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File this under “only in L.A.” If you love fried chicken and churros, you can get both, served together as one, at Mama Churro y Mas in El Sereno. The small eatery has been serving their special, which includes two pieces of chicken and four mini churros for $4.99, for a couple of years now, and it’s just what you’d expect: sweet and savory deep-fried goodness, plus a dipping sauce of your choice.
The chicken is pretty good. The skin is reminiscent of Church’s Chicken in texture—it’s crispy, light, and not too greasy. The pieces are normal in size and not gigantically pumped up with steroids (seemingly), which helps them stay moist. No, it’s probably not the best chicken you’ve ever had, but it’s tasty and goes well with the churros, which are easily the stars of the dish. Made to order and piping hot, they have a crispy outer shell and a soft inside that melts in your mouth.
If fried chicken isn’t your thing, or you just want more churros, the Churros Rellenos are nothing short of delicious. For $2.50, you get one big churro cut in half and filled with your choice of cajeta (caramel), chocolate, strawberry, or cream. The cajeta is nice and gooey with more than just one-note sweetness. The chocolate, which tastes to be a standard Hershey’s type sauce, pales in comparison. You can also get your fried dough fix in the form of an ice cream sandwich—two o-shaped churros with a big scoop of ice cream in the center—that’s all the rage these days, or an ice cream sundae with four small churros and lots of whipped cream.
Any way you do it here, you’re set.
Mama Churros Y Mas
4836 Huntington Drive
The idea that L.A. doesn’t have good pizza is an antiquated one. Sure, the perception was mostly true ten years ago—though there were always a few gems, like Village Pizzeria, Casa Bianca, and Mulberry Street, to name a few—but ever since Nancy Silverton opened Pizzeria Mozza (What, like eight years ago now?), the LA pizza floodgates have opened, bringing our fair city delicious pies of every regional persuasion. Think: 800 Degrees, Settebello, Hollywood Pies, Bestia, Tomato Pie and, now, DeSano Pizza Bakery in East Hollywood, a casual neighborhood eatery filled with communal tables and legit wood-burning ovens, serving up handmade pies that follow a strict Napoletana pizza-making process.
Locavore DeSano is not. The 900-degree ovens are Italian imports and so are many of the ingredients, including Mozzarella di Bufala, olive oil, and San Felice flour, which are all flown in from Naples and Campania. Adding to DeSano’s authenticity is the fact that the operation is run by actual, born-and-bred Italians–Marino Monferrato, former general manager at Cecconi’s, and pizza maker Massimiliano Di Lascio. The result is a menu of beautiful pizzas with high-quality ingredients and a slightly charred crust—the kind you find in cute, outdoor restaurants in the alleyways and piazzas of Italy.
DeSano offers traditional Napoli pizzas, including such standards as the Margherita and ricotta-laden Bianca, as well as their own house specialties, like the Verdura with broccoli rabe, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes and garlic. The Pomodorini (pictured at the top), dotted with sweet and juicy Vesuvian cherry tomatoes, is as simple as it is delicious. A meatier venture, the San Genarro (pictured below) has a crowd-pleasing, spicy mix of sausage, peppadews, carmelized onions and garlic. Oh, and they also offer calzones with similar ingredients combinations.
As good as the pizza is at DeSano, they really could get away with so-so desserts, but instead they go all out. The canolli are some of the best in town, and a big reason why is that they’re stuffed to order, an almost impossible feat in LA. And because they are stuffed to order, the shell stays crispy—not soggy like most cannoli we’re subjected to. You also get your pick from seven different fillings. The Tradizionale is done the way I’ve seen it done in Italy, using the chocolate chips as a garnish on the outside, rather than mixing it with the creme, which is sweet-tooth-pleasing perfection. The Cocco Cioccolati, chocolate and coconut, is really to die for and just rich enough that you won’t be able to stop until, tragically, there’s no more.
If that scares you, try the gelato. It’s not made in house, but it is hand-crafted in small batches by local artisan Alessandro Fontana.
P.S. They don’t have a liquor license yet.
DeSano Pizza Bakery
4959 Santa Monica Blvd.
When Little Beast first opened last year, I was impressed. I loved how they’d transformed the Craftsman bungalow formerly occupied by soul food joint Larkin’s, turning the porch and side yard into a lovely alfresco experience and, a few peccadillos aside, I also had good things to say about their elevated take on standards, like a beautifully stacked tuna tartare, their beastly house cheeseburger, and an outstanding bread pudding lavished with vanilla creme anglaise. Since then, and a couple of months shy of its first birthday, Little Beast has grown into a neighborhood favorite, and their latest menu, which gracefully transitions from winter to spring, showcases a kitchen that has truly evolved in such a short time.
Small plates–and lots of them–are the way to go at Little Beast. Two of us shared four plus an entree, which may have been one too many, but it was hard to narrow it down. First came two specials: the Crab Louie Salad and Steak Tartare. The salad was a ying-yang combo of fried breaded shrimp offset by a hefty portion of chilled crab meat. The Thousand Island dressing, the very idea of which can be scary, was subtle and tangy. The Steak Tartare was a light and savory mix of minced hangar steak, truffle oil, shallots, cornichon (pickled gerkin), and extra virgin olive oil.
We charted a vegetable course with the help of burrata and prosciutto. Though not unexpected, the duo never fails to jazz up any veggie it touches–charred asparagus, in this case. This dish represented the seasonal crossroads so well with the meat and cheese adding a cozy element to the ready-for-spring asparagus and frisee. The Charbroiled Artichoke was more firmly planted in the new season. The simplicity of its preparation, the only additions being a sprinkle of sea salt and a light lemon aioli dipping sauce, made it the perfect springtime snack.
Our only entree was the stellar Scottish Salmon, flaky and well-seasoned, served on a bed of mashed, creme fraiche-laced fingerling potatoes and watercress. A light caper butter sauce and salmon roe caviar took the ordinary right out of this dish, and the presentation, topped off by a sprig of fresh dill, can only be described as lovely.
Much like my first time at Little Beast, I was easily tempted by the dessert menu. The Belgian Chocolate Pudding was deep, rich and creamy. A hefty dollop of chantilly cream and a dash of sea salt kept the chocolate from becoming overwhelming. Also well composed was our favorite of the night, a Buttermilk Panna Cotta covered in a layer of sweet, ripe strawberries and crumbled vanilla wafers–we made sure to get a little of everything in each luscious bite. And, yes, my spoon was scraping the bottom of the jar at the end.
1946 Colorado Blvd.
I was invited to a preview of West Hollywood’s Glazed Donut Bistro before they opened their doors a few weeks ago. I generally avoid crosstown travel…even for food, but I happened to have an appointment close by that day and figured it was kismet. It was! The donuts at Glazed are definitely freeway worthy. The concept is “donuts for grownups” is justified—their sweet and savory (yes, savory, I’ll get to that) creations are designed please mature palates, plus they serve booze!
Doughnuts and booze, guys. What else do you want?
Since opening, they’ve been running out of doughnuts regularly, which either means they’re still working out the kinks, or their fried dough is so popular that they can’t keep it in stock. Could be a combination of both, but if I were you, I’d call ahead before making the trek. In the meantime, here are some photos to make you crazy (please note that I didn’t have my SLR handy, so I had to use the old iPhone):
The flavors aren’t run of the mill and the presentation is very pretty. You’ll notice that little number topped with chocolate-covered pretzels—that’s the Sympathy for the Devil’s Food Cake, dipped in Belgian chocolate and sprinkled with house-made, salty-sweet streusel. Just below is the Cremesicle, which was one of my favorites of the tasting, mostly because I love citrus and cream combos. This one is very subtle, with a wonderfully pillowy donut filled with orange cream and dipped in blood orange glaze. The kicker is the candied orange. I didn’t try the one just above, but I was told it’s Blackberry Mojito filled with lime curd.
Two other notables were the Mambo Italiano Cream and the Tres Tres Leches. The Mambo is a take on a classic cannoli, complete with none-too-sweet, very-on-point cannoli cream. The glaze is vanilla spice spiked with chocolate shavings and chopped pistachios. I was limiting myself to a bit of each doughnut, but this one tempted me into two (okay, three), and the same can be said for the berry-topped, milk-soaked Tres Tres. A spice medley of cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom provides luscious complexity and the swirl of chantilly cream on top is magic. It was paired with a vanilla bean creme anglaise sauce, which was unnecessary yet welcomed. It should be noted that Glaze serves a giant list of pairing sauces from Mexican Chocolate and Peach-Ginger Compote to Whiskey Caramel and Hard Cider Brown Sugar.
The most interesting dishes of the day were the savories. I didn’t really know what to expect when I was offered doughnut sliders and shrimp rolls, but I ended up enjoying both. The Missed Piggy sliders are filled with pulled pork drowned in super-sweet barbecue sauce. The fact that the doughnut, itself, is not sweet at all made it work as a vehicle–because they make everything from scratch (no mixes), the dough is really flavorful and can be shown off without glaze. The shrimp roll, seasoned with fresh dill and taragon, was also a hit. I liked the addition of capers and bits of crunchy celery. It should have been weird, but it wasn’t. The Monty Cristo was a little intense for me, what with all that cheese and black currant dipping sauce. The few bites I had were admittedly lusty, but more than that would have been too much.
I didn’t drink on my visit, since it was a Wednesday at, like, 3, however, you can scan the list here.
One of my favorite finds at this year’s Artisanal LA’s Fall Show was this Quinoa + Hemp Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookie made by Sugar Beak Bakery. The hefty baked treat feels like pure decadence—it’s salty and sweet, rich and chocolatey—but it’s also packed with high-protein, nutritious ingredients like quinoa, hulled hemp seeds and ground flax. That, along with organic coconut butter, make this cookie equal parts dreamy and satisfying. And, it honestly doesn’t leave you wanting more. I mean, you will want one again tomorrow (for sure), but in the moment, it renders you totally blissed out.
When I mentioned this pure bliss on Twitter, Sugar Beak owner Ashley Fiocco offered to send me more of her vegan treats to try. I said yes, and I got a smorgasbord of deliciousness dropped off at my door. One of the standouts was this Salted Caramel & Sweet Potato Chocolate Tartlet. It’s gluten-free, if you’re living that lifestyle, and it’s outrageous. The crust is made form raw nut and deep, dark chocolate sweetened by coconut sugar while the very creamy and gooey layer of caramel is quite surprisingly made with sweet potato. That frosted top is chocolate heaven. Seriously.
I was also quite taken with the Spiced Pumpkin and Carrot Cream Pie. This sweet treat is made with a silky blend of spiced up organic carrots and roasted pumpkin. The effect is subtle but delicious. Seeds and raw almonds are combined to create the crust. I would love a big version of this to take to every holiday party. It’s only around ’til the end of December, so think fast.
I appreciate Sugar Beak’s is all about healthy, high quality ingredients and zero refined sugar. They sneak in spinach, chia seeds, goji berries and all kinds of good, wholesome stuff into their luscious treats without sacrificing indulgent flavor. Everything is vegan, and almost everything is gluten-free, plus they’re into anti-oxidant-rich ingredients like raw seeds, nuts, whole grains, and organic produce. Just like me–when I’m not eating nachos.
Get yours on their website.
Vegan food has become quite the rage in past few years, breaking through to the mainstream with chains like Native Foods, Veggie Grill and Real Food Daily. Still, by my estimation, none of them have managed to even come close to Silver Lake’s Flore Vegan Cuisine. This mainstay cafe has been a go-to for omnivores and vegans alike for years because it’s so damn good. The comfort-driven menu, grounded in organic ingredients, has all the hits, from sloppy burgers and classic sandwiches to fat burritos and breakfast til 1 pm. Their brunch menu even includes a gravy-drenched “Chicken & Waffles.”
I find it hard to veer from Flore’s generally gluttonous sandwiches. The Tempeh Tu-No Melt is close to the real thing but stands on its own, plus any deviation is made up for by the fact that it isn’t chock-full of mercury. Chunky with ideal crunch, the tuna-like tempeh mixture mingles with cashew cheese, which adds a luscious texture and light sweetness. It does the same for the Tempeh Reuben, grilled on rye and absolutely gooey with layers of cheese, sauerkraut and Thousand Island dressing. All sandwiches come with mixed green salad or potato salad.
Taking over the former Larkin’s space and making the absolute most out of it with ample outdoor seating, Little Beast is Eagle Rock’s newest restaurant. Behind the venture is Sean Lowenthal, most recently a sous chef at Chateau Marmont, and his wife Deborah Schwartz. The concept, first test driven as a pop-up at Le Petit Beaujolais, is “progressive American comfort food,” which I’d say is a fair description. The menu is full of recognizable standards taken up a notch or two, a pretty common find Mid-City and on the Westside, but harder to get in our neck of the woods.
Starters at Little Beast pack the most “wow,” but I’m a girl who likes an appetizer, so maybe I’m biased. Do not bypass the Wild Salmon Tartare, a three-tiered snack with a lot of soul that doesn’t skimp on fish or guacamole. Gyoza crisps act as tostadas, salsa verde gives it zest, and kumquats punch up every bite. We also had the duck liver mousse, nestled under sweet carmelized onions. It was good, but I’d probably forgo it for the Watermelon and Feta or Charred Melon Salad next time.
Summer heat gives you the right to indulge in ice cream at least every other day, right? You’re lucky, too, because there are so many great ice cream shops on this side of town, most of them making beautiful ice creams, gelato, and frozen yogurt on the premises. Here are three great beat-the-heat-icy-sweet saviors from an ice cream fanatic (me):
Tejuino Los Reyes: This Lincoln Heights ice cream shop is really just a storefront where people line up in droves for nieves—there’s no seating, minus a bus bench. You can choose from ten or so flavors of this Mexican-style ice cream, with either a leche or agua base. Milk-wise, the chocolate has a rich cocoa taste, a light, airy texture and the occasional chocolate chip while the pistachio is outrageously nutty. Mixing a milk-based flavor like creamy coconut with a water-based one such as tart lime or subtly sweet mango is a good move. The medium gets you four scoops in a big styrofoam cup. Tejuino Los Reyes 2707 N. Broadway.
I feel like a jerk showing you something you can’t have, but I’m also no good at keeping delicious things to myself. This pie was available for order at Good Girl Dinette for Labor Day…only. There were three flavors available: peach, apple and plum. I chose the O’Henry Peach.
If you’ve ever had a curry pot pie from Good Girl Dinette, then you know that owner Diep Tran is a crust-making maestro. This fruit pie crust was flaky and buttery with that perfect punch of sourdough. The ends were crispy while the lattice and bottom were tender, but not too delicate—it stood up to the peaches.
I was invited to attend Taste of the Eastside, which I sadly had to miss last year. The whole shebang took place last Sunday at Barnsdall Park in Los Feliz. I got there right on time, so I was able to try everything relatively unmolested. Here are some of the things I tried. Those up there? Pavlovas with blackberry and lemon meyer preserves from Atwater Village’s Proof Bakery.
Here’s the rest:
Conchinita pibil taco from Yuca’s in Los Feliz. Very tender.
Buffalo-style cauliflower with vegan blue cheese from Mohawk Bend in Echo Park. I hardly missed the chicken.
Cinnamon rolls and red velvet cupcakes from Auntie Em’s in Eagle Rock.They were nice enough to turn over two rolls for me.