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Entries in Lunch (4)

Friday
Aug312012

Short Cake & Single Origin 

*Post by Mark.

When Short Order debuted in the Farmers Market last winter it was only one half of the equation. Soon thereafter Short Cake was born - a bakery located just a scone's throw from the farm-to-table burger restaurant - making the entire vision of Chef Nancy Silverton and the late Chef Amy Pressman complete. 

Whether grabbing a pastry to go or a more savory meal at Short Cake's counter (think open-faced toasts, salads and sandwiches), market-goers can appreciate an extensive menu of baked goods made with top notch, locally-sourced ingredients like Straus Family Creamery Dairy and TCHO chocolate. And the caffeine is provided by Single Origin Coffee, brewing up a collection of jitters-inducing espresso drinks and hand-brews from Santa Cruz's Verve Coffee Roasters

 

 

If Short Order and Short Cake have breathed new life into an old guard of restaurants and vendors at the market, one needs look no further then their young chefs for the inspiration. Christian Paige embodies the ingredient-driven mission statement at Short Order, while Amy Pressman's vision lives on through Short Cake's head baker Hourie Sahakian. The Glendale-native's passion for baking was discovered by Pressman in a chance meeting at, of all places, the gym. A few short years and a career-change later, Sahakian finds herself entrusted with running Pressman's dream bakery. One need only gaze into the cornucopic glass cases, brimming with unique, alluring treats to see how well she's capitalizing on the opportunity. 

 

 

Nick of Treasure LA and I recently had the privilege to sample our way through Short Cake's glass case. We munched on chocolate chip cookies, walnut shortbread, and house-made jam crumbles (all pictured below) that use jam made specially for the bakery by LA's own small-batch preserve company SQIRL. Let's file this experience as way too much of a good thing... the delicious goodies just kept coming and coming.

 

 

And how about a few signature drinks from the coffee bar with which to wash all the food down? Why not! There's the Salted Caramel and the Affagato, sure... but the highlight of the bunch is Aunt Nancy's Shakerato. The aptly named drink combines whole milk, Pacifica wildflower honey and enough espresso to jump start an eighteen wheeler. Who needs bath salts when you can have four shots of espresso coursing through your bloodstream? This stuff is as good as it is potent. 

 

 

And because the blondies aren't the only ones who get to have fun, Sahakian proudly offers her own creation, the Brunette (below, top). Pinenuts and thyme highlight the rectangular bar, while its darker complexion comes from the use of brown muscavado sugar. We're also treated with cornflake-topped cereal cookies (below, top). My chocolate and peanut butter cravings are sated by a Chocolate Peanut Butter Bar and a delightful triangle that layers two types of chocolate over crisped rice (below, left). And we have two slightly more savory show-stealers in the bacon cheddar and Comté thyme croissants (below, right).  

 

 

To top all this off, we get to share an off-menu Short Order Black Forrest custard shake (below) with Short Cake regular and pastry enthusiast Nastassia of Let Me Eat Cake. While I was lucky enough to head home to nap off the ensuing sugar coma, I'd recommend enjoying the treats in moderation, or along with some of the savory options like a house-made tuna salad croissant sandwich.

 

 

Short Cake / Single Origin Coffee - Mid-City West
The Original Farmers Market
6333 West 3rd St. (Stall 316)
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 761-7976
Hours:  Mon-Sat: 8a-9p  /  Sun: 8a-7:30p

 

Short Cake on Urbanspoon Single Origin Coffee on Urbanspoon

Tuesday
Nov082011

Mendocino Farms opens in West Hollywood

*Post by Angela.

When we were back in D.C., I lived and worked in Dupont Circle, arguably the most walkable neighborhood ever in the history of the world. And I loved it. It took me literally five minutes to walk to work, and I had a Safeway, a Whole Foods, a CVS, a Dunkin Donuts, a liquor store, and several dry cleaners within a 5-block radius. And then we moved to L.A., the driving capital of America. SIGH.

After a year here, I've adjusted to the constant driving that is necessary to live a normal life in L.A. Even so, it's always nice when an eatery opens up in walking distance, giving us a new option for dining that doesn't require gas. We've anxiously been awaiting the opening of the WeHo branch of Los Angeles-based sandwich chain Mendocino Farms for weeks now, and Saturday afternoon was the perfect time to try it out.

 

 

Mendocino Farms is named after an area upstate where the slow food movement and sustainable farming aren't just fads, but ways of life. The rustic, clean decor and wide-open, airy set-up of the sandwich shop fit well with the casual Californian cuisine.

 

 

Upon entering the sandwich shop, we grabbed a menu and perused Mendocino Farm's over 2 dozen sandwich options (on the day we went, there were at least 2 vegan options), salads, and soups de jour, before proceeding to the almost agressively cheerful staff member who wrote our selections down on slips to take to the cashier. The cashier then sang out our orders to the sandwich artistes waiting along the wall-hugging open kitchen.

 

 

We started out with a Save Drake Farm's Salad (below, $9.95), with roasted chicken, Herbs de Provence marinated Drake Family Farm’s goat cheese, Pink Lady beets, green apples, dried cranberries, crushed honey roasted almonds, red onions (we requested ours without), Scarborough Farm’s greens, butter lettuce and romaine with a citrus vinaigrette. It was a pretty decent salad, though nothing special. Oddly, it took us a while to figure out that the citrus vinaigrette wasn't just melted butter (which is exactly what it looked like, and kind of what it tasted like) - in other words, it could have used more citrus and more vinegar, or less oil.

 

 

We were really excited about our first sandwich, the Porchetta (below, $8.95), which featured slow braised pork, roasted garlic whole grain mustard aioli, fresh housemade giardiniera (Italian relish of pickled vegetables), and cilantro, on Dolce Forno soft roll. Objectively, it was a decent sandwich. Given our expectations, though, we were slightly disappointed. The pork was tender, but not quite as flavorful as we would have wanted - maybe to make up for that, huge hunks of pickled vegetables were heaped on. Unfortunately, there was too much pickling juice included, which the soft roll soaked up like a sponge, making for a messy, soggy sandwich.

 

 

The Kurobuta Pork Belly Banh Mi (below, $9.75) fared much better. Medocino Farm's take on the classic Vietnamese sandwich included braised, caramelized kurobuta pork belly, housemade pickled daikon and carrots, cilantro, cucumbers, jalapenos, and chili aioli on panini grilled ciabatta. In contrast to the soggy Porchetta sandwich, there were a number of crunchy elements to the banh mi that made it awesome: the crisp, warm grilled bread, the refreshing (and proportional) slivers of Vietnamese-style veggie toppings, and best of all, the golden brown bits of pork belly.

 

 

While our first visit wasn't quite spectacular, and the prices are a little high for Mendocino Farms to be an everyday option, we enjoyed our meal and will be headed back in the future to try their other sandwiches. Another solid lunch option in West Hollywood.

Mendocino Farms on UrbanspoonMendocino Farms (California Plaza) on UrbanspoonMendocino Farms on UrbanspoonMendocino Farms on Urbanspoon

Tuesday
Aug022011

Chimú

*Post by Mark.

How could it be that until this past weekend we were unaware of Chimú? Blame it on the downtown location - a trek we so rarely make. Or perhaps, blame can be placed on the high-profile opening of Picca, another stellar, newly-opened Peruvian spot, that has managed to overshadow Chimú in the spotlight of summer restaurant openings. Wherever the blame may lay, this past weekend we finally discovered Chimú and the culinary landscape of downtown Los Angeles is now a much brighter place in our eyes. 

Chef Mario Alberto may not have gone to culinary school, in fact he may not even be Peruvian, but he's recently worked his way through the kitchens of popular restaurants like Mo-Chica and Laxy Ox Canteen and seems to have found true inspiration in the local cuisine during a sabbatical to Lima. Upon his return to the states, Alberto teamed up with partner Jason Michaud to bring us Chimú. Stroll up to the walk-up window anytime before 6 P.M. daily and you can experience Alberto's take on Andean flavors that he's appropriately dubbed Peruvian Soul Food.

 

 

As we sit down with our friend Aaron (of Savory Hunter) to eat, our conversation quickly becomes littered with adjectives attempting to describe the sheer ecstasy and bewilderment each of us is suddenly experiencing. Yet no words can quite capture the degree of elation. When all was said and done and we stumble away, nearly post-coital grins plastered across our faces, the three of us humbly agree that this was some of the best food we've eaten in recent memory. Chimú leaves us dreaming vividly about beef tongue and pork belly drowning in salsa madres or dressed with huacatay aioli. And the hearty accompaniments of stewed barley, canary beans and quinoa leave us full and satisfied long after we drive off.

Which is all very surprising, considering the nature of this little walk-up. Food may be served in to-go boxes, but this is some of the most refined, beautifully 'plated' take-out food you'll find in town. Nor is the service typical of any other take-out joint. Manning the front of house is Rolando Maldonado, who not only works the window - punching orders into an iPad - but keeps effortlessly busy refilling waters, delivering food and checking on diners long after they've signed those credit card receipts. The food sells itself, but with a guy on the floor like Rolando - who seems to know at least half the diners by name - Chimú becomes a place you can't wait to come back to.

 

 

The menu (below) changes daily, though there seems to be a constant rotation of favored proteins, sides and sauces that get swapped in and out. One order might be enough for a lunch portion, though we stuff ourselves with six orders between the three of us. While you're still at the window, don't forget to get your parking validated. Or if you're like us, you might have found parking at the meters directly across the street. $3 gets you parking for an hour, which is more than enough time to sample a few things from the menu. 

 

 

First up, the estafado de lengua or beef tongue comes served with baby tomatoes, quinoa and salsa madre. Tongue can be tough, but when done right, is tender and packed with flavor. Alberto's is definitely the later as he pairs the tongue meat with the tangy, tomato-based salsa madre. Perfect for a side of quinoa to bath in, we're so transfixed by the complex flavor of the sauce that we can't help but sample it against all the proteins from our other dishes. 

 

 

The ceviche chimú (below) is made today with halibut that has seen the sharp edge of the citric leches de tigre marinade. After the acidic mixture has broken down the raw fish, it is then tossed with a sweet potato puree, yuyo (a seaweed) and corn. 

 

 

The seco de cordero (below) or lamb belly is potentially the most enjoyable of the meats to arrive at our table on this afternoon. Served with rice, canary beans and red onion, the fatty lamb slides easily off the bone and even more easily into our mouths, along with a forkful of peas and beans slathered in black beer sauce.

 

 

The heirloom tomato ceviche is almost too pretty to eat. Plouts (a type of plum), peas and baby heirlooms all rest atop pillows of fresh, creamy burrata cheese. Though the decadent dish may not contain a serving of fish, it does feature a drizzling of that deliciously acidic leche de tigre. We recently pounded the eye-popping fish marinade like shooters at Picca, but here the juicy, pinkish liquid is served more like a subtle vinaigrette over the creamy, sweet flavors of the refreshing salad. 

 

 

The chanco, or pork belly, is yet another signature item here at Chimú. Layers of texture punctuate the braised meat which gets its crispy exterior from frying before it's served. A dollop of huacatay - an aioli made from black-mint leaves - rests overtop, as the fatty pork rests in a bath of stewed barley and tomato. We find the thick slabs of belly provide a very generous portion for our enjoyment. We seem to keep digging up never-ending bites of the delicious meat from the sauce. That is, until it's all finally gone, and the inside of the box is licked clean - only now does it seem like there wasn't nearly enough.

 

 

We're all full, but Rolando brings out one more dish that we have to try. Being the polite individuals we are, we oblige. The duck leg escebeche isn't on today's menu, but luckily for us a batch was being prepped in the back for a catering event later in the evening. With perfectly crunchy skin encasing the vinegar and citrus marinaded meat inside, the duck is served alongside beans, pickled cherries and a shockingly good huesillio aioli. Flavored with dried peaches, the aioli provides a sweet and refreshing dipping partner to the duck. Just another fantastic surprise waiting inside an unassuming to-go box. 

 

 

We may have never found the perfect adjective to describe the food - that magical word that indicates '11' on a dial that only goes to '10'. Maybe that's because there isn't such a word. Food like this impacts you on a different, unquantifiable level. It's a cultural experience, that warms and invigorates you deep down with a bounty for which there is no scale. I suppose that's why they call it soul food

 

Chimu on Urbanspoon

Monday
Jul252011

Tomato, Onion and Goat Cheese Sandwich

*Post by Angela.
Weekend meals are glorious. During the week, my lunches (and Mark's) are a hodgepodge of leftovers, cheap cold-cut sandwiches, and a variety of soups. Dinner, when we eat at home, is whatever will take less than an hour and uses up the ingredients we already have at home in order to cut down on money and time spent in the long after-work lines at the grocery store.
 
But on the weekend? I can take all the time I want to select and make something delicious that we won't regret later, diet-wise. This weekend, after a lazy morning at the coffee shop, we decided to take a little extra time to craft a wonderful lunchtime meal - this tomato, onion and goat cheese sandwich (below) inspired by the Williams-Sonoma cookbook "Essentials of Healthful Cooking."
 
 
 
 
List of ingredients:
  • 2 firm, ripe Roma tomatoes, halved length-wise and seeded
  • 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced (easiest to use a mandoline)
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • Kosher salt & black pepper
  • 1 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 panini rolls
  • 4 oz goat cheese, room temperature
First, I preheated the oven to 325 degrees. I rubbed 1/2 tbsp olive oil all over the tomatoes, placed them cut-side up in a glass baking dish, and sprinkled salt on them. I placed them in the oven for 1 hour, and made sure to turn the tomato halves over every 15 minutes to ensure even cooking.
 
 
 
 
In the meantime, I heated a pan over medium-low heat, then added the onions, the remaining 1/2 tbsp olive oil, and 2 tbsp of water, covered and cooked for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure that onions didn't scorch (if you need to, add more water).
 
After 10 minutes, I uncovered the pan, threw in the butter (obviously optional), and cooked an additional 10 minutes until the onions had reached a nice golden brown. I added the thyme, 1/2 tsp salt and a dash of pepper, cooked for another minute, then stirred in the vinegar and removed the pan from the heat.
 
 
 
 
Once I was done with the onions, I cut the rolls in half, toasted them, then spread them with the goat cheese.
 
When the buzzer rang on the tomatoes, I took the baking dish out of the oven, covered it with foil and set it aside for about 10 minutes, until the tomatoes were cooled. Then I peeled off the wrinkled skins.
 
I piled the now-cooled onions onto the waiting rolls and carefully stacked the tomatoes on top.
 
 
 
 
It's a little extra effort for lunch, but the result is a great sandwich for which we'd happily plop down a ten-spot in any restaurant. It's also pretty versatile - the sandwich could be made even healthier by swapping in multi-grain or whole wheat breads, or adding in a little greenery with some basil or arugula. I may not have the time to make a sandwich like this everyday, but when that leisurely Saturday or Sunday finally arrives, it's totally worth it.