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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Soda Fountain - AMAZON
  • Amazon
  • The Soda Fountain
The Soda Fountain: Floats, Sundaes, Egg Creams and More, by siblings Gia Giasullo and Peter Freeman, co-owners of Brooklyn Farmacy, celebrates the history of the thoroughly American tradition of the pharmacy-based treats counter. Released May 6 by Ten Speed Press, this book defies immediate categorization. Recipes, anecdotes, ephemera and fact all find their way into The Soda Fountain.

As Giasullo and Freeman tell it, “A century ago, soda fountains on almost every Main Street in America served as the heart of the community, where folks shared sundaes, sodas, ice cream floats, and the news of the day.” Doesn’t that sound tremendous?

With an eye toward taking back some of that lost tradition, the brother and sister opened Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain in 2010. “We didn’t invent the soda fountain; we just welcomed it into the twenty-fist century with love and reverence.”

Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda opened in a space that had been a neighborhood pharmacy for over fifty years before closing in 1969 — Longo’s Pharmacy. The Soda Fountain includes plenty of backstory about this and all the other pharmacies that populated the country.

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The Reuben at Wexler's Deli - PHOTO BY ANNE FISHBEIN
  • Photo by Anne Fishbein
  • The Reuben at Wexler's Deli

In recent weeks, I've developed a routine. Right after the crush of the morning rush hour dies down, I drive downtown and make my way to Wexler's Deli in Grand Central Market for a bagel with lox, cream cheese, some slivery ribbons of thinly cut red onion and a few slices of ripe, red tomato. Then I park myself and my bagel at G&B Coffee, the bar facing out onto Hill Street. On one side, the glittering downtown buildings rise skyward and cars rush by; on the other, the colorful vintage neon signs and bustle of the market express Los Angeles' weird, old, new, peculiar and particular personality.

Sometimes it can feel difficult in L.A. to combine the physicality of the city with an incredible eating experience the way you might in, say, Rome or Manhattan: a magnificent pasta dish in an ancient square, or a midnight slice of pizza, grabbed from a window with the city streets thrumming all around you. But a Wexler's lox bagel at the counter of G&B with a very good macchiato and the sights and sounds of Grand Central Market is just such a moment, one where Los Angeles and its flavors meld into something amazing.

The surroundings create that magic, in part, but it's also the bagel or, more specifically, the lox that drapes across it. Slick, supple and delicate, the cured salmon tastes like a rushing mountain river in the same way an ultra-fresh oyster tastes like the soul of the ocean. There's something in the flavor and texture that's wildly ethereal, a delicacy made all the more precious because of its affordability: At $8, you could indulge in this breakfast regularly without fear of going broke.

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a soda can - FLICKR/SH4RP_I
Sugary soda speeds up the aging process as much as smoking, according to a new study by UC San Francisco. Holy Sprite!

The study, published Oct. 16 in the American Journal of Public Health, analyzed data from a survey of over 5,300 healthy Americans done 14 years ago. 

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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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