Daily Dish

The inside scoop on food in Los Angeles

Category: Amy Scattergood

Restaurant Spotting: Sauce on Hampton opens in Venice

Photo_3 About a month ago, Sauce on Hampton opened in the former Jimmy's on Hampton space, just off Rose Avenue in Venice. Unless you're a local or a regular at the Santa Monica Farmers Market, where 25-year-old chef-owner Sassan Rostamian (right) gets much of his produce -- or you spend a lot of time at Max Muscle, which is next door -- you might not have noticed. That's because Sauce doesn't have a sign or a website or even an awning yet. 

The menu is simple, with no dish more than $11. For breakfast, there are frittatas and omelets made with organic eggs, and steel-cut oatmeal with flax meal and blueberries. The lunch and dinner menu features salads, tapas (caramelized mushrooms and shallots over polenta cakes), sandwiches (grilled cheese with applewood bacon, tomatoes, red onions and aioli) and burgers.  Among the bigger plates: "Charleston char shiu" pulled pork. The sides are vegetable-oriented, such as sauteed shaved fennel, and quinoa with seasonal vegetables. And for dessert, there's baked quince with saffron-rosewater sauce and yogurt.

Rostamian, who is from Los Angeles and holds a degree in chemistry from UCLA, recently spent 10 months at Rustic Canyon, where he was the lunch chef. Before that, he cooked his way across Europe, doing stints in kitchens in Amsterdam, Rome and Florence. He just hung the pictures he took of Dutch tulips on Friday, in the tiny (15- by 12-foot) dining room. You can sit outside too, if you don't mind sharing the sidewalk with parked skateboards. The little restaurant does a lot of takeout business, and this is Venice, after all.

Sauce on Hampton, 259 Hampton Drive, Venice. (310) 399-5400. (Website under construction.) Open daily, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

-- Amy Scattergood

Photo of Sassan Rostamian in front of Sauce on Hampton, by Amy Scattergood.

More notes from Iowa: La Quercia report

PlattertightSunday's New York Times Magazine featured a great story by Christine Muhlke on La Quercia prosciutto and the Iowa couple who make it, Herb and Kathy Eckhouse. Click here to read it. I got to know the Eckhouses when I wrote a profile of them in 2007, and Herb's been keeping me posted about his Acorn Edition ever since. When I e-mailed to send congrats on more good press, he sent back this progress report:

"We brought in 88 acorn-fed pigs this year.  Our organic Prosciutto Green Label got rave reviews at the San Francisco Fancy Food Show -- this meat comes from Jude Becker's farm. We're close to finishing our addition [to the factory]. It gives us more room to manage the aging of our prosciutto and to make more of our new meats -- rolled pancetta and coppa. We're proud to live in the state that gave Barack Obama his first victory on the way to the presidency."

Politics being second only to pigs on the priority list of many Iowans. Here's a picture Herb sent along, which shows "some of almost everything we make." 

La Quercia, 400 Hakes Drive, Norwalk, Iowa.  (515) 981-1625.  www.laquercia.us

-- Amy Scattergood

Photo: Courtesy of La Quercia.

Making chicharrónes de queso with Jimmy Shaw

Chicharrones1_2Aren't these almost too pretty to eat?

They're the chicharrónes de queso that Lotería Grill's chef-owner Jimmy Shaw cooked on the flat-top the other day, just as his Hollywood restaurant was opening for lunch. As he worked (you'll find the recipe here), he talked about eating the snack in his hometown of Mexico City, where it's commonly served in restaurants. 

After Shaw shaped the hot grilled Monterey Jack into the sculpture on the left, which is how the appetizer is served, he kept going, forming more chicharrónes around a big metal rolling pin and dropping them into pint glasses, like bistro-style pommes frites.

Then he had me make some, the results of which I did not photograph. 

Of course I'm not the only one who loves Shaw's chicharrónes. The first time I tried them, I spotted LA Weekly's Jonathan Gold and his family at an adjoining table. Here's Gold's review of the restaurant--and the chicharrónes.

Seems we all love those bits of melted cheese.

Lotería Grill Hollywood, 6627 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 465-2500; www.loteriagrill.com.

-- Amy Scattergood

Photo of chicharrónes de queso by Amy Scattergood.

A 'Top Chef' birthday party

Topchef_3Kids' birthday parties are already kind of like reality television shows (endurance tests, sleep deprivation, food fights), so a "Top Chef" theme party is a stroke of genius. That's how my daughter and her friends from school celebrated Paysie's 11th birthday this past weekend. 

The 16 girls began by decorating aprons at art stations set up in the kitchen. Then they were divided up into groups of four (appetizer, side dish, main dish, dessert), and driven to a nearby Ralph's to shop for food. Back home, the fifth-graders prepped, cooked, assembled and presented dishes of their own design...

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Bento boxes for kids' lunches

Photo A few weeks ago, I wrote a lunchbox story about ways to jazz up your packed meal. One thing I didn't mention was something I've discovered while packing lunches for my two kids: bento boxes. Lunch in a bento box is a Japanese tradition (both at home and in restaurants), and depending on the time you spend and the kind of bento box you have -- some are very ornate -- it can be a real art form.  But what I like the most about bento boxes, aside from how pretty they make things look with relatively little effort, is that they're green. No product packaging, no Baggies, no tin foil. (Okay, so I wrapped the chocolate-dipped madeleines, but I ran out of room!)

I pack very simple bento boxes, with plain containers I found at Mitsuwa Marketplace. They're dishwasher and microwave safe, and -- most important -- they come with secure lids that clip down to prevent spilling. These have dividers too; more elaborate bento boxes have even more compartments. I use cupcake papers to keep things organized (most kids do not appreciate their food migrating) and try and use as little of those as possible. I pack little chopsticks, and pick up the free soy sauce packets at the Japanese market. The sushi I make myself, since Sophie only wants rice in hers, but you can buy inexpensive vegetable sushi (and even precooked rice) in the market coolers if you're in a hurry. For kids who aren't Japanese food fans, the boxes are great for housing bread and cheese, fruit, little sandwiches or anything else you can think of. And they stack very nicely into most lunchboxes or bags. Best of all, my kids think the boxes are so much fun that they often volunteer to make their lunches themselves. 

Bento boxes, about $6 at Mitsuwa Marketplace; 3760 Centinela Ave., Santa Monica, (310) 398-2113, and five other Los Angeles and Orange County locations. Note that the Little Tokyo store is closing Sunday. Bento boxes are also widely available at other Japanese groceries and shops. 

-- Amy Scattergood

Photo by Amy Scattergood

Cooking with grains: cookbook kismet

New_whole_grains_cookbook_covNo, kismet is not one of the terrific grains I discuss in today's Get Cooking series story -- although it sounds like it could be, along with quinoa, farro, bulgur, amaranth and millet. Kismet is a Turkish term for fate, which is the word I'd use to describe why this particular book (pictured at left) turned up on my desk Monday, in an envelope from its publisher.

There are many good books out there about whole grain baking (Peter Reinhart's "Whole Grain Breads," King Arthur Flour's "Whole Grain Baking"); here's a terrific one, by Minneapolis-based author and cooking teacher Robin Asbell, about whole grain cooking.

Aspell's cookbook (her first) includes helpful descriptions of grains and a cooking chart, as well as many creative, easy-to-follow recipes such as sweet breakfast tabbouleh, wheat-berry ricotta cake, and quinoa with pepitas and cilantro.  So if my story gets you started, or reminds you of how rewarding it can be to cook with grains, here's a place to find even more ideas.

Got a favorite grain cookbook? Tell us about it.

"The New Whole Grains Cookbook: Terrific Recipes Using Farro, Quinoa, Brown Rice, Barley, and Many Other Delicious and Nutritious Grains" by Robin Asbell; photographs by Caren Alpert. Chronicle Books: $19.95.

-- Amy Scattergood

Book jacket cover photo courtesy of Chronicle Books

40 ways to make a sack lunch you wouldn't dream of trading


Just because the expense-account lunch is largely a thing of the past doesn't mean that you can't still enjoy the meal, even celebrate it. Instead of depending on the kindness of menus, use a little homespun imagination.

Thinking outside the lunch box is probably the best way of getting anything good inside it.

In the comfort of your own kitchen, you can compose a lunch that's tasty, well-constructed, a bit off the beaten PB&J track -- and, most important, portable. Imagine that you're packing a picnic.

Here, Times staff writer Amy Scattergood shows you how: She's put together a list of 40 ways (plus a few more) to make that sack lunch something you'd look forward to.

But what's your favorite way to spice up your lunch box?

Photo credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

The joy of zhough

Book Readers often e-mail us to ask about favorite cookbooks or recipes or dishes we always come back to. Well, over the weekend, I made what is probably my answer to all three. It's zhough, a green chile paste from Yemen that I first discovered in the pages of Deborah Madison's 2002 cookbook, Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating from America's Farmers' Markets

It's a simple sauce, something like a cross between a pesto and a salsa verde, but hotter than either and with an intricate flavor profile -- a tangible spice route, with Middle Eastern and North African footprints. Madison's recipe is simple (see below): fresh green chiles, cilantro and parsley, garlic, black pepper, cardamom, cumin and caraway are all blended together with a bit of salt and olive oil.

I use a combination of jalapenos, serranos and Anaheims, and I toast the black pepppercorns, cumin and caraway seeds in a saucepan before I grind them in a spice grinder and put them in with everything else in a food processor. I also quadruple the recipe ... 

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Craig Strong's mini canelés

Bestcaneles_2Craig Strong, chef de cuisine of the Langham, Huntington Hotel & Spa, began his career as a pastry chef, which means that -- unlike many chefs de cuisine -- he makes his own desserts and pastries. Like these awesome mini canelés, which Strong has made every day he's been at work for the last eight years. As one might expect, they're very good. After I did a recent profile of Strong, the chef was gracious enough to give me his recipe. Here it is, with a picture of the cakes and the little silicone molds that you bake them in.  Unlike many canelé recipes, this one does not require expensive copper molds or hard-to-find beeswax.

Here's the recipe (after the jump), which is in grams. Like many pastry chefs, particularly those who've trained in or are from Europe -- Strong worked in Barcelona for 3 years -- Strong writes his recipes in weight measurements. Baking recipes written in weights tend to be much more accurate than those given in measures. You can find conversion charts on the web. But really, if you're the sort of person who is going to make canelés from scratch (canelé molds and all), then you're probably the sort of person who will have a kitchen scale. The inexpensive gadgets are incredibly handy (check out Food Editor Russ Parsons' and my recent list of worth-it kitchen tools), and they convert from ounces to grams too.  And with ingredients so pricey these days, it's worth getting recipes right the first time.

-- Amy Scattergood

Photo of canelés and canelé mold by Amy Scattergood

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Top Times recipes of 2008: Romesco with grilled bread, spring onions and shrimp

RomescowithgrilledshrimpIs romesco becoming the new pesto?

Just as our obsession with Italian cooking turned that Ligurian sauce of basil, nuts and olive oil into a near-staple, the increasing interest in Spanish cooking is doing the same for romesco, essentially peppers, nuts and tomatoes ground together until they’re nearly smooth.

If so, it couldn’t happen to a nicer sauce. "Earthy, toothsome, definitely habit-forming, romesco is rough magic in a bowl," wrote staff writer Amy Scattergood when she developed this recipe for romesco with grilled bread, spring onions and shrimp. In Spain, it’s traditionally served only in the spring, but if you ask us, this is good enough to eat any time. It's also good enough to land on our list of the top L.A. Times recipes of 2008. Here's where the countdown stands.

UPDATE: Some of you wrote to say we made it too difficult to find an accompanying recipe for "basic" romesco, which is the key component in this top dish. Our apologies. Here it is.

Photo credit: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times


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Daily Dish is written by Times staff writers.