Those lazy burger grilling summer days may officially be over, but in L.A., that notorious September sun and surf is still going strong. And so if you're not quite ready to retire those local burger condiments for cassoulet beans, these Top Five SoCal Pantry Essentials To Pretend It's Really Fall will help ease you into that pseudo-fall mentality.
5. A Full Knife Block Tune-Up From Gary's Knife Sharpening: We've long been fans of Gary Silverstein's ability to keep our chef's knife perfectly tuned, but this time of year there is something particularly satisfying about getting those long-neglected knives sharpened. And if you've never had your mandolin blade sharpened, we highly recommend it, as Silverstein will change the way you look at those weeknight potato gratin recipes in five minutes flat. We like to think of our annual fall knife sharpening pilgrimage as the Southern California culinary equivalent of pulling out those winter sweaters -- only without a cashmere price tag. A recent full-drawer tune-up set us back less than $40. Prices are by the inch at several local farmers markets; Silverstein also does house calls.
4. Bagel Chips From Your Neighborhood Deli: Remember when bagel chips were a back-to-school lunchbox staple? Yeah, those commercial versions don't always bring back the fondest memories. But chances are your local deli is still making them. Several delis in L.A. turn their leftover bagels into snacks (you'll often find a stack of them by the cash register). Of course, in typical American fashion we've come to expect an infinite variety of bagel chip flavors, from plain, garlic, herb, and every spice in between. "Go with the seasoned," recommends Troy Fromin of Fromin's Deli in Santa Monica, which has been making bagel chips for thirty years. Why? "Because they're seasoned," he says. Logical enough for us. Bagel Chips, $3.95 at Fromin's Deli in Santa Monica.
3. Global Gardens' Santa Ynez Valley Italian Varietal Blend Olive Oil: If like us, you're still pretending a fall trip to Italy might actually happen, we recommend you invest in a little local olive oil therapy. We're really loving Global Gardens' 2011 Santa Ynez Valley extra virgin "Italian Varietal Blend" -- a blend of late harvest Italian olives from last year's crop. It's bright, fruity and just bold enough, meaning it's a really great all-purpose olive oil. And of course, it's also perfect for those crusty bread moments. Global Gardens, Santa Ynez Valley Italian Varietal Blend Extra Virgin Olive Oil, $34 for 750 ml.
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2. Fat Uncle Farms Chocolate Almond Butter: We like to think of Fat Uncle Farms' chocolate-almond butter as essentially farmers market-fresh Nutella, only here in chunky, lightly sweetened almond butter (rather than hazelnut) form. Reason enough to stash a few tubs in the pantry this fall. Need another? Imagine all of the baking possibilities. Fat Uncle Farms Chocolate Almond Butter, $8 for 8 ounces (bring the jar back for $1 off) at several local farmers markets.
1. Lamb, Goat and Rabbit from Jimenez Family Farm: If you haven't been able to get into the stewing season mood quite yet, Jimenez Family Farm's lamb, goat and rabbit will have you pulling out your Dutch oven. Yes, pastured, humanely-raised farm-raised meat is pricier than the grocery store standards. As it should be -- you can taste the care and commitment in those rabbit loins. And if you don't have the $14/pound budget for lamb loin chops quite yet, well, that's what those great Odd Bits like lamb neck are for. Jimenez Family Farm's meats are available at several local farmers markets, prices vary.