Daily Dish

The inside scoop on food in Los Angeles

Category: Farmers Market

'Food and Food Systems in the 21st Century' at UCLA's Fowler Museum

Food collage NEW

On Aug. 11, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., TedxLA Miracle Mile presents "Food and Food Systems in the 21st Century" at UCLA's Fowler Museum.

Spawned from the nonprofit organization TED, TEDx is a program of independently organized events that bring together people from the worlds of technology, entertainment and design (hence the name TED) to engage in the sharing and spreading of ideas. Next month's TEDx gathering at the Fowler will examine food and food production on a local and globalized scale. Speakers will address what is obsolete and what is up to par -- politically, socially, economically and culturally -- in the context of today's rapidly growing human population.

The event will be a merging of minds with guest speakers such as Jason Kelly Johnson and Nataly Gattegno of Future Cities Lab and Jonathan Todd of John Todd Ecological Design. Also joining in on the discussion of food will be Tara Kolla of Silver Lake Farms, Ken and Kathy Lindner of Lindner Bison, Laura Avery of Santa Monica Farmers Market and "Righteous Porkchop" author Nicolette Hahn Niman, among others.

The daylong event includes a pre-event mixer with access to the museum, a catered box lunch by Auntie Em's Kitchen and a post-event wine and cheese reception. Tickets are $60 for general admission or $48 for students, seniors and Fowler Museum members.

308 Charles E. Young Drive North, L.A., (310) 825-4361, fowler.ucla.edu.

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Photos: From left, Tara Kolla, Ken and Kathy Lindner, Laura Avery.

Credit: Tedxaltavistala.com

Market Fresh: Avocados

AvocadoThere are many reasons to love living in California, but ranking high among them are the avocados. Sure, you can find avocados everywhere these days. But only here can you find any variety.

For the most part, when you're talking about commercial avocados, you're talking about Hass. And truth be told, it really is about as good as anything out there. But sometimes you want to try something a little different.

In Southern California farmers markets right now, you can also find Fuertes, Bacons, Zutanos and Pinkertons. The first three are Mexican avocados, which are usually harvested from January until May. They tend to be smooth-skinned and a little lighter green; they also usually are lower in fat. Hass and Pinkerton have a Guatemalan heritage. They are usually rounder in shape, with a pebbly skin that's darker in color; especially right now, at the peak harvest, they are lusciously high in fat.

How to choose: Really ripe avocados will give when they are squeezed gently. Use your palm, not your fingers. Usually, you're better off buying avocados that are quite firm, even hard, and ripening them at home. It'll take only a couple of days, and it will keep you from getting stuck with fruit that's been badly bruised by overenthusiastic shoppers.

How to store: Keep avocados at room temperature until they are fully ripe. Once they've been cut open, they need to be consumed quickly -- the flesh blackens within hours when exposed to air (this is ugly but harmless).

How to prepare: If you've got really good avocados, even guacamole is too complicated. Instead, peel and pit the avocado and crush it onto warm toast. Sprinkle with salt and season with a good grinding of black pepper.

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Planet Dailies and Mixology 101 host star-studded opening

Jennifer Lopez, Casper Smart and former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger attend the Planet Dailies And Mixology 101 grand opening

Jennifer Lopez, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Cee Lo Green were among the stars who helped celebrate the grand opening of Planet Hollywood founder Robert Earl's newest venue Planet Dailies restaurant and Mixology 101 lounge last night at the Grove Farmers Market.

The celebrity attendees, which included Cat Deeley, Joe Manganiello and Chord Overstreet,   walked a mini blue carpet before heading up the stairs to the second floor of the Farmers Market where the restaurant is located, above Sur La Table. The restaurant and lounge are separated by a large patio with views of the Grove shoppers below.

Guests sipped on cocktails prepared by mixologist Salvatore Calabrese while bobbing their heads to a sneak peek at Jennifer Lopez's new music video, "Dance Again," that played on multiple television screens in the Mixology lounge. Waitresses dressed in electric blue body-con mini dresses circled the room serving the cocktails, including the Grace (Grey Goose La Poire, fresh pear, apple and lemon juices, honey, lemongrass and mint) and Aviation (Beefeater dry gin, Maraschino liqueur, crème de violette and lemon juice).

Orange-and-white picnic-plaid-clad waiters offered a sampling of the restaurant's signature dishes including the Tex-Mex egg rolls, crab and lobster cakes and Kobe beef sliders.

We called it a night around 10:30 but could still hear the party as we walked away. Will what used to be a quiet corner of the shopping center be the next Hollywood-esque hot spot? 

Planet Dailies and Mixology101, 6333 W. 3rd St, Suite O20, Los Angeles.

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Photo, from left: Singer-actress Jennifer Lopez, Casper Smart and former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger attend the Planet Dailies And Mixology 101 grand opening held at Planet Dailies and Mixology 101 on Thursday. Credit: Christopher Polk /Getty Images for Mixology 101

The whole pig: More butchery lessons at Huntington Meats

Suzanne Tracht  will demonstrate how to prepare pork dishes.

In a continuing series of meat-cutting lessons, Jar restaurant chef-owner Suzanne Tracht has teamed with Huntington Meats at the Original Farmer's Market on 3rd Street. The next is Sunday, March 4, and features pork, with butchers John Escobedo and Robert Ore leading an "up close and personal" breakdown of a whole pig. 

Tracht will present menu demonstrations and talk about how to best use different cuts of pork. Topics for discussion are: breaking down a whole pig into primal cuts; pork quality; what to ask your butcher about pork; and recipes and preparation guidelines. Try samples from Tracht’s dishes, including crisp pork belly with kumquat, watercress and fingerling potatoes; braised pork shank with Maui pineapple and star anise; tender pork ribs with apple cider, Szechuan peppercorn and coriander; tamarind and sweet onion salad; and grilled char siu pork chop. 

The two-hour class starts at 6 p.m. Upcoming classes are: lamb on March 25 and beef cuts for spring on April 22. Class price is $125 per per person. Reservations may be made by calling Huntington Meats. 

6333 W. 3rd St., Los Angeles, (323) 938-5383.

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Photo credit: Anne Cusack/Los Angeles Times

Short Cake bakery opens Friday

GanacheThe much anticipated Short Cake bakery opens Friday in the Original Farmers Market on 3rd Street. This is the sweet partner to the Short Order diner located just a few stalls away.

Short Cake bakers Hourie Sahakian and Ramon Ramirez have crafted unique sweet and savory pastries that include croissants, scones, cookies, pies, quiches, cakes and more. The cakes and pies will be made in individual portions (as the name suggests), so there is no need for sharing. The bakery will also be serving savory offerings that are ideal for a quick lunch or dinner, such as quiche with bacon, leek and Comté cheese or bun bread pudding with spinach and mushrooms, and bacon and cheddar croissants.

For the grand opening weekend, the bakery will be giving samples of its signature baked goods,  such as chocolate cardamom cream cake, chiffon cake with orange curd and meringue, and apple cider spice cake and Nik Krankl's Single Origin Cold Brew coffee. In addition, Short Cake will be hosting a book signing with Nancy Silverton for her latest, "The Mozza Cookbook: Recipes From Los Angeles' Favorite Italian Restaurant and Pizzeria," on Sunday from noon to 2 p.m. 

6333 W. 3rd St., No. 316, Los Angeles, (323) 761-7976, www.shortcakela.com.

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5 Questions for Tara Maxey

Tara Maxey 600

Tara Maxey is co-owner of Heirloom LA, a catering company that specializes in fresh pasta and local ingredients. The former wardrobe stylist studied pastry under Suzanne Griswold of Spago and also worked with Cake Monkey Bakery's Elizabeth Belkind. Since opening in 2009, the catering company has wowed Angelenos with its "lasagna cupcakes," added a food truck to its repertoire and is now in the process of opening a tasting room in Eagle Rock.

What’s coming next on your menu? Our holiday menu! Every Monday my dad sets out for McGrath Family Farms in Camarillo to pick up any of their overages. This year they provided us with roughly 8,000 pounds of strawberries, which forced us to come up with a lot of flavor combinations for jam (my favorite: lavender and rosemary), as well as learn how to utilize a dehydrator (strawberry dust maintains its color and flavor). Now we're getting in a gorgeous array of pumpkins and squash that boldly point out the season and possess arresting shapes and stunning hues and flavors that you would never find in corporate agriculture. We're classically pairing these organic beauties with brown butter and sage or vanilla and using them for fillings in our lasagna cupcakes, agnolotti and shepherd’s pies ... and cocktails!

Latest ingredient obsession? Bitters because they scare me. We've been making a lot of cocktails for ourselves over here at Heirloom, something we like to call "research and development," and it occurred to me that bitters, like most extracts used in baking, taste corrosive on their own but have the power to really bring out a different layer to what they are teamed up with provided they are applied well. I'm certain I am not the first person to think about using bitters in baking, but it's a new frontier to me so I am currently obsessed with figuring them out and making them in house.

What restaurant do you find yourself going to again and again? D.J. Olsen prepares a Monday Supper at Lou, executing a three-course chef's tasting menu that is intensely farmers market driven and never disappoints. He finds so much joy in his job and you can taste it. I'd love to say that's where you'll find us each week, but our food truck is at Silverlake Wine on Mondays so it's tough to get away. We do, however, run into D.J. every Wednesday at the Santa Monica farmers market, which is always so inspiring because he rolls with this janky cart full of broken boxes piled on top of one another making you wonder what is up with this guy but on closer inspection you see that he’s accumulated the most coveted produce of the market, which tempts me, every time, to swashbuckle him down to the ground so I can steal his lot, but he’s just so nice, I could never.

What’s your favorite breakfast? A strong yet nuanced cup of joe with a few nibbles of several buttery pastries prepared with superb ingredients and a light hand. Right now, Proof Bakery in Atwater Village is fitting that tall order.

The last cookbook you read – and what inspired you to pick it up? Due to a resume void of culinary school I have amassed an unreasonable amount of cookbooks to quiet any throbbing insecurities that may bubble up and obstruct my to-do list for the day. My favorite is Claudia Fleming's "The Last Course" even though I don’t have this one. It's out of print and out of my budget but I’ve managed to Xerox certain pages of it, most notably her macaroon recipe, which is unrivaled. Santa, I’d like the hard copy.

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Photo credit: George Simian

L.A. artist Alyson Iwamoto's ceramics inspired by farmers market

Radish vase, radish cup and pomegranate vase
Los Angeles ceramic artist Alyson Iwamoto's latest works are inspired by farmers market produce such as winter squash, pomegranates, summer melons and Asian radishes. She creates these vessels with traditional Asian glazes by making plaster molds around a fruit or vegetable and casting them in porcelain. 

Iwamoto's beautiful ceramic representations of fruits and vegetables found in Southern California are available for purchase at the Japanese American National Museum, the Craft and Folk Art Museum and the Pasadena Museum of California Art. Her works, which include a pomegranate vase ($50) and radish cup ($30), will also be on display and for sale at this year's Unique LA event on Dec. 3-4.

Alysoniwamoto.com.

Summer melon bowls

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Upper photo: Radish vase, radish cup and pomegranate vase.

Lower photo: Summer melon bowls. Credit: Alysoniwamoto.com

Fired up with harissa

Harissa1 (1 of 1)Last night, some friends and I cooked a Moroccan feast for a birthday party. My husband and I brought the first courses--roasted eggplant with buttermilk and yogurt sauce and pomegranate seeds from London chef Yotam Ottolenghi's new cookbook "Plenty" (it's the dish on the cover), plus roasted peppers with preserved lemon and capers, and a Moroccan carrot salad from Paula Wolfert's new book "The Food of Morocco."

The Frenchman made couscous his way, more Algerian in style, with lamb shoulder, chicken and merguez sausages he made a special trip to Los Feliz and McCall's Meat and Fish Company to buy. (They were wonderful, by the way.) He put in lots of vegetables, too--zucchini, turnips, onions. And passed two teapots of broth, one dosed with harissa. And that was his secret ingredient -- Mustapha's Moroccan Harissa bought at Monsieur Marcel in the original Farmers Market at Fairfax and Third.

Mustapha's is nothing like the stuff you buy in a tube (though that's something chef and cookbook author David Tanis always travels with). This one is loose in texture, a vivid crimson in color, with a bright, focused heat. Mustapha's is made from Moroccan hot red chilies, red bell pepper, a little tomato, and olive oil.  A dab of the fiery harissa could be used to  rev up all sorts of dishes.

You could also make your own as Amy Scattergood did when she was at The Times. Here's a link to her story Harissa, Mon Amour. I didn't try her recipe when she first proposed it, but I think I'm going to do it now that I'm on a harissa kick.

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Photo: Mustapha's Moroccan Harissa. Credit: S. Irene Virbila / Los Angeles Times

 

 

Food Day kicks off in L.A.

Foodday

It's Food Day, a grassroots event sponsored by the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest to improve the U.S. food system. Its efforts include reducing diet-related diseases such as diabetes and expanding access to healthful food.  

The recently formed Los Angeles Food Policy Council, founded by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, is helping to coordinate a series of Food Day events throughout L.A. "Many Angelenos are successfully working to make a meaningful difference in our local food system, particularly in ways that assist those residents most in need of healthy nutrition," said Villaraigosa in a news release. "This is especially important for Angelenos who live in neighborhoods where healthy foods are harder to find, which puts them at greater risk for obesity and diabetes." 

Events are searchable at foodday.org and are listed at the L.A. County Department of Public Health's Choose Health L.A. website: www.choosehealthla.com/eat-healthy/foodday/.  

Here are a few of the events happening around Los Angeles: 

  • Occidental College will offer a variety of presentations and activities on campus, including presentations from the South Central Farmers and Food Forward. 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., JSC Quad, 1600 Campus Road, Los Angeles.
  • Border Grill will give a farmers market apple from Windrose Farm to all guests, along with info about Food Day and the Los Angeles Food Policy Council. 11:30 a.m., 445 S. Figueroa St., Los Angeles. 
  • The UCLA Maternal and Child Nutrition Leadership Training Program will hold a screening of "Forks Over Knives" with a discussion to follow. 3 p.m., UCLA Center for Health Sciences, Room 13-105, 10833 Le Conte Ave., Westwood.
  • Community Market Conversion will host a healthy food cooking demo and a Zumba class at Las Palmas Carniceria in South L.A. The demo is free and the Zumba class is $2. The whole program is in Spanish. 5 p.m., 2712 S. Central Ave., Los Angeles.
  • The Hollywood Farmers' Market & The Farmer's Kitchen will host a screening of "Vanishing of the Bees" at the Montalban Theatre in Hollywood, with dishes prepared by the Farmer's Kitchen, wine from the Beverly Hills Cheese Shop, honey tasting from local beekeepers and live music. Tickets are $25. 5:45 p.m., 1615 N. Vine St., Los Angeles. 
  • Food Forward will organize a fruit pick in Granada Hills. Sign up for a pick here: foodforward.org/events/. (They will also have a booth at Occidental College; see above.) 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., Granada Hills; see website for locations. 
  • Canele in Atwater Village will host a three-course market-inspired dinner for $35 per person. They cover their costs for the night and everything else goes to benefit Food Day. 5 p.m., 3219 Glendale Blvd., Los Angeles.
  • BLD Restaurant will prepare a local farm-to-table family style prix-fixe dinner, featuring all local farms, wineries and breweries. Dinner includes wine and costs $45. Dinner without wine costs $34. BLD will donate a portion of its proceeds to the Los Angeles Food Policy Council. 7:30 p.m., 7450 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles. 

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Longtime Southland chef Amy Pressman dies at 53

Amy Pressman Amy Pressman, a longtime Southern California chef who was due to open Short Order hamburger restaurant and Short Cake bakery with Nancy Silverton this fall at the Farmers Market in the Fairfax district, has died of cancer, according to a statement from her family Friday. She was 53.

Pressman was the founder of Pasadena's Old Town Bakery and had a hand in several other well-known restaurant projects around Southern California, including Parkway Grill.

"This past Wednesday, Amy came to my home to barbecue burgers and make final adjustments in preparation of the upcoming opening of Short Order," Silverton said in a statement. "I knew she was hurting, but her will and determination to complete this project she was so passionate about won out that day over her pain.

"When I heard today that she had passed away, I was heartbroken. But, I know her beautiful spirit will be alive and well at Short Order and Short Cake and in my heart forever."

Among Pressman's survivors are two sons, Joshua Pressman and Sean Weiss; her mother, Muriel Nellis; her longtime partner Rob Beckham; and a brother, Adam Pressman. [UPDATED: An earlier version of this story did not include Beckham.] Funeral arrangements are pending.

Instead of flowers, the family suggests contributions be made to organizations that fund research into esophageal cancer or to Union Station Homeless Services in Pasadena.

Friends are remembering Pressman at a Facebook page.

"Amy was the one of the singularly most passionate people I have ever met," said Bill Chait, a partner in the new restaurants, who said they would open as scheduled sometime in October. "She was more than my partner. She was my sister. She will be with me the rest of my life and there is no advocate I would rather have by my side. For me, there will never be a moment where I eat a piece of cake, or now, a burger, without thinking fondly of my dearest friend."

 -- Russ Parsons

Photo: Amy Pressman

 

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Daily Dish is written by Times staff writers.