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Sorry for the long absence in posting. I’ve just been kind of “blah” about the design of my site, and I finally decided that it’s time for a facelift! Please be patient, and hopefully you’ll be back to check out the new and improved Tuna Toast which should be up soon.


Off to Japan for two weeks!

I am off to Japan for a two week vacation and I’m sure I will return with lots of delicious stories and photos to share with you.

We’ll be visiting Sapporo, Osaka, Nagoya and Tokyo so I see lots of sushi, sake, tuna toast (of course!) and tempura in our future.

Mata ne!


Restaurant Review: Bashan, Montrose

It’s been awhile since J and I made our way into Montrose, a charming little community about 10 minutes north of us. Every time we go, we wonder why we don’t visit it more often since it really is a cute place….but then we remember that there just doesn’t seem to be many good restaurants there. We’d been to Bistro Verdu a couple of times, but one successful outing was followed by a couple of disappointing dinners so we stopped going. Then, a couple of months ago I’d read about Bashan, a new place opened up by a chef who spent some time at Providence in the space that was formerly, well, Bistro Verdu. So we decided to give it a go.

After tasting some wine next door for about 10 minutes, we were called to our table in the nicely decorated space. The menu is still quite small, but we were both in the mood for fish so it wasn’t difficult to find something that we wanted. I decided to start with the Burrata and Bresaola Salad with Parsnips, Dates, Endive & Pistachios since it just sounded like such an original combination. J went with the Kaboach Squash Soup with Onion Compote & Squash Tortellini. For mains, I ordered the Seared Barramundi with Jerusalem Artichoke, Cipollni, Chorizo & Shrimp while J opted for the Columbia River Steelhead Trout with Braised Daikon, Garlic Ginger Puree, Bacon & Buna-Shimeji Mushrooms.

Our waiter gave us each a nice, warm sourdough roll which was perfectly yeasty and chewy. J is nuts about sourdough and fell in love with their version. There’s something about warm sourdough and cool, sweet butter, isn’t there?! An amuse of olive tapenade and smoked trout arrived, but to be honest I could only taste the olive since the nugget of trout was so miniscule.

Our appetizers arrived. J’s soup was warm and rich- the sweet onion compote mixed with the smooth kabocha soup made for a great combination. My salad was decomposed into two parts- the burrata sat snuggled in a cradle made by the bresaola on one side of the plate, and the remaining components were tossed together in a salad on the other side of the plate. The burrata/bresaola combo was great- I mean, what’s not to like about cured filet and creamy cheese? The salad, on the other hand, was fine but didn’t necessarily gel into one great flavor. I like dates, parsnips, endives and pistachios separately but together, it wasn’t anything to write home about. I also didn’t understand the pairing with the cheese and bresaola.

I had better luck with my barramundi which was perfectly cooked- crispy skin and melt-in-your-mouth flesh. All of the accompaniments married well together and I especially loved the cubes of chorizo which complimented the fish well. J’s steelhead was also good, but we both agreed that the rectangular cubes of daikon made for a fussy presentation.

The service was good, space was lovely and the food, overall, was also good, but I think we’ll give it some time before returning. The limited menu doesn’t lend itself to repeat visits within a short period of time, but the quality of the fish is much higher than anything else you’d find in the area. I’m curious to see what other dishes show up on the menu as the seasons change.

3459 N. Verdugo Road
Glendale, CA 91208
818-541-1532 phone

Family Dinner, Thanks To Food Bloggers

These days, I have to admit that 99% of anything I read (that isn’t work-related) focuses on food. Whether it’s any one of the cooking magazines I have a subscription to (Food & Wine, Bon Appetite, Cooking Light, Gourmet), the Food Section in any given newspaper (conveniently available online), my numerous cookbooks which have long-ago filled to capacity the giant bookshelf that my dad made for me, or the seemingly endless supply of food blogs floating through cyberspace. I guess it’s embarrassing to say that nary a novel has found its way into my hands in ages; after all, with the vast and never-ending world of unexplored (by me, anyway) food blogs out there, who has time to read anything else?!

My name is A, and I am a Food Blog Addict.

The one great benefit of reading so many food blogs is that my recipe collection has expanded to the point where I couldn’t possibly live long enough to try all of them. That’s a good thing, right? I mean, thanks to all of the wonderfully creative cooks out there (since you’re reading this blog, I’ll assume that you are one of them) my taste buds have been tickled by flavors and textures that may have never been brought to my attention had it not been for the detailed descriptions and wonderful photography of these budding (and often professional-level) chefs. Even if I can’t read the language its written in, I get inspired just by looking at what cooks around the world have been creating in their kitchens thousands of miles away.

One such blog caught my attention early on due to its adorable title and tagline: Chubby Hubby: Musings on food, wine and marriage. It’s now been updated to Chubby Hubby: Dining, Whining and Marriage but the wonderful insights on food, the gorgeous photography and witty writing have remained the same. Based out of Singapore, CH and his wife S travel often and always share new and unique experiences with the reader. They have such an eye for quality and beauty but always keep their tone down-to-earth and honest, so that anyone (whether you’re a world traveler or not) can gain something from reading about their adventures. One particular recipe that caught my eye awhile back was Pork Riblets Braised in Vietnamese Caramel Sauce from Molly Stevens’ book, All About Braising. The photo of the deep, brown riblets stuck in my memory and I vowed to make them one day.

I finally got my chance last weekend since my parents, sister and friend were coming to dinner. I don’t recall EVER making ribs, but I do have some experience braising so I decided to give it a go. I bought some beautiful pork baby back ribs at How’s market and opted to not chop them into smaller riblets. The recipe is very easy to follow and has such few ingredients that at one point I wondered how it was possible to get such beautiful ribs (as seen on CH’s site) out of just shallots, sugar, fish sauce, water and black pepper?! After caramelizing the sugar (the key is to get it nice and brown) I added everything else in and let it braise for 90 minutes. I have to admit that the smell of the fish sauce (which I LOVE) was a bit overwhelming at first but mellowed out after cooking for awhile. I followed CH’s recommendation to make it two days in advance, so after it cooled to room temperature, I stuck it in the fridge. The day of the dinner party, I simply scraped of the now-hardened fat off with a spoon, discarded it and reheated in the oven.

The ribs were tender, sweet, salty, savory and downright succulent. The cracked black pepper really stood up against the sweetness of the dish, and the braising liquid was the perfect thing to drizzle over the lightly fried brown rice (cold brown rice stir fried with a touch of oil, 1 chopped red onion, 2 eggs, scallions and cilantro) I made as well. I also made a big bowl of Asian coleslaw which was just sliced red cabbage, green cabbage, red bell peppers, carrots, red onions and green onions dressed with a mixture of rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, lots of fresh ginger, a touch of sugar, a bit of creamy peanut butter and a dash of soy sauce. Steamed sugar snap peas drizzled with sesame oil, sea salt and sesame seeds capped off the meal.

For dessert……..another big “thank you” goes out to the food blogging world for introducing my eyes to the wonder that is David Lebovitz’ contribution to the web, The noted cookbook author, chocolate maestro, teacher and all-around dessert extraordinaire is a favorite of the food blogging community, and his latest book, The Perfect Scoop, has been praised by cooks everywhere. One particular ice cream recipe that has garnered manic, Beatle mania-like buzz is his Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream, another dish that I’d filed in my “MUST MAKE/EAT!” file after I’d read about it. I did make it, and well………I’m going to say with utter confidence that it was, quite simply, the best ice cream I’ve ever made in addition to the best ice cream I’ve ever tasted. WOW. AMAZING. LIFE-ALTERING. I knew even before I froze the base that it would be divine…..I sipped so many teaspoons of it that it almost didn’t make it to my ice cream maker (yo- quality control, ok??). It’s too bad my one photograph of the delectable dessert is so horrible that it’s almost an insult to the wonder that is this ice cream. The best thing about this recipe? You probably have everything you need to make this in your kitchen right now. So don’t delay, and don’t be timid- it is easy to make, and just remember that the darker your caramel, the deeper the flavor.

This soooooooo doesn’t do it justice….*sigh*

Have a wonderful weekend!

Restaurant Review: Hatfield’s

I’d long heard wonderful things about Hatfield’s, a small, cozy yet elegant restaurant on Beverly Blvd and had waited for a special occasion to finally try it. When my promotion at work came through, J and I jumped at the chance to go ahead and have dinner at the much-lauded restaurant and made reservations for last Friday night.

We arrived just in time for our 6:30 PM reservation (I couldn’t get any later) and walked into the charming space. When our hostess seemed like she was going to sit us on the patio (in the 99 degree heat?!) I quickly asked for a table inside and she obliged, no problem. Phew. I hadn’t planned on sweating through the meal that I’d looked so forward to trying, not to mention the traffic on Beverly isn’t exactly subtle. Sitting on the front porch would have been a deal breaker for sure. Anyway, we were seated at a nice two-top, given menus and left to figure out what to order.

J quickly decided on the three-course “Daily Market Menu” which, at $42, is a real bargain. I figured out my appetizer and entree, then we ordered a bottle of French rosé and sat back, eager to start our very first Hatfield’s experience. Instead of the usual bread basket, Hatfield’s serves big, round gougeres- basically a savory cream puff shell with no filling but topped with cheese. Wowza. These were totally addictive and quite frankly, dangerous!!! Soft, tender and bright with cheese, the gougeres were just perfect with the rosé. Next came our amuse bouche- a small shot glass of sweet pea and tarragon and a tiny deviled quail egg with smoked trout. Both were absolutely excellent and a great pairing- I would actually love to order both as an appetizer if they were on the menu.

J’s first course was a fresh, clean salad of summer corn, tomatoes, beautiful baby purple fingerling potatoes, avocado and frisee all mound on creamy dressing (pictured at the top of this post). Simple yet delicious, the quality of the produce really was the star of the dish. Everything tasted wonderfully fresh and sweet. My warm crab and buckwheat crepe, marinated breakfast radish, pickled beets, fines herbs was also delicious- tiny cubes of sweet beets sat next to a crepe blanketed over a mound of crab meat seasoned with a bit of lemon and folded in a light creamy dressing.

For our main courses we both had fish- J’s black cod with warm summer beans, vegetables and crunchy breadcrumbs was tasty, but we both felt the fish wasn’t sturdy enough to stand up to the other ingredients on the plate. Maybe a firmer fish would have worked better? (coz um, we know better than seasoned chefs, right?! not…..but that’s just how we felt!). It tasted good, regardless, and the beans were a real treat. My olive oil poached halibut, herbed asparagus, hedgehog mushrooms with pickled ramp vinaigrette was pretty perfect- the firm fish was cooked perfectly and all of the flavors melded together so well.

Black cod

Olive oil poached halibut

We decided to share J’s dessert of a ricotta cheesecake with strawberries……..oooooo, I was in heaven. It was so light, airy, refreshing and the strawberries were so lovely with the creaminess of the cheesecake… reminded me so much of the “rare cheesecakes” that are popular in Japan. No thuddingly dense New York cheesecake here. I would order this in large batches if it was available. The perfect summer dessert. Yes, I’m officially gushing.

Cheesecake w/ strawberries

Along with our bill we got two, homemade chocolate bars which were similar to Kit Kats but the base was a crunchy and dense hazelnut crust. Another “wow” item. Even with the two sweet things at the end, we walked out of Hatfield’s feeling great. It’s nice to eat a three-course meal and not feel like you need to be carried out by a forklift, you know?! So many places can be heavy-handed with the oils and fats (which isn’t always a bad thing, of course!) but Hatfield’s really uses a lighter touch. The service was also friendly yet subtle.

Gourmet Kit Kat

We’ll definitely be back!

7458 Beverly Boulevard
Los Angeles, California

HAPPY BIRTHDAY J!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(c) 2007

Just want to give a very happy birthday shout out to my dear J. Thanks for all of your love and support- and always letting me take photos of food before you eat it!!

More food blogging to come………….

Restaurant Review: Zu Robata

A couple of years ago, I had read an article in the LA Times called “My Dinner With Andrea and the Fuqi Feipian Gang,” written by David Shaw. It chronicled the outings of a group of food-obsessed Los Angelinos – some were artists, others were in the food business, Andrea herself was a writer and there were usually other eccentric, interesting people added to the mix. This group would get together a few times a month to go eat a a selected restaurant where Andrea would work out some sort of prix fixe menu at a very low price per person. I remember reading about this and silently wished that I could be included in such a group and have thought of the article from time to time since then, wondering where this fun loving bunch were dining at next.

Fast forward to a few months ago….I get an email from an Andrea Rademan which simply stated, “Might like to invite you to join my dining group on one of our food treks. Can you tell me a little about yourself, and do you eat a wide variety of foods?” Not having remembered the exact name of the lady in the article, it didn’t really click until I googled her name and realized that this was THAT woman! Here I was, almost three years after having read the article, and I was actually being invited to join the group! I sent her my reply and she invited me to a dinner, but it was in the middle of my Mexico vacation so I sadly couldn’t attend. I eagerly waited for another invite which did come last week, and I was set to attend my very first dinner with the group.

Our destination was Zu Robata near Brentwood, and the chef, Ricardo Zarate, used to be in the dining group years back when he was the chef at Sai Sai in downtown Los Angeles. After working with Gordon Ramsey in London, he returned to Los Angeles and opened up this Japanese fusion restaurant. Andrea had set up a prix fixe, multicourse meal for the group at $25/person- that amount included tax, tip and a Shōchū tasting in addition to the food. J and I walked into the beautiful space and immediately saw their Wall of Shochu- big, glass jars of it, each filled with a different fruit to infuse the alcohol with the flavor and color of each fruit. We saw the group gathering at a few tables in the back so we made our way to them.

The group took up five tables of six people each, and as much as we tried our best to meet everyone that night, it was nearly impossible. Our table included a man who had invented a ginger cocktail mix, two writers and one entertainment publicist. We were each poured a sample of three different shochus- blueberry/lemon, raspberry and a sake/lemon concoction. I really loved the blueberry/lemon and the raspberry one was also delicious, but we agreed that the combo of lemon, sake and shochu tasted more like something that could be used to clean windows. Even though the other two went down like water, I was careful not to drink too quickly since the bartender told us proudly that the shochu they get is much higher in alcohol than your average shochu- it was 70 proof. Eeps. It tasted like punch, honestly, so I made sure to pace myself.

After a few introductory stories, we all sat back and waited for the parade of food to begin. We started with two kinds of edamame- one plain and one smeared with a black bean sauce- very good. Next came a salad of mixed greens and large chunks of gobo (burdock root) which was excellent. I’d only had thin strands of gobo before- never served like this in such big pieces- but it was a great, crunchy contrast to the soft greens.

Next came some fried oysters in their shells with wakame and a ponzu dressing. The oyster itself had a nice texture, but the ponzu-dressed wakame that was the accompaniment was so tart that it pretty much killed any ocean flavor the oyster may have had. Everyone puckered up at the taste of that sour liquid.

Our nice waitress brought out what looked like a traditional salmon carpaccio dressed with ponzu, but she introduced the dish as “salmon carpaccio with a sweet teriyaki sauce” so I was actually like “oh cool- something different.” When I put a slice of the fatty salmon in my mouth, it was clear that the dressing had nothing to do with teriyaki and was, indeed, ponzu. Don’t get me wrong- it was good- but there were several other instanced throughout the evening where the wait staff were inaccurate about the descriptions of the food.

A giant block of ice was the plate decoration for our sashimi course, which had fresh slices of maguro, yellow tail and sweet shrimp. All were tasty but were absolutely dwarfed by the glacier on the plate.

The sushi course included a dragon roll and a couple of smaller rolls- one of which was rolled in a mixture of schimi powder and yuzu- a great flavor combo that really kicked up the spiciness factor.

The main course was a butterfish or codfish in miso, wrapped in a leaf accompanied by a cucumber salad. The fish was melt-in-your-mouth tender and seasoned well. The vinegared cucumber salad was a nice contrast to the sweetness of the fish.

We closed out the savory courses with a bowl of miso soup. Nice, but nothing out of the ordinary.

The dessert course included a layered macha and chocolate cake, profiteroles and fried bananas dusted with cinnamon sugar. All were very good and not at all too sweet, which suited me just fine. I particularly liked the cake.

After some more conversation, the night came to a close. The company was very good and I look forward to future outings. I have to be honest though, and say that Zu Robata offered nothing new, nothing inventive and really nothing that I can’t get at my local sushi place, with the exception of the desserts which weren’t stellar enough to make the trip back for. All of the ingredients are fresh, but the preparations- dragon rolls, salmon carpaccio, sashimi……doesn’t really scream “fusion” to me at all and are, once again, items present on almost every sushi menu in Los Angeles. The staff, although extremely friendly, don’t seem to know the difference between yellowtail and albacore. I would say that the different shochu drinks sets this place apart- by all means, go and try them. However, I’d be hard pressed to go to Zu Robata on my own as the prices are on the high side, particularly for drinks.

I thought Andrea and her group were a wonderful group of people, and it’s always great to eat with others who are as enthusiastic about food as you are. I was on the fence about whether to actually post this review since I was part of this pre-arranged group and did get a special, very low price on the meal. However, I felt it was alright to be honest, especially when you’re out with a bunch of food lovers.

Zu Robata is a beautiful restaurant, so I hope they’ll start serving slightly more inventive food to go with their gorgeous decor and shochu selection.

And thanks, Andrea, for the invitation!

Zu Robata
12217 Wilshire Blvd
Los Angeles, CA
(310) 571-1920

More Random Mexico City Eats

Here’s the final Mexico City post before I move onto our favorite part of the vacation- Zihuatanejo!!

We ate some fanastic al pastor tacos at a little place near our hotel which were just amazing.

Before that, we had some quesedillas, flautas and sopes with nopales at another small restaurant- we didn’t realize that everything was totally deep fried, but it was good.

After a walk around the city and a tour of the “house of tiles” we had a mediocre lunch at Cafe de Tacuba (the restaurant, not the band!). The palce was beautiful but the food was just so-so.

We were too full after that to try any of the gorgeous pastries a bakery we stopped into but I did manage to snap some photos of the delcious-smelling sweets!

The next day we strolled around Frida Kahlo’s old neighborhood, Coyoacán, and didn’t have time to eat but did enjoy checking out the colorful and eclectic buildings. One thing I noticed were that a lot of the trees were covered with circles of chewed gum……sort of disgusting and beautiful at the same time, no? The street food looked great, but unfortunately we weren’t really hungry.

Overall, we had a wonderful time in Mexico City. The people, flavors, colors and vibe were all warm, rich and unique.

And that wraps up D.F! Up next: Dinner at La Casa Que Canta, fish tacos at La Sirena Gorda, and much more!

You’ve GOT to be kidding me…………….

Last night, I was watching a Japanese movie, Shimotsuma Monogatari (Kamakaze Girls is the English title and I highly recommend you rent it now!), on AZNTV (The Network for Asian America- yes, it exists and yes, I watch it) and I saw one of those dumb infomercials that literally stopped me in my tracks. I mean, we’ve all seen that ridiculous plastic cylindrical container that you toss pasta and hot water in, then presto! You have perfectly cooked pasta every time! Um, yeah……more like stuck-together-slimy-on-the-outside-but-teeth-shatteringly-hard-on-the-inside glob. I mean, you know how hard it is to boil water and then have to put the pasta in a pot. I mean, who has the time to for that??? Most of the products featured in these ads are ridiculous, but the one I saw topped them all, at least in my world. Even J thought it was so funny- we sat on the sofa and couldn’t stop laughing.

For you Japanese or fans of Japanese-food out there you know exactly what this contraption is:

It’s a takoyaki pan- used to make the little savory, puffy balls filled with octopus, ginger and topped with sauce and mayo otherwise known as takoyaki. It’s a fixture on the Osaka street food scene (yeah, there’s a scene) and a not-uncommon-kitchen-item in the home of many Japanese.

Here’s how we saw it advertised on TV last night:

Pancake puffs??? You’ve GOT to be kidding me! And on the Asian Network? Oi- the whole thing was so ludicrous. It says “Now you can make pancake puffs just like your grandma used to! Just use your favorite pancake or cake mix and pour it in to make easy-to-eat pancake puffs!” Er…..excuse me? The “pancake puffs” that MY grandma made would have likely been filled with chopped up OCTOPUS! The silliness continued with talk about how you could make a dozen different things with the Pancake Puff Pan. “Not only can you make the perfect sweets, but you can create pizza puffs, taco puffs, pepper puffs or cheese puffs – perfect for your next party!!!”

“But wait, there’s more! If you call within the next FIVE minutes, we’ll upgrade your order to the Chef’s Choice set which includes a filling injector and a dozen flipping sticks!” Flipping sticks? They look exactly like the bamboo skewers that come in a pack of one hundred for $0.38.

I wonder what moron (or genius?) was in Japan, saw the takoyaki pan and thought “I’ll call this Pancake Puffs and Flipping Sticks!”


Niçoise salad

Frequent readers (all two of you;) of Tuna Toast know that tuna is one of my favorite foods. I mean, this blog is called Tuna Toast for a reason, my friends. With so many exotic and interesting things to eat in the world, why is tuna one of my top five? I think it has to do with the fact that I ate it often growing up, and my parents made a simple can of tuna taste really darn good. Tuna sandwiches were a favorite, tuna casserole, tuna macaroni salad…… was never too loaded up with mayo and had bits of chopped red onions and other goodies. Now, when I taste tuna, it always takes me back a little, so part of my love for it is definitely sentimental.

Fingerling potatoes from the farmer’s market

When we were in Nice a couple of summers ago, tuna was everywhere- on pizzas, in salads, and in the ubiquitous sandwich, the tuna Niçoise, or pan bagnat. It’s basically a simple crusty roll filled with olive oil packed tuna, boiled eggs, olives, radishes, anchovies and other delights, depending on the maker. Basically, I was in tuna heaven, and I truly believe that the hot Mediterranean Sun and scent of the cool, blue water made the tuna taste even better than I’d ever had it.

Since I had a can of olive oil-packed tuna in the pantry, I decided to whip up my version of a tuna Niçoise salad for dinner the other night. I just tossed some arugula and baby romaine in a dijon vinaigrette and piled it high with tuna, boiled eggs, roasted red peppers, green beans, baby tomatoes and these beautiful fingerling potatoes that I purchased at the farmer’s market. I had to leave out the namesake ingredient- the Niçoise olives- because you know well by now my disdain for olives of any kind. I did sprinkle some capers over the top to get some of zing from the brine.

The salad was enjoyed on our patio with a nice glass of sauvignon blanc- it’s been pretty warm so it’s nice to eat outdoors. The potatoes were so creamy and flavorful- I had tossed them in some of the vinaigrette while they were still warm so they’d soak up the dijon. It wasn’t exactly like sitting on the beach in Nice, but it did take me back a little bit.

Have a great weekend!