Category: When I’m Not Eating Sweets…

Rock-Not-So-Well VT

I never blog about places I don’t like… until now. I was attracted to Rockwell VT when first reading a brief write-up about in the LA Times. Rockwell VT is a new neighborhood spot and everything about it was alluring – I can walk there, and they have interesting specialty cocktails, a gorgeous outdoor setting, and food. I was so excited to try the Rockwell I was ready to fall in love.

My first cocktail was The Autumn. Not so much. More like a tropical summer. Overly sweet raspberry “puree”, basil and lime. Palatable, but nothing special.
The Gemini – I’m not a fan of infused liqour and here was a perfect example of why: the mandarin blossom infused vodka used for this cocktail dominated the entire flavor composition of this drink. I could taste orange and nothing else.
The Addison was my favorite of the cocktails because it was the one that was not overly sweet. Gin, cucumbers, dill and lemon – I enjoyed it.
My friend spotted this can of Kern’s behind the bar! For such a nice place, touting a cocktail list like they do, you would think they would use fresh ingredients. Disappointing. One would also think $13 would get you a drink in a glass. Not so – Rockwell serves all of their overpriced drinks in plastic cups.
The menu sounded great – or so I thought. We ordered their flatbread, which was actually a pizza. It was basic and uninteresting. We also ordered the Kobe sliders with a blue cheese fondue. The brioche bun was delicate, the meat dry, and it was generally unimpressive, especially for the price.
I want to love you Rockwell, I do, but you didn’t live up to the hype. To be fair, this is a new bar. There are many kinks to work out like inadequate seating and flighty service. Hopefully, the next time I visit there will be improvements to it all.

Falling For You: A Guide to Fall in LA (Part 2)

For Fun:

  • What better time than Fall to enjoy the season’s finest apples, figs, broccoli, escarole, and tomatoes, and cook a comforting meal at home. Take a pie baking class or fresh pasta making class. There are many fun cooking classes around the city: Sur La Table at the Grove offers a wide variety of classes as does The New School of Cooking in Culver City.
  • On the first Friday of every month the Natural History Museum is open late for you to roam around and see their exciting scientific exhibits. They have live music, custom tours, and discussions.
  • Oktoberfest is officially here! From September 17 – October 25th Alpine Village is transformed into a drinker’s wonderland. Dawn your finest lederhosen and be prepared for long lines and bounties of beer.
  • With the changing of the seasons comes the changing of our favorite music venues. Say goodbye to the Hollywood Bowl until next summer, and hello to Walt Disney Concert Hall for all of your LA Phil needs. With Gustavo Dudamel conducting, this season is sure to be an experience!
  • Beer and a movie please! Silverlake Wine presents Saturday nights at Barnsdall Park. They offer an artisanal beer tasting followed by a movie screening. And if you haven’t sampled LA’s ever-growing army of roaming food trucks, this is the place to find them parked.
  • What says Fall better than pumpkins? I love everything about pumpkins – from their orange hues to the tasty confections made from them to carving them. There are a few pumpkin patches around the city, or you can drive out near Bakersfield and see a magical array of shapes, sizes, and colors. For something local try the Calabasas Pumpkin Festival, a weekend event of pumpkin patches, pie eating contests, and more.
  • Of course there are many options for a spooky ghostly Halloween. For a good scare and scream Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights is one big scary movie backlot. Hollywood Forever Cemetary celebrates Dia de Los Muertos Oct. 31st with a day of costumes, ceremonies and more in honor of the dead. For something a little less creepy try the
    LACMA costume ball
    , where you can admire creative costumes over cocktails.
  • Talk a walk and get to know your neighborhood a little better. The Fallen Fruit organization has created neighborhood maps listing areas of public fruit trees ripe for the picking. Grab a friend and bring a tote and pick some public fruit. The organization holds community jam making, as well as nocturnal fruit forages. Take your gathered fruit and make your own Autumn jam.
I hope you enjoy a festive, fun, fruitful Fall!



Falling For You: A Guide to Fall in LA

Summer is melting away into Fall, however subtle that change may be in Los Angeles. The nights are getting a little cooler and a little longer. The farmer’s markets are overflowing with apples and figs and squash. It is time to put away the bikinis and dust off your Halloween costumes!

For Eats and Drinks:

  • October 4-9 and 11-16 is Restaurant Week in Los Angeles again. DineLA is hosting specially priced three-course menus many different participating restaurants in the city. This is your opportunity to indulge in that restaurant you’ve always wanted to try, but at an affordable price point.
  • Bistro LQ has a special menu available through Fall in addition to their regular dinner menu. September 29 & 30 is pot au feu night, October 17-28 is cassoulet night, and November 16 & 17 is choucroute night.
  • On Monday nights Little Dom’s is featuring a $15 prix-fixe supper featuring three courses of seasonal specials. Dago red and white wines are available for $10 a bottle and Peroni is a mere $2. A comforting Monday night meal to get the week started off right.
  • Cozy up with the one you love or a close friend and make some s’mores over a small fire right at your table. Luna Park offers s’mores for dessert. They provide the graham crackers, the chocolate, and the marshmallows and you build yourself a tasty treat.
  • With Fall comes pumpkins and what better way to enjoy them than a pumpkin cupcake or scoop of pumpkin gelato from Joan’s on Third. Come October through November you can be sure to enjoy them!
  • Sit close to the fireplace or enjoy the cool air on the outdoor patio above – the new Rockwell VT bar is sure to provide tasty Autumn inspired libations to keep you warm and toasty. It officially opens this weekend October 3rd!
  • Fall always makes me think soup. My favorite place for soup is Le Pain Quotidien. With so many locations to choose from, you are never too far from a simple, savory, oh-so-delicious bowl of hot soup.
  • The Hatfield’s have moved l0cals, but their former space now houses Eva, the new restaurant by Chef Marc Gold. Eva will surely satify your Fall food needs. Their seasonally fresh and changing menu currently includes a creamy onion soup, burrata ravioli with a corn glaze, and an assorted hot out of the oven cookie dish.
a pumpkin grown for pies sitting on my kitchen counter

Viet- A Sardine Masterpiece!

R and I have been exploring the neighborhoods around us. To be honest, until recently I had never ventured across the bridge on Hyperion into Atwater Village, that part of town that divides Silverlake and Glendale. I didn’t even know it existed. I am a terrible native Angelino I know, but how can you blame me living in a city as big as Los Angeles? Anyway, Atwater’s ‘main drag’ is Glendale Boulevard, studded with restaurants and shops, including Viet Noodle Bar.

Viet’s non-descript brick storefront includes huge glass windows and doors opening the restaurant to the street. The restaurant is bright and open, filled with natural light. With no visible sign from the street you could easily walk by Viet and never know it was there. We actually found ourselves confused and lost when looking for it, driving up and down the boulevard. After a successful quick search of the address on my cell phone, we found it and by the end of the meal we were so thankful we did!

The menu is simple and straightforward. It is separated into starters, noodle bowls, and bahn mi (Vietnamese sandwiches). We decided to share a noodle bowl and a sandwich to get a full range of the menu and we started with a Vietnamese iced coffee.

The iced coffee was incredible, unlike anything I have ever tasted. The drink was cold and creamy. Condensed milk created a thick coating, while the coffee flavor remained strong. It was almost fudgy.

The beef and lemon grass noodle bowl had a gentle, mellow, comforting flavor. The clear broth, tender beef, and unmistakable flavors of lemon grass and cilantro were well balanced. The noodles were thick, soft, and chewy. Everything about this noodle bowl was brilliant.

The sardine bahn mi was by far my favorite – so much so that I went back just a few days later to have another. The baguette was perfectly airy and crispy. With each bite, the delicate crust of the baguette would crack and crumble onto the fascinating complexity of flavors that lay within. The sardines melt in your mouth and then leave it filled with an enjoyable spice. The shredded pickled carrots, daikon and cucumber enhanced each perfectly crisp clean bite. It was a wonderful attack on the palate.

Fry Me To Puerto Rico!

I recently returned from a memorable trip with R to Puerto Rico. It was five brilliant days, three different locations, and lots of lasting memories. Puerto Rican cuisine has its roots in the traditions and practices of Spanish, Taino, and African cultures. I was anxious to enjoy all of the new gastronomic delights Puerto Rico had to offer. While I enjoyed our meals and I relished my time in Puerto Rico I wondered why everything was fried? Around every corner was fried this fried that, fried pig, fried corn, fried bread and barley a trace of anything green. Don’t get me wrong I am definitely of the school of thought that fried equals awesome, but can’t a girl see a vegetable or leafy green every now and then! Feelings of guilt overcame me with each meal, but I turned a blind eye and enjoyed each oily oozy bite. Here are a few of the things I enjoyed.

When we arrived we wasted no time and headed for Old San Juan. It was a humid, cloudy day but the clouds and trickles of rain cast an eerie and romantic shadow over the coble streets of the old city. Wet and hot we trudged through the narrows lanes in aw of the ramshackled beauty of the city. After hours of walking, exploring, and laughing we decided we were ready for our first meal. Afternoon or not we had not officially had breakfast since we were on the plane so we headed to La Bombonera. La Bombonera, established in 1902 continues to be a landmark for Puerto Rican cuisine. It is an unassuming diner with a large red awning you can’t miss and if you do the enticing aromas of sugary sweetness floating out each time the door opens for another eager patron, will certainly draw your attention. We ordered a café con leche and their famous pan de mallorca. The pan de mallorca was brought to our table and having no prior knowledge of what it was we blindly sunk our teeth in. It was truly more delicious that we could have ever imagined, grilled and buttered sweet bread dusted with powdered sugar.

La Bombonera : 259 Calle San Francisco, Old San Juan, San Juan

We spent our second day in Puerto Rico traversing the windy green paths of El Yunque Rainforest. The myriad shades of green, the limitless shapes of trees were breathtaking. After a few hours under the impressive canopy of El Yunque we had worked up an appetite and were in need of giving our feet a rest. We drove to Playa Luquillo a local beach known for its innumerable stands of “comida criolla”- classic Puerto Rican cuisine. We enjoyed the palm trees, soft sand and clear waters and were ready for a treat. We walked by each food stand to be sure not to miss out on the best street food offered. Stand after stand the food was the same. Confused we continued down the row only to find more of the same. Each stand was the same, a rundown counter with one glass enclosed case filled with copious fried fare. Nothing was named or had a price or looked particularly appetizing. I had read about surrulitos a fried corn meal log stuffed with cheese, so I focused my search for that. “Cuando es maize,” with limited Spanish in my inventory discovered which fried shape was the surullito. We ordered two and a coke and ate the fried confection from a napkin. It was surprisingly good. It was more savory than sweet with a perfect amount of cheese to offset the spongy texture of the cornmeal. My fingers, lips, and napkin saturated in oil, but my stomach was pleased.

On our last night in Puerto Rico we enjoyed comida criolla at Ropa Vieja in the district of Condado. Here we enjoyed Mofongo, a popular Puerto Rican dish made from fried plantains seasoned with garlic, olive oil and pork fat all mashed into a mound. We ordered ours with a saucy beef served on top of the plantain mound. It was a glorious pile to taste, but from the looks of this it was an ordinary meal almost reminiscent of a giant meatball. The layers of flavors burst with each bite. Thankfully we shared one because at the end of the meal our buttons were ready to pop from satisfaction.

There may not have been salad, but there were plenty of greasy memories to make me want to come back for more! When in Puerto Rico fry fry again!

*** While traveling I relied on the Lonely Planet Guide to Puerto Rico: it provided great maps, fantastic walking tours, and attraction guides. For more questions email me***

Tacos in Sight. Afternoon Delight.

I received a message from my friend Christina saying “We are going to be in your area tomorrow, Silverlake Arts and Crafts Fair. You should stop by!” Finally! Christina works for the Border Grill Truck, which until yesterday made most of its stops on the Westside of Los Angeles. Being an Eastsider and with LA’s notorious traffic quandary, I don’t often venture westward. I have been a long time fan of the Two Hot Tamales, Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken, and until this weekend I had not had a chance to experience the flavors and joys of the their latest gastronomic endeavor: the Border Grill Taco Truck.

Saturday, R and I waited patiently growing just hungry enough to gorge ourselves on tacos and more. When our stomachs could wait no longer we made the convenient trip down the street and found the big black shiny truck.

I have had many a taco in my day. Tacos are actually part of my meal rotation each week. I am also no stranger to the growing outpour of food trucks around LA. I have sampled a Kogi BBQ taco, I have evaluated the Let’s Be Frank hotdogs, I have savored the BarbieQ’s sandwiches, and I have tried the CoolHaus ice cream sandwiches. This experience was different. As we read over the menu posted on the truck, the words jumped out with new vitality. The pork taco was braised in achiote seed; the avocado taco was coated in quinoa and amaranth. Overwhelmed and excited by all of my choices, I worried that if I did not order everything on the menu I would miss out on the half the pleasure. We ultimately settled on 4 different tacos, 2 cones, and churro bites to round it all out.

We started with the Green Corn Tamale cone. It was a sweet and savory deconstructed tamale placed in a paper cone in which you would normally find a snow cone. It was topped with salsa fresca and crema. I had a buzz of euphoria with each sweet corn bite. One cone was hardly enough between the two of us.

Next we enjoyed the Peruvian Ceviche cone, a bright blend of mahi mahi, ginger, Amarillo chiles, pickled onions and lime in a crispy tortilla cone. The fish was tender and flavorful with the perfect crispness provided by the tortilla. The ginger was a pleasant and unexpected ingredient.

The tacos were a playful contrast of textures and flavors. The Yucatan pork taco was juicy and satisfyingly tart from the orange and pickled onions. The Avocado taco was generously crusted in seeds made complete with a creamy corn relish. The Potato Rojas taco had a silky spicy consistency. The flavor of the potato was expanded by the chiles and Mexican cheeses that crowned it.

Full and happy, we ended our meals with bliss in the form of four little dulce de leche infused churro bites with whipped cream. This was a true afternoon delight!

Weekend By The Sea

We decided to escape the sweltering LA heat and drive up the beautiful California coast for the weekend. Our destination: the cool breezes and pristine vistas of the Monterey Peninsula. It was a weekend full of walks on the beach, crashing waves, leisurely drives, and heirloom tomatoes. Heirloom tomatoes somehow found their way into many of our meals. They were sweet, firm and memorable.

On our first night in Carmel, we stumbled upon La Bicyclette, a small, quaint, and charming French bistro. The restaurant had a prefix menu that was seasonal, simple and affordable. Our first course was a local heirloom tomato salad with arugula, garlic confit and a balsamic reduction. It was so good I almost forgot to take a picture of it. The tomatoes were fresh and lightly kissed by the balsamic reduction. The garlic confit was so tender it almost melted with each bite. A perfect start to an all-together inspiring meal.

The following night we dined in Monterey at Passionfish Restaurant. While studying our menu for a starter we were immediately drawn to the heirloom salad with fried mozzarella. We questioned having heirloom tomatoes two nights in a row but could not resist. These heirlooms were not as sweet and laid under a bed of tender field greens. They were different in their presentation, but just as appetizing.

Before leaving our weekend oasis we purchased some local heirloom tomatoes. When we got back home to our LA apartment we made our own heirloom tomato salad: the tomatoes sprinkled with sea salt and touch of balsamic vinegar. Heirloom tomatoes and a trip to the sea- two reasons why I love summer!

Sausage, Beer and Cake… birthday party at my favorite Downtown spot.

Day 2: (bday party with the friends)

Saturday night. R invited my friends for dinner to celebrate who else but moi. We gathered at Wurstkuche for the best sausages, fries and beer in town. If you haven’t been here yet stop reading this post and go now! It is located in the Arts District of Downtown. Its corner location is marked by a simple sign and a red and yellow stripped door. You order in their small front room from a paper menu listing the sausages into three categories, classic, gourmet and exotic. They have two sizes of perfectly crispy and seasoned Belgian fries that come with your choice of dipping sauce. Now R and I are no strangers to this place and have tried more sausages that we care to disclose, but tonight we made sure to enjoy the Filipino in my honor! That and the buffalo,duck & pork and the Jalapeno Chicken. I washed down my savory, spicy meal with the light and crisp Belgian Floris Apple Ale and enjoyed the night. Three sausages, 2 orders of fries, 2 beers and R surprises me with 22 cupcakes! 22! (well i have a long name) Red velvet cupcakes with a perfectly fluffy cream cheese frosting from Buttercake Bakery! And it wasn’t even my birthday yet…