There are 94 days of summer this year. Because I’m a weird, obsessive compulsive freak about lists, here’s a list of summery things to eat, drink, do, and wear, one for each day of the season, in no particular order.

Lies. Of course they’re in order. You just don’t know what that order it is.

Get crackin’. There are only {xo} days of summer left.
[click to continue…]

Where has Koreatown been all my life?! [click to continue…]

My hero died this past weekend. It never was – and never will be – just about the food, but for now, I cannot find any words, so I’m expressing myself in data and figures. Here is a spreadsheet of all the restaurants Jonathan Gold listed from 2005 to 2017. Scroll down past the spreadsheet for instructions on how to read it.

Words about how I feel later. If ever.

Jonathan Gold’s Bestssential LA Restaurants, 2005 – 2017

HOW to READ THIS SPREADSHEET

Restaurants Listed Down the Side

Restaurants are listed down the side, and includes all restaurants that have appeared on any list in any year, including a list of Things to Eat in LA. This means that there are some restaurants that have never been listed for the restaurant itself, but do have some food that you’ve got to eat, e.g. Tito’s Tacos has never been on a restaurant list, but it is on this spreadsheet because Tito’s old-school hard shell tacos are something you should eat at least once.

I uploaded the spreadsheet so that the restaurants are listed in rank order by year. For 2005-2011, JGold did not rank the restaurants, so they are listed alphabetically.

Years and Other Across the Top of the Spreadsheet

Years 2017 to 2005 are listed backwards across the top. From 2005 to 2011, JGold’s list was 99 Essential Restaurants, in no particular order. So, if the restaurant was “essential” that year, it has that year’s number in the column. From 2013 to 2017, JGold’s List was 101 Best Restaurants, ranked in order from 1st Best to 101st. The restaurant’s ranking is in the column for that year.

Ignore the “TDL” column; that’s just a note to myself that I’ve eaten there. “C” is an indication that the restaurant has since permanently closed. “EBYD” is “Eat Before You Die.” A restaurant’s dish is listed there.

If you only want to see a certain year’s list, e.g you want to see what JGold thought was “essential” all the way back in 2005, use the filters at the top of the column, e.g. the filter at the “05” column and only “show 05.” That’s about as deep as this lesson in how to use a spreadsheet is going.

Some Initial Impressions

Ten restaurants have made JGold’s list every year since His lists came into existence in 2005. I wonder about some of these, but I will wonder them to myself because my Mama always told me if I have nothing nice to say, don’t say it unless it’s in a private message.

JGold’s Gold Standard

These are the restaurants that have been on his list in one for or another, every year.

  1. Providence
  2. Spago
  3. Lucques
  4. Vincenti
  5. Jar
  6. Meals by Genet
  7. Angelini Osteria
  8. Sapp Coffee Shop
  9. Marouch
  10. Langer’s Deli

There are a few that came close, with strange off years somewhere in the middle, like AOC which wasn’t included for two years in 2010 and 2011, which I thought was because it was closed before moving from 3rd Street to Beverly Blvd, but AOC didn’t actually close until 2013 or maybe even 2014. The other weird one-off year was for Guelaguetza, which was left off the 101 List in 2015. These are mysteries that only JGold knew.

JGold’s “101 Best” All-Stars (2013-2017)

These are the 39 restaurants that have been on His 101 Best list every year for the five years it’s been in existence (2013-2017)

  1. Providence
  2. Spago
  3. Lukshon
  4. Trois Mec
  5. Mozza
  6. Rustic Canyon
  7. n/naka
  8. Lucques
  9. Cut
  10. Bestia
  11. Animal
  12. Shunji
  13. Vincenti
  14. Melisse
  15. Gjelina
  16. Sqirl
  17. Tasting Kitchen
  18. Sea Harbour
  19. Jitlada
  20. Sotto
  21. Park’s BBQ
  22. Jar
  23. Meals by Genet
  24. Church & State
  25. La Casita Mexicana
  26. AOC
  27. Angelini Osteria
  28. Drago
  29. Coni Seafood
  30. Kogi Taqueria
  31. Guelaguetza
  32. MB Post
  33. Attari Sandwich
  34. Tsujita Ramen
  35. Mariscos Jalisco
  36. Sapp Coffee Shop
  37. Mayura
  38. Marouch
  39. Langer’s Deli
JGold’s “99 Essential” All-Stars (2005-2011)

These are the 22 restaurants that were on His 99 Essential list every year for the seven years it was in existence (2005-2011)

  1. Angelli Caffe (closed)
  2. Angelini Osteria
  3. Babita
  4. Border Grill
  5. Campanile (closed)
  6. Casa Bianca
  7. Chichen Itza
  8. Euro Pane
  9. Guelaguetza
  10. Hungry Cat
  11. Jar
  12. Kiriko
  13. Langer’s
  14. Lucques
  15. Marouch
  16. Meals by Genet
  17. Musso & Frank
  18. Providence
  19. Sapp Coffee Shop
  20. Spago
  21. Tacos Baja Ensenada
  22. Vincenti
Additional Notes About this Spreadsheet
  • This list of all of Jonathan Gold’s “best of” lists is public, shareable, and available for download directly from docs.google here: JGold_ListofLists. Feel free to share the link, download the spreadsheet and share the info. Credit to me for the tedious task of typing this all in would be nice, but you don’t have to. I’ve worked in corporate before. I’m used to people’s snatching credit for work I’ve done.
  • The information might have omissions and/or errors because I’m not perfect (despite the rumors). If you notice anything that’s missing, inaccurate, etc. just let me know. I’ll fix it.
  • If you scroll to the right, other information like address, telephone, hours, are listed, but not for everything. That’s the only good thing yelp is for.
  • I am currently working on cross-referencing this spreadsheet with a list of LA Restaurant CORKAGE FEES, which I started a few years ago, but haven’t updated since forever ago. If you have info (or want to help), hit me on email or in the comments.
  • OF COURSE there is a “deck” of pie charts and graphs that illustrate the percentage breakdowns by cuisine, geographic location, price points, and parking situations. Graphed over time. But I can’t share it because a girl’s gotta have some dignity, you know.
  • Thank Gold the Los Angeles Times already has a google map of the last list.

mul naeng myun
Recipe and resources first, story and a list of a few restaurants in Los Angeles (Ktown) at the end.

(Mul) Naeng-Myun / Korean Chilled Buckwheat Noodles in Broth {recipe}

At the Korean market, you will find naeng-myun in the Asian noodle aisle or with Asian noodles in the refrigerated section. Many of the brands sell the noodles in packages along with powdered soup base and serving seasonings (kind of like packaged ramen). I throw these packets out and make the broth from scratch. There will be times when you are tempted to rely on the packaged seasonings. It won’t taste as good, but go ahead. It’s not like I’ll find out and hate.

Naeng-myun noodles consist primarily of buckwheat, but can also include arrowroot, corn, and sweet potato starches, as well as regular wheat flour. The different combinations will all differ ever-so-slightly in color, taste, and texture from one another, but for the most part, it doesn’t matter. The only noodles from which you want to differentiate for sure are dang-myun, which is used for jap-chae and other soups and stews (thicker, more transparent like “cellophane,” and more slippery), and buckwheat soba (“squared off” and not bouncy/chewy).

My version of the naeng-myun soup, the “mul” (which means “water”) part of Mul Naeng-myun, is clear, light, and tangy, making it refreshing to me. Other recipes, particularly well-known restaurants, use very rich stocks as the soup base, often resulting in a somewhat frozen-but-gelatinous texture, since the soup is supposed to be cold. This is too weird for me.

Recipe Timing Recommendation: Start cooking the beef first to make the soup base. You can wash/peel/slice/prep all the vegetables and make hard boiled eggs while the soup is cooking, and then chilling (could be a few hours!). Naeng-myun noodles take about 5 minutes to cook; cook them just before serving.

Serves 4-6

INGREDIENTS

1 lb beef brisket
1 quart chicken stock + 1 quart filtered water (you can also used prepared beef stock in place of water if you have it for a much richer soup taste)
4 to 5 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and smashed
1 medium onion, peeled and quartered length-wise through the root
3-inch section of daikon radish cut into ½-inch rounds
1 teaspoon salt
5-7 whole black peppercorns
¼ cup rice vinegar
1-3 teaspoons sugar, or to taste (optional)
1½-lb package Korean naeng-myun noodles
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 small Asian pear, quartered and thinly sliced
1-2 Persian cucumbers, thinly sliced
vinegar-pickled daikon radish slices (thinly slice daikon radish, pickle using Momofuku brine, recipe here)
cabbage kimchi, red pepper rinsed off under cold water
hard boiled eggs, half egg for each serving (how to make PERFECT Hard Boiled Eggs, recipe here)
to serve: toasted sesame seeds garnish, hot mustard

DIRECTIONS

Make Soup/Cook Beef: Rinse beef brisket, then place in a large pot, and cover with water by 1 inch. Bring to a rolling boil and allow it to boil out for about five minutes. Turn off the heat, carefully pour out the water with all the foam and fat, rinse off the beef and the pot (wipe out any foam/scum that sticks to the side), and add chicken stock, filtered water, garlic, ginger, onion, daikon radish, salt and peppercorns. Bring to a boil, the reduce heat and simmer for about an hour, covered, with just a little bit of space to let some steam out. The soup will reduce to about ¾ the original.

Once the beef is cooked, remove it to a plate and put in the refrigerator to chill and “set.” When the beef brisket is cool enough to handle and more “solid,” slice it against the grain as thinly as possible.

Strain the soup through a fine mesh sieve into a heat proof container. Chill the soup for a couple of hours in the refrigerator, you can also let it chill overnight.

Once the soup is chilled, stir in additional salt and pepper to taste, vinegar, and sugar.

Cook Noodles: Cook the naeng-myun noodles according to the package: bring water in a large pot to a boil (you can probably use the pot you used to cooke the beef/make the soup). Turn down the heat to medium and let cook for about 5 minutes. Drain into colander and rinse with cold running water several times while gently “massaging” the noodles. Drizzle the rinsed and drained noodles with sesame oil and gently massage the noodles to distribute the oil. Divide the cooked naeng-myun noodles among serving bowls right away because the noodles are somewhat “sticky” and start to clump together fairly soon (if they are left without liquid/broth).

Prep Naeng-Myun Bowls/Serve: Top the noodles in each bowl with a few slices each of Asian pear, cucumber, rinsed cabbage kimchi, beef brisket, and half a hard boiled egg. Carefully ladle soup into bowl around noodles. Add ice cubes to the soup in the bowls. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds and serve with additional vinegar (using the pickling brine from the radish works well), hot mustard, and kimchi.

Components for naeng-myun, clockwise from top: fresh kimchi (un-rinsed), hard boiled eggs, Asian pear and cucumber, pickled daikon with jalapenos, sliced cooked beef brisket:
mul naeng myun, ingredients and garnishes

Recipe Resources

~ beef brisket: I usually try to get my meat from Marconda’s Meat in Los Angeles, but this time, Whole Foods Market because it’s too fucking hot to drive all over town for ingredients for just one meal.
~ chicken stock: homemade and frozen, though I keep Imagine brand Organic Free-Range Chicken Broth in my pantry
~ naeng-myun noodles: Wang brand, Galleria Market in Koreatown, Los Angeles (see photo below)
~ kimchi: Ocinet brand at H-Mart
~ any and all groceries from Bristol Farms or Whole Foods Market

Naeng-myun noodles, package and noodles:
naeng myun noodle package
Beef brisket for soup base and eating:
beef brisket, raw

It is hot.

Hot hot hot hot hot.

H o o o o o t.

Like 90 degrees at 9 AM hot. Like 100+ degrees the entire day hot. Like $300 electricity bill this month for running A. C. All. Day. Hot.

It’s going to be in the upper 90s all week, over 100 degrees in some parts of LA (sorry, Valley!)

I’m taking the heat as Mother Nature’s very dramatic call to check off a few “Things” from the summer bucket list I’ve posted every year for the last 10 years or s and have YET to complete. But sometimes, the journey is more important the complete checklist or something, right?

So here is #32 of the 94 Things to Eat, Drink, and Wear This Summer, naeng-myun 냉면, specifically mul naeng-myun 냉면, a chilled/cold Korean dish of buckwheat noodles, sliced fresh Korean pear, cucumber, pickled daikon radish, sometimes kimchi, and sometimes thinly-sliced beef brisket, in a vinegary, subtly sweet broth that has been cooled down with ice cubes. The entire dish from the ice to the buckwheat has cooling effects on the body.mul naeng myun

Naeng-myun, prepped in bowl for serving:
mul naeng myun
Naeng-myun in bowls:
mul naeng myun

Where to Try Naeng Myun in a Restaurant

If you’ve never eaten naeng-myun, try it in a restaurant first because the taste, temperature, and texture together is something to get used to. In LA, there are a few restaurants that specialize in naeng-myun, though many Korean restaurants that specialize in BBQ or serve a variety of traditional foods will probably have naeng-myun, too.
~ Yu Chun Chic Naeng-Myun (Koreatown, Los Angeles) seems to get the most, and highest, raves. I like it, especially the cups of straight broth you can drink. There are two locations {yelp}
~ Ham Heung Naeng-Myun (Koreantown, Los Angeles) {yelp}
~ Chilbomyunok is a BBQ restaurant, but is also known for their naeng-myun. {midtown lunch review}
~ I’ve tried the spicy, soup-less version (bibim naeng-myun) at Dong Il Jang

Watermelon Agua Fresca Recipe

Watermelon Agua Fresca Ingredients

1 watermelon
ice cold filtered water
1 tablespoon lime juice per cup of pureed watermelon
optional: sugar or other sweetener, lime wedges and mint sprigs for garnish

Watermelon Agua Fresca Ingredients

Wash whole watermelon and cut watermelon in half. Use a large spoon to scoop out all of the pink part of the watermelon into a bowl. Discard or save watermelon rind for other use (pickled watermelon!).

Puree watermelon in blender. Measure how many cups of watermelon puree you have. A 5-pound watermelon will yield approximately 8 cups of watermelon puree.

For each cup of watermelon puree, add ¼ cup of water and 1 tablespoon of lime juice. For example, for 8 cups of watermelon puree, add 2 cups of water and ½ cup lime juice.

Stir everything together in a large pitcher. Taste. If you’d like, stir in sweetener, though if you’re getting good watermelons, you probably don’t need any sweetener.

Watermelon Agua Fresca is ready to drink, but Watermelon Agua Fresca is even better once it’s chilled in the refrigerator for a couple of hours. Stir again right before serving (watermelon pulp might settle toward the bottom).

Pour Watermelon Agua Fresca into glasses, over ice if necessary. Garnish with lime wedges and/or mint sprigs.

Watermelon Agua Fresca will keep in the refrigerator for about two days.

I have tried making this Watermelon Agua Fresca with leaves of fresh mint added to the food processor with the watermelon, but the combination just doesn’t do it for me. I don’t really love the flavor of mint to begin with in anything but toothpaste and chewing gum, and I can’t help but always feel like I have little neon green bits of mint between my teeth after drinking it.

I just used the mint as a garnish. For photos.

By the way, this is the perfect mixer for ice cold vodka.
Watermelon Juice in Glasses

Recipe Notes and Resources

~ Watermelon. Wait until you see watermelons at the local farmers’ markets before you buy them anywhere. That’s when you will know watermelons are ready, usually late June or early July. If you see watermelons in the regular grocery store say, in May, you can TRY them, but they will be any combination of grainy or dry or bland or cracked or totally tasteless. Probably all of the above.
~ Farmers Market. I like the different colored watermelons — red, pink, orange, yellow — from Weiser Farms.
~ Water. You can make this Watermelon Agua Fresca with sparkling water to make it a little extra. If you don’t finish it all in the same day, just save it in the refrigerator with an airtight lid. It may or may not retain its “sparkle” the next day. Even if it doesn’t, it’ll still taste like the original Watermelon Agua Fresca.
~ Sweetener. Some people add sugar or simple syrup to Watermelon (and other) Agua Fresca. If you’d like a sweeter drink, add some sugar. I generally avoid adding sweetener in any form — agave syrup, honey, maple syrup, straight up sugar — that’s just my taste preference.

Watermlon Wedges

Watermelon Vinaigrette

Watermelon Vinaigrette Recipe

The original recipe by Suzanne Goin included a complete Watermelon and Tomato Salad with Feta Cheese onto which the vinaigrette is drizzled. The salad is nothing more complicated than tossing together sliced tomatoes, watermelon, crumbled feta cheese, sliced shallots, and shredded mint.

The vinaigrette works, of course, with just about any combination of summer produce, especially strong/bitter greens.

adapted from Suzanne Goin
makes about 1½ cups

Ingredients

2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
2 cups watermelon juice
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon pepper

Directions

Place the watermelon juice in a saucepan and reduce over high heat until you have ¼ cup. It took about 40 minutes for. Cool.

Combine the vinegars, watermelon juice reduction, salt, and pepper in bowl. Slowly whisk in the olive oil.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

sparkling sangria with melon, poolside
Though Champagne is the first wine that comes to my mind when someone says “sparkling,” true Champagne is probably a little “strong” for sangria, never mind that it’s normally too expensive at $50+ to dump into a pitcher with a bunch of other liquor, juice, fruit, and maybe even ice. Save Champagne for a glass by itself, and make sangria with an affordable Cava from Spain or Prosecco from Italy.

Don’t mistake “affordable” with “cheap,” though. Cheap wine and bottomshelf liquor are probably why you have somewhat hazy and altogether horrible memories of sangria from your 20s. Or 30s. Or last week or whatever. Stick with decent alcohol, and stay away from too much sugar in the form of soda, juice, or you know, just sugar, too.

For the ginger flavor, I LOVE Fever Tree ginger BEER (not alcoholic), but any brand of strong-ish ginger beer will work. If you can’t find ginger beer, or find the ginger taste too strong or spicy, use ginger ale.

Sparkling Melon Sangria {recipe}

INGREDIENTS

1 750 mL sparkling wine like Cava or Prosecco
1 cup vodka
1 12-ounce bottle of Fever Tree ginger beer
1 to 1½ cups each of cantaloupe, honeydew, and watermelon balls
to serve: ice, fresh mint leaves, lime wheels, colorful straws

DIRECTIONS

Pour the sparkling wine, vodka, ginger beer, and melon balls into a large glass pitcher. The glass pitcher is solely for aesthetics — you can see the bright, colorful melon. Cover the pitcher tightly, and refrigerate — overnight is best but even just a few hours in the refrigerator is better than nothing.

Right before serving the sangria, add ice, fresh mint leaves, and lime wheels to the pitcher.

This sangria does not keep, not because it won’t taste good the next few days, but you will probably drink half of it by yourself before you even serve it, and then what.

cantaloupe, honeydew and watermelon prep

sparkling sangria with melon

sparkling melon sangria with cantaloupe, honeydew and watermelon
{“White Sangria” is Number 67 on my List of Things to Do This Summer}