Food Trend Watch: For the Love For Finger Limes

Photo credit to dtpearson1975 on Flickr

Los Angeles loves the Australian finger lime. I’m no expert on the little doodads but I do know a curious fruit with spritely packages when I see one – especially when the cylinders pop up in multiple places across different applications. And I do know how to Google. Citrus australasica, yes, came to the States from Australia over 100 years ago, yet “only in the last six years have disease-tested, legal budwood became available to nurseries for propagating the trees” (LA Times’ Market Watch). They’ve reached my palate only recently – but in a small span of time.

Almost-invisible finger limes on crudo at Cube

The source of inspiration in our local kitchens goes undisputed. In an age where a commonplace gastronomic trend is to make little spheres of everything, these round, dense bursts of flavor are naturally occurring and sold by James Shanley at the Santa Monica farmer’s market. Laura Avery recently talked to him on KCRW’s Market Report and David Karp gives the skinny on the fruit with the “gherkin” exterior in LA Times’ Market Watch.

Personally, it started out with a dinner at Cube on La Brea. The picture doesn’t capture one of my proudest photography moments but what was memorable were the little citrus caviar scattered across the delicate crudo. It was the perfect way to highlight and accent the fresh flavors of the fish.

Valerie Confections' Pomelo Finger Lime Marmalade

Next, came the amuse bouche by Matt Biancaniello at The Roosevelt Hotel’s Library Bar. For the record: If it were anyone’s cocktails that would warrant an amuse, it would certainly be Matt’s. He cut the 2-inch cylindrical fruit in half, injected a bit of cachaça into the vessel and instructed me to squirt it and the little roundlings into my mouth. The sweet-tart combo beautifully awakened my senses and it was extraordinary to experience what an onomatopoeia like “pew pew pew” (in the non-lolcat sense) might literally taste like: Lazrs.

Finally, during my most recent trip to the Sunday Hollywood Farmer’s Market, I stopped by one of my favorite booths – Valerie Confections. The label on one of their preserves caught my eye – a Pomelo & Finger Lime Marmalade. At this point, it was none other than a sign, so I had to pick it up (and it’s already almost gone.)  The sour twists of the pomelo and finger limes brought out more of the peel in the delicious marmalade. Tiny lime finger slices were imbued in the light orange preserves – and with the help of crackers and goat cheese, the marmalade was a delicious way to snack at work.

I have my eye on these marvelous citrons. I can’t wait for more kitchens and bars to creatively incorporate them into more recipes. Oh – and as far as “food trend” – it may have to wait until next year since we’re already past season, which ended in December. Regardless, restauranteurs, artisans and mixologists have a new fruit with which to experiment.

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Mentioned in this post:

Cube
615 N. La Brea Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90036
323.939.1148

The Library Bar at The Roosevel Hotel
7000 Hollywood Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90028
323.466.7000

Valerie Confections
3360 W. 1st Street
Los Angeles, CA 90004
213.739.8149

The Tuscan Fried Chicken at Cube LA

Tuscan Fried Chicken

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.

Cheese & Salumi

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; trying the limited edition fried chicken plate was no exception. To finish it off, go seasonal and try their Warm Hachiya Persimmon Pudding or satisfy your chocolate craving with Dark Chocolate Espresso Cheesecake.

All food and wine were hosted.

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Fried chicken available through November 24, 2010

Tue – Sat, 11 AM – 11 PM

Cube
615 N. La Brea Avenue
Los Angeles, CA
323.939.1148

Go Green With Cube LA’s Gardening Classes

Photo credit to Amy Sheridan

Urbanite Angelenos, rejoice. Especially if you have that little patch of soil in that planter outside your door or are even fortunate enough to live in a building or a house with a dedicated garden. It’s time to get out that green thumb (or grow one) and attend one or both of Cube LA‘s garden classes downtown.

The next installment is on Saturday, August 14th, 2010. Get ready for your fall vegetable garden – and remember to invite me to your October dinner party so I can test the fruits (vegetables) of your labor. And if you fix me a cocktail with a garnish from your herb garden, that counts, too.

Further incentive to attend will be provided by Chef Ludo Lefebvre and The Ludo Bites Fried Chicken Truck and Coolhaus with their delicious ice cream sandwiches. You didn’t think they’d let you go hungry, did you?

The Fall Vegetable Garden
10:30 AM – 12 PM
$35 per person

This class will introduce strategies for year-round food production for Southern California gardeners. Cool season gardens can provide a bounty of fresh produce. August is a great time for planning fall gardens and to start planting seeds for broccoli, cauliflower, root vegetables and a variety of delicious leafy greens.

This class will cover the basics of planting seeds and seedlings, choosing appropriate varieties to plant, understanding day length and temperature and how they affect the growth of your fall garden.

Using Garden Herbs
1:30 – 3 PM
$40 per person

This class will offer fresh ideas for ways to use herbs from your garden. We will make use of common garden herbs such as rosemary, sage, lemon verbena, mint, etc. and use them to make flavored salts, herbal vinegar, butter, tea and several bath and beauty products. Participants will get to sample a variety of herbal products and get to take home an item that they make in class. Recipes will be provided.

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Saturday, August 14, 2010

10:30 AM – 12 PM, 1:30 – 3 PM

Tickets

Cube Marketplace Downtown
550 Ceres Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90013
213.542.3316

Eat My Blog Redux on June 19 at Tender Greens

The bloggers of the now-semi-annual Eat My Blog bake sale are coming together for the second time on Saturday, June 19, 2010. In one of the most impressive baking efforts in the city, 100% of the proceeds from the sale will be donated to the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank. This time, Eat My Blog will be held at Tender Greens West Hollywood where over 2,000 goods from over 70 bakers will be on display – all items costing a simple $1 – $4 each. Bring cash!

You can look forward to delicious eats from local baking star power like KCRW Good Food host Evan Kleiman, Chicks with Knives, Debbie Lee, Drago Centro, Starry Kitchen, Bakelab, Cube, Fraiche, Choppe Choppe, Hollywood Corner, Valerie Confections, Plaisir, Scoops Ice Cream, and Tender Greens themselves. The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf will be featuring a selection of hot beverages to help wash down all your sweets!

Not enticed, yet? Get there early before everything is gone – including bacon brownies, chocolate whoopie pies and “intriguing debuts [like] Momofuku’s Crack Pie from the Los Angeles Times’ Daily Dish and Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes with Bacon Cream Cheese Frosting from Pat Saperstein of Eating LA,” says Diana Takes a Bite, one of the members on the Eat My Blog committee. What’s more, benefiting the LA Food Bank and fighting hunger should be reason enough to satisfy your sweet tooth; at the last Eat My Blog, over $3,000 was raised! “We are excited to partner with the Foodbank again, especially after visiting the facility this winter to see how the money we raised would be used,” said Cathy Danh, author of Gastronomy and founder of Eat My Blog.

I’ll see you bright and early that Saturday in June. After all - if you wait, all the good things will be gone!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

10 AM – 4 PM

Eat My Blog at Tender Greens
8759 Santa Monica Boulevard
West Hollywood, CA 90069

A Divine Dine LA Lunch at Cube

Cube Truffle Burger

I had been meaning to try out Cube, on La Brea, for awhile now. I’ve consistently heard good things about the cafe doubling as a market and though it’s located next to The Tar Pit – which has been open only a few months yet I’ve managed to visit three times, already – I knew I was missing out on a good thing. A place that places itself under the organic, farmer’s market-to-table (Santa Monica, to be exact) and humane column, Cube – combined with Dine LA – gave me an opportunity to to prove myself right. Now I likely won’t make that mistake again by letting much time lapse before I go back.

Maple-Braised Bacon, Celery Root Puree, Cipollini Onions

Sam graciously met up on a last-minute proposal (“I just threw out my gross lunch,” his text read) for late lunching. We were lucky because by the time we had gotten there, we the grid had just regained electricity. Someone came out to take down their temporary signage indicating being closed for business until electricity was restored.

Dine LA was on. Cube’s lunch is $22 ($$), which – no matter how you feel about prix fixe menus – is a good deal because the truffle burger is usually $15 and the maple-braised bacon, $10, all before dessert. Let me tell you – I can get behind almost any restaurant that serves bacon as an appetizer. My slice – which was on a bed of pureed celery root and adorned with cipollini onions – was so tender and delicious, I had barely realized it was a filet of bacon until I had devoured the dish and finally felt its weight in my stomach.

Cube Garden Greens & House Ricotta Ravioli with Braised Oxtail Ragu Sauce

I got the Cube Garden Greens and House Ricotta Ravioli with Braised Oxtail Ragu instead of the San Marzano Tomato Sauce, which proved to be very tasty in no small part by how fresh the pasta was. The braised oxtail gave good additional texture to the entree that had everything (psst – the greens are inside the ravioli and the ricotta is outside).

Sam ordered the Cube Truffle Burger, which came in a shiny House Brioche bun with Caramelized Shallots. Perfectly-fried Crispy Potatoes accompanied the burger as well as a side of Chipotle Ketchup, which was good but probably could have used more spice since ketchup is inherently sweet. The burger itself, “trufflized” by way of oil and not truffles themselves (for a $15 price point? let’s be realistic), was very good and though seemed smaller at first glance by comparison, is actually a more-than-generous size. The patty was fresh and juicy with a perfect pink center.

Torched Meyer Lemon Meringue Cake

Of course, next was dessert. Sadly, they were out of the Valrhona Chocolate & Butterscotch Pot de Creme Duo but we were content on the Meyer Lemon Meringue Cake and Blueberry Crepe with Rosemary Syrup and Rosemary Gelato. Heavenly!! I loved how fresh the lemon tasted in the cake (with candied peel as an added bonus) and well, I am partial to blueberries as well as rosemary – so this was a win-win situation all around. The blueberries tasted fresh in the rosemary syrup.

You can do Cube during Dine LA, but it’s highly advised to do Cube, period… Not only is the food delicious and made with quality ingredients, it’s incredibly fun.

Cube Dine LA Menu (Lunch – $22, Dinner – $34)

Dine LA runs through Friday, February 5

Lunch, Dinner, Cheese & Salumi and Wine Menus

Cube
615 N. La Brea Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90036
323.939.1148

@cube_la

Dine LA Restaurant Week Launches Sunday

Last week, the food and restauranteur community of Los Angeles gathered at The Hollywood Roosevelt to celebrate the launch of the winter installment of Dine LA – a two-week-long collaborative effort to offer diners three-course lunches and dinners at six specific price points.

$      Deluxe Dining   $16  $26
$$    Deluxe Dining   $22  $34
$$$   Fine Dining       $28  $44

Burger Slider

The red carpet was out and almost 100 chefs – many donning their white jackets straight from the kitchen – were the stars of the night. Oh – plus Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Writers, journalists, bloggers – what have you – were or weren’t donning our white “PRESS” badges. The purpose was clear: To celebrate food’s imminent role in Los Angeles culture – and the accessibility every man has to fine dining. And why don’t we enjoy some fixins from Dakota Chop House and 25 Degrees with cocktails from Matt Biancaniello of Library Bar to wash them down while we’re at it? Pork belly, tacos, quesadillas, salads, burger sliders and even a shiitake mushroom-infused Manhattan were passed around – but the hits of the night were undeniably the spicy burger sliders and Biancaniello’s arugula gimlet.

Arugula Gimlet

If you haven’t already, make your reservations soon; Dine LA runs Jan 24 – 29 and Jan 31 – Feb 5. The bevy of restaurants this round tops 243. Schedule a lunch in there to save a few dollars – it’s a great occasion to take an extended break from work. Eva (lunch or dinner), Palate (dinner), Cube (lunch or dinner) and Petrossian (lunch or dinner) rise to the top of my personal list.

And don’t forget to enter the daily contests Dine LA is holding: Starting 10 AM and running all day, answer a trivia question to be entered to win $100 gift certificates to participating restaurants (today’s is Petrossian, lo and behold). Also follow @dine_la on Twitter for updates.

Bonus: If you’re an American Express card holder, all you have to do is “do” Dine LA three times and you get a $20 credit on your statement. Just spend more than $21 per time.

And if you’re interested in the names behind the scene in Los Angeles food, it might interest you to peep the Dine LA Family Tree to see how they – and we – are all interconnected. Food brings us all together, doesn’t it?

Further reading:

DineLA Flickr Set

Restaurant Deals Ahead: It’s dineLA, the winter version; plus a “family tree” of L.A. chefs & restaurants – LATimes

DineLA Restaurant Week Kicks Off With Celebri-Chef Party – LAist

Dine LA Restaurant  Week Launch Party – ShopEatSleep

Jan 24 – 29 and Jan 31 – Feb 5, 2010

Dine LA Website
Various locations throughout Los Angeles
Call early for reservations

Lindsay, Dawson and Sabrina