Sunday, December 2, 2012

Tsensational Brownies

Let's bake.

Tsensational Fudgy Brownies.

142g 70% dark chocolate
1.5 Tbsp cocoa (Dutch for dark choco flavor, Natural for milk choco)
240g maximum total sugar (sugar in chocolate + granulated or castor's sugar)
115g butter (you can get away with approx. 95g)
1 tsp vanilla xtract
1 tsp insta-espresso (gives more complex flavor, but not required)
1/3 tsp salt
2 eggs
60g flour

- This is a small batch for approx. 9" x 6"
- Tweak ingredient amounts to suit your preferred texture, taste, and sweetness level.
- Use the best chocolate and cocoa you can reasonably get.  I used Scharffen Berger chocolate and Penzeys Dutch processed cocoa for this batch.

Mise en place.  You know the drill:
1. Melt choco w/ butter.
2. Beat eggs with sugar until pale and fluffy. The more you dissolve the sugar and work the whites, the better crust you will get.  This is key to achieving the paper-thin shiny crust.
3. Sift flour w/ cocoa and salt.
4. Choco/butter should be cool enough by now to dump in w/ eggs.  Do it.
5. Mix in flour mixture in parts.  Or just throw all of it in, whatever.  Just make sure you don't have lumps.
6. Fold extras into batter as you see fit: choco chips, nuts, PB swirl, etc.
7. Oven behavior varies.  For my shitty little oven, 24min @ 345F gives me the results I want.  You'll have to figure best baking time on your own, sorry.
8. Let cool and devour.  Sharing is for chumps.

Please note that this is for fudgy brownies.  For cakey brownies, you'll have to increase the amount of flour.  For chewy brownies, increase sugar and/or use a higher protein flour (eg. bread flour).

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Big Man Bakes Cupcakes

Been having a wicked cupcake craving since October that hasn't been satisfied yet.  Walking to my car last night after dinner at Baco Mercat, I saw a very unglamorous storefront with a fat display of cupcakes.  I was so full that even dessert didn't look appealing to me, so I only bought one.  Under normal circumstances  I would have purchased like six of them. minimum.

Triple Berry

 Each bite you take contains a generous amount of plump blueberries, and as if that wasn't enough, the moist tender cake gives off an intense berry aroma to flood your mouth with fruit.  The icing is also very noteworthy--thicker, richer, and less sweet than fancy cupcakeries'.  My only complaint is that the crumb is not fine and delicate enough.  No one asked for my opinion, but I think they should dry out the blueberries a bit more so the 'stronger' crumb isn't required to give the cupcake sufficient structure when the berries start to bleed during baking.  9/10 in the taste department, though.

In retrospect, I should have splurged for more cupcakes.  Next time perhaps.  Can grab a bite at Baco while I'm there too.  It's just across the street.  Love it when good food is located so close together.  At $3.25 a pop for an XL cupcake, you might as well skip dessert at Baco and come here.

Big Man Bakes Cupcakes
413 Main St.
Los Angeles, CA 90013

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Baco Mercat

So Charlie mentioned that he hadn't been to Baco Mercat during a kickass dinner at Starry Kitchen Nights @ the Tiara Cafe and I just had to beat him to the punch. Yes! Finally the one time I'm not playing catch-up!

I did not bring a tripod to dinner, so this is a photo-less post that is more for my reference than it is for foodporn browsing during business hours on a slow day.  Rest assured, a second trip is planned.  Just skip the rest of the post if you haven't already.  Text blows.  Anyone actually still reading this?

Arrived at 6pm w/ a party of three on Wed. night to find all tables inside Baco already reserved.  Outside seating was available, and actually preferable.  I found the interior to be a bit too cramped and dark.

Ordered way too much food.  Server raised his eyebrows.

3 Bacos (flatbread sandwich)
All Bacos are made with a very tender yet sturdy flatbread that's good enough to eat by itself.
1. OG- pork/beef carnitas, salbitxada
Pretty sure the pork cut is from the belly.  Meats are crispy outside but still tender on the inside despite being dry.  I'm not making any sense, I know.  But that's what it's like.  The Chinese have a similar way of cooking meat.  Beef cubes were much leaner and this was a major problem if you didnt get a hunk of the pork belly along with it in the bit you just took.  Beef-only bites were pretty dry and took some jaw-work.  Bites w/ the pork belly were juicy, creamy bliss.  So very rich.  The salbitxada spread plays a huge role in the OG's flavor, but that's okay because of its depth and complexity.

2. Beef tongue schnitzel-harissa, smoked aioli, pickle
Tender tongue that still had enough chewiness.  Accompanying spread and sauce brought an awesome combo of sweet, spicy, and light acidity to make all the ingredients and spices come alive in your mouth.  Best of the three.  Absolutely brilliant balancing of flavors.

3. Toron-oxtail hash, pickle, cheddar, tater, horseradish
Think: med.rare oxtail burger+crispy breakfast tater+yogurty sauce w/ pickles and arugula.  Meat was cooked perfectly but needed more salt/seasoning.  Everything else about it was fine.  Could have been a lot better if Baco used lamb.  Tastes good, but not as interesting as the other two.

2 Coca (crispy flatbread aka fancy pizza)
1. El Cordero- merguez, harissa, feta
Fantastic combo of flavors.  The harissa and spicy sausage went so well together with feta giving a light pungent aroma at the back of your palate.  Served with arugula and cheese on top of the pizza.

2. El Starts w/ a "B" but I Forgot the Name- three cheese, spicy peppers, sausage
Loved the use of Thai basil here.  It provided a fresh 'bite' to counter the heaviness of the sausage and cheeses.

Soujouk Pork Belly Ragu- ricotta cavatelli, pecorino, tomato
Small portion, and appropriately so.  Super dense and hearty dish.  Thick and creamy.  I would not suggest you solo this one.  Very heavy on the soujouk sausage seasoning.  I think this is a really good dish, but I'm not sure.  Was so full at this point that it only tasted "good" but I'm sure under hungrier circumstances it would have tasted amazing.

Fried Chicken & Biscuits
Shut up.  I was curious so I ordered it.  Baco Mercat continues their theme of slightly spicy, a little bit sweet, and a touch of acidity.  Pretty good take on fried chicken, which they sandwich between huge biscuit halves. At $13 I would say not worth it except to satisfy your curiosity.  Plan Check (post coming soon) does chicken a lot better and around the same price.  If your a biscuit fan and don't mind shelling out dough for this dish, then you're gonna love it.  Excellent biscuit that's light and flaky yet sturdy enough to soak up juices and hold the chicken.  Especially liked the buttermilk twang and sugar to round out the flavor.  Light sugar glaze on top was a nice touch.(I do the same when I make 'em!)

Upside-down Caramel Cake
$10 disappointment.  Way too sweet and the crumb was not tender enough.  Menu said it is served with apples so I hoped at least some acid would cut through the sugar...but no.  Apples were super sweet too.  Baco Mercat should consider a lighter cake, holding back the sugar, and some acid or tartness.  This sugar bomb is just not appealing to me.

Yes, it wasn't a perfect experience, but what I failed to describe is the bright complex flavors of each dish that are brilliantly balanced.  It's something you have to taste for yourself because words just aren't up for the task.  I can't remember the last time I had this much fun eating.  Okay Starry Kitchen was pretty good, but Baco Mercat impressed me a lot more with combinations of textures and flavors that I've never experienced.

Note: Parking next to meters is free after 6pm.  Plenty of parking on Main St. or the alleys.

Baco Mercat
408 Main St.
Los Angeles, CA 90013

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Tacos Mexico

Another one of those places where you drive by almost all your life and never even notice its existence.  Behold, Tacos Mexico and its $.075 taco Tuesday/Wednesdays:

Six asada tacos spread on a plate.  Photo taken w/ friend's iPhone.

Typically when I want to satisfy my after-dinner Mexican fast-food cravings, I go to Taco Del Rio on Azuza in La Puente.  $6 gets you a monster burrito with all the fixings.  Their tacos are also generously portioned and priced at just over a buck.  What we ate as UCSD students can't even compare to TDR.

...fucking Sergios, Cotixan, Robertos, Rigobertos....ugggh I'm not gonna continue listing them.

Then I was told about Tacos Mexico in Hacienda Hts who are open 24/7.  $0.99 gets you a taco that tastes just like a street taco.  So effin' satisfying.  To hell with my East LA taco crawls.  I'll save myself the drive and just come here.  You'll finish a taco in 3-5 bites (2 if you're a pig) so order a lot of 'em at once if you're hungry.

They serve other stuff too like sopes, gordidas, and breakfast items.  Combo plates also available.  I think I'll keep it simple and just stick with the tacos.  Their meats are pretty decent--well seasoned and juicy.  But, Taco Del Rio meats taste better.  You'll just have to decide whether you want  a street taco from Tacos Mexico or a more meat-oriented Taco Del Rio.

I've read the Yelp reviews on this place and I have to disagree with some of them.  Jason K and Neil's reviews are pretty spot on though.  Yes, this won't be a mind-blowing, life-altering gastronomic experience, but at these prices and their 24/7 business hours, the value is pretty goddamn good for what you get.  The place is clean, tacos aren't soggy with oil, & the meat tastes good. Just make sure you come early enough while it's still freshly cooked.  I'd say a 3 star rating.  My second choice after TDR, which closes at 10:30ish.

Tacos Mexico
1133 Hacienda Blvd
Hacienda Heights, CA 91745