Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Lovely Layers: Arts and Crafts You Can Eat

I found an article (link here), in today's LAT Food Section to be very humorous and very inspiring. The subject of the piece was a popular French dish defined as a verinnes:
(n.) an appetizer or dessert of multiple layers, arranged artfully, and served in a "protective glass."

The article makes this verinnes notion sound lavish, luxurious and so post-modern artsy to the point where I feel it's necessary to point out two things:
1) that the main course version of this concept, of course, is casserole.
2) That Oreo Dirt Cups definitely count (I'll take gummy worms over foie gras any day...well, maybe not, but still).

Not so much haute glamour after all...though I suspect some fancy-pants chefs out there may not agree.

Anyone have a good Dirt Cups recipe? I'd love to see some artful arrangements, color variation of the worm, texture variation of the pudding/frosting/whatever you put in dirt cups...

Best little bit from the article: The mention of this hip new restaurant in Paris called Sensing. If I could suddenly be in Paris in 1 hour, this is where I would want to eat. They offer a—and I quote— "Le Snacking" menu. Love it.

Friday, February 23, 2007

"Macarons and Caramels and Chocolates, Oh My"

The sugar gods are really aligning today to sweet-tooth torture me with scrumptious little confections. Check out Miette Pâtisserie. It's a bakery and a candy store (two locations in the San Francisco Bay Area) run by two women who started out selling their yummy little treats at the Berkeley Farmer's Market. Their cake gallery is an exercise in cyberspace dessert binging. And the vintage cake platters? le sigh. I want one of everything. Now. Sign me up for the internship...

TGIF: Weekend Wisdom

"Life itself is the proper binge.”
-Julia Child

Breakfast today was a decadent, sinfully delicious homemade cupcake. Ok, full disclosure: TWO decadent, sinfully delicious cupcakes: Chocolate with Cream Cheese Frosting and Vanilla with Vanilla Frosting, both with those multi-colored sprinkles that remind you of the third grade. I started to feel guilty about my sugary a.m. indulgence, and then I remembered the above statement by my heroine Julia Child.

I'll count the calories when I'm dead and catching up on all that sleep. Thanks for reminding me how to be proper Jules.

BTW, my favorite cupcakes in L.A. are at SPRINKLES
in Beverly Hills. I know this is old news, but their Red Velvets are to die for. If you know of rival bakeries, do tell. I'd love to do some taste testing...

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Too Good to Eat: Le Pink Apothecary

Once upon a time there was a delightful little apothecary in Echo Park, Los Angeles, known by locals as Le Pink. However, the ever-crowded store was filled to the brim with the unbelievable scents emanating from hard-to-find, high-quality beauty product on its shelves. Something had to be done. Le Pink found a larger space to accommodate it's aromatic treasures, and has moved to a new location—in Silver Lake, on Sunset Blvd., near Sunset Junction. Their scintillating array of unique offerings(including vintage candy!)—all of which smell delectable enough to eat—will leave you wanting seconds and thirds...Enter with caution. The top three scents of my last visit:
1. Strawberry Milkshake Bar (body soap)
2. Japanese Plum toothpaste (a fluoride alternative)
3. Vanilla-Almond hand lotion

Friday, February 9, 2007

Bits and Bites: Sizing up Design

So there's this great blog I follow, The Daily Olive. It's really one of my favorites—it is unwaveringly dedicated to the intersection of food and design, and highlights tons of cool new products. Today's Post however gave me reason to pause. I'm not sure how much wine goes into a standard serving over in the Czech Republic (where these hand blown glasses are made), but does anyone else but me find The Glass of Truth Tumbler to be horribly small in comparison to the hand it's being held by? And the grip, quite frankly, is just plain awkward to look at. I usually see a glass half full, but this one is le suspect...

Thursday, February 8, 2007

coffeecoffeecoffecoffee: A New Life Line for the Over-caffeinated

I have discovered—right across the street from my office—a delightful new coffee shop. And for anyone who knows me, that is a serious find. What makes this little gem of a café at 6361 Wilshire Blvd. so wonderful, you ask? Well, well, well, let me tell you: it doubles as a chocolate shop. Pause—deep breath. Le heaven...I think I may be in love.

At Kelly's Coffee and Fudge , there is everything a caffeine-chocolate-fix seeking editor could possibly dream of getting her little hands on. Be it the 9:00 a.m. espresso & chocolate croissant "start the day right" treat, or the 3:45 cinnamon dark roast & dark chocolate Amaretto swirl "falling-asleep-on-my keyboard" afternoon pick me up, Kelly's is my new spot. The espresso is strong and smooth; the coffee is rich and impressing—especially if you have become accustomed to the likes of Starbucks or Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. The chocolate? See above declaration of possible enamor. They have about 34 locations in So Cal, and 17 more shops to open on the West Coast this year, so if you spot one near you, stop in. I strongly recommend Kelly's Cappucino—as a traditional "sipper" I find myself practically chugging this piping hot beverage, which is a lesson in (not-too sweet) flavored espresso perfection.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Bits and Bites: L.A. Times Wednesday Food Section, Four Stars ****

Wednesdays are my favorite: Food & Wine Section day. This week's section was a particularly scrumptious one, LAT. If you don't have time to check out whole section, be sure to at least scan these gems.

Experimenting with greens is high on my list right now. And Amy Scattergood, LA Times Staff writer, has convinced me to take my interest in this previously harmless (predominately nutritional) experimentation to a potentially dangerous level. I’ve never cooked a leafy green that involves warning signs and the suggestion to wear gloves. I relish the challenge: bring on the stinging nettles. [Click for full article]

There is something about the image of a conference of culinary wizards and gastronomic magicians that, in my mind, is likened to a particular scene in Roald Dahl’s The Witches: At a convention in a hotel in England, there is a little boy hiding out, praying not to be detected by his child-hating company of witches—whose world he has found himself given total access to. In Milan, I would also be hiding out, praying not to be detected, but by secret-guarding chefs, revealing their classified techniques and off the record innovations taking place among the most creative in the world of “molecular gastronomy.” [Click for full article]

yuzu kosho: a paste of yuzu citrus zest, green chile and salt. YUM. Personal food critic fan moment: "Irene, I am jealous you have tried it, I can't wait to try to make it, and this review—of which was as brilliantly nuanced as the food it described—was one of your best!" Review Here

MNMC (On Tuesday!): Pasta & None of the Kings Men

The Monday Night Movie Club reconvened on Tuesday this week (strict rules are not our style). I was set on a comfort meal and—inspired by a delicious looking pre-packaged mix of oyster mushrooms at the grocery store, and a solid craving for red chard—I decided that risotto would fit the bill. Snag: Ralphs was out of Arborio rice. Le dismay. But the bow tie pasta was looking cute, and, recalling the bag of lemons hitting their limit in the refrigerator, I quickly redesigned my dinner to include Farfalle with herbed chicken, mushrooms and red chard in a Lemon Beurre Blanc. Light, flavorful and still a bit comforting. I don't usually make sauces for the first time without a good recipe to follow, so I must admit I was nervous when, on the first tasting, it was extremely tart. But the addition of fresh Parmesan and the mushrooms created a more mellow balance in the end, and the M.N.M.C. couldn't stop eating it! Especially Jett. After dishing out ice cream for dessert, we turned on All the King's Men. After 30 minutes of watching Tony Soprano attempt to erase the Jersey twang from the accent of his southern politician-bully character, we turned it off. Sean Penn momentarily grabbed us with his impassioned "nail 'em up" speech, but in the end, the indeterminable dialogue outweighed the beautiful shots and the promise of a turning point any time soon.

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, in bite-sized pieces
2 Cups mixed mushrooms (I used oyster and cremini)
1/4 C chopped shallots
1 T. garlic, chopped
1/2 C butter
1/2 C dry white wine
Juice of 3 lemons
1 C chicken broth
1 bunch red chard, roughly chopped
Herbs to season
Salt and pepper to taste

Wash mushrooms and dry well on paper towels. In a saucepan over high heat, combine lemon juice, wine, half the garlic, and half the shallots. Reduce liquid by half. Whisk in butter, until well combined. Remove from heat and set aside. (You can also strain the solids before whisking the butter, if a smoother sauce is desired.)

Sauté the remaining garlic and shallots in about 1 T. of olive oil over medium heat. When onions are translucent, turn the heat up to high, add the mushrooms and sear, until browned well and just beginning to crisp slightly. Remove from heat and set aside.

Bring a large pot of water, salted to taste like the sea, to boil.

In the same pan you used to sear the mushrooms, add 1 C. chicken broth and de-glaze the pan, scraping up any browned bits, keeping the heat at medium-high. Lower the heat to medium, add the chicken, stirring occasionally and seasoning with herbs to taste until meat is cooked through. (The liquid will continue to reduce.) When the liquid has reduced by almost half, add in the red chard, and stir until it begins to wilt, about 3 minutes. Drain the liquid and reserve. Set the meat/chard mixture aside.

Cook the pasta according to the directions. While the pasta is cooking, bring the sauce up to medium heat. Add in the reserved liquid from the meat/chard mixture to desired taste and consistency. (I like the complexity that the mushroom/chard/chicken broth reduction gives the sauce.) Be careful not to add too much, though. If the sauce is too tart, you can whisk in more butter, or a dash of sugar to remove a bit of the tang. Salt and pepper the sauce to taste.

Coat the pasta with about 2/3 the sauce to start. Add in the chicken/chard mixture, the mushrooms, and about 1/2 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Stir in more sauce, as desired, mixing well. Serve immediately. Is great with a simple, mixed green salad.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Operation Leftovers: It's Cocktail Hour Somewhere

The art of improv in the kitchen is most rewarding when the goal is to use up remaining ingredients and/or leftovers. Waste not, want not, right? That's the driving force behind my "Operation Leftovers" mission. These assignments come in all sorts of dishes and meals, and I feel, given my utter appreciation for cocktail hour, that it is most fitting to launch Operation Leftovers with a happy hour version. To be used on this surprisingly warm, Los Angeles evening: 5 very, very ripe tangerines, 1 bottle of club soda, and about 9 oz of Stoli Vodka left over from last weekend's brunch.

Friday night's kick back with the girls was dreamy— Tangerine Dreamy—and the mood was low-key casual with sneakers (got my vans on), and led to B.B.Q burgers, potato chips, and a splash of Jane Fonda-inspired dance party moves: Mickey Avalon style.

Tangerine Dream
(Full disclosure: I did not have candied ginger on-hand, but group consensus was that it would have made an excellent garnish to the hint of ginger in the simple syrup.)

5 Tangerines, juiced
1/2 Vanilla bean
1/2 teaspoon minced ginger
2 Tablespoons sugar
9 Oz Vodka
6 Oz Club Soda
*Pre-purchased crystallized (candied) ginger, crushed, to garnish
Tangerine wheels, to garnish


Makes 4.

In a saucepan over medium-high heat, combine tangerine juice, sugar, ginger and the content of the vanilla bean (scraped well), and stir constantly until the mixture thickens, similar to a simple syrup, about 15 minutes. Set aside and allow to cool completely. (This can be done two days ahead of time.)

Place the crushed crystallized ginger on a small plate. Coat the rim of a martini glass with the cooled syrup, and place over ginger, pressing gently, to garnish the glass. Set glasses in a freezer to chill. In a large martini shaker filled with ice, mix together vodka, soda and simple syrup. (This can be done in batches, divide evenly into four). Carefully pour into chilled glasses and garnish with tangerine wheel. Serve immediately!