Archive for ‘Stefan’s LA Farm’

November 25th, 2011

The day I acutally enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner

I must have done it right, because It’s the day after thanksgiving, and I’m still full.  Sure, half of America is saying that right now, but for me, it’s the first time I’ve ever uttered those words AFTER Thanksgiving.

You see, I don’t like turkey.  Let me rephrase that, I used to not like turkey.  For some reason, every time I ate it, there was this strange “turkey” flavor that I couldn’t get over.  But, something happened at dinner yesterday that not only changed my long-standing opinion of turkey, but actually made me say the following four words, “I love this meal!”

There are millions of restaurants out there, but how many of them do you go back to over and over, every time leaving happy? Not many.  Stefan’s at L.A. Farm is our exception.  We always leave satisfied.  It’s hard to believe that from one restaurant, I’ve discovered so much great American food.  Now, I can proudly add Thanksgiving dinner to that list.  While the entire meal was delicious, a few dishes, on their own, actually changed my opinion on Thanksgiving dinner.

As I explained yesterday, my husband picked Stefan’s for our first ‘restaurant’ Thanksgiving dinner from just looking at their menu.  Why did he pick Stefan’s?  The menu offered the straight forward, classic Thanksgiving meal he was hoping for: roasted turkey, gravy, stuffing, yams and yes, mashed potatoes, which he believes is a must dish for Thanksgiving.  Judging from their regular menu, I was expecting a good meal, but I have to admit, I was reluctant that I had to eat turkey as a my main dish.  As we were driving to the restaurant, I even said to my husband “if I don’t like the turkey, we’ll just stop at a Japanese noodle shop later.”

Surprise, surprise, I actually loved turkey!  Instead of that strange taste I was expecting, I enjoyed only flavorful tender meat.

Another dish I don’t like is yams.  It’s usually served either very, very sweet, and/or too watery.  The texture of the marshmallows placed on top usually doesn’t sweeten the deal for me either. With a combination like that, you can imagine that the idea of candied yams is not at all appetizing for me.  But tonight, Stefan’s baked yams with marshmallows completely won me over.  The marshmallows were slightly crunchy and the yams were cooked sweet, but in a very delicate degree.  Finally, it made sense that these two should be served together, or should I say, three, as the dish went well with the turkey!

It’s hard to believe that it took me a quarter of a century to truly appreciate the Thanksgiving meal.  So to honor the tradition of Thanksgiving, let me say how thankful I am that my husband insisted on picking a restaurant with mashed potatoes.  I’m also thankful for Chef Stefan and his staff who always treat us like family!

August 9th, 2011

Tater Tots

I’m not Larry David, but when my husband excitedly mentioned “Let’s order tater tots!” I had to curb HIS enthusiasm by asking,”What are tater tots?”  “They’re delicious, crispy, golden balls of hash brown!” he explained.

How were they?  Well, as advertised, they were indeed delicious, crispy, golden balls of hash brown.  No, I didn’t thaw out the frozen Ore-Ida kind, instead, we were lucky enough to find them on the menu at our favorite L.A. restaurant, Stefan’s L.A. Farm, owned by Top Chef contestant Stefan Richter.  The adult version of this kids’ favorite comes with creamy ranch dipping sauce providing a delicious way to cool things down. With every bite, I had to ask myself, why was I so late to the tater tot party?  Growing up in Japan, we had french fries, but never these delicious, crispy, golden balls of hash brown.

Thanks to a quick google, I found out that they were created in 1952 by the Ore-Ida founder as a way of using up potato slivers.  By adding flour and seasoning, a new side dish favorite was created.  Tater tots have made their move to the center of the plate as well, thanks to some recipes I found, posted online.  One popular use of the product seems to be in casserole form. As I began to read one of the casserole recipes, I had to admit, I was expecting a pile of tots and cheese, (a delicious pile of tots and cheese, mind you).  But upon further research, it seems the tots are the topping in a shepherd’s pie type of dish.  Receiving that information, I have to say, I was relieved and disappointed at the same time.  I was relieved that the recipe didn’t require lots of cheese, but disappointed, secretly fantasizing that with lots of cheese and some onions, I could have a fattening but delicious potato gratin like dish.  Maybe if I find the organic, non-fried (taste free) version, I’ll try it out…but until that day, tater tots will be a Stefan’s treat.

My next adventure with tater tots, will be following them into the school cafeteria, where they sit alongside some interesting entrees…on trays.  (to be continued)

July 2nd, 2011

Wedge “salad”

Before we met, the vegetable intake in my husband life was limited to tiny bit of celery in the tuna salad he bought at Gelson’s supermarket along with the cabbage found drenched in mayonnaise in their creamy coleslaw (which is pretty good, by the way).  Vegetables played a much bigger role in my life, growing up in Japan, where vegetables most often referred to strange root vegetables.  Like every girl on the planet, I love salad, but I find my definition of what makes up a salad is much different than my American husband’s.  When I say ‘salad’, I’m referring to the dish made of actual vegetables, as opposed to the caloric concoctions that are labelled salad, but could feed a tiny village for a week.So does my husband really think his favorite salad, The “Wedge of iceberg lettuce” from Stefan’s L.A. Farm in Santa Monica is a health food?  Probably, as Stefan’s staff does give you a healthy amount of bacon and blue cheese.  How can you miss with mountains of crispy bacon and blue cheese crumbled on a bed of iceberg lettuce?   Crunchy and refreshing, and did I mention bacony?  Yes, my husband IS Jewish, but he has the utmost respect for the traditions and meat of all cultures.

One of the biggest shockers when I moved to the U.S. was seeing raw spinach being the basis for a salad.  We NEVER ate spinach raw in Japan.  Instead, the lettuce in a salad was usually iceberg.  At my parents’ house, the foundation of lettuce was usually topped with some kind of seafood or ham plus cucumbers, tomatoes, and asparagus or broccoli (never raw).  It’s probably not a surprise for you to hear that Japanese portions are smaller than those in America, with a regular Japanese salad being about a size of side salad here.  Now, from this frame of reference, imagine my joy and confusion when I saw Stefan’s iceberg wedge for the first time.  It’s huge.  Almost half a head of lettuce, and enough bacon to satisfy a lumberjack.  The lettuce is more like a garnish than anything resembling a salad.  On top of that, a creamy dressing.  But before you head for your cholesterol medicine, remember, it’s a salad, and by definition, salads are healthy, right?  Marketing genius!

I found an early Wedge Salad recipe from early 20th century, and through this research, I found out, unfortunately for my husband, that the ingredient that gives a wedge salad its identity is NOT the bacon.  It’s actually the creamy dressing with other toppings being optional–such as diced tomatoes, onions or some nuts and even a boiled egg.   The dressing must be blue cheese mainly roquefort.  But throw away the rulebook, because for us, bacon makes or breaks this salad.  Don’t believe me?  Just ask the poor waitress at a well known Hawaiian restaurant chain who had the nerve of bringing my husband a piece of lettuce sprinckled with Bacos, after the menu promised a wedge salad covered in crispy bacon.

June 4th, 2011

Chili fries!

French fries are one of my favorite American foods.  Yes, I know French Fries came from Europe, but I think America should take credit by making the ubiquitous query, “do you want fries with that?” a worldwide punchline.  I like mine rather skinny and well seasoned. Very simple; no ketchup needed.  So imagine my reaction when my husband took me to have chili fries for the first time? Oh the humanity! Why do you have to pour chili over lovely fries? It was fun to eat, but bit much to see.  I’ve eaten brains before with not even a pause, but still, the sight of these textured brown chunks all over my favorite food was not pleasant.  I rather eat them separately.  This could have been the end of story with chili fries, until Stefan Richter, a runner up in the fifth season of Top Chef came into our lives.

It’s almost impossible to find a place where my husband and I equally love to eat.  He likes hearty American food; I prefer seafood and Asian.  So coming to Stefan’s L.A. Farm in Santa Monica is becoming our weekend ritual that pleasantly involves a cocktail or two and pigging out, because they serve examples of both our tastes.  It’s easy to see that their dishes are prepared with thought and care.  The last time we visited Stefan’s, chili fries had made the menu.  If that had been my first time visiting L.A. Farm, I would’ve mused, “Really? You Served THAT?”
But having tasted 80% of their menu, I knew they wouldn’t just ladle chili over mediocre fries with abandon.  I love that many non-fine dining restaurants started thought into their food in the last 5-7 years.  Stefan’s shows that; fresh potatoes are perfectly fried and seasoned, with chili made just for this dish.  Add melted cheese and a nice sour cream and truffle touch, then plate it above a cute doily, like grandma used to and serve.  This dish screams “I give a damn and I hope you do too”.  I finally understand the odd pairing that is Chili Fries.