Adventures Pop-Ups

‘Estrano’ Is A Los Angeles ‘Street Pasta’ Pop-Up That’s Deliciously Chaotic In All The Best Ways

“Arroz Con Pollo” Cavatelli
Hibiscus Biang Biang
Brocolli Beef Ravioli
Carbonara Tsukemen Ramen
Grilled Beef Tongue “Loco Moco”
Foie Gras Thai Iced Tea Gelato
Coconut Tomatillo Sorbet

What. The. Fuck. On paper alone the concepts that I was reading off on ‘Estrano’s’ latest pop-up menu had my head spinning. Was this actually real? How? Why? But most importantly, where and when?

The answers to such pressing questions I found in a nondescript alleyway on the outskirts of Los Angeles’ Chinatown waiting in line alongside folks chattering away about what they were about to order, all while a tumultuous soundtrack of Pig Destroyer, Wormrot, Los Master Plus, and Barbara Streisand marauded the airspace. The perfect setting for the aforementioned menu that ‘Estrano’ had ready for the people. I was worked up. So was my appetite.

Helmed by Diego Argoti, a chef with an impressive pedigree working in the lauded kitchens of Los Angeles’ elite Bavel, Bestia, and Chi Spacca, ‘Estrano’ — which aptly translates from Spanish to ‘strange’ — is a pop-up concept that’s here to wreck every expectation you have of what any regular dining experience is. The atmosphere alone that it generates is a precursor to the deliciously chaotic event your meal will be.

Touted as “street pasta” on Estrano’s Instagram profile, this moniker is an understatement to the frenetic adventure diners can experience through site, smell, taste, and feel. The energy is that of an F5 tornado filled with the sharpest kitchen knives. Fun stuff, really. And you feel it in the food itself, where expertly handmade pasta and thoughtfully crafted flavor profiles borne from the depths of an endless well of freaky meet and wake you up like wet towel to bare flesh.

Oh and at a $12 price point per dish, it’s easy to forget you’re eating white table cloth quality and execution.

Hats off to Chef Argoti, who’s put together an unforgettable experience with ‘Estrano’ and flips a stout middle finger at all culinary boundaries and norms.

Adventures Science Technology

Scientists Turn Plastic Waste Into Vanilla Flavoring

Plastic plays a considerable role in our everyday lives. From the beverages we drink, to our packaged foods, plastic is used in every way imaginable. The upside is simple, it makes life easier. The downside is that its pervasiveness also has a tendency to impact our environment negatively.

Plastic waste pollutes from pavements to the Pacific. Humankind is often impulsive with innovation. In other words, things are created faster than ways to manage them. A fun fact is that there’s been more plastic manufactured within the first 10 years of this century than the whole of our previous one. Now we produce and throw away over 380 million tons of plastic each year.

That sounds bleak. But it’s not all plastic doom and gloom. There have been and will continue to be countless approaches to reducing plastic waste. Popular approaches include community clean ups, recycling of used-products, reusing products and “upcycling”. These are simple methods everyone can make a part of their daily habits. Yet while those methods tend to imply a necessary mindset shift, science has found another approach altogether. 

Scientists from the University of Edinburgh have discovered a way to upcycle plastic waste into vanilla flavoring. This is not a joke. Vanillin is a popular chemical used in the food industry and is often referred to as “imitation vanilla”. In 2018, global demand for the chemical exceeded 37,000 tons. That’s more than the demand for natural vanilla beans. One huge red flag is that 85% of vanillin is synthesized from fossil fuel chemicals. So clearly it isn’t the most eco-friendly of flavors. 

The research was published in the scientific journal Green Chemistry and uses engineered E. coli bacteria to convert TA (terephthalic acid) to vanillin.  Terephthalic acid and vanillin’s chemical compositions are very comparable and the engineered bacteria only needs to make a few changes to the hydrogens and oxygens that are bonded to the same carbon foundation.

Creating the same conditions for brewing beer, scientists heated a microbial broth to 98.6 fahrenheit for 24 hours. This effectively converted 79% of the TA to vanillin. According to Joanna Sadler, of University of Edinburgh, “This is the first use of a biological system to upcycle plastic waste into a valuable industry chemical and it has very exciting implications for the circular economy.”

It will be exciting to watch how this develops. Who knows, in the future maybe ice cream, yogurt, pastries and many more will be produced from plastic waste. The next steps for the University of Edinburgh research group is to continue modifying the bacteria to improve conversion. My hope is that efforts such as these will inspire more intelligent approaches to global issues.

Adventures Cravings Culture Restaurants Video

Getting Familiar With Delicious Palestinian Stuffed Chicken

When grandma cooks, twenty times out of ten it’s fire. Doesn’t matter who’s grandma it is or where grandma came from, a recipe coming straight from her is unequivocally a banger. A meal from grandma means a meal cooked with love and care, one that comforts as much as it satisfies.

So when Foodbeast Marc Kharrat came upon a Palestinian dish that literally translates to ‘grandma’s stuffed chicken’, we all knew it’s automatically a must have.

Jerusalem Chicken, a Palestinian restaurant in Los Angeles, California, serves up delicacies such as the tangy and tantalizing Musakhan and flavorful cauliflower fritters called Mshat. But the scene stealer at this local gem was the Siti’s Stuffed Chicken. ‘Sitti’ in Arabic means ‘grandma’, which is only fitting, being that the stuffed chicken is a treasured family recipe passed down from the owner’s grandma herself.

“The dish is a labor of love. generously stuffing each cornish hen by hand. The stuffing mixture is made of rice, mushrooms and beef, which is stuffed carefully under the skin,” gushed Marc after experiencing the dish itself.

With such high praise and the backing of grandma’s love, it’s no wonder that Jerusalem Chicken is putting on for Palestinian food in all the delectable ways.

Adventures Culture

New Netflix Docu-Series “High On The Hog” Highlights America’s Soulful Food History

The roots of America’s culinary history run deep. Our cuisine is a melting pot of flavors which originate from a broad array of international cultures. Cultures that each have their own stories, struggles and triumphs. Despite our domestic hodgepodge, American food is often reduced to burgers and fries, both of which are incredible, yet neither of which paint the full picture of our culinary history. And though said burgers and fries are definitely a beloved pastime for Americans, in truth they were adopted from Germany and Belgium.

So what is American Cuisine? I’d argue that Soul Food is the true original American Cuisine, which was created by Black slaves. Having been forced to live in a foreign place, they adapted and persevered by combining the flavors from their motherland with the resourcefulness of their circumstances. Tasked with cooking for the household, their culinary magic inevitably cast a spell on the palates of their captors. Black slaves that tended to the house also watched over the slaveowners children. That is how Soul Food became a staple in generations that followed.

The history of Soul Food and its influence has never truly been extensively explored… until now. High On The Hog: How African American Cuisine Transformed America is a new Netflix docu-series adapted from food historian Jessica B. Harris’ book of the same name. In the new series, viewers accompany food writer Stephen Satterfield on a journey through the Soul of American cuisine. Interviewing chefs, historians and activists that celebrate the courage, artistry, and resourcefulness of African Americans, High On The Hog intends to not only awaken your senses, but also provide context, connection and culture.

From Africa to the deep south and through the lens of our experience right onto your plate, High On The Hog is an absolute must-watch. Knowing the origins of the foods we eat not only allows us to appreciate the food more, but also connect with its culture in an authentic way. 

Directed by Academy Award winner Roger Ross Williams and dubbed part-culinary show part-travelogue, High On The Hog is now available to stream on Netflix.

Adventures Restaurants

Petition Underway To Create America’s Next Official Great Food Neighborhood

Photo from Forn Alhara by Peter Pham.

Some of the country’s greatest food neighborhoods include San Francisco’s Chinatown, New Orleans’ French Quarter, and San Diego’s Little Italy. Regardless of where they are, these areas are steeped in rich food history and have a history of being the local food life force.

Many of these places have official designations that help make them more pronounced and elevate them into a destination. Little Arabia, in Anaheim, California, is currently lobbying to receive that mark and recognition, hoping to get established as that next great food neighborhood everybody should visit.

Photo from Sahara Falafel by Peter Pham

Little Arabia is the center of Arab-American culture in Orange County, and home to a plethora of varying types of restaurants. From bakeries like Victory Sweets to falafel mainstays like Sahara Falafel, you’ll find a little bit of everything in this neighborhood.

These are restaurants that have been around for decades, and the neighborhood itself has been established by locals and tourists from nearby Disneyland alike. However, the city of Anaheim has yet to give Little Arabia that official designation of “neighborhood.”

This really has been an ongoing battle for years, as city council members have pledged to give Little Arabia its due as far back as 2016. However, pressure to make good on those promises has ramped up as the coronavirus pandemic has hit many restaurants in the area hard.

Photo from Victory Sweets by Peter Pham

While business grants and reliefs have helped, many local restaurant owners feel that getting the official designation will help to promote the area, getting more people to come order their food and in turn revitalizing the economy.

As a result, they’ve turned to an online petition that asks the Anaheim City Council to officially adopt a resolution that recognizes the neighborhood.

Photo from Sahara Falafel by Peter Pham

“Now more than ever, it is vital to support our local business community,” the petition reads. “Businesses in Anaheim have felt the impacts of the covid-19 pandemic and government-ordered shutdowns. Promoting this economic district will aid in Anaheim’s economic recovery.”

Those interested in supporting the effort, and helping to make the country’s next great food neighborhood official, can sign the petition at this link.

Adventures Art Restaurants Video

Harlem’s ‘The Edge’ Combines British And Jamaican Dishes With Renaissance Legacy

In Harlem, New York, the building located at 580 St. Nicholas Avenue carries a unique piece of Harlem Renaissance history. Librarian Regina Anderson Andrews, a resident there, would host rooftop and apartment gatherings where literary juggernauts like Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, and W.E.B. DuBois would show up to and recite their works.

While the Harlem Renaissance has come and gone, the building has still remained a gathering place, thanks to The Edge, a restaurant located on the bottom floor that pays respect to that legacy.

Owned by sisters Juliet and Justine Masters, you can find homages to the legends that roamed the building throughout the restaurant, including a regal portrait of Langston Hughes and a collection of books folks can read while sipping on coffee and enjoying their meals.

The food here, by the way, is a unique story of its own, calling to the childhoods of the two owners. Justine and Juliet are Harlem locals, but have parents from Jamaica and Britain, and grew up eating dishes from both countries.

That has led to some creative and inspirational dishes on their menu, including a luxuriously creamy Jerk Chicken Alfredo, and coconut-crusted fish used for the British staple fish and chips. Ackee and saltfish, a national dish of Jamaica, even has a home here in tasty taco form. One also shouldn’t leave without a glass of homemade sorrel, which Juliet and Justine’s father makes on a regular basis.

With such a unique building history and innovative and tantalizing dishes, The Edge is a restaurant chock full of stories that has made it locals’ favorite.

To learn more about The Edge, check out the full video at the top of this story. The restaurant is currently offering outdoor dining, takeout, and delivery, as well as some limited indoor service.

Adventures Packaged Food

Hard-To-Find Japanese Snacks Headline This Subscription Snack Box

The snack scene in some parts of the world is innovative, creative, and tasty beyond belief. This is especially true in Japan, where the snacks range from your standard range of chips to a plethora of unique KitKat flavors, mochi, and more.

For those looking to get some of the harder-to-find Japanese snacks, there’s a subscription box service called Bokksu that tracks them down and gets a ton of them to your door.

Bokksu works directly with local snack manufacturers in Japan, some of whom have been in business for hundreds of years. The comapany’s specialty is using those connections to make hard-to-find snacks more accessible globally.

You have the option to get one of their snack boxes, which are thematic (ie. “Seasons of Japan”) and can change, but there’s also a marketplace where you can buy items individually, including some of those coveted Japanese KitKat flavors.

Foodbeast got a box to try filled with a lot of snacks we normally wouldn’t expect to find just shopping around in the U.S. These include uni-flavored crackers, freeze-dried whole strawberries, yuzu sake candy, matcha and red bean sponge cakes, obanyaki-inspired cookies, and even a sack of Kinako sugar donuts.

The variety and breadth of local snacks available is definitely intriguing and makes for an interesting gift or just something you can get to satisfy your cravings.

Bokksu boxes are available for sale on their website.

Adventures Brand Cravings Features FOODBEAST SPONSORED Video

Between 2 Meals: This Isolated Restaurant Can Only Be Reached By Horse-Drawn Sleigh Or Skis

When I heard that the Foodbeast team was going to Aspen for the new episode of Between 2 Meals, I was worried. There was no doubt in my mind they could do what they set out to— create a utility guide of good eats and a possible excursion for any curious travelers in Aspens, that is. But a bunch of Southern Californians in the mountain cold? I was sure someone was going to end up like Jack Nicholson in The Shining.

Luckily, it appears they kept the Java Monster flowing and their bodies moving. Indeed, only once did they come close to a frozen Foodbeast when the episode’s host Geoff Kutnick mistook how to cross-country ski (walking in the snow on skis, for the uninformed) and tried to, literally, ski two miles uphill.

Needless to say, this did not go well, but it did provide for one of the episode’s best moments. And that’s saying something, as Geoff explored two of Aspen’s prime eateries and one of its signature activities.

At the first stop of the episode, Geoff explores the accidental history behind Aspen hotspot Bamboo Bear’s signature fried chicken, which is double fried for a remarkably crispy skin. The dish has become a staple for Aspen eaters, along with the restaurant’s traditional banh mi that uses fresh baguettes from a local Vietnamese bakery. Judging by the look of pure bliss on Geoff’s face after dunking a wing in the restaurant’s Bear’s Breath sauce, there’s no doubt that this is a must visit in the Colorado town.

Before the next meal, our host was joined by twelve-time X Games medalist Jackson Strong. The two tour Aspen’s main attractions, the slopes, via snowmobile. While most people opt for skis or snowboards as their mode of exploration, when an X Games contender approaches you with snowmobiles, you take the snowmobile. Once Geoff had a snowmobile ride that was a little more than he bargained for, it was off to the next restaurant.

After the aforementioned uphill trek, the two reach the Pine Creek Cookhouse, a local stronghold that’s only accessible by sleigh or cross-country ski, to check out it’s surprising specialties. The first is the massive Kurt Russell burger, sourced straight from the actor’s cattle farm. The second, a type of Nepalese dumpling called momos, is a tribute to Pine Creek owner John Wilcox’s extensive experience in the Himalayas. The restaurant’s forte is handmade by actual sherpas, who staff much of the kitchen.

Check out the full episode at the top of this article to see these delicious eats, Geoff’s misadventures, and the beautiful snowy mountains of Aspen.

Created in partnership with Java Monster.