LA Cookie Con 1st Annual

One Week till Cookie Con!

Desserts and Sweets, Food Adventures, Los Angeles

That’s right, folks. Los Angeles has a Cookie Convention and it’s coming to the Pasadena Convention Center next Sunday! We were floored by this news and quickly went to their website (lacookiecon.com) to get our tickets to this sure-to-be-awesome event. (I believe our exact reaction was “Cookie Con?! How did we not know about this?!”)

Reality TV buffs will appreciate the celebrity lineup of guests from Food Network’s “Sweet Genius” and Next Food Network Star, Fox’s MasterChef, and more. There will be fondant rolling classes, candy apple making for the kids, and demonstrations for new tools and equipment. But most importantly, the website highlights “hundreds of delicious free samples from national and local vendors, offering an extravaganza of cookies, candy, chocolate, coffee, ice cream, beverages, and unique baked savories too.” SIGN US UP!

Salted Chocolate Chunk Cookies by our friend CCU at Go Bake Yourself!

Salted Chocolate Chunk Cookies by our friend CCU at Go Bake Yourself!

After our chocolate filled adventure at Indulge LA, we know we have to develop a game plan to synchronize our (precious and limited) stomach space and our (ravenous and unrelenting) sweet tooth. Luckily, we will be attending with a pair of friends with whom to share the bounty. I know Martin is going to keep an eye out for the best chocolate chip (his favorite) while I am always game to try unique variations on the traditional cookie (like our limoncello and semolina version).

VIP tickets are already sold out, so grab your GA passes soon if you want to attend the first annual LA Cookie Con! (Psst — sign up for their e-newsletter for a 10% off coupon code!)

As if you needed more convincing, a portion of the proceeds from the event will benefit Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. You definitely won’t want to miss out on this chance to stuff your faces while helping to support a great nonprofit. (But in case you can’t make it, stay tuned for our post-event recap with plenty of mouth-watering cookie photos!)

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Disclosure: We were not compensated for this post; however, we did receive discounted press tickets to the event for the purposes of our review. All opinions are our own and were not influenced in any way.

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Farsi Cafe – Westwood, CA

Food Adventures, Los Angeles

Happy 2015, dear readers! We hope one of your New Year resolutions was to keep eating good food because that’s definitely what we plan to do. One distinct advantage of living in Los Angeles is its proximity to ethnic cuisines from around the world. Here on the Westside, we’re just a stone’s throw away from Little Persia – the stretch of Westwood Boulevard that is affectionately known as Tehrangeles for its prominent Iranian immigrant population. Waking up with an inexplicable craving for crispy rice one lazy afternoon, we decided to get lunch at Farsi Cafe.

The first thing I noticed when we walked inside the dining room was that it was set up to primarily accommodate large parties; the two of us settled in at a table meant for four. Throughout our lunch, we understood why — there were families of all sizes coming in through the door to share a leisurely meal.

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Our server brought out a basket of flat bread (lavash) along with the traditional plate of butter and raw onion. (We were perplexed but a quick Google search taught us that the onion is meant to accompany the grilled meats and the butter could be either spread on lavash or melted over rice). He also surprised us with a bowl of mast-o khiar (yogurt and cucumber) compliments of the chef. Similar to Greek tzatziki or Indian raita, this cool refreshing dip was the perfect accompaniment to both the plain flat bread and to the spiced grilled meat I ordered for my entree.

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Speaking of entrees, I selected my usual Persian food go-to — the koobideh (ground beef kabob) with rice. The generous portion came with two skewers and a giant mound of rice topped with a smaller pile of saffron infused rice (my favorite!). The typical garnishes of grilled onion, tomato, and bell pepper added that extra smoky charred flavor. The beef was well seasoned, and did I mention how huge the serving was? I got three meals out of it!

2014-09-28 13.19.34Our journey to Farsi Cafe started with the desire for crispy rice so of course, Martin went with the house special tahchin. Each order is served a “slice” of a large “pie” made of crisped saffron rice and shreds of chicken. The slice is then topped with zereshk (barberries), tart little dried currants that pair excellently with chicken (think turkey and cranberry). I stole more than a few bites of his meal and just could not stop myself. It was so good — the crunchy rice, the spiced chicken, the tart berries!

If you’re trying to choose from the many delicious offerings all along Westwood Boulevard, we suggest coming in to Farsi Cafe to try their tahchin, mast-o khiar, saffron rice, and koobideh. And then wash it all down with Persian ice cream at Saffron & Rose just up the street afterward!

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Check out Farsi Cafe: farsicafela.com

1916 Westwood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90025

See their Yelp reviews here!

Happy (Tiny) Thanksgiving!

Uncategorized

Thanksgiving is going to be different for us this year. It is my first year in the service industry, which means that I work on holidays and “normal” weekends. Oh dear… It would seem… I’ve turned into my father. (j/k – love you, Dad!)

I’ve always loved holidays — and it was difficult for me to come to terms with this — but Thanksgiving isn’t about gorging on turkey (or roast chicken or rack of lamb) on the third Thursday of November. It’s not about the side dishes or even the pie or alternative desserts. It’s about spending time with the people you love and being grateful for what you have… and that really should be happening year-round, holiday or not.

So, our dear readers, if you are indeed celebrating tomorrow, we hope you have a very happy Thanksgiving! As happy as the Tiny Hamster in the video. As for us, we’ll be postponing our festivities to a later time and will gladly share any new recipes we test out. Cheers!

(Many thanks to our friend Genie at Bunny Eats Design for the inspiration to share the video.)

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Vanilla Panna Cotta with Blueberry Compote

Desserts and Sweets, Recipes

The holiday season is upon us and you know what that means — it’s time for a few easy-to-make yet impressive-looking desserts that you can add to your repertoire for wowing guests! Case in point: before I stumbled upon this article on The Kitchn, I had never even considered making panna cotta at home. And now that I’ve seen the light, I could not imagine spending $14 on it at a restaurant ever again (unless there are some really special flavor combinations going on…). It’s that easy and oh so versatile to customize to your liking. I had some blueberries in the freezer from our visit to a pick-your-own blueberry farm in Santa Barbara over the summer, but you are welcome to use any seasonal fruit to pair with the silky smooth pudding. Just a slight note, this basic recipe involves gelatin and refrigeration to set, unlike the traditional Italian recipe which uses egg whites and is baked in a bain marie.

Panna Cotta Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups milk

1 1-ounce envelope of powdered gelatin (or 4 gelatin sheets, bloomed in ice water)

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 vanilla bean, scraped

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

Set up a double boiler if you have one, or bring a small pot of water to a boil and nestle a heat-safe bowl (Pyrex, for example) over it. Add milk and sprinkle the powdered gelatin over the surface. Let sit for 1-2 minutes to bloom the gelatin. Add the sugar and vanilla and whisk well to completely dissolve the sugar. It should have a silky texture with no grittiness. Heat the mixture until it is barely simmering. Pour in the cream and continue to cook until the mixture has warmed to room temperature. (If it is too hot, just set aside to cool a bit before pouring into the molds.) Pour into ramekins or serving dishes. Refrigerate for at least one hour or until set. The texture will be wobbly and much more delicate than jello. Serve cold.

Blueberry Compote Ingredients:

2 cups frozen blueberries, divided

3 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons honey

Dash of ground cinnamon

In a small saucepan, heat 1 cup of blueberries with the water, honey, and cinnamon. Simmer over medium-low heat until the fruit starts to break down, about 5 minutes. Using the back of a spoon, gently mash the berries into a coarse puree. Add the remaining 1 cup of blueberries and cook for another 3-5 minutes or until the whole berries are warmed through and the mashed berries have formed a sauce-like consistency. Serve warm.

The blueberry compote also tastes great as a topping for ice cream, pancakes, waffles, even steel cut oatmeal! Once it has cooled, I transferred the leftover compote to a glass jar and kept it in the refrigerator for about a week. It could probably keep longer if you’re into canning jams and whatnot, but the compote is so delicious that it will magically disappear quite quickly!

I know it’s been a long time since we’ve posted a recipe on this blog, but I hope you enjoy this two-for-one. We did not include step-by-step photos this time, but trust me, it’s just THAT easy. If you try either of them at home, please let us know what you think!

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our-growing-edge-badgeThis post is part of the monthly link up party Our Growing Edge. This event aims to connect food bloggers and inspire us to try new things, and I can honestly say that my life has changed for the better knowing now that panna cotta is just so easy to make!

This month is hosted by Linda at The Orange Bee.

Cheers!

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Hatfield’s – Hollywood

Food Adventures, Los Angeles

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For my birthday this year, my dear boyfriend treated me to dinner at Hatfield’s, a restaurant that had earned one coveted Michelin star back when the Guide was still in LA. He knew that I love tasting menus, although it proved surprisingly difficult to find one with availability on a Sunday night. (As I am constantly reminded, I work the same nights that normal people want to go out!)

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The first thing I noticed that the odd sense of familiarity when we walked into the dining room. And that’s when it hit me — this is the dining room from the movie Chef! So our date night started out with plenty of jokes involving “He’s NOT getting to me!” “I’m NOT needy!” “It’s f*cking molten!” (If you still haven’t seen the movie, stop reading right now and go track it down!)

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We sat in the center of the dining room and got an amazing view of the open kitchen. I was mesmerized by the brigade and how calmly and deliberately everyone seemed to move; it was almost unreal, especially compared to my experience in a closed kitchen where organized chaos breaks loose every night.

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We opted for the chef’s 7-course tasting menu (priced at $110 per person). We were told that it would be served “in tandem,” which was described to mean that each of us would receive a different dish each course. Long story short, we got to try a total of 14 dishes! I defined the dishes that I received first as (a) and the ones Martin received first as (m). Please forgive me if I missed any details; there’s quite a bit going on in every dish and by the end, I was really feeling the gin in my cocktail! (Also, the photos aren’t too stellar thanks to my camera phone and low lighting.)

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Speaking of cocktails, I had The Hendrix Experience: Hendrick’s Gin, Thai basil syrup, lemon, prosecco. It was a lovely bright green color and tasted as refreshing as it looked. Martin mentioned that his usual libation of choice is the sazerac and our server suggested The Innsbruck. I remember nothing about it other than that it is rye whiskey based, garnished with a sprig of rosemary, and went down oh so smoothly.

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Amuse Bouche: Cured Fluke, Egg Salad Remoulade, Potato Chip. A delightful first bite of cured white fish to whet our appetites for more.

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Course 1(a): Croque Madame: Yellowtail Sashimi, Prosciutto, Sunny Side Up Quail Egg, Grilled Brioche. One of their signature dishes, we were thrilled to see this as part of our tasting menu. The “grilled” brioche reminded me of this one time when we fried brioche croutons in clarified butter. Butter + butter = love. The combination of cured jamon and fresh hamachi doesn’t sound like it would work out but somehow it does in this adorable little sandwich.

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Course 1(m): Kanpachi Sashimi, Persian Cucumbers, Mango. A refreshing and light starter, this is the way I generally like to begin my dining adventures.

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Course 2(a): Butternut Squash Flan, Coconut Froth, Maitake Mushrooms, Curried Sweetbreads Croquette. I loved this dish. I may even go so far as to say it was my favorite of the night. Hidden beneath the froth of fragrant coconut and Thai-inspired flavor is a delicate butternut squash flan. The silky texture and the smooth broth paired wonderfully while the croquette added an extra level with its crunch. The maitake mushrooms were just the icing on the cake to remind you that, indeed, Winter is Coming.

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Course 2(m): Squid Ink Garganelli, Dungeness Crab, English Peas, Pea Tendrils, Pearl Onions. We are both huge fans of squid ink pasta; there’s just something about the gorgeous black color hiding away a surprising burst of citrus and briny flavor that we can’t get enough of. The pea tendrils were fried as a crispy garnish and the crab added a lightness to an otherwise creamy sauce.

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Course 3(a): Slow Cooked Salmon (Sous Vide), Eggplant, Charred Scallions, Salmon Roe. I had never had sous vide salmon before and I’ve got to say, I’m just not a fan. The peculiar cube of gorgeous medium-rare salmon looked beautiful but had a soft texture that I could not get past. I did enjoy how the roe added a finishing touch of saltiness to the dish the way a sprinkling of fleur de sel would have.

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Course 3(m): Red Wine Braised Octopus, Charred Shishito Peppers, Orange Rind Gastrique. The octopus was pleasantly tender, and as I am a huge fan of shishito peppers, I much preferred this dish over the salmon.

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Course 4(a): Pan Roasted Duck Breast, Strawberry Sambal Gastrique, Braised Radicchio & Hibiscus, Fennel & Gold Beet Salad, Cashews. I felt that this dish really embodied the time of year — the transition between summer and fall. I actually really enjoyed the radicchio and hibiscus, which I found to be extra bitter (Martin was not a fan but loved the duck).

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Course 4(m): Buttermilk Chicken, Arugula Pistou, Mushroom Duxelle, Crispy Shallot. The chicken was incredibly succulent and completely changed my view on ordering the poultry at a fine dining establishment. The crispy shallots were a fun garnish, making me think of fried chicken, while the sauces underneath melded well with one another.

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Course 5(a): 36 Hour Slow Cooked “Pastrami-Style” Short Rib, Shimeji Mushrooms, Fingerling Potatoes, Frisee Salad. The short rib was incredibly tender and paired with the mustard vinaigrette that dressed the salad beneath it, I was transported to a very high-end version of a Jewish deli. I just have to say though — I’ve never been able to look at a plate of frisee without feeling a lot of appreciation and a little bit of guilt, because I know what a pain in the butt it is for the person who has to pick the yellow leaves from the bitter white stems.

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Course 5(m): Braised Short Rib, Celery Root Puree, Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Red Wine Jus. A second preparation of the short rib, this was almost lacquered in red wine and tasted wonderful for it. I’d say this dish was the most no-frills one of the bunch, and I appreciated that. Nothing beats a good plate of beef, brussels, celery root puree, and red wine sauce.

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Course 6(a): Pavlova, Freshly Whipped Cream, Strawberry Chamomile Sorbet. The paylova was crispy and airy, the whipped cream was delicate, and the sorbet was the star of the show. It was fruity yet fragrant and not-too-sweet, just the way I like it.

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Course 6(m): Buttermilk Panna Cotta, Watermelon Granita, Blackberry Banyuls Sorbet. I usually dislike tangy dairy, but the buttermilk panna cotta was the perfect counter to the sweet fruit. I was also really looking forward to tasting the blackberry banyuls sorbet (banyuls is an expensive French vinegar made from Grenache grapes) and it exceeded my expectations.

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Course 7(a): Peanut Butter Semifreddo, Crunchy Chocolate-Peanut Tuille, Bitter Chocolate Ice Cream. I don’t know how they knew. Martin said he didn’t tell them. I didn’t mention anything. It’s like they’re mind readers, but our server placed this plate down right in front of me and I was thrilled. (What can I say? I love to feel special.) The semifreddo was delicious and if you managed to take a bite with a little bit of everything on it, it was like the world’s best candy bar.

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Course 7(m): Sugar & Spice Beignet, Venezuelan Chocolate Fondue, Vanilla Malted Milkshake. I love beignets and I love even more that this one is dusted in cinnamon-sugar rather than confectioner’s. The chocolate fondue was incredible — super velvety and bittersweet, perfect for someone who loves the darkest of dark chocolate (like me!). I really liked the playfulness of the vanilla milkshake, although I couldn’t help but make the comparison to Michael Mina’s root beer float (which, with its edible chocolate straw, wins by a slight edge).

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Bon Bons: Homemade Mallomar, Dark Chocolate, Marshmallow, Graham Cracker, Sea Salt. I will be perfectly honest — the first thing I did was poke it. It feels squishy. How do they get it coated in chocolate that is malleable enough to squish with the marshmallow enrobed inside? It was mind boggling, and I pondered it as I devoured the last, satisfying bite of our meal.

It’s no wonder that Hatfield’s still holds strong on Jonathan Gold’s list of 101 Best Restaurants in LA. This husband and wife team (Chef and Pastry Chef, respectively) creates intricate dishes that highlight so many seasonal ingredients, often combining a multitude of flavors in new and exciting ways. Some dishes were more amazing than others, and a few just had a bit too much going on for my taste, but overall, I had no complaints about our meal at Hatfield’s. Keep it on your list for a romantic date, special occasion, or cause for celebration!

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Check out Hatfield’s: hatfieldsrestaurant.com

6703 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90038

See their Yelp reviews here!