Sunday, November 7, 2010

Food & Art, Food & Food. Sunday, November 7, 2010. Los Angeles

Cezanne's Table, Napkin and Fruit


A couple of fun events happening in Los Angeles today.  Once again, Fallen Fruit and Los Angeles County Museum of Art have combined forces for another amazing day of Let them Eat LACMA.  This is a very creative event combining the wild and artistic elements of food with art, in art, about art, for art, is art. My eyes keep darting back to the words donut wall while reading about the day's event.  How far back should I stand from the tomato fight?! This is the last in a year long series of food&art events by Fallen Fruit at LACMA.  Just come.  Immerse yourself in something wacky and joyous.  11A-8P.

Liked this story from CBS Sunday Morning on the relationship between fruit and artists.

Stefan Richter


Lots of goodies at Great Chefs of LA.  This is the 24th year for the event, which benefits the National Kidney Foundation.   Mary Sue Milliken, Stefan Richter, Candice Kumai, Celestino Drago, Jimmy Shaw (Chef of Honor!), and many more of LA's most talented chefs.  At CBS Radford from 12P-3:30P.  $150 at the door.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Power of a Marshmallow

I am not an economist.  In fact, I spent much of my time in my one college econ class sleeping.  That hasn't stopped me from forming opinions about what is a great economic idea and what is economic suicide.  American jobs shipped to other countries is a bad economic idea.  Buying massive amounts of goods produced in other countries is a bad economic idea.  Spending copious amounts of personal income in megastores, such as WalMart, is a bad economic idea.  Supporting local businesses is a very good idea.

Trickle-down economics, supply-side economics, horse and sparrow theory, noblesse oblige, Reaganomics, call it what you will, works only for the rich.  Making the rich richer at the expense of the working class should actually be called the piss-on-them theory, full force, not a trickle in sight.  I actually believe people would be comfortable with the idea that some are wealthier than others, if the wealthy weren't always trying to screw workers out of just one more dime. This makes me think of all the low-information voters who vote against their best interest by responding to the shrillest political voices. Those who shill for big business always have the biggest mouths and pithiest slogans. They're like shiny bits of trash to a magpie.

I believe the very foundation of a strong economy begins with the working class and how we spend our money.  Our very powerful collective dollars are the answer to much of our country's economic cancer.  We should spend our dollars on the products of local businesses, thereby building up our local economy and creating local jobs. This brings the substantial benefits of buying wonderful products and developing relationships with the business owners.  With such local support, businesses grow, and the weakened roots of economic stability begin to strengthen and thrive. Suddenly, a business that employed just one now employs 10. 

Which brings me to marshmallows.

I recently attended an event in Los Angeles showcasing local businesses and their products, Artisanal LA.  The products were all edible or food-related and locally made.  As I walked through the event, I was deeply moved by the creative energy and vitality in the room.  The business owners and their employees were excited to present their products to people and people were absolutely loving what they were tasting and learning.  They were also buying.  I saw a lot of very full bags at Artisanal LA.  If just half the people who attended the 2-day event choose the locally made product the next time they shop, our economy is heading in the right direction.

After tasting vanilla bean marshmallows from Plush Puffs, I can assure you, itty-bitty, jet-puffed fluff will taste like glue.  I'm planning on doing my part in saving the economy by eating as many of these marshmallows, and other tasty delights from local businesses, as possible.  I encourage you to do the same. Check out the Artisanal LA site for the businesses who participated, source local products, visit farmers markets, and share what you find with others. 

The path to economic recovery begins with the thoughtful steps we make every day with our dollars.  I think about the safety speech we are given on aircraft when we are told to take care of our own oxygen mask before helping others.  We can only help the nation when we can breathe ourselves.

Here is a brief list of some of my favorite finds at Artisinal LA. We'll be loyal customers of these following companies:

The Welsh Baker
Delicious grilled cakes.  We bought classic, walnut maple, blueberry.  Planning to order pumpkin soon! As you would expect, coffee or tea and a Welsh cake is just a perfect combination.  Really fabulous with a dessert wine, such as Muscat.  These darling cakes are really, really addictive.

Lindy & Grundy
The sad part is we never got to meet Amelia Posada and Erika Nakamura (Lindy & Grundy) because they were always talking to people when we got to their booth.  The good news is we are going to be customers of their butcher shop and hope they will be open for Christmas!  From their website:

We will be offering beef, lamb, pork and chicken that are all sourced locally and free of hormones and antibiotics. In addition to custom cut meats, we will be making all of our sausages, roast beef, pastrami and much more in house!

Plush Puffs
Simply the very best marshmallows in the world. Fairly sure someone is coming into our home and eating them when we are not here.  We can't possibly be going through all these bags of marshmallows ourselves!

Xarene makes the most extraordinary tarts I've ever tasted.  They are fresh, delicate and delicious.  She often uses ingredients from her own garden as well as the gardens of friends.  She'll even make you a tart from fruit grown in your own yard, if you'd like one.

Morning Glory Confections
Max Lesser makes some very tasty brittle.  Loved the Fleur de Sel & Peanut, Indian Curry & Pistachio, New Mexico Chili & Pumpkin Seed, Thai Curry & Peanut.  We've been using this brittle as an appetizer and a dessert.  We're doing some wine pairings with this as well.  Haven't had it yet but am certain the Fleur de Sel & Peanut with Prosecco would be terrific.

San Angel Mole
Hand-crafted, all natural, small batch traditional Mexican sauces.  We bought the Black Mole, Red Mole, and Cascabel sauces.  All quite delicious.  Excellent recipes on their website

Jenkins Jellies
I have to admit, we are going a little overboard with their Hell Fire Pepper Jelly.  We're putting it on everything!  Toast, meat, fruit, cheese, chocolate, Morning Glory peanut brittle, The Welsh Baker cakes, Plush Puffs marshmallows.  Yes, it's that good.  We bought three bottles.  Need more!


Saturday, October 23, 2010


I've been waiting, quite excitedly, for this weekend for months.  The inaugural Artisanal LA opens this weekend, Saturday and Sunday, at the Cooper Building in downtown Los Angeles.

"...75 local, handmade and artisanal vendors."

Randy and I are supporters of local businesses and this event makes our shopping so much easier.  I cannot wait to meet the participating vendors and make their products part of our lives.  I also plan on doing some shopping for upcoming birthdays and Christmas.  I am planning to make my own apple butter and chutneys this season, but I think there will be plenty of room in my holiday gift baskets for some of the gems I find at Artisanal LA

I spent some time going through the vendor list and researching the participants, so I have a loosely designed plan for the day.  Some of the vendors I'm most interested in meeting:

The Welsh Baker
"Not quite a cookie, not quite a scone. Delicious with milk, coffee, tea or alone."  Maker of a lovely Welsh baked good that is not too sweet, 100 calories each, and made from all natural ingredients.  I'll take a dozen!

Cake Monkey Bakery
Bakers of my new favorite treat pop pies, their version of the pop tart (something I actually never ate in my life!). Also, looking forward to sampling their new Banana Cream Cakewich.

Plush Puffs Gourmet Marshmallows
Let me just say, toasty coconut and caramel swirl.

Backwards Beekeepers
"Let the bees be bees!"  Amazing group of local beekeepers, who rely on natural practices rather than pesticides and chemicals to keep their bees thriving.  C
an honey get any better?

Chicks with Knives Perishable Pickle Shop
Bacon jam.  Yeah.

Lindy & Grundy
Their new butcher shop will be opening on Fairfax in December and their use of locally produced, sustainable meat will keep me a very loyal customer.  They worked apprenticeships at Hudson Valley's Fleisher's Grass-Fed and Organic Meats and now they are here.  Here in the Fairfax District.  Hooray!

More to tell when I return.  Must eat and shop now!

Artisanal LA
October 23-24, 2010

Cooper Building
860 S. Los Angeles Street
Follow on Twitter @artisanalla

$15 at the door.
Portion of proceeds benefit a number of local charities including Los Angeles Regional Food Bank and LAUSD Edible School Garden Programs.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Sublime Sweet Potato Salad

Sweet Potato and Radish Salad

Randy and I absolutely love this little salad.

I had 2 medium-sized sweet potatoes, a couple of radishes, and a dainty shallot wedge in the fridge.  The cool, misty weather called for something warming and roasted this morning.  The combination of this, a complete improvisation, is eat-all-of-it-now delicious.  

Crazy Daisy Love!
Ooh, and I used my beloved Crazy Daisy 1 quart Corning Ware.  Mad collector of this line


Sweet Potato and Radish Salad

2 medium sweet potatoes
2 large radishes
1 tablespoon minced shallots
1 tablespoon chopped pistachios
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon honey mustard
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
sea salt to taste
cracked pepper to taste
a dusting of cayenne pepper


Preheat oven to 425.

Peel and cut the sweet potatoes into 1-inch cubes.  Place in a bowl and add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, some sea salt, cracked pepper, and cayenne pepper.  Gently mix.  Place the sweet potato mixture on a small baking pan and roast for about 30 minutes.  I kept a careful eye on this, wanting the sweet potato to get to a carmelization point without completely burning.  The extra effort is worth it, as the sweet potato at this browning point reaches a gloriously intense flavor stage.  

While the sweet potatoes are roasting, slice the radishes very thinly.  I have every kitchen gadget in the world, yet I still prefer to chop, mince, slice, mix, fold, and knead by hand.  Soothing.  Contemplative.  Also mince the shallots and chop the pistachios.  You can add whole pistachio pieces, as well.  I think they would be terrific.  Hazelnuts (cobnuts for my British friends!) in place of pistachios would also work.  Had I been able to get myself out our back door to my herb garden, I would have sprinkled some freshly chopped chives into this, as well.  Our herb garden is so healthy.  Basil, rosemary, parsley, tarragon (true tarragon!), chives, oregano, and English mint all growing madly.  

In your favorite salad dressing bowl, mix the honey mustard and lemon juice.  Remove sweet potatoes from the oven and place in a 1 quart mixing bowl. Add the radishes, shallots and pistachios, fold in the salad dressing and it is ready to eat.    

Final note: 

I think French Breakfast Radishes, with their extra kick, would be quite tasty in this salad, as well.  

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Couscous Festival!

Chef Farid Zadi is an inspiring chef.  I learned a great deal about the cooking of North Africa from his work, which I featured on I Cook The World.  Chef Zadi's Couscous Festival takes place this weekend, October 16-17, at his new cooking school Ecole de Cuisine Pasadena.

Couscous is just one of those words I love saying, like bubble, elbow, and patchouli.

Along with Chef Zadi and Executive Chef Susan Park, guest lecturers include Paula Wolfert, Clifford Wright, Charles Perry and Faye Levy.  There will be music throughout the day including some Saharan blues.  Blues, mint tea and couscous!  Events like this remind me why I love Southern California.  Hope to see you there.

Tickets must be purchased in advance for one of two sessions on either Saturday or Sunday.  Your ticket price includes food samplings.  Tickets available at Couscous Festival. $20 per session. 

Friday, October 8, 2010

To Armenia

From the poem “Mysteries of Existence” by Armenia poet Alicia Ghiragossia

What is the mystery
of eternity
that it can be locked
in a minute of waiting
a second of absence
a split second of need?
How can time stretch
when existence burns
with nonexistence?
How many eternities
have I still to fold up
and put aside
until I see you?
Where are you?

And, so, to Armenia on I Cook the World.

Monday, September 27, 2010

American Wine and Food Festival 2010


Since 1982, Wolfgang Puck (left) and Barbara Lazaroff have raised over $15 million dollars for Meals on Wheels Programs of Los Angeles.  The Puck-Lazaroff Charitable Foundation has raised millions primarily through the wildly popular American Wine and Food Festival.  Meals on Wheels Programs of Los Angeles is an extraordinary and vital service serving thousands of meals every day to homebound senior and disabled people.  Each year prestigious chefs and many businesses donate their time, talents, and wares to the festival.  Ticket prices are steep for the event but worth every dime for what people get in return, channeling money to a very worthy cause and enjoying a world class event.

This year’s American Wine and Food Festival is over but we can all continue to donate money and time to Meals on Wheels Programs of Los Angeles.  You’ll find plenty of useful information on their websites.  There are a number of Meals on Wheels programs in Greater Los Angeles including St. Vincent Meals on Wheels and Meals on Wheels of West Los Angeles.

I attended the Saturday evening (September 25th) Grand Tasting of the American Wine and Food Festival.  It was held on the Universal Studios Old Europe backlot.  As I pulled up to the festival, on one of the ubiquitous Universal Studios trams, the aroma of roasting meat was a very appropriate welcome to the evening.  Inside the festival, just to my right was Floyd Cardoz and his staff from Tabla, from New York City, grilling lobsters.  This was just the beginning of an evening of sensory satisfaction.

Everywhere I turned I saw chefs whose careers have been very important to the advancement of my own cooking skills.  I was, in all honesty, humbled.  It was such a pleasure to have the opportunity to speak with Chef Paul Prudhomme (left), the man responsible for bringing Cajun cuisine into the national and international spotlight.  He spoke to me about the struggles in New Orleans, a region still in recovery from Hurricane Katrina and now the Gulf oil disaster.  Chef Prudhomme urged me to come back to New Orleans and talked about how the food is as wonderful as it always has been.  He, like so many of his fellow New Orleans cooking brothers and sisters, are working so hard to breathe life back into the city.  He knows how to use his celebrity for good and found the time to come to Los Angeles to help out our own charities.

Everyone who participated deserves recognition for their contribution.  The food, wine, and other beverages served were all deserving of the $300 ticket price.  Not one table served up a sub-par meal. I talked to people who raved about the fried clams from Chef Jasper White and Chef Dean Fearing's fried quail.  The raw bar at the Bouchon table was very, very popular.  I was a little surprised that Nancy Silverton and Mozza decided to go with corn dogs and frozen bananas dipped in chocolate.  The more I thought about it, the more I understood the joke.  Yes, this was food more appropriate to the Los Angeles County Fair, but it struck a chord with people.  It was fun and the frozen bananas were a welcome treat on a sweltering evening. 

I think a lot of chefs made last minute changes to their menus based on the hot weather.  Chef Amar Santana from Charlie Palmer Bloomingdale’s South Coast Plaza served a cooling avocado gazpacho and a tequila and lychee juice cocktail, El Lychedor.  People loved both.  Both Chef Santana and Charlie Palmer worked the table.  Fiji Water was a big sponsor of this year's festival and Chef Santana used Fiji in the dishes he presented.  Please check out the complete list of chefs who were there at the festival website.  My one regret is that I didn't take the opportunity to speak Chef Jose Andres outside the Cosmopolitan (air conditioned!) cocktail lounge.

My favorite foods of the evening were the sandwich from The Hitching Post, featuring their very delicious house-made bacon and the pork belly sandwich from Slanted Door.  What was up with the location for Slanted Door?  Hidden away.  No line.  Is this San Francisco gem unknown to Los Angeles diners?  Chef Charles Phan playfully beckoned me to his table, where I was the only diner.  Buttery, tender pork belly.

Chef Wolfgang Puck was wearing a smile on his face as he worked the crowd and talked with his friends from the culinary world.  It was great to watch everyone, including the chefs, (Thomas Keller lobbing beach balls!) having fun.  I know setting up and working in the heat must have exhausted everyone before ticket holders even got into their cars to drive to the festival.

There was a very poignant end to the evening for me.  When I arrived at the tram pick-up, there was a huge line.  Hundreds of people were waiting for the tram to take them back to their cars.  The heat caused a number of the trams to suffer hydraulics failure.  So, in a small way, as we waited for the one working tram, we experienced what it feels like to be inconvenienced by a very brief lack of mobility.  However, unlike those who are housebound and dependent upon Meals on Wheels for daily sustenance, our inconvenience was temporary.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Cooking at Swinton Castle


While reading about the history of Swinton Park and the description of the cooking classes, I envisioned myself strolling the lushYorkshire grounds on my way to meet Chef Rosemary Shrager.  Yes, Rosemary Shrager teaches at Swinton Castle a few times a year!  On her website she refers to herself as the castle chef.  I've always loved her cooking!

I long to book myself into one of the castle's 30 rooms and get down to the basics of cooking with Chef Shrager.  The website offers this description of her classes:

The two day residential cookery course is designed and run by Rosemary Shrager and concentrates on the classical preparation of food, and mastering the essential techniques. These would include patisserie, baking, sauces and soufflés, boning and filleting, amongst many others.
The two day courses are themed on various styles of cooking, such as French & Italian, Mediterranean Food, Fish and Seafood and Modern British.
The courses start either on a Sunday or a Wednesday afternoon at 4.00pm and the first cookery session ends that evening with dinner served in the Cookery School. On the second day the class will cook morning and afternoon, with lunch and dinner served in the Cookery School, and free time in the afternoon to relax and enjoy the hotel's facilities (such as a treatment in the spa) or take a stroll in the grounds. The course ends on the third day after a morning's cooking and lunch served in the Cookery School.
A typical selection of dishes for dinner on a Modern British course would be :
  • Seared Sea Bass on a Bed of Saffron Risotto served with Parsnip Crisp
  • Roast Duck Breast with Jerusalem Artichoke Dauphinoise, Pak Choi and Ginger and Walnuts
  • White Chocolate Mousse with Raspberries topped with Bitter Chocolate Mousse served with Coffee Anglaise
A typical selection of dishes for dinner on the Mediterranean Food course would be :
  • Rosemary Focaccia
  • Gazpacho
  • Seared Tuna with Hot Sauce
  • Roast Loin of Lamb with Garlic Sauce and Provençal Gnocchi
  • Ratatouille
  • Red Fruit Jelly with Basil and Sauterne Sabayon
  • Orange and Almond Tuile 

    All that lovely food, a castle in Yorkshire, and classes with a top chef. Sounds fantastic. Swinton Park offers a number of food related classes and events. All that information can be found on their website, as well.


    Here is an absolutely beautiful recipe from Chef Scrager for Chicken and Potato Pie:

    Serves 6-8


    • 500 g puff pastry
    • 4 large chicken breasts, boned and cut
    • into thin strips
    • 720 g peeled potatoes, thinly sliced
    • 130 g butter
    • 3 shallots, finely chopped
    • 2 tablespoons tarragon leaves
    • 2 tablespoons chives, chopped
    • 2 egg-yolks, lightly beaten
    • 240 ml double cream
    • seasoning
    • Oven 180ºC/350ºF/Gas 4

    It helps to have a baking-mat, in which case don't bother to butter the tray but put the pastry directly onto the mat.

    Turn the potatoes in half the butter over a gentle heat until they are just tender - don't let them brown. Remove them from the pan and allow them to cool in a large bowl. Meanwhile, soften the shallots in the remaining butter and add the herbs and chicken, turning it over a steady heat for a few minutes until it is partially cooked. Mix it all carefully with the potatoes, season to taste and again, allow it to cool.

    Roll half the pastry into a circle about 36 cm in diameter and put it straight onto a lightly buttered baking tray. Brush the edges with egg-yolk then pile the mixture in the middle. Roll the rest of the pastry into a slightly larger circle and cover the pie with it, sealing and crimping the edges. Cut a little circle in the top (about 10 cm diameter) to make a lid, leaving it in place. Brush the whole surface with the rest of the egg-yolk.

    Bake the pie for about 50 minutes, checking that it's not too brown - in which case turn the oven down slightly. Heat the cream. Take the pie out of the oven, remove the lid and pour in the boiling cream, lifting the mixture gently to allow it to permeate the pie. Return it to the oven for 10 minutes.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Arctic Cuisine on I Cook the World

In the mood for a some muskox?  Check out my blog entry on Arctic Cuisine at I Cook the World.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Historical Cooking Classes

Part 1 (in an ongoing series)

I love studying food anthropology, the history of food and its societal and political meaning and influence.  It really is one of the most enjoyable ways to learn about a culture.  Check out my blog I Cook the World as I make dishes from every country on Earth in a very tasty education.

I've begun researching cooking classes designed to teach us a little history.  The first classes I found in the search are held in historic venues, using centuries-old recipes, historically correct ingredients, cooking tools, and methods.  Exactly what I'm looking for in this type of class.  This is Part 1 of an ongoing series on Truffles, Chestnuts, Cherries.  If you've taken an historical cooking class, I'd love to hear about your experience.

Southwestern Pennsylvania's Woodville Plantation was the home of one of Pittsburgh's wealthiest families, The Nevilles, from 1780 to 1814.  Seasonal cooking classes are held in the original kitchen at Woodville using recipes from the The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy by Hannah Glasse.  This cookbook was first published in England in 1747. Glasse's story is a poignant tale of a woman's struggle to earn a living in 18th Century England.  Glasse fell on hard financial times after the death of her husband, which forced her to sell the copyright to her book.  She even spent several months in debtor's prison.  Though she wrote two other books after The Art of Cookery, neither achieved the wild popularity of her first work.   Flip through some of the pages of this cookbook at Amazon.   It is very possible that recipes, recipts or receipts as they were called at the time, from The Art of Cookery were used in the Woodville household.

Woodville Plantation Kitchen
At one point, John Neville had 21 slaves registered to the Woodville Plantation so there is little doubt it was the slaves who were doing the cooking in the kitchen. Makes me so sad to even write the word slave. In fact, it makes me physically ill.  I hope the people who organize the cooking series find a way to incorporate the culinary input of the slaves into future classes.  As we know, this input was significant throughout the United States.

Here is an excerpt from Hannah's book on how to make an inexpensive gravy:

If you go to Market the Ingredients will not come to above Half a Crown; or, for Eighteen-pence you may make as much good Gravy as will serve twenty People. Take twelve Pennyworth of coarse lean Beef, which will be six or seven Pounds, cut it into a little Pot or large deep Stew-pan, and put in your Beef: Keep stirring it, and when it begins to look a little Brown pour in a Pint of boiling Water; stir it together, put in a large Onion, a Bundle of Sweet Herbs, two or three Blades of Mace, five or six Cloves, a Spoonful of Whole Pepper, a Crust of Bread toasted, and a Piece of Carrot; then pour in four or five Quarts of Water, stir all together, cover close, and let it stew till it is as rich as you would have it; when enough, strain it off, mix with it two or three Spoonfuls of Catchup, and Half a Pint of White Wine, then put all the Ingredients together again, and put in two Quarts of boiling Water, cover it close and let it boil till there is about a Pint; strain it off well, add it to the first, and give it a boil all together. This will make a great deal of rich good Gravy.
The BBC 4 did a documentary on Hannah Glasse in 2007 hosted by Clarrisa Dickson Wright of Two Fat Ladies fame.

Upcoming classes at Woodville include carrot puffs in autumn and Cheshire Pork Pie in winter.  If Cheshire Pork Pie wasn't served at Woodville, I bet something quite similar was served up using a Neville family recipe.  Would love to know if any of the historic recipes from the Woodville kitchen are available, either from the Nevilles or the subsequent owners the Cowan family.  Cowan descendants lived at Woodville from 1816 to 1975.