The sun is out – when June Gloom isn’t in, that is. But when the high of summer arrives, you’ll bet it’ll be time for that picnic. Whether at The Hollywood Bowl, Cinespia or Barnsdall Art Park, picnicking in Los Angeles has become more than a rite of passage. It’s now an act of communal expression, with everyone in the party bringing their own contribution to the portable, potable feast.
There’s a new cheese shop on the Culver City block, and Westsiders are all the better for it. Now entering its third month of business, Alex Josef’s Wheel House Cheese Shop is making rare cheeses accessible and approachable to all who are curious about the ins and outs of cheese…or who may simply want an expert to curate a cheese board for them and their visitors.
Food festivals come and go, but the multi-event Los Angeles Food & Wine always produces many noteworthy moments across a diverse set of mediums. From lunches combining famous visiting chefs with hometown culinary stars and cooking demonstrations to Lexus grand tastings and informative seminars, the extravaganza is a great way to see how the Los Angeles culinary scene somehow fits in with the rest of the world’s.
Here are some highlights from the daytime events I attended:
Poutine. It’s an import to Southern California, but you’d think it would’ve reached Universal Food Status by now…like cupcakes, burgers & frozen yogurt. After all, who doesn’t love gravy, cheese and fries? I can confirm that the combination of the three (or four – that is, with protein) is way better than the mere sum of its parts.
Then again, I hail from Wisconsin – and the frequency of my visits to Canada still outnumbers those to Mexico. So you can understand my Cheesehead’s frustration with the grated cheese application on fries everywhere in this city. Even at Animal. And Frysmith. (I still love both of you.) But this is not poutine. In fact, cheese curds exist as an actual ingredient even on its Wikipedia page. (I know! I just invoked the Wiki!)
You may call it “gourmet poutine,” I just call it “done properly.”
But perhaps I hold too much respect for the cheese curd. I can’t help it – nor can I contain my excitement that P’tit Soleil – across from Soleil, which has been a Westwood Blvd restaurant for 10 years – actually sources theirs from Carr Valley Cheese in LaValle, Wisconsin. Though curds are known for their squeak when fresh, these nuggets are expertly melted down from being laid atop just-out-of-the-fryer frites. Not too gooey to appreciate its original shape…softened enough to spread its love to the other frites in the Québécois haystack. It is the anti-steak fry, and it’s just the right size for a balanced ratio of potato to gravy and toppings. Melty morsels, not tiny slivers, are key in curds, I’m telling you!
If “November” and “turkey” have become a little too synonymous for you, you’re lucky to have the option of some good ol’ fried chicken at Cube. It’s available only until Wednesday, November 24 – and if you don’t catch it now, you can expect to see it again in about a year.
The recipe is of the Tuscan variety and for $23 you get a a half-chicken chock with lemon wedge, Maple Roasted windrose Farm White Acorn Squash and sauteed McGrath Pea Tendrils. This isn’t your usual, butter-filled entree but rather a zesty, juicy bird that packs a punch; red pepper flakes are in the batter. The fluffy breading crumbles beautifully under the weight of your knife (should you feel like sharing) and between your jowls to reveal an extremely tender, semi-boneless masterpiece by Executive Chef Erin Eastland.
While you’re at Cube, don’t forget a custom cheese-salumi plate of your choosing and glass of wine to start. It’s always a delightful experience whenever I’ve dined there; tryingÂ the limited edition fried chicken plate was no exception. To finish it off, go seasonal andÂ try their Warm Hachiya Persimmon Pudding or satisfy your chocolate craving with Dark Chocolate Espresso Cheesecake.
All food and wine were hosted.
It all started out with a contest. Hot Knivez, the beer-loving, meat-hating blogger-chefs in town, sent other bloggers and me a proposal. Said the email in my inbox: Pair cheese with beer. And write about it. If we love it, the winner with the best post will get to attend a private beer-cheese pairing symposium at Verdugo Bar with The Bruery.
I love a challenge, and beer and cheese are two of my favorite things. Factor in Verdugo and The Bruery, and I am yours.Â I am a native Wisconsinite-turned-Angeleno, after all. Thankfully, Barrie Lynn Krich of The Cheese Impresario came to my aid by reconnecting me with my roots and her supply from Wisconsin cheese-makers.
Of course, the fun part was coming up with the control – the beer that would be lucky enough to have so much lactic love paid to it. Inspired by a particular Orange County-San Diego beer tour in which I discovered the wonders of sour ales, I found Russian River Valley’s Consecration within walking distance of home. Just knowing there was good beer stock so near was really the icing on the cake. It wasn’t the only sour ale but indeed probably one of the most approachable ones I’ve ever had. It isn’t a beer to smack you upside the head with overpowering citrus. In the 10% ABV Consecration is a blend of five different beers, including dark malts, which are then aged in Cabernet Sauvignon barrels for 4-8 months. Tobacco and fruit are prominent notes, particularly cherry (oh, look at that: currants are added). Carbonation comes from having fermented the beer in the very bottle it comes packaged in – and this further adds punch to its sour, my tasters and I found. Not only was it fun to pair this particular beer with cheese, it served as a palate cleanser as we went from candidate to candidate. Perfect.
Barrie Lynn had given me five cheeses in all,Â which rangedÂ in funkiness with the intention of standing a chance against the sour ale’s…well, sour properties. We tried the first, aptlyÂ nicknamed “Cheese Sex,” – which was an agedÂ cheese spread, or aÂ blend of Widmers Aged Brick Cheese and aged cheddar. No, it wasn’t funky.Â Yes, it was divine; it reminded my friends andÂ me of a really well-executed version of the cheese in the HandysnacksÂ cheese and crackers snack pack we all got in our lunches as kids. That is, probably the best execution that we had never dreamed of. (Seth noted as a parallelÂ that we’re still waiting for the gourmet chicken nugget.) Don’t underestimate the Cheese Sex, okay? As far as a pairing, however, Consecration – and probably any other sour ale – overpowered the dream. The beer was too strong for even its slightly salty aftertaste, but all the same, I could understand why this spread is in such high demand, as evidenced by the sliver we were given. There be rations!
The next cheese candidateÂ was Italico, which was appropriately named because it reminded us of mozzarella. It was an ivory-colored cheese and was even milder than the Aged Brick Spread – without any finish at all. It was almost like there wasn’t any cheese at all. After some research, I found that Italico is better paired with fruit. Truly, there would be stronger cheeses that could hold their own in this tasting.
If you’reÂ in Pasadena during the latter half of the week, there’s incentive to stop by Elements Kitchen. In a classic catering business to brick-and-mortar move by chef-owner Onil ChibÃ¡s last January, Elements focuses on beingÂ innovative with their ingredients. That effort has translated to Wednesday Sketches and Thursday Liquid Sketches, where dishes and cocktails revolve around two different seasonalÂ ingredients per week.
Today’s Wednesday Sketches will revolve around cheese. Each dish will run $5. If you Twitter, you retweetÂ thisÂ @elementskitchen tweet by 5 PM today, you’ll receiveÂ a complimentary first dish.
Tomorrow’s Thursday Liquid Sketches will revolve around rhubarb, the cocktails of which will be created by cocktail consultant Michel Dozois of Neve Ice. You can also retweet this tweet and your first cocktail will be $1. All cocktails in the Liquid Sketches menu are $5 each.
On Sundays, Elements also features a 3-courseÂ prix fixe menu for $35 per person, the courses of which revolve around a singular theme (this week: Slow Italian Kitchen).
It’s definitely the most innovative food I’ve had around Pasadena in awhile, so the aforementioned deals would be a good introduction to anybody new to Elements. Put that Twitter to use!
Tue – Fri: 11:30 AM – 2:30 PM
Tue – Thur, Sun: 5 – 10 PM
Fri – Sat: 5 – 11 PM
Bar & Lounge
Tue – Sun: 4 PM – 12 AM
37 S. El Molino Ave.
Pasadena, CA 91101
You may have heard the Tillamook name being touted around food news lately – more specifically as a result of their recent Love Loaf Tour, which actually wraps up their Metro L.A. leg of good will and free cheddar goodness today. Well, that is with exception to the Grilled Cheese Invitational, which they are the official cheese sponsor of.
A couple weeks ago I joined the ranks of a few other food bloggers, writers and all-out cheese lovers at the Baby Loaf’s stop at Akasha Restaurant in Culver City. We enjoyed platters of triangle-sliced Tillamook as well asÂ Chef Akasha Richmond’s creative genius in incorporating the cheddar into her recipes. We garnished toasts with her mango chutney and fig-avocado spreads, enjoyed her bakedÂ mac ‘n cheese and gobbled up half-baked fingerling potatoes. My favorite bite, however,Â was definitely the pulled pork sliders which came encased in biscuits and sandwiched with coleslaw. The hands-down most creative usage of Tillamook was the White Tillamook Cheddar melted atop Chef Akasha’s Strawberry-Rhubarb Cobbler! It gave the otherwise sweet dessert a nice cheesy tang and made the dish quite savory. Truly, you can do anything with cheese.
Good thing Angelenos can still get their free samples of Tillamook … today, only. Check out the locations below for the Baby Loaves’ stops for today, only. Looks like if you’re in Mid-City, South L.A. and Century City today, you’ve lucked out.
Food at Akasha Restaurant-Tillamook media event was hosted; pictures of Chef Akasha Richmond’s and my cats were shared.
Love Loaf Tour LA concludes today (Monday, April 12, 2010)Â at:
Food 4 Less
1717 S. Western Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90019
12 – 7 PM
Food 4 Less
1091 S. Hoover Street
Los Angeles, CA 90037
12 – 7 PM
10309 W. Olympic Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90064
11 AM – 6 PM
I had first met Barrie Lynn of The Cheese Impresario over planning for Blogger Prom. Our party was so swank, you would bring your cocktail over from the bar to Barrie Lynn – whereby she would taste a straw-full of your cocktail and pair the appropriate cheese to the libation in your glass. If you have cheese in any capacity at your party, you better have Barrie Lynn there.
The other day I was invited to the Learn About Wine loft in Downtown LA … to learn not about wine but about sake and its compatibility with cheese. Sake and Wisconsin cheese has been her recent breakthrough – a proclaimed “culinary epiphany.” I have to say, “Wisconsin cheese” is not a phrase I pass up on, ever. Let’s also say that my entire life I’ve always lived in The Cheese State, whether in the Midwest or on the West Coast.
Kei Inoue of Banzai Beverage was Barrie Lynn’s partner in crime, the liquid to her solid. He represents not one but many distributors of sake. Since my knowledge of sake was at 0, I was appreciative to get a lesson in what puts a good sake ahead of the others. Since sake is 80% water, water is the most important ingredient and indicative of the different regions of Japan and the quality of sakes that arises from each. Also important is how much the rice grains are polished. The more that is polished, the more amino acids – which taste poor when distilled – are shed from the brew, and the more refined. And right out of the gate, even the little that I knew about sake was thrown out the window when I realized that they gave us a sparkling sake to start. It was delicious and refreshing – and merely a prelude to the eight to come.
I had never had a dark sake before, but that’s exactly what we started with. The Mt. Victoria Old Fashioned Vintage Junmai had caramel and even almond notes due to it having been aged – a really complex sake that served as an aperitif. Or perhaps to contrast with the ultra smooth Junmai Diaginjo sake to come, called Legend of the Stars. About 60% of the rice grain was polished away for this brew (as opposed to 30% of the last, aged sake). It would go well with seafoods, as it was still stimulating – very fresh.
But finally, oh finally – we would get to the cheeses!! Hallelujah.
Maison 140â€™s Bar Noir is quite a unique spot. With Maison 140 being a boutique hotel housing only 43 unique guestrooms, itâ€™s actually hidden away in an enclave in Beverly Hills. Bar Noir has Mandarin and French black-red themes and an intimate feel, which makes it the perfect place to relax with a few good friends over cocktails. Or wine and cheese, that is.
For the summer, you can enjoy this stylish retreat while sipping fruity, floral French RoseÌ wine and nibbling artisanal cheeses selected for the pairing. Itâ€™s held every Wednesday from 6-9 PM and costs a respectable $35 per person.
The following RoseÌs are featured:
Jabouletâ€”CoÌ‚tes du RhoÌ‚ne ‘ParalleÌ€le 45’ RoseÌ 2008
Whispering Angelâ€”CoÌ‚tes de Provence RoseÌ 2007
Sauvionâ€”Loire Valley RoseÌ D’Anjou 2008