Young entrepreneurs, especially those in the food world, often fail to make it past their first year. Kristine de la Cruz of Crème Caramel L.A. started out in 2010 making savory desserts and bread puddings from her home kitchen, then expanded her business to local farmers markets. Now with her first brick-and-mortar shop, which opened in September, she's an example of what success can look like if you stay focused, work hard -- and sleep with a kickass 52-page business plan under your pillow.
Building her customer base through food festivals, markets and social media outlets, de la Cruz has been able to reach a wider audience for the desserts that are the centerpiece of her shop. She and her partner-boyfriend, Sean Gilleland, took over a former Armenian bakery in the San Fernando Valley and set up, as she calls it, "a mini artisanal urban bodega."
Squid Ink caught up with de la Cruz to chat about her journey from sweet dreamer to shop owner and get her advice for other aspiring small business owners.
What happens when you pair red winemaking techniques with white wine grapes? Orange wine. In colors ranging from light gold to amber pumpkin, it's the perfect way to toast the fall season. Even better, orange wine can pair with anything from beef to pheasant to figs, with the strength of a red and the brightness of a white.
Actual oranges have absolutely nothing to do with it: It's an ancient vintner practice originating in Slovenia, Georgia and Armenia that's since been adopted by Italian, French and Californian winemakers. White wine grapes are allowed to macerate in their skins for days or weeks, until the skin pigments release their color. The wine is infused with tannins from the skin, which add dryness, bitterness, and complexity.
Dan Farr, sommelier at The Eveleigh, is the perfect tour guide into these rare specimens of the wine world. (Bonus! His hair is as orange as his pour.) At the restaurant Farr carries five different orange wines, which range from about $80 to $100: AmByth Estates' Roussanne out of Paso Robles; a 2012 Sluice Box and a Roussanne by Donkey & Goat Winery; Scholium Project's "The Prince in His Caves" 2010; and Frank Cornelissen's "Munjebel 8" from Sicily.
We sat down to talk and taste this "wild, gnarly" orange wine -- and to learn why Farr calls it "sex in a glass."
In the sepia-toned days of the 1920s, husbands spent too much of their paycheck at the bar, factory workers suffered injuries after tipsy lunches, Wild West saloons were dens of debauchery and murder -- and it all got to be just too much for proper society. Enter Prohibition, a nearly 14-year experiment in which the sale, purchase and manufacturing of alcohol was verboten in the United States. We know how well that turned out.
To celebrate the end of Prohibition, Next Door Lounge in Hollywood will be running weeknight specials Oct. 29 through Dec. 5, dates significant for both the passage and the repeal of the law. On Fridays you'll hear live (free) jazz, on Wednesdays there are $30 bourbon tastings, but perhaps most notable are "Soup Kitchen" Tuesdays, where one dollar gets you soup, baguette -- and a shot of moonshine.
Head barman Zachary Henry, who looks the part of a Prohibition-era barkeep, has recently revamped the drinks menu, surrounding himself with barrel-aged whiskeys. Squid Ink pulled up a stool to chat moonshine and make-your-own bitters.
As the sun sets on this year's Oktoberfest, we sit back and take a moment to remember Oktoberfest 2013, the good times, the bad times and the hazy times we only sort of remember. For the Oktoberfest-inclined in Los Angeles, there are several options, the largest and longest-running being Alpine Village, which is also the closest you'll get to the real deal without having to get on a plane.
The ringleader of the circus that is Alpine Village's Oktoberfest is Festmeister Hans. He's also the man behind the popular Oktoberfest parody videos "Oktoberfest Night" and "Oktoberfest Gängsta." We met up with the Festmeister, real name John Baumgaertner, who was kind enough to give us an Oktoberfest tutorial.
Sure there were coffee roasters in L.A. before Chicago's Intelligentsia moved in, but no one has pushed forth with experiments into the presentation and culture of specialty coffee as much as these adopted locals. With three locations across L.A. in six years, the third-wave roasting pioneers have tasked themselves with spreading and furthering the craft coffee gospel -- even if it means talking beer.
Next weekend, the Intelligentsia in Pasadena (which also has an alcohol license) will be hosting a one-of-a-kind event centered around the growing combinations of coffee and craft beer and the ways in which booze and caffeine are working together to create new culinary intersections.
Trattoria Neapolis -- an airy, bustling Italian bistro in Pasadena -- is a passion project for owner Perry Vidalakis, who did his research and takes his pizza very seriously. Authenticity is so paramount, he had a 7,000-pound wood-burning oven shipped over from Naples (the floor had to be reinforced to hold its weight), he built a humidity- and temperature-controlled room for his pizza dough, and he hired an Italian pizzaiolo to churn out the wood-fired pies.
This October (Pizza Month, as if you needed an excuse) you can celebrate with one of the chewy pies from that fancy oven -- and pair it with the Pizza Cocktail, a scarily accurate drink that tastes as if your slice jumped into a Vitamix with a bottle of vodka. Tomato water, basil-infused vodka, ghost pepper–infused vodka, porcini powder and muddled basil are shaken together and topped with a Parmesan and mozzarella foam. No kidding.
There are any number of great pies around town but in this super-hot oven they're cooked in less than 90 seconds. When to turn the pizza, how to move it into different parts of the oven, how thin to stretch the dough -- that's hard to learn. We sat down with pizzaiolo Michele Galifi, who mans the oven without breaking a sweat. He's a guy with secrets: He won't share his age, the mix of flours he uses in his dough, the temperature he chills it to or the special cheese topping with which he dusts his pies at the end. But that's what makes them special.
The bartending world is incredibly close-knit and insular, particularly here in Los Angeles, where mixology is an art and bar programs are as important as food menus. So it means something that the bartender at Goldie's invited Dave Stolte -- who is neither bartender nor restaurateur -- to guest bartend for a largely industry crowd of chefs, cocktail makers and assorted drinkers over this past weekend. Stolte is not in the liquor business: He's simply an illustrator with a cocktail obsession and a scientific mind.
Stolte served up three tequila cocktails (courtesy of Olmeca Altos tequila) to celebrate the launch of his book, Home Bar Basics (and Not-so-Basics), a guide for home bartenders to stock their cabinet and master classic cocktails. It's a pocket-sized primer, just over 100 pages, that will have you shaking and pouring like a pro in no time. (You can find it at various stores around town, and at www.homebarbasics.com.)
We caught up with Stolte to talk liquor cabinets and Christmas gifts -- and to get his recipe for the best margarita.
He was a well-liked executive chef -- and TV star, winning his episode of Chopped, handily -- when he hung up his toque, moved from The Churchill to a rented space on Robertson Blvd., and started boiling pickle jars. Now Bruce Kalman's company, Bruce's Prime Pickle Co., is hitting its stride -- and is about to expand.
With a staff of six and a rented kitchen, Kalman churns out six different pickled vegetable combinations: Garlic Dill Horsey Cukes, Sweet Cab Onions, Bloody Mary Asparagus, Cucumber Kim Chee, Curried Cauliflower and Chi-Town Giardiniere. Readers with a taste for tang (or perhaps with a bun in the oven) can buy jars for themselves at the Cheese Shop in Silverlake, Farmshop, The Oaks Gourmet, Bob's Market in Santa Monica, Lindy & Grundy, and Clover Juice. The burger-obsessed will find his work at Umami Burger -- atop their patties and served as a separate pickle plate. And some of the country's top rocket scientists are fueled by his produce every weekday. (Really. Turn the page.)
Squid Ink caught up with Kalman in his kitchen to talk pickles and passion projects.
Rosé is having a bit of a "moment" right now. On al fresco tables around town, you'll spy bottles of pink wine sweating in the late summer heat; there is no more perfect companion for a picnic. Ranging in color from light onion-skin pink to a deep strawberry, rosé is now as must-do for restaurants as a good cocktail program or a selection of craft beers.
It's everywhere. Pasadena's Monopole Wine held a burger and rosé tasting this summer. Joan's on Third held a tasting last week (and recommends rosé as a wine option in its picnic baskets). An ongoing Monday night special at Sirena offers a spicy seafood cioppino for two, garlic bread and a bottle of rosé for $60.
California wine producers are finally catching up to their French brethren - no longer are we just the home of white zinfandel. Dry pinks are emerging from Napa and Santa Ynez that can rival those of France's Bandol region. We sat down with Jeremy Fraye, the wine buyer for the Oaks Gourmet Market and Franklin & Company Tavern, for his thoughts on what makes a great rosé, what you should try, and why we're seeing so much pink lately.