Daily Dish

The inside scoop on food in Los Angeles

Category: Books

Draw your grocery list

Grocery list1 (1 of 1) I recently picked up the book/catalog for an exhibition called “Lists: To-Dos, Illustrated Inventories, Collected Thoughts and Other Artists’ Enumerations from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art,” edited by Liza Kirwin. It immediately made me want to stop making any kind of list on the computer or smartphone: dull, dull dull compared to these handwritten, drawn or typed lists that bristle with personality and well, life.

Here’s Picasso’s familiar handwriting, fat and assertive in pencil, Packing list, drawn listing the painters he thinks should be invited to the 1913 Armory show in New York. Or sculptor Alexander Calder’s 1930 address book, just the addresses in Paris written out in a loopy beautiful hand in brown ink. Or this circa 1962 packing list from realist painter Adolf Konrad in which he draws every item to be packed for a trip. Ha! Love that one.

It inspired me to pick up a pencil and draw a grocery list, which I found highly entertaining. What about it? Give up the smart devices, words too, and draw what you need.

Breakfast drawing Need another source of inspiration? "Obsessive Consumption" collects the purchase drawings from Kate Bingaman Burt. For three years, she drew nearly everything she bought. And it’s all here in this mesmerizing (and cautionary) book for everyone to behold.

“Lists: Thoughts and Other Artists’ Enumerations from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art,” by Liza Kirwin (Princeton Architectural Press, New York, 2010, $24.95)

“Obsessive Consumption: What Did You Buy Today?” by Kate Bingaman Burt (Princeton Architectural Press, New York, 2010, $19.95).


Turntable Kitchen

New food vendors at Santa Monica Farmers Markets

S. Irene Virbila's All-American dinner


-- S. Irene Virbila

Top right illustration: Packing list. Credit: Adolf Conrad

Top left illustration: Grocery list. Credit: S. Irene Virbila

Bottom illustration: Breakfast at the Tin Shed. Credit: Kate Bingaman Burt


Nigel Slater's 'Toast' coming to Nuart Theatre in October

Food writer and cook Nigel Slater's bestselling memoir Toast: The Story of a Boy's Hunger, an autobiographical account of his childhood told through food -- 1960s British food, that is -- was made into a film by Ruby Films for BBC1 in 2010, starring Helena Bonham-Carter and Freddie Highmore.

Clancy Sigal, who reviewed the book for the Los Angeles Times in 2004, says "I don't know when I laughed so hard at such a poignant story as Nigel Slater's boyhood.... Among its many delights, his memoir is an easily digestible lesson in how to let your stomach heal your hungry heart" (read the full review here).

The film will be showing at the Nuart Theatre for one week, starting on Oct. 7.

Nuart Theatre, 11272 Santa Monica Blvd., West L.A., (310) 281-8223, landmarktheatres.com.


Shin-Sen-Gumi to open in Little Tokyo

Atwater Crossing Kitchen to open for dinner

Pancake floor pillows

--Caitlin Keller

Illustrated Guide to Cocktails

Cocktail-book-13 When it gets harder and harder to sell a book to ever more cautious publishers, what to do? 

Publish it yourself.

That’s what Washington, D.C., illustrator Elizabeth Graeber and Washington City Paper writer Orr Shtuhl have done with their quirky and wonderful “Illustrated Guide to Cocktails.”

What fun Graeber must have had illustrating cocktails like Blood & Sand or White Russian.

But it's not all pictures. The book revels in the stories behind each cocktail: "Strong, sweet, and bitter -- a good cocktail has the intrigue of an alluring drama, the joy of a salty-sweet dessert, and the sin of a vice,” writes Shtuhl. “From the raucous innkeepers of the 18th century to the gangster bootleggers of Prohibition, liquor has always had a dark side, and cocktails are the keepers of its lore. Some creation legends include tales of the New York gangster and poker hustler Jack Rose, the Cocktail-book-18 famous matador film Blood and Sand, and a club dancer named Margarita Carmen that eventually became the pin-up actress known as Rita Hayworth."

Buy it on Etsy for $25. It’s a slender 38 pages (with recipes), but think of it this way: that’s two cocktails at most bars.

Check out Graeber’s website, www.elizabethgraeber.com, for prints and drawings for sale, including a set of pen and ink drawings of the Beatles.


Axe reopens

Perch at Pershing Square

Tsujita L.A.

Caffeine, the good, the bad and the ugly 

Coffee in L.A.: Above and beyond a cup of joe 

-- S. Irene Virbila


Illustrations: Elizabeth Graeber, www.elizabethgraeber.com

Gardener Alert: Two heirloom festivals in September


The first ever National Heirloom Exposition will be held Sept. 13-15 at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds. This “World’s Fair” of the heirloom industry, sponsored in part by Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co., will also feature "dozens of seed companies, garden tool companies, and garden accessory craftsmen and their wares from throughout the U.S. as well as plants and plant starts, garden-inspired art and organic, natural and original food items.” 

There will be cooking demonstrations with chefs (including Jeremy Fox, formerly of Ubuntu in Napa), educational seminars, film screenings and 200 or more booths — plus tastings of heirloom vegetables from around the country. Speakers will include Alice Waters, founder of the Edible Schoolyard, and  Vandana Shiva, founder of Navdanya, a movement to protect the diversity and integrity of living resources, especially native seeds.  

Hayground Organic Farm’s Jimmy Williams, a regular at the Santa Monica and Hollywood farmers markets, will be there along with co-author and garden writer Susan Heeger, giving a talk and signing “From Seed to Skillet: A Guide to Growing, Tending, Harvesting, and Cooking Up Fresh, Healthy Food to Share with People You Love” (Chronicle Books, $30).

Continue reading »

Restaurant critic S. Irene Virbila finds 'The Obama' pizza in Paris

Meg1 When I was in Paris last month, I arrived on the same day the collaborative Paris food blog Paris by Mouth was celebrating its first anniversary. The picnic was at Canal St. Martin in the 10th arrondissement, a couple of blocks, as it turns out, from my hotel.

Jet lag hadn’t clobbered me yet, so I ambled over for the festivities, where I met the blog’s founder and co-editor, Meg Zimbeck, and her co-editor, Barbra Austin (wearing a paper crown for the occasion). Pastry chef and food blogger extraordinaire David Lebovitz was in attendance. Cookbook author Dorie Greenspan showed up wearing some quirky eyeglasses. And a little later,  Patricia Wells joined the group and poured some of the quite delicious Côtes-du-Rhône made on her Chanteduc estate in Provence. She was in town to work on an app for her early book "Food Lover’s Guide to Paris." I also met food writer Jane Segal, who was once Wells’ assistant in Paris. We all sat (or stood) by the canal, talking and enjoying the beautiful day.

At a certain point, Meg ordered pizza from Pink Flamingo Pizza, specifically “the Canal1 (1 of 1) Obama,” which has bacon and pineapple chutney (for Hawaii) on top. Actually, the combination is fun, especially on the thin crust made with organic flour and good sea salt. And -- get this -- the pie was delivered right to the picnic site.

Here’s Meg showing off “the Obama.” And here’s a link to her earlier blog post about the pizzas. It turns out it’s standard practice for the pizzeria to deliver to Canal St. Martin. Who knew? On warm evenings, the banks are lined with neighborhood folks enjoying an impromptu pique-nique with wine. If only I could get Stella Rossa Pizza Bar or Sotto or the new Pizzeria il Fico to deliver to the beach! 

Looking for a budget meal in Paris? This is it.

Pink Flamingo Pizza, 7 rue Bichat, 10th arrondissement, Paris; 011-33/1-42-02-31-70; Métro Jacques Bonsergent. Closed Monday.


Where to find snail roe (and just about everything else) in Las Vegas

Deep-fried fun at the L.A. County Fair

An affront to the good name of 'bacon'

-- S. Irene Virbila

Follow me on twitter.com/sirenevirbila

Photo credit: S. Irene Virbila / Los Angeles Times


Tamasin Day-Lewis on jewels and radishes

Hemmerle CORNHemmerle STEAK 

Tamasin Day-Lewis — English chef, food writer and sister of "There Will Be Blood" star Daniel Day-Lewis — and the design house of Hemmerle have collaborated to conceive "Delicious Jewels," a book that simultaneously explores the tastes, textures, shapes and bold colors of both jewelry making and cooking, two different but equally eminent art forms. [Updated 11 a.m. July 18: An earlier version of this post described Hemmerle as a publishing house.]

"Both rely on technique, long experience and tradition, purism and originality without pretentiousness," says Day-Lewis. She adds, "Elegant simplicity at best, both are beautiful to the eye and a joy to the senses."

In celebration of summer and its agricultural offerings, we've asked Day-Lewis to share her thoughts on the recently released book, her favorite California eats, and what she's cooking up this season:

Continue reading »

Paris by mouth: Any dining suggestions for our restaurant critic, S. Irene Virbila?

I’m going to Paris for a four days soon and (way too late) have just begun to think about where I want to eat. What can I say? I've been busy and the time just got away from me. I did manage to snag two reservations this afternoon. Which leaves me with the two most difficult: Sunday and Monday, when many restaurants are closed. I'm stumped.

To research what’s new and interesting, there’s no better site than the year-old Paris by Mouth, a group site and blog from a star-studded lineup of Paris-based food writers. It’s a great resource namely because the contributors really know what they’re talking about. They include journalist and editor Meg Zimbeck, Clotilde Dusoulier (the blogger behind Chocolate & Zucchini and author of what I think is the best guide to Paris eating, “Clotilde’s Edible Adventures in Paris”), Patricia Wells ("Food Lover’s Guide to Paris" and a slew of fine cookbooks) and Alexander Lobrano (former European correspondent for the much-missed Gourmet magazine) as well as cookbook author Dorie Greenspan, author most recently of “Around My French Table,” winner of this years IACP award for best cookbook.

Poke around the site and you’ll find Paris by Mouth’s guide to Paris restaurants divvied up by arrondissement (addresses would help, just a thought). Also Paris pastry shops, bakeries and wine bars, even ice cream shops, all organized by neighborhood. Print the list or lists out to carry with you or make PDFs and stick them in your smart phone.

Meanwhile, anybody have good ideas for places open on Sunday and Monday night? So far, I’ve got the wine bars Le Baron Rouge and the newly expanded Le Verre Volé. At this point I'm hoping I’ll get lucky and one of my friends will invite me to dinner so I won’t have to think about it.

Why can I never remember to avoid Sunday and Monday when planning a trip to Paris?


Paris Tasting Tour: Pastry, Chocolate and Other Sweet Pleasures

The First Time I Saw Paris

Dorie Greenspan Wins Best IACP Cookbook Award

—S. Irene Virbila

Photo credit: Paris, as seen from the foot of the Eiffel Tower. (Associated Press /Remy de la Mauviniere)

Restaurant critic S. Irene Virbila has her summer projects lined up

Stove 1 (1 of 1) Cleaning up my office, I found an old notebook from a few years ago in which I listed summer cooking projects — jams, granita, Santa Maria barbecue (I'd just purchased a Santa Maria-style grill from Santa Maria BBQ Grill Outfitters on the Central Coast).

Time to revive the idea of summer cooking projects.

This is what I'm thinking for this year (so far). I want to cook more Middle Eastern food. It's great for entertaining because mezze (all those lovely small dishes) can be served pretty much at room temperature. I remember going on a cooking jag in my 20s with a used copy of Claudia Roden's "Middle Eastern Food." I now have the updated tome called "The New Book of Middle Eastern Food." And I'm tempted by her recipes for tepsi boregi (creamy filo cheese pie), Tunisian brik, bulgur salads, flatbreads and saffron rice pudding.

But I have quite a few more cookbooks to explore. One of them is Rodin's “Arabesque: A Taste of Morocco, Turkey, and Lebanon” (Knopf, 2006, 352 pages, $37.50). Also, “Artichoke to Za’atar: Modern Middle Eastern Food” by Australian chef Greg Malouf. He’s also published several large-format books with gorgeous photography exploring Turkey, Iran, Lebanon and Syria. I’ve also cooked some from Boston chef Ana Sortun's “Spice: Flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean" and want to do more.

I've laid in my spices -- za'atar, sumac, and more from Penzey's Spices in Santa Monica -- and planted Greek oregano, marjoram, and a bay laurel tree for bay leaves.

I'm remembering long-ago dinners in Istanbul where we'd nibble on mezze, smoke, taste a few more dishes between sips of raki, an anise-flavored spirit similar to pastis or ouzo. No more smoking for me, but my idea this summer is to get up and put on a record between rounds of mezze. Eat, listen, eat, look at the stars.

And what are your summer cooking projects?


113 wine picks

Beard Awards: Jose Andres wins top chef, another SoCal shutout

A sneak peek at Echo Park's Mohawk Bend

 -- S. Irene Virbila

Illustration: S. Irene Virbila / Los Angeles Times

'Drinking Japan: A Guide to Japan's Best Drinks and Drinking Establishments'

JapanThere are many things to love about Japan, but its exceptional bars and drinking culture are among the things at the top of my list.

Anyone with the same yen (heh) for Tokyo-and-beyond bars should check out "Drinking Japan: A Guide to Japan's Best Drinks and Drinking Establishments." Written by Chris Bunting after a year and a half of research (i.e., drinking his way across Japan) and published by Tuttle in April, the book combines a guide to Japanese spirits with reviews of the bars devoted to them. Bunting (like many others) calls Japan "the best place to drink alcohol in the world," populated with tiny bars that are specialist temples for a particular drink of choice -- single-malt Scotch, bourbon, rum, beer, sake, Calvados, Korean rice wine, you name it.

The main chapters are divided by Japanese spirit -- sake, shochu, Okinawan awamori, beer, whiskeys -- and the bars that serve it. I headed directly for the whiskeys chapter, which delves into history, background on the seven single-malt distilleries in Japan, and descriptions of 17 whiskey bars, including the Mash Tun, Bar Caol Ila, Cask, Main Malt and Speyside Way (which serves handmade chocolate and house-smoked bacon with its pours). 

A chapter on "Other Great Bars" includes Kazuo Uyeda's Tokyo cocktail mecca Tender (home of the "hard shake") but also less-internationally-known Yakushu (home of yakushu, or "medicinal alcohol," sometimes containing lizards) and Pub Red Hill. "My favorite bar in Japan," Bunting says of the latter. Maybe not for its range of alcohol but because "Hisayo Miyakoshi's backstreet pub is filled to overflowing with another quality -- warmth .... There is a friendly welcome for everyone who successfully navigates Asahimachi's maze of alleyways. The interior is ethnic and the music, like the food, is eclectic. For a drinking snack, try the handmade smoked cheese or the pickles."  

A section on speaking "bar Japanese" is helpful. When in doubt, point and say, "Sore onegai shimasu." I'll have one of those.  

A few of my favorite Tokyo bars (not included in "Drinking Japan"):

Continue reading »

Editing down: Just 10 cookbooks

Infinicam_Photo_0004 I was having dinner with my friend Angela, a book agent and one of the best cooks I know, and somehow the conversation drifted to cookbooks and I guess clutter. She casually mentioned that a few years ago she’d decided to purge her cookbook collection, allowing herself just 10 books. Ten! 

How did that work out?

She’s been incredibly disciplined, actually. When a new one comes in, an old one has to leave the house. I’m impressed.

I must have hundreds of titles, and many more stashed in my office at the Times. Many I intend to read. Many I have never read. Some I have on hand just in case -- I need to know the history of 18th century bread baking in Paris or the spelling of a Lithuanian dish. Many I consult often -- Larousse Gastronomique, an Italian food encyclopedia, cheese primers, wine books. 

Still, I could use more shelf space for other books and maybe get the piles of art books and novels off the floor. But edit my library down to 10 cookbooks? I know I can’t do it.

I have given away some books in the past, and inevitably a few months later I’m searching frantically for that very cookbook.  But the idea of going through them and saving the very best, the most useful, the most learned won’t leave my head. Realistically, I should ask myself, am I ever going to crack this particular book again? I don’t know, honestly.

Can I make a list of essential reading? Or essential cooking? Author’s voices that soothe and encourage? I’m not going to do anything rash. I’m just going to think about it. How about you?

-- S. Irene Virbila

Photo credit: S. Irene Virbila /Los Angeles Times 


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Daily Dish is written by Times staff writers.