Archive for August 7th, 2007|Daily archive page

Taix French Restaurant

Taix

Taix French Restaurant

by Anthony Vargas from The Rockit News 

My last trip to France was a drunken blur. After drinking heavily on the Eurostar from London and de-training at Gare du Nord, all I remember is the urine soaked Paris Metro and a near death experience in a Mercedes taxi cab. I do, however, recall some great food and, luckily, one does not have to drive far to experience the same.

Amongst the hipster dives, old cop hangouts and paisa clubs of Echo Park lays the pride of France. Taix Restaurant has been serving hearty French fare since the days of de Gaulle and not much has changed since the Fourth Republic. The pronunciation of Taix can vary depending on who one asks. The restaurant itself refers to itself as “Tex” while my Francophile cronies beg me to say “Tays.” Darlene tells me the reason aix in aix-en -provence is pronounced “eks” is because of the vowel that follows the x so that Taix is pronounced “Tays” by itself and one pronounces the “X” only if it is followed by a vowel. Confused? Let’s eat!

Looking for a suitable restaurant to take a date before a show at Spaceland or the Echoplex? This is the place to go. Flying solo since you couldn’t even give away that extra Keane ticket? Go anyway. You might just meet a lonely French ex-pat who won’t know any better.

Parking can be tricky in Echo Park so just go ahead and valet the Citroën before heading into this rambling restaurant. Past the entrance, to one’s right is the 321 Lounge, which often hosts live bands and the occasional Tiki Extravaganza. Continue past the lounge and go to the podium, where you might wait a minute before a host arrives.

After being seated, just lean back and take a look around. The dining rooms are, in my opinion, reminiscent of Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion and others seem to share this view. There have been numerous times where I sat within sight of several well-heeled gothic couples whose ghostly visages fit in perfectly with the décor.

One can order dinner either à la carte or, for a few dollars more, a complete Taix dinner, which adds soup, salad and sherbet to your entrée. It is quite a bit of food for one person to handle.

Start with the escargots de bourgogne (1/2 Dozen for $9.95). These are served with the proper utensils and are warm and buttery. Plus, it’s great way to make your dinner companions cringe. Who would have ever thought of escargots in Echo Park? If you opt for the Taix dinner, try the famous clam chowder. They give you enough for an invading army, so don’t fill-up just yet.

Our waiter, Bernard, was a most amicable and proper fellow. He is a fond reminder of a more civilized time where waiters were highly trained individuals who did their job expertly and were not seeking a Hollywood movie contract. If Bernard isn’t too busy, he’ll spend some time chatting. A great guy!

The côte de porc grillé or grilled pork chops were amazing. They were so large I thought they had served me a New York steak or Porterhouse by accident. The caramelized onions and wine sauce were just right and the miniature carrots went well with the almost too tender pork chops. The chicken dinner with its lemon butter sauce is the specialty. They also did a great job with pâtes aux fruits de mer, which were scallops, shrimp, clams and fish on a bed of linguini. The wine selection is very affordable and well worth buying by the bottle. The martinis are cold and the size of a pond.

In Los Angeles, food, like clothing and vocabulary goes in and out of style. With the closing of L’Orangerie in Los Angeles and the bulldozing of Marcel and Jean-Claude’s in Montebello, French food must be out of fashion for the time being. Readers of The Rockit are above all that, so I’ll see you at Taix Friday night before we hit Underground at the Echo across the street.

Taix French Restaurant
1911 Sunset Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90026
(213) 484-1265
www.taixfrench.com

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The Paul Giamatti of the Culinary World

SPAM

A recent article on NPR had me wondering what Spam really is.

Spam is the Paul Giamatti or John C. Reilly of the culinary world, an everyman food that lacks the charisma or looks of a leading ingredient, but consistently makes all other ingredients taste better. (from NPR)

Spam luncheon meat is a canned precooked meat product made by the Hormel Foods Corporation. The labeled ingredients in the Classic variety of Spam are: chopped pork shoulder meat with ham meat added, salt, water, sugar, and sodium nitrite.

Varieties include: Spam Black Pepper, Spam Less Sodium, Spam Garlic, Spam and Cheese, Spam with Bacon (Hormel bacon), Spam Spread, Spam Fritters, Spam Lite (containing pork and chicken), Spam Golden Honey Grail (named after “Spamalot” and Monty Python’s Holy Grain, Spam Hot and Spicy (with Tabasco sauce), Spam Hickory Smoked, and Spam Oven Roasted Turkey – the latter is a halal food, meaning that it is permissible under Islamic law, and is especially popular in Muslim markets.

Introduced on July 5, 1937, the name “Spam” was chosen in the 1930s when the product, whose original name was far less memorable (Hormel Spiced Ham), began to lose market share. The name was chosen from multiple entries in a naming contest. A Hormel official once stated that the original meaning of the name Spam was “Shoulder of Pork and hAM“. According to writer Marguerite Patten in Spam – The Cookbook, the name was suggested by Kenneth Daigneau, an actor and the brother of a Hormel vice president. At one time, the official explanation may have been that the name was a syllabic abbreviation of “SPiced hAM”, but on their official website, Hormel denies this and states that “Spam is just that. Spam.” The fact that the originator was given a $100 prize for coming up with the name, however, still appears on the site’s Spam FAQs.

According to Hormel’s trademark guidelines, Spam should be spelled with all capital letters and treated as an adjective, as in the phrase “SPAM luncheon meat”. As with many other trademarks, such as Xerox or Kleenex, people often refer to similar meat products as “spam”. Regardless, in practice, “Spam” is generally spelled and used as a proper noun. (from Wikipedia)

But what can you make with SPAM that actually tastes edible, perhaps, even good? Here are a couple that sound good, both from NPR.

Photo from Flickr.

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SPAM MUSUBI

More Spam is consumed in Hawaii than any other state in the U.S. By far, Hawaiians’ favorite dish is Musubi, a ready-to-eat Spam snack that resembles a large piece of nigiri sushi. In Hawaii, you can buy Musubi in nearly any convenience store or grocery store for between $1 and $2. This is adapted from a recipe on the Hormel Foods Web site. (Makes 8 servings)

Ingredients

  • 1 12-ounce can Spam Classic
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 3 cups cooked white sushi rice (found in the Asian section of supermarket)
  • 1 package hoshi nori (Japanese dried seaweed, available at Asian markets)

Directions

  1. Slice Spam lengthwise into 8 equal pieces.
  2. In a shallow dish, combine garlic, ginger, brown sugar and soy sauce. Place Spam slices in the mixture and let sit for 30 minutes. Remove and pat dry.
  3. In a medium-sized skillet, fry the marinated Spam slices over medium heat, 2 minutes on each side or until lightly browned.
  4. Moisten hands and mold rice into 8 thick blocks with the same outside dimensions as Spam slices. (You can get a perfect block shape by using a special plastic Musubi mold found online or in specialty stores in Hawaii.)
  5. Cut nori into 8-1/2 inch strips. Place Spam slices on rice blocks and wrap individual nori strips around each middle.
  6. Moisten one end of nori slightly to fasten together. The remaining marinade may be used as a dip.

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Or for the really gourmet SPAM enthusiast…

Lobster Thermidor Aux Crevettes with Mornay Sauce, Truffle Pate, Brandy, Fried Egg and Spam

Don’t expect to earn your third Michelin star with this dish. But any diners who are also die-hard Monty Python fans will be delighted. (Makes 4 servings)

Ingredients 

  • 4 lobster tails
  • 16 jumbo shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 small white onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon brandy
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream, scalded
  • 1/4 cup grated Gruyere cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 tablespoons bread crumbs
  • 1 12-ounce can Spam Classic
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 can truffle pate (found in gourmet food stores)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable or peanut oil

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to broil.
  2. Place lobster tails into large pot of boiling water. After 3 to 4 minutes, add shrimp. Cook another 3 to 4 minutes until lobster and shrimp are done.
  3. Remove from pot. Drain and rinse under cold water. Using kitchen shears or carefully with a knife, remove but save lobster shells. Cut lobster meat and shrimp coarsely into 1/2-inch pieces.
  4. Heat 4 tablespoons of butter in skillet over medium heat. Add onions and saute about 4 minutes, until translucent. Add flour and stir, cooking for another 1 to 2 minutes.
  5. Whisk in brandy, then hot cream.
  6. Remove from heat and add Gruyere and half the Parmesan cheese, stirring frequently. Add lobster, shrimp, paprika, salt and pepper.
  7. Arrange lobster shells in a casserole dish. Pour lobster shrimp mixture over shells and sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs. Broil on high until golden, 3 to 5 minutes.
  8. While waiting for the dish to broil, slice Spam into 8 pieces. Fry eggs over medium heat, then remove. Fry Spam slices until light brown.
  9. To serve, place each lobster shell on a plate. Top with one or two slices of Spam and then a fried egg. Serve truffle pate on the side.