Wendy’s Word

Not your mama’s blog….

Wurstküche June 23, 2010

Filed under: Food — wendy @ 5:46 pm
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Would you try a sausage restaurant recommended to you by a vegetarian?  I had my doubts until I tried Wurstküche, a cool little sausage place in the artist district of downtown LA, near Little Tokyo. 

Wurstküche has sausage, fries, and beer.  There is frequently a long line, but the line moves quickly.  There appears to be no seating, but a long narrow hallway leads to a huge open room with tables.  Lunchtime and after work draws varied crowds – business people mixed with heavily tattooed local artist-types.  All of which to say, you feel pretty cool for having discovered such a hip place to eat.

The Sausages

The sausages fall into three categories – classic, gourmet, and exotic.  Classic includes wurst made with pork or veal, Italian sausage, and three kinds of vegetarian sausage.  (You know the expression about not wanting to know what goes into the making of sausage and legislation?  Well, I really don’t want to know what goes into vegetarian sausage!)  Gourmet includes flavors such as ginger apricot, mango jalapeno, a Texas-style spicy sausage, Louisiana hot link, a Filipino sausage, and many others.  Exotics include buffalo, duck & bacon, rabbit, alligator, and rattlesnake.  The sausages are grilled and are juicy.  They’re served on good rolls, with your choice of two toppings that include sweet peppers, hot peppers, sauerkraut, and caramelized onions.  There are five kinds of mustard on the table (plus ketchup for the fries).  The mustard and toppings are great, but I recommend taking at least one bite of sausage plain, to get the flavor of the sausage.

The Fries

The fries are my favorite part of the meal.  They are thick-cut Belgian fries, and are very brown and crisp on the outside and soft on the inside.  They are sprinkled with coarse salt and served in a paper cone with your choice of dipping sauce.  A large order comes with two dipping sauces.  Dipping sauces include chipotle ketchup, curry ketchup, blue cheese with walnuts and bacon, pesto mayo, Thai peanut sauce, tzatziki, and many others. 

The Beer

 They have a wide variety of beers on tap, including a large selection of Belgian beers.  I’m sure they serve a standard pour (whatever that is) but the one time I went for an after-work drink, the glass seemed enormous and I could only drink half.  Or at least I could only drink half without a designated driver.  They also have a variety of bottled Belgian and German beers, and wine available at the bar in the room with the tables.  They also have a variety of unusual sodas, but don’t expect to order a diet Coke with your sausage – they don’t have it.   

Wurstküche is one of those finds that make me love LA.  Luckily for me, it’s not far from my office and is a perfect place for a relatively quick but satisfying lunch.

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Scoops, again June 22, 2010

Filed under: Food — wendy @ 2:30 pm

Went to Scoops again, as promised.  This time, had coconut-cardamom and salty caramel.  I’m a sucker for the salty-sweet combination, and the salty caramel did not disappoint.  It was also much creamier than the other flavors.  But I found myself enjoying the more subtle and less rich coconut-cardamom even more.  I also had tastes of strawberry-rhubarb; pistachio-orange water, which despite the fact that it was soy-based rather than dairy, was delicious; and banana-oreo, which was very tempting because it was fantastic.

 

Bowling Alone, by Robert Putnam June 18, 2010

Filed under: Books — wendy @ 10:13 pm
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You can take the professor out of the university, but you can’t take the university out of the professor.  Or so I thought when reading Bowling Alone, the latest selection for our public health book club.  (and since I suggested it, I have no one to blame but myself!)  Bowling Alone would have been great if assigned as part of a college course, but was a slog as a book to read for pleasure.  However, it made for an excellent book club discussion.

Putnam postulates that social capital, the connectedness we feel with others resulting in an implicit expectation of reciprocity, has been declining over the years, and this has negative consequences for education, employment, health, and democracy.  He has loads of data demonstrating the decline, as well as graphs that show the correlation between civic engagement and positive health and educational outcomes.  He also explores the reasons for decline in engagement, such as two-parent working households (or more specifically, women in the workforce, since women tend to be more socially connected than men), mobility and sprawl, and technology (I love that TV is heavily implicated!  Yes!  I’m finally vindicated for not having cable!).

The “what can we do about it” section was weak.  The suggestions seemed ivory tower to me and not at all realistic.  In fact, the book seemed naive at times, for which the writer was not at fault.  The book was written in 2000, eons ago by technology standards, and social media like Facebook and Twitter (or blogs, for that matter!) were not around yet.  Now, technology serves as a means of social connectedness in a way that it didn’t when the book was written.  This led to a lively book club discussion about whether social media like Facebook really connects us or just connects us in a superficial way that substitutes for actual face-to-face interaction.  (No definitive answer on that one.)

Despite the book’s flaws, it resonated with me.  I’m pretty social and have done my fair share of volunteering.  My volunteer work has put me in contact with lots of people who are now friend/acquaintances (meaning that I don’t have them over for dinner, but we have lovely chats at the farmers’ market or Trader Joe’s) which makes me feel very connected to my community.  I frequently serve as a pollworker (don’t laud my virtue here, my job requires me to do it) and I love the civic aspect of it as well as the social aspect of seeing all my neighbors.  Reading Bowling Alone made me realize that I miss volunteering, so I volunteered last weekend for a music fundraiser at my daughter’s school, and caught up with friends I haven’t seen in a while.  I even scored a party invitation out of it!  I hope that I am serving as a good role model for my children and they will become involved with their communities or causes when they’re older.  (or maybe that’s just a rationalization for not spending enough time at home with them after school!!)

I’m not about to join a bowling league (a la the title, Bowling Alone), but the book confirmed that being connected to friends, neighbors, and my community doesn’t just make me feel good, it’s good for all.

 

Scoops June 17, 2010

Filed under: Food — wendy @ 6:20 pm
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Scoops is an awesome, hole-in-the-wall ice cream shop on Heliotrope right behind L.A. City College.  It’s not fancy, it’s not pretentious, but its ice cream rivals the best of them.

Scoops’ hook is its flavors.  They are unusual.  For example, the flavor “brown bread,” made with Grape Nuts cereal, seems to be a standing flavor (from what I read).  I’ve read about flavors with wasabi, ham, and bacon.  Sounds weird and not at all appealing.  But today, the flavors were normal with a twist.  They had hazelnut, mint, chocolate-cinnamon, and some flavor involving Oreos.  They had a sorbet with mango and something else.  They had strawberry-pomegranate, and an intense blue-purple flavor that I’m not sure what it was.  They had Thai ice tea flavored ice cream.  I had black tea-honey, and pistachio-basil.

When I first walked in, I was struck by the variety of flavors but also by the texture of the ice cream.  When walking into gelato shops in Italy, I looked at the texture of the ice cream (creamy and soft) and the color of the chocolate (should be very dark) and banana (should be slightly grey, not yellow) to judge whether the ice cream would be good.  The texture of the ice cream at Scoops looked like good Italian gelato.  The server behind the counter was very nice and told me I could try whatever flavors I liked.  I wanted to try every flavor but after tasting the black tea-honey and the pistachio-basil, I knew that trying more flavors would only confuse me.  I was decided.

The flavors were delicious.  The black tea flavor was delicate, reminiscent of good green tea ice cream, and the tea flavor was not masked by the honey.  The pistachio-basil flavor was also delicate, not overly sweet with a refreshing herb taste, with tiny granules of chopped pistachio.  Although I said earlier that the texture looked like gelato, the ice cream was not as rich as gelato.  In fact, the ice cream was not rich at all, and didn’t taste very dairy-ish.  However, this was a good thing since it allowed the flavors to come through.  And although the dairy flavor was not strong, the ice cream was still creamy and not hard and thin like sorbets can sometimes be.

The prices seemed reasonable.  A “single scoop” costs $2.75 and is actually two scoops (ergo two flavors, but you actually get a full scoop of each).  An actual single scoop is called a kids’ scoop and is $2.00.  A “refill” is $2.00, and as we were throwing away our empty plastic bowls, the server told us that if we saved them and brought them back, we could save money by getting a refill.  I guess refills don’t have a statute of limitations!  Unfortunately, they were in the trash by then, and am I really going to store an empty plastic bowl and will I remember to bring it next time?  Doubtful.  Unless Scoops becomes a weekly habit.  Which it very well might, at least until I’ve tried all the flavors.

 

Lunch Adventure – Soy Café (not), Pure Luck, and Scoops

Filed under: Food — wendy @ 6:15 pm
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I have been trying to get to Soy Café in Silverlake for ages, with no luck.  Soy Café is a Vietnamese hole in the wall that specializes in soy items but has other Vietnamese fare as well.  Their banh mi is supposed to be great, according to Yelp and the food blogosphere.  The first time my co-workers and I tried to go, it was closed.   Like bars on the windows, closed forever kind of closed.  A few months later, my co-worker e-mailed me that it had reopened and we made plans to go there on a Friday.  Come to find out, they’re closed on Fridays.  Today, I was resolved to try again.  This time I called first.  After many rings, an Asian voice answered with, “hello.”  Not “Soy Café, can I help you?” but “hello.”  I confirmed that it was the right place and that it was open today.  We drove there maybe an hour and a half after I made the phone call. It was hard to find the place, but eventually we found the sign.  In front of a tiny storefront restaurant that was CLOSED.  An hour and a half after I confirmed it was open!  There was a hand written sign on the door saying something like, “Not feeling well.  Had to go to the doctor.”  Not meant to be, I guess.

Instead we went to a vegan restaurant called Pure Luck on Heliotrope right behind Los Angeles City College, for the sole reason that it was across the street from an ice cream store called Scoops that I had to try.  Normally, I would not be into going to a vegan restaurant.  I’m for moderation in pretty much everything, and there’s nothing moderate about being a vegan.  But the cool décor, the fact that they use La Brea bakery rolls for their sandwiches, and the sweet potato fries convinced me.  Plus, it’s the only restaurant right across the street from Scoops. 

Pure Luck was very good.  I had a chickpea salad sandwich.  It was like egg salad, creamy with chunks of chickpea and crunchy celery, and was flavored with curry.  The bread was good, as La Brea bakery bread always is.  My friend had a tofu and pesto sandwich, which was also good.  Note for next time — if you’re planning to get ice cream afterward, a salad might be more in order since there was a lot of bread and La Brea bakery or no, it’s too much to eat.  But the appeal of the sandwich is that it comes with a choice of sweet potato fries with a barbeque-type (chipotle-flavored?) dipping sauce or rosemary-infused fries with garlic aioli.  There are other choices for sides, but they are utterly irrelevant to my mind.  My friend had the rosemary fries and I had the sweet potato fries and we shared.  Delicious!

After lunch, we went to Scoops, but that deserves a blog entry unto itself.