Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Booze, Clues, and Food

Could the eighth time be the charm? Agave Tequila House y Cantina is the eighth restaurant in as many years to open, or reinvent itself, at 1745 N. Vermont Avenue that I can think of. In the heart of Los Feliz, the restaurant/bar's locale should be ideal, yet I swear it’s cursed....

Honestly I might’ve been hesitant to check this place out, but was drawn here by Booze Clues, a monthly trivia night I’ve been competing in since its debut a couple of years ago. The pub quiz has had multiple homes, and Agave is the latest. Considering that its stock of more than 200 tequilas is the selling point of the place, I would’ve liked to try a tequila flight. But since I didn’t want to divide my attention between tequila tastings and trivia questions, I decided to save it for another evening. Instead, Mr. Comma and I both had the house margarita ($6), which was drinkable enough if nothing to gush about.

From the food menu (clockwise from top left), the chicken wings with chipotle barbecue sauce ($9) sounded great, tasted okay; couldn’t really detect the chipotle. Jalapenos rellenos ($5) were spicy and flavorful. They weren’t battered and fried like typical chiles rellenos, but it worked as bar food. These two appetizers were actually filling enough to satisfy both Nathan and me as far as our hunger went, so that was a pretty good deal. Other members of our trivia team ordered the Mexican flatbread, essentially nachos in pizza form, and beef skewers with rice and beans. I think they ran between $9 and $11.

Our team tied for 3rd place this month. Our pattern is usually this: a middling showing at halftime (the first two rounds are current events/general knowledge and a changing “specialty” round), followed by a pretty strong surge in the visual and audio rounds, our strengths. In fact, a few quizzes back, my founding teammate Jen (who blogs at Epicurean Quest) and I were thrilled to find a visual round composed of celebrity chefs. Most of them were easy, but even we got stuck on a couple. Would you have beaten us?

Name that celebrity chef (click to enlarge)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Hecho en Eagle Rock

Normally it takes at least like a year before I try out a new restaurant. It isn’t because I’m waiting for hype to die down or kinks to be worked out; I’m just slow. So it was unusual for me to be compelled to check out CaCao Mexicatessen so soon after it opened (which was a couple months ago), but following a glowing review from Octopus Grigori, chronicler of all things Eagle Rock, Mr. Comma and I went. Twice! As the name suggests, the family-run establishment, in a cozy storefront on Colorado Blvd., is a Mexican eatery and deli. In addition to homemade salsas and guacamole, Mexican cheeses, and agua fresca, the shop stocks imported chocolate and specialty items like agave nectar and offers a wide selection of coffee and espresso drinks.

CaCao Mexicatessen, Eagle Rock (click to enlarge)

On our two trips I sampled some tacos, all served on CaCao’s handmade corn tortillas: (top right) cochinita pibil (pork roasted with achiote and citrus, $2.75), calabacitas (zucchini, corn, and cotija cheese, $2.55), and (bottom right) chicken ($2.65). I found the first a bit dry, but I’ve been spoiled by the divine cochinita pibil at Yuca’s in Los Feliz. The chicken tasted pretty good, even though it wasn’t grilled, contrary to the menu description, and was a little gristly. Of the three—and it surprises me to report this—I liked my vegetarian taco the best. It was full of bright flavor and was perfectly complemented by the fresh salsa verde. Mr. Comma thoroughly enjoyed his colossal carne asada burrito (bottom left, $7.95), which was so big he couldn’t finish, even with my help.

I also tried an iced latte de miel de agave ($3.45 single/$3.70 double), sort of a poor man's Iced Angeleno with half the espresso and double the agave nectar. Delicious. Friendly service and a casual but homey atmosphere are also big pluses. We’ll be repeat customers.

CaCao Mexicatessen
1576 Colorado Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90041
Note: Closed Mondays

Friday, September 25, 2009

Eggs Over Freezy

This is what happens when your eggs get pushed back to the coldest part of the refrigerator:

It's like an egg slushie.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A Fiery Harvest

With the whole city covered in a thick blanket of smoke, the so-called Station Fire has pretty much consumed my thoughts along with all the vegetation in the San Gabriels. But I've been worried about another Southern California wildfire, too, in Oak Glen. The hamlet nestled in the San Bernardino Mountains 60 miles east of Los Angeles is famous for its apple orchards, and right around now is when harvest season begins.

Apple orchard in Oak Glen

Every fall, tourists and local families alike flock to the farms dotting Oak Glen Road to pick their own apples, pumpkins, and berries. Gorgeous mountain scenery, crystal blue skies, and the promise of homemade apple tarte tatin made the day trip to Oak Glen one of our favorites of last year. I had just been thinking about planning another outing when news of the blaze broke.

Riley's at Los Rios Rancho

Luckily, it sounds like firefighters have made good progress on the Oak Glen Fire, and no people, animals, structures, or farms have been harmed.

A fine specimen