Daily Dish

The inside scoop on food in Los Angeles

Category: Food Trends

Cheese by the beach: Checking out Venissimo

Cheese
A short block from the sand in beach-happy Belmont Shore, Venissimo is the perfect location for a gelato shop, or maybe a store stocking bikinis. But a great cheese store? That’s unexpected.

Yet that’s what the Long Beach shop surely is. I stumbled upon it last weekend while looking for a parking place. It’s tucked off of the main drag — 2nd Street — and you could easily pass it by if you weren’t looking. In fact, I’ve probably done just that a dozen times.

Not anymore. This tiny store has an amazing assortment of cheeses — 150 at any given time — as well as cheese-related accessories: dried fruit, honey, crackers, boards and baguettes from BreadBar. Best of all, there’s a friendly staff of cheeseheads who are there to help you.

The cheeses are well cared for and the staff really knows its stock. Everything I tasted was in perfect condition. And they do a great job of putting together combinations of cheeses for wine or beer matching.

Even if you’ve been around the cheese game a while, do ask their advice. You’re likely to turn up some wonderful cheeses you’ve never heard of. The revelation for me Saturday was Meadow Creek Dairy’s Grayson, a soft, washed-rind cheese with a buttery complexity that reminded me of the old Peluso Teleme. They also turned me on to a really lovely Roaring Forties Blue from King Island Dairy in Australia, lower in salt and more creamy than most blues.

Lisa Albanese is the manager of the 3½-year-old store, one of four Venissimo’s in Southern California — the others are in the San Diego area. "We’re a mom-and-pop chain," she says. "Long Beach was the brainchild to see if it would float outside of San Diego."

As manager, Albanese has a free hand to order the cheeses that she thinks will work for her customers. She tries to get in two new cheeses every week.

"Our customers go through everything from pretty pedestrian to much greater palates," she says. "With the 3½ years we’ve been open, we’ve been fortunate enough to see our regulars' palates grow. Now we have quite a few regulars who come in and just ask what’s new this week. That’s the fun challenge."

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Now streaming on Netflix: 'Chew on This' TED Talks

70230751Had enough of Food Network shows? Bored by yet another food-themed reality show? Here’s something that might tax your brain and intrigue you at the same time.

Now streaming on Netflix, a collection of TED talks gathered under the title “Chew on This.” They’ve put together 14 episodes, one as short as four minutes, most 15 minutes or so. Think of them as food shorts.

Talks include Dan Barber's (Blue Hill, NYC, and Blue Hill at Stone Barn) “How I Fell in Love With a Fish.” Mark Bittman lectures on “What’s Wrong With What We Eat,” while Ann Cooper, the "renegade lunch lady"  talks school lunches.

My interest tends more toward pizza-obsessed author Peter Reinhart on “Bread,” and maybe Dan Barber’s “Foie Gras Parable.”

I can see now, though, I'm not going to be able to wrest the remote control out of husband's hands until baseball season is over.  

Sorry, the talks are not available as DVDs, only the streaming format. 

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-- S. Irene Virbila
Twitter.com/sirenevirbila

Photo: Netflix

Andrew Zimmern from 'Bizarre Foods' to stop by Royal/T in January

Andrew Zimmern On Jan. 13, Royal/T Cafe and Andrew Zimmern, the TV personality behind the Travel Channel's "Bizarre Foods," will team up for a pop-up dinner themed "California Dreaming."

The pop-art-inspired exhibition space in Culver City is hosting the culinary event, which will reflect Zimmern's take on California cuisine while introducing Angelenos to innovative ideas and out-of-the-ordinary foods.

The five-course dinner menu will feature sea urchin and yellow-tomato-vegetable aspic; linguine; a veal tongue tartare and chile-braised lambs tongue quesadilla; a grilled Broken Arrow Ranch venison chop and a cioccolato orrare da gustare for dessert.

Tickets to the event are $150 per person and can be purchased online.
                      
8910 Washington Blvd., Culver City, (310) 559-6300, royal-t.org.

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Photo: Andrew Zimmern. Credit: Stuart Freedman / Travel Channel

Restaurant nudity in San Francisco on its way out

San Francisco

Public nudity is legal in San Francisco, but restaurants are looking to alter the dress code, or lack thereof, by requiring the unattired to cover up before sitting down to eat, reports Abby Sewell for The Times' L.A. Now blog.

The Board of Supervisors' Public Safety Committee on Thursday approved a proposed ordinance on new public nudity etiquette rules, introduced by Supervisor Scott Wiener, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. It next will be considered by the full board. 

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Photo: Naturist George Davis in the Castro district of San Francisco, where he resides. San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener recently introduced a city ordinance that would regulate nudity. Credit: Kimihiro Hoshino / AFP / Getty Images

'Bought, Borrowed & Stolen': 20 years of Allegra McEvedy's secrets

Allegra McEvedy Book CoverAllegra McEvedy has been cooking professionally for more than 20 years, working her way through a batch of restaurants in London, most notably the River Café and the Cow, in addition to stints at American eateries Rubicon (now closed) and Jardinière in San Francisco, and New York's Tribeca Grill. The Cordon Bleu alumnus was chef-in-residence at the Guardian for three years, has had a column in the Evening Standard and a seasonal food slot on Robert Elms' show for BBC London.

McEvedy's fifth book "Bought, Borrowed & Stolen: Recipes and Knives from a Travelling Chef" comes out this month. The cookbook traces 20 years of recipes, not to mention knives, from food diaries recorded during her travels. The English chef discusses her favorite fall food, her recently released cookbook and the time she spent on the West Coast, with the Los Angeles Times:

Q: What knife, of your collection, is your current favorite or most used?

A: Well, as you probably can tell I have a bit of an emotional attachment to all of my knives, so although it's hard to choose a favorite I am finding myself reaching for a beautiful example of the craft that I bought in New York about five years ago. It's the younger sibling of one I picked up when I was working at Tribeca Grill in '96; both are made by Michael Moses Lishinsky [of Wildfire Cutlery]. All his knives are full tang meaning the metal extends all the way to the base of the handle. And being someone who embraces difference, I love that he uses heat-treated steel, as opposed to the more fashionable stainless. I also like the fact that it's one of only two knives in my 70 strong collection that I can trace back to the maker. My favorite job for this beauty, where it really excels, is smashing cloves of garlic; Mr. Lishinsky may have created the perfect shape of the flat of the blade with this one purpose in mind!

Continue reading »

Caitlin Williams Freeman and SFMOMA's latest edible art offering

Zurier_Arabella-233x334Caitlin Williams Freeman is the in-house pastry chef at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art's rooftop cafe. The former UC Santa Cruz photography student co-founded Miette. Then in 2001, in what she thought would be a temporary stint, she started making pastries for her husband James Freeman's Blue Bottle Coffee locations.

When his company landed a spot on SFMOMA's rooftop, Williams Freeman used the opportunity to channel her love for paintings and photography into her baking. Now the cookies and cakes available -- for visual and literal consumption -- at the coffee bar pay homage to artworks on view in the museum's galleries.

Constantly coming up with new ideas for art-inspired desserts, edible spinoffs have included a Katharina Fritsch ice cream sandwich, with poodle-shaped chocolate cookies sandwiching vanilla ice cream; a fudgsicle-take on Ellsworth Kelly's Stele I (located in the sculpture garden); and a Thiebaud cake inspired by the museum's large collection of Bay Area artist Wayne Thiebaud's paintings.

The latest addition to the menu is a popsicle created in reference to Santa Monica-born artist John Zurier's painting "Arabella," included in the "The More Things Change" exhibition, on view until Nov. 6. The popsicle, made of fresh spearmint ice milk and strawberry, costs $5 and will be available up until the exhibition's closing day.

Pops

The next dessert in the works will be ...

Continue reading »

'Food and the Art of Consumption' exhibition at Cal State Fullerton

Exhibit"Acquired Taste: Food and the Art of Consumption" opens Oct. 29 at Cal State Fullerton's Begovich Gallery.

The exhibition, curated by Alyssa Cordova and Heather Richards of Sixpack Projects, addresses the underlying issues surrounding food and consumption. With a growing awareness of food policy and politics — think Michael Pollan or "Food, Inc." — and a booming interest in the organic, local and slow food movements, the artwork featured in "Acquired Taste" highlights society's relationship with food through installations, sculpture and oil paintings.

Opening reception programming includes a cooking demonstration by chef Jonathan Dye, a participatory mural art project and a lecture by artist-in-residence Gregory Stewart. Also featured will be master preserver Delilah Snell's "Jam Van," a traveling exhibition of her work in a converted vintage Volkswagen van. She is featured regularly on KCRW-FM’s "Good Food" radio program.

The exhibition will be on view through Dec. 8.

Begovich Gallery, Cal State Fullerton, 800 N. State College Blvd., Fullerton, (657) 278-7750, acquiredtaste.sixpackprojects.com.

Shapeimage_3 600
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Are you taking the October Unprocessed challenge?

Unprocessed_2011 If it's October, then it's time to put down the processed food for the 30 days.

Los Angeles food blogger Andrew Wilder is hosting the Unprocessed October challenge for the second year in a row, encouraging the online food community to spend the month scrutinizing everything they eat -- and shunning anything processed.

Last year, about 200 people started the challenge at Wilder's site, Eating Rules. This year, 1,600 people have already signed the pledge to spend the month being more aware of what they eat.

"I wasn't sure I was going to do it again, it takes a lot of work," said Wilder, an Internet consultant who also does tech support for food bloggers at BlogTutor.com. "But this has clearly struck a chord, it has struck a nerve. There are more people who are interested in this, where their food is coming from and what the story is behind that food -- and is it a legitimate story, or a PR story?"

Continue reading »

Speculoos slowly spreading through L.A.

Speculoos NEW Some say Speculoos is the new Nutella. It looks like peanut butter but tastes like the gingerbread, cinnamon-flavored cookie it's made from, known as biscoff. (You may know the flavor from those cookies handed out on Delta airlines.) The popular Belgian cookie via paste is making its way over the Atlantic and now it's coming to food trucks, slowly but surely.

If you've been fortunate enough to have stumbled upon the spread while abroad, chances are you've returned home with a new sugary obsession to share. Lotus Bakeries introduced Speculoos to the U.S. market this year; but even so, most Americans don't know about it yet. A gradually increasing number of food trucks are looking to change this. Wafels & Dinges in New York sells its own version (called Spekuloos) and offers the spread as one of many waffle toppings, as does L.A.'s Waffles de Liege.

In the height of the food truck boom, will Speculoos ever really catch on, on the street food scene? George Wu of Waffles de Liege believes it will. "If the popularity of Liege waffles grows," says Wu, "more people will get a chance to try Speculoos, and as a result, more people will talk about it and experiment with it on different food; and before long, it'll be a kitchen staple like Nutella."

Fingers crossed, Waffles de Liege's use of the cookie-made-spread will cause a domino effect of sorts among other Southern California food trucks and thus the spread of scrumptious Speculoos.

Waffles 600

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Doritos inventor Arch West dies at age 97

Doritos new Arch West, a Frito-Lay executive and the genius inventor of Doritos, has died. He was 97.

West, who died last week in Dallas, came up with the idea behind Doritos when he was on a family vacation in Southern California, according to an obituary in the Washington Post. In 1966, the original crunchy, triangular corn chips were released nationally. Doritos became one of Frito-Lay's bestselling snack foods, still true today. 

West's family plans to pay tribute to his love for the snack with what seems like a fitting goodbye by tossing Doritos into his grave at his memorial service Saturday. 

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Daily Dish is written by Times staff writers.