Modern Fusion Bites Paired With Chef Inspiration

by Tanaya Ghosh | TanayasTable.com

TEMP tempo octo

Marinated Grilled Octopus (all photos by Tanaya Ghosh)

These days, the novelty and excitement when the words “modern American” and “fusion food” come to mind have pretty much worn off, at least compared to a few years ago. However, let me tell you about a great spot in Brea, CA doing something very different from your average New American restaurant. Something that’s worth getting excited about again.

Tempo Urban Kitchen does New American fusion food on shareable plates, using modern techniques and interesting flavor combinations. At the Gigasavvy Social Club dinner, we enjoyed a tasting menu of memorable bites prepared for us by accomplished Chefs Chris Tzorin, Charlie Medina & Salvador Carrillo, all age 30 and under.

Chef Chris Tzorin, a recent winner of Food Network’s Guy’s Grocery Games, is a friend of mine whose story inspires me and many others to keep striving for success, despite the cards you are dealt in life.

Chef Chris grew up in the fine dining industry, as his dad was a chef. “My dad would cook at home, my mom too, and we would sit together at the table and talk about how the week was together as a family,” he reminisced.

“My dad always told me I’d be better than him one day, and now I tell Armani (his young son) the same thing, so he can take it to the next level when he grows up. He hangs out with me in the kitchen.” Indeed, Armani was right there with his dad that night at the tasting, wearing his own little personalized chef’s coat!

However, when the accomplished chef lost his other son, Chris, it changed him forever. He teared up as he spoke of little Chris, and said that after going through such a dark and trying time, “That’s why you hardly see me upset. Life could be so much worse. I want to be able to experience a lot in life, and meet as many people (as I can) and inspire them.”

I suppose I especially wanted to share Chef Chris’s story because I see a lot of myself in the way he’s grown from his personal tragedies, and how he’s transformed it into something that drives him every day to do the most with the life he’s been given. And although the two losses are not comparable, as no two losses are, I share a similar outlook on life after losing my best friend, my mother, much too early. Chef Chris’s story inspires me, as I hope it will inspire many of you, to always keep pushing forward with the best attitude possible, to accomplish great things.

Chef Chris explained that it was his two boys for whom he brought his A game to win Guy’s Grocery Games on Food Network. “(After) two divorces and losing a child, after all the things I’ve been through… the blood, pain and tears, I’m still here.” And thank goodness, since he not only inspires people now, but makes amazing food in the kitchen, day in and day out.

Now that Chef Chris’s expansive career has led him to Tempo Urban Kitchen, he says he’s open to learning some newer techniques from the two younger chefs, Chef Salvador & Chef Charlie, who are big on molecular gastronomy.

“Here, we’re bringing more urban-style, outside-the-box food. Some will say, ‘No, you’re not supposed to do that,’ I’m gonna do it anyway…. I just want people to recognize me for who I am, and why I cook. It’s my life on a plate,” he concluded.

And with that, here’s what Chef Chris, Chef Charlie and Chef Salvador created for us at the coursed dinner:

Upon arrival, after a tour of the kitchen, we took a seat with fellow influencers who were also invited to this delightful dining experience. We started off with an Old Fashioned and a refreshing Mango Serrano Margarita with a Tajin rim.

TEMP tempo octopus

Then, it was time to eat! The first course was Marinated Grilled Octopus, made by Chef Chris Tzorin. The octopus was plated on a wooden plank, as were all the dishes. The menu items are meant to be shared, to encourage more social interaction at the table, as Chef Chris explained. The tender, charred octopus was served with guajillo chili oil, creamy serrano chili sauce, lime cream and chipotle mayo, along with a garnish of fresh microgreens. All the different sauces made for a customized experience, as we could choose which bit of sauce to dip our octopus into.

TEMP temp pork belly

Next up was a Korean-inspired, succulent Slow Roasted Pork Belly by Chef Charlie Medina. The soy lime glaze imparted a great tangy, savory flavor, and the tortilla puree it rested on was a unique element that brought the dish together as a “deconstructed Korean taco,” as Chef Charlie described it. The red cabbage kimchi and crema sauce completed the dish, along with a thin slice of rolled mango for a bit of sweet freshness. What made the pork extra juicy was its slow cooking in a traditional Caja China roasting box.

TEMP tempo steak

Our last savory dish was the Slow-Cooked Short Rib by Chef Salvador Carrillo. This brightly colored dish was created with yellow mustard seeds (what they called “vegan caviar”), pickled carrots wrapped in thin New York-style ham, and a bold brush of beet sauce across the plate. When Chef Salvador said “slow-cooked,” he really meant slow, as the cooking of the short rib for 28 hours made it extra tender.

TEMP temp ice cream

After the drinks and three shared protein dishes, a cart rolled out for tableside ice cream! We watched in anticipation as the ice cream fully froze right before our eyes. Minutes later, as wisps of liquid nitrogen lifted, vanilla ginger ice cream emerged! The liquid nitrogen technique made the ice cream extra creamy in texture, and the mini cones they rested in gave a great crunch to the dessert. What a fun way to end a great dining experience!

Thanks to Tempo Urban Kitchen and Gigasavvy Social Club for having us. Go here for more information on visiting for a unique and memorable dining experience!

Until next time, let’s connect on social media!

Instagram: @tanayas.table

Twitter: @TanayasTable

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Cheers!

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VIDEO: Celebrity Chefs + Highlights from LA Weekly’s “The Essentials”

Tanayas Table LA Weekly The Essentials Logo Wine

Where do you go to interview top-tier LA chefs of celebrity status, all in the same room? How about the likes of Curtis Stone, Roy Choi, Michael Voltaggio and Sang Yoon?

Well, this past weekend, LA Weekly hosted The Essentials, an annual food event produced in honor of the recently unveiled 99 Essential LA Restaurants list. This is where I got to chat with all of the aforementioned immensely talented chefs!

Check it out here, along with some of the amazing bites offered by 50 of the 99 restaurants honored on the list:

Here are some of the highlights from what we tried at the event:

Roy Choi’s Kogi served its classic short rib tacos, while Top Chef winner Michael Voltaggio of Ink served a bagels & lox-inspired dish featuring rye pasta with smoked trout roe, bagel crumbs and dashi brown butter.

Michael Voltaggio of Ink served up a pasta play on bagels & lox

Michael Voltaggio of Ink served up a pasta play on bagels & lox

Plan Check served their famous (and heavenly!) cruller donut holes with caramelized goat cheese, coconut sugar, almond sauce, white chocolate and candied rosemary.

Plan Check's all-star cruller donut with candied rosemary, caramelized goat cheese

Plan Check’s all-star cruller donut with candied rosemary, caramelized goat cheese

This little ball of rich complexity was definitely one of my ultimate favorite bites, as the donuts were crispy on the outside and light, airy and slightly custardy on the inside. The caramelized goat cheese was the perfect balance of sweet and savory, and the candied rosemary added the right amount of aromatic essence.

A savory favorite of mine had to be Little Sister’s banh hoi with chili braised beef shank and tendon, herbs, sprouts and fried peanuts. Great balance of hot and cold, sweet and salty, and the perfect amount of heat and acid.

Little Sister's banh hoi getting some finishing touches

Little Sister’s banh hoi getting some finishing touches

Alimento’s escolar crudo was also excellent, plated with eggplant, wild fennel and mollica. The succulent yet firm white fish absolutely melted in the mouth along with its Mediterranean-inspired components. It was a very cohesive plate indeed, with deep flavors.

One last donut that stood out was Hinoki & The Bird’s miso donut with honey caramel. It was a perfect umami and sweet combination in one fluffy bite!

Spago served an interesting “Vietnamese style banh mi” with pork belly, but somehow it didn’t taste as good as it looked for me. Still, it was pretty to look at, with all its brightly colored veggies.

Spago's take on the banh mi

Spago’s take on the banh mi

Tar & Roses’ steak tartare was delectable, as was its popcorn with bacon, brown sugar and aleppo pepper. Petit Trois also served a steak tartare, while Park’s BBQ served the flavors of Korean BBQ in one bite. There was also some great Ethiopian food, and a lot of deep-flavored moles served at the event.

Korean BBQ in one bite, by Park's BBQ

Korean BBQ in one bite, by Park’s BBQ

I only heard that chef Curtis Stone of Maude’s white asparagus pain perdu with foie gras mousse, pickled pearl onions & mustard seed was amazing, since we didn’t get to try before they ran out. Still, he talks to us about it in the video above… which kind of makes up for it!

Here’s Roy Choi cracking jokes and plugging Kogi, by the way:

Joking around with Roy Choi

Instagram video: Joking around with Roy Choi

Szechuan Impression’s spicy noodles were hot and flavorful, and had just the right bite. The variety of food, from authentic international street fare to refined European-inspired dishes was a pretty accurate reflection of so much that LA has to offer.

Spicy noodles by Szechuan Impression

Spicy noodles by Szechuan Impression

Although they didn’t exhibit at the event, I was pretty proud to learn that Surati Farsan Mart was recognized as one of the 99 Essential Restaurants!

Wine, cocktails and spirits also flowed at the event, and there was even vodka made from sweet potatoes. Oh, and how could I forget shouting out Philippe The Original and their OG French dip sandwich? There was so much food and drink to try, such little time!

The original French dip by Philippe The Original

The original French dip by Philippe The Original

I do wish some of the fine dining restaurants hadn’t run out by the time we got to them, but overall we definitely left stuffed and satiated with some of the most essential bites LA has to offer.

It was a good time talking food with some very well-respected chefs, as well.

Roy Choi & Tanaya's Table talking food

Cheers from Roy Choi & Tanaya’s Table… peace out!

Check out the full list of stellar vendors here. Until next time, cheers!

VIDEO: Sweets, Food Stars + Demos At L.A. Cookie Con

Check out highlights from L.A. Cookie Con!

Highlights from L.A. Cookie Con are right here in this one-minute video, including a shoutout to you guys from MasterChef & Food Network stars!

This past Sunday, I was honored to cover the magnificent first annual L.A. Cookie Con as an official blogger. It was a sold-out convention for sweet lovers, featuring a ton of baked goods and other delectable treats. A dessert fanatic’s heaven!

The event, held at the Pasadena Convention Center, featured special guest Ron Ben-Israel of “Sweet Genius” on Food Network, along with “MasterChef” fan favorites Ahran Cho, Daniel McGuffey and Monti Carlo. The immensely talented child chefs also represented, with “MasterChef Junior” stars Dara Yu (better known as “Dara the Bow Girl”), Troy Glass and Sarah Lane taking part in the panel discussion involving all culinary TV personalities. Stacey Poon-Kinney of “The Next Food Network Star” also joined them, along with other talented stars.

Stacey, Monti, Ahran, Daniel, Sarah and more!

Stacey, Monti, Ahran, Daniel, Sarah and more were in attendance

There were tasty pastries of all kinds, from the good old traditional kind, to organic, raw, gluten-free, sugar-free, local and other types of specialty creations. There was something for everybody… and then some!

Some of my favorites (although really, there were way too many to list!) included the newly opened BakerCakemaker, as they were serving their buttery Filipino ensaymadas (they even looped my video feature on them throughout the entire day!). I also loved the unique and rare Baba Raspberry Jam crafted by Coldwater Canyon Provisions, and the perfectly chewy cookie bars that J & D Catering served.

LA Cookie Con Peacock Table

The peacock-themed entry into the dessert table design competition. My personal favorite!

It was wonderful to not only support my friend and L.A. Cookie Con producer Nancy, but also to see so many of my food blogger friends and a lot of my Tastemade family there at the event! We had fun exploring the demos, VIP lounge and photobooth!

Check out the one-minute video above for highlights, including a beautiful peacock dessert table display, photobooth shenanigans, and a hello to all of you from the talented food celebrities in attendance.

LA Cookie Con Macaron Garden

Stay tuned for Dine L.A. coverage of Prova Pizzeria coming soon. Go check it out while you can, there’s only a week left!

 

VIDEO: The Taste of Mexico Media Preview Night

Copyright 2014 Tanaya Ghosh

As summer winds down, one might think that food festivals are also on the decline. Well, that’s not the case here in Los Angeles, and a prime example of that is The Taste of Mexico, taking place on September 27 at LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes in downtown. Last night, I had the opportunity to attend their media preview night to get the early scoop to share with you!

The festival, celebrating Mexican food, heritage and culture, was founded in 2010 and has grown exponentially over the past four years. For the first time, the food fair is expanding to include a daytime family brunch event in addition to its annual evening of food, drinks and dancing.

Copyright 2014 Tanaya Ghosh

Thanks for the torta education, Torta Company!

The Torta Co., part of the Lotería Grill family, served up a variety of tasty tortas, including ones with poblano peppers, Oaxacan cheese, breaded chicken cutlets, sirloin tips, a tuna melt and even a take on the PB & J!

Mezcal and tequila made for a festive evening, but my favorite were the Micheladas were served from Guelaguetza’s famous Miche Mobil. They were made with Montejo beer, a Mexican pale lager that debuted in the U.S. for the first time just a few weeks ago at Dodger Stadium. It was exciting to get a first taste, as it is slowly rolling out here in specific markets.

Copyright 2014 Tanaya Ghosh

An array of colorful dessert samplings from Compañía de Café.

Another favorite of mine was from Yuca’s, which not only had a warm demeanor in serving us, but also had amazing food like the Nuevo Relleno, a Pasilla chile oozing with cheese and chunks of portobello mushroom. I soon after learned that Yuca’s is also a James Beard award-winning restaurant! Well-deserved, for sure.

Candela Taco Bar had a refreshing spinach & pineapple agua fresca, and Artesana Pops’ spinach & pineapple popsicles were another great take on the same fruit-and-veggie power couple.

Copyright 2014 Tanaya Ghosh

Mexikosher’s plate was diverse in texture and flavor.

Finally, “Chopped” champion and Season 12 “Top Chef: Boston” contender Katsuji Tanabe of Mexikosher served a big hunk of miso-marinated pastrami with figs, peaches and a habanero sauce. Check him out presenting his dish in the recap video below!

Copyright 2014 Tanaya Ghosh

Get a preview of the variety of Mexican fare you’ll find at Taste of Mexico!

There were many more tasty bites throughout the night, so check out the rest with the family or some friends on 9/27!

 

The 4th Annual Taste of Mexico essentials:

September 27, 2014 at LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes

Farmers Market Family Picnic: 12 p.m. – 4 p.m.

Dinner, Drinks and Dancing: 7 p.m. – 11 p.m.

 ¡Salud!

VIDEO: Sneak Preview Of Border Grill’s New Seasonal Menu

Copyright 2014 Tanaya Ghosh

My mom and I have been longtime fans of notable chefs, Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken, since their days on Food Network’s “Too Hot Tamales” when I was a little girl. Since those days, the two incredibly talented chefs and friends have been on “Top Chef Masters” and achieved much more while continuing to run Border Grill for decades, along with their other standout restaurants.

So naturally, when I got the chance to attend their new menu launch party last night thanks to Dana, I couldn’t turn down the opportunity. Border Grill Downtown, located in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles underneath the skyscrapers and city lights, is launching a new fall seasonal menu for the first time in a long time. So last night, I had to get a taste of all the brand new fare!

I knew going in that Border Grill is vegetarian-friendly, so I brought my friend Roshni along with me. Not only could she give me an opinion from a vegetarian perspective, but she was also a huge help in assisting me with getting all the shots I needed on camera and video. Also, I’ve seen Susan Feniger at so many events that she greeted me warmly and offered to be in my video (below)!

So I raced the sun to get my visuals before we finally could dive in to eat, drink, mingle and enjoy the rest of our evening as the sun set over Downtown L.A. Work before play, I say… but good thing the two can often overlap for me, especially in this facet of my life!

The recap video at the end speaks for itself (I mean come on, Susan Feniger even explains one of her own dishes!), but some of my personal favorites included:

The Squash Empanada, filled with pine nuts for crunch and manchego cheese for body. Definitely a great fall take on the empanada! The Chimichurri sauce on top really enhanced all the other flavors as well.

Copyright 2014 Tanaya Ghosh

The Ancho Chile Roasted Beef, served at the carving station complete with a DIY “deconstructed sandwich” bar. The buttery grilled telera bread had a great bite to it, being crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. The chile cascabel sauce and horseradish crema added a smoky heat and a cooling component, and the habanero pickled onions and watercress added acidity and freshness to the dish. Plus, we got to plate our own food (can’t you tell? Ha!).

Copyright 2014 Tanaya Ghosh

The Key Lime Cheesecake Squares. The mint and seasonal berries added great flavor and depth, while the graham cracker crust and nuts added a crunchy element to the fresh, tangy, wonderful bite of dessert!

Copyright 2014 Tanaya Ghosh

The Filled Churro Pops. Whether filled with luscious red wine poached pear or rolled in chocolate, cayenne pepper and hazelnut, these soft, moist bites of cinnamon-y, doughy churros are what dreams are made of… on a stick!

Copyright 2014 Tanaya Ghosh

The Mezcal Sour cocktail, which had a smoky flavor, thicker texture from the egg whites, and a depth of flavor from the Aztec chocolate bitters. Talk about an equally complex tasting and cool-looking drink!

Copyright 2014 Tanaya Ghosh

And now… I present you with the full holiday showcase menu:

Copyright 2014 Tanaya Ghosh

Below is a video recap of the evening, including those juicy quinoa-stuffed mushrooms and, later, Susan Feniger herself presenting the out-of-this-world Vegetarian Paella with roasted pumpkin seeds. All of it here:

Copyright 2014 Tanaya Ghosh

Check out this teaser to get a taste of the new Fall holiday menu!

If you’d like try modern Mexican food with a bold twist, inspired by the flavors of Oaxaca and the Yucatan, then I definitely recommend checking out Border Grill Downtown. They even have a food truck and catering services. I know I’ll be back again, especially for those delectable chocolate-hazelnut-cayenne churros!