Living To Eat

From My Taste Buds To Yours

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30th Birthday at Providence

Posted by Austios on May 18, 2011

Birthdays. For everybody, it marks the anniversary that we were brought into this world, after 9 or so months of leeching off of whatever our mothers ate in utero. For some individuals, they take every year as an excuse to throw a big and elaborate celebration, inviting all of their friends to join in the festivities. For others, their birthday is just like any other day, only occasionally mildly celebrating by having a small handful of friends and/or family over to their place or a casual dinner out.

For me personally, I fall into the latter category. I do not elaborately celebrate my birthday annually, only trying to make a larger deal out of the “milestone” birthdays. I don’t remember what I did for my 18th birthday, but I’m sure I went out with my family somewhere. For my 21st birthday, I probably would have spent it going out to legally drink for the first time, if it weren’t for the fact that my birthday fell on the same week as winter quarter finals in college. For my 25th birthday, my friends in Irvine took me out to dinner and drinks in which I had so many drinks that evening that I did not remember half of the evening.

For my 30th birthday, I knew I wanted to go big. For a lot of people, 30 is a big deal. The 20s were spent finishing college and grad school, and figuring out what you want to do with your life. By the time you hit 30, you more or less have an idea of what you’re doing or at least where you want to head over the next couple of years. I wanted to have a big celebration with my friends from church and invite a food truck to cater, but that ended up be super expensive. Plan B was getting Ricky’s Fish Tacos, which would have still been a little expensive but more doable, but I never heard back from him after initially going back and forth briefly. But I digress.

I knew that as my present to myself, I wanted to go out to one of Los Angeles’ top restaurants, where I knew I would get finely crafted food, outstanding service, and a meal worthy of the restaurants reputation. This is where Providence comes in. Providence, if you don’t know, is Chef/Co-Owner Michael Cimarusti’s pride and joy here in Los Angeles. The restaurants received an incredible 2 star Michelin rating, only 1 of 4 restaurants in Los Angeles with such rating (Melisse, Spago, Urasawa). Chef Cimarusti has been on Bravo’s Top Chef Masters and is highly regarded as one of both Los Angeles’ and the countries’ best chefs.

I do not recall exactly when or how my burning desire to dine at Providence arose, but I do know that Felicia and I have been talking about coming here for at least the past year and a half. After a failed attempt to go for our birthdays (2 weeks apart) last year in 2010, I nearly immediately decided I would reserve the Chef’s table at Providence for my 30th birthday the following year. I almost never imagined that for the past year, I actually kept to that “promise” and so when it finally came to make the reservation back in February, I was thinking to myself, “I almost can’t believe this is really going to happen” and that is when the excitement really started to kick in. I was told over the phone that the Chef’s table is recommended that they participate in the 14 course Chef’s tasting menu for $175, which I did not have a problem with. I made the reservation for 4, in which they require 4-6.

I spent the month asking around, already knowing that a good friend of mine would want to go, trying to fill 2 seats. If Felicia wasn’t over in New York, I would have only had to fill one seat. But that’s neither her fault or mine. Well, if anything, it would partially be her fault. It wasn’t until the final couple of days did I actually find people to secure my reservation. Seriously, some of you people on Twitter and Facebook know how much I was stressing out. There was no way in God’s green earth was I going to surrender the Chef’s table because I couldn’t secure people for my reservation.

Being in the Mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles, the restaurant actually sits in a rather non-descript and more residential heavy neighborhood of Melrose Ave. I kind of like that though; it makes the locale a little more “hidden”.

Upon walking in, the restaurant exudes elegance and sophistication. The beauty of it all was breath-taking.

We were lead straight back to the chef’s table, which in itself is its own dining room, mere separated by a glass door looking straight into the kitchen, almost like they were fish in a fishtank. But these fish weren’t just something ordinary like a goldfish, but in fact were something more interesting like a Japanese fighting fish. I mean, I myself am a chef and to me this is not new scenery by any means, but to be able to watch the operation and flow of a 2 star Michelin restaurant kitchen throughout your meal is probably what Julius Caesar felt like as he feasted on the finest meats in the Roman Empire while watching the best gladiators in all of Rome battle it out. Too extreme of an analogy?

One of our servers confirmed with us that we would be partaking in the 14 course chef’s tasting menu, and it wasn’t long before we decided to begin. I mean, I’ve had 5 course meals last 3-4 hours, how long do you think a 14 course meal is going to last? Exactly…

We began with the amuse bouche. A textural interpretation of 2 classic cocktails: a mojito and a screwdriver. However, instead of liquid, the “mojito” was a block of granite, and the screwdriver was encapsulated, resting on a soup spoon, and when it first came out, I mistook it for an egg yolk. Very nice play and technique used on both.

Next was a skewered grilled abalini. Simple, clean, and fresh.

Another skewered item soon followed. Squid and chorizo. We were instructed to eat both items in one bite, so we did. The combination of the salty and earthy chorizo was a nice balance to the fresh squid.

The last of the “one biters” was what they called a “little smokey’s”. A smoked bay scallop with scallop jus, finished with some scallions. This was cooked nicely and downed the sauce like it was a shot of liquor.

Moving on from the one bite courses, the first plated offering was a live scallop tartare, wrapped in nasturtium leaf. Nasturtium, simply put, is apparently a type of watercress. I wasn’t aware of that. With a quenelle of egg and vinaigrette, the scallop was fresh and the nasturtium leaf was subtle, but when you have fresh scallop, which is pretty mild in flavor itself, you don’t want or need anything to overpower it.

Following that was a konpachi sashimi, which unfortunately they inadvertently omitted from the menus we received at the end of the night and after 18 courses of food, I’m having a hard time remember its accompaniments and garnishes. All I know is is that the fish was very fresh and the entire dish was in balance on the palate and in the aroma.

What came out next was alive just minutes before hitting our table. I’ll let this video explain…

In case you can’t tell, that is a tank with live spot prawns. I actually didn’t notice the tank until AFTER the plates hit our table and a server was describing the dish. He said “alive at some point” to which I said “this morning probably” and he responded, “no, we have our own tank right here”. That was a fist pump worthy moment, but I restrained myself. The dish itself, served with American caviar and a braised white asparagus spear, with some asparagus sauce finished with chives. The caviar gave that nice salty touch to the prawn, and the white asparagus, which is milder than its green brother, rounded out with some vegetal flavor.

I loved this next dish. But then again, anytime a runny egg yolk is involved, I’m more than sold. A farm fresh egg with truffled onion puree, brioche cubes, and a fondue of reblochon de savoie. It was salty, earthy, mildly cheesy, and as I mentioned, the runny yolk was like icing on the cake. And the presentation is brilliant. Not too many places will serve an egg dish in the shell because it’s rather labor intensive and in most cases a delicate process, so I definitely appreciate seeing it when it’s done.

Finally moving onto the “entrees”, we saw a salmon dish. With sous vide beets, fennel, and crispy smoked salmon skin. The crispy salmon skin was actually a little bit of a surprise, so when I munched down on it, I exclaimed, “ooooo! Crispy salmon skin!”. Yes, it’s that awesome. Yet another well executed and presented dish.

Next dish was an ingredient that I absolutely love and was really stoked when the plates came out. Roasted veal sweetbreads with parsnip puree and black truffles. The sweetbreads were magnificent and the parsnip helped to cut the richness just ever so slightly. I guess I can be a little biased when it comes to sweetbreads. I don’t think there’s been one time out of the handful of times I’ve actually had them have I not liked it.

Following one animal organ was another: foie gras. I’m glad it is not 2012 yet, because I am going to miss this delicacy when the US government bans it next year. This was served with blood orange, black olives, and our friend from before, the nasturtium leaf. A perfect sear on the foie gras, with the middle being rich and like butter. Yet another delicious and well-balanced dish. Love, love, love.

This next dish, I saw and knew what it was a mile away. Before they even put the plates down, I was thinking “is that pork belly?” and once the plates were down and as soon as the server said “pork belly”, I triumphantly threw a fist up in the air in enthusiastic approval, to which he smiled and was pleased (and mildly shocked) by my reaction. Pork belly which was wrapped in a very thin sheet of dough to which I forgot the name of already and then fried in a pan, with red cabbage, apples, and whole grain mustard. Of course I’m biased to pork belly, and all of the accompaniments and garnishes are classic pairings with pork. I savored (yet devoured) every single piece of this dish.

Another treat: American Wagyu Beef from Mishima Ranch up in Northern California, with puntarella, smoked potato, and chanterelle mushrooms. Or at least, that’s what the menu said, however, the accompaniments were roasted carrots, what I believe was a baby onion, natural jus, and a carrot sauce. As for that discrepancy, I don’t know, but the beef was perfectly seasoned and cooked very well.

Next we were presented with the cheese cart. Had to of been about 20 different cheeses. Instead of describing each one, he asked what we liked and what was our preference, and he made a recommendation of what they had based off of that.

I’ve unfortunately already forgotten the names of the cheeses we had gotten. All I remember is the one I had picked had the texture similar to a brie, although he described it as being almost like a smoked gouda. Served with some chutneys, figs, bread, and pecans, a great interlude to dessert.

Next was the intermezzo. Paige Tangerines, Junmai sake, and lemongrass granite. A delicate and wonderful acidity to cleanse the palate. I love intermezzos because its more than just some grapefruit or something with just lime in it. Don’t get me wrong, I love grapefruit and lime, so I’m just saying.

The first of our desserts was a cremeaux of Fat Uncle Farms marzipan almond milk, with hazelnuts and crème fraiche. I absolutely love hazelnuts, and overall this dish offered wonderful balance of textures and flavors.

The 2nd and last of our desserts was a Valrhona Coeur de guanaja with calvados gelee, star anise, and a brown butter sorbet. I mean, chocolate… how can you go wrong with that? The thing was, this didn’t totally do it for me. It didn’t have the wow factor I was hoping for and expecting. I liked the previous dessert better.

We ended the meal with petit fours, that consisted of a kalamansi pate fuille, red beet marshmallow, and chocolate almond macaron. The red beet marshmallow was interesting and I liked the macaron. I thought the pate fuille was a little too sweet.

When all was said and done, we were all very satisfied and very pleased with our meal. We had a moment to briefly chat with Chef Cimarusti as well as take a photo with him. I am so happy that a restaurant in which I had such high(er) expectations to come through and deliver on all cylinders. I felt like a VIP being at the Chef’s table with everybody helping us that night providing the utmost of service. Now to think how I can top this with my 35th birthday and my 40th.

Providence LA
5955 Melrose Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90038

Providence on Urbanspoon

Providence in Los Angeles on Fooddigger


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PbP 2011 Partner Kickoff March 31st

Posted by Austios on March 15, 2011

I’m proud to be part of Project by Project for 2011 and to be one of the individuals organizing Plate by Plate 2011, LA’s most prominent and largest tasting benefit targeted towards Asian Americans.

I wanted to take this time to announce our Partner Kickoff event, on Thursday March 31st from 7-10 PM, location to be announced upon your RSVP. Please come to help support us and our partner, as well as obtaining more information about PbP and what we’re about or to get involved

Please follow us on Twitter and Facebook as well as the PbP LA Chapter

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Posted by Austios on March 22, 2009

An actual conversation with my cousin:

Cousin: So where are you guys going for your birthday dinner?
Me: Honda Ya Izakaya
Cousin: What’s that?
Me: Yakitori
Cousin: What’s that?
Me: Japanese BBQ on a stick
Cousin: Oh…..

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My Last Supper

Posted by Austios on February 12, 2009

Inspired by last night’s Top Chef, this post is what I would want as my last supper if I were to die tomorrow. Of course there are many many foods I would love to have, but if I had to pick and choose, this is one of the few I would narrow it down to.

I would start with just a simple salad (but not the “airplane food” Fabio served), but a lightly dressed green salad with seasonal berries and candied nuts. Or a caesar salad. For an appetizer, I would want Cut’s maple glazed pork belly, which is cooked confit style in duck fat for 3 days. That was a PHENOMENAL dish.

Personally, and of course I would have a lot of other options, I would want surf and turf for an entree. I would want a perfectly cooked, well seasoned steak (12 oz Japanese Wagyu rib eye) with a truffle demi-glace and a perfect butter poached lobster tail. On the side would be a heaping mound of smooth and creamy roasted garlic mashed potatoes. That’s it.

And then for dessert, I would want bread pudding, not with raisins, but with chocolate chips and walnuts, made with brioche or croissants. The top would be crispy, but the inside would be soft and delicate. Served alongside vanilla bean ice cream and creme anglaise.

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Stolen Avocados

Posted by Austios on February 2, 2009

The other day I’m out somewhere and I get a call from my mom saying that all of our avocados from the 3 trees in the backyard are all gone. Even the ones way at the top of the trees. We have no idea when they went missing or who it could have been. I speculate that whoever it was, they came in the middle of the night and patiently took every single avocado.

It really is mind boggling. I could understand if they took all of the ones lower to the ground, but they took their time to get the ones at the top. So I’m talking abou hundreds and hundreds of avocados. And it’s not like the trees are in the front yard or on the side of the house to make them somewhat accessible. They’re all in the backyard where you wouldn’t be ale to see them unless you’ve been in our backyard. We absolutely hav no idea who would do such a thing. My brother suggested my mom call the police, which she did and was told this is a crime, so they took a report and got the names and numbers of everybody who has access and reason to be in our backyard: our gardener, our contractors, and maybe our termite guy. At this point, there’s nothing we can do really.

What upset my mom that she didn’t realize until today when we were out there talking to our contractors about the next project is that whoever stole our avocados stood up on her expensive natural jade table which ended up having a hairline fracture across the top, as well as a couple of smaller cracks and scuffs.

Honestly, I wasn’t so upset about the avocados, but I’m pretty pissed about the table. Those F*CKING bastards. I hope whoever it is gets what’s coming to them. I normally don’t wish misfortune on people, but when you do something like this that especially upsets my mom, I sure hope they get what they deserve.

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Fine Dining Part II

Posted by Austios on December 10, 2008

I had a FABULOUS time at CUT after a small hiccup with a bitchy hostess

an excerpt:

“OH….MY… F********CKING GAAAWD!!!!!! Both appetizers were probably the best thing EVER!! I swear once it hit my tongue, my tastebuds were doing the happy dance while on steroids!!!!! The bone marrow was so soft, flavorful and was so good with the mushroom “marmalade”. And the pork belly? So soft and succulent it just melted. It was told by the bread lady that it’s cooked in duck fat for 3 days. SAY WHAT NOW???? Duck fat? 3 days? Fat cooked in fat (confit style), how can you go wrong with that????”

you can read the full review here:

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Fine Dining Part I

Posted by Austios on December 4, 2008

Over the Years, both before and after attending culinary school (but mostly after), I’ve had the privilege to dine at some very nice restaurants throughout Southern California.

Places like the French Laundry, Guy Savoy, and Le Cirque, and Craft will always be among my list of restaurants to eat at in some point of my life, but until then I will have to stick to the ones LA has to offer. Now don’t get me wrong, LA has A TON of higher end restaurants that have helped shape LA’s reputation for fine cuisine, but New York still is the food Mecca of this country.

Of the restaurants that I’ve been to that have been higher end meals: Delmonico’s (Las Vegas), BOA Steakhouse, Ruth’s Chris, Roy’s, Napa Rose, and… that’s all I can think of so far.

In terms of LA restaurants that I want to try, there’s Hatfields, Providence, Craft, and many others.

I suppose this is all a warmup to my dinner this Saturday. I will be dining at Cut Steakhouse in Beverly Hills. I will be dining with my cousin and a couple friends. I am a huge carnivore and I love a very good steak and I will be looking forward to this meal. I try not to overhype or expect too much out of a restaurant because I’ve found that contributes to ruining your overall dining experience. I of course will be expecting a good dinner, but I will not set specific standards for the food or the service.

I’ll post a picture… that’s if I remember to take a picture.

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Posted by Austios on November 13, 2008

I apologize to my maybe 3 readers that I haven’t updated my site in awhile. Honestly, I sometimes forget about it.

Anyway, I just want to let you guys know that my website is still under construction. I know, I know, it’s been taking a long time but please be patient. In the meantime, please visit my flickr site for some samples

And please check back often for the launching of my site!!


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Posted by Austios on September 29, 2008

This past Sunday I made it to the last day of the LA County Fair.

The fair, or any county fair for that matter, is synonymous with gluttony. What else is there to do besides check out the demonstration, the petting zoo, the pig races, and play the carnival games? Eat, eat, and eat. Did I forget eating?

The food at the fair is usually pretty good. There’s no denying it. I have my favorites and I also have discovered new delicacies each of the past 4 years I’ve gone. Well, the first 3 years I went to the Orange County Fair, which is basically the same thing.

So this year, I went expecting myself to eat quite a bit. Funny thing was I wasn’t even very hungry when we showed up Sunday afternoon, but I knew once we got inside, that wasn’t going to stop me.

I started out with BBQ corn, which they dip in melted butter and offer various seasonings to sprinkle on as well as things like vinegar and lemon juice. I sprinkled a little bit of lemon garlic powder and pepper on mine. I then shared a turkey leg with my friend, which meant that she took maybe 6 bites and gave me the rest, which I didn’t have a problem with because I tore that thing up. I got it down all the way to the bone and left very little meat on it.

We moved on and made our way to Chicken Charlie’s, where the fried chicken smelled so good but I wasn’t totally in the mood for it, so I just got a deep fried twinkle and an order of deep fried oreos. I’ve had both before, but they were so good. I’m a little sad I didn’t see deep fried love me tenders anywhere. A love me tender is a peanut butter, banana, and honey sandwich. It was Elvis’ favorite snack and is probably what sent him packing for Heaven, haha. Don’t quote me on that. But I had them last year at the OC Fair and it was REALLY good.

We made our way into the Lifehouse concert and we all shared a basket of kettle chips.

Not for one moment did I feel full. I probably could have had another turkey leg and still not be full.

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Wedding Cakes

Posted by Austios on August 19, 2008

As a pastry chef, one of my favorite thing about weddings is the cake. I have a major sweet tooth and I’m always looking forward to diving in to something sweet after my meal.

I’ve had several people ask me if I do wedding cakes, as I do private catering. To that I promptly reply “no”, going on to say that it’s too much trouble to make a wedding cake from home. There are a few, however with my set up, it’s a little harder. Plus I don’t have the patience to make elaborate wedding cakes.

With as many weddings as I’ve been to in the past 9 months (which is still only 5), but overall over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to sample many cakes from various bakeries. I also always find myself asking where the cake is from. I guess its just so I know where to refer people if they are in that area.

Back in April, at Jeremy & Serena’s wedding, I actually don’t remember the cake nor do I have a photo, as I didn’t bring my camera with me into the banquet. However, as a wedding photographer, Serena gets to see a lot of cakes and like it when she posts some photos up on either her website, flickr, or facebook profile and it includes the cake. I remember wen she shot Darren & Tiffany’s wedding, their cake was very simple yet elegant, almost an art deco kind of design, and Serena said they got it from Porto’s Bakery in Glendale. I did not know Porto’s did wedding cakes…

And then last week was Eddie & Tina’s wedding. I don’t think I asked where they got the cake, but it was good

I suppose this is all a setup for Torrance Bakery. 2 of the weddings I’ve been this year have been from there and it by far has been my favorte wedding cake that I can remember. The cake is very moist, flavorful, not overly sweet, and the frosting is not too sweet either. They are decorated very beautifully as well

The first is my brother’s cake. They got married back in April in Redondo Beach, so I assume that bakery was referred to them because it was near by. I want to say it was a green tea cake with I don’t remember what frosting. I just remember the cake being very moist and delicious.

The 2nd cake was at my cousin’s wedding in July. They got married in Palos Verdes, so I also assume Torrance Bakery was one of the bakeries that was referred to them. They got a half white, half red velvet cake. 2 of the tiers were white, the other 2 were red velvet. I was lucky and got a piece of red velvet. Again, very moist, flavorful, and wasn’t overly sweet. Their cake was decorated more simpler, but still looked very beautiful.

I have a feeling when I get married (whenever that is), I will be wanting to get our cake from here….

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