No Sweetener For You (Do Coffee Shops Go Too Far?)


You can divide coffee shops, these days, into two categories: those pushing the sugar (Starbucks, The Coffee Bean, Dunkin’ Donuts) and those scorning the sweet stuff. Most of us start out in the former camp–I began my coffee-drinking habits with Frappuccinos–and migrate to the latter camp, the independent coffee shop where the beans are of the finest quality and the baristas glare at you if they see you shaking Sweet N’ Low into your iced macchiato. That glare, though, isn’t necessarily encouraged by coffee shop owners: at most of the indy coffee shops I frequent in New York and L.A. (Joe, Gorilla, Commissary, Intelligentsia) sweetener is offered up in a myriad of forms: blue, pink, white little packets and a big bottle of simple syrup to address your iced coffee drink needs. Last week, however, I visited a coffee shop that L.A. Weekly just named Best Coffee Shop 2013–Handsome Coffee–and discovered that sweetener isn’t offered in any of its forms. No pink packets, no blue packets, no sticky syrup bottle. If you want sugar in your coffee, you’ve got to go somewhere else.

Continue Reading

The Art of Eating Artichokes


Once upon a time, I Tweeted: “Artichokes: not worth it.”

As with all Tweets like this, it had its share of supporters and detractors. Though I was being tongue-in-cheek, I was also sort of being serious. I hate dealing with artichokes. For my cookbook, the terrific chefs Alex Raij and Eder Montero taught me how to make a gorgeous spring vegetable confit with fava beans and asparagus and lots of green things including the dreaded artichoke. In their kitchen at Txikito, Alex showed me how to cut through the top of the plant, how to trim the stem, how to cut out the choke. When we were done, what looked like a bowling ball suddenly looked like a ping pong paddle. Did it taste good after it was confited? Yes. But was this something I’d really want to do in my own kitchen? Not really. When it comes to artichokes, I’m happy to eat them. But prepping them is the pits.

Continue Reading

Kabocha Squash Risotto


Usually I have a gage in my head that lets me know how good the dinner I’m making is going to be. At some point, while prepping this Kabocha Squash Risotto (based on this one in Bon Appetit), I figured it would be pretty good but not great. Several reasons: the squash, which you pan-fry before adding to the risotto, came out a little mealy and dry. And instead of making my own stock, I took the recipe’s advice and used Swanson vegetable broth. I figured on a scale from 1 to 10, this risotto would be a 6. How wrong I was. This risotto was hands down one of the best risottos I’ve ever made–an absolute 11–and everyone I fed it to went nuts for it. What made it so good? Let’s examine.

Continue Reading

The Clean Plate Club, Episode #11: Clotilde Dusoulier

Almost a decade ago, when I started my scrappy little food blog, an e-mail arrived all the way from Paris, France from a young woman named Clotilde Dusoulier who had her own food blog called Chocolate & Zucchini. She told me that she liked what I was doing; I checked out her site and I liked what she was doing. We became fast friends–digital pen pals, you might say. We had a dinner at Babbo in New York (documented here with pictures erased, sadly), a dinner in Paris at Ze Kitchen Galerie (those pictures work!). She went on to write several books, including Chocolate & Zucchini: Daily Adventures in a Parisian Kitchen, Clotilde’s Edible Adventures in Paris, and–most recently–a book so gorgeous I have to show you a picture of it.

Continue Reading

My Ever-Morphing L.A. Restaurant To-Do List

[photo taken at Gjelina]

On my web browser I have a folder called “LaFOOD” and any time I see an article or a blog post about a restaurant I want to try, I save it to that folder. As you can imagine, after two years here, that folder’s grown quite unwieldy. I was just about to organize it for myself when I thought: “Why don’t I turn it into a blog post?” So what follows is a list of L.A. restaurants that I haven’t been to yet with links to the stories that inspired me to bookmark them*, organized by cuisine. Of course this list will grow and morph over time as I check off places and add new ones to my folder; but for now I think I have my work cut out for me. (* Note: some of the links are just links to the restaurants because I must’ve bookmarked them after hearing about them out in the world. Also, sometimes multiple restaurants link to the same article because that’s where I heard about them all.)

Continue Reading

Shopping is Cooking


When you’re having friends over for dinner at 7:30, and it’s getting on in the day, time grows precious and you have to prioritize. Do you spend it shopping or do you spend it cooking? More often than not, I spend it cooking. My usual cooking routine goes: rush to Gelson’s, gather up overpriced ingredients, hurry home, make the dessert, assemble the entree, get things ready for the appetizer and drink a glass of wine while listening to “The Music Man” just as the guests show up. But last week I changed my dinner party strategy. Instead of spending most of my time in the kitchen, I spent it on the road, gathering up great ingredients to see if it made a difference. And you know what? It totally did. That strategy yielded better results than if I’d spent that same time stirring over a stove. Here’s why.

Continue Reading