7.30.2009

Mel's Bridal Shower!

I hosted my second bridal shower on Sunday, for my dear, dear friend Melanie. She's joining the ranks of the officially taken on 8/23, and apparently thought I was up to the challenge of impressing the various women in her life with my hostessing skills. I'm not sure who she thinks she's been hanging out with all these years...but I did my bestest (with much help from my bestest lady, Krysta and the amazingly patient Mr. David) and I think we actually pulled it off!

Lovely flowers from the Flower Mart, arranged by Krysta

A bit of the spread: hummus with whole grain pita bread; heart-shaped lemon sandwich cookies; heart shaped chocolate cups (I loved Surfas so very much this weekend) filled with caramel mousse; one of the TWO vanilla and strawberry marshmallow trees, with caramel and fudge dipping sauces (I cheated and bought them at Whole Foods. I was in crisis, people.)

Cheddar and Parmesan Cheese Crisps, though they really ended up being more like Cheese Chews; Turkey, for those protein crazies out there

White bean and Shiitake Mushroom crostinis. I didn't cut the bread thinly enough. Again, crisis. It was 2:50 and guests were due to arrive at 3. A Note: the Shiitake Ragout makes pretty much nothing. It's delicious but best served at a small dinner party unless you want to buy about 10 pounds of mushrooms...


The Perfect Chocolate Cake. In theory, anyway. I'm so thankful this isn't a detailed shot. This cake gave me more of a headache than anything else I made all weekend. I broke two of the first layers I made clear in half and had to start over. Then the frosting was a failure, but I'd run out of butter and couldn't start over. Disaster. However, Melanie made a point of leaving me a message just yesterday telling me that they were just talking about how delicious it was, so I guess it worked out. Again, I need to work on aesthetics big time. Maybe my baby sister will give me some lessons. Thank God for those flowers...

A closer look at one of the Marshmallows Trees! I have to admit that the idea was not mine--the brilliant Sherry Yard mentions it in her fabulous cookbook, and I pilfered it. It took a lot more doing than I expected, in terms of gathering the supplies. D found the branches online after searching for some time...the vases and stones are from Michael's, as was the foam in which the branches were 'planted.' Next time there will be more rocks, but otherwise I was really pleased with them.

Favors from Paulette's-Madagascar Vanilla and Violet Cassis flavored macarons
(delicious AND their wedding colors-kismet!)

The blushing bride-to-be flanked by friends

7.10.2009

Dinner with BHPCers

There was a time not too long ago when I would look forward to going to church every Sunday. If you know me even a little, that may come as an overwhelming shock. I can't even believe I am typing it.

Thing is, at my church gig (yes, I get paid to go to church. Get over it.) at Beverly Hills Presbyterian Church, there came a time when there were a whole bunch of fabulous, fun, like-minded young folks that enjoyed hanging out together and generally just made the experiencing of hearing about Jesus that much more enjoyable.

As it goes far too often, life went on. Organist Steven and Lovely Lawyer Elizabeth got hitched. Curly Haired Composer Coreen moved to Miami and fell in love (and then moved back). Spectacular Mezzo Nichol made plans to move to San Diego and got preggers. And so it was that Tenor Marc and I were left, bored to tears and frustrated with Sundays once again.

Anyhoo...sorry for the awful lot of intro! I decided I missed all those wonderful friends and that I wanted to have one big dinner while we all still lived in relatively close proximity. So, we settled on a date and I got to work on a menu. I stuck to some old standards--tabouli, spanakopita, hummus, grilled chicken and tilapia--but I was inspired to try something new for dessert. Fruit-based seemed the way to go along with this lighter fare. 'Tis the season for strawberries, and I came across the perfect recipe in the Boston Globe. I had never made an upside down cake, but I discovered it really was a piece of cake! It didn't look as perfect as their version, but honestly, I'm still working on my aesthetics in cooking. Isn't it enough that it tastes good?

The recipe recommends serving the cake with whipped cream (and ok, so I did), but I wanted to do something more. I recalled a fabulous ice cream I had a long time ago by Dr. Bob and strove to find something similar online. The Sour Cream Brown Sugar Ice Cream recipe I found on DesertCandy's blog was seriously the easiest ice cream recipe I have ever made (no custard step!) and the perfect tart complement to the sweet, sweet strawberry cake.

It was a fabulous night with some of my favorite people, and I have to say a very successful culinary night for me! I feel so lucky that I have so many wonderful and appreciative people with whom I can share my cooking. It just means I'll keep doing it!

Cheers,
Em

6.10.2009

Candy Break!

Here's to you, Hershey's, for creating the perfect candy bar. No, no, not the Peanut Butter Cup. Not Reeses Pieces, either. No, in my estimation, when they created the Take Five candy bar, they got it very, very right.
How best to capture the equally sweet and salty perfection of this spectacular candy in an Emily original concoction? I'm thinking cookies, or bars. Or cake balls?

6.09.2009

Shoring Up at Reservoir

Does that title even make sense? I'm grasping at straws here. I'm referring to another lovely dinner I had with an old LL coworker, this time at Reservoir in Silverlake. Slowly but surely I'm working through the ols list o' restaurants that's been accumulating in my work browser Bookmarks...

I met Miss Elisa at her enviable home overlooking the city under the pretense of picking up my copy of her awesome new book. She suggested we walk down the hill to the restaurant--I was a little reticent, knowing the narrow streets and frequent twists in the road would be dangerous for pedestrians with all those Priae (plural of Prius, silly. Keep up.) that live in Silverlake, but was more reticent about valet and so agreed. I quickly realized that we would actually be using a couple of the amazing hidden stairways that dot the city. Using this book D and I have discovered a bunch, but these were new. We wound down, past gated backyard paradises and a home that looked like it was owned by the Laker's biggest fan (Think lots of bright yellow, with purple trim. Yeah.) and quickly arrived at the restaurant. Once I got my bearings, I realized we were right across from 
Spaceland. Next time we'll make a night of it! 

Let's to the food now, shall we?

Fried tetilla cheese with prosciutto and caramelized onions, served with slices of toasted bread. Like a grown-up's dream mozzarella stick, this app was a rich, sodium-arific party in my mouth. 

The entrees are each listed individually, and you get to choose your own side from a listing of "set-ups"--all vegetarian, all super yummy sounding. Basically, you can't go wrong.
I had decided before dinner that I would get the tofu for my entree. How boring!  I changed my mind and went for the Grill Salmon. She did not disappoint! My choice of setup, the parmesan polenta with balsamic roasted cipollini onions, fresh English peas and sauteed chanterelles, offset the tender fish beautifully. 
It was a bit salty, but then, I like salt. 

"I don't remember the rule about shellfish," Elisa proclaimed before happily ordering, and subsequently loving, the scallops, with roasted potato gratin, fava bean and beluga lentil hash. 

The appetizer was scrumptious, our dinners lovely...how could we say no to dessert? Can I just say that it's so nice hanging out with pregnant ladies, because they are always down for dessert. Our waitress listed off a slew of tempting sweets, but I couldn't get my mind away from the very first one--the chocolate plate. "It's really MEANT for two people," she warned (promised?) us. What did it consist of? Two pieces of bark--milk chocolate toffee and white chocolate peppermint; a mini molten chocolate cake; a small mug of spicy hot chocolate; anise pot de creme (which was truly spectacular!); and rounded off with some macerated strawberries and a dish of--wait for it--Guinness ice cream. Boys and girls, beer and ice cream really DO belong together! And here I was doubting Jonathan Gold salivating about it on Good Food-how could I??

Just looking at the plate when she brought it out was gratifying enough. 

Eating it was even better.

Going...

going...

gone.

Sugar high and happy, we headed out. The bill was reasonable considering the appetizer and dessert. Be forewarned if you want to drink more than soda, though--unlike Barbrix, glasses of wine here often run around $12.

We took the same set of stairs back to Elisa's, only now our way was lit only by the light of the moon.
It was a little spooky, but mostly just purdy. We were too full to run from any 
vagabonds that we may have run into, so I guess we're just lucky they left us alone!

Cheers! 
Em

5.31.2009

Home-Grown Veggies

Jalapeno, spicy hybrid and chili pepper, and cherry tomatoes--all grown by David!

Coming soon--key limes, corn and spaghetti squash! 

5.25.2009

Word on the STREET

OK, maybe a few words. Or even better, pictures! I went to Street with my lovely friend Kimberly nearly two months ago, and am ridiculously just now getting around to actually posting about it. Don't take that the wrong way--it was great!! Anyway, as mentioned, Street opened in the location of the defunct Dive on Highland, and they've really spiffied the place up! We went during its opening week, and even four days in, on a Thursday night, the place was hopping. With Mozza just a stone's throw away across Highland, that block is really becoming a foodie's haven! Now on to dinner...

Street Menu. The aesthetics of Street are reminiscent of Border Grill and Ciudad--bright
colors and bold patterns, very modern. Love it.


Complimentary Rice Puffs with Indian Spices. This is basically their version of chips and salsa. They were a little sweet, a little savory, a lot cumin-y. Personally not my fave, but it goes with the street food vibe of the restaurant so I'll go with it. What about samosas, though? Good idea, right? Maybe I'll send them a letter about it.


White Wine, served in neat and unique individual serving bottles. The drinks here were bountiful, tasty and pricey. Ain't none of that 2 Buck Chuck 'round these parts.

Turkish Zucchini Spinach cakes-made with puff pastry, a roasted red pepper sauce and a dash of yum. One of those super comforting, simple dishes that anyone would love.

Paani Puri-a combination of potato, chutney and sprouted beans, served with
yogurt cilantro water. This was unexpectedly served cold (on purpose)
and was a bit eh overall. More cumin action happening here.

Kaya Toast. This was quite possibly one of the most delicious and weirdest things I've ever tried.
Basically, it is fried egg covered in soy sauce, served with a sort of grilled cheese.
Only, instead of cheese in between the slices of bread it is coconut jam.
You dip the bread into the egg, and experience nirvana, I'm pretty sure.
This dish is purportedly good for hangovers, but I would happily eat it,
drunk or sober, any day of my life. Seriously.

Kimberly and coworker (now former-two months is a long time. Oops.) He was super fun and on the off chance he EVER sees this, I'm sorry for not remembering your name! You were a neat dude. They're both gearing up to go see Mr. Belding do an art show opening. LA is pretty awesome/random basically all the time.

Our meal was great but not cheap. We spent about $70 each--that includes drinks and sharing several dishes. This is a fun, lively place to check out with friends. This summer would be a great time to go, too-they have a nice-sized patio area for dining as well as the inside room and bar. I'm considering dragging D there on a Thursday night, when they have jazz! There is still so much on the menu that I didn't get to try with KG...

If you're interested to read a little more about the inspiration for Street, Zagat.com had a neat little interview with Susan Feniger that you can read
here.

Talk to you soon, loves!

Cheers,
Em

5.23.2009

Raising the Bar at Barbrix

David started compiling a list of things-attractions, museums, restaurants, etc-that we have yet to check out in LA and beyond. I've been (I'd like to think) extremely helpful in piling on the restaurants as I read about them on DailyCandy, Thrillist, Diglounge or any of the other email box fillers to which I subscribe. D may disagree on that point...

So, last Sunday was our 2.5 year anniversary. It may seem silly to some, but we always like to acknowledge little milestones like that. Just wait for Emily & David season! (That's from Halloween through mid-December, in case you were wondering. Gifts and/or parties not required but always welcome.) We thought it would be fun to go somewhere a little more special than the norm for dinner, and went to our ever-growing list for an idea. One of the newest additions is actually one of LA's newest restaurants--Barbrix opened on May 11th. It's so rare for me to actually go to one of these places so soon after their opening, I'm tempted to pat myself on the back...however, I should disclose that I know one of the owners, Adria Tennor. A ringing endorsement from our mutual friend Elizabeth was the extra push I needed to get over there asap.

Barbrix adds to the growing number of restaurants in LA specializing in small plates--basically Americanized tapas. This allows the diner a chance to try out many different things on the menu for the same (or less) cost as just getting one full-portioned entree. As a person who likes to experience many different flavors in one meal, I LOVE places like this.

The menu is a good size, with a lot of option for those of the carniverous persuasion (more MEAT-meat than poultry), as well as flexitarians like us. Here is a little synopsis of the menu items we opted for:

Burrata with artichokes alla romana- Ice cream cheese, as D calls it, is most always delicious. Soft and subtle, with a tiny bit of stretch texturally, I personally think it could the secret to world peace. Marinated artichokes are a close second, so the pairing was pretty much a match made in heaven. It was drizzled with a scant olive tapenade that could have been more of a presence on the dish.

Three cheese plate: rocchetta (Piemonte, Italy-sheep, cow & goat’s milk); Bermuda triangle (Cyprus Grove Chevre, CA-bloomy rind goat’s milk); quickes farmhouse cheddar (Sommerset, England-calico-wrapped cow’s milk)
Perhaps restaurants such as this already expect us to know the difference between a goat’s milk and a sheep’s milk cheese, and that if we order the bleu, we know it’s SUPPOSED to be a little moldy and stinky. However, as we just pretend to know what we’re doing a lot of the time, I would love if they gave suggested cheese combinations, so you can be sure you’re getting a good variety of flavors and textures. I think we did a pretty decent job flying blind, though. The Rocchetta was one of those stinky cheeses and my least favorite. The cheddar was softer than expected but had a round, assertive and mildly sharp taste. The Bermuda Triangle was my fave. It was neat-looking, like triangle-shaped brie with a varied interior color palette, and was creamy and delicious. To me it tasted like a combination of brie and goat cheese. I was tempted to snag the whole log of it that was sitting on the bar. With the cheeses was served some quince and roasted almonds, along with slices of baguette. The sides were great complements with all the cheeses.

Turkish Chopped Salad-To me, this tasted a lot like my tabouli, minus the bulgar wheat and feta. It was really fresh and tasty-the lemon/garlic vinaigrette was perfect. Plus, Mister and Miss Picky ate their respective dreaded cucumbers and tomatoes with nary a whimper. So proud of us.

­Crispy Grilled Polenta- I think it’s pretty much impossible to screw up polenta with creamy mushroom sauce. It’s just a lot of goodness on a plate, you know? I did feel that this one could use a little bit of a kick in the sauce, though, a bit more spice or salt. Cream is delicious but can get bland…

­Farmer’s Plate- I had no idea what a ramp was, and for some reason was envisioning it to be some sort of small fish, like an anchovy. Turns out it’s more like a green onion in looks and texture, and tastes mighty nice pickled. But then, anything pickled is all right in my book. Beets were unadorned but good. There was a third veggie on there, grilled, whose name escapes me-the texture was reminiscent of fennel, the taste that of a bitter brussel sprout. I liked-the boy did not.

We were enjoying our meal (ahem *wine*) so much that we apparently completely missed the earthquake. To our credit, no one else seemed to notice, either. I guess the place was rockin' enough already!  Less than a week old, and it was completely jam packed. I'm glad I made a reservation!

Speaking of wine, we each had a couple glasses of red. For the first round, David opted for the Ca’de Calle ’07 (Argentina) and I had the Babich, Lasin & Pavina, “Riserva,” Alan Bibich ’06 (Croatia). I felt the Babich was a bit too tame--almost watered down--so on the second round I joined D for a Ca'de Calle. It was a richer red, with some faint buttery notes. Mmm. Both wines were $6 a glass, an extremely reasonable price. The prices of glasses ranged from $6-$9 for the most part.

As soon as I saw Adria’s favorite ginger shortcakes, with berry compote and whipped cream on the menu I knew we would have to have dessert. Another good thing about these small plate places--it takes more to stuff yourself, so you(ok, I) usually have room for dessert. This one stayed on par with the rest of our meal-the shortbread wasn't too sweet, with a nice touch of ginger, and the berries retained much of their tartness. It was pretty perfect in its simplicity. I'm now determined to recreate something similar at home, but I'm thinking peaches instead of berries. Don't doubt me, I have all the ingredients! 

All in all, our experience at Barbrix was a very positive one. Aside from a couple of snags that are destined to come with growing pains (they forgot to bring us two of our dishes for quite some time) we had a really great meal and got an early look at what promises to be one of LA's most popular new hip spots. Do go check it out-the menu varies from week to week, so you may not see all the things we had, but I am betting you'll find something you love.

2 Dozen Roses for 2.5 awesome years

Cheers,
Em

5.20.2009

Monkeying Around

Wow, I am all about the punning in my Titles, eh? Hey, I have never claimed to be a pithy wordsmith...my talents lie very much in the land of the long-winded.

Last night we got to attend a free screening at Landmark offered to KCRW members (so glad I joined for many reasons!) with a bunch of like-minded public radio listeners. They screened "Away We Go," a really funny, sweet film about a couple expecting a baby and their journey to find the ideal family home. I haven't seen "North" but I imagine it to be sort of similar to that, except with sex. And
pregnancy. And humor.

Post-movie, I was inspired by Maya Rudolph's great performance...and started craving sweets. OK, so I was craving Reeses Pieces before the movie even started. But, really, what self respecting theatre doesn't sell Reeses Pieces??

And no, I'm not pregnant. 

Anyhoo. I turned down every place David offered to take me for dessert on our way home. We were almost at our door when I remembered Umami Burger, a fantabulous burger place right around the corner from our house. It deserves and will get its own post, but the reason we went there was because they offer dessert goodies from both Cake Monkey and Milk (another delightful post-worthy spot). I've been wanting to check out CM for a couple years and after seeing that we could get them at Umami, and reading this, we finally got to try a couple creations last night.
The wrapping left a little to be desired--but I guess it gives me hope that such a simple design wouldn't deter LA hipsters (and me) from digging in

We had our choice of three treats: Yo-Hos, Raspberry Red Velvet Cakewich and Peanut Butter & Marshmallow Cakewich. The PB&M was the obvious choice, especially with my Reese's craving. Against my better judgment, I agreed to also get the RRV. Trust your instincts, people...I was not a fan. It had a sort of medicinal/cleaning products flavor. Could just be me. D thought it was all right.

I'll just stick with the PB&M, thankyouverymuch. Oh Lord. A dark chocolate shell covered the layers of fluffy vanilla cake, creamy peanut butter frosting and marshmallow. The innards would probably be cloyingly sweet on their own, but
 coupling it with the richer chocolate coating sold me. Have I mentioned how much I love our neighborhood and all the walking distance deliciousness that surrounds us?
Sorry for the artlessness of this pic-they tasted way better than I am making them look.

Let's talk again soon, hmmmm?

Cheers,

Em

5.18.2009

My current snack addiction

Forget all those other superfruits...I am hooked on mangosteen! Imagine a very mild berry taste, with the occasional crunch of an almond (the fruit's seed).

(image borrowed from http://www.cbgarden.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/image/mangosteen.jpg)


Who knew freeze-dried tropical fruit could take such a hold? I just polished off a bag from Trader Joe's in about five minutes. All I know is, if Pink(crack)berry starts offering it as a topping, I am in serious trouble.


Now, where can I find some of this stuff FRESH? My mouth's feeling a little chalky...



5.06.2009

K-Tacos, Late Night Style

Lizzy, my favorite li'l sis, has been bugging me about updating this. She's not even a follower (ahem!) so I don't know how she knows I haven't updated. Hm.

It's not just L's exhortations that got me back on here today. I've missed you, m'dearies! Life has been crazy of late, and honestly doesn't seem to be letting up, but I have been baking and eating a lot and know you're all dying to know the deets! So. Today I want to tell you a little story about the Kogi Taco Truck.

I first discovered Kogi's existence a couple months ago at the authenticity of food lecture. As mentioned in the original blog, this was an event brought to fruition by the Zocalo lecture series. (I mention this mostly because I didn't supply the link last time, which was totally my bad.) As threatened, I did join Twitter just to follow the truck--I was just so amazed at this living, breathing example of viral advertising! Blame my time at LL for that. However, we hadn't actually made the leap to trying the increasingly infamous tacos. I'm an old woman, people. I need to go to bed at 10PM!

Finally, though, we decided to take the plunge. I was in SoPas for a production of Faust (which was very good-you should check it out!) on Saturday and on a whim decided to see where the Kogi truck was going to be that night. Lo and behold, this was posted:

ROJA: 1PM-3PM@The Brig - Abbot Kinney and Palm in Venice;6PM-9PM@Buena Park - tbd;10:30PM-1AM@Eagle Rock - 4372 Eagle Rock Blvd.

Roja is one of their two trucks; the other is Verde. I wondered briefly if one was superior to the other, but whatevs! Eagle Rock...just a few miles from the opera! I ordered David to eat lightly so we would be in top form.

We arrived at about 10:40--found a parking spot just around the corner--walked up the hill--

and waited.

There were around 25 people in front of us in line. It was a pretty young crowd, I'm guessing mostly Occidental College peeps and maybe some adventurous fellow Trojans. There was a smattering of older folks too, which kind of perplexed as the night went on.

Still waiting.

The line continued to grow after we arrived--it was probably about a block long. Compared to the crowds at Pink's, this was child's play. Except the line wasn't moving.

Honey, it did say 10:30, right?

You get the picture. Finally, around 11:15 or so, we moved up about two feet. And so on. Those smart (?) enough to get to the truck uber early began to walk by (smugly, imho) with their tightly aluminum wrapped containers-no one was eager to risk their hard-earned nosh getting chilled by the cool night air.

Eventually we reached the front of the truck, and were actually able to view the menu. They offered four fillings for tacos or burritos: short ribs, pork, chicken and tofu. Each taco is a recession friendly $2. We opted for three each of the chicken and tofu. After about a second of arm twisting, I also convinced D to go in for the Chef's special of the night, a Chocolate Brownie with spicy peanuts. Dinner for less than $20 is always welcome!

Oh, what time was it? Yeah...12:30. Ish.

So, was the food worth it? Let's begin with dessert, since it's what we ate first: The brownie was extremely fudgey and decent, but pretty lacking in the spice department--a little disappointing considering it was the Chef's special. The chicken and tofu tacos were both tasty. According to the Kogi site, "All our tacos are topped with: sesame-chili salsa roja; julienne romaine lettuce and cabbage tossed in Korean chili-soy vinaigrette; cilantro-green onion-lime relish; crushed sesame seeds; sea salt; and garnished with lime wedge, orange wedge and red radish wedge." It's a long list, but everything on there is minimal and makes for a really delicious, flavorful blend. The chicken was nicely grilled but again a little lacking in spice. The tofu was better, a bit spicier (maybe because it's more of a blank slate than chicken?) but too soft. I think my main complaint is that I wish they used firm tofu rather than silken.

Honestly, there are VERY few things in this world I believe are worth waiting around for two hours in the chilly night air on a street corner in LA. I don't regret checking this out, though. I'm happy we went, and would like to go again...but I think next time maybe we'll check out an earlier stop closer to home. If you have some time one night, I would recommend you check it out too! You've been warned.

So sorry I didn't take pics of our experience, but the ones on the Kogi website are better than any my camera would take anyway. :) As I said at the beginning, I have been keeping busy with (mostly) baking projects, and will post some pics for your gandering pleasure.

Back to work I go! I'll be back soon, I promise (my fingers may or may not be crossed as I type this).

Cheers,

Em

3.29.2009

Happy Sunday

What is she, joking? Happy SUNDAY? But it's a school night...

Boys and girls, it's just been a good day! What can I say...woke up early and went for a nice power walk through the morning mist, then enjoyed some Almond
Amaretto waffles (ok, one waffle) with one of David's new fave kitchen toys.

Spent most of the Jesus part of the morning daydreaming about what kinds of goodies I'm going to make for Easter. (Hey, that's religious, right?) I'm thinking of giving Pete's a run for their money and making my own magical chocolate dipped marshmallows. 

All that sweet thinking made me want to get a little down and dirty when I got home. In the KITCHEN...jeez, minds out of gutter, please. We'd talked about making some of Dad's spaghetti sauce for a treat post-soccer game (D's, not mine--are you kidding?), but I felt like something a little more labor intensive too. I decided to pull out Dad's trusty Cardamom Bread recipe. Don't listen to those Atkins diet crazies, carbs rule.

Father May's Cardamom Bread
(makes two loaves)
Melt two tblsp butter slowly in a saucepan and turn burner off. Add one cup of milk to pan. Pour mixture into large bowl and add two eggs, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 1/2 tsp salt, two packages of active dry yeast, one tsp crushed cardamom and one cup flour. Mix for two minutes with a wooden spoon. Gradually add 3.5 to 4 more cups of flour (the variation is dependent on how moist the dough appears to you). Dough will be sticky but not dry.
Place dough on a floured board or counter and knead by hand for five to ten minutes, really stretching and mixing the dough well. Have a greased bowl (use shortening or Baking Pam) ready. The bowl should be large enough to allow dough to double in size. Place the dough in the bowl and cover with plastic wrap so it does not dry out. Put bowl inside unheated oven for about an hour.
After an hour, remove dough from bowl, punch down and divide in half. Set one half aside. Take the other half, divide into three pieces and braid. You can also form the loaf without braiding. Repeat with the remaining half of the dough and place each loaf on a greased cookie sheet.
Brush/sprinkle the tops of the loaves with milk. The dough will be springy and soft, so handle with care. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar over the loaves. Cover loosely with
plastic wrap (I always just save the plastic wrap from the bowl) and place in a warm spot for 45 minutes (not the oven).
Set oven to 350 degrees. Once heated, bake loaves for approximately 30-35 minutes. If done, they will sound hollow when you tap them. Place on a rack to cool before wrapping. Or inhaling, as we tend to do.

I'm still perfecting my bread making skillZ but this loaves are looking pretty nice, don't you think? They took longer to bake than expected, which in my opinion is better than shorter. I have a feeling it has to do with my kickass new cookie sheet.
Just measure before you order. Lucky for us it is EXACTLY the right width for our little antique oven.

Oh, and here's a shot of the sauce for good measure. I'll share that recipe with
you someday, maybe, but today is not that day. Trust me, it's worth the wait.

Well, off to my afternoon nap. Hey, where do you think I get all this energy?

Cheers,
Em

3.26.2009

Nailed It!

Last year, I wrote a post about the demise of the Dive. A very sad thing--that place had the greatest black bean burgers I've ever had the pleasure of scarfing.

BUT my prediction finally came to pass. Check out today's Thrillist. I can't wait to check it out and thank them for following through.

I'm considering my future in fortune telling. Thoughts? Oh wait, I already know...you're right, it IS an amazing idea!

Kisses! More soon, I promise. Easter baking, anyone?

3.16.2009

"Lemon Tree, very pretty, and the lemon flower is sweet...

...but the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat!" -Peter, Paul & Mary, "Lemon Tree"


PP&M must have had some sour run-ins with citrus fruits, (pun intended...) but I don't have enough good things to say about OUR lemon tree, planted handily years ago by people with the foresight to know someday David and I would be able to use it. For good, not evil, in case you were wondering.

So. Last Friday night (I'm a little behind here) we had a dinner party at the house with a couple of my coworkers and their hubbies. I decided on a Mediterranean theme because 1) a few of my fave recipes are some type of Mediterranean; 2)there are a lot of vegetarian options for Michelle; and 3) it would give us a bunch of opportunities to use our lemons!


I made my mom's tabouli salad, complete with cherry tomatoes from one of D's tomato bushes and fresh lemon juice ze aforementioned tree. Mr. David made some lovely roasted veggies, as well as my mom's hummus (again with lemon juice-those suckers were juicy). Mom's hummus is that against which I judge all others (other hummi?) so watch out before you serve me some mashed chickpeas and tahini, know what I'm sayin'?
My challenge in this meal was coming up with a dessert. I would have loved to try my hand at baklava, but didn't feel like figuring out a vegan alternative for phyllo dough. Plus, those lemons...I decided to make a simple lemon sandwich cookie, vegan style. Why sandwich cookies? I just think they are fun to make-for all ages!-AND pretty to look at.

Trolling around online, I found a surprisingly simple-looking Martha Stewart lemon cookie recipe. It didn't take much to turn it vegan (or as close as I know how--I cannot figure out whether confectioner's sugar is vegan! I've read that Whole Foods brand sugars are, but then when we went, there was one container of granulated in the 365 brand that was specifically marked "Vegan Sugar." Michelle, when you read this can you enlighten me?)

The cookies call for zest in both the cookie (essentially a butter cookie) and filling (cream cheese). I love the smell and taste that zest lends to dishes, but upon completion I felt like there was not enough of a lemon PUNCH in the taste. So, I squeezed some of that lovely fresh lemon juice into a bowl of more confectioner's sugar and made an icing. I drizzled it over the cookies and threw them in the fridge to harden a little before serving.

I used a small flower-shaped cookie cutter for these. I find that bite-sized sandwich cookies are the perfect size--and then you don't feel guilty about taking seconds (and thirds)! Also, you'll notice the recipe call for sprinkled granulated sugar before baking the cookies. I happened to have some gold sanding sugar on hand so I used that instead, which made for a nice effect on the flowers!

Ready for the recipe? OK, I guess you've been good...here you go!

Vegan Lemon Sandwich Cookies
From marthastewart.com

1 cup Earth Balance or other butter substitute, room temperature
1 cup vegan confectioners' sugar*
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest (from 1 lemon)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for rolling
2 tablespoons vegan granulated sugar, for sprinkling*
1 package (4 ounces) Tofutti (or similar) vegan cream cheese, room temperature
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest (from 1 lemon)
1 to 1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar*


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl using an electric mixer on high speed, beat butter, confectioners' sugar, lemon zest, and salt until combined. With mixer on low, add flour (dough will still be stiff); finish mixing with a wooden spoon.
Turn dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap, pat into a disk about 1/2 inch thick.

Wrap, and chill until firm, about 1 hour (and up to 3 days).

Unwrap dough; place on a lightly floured piece of parchment or waxed paper. With a lightly floured rolling pin, roll dough about 1/8 inch thick (if dough cracks, let it warm up slightly).

Cut out cookies with a 1 1/2-inch round cutter (reroll scraps once, chilling if too soft). Place 1 inch apart on two baking sheets; sprinkle with granulated sugar. Bake until barely beginning to brown, 15 to 20 minutes; transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

In a small bowl, mix cream cheese and zest until smooth. Gradually add 1 cup confectioners' sugar, mixing until smooth. Mix in remaining sugar as necessary to create a firm but spreadable filling.

Form sandwiches: Place about 1 teaspoon filling between two cookies, sugared sides facing out; squeeze gently.

*can be found at Whole Foods or similar grocery/health foods store




3.12.2009

A Brief Monologue about Tea

In my quest to find a nice mainstream go-to tea retailer, CB&Tea Leaf continues to win me over above Starbucks and their crap Tazo Tea line. Unfortunately, S'bucks is sort of like that guy that you KNOW you should stop calling because every time you do, you're reminded of how very self-involved he is and why you've been avoiding him for the past three months, but then in the fourth month you sort of forget and decide to call and see how he's doing.

This morning was my fourth month, metaphorically speaking. I decided to give the big S another try and purchased a Grande Soy London Fog Latte...and managed about 5 sips. Alas, adding milk to bad tea just makes for bad tea lattes. Give it up, guys.

Tea Leaf (that friend who's always been there for you, even though you've been blind to see it) has really started with the wooing of late. Oh Raspberry Ceylon Latte, I go to sleep with your sweet taste still on my lips...

Going To Our First Food Lecture (and other signs I am getting old)

Last night we went to an udderly fascinating lecture at the Skirball about the possibility of authenticity in cooking. (Pardon the udder pun, but you'll get it when you read through the link.)


This was a FREE event, as part of the Zocalo (public square in Spanish) Lecture Series. For the life of me, I don't remember how I came upon it to begin with, but suffice to say, as soon as I saw Jonathan Gold on the docket as moderator, I knew I had to go. By the way, you may have noticed I mention Jonathan Gold in basically every one of my posts. This does not make me a crazy stalker. When I start posting wide-angle lens shots of him doing various private things in his home you can start to worry.


I knew there would be some heavy hitters of the LA food world there, but didn't really pay attention to who was on tap. Lo and behold, the first two people JG introduced were Nancy Silverton and Jimmy Shaw--the creators of Campanile/Mozza and Loteria Grill, respectively. I wrote last year about Pizzeria Mozza and its magical powers, but haven't gotten around to waxing poetic about Loteria. It is worthy of a full post, but until then just know that it is kickass!


I don't think the question of food authenticity was ever really answered last night (and don't think that it really can be--it's a totally subjective thing), but learning about each chef's path to creating the regional food that each of them brings to their respective kitchens was fascinating.

Silverton spoke first, and quickly acknowledged being the only impostor on the panel--a Jewish chick from the Valley who specializes in Italian cuisine. However, it was her experiences living, cooking and eating in Umbria (I think), among other areas of Italy, that spoke most to her and caused her to start her mini-empire. (She announced last night that they are opening both an Osteria and Pizzeria Mozza in SINGAPORE of all places. Now it's starting to really look like an empire...)

Jimmy Shaw looks like a white guy from Southie, but turns out he spent his formative years in Mexico City. He explained to us how difficult it was coming to LA, with all of its CalMex and TexMex restaurants, but no truly Mexican cuisine restaurants. He said the idea of going into a Mexican place and seeing "carne asada" on the menu is the equivalent of going to a steakhouse and just seeing "charred meat" on the menu. What are you actually getting? What cut of meat, etc? How is it prepared? His version of authenticity is borrowing from all of the regional Mexican cuisines that he knew as a boy--he claimed that it is the Americans who sometimes complain about the food, saying it's not 'authentic, whereas visiting Mexicans always visit his restaurant before any others for a taste of home.


Roy Choi was third. He looked to be about our age, and wore a black Dodgers pulled down almost over his eyes. Before he was introduced, I have to say I was wondering what the heck he was doing up there. This is the man behind the Korean taco truck. I had read tidbits here and there about it, but after hearing about the mad scene that surrounds whatever neighborhood said truck lands in each night, I can't wait to experience the madness firsthand. The idea of the trucks come from Roy's own view of authenticity. A totally Americanized (his words) Korean who has spent a lot of time in LA's Koreatown, like Shaw he realized that the Korean food people were getting was nothing like the Korean food one would get IN Korea. He coupled that idea with an ultimate LA enterprise--the taco truck--and in a short time KoGi BBQ was born. OK, there is more to it than that, but check out the very first link in this post to get the rest. Apparently the truck (or trucks--I think there are two) has only been around for a few months. As more and more people tried it, and got location updates via Twitter, the crowds each night grew. Talk about a viral phenomenon--so cool. Needless to say, today I signed up for a Twitter account and I think I am already a little addicted. Thanks A LOT, KoGi BBQ. You've ruined me.

Last up was Sirintip "Jazz" Singsanong, owner of Jitlada Thai in East H'wood. I've actually never heard of the place, and it appears that up until a few years ago, that was a good thing! When Jazz and her brother took over the restaurant, they kept the name, which at first meant they were not very popular. The original Jitlada was known for middling-to-bad Americanized Thai--when the Singsanongs took over, they wanted to bring a taste of what they knew as Thai food. Specifically, the food that was cooked within their family in Southern Thailand. This regional cooking is apparently quite different from what we know as Thai food...but no one even knew they were making it! The Southern Thai specialties on the menu were only listed in Thai. It took an out-of-towner with a minimal background in the language glimpsing the menu by chance and realizing that he didn't recognize any of the dishes listed. With some help from Jazz's brother, he translated this menu, which made the rounds through the food blogs. The rest is history.

I think that the devout following of these restaurants is proof that a clear vision of your cuisine, coupled with creativity and WoM, is a major key to culinary success. Each of these chefs authenticate their own food histories in their dishes, and in turn all of us who experience it open our eyes to whole new universes of what authentic means to each one of us. If nothing else, these chefs represent authentic Los Angeles cooking and the melting pot that is this city.

Here are handy-dandy links to all the above-mentioned restaurants again:

Campanile (beautiful place with GRILLED CHEESE THURSDAYS)

Mozza (with links to the fancier Osteria and more casual Pizzeria)

Loteria Grill

KoGi BBQ

Jitlada

Cheers!

Em

3.05.2009

Year of the Cocktail

After reading Jonathan Gold's article today, "The New Cocktailians," I am both humbled and thirsty. Just wanted to share.

Anyone want to check out The Varnish with me this weekend?

____________
In the spirit of this post, I'd like to add an addendum. There was a great article in the food section of the LA Times this week talking about kumquats, which apparently are at their tastiest this month. As they always do, at the end they included some recipes, including one for a Candied Kumquat Mojito.

Candied kumquat mojito

Note: From Peter Birmingham at Norman's, where the drink is made with Ron Matusalem Platino rum. Birmingham also recommends Bacardi Silver or Cruzan Estate Light rum. You'll have enough simple syrup and candied kumquats for up to 12 drinks.

Candied kumquats

1 cup boiling water

1 cup sugar

12 whole kumquats

1 stalk lemongrass, ends trimmed and two outer layers removed, slightly smashed with the side of a chef's knife

1/2 teaspoon orange blossom water

1. Add the boiling water to the sugar. Stir to mix and dissolve the sugar, cool.

2. Bring a pot of water to boil. Blanch the kumquats for 1 minute, drain.

3. Place the sugar water, lemongrass and orange blossom water in a bowl. Add the kumquats, placing a small plate on top to submerge the kumquats. Cover and refrigerate for at least 12 hours and up until 3 weeks.

Simple syrup

3/4 cup boiling water

3/4 cup sugar

Add the boiling water to the sugar. Stir to mix and dissolve the sugar. Cool.

Cocktail (per serving)

6 mint leaves

3/4 ounce (5 teaspoons) simple syrup, divided

1 candied kumquat

4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

2 teaspoons fresh lime juice

2 ounces rum

1 tablespoon pineapple juice

1 wedge lime

Splash club soda

1. In a double old-fashioned glass, muddle the mint with one-fourth ounce (two teaspoons) simple syrup. Add the candied kumquat and muddle. Add ice to glass.

2. In a cocktail shaker, mix together the lemon and lime juices, the remaining one-half ounce (about 3 teaspoons) simple syrup, the rum and pineapple juice. Shake well. Pour into the glass, add the wedge of lime and splash of club soda.

Each serving: 200 calories; 0 protein; 19 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 0 fat; 0 saturated fat; 0 cholesterol; 3 mg. Sodium.

Cheers!
Em

3.04.2009

In Bloom

It's been a chilly couple of days out here, but I'm still warm and cozy from a lovely dinner Tuesday night with Mr. D. There was no occasion for it, other than the desire to spend a little special time together.

I am usually hesitant to try any restaurant that sticks menus in mailboxes. Why would someone do that unless they were desperate? However, as one who loves reading anything food-related, I always glance through before trashing it, and one day I was really glad I did. We’d noticed Bloom, a brightly colored storefront at Pico and Hauser, many times since moving and often commented that we should check it out. When we got THAT menu, their claim of cooking with locally grown organic foods, combined with some really unique and tasty-sounding offerings totally hooked me. Before heading out, I read some reviews online that only made me more excited!

I read on a couple different sites that Bloom didn’t have a liquor license, but DID have BYO, AND no corkage fee. The latter is sort of revolutionary in LA. Why places feel ok with charging $25 to unscrew a cork is completely beyond me. But I digress. Since we’ve been trying to be ‘better’ (ie, more frequent) wine drinkers (hopefully in the hope of becoming aficionados rather than lushes), I thought it would be fun to take along a bottle we had picked up at Cost Plus. (On a side note, David found this website that lists cheap-to-no corkage fees in LA restaurants--seems like a pretty new site, but it could be a neat resource down the road. If you know of places with low cork fees, you can submit!)

One of my favorite things about the restaurant, before even stepping foot inside, was that it is walking distance from our house. You just don't get that very much in this city! I don't think I would make that walk by myself after dark--in spite of beautification efforts, Pico Blvd is still very rough around the edges--but with David, it was a nice (safe) little adventure.


The restaurant is divided into two sections--on the right side is the restaurant, with about 12 tables; the left side appears to be a take-out/juice bar deal, although I don't think it's open at night. The whole place was pleasantly dim, and we were greeted immediately by the man who turned out to be the waiter. He opened our wine as a busboy brought us wine glasses and cucumber-infused water (so refreshing!) and we perused the menu.

One thing I read about this place was that the pizzas were awesome, so we decided to find one of those to split, along with another dish. It didn't take us long to agree on the Rosemary Comte Cheese Potato. The salads here are outside the norm in a very good way--more than your standard Caesar, Cobb or spinach-and we finally settled on the Spicy Free Range Chicken Salad, with baby greens, poblano chile, roasted corn (I think David hogged all of that--corn:David::spinach::Popeye) and sundried tomato-red chili vinaigrette. I also got a cup of the Vegan Soup of the Day, butternut squash. Such a sucker for pureed vegetable soups!

First the soup. It had a nice squash flavor, but needed something more to round out the overall profile. Table salt didn't do the trick--I think my standbys allspice or nutmeg would have been particularly effective.

There are no complaints about flavor with the salad. The dressing added a good kick to the generous portion of greens and (delicious) chicken. The pizza, too--I am not too familiar with Comte cheese, but it is creamy and very mild, and complemented the razor thin slices of potato beautifully. There was no one glaring flavor on this pizza--even the rosemary seemed to be a subtle infusion rather than the leading lady, as is so often the case by the mere fact that it's a strong herb.

Throughout our meal, there's little doubt that part of our enjoyment came from the wine. We are still green in the whole wine game and even more so in our experience with reds, but we lucked out with this Cabernet. I won't try to explain it because my palate isn't sophisticated enough to detect individual fruits and chocolates and herbs like some can--suffice to say it went down easy, warmed our bellies, and widened the smiles on our faces just a little bit.

The food was so lovely that I was tempted to opt out of dessert...even the best of restaurants can be hit or miss with that portion of the meal, you know? My hesitation disappeared, though, when he listed the amazing-sounding ice creams and sorbets they had. We decided on a bowl of the brown sugar vanilla bean. Oh. My. Goodness. Heaven in my mouth.

The bill was wonderfully affordable (my, do I love BYOB!) and we left arm in arm, thrilled that we had found such a great neighborhood restaurant to call our own.

That's all for now, folks! Tune in next time when I wax poetic about our lemon tree....

Cheers,

Em


2.27.2009

Two things

Hello loves!

Two quick things have I to share:

Today for lunch I convinced the ladies to come check out a new place that I've heard a good amount about lately, The Curious Palate. When my man Jonny Gold mentioned it in LA Weekly, well, I had no choice but to go. We weren't disappointed! Amber tried the Cubano sandwich and liked it (although she and I were in agreement that we weren't tickled by their pickles-she took hers out of the sandwich).There wasn't too much for Miss Michelle (a vegan) but she loved her Curried Squash Soup. And I LOVED the Veggie Panini! The black-eyed pea mash was a really unique and yummy touch, and the balsamic that came on the side was delicious for dipping. I also got the Beluga Lentils, which was good but a bit overwhelming with olive oil flavor. Actually, let's just take that to mean my palate is evolving, eh?

What a cute space--there is seating inside and (minimal) out, it's got a deli counter and a whole bunch of artisanal goods to purchase. Didn't have too much time to peruse, but we couldn't resist looking at the selection of mini chocolate bars by the register. I didn't need too much pushing to buy the dark chocolate orange cardamom (LOVE me some cardamom) and the white chocolate lemon pepper. Oh my Lord. That's really all I have to say. I'm already craving more of the white--I think they must get their crack from the same place as Pinkberry.

Too far?

And on that note, I leave you for now. I just ordered a bunch of new baking supplies (on a bit of a shopaholic kick this month) and plan to be making a bunch of new lovely things to share. Yes, this apparently is still very much a food blog. Re-name change may be forthcoming.

Happy Friday!
Em

2.10.2009

Birthday Cake for My Boy



Mission: David's 27th Birthday Cake

I asked young Mr G what he was looking for in a cake this year. He loved the one I came up with for his 26th (a really hearty whole wheat flour cake with lemon icing and blueberries) so I couldn't disappoint this year. He told me, "Something with caramel sounds good." Nothing more. And so the quest began.

I was looking for something delish but low maintenance, sinc
e I would be making it on a weeknight. After some digging through cookbooks and ye olde Internet, I settled on this recipe. Super basic vanilla cake, just like David likes it. To spice things up a bit-literally-I decided to add 1 tsp of cardamom and 1/2 tsp of cinnamon, as well as the zest of one lemon.

The cake baked up beautifully in 35 minutes and slid out of the pan easy as...pie? Do you ever have that moment of total fear before you take a cake out of the pan, that maybe the shortening or whatever you used to line the pan somehow didn't work and half of your cake is going to stick? Yeah...me either.
While ze (fully intact) cake was cooling and smelling up the house with all sorts of deliciousness, I set to work on the topping. Although the aforementioned cake recipe did include its own recipe for caramel glaze (it is, after all, called caramel cake), I decided to go with a caramel recipe that I already know and love.Forgiv
e me if I've already mentioned this book, but Desserts by the Yard is an absolutely fabulous book of dessert recipes by the pastry chef at Spago. It's also just a really a good read if you like that sort of thing. One of the desserts she has is for homemade Twix bars, inspired by her time studying pastry making in London, and the caramel is to die for!! The trick is Lyle's Golden Syrup, instead plain old corn syrup. You can buy it online, or find it at Cost Plus World Market--it's an import from the UK (and I'm pretty sure there is a little of the White Witch's magic in the stuff).

I decided to halve the caramel recipe, since it was just being used as a glaze and I didn't want to make the cake soggy. I realize now that was silly thinking, since the caramel solidifies pretty quickly. Ah well. Anyway, halving it is very easy, except for the fact that my liquid measuring cups don't have a line for 3/8 of a cup, so I may have added too much Golden Syrup. Not that that could ever be a bad thing. I always feel like a brilliant mad scientist when I add the heavy cream to the hot sugar/syrup mixture--it suddenly starts boiling and changing color, and then magically (ok, chemically) turns into caramel when I add the condensed milk. Bwa ha ha!

OK, so. As soon as the caramel was complete (it only takes about 15 minutes if you do it right, as I do sometimes), I poured it on over that cake. I placed a cookie sheet under the cooling rack to catch any rogue caramel, of which there was much. The caramel was not as thick as I would have liked, and I think that showed in the final product. Of course it was supposed to be a glaze, so I guess in that regard it worked out.

In the end, it was a pretty humble looking cake--you might have mistaken it for a corn bread. Looks aside, the taste is great!! The cake is just moist enough with a nice crumb, and I do feel the extra spice touches I added made the difference in flavor. However, because of that the caramel tended to fade into the background, which is unfortunate. Next time I either need to back off on the spices, or work with a more assertive flavor profile for the icing. All in all, though, I'll call it a success. I have one happy and full 27 year old guy, and a lot of cake that needs eating! 

Cheers!





Monday Night Dinner in MDR

Dinner last night inspired me to write a haiku to commemorate the occasion. We took D’s aunt and uncle (wrapping up an abbreviated version of their annual trek out West) to C&O Trattoria in Marina del Rey. None of them (my boy included) had been there before, and it had been years since I’d graced the place with my presence. I was a little dismayed when we were led in to the dining room and I saw that the seats were nothing more than your standard green plastic chairs…I was worried that I recalled the restaurant being much better than it actually was.

However, Raymond and Janie quickly put my mind at ease. They loved the atmosphere, said it was just their kind of place. The hot, buttery garlic rolls didn’t hurt, either. They both got the special pasta, linguini with clam sauce. It had clams in the shell, too, which apparently is a very very good thing. D and I know nothing of such things. He got the Fettucine Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto, I the Pappardelle avec Wild Mushrooms & Chicken Apple Sausage. Everyone seemed pleased as punch…or maybe it was just the chianti? I sure am glad I drink red wine now. Raymond advised us early in the night to always get the house wine, said you can’t go wrong. In wine as in gambling, the house always wins. And I win doubly--wine never gives this little girl a hangover!

Still waiting for that haiku, are you? All right, you’ve been good. Here ya go:


Rolls of Garlic Sate
(Outside, the Ocean Winds Whip)
Red Wine Freely Flows