Janis Joplin’s “Get It While You Can” would be a good anthem for persimmon season, which is happening right now. The urgency of eating and appreciating this oft-overlooked fruit is underlined by its relatively short season, which begins in October and ends in February.
One of the most popular varieties of the orange-fleshed fruit, the Fuyu, originated in Japan. The Fuyu is a “non-astringent variety,” according to Califuyu, the California Growers Association, which means they don’t cause the mouth to pucker up if not completely ripe, like the native American persimmons grown in the South or the more common pointed Hachiya variety.
The Fuyu can be eaten while still crunchy and translates well in many dishes, from sweet to savory. The Hachiya often can’t be eaten until they are quite soft, and would work well in puddings and cakes. Regardless of which kind you buy or what you put them in, just be sure to eat up before they disappear. Here's a few places around town that are taking the persimmon to new heights this season:
Persimmon Cocktail at Commissary
Many persimmon dishes in restaurants skew cozy/fall in their flavors, but leave it to chef Roy Choi and mixologist Matthew Biancaniello to take things in a completely different direction. The persimmon cocktail at Commissary throws you hard into tropical climes. Served in an amusingly unassuming plastic deli bowl, the drink blends persimmon, coconut rum and basil, with some dried coconut sprinkled on top, for a refreshing concoction that would make a paper parasol feel right at home. Drink up on a rainy day (if you can find one) in the greenhouse and pretend you’re in Jamaica. 3515 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles; 213-368-3030.
Persimmon Toast at Stir Market
Loaded-up toasts are a trend with legs and Stir Market makes the most of its version. This brand-new food hall serves up options for eating: a pretty patio, a cafe or a tremendous variety of take-away. The grilled toasts change depending on what’s in season. The persimmon and ricotta varietal makes use of a seeded bread and is drizzled with lavender honey. The toasts look almost too good to eat, but go ahead anyway. Pan Pacific Park is just across the street, if you’re in the mood to picnic. 7475 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles; (323)879-8283.
Eye of the Tiger Cocktail at Fig
Put yourself in the hands of mix masters John Paul Romeo and Tavis Chavez and you will live to feel smug about your decision. The carefully crafted, seasonal cocktails the duo dreams up for Fig take full advantage of the restaurant’s proximity to the Santa Monica Farmers Market. The Eye of the Tiger takes fresh Fuyu persimmons, macerates them overnight, then mixes them with a variety of alcohol, including whisky and Amaro Nonino (an Italian aperitif), then tops off the brew with frothy egg white, cinnamon and nutmeg. The drink translates into a modern eggnog — all the autumnal flavor without the attendant heaviness. Take this tiger by the tail and find an excuse to celebrate something.
101 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica; (310) 319-3111.
Persimmon Beignets at fundamental LA
Is it a donut or a beignet? Either way, chef Philip Pretty of fundamental LA has created a plate of deliciousness. The persimmon-filled dough bursts with flavor, the fruit transformed into a chutney that's not too sweet but, rather, just right. Dabs of cinnamon cream and vanilla parsnip share the plate with two of the puffs and a gingersnap tuile. There's just enough to share for a not-too-guilty pleasure. A bit of naughtiness at the end of your meal. 1303 Westwood Blvd., Westwood; (310) 444-7581.
Persimmon Everything at Bestia
Chef Ori Menashe of Bestia makes it possible to eat persimmon in every course, from soup to nuts. Well, there isn’t soup exactly, but there is a bright and refreshing salad perfect for fall, which mixes the persimmon with punterella (chicory) endive, pomegranate seeds, mint and pecorino pientino. The balance of sweet, sour, bitter and spicy (from the chile in the dressing) is perfect. Next in line is the succulent, slow-roasted lamb neck. Flavors of fennel pollen, pea tendrils, pickled fennel and salsa verde, mixed with persimmon, will make your mouth water on impact. Finally, pastry chef Genevieve Gergis brings something sweet in the Hachiya rice pudding spiked with saffron, vanilla, orange blossom and pistachios. The energy of these dishes derives from an original and winning combination of tastes that may just haunt your dreams. 2121 Seventh Place, Downtown; (213) 514-5724.