A.G. Newsletter #68: Mark & Diana's Carne Adovada, Lunch with Aida Mollenkamp at BLD, Two Pastas & My Parents at Umami Burger

Dear Newsletter Loyalists,

What an upset! No I'm not about Viola Davis losing to Meryl Streep last night, I'm talking about MY loss in our Oscar pot-luck cooking competition. My submission: Glenn Cous Cous Salad with Albert Knobs of Feta. (Click that to see how I made it and what the winning dish turned out to be.)

It's ok, though, don't shed a tear for me: it's been a very tasty week.

It started on Monday, after Craig and I returned from New York, when our friends Mark and Diana cooked me a lovely birthday dinner at their new L.A. apartment. Here they are busying themselves in their new kitchen:

The food that they whipped up was truly awesome. Mark's from New Mexico, and he made a dish called Carne Adovada which is pork braised with special red chiles that he brought home from his last trip. Diana made flour tortillas from scratch and they also served it with corn and squash and shredded lettuce:

It was a stellar birthday dinner; and there was even a stellar birthday dessert---Tres Leches Cake from The Pioneer Woman's blog:

So, first, thanks to Mark & Diana; and, second, I promise: that's the last you'll hear about my birthday. But you have to admit I know how to milk it for all it's worth.

(Fun fact: when this dinner was over, Mark and Diana loaded up their new XBox to show how you can use it to exercise and we exercised. Which is not necessarily a smart thing to do after eating so much food. We should've stuck to XBox bowling.)

Moving on, a few years ago I met Aida Mollenkamp when I was hosting The FN Dish for Food Network. She was hosting a show called "Ask Aida" and we were both very new and very green and very happy to meet each other. Turns out, she lives in L.A. and via Twitter and mutual friends we got in touch and made a plan to eat lunch. I asked if we could eat at the place that she recommended on the Food Network show "Best Thing I Ever Ate" (something one of my followers alerted me to): a place called BLD.

Here's BLD from the outside:

And here's Aida at the table:

We had so much to talk about: she has a cookbook coming out, I have a cookbook coming out; she spent time working at Food Network, I spent time working at Food Network; she's a beautiful woman who might be mistaken for Angelina Jolie, I'm a beautiful woman who might be mistaken for Anne Ramsey in "The Goonies."

To preserve our looks, we each ordered a salad (instead of the ricotta pancakes Aida praised on TV!) and lived to regret it:

That's BLD's farro salad which is 10% farro, 90% arugula. If I'd known it'd be mostly arugula, I wouldn't have ordered it. Next time I'm getting pancakes, no question about it!

Now I've been accused in the past of posting too much about pasta on my blog. What's difficult about that is, if I could, I'd eat pasta at every meal. I'd make my blog 100% pasta all the time and people would just have to deal with it.

But I couldn't do that (even though Sophia Loren says the secret to her beauty is eating pasta all the time) so I'll leave my pasta triumphs to the newsletter.

Two of my absolute favorite pasta dishes to make are ones I've blogged about already. Craig's favorite (and maybe his favorite dish I make of all time) is Cavatappi with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Cannellini Beans:

It's one of those dishes, the more that I make it, the better I get at making it. The real trick (as is the case with almost any pasta dish) is finishing the pasta in the sauce. You crank up the heat after spidering it in and cook until all of the saucy goodness is absorbed by the pasta and then the pan is 99% dry. At that point, you turn off the heat, add a glug of olive oil, a big handful of cheese, and in this case chopped parsley (because I had it).

Same technique applies to my Heaven & Hell Cauliflower Pasta:

Only this time I topped it with crunchy garlic breadcrumbs (see here) and that made the dish out-of-this-word.

I love pasta and I'm not afraid to say it.

Finally, my parents were in town this Oscar weekend and we ate all kinds of meals that I may or may not blog about. One meal, though, that stands out was a meal in my neck of the woods---at Umami Burger in Los Feliz.

I've told you about Umami before, but I'd never taken my parents there. Here are my parents at our table:

And here are the sweet potato fries and French fries that weirdly came out before our burgers did:

My dad had the classic Umami Burger which he thoroughly enjoyed:

And my mom and I each had a tuna burger (she without the bun, me with):

I have to say--that's an exemplrary tuna burger (way better than the one at The Union Square Cafe; the only other tuna burger I've ever had). The tuna is basically raw and then there's pickled ginger and some kind of mayo that brings it all together. I would definitely eat that again.

Ok, folks, that's all for this week!

Until next time....

Your friend,
Adam (The Amateur Gourmet)

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