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#foodbeast Cravings Features Food Trends Food Trucks FOODBEAST Now Trending Video What's New

Las Vegas Food Truck Serving Up BIRRIA-STUFFED Tamales

Birria has been booming in the food scene outside of those in the know recently. For those that have been up on it, they’ll probably tell you, “What took y’all so long?”

And I get it, birria, from its origins in Jalisco, Mexico to the widespread appeal it enjoys today, is something that shouldn’t be treated as some new trend. Proponents (which I assume would be pretty much anyone that’s had it because it’s f*cking delicious) will extoll the virtues of its savory allure all day, all the while pointing you in every direction to where you can enjoy it in different iterations and contemporary takes. This then can take you into a fantastic journey that will have you feasting through creative takes like birria ramen and birria pizza.

However, keep going further in that journey and you might find yourself in Las Vegas, Nevada, just like I did, where birria takes on the form of tamales. Yes, the concept of birria has now found a home inside a warm tamal, with melty cheese as its roommate, all courtesy of El Tamalucas, the city’s first tamale food truck.

Since opening El Tamalucas in 2014, owner Saul Talavera has innovated his recipes and expanded the repertoire of his takes on the iconic dish, which include unique selections like chicken alfredo tamales and Flamin’ Hot Cheetos tamales. His next hit is the BirriQueso Tamale Dunkers, which I described earlier, and is a holy trinity of birria, consomé, and cheese. My mouth just watered typing out that sentence and now I’m fighting the urge to buy a plane ticket to Las Vegas. That’s because these tamales were one of the best things I’d eaten this year and the memories of having it look like a rush of the rich, bold consomé-soaked, cheese and birria-stuffed tamale cascading down my greedy gullet.

If you’re trying to catch a glorious fever dream off one bite, absolutely look up El Tamalucas when you’re out making questionable decisions in Las Vegas.

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Cravings Culture Features Restaurants

LA Filipino Restaurant Selling Whole Kamayan Feast Kits To Recreate At Home

The Filipino practice of kamayan essentially ditches the utensils and lets diners get into the meal by eating with their bare hands. Such a technique is the usual call to action when faced with a Filipino feast known as a boodle fight, which is a large communal spread presented on banana leaves. Dishes making up the bounty consist of traditional favorites like fried fish, grilled veggies, fresh mangoes and tomatoes, lumpia Shanghai, crispy pork belly lechon, and various barbecued meats.

This extravagant meal is usually experienced at large family parties and gatherings or in restaurant settings, but now, a whole kamayan feast can be your next weeknight dinner thanks to take-home meal kits from Silog, a Filipino restaurant in Torrance, California.

kamayan feast

“We want to continue to promote our culture through our food. Since food heals everything, it’s perfect for this unprecedented quarantine time,” states chef and owner, Lemuel Guiyab. “If people can’t go out yet and gather in restaurants, it’s all good, we can still provide everything they need for a kamayan feast right in their own home.”

To order, reservations must be made at least 48 hours in advance, with a minimum order good for four adults at $39.95 per person. The sumptuous feast is for sure a fun and unique dining experience that you can have at home to spice things up from the usual or if you have a special occasion you’d like to celebrate with the family.

kamayan

 

Photos: Nicole Daphne
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#foodbeast Culture Features FOODBEAST The Katchup

Chef Jose Andres’ Charity Is Re-Activating Closed Restaurants To Feed Seniors

“So World Central Kitchen had to pivot its mission once again in the face of COVID-19. Can’t do a pop-up kitchen, can’t bring thousands of people together, so [the question was] how are we still [able to] get meals to those in vulnerable populations. José Andrés, being a restaurateur, really thought of entrepreneurs, people who were chefs, people who really took risks to cook for people and set up restaurants… And thought this is a perfect way to kickstart the economic engine of the restaurant industry,” outlined Tank Rodriguez, the project lead for a pilot program in Long Beach, California that re-activates closed restaurants and feeds at-risk seniors.

With rejuvenated energy and newfound focus, World Central Kitchen, the non-profit, non-governmental organization founded by world renowned chef, Jose Andres, set out to continue their mission to feed disaster areas globally. As recent guest on the Foodbeast podcast, The Katchup, Rodriguez outlined the encouraging and intimate details into an operation that was able to reactivate closed local restaurants and serve thousands of meals to at-risk seniors.

“In Long Beach, I heard a lot of people getting food to kids that weren’t getting them from school. — incredible work. People who were getting meals to women in shelters — incredible work. I didn’t hear about seniors, which is why I chose the senior population in Long Beach.”

It’s the city he holds two businesses in — a renowned tattoo parlor and a law firm — so the want to help resonated and propelled Rodriguez to go the lengths to make things work logistically and efficiently, all while properly feeding at-risk senior citizens, and restaurants that had to shut down during the pandemic. From him initially cold-calling hundreds of businesses to try and employ their participation to these participating businesses given the opportunity to hire back their staff and re-open to even UPS lending a helping hand by allowing Rodriguez and World Central Kitchen access to their trucks as a means of delivering the meals, details of what they’re doing in Long Beach shed light on uplifting acts of kindness that go above and beyond for their fellow person.

“I believe that things will come back. I believe in the American economy. I believe in the business models that we’ve set up… I don’t know what a month from now is going to look like, but I do know that today, we’re going to get people fed.”

Conversations and quotes in this article have been transcribed from the Foodbeast Katchup podcast: “#115: Jose Andres Is Re-Activating Restaurants To Feed Seniors,” out now on Spotify, the Apple Podcasts App, and most major platforms where podcasts are heard.

Feature photo: The Q Speaks
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Alcohol Beer Culture Features Feel Good

Burps For Bartenders: Water Brand Donates $20 A Belch, On Instagram

liquid death

Liquid Death. You read that right.

That’s the name of a contemporary, canned-water brand willing to help the thousands of bartenders without work currently. The name is silly, their new mission is not.

With every social post with the hashtag #BelchForBars and tagging @LiquidDeath on Facebook or Instagram, the brand will be donating $20 to the United States Bartender’s Guild. There’s up to $250,000 on the line for our bartenders, barbacks and hospitality staff affected by the new normal.

I know you’re just sitting at home, so… kick back a toast of sparkling water, or anything else that shoves air down your gullet, and do it already.

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Cravings Features Restaurants Sweets

La Monarca Bakery’s Horchata Cake Is The Very Definition of Moist

la monarca bakery horchata cake

Face it, many of us are coming out of this quarantine earning fresh and comfy extra poundage like a hibernating grizzly. Folks are either cooking up a storm like Gordon Ramsay in The Matrix (didn’t happen, but if it did good lord Mr. Smith you’re in for a sumptuous feast) or hitting up food delivery on the regular, so trust my theory holds weight. You know what else does? The Horchata Cake and Tres Leches Cake from La Monarca Bakery & Cafe.

With 12 locations throughout the greater Los Angeles area, La Monarca has Angelenos covered when it comes to sweet Mexican treats and unique coffee offerings. And what could be a sweeter form of indulgence than a Horchata Cake and Tres Leches Cake?

Their Tres Leches (translates to ‘three milks’) Cake is a Mexican classic: vanilla sponge cake with house made tres leches milk blend, topped with vanilla bean chantilly cream (fresh whipped cream w/sugar) and a dark chocolate ganache swirl, topped with preserved cherry.

La Monarca tres leches cake

Now for the Horchata Cake, they basically used the same principle of a Tres Leches Cake and soaked it with their house made horchata. It’s a novel and simple premise that executes perfectly, with each morsel of the cake being the very definition of moist. Each bite practically had my tastebuds splashing through the whole experience like it was the first day of summer at the community pool. It’s no wonder that La Monarca’s Horchata Cake is a best seller, with one Yelp user gushing, “It tastes like Mexican heaven.”

Now imagine pairing these cakes up with La Monarca’s signature cafe drinks like their Oatchata Latte or Tres Leches Latte and you’ve got yourself an ideal situation for any fan of irresistible cake and delicious coffee.

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Features Opinion Restaurants

LA Restaurant Owner Journaled Every Day of the Pandemic And It Is Eye-Opening

HomeState

Briana Valdez is a self-described disciple of the restaurant industry. Every day she lives out the crucial tenet of creating a wonderful dining experience for her customers that goes well beyond just the food. Having spent time at legendary chef Thomas Keller’s Bouchon in Beverly Hills, CA, Valdez soaked up everything she learned on what it takes to run a restaurant  — including maintaining a solid base of integrity for not only customers, but staff as well.

Being from Texas, Valdez had her sights set all along on developing the concept that would become HomeState: a restaurant that would serve as her ode to the Lone Star state’s cuisine. First opened back in December 2013, HomeState has since carved itself into the Los Angeles dining scene by serving up distinctive and memorable Texas staples like queso, brisket sandwiches, Frito pies, and crave-worthy breakfast tacos. Her first customer was her mother. Her second? “[He] was a guy who had just moved from San Antonio a few months before. He still comes in a few times a week and has become a good friend,” recalled Valdez. She continued, “He credits HomeState with staving off homesickness and giving him community.”

Growing to three busy locations across the Los Angeles area, HomeState — and as a whole, the city’s robust dining scene — was thriving. That is, all up until just a month ago. The beginning of March was a precipice that the restaurant industry stood at before the COVID-19 pandemic shoved it into a downward spiral of survival, uncertainty, and upheaval. Restaurants have since had to maneuver through a mishmash of mandates that have forced them to either close indefinitely or turn to new business models and operations as a stopgap to the loss of revenue. What’s more, countless jobs in the industry have been lost, leading to a perplexity and lack of confidence in how the recovery will be.

In the state of California alone, the California Restaurant Association was the second largest private employer, with as much as 1.4 million individuals employed, pre-pandemic. And within that astounding number of people, small businesses and those that keep them running were dealt a piercing blow.

briana valdez homestate

For Valdez, the precarious state of the restaurant industry just as the COVID-19 crisis was hitting the U.S. became something she couldn’t ignore. She began journaling and documenting the series of events that have unfolded for her business throughout the pandemic, from pre-quarantine up until recently. Even before Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s executive order to temporarily shut down bars, nightclubs, restaurants (except takeout and delivery), entertainment venues, and other establishments on the evening of March 15th, she knew she had to take preemptive action to anticipate just how drastic the coronavirus concerns were going to affect her business.

And it was the very integrity that she learned coming up that would be her North Star to steer HomeState through the murkiness of this new reality.

What’s resulted is a staggering and intimate glimpse into how the pandemic has affected her and HomeState. And though this example may be an account through Valdez’s lens, such may be what it has been for other small restaurant owners everywhere trying to stay afloat and navigate their businesses through this health and economic crisis.

Below is Briana Valdez’s account from her journaling.


Friday 3/6/20: We received word that SXSW would be cancelled and began reaching out to local bands to play the following weekend on our patio, like a mini South By in LA. Sounded like a great idea at the time.

Saturday 3/7/20: I had family in town. We spent hours catching up on the patio at HomeState Highland Park. It was crowded and overflowing with laughter and good times. Later that night I went to another crowded fundraiser.

Sunday 3/8/20: HomeState celebrated International Women’s Day on our patio by inviting a group of 25 attendees to a panel filled with the women who run/operate HomeState. Later that day, I went to a big Sunday supper at a friend’s house, with no less than 20 people.

Tuesday-Wednesday 3/10-20, 3/11/20: Letters from other companies were pouring in via social media and email. I wasn’t sure what we could say that would be productive or meaningful. I held off on releasing anything from HomeState.

Thursday 3/12/20: With some action items in place we sent a newsletter to our guests notifying them of changes to our operation including elimination of all communal items, free delivery, and curbside pickup.

Thursday 3/12/20: Evening into night I started reading more about the rates of spread and the importance of acting quickly. I couldn’t sleep.

Friday 3/13/20, 3:00am: I couldn’t shake the urgency to do something drastic, like close our three restaurants, in order to keep our teams and community safe. It felt crazy. I came into the office at 7 am, and couldn’t get there fast enough. When our team arrived, I shared my concerns and the conviction to close the restaurants to the public. Thankfully, everyone backed the idea 100% and sprung into action. We decided to close to the public at 2pm that day. That left little time to notify guests or our team. I knew communication would be key to pulling this off quickly, orderly, and with our team’s morale intact. I had to notify our mgmt team, our 150 team members, our investors, and vendors, and most importantly, our guests.
    – 1:30 pm: We had a crowded dining room finishing their lunch. It was raining outside. We posted signs on the front windows saying “To reduce the spread of COVID-19, we are serving our guests via delivery + to-go only. Thank you for understanding.” We allowed guests to finish their meals and kindly prevented additional guests from entering. As we let our team members know the plan, some were relieved, others were scared, others cried. I related to them all.
    – 2:00pm: We locked the doors at both locations and immediately pivoted to curbside pick-up and delivery only. I believe no other restaurant in LA had closed their dining rooms. 

Saturday 3/14/20: First full day with closed dining rooms. It was raining. We had team members outside wearing gloves and using walkie talkies to communicate with team members inside to avoid contact as much as possible. We were trying to figure it out but knew that we had made the right decision to close the dining rooms.

Sunday 3/15/20: Governor Newsom and Mayor Garcetti issued a mandate that all dining rooms close.

Wednesday 3/18/20, 1:00pm: Got on a conference call with fellow chefs and leaders in the hospitality industry to discuss how this impacts us, our employees, and auxiliary vendors and what we can do to mobilize in an effort of support and relief.

Thursday 3/19/20, 8:45pm-1am: Had a roundtable call with the leadership team to discuss pros/cons of keeping stores open for pickup and delivery. What were the risks and benefits to our team members? What were the risks and benefits for our community? The meeting was held on Google Hangouts so we could all see each other. We kept it brutally honest and tried to laugh here and there. Ultimately, we decided what would best serve the overall community was to radically reduce our menu and launch a General Store. This would achieve our overarching goals: 1. Keep our team employed but provide the ability to keep 6’ apart while working. 2. Continue providing food for our community in the form of tacos but ADDING much needed pantry essentials like eggs, flour, milk, butter, and products our vendors were/are still able to provide.

HomeState

Friday 3/20/20: We closed our Playa Vista location and set about planning out the General Store menu and operations. ABC (California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control) announced relaxed regulations allowing us to offer cocktails, beer and wine for pickup and delivery. A big boost to our guests and our ability to generate revenue. Margaritas started flowing the next morning, much to our guests’ delight and appreciation!

Saturday 3/21/20, 8:00am: We launched the first ever HomeState General Store at our Hollywood location, shifting our entire way of doing business and interacting with each other and our guests. It was wild. It was crazy. We got lots of praise and some negative commentary when we started selling toilet paper. We wanted to fill the gap of what was most in demand for the community so we drove an hour to pick up toilet paper from our only vendor who could find any to sell us. Our cost was $2.12 plus the drive. We put it on the menu for $3 and people were outraged, one person even told us that we would “burn in hell.” We all did our best to focus on the positive while continuing the hunt for cheaper toilet paper. We could have just removed it from the offerings but we know people were desperately searching for supply. Thankfully, within a few days, we found a cheaper option and reduced the price to $1. We are learning how to be a grocer minute by minute. Grateful to have found an alternative to closing our doors and laying off our team.
We continue to work with incredible vendors who are a pipeline for much needed goods and have workers to employ as well. The response has been overwhelmingly positive.

Sunday 3/22/20: We strengthened the General Store model with everything we learned on Day 1. Went MUCH smoother.

HomeState

Monday 3/21/20: Began writing letters to state legislators and local officials about the devastating impact on the hospitality industry at large.

Tuesday 3/24/20: We closed all stores for deep clean, allowed teams to rest while we rolled up our sleeves to get General Store #2 ready in the Highland Park location.

Wednesday 3/25/20: We launched the General Store at Highland Park, offering products like olive oil, whole chickens, ground beef and… MARGARITAS. Can’t make margaritas fast enough. I feel like it’s medicine for the city, helping us all cope.

Friday 3/27/20: Watching live coverage of LA CITY council as they hear from fellow operators. Decisions will be made in the next few days that will have lasting effects on HomeState plus the restaurant industry as a whole, including many of our dear friends. Only time will tell. Now we wait, and keep fighting as hard as we can to survive.

 

Feature Photo by Cathryn Lavery on Unsplash
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Features Opinion

Our Eating Habits May Never Be The Same After The Pandemic

As self-quarantining has led many of us to do awful things to keep busy, I found myself watching TMZ the other night.

It wasn’t all bad though, as chef Giada DeLaurentiis was interviewed and gave some interesting food-based insight on the current global pandemic.

“I think our whole life is going to change. Instead of complicating food, we’re going to stick to the basics,” Giada told TMZ. “I think you’re going to start to realize that certain ingredients can be used in many many different ways.”

Which is interesting, because with the way aggressive shoppers have made certain foods scarce, those who are trying to cook at home, probably have to get creative and work with what they have available.

With groceries going like crazy, it’s a little hard to dig into a cookbook right now and try to use all of Gordon Ramsay’s 17 ingredients to cook a beef wellington.

With that in mind, DeLaurentiis has even simplified her own recipes for the public. Fully knowing that ingredients are a luxury at the moment, she said on Instagram Tuesday:

“Adapted a lot of my recipes on @thegiadzy to use pantry ingredients & omit ingredients that are hard to find in grocery stores right now. I hope it’s helpful for everyone staying in & cooking at home.”

We’ve already seen this unfold, as people have been using what they have or what they can snag at the store, leading to things such as makeshift French onion soup ramen, low effort banana bread, and microwave risotto.


While off-the-cuff recipes are being done out of necessity of the moment, it’s fair to predict that home cooking could be the new norm, as the way we eat out will be changed.

The combination of both restaurant closures and budgeted spending from consumers after extended work stoppages could very well mean that eating out will become a luxury.

Jonathan Maze, Editor-in-Chief at Restaurant Business Magazine pointed out some of the post-quarantine struggles saying:

“Once this things clears up, we’re probably going to be in an economic recession, and it’s going to be a while before the economy recovers from that. Then you get into a situation where people are really cutting back.”

Record-setting claims for unemployment have been filing in, as business closures have forced a lot of layoffs.

In the restaurant industry alone, the current business shutdown regulations could affect an estimated 5 to 7 million employees over a three month span, according to the National Restaurant Association.

And even as restaurants try to rebuild in the aftermath, Maze added that they will now have to worry about rehiring its employees, assuming they haven’t found a job somewhere else. On top of that, bringing customers back and letting them know they are open again will be a process that could add another couple months as they try to get back in the flow of things.

We can only hope our favorite restaurants can get through this, and as much as we might want to keep patronizing them, our own personal financial situations will ultimately dictate that. So there’s a chance you’ll want to get used to cooking at home, and getting creative, as that could be the new norm.

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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.