What to eat now: yes bathe the cheese in champagne

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Langres cheese with Champagne at Kippered

Langres, the cow’s milk cheese from the Champagne-Ardenne region of France, is often served with bubbles. At Kippered, downtown LA’s newest wine bar, you can pour those bubbles over your cheese. It’s not a gimmick. They pour the Champagne, from the bottle, directly onto the cheese. It spills over the top of the small orange wheel and cascades down the wrinkled sides. Gathering on the plate below, the bubbles quickly die out in small bursts. The cheese is tangy and salty, similar to the funk of an Epoisses but much sweeter. It’s firm enough to slice but you can spread it out. I ate chunks of it on the provided crackers, using the knife to lap up the excess champagne and pour it over each bite. The Champagne sharpened the Langres by accentuating its lactic flavor. And when all the cheese was finished, I drank from the plate. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon.

Potato Tacos from El Barrio Cantina

Potato tacos from El Barrio Cantina in Long Beach.

(Brian Addison
)

One of my AYSO football coaches led the Los Tacos Restaurant in Pasadena for many years, which means I was introduced to the wonders of Papa’s tacos from a young age. They’re usually inexpensive and filling, but my ongoing love affair comes from the exemplary amalgamation of textures in even the most modest potato taco. If I see potato tacos on a menu, I’ll order them. My current favorites are at El Barrio Cantina, a restaurant at Retro Row on East 4th Street in Long Beach. Corn tortillas are thin and filled to the brim with hot, oozing mashed potatoes. The potatoes take on a creamy, almost cheesy quality, as if folding them into a deep-fried taco somehow turns them into the most luxurious aligot potatoes. The crispy shells break on contact, shattering the smooth potato. They don’t need any adornment, but at El Barrio Cantina they’re painted with a tangy tomatillo sauce, a few drizzles of cream and a sprinkle of queso fresco. I put a lot of miles on my Prius. And for these tacos, there will be many more.

Dim sum for dinner at HKC Dim Sum

A dim sum steamer contains four shumai.

HKC Dim Sum Shumai in Koreatown.

(Jenn Harris/Los Angeles Times)

The shumai at HKC, the new third-floor dim sum restaurant in downtown Koreatown, are the size of large Jawbreakers. Plump and full of discernible chunks of ground pork, chopped shrimp and black mushrooms, the steamed dumplings are on par with some of the best dim sum parlors in the San Gabriel Valley. Just like lo bak go, a pan-fried salted turnip cake. The squares are nicely browned and the turnip in the center is soft and a bit gooey, similar to the consistency of a good mochi. There are no carts; everything is controlled from a sheet of paper. Pop music (American and Korean) blares from the speakers. There are TVs behind the bar and TV shows projected onto the walls in the dining room. And there’s a full bar, complete with martinis. Imagine eating dim sum, but for dinner and in a college sports bar.

Kimchi balls and fried chicken

A selection of dishes from Bafang Dumpling.  Don't miss the potstickers, top right.

A selection of dishes from Bafang Dumpling. Don’t miss the potstickers, top right.

(Shutter Kitchen / Bafang Dumpling)

Los Angeles has no shortage of dumpling specialists, but a recent mention in my colleague Stephanie Breijo’s column led me to a mall in City of Industry. It was Friday night at 6:30 p.m. and the queue for the only American outpost of Bafang Dumplings, a Taiwanese dumpling chain with more than 1,000 locations in Asia, came through the door. There was an order of the signature kimchi potstickers on almost every table. Steamed and then grilled, blintz-like dumplings resemble Hui Tou Xiang hui tou in San Gabriel in appearance. The thin wraps are crispy, chewy, and puffy with ground pork and kimchi. On a heat scale of one to 10, they are three. But the real star of Bafang is the “chili fried chicken”. It’s a butterfly-fried chicken thigh drizzled with a tangy vinegar-chili sauce that will make your nose runny, in a good way.

Kippered, 361 S Broadway, Los Angeles
El Barrio Cantina, 1731 E. 4th St., Long Beach, (562) 612-0585, elbarriocantinalbc.com
HKC Dim Sum, 3500 W. 6th St., Suite 301, Los Angeles, (213) 739-9205, hkcdimsum.com
Bafang Dumpling, 1552 S. Azusa Ave., Suite B, City of Industry, (626) 778-1958, bafangdumpling.com

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