Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween!

No time for Halloween hijinks this year, other than pulling together my Cleopatra look for a costume ball. If I was going to cook, here's what I'd explore:

Martha Stewart's decadent pumpkin cupcakes. Made these last year and they were gobbled in an instant.

Not Martha's delightful Crawly Cakes, made from Hostess Snack Cakes.

Sean of Hedonia's Pumpkin Butter.

And for those of you in Los Angeles in search of yummy Halloween treats, I hear the bakery Boule on La Cienega has some homemade candy corn and caramel-fleur de sel apples. Also, Koreatown gelato spot Mi Amici's serving a punchy gingerbread gelato. Enjoy!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Fraises du Bois

I picked up these fraises du bois, or wild forest strawberries, from the Jaime Farms stand at the Hollywood Farmers' Market a few weeks ago. Smaller and more delicate than regular strawberries, the fraises have an intense strawberry perfume and sweetness. They originate in Europe, and in the 1400s were depicted extensively in religious art.

Whatever you do with these beauties, you want to make sure the berries are the star. I wouldn't hide them in fruit salad or drown them in syrup. I ate mine out of hand, and threw a few on a small spinach salad with a few pinenuts and a splash of balsamic.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Apple-Potato Mash

When J tasted the apple-potato mash I served with our bourbon-glazed grilled chicken last week, he had to admit his initial skepticism of the dish was unwarranted. The sweet-sour apples with the creamy potatos soaked up the chicken juices nicely, providing a welcome diversion from our typical potato dishes.

I based my chicken on this bourbon-glazed turkey recipe from Every Day with Rachael Ray. My delicata squash also went on the grill--in a tinfoil packet with a splash of olive oil, glug of maple syrup, salt and pepper.

Apple-Potato Mash
about 3 servings

4 small-medium red potatos
2 tart apples, like Granny Smith, cored and sliced
1 small red onion, sliced thinly
salt and pepper

Boil your potatos in a big pot of water until fork tender, about 25 minutes. When finished, drain and put back in large pot. Set aside. Meanwhile, saute your onion and apples in a tablespoon or so of butter over medium heat, until soft and slightly mushy.

Mix apples and onions in with potatos. Use a potato masher or a pastry cutter to roughly mash. Add salt, pepper and butter to taste.

**If you want a creamier mash, first run the apples and onions through a food processor. Then add to the potatos and mash as usual.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Your Favorite Weekend: No Work Allowed

Every Thursday (er, or Friday), skip the C-list celebrities and C-list recommendations in the LA Times column, My Favorite Weekend, and check out what real Angelenos have to say on Erin's Kitchen instead. Want to share your favorite weekend? Email erinskitchen [at] gmail [dot] com.

Gastronomy 101's Favorite Weekend

KT of Gastronomy 101 is an attorney by day, food explorer by night. Check out her blog for great LA tips and stories from trips to San Francisco and beyond.

Canter's Bakery, photo by indieman

FRIDAY: The weekend begins with me stumbling into my apartment, thoroughly beaten down and oppressed by a week of working and of not sleeping. My dog, Buster immediately runs me over and licks me about 1532 times because we are both so happy I am home. Once I can drag my husband away from the computer by pestering him so much that he gets annoyed and can't work anymore, we all go the couch and snuggle up together with the phone, a laptop and the remote control.

We order a slab of cheese pizza and a chopped salad from Cheebo and watch all of the TV that our Tivo has so generously saved up for us throughout the week. At some point, someone on TV, or even someone in our very own living room will mention cake or cupcakes or cookies, and then we will all be forced to get up and walk to Canter's to get dessert. Because everyone knows that the words cake, cupcakes and cookies are magical words and once you say them out loud, you will not be able to rest until you actually eat one of those items.

SATURDAY: Saturday begins with a game where we try to stay asleep as long as possible and the dog tries to "accidently" wake us up by just happening to run up and down the hallway 58 times in a row. We then walk to Buzz and get some Groundwork coffee. I get Sumatra. Husband gets Black Gold. Dog doesn't get any.

At night, we oftentimes meet up with friends N. and Z. to have dinner at Angeli Caffe, where I will more often than not enjoy a pizza quattro stagione and a bottle of Bacio Divino "Pazzo" red wine (Not by myself! Geez, you guys, what kind of a lush do you think I am?). After dinner we will mean to do some activity out on the town like the raging partiers we are, but will instead start talking at our apartment and end up drinking 345 cocktails and talking for 87 hours straight, or until someone falls asleep in the middle of the conversation, whichever happens first.

SUNDAY: Sunday starts much the same as Saturday. Once coffee has been consumed, I will walk to the Melrose Place Farmer's market and buy some bread and whatever fruit or veggies Mr. Russ Parsons has commanded me to buy this week. And perhaps some gerber daisies, too. Very often, on my return I will then be called on to go meet my friend and former prom date, and his very handsome boyfriend and we will go shopping at the Grove. The Grove is not a fun place to go shopping UNLESS you first surround yourself with your gay boyfriends, and then it suddenly becomes a fabulous adventure.

After we have thoroughly criticized every item in every store (especially Abercrombie and Fitch) then they leave and I ravage the farmer's market for more ingredients to provide my week's meals, and stop and say hi to my friend Mike at Singapore's Banana Leaf and hope that he'll try to force some sort of free drink or food item on me. (PS: SCOOP - for those of you Pinkberry-spotters, he says they are opening one in the Farmer's Market near his stand.) At home again, I will cook something and we will spend our last hours of freedom very much as we did our first, watching Sunday night HBO and trying to stay up as late as possible, because when we go to sleep, then we will have to wake up to Monday.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Herbed Grissini

Really, these are just crunchy, thin breadsticks, but using the Italian name sounds much more impressive, no? These easy, no yeast carbtastic treats add a comforting touch to dinner; I've eaten mine with minestrone and other soups this fall. Feel free to adapt the flavors--I plan to add cheese to my next batch, maybe some chopped black olives too.

Herbed Grissini
adapted from Gourmet, 2002

1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp. flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1-2 tbsp. finely chopped fresh herbs (I used sage, thyme and marjoram)
1/4 cup milk
2 tsp. unsalted butter, extremely softened

kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350.

Whisk the first 5 ingredients together in a medium bowl until well mixed. Gently stir in the fresh herbs. Mix in the milk and the butter, stirring until it all comes together.

Remove dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 3 minutes. Roll dough into a log and cut into 8-10 pieces. Roll each individual piece into a long, thin stick, about 8-10 inches long. They may break as you roll, and that's fine. You can either smoosh them back together, or just bake shorter sticks.

Place all of your grissini on a parchment lined baking sheet, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and bake for approximately 20-22 minutes. I would check them at 20 minutes and see how they look--how long you cook them depends on how crispy you like them!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Back to Square One

I'm not sure why it's acceptable to have dessert for breakfast, but I'm not complaining.

The first time J and I tried to eat Sunday brunch at Square One, we were turned away at the door by a very apologetic owner who explained that a majority of the kitchen staff hadn't shown up that morning, and they were about to close. He sent us away with a complimentary, warm, chewy chocolate chip cookie, and let us buy a couple of cups of coffee. We were disappointed, but impressed by the kind, calm service--he was obviously concerned, but not visibly angry or flustered.

We returned for breakfast this Sunday, and lucky for us, the entire staff had showed. We picked a shaded table on the patio, one of few in our neighborhood not next to a busy street. As usual, I faced my sweet or savory breakfast dilemma, ultimately settling on buttermilk pancakes with orange curd and chocolate sauce. J ordered the brioche french toast, with bourbon pecans and vanilla whipped cream. My tangy curd cut the richness of the pancakes and the real chocolate (no Hershey's here), but not enough that I could finish the behemoth dish. J's pecans were addictive, and also worked well when mixed with my curd. More often than not, I'm dismayed by brunch--so many menus promise more than the restaurant can deliver. Not so at Square One--if anything, my pancakes tasted even better than they sounded.

Balancing our indulgence was a shared bowl of fruit. Far from the usual tired, high-end brunch berries, this was a seasonal delight. Crisp apples and asian pear slices, mixed with chunks of persimmon, slivers of pluot and pomegranate seeds tasted fresh from the market.

The most important part of my morning--coffee--is good and strong at Square One, as is the freshly squeezed orange juice. Service was friendly and prompt; it's nice to see the owner around, checking on tables, chatting with customers. The menu houses a whole slew of egg dishes I can't wait to try, all featuring local ingredients and seasonal produce.

Square One
4854 Fountain Ave
Los Angeles, CA
(323) 661-1109
Be forewarned--parking's difficult and you may have to (gasp!) walk a few blocks.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Workin' in the East Bay

produce at the Berkeley Bowl

My job takes me to the Berkeley/Oakland area about once a month, and other than rackin' up the free Southwest tickets, it's not a bad gig for someone who likes food.

Three of my favorites from this week's trip:

1) The Berkeley Bowl's Bounty. If I hear another one of my Bay Area coworkers complain that they're "bored" with lunches at the Berkeley Bowl, directly across from our office, I think I'll scream. I'm like a kid in a candy store at this gonzo market, whether trolling the produce aisles for apple varieties I've never heard of, or plotting how many loaves of artisanal bread I can fit in my carry on. Whole Foods looks like a 7-11 in comparison.

2) No Shame at O Chame. Though Jess and I gossiped all the way through our meal, we couldn't help but feel virtuous slurping Japanese noodles in this quiet North Berkeley spot. Not your typical udon and soba dishes, these noodle bowls came with smoked trout for me and grilled scallops for Jess. Delicious.

3) My Sandwich on File, Please. The owner of the tiny Grinders sandwich shop in Montclair may intimidate you at first with his rapid fire questions, but once your sandwich preferences are in his computer, you're good for life. I can waltz in, tell him my name, and get the perfect turkey and avocado sandwich every time. The best part? Sweet pickles.

The Berkeley Bowl
2020 Oregon St.
Berkeley, CA 94703

O Chame
1830 4th Street
Berkeley, CA

2069 Antioch Ct
Oakland, CA 94611

Other Bay Area favorites.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Maple and Sage Root Vegetable Salad

In May, I wrote about a shaved fennel and carrot salad (pictured above). With just a few tweaks, the same technique--thin strips of veggies--can yield a fresh fall salad, a perfect pair for roast chicken or pork loin.

Use a vegetable peeler to shave thin strips off your veggies; a y-shaped peeler works best, but I've used a traditional peeler without problems as well.

Maple and Sage Root Vegetable Salad
(adapted from The Herbal Kitchen by Jerry Traunfeld)

1 lb. root veggies such as carrots, sweet potatos or parsnips, shaved thinly
2 tbsp. maple syrup
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. chopped sage
salt and pepper

Heat the maple syrup and olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the sage, and saute for 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the root veggies, and toss in the sauce with tongs, until wilted. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Monday, October 16, 2006


UPDATE: I am a moron. Pastrami is made from cow, not from pig. Have I lost all my pig-loving cred? Geez Louise. Please commence your snickering.

Warning: I am not a pastrami expert. I have no strong feelings about one pastrami joint versus another; I've never been to Los Angeles institutions like Langer's or The Hat. I don't know what pastrami "should" taste like. I know it probably shouldn't taste like the turkey pastrami I've purchased at Trader Joe's, but that's about it.

I am an expert on what I like, however, and I can tell you that the house-cured pastrami served at The Oinkster in Eagle Rock is some of the best damn pork (oops, beef) I've ever tasted. Tender, smoky, spiced and salty, I can't help but think pig (ummm, cows) were made to be pastrami-ed.

The bun? It could be improved. It needed to be crustier, more sturdy and able to soak up the juice. The peanut butter and jelly cupcake? Other than the frosting, not worth the calories. The fries? Eh. They were fries. Not bad, not fantastic, better dipped in the yummy chipotle ketchup. J claims the best pastramis come with mustard and pickles already on the sandwich, which the Oinkster's doesn't. But the meat!! It's so good. J had to stop me from licking up every last tiny piece off our tray.

The Oinkster calls itself a "slow fast food restaurant"--operating under the (good) assumption that great food doesn't have to be expensive or fancy. It also serves burgers, rotisserie chicken, a few salads for the Eagle Rocker moms who won't do fat, and some tasty-lookin' milkshakes made with Fosselman's ice cream, in a '50s-esque, sunny space, with a lovely patio to boot. Did I mention the pastrami's fantabulous? You should go. Now.

The Oinkster
2005 Colorado Blvd
Eagle Rock, CA

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Rhubarb Schnapps

Finally! It was hard to wait the recommended 6 weeks to taste my rhubarb schnapps, but made cracking open the jar late this afternoon all the more fun. The light, aromatic liquor tastes like sweet-sour cotton candy. I drank my first taste straight, but think it would work nicely with soda water on a hot day or over ice cream.

As long as you have patience, the process couldn't be easier. I took my recipe from Nigella Lawson's How to Be a Domestic Goddess, and the ratio is approximately 2 lbs rhubarb to 1 1/2 cups sugar to 1 liter vodka. Cut the rhubarb into 1 1/2 inch pieces, place in a sterilized jar, add sugar, pour vodka over to fill the jar, cover tightly, and shake, shake, shake. Put the jars somewhere cool and dark for at least 6 weeks (I put mine in the fridge), and shake it well on occasion. And force yourself to wait!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Your Favorite Weekend: South Pasadena & Environs

Every Thursday, skip the C-list celebrities and C-list recommendations in the LA Times column, My Favorite Weekend, and check out what real Angelenos have to say on Erin's Kitchen instead. Want to share your favorite weekend? Email erinskitchen [at] gmail [dot] com.

Chez Shoes' Favorite Weekend

The creative and crafty Marielle blogs at Chez Shoes. She has the most fabulous shoe collection I've ever seen, great sewing skills, and she can't say no to a burrito.

I live in South Pasadena, and while I love the town, I find the dining options pretty limited. But I'm not a fan of driving, so I like to stick close to home whenever possible. I've found a few standouts in the San Gabriel Valley and Northeast Los Angeles.

Friday dinner: China Islamic in Rosemead. I'm a creature of habit here – I always order the beef with string beans, and the curry chicken. My dining companion swears by the lamb with green onions. If I'm feeling like a splurge, I'll get the shrimp with spicy sauce.

Saturday breakfast: Heirloom Bakery in South Pas, walking distance from home. They do an omelette of the day, and it's always good.

Saturday lunch: Honestly - I probably wouldn't be hungry after that omelette. If I was, though, I'd head to El Huarache Azteca in Highland Park. It's known for huaraches, cornmeal cakes shaped like their namesake sandals, topped with meat, cheese, beans and so forth. But I'm a burrito fiend, so that's what I get instead. Their al pastor is particularly good.

grilled salmon at Firefly Bistro

Saturday dinner: I'd walk over to South Pasadena's Firefly Bistro. A few faves are the fried chicken, braised lamb shanks, and grilled salmon. But the highlight of the several meals I've eaten here? Definitely the Brussels sprouts. Really.

Sunday brunch: the Meat Lover's Omelette at the Coffee Table in Eagle Rock – it's made with bacon, sausage, ham, and cheese. 'Nuff said.

Sunday dinner: Carne asada at home. I'd head over the bridge to Highland Park and pick up some carne preparada and avocados from El Latino Market. Throw the meat on the grill, make some guacamole, heat up some tortillas and it's an easy, tasty dinner.

~ ~ ~

China Islamic: 7727 E. Garvey Ave., Rosemead, CA 91770, 626-288-4246

Heirloom Bakery Café, 807 Meridian Ave., South Pasadena CA 91030, 626-441-0042

El Huarache Azteca, 5225 York Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90042, 323-478-9572

Firefly Bistro: 1009 El Centro Street, South Pasadena, CA 91030, 626-441-2443

Coffee Table: 1958 Colorado Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90041, 323-255-2200

El Latino Market: 5636 York Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90042, 323-255-0129

Previous Favorite Weekends

October 5, 2006: Colleen Cuisine's Favorite Weekend
September 28, 2006: The Campbells' Favorite Weekend
September 21, 2006: Foodie Universe's Favorite Weekend
September 14, 2006: Atwater Village Newbie's Favorite Weekend
September 6, 2006: Jill and Gavin's Favorite Weekend

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Can't Stop Canning: Apple Butter

First it was peach-passionfruit jam, then some plum-vanilla preserves, now I'm certifiably insane and have moved on to the time-intensive apple butter. After a reassuring conversation with my mom, I'm over the fear of botulism and now planning on every gift I ever give including a pint of jammy something or other because otherwise it'll take J and me at least 10 years to actually consume everything I've made so far by ourselves.

Anyway, when you finish making this apple butter you'll get a flutter in your stomach: I--little ol' me--I made something like that? Wow. It's almost as good as the satisfaction you'll get when your properly filled and boiled jars go POP and you know your seal will stick. But of course, if you still have botulism fears, I could offer to put you in touch with my mother, or you can just put your preserves in the fridge instead and gobble them up quickly. One final note: please do be sure to add the lemon and lemon zest--it adds a fab, zingy touch.

Apple Butter
enough for about 5 8 oz. jars
please do not take my canning guide as gospel and instead read what the experts have to say

10 medium-sized Granny Smith apples
a smidge less than 3 c. apple cider
1 1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. white sugar
ground cinnamon
ground cloves
ground allspice
freshly grated nutmeg
2-3 whole star anise
1 cinnamon stick
generous squeeze of lemon juice
freshly grated lemon rind

Special equipment needed: fine mesh strainer

Preheat your oven to 325.

Core and wedge your apples (don't peel!). Place in a large pot with the apple cider. Cook over medium heat until apples are soft and falling apart, about 15 minutes.

Put your apple mush in a food processor and whir away. You will probably have to do this in batches.

Return apples to a large, oven-proof pot. Mix in your sugar, spices and the lemon. I didn't give clear measurements here because it should all be to your own tastes. In other words, add a little of everything and then taste it! If you like it, you're done; if not, experiment. You'll probably want at least a teaspoon of all the spices. Put the whole spices in the pot right before you put it in the oven.

Put your apple mixture in the oven for 2-3 hours. It is ready when you can take a spoonful, plop it on a cold plate (chill one in the freezer for a few minutes), and no water accumulates around the apple mush.

Now comes the futsy part. Get out your fine mesh strainer and large bowl. In batches, put some of your apple mixture in the strainer, and using a wooden spoon, press as much through as possible. What comes out the other side should be smooth and creamy. You may have to scrape the underside of your mesh strainer as you go. Into another bowl, dump what won't go through the strainer (you can save this to eat as applesauce), refill the strainer and repeat until you've done it all. Whew!

At this point, if you're canning the butter, you'll want to make sure you've got a big pot of boiling water on the stove that can fit your cleaned and sterilized cans. Return your strained butter to a pot on the stove and bring it to a light boil to kill any bacteria. Then, begin filling your jars carefully, wiping the rims if you make any drips. Once filled with lids in place, put the jars in the boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Remove to a towel and let cool. If any of your jars don't POP, that's fine--just put them in the fridge and use soon.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Blasé about Blair's? No way.

Tales of an LA Addict had the same risotto I did, but remembered her camera.

"It's good--for Silver Lake."

Many a review I've read of Blair's expresses a similar sentiment, and I think it says a lot about Los Angeles. Primarily, that people here are whiny and spoiled. Okay, it's late, and I'm being harsh, but lordy folks, this restaurant would be the tops in many towns across our fair country. Also, reading this statement you'd think Silver Lake was a restaurant desert, without many fine establishments to feed you nightly. In my book, Blair's is an excellent neighborhood restaurant and if folks west of the 405 don't feel it's worth "driving across town for" as one Chowhounder put it, that just means more room for me.

J and I went Saturday night before hitting the Eagle Rock Music Festival (highly recommended, fyi). We shared our favorite butter lettuce salad with pistachio camembert terrine to start, and they thoughtfully plated this light dish seperately for us for no extra cost. I'm a big fan of Blair's risottos--always richly flavored and pleasantly, loosely starchy, not sticky and gut-bomb-esque. It took me 2 seconds to decide on the fall-flavored risotto with butternut squash, collard greens and bacon, and only about 4 seconds to devour it. J ordered the linguine with housemade sausage, a hefty portion. We split the apple and cranberry bread pudding for dessert--tasty, but not as good as the donuts we had last time. I was expecting fresh cranberries but instead they were dried, and it wasn't as sticky and gooey as I was hoping.

The menu usually includes a few pastas, some slow-cooked, interesting meat dishes, and a fish or two. I've sampled the house soups before, and have always found them satisfying, though nearly meals-in-themselves. A well-chosen wine and beer list rounds out the meal, as does a basket of crusty, warm bread and the altogether too rare softened butter. We've never had a reservation, though Saturday night we had to sit at a table in the bar, our preferred method anyway. If you want to be better safe than sorry though, I'd make a reservation on the weekends. It's on the higher moderate end pricewise--our shared salad, two entrees (on the low end of the scale), one glass of wine, one beer, one dessert and 2 coffees was $75.

2903 Rowena Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90039

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Salmon Burgers

How many of you have the "safe to eat" seafood list memorized? Yeah, me neither. That's why I love the pocket seafood selector (third item at the top) from Ocean's Alive. Usually, I try to avoid thinking about all the ways in which we humans have trashed our world (otherwise I'd never come out from under my bed), but when it comes to eating fish, I'd rather not poison myself with mercury or further deplete scarce resources. Luckily, wild Alaskan salmon is on the "okay" list, but watch out for Atlantic salmon which comes from pollution-prone fish farms.

These salmon burgers are the best damn thing I've cooked in awhile. Next time, I may consider adding some breadcrumbs and/or lightly-beaten egg to stabilize them a bit, but I don't think it's necessary. I served them on crusty rolls with horseradish mustard, sauteed shiitakes, and finely diced mango on top. Sweet potato fries rounded out the menu. Apologies for the horrible photo--it was late and I was hungry!

Salmon Burgers
adapted from Every Day with Rachael Ray magazine, Feb/March 2004

1 lb salmon fillet, cut into chunks
1 2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1-2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 scallions, finely chopped
1/4 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 1/2 tsp. sesame oil
salt and pepper
2 tbsp. vegetable oil

Put the salmon chunks in a food processor and pulse until you've got a big pile o' pink mush, the approximate consistency of ground beef. In a large bowl combine the ground salmon with the ginger, soy sauce, scallions, bell pepper, sesame oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Form the meat into three or four patties.

Heat 1 tbsp. vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the salmon patties and cook for about 2-3 minutes on each side for rare. If you want them well done, that's your own problem--I don't recommend it! I do, however, highly recommend some finely diced mango on top of the final product.

top salmon photo by adactio

Saturday, October 07, 2006

It's Over, Alcove Cafe. This Time I Mean It.

chicken, apricot and almond salad takeout from Alcove Cafe

I'm leaving you, Alcove Cafe. I know, I know, I've said it before, but this time it's for real. Yes, you have a beautiful patio, with corners tucked away from traffic. And, you're right, I really do like your lamb burger. But that's not enough this time, nosiree.

Why? Why?? Do you really want to hear it?

First off, you never have time for me. You expect me to share you with all those other people in that ridiculous line, and it's not worth the wait. Especially considering how much you charge. If I'm gonna spend that much money on you, I expect some service if you know what I mean.

What? You think I need to be more flexible? I'm flexible all the time and you don't even notice. For example, the other day, I skipped the long line and went next door to your little store to pick up a prepared chicken salad. Blech! Do you know how bland you can taste? Are you even trying anymore? I need someone with some spice!

You know what else I can't stand about you, Alcove? You're so fake. You promise me fresh yellow beets in my salad, and what do I get? A miniscule portion of red beets that taste fresh-- FROM A CAN. And your cakes? Sure, they look beautiful in the case, but have you actually tasted them lately? Take cover, sugar bomb ahead! On top of that, you're a cheater. Don't think I didn't see your little friend at Albertson's buying bags of bananas for you. Fruit? From Albertson's?? How could you??

So that's it, Alcove. We're through. Even if it's a balmy LA night and I see your white patio lights twinkling. I'm just gonna keep on walking.

Alcove Cafe and Bakery
1929 Hillhurst Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90027

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Your Favorite Weekend: A Principled Eater

Every Thursday, skip the C-list celebrities and C-list recommendations in the LA Times column, My Favorite Weekend, and check out what real Angelenos have to say on Erin's Kitchen instead. Want to share your favorite weekend? Email erinskitchen [at] gmail [dot] com.

Colleen Cuisine’s Favorite Weekend

Rosie of Colleen Cuisine loves to eat. She hates raw Peeps, but loves them scorched. Despite her penchant for yogurt reporting, she is not a Pinkberry promotional web site.

When I started foodblogging earlier this year, I started eating out a lot. Not that I didn’t eat out a lot before - I did – but now I was really EATING out. Indulging for the sake of a good post, eating in the name of blogging, ordering two desserts to compare them side-by-side, you get the idea. Soon I realized that I’d be in trouble, physically, if I didn’t apply some sort of discipline.

You may have heard of the Pareto principle: the famous 80/20 rule used to describe everything from distribution of wealth to effective time management. In my case, I like to apply the Pareto principle to eating: 20% of my time is dedicated to consuming 80% of my weekly food intake. I don’t really think that’s the proper way to apply the rule, and I wouldn’t exactly write a diet book around that topic, but so far, it seems to be working.

While I refrain and suffer boring vegetarian meals 5 ½ days of the week (78.58% to be exact), the rest of the weekend is my time to party. And party I shall!!!

Most Friday nights begin at the sushi bar with my idol, Kazunori Nozawa (aka “the sushi nazi”). Whether he’s handing over a plate of butter-rich toro or rolling a blue crab handroll, most of the meal is spent with tears in my eyes (tears of joy, silly, not wasabi-burn). I have yet to find a sushi restaurant that tops Nozawa in terms of freshness, quality, or delicious-ness, and while the atmosphere is lacking, the austerity makes you stop and appreciate the simplicity of an absolutely perfect piece of fish.

After Sushi Nozawa, Brian and I usually head over to Vendome for a great selection of post-dinner drinks. Whether you’re looking for a vintage Krug, Icewein, cold unfiltered sake, the perfect Bordeaux, or all of the above, Vendome is sure to have it, with a friendly staff to match. While I normally like the smaller wine shops (i.e. Silverlake Wine), the Studio City Vendome is perfect when you want a bigger selection, but not quite the warehouse feel of BevMo.

(sometime between getting home and polishing off an ungodly amount of wine, I usually find myself at Taco Bell for the 4th Meal. I don’t recommend this.)

For those of you who wake up early on the weekends, hi, it’s nice to finally meet you. Myself, I’m rarely out of bed on Saturdays before noon, so my perfect “breakfast” is what most of you would call “lunch.” Or sometimes, “dinner” (those are the good Friday nights!). Whatever you call it, I usually spend it at Bread & Porridge in Santa Monica, with a big coffee press and a plate of freshly-cooked, fresh tasting food, prepared and served with love.

After a late breakfast on Saturday, we usually end up having an early dinner at Soot Bull Jeep in Koreatown. If you want to smell like a BBQ pit while eating some of the most delicious cow you’ll ever consume, this is the place. Soot Bull Jeep is an indoor, all-charcoal Korean BBQ joint that serves heaping amounts of perfectly marinated galbi and bulgogi. I think they have other delicious things too, but I’ll never know because I can’t get past the cow.

If we don’t eat at Soot Bull Jeep, or if we eat mid-afternoon at Bread & Porridge, we usually end up having a light appetizer/drinks combo at one of the upscale supper places around town. For a while, we frequented Grace for orange blossom martinis and truffled grilled cheese sandwiches (available on request), now, we’re on to Jar for lychee martinis, lobster salad, and butterscotch pudding. You’ll always find us at the bar, which delightfully enables you to bypass all the typical waiter up-selling, leave satisfied, and with
your wallet (mostly) intact.

After two nights of heaving eating, I try to sweep up the pieces at Hugo’s in West Hollywood. Serving fresh organic food for a variety of tastes, Hugo’s is like what your mom might cook for you if your mom was a culinary hippie. I don’t really know what that means, but the food is good and it’s good for you.

So after nearly 36 hours (21.42%) of eating galore, I’m back to my 80/20 diet and greatly looking forward to another debaucherous weekend.

Previous Favorite Weekends
September 28, 2006: The Campbells' Favorite Weekend
September 21, 2006: Foodie Universe's Favorite Weekend
September 14, 2006: Atwater Village Newbie's Favorite Weekend
September 6, 2006: Jill and Gavin's Favorite Weekend

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

R.I.P., R.W. Apple

One of my favorite food (and political) journalists died today. Read his last piece for the New York Times, or a New Yorker profile by Calvin Trillin.

Faux Fall

I've got apple cider in the fridge, cans of pumpkin the pantry, and have begun eyeing gourds at the farmers' market. Yet try as I might, fall's just not fall here in LaLa Land. The air may be cool in the morning, but it's not crisp, and colored leaves are few and far between. Since a trip east isn't in the cards anytime soon, I'll have to live vicariously through some midwestern foodbloggers.

This idea for this braised pork tenderloin sprang from my seasonal cravings, and incorporates my favorite fall spices. Be sure to let the cider cook down a bit after your remove the pork and pears--it becomes almost glaze-like and concentrates the flavor.

Braised, Fall-Spiced Pork Loin with Pears

Basically, I followed this recipe from Martha Stewart, but made some substitions and subtractions.

First, I left the pork loin rub on much longer than the 1/2 hour she recommends. Obviously, if you do this, put it in the fridge.

Second, I substituted apple cider for the white wine, and didn't include the carrots. To the cider I added a couple star anise, whole all-spice berries, and a cinnamon stick.

Finally, as mentioned earlier, when the pork was finished I removed it and the pears to a platter and let the sauce cook for a bit. I did not strain it (me = lazy) but instead just spooned it over the pork and pears.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Dosa Delight

chatni masala dosa with tomato and coconut chutneys

After a mid-morning hike through the streets of the Mission in San Francisco, gawking at colorful murals, J and I happened upon Dosa just as our tummys began to growl. The crowd at the bar, the spicy smells emerging out the door, and the sight of heaping plates of papad alighting on each table as a pre-meal snack convinced us to abandon our burrito plans and step inside for lunch. Besides, great Mexican food can be found around any corner here in LA, while South Indian food takes a bit more looking.

Dosas, the namesake food of this restaurant, are gigantic, round, thin pancakes made from rice and dal (lentil) flour. They can be filled with any number of goodies--I ordered a chatni masala dosa, bursting with spiced potatos, onions, cashew nuts and a spicy chutney, while J ordered the paneer (farmers' cheese), spiced and grilled with veggies. Both came with two chutneys for dipping (tomato and coconut) and sambar, a lentil dipping soup.

papad for snacking before the meal

Despite the behemoth size of our dishes, we both managed to polish them off, our wimpy Midwestern countenence leading both of us to remove our glasses due to the spice-induced sweat under our eyes. I loved the contrast of the barely crispy dosa enveloping the creamy filling, and relished the joy of eating with my fingers. The tomato chutney in particular shone as a foil to the hot sambar and spiced filling.

Dosa also offers a selection of curries at dinner, but only one at the lunch hour. A well-curated wine and beer list, the soft orange walls, and the hipster waiters ensure Dosa's a step up from your corner Indian take-out joint, and the prices reflect this ($11 or so for a dosa). Though they're still reasonable, and our meal was nothing but enjoyable.

995 Valencia (at 21st Street)
San Francisco, CA 94110