Girls on Food

Los Angeles

Marissa A. Ross Talks EastSide Food Festival, Natural Wines And Chugging Wine Straight Outta The Bottle

The 5th Annual EastSide Food Festival is coming up, Sunday, October 21st, 2018 and the line up this year is incredible. Girls on Food will be there tasting and sipping the afternoon away, so come join us!

With over 35 local food establishments will be participating, there will also be guest appearances from Eric Andre and Eric Wareheim but I’m most excited for the discussion with Marissa A. Ross, Bon Appétit’s wine editor and writer of my favorite wine book, Wine. All The Time.: The Casual Guide To Confident DrinkingI love this book because she approaches wine in a non-pretentious but still informative tone. Marissa also writes with a cheeky sense of humor and brings her personal experiences along the way.

Marissa took a break from chugging wine from the bottle on her Instagram stories (you know what I mean if you follow her!) to chat with me below. 

 

GOF: What food vendors for the Eastside Food Festival are you the most excited for?

MR: Oh man, it’s so hard to choose! I’m excited for Kismet because I don’t eat there nearly as often as I’d like to, and Otoño. I love seeing female chefs doing badass work.

 

GOF: I saw on your Instagram stories that you don’t accept unsolicited wines via mail, which I respect because it shows you’re not biased on wines. How many unsolicited wine samples do you receive per month? 

MR: I don’t get any now that I just started returning them to the sender [laughs]. There was a time when I was getting like maybe four wineries a month sending me stuff. I don’t even know how they got my address! I still get at least a dozen emails a day from wine PR companies that want to send me stuff. I used to be nice and politely respond “no thanks” to every one but I’ve given up and just started ghosting that shit [laughs].

 

GOF: Favorite wine region? 

MR: It’s constantly changing, but I’ve been on a big Italian kick for the last year or so. I love Abruzzo and Umbria, but I’m also super intrigued by the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

GOF: Any plans to start your own wine club? 

MR: I’m going to have to since everyone keeps asking me! [laughs] It is something I’ve been toying with for awhile, so we’ll see. Hopefully soon.

 

GOF: I know you’re a big promoter of natural wine, in your opinion, is there one region in the world that is mastering this? 

MR: No. The truly incredible thing about natural wine is that it is proving that fantastic, terroir-driven wines can be made anywhere in the world, versus this old school thinking that certain regions were better than others. I mean, of course there are some regions that are not conducive for making wine but often regions have been dismissed because people were trying to grow grapes that shouldn’t be grown there. You can’t grow Cabernet everywhere! [laughs] But any region can shine with the right grapes in the right hands.

 

GOF: Are there any commercial wines that you can’t help but love, like a guilty pleasure? 

MR: This is going to make me sound snobby, but I don’t. Honestly, after years of drinking natural wine, it just doesn’t taste good to me. That’s not to say I don’t have my own shitty guilty pleasures. I love Coca-Cola, especially Cherry Coke. That’s the ultimate treat for me, besides a bowl of Jeni’s Brambleberry Crisp ice cream topped with their Lemon Buttermilk Frozen Yogurt but I don’t feel guilty about that. [laughs]

 

GOF: Do you recall the first time you ditched the glass and drank straight from the bottle? 

MR: Yes. It was June 2008. I had just moved to Los Angeles with $400 to my name and unwittingly moved in with a drug dealer and a Craigslist hooker, hoarder, heroin addict. I had moved in May, but by the time June rolled around, the hoarder had all of our dishes in her room and I was terrified to even leave my room and The Ross Test— chugging out of the bottle, specifically two buck chuck because that’s all I could afford– was born. And is now forever my trademark [laughs]. I think some people think I do it just to be an ass, but for me, it reminds me of where I came from and that everyone starts somewhere with wine.

 

GOF:  What are some of your favorite restaurants with wine programs in LA?

MR: I love Kismet, Elf, Night + Market Song, Cosa Buona, Marvin… there’s so many!

 

GOF: Who are some of your favorite fellow female somms or wine enthusiasts? 

MR: One of the most exciting things happening in the wine industry is how many strong women and non-binary people are now a part of it. I love Courtney Walsh, who does the wine program for Cosa Buona and Alimento, as well as works at Domaine LA— owned by another favorite, Jill Bernheimer–and is a rep for Amy Atwood Selections— owned by surprise, surprise, another favorite, Amy Atwood. I absolutely adore Helen Johannesen of Helen’s Wines, as well as Kae Whalen of Kismet and Roni Ginach of Michael’s. There are so many! I could go on forever, especially if I ventured beyond Los Angeles, and feel really grateful to be a part of such a passionate and hard-working community.

 

GOF: Can you sum up Trump with a bottle of wine? 

MR: Probably his own, which no one in their right mind would ever drink because it’s assumably toxic and disgusting.

 

Be sure to follow her Instagram page or check out her podcast, Natural Disaster, for all of her wine adventures. 

Belcampo Santa Monica Serves Up One Of The Meatiest Brunches In LA

Since 2015, Belcampo has supplied Santa Monica locals with classic Californian farm-to-table dishes and a local butcher shop. With a recent remodeling, Belcampo is looking fully refreshed and ready to cater to the Westside brunch crowd.

Belcampo Santa Monica
1026 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401
https://belcampo.com/restaurant/santamonica/

Belcampo practices Regenerative Farming, meaning their approach is holistic, rejecting pesticides, artificial fertilizers and aims to enhance ecosystem services. All of the meats and eggs served are organic, grass fed, from their farm in Yreka, California, near the Shasta River. They raise their animals on their own farm, operate a USDA-inspected and Animal Welfare Approved processing facility, and sell their meat in their own restaurants and butcher shops.

The colorful bar brings instant feel good vibes when you arrive. There’s an ample selection of cocktails and creative non-alcoholic beverages too.

Looks are very deceiving with their Bloody Mary (I recommend celery infused vodka). As you can see, it’s not that canned tomato juice base, it’s actually a clarified tomato juice, giving it a thinner appearance, but it’s just as flavorful and more refreshing than a traditional BM.

The Santa Monica Egg Cream is their dreamiest, creamiest beverage. Although it’s called an egg cream, there’s actually no eggs, the foam is made with coconut cream for a rich texture. This beverage will make you feel like you’re drinking a Pina Colada and want to get caught in the rain.

The Classic Beef Tartare is a must-order item. Start by dipping grilled bread into the egg yolk custard, then top with minced beef sirloin and greens. If you’re dining solo, I recommend making this your biggest priority.

For those of you with a sweet tooth, the Pancakes, which happen to be gluten-free, will be right up your alley. Topped with a citrus jam, strawberry butter and fresh fruit, these cakes are so fluffy and are perfect to pair with any meatier dish.  

For those of you on the Keto diet, Belcampo has you covered. The Keto Breakfast Bowl packed, with bacon, 2 fried Belcampo farm eggs, kale, avocado, tomato is dressed with pistachio dressing. It’s high fat, low carb but it’s a larger bowl to keep you full.

Other fantastic items include their BLT and their Greek Yogurt. The butcher shop at the front entrance also serves up fresh bone broths for those of you looking for additional protein power.

GOF Interview: Brooke Rewa of mylk

There’s nothing more irritating than buying something that you think is good for you and then realizing, it’s not. After the interview below with Brooke Rewa, owner of mylk by Made With Love Wellness Co, I finally decided to look up the ingredients to the almond milk my husbands likes me to buy and… yikes. I can see all the icky ingredients she pointed out to me: added sugars, gums, binders, fillers and oils. Also, when I looked up the nutritional facts, I realized, there’s nothing nutritional to the almond milk I was buying at all.

According to Brooke, “not all plant milks are created equally and just because it’s a plant milk doesn’t mean it’s actually healthy” and after researching many other store brands of plant-based milks, she’s totally right. Originally, juice started as a beverage line under Made With Love Wellness Co, then came the mylk, which has been very successful.  

After mylk was also such a hit at my recent Shared Plates fundraiser for the L.A. Kitchen, and after tasting many of the different flavors from Brooke’s line, I am officially making the switch in my almond milk to mylk and I hope you’ll join me! Check out my interview with Brooke below!      

GOF: Why did you decide to cut out dairy?

BR: Well, I never liked the taste of milk. My parents would make us drink a glass of milk with dinner every night and I would plug my nose and chug mine to get it down as quickly as possible. I cut out dairy when I was in my early teens mostly because I loved animals and as I learned about the practices of most big dairy farms, I got really grossed out. Plus, it never made me feel that well.  

GOF: Do you remember when and how you discovered almond milk?

BR: I was pretty young when I started drinking non-dairy milks but honestly, I started with soy. It was all the rage back then and the most widely known. Freshman year of Collage, I moved to San Francisco and that’s when I found almond milk and there was no going back! 

GOF: When it comes to making your own almond milk recipes, what is the process like for you? 

BR: Making the recipes is my favorite part! I’ve never made a plant milk recipe I didn’t like actually. I always joke, as a kid I never competed in talent competitions because I didn’t really have a talent. But if I could go back to my childhood, with my recipes now, I think I’d have a good chance at taking home some prizes! 

GOF: Have you had any recipe blunders when you were creating your products?

BR: I actually have a strange knack for getting it right (or at least tasty) the first time. Other than the literal messes I make, not really. My staff pretty much cringe when they see me coming for the kitchen as I am definitely very messy in there. I have certainly had a few face fulls of blender contents in my day… putting the lid on is very important!  

GOF: I see you grew up on a farm in New York, what brought you out to LA?

BR: My grandparents actually had their own dairy farm, so I spent a lot of time there. I came to LA after film school to work in film/tv. Health and wellness were my other passions but I had no idea how to make a living pursing a career in those areas. 

GOF: How long did you take you to go from selling at farmer’s markets to selling in shops and cafes?

BR: Selling wholesale was really my plan all along so they kind of went hand in hand. The farmer’s market was great because it paid immediately and allowed me to put money right back into my business. Wholesale accounts usually take anywhere from 7-30 days to pay, so you have to have a little financial support to get those accounts going.  

GOF: Any new flavors coming up that you’re excited about? 

BR: Yes! We are planning for the launch of our new Single Serving and Concentrate Frozen Mylks. Hopefully by January 1st, 2019 you will be able to order Goodmylk to your door anywhere in the US! 

GOF: What is your favorite flavor of mylk or juice? 

BR: Matcha Mylk, always. But Nut Nog is coming, during the holidays, that one! 

GOF: Is there anything in the health/lifestyle world that you’re tired of seeing on Instagram? 

BR: Oat milk. I could go on but instead, I encourage people to do their own research. The oat milks on the market are very dangerous for daily consumption. 

GOF: Are there any restaurants in LA that you think live up to Made With Love standards?

BR: We have a few that we are lucky to work with actually! Joi Cafe, Jewel, Green Table Cafe, Sweet Laurel Cafe, the food and drinks are all on point at these places.  

GOF: How often do you do cleanses? 

BR: I personally do our 3 day cleanse with juice, food and our superfood mylkshakes twice a year.  

GOF: If there’s one piece of advice you have for aspiring business owners? 

BR: Be bold. Think Bigger.  
Made With Love Wellness Co is located in Los Angeles, join me in making the switch from grocery store to locally owned!

Mei Lin to Serve a Taste of Nightshade at JBF’s Taste America LA 2018

Every year, Taste America brings the James Beard Foundation dinners and programs to exciting culinary destinations to their annual LA benefit dinner. This year’s LA event, Friday, October 12, 2018 at SLS Hotel, Beverly Hills, starts with a 6 PM cocktail and tasting reception followed by a seated dinner and dessert reception at 7 PM. I am so excited to cover this year’s event since last year’s was so incredible.

This year’s event will include many tastings, including Holly Jivin of The Bazaar by Jose Andres and Tres, Raphael Francois of Tesse, Margarita Manzke of République and Mei Lin, of the highly anticipated upcoming spot Nightshade, which is set to open this Fall. 

Born in China, Mei Lin and her family immigrated to the US when she was only 3 months old. Mei started her work in the industry at her father’s restaurant in Dearborn, Michigan which took her on a path to a line cook position at Wolfgang Puck’s Spago in Vegas. Then she  worked up in the ranks to a junior sous chef.

Mei burst onto the LA scene as a part of the opening team at Michael Voltaggio’s ink. where she earned the sous chef position. She most recently won season 12 of Bravo’s cooking competition show Top Chef and after hosting many of her own pop-ups, I’m feeling confident in Nightshade becoming LA’s next top restaurant. Check out my interview with her below.  

Chef Mei Lin

GOF: Any advice for aspiring chefs working their way up?

ML: One of the key components to me becoming a sous chef within 6 months, is a no holds barred attitude. Just get your work done and learn to take criticism.

GOF: What inspired the concept behind Nightshade?

ML: Nightshade is inspired by my childhood, previous work experience and travels around the world. From helping my parents in their Chinese restaurant as a kid in Detroit to my previous restaurant jobs with stalwarts such as Michael Symons, Wolfgang Puck and Michael Voltaggio, and lastly to my extensive travels around the world. I wanted Nightshade to be the culmination of my culinary history.

GOF: I read that when you were testing out recipes for Nightshade, you opened up your test kitchen and asked for honest feedback. Which items had the best feedback and was there one item that had regrettable feedback?   

ML: The Mapo Tofu Lasagna has been the dish that has gotten the most praise so far. Surprisingly I’ve gotten feedback that the Szechuan Hot Fried Quail wasn’t spicy enough.

GOF:  What can we expect aesthetically with Nightshade’s design?

ML: The dining room is going to be light and airy with emerald green accents lined with brass. The kitchen is semi-exposed behind a marble bar counter that will be reserved for walk-ins.  

GOF: Is there one food item you wish had more hype to it?

ML: Shirataki miracle noodles.

GOF: Any foods you wish Instagram would calm down on?

ML: Rainbow colored foods.

GOF: Which JBF Taste America chef are you most excited participate alongside with?

ML: It’s a pretty exciting lineup all around but I’m particularly excited to see Holly, we’ve been friends for a long time and she is a really talented chef.

GOF:  Why is the James Beard Foundation important to you?

ML: The James Beard Foundation is important to me because it’s creating more awareness around food culture as well as honoring talented chefs that work hard to create good food ultimately helping to bring people together.  

There are still tickets available for the Taste America LA event, click here for info. 

Girls on Food’s Shared Plates Event Recap

The Girls on Food inaugural fundraiser with Industrious Century City and some of LA’s finest food and beverage vendors raised over $2,300 for the L.A. Kitchen.

Host Julianne Gabert (Girls on Food) hosted the event on Friday, October 5, 2018 at Industrious Century City. This ticketed event was in affiliation with L.A. Kitchen’s Shared Plates fundraiser, a city-wide weekend of gatherings October 5-7, 2018 to celebrate the power of food in Los Angeles. 100% of all ticket sales and any additional funds raised were donated to L.A. Kitchen.

Despite the L.A. Kitchen’s significant impact and outpouring of support, they have had to acknowledge that their combined philanthropic and earned income has not been able to fully sustain their work and meet the requirements of the loan they took out to build their beautiful facility. This required them to temporarily pause their culinary training and meal distribution programs.

Although they are not going anywhere, this year’s Shared Plates was more important than ever. All money raised through Shared Plates was matched as part of their goal to reach $600K by the end of the year. Although this event raised a total $1,167, through donation matching, this event raised $2,334 total!  

Industrious Century City, a co-working space that also celebrated it’s grand opening 2 night before this event, generously donated the space. Attendees were allowed to explore the upscale Century City offices, which make up the entire 17th floor of the Watt Plaza, freely as they participated in the event.

Attendees participated in a “take one, give one” burrito station, sponsored by Benny Borsakian, the owner of Benny’s Tacos. At this station, guests took half a burrito to eat at the event and donated the other half. Burritos and additional leftovers from this event were delivered to non-profit organization Upward Bound House, and distributed to local food insecure.

Slo Bru Craft Coffee owner Eric Raschka provided guests with bottles of his new decaf cold brew coffee. He also donated his new product, Bru Packs, a line of brew-it-yourself cold brew packs for the raffle.

Lauren Zeiher of the mylk team, supplied guests with servings of their honey, lavender and matcha almond milks. Many guests fell in love with these local plant-based mylks.

Gérard Bertrand brand ambassador Mathias Icard poured the brand’s Rosé, Sauvignon Blanc and their 90 point Cap Insula Red Blend into mason jars, which guests were encouraged to take home.

Wolfgang Puck Catering provided hor d’oeuvres including Butternut Squash Tarts with Caramelized Onions and Crispy Sage, Poached Pear Parmesan Crisps as well as an array of desserts like cookies and brownies.

Co-Opportunity Market and Deli, who’s locations include Culver City and Santa Monica, contributed a full crudités plate and a generous $100 gift card for the raffle.

A Chile Mushroom Quinoa Salad was provided by Beaming Century City. This dish was a perfect side for guests keeping it vegan.

The avocado toast station, provided by AvocaToast by Lizzy with bread by Bread Lounge (special thanks to the team at Kitchen Table app for arranging) was one of the most interactive stations. Caterer Lizzy Cooper has a special connection to L.A. Kitchen having volunteered there several times helping them prep food.

Cheeri Cheeri, an artisanal and vegan Filipino ice cream, were scooped by owner Christy Cunanan on site as well, and ended up being the Instagram image hit of the night.

Additional prizes awarded from the raffle included CHAYA Modern Izakaya, Mee And GreetTŪMBI, Osteria Mamma, and Food Stirs.

Stay tuned for information on any upcoming events here at Girls on Food! 

For more information on L.A. Kitchen, visit https://www.lakitchen.org/.

GOF Interviews: Christy Cunanan of Cheeri Cheeri Ice Cream

I appreciate any good food but food that delivers a kick of nostalgia is extra tasty to me. The preparation of food with an intention to make you feel sentimental takes more than making food that feels familiar. It has to somehow stimulate your sensory memory using all 5 of your senses, transporting you to a specific place in time. These foods often evoke more emotion out of me, because I usually associate the flavors with something very personal to me.

“Ice cream is a medium that takes people back to something special” according to Christy Cunanan, the creator of Cheeri Cheeri, her vegan and Filipino ice cream brand. The mission of Cheeri Cheeri ice cream is to allow its customers to connect back to something precious in their lives, all the while enjoying their ice cream. What inspired her line of ice cream the most? Time spent with her Lolo and Lola (for those not familiar, that’s Grandpa and Grandma).

Born and raised in Pasadena, Christy remembers when the ice cream man would drive around her neighborhood. “What made it so special was the rushed ritual of hearing the ice cream truck and then that challenge of convincing them to give us money to buy the ice cream. After I’d get my hands on a watermelon pop, I’d realize how much Lola and Lolo just wanted to see us happy. So you just remember these times like this and how special they were. You were never eating alone.”

Christy Cunanan in her Pasadena home

These days, this UCLA alumni works a 9-5 at Disney Animation as a Production Coordinator, builds up her ice cream empire and still makes time to have 4 hour Facetime sessions with Lolo and Lola. She started embarking on her ice cream career with her first pop up in April 2017. In the beginning, her brand wasn’t vegan, but in December of 2017, after her family got hit with diabetes and cancer, she decided to take on a plant-based lifestyle. “Since my family was vegan, my product had to be as well. I have to have this ice cream reflect my family. I’d hate for people to miss out just because they’re vegan. It matters enough to have a line of ice cream knowing it’s on the healthiest side.”

Although many people think of dishes like Ube and Ensaymada when they think of Filipino food, Christy insists it’s not hard to go plant-based in this genre. “Sure, I’ve struggled with capturing butter and cheese, common ingredients in Filipino breads but through trial and error, I achieve what my Lolo and Lola say “time is medicine”. I’ve been able to replicate the identity of many traditional Filipino desserts, so we can all enjoy them.”

Buko Pandan

Her top seller is her Buko Pandan ice cream, but looks can be deceiving with this flavor. This classic dessert tends to be identified with it’s bright green gelatinous chunks. But because Christy keeps everything as natural as possible, she doesn’t do dyes. It’s white, but the flavor is still rich with a beautifully creamy texture.

Calamansi Ice Cream (size small)

My favorite flavor is her Calamansi ice cream. It’s refreshing, tart and velvety all in one. This flavor had had stakes for her to capture perfectly. “My Grandpa planted a Calamansi tree in our backyard, so I felt the extra pressure to get it correct. This is one of the most personal flavors to me” Christy told me.

When I asked Christy about the current Filipino food craze; she shared she’s very supportive of the trend but notes “there’s major ube love happening right now and that’s great, but we want you to explore the full spectrum of our food. A strong sense of identity has to be transferred to every bite.”

What customer melts Christy’s heart the most? “Grandparents! I get a kick out of when older Filipino-Americans taste my ice cream and say ‘I know what this is!'”

Get frozen in time! Christy will be scooping her famous Calamansi Cheeri Cheeri ice cream at the Girls on Food Shared Plates dinner coming up, Friday, October 5th at Industrious Century City. get your tickets here.

Girls on Food Announces Shared Plates Dinner To Benefit L.A. Kitchen, At Industrious Century City, Fri., Oct. 5, 6PM – 8PM

Girls On Food Hosts A Vegetarian Shared Plates Dinner To Benefit L.A. Kitchen

At Industrious Century City, Friday, October 5, 6 PM – 8 PM

Girls on Food, in partnership with Industrious Century City, and LA’s favorite food and drink merchants, will come out to fight food waste, hunger and unemployment 

Host Julianne Gabert (Girls on Food) is honored to announce her inaugural fundraising event on Friday, October 5, 2018 at Industrious Century City. This ticketed event is in affiliation with L.A. Kitchen’s Shared Plates fundraiser, a city-wide weekend of gatherings October 5-7, 2018 to celebrate the power of food in Los Angeles. 100% of all ticket sales and any additional funds raised will be donated to L.A. Kitchen.

Despite the L.A. Kitchen’s significant impact and outpouring of support, they have had to acknowledge that their combined philanthropic and earned income has not been able to fully sustain their work and meet the requirements of the loan they took out to build their beautiful facility. This required them to temporarily pause their culinary training and meal distribution programs.

Although, they are not going anywhere, this year’s Shared Plates is more important than ever. All money raised through Shared Plates will be matched as part of their goal to reach $600K by the end of the year.

Now in its third year, the 2017 Shared Plates campaign provided over 100 dinners arranged by participating restaurants and private individuals, engaged 1,000 Angelenos for the cause and raised over $120,000 for its non-profit programs.

With the purchase of a $25 Girls on Food Shared Plates ticket, attendees will receive:

Beverages provided by Slo Bru Craft Coffee, mylk and Gérard Bertrand

Hor d’oeuvres provided by Co-Opportunity Market and Deli and Wolfgang Puck Catering

Superfood salad provided by Beaming Century City

Access to an avocado toast station, provided by AvocaToast by Lizzy with bread by Bread Lounge

An opportunity to “take one, give one” at Benny’s Tacos’ burrito donation station

Scoops of Cheeri Cheeri, an artisanal and vegan Filipino ice cream

The option to participate in a raffle to win prizes from CHAYA Modern IzakayaMee And Greet, Del Friscos, TŪMBI, Astro Doughnuts and Fried Chicken, Osteria Mamma and more.

A coupon for a free day of co-working at Industrious Century City, redeemable starting Fri. 10/5

Click here to purchase tickets.

If you are unable to attend this event, please host a dinner or encourage your friends and family to buy tickets. If they can’t, please ask them to donate and support L.A. Kitchen’s rebuild.

Click here to donate to L.A. Kitchen, click “tickets.”

*** Ridesharing encouraged***

***All participating vendors have graciously donated their time, food & talent to the cause for this event***

***All remaining food from this event will be donated to nearby homeless, in an effort to eliminate food waste***

SPECIAL THANKS TO OUR GENEROUS SPONSORS:

SPECIAL THANKS TO OUR RAFFLE SPONSORS:

GOF Interview With La Feria de los Moles Co-Founder Lourdes Juarez

On Saturday, October 7th 2018, the 11th annual La Feria de los Moles will commence at Grand Park in DTLA. This free event is an LA classic celebrating all things mole, offering live music and mole preparation workshops. Favorite local vendors including Rinconcito Poblano, Carniceria La Flama and Zapotec Cafe will be selling their dishes starting at $10 per plate. One new addition for fans of this event is a “Passage Through the Eras of Mole” an exhibit that will detail the development of mole ingredients during “pre-Hispanic” era and the creation of mole and it’s evolution into specific dishes based on environmental region during “post conquest” era.

La Feria de los Moles Co-founder Lourdes Juarez, who grew up in South Central LA, has a serious excitement for sharing this iconic Oaxacan dish with others. Growing up, Lourdes and learned how to make Mole Poblano, Green and Red Pepian from her mother and these experiences awoken that passion in her. I recently spoke with Lourdes about this event and her mole endeavors- check out my interview with her below!

Lourdes Juarez

GOF: Do you have a standard mole recipe that you always cook for events or do you like to mix it up? LJ: My Mole recipe is fairly standard now, but it must have been more unique before. I feel this way because I recall my mother saying “if your grandmother was alive, oh no, I would be in trouble.” See the thing is that it is very hard to get Ingredients common to Mexico. It is often one or two ingredients, a small variation, that becomes the essence of each family’s recipe.

GOF: How did you start up La Feria de los Moles?
LJ: My husband (co-founder Pedro Ramos) one day said “I want to honor my grand-mother.” Of course she too had a special Mole recipe and I recall that moment because he tells me he saw my face shine like a light bulb in my head was shining through my eyes and skin. The dots all connected with memories of his mother’s Mole, and of course with my parents each coming from Oaxaca and Puebla would tease each other about growing up with the best Mole. The difficulty at first was getting the Moles and the chefs to come from those Mexican states. It was kind of hard to find it on menus here. Now everyone from the smallest to the grandest restaurants have Mole on the menu. If Angelenos still can’t find a Mole they love, they should make plans each year to taste different Moles at La Feria de Los Moles.

GOF: Can you tell me about the process of getting Mole sauce it’s own national holiday in Mexico?
LJ: Oh my gosh. First we had to submit an official request. Then we wait for majority approval. It is a long extensive writing process. It’s like submitting a scientific study on Mole with research and findings, etc. Its very difficult but not impossible, we are indeed excited.

GOF: Can you tell me your top 3 spots for Mole dishes in LA?
LJ: Sorry, but no, not really. That’s just too difficult a question for me because some places just use about 6 ingredients in their Mole while others are far more extravagant with over 40 ingredients and I completely appreciate any and all Moles. If someone loves, cares, and respects the history of Mexican cuisine enough to place Mole on the menu I’m going to be a fan. So I’m just going to take the easy way out of that question and say come down to La Feria de los Moles and find your own favorite.

GOF: Have you ever tried to add something different to Mole, and did that work out?
LJ: Yes, I have always been very interested in exploring and experimenting with different ingredient options. One day I tried honey instead of homemade chocolate, and my mother stop talking to me for over two months! In my family that’s like an eternity and every family member knew I must have done something horrible and when they found out what I did they agreed with my punishment. My lesson learned was go ahead and experiment around the edges, but never mess with the core of our Mole recipe!

GOF: What does mole represent to you?
LJ: Mole represents my roots. The flavor always takes me back to my childhood, which goes back four generations. In my opinion Mole is the epitome of family. Mole brings families together, large and small. When Mole is being served everyone comes over. The table is full, everyone is happy, it’s just the best.

For more information on La Feria de los Moles, click here.

GOF Interview: Diane Tchen of Kream Kong Ice Cream

Kream Kong Ice Cream, owned by wife/husband team Stephen and Diane Tchen, started driving their truck around OC and LA this summer and got a little extra heat from the 626 Market. I had a chance to sit with owner Diane, to talk about starting a new business, her favorite Hacienda Heights spots and the challenges of owning an ice cream truck.

GOF: What were your favorite ice cream brands and flavors growing up?   

DT: I will have to say Dreyer’s Rocky Road! I also add my own little twist with topping it off with Hot Cheetos. Yes! Hot Cheetos! It is so yummy together! It’s a must try! Another one was sweet cream with extra Oreos from Cold Stone. That was my to go ice cream spot whenever I was out and wanted dessert.

Stephen and Diane Tchen

GOF: What is your background in the restaurant industry?

DT: I have worked as a server and remember that I just enjoyed being around and meeting all kinds of different people. To be honest, I would love to own my own bar/restaurant one day. If things go really great with Kream Kong, opening up a bar restaurant is next on our list! As of right now, I am still working another job while balancing business with Kream Kong. One of us needs to have the financial stability for our family. I do plan to leave my work one day and work side by side with my husband.

GOF: What is the ice cream and/or cookie recipe creation process like for you?

DT: We’ve put in a lot of work prior to getting our truck so it’s been a rough few years.  We’ve probably made dozens of gallons of ice cream before we really felt confident enough in our flavors. I feel bad for all of our family and friends who tested our ice cream in the beginning stages… haha. For the cookies, it was pretty simple. Baking cookies definitely isn’t as challenging as making ice cream. Even though we are up and going, we still test out ice cream and cookies flavors everyday to keep our menu fresh.

GOF: What are some of the challenges of working with as ice cream truck opposed to having a store front?

DT: Being in a very tight and hot space. Even though we’re serving ice cream, it gets very hot in the truck. Another huge challenge is finding the right location. Since we are new to the food truck scene, it’s been tough trying to find locations and parking lots since a most of the locations have permanent residencies. However, I am confident in our concept that once they try it, they’ll have no problem having us back again and again. 

GOF: What are some of your favorite higher end and lower end restaurants in Hacienda Heights?

DT: Hacienda Heights is a very tiny city. My favorite higher end restaurant is called YakiYan. It is like a Gyu-Kaku but with higher quality meat. My lower end restaurants would be any Pho spots or Jazz Cat. I think I can eat pho or hot pot all day everyday!

GOF: Can you tell me one kitchen tool you think is underrated and deserves more love?

DT: This may sound silly but it is the apron! This is our first experience in a fast paced kitchen, let alone the whole food industry so we definitely took a lot of things for granted. We’ve experienced so much during this whole process and still have a lot more to learn. When we first started, our shirts and pants would get so dirty after an event and we now know why everybody wears an apron. It may not be the most fashionable thing but it saves us a lot of laundry loads!

GOF: Is there one food item on Instagram you’d like to see less of?

DT: I would like to see less of the unicorn/rainbow foods. It has kind of died down now but it was all over my feed a few months ago! It was cool when it first came out, I think the first one I ever saw was the Starbucks unicorn drink. Now everybody is trying to do their own take on it and I just feel like “oh… another one..”.

GOF: Since you’re originally from Hacienda Heights and your truck serves the area, is it important for you to give back community?

DT: Now that we have that opportunity, we are very blessed we can give back to our community. We are in talks with the local little leagues to become one of their sponsors and we hope to get the ball rolling on that soon. We are also going to get in touch with the local children’s hospital. We have a 2 year old son and if you haven’t noticed, we love kids.

GOF: Have any of your friends from childhood surprised you at the truck?

DT: Yes! We are very fortunate that we get so much love and support from all of our family and friends. Even though we get busy, it’s always nice to see a familiar face coming by our truck to show their support. When times get tough, it is times like these that really give us the drive to keep going.

Kream Kong Ice Cream will be driving around LA & Orange County this Fall. To keep with their schedule, follow their Instagram page here.

#WineWednesday: Malibu Wines

Welcome to my new weekly column

#WineWednesday!

Here at #WineWednesday, I’ll be sharing my adventures in the world of wine in LA.

10 years ago, I was a server in a small, family-run Italian trattoria in Sacramento called Michelangelo’s. While many Sacramento natives were driving to Napa on the weekends to get their swirl on, I was getting most of my sips on at work, through product tastings. I loved learning about wine this way and didn’t feel left out, even I was missing out on some fun winery tours.

Like Madonna, over the next 10 years my beverage pairing choices were always reinventing themselves: from a classic cocktail phase in Sacramento, to a major craft beer phase in Seattle, and even a cheap liquor and club soda phase when I could barely afford to pay rent in Venice.

Fast forward to July of last year, when I found out I was pregnant, meaning… bye-bye alcohol! I had survived countless media events, a month long trip to Italy, a bachelorette party at Pump in West Hollywood sans alcohol. After the birth of my daughter in April, I waited 6 weeks before my much anticipated glass of wine.

For me wine conjures up so much more than beer and liquor, whether it’s a memory, or even an surprise unexpected flavor. I enjoy allowing wine to open up and breathe, talking about it, comparing flavor notes. I just like it more.

As a new mommy, I usually don’t allow myself to drink more than 1-3 glasses of wine a week (damn you responsibility!) but when I do I make sure I’m experiencing only the very best- and this is my column to showcase that.

This week’s #WineWednesday is a spotlight on one of LA’s most Instagrammable attractions: Malibu Wines.

Malibu Wines
31740 Mulholland Hwy, Malibu, California 90265
https://www.malibuwines.com/

When thinking about California vineyards, Malibu may not come to mind right away. But Malibu actually boasts of over 50 independent vineyards. With the foggy coastal climate in the AM and rich soil from the PM heat, it creates a great environment for deeper red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon.

Malibu Wines, a tasting room and picnic area serves up both Semler and Saddlerock wines. Both brands utilize estate-grown grapes from the Saddlerock Ranch across the street.

On the weekends, their picnic area schedule is packed with food truck events, movie screenings, even yoga and mimosa themed events. If you plan to come here with a group for a weekend, I think your best game plan should be to purchase a bottle. But if you want to sit, chill and really focus on a tasting, I recommend taking a departure from all the craziness and pop by for a weekday tasting flight.

The flights of wine are reasonably priced, a light flight for $15, a red flight for $17, 5 wines per flight. This is an easy one to split with a pal.

After going through both whites and red flights, my top 3 wines were the Saddlerock’s Rosé of Grenache 2017 (very fruity, also candy-like), the Sangiovese 2014 (light bodied red but full on tannins) and the Merlot 2016 (expect cherry with lots of spice).

This is such an iconic place to visit. Whether you’re with a friend from out of town or you want to unwind and relax, Malibu Wines is one of those LA spots that never goes out of style.

Although this wine tasting was comped by Malibu Wines, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. 

GOF Interview: Chef Ria Barbosa Of PCP DTLA

ROW DTLA, what was once known as the LA Terminal Market, is an industrial oasis in the heart of downtown Los Angeles, packed with contemporary retail and dining spots. Among them is one of the latest additions, Paramount Coffee Project, a Sydney-based coffee shop.

PCP DTLA
777 E 7th St, Los Angeles, CA 90021
https://pcpdtla.com/

This giant location offers the option to grab beverages to go, space for laptop work and a full dining experience. The modern design, with color-pops of gold and bits of street art, PCP fits in perfectly with ROW DTLA.

Chef Ria Barbosa (Sqirl and Go Get Em Tiger) created both Paramount Coffee Project locations (Fairfax and The Row DTLA) breakfast and lunch menus. The menus merge comfort, seasonal, local and cuisine from Ria’s Filipino upbringing all together.

Pork Collar Sandwich – With Brie & Stonefruit on Baguette

I had a moment to sit with Ria to discuss creating recipes, childhood memories and the LA scene.

Me and Ria

GOF: Since Paramount Coffee Project first opened in Sydney, have you spent time in Australia? Did any items from the land-down-under inspire your menu?

RB: I actually have not been to Australia but I’m familiar with Vegemite! I’ve been introduced to a few native ingredients such as wattle seed and saltbush. They’re pretty amazing. I’ve also been introduced to the sausage roll which I’ve already hybridized with a Filipino lumpia filling that’s on the menu.

Sausage Roll

GOF: Have there been any cultural differences working with Australians?

RB: There’s a lot of pronunciations that we jab each other about such as herbs they pronounce the h, they pronounce tomatoes as to‐mah‐toes, and the like. We have a lot of fun talking about food stories.

I’m originally from the Philippines and the food there is still somewhat new to them so it’s nice to be able to introduce it to them and have them taste it. Because they’re so close to Asia there is already a familiarity with Asian influence so it’s nice to vibe and bounce ideas off of each other. I also love to hear about what Asian influenced foods they grew up eating.

GOF: What is the recipe creation process like for you?

RB: Often times it’s a food memory I’d like to recreate, or something we’ve tasted or heard about that influences what direction we want to take the original towards. How true to origin we’d like to stay closer to or how conceptual we want to take it. It all depends on how our diners receive it of course. For the most part, we’re approaching food from a very familiar and comforting stance but taken up a notch or two. We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel.

Corn Fritter – With Peach Pico De Gallo, Fried Egg, Watercress and Creme Fraiche

GOF: What is your favorite childhood meal and have you ever recreated it on one of your menus?

RB: Summers growing up in California meant weekends in Redondo and my parents would take my siblings and I to eat crab by the pier. I was about 9 or 10 and learned how to pick dungeness crab by myself. We’d order a crab each along with a bunch of lemon and steamed rice. I would clean the whole crab myself, storing the picked meat in the shell of the crab, mixing it with the mustard (guts) and fresh lemon juice and eating it over steamed rice. It was a revelation and a very powerful food memory. It was possibly the first time I learned to balance fat and acid. I recreated it while I was the Chef at Sqirl and it actually made it into the cookbook! It was of course, jazzed up a bit. It impressed Antoinette Bruno of Star Chefs who had the dish while they were in town.

GOF: What’s one kitchen tool you think deserves more love?

RB: The humble mortar and pestle. Sure the Robot Coupe or the Vitamix can give you super smooth and delicious things but there’s something about the rustic nature of the mortar and pestle and the texture it lends to whatever you’re making in it.

GOF: Is there one food item on Instagram you’d like to see less of?

RB: I’m going to say it… Avocado toast!

GOF: Favorite LA high end spot and favorite lower end spot?

RB: These are always tough as it always changes, but off the top of my head, current high end would have to be Rustic Canyon. I’m such a fan of Chef Jeremy Fox and crew’s skills. And favorite lower end spot…I’ve been eating a lot of Mariscos Jalisco lately, it’s so good!

GOF: What is your favorite shop at The Row?

RB: Can there be a tie for first? I’ve really been loving the convenience and the selection at Flask and Field for post work activities and I found the tool box of my dreams at High Tide.

GOF: One item on the menu you’re the most proud of?

RB: They’re all kind of like my kids ‐‐ I’m very proud of all of them. But if I had to choose one, it would be the Eggs & Ham. It’s very simple in nature but the wet brining process and getting it to where it is took about two and a half months. It was still a work in progress when we opened and it was good, but there is always a chance to make things better in my opinion. The same goes for everything else on the menu. I’m always thinking of ways to push it and make it better.

Eggs & Ham – With Baguette House Cured Ham & Spicy Sunny Eggs

The quality of ingredients stood out in the Sausage Roll – the roll comes with a small but powerful side of fresh tarragon, parsley, dill and chevril adding a lightness to the meaty and flaky pastry.

If I had to choose, my top 2 favorite dishes were the Corn Fritter – the peach pico de gallo was beautiful and the onions are sweeter, less overwhelming than traditional pico de gallo and the Eggs & Ham – I can see why this is one of Ria’s proudest dishes, cause when you can take something familiar but elevate it with your own personal spin, it’s really something special. The addition of Bub & Grandma’s baguette is also excellent for dipping into the egg and hot sauce.

Dutch Baby – with seasonal fruit (plum) and creme fraiche

Thank you to Prismatics for arranging this interview. Although this tasting was comped by PCP DTLA, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. 

My Favorite Sips From wineLA’s 2018 Rosé and Bubbles Festival

wineLA, Los Angeles’ top source for wine-centered events and education, held their 2nd Annual Rosé and Bubbles Festival at the upscale art gallery Leica Store and Gallery in West Hollywood. Unlike their last major event, Stars of Pinot, this was a more intimate event. Over 20 different participating wineries poured for enthusiasts to taste, and through a silent auction, the festival also raised funds to benefit the T.J. Martell Foundation, a non-profit that supports innovative groundbreaking cancer research.

Although rosé wine and white pants seem like a thing of the past, many guests swirled their glasses in Hamptons-esque wardrobe. There was even a rosé themed costume contest, which I sadly didn’t win! 🙁

How did I lose?

With my general admission ticket (priced at $70) I was handed a glass and given access to taste any wine on the floor of my choosing. Plenty of the fabulous catering, provided by Petrossian cheeses, breads and Evian water bottles were also included in this ticket. Also, this fantastic mochi ice cream company, my/mo provided the best mochi ice cream ever, you must try the strawberry and the salted caramel. Sponsor Champagne Henriot, always a favorite of mine, was providing guests with a champagne tasting right at the entrance to start the night on a bubbly note. 

Smoked Salmon and other goodies provided by Petrossian West Hollywood
best. mochi. ever.

My favorite sips from Rosé and Bubbles Festival

Château La Coste Rosé, Provence, 2017 –  Although I try to zero in on local, California wineries at events like this, there’s never a bad time to taste a French rosé. This Provencal blend of Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault was my favorite classic bottle and was perfect to sip on with the smoked salmon crostinis being passed around.  

Château La Coste Rosé, Provence, 2017

The 50 by 50, Rosé of Pinot Noir, Carneros, 2017 – Let’s address the obvious elephant in the room… yes, Gerald Casale, a founding member of DEVO, is the wine maker. Yes, he was actually there at this event, pouring his wine. Yes, I got totally star-struck and awkward cause that’s what happens to me when I meet my heroes of the 80’s. Since this rosé is made from pinot, it’s delicate but still fruity. I was also happy to see a California rosé represented, as this event didn’t have too many of them. I ordered a bottle and plan to drink it wearing my energy dome!

Barnard Griffin, Rosé of Sangiovese, Columbia Valley, 2017 – As I was sipping on this, I thought long and hard about when I had ever tasted Rosé of Sangiovese and I realized I probably haven’t. And I’ve been seriously missing out! This is such a bright, juicy rosé with a nice dry finish. I also couldn’t resist the $14 per bottle price point.

Anne Amie Vineyards, Twelve Oaks Estate Rosé of Pinot Gris, Chehalem Mountains, 2017 – This one is perfect for those of you who love a tart, crisp green apple as much as I do! This puckery wine will pair perfectly with seafood and fresh veggies.

Gérard Bertrand, Code Rouge Blanc De Blanc – Sure, the intense red bottling is a bit much and I know their $14 per bottle ’17 Rosé tends to woo everyone over, but you must give this one a chance! This crisp blend of Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Mauzac is a littler pricer at $27 per bottle but it’s a beautiful combo- it’s actually one of the two wines I pestered the reps for extra pours on.

Hillersden, Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc, Upper Wairau Valley, Marlborough, NZ, 2017 – My first time tasting a sparkling sauv blanc! I wasn’t too sure about this one. To be honest, I did think it could be gimicky… but I was totally wrong and purchased a bottle.

Jacquesson Cuvée No. 741, Champagne, 2013 – This was one was put of my price range, sadly but I must say, it’s dry, lots of minerality with a lightly funky nose. If your wallet stretches out further than mine, invest in this one!

There’s nothing better than buying wines in support of a good cause! Be sure to keep up with wineLA’s upcoming events on their website. In addition to these events, the wineLA program (founded by sommelier Ian Blackburn) also includes wine classes, private dinners and wine travels abroad. 

From left: Devon Barnes, Alex Ward, Myself, TinTin Beligan Image provided by TinTin Beligan

Although this general admission ticket was comped by wineLA, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.