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Friday, August 29, 2008

Don't drive away, Mr Taco Truck!

You see them driving down any street, stopping by construction sites to provide workers with a quick, hot meal. You see them parked in all types of neighborhoods, from East LA to West LA. Our favorite has been a fixture, parked outside of Pep Boys on Pico for 6 days a week, for as long as we remember.

In April, the county supervisors passed an ordinance that fined violators for parking in one spot for longer than an hour. The violators? Taco trucks. The fine? $1000 and six months in jail. The ordinance, penned by Supervisor Gloria Molina, was in response to complaints placed by restauranteurs who felt that taco trucks were taking business away.

This week, Judge Dennis Aichroth overturned the ordinance, ruling that it was vague and unconstitutional. Taco trucks all over LA have earned a reprieve, but the county vows to appeal and fully expects to win.
Although we at FoodDigger prefer to stay neutral from the political standpoint, we have a soft spot for taco trucks. We understand the concerns of restaurant owners...taco trucks don't have to pay rent, except for that quarter every 30 minutes. But, there is definitely something to be said about eating tacos on the sidewalk. It's an experience few, if any, restaurants can provide. And honestly, if a restaurant is competing with a truck, really...how good can it be?
We can go on and on about all the pros and cons of taco trucks in LA, but we're just happy we can hit up our local favorite for at least a little bit longer.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Picture Says a Thousand Words

Sometimes you can try your best to describe something that a picture would take a second to shoot and just a few more to upload. Eating is a sensory experience that captivates you visually as well as through your sense of smell before you even take the first bite. Although after the fact, we can only try to share the aromas and tastes of our dining experiences through words, a photo is still a great medium for sharing what we saw and more.

A photo captures the food and also the atmosphere of a place through even the subtlest expression of its presentation. Just look at this photo from minimal. Not only does the crawfish look deliciously seasoned but from the plastic bag presentation you also get a sense of the casual vibe of the Crawfish House.

Or take a look at the oysters enjoyed by RawPepper at Jinpachi. The precision of the presentation reflects the elegant dining at Jinpachi itself.

And from the rustic wood table, hearty slices of bread, and bistro porcelain bowl in this picture of the gazpacho from Le Pain Quotidien, you can see the focus on artisanal breads and the café setting.

But I know how it is. Sometimes you write a review and your camera, which holds that photo you took, is in your car or at the bottom of your bag. No worries. You can easily add the photo later (as well as edit your review) by clicking on the “Edit Your Review” button on the restaurant page of your review.

And as always, please photograph your food responsibly. No flash (which is just rude) and no photos of other people (because you may have eaten at Pink's in Hollywood at 1 a.m. on Saturday night but there are others who may not want the rest of the world to know they were there too).

Friday, August 22, 2008

Cantaloop in Culver City!

Frozen yogurt has become such a fad since Pinkberry brought it back into the LA mainstream. Back in the day, it was Penguin's frozen yogurt. They had this great combination of vanilla frozen yogurt, topped with brownies and chocolate fudge. Memories of eating that are reminiscent of most everyone's memories when they were a kid. Running down the street after hearing 'The Entertainer' being blasted in the distance...that knowing feeling and growing excitement that the ice cream truck was coming through.

Froyo was dead for awhile, with Big Chill carving a niche in the West LA market, hitting the young, healthy and attractive bunch. Pinkberry restarted the fad, but with tart yogurt. The fad, becoming more mainstream, forced the likes of Big Chill to come up with a tart flavor when business started to slow.

With the re-emergence of froyo through Pinkberry came dozens of copycats. There are so many, we can't even begin naming them all. But there is one that is not only serving up great tart yogurt flavors, but bringing back the old school flavors of vanilla and chocolate. Cantaloop, with it's newest location in Culver City, is hellbent on serving not only premium tart yogurt, but providing these almost overlooked flavors. We recently had the vanilla yogurt that I could almost swear was vanilla soft serve ice cream. Its texture creamy, its taste not unlike the best vanilla bean ice cream. All with the benefits, and lower calorie count, of yogurt.

For an even better experience, they've created a list of Cantaloop Creations, with a combination very similiar to that of our Penguin's days. We're not certain if the other Cantaloops in LA offer the variety of flavors and combinations, but Cantaloop in Culver City has definitely become a FoodDigger favorite.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Dim Sum and Then Some

Dim sum...the phrase itself means to 'touch the heart'. In Cantonese, the meal is more commonly referred to as 'yam cha', or to drink tea. To yam cha, or go eat dim sum, is to experience a myriad of small dishes pushed around on little carts in a busy, and loud, Chinese restaurant.
Historically, the origins of dim sum take us back to the travellers and farmers on the Silk Road. Needing a place to rest, the weary travellers and exhausted farmers would go to teahouses to relax over some tea. It was soon discovered that drinking tea aided in digestion, so teahouse owners began serving small snacks. Dim sum was born.

With the establishment of Chinatown in LA in the late 1800's, dim sum's arrival was a natural progression.

Today, dim sum is offered in Chinese restaurants all over LA. While you can get decent dim sum in West LA or Santa Monica, the best bet for an authentic experience is in Chinatown or Monterey Park. Empress Pavilion and Ocean Seafood in Chinatown offer up amazing dishes of har gow, shu mai and dumplings, to name a few. Empress Harbor and Elite are just two of the many places to go in Monterey Park.

Diners will be pleasantly surprised at the variety of dishes offered. Ladies pushing carts will stop at every table to offer their goods. Just pointing your finger or giving a slight shake of head is all that is needed to order or pass on a cart.

If you've never tried, please do. Our FoodDigger staff believes it's truly an experience that can touch the heart.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Mulberry Street Pizzeria – Even a kid could tell you it’s like NY’s

My sister and her husband took their three kids to New York City this past July. My sister is an avid foodie who made sure that along with visits to the American Museum of Natural History, the Met, and Times Square, her kids also had a taste of New York’s famous deli sandwiches, pizza, and Crumbs cupcakes on their trip. Because of my sister’s passion, her kids have developed a particularly sophisticated palate. Her youngest daughter was eating sashimi without any garnishment of wasabi or soy sauce at the early age of four. The other two kids will eat things at yakitori restaurants that I don’t even try, such as, gizzard, heart, liver and cartilage. This is all to give you enough background to appreciate an exchange I had with my sister yesterday about Mulberry’s pizza.

Our staff is particularly fond of Mulberry Street Pizzeria – with many holding the conviction that it is the most authentic New York style pizza in L.A. About a month ago I was at my parents’ house in the Valley and picked up some pizza at Mulberry’s Encino location. As usual, I underestimated the size of their large pizza and was left with two full pizzas for leftovers. I packed them up and put them in my parents’ freezer - making a mental note to grab them the next time I went to visit and bring them home. My sister beat me to it and took it home for her kids. She mentioned to me yesterday that upon eating the reheated Mulberry pizza her eight year old son, Russell, proclaimed: “This tastes just like the pizza we had in New York!”

Well, Russell, our staff would wholeheartedly agree with you.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

LA ban on Fast Food: What is Fast Food?

Many of you may have read about the recent bill banning new fast food restaurants in South Los Angeles that was approved by the Los Angeles City Council on July 29th. What I've found most interesting about this is the bill's definition of fast food restaurants. According to the bill, a fast food restaurant is "any establishment which dispenses food for consumption on or off the premises, and which has the following characteristics: a limited menu, items prepared in advance or prepared or heated quickly, no table orders and food served in disposable wrapping or containers."

This is so broad that several restaurants not labeled "fast food" on FoodDigger may actually be swept in by the law's definition. Of course, we want to take a cue from the law and not mislabel any restaurants on the site. Fortunately, the bill exempts certain "fast-food casual" restaurants such as El Pollo Loco and Subway, that do not have drive-through windows or heat lamps and that prepare fresh food to order.

Based on this definition is In-N-Out fast food? I'd probably say, yes. Although, what is great about In-N-Out is that the food is made to order. I think in this case In-N-Out cannot escape the consequences of its own branding. However, if El Pollo Loco is not fast food, I think KFC and Popeye's should make a run at the fast-food casual exemption.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Cuisine Expert Challenge

To spread the word about what makes FoodDigger different we are having a Cuisine Expert Challenge. Our goal is to highlight the cuisine expertise of our members. So instead of reviewing everything you are eating, may we suggest starting with the foods you are passionate about? Show us your cuisine expertise!

New FoodDigger Comment Feature

Some of you may have noticed that there is now a "Post Comment" link at the bottom of all reviews. Click on it. It won't bite. It will just open a window so you can comment on a review. Try it out. I'm doing it. Tell your fellow FoodDigger members what you think.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Welcome to FoodDigger!

Thanks for stumbling upon our blog. We created this to have a more direct dialogue with you. We want to share with you a bit about what's going on behind the scenes. What you see at FoodDigger is the result of many months of work by people devoted to the idea of creating a community for food enthusiasts with the most interesting and influential members and the most useful and compelling content. This site is for all the people who love to eat and who want to get recommendations from people equally serious about food. This site is for you.

No traditional media can capture the expertise that each individual brings to a community based on his or her unique experience. No one food critic can know the ins and outs of all the restaurants in a city like the multitude of people that make up each neighborhood of that city. No one person knows his way around all the cuisines of the world. But a community of food lovers can. That is why we need FoodDigger and FoodDigger needs you. Because FoodDigger is a community and the community is you.

We want this to be a dialogue. Please comment, report bugs, and tell us what you like and what you don't. We want to hear from you!