Loyal Amateur Gourmet readers, it’s time to come clean: I’ve been a bad blogger lately. It’s been a busy time for me here in L.A. but the hard part is that I really can’t get into why it’s so busy, just trust me that I haven’t really had time to devote to the blog. Can you forgive me? What if I share a bunch of really good things that I’ve cooked/eaten recently, will that make things better? OK, let’s try that. In random order….
1. A pork chop dinner that I made with a pork chop from McCall’s Meat and Fish.
I’m discovering that pork chops, more than any other cut of meat, are the ones that are most worth getting from a fancy butcher because of the fat content. The pork chops from McCall’s are so laced with the good stuff that all you have to do is heat a cast iron skillet on very high heat, pour in a little Grapeseed oil, season your chops with salt and pepper, lay them in, let them sizzle, flip ’em over when they’re brown and finish until it gives a little resistance when you press down. They’re the moistest, most flavorful pork chops on the block; and they go well with everything. For example, here I pan-fried some cauliflower and then roasted a butternut squash which I pureed with a hand blender, with a little browned butter mixed in. Mmmm.
2. The breakfast burrito from CoFax.
My friend Noah Galuten, who’s appeared on my podcast and who helps run the Golden State empire, has been telling me about the CoFax breakfast burrito for a long time. It was named the Best Breakfast Burrito in L.A. by L.A. Weekly. The only thing is, it’s hard for me to integrate a breakfast burrito into my weekly schedule because on weekends I make breakfast at home and on weekdays, by the time I’m out, I’m ready for lunch. But last week I found myself out earlier than usual on a weekday, so I sidled up to CoFax and ordered the breakfast burrito and DAMN!! That thing is something else. It’s got scrambled eggs, hash browns, cheese, and–the kicker–tortilla chips inside. Oh yeah. That thing is worth breaking a routine for indeed.
3. Almond Brittle with Salted Ganache Ice Cream from Salt & Straw.
When Portland’s Salt & Straw opened here in L.A. in Larchmont Village, I made a pact with myself that I would get there ASAP. Then, somehow, I didn’t and I kept getting mad when friends would post pictures of themselves at Salt & Straw on Instagram and I’d think, “Why haven’t I been there yet?!” So one night, driving home from dinner, I resolved to pop in and get a carton of ice cream to take home. I was lucky because it was just before they closed (at 11 o’clock) so the place was pretty empty (I hear it gets crazy crowded) and the woman working there was still so sweet and helpful. She suggested the Almond Brittle with Salted Ganache and when I brought it home and tasted it, I seriously wanted to put my bathing suit on so I could dive into it. I mean just those words ALMOND BRITTLE SALTED GANACHE are enough to make a person weep with ecstasy; but it was everything you’d want an ice cream flavor to be: creamy, salty, sweet, chocolatey, heavenly. Now I’m scared to go back because I might eat up the whole store.
4. Solstice Canyon Almond Butter.
My friend Rachael Sheridan just started an almond butter business called Solstice Canyon and I had a chance to buy some from the Broome Street General Store which is quickly becoming my favorite place to write in L.A. I chose the “Cardamom and Clove” flavor and the next morning I spread it on toasted bread and man oh man was that stuff good; the spices were perfectly balanced and then the texture of the almond butter was just right, not too sticky, not too wet. If you or your loved ones like almond butter, treat yourself to some Solstice Canyon. You won’t regret it!
5. Seared grouper on Rancho Gordo beans with kale.
Not to toot my own horn too much, but do you see that plate of food above you? I made that and you have to admit that’s impressive! Really, I just made a soup using Rancho Gordo beans, garlic, onion, celery, homemade chicken stock, and some kale. That was one night’s dinner. The next night I reduced it so it became more of a stew and then I seared two pieces of skin-on grouper (also purchased from McCall’s) with the skin-side down in two small metal pans with a splash of Grapeseed oil. The skin got crisp, then I flipped it over, and thought I’d cooked it all the way through, only to bring it out to the table as you see it above where we discovered it was still raw on the inside (it was a very thick piece of fish). So I switched the oven on, plopped the fish on to a cookie sheet, and finished it in there for another 5 to 6 minutes. Guess I’m not tooting my own horn now, but still? It tasted oh so good and looked oh so professional. Do I get an E for effort?
6. Dinner at Trois Mec. (Note: for the purposes of this post, all of these things count as one thing.)
I was going to do this as a separate post, but it’s a bit intimidating to sum up a meal at Trois Mec on the blog. The place is always listed as one of (if not THE) best restaurants in L.A. and it’s really an adventure eating there. We went for our friend Mark’s birthday (pictured above) and were delighted by the whole experience. (In case you don’t know, you have to buy your tickets for Trois Mec in advance and if you don’t show up, you just lose the money; so it’s slightly stressful, though nice to have everything already paid for–except the wine). Here were some highlights:
This bite of garlic bread slathered with garlic butter was out of this world good:
A fried square of tapioca with passionfruit flavor was unlike anything I’ve had before:
This salad of endive and horseradish may not look like much, but there were raw scallops underneath and the whole thing was very cooling and calming and expertly done–one of the highlights of the night:
We splurged on the supplemental potato pulp ($12 more a person) which lived up to the hype, topped as it was with onion soubise and bonito flakes:
The main beef dish was just OK, I don’t remember much about it:
But I loved the rice pudding for dessert (picture at the top of this post) with a sugared egg yolk in the center. That was a dazzler.
7. Smitten Kitchen Apple Cake.
If you’re looking for an impressive dessert that’s really a cinch to put together, look no further than Smitten Kitchen’s Apple Cake (Deb’s mom’s recipe). It’s really the simplest of batters–which I dressed up a little with some orange zest and lemon zest–which gets poured into a tube pan and separated by a layer of apples tossed with lots of sugar and cinnamon. It’ll make your whole house smell dreamy and plus the cake is huge, so it’ll last you a whole week. Get to it!
8. The coconut tart at Pop-Up Preech Monday at Jar.
A few weeks ago, I read about a special dinner at Jar here in L.A. where the chef de cuisine Preech Narkthong would be making his own menu on Monday nights. That sounded really cool, so I invited my fellow Jar-fans Barrett and Chad along and we absolutely enjoyed Preech’s sophisticated menu of hand-crafted shrimp dumplings and lobster:
But the highlight for me, easily, was the coconut tart that Preech made for dessert:
I’m a huge fan of Mounds bars and, really, anything coconut-flavored and this slice of tart really took the cake (how’s that for food writing?). Seriously, it was such a smart spin on those Mounds-inspired flavors, I demand to know the recipe so I can make this myself.
9. Orecchiette with broccoli.
It’s pretty much an established fact that when I go away for any amount of time, the first thing that I like to cook when I get home is pasta. Maybe because we often have pasta in the pantry so it’s easy just to boil water and whip something up? Only this time I wanted something a little more nourishing, so I bought orecchiette and two heads of broccoli and made the dinner you see above; a riff on this. Only, instead of pancetta I added anchovies to the pan with the garlic and olive oil and then quickly cooked the broccoli in the boiling water for the pasta, before removing it to the hot oil with all of those flavor-enhancers in there. Worked like a charm.
10. Lunch at Superba Food & Bread.
Let’s count these three things as one thing too: upon arriving back from Florida, I gently hinted (demanded) that it would be nice to have lunch at Superba Food & Bread which is only a short drive from LAX. Craig acquiesced and, indeed, it was a lovely return to L.A., sitting outside with all of those attractive Venice beach types and eating different kinds of toast–one with smoked trout, one with almond butter and jelly, and one with scrambled eggs and cheese (not pictured)–plus a gem lettuce salad. That whole gem lettuce thing is SO L.A., I’ve never seen it anywhere else, which made this such a nice “return to home” lunch.
And there you are: 10 things (plus more things) that I ate recently and didn’t tell you about only now I did tell you about them so we can all rest easy.