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Christmas is next week, and if you’re sane, you’ll stay away from the mayhem of the malls and big box stores. Trust me, there’s nothing there that anyone wants anyway. The stuff people will really use can found in your local neighborhood markets, bakeries and gourmet shops—gifts of the food and drink variety are great last minute options, and you can be sure that they won’t sit around in someone’s closet or junk drawer. Plus, price doesn’t determine deliciousness as some of the best food gifts will run you less than $5.
Here are some great food gifts to buy on this side of town:
Sugar Cookies from Elsa’s Bakery
Elsa’s Bakery in Highland Park makes stellar sugar cookies, and they only cost 30 cents. I’m not lying! These cute little galetas are one of the bakery’s best-selling items, and owner Edmundo Rodriguez says they ship them all over the country to former neighborhood residents. The long-distance craving for these soft, buttery cookies with a hint of cinnamon makes perfect sense. Buy a dozen each for all your friends—you can afford it! 5102 York Boulevard
Morning Glory Artisan Brittle
Peanut brittle is one thing, but Thai curry peanut brittle is quite another. Morning Glory Confections makes a slew of wonderful artisan brittles with an experimental bent. The New Mexican Chili & Pumpkin Seed is spicy-sweet in the best way while the Chocolate Bourbon & Pecan brings on that warm southern charm. Boxes range from $5-$10. Buy online or at Auntie Em’s, Cheese Store of Silverlake, or Atwater Farmers’ Market this Sunday.
Growlers from Golden Road Brewing
Your beer-loving friend is easy to please. Just head over to Golden Road Brewing in Atwater Village and buy him or her a Growler. The jugs of beer come in two sizes: 64 oz or 32 oz at $12 and $7, respectively, for Golden Road’s regular varieties, including their very versatile Hefeweizen and the surprisingly accessible Point the Way IPA. Specialty beers will run you slightly more at $14 and $10. The best part is that the bottles are reusable, so the lucky person you gift this to can get a refill at a discounted price. Suddenly, you’re a hero. 5410 W San Fernando Road (Photo courtesy of Golden Road Brewery)
Chocolates and Petits Fours from Valerie Confections
Maybe your See’s Candy routine needs a shakeup. Enter: Valerie Confections. The unassuming storefront on First Street is easy to miss, but once you’re inside, you’ll be blown away by the bounty of beautiful sweets. The petits fours are made the traditional way with four layers of cake and three layers of filling—try the Rose Petal, vanilla bean cake and rose petal granache surrounded in white chocolate (I know, right?). A box of 4 is $18, and so worth it. If you want to go bigger, they have grander boxes, and if you want to go smaller, just give some chocolate bars. 3360 W First Street or at the new Echo Park location: 1665 Echo Park Avenue or buy online
Sugar Pretzels from La Mascota Bakery
La Mascota Bakery has been a Boyle Heights tradition for over 50 years. They sell really tasty pan dulce and tamales, but I’m all about the Sugar Pretzel. With its crispy texture covered in big flecks of sugar, it’s so simple, but so delicious. Each one costs 50 cents. You could get a stack of them, wrap them in some fancy cellophane, and make someone really happy. They also have these cute miniature versions of the essential panaderia pink and yellow cookies that wouldn’t make a bad gift either. 2715 Whittier Boulevard
Cathy Chaplin’s Food Lover’s Guide to Los Angeles
While not technically food, Cathy Chaplin’s Food Lover’s Guide to Los Angeles will afford you and your friends a 2014 full of great culinary experiences. The popular food blogger and writer for Los Angeles Times has compiled the ultimate reference book for LA foodies, including a full list of food festivals, specialty shops, farmer’s markets and restaurants. Organized by neighborhood, it covers old and new establishments plus recipes from local chefs. Available on Amazon, in bookstores, and at Good Girl Dinette in Highland Park.
Cheese from Say Cheese in Silver Lake
Cheese is not a bad gift. Just throw it into a basket with a box of crackers and a bottle of wine. Or don’t. A true cheese lover will be happy with a nice, fancy wedge without any fixings. Say Cheese in Silver Lake is a small space, stacked high with a wide variety of mostly Euro, and some domestic, cheeses. When it’s crowded, the service can be a tad unfriendly, so try to go earlier in the day and avoid after-work hours if you know what’s good for you. However, even if there’s a line of people tapping their feet behind you, don’t be afraid to ask questions and request samples. They’re pretty good about that at Say Cheese, and they’ll work with your budget. 2800 Hyperion Avenue
DIY Soda from Galco’s
If DIY gifts are your thing, make your way to Galco’s. The Highland Park pop purveyor now has a Soda Creation Station, which means you can make your own handmade sodas with over 80 traditional-to-exotic flavors that are begging to be mixed and matched. Plus—and this is big—you set your preferred carbonation strength! Each bottle is only $2.99, and the label lets you personalize every soda you make. Grab some old timey candy while your there and give your friends the sugar shock of their lives. 5702 York Boulevard (Photos by Martha Benedict)
Pickled Veggies, Jams and Granola from JamIam
One of my favorite food finds of the year is JamIam. From chutneys to granola, this Silver Lake-based company makes small batches of all my favorite things. Owner Carolyn Cooper has been canning since the ’70s, and she kills it with her Dilly Beans, pickled green beans that are so addictive you could eat the whole jar in a day, or maybe an hour. A jar of those, along with her Blueberry-Lime Jam and Cranberry Orange Sauce would make a good additions to any gourmet gift basket, though they can all stand alone provided you pop a festive bow on the lid. They’ll run you anywhere from $7-$10. Buy online or at the Atwater Farmers’ Market every Sunday.
Heirloom LA’s Lasagna Cupcakes
Give the gift of lasagna, in the cutest form possible. Heirloom LA‘s Lasagna Cupcakes are famous for a reason, and that reason is two fold: they’re delicious and you can eat the whole thing yourself. They come in a variety of flavors, including Confit Baby Artichoke, Heirloom Tomato & Basil, and Smoked Mac n’ Cheese, plus they freeze like champs. At $9 a pop, they’re a little pricey, but even just one is a nice, thoughtful gift. Buy them online or at Silver Lake Wine (Photo courtesty of Guzzle & Nosh)
Cookies from Proof Bakery Cookies from Proof Bakery
Proof Bakery might make the best chocolate chip cookie in the universe. No exaggeration. It’s sweet, rich, a little bit salty, and completely heaven sent. The Ginger Molasses isn’t bad either. Get a few of them for the most special people on your list, remembering that jerks do not deserve them. Each costs $1.75, and Proof is open on Christmas Eve, so go early for the best variety because those things sell out. 3156 Glendale Boulevard
Anything/Everything from Auntie Em’s Kitchen
Auntie Em’s Kitchen has an unbelievable marketplace. Every shelf of the small space is filled with jellies, jams, mustards, chocolates…you name it. There’s also a nice cheese selection, and of course, their famous cupcakes and cookies. You could do all your shopping here and call it a day. Highlights include flavored (think peppermint and chocolate) marshmallows from Little Flower Company, brittle from Morning Glory (see above), beans and spices from Rancho Gordo and a well-curated selection of cookbooks. 4616 Eagle Rock Boulevard
This bread. It’s the reason I never miss Atwater Village Farmers’ Market on Sundays. To me, it’s the main draw. And that’s saying a lot because that little market, though compact, is full of all the stuff I love to eat—top notch fruits and vegetables, fresh meat, fruit pies, artisanal cheeses, and this bread from Mission Viejo’s Old Village Bakery.
There must be fifty Kalamata olives in every loaf. The outer texture is golden and crusty, the inside soft and chewy. It’s a fantastic (extravagantly fanciful; marvelous) addition/focal point to a Sunday morning breakfast:
Though not exactly necessary, adding a thick schmear of unsalted butter or some goat cheese from Soledad Farm’s (also available at the market) is pure bliss. But whether you doctor it up or not, this bread is ideal for sopping up yolky eggs. I imagine it would also be pretty spectacular as part of a chicken salad sandwich or dipped into some soup.
If I could ever make it past breakfast before tearing into it, I’d find out.
UPDATE: BOMB! Salads is now BOMB! Foods, but you can still find them in the Silver Lake Farmers’ Market.
When Rowan Moore Gerety wrote me, he had two questions: a.) had I tried Tacos La Fonda in Glassel Park and b.) did I know about his salad stall at the Silver Lake Farmers’ Market. The answer to both questions was no, but I was easily lured by his description of BOMB! Salads—fresh salads made to order with produce purchased on the spot.
Sign me up.
Every Saturday until 2pm, Gerety and his business partner, Jesse, (who’s taking over while Gerety is away on assignment in Mozambique) whip up salads, soups and mashed potatoes from scratch. The menu and ingredients change depending on what’s in available at the market. On my visit, I tried two salads: one with chopped broccoli, julienned apples and cilantro (pictured above) and another with curly kale, gold beet, dandelion and cucumbers. Both were really delicious with a light dressing of sunflower with lemon and yellow mustard on the kale and green pea and peppercorn on the broccoli salad. The crunch factor of both salads (super fresh!) was a plus, and the plate-sized portions were a fair deal for $6.
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 enjoyed a delicious dinner with friends at Cube on La Brea. If you’ve never been, I really recommend it, especially if you’re a cheese lover–they feature 85 different varieties from all over the world. It’s where I first fell in love with aged gouda, so I’m forever grateful.
Cube’s always-seasonal menu is filled with plenty cheese-centric dishes, including the Heirloom Tomato and Fresh Peach Salad, which was such a standout of the wine and small plates feast we had, that I had to recreate it at home.
This is a very simple salad–peaches, heirloom tomatoes, fresh basil, olive oil and balsamic vinegar–but the flavors are out of hand. The salad at Cube includes buffalo mozzarella, but we went full-force with burrata, which is more decadent. When the cream spills out, it mixes so nicely with the oil and vinegar. Make sure you have some bread on hand to sop it up!
Find your local Farmer’s Market at the Los Angeles Times.
Photos taken at Alhambra Farmer’s Market, which happens every Sunday. There’s a incredible selection of produce at this relatively small market with a large variety of Asian vegetables. Lots of good food booths, too. It’s one of the most overlooked markets in town.
The soup is from Fressco.
Cakes are by Old Time Baking Co.
Don’t miss out on these beautiful cherries. They’re already pretty sweet. We got ours at that Alhambra Farmer’s Market. You can get your very own at your favorite market.
Buying your produce locally is one of the best things that you can do for the environment and your local farmer. And who wants fruit that’s been sitting on a truck for who knows how long? Or–even worse–ripened with gas? Not me!
Check out a local Certified Farmer’s Market near you this week–check out a list of them here.
Peaches are starting to look good, too…
Well, I for one won’t stand for it because I know the truth about these salty little guys. Please allow me to convert you.
It never even crossed my mind to eat an anchovy until I went to Rome, where a traditional pie includes tomato, mozzarella, anchovies, oregano, and oil. Since I wholeheartedly subscribe to the “When in Rome” philosophy, it didn’t take long for me to try this combo and fall in love.
Once I got home, I started insisting on anchovies every time I went out for pizza—they do it really well at Casa Bianca in Eagle Rock and, of course, at Pizzeria Mozza. Soon, my anchovy fever became so intense that I began to wonder what they could do for our weekly homemade pizza. The answer: a lot!
Here are the goods on my “Don’t-Hold-the-Anchovies Pizza”: