Posts for February 13, 2013

Vegan Food Gets Real: Tal Ronnen Adding Crossroads To The Growing Scene Of Meat-Free Menus

Ronnen's quinoa salad

Tal Ronnen made a big splash in the headlines in 2011 when news broke that this former private chef to Oprah was opening a vegan restaurant with Portia DiRossi, Chrissie Hynde, and Ellen DeGeneres. Though Ronnen was probably not at the fulcrum of this media storm, we came to really appreciate the chef after tasting his vegan oysters at an fundraiser for Common Threads; a dainty dish that leaned on nori-topped artichokes for its oceanic essences and not on bi-valves.

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Madame Chocolat Sports Chocolate iPhones; Vosges Popping-up at The W

Chocolate iPhones, slightly cheaper than the real thing.Photo: Madame Chocolat

Did you ever read that preachy little book where a little boy turned everything he touched into chocolate as a kid? We're renaming it "The Hasty Torres Story," as the owner and head confectioner of Madame Chocolat continues to turn all inanimate objects into edible sweets. Now, she's now doing for iPhones what she's past done with high heels, golf balls, Chanel bags, and Legos: turning them into chocolates in time for Valentine's Day. Torres, who's now working from her new Downtown chocolate factory, is offering iPhones in pre-existing message wraps made from edible, fondant ink bearing tasty images of Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, and Mickey Mouse (for furries, natch) and also in custom forms, with images of yourself or anything else your depraved mind can conjure (for the Anthony Wieners of the world). The phones are priced at an Apple-worthy $25 and $35, respectively, and are currently being sold at D.L.& Co. in Beverly Hills.

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Spanish Chef Accused of Poisoning Ten of His Fellow Cooks

Don't trust the toque.Photo: iStockphoto

The view may be fantastic at the El Lavaderu restaurant in Gijon, Spain, but an unnamed assistant chef there is allegedly an aspiring murderer. (Not cool, unnamed assistant chef.) Police have arrested the 55-year-old on the suspicion he's been poisoning his colleagues on the line with calcium cyanamide — perhaps even over a lengthy time period. The Telegraph reports that at least one of the poisoned, nauseous cooks figured something was up when the chef's girlfriend, who worked alongside them in the Asturian restaurant, was the only other staff member who did not fall ill. The assistant cook now faces fourteen counts of attempted murder, and is also being investigated in connection with the sudden death of the restaurant's former head chef, who suffered a fatal heart attack in 2011. It gets worse, too: In addition to all that, authorities say the restaurant's former owners were afflicted with strange maladies that resolved after they'd moved on from the premises. [Telegraph UK via Eater]

Alton Brown Says the New Star Wars Needs More Farm-to-Table Food

For its March issue, which hits stands next Tuesday, Wired polled all the notable residents of geekopolis to glean their thoughts on what kinds of topics the next Star Wars movie absolutely needed to cover. Alton Brown says "weird food" is high on his wish list, writing that he's always been fond of Yoda's stew, Aunt Beru's taste in vegetables, and the blue milk Luke's Uncle Owen puts out each night at dinner. So bring on the newfangled Jedi feasts. We're onboard as long as it doesn't involve young padawans hitting up their local takeout joints for cheap and greasy tauntaun soup. That's not sustainable. [Wired]

Golden Road Brewmaster Joins Angel City

Last month we learned that Golden Road Brewing's brewmaster Jon Carpenter was departing the Atwater brewery for unknown avenues. It turns out that L.A.'s snowballing beer scene is retaining the former Dogfish Head assistant brewer, as Carpenter now plans to lend his expertise to Angel City Brewing, the local suds-maker that recently embraced reinvention with the opening of a new Downtown facility. The L.A. Times finds Carpenter heading up every angle of production for Angel City, which recently acquired by the Boston Beer Co.-created Alchemy & Science, including overseeing recipes and quality control as the national company pursues growth in the craft beer market. [LAT]

Belcampo Meat Co. Expanding First to Palo Alto and L.A., San Francisco Next Year

Belcampo's meat case.

In November, Slow Food vet Anya Fernald opened the first of several retail operations for her new sustainable, totally vertical meat operation, Belcampo Meat Company, in Marin County. Today, SF Weekly's Anna Roth reviews the place, calling this new temple of meat "a singularly pleasurable experience," and raving about everything from a beef cheek hash at brunch, to a Middle Eastern-spiced goat sandwich offered as a special at one lunch. Now it looks like plans for a San Francisco branch have been put off in favor of some southerly expansion. Fernald tells Roth that she's hoping to open a shop in Palo Alto by summer, and another down in Los Angeles sometime this year. "It's not very profitable to raise meat the way you're supposed to," she admits. "The business is more viable with three or four more stores open."

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Is Chego Charging Into Chinatown?


L.A. Downtown News spreads the word that Roy Choi could be relocating his rice bowl restaurant to Chinatown. Chego, Choi's follow-up to revolutionizing the way we eat out with Kogi, temporarily closed its doors on Overland in early December for what the restaurant cited as renovations. According to an executive director with Chinatown's Business Improvement District, Chego will occupy a space at the Far East Plaza food court. Of course, the story may be oversimplifying this scoop and jumping the gun slightly.

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Four Loko Gets a Makeover

This can is now vintage.

The Federal Trade Commission and Phusion Projects finally reached a settlement on Four Loko. The frat-boy favorite is going to sport a new label, which will solve all the problems it causes. If the malt beverage exceeds two servings of alcohol, it's required to have an "alcohol facts panel" on the back. Study up before you chug! The FTC says that a 23.5-ounce can of Four Loko is the equivalent of four to five beers, but someone smart decided not to put that on the can. Information on how to get drunk quickly and cheaply is like catnip for teenagers, whom this drink has left hospitalized.

Phusion's still complaining. »

SBE Bringing The Bazaar, Umami, Katsuya, and The Griddle To Vegas Strip

The SLS Hotel, projectedPhoto: SBE

SBE announces that ground is officially breaking on the construction of the Vegas location of The SLS Hotel, a long-in-the-works hospitality project that will finally surface this fall. The new hotel will triple Jose Andres' presence in Sin City, as the Spanish chef's whimsical tapas restaurant The Bazaar will be included in the property (Andres also has two restaurant outposts at The Cosmopolitan), while other SBE holdings like Katsuya and Umami Burger will also open alongside two of the brand's nightclubs, Shelter and The Sayer's Club (Bellagio currently hosts the brand's Hyde).

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Rotten Tomato Kingpin Gets Six Years In The Slammer

There's one in every bunch...

Three years ago to the month, SK Foods' former CEO and owner Frederick Scott Salyer was arrested for leading a widespread racket in the world of California tomatoes. The charges accused the mogul of fixing prices, bribing stores to accept moldy fruit, and rigging bids as his company rose through the ranks to become the industry's second biggest, while major grocery chains and snack food megaliths like Frito-Lay and Kraft were also caught up in the misdeeds. Last March, the 57-year-old Salyer plead guilty to the charges and faced a possible sentence of four to twenty years in the pokey, giving up millions from overseas bank accounts and holing up in his Pebble Beach home. The L.A. Times reports that the crooked tomato kingpin has been hit with six years in prison yesterday for his crimes, which lead to the convictions of ten other employees. A U.S. attorney for the case says, "[Salyer] turned his company into a machine of corruption and economic crime," breaches that helped spike the price of tomatoes for everyday customers.

Tomato company owner gets 6 years in prison for price-fixing [LAT]

There Are 500 McDonald’s Employees on That Stranded Carnival Cruise Ship

Long lines for burgers! Spewing toilets! It's the worst McDonald's employee vacation ever.Photo: Courtesy United States Coast Guard

Up to 500 of the 3,143 passengers aboard the disabled Carnival Triumph cruise vessel in the Gulf of Mexico are fast-food "franchisees and executives from the Houston area," CBS Houston reports. The stranded ship is being towed by two tugboats and is expected to reach port in Alabama sometime tomorrow. In the meantime, passengers have been sending reports to family members describing four-hour waits for hamburgers; elsewhere, there's news of overflowing toilets and "water and feces all over the floor," which, taken together, is really grim, but also certainly represents the absolute worst nightmare any McDonald's franchisee would ever expect to have.

We're running out of food. »

Chicken California Cafe Overtaking Electric Lotus in Los Feliz

Yeah okay, sure guys...Photo: Joshua Lurie

Wait, Chicken California Cafe? Surely we must mean California Chicken Cafe? Nope, you read it right the first time, Chicken California Cafe is replacing a division of Los Feliz Indian restaurant Electric Lotus. Not since Coming to America introduced us to the "McDowells" chain have we seen such a blatant ganking of an existing franchise's concept.

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El Tepeyac Owner Manuel Rojas Gone But Not Forgotten

Manuel Rojas

Manuel Rojas, the patron of Boyle Heights' iconic burrito joint El Tepeyac and a pillar of the community, passed away this week, according to L.A. Observed. Rojas, who helped turn his family's restaurant into the Evergreen Avenue legend it is today following the passing of his father in the fifties, is credited on El Tepeyac's website as having created some of its most massive and monstrous creations, including the signature Hollenbeck burrito, named for the neighborhood police department and containing what Jonathan Gold famously called "an old-line Mexican restaurant's entire No. 2 dinner wrapped into a tortilla the size of a pillowcase." More recently, Adam Richman confronted the owner's eponymous, five-pound "Manuel's Special" on Man Vs. Food, recreating a quest many daring eaters have undertaken, but very few have seen to its end. As a fitting testament to the kind man that stuffed our city for generations, more than 1,300 Facebook fans have already left memories and memorials to the late, great owner through the site "Who remembers in East L.A."

Manuel Rojas, burrito maestro of El Tepeyac [LA Observed]

Watch a Funny Scene About Artisanal Popcorn From This Week’s Portlandia

In this week's Portlandia, Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein play pushy movie theater concession workers who hawk artisan, rustic food. "The newspaper infuses the food with the grittiness of the paper," is actually one of their claims. They oblige an overwhelmed customer to purchase Italian soda, arugula salad with fresh cheese ("it stinks, and that's good"), sun-dried grapes, and salted ice cream with a very important drizzle of caramel. Sound familiar? The episode airs this Friday, February 15 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on IFC.

"It's like being in Europe a little bit, but here." »

Try It Again, Charlie: Trotter to Auction Restaurant Contents Online

"@collector219 ROFL that you think that copper pot can go 4 $6. Bid higher or GTFO"

The last time an auction prompted this much excitement, Cary Grant was trying to escape from the bad guys in North by Northwest. But Charlie Trotter's efforts to sell off the contents of his legendary, now-closed Chicago restaurant keep stirring up trouble and chaos. First a pallet of rare wine disappeared en route to Christie's from Chicago. Then the original live auction in December turned into a three-ring circus, with Trotter tossing out Chicago Tribune reporter Mark Caro, berating the audience for failing to appreciate the cost of the frames of some of his restaurant's art, and finally pulling the plug on the whole sale. But when the auction kicks off online today, all Trotter will be able to do is tweet his displeasure.

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