5 Questions for Tara Maxey
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.
Photo credit: George Simian