Grab Bag o' Goodies
You know and love our food section in the paper you’re holding—but did you know we have a consistantly updated food blog called Stick a Fork In It? You must if you pay attention to the weekly reminder that separates my column from Edwin’s review. If not, you’re missing out on more than a half-dozen posts per day; weekly Taco Bell crimes; plus the ponderings, rants and analyses of two amazing writers who never grace these pages: Dave Lieberman and Shuji Sakai. To give ustedesa taste of what you’re missing from our blog, behold nine of the best posts from last year:
“Who’s Next at the Most Cursed Restaurant Location in Tustin?”
We cover restaurant openings and closings religiously. In this July 21 post, Edwin Goei talks about a place in Tustin that’s a graveyard for chefs:
You may remember that not more than seven months ago, I marveled in a post that the shack (there’s no other way to describe it) had an unusually high turnover of failed restaurants. It housed no fewer than four different Korean and Asian restaurants in the span of a few years.
And you also might recall that I reviewed Hebaragi, its newest tenant, earlier this year for our print issue, declaring it one of the best and most popular Korean barbecue joints in OC, one of a few that offered pork jowls.
But being good is not enough. A lot can happen in seven months. Just ask Conan O’Brien.
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“#2. Uni Spaghetti at Cafe Hiro”
Throughout the summer, we counted down the top 100 dishes in Orange County. Número uno was the legendary taco acorazado from Alebrije’s in Santa Ana; a close second was Café Hiro’s signature dish, as detailed Oct. 7 by Edwin:
The taste is akin to the richest egg yolk, an orange glob of almost indescribable flavor, except it’s like sea urchin. It has a texture that is texture-less. It’s cold, wet and sexy—the seawater saliva of a mermaid’s kiss (yes, I lifted that last part from my own haiku). Once you’ve eaten it raw at a sushi bar, cuffed around a belt of nori or laid down on a ball of rice, try it at Café Hiro, where it’s dissolved into sauce for pasta.
It seems impossible, but having it this way, coating strands of al-dente spaghetti, extends a preciousness that usually only lasts a fleeting bite.
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“Jonathan Gold Lectures at Marche Moderne About Mexican Food ‘Authenticity,’ Laughs at Rick Bayless”
After this Aug. 29 post by Gustavo Arellano was published, Stick a Fork In It made national headlines. He caught Pulizter Prize-winning LA Weekly food critic Jonathan Gold’s lecture at Marche Moderne about the myth of “authentic” Mexican food. Gold snuck in a few digs at Rick Bayless, perhaps the country’s most famous chef of Mexican cuisine. Bayless had just consulted on a new restaurant in Los Angeles, Red O, that purported to introduce “authentic” Mexican to Los Angeles and subsequently accused Gold of lying—but we caught Bayless on tape saying exactly what Gold alleged. Our response:
But compare Bayless’ claim about the intentions of Red O in that comment to an interview he gave to KNBC-TV Channel 4, in which he explicitly says he opened his place because he was intrigued by “how the true flavors of Mexico, from central and southern Mexico, would play in Southern California.” Guy must’ve never heard of SanTana, let alone the rest of Southern California. . . . Bayless’ view of Mexican food in the Southland begins and ends with El Cholo, apparently. Sad . . .
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“The Nutritional Content of Holy Communion”
Just like the title states. For Dave Lieberman’s final tally, go read the blog post dated Jan. 6!
How long would it take a faithful Catholic to consume Jesus Christ entirely—or failing that, since there is clearly some miraculous extension of His Body and Blood to cover the millions and millions of faithful, how long would it take to consume an equivalent mass of transubstantiated Eucharist?
The problem is that we don’t know how much Jesus weighed. People were much smaller 2,000 years ago, and he was born in what’s now Israel, where people tend to be smaller and not obese like us overfed Americans, but on the other hand, he was a carpenter and probably a pretty strong guy.
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“Nine Reasons Why I Loathe Guy Fieri”
Sometimes, we just like to rant. Take Gustavo’s Feb. 24 harangue against the Food Network icon:
• His hair is a hybrid between a Dragonball Z character, a Huntington Beach bro and a pineapple—sloppy in a seemingly effortless way. Despite this, Fieri’s goatee is oh-so-immaculately precious. . . .
• He might hit the diners and drive-ins, but where are the dives? Every episode features places packed with customers, and popularity does not a dive make. Fieri wouldn’t know a true hole-in-the-wall if you dumped him in the middle of Little Saigon and spotted him the bánh and the mì.
• He calls his own show Triple D—EGO, EGO, EGO.
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“Five Great Regional McDonald’s Burgers That Should Be Offered Everywhere”
We love lists, especially those that highlight five great choices. When McDonald’s announced it was bringing back the McRib, Shuji Sakai argued Nov. 10, it should’ve gone further:
McDonald’s would have pulled off a much bigger marketing and PR coup if they did a nationwide rollout on old favorites from other corners of the globe. For instance, did you know McDonald’s sold crab cakes in its Maryland restaurants, or that you could order roasted green chiles in its New Mexico stores? For a corporation that practically invented global uniformity, it tips its hat heavily to local markets and regional food favorites.
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“For Jerry Brown Haters: At Least We’re Not Getting Sandra Lee”
Another fine rant from Shuji, dated Nov. 4:
While my home state of New York preps the Executive Mansion for Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo, I’m wondering what his girlfriend, TV celebu-“cook” Sandra Lee has in store for America from her new bully pulpit?
Jerry Brown doesn’t exactly light up any room he’s in, but at least his presence on television doesn’t make me want to gouge out my eyes with a spork. As in all things, it could have been worse. Four years of dull Jerry or four years of execrable Semi-Ho? Which would you have chosen?
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“Chinese, Part One”
Throughout the year, Dave wrote an epic series detailing various ethnic cuisine in exacting, stunning prose. Here’s the beginning of his six-part series on Chinese, from March 26:
Entire years, entire careers, entire lifetimes have been spent writing about Chinese cuisine, yet it’s arguably the cuisine least well-represented in the vast bulk of America. As hard as it to hear, the Chinese food that comes delivered in those little white Tetra-PaksT with the red pagodas and the wire bails would be completely unrecognizable to someone leaving China for the first time.
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“Eat Here, Not There: Cheesecake”
Although we love the small guys, we’re not above admitting fast-food likes—but we always like to recommend an indie place that’s better. In this Oct. 29 post, here’s Dave on—you guessed it!—cheesecake:
Quick, think of a place in OC to get cheesecake, but don’t tell me what it is yet. I’m psychic, and I can probably guess. Does it end in “actory”? I bet it does for most of you. So successful is the branding of the Cheesecake Factory that many people would be hard-pressed to name another restaurant that serves cheesecake. Now, my uncles ran a cheesecake shop and deli in central New Jersey. I know what good cheesecake is, and I am going to lose some food-snob points here by saying that the Cheesecake Factory actually makes pretty decent cheesecake. Junior’s of Brooklyn it ain’t, but you could do far, far worse.
This article appeared in print as "Cursed Tustin Restaurant Locations, Thin-Skinned Rick Bayless and More! Nine great posts (and one great slideshow) you might’ve missed from our Stick a Fork In It blog."
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