Where to eat in LA: Animal

I like to consider myself an adventurous eater.  I’m fortunate enough that I do not have any dietary restrictions or allergies that would refrain me from eating an ingredient or type of food.

Animal has been on my bucket list since opening its doors nearly six years ago, but I don’t travel to LA as frequently and it’s usually for work where dinner arrangements are generally made.  Well, last month I had a work trip with an open dinner so there was no questioning where I’d take my solo dining.

I propped up at the bar where I was greeted by extraordinarily friendly and hospitable staff. I asked the server what’s good.  “Pig ears hands down.”  That’s when I scrunched my nose, remembering I took the daring leap to ingest pig ears a few years ago at a restaurant in NYC (I can’t remember the name or else I’d share the info) and was deeply disturbed by the squishy texture and recall an unpleasant taste.  It may have been the preparation, but that’s when I decided I’d consider pig ears only as a treat for my dog. After declining and explaining my historical pig ear problem, he convinced me that this preparation is different, and GUARANTEED that I would like it. Ok, fine.  He was right, and no regrets.  The pig ear was crisp and fried in little shreds on top of a bed of julienned vegetables, sautéed in a spicy red chili lime sauce and served with a duck egg on top to break and mix in.  Maybe the key to any unsavory ingredient is to fry it because this certainly worked for me.  And that red chili lime sauce gave it a splendid kick.

His second recommendation: the hamachi tostada.  I actually think I preferred this dish over the pig ears.  Also enveloped in punchy Thai-style fish sauce vinaigrette, this was hands down the most beautiful, brightly colored dish I have seen and eaten in awhile, towered with powerfully flavored herbs, greens and peanuts.

I was severely full after both dishes, but I didn’t know when I’d come back and I had my eye on the bone marrow with chimichurri and caramelized onions. Note to readers:  eating a decadent, super fatty dish on an already full stomach is NOT ideal.  I’m happy I ordered it because it was delicious, but after two bites I needed to surrender and call it a night.

All-in-all, I am a huge fan. The three dishes were reasonably sized, well-presented and packed with big flavors.  Next up – Son of a Gun! Check out the menu here and make your next reservation:  http://animalrestaurant.com

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Where to eat in Honduras (if you can find it)

About an hour to 90 minutes on the single lonely road from San Pedro Sula airport driving towards Copan you’ll find a restaurant that served my favorite meal throughout my eight day vacation in Honduras.

There aren’t too many people flocking to this country for a unique culinary food tour.  Many traditional Honduran dishes are quite simple where the most popular breakfast specialty, the baleada, is a wheat flour tortilla folded in half and filled with mashed fried beans and crumbled queso fresco.  If you’re feeling adventurous you can add a few other ingredients like roasted meat, avocado, plaintains or scrambled eggs.

Don’t get me wrong – like most Latin American cultures, in Honduras you can feel the love and care that goes into preparing (and celebrating) their food.  I think it’s the execution of the simplest ingredients that really made me appreciate how superbly delicious a meal can be.  The thinly sliced chicken breast was grilled to perfection with juices flowing through each bite like it was pulled from the bone with a flavor burst of chimichurri as if it had been marinating for weeks on end.  The plantains were perfect – not too thick, not too mushy.  Crisp bites of banana goodness.  Their version of the israeli salad even had a distinct vinegar dressing.  And don’t forget the extra chimichurri sauce on the side!

We loved it so much we had to stop there on our way back from Copan towards Tela.  Sorry I can’t find an address through Google search, but if you check the Restaurante El Galopa Facebook page you can find the number and call for better directions (if you speak Spanish).

Bon appétit!

Wordless Wednesday: Happy 4th of July!

How are you celebrating Independence Day?  For the second year I am excited to sink my teeth into the 4th of July “Fit for a Bun” menu at one of my favorite restaurants, Mas (la grillade).  A seasonal menu of fresh, locally grown foods cooked solely over wood fires of oak, apple and other hardwoods, you can feel the heat of the grill without having to step out of the city (or lift a finger in the kitchen:).  Leave that up to master chef, Galen Zamarra.

Hope everyone enjoys the long holiday weekend and gets out for some sun!