Friday, June 29, 2007

A Palapa in Yelapa, Mexico

I'm off to Yelapa, Mexico for a week--stories of fish tacos when I return.

Photo by Ed Fladung.

Delights at Delilah Bakery, Echo Park

Delilah's motto: Come in bitter, leave sweet. Three berry, chocolate and lemon ricotta cupcakes without frosting (aka "muffins")

A few years ago, after creating a particularly delicious chocolate cake, I mused to J, "Maybe I should open a bakery." I was merely indulging in an idle fantasy--I recognize that I'm more likely to succeed at achieving nuclear disarmament in my current career than developing a thriving bake shop. J, my left-brained husband, assumed I was already on the way to the bank for a small business loan, and started listing all the potential pitfalls. Now, "I'm not really opening a bakery" has become code for us that he needs to chill out and bite his dream-crushing tongue.

Here in LA, many career-changing ladies must not have received J's "bakery pitfall" memo. As the New York Times highlighted a few weeks ago, bake shops run by former agents/publicists/investment bankers are proliferating even faster than weapons of mass destruction in rogue nations. In the past week I've driven by the almost-open Vanilla Bake Shop in Santa Monica, walked by the almost-open Lark Cake Shop in Silver Lake, and stopped in the recently-opened Delilah Bakery in Echo Park.

Delilah has kept a low profile--I only discovered it when I drove by a few weeks ago. According to, it's the brainchild of a former publicist and sells sweets with a Southern bent. I stopped in for muffins for my coworkers; the cheery staff and the outside sign--today's a great day!--put a smile on my uncaffeinated face. The moist, cupcake-like muffins (chocolate, three berry, and lemon ricotta with a pronounced almond flavor) ensured that smile lasted most of the morning, and I'd like to make a return trip to try the whiskey soaked bread pudding, whose top was studded with banana slices.

In addition to the required cupcakes and other baked goods, Delilah serves savory sandwiches and dishes like mac'n'cheese. They also make a good, fresh cup of coffee to go with your muffins when you swing by at 8 am (they open at 7:30).

Delilah Bakery
1665 Echo Park Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90026
(213) 975-9400

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Mellow Yellow

The sign at the farm stand said "Yellow Melon" but I think this aromatic, juicy specimen (reminiscent of a Honeydew but sweeter) was a Juan Canary Melon, not a dua gan, a Korean yellow melon. I ate 1/2 of it sliced up as a "side dish" with some blueberry pancakes, while the other half got incorporated into a smoothie the next day.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

$1 Tacos Beat $13 Spiked "Spa Water" Every Time

Kike's Tacos, 2nd and Beaudry, Downtown Los Angeles.

Spanish Rosemary Cocktail, Abode, Santa Monica.

I began my Tuesday night with Caroline at Abode, home of the $26 vegetable plate. Love the bright orange leather couches, the quiet patio, and the Spanish Rosemary cocktail--rosemary infused gin, many crushed lemons, and cranberry juice. Love two of the "Three Sandwich Sampler"--rich jamon serrano and cheese on sweet walnut bread with a quail (?) egg on top; hot merguez and perfectly carmelized onions; and a forgettable caprese. At $16, it ain't cheap, but there's enough food to stave off hunger pains.

3 Sandwich Sampler at Abode: Caprese, Ham and Cheese, Merguez.

Abode touts its environmental sustainability, from the wood of its tables to the fish on the menu. While LA Times food section editor Leslie Brenner skewered this eco-chic pretension, I appreciate the effort, if not the execution. The speciality cocktail list reads like a yoga class menu, from the Namaste, featuring rose petals, to the Spa Water, a vodka-laced cucumber and basil drink. A little too precious for my taste, and not nearly as well crafted (though about the same price) as the sustainable, farmers' market fresh cocktails at my true love, The Hungry Cat.

Though it emptied my pocket book, Abode didn't quite fill my stomach, so as I pulled off the 110 to drive home on Sunset, I zipped in to to the brightly lit taco stand at the corner of 2nd and Beaudry. I've driven by zillions of times but never stopped, but tonight I figured it's now or never. The sign said Kike's Tacos and its few tables were filled with 20-something guys, more than happy to tell me what to order. The chorizo tacos were the overwhelming favorite, so I scooped up two for a measly $2.

At the condiment table I added fresh lime, cilantro and a blistering green salsa, then leaned up against my car, chowed down and wiped away tears as I looked to the lights of downtown LA. I could blame it on the hot, hot salsa, but it was the thought of leaving this crazy city that brought on the waterworks. I won't think twice about waving buh-bye to places like Abode, but the taco stands? I'll dream about them while studying in my cramped Manhattan apartment. This article about the food vendors in Red Hook Park gives me hope, but $5-6 for a huarache? Please. LA, you haven't been easy, but after 5 years I'm not sure I'm ready to say goodbye.

1541 Ocean Ave
Santa Monica, CA 90401
(310) 394-3463

Kike's Tacos
2nd/Beaudry, Downtown LA
Open only in the evenings

Finding Food on the Web

Since I know Erin's Kitchen can't satisfy all your food needs, I want to share some of my favorite sites that aggregate great food content from all over this crazy thing called the internet. Don't blame me if you become 50% less productive at the office once you check them out.

This ingenious site allows you to search for a restaurant and pull up a list of multiple blog reviews of the place. Say I'm considering a visit to Momofuku Ssam Bar when I head to New York next month to find an apartment. A quick search at BlogSoop reveals 19 blog reviews, and even tells me which ones have pictures! There's also BlogSoopLA and BlogSoopSF.

LA's own Jonah Manning is the brain behind this site, basically an RSS feed for restaurant-review focused blogs. There's an LA version, SF version, NY version, and for your sweet tooth, a candy version. A recent redesign allows readers to submit content as well, so little ol' bloggers like me, who mix both home cooking and eating out, can share their restaurant musings.

For all you foodporn lovers, this is your place. Photo upon photo of delicacies, from watermelon sorbet to donut soup. Like Digesty, users can submit photos, though the editors wield a fairly harsh elimination prerogative. For example, my post on Gin Bucks made the cut, while my submissions of this gorgeous cake and this vibrant salad did not. And my jam photo lasted about 1/2 a day before disappearing. C'est la vie.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Drinking in the Dark at R Bar, Koreatown

For a final happy hour with my peacenik coworkers, the dark, nook-filled R Bar in Koreatown served us well. This hipster haven at 8th and Irolo requires a password for entry (as of Friday it was this), but if you don't know it, the friendly doorman will likely share it (it had changed since the last time I'd been, but he still let us in).

The owners honed their bartending skills at eastside joints like the 4100 Bar and Ye Rustic Inn, and R Bar mixes the best of those two--lots of cozy corners and funky light fixtures like the 4100, cheap drinks and well-crafted basic bar snacks like Ye Rustic. I recommend sticking to the basics when it comes to the alcohol--beer's a good bet, they've got Guinness on tap. If you need something to soak up your booze, go for the garlic fries, just garlicky enough to make 'em addictive, not enough to ruin your date.

From 5-8 pm you can get your happy hour on with $1 off drinks, and you'll have your pick of the seats and control over the well-stocked jukebox. Watch out for the prosthetic leg as you stumble out the door in search of nearby Korean BBQ.

R Bar
3331 W. 8th St.
Los Angeles, CA
(213) 387-7227
Opens at 5 pm

Founder of Langer's Deli Passes Away

According to the LA Times, Al Langer, founder of LA's Langer's Deli, renowned for its pastrami, has passed away at age 94. When J and I visited Langer's in March for J's birthday lunch, Mr. Langer was sitting at the counter, enjoying his deli's famous sandwich.

Langer's photo by starlen

Canning California: Apricot, Plum and Strawberry Jam

As thrilled as I am about my pending move to New York, I'm already anticipating produce withdrawal--what will I do without Harry's Berries Gaviotas and Seascapes, or Weiser's potatos, or Finley's summer squash?

One way to ease the transition is to take a bit of California with me, and this weekend I enlisted my friends Jill and Emily in a jam-making extravaganza. (I will miss these ladies even more than the produce.) We started at the Pasadena Farmers' Market for supplies, deciding on apricots and strawberries to supplement the plums Emily'd brought from her home courtyard. Jill was kind enough to let us take over her kitchen for the day, and after the market we got to work with chopping, sterilizing jars, and sugar-measuring.

Jar sterilizing is probably easier with a rack for jars, but we found that a big pot of boiling water, tongs, and excellent hand-eye coordination does the job just fine. Most books recommend boiling the jars and lids for at least 10 minutes, and leaving them in the boiling water until you're ready to fill them.

We made apricot preserves, plum preserves, Gaviota strawberry jam and Seascape strawberry jam with lemon verbena. Emily's posted the apricot and plum recipes here; as for the strawberry, the Gaviota couldn't have been easier: 5 cups chopped strawberries, 7! cups sugar, 1 package of powdered pectin, and 1/2 tsp. butter. Mix it all over medium heat, bring to a boil and cook for exactly one minute, stirring all the time. Then can.

As for the Seascape, I made 1 cup of simple syrup infused with lemon verbena and also let a few sprigs steep in the jam as it cooked. The result was a very mild, herby flavor, just enough different from the Gaviota to make it worthwhile.

Other than the Gaviota, we didn't use added pectin and all of ours seemed to jell fairly well. I'd recommend experimenting and exploring different recipes, with a focus on flavor--if you end up with something more like syrup or compote than jam, so what? It will still remind you of summer in California, even if you move away.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Don't Bring your Calculator

According to this ad that just appeared in my inbox for eat.on sunset, 99% of its menu is $20 and under. Well, at least they think so. Note the asterisk--"Figure not based on actual mathematical calculations." Because that math, it's just so hard. This must be the compromise between eat's PR flack, desperate to fill some seats and eat's lawyer, desperate to prevent a truth-in-advertising lawsuit.

Rush to Get Your Rainer Cherries

Up until a few weeks ago, I had no idea that Rainer cherries were much sweeter than their lipstick red Bing relatives. For some reason I thought deep red color equaled sweet and the yellowish cast of Rainers meant tart. Luckily, I tried a sample at the Hollywood Farmers' Market and learned my lesson.

These blushing gold fruits, a cross between Bing and Van cherries created in 1952 by a scientist at Washington State University, are extremely delicate and therefore more expensive than the ubiquitous Bings. Their sweetness makes them well worth the price, and I encourage you to pick some up at a farmers' market near you ASAP, because they'll be gone before you know it.

If you don't eat them all on the way home from the market, you could make my cherry clafoutis, Cookiecrumb's cherry pickles, or The Traveler's Lunchbox's cherry-almond gratin.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Please Pass the Parsley Pesto

I usually omit parsley from recipes because most seem to call for just a smidge, and then I'm left with a big ol' bunch of green that wilts in my crisper before I can use it all.

Lately, however, I've cooked up a bunch of recipes from Suzanne Goin's Sunday Suppers at Lucques cookbook and I've found following her recipes to the letter is worth the effort. She likes her parsley, and I was determined not to let it go to waste. The solution? Parsley pesto.

Seems you can make pesto with just about anything these days--cilantro, sun-dried tomatos, artichokes. The parsley version is earthy and bitter and even more vibrantly green than basil.

I used this recipe from Food&Wine, but you could also just substitute parsley for basil in your favorite version. I tossed mine with yam soba noodles (their sweet, nutty flavor works well with the pesto) and zucchini ribbons. The leftover pesto went in the freezer, awaiting a pizza or maybe some roasted vegetables.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Blue Velvet Rakes in the Green(backs)

Dear Blue Velvet,

If you're going to charge me f'ing $12 (!!!) for a glass of Maker's Mark, the least you could do is pay a waitress to deliver the goods to me out on the patio. Or hire someone to clean the poolside cushions now and again. Just a thought.


Erin's Kitchen

Baco vs. Sope at Opus and La Cabanita

On Tuesday nights, Opus serves bacos (bread + taco, I believe). They're large grilled flatbreads, $8 each, and topped with your choice of: pork belly and short rib carnitas with salbixtada; market fish with pickled red cabbage and garlic-chive dressing; spiced tofu baco with napa cabbage salad and avocado; or pork meatball and chorizo baco with caraway-pepper sauce and smoked jalapeno.

Every night of the week, La Cabanita in Montrose serves a special sope (fried, thick corn flour disc) dish--you get three sopes, one with sweet spiced ground beef, one with chicken and one with pork.

J and I noshed at La Cabanita on Friday, Opus on Tuesday, and I can't help but compare these similar dishes.

Opus and the Bacos

  • Bang for your buck--the bacos are huge and piled high with goodies.
  • Pork in all its glory--J and I ordered both the pork meatball and the pork belly bacos and we were in hog heaven.
  • Cocktails--you can enjoy your baco while sipping a Gingered Jamie--Jameson and ginger beer.
  • Delusions of grandeur--the word baco is trademarked on the menu. Huh?
  • Flowery menu descriptions--the sauces don't quite live up to the detailed descriptions. In fact the sauces on the pork belly and the pork meatball tasted fairly similar to me.
  • Wacky service--I always enjoy the food at Opus, but other than my very first visit, the service has always been strange. Not rude or bad, but awkward.
La Cabinita and the Sopes

  • Cheese-The sopes are strewn with yummy queso. The bacos are cheeseless.
  • Sweet meat-I love the raisins in the ground beef.
  • Cocktails--Can't go wrong with a La Cabanita house margarita
  • Snacks to start--the homemade tortilla chips and smoky salsa disappeared quickly.
  • Price--At around $11 these are more expensive than the bacos.
  • Slow service--It took quite awhile for our 2nd margaritas to arrive.
While Opus is a foodie darling, and I've sung its praises before, I'm gonna have to go with La Cabanita's sopes for this round. This time, simple and homey wins.

3760 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90010

La Cabanita
3447 N Verdugo Rd
Montrose, CA

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Dining at Delfina--San Francisco

chicken liver crostini at Delfina

In the fall of 1999, I was living in a small village in northern Zimbabwe, staying with a host family that raised chickens. The chickens meant the family was wealthy (relative to its neighbors), in part because it ate meat on a regular basis. On my last night there, my host mother invited me to help her kill, pluck and cook a chicken, then served me its fried heart, lungs and liver as going away present. At the time, cutting a chicken's head off and eating its innards were above and beyond my comfort zone--I barely managed to keep it together as I downed the organs with large bites of sadza to cover the taste.

Now, nearly 8 years later, I realize the most local, free range, organic chicken I ever ate was in that Zimbabwean village. And those innards? The finest, freshest of offal.* I haven't killed a chicken since that trip, but I have developed a taste for pate and terrines of all sorts, and when my waitress at Delfina announced a special starter of chicken liver crostini, it was immediately ordered. Smooth and creamy, with a rich thyme and shallot flavor perfuming the liver, at first blush it was miles away from my Zimbabwe experience, until the underlying taste of the organ popped up and reminded you that yep, this was still LIVER, and wow, I can't believe I like to eat this stuff.

Making our plans at the last minute, Jess and I settled for an early bird 5:30 reservation at this popular Mission District Cal-Italian spot. We joined a handful of others with opening-time reservations outside the restaurant at 5:29 pm, and as the doors opened we were all whisked to our spots in a very efficient manner. Though we felt a bit like senior citizens because of the hour, it was lovely to bask in the late afternoon sun streaming through Delfina's many windows as we toasted with a glass of prosecco.

Focused on seasonal fare, the menu was bursting with mushrooms and both the porcini in our shared salad and the morels in my gnocchi stole the show. However, the morels had to share the spotlight with some popping fresh peas, fried sage leaves and some first-of-the-season cherry tomatos that made me wistful about the produce I'll be leaving behind here in the Golden State. And the gnocchi--these tiny specimens were impossible to resist. Slicked with buttery-olive oily goodness, light and fluffy, a perfect match to the robust veggies and shrooms.

The menu, chock-a-block full of local ingredients and farmer credit, changes daily. Currently, the restaurant's website displays Monday's menu, which doesn't have either of the pastas or the salad we ordered last Friday. Which means, of course, that if I lived nearby I'd eat here more than I should, with the excuse that I need to try something different. Another thing to love about this place is its commitment to homemade items: cured anchovies, fennel sausage, etc.

For the quality of the ingredients and the cooking, the prices are quite reasonable--pastas, served generously enough to serve as a main course, run from about $11-$16. Salads clock in around $8-9, and antipasti about the same. Many items work to for sharing, and the waitstaff will happily bring you a sharp knife to cut items like the crostini.

I would recommend reservations if you'd like to sit in the dining room or on the back patio, but there's also lots of room in the bar for walk-ins. And if you can't find space in Delfina proper, you could also try the pizzeria next door.

Delfina inspires love from foodbloggers in SF and beyond:

Confessions of a Restaurant Whore
Alice Q. Foodie
Megan in Los Feliz

Delfina Restaurant
3621 18th Street
San Francisco, CA

*I am well aware of the ridiculous-ness of posting about the "reasonable" prices of Delfina and introducing this post with a story about "eating locally" in Zimbabwe--with a rural, poor family who ate local because they had to, not because it was the trendy thing to do. Unfortunately, things have gotten much worse for most Zimbabweans since I was there and I imagine the chickens for my former host family are few and far between.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Games + Beer = Barcade

Where can you find Ms. Pac Man, Donkey Kong, Asteroid, Twilight Zone Pinball, $2 cans of Pabst, and bowls of ramen? Why Miss T's Barcade of course. J and I spent a goofy Saturday night at this Koreatown dive, competing against each other across the Ms. Pac Man screen to gobble dots and escape Inky, Pinky and Sue (J kicked my butt).

80s posters cover the walls, a Lite-Brite guards the door, and the bar is covered in quarters. The crowd was light at 9 pm, and we were able to play every game we wanted without a wait. The friendly bartenders will provide change and games cost only 25-50 cents. A DJ spins in one of the side rooms, and there's plenty of cozy booth seating if you need to chill after losing another game.

Miss T's Barcade
371 N. Western Ave. (a couple blocks north of Beverly)
Los Angeles, CA 90189
Look for the neon Pac-Man ghost in the window

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Straighten Up and Bi-Rite, San Francisco

Around 5:30 on Friday night, Jess and I poked our heads in San Francisco's Bi-Rite Creamery to scope out the flavors we planned to try after an early dinner at Delfina across the street. It had been a sunny, hot day, and as we'd walked from the BART station, I'd worked up a tiny sweat as I daydreamed about our chilly dessert plans.

Fast forward 1 1/2 hours later, after our fabulous dinner (more on that later). We step out the restaurant door into a stiff breeze, cloudy sky and fog in the distance. In the time it took to enjoy some pasta and two glasses of wine, the city'd gone from a brilliant summer day to hot chocolate weather. Despite our growing goosebumps, the allure of homemade salted caramel ice cream and mint chip flavored with organic mint oil overcame the cold.

If I wasn't such a sucker for the salty-sweet combo perfectly balanced in the rich and creamy caramel, I may have gone for the balsamic strawberry or the Springtime Sundae--creme fraiche ice cream, strawberry compote, crumbled homemade sugar cookies and whipped cream. The ice cream at this offshoot of the Bi-Rite Market is made from Straus milk, a sustainable, organic dairy 60 miles north of San Francisco, and local, seasonal flavorings. The shop features compostable bowls and silverware, as well as metal tasting spoons, a refreshing change from the zillions of small plastic tasters wasted by the gelato shops here in LA.

Bi-Rite also sells some baked goods, ice cream sandwiches, frozen pie and cookie dough, and hand-packed pints of ice cream to go, so you can save the treat for the next time the fickle San Francisco sun decides to shine.

Bi-Rite Creamery
3639 18th St
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 626-5600

Thanks to Confessions of a Restaurant Whore who pointed me in the direction of Bi-Rite in the first place.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Gin Bucks and Other Ways to Use My Liquor

We have a really big bottle of Jim Beam here at Erin's Kitchen. A reeeeeaaaaallllllyyyy big bottle--1.75 liters--and it's 75% full. It made the trip from Washington, DC to LA with us nearly 5 years ago, and I'll be damned if I'm dragging it back across the country.

In addition, our liquor cabinet boasts (or perhaps sheepishly admits):
  • Beefeater Gin
  • Hendricks Gin
  • Monopolowa Vodka
  • Sauza Tequila
  • Patron Citronage
  • Maker's Mark
  • Pernod
  • Campari
  • Sweet Vermouth
  • Dry Vermouth
  • A smidge of Kahlua
And in the strange and shameful and undrinkable category:
  • Not one, but two bottles of Bailey's Irish Creme (they were gifts!)
  • Not one, not two, but three bottles of middling brandy for cooking (I should check the cupboards before I shop)
J also owns three nice bottles of scotch, and those can make the trek. The rest? We've gotta finish them, and I need your help. Without the purchase of additional liquor (mixers are okay), what would you make out of the above motley list?

So far, we've found Negronis very efficient--1 part gin, 1 part Campari, 1 part sweet vermouth. This Gin Buck is quite tasty too, especially with Australia's fab Bundaberg Ginger Beer, but not as helpful at reducing our wares.

Gin Buck

1 shot gin
juice of 1/2 a lime
ginger beer or ginger ale
lime slice for garnish

Pour the gin over ice in a rocks glass, add lime juice and stir. Fill glass with ginger beer or ale. Stir, add lime slice, and contemplate your liquor cabinet.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

LA Favorites #11: Pat Saperstein of Eating LA

Erin's Kitchen is leaving LA! Before I go, I'm asking Angelenos to share their favorite food spots--east to west, high to low. Want to share your favorites? Email me: erinskitchen [at] gmail [dot] com. Read previous LA Favorites, including recommendations from Jonathan Gold, Russ Parsons, Evan Kleiman and fellow foodbloggers here.

LA Favorites #11: Pat Saperstein of Eating LA, one of the first (and best!) LA foodblogs, full of great dining tidbits, particularly in the San Gabriel Valley

How long have you lived in LA?
My whole life - I grew up on the Westside and have been on the Eastside for 20-plus years now. I went to college in Northern California and have been here the rest of the time.

Quick--a favorite LA food memory. What's the first one that comes to mind? Going with my dad to Tommy's, Philippe's and the Luau when I was a kid.

It's lunch time, you've got $20 bucks in your pocket, and traffic is magically non-existant. Where do you go? I'd go to Baguette Express in San Gabriel, and for $20, I can probably take three friends with me and we can all get the special Cajun shrimp bahn mi and Vietnamese iced coffee.

Top three food or drink experiences I should have before I leave LA?
1--Drinks at Yamashiro. 2--pastrami sandwich at Langer's. 3--dim sum at Sea Harbour.

Drinkin' With the Beer Chick at the Library Bar

Not a Budweiser in sight.

The bloggers were out in force for the newish Library Bar's Bloggers 'n' Beer event in downtown LA last night. As we made our way through the generous sample list, the room got louder and folks that normally hide behind computer screens compared tasting notes with their neighbors.

The night's tasting list was curated by The Beer Chick, Christina Perozzi, who consulted on the list for the Library Bar and used to manage Father's Office, well known for its beers. She wants women to learn to love beer--if her infectious enthusiasm for the beverage doesn't accomplish that goal, certainly her diverse and tasty beer recommendations should encourage even the most skeptical to move away from Miller Lite.

Flipping through my notes in my personal "card catalog", I'm reminded that I liked the summery Pasadena-made Craftsman 1903 Prohibition Lager that kicked off the evening, as well as the Belgian Saison Dupont, while I though the Inversion IPA tasted like feet (or at least how I imagine feet--the unwashed kind--taste). Perozzi explained that beer can be swirled and sniffed like wine, and described setting up her list from light to dark so as not to ruin your palate. She also provided a special ninth brew not on the tasting list, a rich, cherry beer, practically port-like, with a great name--Quelque Chose.

J and I will certainly return to this cozy downtown joint, both for my favorite apple beer that I saw standing at attention in the cooler behind the bar, and the wealth of Craftsman brews on tap. Like many of the new bars in this neighborhood, it doesn't serve its own food, but you can get snacks prepared by the Wolfgang Puck Express next door, including pizzas, herb fries, and homemade potato chips.

The Library Bar
630 West 6th Street, Suite 116-A
Los Angeles, CA 90017

Monday, June 11, 2007

A Sparkling Summer with Prosecco Cocktails

This Kumquat Sunrise would've been prettier if I'd had ruby port instead of tawny.

I can't escape from prosecco this summer (though I'm not sure I want to). First I was beguiled by the Rainwater, then I sampled the Indochine, and this weekend J and I explored the recipes in the recent LA Times article, "So, this Prosecco walks into a bar."

Making French 95s.

Saturday night we sipped French 95s--bourbon, lemon juice, orange juice, simple syrup, prosecco and an orange twist. Sunday was a bit sweeter as we drank Kumquat Sunrises-- muddled whole kumquats, simple syrup, prosecco, and tawny port (the recipe calls for ruby). Both might have been better without the simple syrup, especially the kumquat, which was plenty sweet without the extra sugar. The French 95 will be making a repeat appearance in my kitchen, if only to help finish off our bottle of Makers Mark before we move.

The LA Times reports that prosecco cocktails can be found at Hatfield's, Rustic Canyon and the Huntley Hotel's Penthouse. A little research of my own reveals that in my-soon-to-be home, NYC, you can tip back these bubbly babies at Morandi, Franny's (scroll to #9), and Gusto Restaurant and Bar.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Double Pork + Lamb Burgers

An Erin's Kitchen maxim: bacon makes everything better. Especially these pork burgers, as dreamed up by a queen of porcine concoctions, Suzanne Goin. The diced bacon ensures the ground pork stays moist, while the sausage (she calls for chorizo, I used merguez, made from lamb) adds smoky spice.

Goin recommends concocting a romesco sauce as well as aioli to serve alongside, but that was too much for me on a lazy Saturday night. Some manchego slices and a swipe of horseradish stone-ground mustard across a toasted whole wheat bun fancied it up plenty.

Double Pork + Lamb Burgers
adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques by Suzanne Goin

3/4 tbsp. whole cumin
2 shallots, diced
2 garlic cloves, diced
1 dried chile de arbol, diced
olive oil
1 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 slice applewood-smoked bacon, diced
1 lb ground pork
1 merguez sausage, casing removed
salt and pepper

Fire up your grill.

Toast your cumin seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant. Using a spice grinder (I use an old coffee grinder), grind cumin. Wipe out skillet, and heat a few swirls of olive oil over medium heat. Add shallots and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add garlic, chile and ground cumin. Cook for 4-5 minutes, until shallots are translucent.

In a large bowl, mix your porks, shallot mixture and parsley. Season well with salt and pepper. Don't over mix or your burgers will be tough. Shape into six equal patties. Put in the fridge if you're not using them right away.

Grill over medium coals for 5 minutes on each side. It's okay if they're a bit pink in the middle, especially if you know and trust your pork provider.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Rhubarb-Strawberry Crumble

Rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb. Fun to type, and even more fun to cook and eat. Who can resist the bright pink color and the tart taste? I've found it difficult to come by at the LA farmers' markets, so when I see it, I snap it up. Match it with the berries of your choice, cut it into coffee cake, or just stew it with a bit of sugar, some mint leaves, and pour over ice cream.

Rhubarb hails from China and was originally grown for medicinal purposes. In the 18th century, Brits and Americans began growing it for culinary purposes. It's the stalk you want, as the leaves are poisonous. For more rhubarb info than you can imagine, visit the Rhubarb Compendium.

This Rhubarb-Strawberry Crumble is as easy as they come--so easy, you don't really need a recipe. J did most of the prep work, I crafted the crumbly top. Take a pint of strawberries and about 5-6 stalks of rhubarb. Chop into bite sized pieces, distribute among four individual-sized, buttered ramekins. Mix a couple teaspoons of sugar in each ramekin. In a seperate bowl, mix together 1/2-3/4 cup oats, couple tablespoons of wheat flour, 1/2 c. brown sugar, couple teaspoons cinnamon and cut in 3-4 tablespoons butter until you have a crumbly mess. Strew crumb on top of each ramekin, bake in a 425 degree oven until bubbly, about 25 minutes. Serve with a dollop of vanilla ice cream.

More rhubarb recipes:

My Rhubarb-Raspberry Grunt
My Rhubarb Schnapps
Strawberry-Rhubarb Sponge Pudding from Food Blogga
Rhubarb Jumble from What Geeks Eat
Rhubarb and Apple Crumble from A Cat in the Kitchen (and from her homegrown rhubarb)

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Deep Fried Olive Decadence at Table 8

Salty green olive + rich spicy lamb sausage + crispy fried coating = a bar snack I could eat all night. While just one of the many offerings I sampled at the Table 8 lounge earlier this week, these bite-sized beauties rose well above the rest (though the pulled pork-grilled cheese was no slouch). $7 brings 5 of them to your table, a reasonable price for the bliss induced when you crunch through the breading and the juicy filling hits your tongue.

Can't make it to LA (or Miami, home to the 2nd Table 8)? No worries. Govind Armstrong, Table 8's chef, has recently released a cookbook, "Small Bites Big Nights: Seductive Little Plates for Intimate Occasions and Lavish Parties", and the deep fried olive recipe can be found on page 69. Whip up a Pisco Sour (one of the handful of speciality cocktails on offer in the lounge), turn down the lights, turn up the music, and you're good to go.

Click here for the full lounge menu. Avoid the bland risotto balls, and be warned that the speciality cocktails clock in at a pricey $12. The lounge serves some dishes off the regular menu as late-night specials after 10 or 10:30, as well as discounted drinks [UPDATE: You can find the details of the late night deal at LivingLArge). Also, on Tuesday's, wine by the bottle is 50% off, and for 50 smackers you can get a 5 course, prix fixe tasting menu (it rotates weekly).

Table 8
7661 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90046
(323) 782-8258

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Aprium-Pistachio Galette

In keeping with my previous post's theme of produce I discovered in California, apriums (approx. 75% apricot, 25% plum) and pluots (approx. 75% plum, 25% apricots) still wow me when I visit the farmers' market. As if regular old plums and apricots weren't tasty enough. The stand where I bought my apriums was giving away whole fruits as samples--the farmer was beaming with pride over his crop.

Click here for the recipe--perfect for homemade crust-a-phobes like myself. I subbed apriums for the apricots, pistachios for the almonds, skipped cutting the crust in a circle, and when it came out of the oven, I brushed the tart with last summer's homemade plum jam. Hat tip to Tokyo Astro Girl for pointing me in the direction of this dessert.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Summer Succotash with Garlic Scapes

Add these snaky, slinky garlic scapes to the list of foods I've been introduced to by the LA farmers' markets. Scapes are the flower stalks of any Allium (onion, leeks, chives, garlic) and garlic scapes grow on hardneck garlic--they are tender and tasty while curly, once they straighten they toughen up. They have garlic flavor without the harsh bite; you can use them raw or lightly cooked (too long over the heat and they loose flavor). A perfect replacement for green onions in springy and summery dishes.

My scapes came from Finley Family Farms at the Hollywood Farmers' Market, 25 cents a piece. They joined their fellow market mates--corn, summer squash, tomatos, basil, parsley, chives and fresh garbanzos in a version of Sunday Suppers at Lucques "First of the Season Succotash". I'll give you the basic method, but experiment with the vegetables and flavors that you like best.

Summer Succotash with Garlic Scapes

2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
2 1/2 cups diced summer squash
1 c. fresh garbanzos (or limas or favas or 1/2 inch green bean pieces)
kernels from 3 ears of corn
4-5 small tomatos, seeded and diced
2-3 scapes, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
handful fresh basil, chopped
handful fresh chives, chopped
small handful fresh parsley, chopped
olive oil

Heat some olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add thyme and stir for 1-2 minutes. Add squash, season with salt, and saute for 4 minutes, until soft with a bit of color. Spread squash on cookie sheet to cool.

Wipe out skillet, and add some olive oil. Add garbanzos and stir for 1-2 minutes. Add corn kernels, salt, and pepper and stir for another two minutes or so (taste a garbanzo or corn kernel to check as you go). Remove to same cookie sheet as squash to cool.

Once your sauteed veggies have cooled a bit, mix them, the tomatos, and the scapes in a large bowl. At this point, you can refrigerate and complete the salad just before serving.

To serve, gently mix in the fresh herbs and the arugula. Toss with a high quality olive oil, salt and pepper. Add some lemon juice if you'd like a bit of acid.

More scape recipes:

Individual Scape and Chard Pies from Daydream Delicious
Garlic Scape Pesto from Kalyn's Kitchen

Thanks to Alanna from A Veggie Venture for the farmers' market graphic-- check her site for fabulously healthy veggie recipes.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Solo Dining at Rustic Canyon, Santa Monica

I've shopped the Saturday and Sunday Farmers' Markets. Walked the pier. Sunned on the beach. But dinner? On a weeknight? In Santa Monica? Never. I'm an eastside gal, rarely venturing west of La Cienega Monday through Friday. J has coworkers that drive 2 hours each way to work, so they can own a home they never spend time in, while we've set up our LA lives limiting our weekday radius to no more than 20 minutes in each direction.

But now, I'm leaving. And suddenly I'm willing to expand my driving universe, lest I miss out on a great LA adventure. Therefore, when Caroline invited me to sample desserts and drinks at a beachfront hotel, I eagerly agreed.

However, before dessert and drinks comes dinner, and I was craving a meal alone at a cozy bar. I know solo dining makes some people cringe in embarrassment, but I love it. I can order exactly what I want, do some people-watching, sit alone with my thoughts, make friends with the bartender or pretend to be a woman of mystery.

Rustic Canyon Wine Bar's a good spot for solo dining. You're more likely to get a seat for just one at the tiny bar, and the smallish starter items allow for a single diner to sample multiple dishes. I couldn't resist ordering the springiest menu item -- fresh fennel, baby artichoke and fava bean salad, though I had no clue what wine to pair with it. Indulging my inner girliness, I picked a prosecco "cocktail" instead, the Indochine, with lemongrass and ginger. This was surprisingly mild, lacking a ginger bite, but totally drinkable. Another bonus of dining alone: no shame about skipping the wine list at a wine bar.

I crunched my way through about 1/2 of the fennel/artichoke/fava concoction, but then, I'll admit, I got bored. Like the ginger in the cocktail, the fennel didn't have much zing, plus fresh dill overpowered all other flavors. Fortunately, the bits and bites on the Moroccan salad plate had zing to spare, and I gobbled them up, with a plume of spicy homemade harissa topping each bite (see the center of the picture to the left).

By the time I left, the place was crowded and loud, full of creatures much blonder and bronzer than my eastside neighbors. Having had enough alone time as a brunette in the beach town, I was relieved to head to the Viceroy and meet my fellow dark-haired friends.

Rustic Canyon Wine Bar and Seasonal Kitchen
1119 Wilshire Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90401