December 14, 2008

Father's Office

First, I apologize for the lack of pictures. I had forgotten my camera that night but I just had to relay my experience at Father's Office.

F.O. II is so, so, so much bigger than F.O. I (located in Santa Monica) and there was a parking lot! I remember when I went to F.O. I, I had to park in a little neighborhood and walk about a block to the restaurant during a chilly winter month.

It's a very laid-back atmosphere here with a linear row of tables and benches for outdoor seating. I couldn't help but notice a complementing line of heat lamps embedded into the wooden patio covering.

I got in around 10pm on a Thursday night. No lines, no wait -- not even for a table! There was plenty of seating inside and outside but it wasn't dead empty either. The feel is very contemporary and sleek with a lot of wood paneling going on. I'm not much of a beer drinker so I solicited the advice of the bartender who directed me to a very delicious Great White. As for my meal, I got the Office Burger ($12) with a side of sweet potato frites ($7).

My medium rare Office Burger was packed with meat, arugula and gooey Gruyere cheese. The arugula was notably fresh as the leaves were quite firm. I couldn't help but notice that something was a little off with the meat; it had a very apparent raw taste, which I've never experienced in all my years of ordering my meats medium rare.

The sweet potato frites are as amazing as everyone makes them out to be. I was really surprised that they weren't drenched in oil as most fries are. And they're served in a cute mini fryer -- though, I must admit that the shopping cart is cuter.

Father's Office

3229 Helms Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90034
(310) 736-2224

December 13, 2008

Stack Restaurant & Bar [Las Vegas]

Without reservations at 10pm, we were subjected to a 20-minute wait, which allowed us some time at the tables. Of course, we waited a little more when we returned and by that time I was starving. When they seated us, there were no complimentary bread baskets. Negative points.

My roasted tomato soup came with a side of mini grilled cheese sandwiches, which, I'm sad to report, were the best parts of my meal. The cheese was mild and the crust was taken off. I wish they used a different cheese though. The soup itself was very acidic and a much bigger portion than I had expected.

The pigs in a blanket were 11 small bites served in a bowl with ketchup and mustard on the side. They were extremely salty and I could have very easily done without this dish.

I don't mind spending two hours or more for dinner -- if it were some Michelin-star restaurant, which definitely wasn't the case at Stack. Our waitress was insufferably slow and didn't seem too concerned about our table. Take your money elsewhere.

Stack Restaurant & Bar
Mirage Resort and Casino
3400 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89109
(702) 792-7800

December 9, 2008

From Pudding To Cream Puffs

I had a major craving for pudding yesterday. But with the economy in decline, so was my penchant for eating out. It was then that it dawned on me to make my own pudding. This recipe on Chowhound is very simple and the ingredients can be easily obtained at any grocery.

It was unfortunate that after a few bites, all the sugar hit my brain and turned me off. Rather than waste an entire batch of perfectly good (but too sweet) pudding, I decided to turn it into something completely different: cream puffs.

A dear friend of mine had recently hosted a bake-a-thon, during which she cooked up a bunch of light, springy puffs. The recipe is as follows:
  • 1 cup water
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp. granulated sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3-4 eggs, plus 1 egg for egg wash

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. In a large saucepan, bring the water, butter, salt, and granulated sugar to a rolling boil over medium-high heat. When it boils, immediately take the pan off the heat. Stirring with a wooden spoon, add all the flour at once and stir hard until all the flour is incorporated, 30 to 60 seconds. Return the pan to the heat and cook, stirring, 30 seconds to evaporate some of the moisture.

Scrape the mixture into a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix at medium speed. With the mixer running, and working 1 egg at a time, add 3 of the eggs, stopping after each addition to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Mix until the dough is smooth and glossy and the eggs are completely incorporated. The dough should be thick, but should fall slowly and steadily from the beaters when you lift them out of the bowl. If the dough is still clinging to the beaters, add the remaining egg and mix until incorporated.

Using a pastry bag fitted with a large plain tip, pipe the dough onto the baking sheet, in 2-inch diameter rounds or balls. Whisk the remaining egg with 1 1/2 teaspoons water. Brush the surface of the rounds with the egg wash to knock down the points (you may not use all the egg wash). Bake 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 375 degrees F and bake until puffed up, and light golden brown, about 20 minutes more. Try not to open the oven door too often during the baking. Let cool on the baking sheet.

Notes about the recipe: The moisture in the eggs turns to steam and puffs the batter to try to release itself. You can fill them with anything.

Things I've learned from this first round:
  1. If making pudding, cut out a lot of sugar from the recipe.
  2. Spray oil on the foil or use a non-stick pan.
  3. Work on piping; the cream puffs had huge open cavities on the bottom (see last picture).
I decided to find piping techniques on YouTube and came across this excellent tutorial from Gordon Ramsay. Though he's making profiteroles, the beginning portion of the video provides wonderful coverage of the choux pastry. And he doesn't use a mixer either!