The Factory Kitchen – Downtown Los Angeles

Food Adventures, Los Angeles
fusilli alla amatriciana

fusilli alla amatriciana

Hidden away in the heart of the newly coined “Arts District” that is transforming the grungy old industrial neighborhood of Downtown Los Angeles is, believe it or not, a trattoria-style Italian restaurant that just opened in 2013. In a dining room that stays true to its concrete column and exposed ducting “look,” The Factory Kitchen’s menu features a variety of traditional dishes including a selection of handmade pastas.

The Dining Room

The Dining Room

Martin had been here for lunch with his coworkers before and he raved about so much that we decided to dine here for a belated Valentine’s Day meal.

focaccina calda di recco al formaggio - pizzata

focaccina calda di recco al formaggio – pizzata

Starter: focaccina calda di recco al formaggio – pizzata – crescenza, san marzano tomato, capers, anchovies, oregano. Martin suggested that we share a focaccina to start and he let me pick one. Lured by the prospect of anchovies and capers, I selected the pizzata. What is a focaccina? It was unlike anything I’d ever had, but I suppose the best way to describe it would be a very thin, very flaky and puffy flat-bread pizza. The pizzata was lightly sauced with a San Marzano tomato puree and decorated simply with a pair of anchovy loins. But the beauty is in its simplicity. It was so amazing I almost didn’t want to share.

gnocchi malfatti

gnocchi malfatti

Entree (M): gnocchi malfatti – ricotta semolina dumpling, lamb sugo. I’m a big fan of ragu-type meaty sauces (and I don’t mean the stuff in the jar), so I had a feeling the lamb sugo would be a good choice. The ricotta gnocchi were very fluffy but also very cheesy. Martin, who is already a huge fan of potato gnocchi, really enjoyed this dish!

fusilli alla amatriciana

fusilli alla amatriciana

Entree (A): fusilli alla amatriciana – long corkscrew pasta, pork jowl, onion, spicy tomato. I needed only to spot the words “pork jowl” and I knew this would be the dish for me. There’s something inherently comforting about the flavor combination of pork fat and tomatoes, and this tender, fatty pork jowl did not disappoint. Also surprising were the long (VERY LONG) corkscrews; they were like rotini on steroids. So delicious I only wish there were more on the plate!

pannacotta

pannacotta

Dessert: pannacotta – meyer lemon curd, feuillitine crunch, candied zest. Another one of my buzzwords is feuillitine. Did I ever tell you about the time Martin and I made our own crepes dentelle? Now that was an adventure, but a story for another time. This dessert was love at first sight. Silky vanilla panna cotta topped by a thick layer of lemon curd… the combinations of tart and sweet, smooth and creamy… it was heaven on a spoon. I’m also a big fan of candied citrus, so I thought the zest was a great touch.

A wonderful meal, fabulously attentive service, and a taste of Italia in the heart of the industrial district… definitely swing by and check out The Factory Kitchen!

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Check out The Factory Kitchen: thefactorykitchen.com

1300 Factory Place, Suite 101
Los Angeles, CA 90013

See their Yelp reviews here!

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Tar & Roses – Santa Monica, CA

Food Adventures, Los Angeles

Ever since we first met at Freshman Orientation at UCLA, S and I have made it our tradition to take each other out to dinner for our birthdays every autumn. The birthday girl always gets to select the venue, so a few weeks ago, I met her in front of a place that’s been on my list of must-try restaurants since it opened less than two years ago — Chef Andrew Kirschner’s Tar & Roses. Boasting a seasonal farm-to-table menu of small tapas-style plates alongside an extensive wine list, Tar & Roses has been well-received and earned some rave reviews on Yelp and in the blogosphere. And after our fabulous dinner experience, I can definitely attest that it is worth the hype.

squid ink fettucini / octopus / blistered tomato / breadcrumb

squid ink fettucini / octopus / blistered tomato / breadcrumb

Speaking of hype, the crowd is still going strong. Even on a Sunday night, without reservations, we barely managed to snag a pair of seats at the counter. What a stroke of luck that turned out to be – the counter is totally where it’s at! A quick peek into the kitchen and close proximity to the bruschetta and charcuterie board (not quite legible from other parts of the dining room), we enjoyed the relaxing ambiance and casual vibe in the otherwise cozy and romantic restaurant.

2011 forteto della luja / moscato d' asti / piedmont, italy

2011 forteto della luja / moscato d’ asti / piedmont, italy

I started with a glass of Italian Moscato while S selected the house white — a Passerina from the Marche region. The Moscato was sweet without being cloying or syrupy, and the Jackson’s White was crisp and clean – perfect for our variety of seafood and vegetarian dishes that evening. (Did I mention that S is a pescatarian?)

atlantic sardine crostini / avocado / pickled onion / cilantro / lime

atlantic sardine crostini / avocado / pickled onion / cilantro / lime

First, a crostini to start. If you’ll recall from our sushi adventures, S and I both love fishy fish. Atlantic sardines certainly fit the bill. The oily, salty fish paired well with the creamy avocado and tangy pickled onion. There was also a subtle sprinkling of cayenne to give it an extra kick.

squid ink fettucini / octopus / blistered tomato / breadcrumb

squid ink fettucini / octopus / blistered tomato / breadcrumb

I LOVE squid ink pasta, but I’ll be honest, what really stole the show in this dish were the melt-in-your-mouth, extremely tender bites of octopus. Beat it against a rock? Massage it with salt? Boil it with wine corks? Every cook has his own secret for yielding the most absolutely perfect texture. I have no idea how they do it here, but I could eat a giant bowl of this and be happy. The heirloom cherry tomatoes were a nice touch for their color and sweet-tart flavor.

wood roasted sunchokes / goat cheese / lemon / hazelnuts

wood roasted sunchokes / goat cheese / lemon / hazelnuts

S: “I don’t know what sunchokes are, but let’s get this.” Arguably the best executive decision of the night. Sunchokes are tubers with very little starch but plenty of fructose. They caramelized beautifully and when paired with the tart dollops of goat cheese, fine shreds of lemon zest, and crunchy hazelnuts, it was like magic. I don’t even like goat cheese. I also rarely eat hazelnuts outside of nutella. But this… this was pure delight for my palate.

ricotta gnocchi / asparagus / pea tendrils / lemon

ricotta gnocchi / asparagus / pea tendrils / lemon

Though I generally prefer potato-based gnocchi, these ricotta ones completely disintegrate on the tongue. They’re like light, fluffy clouds, coated in a creamy sauce and enveloped in wilted, sauteed pea shoots.

a close-up look at the gnocchi and pea tendrils

a close-up look at the gnocchi and pea tendrils

We even found this lovely tendril and just had to take a close-up of it. Twisty-twirly tendrils generally remind me of spring, but these spiraling greens have just come into season (from now through early spring). What a treat!

roasted beets / feta / tarragon / horseradish

roasted beets / feta / tarragon / horseradish

I love beets, especially when they’ve been roasted. I know some people say they taste like dirt, but I prefer to call it earthiness. Topped with feta and fresh sprigs of tarragon, this dish reminded me of everything I love about fall.

strawberry crostata with honeycomb ice cream

strawberry crostata with honeycomb ice cream

Of course, we had to save room for dessert. We decided to splurge and each get our own. S chose the strawberry crostata – a crisp pastry topped with fresh berries and served with honeycomb ice cream from LA Creamery (amazing!). The strawberries were macerated in a bit of salt which provided a nice contrast.

affogato - tahitian vanilla ice cream with stumptown espresso

affogato – tahitian vanilla ice cream with stumptown espresso

As soon as we were handed the dessert menu, one single word jumped out at me — affogato. i knew I had to have it.

affogato - an action shot

affogato – an action shot

S, in her adorable artsy-ness, took it upon herself to stage an “action shot” for the benefit of NomNomCat readers. Decadent Tahitian vanilla ice cream (also LA Creamery) drenched in steaming, bitter espresso from Stumptown Coffee, this dessert was about as trendy as it gets, but it was the perfect end to the wonderful meal.

All in all, I loved the rustic decor, the seasonal dishes, and the friendly staff. I will definitely be back with M in tow, and you can bet we’ll be stalking Open Table for a reservation next time. If Tar & Roses has been on your list of LA bookmarks, well, what are you waiting for?? Do yourself a favor and check them out!

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Check out Tar & Roses: tarandroses.com

602 Santa Monica Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90401

See their Yelp reviews here!

Potato Gnocchi

Appetizers and Starters, Main Dishes, Recipes

Gnocchi. Nyo-kee. More than just a funny-sounding word for an Italian dumpling, gnocchi are fluffy pillows of potato or ricotta based dough swimming in sauces that vary from a simple brown butter to a rich bolognese. It is one of our favorite dishes to order when we go out for Italian, especially at places notorious for their homemade pasta. Finally one day, Martin had the brilliant idea to try making gnocchi ourselves.

Potato Gnocchi alla Arrabiatta

Potato Gnocchi alla Arrabiatta

As it turned out, making the gnocchi dough was relatively easy – considerably less finicky than semolina pasta dough. It does take some time to bake and cool the potatoes, but I think it’s worth having to plan ahead; baking yields a better dough texture than boiling does.

Ingredients:

2 pounds of russet potatoes

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

2 egg yolks

1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon salt

(Thank you to Simply Recipes for the ingredient proportions and the crucial tip to bake instead of boil the potatoes!)

Potatoes: ready for the oven

Potatoes: ready for the oven

Scrub the potatoes under running water, leaving the skins on. Stab the potatoes all around with a fork, the way you would when baking sweet potatoes. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, arrange the potatoes equidistant from each other, and bake at 350 degrees for about 1 hour.

Time to cool the potatoes!

Time to cool the potatoes!

When the potatoes are tender and the skins have started to wrinkle and pull away, transfer to a cooling rack and slice them open down the middle to let the steam escape. I waited about 15-20 minutes until the potatoes were still warm but cool enough to handle.

Using a potato ricer

Using a potato ricer

Remove the potatoes from their skins and either mash with a fork or strain through a potato ricer into a large bowl.

The dough ingredients

The dough ingredients

Add the two egg yolks , lightly beaten, and the flour and salt to the potatoes.

Ball of gnocchi dough

Ball of gnocchi dough

Stir to combine but do not overwork the dough or the gnocchi will be tough and dense instead of light and fluffy. The mixture should just start to form a doughy ball.

Rolling out the dough

Rolling out the dough

Lightly dust a cutting board with all purpose flour. Working with a handful of dough at a time, gently roll out a tube about the size of a breadstick.

Cutting the dough

Cutting the dough

Using a sharp paring knife, cut the rolled out dough into small pieces, about 1 inch long.

Rolling the gnocchi on a gnocchi board

Rolling the gnocchi on a gnocchi board

We have a gnocchi board, but you could also use the back of a dinner fork to roll out the gnocchi. Whichever you choose, be sure to flour it so your gnocchi don’t stick. Holding the board (or fork) at a 45 degree angle, start the gnocchi at the top and press down and forward with your thumb. It is hard to describe, but you are essentially smearing the dough so that rolls over on top of itself as demonstrated in this how-to video we found on Youtube.

Our dumpling army

Our dumpling army

Set your finished gnocchi aside on a floured baking sheet and repeat until you use up all of the dough.

Just wait until they float!

Just wait until they float!

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Drop in the gnocchi in batches, maybe two handfuls at a time. They will be done when they float. Scoop out with a slotted spoon and transfer to a serving dish or individual bowls.

The next batches, patiently waiting

The next batches, patiently waiting

Just top with your favorite sauce — we used a simple arrabiatta made with garlic, white wine, canned San Marzano tomatoes, and dried red pepper flakes. The ridges are great for catching the sauce, and each gnocco is a tender, pillowy cloud of potato goodness.

Our gnocchi cooking station

Our gnocchi cooking station

Writing this entry made me crave a warm, hearty bowl of gnocchi again… I think my next experiment will be a sweet potato gnocchi with a sage brown butter sauce. Will report back on how that goes!

nomnomcat print button

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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. While Martin and I have made fresh pasta on many occasions, making our own gnocchi had always been just another item on our Bucket List until recently. In retrospect, it is a bit ironic that the small wooden gnocchi board was a more intimidating piece of equipment than our Marcato pasta maker.

This month is hosted by Stacey at The Veggie Mama.

Cheers!

Day 2b: Sonoma Farmer’s Market & Mamma Tanino’s

Food Adventures, Napa & Sonoma

After visiting Lancaster Estate and Medlock Ames we were just about dead tired, quickly hopping back into the security of the car and its air conditioned heaven. Healdsburg was a good hour away from the city of Sonoma and we were expecting to arrive in time for the Sonoma Tuesday Night Farmer’s Market. After checking into the nearby hotel, we took a brief stroll to the park in front of city hall where the farmer’s market was located.

The entire block and surrounding neighborhood were bustling with people enjoying the sun and mingling around the tented shops. Stalls of produce from nearby farms lined the walkway around the city hall building carrying a variety of seasonal fruits and vegetables. The colors were spectacular and we were enjoying the beautiful day so much that we had forgotten to take photos of the area.

Having drank most of the day and filling up on wine, we had forgotten to eat very much for lunch and were famished. At 6:30pm and without a reservation at any restaurant, we should’ve known better than to try walking into the restaurants that enclosed Sonoma Square. We decided to try Mamma Tanino’s – a place a little out of the way that we found on Yelp, a homely-looking, literal hole-in-the-wall in the corner of a strip mall. The patrons seemed to be an older, more local crowd. The interior was a warm, cozy space with an obnoxious yellow glow that enveloped every nook and cranny. This glow, while warm, took a terrible toll on the quality of our photos, but please bear with us.

Alice found out an interesting piece of information about Chef Gaetano that we didn’t want to speculate about its accuracy: he was accepted into culinary school at the age of 13 and graduated at 15. We managed to verify this information with his wife Kimberly who runs the front of the house.

Without further adieu…the noms:

Housemade Focaccia

The table bread was a simple fresh-baked focaccia that was extra toasted and a little burnt on its extremities. We didn’t mind too much, and I myself am a fan of slightly charred bread. Alice found a piece that tasted like pizza crust, in a good way.

Appetizer: Calamaretti Fritti

Fried calamari was very crispy but the batter was unevenly coated and didn’t adhere well to the calamari. The homemade pomodoro sauce had a little kick that kicked me in the…taste bud. The creamy tartar sauce with capers wasn’t all that special but I’m glad we were given the choice of two different dipping sauces.

Pappardelle Bolognese

Alice had the homemade, hand-cut pappardelle accompanied by a ragu-style sauce with beef, beef stock, carrots, and mushrooms. Just a little al dente to give it a more firm texture, making it a hearty and winning combination.

Gnocchetti Piemontese

I ordered another one of their homemade dishes – hand-cut mini gnocchi with a creamy tomato sauce. Texture was more like a cloud than a pillow, extra light and fluffy. I was able to polish off the entire dish and was left wanting more but that’s not to say that the portion was too small – it was just that good.

Tiramisu

I have to admit that this was definitely not that great of a tiramisu. There was a little too much marscapone and it was made using both rum and kahlua. When it came down to it, the tiramisu had a strange sour taste to it, perhaps from the kahlua or perhaps from the marscapone, but we couldn’t tell. Either way, the tartness tasted a bit awkward.

All in all, Mamma Tanino’s was a great find. It’s unfortunate that their location in the forlorn strip mall seems to have a negative impact on their business. People of Sonoma, swing by and give them a try! The pasta dishes are awesome and the service, courtesy of Kimberly, is very friendly.

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Check out Mamma Tanino’s Ristorante: www.mammataninos.com

500 W. Napa St. Suite 512
Sonoma CA, 95476

See their Yelp reviews here!

Day Seven: San Francisco – Fisherman’s Wharf and North Beach

Food Adventures, San Francisco

Famous sourdough, seafood just off the wharf, local favorite ice cream, touristy chocolatier, hole-in-the-wall truffles, legit Italian tiramisu, award-winning gnocchi, homemade panna cotta, best pizza in San Francisco, and a drink called the Laughing Buddha. Sounds like a long week of partying and going out to eat, but for us, it was just another day in SF. All that food in one day – it’s a good thing we walked to just about all of our destinations and got some exercise. What I enjoyed most about the day was its balance of tourist hot spots and local hidden favorites — and of course, eating our way through San Francisco!

If you’re up for walking and public transit, a good way to spend one day of a trip to SF would be combining Fisherman’s Wharf, Ghirardelli Square, and North Beach. Unless our game plan is too gluttonous for you to handle in one day, in which case please feel free to split it among multiple days!

The magnificent bread display at Boudin!