Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Shaky Alibi at Caña - CAÑA RUM BAR
  • Caña Rum Bar
  • Shaky Alibi at Caña
Rum is complicated.  Light, amber, or dark?  Spanish, English, or French?  Tiki drinks or stirred concoctions?  When it comes to cocktails, rum is a challenging beast. And because rum is such a diverse spirit category, the cocktails in which it's used — from the daiquiri to the mai tai — have their own unique demands.

Understanding the spirit's inherent sweetness as well as the fruit and spice character — and learning how to use each style of rum properly — are key to a drink's success. To address the challenges that rum poses, we turned to L.A. bartenders and asked the question, "What's in a bottle of rum?"  They answered the questions through the lens of some of the cocktails in which they use the sugar-based spirit. 

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  • courtest: Chocolate Salon
L.A. Chocolate Salon
This year's event is the eighth annual chocolate festival, bringing together many chocolatiers and confectioners to celebrate chocolate. As advance tickets are on sale, it might be time to save $10 and get them now. Brought to you by TasteTV and the International Chocolate Salon, the one-day show features presentations and demos — and lots of chocolates. This year's participants include Amara Chocolate, Marco Paolo Chocolates, Valenza Chocolatier, Amano Artisan Chocolate, Mignon Chocolate Boutique, Amella Caramels, CocoTutti, Chuao Chocolatier, the Tea Room Chocolate Company, Chocolats du Calibressan, Marti Chocolatt, Les Beaux Chocolats and many more. 
WHAT: L.A. Chocolate Salon
WHEN: Saturday, Sept. 27, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
WHERE: Pasadena Convention Center, 300 E. Green St., Pasadena.
COST: $30 at the door, $20 in advance. Early-bird tickets now on sale.

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Rita's ice - BOB B. BROWN/FLICKR
Here's a trend to love: More and more new businesses are giving away free food to promote themselves. In recent weeks we've seen free pizza, free hot dogs, free burgers, more free pizza — and now, free Italian ice.

Rita's, the Italian ice and frozen custard chain, is opening a new location in West L.A. This Friday, Sept. 12, is their official grand opening, and they're giving away free Italian ice all day long. 

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Lay’s has announced the four finalist flavors in its Lay’s “Do Us A Flavor” contest. Potato chip and money lovers submitted more than 14 million potato chip flavor ideas between January and April, hoping to take home a minimum $1-million grand prize.

The finalist flavors are Cappuccino, Cheddar Bacon Mac & Cheese, Kettle Cooked Wasabi Ginger and Wavy Mango Salsa. According to Sara Sutyak, a spokeswoman for Lay's, the finalists were selected based on a combination of three factors: “1. originality and creativity, 2. simplicity, straightforwardness and fun and 3. potential for delicious flavor for Lay’s potato chips on the designed chip base (Lay’s Original, Lay’s Wavy and/or Lay’s Kettle Cooked)."

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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

KFC Japan chicken-themed keyboard - KFC.CO.JP
  • kfc.co.jp
  • KFC Japan chicken-themed keyboard
Remember the Ninja Burger? The amazing black-bunned monstrosity that Burger King Japan released last year? It was just one more reminder that Japan has all the fun when it comes to bizarre food items. 

Now KFC Japan is taunting us with their own kind of awesomeness: They're giving away chicken-themed computer accessories in celebration of "KFC Colonel's Day," whatever that is. Some very, very strange computer accessories. 

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Kenter Canyon's pasta - A. SCATTERGOOD
  • A. Scattergood
  • Kenter Canyon's pasta
If you've spent much time at Andrea Crawford's farmers market stall, likely drooling over her whole wheat boules or stocking up on more of Kenter Canyon Farms' Sonora flour, you may be forgiven for overlooking the boxes of pasta. It's difficult to think clearly when you're standing in a crowd eating a whole baguette for breakfast, isn't it. 

But Crawford, her husband and business partner Robert Dedlow, and their team also make pasta with the wheat and buckwheat they grow and mill up in Hollister. Which I guess makes the Wednesday Santa Monica and Sunday Hollywood farmers markets, the only two markets they go to, even more of a one-stop shop than it was already. Lucky us. 

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  • saltedtv.com
Ask ten chefs about the effectiveness of culinary school versus apprenticeships, and you’re likely to receive 30 different answers. Most can’t agree with themselves, let alone each other, about the usefulness of extended culinary training programs that chew up bank accounts as fast as any high-end college, while spitting out hundreds of young cooks with little to no real kitchen experience. The only two universal truths to emerge from the long-held debate seem to be that culinary skills will always have a value, regardless of where they're honed, and that a blinding devotion to the work will probably lead to success. Or at the very least, a lifetime of being employed.

While brand new online cooking school startup Salted can’t do much about the latter, it’s the former — some prowess in the kitchen — that the subscription service has a bead on.

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Asparagus with deviled egg puree, fried oyster and black bread - PHOTO BY ANNE FISHBEIN
  • Photo by Anne Fishbein
  • Asparagus with deviled egg puree, fried oyster and black bread

The rectangular block on the table before us looks as though it's made from pink marble. It's actually a slab of salt. Sitting atop the slab is a glistening white substance that looks like the flesh of a lychee but is, in fact, Santa Barbara spot prawn tartare, topped with a fine dice of cantaloupe, tiny purple flowers and crumbled shrimp chips. A thick puree of melons flavored with burnt orange comes alongside, poured into sake glasses. "The salt imbues the prawns the longer it sits, so this is a dish with a time frame," the waitress purrs as she leaves the table.

To look at this dish, and, yes, to taste it — the prawns mellow and creamy in their raw, alive-two-minutes-ago diced state, the melon adding just a touch of summery sweetness, the soup a cooling counterbalance — we might be at one of America's temples of modern dining. The dish is theatrical and gorgeous and utterly fussed over, from conception through plating and delivery.

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  • Matt Armendariz
There's not much in Zoe Nathan's new cookbook, Huckleberry: Stories, Secrets, and Recipes from Our Kitchen, that you'd traditionally consume after the sun goes down. But that's okay, because the book, released today, has breakfast on lockdown.

It's the first book for Nathan, one of this town's finest pastry chefs and bakers. Together with her husband Josh Loeb, Nathan is building a veritable Santa Monica restaurant empire, which includes, of course Huckleberry, as well as Rustic Canyon, Milo & Olive and Sweet Rose Creamery. (The pair will add two more in the next year: a wine bar called Esters and a Southeast Asian spot called Cassia are both in the works.)

The most charming thing about Huckleberry is its table of contents: The sections are arranged like the production schedule for the thriving bakery, beginning at 3:30 a.m. with muffins and working its way through biscuits and scones (4 a.m.), breads (5:30 a.m.), doughnuts (7:30 a.m.) and more before getting to more savory breakfast sandwiches and, in the world's most accurate description of most restaurant brunch dishes, "hearty plates with an egg on top."

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Monday, September 8, 2014

Interior of the Chestnut Club - RAUL YRASTORZA
  • Raul Yrastorza
  • Interior of the Chestnut Club
It's a rare day that you can enjoy a drink in both a bookie bar and an ice cream factory — at the same time. In its previous incarnations, the Chestnut Club (from the folks behind Black Market Liquor Bar and Scopa Italian Roots) was both. In fact, the faded ice cream logo still haunts the bar back wall, a choice made by the owners to pay homage to the space's long-past life. These days, there are no floor shows, no themes, no obscure ingredients. Just an old-school bar with back-to-basics cocktails. 

Opened in July, the Chestnut Club has taken over the space once occupied by Central and 14 Below and is quickly settling into its new role as a cornerstone of the burgeoning Santa Monica bar culture (Brilliantshine just opened nearby). With the bones of the old building still firmly in place, the old-school vibe at the Chestnut Club is a conscious choice: When you step inside, you forget that you're in Santa Monica, only blocks from the beach.

The dim glow of the 19th century–style lighting makes everyone look good. The zinc bar counter harkens back to the old bar styles. Both the high-top seats and the cordovan leather banquettes beckon those who want to stay a while. Most of all, though, the backlit, arch-framed shelves on the bar illuminate the spirits on offer as if in a shrine.

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