The Great Pumpkin

Its hue is bright orange, it’s shape spherical and portly, and its taste is absolutely delicious. I am of course referring to my favorite Fall fruit: pumpkin. I love eating pumpkin. From pumpkin bread to pumpkin ravioli, just the mention of pumpkin makes my mouth water.

While I have always enjoyed eating pumpkin, I have never considered cooking pumpkin myself. Honestly, I wouldn’t know where to begin. So when I saw that LA Food Works was offering a pumpkin-inspired cooking class- The Great Pumpkin, I was there!

This was my first cooking class. I am not an expert cook, but do enjoy my many adventures and misadventures with R in our kitchen. This class was the perfect opportunity to hone my skills and finally learn how to prepare pumpkin in an array of recipes.

The class was held in the beautiful kitchen of LA Food Works. The magnificent Rachael Narins of Chicks with Knives led the class.

On the cooking menu:

Pumpkin Lasagna

Curried Pumpkin Soup

Roasted Pork with Pumpkin Seed Sauce

Sweet and Sour Pumpkin

Pumpkin Gingersnap Tiramisu

Rachael started the class by talking pumpkin to us. The different varietals and what you can make with them. Next, as a group, we prepared the Pumpkin Lasagna.

For the lasagna we scooped and mashed a roasted sugar pumpkin. While one person was scooping, another was beginning a Béchamel sauce that would be the base of the lasagna. Then we layered the pasta with the sauce, mascarpone cheese, pumpkin puree, fontina cheese, and dotted with salty thin proscuitto. We were taken through the recipe step by step. The process was interactive and fun. The result was a decadent, bubbly, and creamy lasagna. It was so rich, so delicious, so perfec
tly oozing with pumpkin.

While our lasagna cooked we divided into little groups to prepare one item from the menu. I got the Sweet and Sour Pumpkin. Our sugar pumpkin was too hard to work with so we roasted it before cubing it. We also, added a can of organic pumpkin puree, which is not included on the original recipe. Next, we placed the cubed roasted pumpkin and canned pumpkin in a skilled over medium heat, sprinkled with garlic, red pepper flakes, sugar and red wine vinegar. Our Sweet and Sour Pumpkin turned into a dip rather than an entrée, but it was a pleasant surprise. We toasted up so pita chips to scoop the hot pumpkin mash and it was bursting with flavors. It is similar to a babaganoush in texture, but with pumpkin instead of eggplant, and a few flavorful sour notes from the vinegar and spices. Garnished with fresh mint, this recipe if beautiful and appetizing. It would be a perfect Fall party starter.

While I did not participate in the other recipes from start to finish, everyone in the class was able to watch and help each other with their recipes. The Pumpkin Seed sauce was fragrant and light. The Curried Pumpkin soup was smooth and comforting. The Pumpkin Tiramisu was a pillowy pumpkin custard layered with gingersnaps brushed with brandy, need I say more.

the sweetest dog and her name was Pumpkin!

When everything was finished cooking, we sat together and enjoyed the afternoon’s work. Everything came out perfectly – and I’m not just saying that because we cooked it. I left full from all of our creations, but more than that I left with new skills and new friends. I can’t wait for the next LA Food Works class!

Fresh From the Market: The Gastrobus

A new farmer’s market has sprung up in my neighborhood. This excites me to no end. While I love the Hollywood farmer’s market on the rare occasion that I get a Sunday away from the restaurant, it is so much more satisfying to be able to enjoy the morning walking to a farmer’s market right in my neck of the woods.

The Los Feliz farmer’s market is nestled in a small parking lot behind the legendary Dresden Room. Compared to other farmer’s markets around Los Angeles, like those in Hollywood or Santa Monica, this hidden gem is small and charming. There is a sweet fragrance in the air and its quaint size is so much more appealing than the busy hustle bustle of the larger markets. There is a peace here, a sense of calm that allowed me to fully enjoy the beauty of the market on a Sunday morning. Small as it is, this farmer’s market still has everything one would need to fill a weekend shopping basket. There are fruit vendors galore, an abundance of greens, a specialty mushroom man, a fresh egg merchant, hand crafted soaps, fresh juices, flowers and more. On my first visit a few weeks ago, my favorite part of the market was the big bright Gastrobus parked right in front.

The Gastrobus differs from the other trendy LA food trucks because their ever-changing menu is created based on what is available at the market on any particular morning. Each week the chef on board this restaurant on wheels finds what is seasonally perfect and delicious to create a simple tapas-style brunch menu. R and I were more than happy with what we ordered.

The corn flapjacks were plump orbs of sweet and savory goodness. The corn was crisp against the light dough. It was sprinkled with thin scallions and fresh farmer’s cheese, which gave it a delightfully light finish.

The homemade sausage was a mound of salty, well-seasoned meat. It was thick and hearty.

The French toast with fresh peaches and plum jam was sticky and sweet. The toast was fluffy and moist, the peaches tender and plump, and the jam coated all of the flavors together.

I am happy to report that on my second visit this weekend, my neighborhood farmer’s market is beginning to grow. There were more happy faces and purveyors, but the market still maintained its peaceful air. Lucky for us, the Gastrobus was still parked right in front.

True to form, today’s menu at the Gastrobus had a different offering. I was happy to find my favorite corn flapjacks so I eagerly ordered those. In addition, we ordered the persimmon beignets with ginger and sugar and the pear almond pancakes.

The beignets were not as I had imagined. Rather than being a hot chewy deep fried confection, the batter was stuffed with a crisp chunk of persimmon. Being a doughnut lover, I was sad that my beignet was not all dough but the beignet was still pleasantly delicate and folded sweetly into each crunchy bite of persimmon.

The almond pear pancakes were soft and fragrant. The pancakes’ components were tender sweet pears in a nutty batter crowned with caramelized pear slivers. And they were magical.

Eat fresh, eat local, and support your neighborhood famer’s market.

A Cheeseburger Wednesday Edition– Umami Burger Los Feliz

My friend Mike likes to eat cheeseburgers on Wednesdays. I have grown to love it too. While I enjoy a burger any day of the week there is something so special and satisfying about eating a cheeseburger on Wednesdays with Mike. Wednesdays will be henceforth known as Cheeseburger Wednesdays.

This post is dedicated to Mike and to cheeseburgers – It is the Cheeseburger Wednesday edition of LetMeEatCake.

Last Wednesday we enjoyed our cheeseburgers at the recently opened Umami Burger. Umami Burger resides in the former home of the late Cobras and Matadors in Los Feliz.

Living in Los Angeles, the burger capitol of the world, it is not hard to find a burger joint at every corner. Formerly relegated to the domain of fast food, the cheeseburger has now acquired an elevated status. Cheeseburger components now include gourmet condiments, organic greens, and artisan cheeses. Cheeseburgers are now bigger, more exotic, and even more stylish.

Umami Burger demonstrates how a seemingly ordinary dish such as a cheeseburger can be magically transformed into something magnificent with a few well-selected ingredients.

Umami Burger offers a mouthwatering selection of cheeseburgers.

The Manly Burger is a perfectly seasoned ground beef patty with gooey melted beer-cheddar cheese atop a pillowy bun, and sprinkled with smoked salt onion strings and bacon lardons. The bun was so delicate with each bite it became one with the burger. Need I say more?

R and I gave Umami another visit this week to try more of their delicious burgers. This time we chose the Port & Stilton Burger with Stilton blue cheese and Pocas port-carmelized onions, and the signature Umami Burger with a parmesan crisp, roasted tomatoes, shiitake mushrooms and carmelized onions.

Nothing beats the Manly Burger. While the eponymous Umami Burger was good, the bun got soggy too fast, the parmesan crisp lost it’s crunch, and the roasted tomatoes dominated the other flavors.

The restaurant also offers a variety of fries to accompany your burger. I tried all three versions- Hand Cut Fries (triple-cooked), Sweet Potato Fries, and Thin Fries. The
Hand Cut fries were thick wedges of potato reminiscent of biting into a hot mashed potato. The Sweet Potato fries were no different then any other variety of sweet potato fries at other gourmet burger spots. The Thin Fries were too salty on both occasions. My side dish recommendation is the Malt Liquour Tempura Onion Rings. They were thick, flavorful and understated. They we consumed so rapidly by the table I did not have a second to photograph their glory.

Happy Cheeseburger Wednesday!

Los Moles

In an effort to enjoy everything LA has to offer, R and I decided to spend our Sunday afternoon exploring Olvera Street, a historic marketplace reflecting Mexican and Lation culture and traditions. Olvera Street is located in Downtown Los Angeles, at what is known as the general site of the birthplace of the city of Los Angeles. Fortuitously, today at Olvera Street it happened to be La Feria De Los Moles- a fair celebrating the moles of Oaxaca. Mole means ‘sauce’ or concoction’, it is a complex thick sauce of spices used as the base for dishes around regions of Mexico. La Feria De Los Moles celebrated the most popular moles, those of the Mexican states of Puebla and Oaxaca. The streets were alive with people enjoying the crisp Fall weather, the live Oaxacan music, and the countless food stands eager to serve all of the hungry mouths. I wanted to eat everything in sight, I wanted to try it all, but my feeble stomach would not oblige. I enjoyed a small taste of the plethora of foods at the fair.

There are a multitude of mole variations. We tried two dishes with mole negro from La Guelaguetza. The mole negro is a blend of chilies, nuts, seeds, spices, and Oaxacan chocolate. We enjoyed a mole negro con pierna de pollo which was chicken covered with mole negro over rice. We also tried the taquitos covered in mole negro and topped with fresh onion and queso fresco.

The mole had a rich bold fl
avor. The sweet, smooth chocolate married well with the subtle heat from the chilies and spices.

We were too full to enjoy the giant tortas filled with seasoned meats but we enjoyed watching them being made.

The traditional clayudas con todo tipo de carne was an incredible site to behold. The sheer size of it was astounding. It is a giant flour tortilla served open faced and topped with a black bean paste, cheese, and crowned with grilled meats and fresh radishes.

There were endless variations of aguas frescas and an array of sweet breads from churros to conachas.

The half moon shaped pastillito was soft, sweet, and delicious with a subtle milky flavor.

For dessert we enjoyed platanos fritos with sweet cream sauce. Hot and fresh, coated in sweet cream, it was the perfect bite.

For the road we grabbed a candied lime stuffed with shredded coconut. For $1 I had to know what this confection was. It is called fruita cubierta and there are many variations on this candied treat. Nibbling on this chewy candy I realized that this is what it would taste like if you could bite into a Sprite. It was sweet but still tasted fresh. I loved it and I will be coming back for more.

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You can visit Guelaguetza at

3014 W. Olympic Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90006

M-F 9am – 10pm. Sat 8am – 11pm.
Sun 8am – 10pm

* for more Los Angeles activities or restaurant recommendations please email me

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.

One Last Bite of Summer

I can’t believe summer is quickly coming to an end! I’m not ready for it to be over. Living in California, I have delicious strawberries readily available year round, but for most of the year they are not the same deep red, juicy little nuggets of nectar they are during the summertime. To capitalize on the sweetness of summer before it is too late, I spent a lovely Sunday at my favorite farmers market and of course bought not one sweet basket of red jewels, but a big three-pack of them; I just could not help myself. I had strawberries on pancakes, I had strawberries with cream, and I had strawberries in my salad. With a ton of delicious berries left I thought what better way to say au revoir to summer than with strawberry ice cream!

I recently got R an ice cream maker for his birthday. Being fanatic connoisseurs of everyone’s favorite frozen dessert I thought it only fitting that we be fully equipped to whip up our favorite treat in the comfort of our own kitchen. Once the machine was out of the box we jumped at the opportunity to make ice cream. Our first attempt was to make a coconut ice cream. We prudently followed each step of the recipe, but the end result of our efforts was an icy mess. Never ones to give up, we soon tried again and this time with strawberry. Step by step, we precisely cut and stirred and mixed each ingredient. Alas, our frozen dessert again was less that perfect. Our first strawberry ice cream was too icy and the strawberry pieces too big. Weary and defeated we took a break from our ice cream making endeavors. We researched the process of ice cream making, comparing recipe after recipe. We questioned why something seemingly so simple could go so awry.

This time we did it right. The step that we missed before was letting the mixture cool overnight in the fridge before placing it into the ice cream machine. From the ice cream maker we let our cold confection rest for a few hours in the freezer, and voila! It was ready.

The ice cream was creamy, firm, and sweet. It was perfection. One last bite of sweetness and the summer is over. Now I’m ready to celebrate the beginning of September and the coming of fall.
1 1/2 lbs. fresh ripe strawberries (washed, dried, stemmed, and quartered)
1 cup sugar
1 cup whipping cream
1 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Toss the strawberries with 1/4 cup sugar and let them macerate for 1 hour.
Then, put the strawberries and their juices into a food processor and puree.
In a medium bowl add the cream, milk, remaining sugar, and strawberry puree and blend.
Let the mix chill overnight in the refrigerator.
Pour the mix into an ice cream maker, add the lemon juice and process according to your machines instructions.
Makes 8-10 servings.

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***