This bbq marked the sixth straight year that Jake and Sari have been hosting this event. The occasion for the original, which I actually missed, was a baby shower for Sari when she was pregnant with her son Yuji. He’s now five years old and I (and my stomach) have been fortunate enough to have attended every bbq they’ve had since then (I think – too much meat affects the memory). Long story short, Jake and Sari open up their back yard setting up tents and seats for maximum comfort and shade during the feeding frenzy. The garage is filled with cold beverages (mmm guarana antarctica), desserts and salads and sides – delicious and necessary as far as ruffage goes but in my humble opinion for the serious churrasco fan, kind of irrelevent (sorry Sari, the beets and beans were awesome though).
But the main attraction is Almir Santre, O Mestre de Churrasco (grill master extraordinaire) and his traveling cavalcade of meat cooked to perfection. He had an electric grill for salmon and asparagus, a gas grill for chicken and veggies and best of all a charcoal grill with rotisserie attachments which rotated the meats at varying levels above the the heat for optimum even slow roasting. Think of it as a giant paintbrush wielded by a master painter, Almir. The great thing is he turned out the masterpieces every few minutes calling them out by their intriguing names: garlic steak, tri-tip, garlic shrimp, bacon wrapped filet minon, sausage…
This time was especially great because Shefali got to come as well as the usual cast of friends, Matt aka the Dumpling King, and PK aka (self-proclaimed) Fro-yo Expert who came from Oakland. And of course hanging out with Sari and Jake and their kids is reason enough to visit LA – well them and tacos. In addition I took the liberty of inviting JG aka Burger Afficionado and his girlfriend Christine who’ve recently relocated to LA and my friend Ben and his girlfriend Maria. So it was like a good ol’ family reunion albeit one where the goal is to fill one’s belly with a vast amount of animal protein. Almir, O Mestre de Churrasco cooked and served such a wide and delicious variety of meats that Actually maybe that’s not so unusual. Anyway, take a look at a short video for a little taste of what I’m talking about.
Oh, and click on the bacon wrapped chicken for more photos from the bbq.
The next morning after the bbq, I think all of us were suffering a little bit from meat overload. The last thing we needed was more meat. Wrong! We decided to do the whole hair of the dog thing and go for the most awesome breakfast burritos from nearby George’s Burgers, a divey, old school burger joint that serves up some of the most massive and satisfying breakfast burritos I’ve ever had. They’re stuffed with two or three eggs, hash browns, jalapeño laden pico de gallo salsa, cheese and your choice of meat. My choice: bacon AND chorizo.
Fortunately one of the breakfast burritos was left out of the order which meant that we ended up splitting the burritos so each person got about 75% of a burrito (equal to about 105% of a normal burrito). This ended up being a good thing because we (Me, Matt, PK, Jake, Sari, Yuji and Hana – Shef had to leave earlier) ended up going to dinner at another spot that has become destination for me in LA: Sanamluang Cafe in East Hollywood, a good half hour drive from the West side where Jake and Sari live. So we needed our stomachs to be good and ready for the fresh, fast and delicious Thai food this place serves up. Everything was good. Among the most memorabe, the larb was porkalicious, the noodle soup was light and vibrant and the chicken over rice was flavorful and comforting.
Thoroughly stuffed (yet again) we all agreed that there was no way we could do dessert. But then we quickly came to our senses and decided to to try this new Fro-Yo place that we’d heard about called Yogurt Land. It’s yet another place to open up to cash in on the whole Pink Berry craze but instead of only three flavors and annoying kids who serve you, this place has something like 14 flavors ranging from several varieties of the tart Pinkberry style frozen yogurt to the more ice creamy Yogurt Delite style flavors. You serve yourself so you can choose whatever flavor and whatever toppings there’s no middleman getting in between you and your fix (and no yogurt holes). You pay by the weight which ends up being cheaper (something like 30 cents/ ounce which ends up believe it or not, being cheaper. And you know how I feel about cheaper. I love it. And I found the four different flavors of yogurt all pretty good. This might be my new favorite fro-yo place. Thankfully, they have a store in NYC.
Alright, by this time I was feeling a bit fooded out, believe it or not. PK and Matt had gone back to the Bay Area so it was just me staying with Jake and Sari. I started the day out by going for a run along the beach from Venice to Santa Monica. Thankfully, this little jaunt helped me make room for hanging out later in the day with JG. He’d just moved to LA a month before and I felt it necessary to show him another favorite place of mine, Zankou Chicken. I decided to go light and ordered the chicken tarna, like a chicken shawerma (marinated and grilled chicken wrapped in fluffy pita). It was delicious, moist and flavorful and with the addition of the creamy hummus that JG and I ordered I found myself in a familiar position: full.
What to do? I had plans to meet up with my friend Ben, a long time friend and fellow foodie, in a few hours for dinner. He wanted to take me to this birria place in the east side. Not wanting to dissappoint I agreed to go but vowed to take it easy and maybe just eat a taco or two. The place was called El Parian and it’s kind of a hole in the wall on Pico Blvd close to downtown LA.
But some hole in the walls you just have a sense walking in are the real deal and Ben said this place was known for it’s birria so I decided to put my vows aside and go for the goat – stew that is. I was not disappointed. The birria was a deep earthy red and full of rich flavor. Sometimes, goat can be a little strong, perhaps musky, but this goat was subtle – a little gamey of course but that combined really nicely with the spicy chili base of the broth. The meat was fall off the bone tender – not gristley at all, which is sometimes the problem with goat. My only regret, is I didn’t get any tacos. Afterwards I felt oddly invigorated, my belly fully of goat, but my mind clear and alert. Of course this feeling didn’t last as soon, two scoops of gelato soon joined the goat, putting me over the edge into the territory of food induced stupor.
Alas, my long weekend had come to an end and it was time for me to head back to NYC. But my LA food weekend was not quite over. As we drove to the airport Sari and I made one more stop to Tito’s Tacos a place that Sari holds near and dear to her heart. She says it’s one of the first foods she at as a baby. She hadn’t yet eaten breakfast so the mission was just to get her a bean and cheese burrito, but I couldn’t resist getting a little something for myself: the trademark Tito’s taco. It’s not like traditional Mexican taco with soft corn tortillas. It’s kind of it’s own thing entirely, a combination of the Taco Bell style taco with that semi circular hard corn tortilla shell and a mountain of cheddar cheese. But the meat is what set’s it apart. It’s a slow cooked shredded beef that’s moist and full of flavor. Really, it was probably the perfect way to conclude my carnivorous carnival of food in LA.