Daily Dish
The inside scoop on food in Los Angeles
Video: Watch Kobayashi challenge this tiny hamster to a hot dog eating contest

Our tiny hamster friend is at it again. After eating tiny burritos and tiny birthday cake with a tiny hedgehog, he's moved on to hot dogs. 

Competitive eater Takeru Kobayashi, who won the Nathan's hot dog eating contest six years in a row, challenged the tiny hamster to a hot dog eating contest in Hello Denizen's latest Youtube video, seen above.

The video opens with intense, hot-dog-eating-competition-worthy music and a couple tight shots of Kobayashi and the tiny hamster preparing for battle. On one side of the table, Kobayashi with blue hair in a muscle tank. On the other, the tiny hamster, wearing nothing but his fur. 

When the referee blows the whistle, Kobayashi starts to inhale his hot dogs, shoving the sausages in his mouth two at a time. On the hamster's side of the table, a handler uses tweezers to place tiny hot dogs in front of the hamster. His chubby cheeks flutter with each bite as he devours the hot dogs without hesitation. 

Tension builds as Kobayashi stares his...

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Ice cream, chocolate, mac 'n' cheese not really comfort foods, study finds

Whether it's a bowl of mac 'n' cheese or a carton of ice cream, everyone has a comfort food they reach for when they're feeling down. But is your calorie-laden indulgence really making you feel any better? 

According to a new study by researchers at the University of Minnesota, comfort foods don't really offer any comfort.

So there's no real reason to eat the entire carton of Rocky Road? 

"Negative moods naturally dissipate over time," reported researchers in the study, published by the American Psychological Association. "Individuals may be giving comfort food ‘credit’ for mood effects that would have occurred even in the absence of the comfort food."

Researchers asked 100 students which foods make them feel better when they're in a bad mood, as well as other foods they enjoy. The participants were then placed in groups and asked to watch 18-minute videos meant to cause "feelings of anger, fear, anxiety and/or sadness."

The students were shown the videos during two sessions, scheduled...

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Live discussion: It's lunchtime with Jonathan Gold!
Olive Garden defends unlimited breadsticks policy as 'Italian generosity'

Olive Garden thinks you can never have enough warm breadsticks. The restaurant chain's parent company, Darden Restaurants, prepared a presentation in which it defends its unlimited breadsticks policy and other practices criticized in a report by investment firm Starboard Value last week.

In its nearly 300-page report, Starboard Value claims Olive Garden's endless salad and breadsticks contribute to food waste. The report states that servers violate Olive Garden's official policy to bring out one breadstick per customer at a time, along with an extra for the table.

But Olive Garden says the unlimited breadsticks are a key part of the restaurant's brand, and they're not budging.

"Olive Garden's salad and breadsticks have been an icon of brand equity since 1982," reads the Olive Garden report. "It conveys Italian generosity and our salads have the highest loyalty rating of any menu item based on the menu satisfaction surveys we conduct."

Starboard also highlighted Olive Garden's failure...

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Tasting sherry with Jesus Barquin of Equipo Navazos

On Friday afternoon, Jesús Barquín of the boutique sherry company Equipo Navazos flew in from Brisbane, Australia, where he'd been traveling, to give a sherry seminar to about 70 sommeliers, wine professionals and wine buyers. The seminar started for him at what would have been 6 a.m. Brisbane time. Tough assignment, but Barquin’s passion for one of the world’s great forgotten wines carried him through the afternoon and into the evening.

A criminologist at the University of Granada in southern Spain and author, with Peter Liem, of “Sherry, Manzanilla & Montilla: A Guide to the Traditional Wines of Andalucía,” Barquín got into sherry purely as a wine lover at first. Then some eight years ago he and his co-conspirator in Equipo Navazos, Eduardo Ojeda, who now works for one of the big sherry bodegas, discovered a cask of remarkable amontillado languishing in a bodega. By pooling the resources of their small wine club — writers, sommeliers, importers and wine lovers -- they bought it and...

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10 places to get uni, beyond the sushi bar

Now that foie gras is just a delicious ghost of our culinary past, uni is the delicacy with top billing on every trend-conscious menu in L.A.

It’s a strange food, when you think about it. How did anyone know to open up a spiny sea urchin and feast on its goopy orange gonads? Because of its unusual texture, color and provenance, there are many reasonable people who are afraid to eat uni. But these reasonable people have no idea what they’re missing.

Good uni is as creamy as custard, and it melts with no resistance, releasing a rich, complex, unforgettable flavor full of cool sweetness and gentle salt. There are few foods more subtly exquisite.

You can — and should — order uni at any of the sushi restaurants in L.A., but it’s always fun to see how the cool kids are using the ingredient du jour. We are a city full of creative, food-obsessed minds, and some of them are sourcing top-shelf sea urchin to incorporate into a wide range of dishes and cuisines.

Guerrilla Tacos: Guerrilla Tacos is...

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Six ways to celebrate Oktoberfest in Los Angeles

Dust off the lederhosen and dirndls, it’s time for pretzels, oompah tunes and plenty of delicious beer as Oktoberfest parties kick off across Los Angeles.

Never mind the triple-digit temperatures; raising a stein of frosty German-style beers and shouting “Prost!” is like a rain-dance for autumn weather. Maybe if we all toast hard enough, L.A. will start cooling off.

There are many options for Oktoberfest celebrations starting to happen across Los Angeles, and here are five varied festivals from the Valley to the South Bay:

Alpine Village Oktoberfest: One of the longest running and best known Oktoberfests in California is the party at Alpine Village in Torrance. The festival has already begun and runs every Friday, Saturday and Sunday until Oct. 26. Admission is $20 and costumes are encouraged.

Oktoberfest at Wirtshaus: The German pub and restaurant on La Brea serves up some killer schnitzel and sausages, and at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Wirsthaus kicks off its weeks-long Oktoberfest with “a...

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Test Kitchen video tip: Toasting spices and nuts for added flavor

When you want to add a little extra depth to a recipe, consider toasting the nuts or spices before adding them to a dish. Toasting helps to release the flavor and oils in the spices and nuts, lending depth and wonderfully rich flavor to a dish.

Toast whole spices on the stovetop using a heavy-bottomed saute pan over moderate heat. Toast the spices, stirring them or shaking the pan frequently, so they toast evenly. Watch the pan closely, so the spices don't burn. A few minutes is all it should take to bring out the flavors; you'll know they're ready when you can smell them. (You can toast ground spices, too, though this is best done on a parchment-lined baking sheet in the oven to keep the ground spices from burning.)

Toast nuts on a sheet pan in a 350- to 375-degree oven for several minutes until lightly darkened and fragrant. As with spices, watch that the nuts don't overcook in the oven -- they can go from nicely toasted to tragically burnt quickly.

Cooking is fun — at least it should...

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Easy dinner recipes: Three chilled soup ideas in 35 minutes or less

Beat the heat tonight with three refreshing chilled soup ideas. Each recipe comes together in 35 minutes or less.

Chilled cucumber soup: Mild yet refreshing, chilled cucumber soup comes together in about 20 minutes, combining cucumbers with tangy yogurt, a little garlic and bright vinegar. Make it first thing in the morning, then chill until ready to serve for dinner. Garnish with slivered radish and julienned basil right before serving.

Tierra Sur's heirloom melon gazpacho: Chef Todd Aarons was happy to share his recipe for this light, refreshing soup, perfect for this time of the year. He suggests using heirloom melons from the farmers market, such as those from Weiser Family Farms. He particularly likes their Sugar Queen, Butterscotch or Ogen melons. Aarons also suggests using slightly underripe melons, since you don't want the soup to be too sweet.

Chilled avocado and watercress soup with shrimp: Creamy avocado and fresh, slightly peppery watercress marry perfectly together in this...

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Pop, pop, pop-up: BierBeisl at Silaa Thai, Baja in Long Beach and a cat cafe

Kids are going back to school. And chefs are getting back into the kitchen, fired up with ideas that percolated over the summer. Some are planning pop-ups to showcase a new menu or a coming restaurant or cafe. A Baja California chef is coming north to cook dishes from his Valle de Guadalupe restaurant. And an entrepreneur who dreams of opening California's first cat cafe is having a pop-up to kick off his Kickstarter campaign.

While we wait for the casual Austrian spot BierBeisl Imbiss to (finally) open in downtown L.A. in the Spring Arcade, Austrian chef Bernhard Mairinger will preview some of his menu there at Silaa Thai restaurant in Los Angeles on Saturday, Sept. 27. The four-course menu will start with an amuse bouche of cured ocean trout with baby heirloom beets, horseradish and cr¿¿¿¿¿¿me fra¿¿¿¿¿¿che, followed by a butter lettuce salad with crispy pork lardons, roasted corn and heirloom radishes. Then comes Mairinger’s excellent traditional wiener schnitzel with potato-cucumber...

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Diwali fundraiser dinner, Redbird preview, Nobu 20-year anniversary omakase

The L.A. Mumbai Sister City Affiliation is celebrating Diwali (India's festival of lights) with a special fundraiser dinner Oct. 12 at the Bombay Cafe. The evening will include food, and wines by Alexana Estate Vineyards and Winery, as well as a dance performance, tarot readings, henna painting and gift bags filled with Indian spices, teas, scarves and accessories. Festivities will take place from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tickets are $75 per person or $600 for a table of 10. Proceeds will benefit Americares India's flagship mobile medical program, which provides medical aid to residents of Mumbai's slums. Checks must be sent to L.A. Mumbai Sister City, c/o Mira Honeycutt, 2283 W. 21st St., Los Angeles, CA 90018 by Oct. 3 to purchase tickets. 12021 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, www.sistercities.lacity.org/html/05.htm.

Neal Fraser is inviting the public to take a sneak peek at Redbird, his new restaurant located in the rectory of Vibiana Cathedral in downtown Los Angeles, scheduled to open in the...

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Coca-Cola's Surge is back, already sold out on Amazon

Ready for a serious '90s flashback? Coca-Cola on Monday brought back Surge, its Mountain Dew-ish citrus-flavored soda, after a hiatus of about a dozen years. But it was only available on Amazon.com, where the drink has already sold out.

The Facebook group Surge Movement, which has lobbied for the drink's return since 2011, made the comeback announcement. Sean Sheridan, a founding member of the movement, said they received an email in April from Sandy Douglas, President of Coca-Cola North America, letting them know Surge was coming back. The Surge Movement then suggested they work together on the comeback. 

"The same delicious flavor and your favorite original artwork from the '90s has returned!" the group wrote on its Facebook page. 

The drink was exclusively available on Amazon.com in 12 packs of 16-ounce cans Monday morning, and sold out in a couple of hours.

"From the beginning, we knew Amazon was going to be setting limits on how much people could buy on the first day to try to...

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