Bruce Kalman Ups the Ante at Union Pasadena

Smoked pork chop, market vegetables, wild mushrooms, Marsala, sage

Though I’ve been hearing that, as of late, there are more and more reasons to eat in Pasadena, I’ve admittedly yet to fully experience many of those restaurants for myself. So it made sense that I might start with Union Pasadena, where diners are enveloped in a haven of Chef Bruce Kalman’s (formerly The Churchill, The Misfit, Urbano Pizza Bar) comfort food.

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Nine Noteworthy Upcoming Los Angeles Food & Drink Events

Glimpses of Unmissable Upcoming Events

Let me take this first post in almost one month to deliver some pertinent upcoming event news. It’s now summer and thus, event season, here in sunny Southern California. Now that I’ve somewhat psychologically recovered from a huge picture-data dump from spilling a homemade cocktail all over my non-backed-up laptop, I’m finally ready to move into this crazy part of the year.

So here’s a rebirth of sorts; it’s an intentional start to the summer by tallying up the essential food events continuing into the fall (L.A. Loves Alex’s Lemonade is in September). One focuses on cocktails. One focuses on tacos. One focuses on ribs. Three are on the same day; thus, yes – I do wish that these were spread out, more. But practically all of them feature world-class chefs. So without further adieu, here’s where you need to be this summer:

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The Red White + Bluezz Sunday Southern Brunch in Pasadena

Stuffed French Toast – Cap’n Crunch crusted brioche, fresh berry mascarpone cream, wild berry sauce, bacon

There are fewer things more iconic in Southern California than a Sunday spent in Pasadena. Whether you’re on your way to The Rose Bowl Flea Market the second Sunday of the month or are in the mood to lazily stroll Old Town Pasadena afterwards, the Red White + Bluezz Sunday Brunch is a southern treat that shouldn’t be missed.

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Top Ten Picks For L.A. Beer Week: September 20 – 30, 2012

Photo credit to djdphotos on Flickr

Beer cocktails. Beer floats. Sour beers. All-you-can-drink beer. Beer crawl set to music. Crappy-for-happy beer trades. Prickly pear beers from all over town. Los Angeles is comin’ up beer. And in its 4th year, not only is LA Beer Week bigger and better than ever, it’s also more unified. The camaraderie around the LA beer community is unmistakable – so get ready to drink some tasty brews while learning a lot and meeting some cool people along the way.

After perusing the 10-day schedule, I’ve come up with a few events I’d personally want to attend. With the LA beer scene at the strongest it has ever been, there’s bound to be some (or a lot of) conflicts during this extravaganza, but all we can do is do our best, right? While you’re at it, you might as well check off the four quandrants of this LA Beer Week Bucket List. Then, bring your four stickers to the LA Beer Week Festival on September 30th and get a free bottle of the official beer of the week, Unity, from Eagle Rock Brewery – a play on a traditional Berliner Weiss, yet jazzed up with a touch of rye as well as red and green prickly pear. You’ll also get to enter a drawing for tickets to the BAM Fest on October 6th in Santa Monica.

(If you don’t complete the bucket list, never fear – it’ll be on draft at select retailers throughout Los Angeles and Orange county as well as at the LA Beer Week Festival itself.)

Without further ado, here are my Top Ten of LA Beer Week:

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Open House at Vertical Bistro: Taste New Menu Items, Beers & Cocktails for $25

Invitation

If you live in Pasadena or the surrounding San Gabriel Valley, it will be worth your while to drop into Vertical Bistro tomorrow night between 7 – 10 PM. Chef Laurent Quenioux has some new dishes up his sleeve that he would very much like to share with you. And for $25, you can taste a few of them as well as wash them down with some new beers and/or cocktails.

Not a bad open house for the locals.

Make sure you RSVP to the appropriate email address below to reserve your spot. I expect there to be some real tasty French bites awaiting you tomorrow inside the newly renovated Vertical Bistro. There is even a new “library” for you to check out. Now there’s bookshelves in this wine bar thanks to the new addition, which is a 60-seat dining room. The space now overlooks historic Raymond Avenue. This open house sounds like a great opportunity to try the renovation on for size.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

7 – 10 PM

Cost: $25

Menu

RSVP: [email protected]

Vertical Bistro
70 N. Raymond Avenue (upstairs)
Pasadena, CA 91103
626.795.3999

What Carmageddon? Head To L.A. Street Food Fest on Saturday, July 16

Carmageddon - Credit to ml_kap on Flickr

We’ve been notified about this weekend for months, folks. And here it is: The 405 Freeway, on the stretch between the 10 and 101, will be closed Friday night (on-ramps begin closing at 7 PM, lanes at 10 PM) through Monday morning at 5 AM. What does that mean? Stay home if you can! Or find some alternative route (it’s hit the fan: even JetBlue is offering $4 flights from Long Beach to Burbank).

Or, you can make the most of it and, like me, Metro it on over to the other side of the 405. Pasadena, that is. I plan on taking the Red Line to the Gold Line since L.A. Street Food Fest will be providing shuttles from Memorial Park Station on the Gold Line to the Rose Bowl every 30 minutes. Plan on making it a Staycation? LASFF has also secured a special rate at the nearby Courtyard Marriott.

There are plenty of reasons to trek it on over to the Rose Bowl. Try these bites:

  • Chef Christian Page / Tione’s Quality Meats
    Sonoma Lamb Shoulder w/ Mediterranean Salsa
  • Chef Dan Moody / Relate
    Banana Bread Pudding a la Pecan Pie
  • Chef Ricardo Zarate / Mo-Chica + Picca
    Assorted Causas & Anticucho
  • Chef Javier Plascencia / Mision 19
    Grilled Oysters w/ Chicharron Short Rib,
    Serrano Chili, Ponzu Butter, Lemongrass Foam
  • Starry Kitchen
    Mystery Balls
  • Mariscos de Jalisco
    Tacos Dorado de Camaron
  • Sabina Bandera
    Uni Tostadas
  • Samosa from Naan Stop Truck
  • Naan Stop
    Samosas
  • Antojitos Carmen
    Alambre Taco + Mini Pambaso + Mini Squash Blossom Quesadilla
  • Guelaguetza
    Mole Tamales
  • Guisados
    Sopes
  • Ramen JINYA + Robata JINYA
    Shoyu Tonkotsu Ramen
  • Luxe Lounge Mixologist
    Julian Cox

And if that’s not enough, head on over to Bill of Street Gourmet LA’s post on the LASFF, whereby he details the vendors he brought up from Mexico to specially attend this event with their delicious bites. Also try on the entire vendor list for size if you really want to know who’s going to be there. This event has surely moved on from a representation of the nouveau food truck oversaturation we’ve seen in these parts. Get ready for some O.G. tastes!

Steak Tartar by Ricardo Zarate

If you want to live it up and try on the Luxe Lounge for size, mixologist Julian Cox and his specialty cocktails would be the perfect reason to push you over the edge. It’s $15 more and now, only the afternoon tickets are available so be sure to jump on it ASAP. But wait, I’ve got a link for $10 off (courtesy of the famed Test Kitchen) tickets. Just look below.

And in case you were worried about the lack of culinary (and political) star power at the event, never fear: Michael Voltaggio, Mayor Villaraigosa, Jonathan Gold, Lesley Bargar Suter, Walter Manzke and Marcela Velladoid will be on-hand to judge the bites at the fest. It’ll be exciting to see just who wins in their respective categories.

So, I will see you there – with multiple bites in-hand. Don’t forget: It’s presale only and there are only a few hours left to buy so don’t sleep on this one.

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Saturday, July 16, 2011

2 – 5 PM
6 – 9 PM

Presale only:
Discounted Tickets ($10 off) through Test Kitchen
Regular Presale

LASFF at The Rose Bowl
360 N. Arroyo Blvd.
Pasadena, CA 91106

The 2011 L.A. Easter Brunch Round-Up

Quail Eggs at Kaohsiung Night Market | Photo: hk_traveller on Flickr

I don’t remember ever having given up anything for Lent. But I always have celebrated Easter in non-ritualistic fashion – just as I eat and celebrate life. Every day is a rebirth, right?

Did I mention that I love eggs?

I compiled a bunch of Easter Brunch specials around town. There are plenty of restaurants offering up 3-course prix fixe menus for Sunday morning, but a lot of them have some pretty solid choices.

Go ahead…you can scan this post for the bottomless champagne or mimosa spots. I totally understand.

(By the way, I can’t believe how Westward this list skews… Do Eastsiders not celebrate Easter?) 😉

Happy Easter!!

***

Eva (Beverly/Hancock Park): 12 -  8 PM

$39 per person.
Bottomless wine. 5-course prix fixe.

I know I said “brunch,” and I know Mark Gold calls this the “Eva Dinner Party,” but the noon start time has to count for something, doesn’t it? You get all of the following: Deviled Eggs, Nicoise Salad with Olive Relish and Roast Peppers, Chicken “Pallard” with Arugula and Mustard, Warm Potato Salad, Prime Skirt Steak, Grilled Asparagus and Strawberry Shortcake with Whipped Creme Fraiche. I know. Amazing. This is where I’ll be…sometime during Easter Day.

7458 Beverly Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90036, 323.634.0700

Chaya Brasserie (Downtown, Beverly Hills, Venice): 11 AM – 3 PM

$37 per person, $15 per young adult.
Bottomless champagne. 3-course prix fixe.

You get a couple choices for your 3-course prix fixe, all menus of which vary according to location! Be sure to peep the right Chaya outpost for your menu.

A few highlights from what I can see on all three menus include French Toast with Granola Crust, Kabocha Squash Ricotta Cheese Gnocchi, Grilled New York Steak and Fries with Poached Egg, Pancetta-wrapped Gulf Shrimp with Provencal Grits, Meyer Lemon Mascarpone Cheese Tart. I think the Downtown location is where to be!

525 South Flower, Los Angeles, CA 90017, 213.236.9577

8741 Alden Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90048, 213.859.8833

110 Navy Street, Venice, CA 90291, 310.396.1179

Obika (Century City): 10 AM – 4 PM

$25 per adult, $15 per child under 12.
Comes with one mimosa or glass of Prosecco. Buffet-style plus one family-style pasta.

Not feeling the prix fixe but don’t want any hassle? Obika’s doing it up buffet style – at the mall. Mozzarella di Bufala along with a selection of Smoked Wild Alaskan Salmon, Assorted, Salumi, Caponata with Pan Carsau, Artichoke Ricotta Quiche with Thyme and Mint, Ricotta Mousse and four (yes, four) flavors of Tirimisu will all be available. In addition, your table will get to pick one choice of pasta served family style, including Handmade Ricotta and Spinach Ravioli with Brown Butter and Sage, Lasagnetta with Peas and Tagliolini with Artichoke and Mint.

10250 Santa Monica Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90067, 310.556.2452

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The Royce Delivers Elegantly Vibrant Dishes at The Langham, Pasadena

Black Cod, Kale Greens with White Dashi Scented Milk Foam, Carrot

There is something exciting happening at The Royce in Pasadena. As the flagship restaurant at one of the oldest hotel establishments in the Los Angeles area, they are putting out something so contrastingly nouveau from the kitchen. The long overdue remodel is no slouch, either, with its effortlessly classy and fresh take in fine dining ambiance. The crown moldings are still there, but gone are the drab curtains and dark yellow tinges. What you’ll find instead is a white motif accented by sea and granite blues with just enough florals and art museum-esque flourishes.

Interior of The Royce

Finally, this dining room is creating a dining experience where the food is reflective of its backdrop. But make no mistake, Michael Voltaggio’s year-long run may have generated just the hype The Dining Room needed for its denoument and transition into The Royce, because The Royce is an entirely successful, new entity completely deserving of its own buzz under Executive Chef David Feau’s (Patina, Le Miravile, Lutece, trained under Guy Savoy) direction. My dinner took place a few months after he landed back in September, so it’s safe to say he’s settled in here.

My guest and I very much enjoyed the tasting menu, with such beautifully integrated flavors adorning each dish and painting vibrant pictures with central themes. That is, each presentation, though featuring pretty exotic ingredients, knew exactly when to stop. Sommelier Eric Espuny’s perfect wine pairings delightfully accentuated the nuances of each. If you dine at The Royce, you can expect the perfect marriage of French techniques and Californian ingredients.

Globe Omaha Artichoke, Pressure Cooked Beets, Hand Harvested Mache Salad, White Truffle Vinaigrette

I have to say that there was nary a weak component in our tasting experience. Before ordering, I convinced my guest to trust the chef and resist doubling up on the foie gras, steak and lobster, and to try everything in both 5-course tasting menus. I’m so glad we did. Our amuse bouche was a most savory Romanesco cauliflower soup paired with a tiny piece of roast duck breast, beets, apple and celerac coconut calamari. What that set us up for was a beautifully seared scallop with shaved foie gras, rhubarb granite and carrot “salad” (paired with ’07 Schafer Frohlich Nahe Medium Dry Riesling) as well as an artichoke and beet dish with Globe Omaha artichokes, pressure cooked beets, hand harvested mache salad and white truffle vinaigrette (paired with ’09 Château Guiraud Le G Bordeaux Blanc Sec). The mildly tart rhubarb granite cut the richness of the scallop and foie gras while the carrot salad provided slices of sweetness. The freshness of the beet dish was a great match for the mache salad, featuring the buttery sweet and nutty greens underneath artichokes, all seasoned with a well-balanced white truffle vinaigrette.

Salsify Prepared Four Ways | Braised, Braised and rolled in leeks ash, Pureed with goat cheese, Tagliatelle with cajun spices

The next round of courses yielded a lobster salad with butter lettuce, sweet onion and pomegranate “hot and snow” (paired with  ’06 Domaine Leflaive Macon-Verze). The powdery, vaguely sweet snow was an interesting texture to add to the buttery shades of the lettuce and lobster – especially with the addition of the sweeter pomegranate seeds. The salsify prepared four ways (paired with ’98 Kalin Cellars Livermore Valley Semillon), however, was a provocative study of the root. Not only was the vegetable completely new to me, but the diverse ways it was prepared in order to ultimately arrive on the same plate were mostly intense in flavor. The root has been described to taste like oysters. The dry, complex Semillon wine paired with this was a great way to cut the salty, creamy and robust essences on the plate.

Agnolotti Filled with Parsnips, Green Lentil and Mousseron Mushroom Veloute, Sorrel leaf

Probably my favorite farm fresh-themed dish was this combination of tiny vegetables covered in a mushroom veloute (paired with ’07 Aia Vecchia Lagone Toscana). The agnolotti were to die for, adding just the perfect amount of backbone to carry the vibrant flavors of the vegetables through, including the sweet parsnips and herb-likeness of the sorrel leaves. Truth be told, I could sip the veloute on its own. The berry notes of the Aia Vecchia were a nice added touch. The black cod (paired with ’08 Ramey Chardonnay Russian River Valley) in the title picture was also a standout, having been perfectly cooked and its mild, fatty taste enabled to stand on its own. The kale greens were topped with a white dashi scented milk foam, an ingredient I couldn’t begin to dissect but could distinctly tell it was meant to bring the greens and fish together; it did so successfully. The carrot was a sweet go-between. The fruity Chardonnay the dish was paired with was a nice compliment to the fish and kale greens.

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All Aboard: Blogger Bar Hop on the Trolley of Death

Trolley of Death

When Caroline on Crack (recap) asked me to join her and a bunch of bloggers, Plymouth Gin (represented by Erick Castro) and Aidan Demarest on a blogger bar hop, I could not turn her down. Lo and behold, the beauty is in the details and what we found out later was that our vehicle would be a half-open-air trolley, which would be used to take us to 5 bars in 7 hours.

Yes, 5 bars in 7 hours. With driving time, this amounted to capping our time at each bar at 45 minutes!

Plymouth Gin, a punchbowl and a couple bowling lanes

I prepared for the night by drinking plenty of water and ONE Coconut Water (great for electrolytes) during the day – which no doubt aided my endurance for the bar hop. We started out at The Spare Room and again, I got a few frames in (including a few spares – ha!) in between some beautiful cocktails – starting off with a Bloggers Brew (Plymouth Gin, pineapple, velvet falernum, lemon, Earl Grey tea and spices) – and finishing off with a punch bowl. My new cocktail from this bar was an off-menu You Drink Our Milkshake with vodka, cream, coffee liqueur, cacao – essentially a better White Russian. Delicioso.

We crammed into the photo booth to take our picture, polished off our drinks, filled up our score cards (that’s 5 drinks to hit at each of the 5 bars with a bartender signing off) and headed to the trolley for our stop at Big Bar, adjacent to The Alcove in Los Feliz. We also kidnapped a few recruits like Naomi Schimek. We got first tastes of riding in the open air trolley along Hollywood Blvd. on a Monday night while enjoying champagne (and later: PBR and bacon- and fig-infused bourbon bottled up and dubbed “Figgy Smalls”) supplied by Aidan. On board for this adventure were Daniel of Thirsty in LA (recap), Aaron the Savory Hunter, Lindsay of LAist, Josh from Food GPS, Elina Shatkin of LA Weekly Squid Ink, H.C. of LA OC Foodventures and the Examiner. Armed with the hashtag #bloggerbarhop, we set out for some exciting tweets during the course of the night as entertainment fodder for all our followers (Caroline and Daniel do a great job utilizing them in their recaps).

Slider with pork, guacamole and jalapeno at Big Bar

As a writer new to the group had repeatedly stressed at Big Bar, “The drinks were sooo good… Soo good!! Soooooo gooooooood.” The rest of us were just conscientious enough to let our palates enjoy that goodness, but yes. They were good, and so were the bar bites, with my favorite being a slider (yeah, I said it) with pork, avocado and jalapeno. Relief from that jalapeno was provided by heavenly bacon-wrapped, goat cheese-stuffed dates, a great lobster ceviche with chips and of course, the gooooood drinks. I definitely applaud Big Bar with successfully completing the task of feeding two handfuls of mostly professional boozers with a superbly executed bar menu in their truly small, cozy bar. I had a really great Aviation here amongst others – like Juan Sevilla’s Merry Widow (dry vermouth, benedictine, bitters & absinthe rinse) and will definitely return for more cocktails. Of course, we kidnapped Juan along with the lovely Mia Sarazen and Rich Andreoli as we left Big Bar and headed for 1886.

Rose Parade Punch at 1886

1886 is in Pasadena. The 110N is a common way to get to Pasadena.

Not to be deterred by, oh, nighttime Southern California lows or say, freeway-speed wind, and encouraged by a bonus two cocktails on the scorecard, I toughed it out in the open-air, rear section of the trolley while huddling with Lindsay on our wooden bench and the exposed staircase (with Aidan hanging off of it) on our right. After all, how could I cheer for a team that calls the frozen tundra home in the Super Bowl or call Mammoth my second home if I couldn’t handle this?

My fingers were frozen as they held the first cocktail that greeted us at 1886 – the Rose Parade Punch (Plymouth gin, roses, cucumber and soda). Everything else that was served at 1886 was delicious, like their Pimm’s Cup made with tequila and grapefruit soda and their Honey Nut Old Fashioned with peanut-infused bourbon. We even ran into a few industry Pasadena folk, so we knew we were in the right bar for having come so far.

Our kidnapping victim from 1886 was Marcos Tello, who rode the Trolley of Death with us to Downtown LA’s The Varnish via…you guessed it…110S. Score another 2 bonus cocktails as well as re-frozen 10 fingers for me from the trolley ride. I secured a Medicina Latina at The Varnish and it delivered as always. But it seemed that we had barely arrived before we had to leave for Seven Grand – just a few blocks away.

Old Fashioned, Whistle Pig Manhattan

Of course, Seven Grand was slammed as it always is and when we arrived we were 4th string at the already 3-deep bar. Before we skidaddled, though, Daniel was able to sneak in an order of a Whistle Pig Manhattan alongside someone else’s Old Fashioned. I stole a sip. 😉

Five bars, seven hours. …And Tommy’s. I stuck to chili fries since that was basically all I could handle, but it was a great way to soak up some of the evening’s suds. And back to the Spare Room we went. We tallied up our score cards while a member of our otherwise professional drinking group put his forehead to the bar – the ultimate no-no. To my pleasure, Lindsay and I won with a total tally of 22 cocktails (or make that, 18 cocktails + 2 outdoor trolley rides on the 110 fwy)! Free bowling for us!

I’d like to thank Caroline on Crack, Erick Castro of Plymouth Gin and Aidan Demarest for a wonderful time with some fun boozers. Let’s do it again!

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The Spare Room at Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel
7000 Hollywood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90028

Big Bar at The Alcove
1927 Hillhurst Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90027

1886 Bar at The Raymond
1250 S Fair Oaks Ave
Pasadena, CA 91105

The Varnish
118 E 6th St
Los Angeles, CA 90013

Seven Grand
515 W 7th St
Los Angeles, CA 90017

Tommy’s Original World Famous Hamburgers
5873 Hollywood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90028

Persimmon Kimchi at Kimchi 101

Persimmon Kimchi

Last week, I was lucky enough to be invited to the headquarters of CHAM Korean Bistro (Pasadena) and iT! Jeans for a kimchi pickling workshop. We were treated to CHAM cocktails made with sparkling wine, yuzu, Korean Makgeolli as well as tofu rice pockets filled with everything from kimchi (and candied anchovies) to seaweed salad, pepper-encrusted ahi tuna and salted and roasted kale chips. It was a dinner filled with Korean fusion delight.

Chef EJ Jeong during her Kimchi 101 demo

For the learning portion, we got a demonstration on how CHAM makes their kimchi, with recipes and instruction straight from Chef EJ Jeong (formerly of A.O.C. and BOA). Check Cathy of Gastronomyblog‘s great write-up of the Napa Cabbage kimchi we were all taught to make.

After our appetizers, kimchi lesson and delicious main course (pork shoulder, cabbage kimchi, salted shrimp and sesame leaves) – we got a taste of a different kind of kimchi, which ended up being my favorite of the night: Persimmon kimchi! The recipe for this is actually the same as the traditional cabbage kimchi, save for the elimination of salted shrimp. It became intuitive that fishy, salty persimmons are not appetizing. But the subtle and firm sweetness of the persimmon is paired so perfectly with the chili flavoring I’ve learned to love in Korean kimchi. It was like a live, Korean version of the Trader Joe’s dried chili red mangos that are so popular. An interesting tip with this recipe is to use unripe persimmons, because they will actually ripen as they are fermenting in their container and in your refrigerator!

Chef EJ Jeong’s Persimmon Kimchi Recipe

Ingredients:
2 lb peeled persimmons
12 oz kimchi marinade

Kimchi mixture

Kimchi marinade ingredients:1 cup sweet rice powder
5 cups purified water
2 lb radish
4 oz minari
4 oz kat (red mustard)
4 oz Korean chives (thinner than Chinese chives)
5 oz garlic
10 oz Asian pear (peeled)
9 oz onion (peeled)
1 oz ginger (peeled)
1 cup Taeyangcho rd chili pepper powder (coarse)
1/4 cup anchovy fish sauce (Korean)
3/4 cup salted shrimp sauce (Korean)
4 oz fresno
4 oz green onion

Preparation & Procedure: How to make porridge
Mix puried water with sweet rice powder, dissolving the power until there are no lumps. Heat the water and rice powder mixture over the stovetop, stirring occasionally to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pot. When it starts to form bubbles, reduce heat and stir continuously. Once the mixture becomes thicker and is translucent, turn the heat off. The process from once the mixture is heated to when it becomes the correct consistency and color takes approximately ten minutes. Cool down completely.

Preparation & Procedure
Mix together.
Enjoy!

 
I’m no hotshot in the kitchen, but I plan on giving persimmon kimchi a try. And if you feel so inclined to get your own kimchi education, CHAM is luckily going to be hosting another workshop on Saturday. You’ll get to take home your own jar of cabbage kimchi so you can leave it in your refrigerator to ferment for at least 20 days before eating. It’s the workshop that keeps on giving!

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Saturday, November 20, 2010

11:30 AM to 2:30 PM

$40 per person – includes Korean tapas, a cocktail, and kimchi to take home.

Making Kimchi with Chef EJ Jeong
Cham Bistro R&D Kitchen
5251 S. Santa Fe Avenue
Vernon, CA 90058

Email [email protected] Class is capped at 20 people