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Monday, October 20, 2014

Plan Check downtown interior - DYLAN + JENI/COURTESY PLAN CHECK
  • Dylan + Jeni/Courtesy Plan Check
  • Plan Check downtown interior
Plan Check, the gastropub from restaurateur Terry Heller and chef Ernesto Uchimura, is opening a third location today near downtown. The restaurant has enjoyed great popularity at its Fairfax and Little Osaka locations. 

The newest outpost is located on Wilshire in Westlake, the neighborhood between downtown and Koreatown. There's been a push recently to call this a part of downtown and name it the City West district. Like the other locations, the focus will be on fancified comfort food, along with a craft beer and whiskey-heavy cocktail program. 

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Sichuan feast at Szechuan Impression - CLARISSA WEI
  • Clarissa Wei
  • Sichuan feast at Szechuan Impression
Szechuan Impression opened its doors two months ago in Alhambra, one of the latest in a wave of Sichuan restaurants that have graced Los Angeles in the past year. Behind the latest hot eatery are owners Kelly Xiao and Lynn Liu. “Lynn is really good at cooking. I’m really good at eating,” Xiao jokes.

The women, who used to be affiliated with Chengdu Taste down the street, started Impression as a passion project. Their goal: to give folks an impression of the Sichuan they grew up in.

“We want to push forward Chengdu’s favorite dishes, not just the familiar ones.” Xiao says. Chengdu is the capital of Sichuan and the hometown of both Xiao and Liu. “We only have a couple of typical Sichuan dishes that most people in America are familiar with.”

She points to the kung pao chicken, boiled fish fillets, and braised beef on the menu. “These are the three classic traditions,” she says. “We don’t even have mapo tofu.”

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Alex de Leon - JENNIFER CACICIO
  • Jennifer Cacicio
  • Alex de Leon
Alex de Leon first arrived from Tijuana at age 14. A decade later, at the ridiculously young age of 24, he runs the pastry program for a trio of stylish and very successful eastside spots — L&E Oyster Bar, Bar Covell, and the newly-opened El Condor. We met in the L&E kitchen on a Thursday — his day off — where de Leon was melting chocolate over a water bath, clad in his blue apron atop the also blue Dodgers-esque L&E tee sported by the entire staff.

De Leon began working in restaurants at 18, after he finished high school. He landed a job washing dishes at Café Stella in Silver Lake, where his uncle is actually the pastry chef (and incidentally, his roommate in Montecito Heights). It wasn’t long before he began moving up: he worked pantry and breakfast, tried his hand at the grill, but one day his uncle taught him how to make the profiteroles baked daily at Stella.

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Homemade baked goods at Jeannine's - COURTESY: JEANNINE'S
  • Courtesy: Jeannine's
  • Homemade baked goods at Jeannine's
Named for the original owner, Jeannine’s started out selling cookies and muffins in a little bakery in downtown Santa Barbara. That eventually grew to three restaurants serving a full breakfast and lunch menu. Now they've opened a new eatery in L.A.

The 7,500 square foot Westlake Village spot, billed as a “gourmet food hall,” ramps things up by also offering dinner – and a whole lot more. There’s a Peet's and Intelligentsia coffee bar; a juice bar; a deli and salad station; pizza and sushi; a grill; a section devoted to cheese and charcuterie; a bakery and, finally, a wine, craft beer and whiskey bar.

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Friday, October 17, 2014

Tacolicious - ALEX FARNUM
  • Alex Farnum
  • Tacolicious
Admitting Bay Area Mexican food even exists — or is even decent — can be a bitter pill for Angelenos to swallow, but Sara Deseran makes an awesome case for San Francisco with her new cookbook, Tacolicious: Festive Recipes for Tacos, Snacks, Cocktails, and Morereleased Sept. 2 by Ten Speed Press.

Co-owner of the San Francisco restaurants Tacolicious and Chino with her husband, Joe Hargrave, it’s hard to resist Deseran’s way with healthful Mexican fare. While many of the recipes included sound traditional (tomatillo-avocado salsa and Telmo’s taco de lengua), Deseran brings an updated, personal twist to many of the dishes, making them her own.

Some of the best recipes, like roasted-tomato mint salsa, are quite simple and easily prepared at home. Deseran’s addition of rice vinegar and mint tarts up a simple condiment with otherwise familiar ingredients, like cilantro and jalapeno. The book also provides guidance for further pairings of the condiment, like the three-chile bistec adobado and achiote-rubbed grilled chicken.

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El Silencioso with El Silencio Mezcal at Bar Toscana - MADISON PARKER PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Madison Parker Photography
  • El Silencioso with El Silencio Mezcal at Bar Toscana
For quite a long time, New York was where the cocktail action was. Now, though, an ambitious breed of spirits and cocktail-centric entrepreneurs have chosen L.A. — whether by birth or choice — as their home base. Why hang your hat in Los Angeles?  Louis Anderman of Miracle Mile Bitters sums it up well when he says, "Community. It's not just that we have fantastically talented and innovative bartenders working everywhere from local watering holes to four-star restaurants, but there's an incredible love for the craft and community, and a real effort to support one another, and on continuing education."

That sense of community allows everyone from hobbyists to winemakers to neophyte distillers to take the necessary risks with their businesses, made all the easier thanks to a welcoming and appreciative cocktail community. Here's a round-up of some of the city's best and brightest (in alphabetical order, no favorites here).

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On Oct. 15, Whole Foods Market launched a new rating system called "Responsibly Grown" that assesses its fruits, vegetables and flowers based on how their growing practices affect people's health and the environment.

The produce will be labeled “good,” “better,” or “best” to help shoppers make more informed choices, the company says on its website. The new initiative also prohibits “some of the most hazardous neurotoxins still allowed in agriculture,” Whole Foods said.

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LA River - BUNNICULA/FLICKR
One of the great frustrations of California's current drought is that, aside from personal water conservation, it's hard to know what you can do to help the situation. Next month, on Nov. 2, a cocktail party is happening in L.A. that provides a fun way to get involved. 

How Dry is a cocktail party being thrown by A Sustainable Kitchen to celebrate the relaunch of Slow Food L.A. The aim of the party is to create drought awareness, as well as raise some money to help with drought relief. Education participants include the LA River Corp, The Council for Watershed Health, Los Angeles Waterkeeper, and Slow Food Los Angeles.

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"Phat siew" at Sticky Rice 2 at Grand Central Market - T. NGUYEN
  • T. Nguyen
  • "Phat siew" at Sticky Rice 2 at Grand Central Market
Grand Central Market is not only attracting new vendors, it's spinning off sequels to its current ones. Namely, Sticky Rice, the terrific Thai stall found in the middle of the market floor, just opened a second spot right behind its first. Think of this as following the Din Tai Fung model of expansion.

The original Sticky Rice features a small menu of rice-based dishes along with a chalkboard full of rotating specials; here at Sticky Rice 2 — as this second location is so aptly named — rice also shows up, in the form fried rice (shrimp, pineapple). And then there are the noodles.

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interior of Lincoln - A. SCATTERGOOD
  • A. Scattergood
  • interior of Lincoln
If you, like many of the rest of us, dream of Christine Moore's sea salt caramels, you'll soon have another place to get your fix. And a whole lot more than caramels. Moore and business partner Pam Perkins have spent the last year quietly at work turning a 1920s-era brick building on Lincoln Avenue in northern Pasadena into what will soon be a gorgeous restaurant, serving affordable casual food, sandwiches and pastries, crusty bread, wine and Stumptown coffee.

Called Lincoln, the casual restaurant is going into what was originally a machine shop — but had been sitting abandoned before Moore found it. It's now being turned into a cozy space with open lofty ceilings and exposed brick walls. Outside is not only actual parking but a patio, where Moore and Perkins have planted olive trees, Carolina cherry trees, kumquat trees and bay laurels, and put in raised beds for herbs for the restaurant. Oh, and there's also space for a pingpong table, and Moore's Santa Maria barbecue.

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