Years ago, in the town where I lived in Germany, going out for Japanese food involved a drive of nearly two hours; not because the city I lived in was so big, but because the next Japanese restaurant was so far away.

Today that same town boasts three (3) Japanese restaurants. That’s one for every 100,000 people living in town.

But that is not a problem for me any longer. If I am in the mood for Japanese food (which is always) I have the choice of four places within a radius of five minutes walking distance from the house.


My cup would flow over with joy if a Ramen place would open up nearby. As it is, for that delight one has to get into the car and drive for 10 minutes.

Oh well, that is still a shorter distance than what I was used to.


What makes one want to go and find out about new places to eat? Sometimes it is just the name – or can anyone resist to check out an eatery called “The Oinkster?” I certainly can’t. Apart from the funny name the only other information was “great pulled pork sandwiches.” Right, with that name that somehow makes sense.


The Oinkster in Eagle Rock is hard to describe. A former Tastee Freeze, which then became a food joint, was taken over by a Los Angeles chef célèbre, Andre Guerrero, who turned it into a quick-service place for fast food prepared the slow way. That means applewood-smoked, house-cured pastrami and slow-roasted pork North Carolina-style, along with Angus beef burgers and rotisserie chicken.

I have had many styles of pastrami in and around Los Angeles; the kind at The Oinkster is yet another variation of a well-known theme. I am quite sure that it does not meet the approval of some pastrami-lovers, but I was quite, quite taken by it. The taste is different and interesting, but most important – the meat is very lean, with none of that greasiness one finds so often. I know that fat enhances the taste, but when my poor stomach reminds me hours later that I should have know better… lean and non-greasy is perfect for me. Additionally, the pickle was heavenly. I would gladly order just a plate of pickles, if they would let me.

The pulled pork was nice, too. I have never been very much into pork, but the meat was juicy and tender and delicately, though distinctly, flavored. The chili fries looked nice, though that is something I never touch. The significant other gives them a B.

The beer selection was another surprise. Red Hook, Arrogant Bastard, Stella Artois (on tap) and several others more, equally interesting. The wine – oh well – I hope they will work on that at bit. They should work on that a bit. Or not offer wine at all.

Overall – not only a funny name, but a place to go back to. Oink.

A Simple Favorite

One of the joys of childhood was being pampered after having been sick. Once the worst was over, there came the period when one was asked what one wanted to eat. A child which then perks up and asks for all of its favorite foods is a child well on the mend. I always asked for a salad, a green one; my favorite was a “Rapunzelsalat” (mâche or lamb’s lettuce).

Many years later, on a different continent, my love for mâche is still going strong. Over the past few years this delicious green has become more widely available in stores around here in SoCal. I like my “Rapunzelsalat” with a light olive oil dressing, paired with some potato salad and sprinkled with bacon bits.

A simple delight, perfectly suited for hot summer days, delicious whether one is a convalescent or not.


Cultural Differences

Corned Beef is virtually unknown in Germany, at least boiled with potatoes and cabbage in the proper Irish way. Corned Beef in Germany is generally understood to be something in a tin – bits of meat and fat and gelatin. Some people cut it into slices and eat it on bread. Others – like me – avoid it as the devil avoids holy water; or a vampire garlic; or a cat water. Unless it is a Turkish Van cat, they like to swim. Maybe they would even eat Corned Beef out of a tin. I wouldn’t. I also do not like to swim.

Anyway, every time I heard about Corned Beef & Cabbage in the US, I had a vision of this … stuff … out of a tin being cooked up. Not a very appetizing thought. On the other hand one does try to stay polite and tries to refrain from bursting out in a loud “but that is so, so, so utterly disgusting.”

Had I only burst out earlier. It took nearly a year for this misunderstanding to clear up, simply because nobody knew that I didn’t know. Then finally I learned that Corned Beef sans tin can be quite a lovely dish, when prepared properly, and is the perfect food for St. Patrick’s Day. Voila:


And the leftovers are just great on a sandwich.

Heaven In Many Ways

We have always had a soft spot for the Vinoteca. And that has nothing to do with the fact that we were the very first two customers ever to step through the door after the place opened (which is a whole story all on its own anyway).

Vinoteca offers a wide selection of wine plus a few carefully selected beers on tap, an interesting menu of Italian and Brazilian food and most importantly – a wonderful atmosphere. The place is what we had been missing in our little quarter of L.A., a wine bar where one can wander in and feel at home. We celebrated birthdays there, met with friends, saw in the odd New Year or two, we basically went there for months on end every Friday evening after the place opened. We even watched the opening game of the last Soccer World Championship there, by courtesy of the manager, who invited us over to watch the game on the big screen over breakfast.

Then the inevitable happened – word got around, the place was written up by the local papers and Vinoteca took off in quite a big way. We were very happy for the owner that his bar had become a success. We, however, had to let go of our Friday evenings there, it became a bit too crowded and too loud for our taste on weekends.

But on any other day it is still delightful in the way we like it. Good wine, good food, interesting guests, very friendly staff. We just know that it will be a pleasant hour or two – just by wandering in, sitting down at the bar, chatting with our favorite bartenders, having something nice to drink and to eat.

That’s how it was even yesterday, when we had simply forgotten that it was Valentine’s Day. And yes, the place was crowded, and yes, we wanted to leave, and no, they would not let us go. They found a nice spot for us. After a long and gruesome day, filled with lots and lots of work, it was a perfect evening.

That is heaven indeed.


Little Dom's – Strange Niche Marketing

Sometimes one goes away for a week or so and upon returning moderately exciting things have happened in the neighborhood. In this case it was the opening of “Little Dom’s”. Right, we thought, let’s stroll over and check the place out.

Unfortunately the review stops here.


Upon arrival at the place we got the full and extremely snotty “do you have a reservation” and “maybe, if you beg nicely enough, we will let you have a place at the bar to spend your money there, but only after a long wait”-treatment. Considering that the place was not exactly hopping and after a look at the clientele assembled we decided to take the not so subtle hint and left. To have a wonderful meal elsewhere where we also did not have a reservation.

So, what had happened? We let this sit for a while and then started to inquire about the place. What we heard was not so pleasant – it seems that some very strange niche marketing is at play here.

The preferred customers at “Little Dom’s” seem to be Twentysomethings with no real knowledge of good food, a penchant for being served mediocre fare and wines at overblown prices, all combined with wobbly service in return for the good feeling to be in a place with connections to Beverly Hills.

All this is not what Los Feliz has been waiting for. I foresee a bleak future for this latest addition to eateries in this corner of Los Angeles. People here do not go for this kind of attitude. Not from a place around the corner which aspires to teach the locals “how things are done in Beverly Hills.”

Three thumbs down for “Little Dom’s” without even having tasted the food.

Now that is a first time in my life.


No, I do not miss German food. I know that I am lucky, because there are fellow Germans all around the US who do. Many of them pine for food from “back home.” Quite a number of online shops in the US apparently make a fortune out of selling Germans prepackaged stuff at exorbitant prices; stuff I would not have touched even back in Germany, stuff where the list of ingredients reads like an excerpt from a chemistry book.

One thing though I do miss sometimes is “real” bread. Bread, dense and chewy, but not heavy, with no added sugar or other strange things mixed in. Bread with a real crust, bread which does not go stale while sitting on your plate. Bread which does not cost $8.00 a loaf, because it is “artisan bread.” Bread which is tasty with just some butter and a sprinkling of salt.

When that craving hits me, I bake my own bread. A loaf like this:


We had that for dinner tonight . With butter, salt, a side of guacamole and some smoked trout. No, that is not a traditional German food-pairing, but very tasty. Old Europe meets West Coast. Yummy.

Empty Streets & Crunchy Fish

Things seem to be changing – apparently Angelenos are taking off more and more days for a holiday around Thanksgiving. That’s the only explanation I have for the streets being (comparatively) empty already on the Sunday before the holiday weekend.

Which is fine. I like it. It is really pleasant. And makes for a swift short drive to the best fish market and restaurant in town: Fish King. Actually, FK is in the town next door, in Glendale, but who cares? The verdict is unanimous – FK is the best fish market in all of SoCal.

Going to FK is like a pilgrimage to worship at the shrine of fabulous fish and impeccable, friendly, swift service. Just looking at the displays makes one drool. Add to that the fact that there is no smell (fresh fish does not smell “fishy”), and you know that this is the real thing: A place where the owners know all about, and love everything, fish.

The Galley is the little restaurant attached to the market. It is a no-frills eatery, squeaky clean, the food comes in Styrofoam containers (that’s the only beef I have with the place, for environmental reasons) and is absolutely out of this world good. Go there, test the Halibut for starters and be reeled in – hook, line and sinker.


The Trouble With Bambi And Thumper

Many years ago a friend from the US came to visit me in Germany. As a very special treat I took her one evening to a restaurant famous for its delicious and excellent game dishes. However, when I suggested the roasted hare (very yummy), my friend turned slightly green in the face and whispered: “I can’t eat that – it reminds me of Thumper.” A cartoon animal??? I did not even dare to suggest some of the other dishes which involved deer; that might have ended with my friend calling home in tears, sobbing: “They want me to eat Bambi!”

In the end my friend settled for a chicken dish. Apparently there had been no animated movies around with a cute motherless chicken braving the big wild world with the help of some friends.

I remembered this little story while having dinner the other night at Ruth’s Chris Steak House in Pasadena. Yes, they do serve venison; actually, it is the only place I know around here that does. They also know how to handle it, my double cut venison chops were superb and perfectly cooked, a real culinary delight of the first order.


Call me callous and heartless, but I do like Bambi’s mother, especially with blackberry sauce.