Thursday, August 25, 2011

Früute: Tarts Unordinary - CLOSED (Online Only)


West Hollywood, CA. With an inundation of mediocre trendy fares to fulfill the hunger for the tasty, cuisine with a simplistic, innovative, or artistic design often fail to impress. The increase in "coming soon!" signs boasting better eats sometimes just isn't enough to make the drive to a city worth the trip. Well, it seems we are at a turning point, with Früute and its new hand-held food concept intended to excite the senses. With its location in a newly established grocery plaza, one would beg the question: what is this place? is it even opening? Good news folks, it's operating in full swing and going on its 6 week (+) marker. And for this taste testing spot, we are the guinea pigs...but believe me, you won't mind...

Exterior Box
Simplicity. It is hard to find this modestly decorated storefront.  The interior has very little signage, with clean lines and neutral colors throughout. The packaging is no different, with boxes for sets of 4 or 8 made out of recycled paper. Despite this aesthetic, which mimics their contemporary website closely, your eyes focus on the array of colorful tarts perfectly lined in front of you. 

Innovative. The tarts take simple, to an extravagantly new mouthwatering level as bites of taste flood your mouth classically entertained in the style of say, an amuse-bouche. I spoke with a clerk who indicated that the shop, although off to a slow beginning, is starting to show regular and new customer faces. The geometric tart display validated this, given the minimal remaining popular items at 4:00p, a good four hours before closing. Each tart is moderately priced for a tart ($3) but with the experience about to unfold, I do tell you, it's worth it. To impress or to indulge, a tart such as this certainly makes for a unique and interesting gift to another or to your own salivating mouth.

Interior Box

Art. "Tarts Unordinary" or little creations of art, food sculptures, or whatever the spin is, it works. Each tart is hand-crafted in the dawn of the day, and for such items as their Black Pepper Tart, ice crystals are replaced periodically for absolute freshness of taste and design for its buyer. Each bite-size creation is a little over 1" square, and layering upwards to about 2" at its maximum. Each tart is uniquely colorful, vibrant, and decorated in such a way that makes you want to stare at length before indulging...even continue to stare as you continue to bite, to see if it holds up - it does. The balance of sweet and spicy, berries and fruit tones, with a light flavor is an art to its own: combining simple flavors in a clean way with classic tastes alluding to some personal favorites from home.

What's that mean? It yields a product that you want to go back to, something you just WISH was open a bit earlier in the day. If it sustains continued success by local patrons, maybe this will change, but for now, let's eat on to what we care about: TASTE.

The little shop breaks down tastes for the classic and the curious palates:
  • curious (4): matcha, mont blanc, wasabi, black pepper
  • classic (12): three berries, citron, passion fruit, yuzu, creme brulee, sea salt caramel, araguani, snowball, pecan, tiramisu, budino, baileys puff
Each item is credited back to their organic ingredients, from the flour to the fruit, making each unique composition full of light and fresh flavors - with some unexpected twists and turns, I must add.

Black Pepper Tart
Black Pepper - started off my 'curious' selection...a peppery bittersweet chocolate with a berry core layered on frangipane (or franchipane) over a chocolate crust and topped with blueberries divided by a decorative yet edible sugar crisp (also infused with black pepper). Immediate notes of spice  are followed by the subtleties of fruit to cool the mouth as you eat this tart. The more you eat, the spicier it gets, but I found myself finishing in about three bites, ending on a cooler note with remnants of warmth reverberating in my mouth.

Pecan Tart with Raspberry Cream Puff
Pecan - for my first 'classic' choice I went with what looked like a mini-pecan pie. Their version is a combination of pecan, sugar, and maple fudge in a simple vanilla crust and topped with a baby cream puff filled with a raspberry ganache. It tasted like a sample of the south with its sweet pecan sugar medley. I did find, however, the raspberry ganache puff to be a bit gratuitous in pairing, adding an element that felt a little out of place with the other more humble flavors.

Wasabi Tart
Wasabi - a Japanese horseradish-themed tart, was my final 'curious' selection...As I bit into this fiery little item I was confused as to what exactly I was eating, so of course I looked it up: "......a blood orange a pistachio crust, garnished with a mint leaf tempura." The wasabi was a given in the exterior, the orange was more difficult to decipher - citrus can make for a sharp taste, so when paired with an even sharper flavor, you're in for a battle of the senses. The tart is layered on a vanilla frangipane that, when sitting in the pistachio crust added a buttery element that heightened the tart. From an aesthetic standpoint, the tempura'd mint leaf was a delicate touch that added the 'pretty'.

Sea Salt Caramel Tart
Sea Salt Caramel - another 'classic' selection, this was my personal favorite of the four....with its chopped Macadamia nuts in a sweet and salty 'caramel'. The chocolate crust paled to the filling, but the blackberry added just the right burst of sweet to go with this melt-in-your-mouth tart. Their information claims this item has dried berries in the mix, but they weren't as discernible as the ever obvious picture-perfect topper.

So do I recommend this specialty tart shop? Well if you can't tell by now I'll just say it: absolutely! Whether you're looking to splurge on a tart to delight your taste buds or simply stimulate your eyes, this place is worth a stop. Even if it's only out of curiosity - talk to their friendly staff during their business hours - it will be difficult to leave without a purchase! Playing host to many elements, including those that haven't been seen for some time, the moderate price seems like nothing compared to the quality and taste you're getting with your chosen tart - you'll understand their slogan a bit more and why they are suitably described as "tarts unordinary."

Tip: Before you leave, take a brochures if you expect to remember what exactly you're about to eat as you walk away, drive away, or explain to your friends!

8951 Santa Monica Blvd.
Suite A
West Hollywood, CA 90069

(310) 786-9983

Friday, August 19, 2011

Apple Rhubarb Cobbler


Every summer I escape the turmoil of modern life and seclude myself in a rustic cabin up in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The drive from Los Angeles is over nine hours and when you arrive your cell phone reads “No Service.” Without the luxuries of the present day like Internet, cell phone service, or heck, even electricity, you get back to a simpler time and are reminded that up until a hundred years or so, this is how society functioned. The days are spent reading in hammocks, going for long hikes, and, of course, cooking meals from scratch.

This year I went up with my grandmother, and after having a rough and exhausting spring I wanted to do everything I could to ensure she got the rest and relaxation she deserved. She’s used to being a caretaker and doesn’t like to make a fuss, but she will make little comments like, “I sure enjoyed that fresh peach pie you made last summer”, which is code for “make me a fresh peach pie.” This summer she kept reminiscing about how she loved rhubarb pie, and I realized that was what I was going to have to make this summer.

I recall having rhubarb pie once or twice at her house as a kid and finding the delicious looking burgundy pie to be disappointingly bitter. Now that I am older, and and have more of an adult palate, I thought it would be fun to give it a try again. Unfortunately, being in a rather remote area with the closet town being forty miles away I knew securing rhubarb would be tough. Also without the Internet I couldn’t look up when rhubarb is in season, where it grows, or what rhubarb actually even is.

Apples and Rhubarb Cut Up
Also without the Internet I could not look up a recipe. I asked the neighbors (each a ten-minute drive away) for cookbooks, but couldn’t find an exact recipe. Luckily our friend Carol had an old recipe of her mother’s for a cobbler that seemed easy enough to make. I was relieved that it wasn’t for a pie, because I don’t know a thing about making a decent piecrust, and I think the trans-fatty frozen ones taste simply awful. A  crumbly topping with a melted sugar glaze was much more manageable.

I headed down to town and went to the sole grocery store hoping they would have rhubarb, and while I lucked out, they only had two stalks. Recalling that rhubarb was rather tart, I decided to substitute the rest of the recipe with granny smith apples. However, after spotting some fujis I opted to go with those, as they are slightly sweeter, but still tart enough to substitute for the rhubarb.

When I got back to the cabin my cousin Michaela helped peel the apples and chop up the rhubarb. I followed the recipe and found it to be quick and easy to prepare. It took maybe twenty minutes of work including the prep time. The one mistake I made was not reducing the amount of sugar in the topping, since I was using apples instead of rhubarb. Then final result was an absolute insulin spike. Therefore I have adjusted the recipe and reduced the amount of sugar in half.

The end result was a warm, gooey cobbler full of large chunks of fruit, that still retained structure and were not mushy, with a warm cakey topping, and melted sugar seeping all over it. The combination of apples, rhubarb, and strawberries worked well together and kept the dish tart but not bitter. Most importantly my Grandmother loved it, and with all the red from the strawberries and bits of rhubarb she didn’t even realize I had used apples.

If I ever stumble upon some rhubarb at the farmers market, I may still try to make the pie, but until then I think this cobbler is the perfect way to make rhubarb palatable.

Up North
Prep Time: 30 minutes
8 Servings

Rhubarb Stalks
2-4 Stalks of chopped rhubarb
4 cups of sliced and peeled fuji apples (granny smith if you want it extra tart)

¾ Cup Sugar
2 T Butter
½ Cup Milk
1 Cup Flour
1 Tsp Baking Powder
½ Tsp Salt

Sugar topping
½ Cup Sugar
1 T Corn Starch
¼ Tsp Salt

Preheat Oven to 350 Degrees.

Slice and peel your apples and chop up your rhubarb as you would a stalk of celery and mix them in a 9x12 pan.

In a large mixing bowl combine the ingredients for the batter and whisk until everything is smoothly blended. Pour the batter evenly over the fruit. Then chill the dish in the fridge until about an hour before you plan on serving the dessert (if you want that fresh out of the oven taste).

In a smaller mixing bowl mix the sugar topping and set it aside until you plan to bake the dish.

When you are ready to bake sprinkle over the sugar topping over the chilled batter. You can use as little or as much of the sugar as you wish to use, depending of desired sweetness of the dish.

A slice of the final result
I had some strawberries lying around so I chopped up a cup and threw them on top.

Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes (ovens vary, so adjust as needed). Check on the dish. The batter should get a little brown on top and most of the sugar should melt over it.

Allow the dish to cool for at least ten minutes so that the sugar and fruit juices have time to cool down and set. Slice up the pan to create eight servings. Due to the lack of a bottom you will want to find a unstill that allows you to scoop up most of the dish. Some of the fruit and sugar make stick to the bottom of the pan.

Serve warm possibly with a scoop of vanilla ice cream of fresh whipped cream and enjoy!

Nutrition Info
Calories: 278, Fat: 3.6g, Sat. Fat: 2.1g, Cholest.: 9.2mg, Sodium:, Carb.: 61.5g, Fiber: 3.4g, Sugars: 44.1g, Protein: 2.7g

Monday, August 08, 2011

Abbots Pizza Co.


Venice, CA.  I've been coming to this pizza joint since I arrived in Los Angeles. A recommended local eatery in my community and serving one of my ideal eats, I couldn't help but give it a try. Located on Abbot Kinney, a street of artistic value and custom boutiques, one gets lost for a moment in Venetian culture. It's no Italy, but the street has its charm, certainly.

The shop sits a few storefronts in from California Ave,  next to a few small eateries and clothing stores. The door sits brightly beckoning your entrance and yet you may pass it by, thinking it's just like any other pizza shop. Oh, but you should stop, and if you do, you'll notice and taste the difference, as cliche as that might sound.

They seem to try a few new innovations that make it worth your while here. Someone once told me that the crust was created from bagel-dough. Well, it is true and their signage attests to this fact. The slices are large, but can get pricey if you're really that hungry. They have a great variety for vegetarian and non-vegetarian eats - it makes ordering that much more complicated. Also with any slice you can get a side of the house dipping sauce, which had a nice kick to it. With so many good eats extending across Los Angeles, I infrequently come here, but it has seen my mug a number of times in the past few years.

Spicy Chicken Pizza - (pictured above) tequila lime marinated chicken with jalapeno, mozzarella cheese, and tomato sauce...sauce is light on this slice, but a decent flavor combination. Fresh is best, and this slice wasn't at its optimum potential. The chicken was a tad dry, but having been cooked twice or thrice can do that.

Mushroom Pizza - portobello, shiitake mushrooms with parmesan, romano and mozzarella cheeses on an olive pesto sauce...unique on the combinations and a great mesh in the mouth, but the tartness of the sauce can overtake the dish sometimes, especially if you're not a pesto fan. The mushrooms are cooked pretty evenly and for the mushroom lovers out there, worth a shot.

Four-Way Pizza - sliced tomato, red onion, mushrooms, bell peppers, romano, parmesan, mozzarella and fontina cheeses on an olive pesto sauce...toppings win out in this dish, as the focus is clearly on the combo. As you bite, you can feel the crunch of each of the separate flavors and can also note them together. Good taste, enough so that I've actually attempted to make a version at home.

Salad Pizza
Salad Pizza - chopped mixed greens, onion, basil, topped with feta cheese and avocado on a sour cream base with lemon dressing...Ah the innovation. Maybe someone went somewhere else and had this idea, or maybe it is unique to the pizza shop, whoever is behind it deserves due credit, as this tends to be one of the more refreshing slices. 

Who knows, if you go there enough you may suffer from what I am right now, pizza withdrawal!

Abbots Pizza Co.
1407 Abbot Kinney Blvd
Venice, CA 90291
(310) 396-7334
Thursday, August 04, 2011

Mashti Malone's Ice Cream


Hollywood, CA. My friend texted me earlier in the afternoon with "Hey, so what's the plan?" Immediately two words popped into my head "ice" and "cream". Now where could I make this happen on a Friday night, after 9:00pm? Another friend had spoken about this mysterious ice cream place in Hollywood that I've passed time and again with the highest of recommendations. Open until 12:00am on a Friday night, looks like we have a winner folks!

After some searching on the history of this Iranian born ice cream shop, I find the well-known flavors to be floral (like Rosewater Saffron, Rosewater Ice Cream, Lavender, Orange Blossom) but with other common staples including their Cookies 'n Cream, Peanut Butter Cup, and Praline. My friend braved the floral "populars", which he quickly regretted. If you are a floral ice cream fan just know that the infusion is significantly so.

Peanut Butter Cup & Cookies 'n Cream Ice Cream
Their more standard flavors were traditional creamy concoctions with hearty chunks of cookie crumbles, nuts, or peanut butter. In having underwhelming bites from popular grocer brands, it was a nice surprise to consume peanut butter flavored ice cream with a gratuitous helping of creamy peanut butter throughout. At first, flavors come across a bit icier than the melt-in-your-mouth cream, but it also remained solid a lot longer than a typical shop.  Think about those times where the first scoop drips down your arm with you racing to eat it, haha, well that doesn't seem to be the case here.

The shop is located in the corner of a dimly lit plaza with seating primarily inside, and a few chairs and tables immediately in front. Lines were fluid but frequent, as more and more people strolled in to grab a sample or scoop of their favorites. Others were overhead boasting of how many flavors they've tried, or just "how good" their popular flavors are, although tastes are somewhat acquired. I'm always on the search for good, varied, or unique flavor combinations and the intense experience of "Mmm" - this little shop had me leaving thinking about my next visit and what I'd want to try - maybe not that intense "Mmm" but they certainly had somethin'.

Mashti Malone's Ice Cream
1525 N La Brea Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90028

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