Daily Dish

The inside scoop on food in Los Angeles

Category: Desserts

What's in the box at Father's Office?


If you've been to Father's Office recently and noticed small cardboard boxes showing up at nearby tables and have wondered what's in them, they're cupcakes. Yes, F.O. owner Sang Yoon makes cupcakes. Or his pastry chef John Park does. 

Until now, Father's Office didn't offer desserts, sometimes notoriously, because it also doesn't allow outside desserts to be brought in, such as a cake for a birthday. So now you can celebrate with cupcakes. Or ice cream sandwiches. 

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Critic S. Irene Virbila cools it with an affogato

Affogato (1 of 1) When Alto Palato, the late great West Hollywood Italian restaurant was still open and I lived around the corner, on hot summer days when the ceiling fan just wasn’t cutting it, I would sometimes slip over to the restaurant’s bar for an affogato. That would be ice cream "drowned" in espresso.

Gino Rendoni, longtime manager at Angelini Osteria, was the barista then. At the time, Alto Palato was practically the only place to get a good espresso. (L.A. has come a long, long way since those days.) And an affogato made with his espresso was superb.

Now I sometimes make it at home. The first requirement is a good vanilla gelato or ice cream. Don’t even think about using other flavors. Sometimes I have some I’ve made leftover, or if not, I’ll go with Ben & Jerry’s basic or Dr. Bob's vanilla. Put a scoop in a cup or small bowl and pour freshly made espresso over the top--not too much or the ice cream will melt under the onslaught, about the equivalent of a short espresso.

 That’s it. Consume immediately.


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—S. Irene Virbila

Photo credit: S. Irene Virbila/Los Angeles Times


Today's no-bake dessert recipe: Cayenne Cafe's citrus tiramisu


Today's no-bake dessert recipe from the L.A. Times Test Kitchen: Cayenne Cafe's citrus tiramisu.

This recipe came to us after Judy Hollander of Los Angeles wrote to Culinary SOS to ask for it after enjoying the dessert at the Beverly Boulevard cafe:

"We were all licking the plate. It was one of the most delicious and unique dishes we have had in a long time. It was light and moist, and I would love to have the recipe to be able to make it during the summer."

Luckily, Cayenne Cafe was willing to share the recipe with Times Test Kitchen manager Noelle Carter.


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Free food: Früute opens on Saturday in WeHo


Früute comes to West Hollywood on Saturday, with tarts gratuit for all who want to come and get 'em from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. during the shop's grand opening.

A family affair, Yolanda Santosa has collaborated with her mother and younger sister to open a pastry shop a la tart on Santa Monica Boulevard, creating edible works of art.

Their 18 signature tarts are hand-made from scratch daily. Featured offerings include the budino, with creamy butterscotch pudding in a chocolate crust, topped with a caramel-filled macaroon; the piña colada, a tropical burst of pineapple, coconut and rum in a coconut sprinkled crust, topped with a blackberry and gooseberry; the mont blanc, caramelized banana with a hint of rum in a chocolate crust, topped with caramel wafer, chestnut cream swirl and pistachio; and the araguani, with araguani chocolate in a chocolate crust, topped with rose petal and gold leaf.

Tarts are $3 each, $12 for a box of four or $24 for a box of eight.

8951 Santa Monica Blvd., Ste. A, West Hollywood, (310) 786-9983, www.fruute.com.


Frozen blackberry souffle

Battle of the Burgers

Buzz wine shop opens

-- Caitlin Keller

Photo credit: Früute

Times restaurant critic S. Irene Virbila's Sunday dessert: lemon curd tart

Verbena edit 2 (1 of 1) Meyer lemons are thick on the tree by my stairs. I planted it a couple of years ago and it is thriving. Sometimes I make Moroccan preserved lemons from Paula Wolfert's recipe in "Couscous and Other Good Food From Morocco," one of my most treasured cookbooks.

On this past gray Sunday when I was home working, I decided to make a lemon curd tart to cheer up the table. The recipe calls for a 1/2 cup of lemon juice, plus 4 eggs, a 1/2 cup of sugar and 6 tablespoons butter, all of which I had on hand. The only thing I needed (and it's optional to serve with the pie) was some Straus Family Creamery cream. But since I didn’t feel like going out shopping, I just used the crema Mexicana I already had in the fridge.

The recipe I always use is one from Times Food Editor Russ Parsons in his article The Smooth Simplicity of Curd. He’s developed the foolproof method for making the curd, which can sometimes be tricky. Read the article and he’ll explain. I think the trick is the cold butter.

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Trails Cafe: Grab a bite after your hike

Trails300 July marks the six-year anniversary of Trails Cafe, a favorite stop for Griffith Park regulars and out-of-town visitors alike. The cafe's ultra-small setting can be a baker's challenge, but this before- or after-hike stop still manages to pull off an efficiently run production. Its baked goods are made in house, from scratch daily. Scones, quiches, galettes, pies and cookies, with daily changing flavors, are on display in the cafe's windows for the indecisive to "ohh" and "ahh" at while waiting in line to order. Stumptown Coffee is a recent addition to the menu, and as of late, weekend specials include homemade ice cream. There are vegan options too. 2333 Fern Dell Drive, L.A., (323) 871-2102, thetrailslosfeliz.com.


The pleasures of verbena

Good food at LAX?

Vote for your favorite burger

-- Caitlin Keller

Photo: Trails Cafe sign. Credit: Michelle Youssefzadeh

Times restaurant critic S. Irene Virbila on summery lemon verbena

Verbena In a corner of the garden I have a lemon verbena bush that I love for its fragrance. Touch a leaf and your fingers carry the lemony scent for hours. That characteristic is why the Spanish carried the South American native back to Europe for use in perfume making. 

Sometimes I use a single leaf to decorate a lemon curd tart. Combined with mint it makes a fragrant and soothing herbal tea. (Make it in a glass teapot, the better to appreciate its light citron color.) You can also crush a couple of leaves between your fingers and add to a gin and tonic. 

Just this week I came across two desserts using lemon verbena. M.B. Post in Manhattan Beach is serving strawberry-verbena shortcake with whipped vanilla cream. And Son of a Gun Restaurant on 3rd Street in L.A. has pound cake with lemon verbena cream on the menu.

The plant grows fast, almost leaping toward the sun. But in winter, the leaves fall off and it becomes a thatch of twigs. I prune it a little to give it some shape. And sure enough, every spring, my lemon verbena sprouts leaves again and blossoms. The delicate white flowers make a pretty garnish.

Verbena thrives as a potted plant, too, as long as you put it in a big enough pot. I've been wanting to plant a series of pots inspired by the profusion of lemon verbena at a luxurious bed and breakfast in Puglia in southern Italy, Convento di Santa Maria di Costantinopoli in Marittimo di Diso.

I wanted to post a photo of tall terracotta urns that formed a screen around one of the outdoor dining areas there, but I can't find my Puglia photos. Where are those photos? I have absolutely no idea.


Southern Italy’s Adriatic Boot: Puglia 

Tweeting butchers

Sweet almonds

Heart Attack Grill

—S. Irene Virbila

Photo: S. Irene Virbila / Los Angeles Times 

Paper or Plastik Cafe: More than just a cup of joe

The coffee condiments sit atop an old Deluxe television set amid the cafe's industrial setting with high ceilings, copper fixtures and a glass-paneled storefront. A joint venture between Anya and Yasha Michelson, along with daughter Marina, Paper or Plastik Cafe is a neighborhood coffee shop and the heart of a community hub.

The goods come from all over town; coffee from Intelligentsia Coffee and Ecco Caffe; pastries (homemade pop-tarts, pies, croissants) from Cake Monkey, Sweets for the Soul, Sweet Lady Jane and Le Pain du Jour; and a rotating menu of sandwiches and salads from Auntie Em's Kitchen and Breadbar.

There's even a playful ad campaign touching on the cafe's function as a multidisciplinary arts space.  With coffee as its core, the Mid-City cafe aims to serve the community as an artistic center, providing an outlet for visual and tactile performing arts.

5772 W. Pico Blvd., L.A., 323-935-0268



Vote, or else

A purse for your fortune

-- Caitlin Keller

Video credit: Paperorplastikcafe.tumblr.com

It's National Macaro(o)n Day: Where to get some


Whether you spell the dainty French buttercream-, jam- or ganache-filled colorful sandwich cookies with one ‘o’ or two, today is National Macaro(o)n Day. And you don’t have to drop everything and hop across the pond to enjoy these treats at famous Parisian maisons like Ladurée or Pierre Hermé. Angelenos are in luck as there are plenty of macaron masters scattered throughout this city, offering a delectable collection of confections from the color –- and flavor -– spectrum, on its dedicated holiday … or whenever:

Jin Patisserie: Tahitian vanilla, yuzu and chocolate mint are a sampling of the distinct macaron flavors created by Kristy Choo at her Abbot Kinney storefront. 1202 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, (310) 399-8801, jinpatisserie.com.

Lette Macarons: Macaron enthusiast Paulette Koumetz and pastry chef Christophe Michalak offer what they describe as a kaleidoscopic selection of macarons at their Beverly Hills shop: Earl Grey tea, Sicilian pistachio, Colombian coffee. 9466 Charleville Blvd. at Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills, (310) 275-0023, lettemacarons.com.

Hotcakes Bakes: A Parisian native, owner Elfie Weiss studied cuisson at prominent bakeries Gerard Mulot and Ladurée. Try the coconut, strawberry or S'more. 4119 S. Centinela Ave., Los Angeles, (310) 397-2324, hotcakesbakes.com.

XT Patisserie: Pastry chef Xuan Ngo was born in Vietnam but grew up in France, baking his way to Los Angeles, where he perfected the macaron at Boule in Beverly Hills. Flavors like hazelnut, orange blossom and passion fruit are available online and at the South Pasadena and Larchmont farmers markets through Sugarbird Sweets. Xtpatisserie.com.

Bottega Louie: The long glass dessert case at the entrance of the establishment boasts an array of elegantly decorated pastries including beautiful, brightly colored macarons like the mandarin, cassis and salted caramel. 700 S. Grand Ave. L.A., (213) 802-1470; bottegalouie.com.

Little Next Door: The artisan marketplace features a boulangerie, and the Parisian-like ambiance is perfect for enjoying a macaron, or two. Cookie creations include dulce de leche, chocolate and raspberry. 8164 W. 3rd St., L.A., (323) 951-0487, thelittledoor.com.

La Provence: With locations in Brentwood and Beverly Hills, the café produces more than 10 flavors such as lavender, rose and pumpkin spice, to name a few. 8950 W. Olympic Blvd., Beverly Hills, (310) 888-8833, laprovencecafe.com.

--Caitlin Keller

Photo: Macarons. Credit: Bernhard Winkelmann

Ready for summer's pies: Woolly pig leaf lard

Yesterday I was browsing through my Twitter feed at warp speed when the words "Mangalitsa" and "lard" brought me to a screeching halt. Evan Kleiman (@evankleiman), host of KCRW's "Good Food," had tweeted or re-tweeted that McCall’s Meat & Fish Co. on Hillhurst Avenue in Los Feliz is now selling Mangalitsa leaf lard.

Fantastic! I’ve been lugging the same leaf lard home from Seattle’s U-District Farmers Market, where Heath Putnam Farms sells bacon and lard from Hungary’s Mangalitsa (MON-go-leet-sa), or woolly pig. The curly-headed beast is closely related to Europe’s wild boars and has a thick layer of particularly tasty fat, which, according to what I’ve read, is less saturated than that from many other breeds.

After rendering the fat, I used some in every pie crust I made all last summer. The snowy-white lard makes an ineffably flaky crust that has to be tasted to be believed. I’m just about out, so the fact that McCall’s is now selling the stuff is a wonderful thing.

Since the butcher shop is owned by a couple who are both chefs, I asked Nathan McCall and Karen Yoo how they would use the lard.  Nathan said Karen made a batch of biscuits to test the lard.  “They were excellent, easily the most moist and flaky biscuit I’ve eaten," he said. "I've also heard it makes an exceptional pie crust.”

On the savory side, he plans to try duck and pork confit, carnitas, even a quick-cured halibut confit. “I will definitely try utilizing it anywhere I would use duck fat, like beans, potatoes, braised cippolini, fries. The possibilities seem to be endless.” 

McCall’s Meat & Fish Co., 2117 Hillhurst Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 667-0674; woolly pig leaf lard is $5 for a half-pound.

Heath Putnam Farms, (253) 833-7591; sells bacon and lard on Saturdays at Seattle’s U-District Farmers Market.

— S. Irene Virbila

Photo of woolly pig courtesy of Heath Putnam Farms


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Daily Dish is written by Times staff writers.