Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Eat Real Festival, Los Angeles

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On the bright weekend of July 16, 2011, we made it out to the Eat Real Food Festival, along with about 30,000 other attendees in Culver City, sponsored by Whole Foods and the Helms Bakery District.
With the tag being "Eat it. Make it. Grow it," visitors could readily see a mixture of local community vendors, growers, businesses, artist, musicians, and the occasional rooster or chicken. Granted, I've not been to too many festivals, but this certainly felt like a couple steps above a backyard BBQ or a county fair that may have misplaced its rides. The real difference between either? Small charges for food items (the festival boasted a $5.00 or less menu) and FREE admission. 

Whether you have a favorite food truck or not, you may have found it here, with parking lots and streets lined with options such as Coolhaus Ice Cream, Nom Nom Truck, and the Flat Iron Food Truck, to name just a few. I walked by a few truck vendors wondering what goes into a Planchita, or how I can mimic that addicting grilled cheese at home, or maybe I should start stocking up on fresh coconuts. Not all vendor items suited the individual palette, but with the current food truck fixation, it certainly was a good outlet to increase awareness on just how many there are in this city.

Booths were set up throughout the festival along sunny streets and a covered warehouses, including growers of olives, chicken farmers, butchers, vegan bakeries and makers of Kombucha. Sauces and marinades were abundant, almost as frequent as the samples that accompanied most booths. "Try before you buy", seemed to be the glowing model, as vendor after vendor offered free samples of items they were selling at their booths. Aside from some of the enticing visual displays and the free options, the bulk of their food items were sold at a reduced cost (fitting into the festival model) than their general market prices!
Bread Pudding and Custard
Unique to the food festival, was its focus on local and sustainable ingredients, and the 'how to's in their booth and presentations. Informative food and chat sessions were scheduled throughout the weekend, teaching attendees things like how to make a pretzel, toss a pizza crust, debone a pig, or simply how to make good food. It was a beautiful and warm day in Los Angeles during the event and although spanning only over a few parking lots and streets, hours quickly passed as we learned more about what we eat.

Grilled Cheese on Sourdough
If you're in the area, the next Eat Real Fest will be hosted in Oakland, CA on Sept 23-25th 2011. Check out their website for more information at www.eatrealfest.com!
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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Tin Shed Garden Cafe

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Portland, OR. Now where can I find that garden tea party spot? Or maybe just a place that could come relatively close? With its casual yet comfortable outdoor patio, picnic-like decor, those feel-good family BBQs and pot luck memories easily round out the dining aesthetic to this little eatery in Alberta District.  It was as though I could walk a few steps further and run into an old neighbor or childhood friend. I could easily see groups, large or small, fighting it out for a table at this place.
Cream of Mushroom Soup, Shed Salad
Tin Shed is primarily known for its breakfast and brunch yet this place ALSO serves dinner. A relatively new concept to the frequent goers of the brunch fare, but in learning there was something 'new' here of course I had to give it a go. When I asked locals for dinner suggestions this eatery never popped up into anyones' mind. Either way, there was food to be had.

Dinner items were listed on a pager menu, and one of the first things anyone may notice is the significant amount of vegetarian options. From such a food approach it could be quite tough to pick your one (or two) entrees to eat!

For the sake of simplicity, we asked the waitress for a few popular items and this was the result:
  1. Starter I: Mushroom Soup - made on-site with local ingredients
  2. Starter II: Shed Salad - simple side salad with crispy onions
  3. Entree I: Heartless Artichoke Sandwich - veggies sandwiched between grilled sourdough
  4. Entree II: Berry Garcia - alternative version of a quesadilla
The first two items were mild in flavors with an expected taste - a bit too mild for me, but good for the intolerant palette. I appreciate the "green" influence throughout PDX and I could certainly taste the freshness in their simple salad and soup, but I was more curious about the entrees...
Heartless Artichoke Sandwich
Heartless Artichoke Sandwich - included their dip - artichokes blended with spices, red pepper, and parmesan cheese - and was folded between a grilled slice of sourdough bread with pepper jack cheese. It was a great mixture and great taste that took a blend of subtle spice and cheesy goodness to a new level. No one flavor outshone the other in this particular dish.  I was tempted to order another, but knowing I was venturing onward to a dessert restaurant, I had to talk myself down.
Berry Garcia

Berry Garcia - is their version of a quesadilla. It was nice in theory, but with the berry jam sitting mostly at the folding line, the taste didn't come through in the entire dish as its title would imply. I wasn't planning on deconstructing the dish to fix its fault, but when I could taste the combination of sweet and savory, I did experience their aim - which in some way compensated for the inconsistency of each bite.

I wish I had gotten the chance to try their highly ranked breakfast, but there is always next time. The variety of flavors, interesting twists to common choices, and cool interior and exterior design readily lands this place as a suggested spot for nearby patrons to try. With so many recommendations to chip away at during my stay in the food-centric northwest, I just had to keep pluggin' along to the next of the Portland eateries.


Tin Shed Garden Cafe

1438 NE Alberta St
Portland, OR 97211
(503) 288-6966

http://www.tinshedgardencafe.com/
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Monday, July 18, 2011

5th Annual Venice Barbecue & Picnic

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On a beautiful and sunny southern California day, nothing screams summer more than a good barbecue. Well, that's just what this was, as Venetians and local firefighters put on this picnic to celebrate the community with food, games, food, music, and more food at the Oakwood Community Park! Guests were able to bring their own food items, potluck style, and even submit to the BBQ's side-dish, dessert, or home-grilled meat, chicken or pork judging contests.

Kristopher at the "Judge's Table"
Of Course the fun of eating gets even better, as Kristopher was asked to help judge the dessert contest. A lover of sweets, how could this opportunity be passed? He obliged and waited alongside his fellow judges for the moment to individually try some neighborhood baked goods.


There were ten items to evaluate. Each judge was given a small sample that required them to appraise the treat in just a few bites. Overall the submissions were pretty decent, and only a couple items were underwhelming. Almost all the desserts submitted were variations of cakes, cookies, pies, or bars prepared in a traditional manner. The top three winners easily stood out from the rest of the pack. One dish, which ended up in second place, a chocolate cake with espresso frosting would gratify any mocha lover. The cake was moist, but not too rich or sweet, which allowed the frosting to take center stage and really deliver a great mix of coffee, sugar, and cream. Third place, which was Kristopher's second favorite, was a cookie bar full of coconut and nuts. With a flakey top, chewy middle, and crumbly bottom it was pure goodness.

The judges were in absolute consensus, however, that the best dish was the lemon bar. There wasn't anything novel or different about it from a lemon bar you could get at a local eatery, or even make at home, except that it was a really good lemon bar executed perfectly. The top was dusted in powdered sugar and had a little crisp to it, while right below the lemon filling was slightly gooey with the right balance of sweetness and zest. Underneath it all was a crumbly crust that was buttery and light. It was by far the most satisfying dessert, and absolutely delicious. It was a good reminder that sometimes the best dishes are the simplest ones, and all it really comes down to is execution.

You can see pictures of the submissions below, and of course that lucky winner. Still not full? Check out our Facebook for larger photos of the individual submissions!
 Good job to all contestants and it was great to see everyone who was able to make it out!
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Friday, July 15, 2011

Birba

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Palm Springs, CA. Birba is literally an oasis in the desert. While the food is good, not great, its outdoor patio is exquisite. It's a fine place to have drinks and split a dish or two with someone whether it be business, friends, or a date. I wish more restaurants in California would take advantage of the good climate and be set up like this.

Di Stefano Burrata Insalate
Some of the dishes are pricey, and if they are going to charge L.A. prices for small salads and pizzas then the food should be of that caliber. Overall the food was better than most of the places I've tried in the desert, but there were some hits and misses.

Di Stefano Burrata Insalate - burrata cheese paired with cherry tomatoes, English cucumbers, fresh basil, frantoia olive oil, and toast points. It was the highlight of the night, and an absolute must try. The cheese was so creamy and slightly sweet. It went perfectly with the tomatoes and bread. The cucumbers were irrelevent, but the dish itself was fantastic. 

San Daniele Prosciutto and Arugula Pizza - The saltiness of the sauce and the prosciutto did not compliment each other well - sodium overload. The crust was pretty basic. It was a so-so pizza, but I'm not sure if this dish is representative of the other pizzas on the menu.

Tuna Conserva Insalate
French Lemonade
Tuna Conserva Insalate - This simple salad is tuna, potatoes, cherry tomatoes, and green olives in a grainy mustard dressing. It had very muddled flavors. Nothing about the dish stood out. It tasted like a pre-made salad you could get at a grocery store, pretty disappointing after the burrata insalate. 

French Lemonade - This refreshing cocktail is a mixture of Kettle One vodka, Lillet, St. Germaine, and fresh lemon with a splash of sour and soda. It absolutely hit the spot in the warm weather, and was surprisingly strong. I highly recommend you have one, or two, of these.

Birba, despite its 'ok' eats, is by far one of the most memorable places I've been too in the Coachella Valley, and definitely a place I will recommend and visit again during one of those hot desert nights.


Birba
622 N. Palm Canyon Dr.
Palm Springs, CA 92262
(760) 327-5678

http://www.birbaps.com/

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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Baciami Gelateria & Creperia

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Hancock Park, Los Angeles, CA. Immediately entering this clean and quaint gelato shop in Larchmont Village, my friend and I were greeted by three of three staff members. Barely in the door and 100% friendliness. I thought, is this a new business? Then I overheard a nearby conversation that dated this little gelato and crepe shop to a little over 7 months old. 


Spoonful after spoonful of samples, it didn't appear the staff minded an indecisive palette, so onward to ordering. The staff are quite helpful in helping you choose, be sure to ask for a few suggestion and house favorites. I've noticed more recently that ice cream and gelato places with the more 'gourmet' or creative flavors charge just a bit more than other shops. This place certainly joins that crowd in the upper tier with the pricier bites. However, my nearly $5.00 for my 'small' order of amaretto was worth the expense. 

Creamy, tasty, and...incredibly amaretto. Unsure how they work these flavors in, but it certainly ups the ante for its local frozen sweet competitors. The gelato stays solid as you savor, unless you take quite some time before taking your first bite. Flavors are a'plenty, with a separate case hosting their sorbetto and general fruit-oriented choices. A bit difficult to choose, but it's local enough to try again and again.

The gelato shop closes at 9:00pm and the crepe machinery is closed down within 15-20 minutes of this hour. If you're looking for sweet or savory, be sure to stop with enough time to look at the menu and place an order. My amaretto scoop was more than enough to satisfy my need for as close to ice cream as I wanted on this particular evening stroll in Larchmont Village.


Baciami Gelateria and Creperia
139 1/2 N Larchmont Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90004
(323) 336-8110

http://baciamicafe.com/
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Monday, July 11, 2011

Spiced Fudge Brownies

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Was everything meant to be made with a healthy alternative? Well, I'd like to think it's possible, but for this particular creation I'll put that on the sidelines. On my day 'off' from normal eating I decided to create something new, something I've actually never done before myself, using some cooking basics from previous years. With the resulting Spiced Fudge Brownies being so tasty, you can bet that I'll create a 'healthier' alternative...

Spiced Fudge Brownies with Macadamia Nuts
Ingredients
Prep Time: 30 minutes
24 Servings


1 14oz Can Sweetened Condensed Milk
4 oz Baking Chocolate, Unsweetened
2 Tbsp Butter, Unsalted, Room Temperature
3/4 Cup Water
2 Cups Sugar, Granulated
1 1/2 Tsp Peppermint Extract (or Vanilla, if desired)
1 1/2 Cups Flour, All-Purpose
1 Tsp Cayenne Pepper, Ground
1 Tsp Baking Powder
3 Eggs
4 Tbsp Butter, Unsalted, Melted
1/2 Cup Macadamia Nuts, Dried, Unsalted (Optional)
4 Tsp Sugar, Powdered (Optional)


Preheat Oven to 350 Degrees.


Start with a simple sugar syrup by combining the granulated sugar and water on medium to high heat until clear (mixture will begin as cloudy and clear as the water and sugar melt together). Whisk in peppermint extract. Set aside in a large mixing bowl and allow to cool 10 minutes.

While the syrup is cooling, create the fudge base by heating milk in double boiler on medium, until small bubbles begin to pop. Place 4 oz of baking chocolate (shaved works faster) and 2 Tbsp of butter in the saucepan, stir until melted. Fold into the sugar syrup and mix until smooth. Allow to cool 5 minutes then mix in the eggs and melted butter.

In a separate small mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients (Flour, Cayenne Pepper, Baking Powder). Fold the dry ingredients into the above fudge mixture and mix until smooth in texture. Fold nuts into the batter. Pour mixture into a lightly greased and floured 13" x 9" baking pan. 

Bake at 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes, or until inserted knife comes out clean (ovens vary, so adjust as needed).


Allow brownies to cool and cut into 24 squares. Dust with the powdered sugar and serve warm or at room temperature. Enjoy!

Nutrition Info (1 serving - with Optional ingredients)
Calories: 247, Fat: 10.2g, Sat. Fat: 5.2g, Cholest.: 41.7mg, Sodium: 61.3mg, Carb.: 37.4g, Fiber: 1.3g, Sugars: 29.6g, Protein: 4.2g

Nutrition Info (1 serving - without Optional ingredients)
Calories: 226, Fat: 8.1g, Sat. Fat: 4.8g, Cholest.: 41.7mg, Sodium: 61.1mg, Carb.: 36.5g, Fiber: 1g, Sugars: 29g, Protein: 4g
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Friday, July 08, 2011

Jin Patisserie

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Venice, CA. Abbot Kinney is a very posh and electric mix of high-end boutiques. After an exhausting day of shopping, or window-shopping for those of us who can't afford $400 plastic chairs, it would only seem suitable to have luxurious moment of serenity. Jin Patisserie offers exactly that, plus macaroons!

With its high fence it's almost easy to pass by this chic teahouse, but peak your head inside and you'll find a unique blend of Japanese, English, and French sensibilities. The first thing you’ll notice is the outdoor seating surrounding a small tranquil Zen garden. Next you’ll see various patrons enjoying their afternoon tea. Finally your eyes will land on the delicious and vibrant petits fours sitting atop almost every table.

I came here with my friend, originally for lunch, but we forfeited the idea for teatime instead once we saw the charming arrangement of finger foods. We split the “Afternoon Tea” which for $19.00 provides a pot of tea with egg finger sandwiches, two scones, quiche, a slice of butter cake, a jelly candy, and four small mini sweet pastries. While the set is intended for one person, it’s great for sharing and kept the visit around $13 each.

Each item can be consumed in one or two bites; four if you want to really relish the confections. The egg salad sandwich is very mild, similar to the type of egg salad you make at home. The butter cake and scones are great little bites that go well with the preserves and clotted cream provided. The quiche has a little kick to it and is the most savory of the bunch. The petits fours are so beautifully crafted you will want to take a moment to admire them before you pop them in your mouth.

Green Tea
The selection of teas was daunting, and we deferred to our server for the best pairing with our food. She chose a green tea for us, which is not the most popular, but her personal favorite. The tea was soothing and a good palate cleanser in-between the sweet and savory morsels.

Vanilla and Sea Salted Caramel Macaroons
We finished off our little retreat at Jin Patisserie with a sea salt caramel and a vanilla macaroon. I have long been skeptical of the macaroon craze, but the ones I had here finally made me a fan. The cookies were delicate, yet crunchy, while the cream filling was abundantly rich and sweet. The favors were strong, and you got a great burst of salted caramel or vanilla when you got to the middle.

Jin Patisserie is a great escape from the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles, and even the vibrant spirit of Venice, where you can have quite little moment to enjoy some quality tea and a few small delicious bites. It’s bliss.


Jin Patisserie
1202 Abbot Kinney Blvd
Venice, CA 90291
(310) 399-8801

http://www.jinpatisserie.com/
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Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Pear & Gorgonzola Puffs

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I was invited to a friend's dinner party and I wanted to create something tasty and fun, but also a small enough bite for an hors d'oeuvre. I remembered going to a restaurant in Newport Beach that had a gorgonzola & pear ravioli dish, making for a great combination but with little texture.  I thought, hmm, this could make for a tasty pairing for...a puff. With some modifications and a small number of ingredients, the sweet and tart flavors came together nicely for this simple side with subtle levels...

Pear and Gorgonzola Puffs
Ingredients
Prep Time: 10-15 minutes
20 Puffs


1/2 cup White Wine
1 Pear, Medium, Small Cubes
1/2 Cup Gorgonzola Cheese, Room Temperature
1/2 Tbsp Butter, Melted


1 Puff Pastry Sheet


Heat oven to 400 degrees.


Heat wine to boiling in a small shallow pan. Blanch pear cubes in wine for about 1-2 minutes and remove to an ice cold water bath. Set wine aside. Remove pears from bath (drain water) and fold with gorgonzola. Cut pastry sheet into 20 triangles and melt butter with a tablespoon of the remaining white wine. Place a small spoonful of the gorgonzola/pear mixture in the center of the triangle, lightly butter one "wing", and fold with the other to fasten. The dish will appear similar to a mini-crown. Cook time: 15-18 minutes at 400 degrees or until pastry is golden brown.


Tip: The cheese adds enough salty and the wine adds a mild flavor, but if you're looking to add yet another layer, put a spoonful of rosemary in the wine as it boils. The rosemary will infuse and when you pull it to mix with the butter, it brings in a tasty element.


Nutrition Info: 1 Serving
Calories: 69, Fat: 4.4g, Sat. Fat: 2.6g, Cholest.: 3.3mg, Sodium: 80.2mg, Carb.: 5.4g, Fiber 0.2g, Sugars: 0.7g, Protein: 1.5g
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Monday, July 04, 2011

Ice Cream, Frozen Yogurt, & Gelato

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Hope everyone is having a great and safe fourth of July weekend!! For a warm day like today, what's better than something cold? Here are a few ice cream places to try:
Carmela Ice Cream
Pasadena & Hollywood, CA
Milk
Los Angeles, CA
Sweet Rose Creamery
Santa Monica, CA
Coolhaus Ice Cream Truck
Culver City, CA
And if you're looking for a lower calorie option but with just as much flavor, then check out a few of these frozen yogurt and gelato places:
Golden Spoon Frozen Yogurt
Cities across Southern CA
Froyo Life
Los Feliz & Beverly Hills, CA
Baciami Gelateria & Creperia
Larchmont Village, Los Angeles, CA
Paciugo Gelato
Thousand Oaks, CA
Warm days are perfectly paired with something cool. Be sure to drink that water, but why not splurge on a little bite of something sweet?

If there is a post written on any of the food samples pictured above, just click on the picture to be linked up!
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Friday, July 01, 2011

Rose Cafe & Market

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Venice, CA. Market? Cafe? Pastries? Glass coffee cups? Oh my! I have come to this eatery a few times for brunch and have always had a pleasant time. The restaurant has a shaded outdoor patio that generally gets a lovely ocean breeze (which is only a few blocks away). The indoors can be a bit noisy, but the exterior isn't too loud. The service is prompt and delightful, and sometimes humorous. There is validated parking in a lot next door, but be mindful of your time if you want to avoid paying. 

Berry Danish - was a flaky pastry with a sweet almond paste filling and  topped with blackberries and raspberries. Whole raisins were baked into the crust, which I was able to eat, despite my distaste for raisins in general. The pastry was a crusty on the outside, with a had a very moist center. It was alright, but not something I would get again with the number of other options available.


Homemade Granola - was served with a side of nonfat yogurt and strawberries. The granola had a very good crunch. It was light, tasted fresh, and a great addition to my meal. It had a bit more raisins than I would have preferred, but it is definitely worth trying if you want a wholesome breakfast.


Pancakes - were made with whole wheat flour, healthy, but a little too earthy for my taste. I found it needed a lot of syrup to be palatable.


French Toast - This item blew me out of the water. It is made with fresh croissant and served with a berry compote and whipped mascarpone cream. The bread was dense, moist, and perfectly sweetened. The sign of a good french toast or pancake is when you can eat it plain without any toppings. I thought the compote and cream were fantastic, and although I could have easily eaten the dish plain, I gobbled up all of it.

Peet's Tropical Iced Tea - tasted too bitter when paired with something sweet. It was odd, but it didn't stop me from drinking it.

After you're full, split a dessert, why not? Then walk it off at the boardwalk. That's the way it should go...

On the side with Andrew: This was one of the first non-franchise feel, eclectic spots I ventured to when I moved to Los Angeles a few years ago.  When I'm on the "west side" in the morning, I'm naturally inclined for a quick bite.

On the side with Kristopher: The tables are rather close together at this restaurant. At one point I heard some pretty colorful personal details of a fellow patron, which are really things I don't want to hear or imagine when I'm enjoying my french toast. :-)



Rose Cafe & Market
220 Rose Ave
Venice, CA 90291
(310) 392-4191

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