Tag Archives: food

Let them eat cake.

3 Apr

I have put off baking my first cake from scratch for years. And years. And years. It seemed scary! There’s this thing about cakes falling in the oven or being too dry… It just seemed easier to stick with my stand-bys of cookies and pies.

But then, in honor of a birthday, I bit the bullet and….tah dahhhhh

IMG_4570

 

Look at those sprinkles!

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And that dense, moist crumb!

IMG_4572I found out that there are really three keys to making a good cake – Choose a good recipe, make sure you actually have all the ingredients for the cake so you don’t have to go to the grocery store twice in an hour (ughhhh), and have a very willing crowd of people who will tell you all sorts of nice things while they eat it all.

So yeah. Making cakes. Not a nightmare. Who knew?

 

Lost in LA – Hamburgers!

9 May

hamburgers

LA has a reputation for frou-frou, veggie, healthy living. Yes, there are a ton of vegetarian places around, and you can get your precious, perfectly constructed tiny plates at a bunch of fancy restaurants. But you know what LA is really great for? A damn good, hearty hamburger.  As an unapologetic carnivore, let me introduce you to a few of my favorites:

1. The localish chain with the best custom options: 

The Counter

Four locations in LA, almost 40 worldwide

Custom Burger @ The Counter

Are you picky about your burger? Or incredibly creative? At The Counter, you get to choose exactly how you want your burger, from the type of patty (1/3 pound? Full pound? Beef or chicken patty? In a bun or in a bowl?) to the type of cheese (everything from regular cheddar to soft ripened brie) to the very creative toppings (Grilled pineapple? Marinated artichokes? Horseradish mayo?). Believe me, this is a crowd pleasing place.

Yes, this is a chain, but it started about ten years ago in Southern California, and it still keeps its Socal feel. And really, these aren’t your normal chain style burgers. They are truly delicious.

My choice? Turkey burger with blue cheese, sauteed onions and dried cranberries, with those addicting crispy onion strings as a side. Yes, please.

2. Best NOT customizable burger:

Father’s Office

1018 Montana Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90403

3229 Helms Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90034 (Culver City Location)

Fathers Office

If there’s a joint that has a brand burger, it’s Father’s Office. No substitutions or requests allowed. You get the burger just how they make it. Thank goodness, it’s delicious. It is a bit on the pricey side, but many Los Angelenos I know swear by this burger. Plus, the beer selection at this place is pretty darn impressive, and the atmosphere is pretty darn cozy.

The Office Burger

And, I’d just like to put in a word for the sweet potato fries. The perfect mix of salty and sweet, crisp and soft…they are seriously what dreams are made of.

fathers office sweet potato fries

3. Best burger joint poised to take over the whole gosh darn food world:

Umami Burger

15 locations in California, 13 in Southern California

"Umami Burger"

Umami Burger started as a burger place but now is the Umami Food Group, including a deli, a pizza place, a Vietnamese restaurant and a ton of burger locations. All of it’s good, but the burgers are outrageous. The original “Umami Burger” has a parmesan crisp (because the best cheese is crispy cheese, obviously) and shiitake mushrooms. Feeling extra testosterone-y? The “Manly Burger” has beer-cheddar cheese and bacon lardon. I know. Your arteries are thanking you already.

4. My favorite all around:

The Golden State

426 N. Fairfax Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90036

Golden State: Interior

In some ways, I consider Golden State a friend. Just months after I moved into my neighborhood, it moved in around the corner, heralding the start of a slight restaurant renaissance. I got to know the waiters and owners by sight…and they kinda, sorta seemed to recognize me. Golden State was a go-to for our friends. You can always count on Golden State for a damn good dinner made from mostly local ingredients (usually. Sometimes it was just too packed!). The beer selection is yummy. And, to top it all off, they have a small ice cream counter with my favorite ice cream — Scoops!

But really, the whole place centered around its amazing burger.

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This is everything a hamburger should be: medium rare, sharp cheese, good bacon and a soft, yet substantial bun. Golden State doesn’t have to try too hard, because they know how to do it right every single time. There’s no question. If I had one more hamburger to eat before the end of the world, it would be this one.

(As always, all of these images are by talented Flickr photographers. Please click on the image to be taken to their site)

Lost in LA: Food trucks!

18 Apr

Since people seemed to enjoy my list of delicious LA ice cream last week, I thought I’d continue the LA food love this week with a list of awesome food trucks!

LA has had food trucks forever. You find them at any construction site, often serving up really good but ridiculously greasy tacos and burritos. This was fuel for hard work or cures for hangovers. Although everyone knew about those, it wasn’t until late 2008 that gourmet food trucks hit the scene and almost immediately became THE THING. Most trucks have twitter feeds, so hungry Los Angelenos can find out where their favorite truck is right that moment. Prime food truck parking spots became full on wars between truck owners, local business owners and the city, many of which are still ongoing. Madness! But, even through all the angst, food trucks gave something Los Angelenos to rally around. It got people out of their cars and on the sidewalks, a process that LA needs some help with.

UCLA, where I used to work, got into the game when they started inviting two food trucks on campus each day while one of the cafeterias was under construction. Every day became a food truck treat! I may have put on a few pounds in the process, but all the food truck testing was worth it.

Unfortunately, these trucks are not always the most long lasting. As I researched this post, I realized that some of my favorite trucks are either gone entirely (RIP Louks Greek) or trying to turn into a brick and mortar restaurant (Good luck, Nom Nom Truck and Frysmith). So, double check that the truck is still in existence before you take my word for it…

Here’s my short guide to a few of my favorite LA food trucks!

food trucks

1. The daddy of all gourmet food trucks:

Kogi Korean BBQ Tacos

new kitchen new night-11

Why it’s good:

Kogi was really the first truck that hit it big. It was in the LA Times, NPR, Time Magazine, Gourmet Magazine, Food Network, etc etc etc. Roy Choi, the chef, became the big thing, being named one of 2010’s Best New Chefs by Food and Wine Magazine. Lines for the trucks were massive (I admit to waiting at least an hour at one point for a Kogi taco). The truck fleet went from one to four. Other food truck owners immediately began to imitate Kogi. It was a big deal.

And the food lives up to it. Pairing Korean bbq flavors with tacos is just plain genius. And at $2.29 per taco, the price is right.

kogi-4

What to get?

Although Kogi serves a variety of fusion food, I think the classic tacos are the best. I’m a fan of the spicy pork and the short rib tacos, but really, they’re all good. Kimchi quesadillas are also spicy and delicious, if you’re looking for something slightly different.

Roy Choi also has a few restaurants in LA: Chego, A-Frame and Sunny Spot. I can personally vouch for Chego’s deliciousness, and I hear that the other two are fantastic as well.

2. Top Chef gourmet Mexican food…cheaper!

Border Grill Truck

border_grill_truck

Why it’s good:

This is another big time chef’s side business. Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger opened Border Grill Restaurant in the late 80’s, and since then have become Top Chef Masters, tv personalities, cookbook writers, etc etc etc. Eating a meal at Border Grill can set you back a little bit, but the reasonably priced truck is bringing Milliken and Feniger’s Mexican creations to the street.

poblano_quesadilla

churro_tots

What to get?

I have a thing for the poblano quesadilla. Manchego + cotija cheese and peppers? IN MY MOUTH NOW. The tamale and Peruvian ceviche cones are one of their more unique offerings. And I haven’t ordered them yet, but the next time I’m at the truck, I’m definitely getting some churro tots. Those sound genius.

3. Fancy spins on classic sandwiches and the best sweet potato fries anywhere:

Gastrobus

gastrobus

Why it’s good:

Gastrobus isn’t as well known as the first two trucks I mentioned, but it’s one of my absolute favorites. The Gastrobus crew makes ridiculously good versions of classic sandwiches, as well as offering a variety of seasonal specials. I’ve never been disappointed by the bright yellow bus.

gastrobus amazing sweet potato fries 8217 (Small)

What to get?

THE SWEET POTATO FRIES WITH HONEY MUSTARD SAUCE. You guys. I have eaten a ton of sweet potato fries in my life, and they’re always pretty good. And yet, these fries out of the back of a truck blow them all away. They’re the perfect mix of crispy and soft, and that honey mustard sauce is so good I’d eat it off a spoon. That picture above is making me drool all over my laptop.

If you’re looking for a darn good sandwich, I highly recommend the pulled pork. It has just the right amount of tang in the sauce.

4. Time for dessert!

Coolhaus

coolhaus

Why it’s good:

Are you ready to hear just how cool I am? I knew about Coolhaus BEFORE it launched to four cities besides LA (including a truck here in Austin), got a storefront, and before they put their ice cream sandwiches in a ton of stores across the US. Honestly, I had no idea how much they’d blown up until I just went to their website. And all in only four years! Good for them!

Coolhaus is all about putting interesting ice cream flavors between two delicious cookies of your choice. That simple, that delicious.

Coolhaus

What to get?

They’re flavors change every day, so it’s hard to say what they’ll have when you go. I love their dirty mint flavor ice cream and chocolate cookies with sea salt. The perfect blend of fresh and rich.

And how do you find all these food trucks? There are a bunch of truck aggregators online, making it easy to see all the out and about trucks at a glance.

Lost in LA – Ice Cream!

11 Apr

I lived in LA for ten years (with a couple significant breaks during which I gallivanted around the UK), and it is my favorite city by far. It was the city where I went to college, lived on my own for the first time, learned to drive and parallel park like a bad ass, and became an all around adult. I will always feel a connection to that place that I don’t think will be easy to replicate. It’s my pretty city. LA is also one of the world’s most misunderstood cities. When I would tell people in other cities that I lived in LA, I often got the “Aw, I’m sorry” response. Come on! How rude can you be?! Do I say that about where you live? Certainly not to your face! Or I get the “Wow, you don’t seem like you’re from LA! I mean, you’re not shallow or anything!” Well, thanks. I’m glad you think all Los Angelenos are shallow. Not that I have friends there or anything. Jerkface. Ahem. Anyway. I think a lot of the LA hate comes from the fact that LA is a fantastic place to live and a horrible place to visit. If you don’t know where you’re going, it’s very easy to get stuck in traffic, lost, or stuck going to places like the Universal Citywalk. Yuck. So, I’ve decided to every so often share a few of my favorite LA places. And where to start? With the most important food group — ice cream!

ice cream

1. My favorite crazy flavors place (and my overall number 1):

Scoops

East Hollywoodish (near LACC), 712 N Heliotrope Dr

There are also locations in Highland Park and the Westside, as well as the counter at Golden State in the Fairfax District.

Pilgrimage to Scoops

Why it’s good: The genius ice cream maker at Scoops comes up with the craziest flavors, and makes them fresh daily! Every time you go there will be a whole set of new flavors, but make sure to get there early because the best flavors will sell out. Lots of non-dairy flavors! Plus, you get two fairly decent sized scoops for about $3. Ridiculous. This was the place that my roommate and I visited weekly for a while, even though it took a good 20 minutes to get there. Worth it every. single. time. Yelp agrees with us. It gets 4.6 stars after 1926 reviews. Yeah. What to get?

Pilgrimage to Scoops

First of all, don’t be afraid to ask for as many samples as you want. I can almost promise you’ve never had these flavors before. My favorites? Brown bread, which is a light vanilla mixed with caramel and grape nuts. Brown bread is the only flavor that is there every day. Anything with black sesame is amazing. Chocolate Guinness is solid, as is salty chocolate. Burnt sugar is basically creme brulée ice cream. My roommate loved the fruity flavors, including strawberry basil.

2007 06.02 | Scoops : Gelato - Sorbet - Sherbet

Sidenote: My roommate once got me an ice cream cake from there for my birthday. The Scoops version of an ice cream cake? A huge tray full of ice cream. No cake. It means that you have to eat it all in one go. Delicious, but kind of intense. 2. My favorite regular ice cream/ice cream novelties:

Milk

Mid-City West, 7290 Beverly Blvd

Milk Why it’s good: Classic ice cream flavors + creative shakes + ice cream sandwiches made with macarons + homemade ice cream bars + actually decent salads and sandwiches + pleasant outdoor seating + celebrity sightings = Pretty darn solid.

What to get?

YUMYUMYUM

I love their classic cookies and cream ice cream. It’s the perfect balance of oreos and light vanilla ice cream. Kick it up by getting the cookies and cream ice cream bar, which is the ice cream dipped in perfect chocolate rolled in more oreos. Yep. I have friends who swear by their shakes, including the delicious coffee toffee crunch shake. And if you’re actually looking for a non dessert item, I highly recommend the manchego cheese and whole wheat grain salad. YUM.

MILK

3. My favorite Persian ice cream:

Mashti Malone’s

Hollywood, 1525 N La Brea Ave

2007 07.14 | Mashti Malone's : Ice Cream

Why it’s good: LA has a large Persian population, which means there are a few Persian ice cream places to choose from. I give Mashti’s the edge though, as they have a good selection of both Persian and more typical ice cream flavors, plus it’s run by some of the nicest ice cream folks around. Mashti Malone’s is also in a very Hollywood shopping center — run down liquor store + laundromat + hip bar. Oh LA.

What to get? Mashti Malone's Ice Cream

You have to try the Persian flavors here! Yes, some of them may seem a bit perfume-y due to the rosewater, but they are also clean and refreshing. My favorite is the faludeh — it’s a very light, almost slush like base with a light citrus flavor…and weird starchy noodle things? I know. Weird. But so good! If you’re dying to try this but can’t make it to Hollywood, Mashti Malone’s does sell some of their flavors in fancy grocery stores in California. 2007 07.14 | Mashti Malone's : Ice Cream

4. My favorite ice cream sandwiches:

Diddy Riese Cookies

Westwood, 926 Broxton Ave

Diddy Riese

Why it’s good: As a former Bruin, I think it’s contractually required that I include Diddy Riese otherwise I get my degree revoked. During the UCLA orientation, the counselors march all the freshmen down to Diddy Riese. It’s just one of those things that you need to know about. Diddy Riese is actually an amazing cookie bakery, but they know how to make a FANTASTIC ice cream sandwich. Take two fresh baked cookies of your choice, choose whichever ice cream you want between them, and fork over only $1.75. Even USC Trojans will come to Westwood for this! Diddy Riese.

What to get?

Whatever ice cream sandwich you want! One macadamia white chocolate cookie and one chocolate with bubble gum ice cream in the middle? Yuck…but sure! Go crazy. The cookies on their own are really delicious too. My favorites of those are the candy cookies and the cinnamon sugar. Finally!

5. My Childhood Favorite:

Rite Aid/Thrifty’s Ice Cream

All over the darn place.

Rite Aid: Chocolate Malted Krunch Ice Cream in a Cone

Why it’s good: Thrifty was one of the drug stores in my hometown, and, like most Thriftys, it had the world’s best ice cream counter. A scoop was under a dollar, and it was always in that cool cylinder shape. When Rite Aid bought out Thriftys, a lot of the ice cream counters disappeared, though you could still by the ice cream in the cartons in Rite Aid. Luckily, a few of the counters do still exist around the west coast, including a few in LA. What to get?

Thrifty's Ice Cream at West Coast Rite Aids CHOCOLATE MALTED CRUNCH, obviously. It’s chocolate ice cream, with chocolate chips and weird little white malt candies. You can’t get it anywhere else, and it’s just amazing.

Chocolate chip & Chocolate brownie

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I know I’m leaving out tons, but this is a good introduction to the vibrant LA ice cream scene. One more recommendation: If you hang out in an LA park long enough, you’ll probably see a guy pushing an ice cream cart around. Paletas galore! And mango/chile popsicles, which I find horrible, but people love!

If anyone has any suggestions for ice cream in LA, please let me know in the comments!

And if you have any Austin recommendations for good ice cream, I’d love to hear those too! And yes…I know of Amy’s. Why is that the only ice cream place that Austinites talk about?!

(One quick note: I didn’t take any of theses photos. Please click on the photo to see its Flickr page.)

28 New Things…Update!

29 Nov

Remember how I made that 28 New Things list a few months ago…and then barely ever wrote about it? Yeah. That.

The good news is that I have managed to do a few things on that list without even having to try too hard. The bad news is that I’m too exhausted to write about each thing in great detail. So, lucky reader, you’re going to get the super quick version of what I did. Better than nothing at all? Perhaps…perhaps.

THREE NEW THINGS:

1. Go to a Meetup!

I actually did this twice in my first month of living here, and it was a great way to meet friendly people. I went to a young professional happy hour and a book club meeting. Now, fair warning, these can feel a bit like single events even if they aren’t advertised as such. I wasn’t particularly prepared for that, which led to some slightly awkward interactions…because I’m just that smooooooth. But, all in all, Meetup is a great way to get out of the house and meet people, especially if you’ve just moved to a new city. I keep meaning to go again (especially to the book club. Books and alcohol? What’s not to like?!), but now that I have a busy schedule, things keep getting in the way. Maybe next semester.

(FYI, there is a photo of me at one Meetup event on Facebook somewhere, but since I’m smiling like a chimpanzee trying to intimidate an enemy,  I figured it was better not to post it.)

2. See the Congress Bridge bats!

So, the Congress Avenue Bridge in downtown Austin accidentally created a perfect bat habitat when it was refitted in the 80’s. During the summer, 1.5 million bats hang out and sleep all day under there, then all stream out to eat a ton of  bugs at night. It’s become a Austin tourist thing to sit in the nearby park and watch the bats swarm. Yes, it’s weird, but it’s also awe-inspiring. SO. MANY. BATS. They make a massive cloud that is silhouetted against the lake and the sunset…and it’s oddly beautiful.

The bats fly over Austin

I sometimes run on the path underneath this bridge. I wouldn’t recommend doing that. 1.5 million bats stink.

3. Eat BBQ in Lockhart, the BBQ capital of Texas!

When my parents were here, we headed out to Lockhart and ate at Black’s, one of Texas’ oldest bbq joints. Good brisket, great sauce and, of course, wonder bread to soak it all up. The decor is all folding chairs and paper towels. No fancy allowed. It’s a good thing Lockhart is a ways out of Austin. Fatty brisket gets me every time.

Black’s BBQ! See, I take photos every so often.

So, yes, I am doing things on that darn list. It’s just the writing about doing those things that is the hard part.

All hail the mighty cauliflower!

20 Sep

Cauliflower. Oh, cauliflower.

We all have vegetables that we don’t hate, but we don’t really eat either. They are too intimidating to prepare, or they are unfamiliar, or they are just…blech. That’s how I always felt about cauliflower.

Look at it! It’s a bleached, dead looking broccoli! And the flavor? Eh. I didn’t hate it, but I certainly didn’t go out of my way to eat it. Unless it was the last option on a slightly wilted veggie plate (and it’s always the last choice on a slightly wilted veggie plate), I steered clear.

And then, I met fried cauliflower at a Lebanese restaurant in LA. Among the lamb brains, lamb cheeks and other such delicacies, the fried cauliflower stood out as one of the most delicious things I’ve ever eaten. Seriously! Now, unfortunately, I went on a diet pretty soon afterwards, so fried veggies were banned from my table, but I just couldn’t forget that crispy, oily, tasty cauliflower.

And friends, I have found the replacement. Roasted cauliflower. Perfect, divine roasted cauliflower.

And it’s easy to make, even for kitchen dunces such as myself.

 

Oh, so delicious. I definitely did not take this fantastic picture. Thank you to Sommer at A Spicy Perspective for such a great recipe and gooooorgeous photos!

Drool Worthy Roasted Cauliflower (Adapted from the recipe by A Spicy Perspective)

1. Pre-heat your oven to 425°. If you are lucky like me, your fancy oven will play a little song when it’s ready. It’s a kitchen dance party!

2. While the oven is heating, cut the florets off the cauliflower head. You are creating tiny little white trees! You are a god! A GOD. Revel in your power.

3. Put all the florets in a baking sheet with raised sides. Coat them in olive oil (No. I don’t know how much. Do it until it feels right! What, you think this is an actual cooking blog? Come on, now.)

4. Sprinkle the cauliflower with salt and pepper. Extra points for freshly ground pepper because all pepper should be freshly ground. And if you’re feeling extra hoity toity, add whatever herbs and spices you think sound good.

5. Stick the tray in the oven. Roast for 25-30 minutes. Start an episode of Games of Thrones on your laptop. Watch the episode while sitting at the kitchen table smelling the veggies. Get really into the episode. Exclaim over the violence and boobs.

6. Every so often, tear yourself away from your laptop and stir the florets. You don’t want those guys on one side for too long. They’ll end up burnt, not roasted.

7. Take those suckers out of the oven, serve them up, and eat while they’re good and hot! Warning – your world will change.

The recipe from A Spicy Perspective includes directions for a tahini sauce, but if you’re lazy/don’t want to find tahini paste like me, you’ll be fine. The cauliflower is pretty darn tasty on its own.

I plan on making a head of this every week FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE. So happy.

 

Cutting Down the LA Adventure List!

23 Jul

I’ve reached the final countdown. I have to be out of my apartment in 8 days. I can hardly believe it. Between the packing, cleaning, freaking out, and watching roughly 34 episodes of Louie in a row (yep. I have a problem), I’m also trying to fit in all the items on my LA Adventure List. This weekend, I talked a few of my friends in to driving around the city to help me cross off two!

I have been meaning to visit The Watts Towers for years, but being a lazy person, they always were just a bit too out of the way. Sure, Watts isn’t that far down the freeway, but it’s rare (as in, never) that I have a reason to be there. I’d seen pictures and thought they seemed neat, but not compelling enough to actually make the trip. How wrong I was.

The Watts Towers were constructed by Simon Rodia, a tile worker, over 33 years. He used only found items, and created a surprisingly graceful, intricate structure that includes mosaics of old 7 UP bottles, vases, shells, cast off tiles, and even figurines.

After working on it for so long, he just up and left it to his neighbor one day, who had no idea what to do with it. Luckily, it was saved from being torn down, and now tourists can pay $7 to get a very detailed tour. This is weird LA at its best.

After Watts, we headed back up into Downtown LA to grab lunch and go on Angel’s Flight!

Angel’s Flight has been touted as the world’s shortest railroad, though I don’t know how much truth there is to that claim. For fifty cents, it will cart you up a steep hill…for about 30 seconds. It’s a beautiful little orange and black car, and has been restored recently so it’s very shiny. The view from the top is pretty awesome, as it looks over most of downtown and east LA. Also, if you’re a movie buff, the top of Angel’s Flight is that park in (500) Days of Summer where Zooey and Joseph sit on a bench and talk about cutesy things. So there’s that.

And if you’re looking for a fun lunch experience that is right across the street from Angel’s Flight, head to the Grand Central Market. Want pupusas? They got it. Tacos? Yep. Chop Suey? Sure. They also sell bulk candy, fruit, meat, etc. It’s a throwback to European style outdoor markets, and it’s pretty much impossible not to love.

Lastly, we hit up LACMA to see Levitated Mass, the giant rock that fascinated local news as it was carted from Riverside to LA. It’s…I don’t know. I expected more. Sure, it’s cool. It’s a huge rock. And people love taking goofy pictures in front of it, in which they pretend to hold it up. It’s LA’s version of the Leaning Tower of Pisa! I guess after hearing all the buzz for months and months, I expected to really feel changed. I felt…like there was a giant rock over me. And that’s why I’m not a modern art critic.

Oh, and having cocktails at the outdoor LACMA bar afterwards? Now, THAT is highly recommended.

So yep, LA Adventure List– I’m making progress on you! I can’t recommend taking a day to be a tourist in your city more. Just make sure to take a few up for anything friends and add in drinks whenever appropriate/possible.