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What to eat now: Yes, bathe the cheese in Champagne

Langres cheese with Champagne at Kippered

Langres, the cow’s-milk cheese from the Champagne-Ardenne region in France, is often served with bubbles. At Kippered, the new wine bar in downtown Los Angeles, you can have those bubbles poured over your cheese. It’s not a gimmick. They pour Champagne, from the bottle, directly onto the cheese. It spills over the top of the petite orange wheel and cascades down the wrinkly sides. Pooling onto the plate beneath, the bubbles rapidly extinguish in tiny bursts. The cheese is pungent and salty, similar to the funk of an Époisses but much milder. It’s firm enough to slice but you can spread it. I ate hunks of it on the provided crackers, using the knife to lap up the excess Champagne and pour it onto each bite. The Champagne made the Langres sharper, accentuating its lactic tang. 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

A plate holds four tacos topped with queso fresco.

Potato tacos from El Barrio Cantina in Long Beach.

(Brian Addison
)

One of my AYSO soccer coaches ran the Los Tacos restaurant in Pasadena for many years, which means I was introduced to the wonders of tacos de papa from an early age. They are typically inexpensive and filling, but my ongoing love affair comes from the exemplary amalgam of textures in even the most modest potato taco. If I see potato tacos on a menu, I will order them. My current favorites are at El Barrio Cantina, a restaurant in Retro Row on East 4th Street in Long Beach. The corn tortillas are thin and filled to the brim with hot, oozing mashed potatoes. The spuds take on a creamy, almost cheesy quality, as if folding them into a fried taco somehow turned them into the most luxurious pommes aligot. The crispy shells fracture on contact, breaking into the smooth potato. They need no adornment, but at El Barrio Cantina, they are painted with a tart tomatillo salsa, a few drizzles of crema and a sprinkling of queso fresco. I have put many 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 holds four shumai.

Shumai from HKC Dim Sum in Koreatown.

(Jenn Harris/Los Angeles Times)

The shumai at HKC, the new dim sum restaurant on the third floor of Koreatown’s City Center, are the size of large Jawbreakers. Plump and full of discernible bits 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. As is the lo bak go, a pan-fried savory turnip cake. The squares are nicely browned and the turnip in the center is soft and a tad gooey, similar to the consistency of good mochi. There are no carts; everything is ordered from a sheet of paper. Pop music (both American and Korean) speaks from the speakers. There are TVs behind the bar and TV shows projected onto the walls of the dining room. And there’s a full bar, with martinis. Imagine eating dim sum, but for dinner and in a college sports bar.

Kimchi dumplings and fried chicken

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

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

(Shutter Kitchen / Bafang Dumpling)

There is no shortage of dumpling specialists in Los Angeles, but a recent mention in my colleague Stephanie Breijo’s news column brought me to a shopping center in City of Industry. It was Friday night at 6:30 pm and the line at the sole US outpost of Bafang Dumplings, a Taiwanese dumpling chain with more than 1,000 locations in Asia, snaked out the door. There was an order of the signature kimchi potstickers on almost every table. Steamed then griddled, the blintz-like dumplings are similar in appearance to the hui tou from Hui Tou Xiang in San Gabriel. The thin wrappers are crisp, chewy and swollen with pork and chopped kimchi. On a heat scale of one to 10, they’re a three. But the real Bafang star is the “chili pepper fried chicken.” It’s a butterflied, fried chicken thigh doused in a piquant vinegar chili sauce that will make your nose run, 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