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!

Picnic City

It seems that everyone in Los Angeles is packing a picnic this summer. There is a plethora of picnic friendly places and events popping up all over town. Los Angeles has become a venerable picnic city.

I used to only associate packing a picnic in the summertime with the Hollywood Bowl. Being a native Angeleno, when summer rolls around I have always frequented the Bowl. I love the novelty of packing up delectable treats for my friends and I to slowly savor at our seats while enjoying the performances and the sun setting overhead. This year I am venturing out and packing more picnics, but not just for the Hollywood Bowl.

Yesterday I enjoyed a perfect evening of indulgence at Barnsdall Park. Each Friday during the summer, Silverlake Wine holds a tasting. On this particular Friday, the place was packed. The wine was crisp and refreshing, the picnic perfection, and the sun sparkling off the Hollyhock House enchanting.


For my picnic at Barnsdall Park I made a roasted shrimp and orzo salad, a minty cucumber yogurt dip with crunchy pita chips and a fresh fruit salad. Packed carefully in my tote and spread across our little blanket we enjoyed a brilliant summer evening.

Roasted Shrimp and Orzo (serving for 3):

* recipe modified from Barefoot Contessa

  • Salt and freshly ground pepper (to taste)
  • Olive Oil
  • 1/2 pound of orzo pasta
  • 1/2 cups of fresh squeezed lemon juice (3 lemons)
  • 1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 cups minced scallions
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh dill
  • 1/2 cups chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 3 persian cucumbers, diced
  • 1/4 cup red onion, diced
  • small wedge of fresh feta, diced
Diced onion, dill, parsley, cucmbers and set aside. Mix lemon juice with a pince of salt pepper and a tablespoon of oliveoil.
Cook orzo in a pot of salted boiling water 9-11 minutes. While the orzo is cooking toss shrimp in EVOO, salt and pepper and place on a baking dish and roast for 5-6 minutes in the oven at 400 degrees.
When the orzo is cooked and strained pour lemon juice with EVOO over pasta. Toss the hot pasta with the roasted shrimp and the diced onion, dill, parsley and cucumbers. Allow the flavors combine for an hour. Salt and pepper the dish to taste. Add feta before serving.


For picnics at the Hollywood Bowl I usually turn to Joan’s on Third to do the work for me. The daily selection of fresh deli salads and entrees are always the ideal picnic food. My favorites are the lightly breaded chicken Milanese or the poached salmon topped with toybox tomatoes, garlic, and basil. I usually accompany an entrée with either Israeli couscous with mushrooms and parsley, crunchy sweet Szechwan green beans, or baby beets with goat cheese and walnuts. Any choice from Joan’s many salad offerings is always delicious. Also not to be missed is the selection of cupcakes, cookies, and bars. My favorites are the chocolate coconut cupcake and the strawberry cream puff – a light pillow of sweetness! Joan’s on Third is a one-stop shop for a perfectly packed picnic.





Where to go when you pack a picnic:

It’s Official I’m In Love With Summer!

I love summer. There is a carefree feeling that comes with summertime. Summer is an excuse to go to the beach because it is too hot in the city. Summer is a reason to eat one to many strawberries because they are in season. Summer is a time to enjoy warm nights under the stars. I love lazy summer afternoon naps. I love summer bbqs. I love heirloom tomatoes. I love summertime concerts. It is official I am in love with summer! Here is an abridged list of my summer loves. There are many more I could list but I’m not trying to write a book here. Enjoy!

Only in the summertime:

  • Nothing says summer like the Hollywood Bowl. I have already seen 2 shows so far and have 4 more on my roster. The open air, the stars, the LA Phil, a picnic and friends. There is no better way to enjoy the summer and to enjoy Los Angeles.
  • Only in summer can you enjoy an outdoor screening in a cemetery. Bring a blanket and get there early to enjoy a film under the stars Saturday nights at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.
  • Grab a book and leave the heat and the crowds- during the week that is. Weekdays escape to Huntington Gardens and relax under the shade of their beautiful trees or go north to Malibu and enjoy the crashing waves of El Matador state beach.
  • All summer long the W Hotel in Westwood is hosting Sunday Summer Cinemas at their poolside. Enjoy a movie along with gourmet snacks and cocktails from their restaurant The Backyard. First come first serve and it is free, so get there early and grab a comfy chaise lounge.
  • With summer comes Clementine’s Summer BBQ Fridays. The menu changes weekly, but always includes a variety of mouthwatering delights. Be sure to pair your BBQ selection of choice with their homemade ginger limeade it is not to be missed!

Summer Nights:

  • Enjoy the perfect calm of a Los Angeles summer night on the patio of Street for an eclectic and inspiring dinner.
  • Cool off with a Locali homemade snow cone (the store is open late til’ 11pm). Or if you can catch their Icycle (bicycle pedaled popsicle truck) then grab a gourmet flavored pop instead- I enjoyed the mojito and the strawberry lemonade.
  • If you want something cool but not too icy head over to Yogurtland in Little Tokyo. At this frozen yogurt shop you make it yourself. Choose your flavor or flavors however much you are so inclined to indulge in and top it with the array of treats from mochi to strawberries. There is plenty of seating outside so enjoy the warm night air with your cold summer treat.
  • Malo offers a $1 Taco Mondays. While not every taco on the menu is $1 they are pretty affordable and damn delicious. Gather a group of friends and enjoy their large patio seating for a fun Silverlake night.

Summer Libations:

  • Every Wednesday Silverlake Wine hosts a 3 glass wine tasting in the lobby of the Standard Downtown from 5pm-8pm. Come early and enjoy the sun poolside at the Standard’s rooftop or stay late for some after dark tunes on the roof.
  • Ciudad has a happy hour Mon-Fri 4-7pm in their bar. The best mojitos in town are only $4.50 with an equally affordable and tasty bar menu. Afterwards enjoy downtown- the MOCA is open until 8pm on Thursdays or there is the Downtown Art-walk the 2nd Thursday of every month. If you want to enjoy summer under the skyline of downtown Ciudad also offers a Mojito Dinner on the patio tonight (July 15th) 4 courses 4 cocktails.
  • For more cocktail fun try the Roosevelt’s Tropicana Bar. Sit on lush daybeds along the pool while sipping your cocktails. DJ’s spinning tunes nightly.
  • For summer the Edison Downtown has introduced summer inspired concoctions. Try their modernized Mai Tai or their Amelie the “classic champagne and strawberries”.
  • Obviously anytime of year is a good time of year for Tiki Ti’s but there is no time like summer to enjoy tropical refreshing drinks. If you can’t get away or before you get away, escape to your tropical destination of choice through one of their tropical cocktails.
  • My favorite summer libation of them all is sangria at the Do-Over. Every Sunday until Halloween there is a backyard style energetic party at Crane’s of Hollywood. Get there early and stay there late. Drink the hot summer day away while jumping to the beat of their guest DJ’s. And don’t bother with a glass of sangria go straight for the pitcher!

Let Them Eat Cake (or Too Many Fatties on the Dance Floor)

Last night I joined some friends at Spaceland in Silverlake for some free tunes. Enjoying an engaging night of new music, I didn’t think that while dancing along to the electric energy of Andy Clockwise I would find inspiration to post a blog about my favorite thing- cake. Sweaty, hot, and alive, Andy Clockwise belted a song called “Let Them Eat Cake.” One of the lines is ‘let them eat cake cause they all look famished…the fatties on the dance floor.’ I jumped, I swayed, I laughed and thought that this man on stage in front of me is brilliant because – let’s face it folks – we should all eat cake! So there it was blaring from the speakers and, having just made cupcakes for R’s birthday last weekend, I decided to share the simple and delicious recipe I used to make German chocolate layer cake cupcakes.

I love cake. Vanilla cake, chocolate cake, cake studded with nuts, cake with sweetened coconut flakes – you name it and I probably love it. I don’t believe cake should be reserved for birthdays and special occasions. However, this was a birthday and the cake of choice was German chocolate. This was my first attempt at making the oh-so-delectable coconut pecan frosting that sets this chocolate cake apart from the rest. Twenty minutes of a good arm workout and the base for the frosting was complete. It was all much easier than expected.




Cook the frosting on the stovetop, stirring constantly so that the egg yolks do not cook. Take the frosting off of the stove and mix in the shredded coconut and pecans and voila! The frosting cools and it is ready to assemble. I thought that layer cake cupcakes would be a nice change from the standard layer cake birthday cake. Having 24 delicious layered cupcakes made for a week of tasty fun.




In the words of Andy Clockwise, ‘we are all big fatties.’ So eat your cake!

Links:

http://www.marthastewart.com/recipe/german-chocolate-cupcakes

http://www.davidlebovitz.com/archives/2005/09/german_chocolat_1.html

German Chocolate Cupcakes

http://www.andyclockwise.net/


The Truck Stops Here…

… but the line didn’t. On Saturday night in Downtown Los Angeles with the sky preparing its change into night we attended Dwell on Design Night at the Movies at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA. For the event, Dwell magazine designed a roving food row in front of the museum. There were a few tall tables covered with white cloth facing the different food trucks in the open sun. Represented at the mobile food baazar were Let’s Be Frank (hot dogs), Barbie Q’s (bbq sandwiches and such), GreenTruck (organic healthy fare), Coolhaus (ice cream sammies), Sprinkles (cupcakes), and Icycle (gourmet popsicles).

With few options and long lines we ruminated over what to eat. For our pre-show dinner we opted for a pulled pork sandwich and a braised beef sandwich from Barbie Q’s. We accompanied this with herb-seasoned fries and a watermelon fresca from the GreenTruck. The sandwiches were basic but tasty, full of barbeque-y goodness on a french roll. The side dishes of cole slaw and baked beans were unappealing and lacking flavor, but with such a big sandwich we really didn’t need them. The fries were crisp, delightfully oily, and fragrant from the rosemary sprinkled on top. The watermelon fresca outshined the entrees. It was refreshing and lightly sweet. It had an almost-thick texture as if you were biting right into the watermelon through your straw. We finished our meal in time for the first screening – The Greening of Southie, a documentary on the construction of the first green building in Boston.

During our intermission we headed outside for a second go at the restaurant truck row, but this time for dessert. Already having been familiar with Sprinkles cupcakes I went straight for the cold stuff. I have read a lot lately about Coolhaus ice cream sandwiches and was eager to finally try one. Again there was a line. It seemed to be the theme of food truck night. Waiting patiently to order I had an opportunity to really study my ice cream and cookie pairing options. I decided on ginger cookies and strawberry ice cream, while R choose sugar cookies with cinnamon ice cream. The ice cream sandwich was so good I ate every last bite.  For the sake of research we decided to try the Icycle popsicles after our ice cream sandwich indulgence. Not quite a truck, Icycle is a guy on a bike attached to a little freezer riding around the lines of people. The no line factor of Icycle was a plus. We ordered the mojito flavor and the strawberry lemonade. Upon first glance I thought ‘why am I paying $2.25 for this small thing?’ but after one taste the reason it clear- they are amazing. Simple, flavorful, and perfect. This was the clear winner of the evening. I was now content and ready for the second screening- a documentary about the architectural photography of Julius Shulman.

All in all, it was a wonderful summer night. Only a few trucks stopped by, but they were enough to design a tasty and entertaining evening.

Mint- A Fresh Look at Summer!

So it may seem that June gloom is finally over in what used to be sunny California. This month has been nothing but gray skies so far, so when the sun finally showed it’s warm beautiful face yesterday, it began to feel like summer. Dressed in shorts with all the windows open, I wanted something fresh and light to eat. I decided that I was feeling minty! With my star ingredient in line, I thought up the perfect summer dish to cook- Ina Garten’s Chicken Tabbouleh. I often turn to one of my three Ina Garten cookbooks when I need a recipe. She is my go to, always satisfying and delicious guide. The recipe was quick and simple to prepare, with only a few ingredients and of course a hint of mint!

You can prepare your chicken breasts by baking them in the oven or – even better – by grilling them. Some diced persian cucumbers, a squeeze of lemon, a handful of fragrant parsley, some juicy cherry tomatoes, and hot diced chicken breasts all mixed together with perfectly al dente tabbouleh… Presto! Magico! Dinner/and or lunch is served! Pair it with refreshing homemade mint lemonade to tie everything together and you have a fresh and easy summer meal.

I made two versions of mint lemonade- lemonade with chopped fresh mint and Israeli mint lemonade, which is fresh lemonade blended with mint and ice. My minty chicken tabbouleh and lemonade combo was a satisfying summer meal. Don’t skimp on the mint!




INGREDIENTS

  1. 1 cup medium-grade bulgur (6 ounces)
  2. 1 1/2 cups boiling water
  3. 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  4. Kosher salt
  5. 2 chicken breast hal
    ves on the bone (about 1/2 pound each)
  6. 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  7. Freshly ground pepper
  8. 1 cup finely chopped scallions (1 bunch)
  9. 2/3 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley (1 bunch)
  10. 2/3 cup finely chopped mint (1 bunch)
  11. 1 European seedless cucumber, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/3 -inch dice
  12. 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved lengthwise

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a large heatproof bowl, combine the bulgur with the boiling water, lemon juice and 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt and let stand until the water has been absorbed and the grains are tender, about 1 hour.
  2. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°. Set the chicken breasts on a baking sheet. Rub them with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for about 40 minutes, or until just cooked through. Let the chicken cool slightly, then discard the skin and remove the meat from the bones. Cut the chicken into 3/4 -inch chunks.
  3. Add the scallions, parsley, mint, lemon juice and the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil to the bulgur and let stand for 15 minutes. Add the chicken, cucumber and tomatoes, season with salt and pepper and toss well. Transfer the tabbouleh to a bowl or platter and serve at room temperature or chilled.













Holy Grace!

Doughnut tasting night at Grace… Yes, I said doughnut tasting. Three delicious courses all consisting of donuts.A total of five glorious fried carb confections in one sitting… holy Grace!

R and I went to Grace on Saturday, a day after National Doughnut day but just as special. This was my first visit to Grace and what better way to experience this famed LA spot than through its desserts. There is a wine pairing option with the doughnuts, but we opted for coffee instead – keeping it traditional with the ol’ coffee and doughnuts pair.

Course 1: Salted Caramel Doughnuts with Bourbon Pecan Ice Cream

After the first bite of this gooey salty sweet treat I had to pause. Or rather, I took a moment of silence. I was wide eyed, sugar crazed, and happy, just happy. It was heavenly. Caramel glazed over a hot doughy mouthful studded with salt crystals. Everything about this salty sweet confection was perfect. How could two more courses even compare?

Course 2: Pistachio Chocolate Buttermilk Doughnut with Marble Ice Cream and Dried Cherries

As I feared, Grace got a good start out of the pastry kitchen but quickly lost steam with course two.The chocolate buttermilk doughnut was covered in sugar and oozed a pistachio filling. It sat atop chocolate ice cream and dried cherries. The doughnut itself was thick and moist but drowned in the overpowering pistachio filling. When I happened upon a dried cherry every few bites my mouth was confused. “What are you doing here cherry? You are not helping this situation. Where is that caramel doughnut? I want that one again! Valiant effort Mr. Pistachio Chocolate Buttermilk but you are not quite as good as your predecessor.”

Course 3: Buttermilk Brown Butter Glazed Doughnuts with Warm Rum Spiced Milk


Now the buttermilk brown butter was delicious, but the warm rum spiced milk? After a twirl with my spoon and a teensy taste on the tongue I did not proceed any further with the rum spiced milk. I didn’t know whether to drink it or dip it, but it’s slimy slick texture was so unappealing I didn’t want to do either. The buttermilk brown butter was like a traditional glazed doughnut with a hint of sophistication.  However, I think I only enjoyed it so much because of its resemblance to the salted caramel in course one.

Overall the tasting menu was good, especially with a strong and memorable first course: the salted caramel doughnut. I think I will dream about that doughnut, it was so divine. In the end the doughnut tasting menu was a one trick pony but man, was that one good trick!

Special Occasion Dinner… Animal!

Day 4: (actual birthday)

Did someone say hominy? Or more accurately crispy hominy with lime. Animal had me after reading just the second starter on the menu. I mean how many places are there where one can find hominy these days? Now that I think about it, the last time I had hominy other than in a rare serving of pasole to cure a hangover, was at my childhood daycare center. I know it may sound strange that at a daycare I ate hominy but for some reason the cooks at the childrens center often created dishes I would not have found at home or else where. They made grits with cheese, chicken chalupas, and my favorite the a simple steamed hominy. Many a night I have dreamt of that fluffy sweet corn like taste.
The menu was mouthwatering. R and I ordered:
the crispy hominy with lime
lettuces with sumac vinaigrette, beets, avocado and feta pita
pork belly with kimchi, peanuts, chili soy and scallions
branzino with artichokes, leeks, potato and green garlic as our entree
… and the housemade pound cake with strawberries and cream for desert (you gotta have at least a version of cake on your birthday right!)
The hominy was devilishly simple and perfect. Lightly battered and seasoned with salt and pepper, squeeze a little lime on top and next thing you know all the hominy is gone and you are left wanting more. The pork belly was like butter. The vibrant kimchi and peanut sauce accentuated each crispy buttery bite. Even the lettuces were more than your average salad. The light sumac dressing allowed the lettuces and the beets to speak for themselves. A sprinkling of feta and a crumble of pita chips only made each bit brilliant. That was just the start and the entree proved to be just as fantastic. The branzino was crunchy, flaky and light.
The space is small, modern, and acoustically sound. Dim lighting, dark wood tables and bare light bulbs on the wall, the restaurant was as aesthetically pleasing as the food. We sipped the Hollis pinot noir, reflected on the splendor that was our meal, gazed lovingly into each others eyes and anticipated desert. We opted for the housemade poundcake with fresh strawberries and whipped cream. While the bacon chocolate crunch bar was tempting I thought it might be a bit too much after such a full meal. The poundcake was light and moist and the strawberries ripe. The perfect end to a perfect meal that culminated the perfect birthday weekend!

Corn dogs, churros, pineapple ice cream…Disneyland!

Day 3: (1 more day until my actual birthday!)

Part three of this birthday extravaganza was enjoyed at Disneyland. The rides were fun, especially when you are with the one you love. The weather was perfect. But honestly the best part was the amusement park food! Seriously have you ever had a corn dog at Disneyland, it is probably the best corn dog on earth. It has got a real bite to it and no mere thin layer of corn dog batter, no this precious creation must have been battered and fried at least three times. Yum! Later we enjoyed a pineapple whip from the Tiki Room, not to be overlooked. And we ended our magical visit with a sweet and crunchy churro. Food, fun and love seem to be my running birthday theme, espcially the food part.

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…