for November, 2010
It’s always nice to walk into a holiday party with a dish that garners some “oohs” and “ahhs”. This Rye Pecan Pie with its mesmerizing concentric circle design might be just the trick. It certainly caught my attention when my friend Rocky walked into our Thanksgiving with the beautifully-crafted dessert.
Rocky was inspired by a recent article in The New York Times about the sudden surge of pie-centric restaurants. This was his rendition of a popular pie from Diner in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. You can find the actual recipe here.
Rocky’s a novice when it comes to baking, so there were a few snags. For one, he said it took more time and effort than he’d expected–rolling out the dough, chilling portions, baking and re-baking. Secondly, he wasn’t quite satisfied with the end product. It was a little dry, which he attributed to over baking, and he says he used the wrong pan.
I thought it was pretty good for a first try. The bourbon taste stood out and the crust was divine. If you’re not a sugar freak, the light sweetness of the pie will make your day.
I say try it and take it to a party. Don’t forgot the whipped cream!
“Is this some kind of performance art?”
That’s the question Josh asked as we watched the staff at Mooi try—with the urgency of molasses—to seat a restaurant full of people for a 9 o’clock pre-fixe dinner service. The minutes ticked, some poor girl fell off the rickety wrought-iron chair she was made to sit in, and yet-to-be-seated patrons looked forlorn as we all waited for the restaurant to get its shit together.
It was a weird scene, but I wasn’t surprised. The reviews on Yelp, which rail on the aloof service, have been scathing (and I mean scathing) since Mooi opened last spring. Still, I’d heard great things about the food, and boy, do I love a pre-fixe. Plus, there have been reports that time might be running out for the raw/vegan restaurant, and I wanted a taste.
I’m glad I got one because the 4-course Italian meal by chef Anne Lee of New York’s Pure Food and Wine and Mooi owner Stephen Hauptfuhr really made up for the evening’s ramshackle start.
The space that houses the newly opened FOOD +LAB might be cursed. A few doors down from Dusty’s, near the corner of Sunset and Descanso, the teeny storefront was most recently occupied by the very short-lived Meet Market and Flore Café before that. If not cursed, it’s not exactly lucky.
Yet, despite the open-and-shutter reputation of its address, FOOD+LAB’s future looks bright. For one thing, this is the third installment of the mini chain founded by mother-son catering team Esther and Nino Linsmayer—they also have a location in West Hollywood and a kiosk in the Pacific Design Center. For another, their menu is innovative and full of the fresh, organic ingredients that everyone seems to be craving these days.
Currently serving breakfast and lunch (a dinner menu is coming soon), FOOD+LAB offers a long list of traditional sandwiches with major personality. Think: Organic Turkey with pear, honey, and fig compote; Austrian Meatloaf with dried tomato aioli, fried onions and Dijon; Grilled Cheese with three fancy cheeses and caramelized onion. Vegan and vegetarian options are also available.
I ordered the Egg Salad Sandwich with asparagus on 5 grain bread. No complaints. It wasn’t overrun with mayo and the asparagus had a nice snap to it. The mayo-chicken ratio was a little off on the Pulled Chicken Salad, but the additions of apples, grapes, candied pecans and mandarins saved it. For better or worse, the portions are huge.
The chalkboard menu also features complete coffee selection and a range of fresh juices. I had the lemonade, which was pretty thick and easily split (and diluted) to make two full glasses. Also squeezed into the small café is a market section of sweets, teas, coffee and other tantalizing goods to take home.
Sandwiches: $8-12; Organic Salads: $11-13; Breakfast: $5-12.
3206 West Sunset Blvd (Map It)
Los Angeles, CA 90026
Ha’s Apple Farm is a mainstay at California’s farmers’ markets. Their well-loved Fuji apples, grown in the Tehachapi Mountains, are crisp and sweet, but it’s their jams, fruit butters and dried fruits that have made a loyal fan out of me.
Their latest product, Walnut and Fruit Brittle, has me totally obsessed. Made with peaches, apples, and pears, the walnut-encrusted glob of fruity splendor is one of the best things I’ve ever put in my mouth. The fruit part has a sticky, chewy, fruit roll up texture, and the mass of walnuts is affixed with a coat in fruit-derived syrupy sweetness. Such a treat when I need that 3 o’clock sugar fix.
The best part is that there’s no added sugar, so if you can manage to eat just a bit, it’s a relatively healthy snack. Good luck with that.
I know for sure that the Ha’s sell at Alhambra Farmers’ Market on Sundays and others throughout the week. You can also order Ha’s products on their website–unfortunately, they’re not offering their fruit brittle online yet, but I bet if you wrote them, they’d send you some.
I recently did a test run of my Candy Cane Cream Faux-reos for the 3rd Annual Eat My Blog, a charity bake sale from 10am-4pm December 4. The event is being hosted by Tender Greens in West Hollywood, which is kind of a trek but totally worth it considering over 2,000 baked goods will be featured. Plus, all proceeds go to the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank.
LA bloggers are the source of many of the sweet treats, but there also a few local chefs and businesses taking part, including Bakelab, The Manila Machine (ube cupcakes, I presume), Sprinkles and the All Jarred Up (they make pies in jars!).
But back to my cookies for a second. My test run went okay, but I’m working on the cookie texture. I want it to be crispy, and mine are a little too crumbly at this point. The peppermint cream, on the other hand, is spectacular. I adapted Joy the Baker‘s recipe, which brilliantly includes white chocolate for a rich, creamy texture. I added some pulverized candy canes for some crunch.
Here’s all the info:
Check out some more tantalizing previews of the baked goods to be featured on the Eat My Blog website.
These hot pickled peppers were a Cuban sandwich garnish made by my friend and all-around great chef Kevin McAfee. You can indulge in his talents at Café Stella in Silverlake.
Thanks to all the new ESFB subscribers, Facebook friends and Twitter followers. If you want to join in the fun, click one of the links. In the meantime, here are my favorite food articles of the week:
Eating LA has a question: Can the Lazy Ox Canteen be all things to all people?
The Minty is showing off some savory pics from her DTLA Mac & Cheese Crawl.
Jonathan Gold wants us all to stop with double-entendre-laced ball talk. Yuck, I agree.
Tuna Toast makes me swoon with an “unctuous” pig’s head bolognese. Where’s mine?
While it does fall a little short of the grand scrumptiousness that Huckleberry captures with aplomb, Thyme Cafe is a worthy lunch spot. The cafe/bakery/market concept isn’t exactly unexplored ground in Santa Monica, but caterer-turned-restauranteur Maire Byrne offers her own brand of formidable sandwiches, salads, sweets, soups and gourmet goods.
I crave sandwiches on an hourly basis, and I was pretty satisfied by the options at Thyme. The selection is seasonal and heavy on comfort: Turkey Meatloaf, Egg Salad with Olive Tapenade, Albacore Tuna with Currants, and this Steak with Watercress & Caramelized Onions. The crusty baguette was a little sharp and stabby, but the steak was tender. The horseradish aioli, which was thankfully glopped on with abandon, gave it personality.
UPDATE: Burrito Madness is extended through December! Just use the word “Cosmos” between 7-9pm. Limit 5 burritos.
What is it about a cheap burrito that’s so irresistible? I’m not sure, but Hugo’s Tacos in Atwater Village always manages to enchant me with Burrito Madness, an entire month when knowing the secret password gets you a giant burrito for $2.51 every Wednesday.
Hugo’s burritos are on the healthier side, stuffed fat and really delicious.They use organic beans and rice and offer all the basic fillings, like al pastor and grilled fish, plus vegetarian options. My favorite is the zucchini, corn and string beans (pictured). I’ve tried most of the other salsas they offer, but none compare to the sweet and smokey flavor of the honey chipotle. I also usually add cheese for a pretty fair $.46.
Burrito Madness is every Wednesday from 7-9pm in November, and the secret password is “Gracie.” It also works at their Studio City location.
Allston Yacht Club was off my radar for too long, but I think I’m going to add it to my repertoire. I spent my Election Day night (thanks for your sanity, California) in the small Echo Park bar restaurant, which has a casual, unpretentious vibe and a full menu of satisfying small plates inspired by Japanese, Italian and Indian flavors, to name a few. I know some prefer a focused menu, but I didn’t mind AYC’s United Nations approach. Plus, I was lucky enough to have The Minty as my drinking/dining companion, and she was familiar enough with the menu to help steer (pun intended) us in a good direction.
Nick & Stef’s new Executive Chef Megan Logan is a bit of an anomaly. A California native who got her start as a server at 15, attended Le Cordon Bleu in Pasadena and rose through the ranks of the Patina Group, Logan is one of the few women in the industry to helm a steakhouse kitchen. I was recently invited to a media dinner to experience Logan’s prowess in the form of a multi-course meal with wine, cocktail and beer pairings. Oh, and there was a cheese plate! Well played, Chef.