y4pcT1JaIwGptQJPO6l_mZmgv34 tiffin unboxed: July 2012

Peacocks Roaming at the Arboretum

It's been a blur from spring to summer this year. Back in April I attended a very informative Sustainable Gardening workshop at the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden in Arcadia. 

It covered everything from invasive plants to "boutique compost" (with lavender and other fragrant herbs) to hybrid and heirloom fruits to native, low or even no maintenance landscape design.

The workshop took place shortly before the redesigned Garden for All Seasons was to open. Both the 
workshop and the public garden demonstrating sustainable practices really appeals to many gardeners.

Arboretum Arcadia Apr12_peacock 5

Arboretum Arcadia Apr12_peacock 1

Arboretum Arcadia Apr12_peacock 3

Arboretum Arcadia Apr12_peacock 4

Both before and after the 4+ hour workshop, I strolled the gardens and enjoyed the beautiful peacocks that roam all over the Arboretum.

Arboretum Arcadia Apr12_Queen Anne Cottage from lake

The visit would not be complete without visiting the historic, charming Queen Anne Cottage and Coach Barn, also on the grounds. This is the cottage from across the lake.

Arboretum Arcadia Apr12_Queen Anne Cottage front

The cottage, an excellent example of Queen Anne style architecture.

Arboretum Arcadia Apr12_Queen Anne Cottage tower

fantasy-island Western Seattle Funblog
Photo from West Seattle Funblog
It has appeared on several films and television shows, including the opening credits of the 1970-80s TV show Fantasy Island, where the character Tattoo can be seen ringing the bell in the cottage tower while Mr. Roarke exits from it.

Arboretum Arcadia Apr12_peacock 7

This one even loudly called out to me when I passed by without stopping to admire them posing among the foliage.

Arboretum Arcadia Apr12_peacock 9

On the way out one of the peacocks hovered near the entrance, seemingly unsure of whether to go back in.

Arcadia Peafowl feeding sign Apr12

Upon leaving the gardens I turned into a side street to turn the car around and noticed this unusual sign about feeding the local birds (Peafowl).

They do seem to leave their grounds from time to time. One morning I saw an escapee peacock in my car rearview mirror, on a busy street during rush hour!

They sure are beautiful and enjoy being admired.

Last Days of Foie - All Time Favorites

Finally this foie series (and saga) ends with my favorite foie gras dishes in L.A., past and present.

The photos can speak for themselves so I will keep my commentary brief.

1. foie gras, biscuit, maple sausage gravy - at Animal

From the first time I tried this decadent masterpiece years ago to this one in June, it's hard to beat. Look at the gold maple syrup floating on top of everything.

2. foie gras, eggplant, soy reduction - at Orris

Much to my sadness, they stopped serving this item in January of this year, several months before the restaurant closure and foie gras ban took effect.

Not only was it a stellar dish, at $15, it probably was the least expensive plate of its kind for the high quality.

Orris Jan10_foie gras eggplant soy reduction

3. foie gras terrine, blackberry jam, black pepper gastrique - at Animal (Noticing a pattern? I do love Animal.)

4. Bobo Farms Foie Gras, apple rosemary butter, caramelized cippolini, molasses toast - at Hatfields

My true favorite was their Pain d'Epice Crusted Foie Gras (crusted in gingerbread), but this stunning concoction offers similar flavors. 

The wafery, crispy 'toast' is divine with a bite the seared foie. I especially love palate cleansing green apple, vege, herb, lemony slaw on the side. 

The onions and sauces are not necessary in my opinion, though they do not detract from the core flavors.

Hatfields Jun12_b Bobo Farms Foie Gras apple rosemary butter caramelized cippolini molasses toast

Hatfields Jun12_c Bobo Farms foie gras

5. foie gras, green beans, walnuts, truffle vinaigrette - at Petrossian

The plating alone is other-worldly with a taste to match. I've never seen green beans diced so finely and in uniform bits.

Petrossian DineLA 09_foie gras green beans walnuts truffle vinaigrette 2

Petrossian DineLA 09_foie gras green beans walnuts truffle vinaigrette 1

Petrossian DineLA 09_steak tartare caviar 2Although it's not foie, the Steak Tartare Caviar also dropped my jaw with its exquisite appearance and plating (so I'll throw it in).

And that is leaving out their perfect smoked salmon plate with large caper berries and mushroom cappuccino (from their earlier menu).

Many of my favorite foie dishes are by Chef Ludo Lefebvre. Since I covered most of them on this post, I won't be redundant here.

6. The foie gras croque monsieur probably wins it among those stellar dishes at Ludo Bites.

7. Foie Gras Donut at Umamicatessen's & a,

This probably isn't a strong favorite, but I'll give them some props for creativity and making these donuts to order.

I learned from Food Critic Jonathan Gold's review that the "forest berry'' jelly comes from Robert Lambert, artisanal jam and condiment maker with a cult following. Gold feels the foie gras mousse gets thrown in to justify the cost of the jelly in this donut.


My only issue with this was how separate each component is inside the donut. It makes it hard to get that perfect bite, especially if you are sharing it with others. Perhaps that is the elusive quality of this donut that charms people.

Recently various news sources reported that Hot's Restaurant Group, some foie gras producers, such as Hudson Valley Foie Gras, claim the ban is "unconstitutional, vague and interferes with federal commerce laws." For now it remains to be seen how the ban will play out.

Until things evolve, we have our precious culinary memories.

Last Days of Foie Gras Finale at Hot's Kitchen

Recently I read one of the many articles mentioning the best final foie gras dishes in town. Many of the usual suspects, that we all know are great, were on the list.

But I also noticed a $10 foie gras burger at a locals' favorite restaurant way out of my neighborhood. Hot's Kitchen's tagline of "surfer meets sophisticate", indicating their 'foodie' twist on classics.

After indulging for days with fancy preparations, I wasn't up to a 30-course foie meal (which was really offered!). It felt right to spend the last day of eating foie gras in California at this more casual and soulful spot.

When I called to make a reservation I was told that for the final weekend, they are planning to host a Farewell Foie Gras blowout. Despite many visits to their website, Facebook and Twitter pages, the menu was kept a surprise till the very end.

Hots Kitchen Jun12_d Foie Gras Burger seared foie gras balsamic onions whole grain mustard

Hots Kitchen Jun12_a menu Exec Chefs Sean Chaney Matt Peterson

Not that anyone had to twist my arm to try these juicy burgers, but I appreciated that for each burger sold, Hot's Chef/Owner Sean Chaney and would contribute $1 to C.H.E.F.S, the Coalition for Humane and Ethical Farming Standards.

The small plates were meant for sharing so our table of four liberally ordered the dishes that struck our fancy, with all caution to the wind.

Hots Kitchen Jun12_b Poutine duck fat frieds 2 yr old hooks hooks cheddar foie gravy duck confit morels

Poutine. Duck fat fries, 2 year old hooks cheddar, foie gravy, duck confit, morel mushrooms. 

Their take on the Canadian specialty came loaded with toppings, including cubed veges. The shredded duck confit hiding in the gravy was a pleasant surprise. 

Hots Kitchen Jun12_c Cashew Foie Gras seared foie gras roasted shishito peppers nameko mushrooms cahsews thai chilis sesame seeds

Cashew Foie Gras. Seared foie gras, roasted shishito peppers, nameko mushrooms, cashews, thai chilis, sesame seeds.

I felt a bit skeptical about their take on cashew chicken, but loved the flavors on this plate, especially the grilled peppers and toasted sesame seeds on the foie. 

The sliced Thai chili brought a bit of heat, but despite the two types of peppers, the heat level did not take away from the star of the dish.

Hots Kitchen Jun12_e Foie Gras Burger

Foie Gras Burger. Seared foie gras, balsamic onions, whole grain mustard.

I don't need t say much here. I tilted the plate to give you a profile of these slider size burgers and what more can I say? Except that they gave off lots of juice that the buns soaked up. Perfection.

They cost $12 instead of $10, but worth every penny.

Hots Kitchen Jun12_f Foie Fried Rice asparagus porcini mushrooms uni mustard sauce duck egg

Hots Kitchen Jun12_g Foie Fried Rice

Foie Fried Rice. Asparagus, porcini mushrooms, uni mustard sauce, duck egg.

I love every singular ingredient in this dish, which makes it the fried rice of the gods. The duck egg added that indefinable sauce. The portions of foie almost equaled the rice.

Hots Kitchen Jun12_h Liver and Onions seared foie gras cipollini onions morels bacon mashed potatoes pedro ximenez sauce

Liver & Onions. Seared foie gras, cipollini onions, morels, bacon, mashed potatoes, pedro ximenez sauce.

I didn't taste this one, in order to leave room for a couple of other dishes, but it turned out to be one diner's favorite dish of the evening.

Hots Kitchen Jun12_i PB&J F*** Gras seared foie gras peanut butter jelly balsamic strawberries toasted brioche

PB&J & F*** Gras. Seared foie gras, peanut butter & jelly, balsamic strawberries, toasted brioche.

This fell more on the dessert side. I would have preferred less sweet. The combination of peanut butter, tart strawberries and foie worked well together.

Hots Kitchen Jun12_j Pineapple Brioche French Toast seared foie gras pineapple sage compound butter

Pineapple Brioche French Toast. Seared foie gras, pineapple sage, compound butter.

I loved the pineapple and foie combination but could not taste the sage compound butter due to the syrupy sweetness. Also would have preferred the sweet toned down.

Overall, we tried all but one of the foie dishes on the chef's tasting menu (we opted to leave out the Seared Foie Gras & Tater Tots). We also passed on the Foie & Fondue since we'd had our fair share of sweet dishes.

Hots Kitchen Jun12_k tacos sausage shrimp tempura eel

To break up the all-foie bites, at some point we ordered tacos. Hot's specializes in tacos (you can read the selection here) and has dozens to choose from.

I opted for the Eel, with enoki mushroom, avocado, eel sauce. Good flavor, but the texture was too soggy for my taste. I expected crispier eel, like one finds in sushi. At the very least, crispy skin.

The shrimp tempura, with avocado, enoki mushrooms, green onions, unagi sauce, chili-aioli and sesame seeds seemed to be the table favorite.

Hots Kitchen Jun12_l wings menu

I had read on their website, and also on this menu, about their newest addition to the menu, Crispy Orange Fanta Wings.

Hots Kitchen Jun12_m crispy Orange Fanta wings

They arrived in minutes with a neon orange sauce. I expected them to be cloyingly sweet, but they actually packed quite a bit of heat. 

I loved the extremely crunchiness which many places do not properly do.

Hots Kitchen Jun12_n I Love Foie server

All the employees showed their pride and passion for foie with their charming handmade t-shirts.

Hot's Kitchen was thoroughly enjoyable. It was fun to ring out end of the era of foie gras in California with a casual, creative and affordable meal.

Hot's Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Last Days of Foie Gras at Petrossian

Petrossian West Hollywood also hosted a Farewell to Foie Gras menu by Chef Giselle Wellman, during the month of June.

Petrossian Jun12_a Farewell to Foie Gras Menu Exec Chef Giselle Wellman

Petrossian Jun12_b hibiscus sparklerI've never had anything short of a delightful experience at this elegant French boutique and restaurant, from their caviar, smoked salmon at the boutique to everything on the menu.

This elegant menu consisted of very refined courses.

It's hard to go wrong when starting with their Hibiscus Champagne, including rhubarb syrup and a candied hibiscus flower.

The 1st course, a Summer Berry Gazpacho, arrived, a bowl of Harry's Berries, pickled beets, croutons and micro greens. The star of the bowl, Armagnac poached foie gras came in creamy cubes.

Petrossian Jun12_c summer berry gazpacho armagnac poached foie gras pickled beets harrys berries

The server poured tableside a small pitcher of the gazpacho into the bowl. The fresh fruits enhanced the foie cubes well.

Petrossian Jun12_d asparagus salad black summer truffles little gem baby lettuce truffle jus vinaigrette foie gras ravioli

The 2nd course, Asparagus Salad, with black summer truffles, little gem baby lettuce, truffle jus vinaigrette provided again very complementary elements to the  foie gras ravioli. The asparagus slivers sat neatly piled below the ravioli. 

With ingredients like this, it's hard to figure out the 'star' of the plate.

Petrossian Jun12_e seared foie gras cherries mint pistachios

Petrossian Jun12_f seared foie gras cherries mint pistachios

The star of the 3rd course of Seared Foie Gras left no question. I am a sucker for seared foie and this version with cherries on top, pistachios crumbled below and a sight hint of mint really hit many parts of the palate.

Petrossian Jun12_g prime flat iron foie gras onion fines herbs fresno chili

The sheer size of the 4th course, a full entree size, intimidated us. Where is the foie on the Prime Flat Iron? In a thick, luscious sauce below the sliced steak. A buried treasure just barely peeking out.

The tender steak came to life with a mushroom duxelle, micro greens, onions, fines herbes and a surprising pop of Fresno chili.

Petrossian Jun12_h foie gras ice cream brioche rasberry jam sea salt honey

After that enormous steak I thought that dessert needed to be a knock out to make me want to have another bite.

5th course, a decadent Foie Gras Ice Cream, sitting in a tiny bowl with a thin slice of brioche, raspberry jam, and drizzles of sea salt and honey blew me away.

The ice cream, not too cold, very creamy surprised me by not being too sweet. Most of the sweetness came from the honey and jam.

I wasn't sure whether I should make a little ice cream sandwich or not, but opted to just break bits of the bread with my spoon for each bite of the ice cream. If given a second chance, I'd go in with my hands!

I never expect dessert to impress me much, and usually they don't. This exceptional ending to a delightful meal will go down in foie history.

Petrossian Boutique & Cafe on Urbanspoon