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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Ricardo Zarate at Paiche - ANNE FISHBEIN
  • Anne Fishbein
  • Ricardo Zarate at Paiche
We started hearing rumors three days ago that Ricardo Zarate had been ousted from the three restaurants where he serves as executive chef/owner: Picca, Mo Chica and Paiche. After contacting some of the interested parties and being told the whispers were just "rumor-mongering" we thought maybe a small dispute had been blown out of proportion. But then yesterday Eater reported on the rumors and the L.A. Times followed suit

So what's really going on? Zarate did not respond to several messages seeking comment. But we spoke to Bill Chait, the restaurateur who shares ownership in Picca, as well as numerous other restaurants in L.A. He implied that the situation was much more complicated than it seems. "It's incredibly unsavory to be having this conversation in public," Chait said. But, he added, there is no way for the restaurants to continue without some level of involvement from Zarate. 

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Paula Deen - COURTESY: PAULA DEEN
  • courtesy: Paula Deen
  • Paula Deen
On her recent trip to Los Angeles, Paula Deen taped a number of television shows (Fox and Friends, etc.) and holed up in the Montage Beverly Hills, where she did a few more interviews, including one with us. Thus on a weekday morning, we chatted with the white-haired queen of Southern cooking in her hotel room, as Steve Harvey ("I just love him") pointedly played on her television and her husband (who does indeed bear a striking resemblance to Ernest Hemingway) lounged in the next room. Her sons showed up eventually, but while we talked it was just us and her and her publicist.

Deen, who looks less garish and more petite in real life, wore less makeup than you'd think and no shoes at all — and yes, her hair was perfect — as she answered our pre-approved questions. (Nothing about racism or the recent media firestorm that cost her her Food Network show and most of her endorsements.) It was a very friendly chat, maybe because of those pre-screened questions. But while Deen talked, predictably, about her new show, she also managed to throw in a few bits about Rachael Ray, new trends in Southern cooking, and where she likes to eat in L.A. 

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COURTESY: KTOWN NIGHT MARKET
  • courtesy: KTOWN Night Market
Halloween Food Fest
The inaugural Halloween Food Festival (presented by the KTOWN Night Market and Councilman Herb Wesson’s office) will mean that part of Koreatown will be closed off for food vendors, pop-up stores, carnival games and more. Who's coming? Eight Korean BBQ, Ramen Burger, IOTA Brew Café, Shin-Sen-Gumi, Swirl Potato, Mama Musubi and more. Seoul Sausage will curate the food-truck lineup.
WHAT: Halloween Food Fest
WHEN: Saturday, Oct. 25 and Sunday, Oct. 26. (The street will be closed from 7 p.m. on Friday night until early Monday morning.)
WHERE: Sixth Street between Normandie Avenue and Vermont Avenue in Koreatown.
COST: Entry tickets are $3 before the event, $5 on the day. 

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Turkish Coffee at Aroma Cafe - TRACY CHABALA
  • Tracy Chabala
  • Turkish Coffee at Aroma Cafe
Syphons look cool, the French press allows you to ingest a quart of coffee in public while appearing chic instead of addicted, and the recent influx of "pourovers" is a slick way to charge $5 for a cup of plain-old drip coffee.  But there is something magical about the viscous brew you'll find at hookah lounges, Middle Eastern restaurants, and, yes, a handful of coffee shops around town.  

Despite the surfeit of coffee roasters throughout Los Angeles, few grind their beans to a pixie-fine dust and transform them into the decadence that is a traditional cup of Turkish — or Armenian, or Greek, or Lebanese, or Persian, or Bosnian, or Ethiopian, depending on your bias — coffee. Served in a demitasse with the remaining coffee in a copper cezve, it makes for a unique ritual, and when you've finished off the coffee you can flip the cup over, let the grinds streak down the sides in sinuous trails, and have a tasseographer read your fortune. 

Great care is taken to prepare this coffee.  First, the beans are ground super-fine in a special grinder, either a Turkish hand grinder or an electric burr grinder, then water — often sweetened and sometimes infused with spices like cardamom — is boiled in the cezve.  Once boiling, the grounds are added, and the coffee is brought back up to a boil.  The heat is then turned down, the froth skimmed off the top, and the coffee is brought back up to a boil a few more times.  After the coffee has boiled over a few times, it must sit for a few minutes so the grounds can settle, and then it's poured into the demitasse. 

This method of preparation is simply the original method for coffee making. The first recorded history of coffee consumption comes from Yemen, and the Ottomans were the first folks on planet earth to open up a coffee shop in Constantinople in the 1640s. You can trace the etymology of coffee back to the Arabic qahwah

We could venture into the contentious appellative politics of this coffee — do you call it Greek or Armenian or Turkish or Bosnian? — but we'd rather point you to the best cups in L.A. and save the debate for NPR. For clarity and consistency, we'll stick to Turkish coffee. Here are our favorite spots in Los Angeles to cozy up with this unique coffee.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Delis

L.A. Miracle: New York Bodega-Style Sandwich Found in Leimert Park

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Tue, Oct 21, 2014 at 10:17 AM
Turkey sandwich from Brooklyn Deli - B. RODELL
  • B. Rodell
  • Turkey sandwich from Brooklyn Deli
When you leave a city, you never know what about it you'll miss the most. In my experience, homesick culinary longings are never attached to meals in upscale restaurants. More often, it's the cheap food you eat regularly and never think much about that ends up tugging at your heartstrings the hardest. 

That's certainly true of my relationship with the food of New York. I lived in New York City and Westchester County on and off for years, from high school through my mid-20s. And as much as I loved access to some of the world's best restaurants, what I crave most often is a turkey sandwich from a New York bodega. For some reason, whatever alchemy is achieved between bread and mayo and cold cuts on every block of the Tri-State area cannot be replicated anywhere else. Or if it can, it's very, very rare.

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BAM Fest - 18TH ST ARTS CENTER
  • 18th St Arts Center
  • BAM Fest
This Sunday, Oct. 26, from 1-5 p.m. is the 5th annual Santa Monica BAM Fest for beer, art and music. The festival is a celebration and benefit for the 18th Street Arts Center, a non-profit organization that has spent the last 25 years offering artist Residency Programs and engaging the public through events and exhibitions.

Your beer fest standards will all be present — food trucks, live music, unlimited tasting pours — but attendees can also enjoy wine, spirits and home brewed soda from the Maltose Falcons while contemplating performance art and video installations.

If you're just there for the beer, 40 breweries will be pouring, including a sizable percentage of established L.A. County breweries: Angel City, Beachwood BBQ, Dude’s, Eagle Rock, El Segundo, Golden Road, Kinetic, Ladyface, Phantom Carriage, Smog City, Strand and Wolf Creek, along with relative newcomers King Harbor, Phantom Carriage, Santa Monica Brew Works and Three Weavers.

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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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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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