My Obssession with Ceviche

Besides sushi, ceviche is one of my all time favorite foods; I have a strange affinity for very acidic food and a true love for all things seafood.  My weakness for ceviche probably comes from my years spent in the coast of Mexico; Ixtapa, Puerto Vallarta, Cabo San Lucas, where I was able to sample some of the best of the best, with the freshest fish and the perfect balance of lime juice, onions, cilantro, and tomatoes . It wasn’t until a few years ago where I had the opportunity to sample Peruvian ceviche, which to my understanding is where it originated from, at one of Portland’s best restaurants, Andina. Peruvian ceviche differs from Mexican ceviche in that they usually add potatoes to balance out the heat as well as some kind of lettuce, usually butter lettuce.

After I had tried this version, I was instantly hooked and on a mission to find something like that here in LA. Thanks to a random night of being driven by a Peruvian cab driver, we were sent to Mario‘s Peruvian. It is a very unassuming place that really has no sense of style whatsoever but that’s not why you go, you go because the food is incredible and extremely satisfying. After waiting about an hour for a table, totally worth it, we sat down and started stuffing our faces with the fluffy and warm white bread that you smother with a tangy green sauce called huacatay, made with; aji, huacatay (a Peruvian plant), oil, rocoto perper and salt. Truly addicting. We decided to order the ceviche mixto, which came with fish, shrimp, squid, and octopus. It is cooked in the lemon juice with onions and spices and served with boiled potatoes. The spices brought me straight to a little village in Peru, I just couldn’t get enough. It was absolutely balanced with just the right amount of acidity that was complemented with the sweetness of the seafood. The seafood had a nice soft texture, not chewy like in other ceviches I have tried. I didn’t feel that it was too spicy for my personal taste, but I can see why the potatoes might be necessary for those who can’t handle heat.

Once we got home I was determined to make my own version of ceviche to see how it could even begin to compare to Mario’s. I added a little twist by adding some fresh peach that we had just gotten from our vegetable box of the week. Considering we finished the whole thing in one sitting, I think it was pretty damn good! Here is the recipe:

1 pound Shrimp, peeled,  cut into small pieces

Juice of 8 limes (more or less depending on how acidic you want it)

1 tomato, cut into small cubes

1/4 c cilantro, finely cut

1/2 onion, cut into small cubes

2 tsp salt

1tsp pepper

1 peach, not ripe, cut into small cubes

2 tsp jalapeno, cut into very small pieces

Place all ingredients into a large bowl, mix well (make sure you wash your hands after or else the jalapeno will most likely get in your eye) and let sit for at least 4 hours in the refrigerator.If you have time, give it a good stir everyone in a while to make sure the flavors are distributed evenly Serve with your favorite chips and a margarita or two!

   This is a Mexican ceviche from another great place called Picante. I told you I am obssessed!

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The Parish-Review

As you know I went to the newest downtown LA restaurant, the Parish, on Friday night. Considering this used to be the location of quite possibly the worst restaurant in downtown, Angelique, I knew that there was nowhere to go but up. We ended up going on opening night, so with that in mind I knew there would be a few mistakes here and there.

The hostesses greeted us with a nice smile and led us to our table which was in the upstairs area of the restaurant. Right away I was pleasantly surprised at how nice it looked compared to the horrendous decor of its predecessor. You have to walk by the open kitchen where you can see the cooks working as well as catch a glance at Chef Casey Lane (who was a lot smaller than I was expecting). The bar upstairs was busy and filled with people trying to grab a cocktail while waiting for their table. It seemed as though everyone was enjoying themselves .The lighting made you feel as if you were in a speakeasy; dark and mysterious.

Once we sat down we ordered a nice bottle of gruner-veltliner which unfortunately was not served cold enough and had to wait at least ten minutes before we could drink it. My friend to the right of me ordered the gin gimlet which was refreshing,  and was obvious that they used nice gin. Once we got the wine flowing we ordered the fried olives, which had a great complexity of flavors and textures; salty, crunchy, and bitter, balanced with the tastiness of the fried aspect. The only complaint was that they left the pits in and had the waiter not told us, we probably would have choked. Then we all shared the deviled eggs which were good, but I thought a were little plain, not worth the $9. The  poutine fried oysters however were great. The oysters were fried to perfection and the gravy was not too heavy;  the fries however seemed a little sloppy and perhaps had been sitting for too long. Next we had the grilled corn which  was served with a honeycomb butter; juicy and sweet, by far the favorite of the night.

After we received these dishes we ended up waiting almost an entire hour before we received our last two; our server didn’t check in on us once. Also there were plenty of bussers to take away our glasses and silverware, but none to replace them. we had to ask at least twice to get some. Thankfully we had another bottle of wine to keep us going through the wait, but it didn’t go unnoticed. We finally received our fried chicken, which was ok, after the olives and the oysters I felt a little “over-fried” and couldn’t really appreciate the dish. The chicken seemed to be fried nicely, but there was some serious seasoning that was lacking. Lastly we shared the dal, which to me if you are going to put dal on the menu, it better be kick-ass. It was underwhelming and the piece of chutney toast that went along with it was tiny, barely enough for one person to get a bite (there were 6 of us, it was awkward).

Lastly, we decided to go all out and split the toffee pudding, which was incredible, not too sweet, nice choice of bread, actually one of the highlights of the night. Overall, I would say that the Parish needs improvement (especially in the service department) but on its way to be one of downtown’s top restaurants.

Industriel

The other night Cameron and I decided to check out Industriel, one of downtown LA’s newest “urban chic” restaurant; defining themselves as “the style of cuisine served up by your grandmother in her farmhouse in Provence, France, with one little twist:
Your grandmother has sleeve tattoos” (industrielfarm.com).

I have to say for the all the hype that it got, I was severely unimpressed. Although I loved the decor and the ambience; honey bear jars hanging from the ceiling, bright red chairs, music played at a decent level, mason jars filled with picked everything, our experience at Industriel was B- as at best. I wish they had spent as much time refining the menu as they did decorating the space.

First of all we started off by ordering a glass of sparkling rose, one of my guilty pleasures in life, and instead received a huge glass of regular rose, which we had to send back. It seemed as though the waiter was not really well versed in the wine list, or perhaps was not really paying attention.

We then ordered the “house-made sausage”, which was actually full of flavor from the herbs and had a nice rustic texture to it. However, it was served with homemade mustard that was bitter beyond belief and was almost inedible. The pickled vegetables, although vibrant in color, lacked that crunch that I love about pickles and had a strange after taste that made me think they used too much clove in their pickling juice.

This was followed by the smoked octopus which is one of our favorite dishes in general to begin with so we might be a little biased. However, the octopus was nicely smoked, and had a delicate texture that was neither too soft nor too chewy. Oh I forgot to mention that at this point in the meal, we finally received our bottle of wine that we had to drink mostly without any food to accompany it. Back to the food, we finished off by splitting the duck which is served with a wheat berry wild rice cake,pecans, currants, baby roots, and hibiscus jus. The duck was cooked quite nicely, but a little unforgettable. The rice cake was really confusing; is it a pancake or a rice cake? Overall the dish seemed forced and just not really well executed. At this point we were a little tipsy from power-drinking our wine and decided to skip on dessert and make our way home. Overall our experience was rather lack luster and we ended up paying an arm and a leg (which I hate doing with mediocre food). So would I return? To eat: No. To hang out at the bar: Probably. Let me know what your thoughts are.

New Downtown Restaurant, The Parish

New downtown restaurant The Parish by Chef Casey Lane just opened in downtown. Going to check it out tonight with fellow foodies. So far from the reviews that I have read, it is one of downtown’s most anticipated new restaurants that offers “gastropub” fare. Im looking forward to tasting what Chef Lane has to offer as I know he is one of the hottest chefs today. Also excited to have a cocktail or two as I know mixologist, John Coltharp from 7 Grand, can make a fine drink.Check out my review coming soon!

Bow and Truss

After a recent trip to the Bay for some last minute wedding planning and some serious wining and dining, Cameron and I were secretly craving delicious Mexican,but promised to get something light and healthy since we are “shedding for the wedding”. Since we flew into the Burbank airport we decided to look for something in the North Hollywood area. We were going to go to Pitfire to get our traditional chicken salad when we stumbled upon a new restaurant called The Bow and Truss.

I was surprised by the elegance and beauty of this NoHo spot since many restaurants here seem to be in line with the cookie cutter theme. The minute you step in, a breathtakingly beautiful bar welcomes you along with painfully hip Angelinos; something you expect to find in Hollywood or Downtown. We decided to sit in the gorgeous outside patio, though the inside offers a superb loft-like space where you can sit at the bar or in booths.

Our server was quite nice, obviously not from LA, and tended to us rather quickly and efficiently; although he did promise a free dessert that we never received.  One look at the menu, which claims to be a Spanish Taverna, and I immediately thought, “Oh no, this is going to be like Rivera”, which in my opinion is not all its made up to be. It has an odd combination of ceviches and paellas, which isn’t bad; it’s just not truly Spanish. Regardless, since we were both feeling Mexican food, we split the Shrimp Ceviche and three tacos (Shrimp, Mixed Peppers, and grilled Sea Bass).

The shrimp ceviche was smartly executed; well balanced levels of acidity with a little heat and a little sweet from the pineapple. It is served with plantain chips, which I think is a little over done but still went nicely with the ceviche. The tacos were the real standouts, perfectly portioned, excellently seasoned and beautifully presented. Each taco is finished off with an avocado sauce that gets a little lost, but adds a nice element of creaminess and really ties all of the tacos together. I am excited to try out some of these recipes at home and invite our friends over for a taco night.

Being a native Mexican, I have to say the Chef has really pinned down the flavor profiles of authentic Mexican food (which is odd because it should be a Spanish restaurant) and I look forward to returning to try out some of the paellas to see if her Spanish profiles matchup.

Alma

The other night my fiance took me out for our traditional date night to a new restaurant called Alma. I was a little skeptical because to be quite honest some of the new restaurants that are opening in downtown LA are really pretentious and just not very good. I am thrilled that downtown is getting more business, but a little upset that they are all following the same “Urban Chic” trend. Its time for something a little more unique! Alma was everything I was looking for; great food, great vibes, great service. The food was new and exciting, and the staff was filled with energy and ambition.

The menu changes quite regularly which is something I appreciate because I am always looking to try new flavors and textures. Also they have an open kitchen which I admire because to me it means they have to stay clean and organized.

One of the dishes that stood out to me was a blue crab and corn salad that was beautifully balanced with fresh fennel.  We spoke to the Chef who told us that they get their seafood from a local woman, versus the giants of Santa Monica Seafood, which he said can have its benefits (freshness and quality )as well as throw them for a loop if say the salmon doesn’t come in that day.

We also had an incredible sea bass dish that was served with roasted avocado, fried okra, and sea bass belly, that was unlike anything I have had before. The roasted avocado was unripe and had a nice salty finish that made the dish really stand out. Lastly, we had the smoked duck, which on its own was incredibly salty, but was paired with honeydew and arugula. When eaten all together it was brilliantly harmonious.

They also serve freshly made fruit sodas that they prepare to order with their soda stream which I thought was great. Don’t miss out on the squash blossom beignets that is served with a burnt citrus sauce and wild anise, delicate and perfectly fried. For dessert we sampled some of their popcorn ice cream which was not too sweet  and perfectly creamy. Check out Alma and let me know what you think!

Woori Market

Last year my fiance and I had the privilege to house a beautiful corgi named Castro. I quickly fell in love with him and cherished every waking moment spent together. One of my favorite bonding moments with him was walking to Little Tokyo to do our weekly shop at the Woori Market.

This gem of a market offers everything from Valencia oranges to Geo Duck, a large salt water clam. They also have an extensive collection of kimchi (my new favorite thing in the world) as well as a great selection of  sushi. They offer very competitive prices compared to the local Ralphs, which lets be real is almost as expensive as Whole Foods.There is also a great little food court where you can pick up some noodles if you get hungry while you shop. As a baker, I revel in stopping by the bakery to grab a sample of japanese pastries, filled with cream cheese and jellies.  I highly recommend stopping by the Woori and seeing for yourself how wonderful it truly is.

Skaf’s Grill

On a recent food adventure with my sister, cousin and soon to be husband (!), we decided to go to Skaf’s Grill for lunch. I actually discovered this place through my fiance who is also a food devotee and is constantly hungry for more.

Skaf’s is a wonderful Lebanese restaurant in North Hollywood that offers dishes that are not only fresh and flavorful, but also extremely affordable. The highlights there are the falafel, Baba Ghannouj and most importantly the chicken shawarma. The juicy and flavorful chicken is served with soft pillowy rice and comes with garlicky hummus and the oh so wonderful cabbage salad. My other favorites there are the tabbouleh and grape leaves, which are made daily and served warm. This is a great place to go for meat eaters and vegetarians alike as they offer many satisfying plates and combos that will indulge any appetite.

 

Welcome!

Welcome to NatalieEatsLA! As some of you may know I am a pastry chef in Los Angeles. I have worked in some great places, such as The Peninsula Hotel and Bottega Louie. My favorite thing to do, besides bake, is go out and explore all of the wonderful eateries in Los Angeles. Some of the best food isn’t found in the five star restaurants or hotels, but rather is hidden amongst the strip malls that you may drive by everyday. This blog will guide you through the city and help you discover some of LA’s best kept secrets, as well as give you my opinion on new restaurants around town. I will also try to recreate some the recipes of my best-loved spots as well as give you some of my own go-to recipes.

These glorious tacos can be found at one of my favorite lunch time spots Guisados, which is in East LA close to the USC hospital. I highly recommend getting the taco sampler which includes 6 mini tacos; including cochinita pibil and carne asada to name a few. Be careful with the habanero sauce, it is very very hot and will leave your mouth on fire for a long time! Cool off your burning tongue with one of their delicious aguas frescas, my favorite is the canteloup.

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