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Plan Check Kitchen + Bar and Brian’s Shave Ice — Los Angeles, CA

Posted by Shannon on 05/23/2012

Dinnertime meet-up with Evan and Charles. Two awesome friends of mine who can get down and chow down with me. I love our random dinners together because of how much I laugh, and all the good food we share. Evan and I ate as little as possible while we were at lunch that day because we had the tactical plan to “go fat kid” during dinner. Simply stated, we were ordering multiple appetizers and main dishes so we could sample as much of the menu as possible during our inaugural visit.

Plan Check, Los Angeles, The Foodie Photographer

We got there a few minutes before Charles. We’d already been looking at Plan Check’s Facebook page all day, sending each other links to tantalizing pictures and plotting out what we’d order that to maximize the amount of dishes we’d be trying. I ordered the Tropic Thunder which was a spicy, tangy combo of jalapeno-infused vodka, mango juice, lemon juice and sugar.

Plan Check, Los Angeles, Cocktail, Jalapeno Vodka, The Foodie Photographer

Charles had the Chiapas.. chai-infused tequila, almond milk, all spice and bitters. I had a sip and it tasted like boozy horchata, yum. Since we’d taken the approach of eat as little as possible all day, we ordered up two dishes per person.

Plan Check, Los Angeles, Cocktails, Drinks, The Foodie Photographer

I read the menu online earlier in the day and knew that my first order was the Pickled Beet Salad. Slightly bitter Peppercress, a drizzle of olive oil, whipped goat cheese, pomegranate molasses and pickled candy beet. Damn good and served up in a small little skillet type dish.

Plan Check, Los Angeles, Pickled Beet, Candy Beet, Goat Cheese, The Foodie Photographer

Evan knew she wanted the Worldwide Tribe Fries (chorizo gravy, green chiles and a sunny side up egg) were beyond good. We quickly devoured this one. This was a limited edition “Stussy x Plan Check Special Menu.” I never ate paste as a child, but popping the yolk and mixing it around in the fries and gravy felt like an (edible) art project from back in elementary school.

Plan Check, Los Angeles, French Fries, World Fries, Green Chile, Sunny Side Up Egg,  The Foodie Photographer

The Spring Tuna Salad was a hefty piece of albacore tuna confit cooked in bacon fat. Underneath are ramps, freshly shelled peas, asparagus, and spears of crimson potatoes. A thick cut of tuna cooked fully through. A dish that mixes a hearty portion of vegetables and protein is my favorite combo because I don’t really like a lot of carbs. Takes up too much space. Cacio e Pepe is a definite exception.

Plan Check, Los Angeles, Tuna, Spring Peas, Asparagus, The Foodie Photographer

I ordered the special burger of the day, the “DYNAMITE! Shrimp Bun.” The patty is made of rock shrimp patty, sprinkled with tenkasu (bits of crispy tempura crunchiness), masago, a spicy dynamite sauce, strips of nori, all pillowed in-between a shrimp cracker crunch bun. I annihilated this burger in about 3 minutes, and it may have been quicker if not for cutting it in half to share w/ the homies.

Plan Check, Los Angeles, Shrimp Burger, Nori, Rice Crackers, The Foodie Photographer

Did we have dessert? Of course we did. The made-to-order crueller donuts came sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and were placed loftily atop a banana cream and fresh-sliced bananas. The spoonfuls of creamy banana and warm, crunchy sweet doughnuts induced silent smiles all around the table.

Plan Check, Los Angeles, The Foodie Photographer, Dessert, Donut, Doughnut, Cruller, Bananas

And because one dessert is not enough (there were three of us sharing that one dessert after all), we walked off our dinner in the cool Spring air… moseying our way down to Brian’s Shave Ice. This was my very first time ever having shave ice because I haven’t been to Hawaii yet.

Brian's Shave Ice, West Los Angeles, Dessert, The Foodie Photographer

I know that Charles has been here countless times already (this is his friend’s biz), so I left the ordering up to him after I selected my three syrup flavors.

Brian's Shave Ice, Hawaiian Shave Ice, Syrup Flavors, Los Angeles, Dessert, The Foodie Photographer

Black cherry, lychee and another berry flavor were my selections. The grandiose end result was also topped with sweetened condensed milk and had a surprise inside dose of Dolewhip! Evan ordered a shave ice with Matcha green tea syrup, mochi pieces and atsuki beans with the condensed milk topping. Charles had reached his limit and daintily ordered a Dolewhip in a cone that was 1/3 of the size of me and Evan’s dessert. By the time we walked back out into the evening air we were “sugar wasted” and giggly.

Brian's Shave Ice, Dessert, Shave Ice, Hawaiian Shave Ice, Los Angeles, The Foodie Photographer, Condensed Milk

If you feel like going hard like we did, or just sampling a bit of any of the above… both businesses info is below. Happy eating!

Plan Check:  (310) 288-6500 ||  1800 Sawtelle Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90025  ||

Brian’s Shave Ice: (310) 231-3450 || 11301 Olympic Blvd #103, Los Angeles, CA 90064 ||


Posted in Dessert, Dinner, Foodie Photos, Hamburger, Los Angeles, TheFoodiePhotographer | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

La Sosta Enoteca — Hermosa Beach, CA

Posted by Shannon on 05/08/2012

My boyfriend left on an 8-day tour through New Mexico and Texas last month, leaving me with the apartment all to myself. While having the apartment to myself had its upsides:

  • Watching reality TV without groaning in the background
  • Wearing horribly mismatched sleep clothes around the house
  • Spreading out like a starfish to take up the whole bed when I slept
  • Unleashing my OCD-clean-freak tendencies on the apartment for a full eight days…

Being away from you significant other for more than a week also has drawbacks, that can make you miss them terribly:

  • Walking into a dead silent (albeit OCD-ly clean) apartment after work
  • Sitting at the dinner table eating meals solo, or having no one to say “sweet dreams” to before falling asleep
  • No one to laugh with and re-cap the odd/enraging/monotonous events of the day

Needless to say, by the time he got back on a Saturday evening, I was very much ready to surprise him with a special dinner out so we could reconnect and talk about the tour and things that had happened back here at home over those last eight days. I booked a reservation at Hermosa Beach’s La Sosta Enoteca. I have wanted to go here since I heard about it during my first year living in California, but the timing and appropriate dining partner never aligned. The Italian restaurant is self-described as:

“A place to experience Italian food in a new, yet familiar way while indulging in the pleasures of authentic tastes and welcoming atmosphere. We cook from our memories and from our hearts.”

La Sosta Enoteca, Hermosa Beach

Photo courtesy of

Our server that night (as well as the owner) are from Italy, and put great consideration into the details of the roughly 12-table restaurant. Once seated, we glanced through their binder full of wine offerings, settling on a bottle of wine from an estate in Sicily, Feudo Principi di Butera. Our waiter presented the bottle, poured a sample for Steve to try and confirm, then brought a bucket of ice to the table to keep it appropriately chilled.

La Sosta Enoteca, Italian Food, Wine, Hermosa Beach, The Foodie Photographer

Our first course was the Il Tagliere, Italian for” cutting board.” It was a no-brainer for me after having stalked the restaurant reviews/photos on Yelp! over the past three years, as well as recommending this location to a few friends and having them report back their findings.  The board came with a selection of cheese and cold cuts imported from Italy. Truffle honey was my favorite part of the board, paired with the blue cheese selection on a piece of freshly baked bread.

La Sosta Enoteca, Italian Food, Hermosa Beach, The Foodie Photographer, Truffle Honey, Mortadella, Cheese

For our second course, we selected the Gnocchi Allastice, homemade gnocchi with lobster. My first bite erased all the terribly heavy, doughy, chewy gnocchi I’ve ever tasted before. The little pillows of pasta dough were even lighter than a piece of fresh burrata. The lobster and sauce that accompanied it truly had the perfect ratio, neither overpowering the other’s texture or flavor.

La Sosta Enoteca, Italian Food, Wine, Hermosa Beach, The Foodie Photographer, Gnocchi, Lobster

La Sosta Enoteca, Italian Food, Wine, Hermosa Beach, The Foodie Photographer, Gnocchi, Lobster

The third and final course was Branzino al Forno, baked Mediterranean sea bass. I appreciated the presentation of the pasta and this fish, because they are single dishes that La Sosta Enoteca split and (beautifully) plated for us since we were sharing both dishes.

La Sosta Enoteca, Italian Food, Wine, Hermosa Beach, The Foodie Photographer, Branzino, Sea Bass, Cauliflower, Green Beans

The fish was so tender that I won’t even use the word ‘flaky’. The cauliflower and beans that came with it were great additions that highlighted the fish but again, didn’t step overshadow the main component of the dish.

La Sosta Enoteca, Italian Food, Wine, Hermosa Beach, The Foodie Photographer, Branzino, Sea Bass, Cauliflower, Green Beans

The table service was also notable, the silverware and plates were changed three times, the pace of the dishes was great because our server paid attention to when we were about to finish a course, and the wine and water unobtrusively refilled at just the right moments. When we were ready to leave, the bill was paired with a pair of complimentary two-bite chocolate-covered cream puffs. Heaven.

Posted in Dinner, Foodie Photos, Hermosa Beach, Wine | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Homemade Vegetable Scramble

Posted by Shannon on 04/22/2012

I decided to make breakfast for lunch on Saturday. I came back from the gym pretty ravenous after a cardio & strength training workout. Though I was tempted to just make a double-portion protein shake and call it a day, I knew a home-cooked meal would be equally satiating,  but much, much more fulfilling. Eggs are a staple for me: scrambled, in oyako donburi, in pasta carbonara, and hard-boiled as a snack or at the Whole Food salad bar. I wanted to make a relatively “clean” meal after my workout… so I whisked together three eggs (discarding one of the yolks), grated Tillamook sharp cheddar, and diced up asparagus, tofu, and onions.

I sautéed the asparagus and onion in butter by themselves first, because they take more time to soften from the raw form to something you’d find in an egg scramble than the other ingredients. After the onion was translucent I added the tofu (a baked “savory” flavor variation from Whole Foods) and warmed it up before pouring in the eggs and reducing the stove flame to medium. I slowly added in cheese as I repeatedly folded the egg scramble into itself.

I use the small white scoop that comes w/ rice cookers to make my scrambled eggs, the smaller yet wider surface area and shape is more efficient than a spatula in my opinion. When the eggs started firming up, I began toasting my English muffin half, so that by the time I was scooping the cooked eggs onto my plate, the muffin sprang up from the toaster with a golden hue around the edges. We only cook w/ sticks of butter in our apartment, so buttering rigid, nook-and-cranny style English muffins can be tricky when you’re trying to spread the butter with a knife and successfully melt it before the muffin cools. I am one of those impatient (gross?) people who rubs the stick of butter directly onto the English muffin half. I do take a knife and remove the crumbs from the butter when I’m done (ok… 98% of the time.)

Eggs, Tillamok Cheddar, Cheese, Tofu, Asparagus, Mushroom, Onion, English Muffin, Butter, The Foodie Photographer, Redondo Beach, California, Food Photo, Foodie

Saturday’s weather was bright yet overcast, and I sat at the dining room table enjoying my lunch in the sunlight shining through the double slider doors that face our table.  A relaxing, fulfilling and peaceful weekend lunch!

Posted in Brunch, Cheese, Cooking @ Home, Foodie Photos, Lunch, Redondo Beach, TheFoodiePhotographer | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Three Japanese Snacks I Love

Posted by Shannon on 04/19/2012

I went to Marukai Market last weekend and filled my shopping basket. Things started all healthy-like… red peppers, tofu, bean sprouts, shumai, dumplings. And then — I passed the beverage and snacks section — and things went absolutely sideways. These three snacks win a small place in my heart because they taste good and are unique and/or adorably packaged.

1. Ramune Soda

Marukai, Marukai Asian Market, Ramune, Japanese soda, Japanese Pop, The Foodie Photographer

To open these bottles you remove the plastic at the top to find a small plastic disk with a nub sticking out. You use the nub to press down on the glass marble sealing each ramune bottle shut. Once the seal is broken, the clear marble is released and drops partway down into the neck of the bottle. Since the glass bottle is designed with a pinch in the middle, the marble continues to entertain you while you drink by rolling around and floating in the bright, sugary drink each time you take a swig.

Marukai, Marukai Asian Market, Ramune, Japanese soda, Japanese Pop, The Foodie Photographer

As you can see, the flavor selection is as intense as the bright packaging. My favorite flavors are the original cider flavor, followed closely by lychee and melon. When I was in high school and college, I would drive 30 minutes to the Asian grocery store Uwajimaya (in Seattle’s Chinatown area), to pick up four or five bottles to have on back-up for the month.

2. Koriyama Cheese Cake

Marukai, Marukai Asian Market, Japanese Cheesecake, Cheesecake, Koriyama, The Foodie Photographer

This is Japanese-style cheesecake, so you must clear your preconceived notions of Cheesecake Factory style dessert out of your head. Each cake comes individually wrapped and is the texture of a light pound cake or sponge cake. They are in the refrigerated section, nestled somewhere between the tofu, Sapporro, and Yakult (if you’re Asian you already know).

I like the Koriyama brand the best. The other company’s cheesecake tastes fine, but I’ve always been partial to this brand. Their tagline both cracks me up and summarizes why this snack rocks: “Fabulous cake that melts in your mouth.”

3. Hello Panda by Meiji

Marukai, Marukai Asian Market, Hello Panda, Japanese biscuit, Japanese cookie, Meiji, The Foodie Photographer

These little snack biscuits were my comfort food during study sessions in college. Years later, “Panda” has somehow become one of my nicknames too. They’re my namesake, so I almost have to eat them occasionally. Snack justification? Probably. I’m a big fan of the plain biscuits filled with chocolate cream (not pictured here.) Each one has cartoons of a little panda in action.. playing soccer, sitting alongside bamboo, running around, etc. They’re small, one or two bite cookies, with an additional hit of sugar waiting inside….what’s not to love?

Posted in Chocolate, Comfort food, Delicious & Random, Dessert, Foodie Photos, TheFoodiePhotographer, Torrance | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Lamb Chops & Garlic Potatoes

Posted by Shannon on 04/17/2012

Life has been busy in all areas lately. To add-on to it all, I’ve finally succumbed to two items… a Nook e-Reader and The Hunger Games series. So in between late nights at the office, reading in my spare time (including on the stationary bike at the gym via my Nook iPhone app), and finding time for friends and Steve… I’ve taken a bit to post a new picture for you.

That ends here and now. Roasted rosemary baby lamb shanks atop garlic mashed potatoes that were fork-mashed by hand! I ended up eating two more sections of the lamb chops’ rich meaty flavor, in between my forkfuls of creamy potatoes.

Lamb chops, potatoes, mashed potatoes, garlic mashed potatoes, rack of lamb, dinner, the foodie photographer

P.S. The best way to catch some foodie photos from me at any time of day is on Instagram. If you’re on Instagram too, I’m “thefoodiephotgrapher” and want you to “follow” my photo stream!

Posted in Foodie Photos, Lamb, Meat, Potatoes | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »