A.G. Newsletter #73: Sugarfish, Joan's, Cafe Stella Breakfast, Cassoulet, Oatmeal & Tripper's Smoked Meat

Hey Newsletter Fans,

Last week I asked a question on my blog that prompted a huge response: Are Food Blogs Over? Click the link to join the interesting conversation in the comments.

Then, this morning, I wrote about a classic Hollywood steakhouse--Musso and Frank--that I visited with Craig's family on Friday, before going to see his Aunt Liz in a really fun production of "Deathtrap"; get your tickets here. Warning: you might leap out of your seat a few times (I did, for sure).

* * * *

Sushi Nozawa was one of L.A.'s more famous sushi destinations before it closed its doors forever last month. Its owner (and head chef), Nozawa, went on to oversee his growing empire of more casual sushi restaurants, called Sugarfish. So last Monday, Craig and I, craving sushi (and ignoring the "no fish on Monday" rule) headed to Sugarfish downtown:

At first, Sugarfish doesn't look much like a reputable sushi place. There aren't sushi chefs standing behind a sushi counter; instead, it's a modern dining room with dark lighting and a more conventional bar (with a window into the sushi kitchen). Craig and I sat at the bar bar (not a sushi bar) and examined the menu.

The menu, it turns out, is rather amusing. It has three main choices: "Trust Me," "Trust Me / Lite" and "The Nozawa." All three are like mini-omakase, but reasonably priced. Trust me is $29.50, Trust Me Lite is $19.75, and the more extravagant Nozawa is $39. (Compare this to the more decadent sushi restaurants in L.A., where omakase is $150 or more, and you can see the value here.)

Craig and I each chose "Trust Me" which came with the following: organic edamame, tuna sashimi, albacore sushi (2 pc), salmon sushi (2 pc), yellowtail sushi (2 pc), halibut sushi (2 pc), toro hand roll and a blue crab hand roll. Some pictures:

All of the fish, here, was incredibly fresh and buttery and wonderfully cut. The surprising part concerned the rice: it was warm. The contrast of the warm rice and the cool fish made for some really memorable sushi at reasonable prices. Sugarfish, despite its outside appearance (corporate, hotel-ish), is a great choice for those who want good sushi without breaking the bank in L.A.

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Let's take a quick detour to Joan's on 3rd (which I've written about in a newsletter before). I really like this place: it reminds me so much of New York. It has a real Citarella vibe; with prepared foods and gourmet cheeses and white walls and helpful staff.

On this particular day, I had a turkey sandwich with caper mayonnaise:

All of the little details here add up--the little container of house-made pickles, the wax paper around the sandwich, the high-quality bread and in-house roasted turkey--which is why, I suppose, Joan's is so popular. I'll be back again, for sure.

* * * *

On Saturday, I met my friend John for breakfast at Cafe Stella. I ordered this ciabatta toast with mushrooms, deglazed with sherry and an egg:

There was some white stuff on there (presumably cheese) and some green stuff (spinach?) and it made for a nice breakfast, washed down with coffee that Cafe Stella gets from next door at Intelligentsia.

On Saturday night, we drove up to Topanga Canyon where Craig's uncle Chris cooked us a cassoulet:

He used a recipe from D'Artagnan (where he bought most of the meats for it, online), plus he referred to my post here. It resulted in a tasty amalgam of meat and beans and breadcrumbs and fat. In other words: heaven.

* * * *

On Friday, I asked my readers for tips on what to stir into my oatmeal.

On Sunday morning, I decided to ignore all of their advice (which included savory oatmeal recipes with Parmesan and black pepper... weird!) and kept things simple. I started by toasting my oatmeal (see here) in a little butter; adding water, cinnamon, and raisins and finishing with brown sugar. Behold:

It may not look like much, but somehow that combination of butter, raisins, cinnamon and brown sugar (plus a pinch of salt!) added up to just the sort of oatmeal I dream about at breakfast. I'll probably make it this way again soon.

Finally, we went on Sunday afternoon to a BBQ at our friends' Tripper and Maggie's.

Tripper, who's from Texas, loves to smoke meat. Here's his smoker:

And here's the meat that he smoked for his BBQ:

On the right, pork shoulder; in the middle chicken; on the left, coleslaw (which wasn't smoked but it's in my picture).

This smoked meat was INCREDIBLE. Every bite was infused with this great complexity and woodiness that can only come from cooking your meat slowly with smoke over the course of seven or eight hours.

Tripper and Maggie served the meat on soft tortillas that we could fix up however we wanted to. Here's what I made:

Man, those were some good tacos.

That's all for this week folks! We're continuing to entertain Craig's parents this week, but I promsie to keep posting. Keep your eyes open for some good ones coming up.

Until next time...

Your friend,
Adam (The Amateur Gourmet)

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