Last week, the BF and I got to dine with Rosa of The Catty Critic, her husband, and her fellow LA food blogger friends, Kristen of Rock My Palate and Mark and Angela of I Flip For Food, at the pop up Relate Restaurant headed by Chef Dan Moody.

“Pop-up” restaurants is a concept that arguably has been made most popular by Chef Ludo Lefebvre. The idea is that for a limited time, a chef will temporarily take over a venue and turn it into his own kitchen/restaurant. The concept allows a chef to experiment with his cooking without dealing with the overhead costs of having to maintain a physical restaurant space.

Chef Ludo became quite popular after being featured on the tv show Top Chef Masters. He has successfully done six versions of his “LudoBites” pop up restaurants, popping up in all different parts of LA. His last venture, LudoBites 6.0, was so popular that despite teaming with opentable to handle the reservations, opentable’s site completely crashed as thousands of food lovers attempted to get a reservation. Apparently the site received 35,000 hits in a very short amount of time, and all the reservations were filled up within 90 minutes for the 6 week stint. BF and I were one of the many unlucky ones that did not get a table.

A few months ago, I heard a pop-up restaurant would be coming to San Diego, set up to temporarily take over St. German Cafe in Encinitas. I became even more intrigued when I learned that the Chef Dan Moody, who is also known as the Relation Chef,  had been a sous chef for Chef Ludo at his last three LudoBite incarnations.

After Rosa invited me to join her and her food blogger friends, my mind was made up, and I decided I had to give it a try.

The menu at pop up restaurants usually change from day to day as the chef continues to experiment with new ideas. The menu for the night was as follows:

Our first bite was the French onion soup. A little small piece of fried dough sat upon a spoon. Upon popping it into my mouth, I was greeted with a squirt of hot onion soup. I found the little bite quite playful and wished there was more. I’ve never had french onion soup presented this way and it was a fun way to open the meal.

For each course, the waiters waited until everyone was finished, simultaneously removing all of our plates and presenting us with new plates and new silverware for every course. I thought this was a nice touch.

Our second course was Chef Dan’s take on breakfast. This was probably the most popular dish among the table that night. The breaded and fried ball was an egg. When I cut into it, I discovered a runny yolk. I wasn’t always a fan of runny yolks, but BF’s love for it has rubbed onto me. Now I love the taste of a runny egg yolk. Bits of fried bacon also graced the plate and there was a potato pancake and lettuce.

Our next dish was a grilled octopus. I love octopus and the preparation of this dish was really delicious. The octopus was extremely tender and had a great smokey flavor. Later on Chef Dan told us the process to get the octopus so tender since octopus usually has a very chewy texture. I actually love the chewy texture, but I also appreciated the complicated process to make it tender.

The next dish was a redrock fish, served with a puree of beets, a coconut curry and fried spinach. I’m not a big fan of beets, so I could have done without the beet sauce. I liked the crisp seared skin of the fish and the fried spinach leaves were tasty.

The next dish was a spiced beef, with avocado puree, and crispy porcini. This was my favorite dish of the night. The meat was cooked and seasoned perfectly.

The final dish was supposed to be a creme brulee dessert, which we didn’t actually get to try. But we got something even better. It was Angela’s birthday, and so Kristen had asked Chef Dan to make a cake, which he agreed to do. I thought this was a fabulous idea. It must almost every foodie girl’s dream to have a special personal birthday cake made by a chef.

He made a enormous chocolate mousse cake. I should have stood up to get a better picture. Each of us had a small slice of the extremely rich and decadent cake. And after all those slices, more than half the cake remained.

The cake was made with a bittersweet chocolate, which kept the dessert from being too sweet. The chocolate mousse made the cake nice and moist. It was topped with a cognac buttercream frosting. Normally I’m not a frosting girl, but this frosting was so utterly light. I ate all my frosting, all the while suspecting that it was probably made with a lot of butter, later confirmed by the chef.

Because we were the last patrons left that night, we got a chance to hang out and chat with Chef Dan after. It was fun listening to how he prepared his dishes and his experience so far opening his first pop up.

Despite the rainy conditions, I had a wonderful meal and enjoyed hanging out with fellow food bloggers. Hopefully Chef Dan will be back in San Diego again soon.
Relate on Urbanspoon


So I like playing with my food. I especially like making turtle shaped foods whenever I can. I attempted turtle shaped pretzels a long time ago. It’s something I’ve been wanting to revisit for a long time to improve on my first attempt.

These turtles came out much cuter than my first attempt. I rolled the dough out into ropes but then instead of shaping them like pretzels, I rolled the dough into a spiral shape. After that I pinched the front to shape a head, and pinched the sides to form feet and tail. The first time I had used separate pieces of dough for the face and feet, but this led to the dough falling off.

For the eyes, I was thinking of putting little dollops of chocolate, but I was too lazy to melt chocolate and instead I cut a little slit and stuck a brown colored sprinkled inside for each eye. I am pretty happy with the end result.
I am submitting this post to Yeastspotting.
Turtle Soft Pretzels (adapted from Alton Brown)

Yields: approx 16 small pretzels

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
4 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
2/3 cup baking soda
1 large egg

Directions

1. Combine the warm water, sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow it to sit for about 5 minutes. Add the flour and butter and using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead about 5 minutes until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl. Remove the dough from the bowl, and place the dough in a glass bowl oiled with vegetable oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.

2. Divide the dough into 16 pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 12 inch rope. Wrap the dough into a spiral shape. Pinch a large piece of the dough in the front to shape a head. Pinch little pieces where the feet and hands should be to form feet and hands and a small piece at the end for the tail.

3. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

4. Using a large sauce pan, fill with water and bring and the baking soda to a rolling boil.

5. Place the pretzels into the boiling water for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula. Place pretzels on baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silpat mat.

6. Beat one large egg. Brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg. Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 6-7 minutes. After pretzels have cooled, add eyes to turtles. You can put drops of chocolate. Or you can stick sprinkles in for eyes. I cut a small slit and stuck sprinkles inside.

Savory soft pretzels

I’m made soft pretzels a few times on this blog. I had a craving for them recently and thought they’d make a great snack while watching the Oscar’s. I wanted to try a variation on the classic, and decided to make a savory one. I originally wanted to do pepperoni and cheese but I was out of pepperoni. So instead I used some salami, which worked just as well.

I rolled some of the meat and cheese inside of the dough ropes. I kept the surface clean since the pretzels need to be boiled in water. After I boiled them, I sprinkled the tops with salami and cheese before setting them to bake.

These came out tasty. I made them small so they were the perfect Oscar viewing party snack.

Salami and Cheese Soft Pretzels (adapted from Alton Brown)

Yields: approx 16 small pretzels

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 1/4 tsp  active dry yeast
4 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
2/3 cup baking soda
1 large egg
1 cup shredded cheese
2/3 cup salami, cut into small pieces

Directions

1. Combine the warm water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for  about 5 minutes. Add the flour and butter and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead about 5 minutes until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl. Remove the dough from the bowl, and place the dough in a glass bowl oiled with vegetable oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.

2. Divide the dough into 16 pieces. Spread some cheese and salami and then roll dough into the cheese and salami so that some of the salami and cheese gets attached to the dough. Roll out each piece of dough into a 12 inch rope. Take the dough and make a pretzel shape. Place onto the parchment-lined baking pan.

3. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

4. Using a large sauce pan, bring water  and the baking soda to a rolling boil.

5. Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 by 1, for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula.

6. Beat one large egg. Brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg. Sprinkle some salami and cheese onto pretzel surface. Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 6-7 minutes.