Thursday, August 29, 2013

Learning Pie Making with Sherry Yard and Evan Kleiman

Evan Kleiman started "Pie a Day" on the KCRW Good Food blog a few years ago by making a pie a day for 100 days. That took off and culminated in an annual Pie Contest where home cooks compete. Sherry Yard is one of the best pastry chefs in LA. She's put in years at Spago but is now set to open her own bakery in Culver City. The two came together to give a pie making class at Culver City's New School of Cooking recently to raise funds for KCRW.

To be precise, they're raising funds for the 5th Annual Good Food Pie Contest, which will take place on Saturday, September 7 from 2-4pm at LACMA. If you want to enter, you can sign up before September 1 on the website, and the fee is $10 per entry! There's also a Kids and Vegan category.

I don't know a thing about making pie, but I can tell you what tips I learnt from the pie class! First off, the set up is pretty nice. A glass of sparkling wine greeted us as we were seated at the tables. There's a full table setting because we're not just watching a cooking demo, but will soon be eating three delicious pies while drinking more wine!

The pie class was completely sold out, so it was a full house, but most can see what they're doing pretty clearly on the overhead mirror.
First up is Evan Kleiman making her chicken pot pie (I will post the recipe tomorrow!)
So Evan uses part butter and part duck fat for her pie dough, genius! She passed it around so we can smell it.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

LA Picnic on Sept 7, Benefiting St. Vincent Meals on Wheels + GIVEAWAY!

In my opinion, one of the best charities to support is St. Vincent Meals on Wheels, which provides hot meals to homebound seniors, and they do a lot of great fundraisers. St. Vincent MoW delivers over 4000 meals a day and only receive about $1 per meal in donation, which costs them $7 to deliver with current gas prices. That's why the fundraisers are so important!

This year, they're doing their first LA Picnic on Saturday, September 7. The event is presented by Lexus and co-hosted by LA Kitchen. Starting at 10:30 am, guest chefs will join attendees at the table for a picnic style brunch on the grass lawn of a historic hacienda at the Original Farmers Market.

Michael Voltaggio
Photo courtesy of StVMoW
The guest chefs include Michael Voltaggio (ink), Ray Garcia (FIG), Tim Guiltinan (The Raymond), Josef Centeno (Bar Ama), Vartan Abgaryan (Cliff's Edge), Neal Fraser (BLD, Redbird, Fritzi Dog), Sal Marino (Il Grano), Kris Morningstar (Ray's and Stark Bar), Christian Page (Short Order), Erik Sun (Pursuit of Food).

Tickets are $95 each or $150 for VIP tickets and can be purchased here. The VIP tickets get you the same thing as the general admission tickets, but the difference goes to feeding more seniors (20!). It's more about the good deed!

Now, to spread the word about this wonderful event, St. Vincent's Meals on Wheels has offered up a pair of tickets to one of lucky readers! To enter the event, just use the entry form below and help us spread the word!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Giveaway! Tickets to California Beer Festival in San Dimas

So California Beer Festival is hitting up three different cities this year and they will be in San Dimas on Saturday, September 7 at the Frank G. Bonelli park. The brew lineup of over 60 beers on tap includes California favorites like Stone, Hangar 24, Lagunitas, Firestone Walker, Ballast Point, along with out-of-towners you can't miss including Deschutes and Goose Island.
Now. They've generously offered two pairs of general admission tickets ("Craft Beer Heaven ticket", $45 value per ticket) to give away to my readers. That could be you! And it's easy to enter. You can enter using the form below and following the instructions, and I will be drawing two winners on Sunday!

The general admission ticket ($45 online or $55 at the door) will get you admission with souvenir cup and all the beer samples, live music, and (apparently) bikini bocce ball.
Food is not included but will be available for purchase. The $70 VIP tickets will allow you to go in an hour early with a souvenir pint glass and access to reserve and specialty beers, along with a taco bar from 11:30am-1pm.

Proceeds will benefit the Gen Giammanco Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides financial support to student athletes to assist in their pursuit of both scholastic and athletic success in the city of San Dimas.

Good luck!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Gorge on Labor Day Weekend with LA Times' The Taste

The Los Angeles Times once again takes over labor day weekend with The Taste with 5 different food and drinks events throughout the weekend. It's not just going around tasting food and drinking, though. The Taste has cooking demos and various panels (last year I got to taste pinot noir while listening go a guy rap about wine). Tickets for each event are $65 (or $85 after August 29), with the exception of the $125 opening night. Here are the schedule of events and what to expect:

LA Times' Noelle Carter served up brisket sliders at
the preview
Friday, August 30, 7:30pm: Opening Night ($125 for this event)

Saturday, August 31, 11am: Field to Fork
There will be cooking demos with Ari Taymor from Alma (named Bon Appétit's Best New Restaurant this year!) at noon, Michael Cimarusti, and Sherry Yard.

Saturday, August 31, 7:30pm: Flavors of LA
There will be a Power of Pop-up panel with Jonathan Gold, Starry Kitchen, etc

Sunday, Sept 1, 11am: Labor Day Block Party. 
There will be cooking demo with Nancy Silverton, Evan Kleiman. Noelle Carter (responsible for LA Times' Test Kitchen) will also be hosting a Competition BBQ panel.

I had a preview of some of the things served at this event, including Dog Haus who will either be serving their spicy Thai dog or the Pastrami Dog. Coni Seafood's seafood tostada with sea snails and that amazing smoked marlin pate was one of the highlights of the night. Creme Caramel infuses custard desserts with Asian flavors with their pandan flan and Chinese sausage bread pudding (move over, bacon!)

There will be plenty of drinks, too, including Mionetto prosecco. Circa in Manhattan Beach will showcase one of their bottled cocktails. The Richard Pryor is made with Demerara rum and a cherry wood-smoked house made cola (with lime, of course)

Sunday, Sept 1, 7:30pm: Cocktail Confidential
The more drink-focused event will feature a craft cocktail demo with the famed co-hose Matthew Biancaniello, Serena Herrick (Allumette), Christiaan Rollich (AOC), and Brady Weise (1886). There will also be cooking demo with Michael Voltaggio.
Sucka Punch from Sunny Spot at last year's
Cocktail Confidential

Tickets can be purchased on the LA Times' website.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Spend Summer Fridays Sipping Local Craft Beers on Thompson Hotel's Rooftop

Every Friday this summer, the Thompson Hotel in Beverly Hills is bringing different local craft breweries to the rooftop, dubbed the Rooftop Food Club. They'll be serving these local beers along with rotating grill menu from Caulfield's (and sometimes Seoul Sausage). Drinking beer on the rooftop with a view of Beverly Hills? Pretty chill way to spend a Friday evening!

(Well, you can't quite get to the pool, though, as they close around 6pm or something every day. I snuck up there and took this photo but then was told to come back down to the rooftop bar).

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Pork Belly's (Venice, CA)

A couple doors down from a juice bar on Abbot Kinney is Pork Belly's, specializing in sandwiches made with meats smoked in-house by their competition BBQ pitmaster, Eric Solton.
There's no seating inside this small store, but you can eat on the wooden counter on the wall of graffiti and they're working on some outdoor seating.

Their signature sandwich is The Belly Up: Smoked BBQ Pork Belly topped with homemade coleslaw on a brioche roll ($8.95)
Generous amount of thick pork belly slices encased between brioche buns. It's decadent, for sure, but the slaw does a surprisingly nice job balancing the fattiness so that it's not too heavy on your palate.

If you're still afraid the pork belly will be too fatty for you, try The Chop: Brisket smoked for over 12 hours in their in-house smoker then chopped. Topped with homemade BBQ sauce and Cole Slaw on a brioche roll ($8.95)
This is easier to eat than the pork belly. With the shredded brisket you don't need to tear off a chunk of meat with each bite. The sauce is nice, slightly tangy. Again, the slaw balanced out the sweet BBQ sauce nicely so you can keep eating.
Oh, every sandwich also comes with a mini chocolate chip cookie, so watch out for it when you open the wrapper! The cookies are freshly baked and chewy.

Smoky Balls: Pork & Beef meatballs smoked then thinly sliced. Served with homemade tomato sauce, peppers and onions on a grinder roll, topped with melted cheese ($8.95).
The meatball had a very interesting texture, closer to meatloaf than the usual meatball. It's not as flavorful as the first two sandwiches but it had a subtle smokiness.

They also serve something which they claim are "like chili cheese fries but better". They're tater tots topped with either brisket (called Chop Tots) or chorizo (called Slop Tots) and melted cheese ($4.99)
Better than fries indeed! I only tried the slap tots but will need to try the one with brisket next.

You can still take your vegetarian friends here, where they can try the veggie sloppy joe or a grilled cheese sandwich.

Another side to get is the Fried pickles served with sriracha aioli ($3.95)

I think this is my first time having fried pickles but I really liked them, especially with that sriracha aioli.

There's no beer or wine here, but I have to admit I did enjoy the freestyle Coke machine with over 100 choices of soft drinks or lemonade. So. many. choices.

Pork Belly's offers something different in the Venice area and a quick, satisfying to-go lunch stop. To make it extra quick, you can also place your order online for pick up.
On Mondays and Thursdays they have ribs after 1:30 pm but unfortunately I was there too early to try it.

It's not just a lunch stop but they're also open late at night on the weekends (until 2 am on Fridays and Saturdays) and the food would be so good on those drunken nights and prevent hangovers!

Pork Belly's Sandwich Shop
1146 Abbot Kinney Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90291
(424) 777-8875
Pork Belly's Sandwich Shop on Urbanspoon
Disclosure: this meal was hosted 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Water Menu at Ray's and Stark Bar: Can You Taste The Difference?

Yes, Ray's and Stark Bar now has a water menu of twenty different still and sparkling waters, complete with their own water sommelier, Martin Riese. When I was invited to a water tasting there, I was both tickled and curious. A "water menu" seems excessive, but I was curious if I can really taste the differences between different brands. I mean, I knew there was a difference because I never really liked Voss but have always loved Fiji, but I wanted to see if it really makes a big enough difference.

Martin explained that the different flavors of water comes from the different mineral contents according to the water source. The waters are labeled by their "TDS" number or "total dissolved solids".

IMG_7415 The water menu itself is pretty impressive and beautiful, with the mineral contents and flavor profiles of each water listed next to a beautiful photograph. So, the short answer to my question was YES, I can certainly taste the differences. Voss has a low TDS (6 mg of sodium, 1 mg of magnesium, and 5 mg of calcium) and has a little bitterness/sharpness at the end. Martin suggests that Voss would go better with salads, while Fiji would be better for desserts.

After the tasting, I think Fiji is still my favorite still water! Fiji's aquifer is hundreds of feet below the edges of a rainforest and the water that goes in there had gone through layers of volcanic rock, creating a natural filtration process. Fiji has a slightly higher TDS (18 mg of sodium, 15 mg magnesium, and 18 mg calcium) and it has a softer, almost "buttery" (as far as water can be buttery) mouthfeel to it.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Now at Pinkberry: Greek Yogurt and Great Savory Bowls!

Did you know that Pinkberry now has greek yogurt? Not a "greek" frozen yogurt, but a bonafide greek yogurt, and they use it to make some great bowls! Yes, Pinkberry's not just about froyo anymore.

I was recently invited to the Pinkberry headquarters in Santa Monica to do a blind tasting of greek yogurts and try their new Powerbowls. When else will I get a chance to visit their headquarters??

When I eat yogurt at home, I usually just add fruit and granola to it - maybe honey. That's it, and you probably do, too. But Pinkberry has been getting quite creative with their greek yogurt! I was amazed by their Sunflower Cucumber combination in which they top their greek yogurt (named "Pinkberrygreek") with cucumber, sunflower seed bites (like sunflower cookies), olive oil, and chili powder.
You don't have to have dessert at Pinkberry, you can have something savory too! I never thought of making something like this with yogurt, and was very pleasantly surprised. It was sweet and savory, silky and crunchy. This bowl has a very Mediterranean flavor to it, and will make a great light meal or snack. I'm already itching to go to a Pinkberry to get this.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Los Angeles Food & Wine (August 22-25) + 2012 Recap

Last year I was able to attend a couple of the Los Angeles Food & Wine events courtesy of Knork, which was the festival's official flatware! (They also sent me a set of knorks, which is officially the best flatware I've ever owned.)

LA Food and Wine is not just a big tasting event, but they also hold special lunches, cooking demonstrations and tastings around town throughout the four days. Among this year's events, which are coming up on August 22-25, I'm excited about the Mixology Lunch at Hinoki & The Bird, Asian Night Market with Iron Chef Morimoto, Best of Belgium - Beer and Bites (because I love Belgian beers), a cocktail demonstration with Grant Achatz (I love The Aviary and The Office in Chicago), and Bacon and Bourbon with Chef Edward Lee.

Now, back to last year. I attended a Southern Brunch cooking demonstration with Chef Dean Fearing from Dallas and Michelle Bernstein from Miami.

It's hard to see the actual stoves but this mirror above really helped.
First Chef Bernstein shows us how to cure salmon. She cured wild Alaskan Cohoe salmon in Jim Beam! I haven't personally tried it but she made it sound pretty easy. The real process takes about a week so, of course, we ate the salmon she had already cured beforehand, sitting atop of crispy potato latkes and further topped with caviar. What a fancy Southern brunch!
Then, Chef Dean Fearing prepared chicken fried quail with his special spice mix (available for sale), served with some amazing bourbon jalapeno creamed corn and pickled onion and mango slaw. I'm loving the bourbon theme.

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Georgian Hotel Celebrates 80th Anniversary With 1930s Retro Menu

The Georgian Hotel in Santa Monica is a symbol of old Hollywood glamour and the hotel recently celebrated their 80th anniversary with the launch of a 1930s retro dining menu and a prohibition cocktail menu, available at The Veranda Restaurant. The Veranda Restaurant is literally on the front veranda of the hotel, overlooking Ocean Avenue.

The retro menu includes items like Grilled Chicken Waldorf Salad (grilled chicken breast, arugula, chopped apples, diced celery, candied walnuts, grapes and orange infused cranberries tossed with apple-orange infused mayo dressing - $13.95)

One of my favorites was the Mini Monte Cristo sandwich (black forest ham, roasted turkey breast, Gruyere; egg battered and deep fried, served with a blackberry jam dipping sauce - $9.75)
This was actually one of the best Monte Cristo sandwiches I've had since it wasn't overly eggy or sweet but still indulgent.

Vegetarians need not shy away from The Georgian since they have an awesome Veggie Meatloaf (made with fire roasted tomatoes, toasted walnuts, diced celery, yellow onion, fresh garlic, parsley, and green bell pepper blended together and baked. Topped with chunky fire roasted "ketchup", served with green beans in hazelnut gremolata - $12.75)

Saturday, August 10, 2013

1886 Bar Goes Tiki and Divey This Summer

Every season, 1886 does something different with their cocktail menu, and this summer they're turning into a tiki and dive bar complete with fun tiki decorations (complete with the bartender Peter Lloyd-Jones wearing a Hawaiian shirt!)


Per usual, their menu is divided into four sections. The first features fun interpretations of classic tiki cocktails.
The Strawberry Pina Colada on Fire is an ode to the recently closed Bahooka. There's also the classic Zombie, and the one thing I still haven't tried is the Scorpion Bowl for 4, since they were still waiting for the bowl to come in.

The next section is the dive bar drinks they labeled "Dirty Pretty Things", including a "molecular" approach to shots. There's a Mojito Jello Shot made with Flor de Cana rum. Ever had a pickleback? That's a shot of whisky with a chaser of pickle juice. Here, the pickleback is pickle brine from Langer's Deli enclosed in a sphere inside a shot of Powers Irish whisky.
On a similar line, there's also a sangrita sphere served in a shot of tequila.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Decorating Cakes with Duff Goldman for LA Food & Wine

The LA Food and Wine Festival brings back a series of food events over four days on August 22-25, from Italian festival with Giada De Laurentiis, Asian Night Market with Iron Chef Morimoto, lunches at restaurants around town, to the Lexus Grand Tasting on the last day.


Duff Goldman
The last event of the series is a cooking demo with Duff Goldman. As a preview for the festival, I got to go to Duff's Cake Mix on Melrose to decorate a cake. Duff Goldman was also in attendance. Before getting down to decorating we mingled with some wine and Chef Eric Greenspan's grilled cheese sandwiches. Untitled
We started with a white cake, just like a white canvas for painting.

The theme was California cuisine so we decided to make a "kale salad" and started rolling out the green fondant. I used a leaf mold to make the "kale", made red fondant balls for cherry tomatoes. We made sliced carrots and avocadoes, copying LA OC Foodie and Shop Eat Sleep's cake of avocado, sushi, and taco.
Voila! Our kale salad cake!
The other attendees' cakes were pretty impressive.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Supermarket Superstar Hits Lifetime TV With Creative Food

I'm a bit late but there's a new food competition: Supermarket Superstar on Lifetime TV! Have you started watching it?
Basically these are for folks who want to get their food products on supermarket shelves nationwide and each week has a theme (desserts, spreads, etc). They had a preview of the actual food that would be on the show a few weeks back, and I was impressed by the creativity of many of them! The show is now set for Thursdays at 10:30pm.

Each episode has a theme, like "snacks" or "sauces" or "baked goods". Here's what you should watch for (and what I'm rooting for):
Chimales from Dominic Lau, the guy behind Don Chow Taco Truck

Just like Don Chow, the concept is Mexican food meets Chinese. These are tamales spiced with Chinese five spice and stuffed with Kung Pao Chicken (complete with peanut toppings).

Fried chicken bao from Ben Vancleave, set for the episode of Snacks.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Playing at Zengo's Test Kitchen

The term fusion has been thrown around for many years and the boundaries have been blurred. At Zengo in Santa Monica, they play around with a changing Test Kitchen menu, combining flavors from specific countries. I tried the Test Kitchen menu combining Hong Kong with San Juan, Puerto Rico flavors, which included items like Chicarron-plantain mofongo shumai, ground pork, chicharron, black vinegar, XO sauce

Mofongo Shumai
This was quite an interesting combination. The dumpling skin was nice and thin and while there were traditional Chinese flavors here, the mofongo was very distinctive.

The Adobo sweet n sour BBQ pork ribs were quite tender. They were served with papa rellena, bacon, Jack cheese, chayote slaw

Friday, August 2, 2013

$45 4-Course Menu at Scarpetta, Every Day

Were you excited about Scarpetta's $45 DineLA menu? Are you bummed you missed it? If you answer yes to either of those, you might want to know that Scarpetta's had a $45 4-course prix fixe menu for a while now and is continuing it after DineLA.

I'll say it again: you can get a 4 course meal at Scarpetta for $45 any day.

All meals start with a bread basket that many consider to be the best in LA. Do try the Stromboli (they have a vegetarian version with broccolini which is equally delicious).
Now, on to the prix fixe menu. There are two options for each course, which will change seasonally. When I went last month the first course option included:
Tuscan Kale, red quinoa, medjool dates, and pecorino romano
It's hard to beat a well done kale salad, and this is definitely one of them.

The other options is a Braised Short Rib of Beef, vegetable, and farro risotto
It's certainly a heavier appetizer, but they were both good and will satisfy whichever mood you're in.

The second course is the pasta, or "Paste":
Spinach Pappardelle, housemade duck sausage ragu, morel mushrooms, and ramps

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