For those of you who missed the Emmys last night, check out this Modern Family skit starring our friend John Viener (he plays the producer). Oh yeah, and George Clooney makes a cameo, too, but I think we can all agree that Viener is way hotter.
Today is my father-in-law’s birthday, so I wanted to share one of my favorite photographs of this dashing man circa the early 60s. I love his sunglasses—they remind me of Randolph Engineering squared-off aviators, but that company launched a decade later in 1972. As always, a step ahead.
My sister moved to Santa Monica from Napa Valley almost a year ago, during which time she’s been checking off places to see, things to do, dishes to try from her L.A. To-Do list. The latest on that list was bibimbap (a bowl of sizzling rice served with beef, seaweed and veggies and topped with a fried egg) at my favorite spot in the city: Jeon Ju in Koreatown. We started with a refreshing bowl of cold beef broth with noodles—perfect on a summer day.
Then came the main event, the bibimbap. While many places use ground or sliced beef in their version, Jeon Ju uses kalbi (Korean bbq’d beef short ribs, see top photo) and it’s all served in a sizzling stone pot to make the rice extra crispy. I love to add a bit of kimchi and some Cho Kochujang (a spicy sweet chili pepper sauce) to spice things up. Now, I’ll concede that bibimbap might not be the cure to beat this heat, but it is the recipe for happiness.
2716 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles (cross street Vermont), tel. 213-386-5678
Over Bastille Day, my sister, Claire, was in France for the wedding of her oldest and dearest friend. The party started in Paris and then moved to the groom’s family’s chateau on the water in Normandy. While in Paris, my sister struck up a friendship with the owner of a wine shop in the Marais. She asked him for a recommendation that would go with her favorite pasta dish—Clams in Spicy Pernod Sauce with Linguine, Mr. Foodinista’s specialty—and one that we couldn’t find in the states. His answer was a 2008 Domaine des Anges Côtes du Ventoux ‘L’Archange.’ It’s a rich, honeyed Rousanne balanced by crisp notes of lime and lovely nutty flavors. Once back on US soil, Mr. Foodinista obliged with the clams…
And Claire’s ami at the wine shop was right. The richness of the wine was nothing short of heavenly with the spice of the red pepper flakes and Pernod in the sauce. Good to the last drop. Who’s going to Paris and can sneak a bottle back?
Tonight Mr. Foodinista and I will be clinking glasses—or rather, Tervis tumblers of gin & tonics on this hot August night—to celebrate The Foodinista joining the ranks of blogs.com‘s TOP TEN BLOGS FOR THE BALANCED FOODIE list. Grace Nasri, editor of FindtheBest.com, compiled the list and included The Foodinista (along with Foodinista faves Chocolate & Zucchini and Serious Eats), saying “If you’re like me and judge food not only on taste, but also on presentation, you’ll love this blog.” Thank you, Grace! I wish we were celebrating with a more exotic dinner, but it’s a Monday and a hot one at that. So, instead we’re sitting on the porch, enjoying our cocktails and cleaning out the fridge with bowls of heirloom cherry tomatoes from the garden with pesto and burrata because sometimes the simple—if clichéd—pleasures are just the best.
Whether you have plans to travel to Japan or just like to read beautiful prose written by beautiful women, please settle in with a glass of wine—or better yet, sake—and start your weekend by reading this gorgeous dispatch from Tokyo with photos from my friend and fearless foodie Robyn Brown.
Not having the multi-tasking ambition of famed memoirist Elizabeth Gilbert, I did not travel to Tokyo to either pray or love. I only went to eat.
In the weeks preceding the trip, I made long, exhaustive lists. Cult favorite ramen spots. Soba masters. Hole in the wall sushi joints that open in the Tsujuki fish market at the crack of dawn. Pastry counters hidden in the basements of department stores. Restaurants with an obsessive zeal for a single ingredient, like the famed Obana which serves only unagi (eel). Shops that offer gourmet shaved ice: great, snowy drifts drenched in sweet bean sauce, tea, condensed milk, or all of the above.
As a former New Yorker, I pictured myself rocketing on the subway from eatery to eatery and clicking breezily over the city sidewalks in the kind of effortlessly chic, jet set outfit that I did not actually own but was certain would manifest itself once I had actually jetted somewhere.
In reality, Tokyo in July hovered between 95 and 102 degrees—there was no effortless chic; no effortless anything. Pink and puffy from the heat, I swapped my heels for flip flops and learned quickly why small terrycloth towels are an entire cottage industry in Japan. Getting from point A to point B took about half a day in the same way going anywhere in New York or Los Angeles is guaranteed to take about an hour. My many lists were painfully trimmed, then trimmed again.
For all my exhaustive planning, there were still some major culinary missteps. At the the gorgeous, magical Studio Ghibli museum in Mitaka, a café menu item translated only as “The fruit sandwich of your dreams” (below) turned out to be largely comprised of whipped cream and Wonderbread (Animation genius Miyazaki’s dreams are apparently very different than mine). But there were also meals so unlike anything I’d ever experienced before, that every bite made my inner voice squeal like a pre-teen girl.
At Kondo, in the tony Ginza shopping district (think: Upper Fifth Avenue but with Shiseido and Hakuhinkan Toy Park instead of Elizabeth Arden and FAO Schwartz), the chef delicately laid tempura on the white sheet of paper in front of me one single, golden piece at a time. One perfect stalk of asparagus, one perfect slice of lotus root, and so on. It seemed almost as though I was tasting each vegetable’s platonic ideal; its highest and purest form. After each crackling mouthful, the earthly versions I’d settled happily for, before, suddenly seem disappointingly flat.
And then there was Okajoki, the robatayaki in Nakano where the hostess pursed her lips disapprovingly that I spoke no Japanese. I wore her down with pleading looks, and she led me to a seat at the C-shaped counter around the raised hearth. A waiter swept over with a platter of fish, and I pointed a finger at a fat Kinki, a less-common Hokkaido rockfish with sunset-colored scales. I sipped sake as the chef flung a handful of salt on either side of my fish, speared it mouth to tail with a sharp stick, and jammed one end into the sand beneath the fire. Twenty minutes later, the whole fish was slid in front of me on a plate, crisped, salty and golden on the outside with an inside that seemed whiter than white.
A fire and a fish. There was something so primal and perfect about it, which was just how it tasted. I suffered mightily the next day for that Kinki fish (Though, it could have been the raw fish I’d eaten the day before. Or the raw chicken. Or the raw egg. Or…) but I’d do it again. There are flavors so intense that you’re left feeling a little more alive just for having tasted them.
Some foods can bring you up out of yourself, like art, theater, or music. In that sense, a meal can be like a prayer. Or, for that matter, like falling in love.
Obana, Minami-Senju 5-33-1, Arakawa-ku, 03-3801-4670.Tempura Kondo, 9F, 5-5-13 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo, 03-5568-0923. Okajoki, Nakano 5-59-3, 3228-1230.
Robyn Brown has written and edited for several women’s magazines including Glamour and Allure. Currently she works as a freelance writer in Los Angeles.
Tomorrow wraps up Tiny G’s first summer session of preschool, and then he goes on a four-week hiatus before returning for fall. I’ve learned a lot these past few weeks about packing a balanced and waste-free lunch, and my greatest weapon is the meatball. Each week I make a batch with a some sort of ground lean protein: chicken, turkey, buffalo or lamb. I’ve experimented by mixing in different vegetables—some cooked/pureed, some steamed/chopped, and some uncooked. It’s a great way to use leftovers and to sneak in extra veggies. Here is my basic “master” recipe, but feel free to experiment and find new combinations.
Here are few combos that have worked for us: lamb + fresh chopped mint, chicken and puréed squash, buffalo + cooked/diced carrot, turkey + puréed sweet potato, buffalo + puréed green pepper and tomato
Tiny G’s Meatballs
The following recipe makes about 30 meatballs, but since I just have Tiny G to feed I usually make about 1/3 or 1/2 of what this recipe calls for.
1 lb ground buffalo/chicken/turkey/lamb
1/2 – 3/4 cup whole-grain breadcrumbs*
1 large egg, lightly beaten
veggies (anywhere from a couple tablespoons to 1/4 cup)
* To make breadcrumbs, stick a slice or two of whole grain bread in a mini food processor and hit “chop” until you have fine breadcrumbs. In this photo, I used a homemade brown rice sandwich roll (extra breadcrumbs keep well in the freezer):
To make meatballs, in a bowl, mix together ground meat, egg, breadcrumbs, egg and vegetable. I add breadcrumbs according to moisture—depending on what veggie you are using, you might need to add more breadcrumbs if mixture is too wet. (Below is ground lamb with mint and brown rice flour breadcrumbs)
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. On a tray lined with parchment paper, form tablespoon-size meatballs.
Bake meatballs in upper third of oven for 8-10 minutes, until just cooked through.
A batch of these keeps well in the fridge for lunches or dinner throughout the week. Sometimes I just pack one, like this chicken/squash meatball alongside some whole wheat couscous with red pepper hummus shaped like a rooster (because I’m a huge nerd — I mean, what two year old wouldn’t get this joke?):
Or, for an added baby geek factor, you can cut out little rounds of whole-grain bread for a “slider” effect with buffalo/carrot meatballs. Have fun!
This morning Tiny G threw his first bona fide tantrum and it was not pretty. Needless to say, after the tears subsided and we successfully made it to preschool, albeit 45 minutes late, Tiny G’s mama needed a little peace and quiet. Which isn’t always easy to come by in LA. So I grabbed a handy little book my friend Susan sent me, Peaceful Places: Los Angeles by Laura Randall. The book features 110 quiet spots across the city, from museums and parks to cafés and courtyards. Randall is a longtime SGV resident whose recommendations span from well-known spots like the Getty to hidden gems like the bluff trails in Palos Verdes. One of my favorites entries is for Mama’s Hot Tamales Café in MacArthur Park. Following Tiny’s histrionics, I hightailed it for Mama’s and settled into a brightly painted corner table and ordered a couple tamales and a cold tamarindo. And lots of salsa, extra spicy, because I needed it.
The lights were low, and a couple of floor fans kept the place cool. I ate my tamales while I watched a father and school-age son enjoy their enchiladas at a nearby table, while a husband and wife quietly chatted over salads. Peace was restored in the land. Just in time for me to go pick up Tiny G from school…
I received several emails yesterday about the pendant lamp in our kitchen. I love hearing from you, especially when you like something but even when you don’t! So thank you—and please don’t be shy, leave a comment! I have to tell you, this lamp really does it for me. I searched high and low to find just the right light fixture to hang above our kitchen table when we redid our kitchen a couple years ago. The winner was this Niche Modern Binary Pendant Lamp in the most delicious chocolate-colored glass. The company offers a dreamy series of hand-blown pendants with filament bulbs.
The initial inspiration for our kitchen lighting came from one of my most prized belongings, a “Bicycle Street, Paris 1963” 30 x 30 photograph from Melvin Sokolsky’s “Bubble” series for Harper’s Bazaar.
I wanted a translucent bubble-shaped shade floating above the table, much in the way that the bubble floats above Paris in this photograph, and I love the double bulbs in Niche’s binary lamp, which lend an organic feel to the fixture. In fact, this bubble in this photograph inspired much of the kitchen design like the round Cherner table that sits beneath it and a Max Bill clock that hangs nearby above the door.
Why my obsession with this photo? Beside the fact that it is GORGEOUS, forty years after the Bubble series was shot, I had the honor of producing a fashion shoot with Mr. Sokolsky at Disney Hall. We were the very first to shoot a fashion story at Disney Hall—before it was even open to the public—and it was a shoot I’ll never forget. One of my besties, Vincent Boucher, was the stylist on that story and we still laugh about how I literally had to take the shirt off my back (I wish I were kidding) to wipe out smudges left by the crew on Disney’s stainless steel exterior. And that was just the tip of that iceberg’s drama. Here’s a shot from that day. I like to think the metal boules are referencing those larger-than-life plexiglass bubbles Sokolsky used in Paris almost half a century ago…
I went hiking up in Griffith Park this morning with my friend Mia, who quite simply has great taste in everything she does. And by trade, that includes renovating and interior design. This morning she gave me this Oncidium Sharry Baby ‘Sweet Fragrance’ orchid, which smells like CHOCOLATE! I’m not kidding—my entire kitchen smells like Alice Medrich just set up shop. Just imagine the disappointment when Mr Foodinista walks in the door tonight and wonders where the brownies are. (He should know better; I don’t bake.) And every bit as delicious as the chocolate fragrance perfuming the air is the gorgeous mid-century pot in which it sits. Mia found it at the Rose Bowl Flea Market. Whenever she sees interesting vintage pots, she grabs them for hostess gifts later. How great is that?