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Archive for October, 2009|Monthly archive page

Larchmont Bungalow: Time to Get Saucy

In Food, On Location: Out and About in L.A. on October 31, 2009 at 10:49 am

Larchmont Bungalow

Last week, my sister and I decided to give Larchmont Bungalow a go despite the hate email being circulated amongst neighbors and the fact that one such neighbor accosted us on the way in and snapped disapprovingly, “well, you gotta do what you gotta do.” So I was determined to like this place, if only out of spite. My first visit was just okay, and I figure they still need to work out some service kinks. The burgers were fine (Claire got one with mozzarella and I ordered a stuffed turkey burger) and the buns very good—love the oniony herb situation baked into the top—but both burgers were totally lacking in goop. How about some aioli or something? Anything? Also, Claire ordered the sweet potato fries and they came without any dipping option. Again, a little green goddess or garlicky aioli or even plain old mayonnaise would go a long way here.

Then on Friday, my friend Katie and I made a repeat visit. We both ordered veggie burgers, which are not veggie burgers as we discovered when they arrived at our table despite the menu indicating otherwise, but portabella burgers. (“Our all natural veggie burger layered with goat cheese, grilled portabella, roasted bell peppers, tomatoes, and spinach.” Sounds like there’s a patty involved, right?) Again — needs some sort of sauce. And Katie’s sweet potato fries were dry and soggy—which is something of a feat to achieve. The guy at the next table ordered the neon red velvet pancakes (which just sounds gross, so really he had only himself to blame) and declared them “disgusting” after one bite. I want to like this place, so but I think I’ll give it a few more weeks to hit its stride before going back and risking ostracism from my neighbors. Especially with burgers starting at $12.95 and up. And yeah, the owner is being kinda jerky about city zoning. But if they do indeed get a beer license, who am I to judge?

sweet potato fries

In the meantime, Katie and I will be taking our weekly lunch date back to Larchmont Larder up the street, which has the friendliest staff and SUPER FREAKING YUMMY EGG SALAD! (And a Swiss Barley and prosciutto soup that is to die for.)

Trick or TREAT!

In Food on October 31, 2009 at 9:20 am

Woodhouse Chocolates

For Halloween, my father sent my sister and I a little treat from our hometown, St. Helena. We’re talking about a box of four evil little cookies called “Caramel Helenas” (so-named for the town) from Woodhouse Chocolates. One of the chocolatiers at Woodhouse, in fact, calls them “evil, as in you crave them day and night evil.” These little devils involve a buttery layer of caramel between two almond crisps, covered in chocolate and then sprinkled with fleur de sel. Sweet, salty, chewy, crispy evil! The salt is really what gets me—just divine. You can order a box by clicking here, and do yourself (if not your waistline) a favor and snap up some of their heavenly salt caramels. Thanks, Dad!!!!

Caramel Helenas

Klute to Kill

In Fashion, Film on October 30, 2009 at 7:20 am


This weekend, our dance cards are full with Halloween bashes. Tomorrow afternoon, Tiny G has been invited to his girlfriend Hazel’s for a costume party. He is going as a bumble bee. Then tomorrow night, our friends Booth and Adam are hosting a spooky soirée to which my husband and I are going as Donald Sutherland and Jane Fonda, respectively, from Klute (1971). I was so inspired by a Uniqlo corduroy jacket my husband wears in heavy rotation, which, when teamed with a cashmere turtleneck, makes him look either like John Updike or Donald Sutherland. The latter seemed to give yours truly more wardrobe choices. Today I need to hunt down a cheap belt and a mullet wig to complete the look, though frankly my own ‘do is looking a little shaggy these days. I got this turtleneck mini at American Apparel, and PS, it doesn’t look QUITE like that on me:

american apparel solid rib dress

…and will throw a Viktor & Rolf trench over the affair with some knee-high pleather boots picked up on the cheap in Paris about a decade ago. Here are some other fashionable turns from the movie, but were too much of a wardrobe investment (what? you ask, i don’t have a red leather corset with fringe kicking about in my closet?):


Donald Sutherland Klute

jane fonda klute

Wrap Party

In Food, Recipes on October 29, 2009 at 11:57 am

spring rolls

My sister, Claire, makes a mean version of a Vietnamese spring roll. She makes it look easy, but I’m not going to lie, there’s a LOT of prep involved. Last night Claire julienned the hell out of carrots and cucumbers; chopped cilantro and mint; sautéed shrimp, garlic and Thai chiles; soaked cellophane noodles and rice paper; and spiced it all up with a healthy douse of Sriracha chile sauce. I observed and absorbed, and then annoyed her by snapping photos instead of helping to assemble. But what are big sisters for?

Here is an approximation of Claire’s method.

Vietnamese Spring Rolls

2-3 cloves minced garlic

Butter, for sautéeing

1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

20-24 shrimp, uncooked

Thai chiles, chopped

2 ounces bean threads (cellophane noodles), soaked in hot water for 30 minutes, drained

Sriracha chile sauce

1/2 cup julienned carrots

1/2 cup julienned cucumbers

1/4 cup bean sprouts

4 teaspoons fresh mint, chopped

1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

4 cups hot water

10-12  6-inch dried rice paper rounds

Heat butter in skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic, shrimp and thai chiles; sauté until shrimp are just cooked through, about 1 minute. Remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper.

shrimp sauteeing

Add Sriracha to drained cellophane noodles, to taste. We added a lot to spice things up.

bean threads

Pour hot water into large pan or pie dish. Dip 1 spring-roll sheet in water 5 seconds. Remove from water; place on wet towel to blot, and then on cutting board to assemble.

Sprinkle cilantro and mint on round, then heap noodles, carrots, cucumbers and bean sprouts on wrapper and spoon 2 shrimp with chiles on top.

spring roll filling

Fold in ends of round like a burrito. Roll into cylinder, and place on plate. Repeat with remaining ingredients.

spring rolls

Serve with peanut dipping sauce and/or Sriracha. I like to dip the spring rolls directly into the Sriracha to kick up the heat. And call me crazy and unseasonal, but a coriander-forward gin like Aviation mixed in a gin and tonic with a splash of lime is a pretty fine accompaniment to the meal!

Cat Power

In Design, Food, On Location: Out and About in L.A. on October 28, 2009 at 7:40 am

Lady GaGa celebrates the 35th anniversary of Hello Kitty. Photo by Markus Klinko & Indrani

And now, from a fellow foodinista in the field:

Angels, schmangels—Los Angeles is nothing if not the city of lines. The 405 at rush hour, the velvet rope at the Villa Lounge, the switch-backing, Disneyland-like wait for a Pink’s chili dog, etc., etc. But to our knowledge, there hasn’t been a line in Los Angeles this year that’s held a candle to the opening weekend queue for…

Hello Kitty.

Yes, this past Saturday morning, Harajuku Girl adolescents, thirtysomething Echo Park hipsters and hopeful toddlers alike lined up along several blocks of Washington Boulevard (some for close to three hours), all for the love of a crudely drawn cat.

Royal/T—the café, shop, and exhibition space inspired by Tokyo’s meido kissa (maid café) trend—is hosting a celebration of all things Hello Kitty through November 15th in honor of the animated icon’s 35th birthday. There’s an exhaustive product retrospective, a group art show by JapanLA Pop Culture Shop, a pop up shop, and a special themed food menu.

Hello Kitty - High Tea Set

Hello Kitty High Tea Set

While we didn’t have time to try the Hello Kitty-stamped sandwiches, Hello Kitty-shaped waffles, or three tier Kitty-topped high tea, we did splurge on a strawberry cupcake with buttercream frosting, which the restaurant brings in from local bakery Hotcakes. It was cloyingly sweet, but somehow, still undeniably wonderful. Much like the birthday girl, herself.—Robyn Brown

Thé Time

In Drink on October 27, 2009 at 7:31 am

mariage freres

I’ve always been more of a coffee than tea girl, especially when you’re talking fresh-roasted beans from Ristretto Roasters in Portland, Oregon. However, recently my dad brought me back a spectacularly dramatic tin of Mariage Frères Russian Star tea from Paris. It’s a velvety blend of green tea with aromatic notes of bergamot, grapefruit and pretty pink and purple petals—and is as beautiful as it is delicious.

The Stuffing Dreams Are Made Of

In Food, Recipes on October 26, 2009 at 5:51 pm

escarole and prosciutto stuffing

Last night I auditioned a stuffing for Thanksgiving, and let’s just say that casting is complete. After a couple years of making a predictable, albeit predictably superb, Italian Sausage and Bread Stuffing from Gourmet, this year I’m opting for a totally decadent version involving escarole for bitterness, pine nuts and wild rice for nuttiness, fresh ricotta and parm and prosciutto for richness, and cornbread stuffing for comfort. It’s an old Janet Hazen recipe, and is meant to be served with wild game. But who knows what kind of teenage angst our Heritage turkey will have played out in its youth? Also, if you’re thinking that this sounds a little rich for Thanksgiving (and believe me, you’d be right, but I’m going with it anyway), it’s also totally fantastic with a roast chicken, which is how we enjoyed it last night.

Cornbread and Escarole Stuffing

Adapted from New Game Cuisine, by Janet Hazen (Chronicle Books, 1990)

Makes 5-6 cups

4 cups water

1/3  cup wild rice

2 shallots, minced

3 garlic cloves, minced

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 head escarole, trimmed and coarsely chopped

2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme

1/3 lb prosciutto, thinly sliced

1/2 cup FRESH ricotta cheese (please, please, please make sure it’s the fresh stuff!)

1/2 cup grated Parmesan

1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted

1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth

2 cups packaged cornbread stuffing, prepared (embarrassed to say I used Stove Top as it was all I could find, but will be looking for a better alternative)

In a large saucepan, bring water to a boil, add wild rice, stir, and return to boil. Reduce heat to moderately high and cook uncovered for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until rice is tender and kernels start to burst. Drain and set aside.

wild rice

In a medium saucepan, cook the shallots and garlic in butter and olive oil over moderate heat for 5 minutes. Add escarole and cook just until it begins to wilt.


Remove from heat and add mixture to large bowl. Add all remaining ingredients and the wild rice, and mix well, making sure to incorporate ricotta and evenly distribute cornbread stuffing. At this point, I pulled the chicken out of the oven and stuck the stuffing in a Le Creuset gratin dish and roasted for 5 minutes (at 425-ish degrees) just to melt the parm, and then served it with a perfectly roasted chicken.

roast chicken stuffing

Happily Ever After

In Out of Town on October 25, 2009 at 11:01 pm

new york times weddings

This morning I woke up with what was unmistakably the aftermath of too much Champagne, Shafer Vineyards Merlot and an ill-advised gin-and-tonic postprandial. Our friends Lizzie and Matt got married this weekend at the Parker in Palm Springs, so there was much to celebrate. I’m furious for not having taken my camera to the reception because I could have shown you chandeliers strung from palm trees—chandeliers in palm trees!!!—under the stars, or 130-some guests waving sparklers during the toasts, or the fireworks that followed, or the fantastic guinea feather boutonnières on the groomsmen, or the lobster and caviar canapés, or THE BRIDE’S DRESS. Every last detail of this wedding was unforgettable, from the s’mores by the firepit at the Parker for early arrivals on Thursday night (sadly, I was marooned in Portugal thanks to a series of delayed, rerouted and canceled flights, not to mention missing luggage, and didn’t arrive until close to midnight on Friday) to the eco-friendly Palm Springs map tote filled with gummy lobsters, Hadley’s date cookies, Excedrin, In n’ Out Burger post-its that was waiting in our room upon arrival, to the maid of honor’s genius toast, to the black/white photo booth at the reception.

map tote

And perhaps the funniest detail? Sharing the page with Ivanka Trump in this morning’s New York Times Sunday Styles Weddings/Celebrations. Here’s to one of the best couples I know (not you, Ivanka, I’m talking to Lizzie), and cheers to a lifetime of happiness!

Steak Tartare

In Food, Recipes on October 20, 2009 at 8:39 am

steak tartare

Steak tartare has to be my all-time favorite meal, and my very favorite rendition is one we make at home. Lie. My true favorite, which has more to do with sentiment than flavor, is the super mustardy steak tartare at Brasserie Lipp in Paris, which is the first thing I order along with a glass or two (or a bottle, who are we kidding) of house red upon landing to deal with jetlag. CUT in Beverly Hills makes a mean third-place contender, and uses decadent and fatty kobe beef. Here at home we follow an Anthony Bourdain recipe, which has a gazillion ingredients with everything from cognac to ketchup that add to up to a complexity of flavor that is RIGHT. OUT. OF. THIS. WORLD. But the pièce de resistence are the French fries we serve with—hot off the press from Burger King. Yes, I said it. So one night last week I ground up some sirloin, and our friend Alec brought over four frypods from Burger King, along with a pretty ritzy bottle of 2006 Stags’ Leap Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Genius—and generous, very.

burger king frypod

Anthony Bourdain’s Steak Tartare

From Les Halles Cookbook, by Anthony Bourdain

Serves 4-6 as main course

2 egg yolks

2 tbsp Dijon mustard (28 g)

4 anchovy filets, finely chopped (Foodinista’s note: I sometimes substitute a healthy squeeze of anchovy paste if I don’t have filets on hand.)

2 tsp ketchup (10 g)

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce (5 g)

Tabasco sauce, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup salad (i.e., corn or soy) oil (56 ml)

1 oz Cognac (28 ml)

1 small onion, freshly and finely chopped

2 oz capers, rinsed (56 g)

2 oz cornichons, finely chopped (56 g)

4 sprigs of flat parsley, finely chopped

1 1/4 lb. fresh sirloin, finely chopped (560 g)

French fries, optional

4 slices fine quality white bread, toasted, quartered, for toast points

Place the egg yolks in a large stainless-steel bowl and add the mustard and anchovies. Mix well, then add the ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, and pepper and mix well again. Slowly whisk in the oil, then add the Cognac and mix again.

remy martin cognaceggs worcestershire cognac

Fold in the onion, capers, cornichons, and parsley.

onions capers cornichons

Foodinista’s note: Bourdain calls for a fine hand-chop of the meat, but on a weeknight I just can’t muster the energy so instead I send it through a meat grinder attached to my KitchenAid mixer. What’s the deal with the saran wrap, you ask? Um, sometimes it can get kind of messy (think Texas Chainsaw Massacre). Enough said.

kitchen aid meat grinder

Then I feed the ground beef through the grinder, which is also pretty gross…

wooden pestle

meat grinder

And now back to Bourdain… Add the chopped meat to the bowl and mix well using a spoon or your hands. Divide the meat evenly among the six chilled dinner plates and, using a ring mold or spatula, form it into disks on the plates. Serve immediately with French fries and toasted bread points. (Note, Mr. Foodinista likes to grill the bread instead of toasting.)

Smythson Travel Wallet

In Fashion, Out of Town on October 17, 2009 at 7:35 am

smythson travel walletIn a few hours I’ll be heading for LAX to begin a three-leg journey to Portugal for a weeklong business trip. Several birthdays ago, my friend Booth got me a Smythson Travel Wallet that I’ve used for every subsequent international trip. Booth, who travels overseas a good 2-3 months out of the year, has used a stunning pink version for years. It acts as both a functional wallet—oversized with gold-stamped compartments to organize your passport, tickets, documents, currency, credit cards and receipts but it’s also chic enough to carry at night as a clutch. Last year on a layover at Heathrow, my husband picked up a matching keychain that has room for three tiny photographs of Tiny G and his dad.

smythson keychain