok ktiss is a very close second. The soup (ahhh, dunno the name of it) follows, with the sadaw salad (which I’ve decided that I like after all–but it’s definitely an acquired taste) last.

Siem Reap Asian Cuisine
1810 E Anaheim St
Long Beach, CA 90813
(562) 591-7414