02/24/14

Sunday morning at Hollywood Farmers Market

Should I eat before I go? Inevitably that is the question I ask myself before heading out to the Hollywood Farmers Market.

It is a mental toss up between knowing that my tummy will be grumbling as I pass by all the glorious food stalls and wanting to wait so that I have an excuse to tuck right into something I bought once I get home. Today, I opted for the empty tummy plan.

What foodie doesn’t enjoy a good farmers market? Especially in an area like Southern California where the weather allows for such lovely local produce all year round. Since moving to Los Angeles, I’ve tried out a few local farmers markets. None have clicked with me as well as the Hollywood Farmers Market. Initially a bit of a surprise because I assumed that one smack dab in the middle of Hollywood with the sign visible in the distance, would be the snobby one with ridiculously hiked prices.

Pleasantly,that isn’t the case. The fruit and vegetables are all fairly priced. In many cases, on par with local supermarket prices but for a superior product. Some of the more artisan products such as cheeses and oils from mom and pop sort of start ups might feel pricier than your normal shop. There too, it will often be better than whatever brand you would buy in the supermarket. Normally, my plan of attack is get the fruit and veg that I need for the week and then pick out one of the artisan products to try as a treat.

The Hollywood Farmers Market takes place each Sunday from 8am to 1pm. Even if the apocalypse,otherwise known in LA as rain, should occur. It is on the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Ivar Street. There is reasonably priced parking available at the nearby Cinerama Dome parking lot. Just go to the markets information booth for validation.

For me though, part of the charm of the Hollywood Farmers Market is how easy it is for me to get there from Koreatown by public transport. I just hop on the underground Metro at the Wilshire/Western station, get off two stops later at Wilshire/Vermont and jump onto the red line headed towards North Hollywood. That takes me all the way to Hollywood/Vine, which is the nearest station to the market which is just a few minutes away by foot. If the trains match up, the whole thing takes me about 15 minutes.

I find the produce selection at the local supermarket chains rather limited. The same apples and the same oranges each week and only the sort of vegetables, such as carrots and potatoes, that they know will be sold in large numbers.

At the farmers market, you will find whatever is in season. Look at the size of the leeks this lady is pondering. I have barely seen leeks in a supermarket since leaving the UK and when I do they are small and uninspiring.

Note to self: Those and some of the wide variety of potatoes found at the market would work well together to make a lovely leek and potato soup.

Hollywood Farmers Market Leeks

Soft fruit such as these strawberries always look so much better at the farmers market too. You can practically taste them with your eyes.

hollywood farmers market strawberries

As somebody who,more often that not, is cooking for one, I also like that I can buy as much or as little as I like of an item.  These sugar snaps, as an example, looked so good. I can snack on fresh sugar snaps like candy but I just needed enough for me. I grabbed a few handfuls and ended up paying two dollars for a farm fresh and organic product.

Hollywood Farmers Market

Did you notice the ‘try me’ written on the sugar snaps sign? That is another reason I enjoy the farmers market. You can taste practically anything before you decide to buy.  Not only does this allow you to go between stalls and see who has the best tasting strawberries (or whatever) that week. It has also encouraged me to stab one of the provided toothpicks into a sample of a fruit I have never tried before.

I didn’t know what a persimmon tasted like until I tried one at the market. Without having that opportunity, I may have remained a bit unsure and never given it a chance.

Certainly, it helped fruit stall owners get a sale out of me today. After a taste test, I ended up picking up this bounty which includes several super juicy blood oranges, an Asian pear, some mandarins, Meyer lemons and some perfectly crisp pink lady apples.

hollywood farmers market fruit

Whereever you go in the market, you will find ladies,such as these, tucking in to bit of citrus.

hollywood farmers market people

The people of the Hollywood Farmers Market is another one its charms. As you can likely tell from my street photography efforts, I am a people watcher and there are few better places to people watch in Los Angeles than at this farmers market.

You get all sorts of people from the expected hippie types to the the long-haired rock veterans and the hip good looking LA types. The market is good for the occasional celebrity spotting too or so they tell me. So far, the only celeb that I have noticed on my trips has been America Ferrera.

hollywood farmers market people

hollywood farmers market people

hollywood farmers market people

It is Hollywood though and so there is no shortage of creative people making themselves known at the market. Musicians are at every turn from a rather nice looking and rather talented male harpist (must remember to find out his name!) to ragtime bands and much in between.

hollywood farmers market people

Hollywood Farmers Market

Then there are the folks that show their creativity by being the characters of the market. Which is great. Whether it has been London, San Francisco or Los Angeles, I have loved that every city in which I have lived, no matter the size, has their local characters that everybody recognizes.

hollywood farmers market dog

hollywood farmers market poet store

hollywood farmers market busking

Before I left the market for this week, I had to make a stop at the Homeboy Bakery stall. It is always the first stall that I see when I walk into the market but I force myself to wait until the end. Mmostly so that I don’t end up squishing the bread I buy under the weight of the fruit and veg.

homeboy bakery hollywood farmers market

You have seen me mention my appreciation for Homeboy Industries before when I used their tortilla strips to make my Drunken Sloppy Joe Nachos for the Super Bowl. As yummy as those are, there is something wonderful about about seeing the program in action at the farmers markets they attend. Plus, the bread is really good. So are the cookies they sell.

homeboy bakery hollywood farmers market

This week, I walked away with a loaf of the Homeboy Bakery’s  Multigrain Pan Bread. The first thing I always notice when I buy this variety is the weight of the loaf. None of this so light that you wonder what is in it type of bread. This is a dense loaf that feels like it really is packed with all those grains and oats that are promised on the label.

Homeboy Bakery Bread

Since I had left for the market on an empty tummy, thinga were getting to critical hunger status by the time I made it back to my apartment. The Homeboy Bakery bread came to the rescue. Which was a good thing because just the rich color of the bread slices had my tummy threatening to stage a coup.

homeboy bakery bread

homeboy bakery sandwhich

So, excuse me while I go enjoy my tuna salad made with fresh dill and lemon that I picked up at the market. Of course, on top of this great bread.

02/22/14

Philly cheeseteaks in Koreatown?

Today is a day where I am really feeling the distance part of a long distance relationship. We are working hard to close the gap.  Resumes have been going out and applications have been filled out in hopes that Chris can find a job down here and be in Los Angeles on a permanent basis. I know at heart that he will eventually be here but until then there are times when it is difficult to not be around  the person that I love.

Much of my life feels like a series of long distance relationships. Not just with people but also with places. When I lived in London, I would get a bit homesick for the States. Now that I am back in the States, there are times when I miss London and my British friends so much that it hurts. Then there is my relationship with the Philadelphia area.

To some extent, we are all products of where we grew up. My formative years took place in Bucks County, Pennsylvania which is not too far outside of Philadelphia. I haven’t lived in the area for nearly 18 years but yet there are times when I miss the culture of the area.  Philadelphia food is a big part of those homesick moments.

Which goes some way to explain why I was happy when  I noticed that a new cheesesteak place was opening in my part of Koreatown. For several weeks, there was a mystery as to what was going into the newly renovated space on the corner of Oxford and 6th.

We were driving by one afternoon when I saw a sign sitting in the door way that had the word ‘Whiz’ between a bun.Chris would have to confirm it but I may have actually squealed.

Whiz finally opened in Koreatown this week and I couldn’t resist checking it out.

From the outside,Whiz looks pretty good. Before they began their renovations,the space they are in was abandoned and a bit of an eyesore. I presume,they are responsible for repainting the storefronts of all the shops on that block to look uniform. It makes everything look so much better and helps to create the street corner joint they are trying to portray.

Whiz Koreatown

What I didn’t know before today was that is that the people behind Whiz in Koreatown are the same folks that run the nearby (and rather excellent) Beer Belly. I knew that there was a Philadelphian on the staff at Beer Belly. So, that does make sense but honestly, my brilliant power of deduction didn’t kick in until I noticed that it Jimmy Han taking my order.

Jimmy Han Whiz

Koreatown Whiz

I’m guessing other people already knew because the place was packed. It also shows that the areas has been aching for a place to get good fast food that is outside the Asian flavor profile.

Whiz is smart to be offering burgers as well as cheesesteaks on their menu. Carls Jr, a street away, is the only burger joint within blocks and is only ever a last resort if I have an unbeatable craving for a burger. The price point for the burgers at Whiz aren’t that far off the Six Dollar Burgers and they can’t possibly be worse tasting.

whiz cheesesteak koreatown

Burgers will have to be another day though because on my first visit to Whiz it was all about the cheesesteak.  I placed my order for their signature Whiz Wit cheesesteak and fries.

cheesesteak hoagie whiz koreantown

Perhaps if I didn’t know that Whiz had connections to Beer Belly I would be less critical of the fries. There was nothing particularly wrong with them but they were pretty much just fries. Beer Belly is the home of the famous duck fat fries which end up on just about everybody’s list of the best fries in Los Angeles.  So, just a normal fry feels like a bit of a disappointment.

fries whiz koreatown

As I said though, it was all about the Whiz Wit. The Whiz Wit is a Philly cheesesteak with grilled onions and housemade Cheese Wiz.

The cheesesteak from Whiz in Koreatown passed the first test by being on an Amoroso Roll. Forget about the meat and all the other elements, it isn’t a true Philly cheesesteak unless it is on an Amoroso Roll. There really is a difference.

I admit to being an Amoroso snob. If a place outside of the Philly area, just calls a cheesesteak a cheesesteak then I will cut them some slack. However, the moment they go the whole way and call it a Philly cheesesteak than it has to be on an Amoroso Roll. Period.

cheesesteak whiz koreatown

I’m happy to report that Whiz got their Philly cheesesteak just about right. The meat was chopped well and tasted good. The housemade Cheese Wiz was tasty. A compliment since I am normally part of the anti-whiz camp of Philadelphians.  Together, it all tasted pretty good.

However, there is room for improvement. What I have found from a lot of cheesesteaks I have had outside of Philly stands true for Whiz as well. The cheesesteaks are too dry. The Amorso Roll can stand up to meat juices and lots of gooey cheese. You should have to wipe your chin after taking your first bite and that just isn’t the case here.  Back home, I rarely put ketchup on my cheesesteaks but on several occasions, I found myself dipping my Whiz Wit.

It was still yummy and it is early days for Whiz. I’ll cross my fingers that they juice up the steaks a bit more and become the best Philly cheeseteak in Los Angeles.

There is a bunch of stuff other than traditional cheesesteaks on the Whiz Menu that look interesting. The Bacon American cheesesteak sounds intriguing. Hoagies that are actually called hoagies rather than a sub has my interest peaked too.

I think next on the list for me is going to have to be the Balls O’Bacon meatball sub. I overheard Jimmy telling somebody that was the sleeper item on the menu. So, I need to get my hipster on and tell everybody that I tried it before it was cool.

Welcome to the neighborhood, Whiz. We are glad to have you.

 

Whiz Menu

whiz cheesesteaks menu

whiz koreatown menu

menu koreatown whiz

koreatown whiz menu

02/10/14

Two pints of lager and a sticky toffee pudding please

I’m enjoying living in Los Angeles but there are times when I really struggle with homesickness for London. Over the 15 years that I lived there, I came to consider the UK home and, in all honesty, I feel more British than I do American.

I’d rather skip those phoney British and Irish pubs that are found in most American cities . Cliche American ideas of Britishness doesn’t do anything to help with the homesickness. If anything, it is more likely to make the longing for the real thing even greater.

Which made it even better when I discovered the Ye Olde King’s Head in Santa Monica.

ye_old_kings_head

As soon as I walk through their doors, I feel like I am in the UK.  The seaside setting even helps a bit. Though, admittedly,  the bright sunshine of Santa Monica is slightly different than what is found in most British seaside towns.

The King’s Head has a restaurant, a pub and a bakery next door that sells British goodies and baked goods. I usually pick up a bakewell  tart and a scotch egg to take home. Maybe a bit of Victoria sponge.

The restaurant portion of the Ye Old King’s Head is usually my destination. British home comforts such as bangers and mash (with HP Sauce!), light and fluffy fish and (proper) chips (with tartar sauce thrown in for blasphemous   locals) and even a traditional British fry up breakfast adorn the menu. All of which, of course, can be enjoyed alongside a properly sized British pint.

ye_old_kings_head_bangers  ye_old_kings_head_pint

fish and chips kings head santa monica

To my taste buds, the true treasure of the Ye Old King’s Head menu is their sticky toffee pudding. For Americans a pudding means a mousse type of dessert. Not so for the British where pudding has become a general term for a dessert.

Sticky toffee pudding is a steamed sponge cake made with chopped dates and then smothered with toffee sauce. Often, as is the case at Ye Old King’s Head, sticky toffee pudding is served with custard.

ye old kings head toffee pudding

The folks at Ye Old King’s Head serve the pudding warm enough that the toffee sauce melts down and runs into the custard.  I don’t particularly have a sweet tooth and the richness that comes with the combination of flavors steers the dish away from being too sweet and towards the truly mouthwatering.

01/10/14

Hipster hooray for Nickel Diner

People sure do like to hate on hipsters.  Certainly, those that decide to follow hipster fashion must know that they are going to be getting attention from the ‘norms’ but is it really all that different from the grunge kids of our generation or whatever fashion driven subculture of those before us?

Living in Los Angeles, I have learned if you want good food in an interesting setting then you could do a lot worse than to follow where the hipsters go to eat. To date, my greatest success to stem from that philosophy was my discovery of Nickel Diner.

There is no getting around the fact that Nickel Diner is a hipster haven. Watching people go by while waiting for your table is like having a floor show added to the meal for free.

nickel diner hipsters nickel diner hipsters

All of which might turn into a bit of a joke if the food wasn’t any good. Let me tell you though, Nickel Diner is the bees knees. The theme of the menu is to take classic diner style food and kick it up to another level. Comfort food with style.

My first visit to Nickel Diner, was a true exercise in indulgence. Between us, myself and my friend created our own tasting menu by ordering two main dishes each and sharing. I ordered the spicy pulled pork sandwich and the biscuits and gravy. I’m not sure of the first dish she ordered but the second was the unforgettable smac and cheese.

The pulled pork sandwich was insanely good. More tangy than really spicy, the sauce woke up my taste buds with a swift kick. The slaw they put on top had just the right amount of dressing. Allowing it to help along the flavors of the sandwich than having excess mayo running into that yummy BBQ sauce.

Spicy Pulled Pork Sandwich Nickel DinerSmac and Cheese

I almost wish that I hadn’t also ordered the biscuits and gravy because then I would have had a clear cut Nickel Diner favorite that I would order time and time again. Instead, the fluffy homemade biscuits and the creamy sausage gravy forces me to decide between two amazing dishes.

Just when we thought that we were too stuffed to manage another bite, the wonderfully evil ladies of Nickel Diner presented us with their dessert tray. OMG! I hardly ever order dessert when I go out to eat but before I knew it, we had four different desserts on our table.

Nickel Diner Desserts

The bread pudding was lovely.  The homemade Ding Dong was as tasty as it was clever and the strawberry doughnut was so fluffy and the perfect balance of sharp sweetness. As good as all of those were, there was one dessert that blew my mind. If I was ever put on one of those best things I have ever eaten food porn shows, I would have to have it on my list.

Say it with me. Chocolate peanut butter potato chip cake.  This cake should not work but it is divine.

Nickel Diner cake chocolate peanut butter potato chip cake

It does help that I love peanut butter and I greatly approve of the trend of combining sea salt and dark chocolate. Still though, potato chips in a cake? The cake is so rich between the chocolate cake, solidly packed creamy frosting and gooey peanut butter that the layer of chips actually serves to lighten up the overall taste of the cake. The crunch they add is great too.

If anybody ever wants to order me a birthday cake, call Nickel Diner and place and order because this is the cake.

12/5/13

The Melt makes me a fan before even tasting the food

I’ll hold up my hands and admit that I am a phone addict. Honestly, I sleep with my iPhone under my pillow. Public transport features heavily in my life in Los Angeles and I barely go anywhere without my headphones plugged into my phone so I can listen to music or a podcast.

Also, I use the phone a lot for my street photography hobby. All of which is great but also pretty heavy on the battery. So, even a fairly short journey from my place in Koreatown to the Archlight cinema on Sunset Boulevard will drain so much of my battery that it would be questionable if I would make it back home before it ran out of juice.

It was during a low battery moment that I went into The Melt on Sunset.  I had something from The Melt’s food truck before at an event held at Paramount studios and it was pretty good. The problem for me generally is that they specialize in grilled cheese and I’m lactose intolerant and my boyfriend hates cheese.

So, it wouldn’t be my normal go to place but that day it looked like a a good place to take a load off my feet and recharge. Recharge is the word too because it wasn’t the menu that made me a fan. Though, that is all very good. It was that each of the tables in The Melt’s Sunset Boulevard location had one of these nifty devices on them.

The Melt chargers

They are charging stations with both an electrical socket and two USB ports. Wow. It is amazing what a difference such things make to your experience.

Don’t get me wrong, the food at The Melt was incredibly good. I ordered their bacon Ruben melt which was really tasty. They even made me like pumpernickel bread. Which is something I would normally would have avoided.

Melt Bacon Ruben

However, it is the thought that went behind the charging stations that will make The Melt my go to spot when my phone juice is running low in Hollywood. Which, guarantees a purchase and loyalty from me. I hope that other restaurants take note. After all, just having sockets available for laptops has been a component to Starbucks success.

 

 

 

11/24/13

Goonie approved truffle shuffle burger

I’m loving this trend towards higher end burgers. Burgers are one of the best meals ever but the cookie cutter nature of the big multinational fast food changes has become such a bore to me that I can’t remember the last one I have been inside one of them.

Give me a place such as Stout Burger though and the menu full of creative burgers will have me excited to visit. Making a selection of which burger to try at the upscale burger joints is usually difficult for me because I want to taste them all. Not the case at Stout Burger because when I saw the Truffle Shuffle burger there was no doubt what I would be ordering.

Goonies never die and I had to give my approval to the Goonie on staff that decided the world needed a Chunk inspired burger.

Stout Burger truffle shuffle burger

My love of the film got the truffle shuffle burger to my table but once it was there the burger itself did all the talking. The beef was topped with melting brie, slow roasted mushrooms and a truffle aioli.  Boy does that hit my taste zone.  It is hard to go wrong with me and mushroom burger but the combination of all those earthy flavors was just luscious.  Made all the better by a staff that was able to advise us on beer matchings with each burger on the menu.

I have been assured by friends that this isn’t the best burger joint in Los Angeles. If that is the case, I can’t wait to find the place that is the top of the Los Angeles burger charts.

11/20/13

Breath mints at the ready for the Garlic Dog

Food cravings can be powerful things. Now and then I get taken over by the desire for a particular type of food and nothing else is going to satisfy. Recently, my taste buds just wouldn’t let go of the need for a hot dog. I could have gone and just made one at home but I figured that I would combine fulfilling my craving with exploring the foodie scene in Los Angeles.

Fritizi Dog has been on my radar for several months now but I hadn’t had the chance to try it. When I had been to the Farmer’s Market where it is located, I tend to get distracted by the shops at the nearby Grove shopping center. This time though, I made a point of going directly there after work with the sole purpose of grabbing a hot dog.

Fritzi Dog’s menu is interesting. All sort of different possible combinations including hot dogs made out of different types of meat, a variety of buns and a plethora of toppings options.  After a bit of deliberation, I decided that the garlic dog was the winner.

Fritzi Dogs Garlic Dog

The base is a beef and pork dog with a little bit of spice to it. The pretzel bun was a stronger selling point for me. I did find it interesting that instead of salt, the bun has sesame seeds on it. It did turn out to be a good idea though because the garlic aioli and crispy onions that go on top provided enough sodium. Doubly so asI had their tater tots as my side and they were generously salted.

My craving was satisfied but I know that I am going to be need to go back to Fritzi Dog and try another flavor. I have my eye on the bird on a wire dog.  A hot dog made of turkey and duck is far too tempting for a foodie explorer, don’t you think?

11/15/13

Philippe the Original surprise makes me a happy girl

I am still pretty much a noob when it comes to living in Los Angeles. I’m still learning city traditions and rivalries. One foodie rivalry that I picked up on quickly is between Philippe the Original and Cole’s over who was the first to make the French dip sandwich.

Two of my favorite foods are French dip sandwiches and lamb. My friends all know that if there is lamb on a menu then that is what I will be ordering. So, I when I saw that Philippe’s had a lamb French dip on their menu there was no question that I would be checking them out. I did and the sandwich was tasty but what really made my foodie day was an unexpected treat that, I am sure, most folks in Los Angeles would skip right by.

I am Pennsylvania Dutch by heritage on my mother’s side.  I grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia where Pennsylvania Dutch inspired cuisine is very much part of the food culture. Supermarkets think nothing of stocking sauerkraut, whoppie  pies (Don’t make me argue with you New Englanders. They were ours first.), shoofly pie and all the rest. It wasn’t until I grew up and left home that I realized just how regional so much of the food from my childhood had been.

One of the food items that I have nearly never seen outside of Pennsylvania are red beet eggs. Essentially, they are pickled eggs which are done in a brine that includes red beet juice. As as result the eggs turn a vibrant purple color and take on a tangy flavor that I have always loved.

When I went to the counter to place my order at Philippe’s, I was surprised to find this jar of eggs in the tell tale purple liquid. Suddenly, I cared much more about the eggs than I did the tasty sandwich. Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I had a red beet egg and it certainly wasn’t in Los Angeles.

Philippe's red beet eggs

So, my order was the lamb French dip and two red beet eggs so that I could confirm they were what I suspected them to be.  I sliced one of the red beet eggs open and was thrilled to see that bright yellow yolk contrasting against the purple.

red beet eggs

Indeed they were the real deal and I became a very happy (not so) little Dutchie girl in Los Angeles.

I need to go back to Philippe’s and pay better attention to the actual French dip before moving onto Cole’s so that I can pick my French dip team and take a step closer to feeling like a Los Angeleno.

 

11/3/13

Pancakes bigger than my head at the Griddle Cafe

Food Network junkies will find that a visit to Los Angeles leaves them spoiled for choice when it comes to restaurants that have been featured on the channel.  The Griddle Cafe is one of the places that I had seen featured prior to moving to Los Angeles and wanted to try. The place has a reputation though for having insanely long line for weekend breakfast. So much so that the tour buses point out the line as tourists as they pass by the Sunset Boulevard.

The Griddle Cafe

Myself and a friend decided to brave the line early one Sunday morning. To our amazement, we didn’t have to wait more than a few minutes to be sat at the bar.  I’m pretty sure that is because we got there nearly spot on their opening time because by the time we left the infamous line was in full force.

I’m not usually somebody that loves sitting at the bar to eat a meal. I find it makes it more difficult to have a proper conversation with the person that came with you. Plus, I just like having my own space.  At the Griddle Cafe, I didn’t really mind. It felt as if sitting at the bar with the overly hip locals was part of the experience.

Griddle Cafe

The Griddle Cafe has a full breakfast menu but I was there to try out their famously huge pancakes. Combing through the pages and pages of drool-worthy pancakes, I finally decided on the the Golden Ticket pancakes. Brown sugar-baked bananas cooked inside a buttermilk batter along with caramel, walnuts and streusel and then topped with whipped cream? How could I pick anything else?

Griddle Cafe menu

I had heard that the portions at the Griddle Cafe were large but I truly wasn’t wasn’t prepared for when they arrived. They were scrumptious but dear lord, look at the size of those pancakes in comparison to the spoon! The Euro leftie inside of me couldn’t help but think that portions this large when others are starving is obscene. Then the foodie in me had to dig in.

Griddle Cafe pancakes

I made it maybe a quarter of the way through the dish before I had to tap out. No doubt this is a common occurrence because the Griddle Cafe has the take away box ready before I even had the chance to ask. No joke, I ate the leftovers for breakfast for the next three days!