Friday, December 9, 2011

Last Look at Village Coffee Shop

Au revoir old friend!

Petite Allo!

With our arrival, promise of alcohol!

Nothing is as exciting as walking into a place and seeing all its potential. Only to be dampened by the gravity of its iconic history, realizing the change that's about to happen, hopefully for the better. Change is difficult - what to let go, what to save, what to honor, what to give a second chance?

Thankfully, I don't have to make any of those decisions. Yet, luckily, am still allowed my two cents.

We have Patti, Barbara Bestor, and a crew of creative design folks, so my thoughts will be reserved for the kitchen and food display cases. For friends who have heard me use the excuse, "Think I'm going to stay in tonight and art direct my kitchen shelves..." Well, I may have hit the jackpot.

As for the current kitchen? Cramped, grimy, overwhelming of that all-too-familiar sour kitchen smell mixed with decades of baked-in grease.

And, I couldn't be more excited!!


The counter stays (with a makeover).

The wallpaper goes.

Of course, charming icons like this vintage pie-case (currently used as mug storage) will be restored to its glory days. Imagine all the luscious scones, pies and cakes that will set the case aglow.

Kitchen is tiny and grimy but this will change, at least the grimy part.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Long Quick Catch-up + Beachwood Cafe

It's been quite a year over here at EPA. Hopefully, this post will catch you up while kickstarting my commitment to keep you updated.

Let's start off with my culinary highlight: November Gulf Coast trip with CulinaryCorps. It was my second trip with the organization and equally gratifying and intense as the first, but different (first trip was in 2007, part of Katrina relief). This topic will need its own post... Until then, this video should give you a warm and fuzzy idea of "cooking it forward."

On the homefront, I've been cooking private fancy dinners for private fancy clients and teaching cooks everything from pantry basics (a class I call "Mise en Place, yo!") and knife skills to making mother sauces and creating five course meals.

I've also continued my interest in beer making (see old post with Daniel, who is now the head of his Meatball Shop empire) as well tinkering with preserved foods (pickles, kimchi, jams, confitures, preserves, chutney, confit, kombucha, cheeses, etc.). Essentially, taking something or a few things and changing its molecular structure to extend or give it a new life, all while being delicious!

Naturally, I am still refining my love for flour, butter, sugar, eggs and yeast! As much as I don't like being pigeon-holed as a pastry-girl, it does come naturally. As I've told many of you, the secret to my baking is to bake like a cook. Although I like working bakers' hours and having my own pastry kitchen at a restaurant, I do not have a baker's temperament. I'm rarely exacting and like to poke at my doughs and taste them raw. Pastry chefs are known to be very neat, precise and somewhat weirded-out by tasting things before they are baked. Pastry folks also like to use timers and calibrated ovens. Having worked in small quarters, being the only woman in a kitchen, and usually the shortest/least threatening of the bunch, I've had to negotiate my place in the oven hierarchy. I can bake at 250 degrees as easily as 500 (not recommended). The secret is to do it like a cook - put it in and know it's done when it smells right, looks good and tastes delicious.

Sorry, I digressed. But yes, I've been baking up a storm and will be doing a lot more of it as well as culminating some of my other culinary interests in a new venture: Beachwood Cafe.

I was blessed to meet the owner of the Cafe, Patti Peck, via some good friends and our relationship blossomed organically. We talked about our love for food for hours and eventually discussed our take on modernizing Americana diner food. We were in agreement that while "gourmetizing" comfort food has been all the rage, we are hoping to honor this iconic space and its food the old fashioned way, by making everything with love! Handmade, handmade, handmade! I don't know if Patti will agree if that is our mantra but it sure is mine. I plan on making a lot of the baked goods and condiments that go with them with my own two hands as well as spinning fresh ice-cream daily. Not to say, if you were look at Patti's hands, you would not see she has left an imprint in every corner of this soon-to-open joint. So, yes, from our heart and hands, we're going to give you our best! (Sappiness is par for the course from this one.)

We're still working out the exact details of the Beachwood Cafe/EPA relationship, but know you will find me milling around Beachwood Canyon come February/March.

At the immediate moment, I am working on the cafe's Spring menu for its opening - lots of testing, revising, triumphs and failures (just like school). I'll also continue to cook and teach while working on other long term ventures, renewing my commitment to CulinaryCorps and Edible education in Echo Park.

That's the long and short of it. I'll get into more details and include recipes, photos in forthcoming posts - don't laugh as you will see posts that should have gone up as far back as a year ago. As always, I appreciate your support and encouragement. Keep me on my toes, ask questions, include me in your culinary plans!


Friday, April 8, 2011

Facebook + Twitter

Sorry, haven't been keeping up. Keep in touch with EPA's Facebook Page and Tweets. Adventures to come, promise.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Truffles for Homesite Art Installation

Was up at Barnsdall again this past weekend. This time I was called upon to participate in Joyce Dallal and Lauren M. Kasmer's Homesite Exchange Participatory Artwork Installation. Lauren had called me with 48 hours of notice to come up with something special to celebrate the Recipe Exchange. I simply asked what she liked. She said chocolate, for about 100 people. On the spot, I thought of chocolate bites. She added, chocolate infused with orange or some incarnation of such made her happy.

Next thing I know, I'm swimming in five pounds of Theo Chocolate (Thanks Theo!) and an array of ideas, too many ideas.

Coming down to time and ease of ingredient procurement, four different bites were presented:

1. Thyme and Maldon Sea Salt buttered toast covered in Costa Rica 91% Cacao (before and after choco bath pic below). This was my favorite!

2. Coconut Curry Milk Chocolate Truffles. This was the crowd pleaser...looking for a sweet spicy bite, this one delivered.

3. Black Tea and Red Chili Ghana 84% Cacao Truffles. The tea was sublte and the red chili bold, one bite is all one needed.

4. Fresh Clementine and Kumquat Madagascar 74% Cacao Truffles. I made these especially for Lauren.

A little sumptin' for everyone. And how does one roll 200+ pieces of truffles? Good friends -- thanks Chris + Trish!

* * * * *

Simple Chocolate Truffle Base (Ganache)

1 1/2 C Heavy Cream
1 lb. Bitter Chocolate (Chopped)

Scald the cream, take off heat, add chocolate and stir until melted, forming a consistent, smooth and shiny mixture. Pour in container and let cool, refrigerate overnight or at least five hours.

I tend not to use a bain marie (water bath/double boiler) because I hate washing extra bowls and pans. To not use one means having a heavy bottomed pan (such as All-Clad), having an intimate relationship with your chocolate, and working fast. A bain marie will give you more control and lessen chances of scalding expensive chocolates.

To infuse flavor, steep with cream -- this is good for herbs, teas, coffee beans, vanilla bean, dried chili, zest, etc. Additional ingredients may also be folded into the warm ganache -- coconut, fresh fruit, seeds. There are about a million truffle flavor potential so be creative and bold!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

NADFLY's Cardamom Cake

Barnsdall Art Park, home to Frank Lloyd Wright's Hollyhock House and gallery, theatre, park, et. al., seems to have become my second home so far in 2010. From gorgeous sunsets to exciting exhibits, I've been spending many sunny (as well as rainy) afternoons there. Upon one of these afternoons in January, I met artist Nicola Atkinson (NADFLY) tuning her guitar and warming her voice. Turns out she was installing the the first ever pop-up Fika (Swedish coffee break) in LA. Within two minutes of our conversation, I had signed on to bake cakes for the next three months.

Nicola's site explains all about her Fika installation including her beautiful handmade pottery, the connection and interaction it inspires, and why Clint Eastwood's name keeps coming up.

I'm here to talk about her cardamom cake, the one I was honored to bake every weekend for three months. Like many-a-wonderful things, start with eggs and butter (sorry vegans, I'll be thinking of you in the future).

However what makes this rich, dense, eat-with-your-fingers cake special, and quintessentially Swedish, is fragrant cardamom.

And so cardamom it was, wafting its way through the kitchen as its sight surreptitiously amuses:

And a few shots of the installation including the artist serving cake, my sister Kimmie demonstrating the "stand-up nap" as well as the luscious handmade cups/sugar bowls and finally, cake-en-scène:

NADFLY's Fika Shop will be up through 4/18. Check it out and eat cake!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Homemade Beer: Wit Men Can't Jump (Belgian Witbier)

Daniel (a chef who has headed up kitchens you've eaten in) was in town for a few weeks and we decided to make beer. Our first stop was Culver City Home Brewing where owner Greg gave us a beermaking 101 in about an hour which included a rundown of equipment, how-to and answered many of our questions. Well, my questions. Daniel has made beer numerous times in his restaurants. The things that excited me most were the ingredients (duh!). We tried almost all the grains which inspired me to want to use Cara Munich or Chocolate Rye Malt for breadmaking or my granola mix. We smelt various hops and were even privied to the ones growing in the back of the store (planted every spring). We giggled at the pellet hops and opted for the flowers (obvious choice).

I really wanted to make a porter or stout because that's what I like to drink. These dark beers remind me of coffee, chocolate, molasses, caramel and port wine -- all my favorite things. Dark beers usually match my wistful moods but a last minute conversation about summer, friends, and Asian food made me think about Hitachino White Ale (with the cool owl on the bottle). That's how we decided on a coriander and orange Belgian Witbier with a silly name.

On brew day, I couldn't find my big pot (used to make pho, usually) so Daniel and I walked to A-1, my local Asian store and bought a 26 quart tall-walled stainless steel pot.


Grains: CaraPils and Belgian Aromatic

Cooking and steeping the grains

These are the grains after the liquid has been strained into the brewing pot. I'm using it for "spent-grain bread."

Pouring liquid malt to the main brewing pot. Have you ever tasted malt? It's sweet with a bitter, tannic after-taste.

Cooking the malt and grain liquid so everything breaks down. We do this until the whole things comes to a rolling boil.

An ounce of Saaz hops is added and brewed at a rolling boil for 60 minutes. Another half an ounce is added and brewed for an additional five minutes.

Aromatics of coriander seeds and dried bitter curacao orange peel is added. Additionally, I went off recipe and added some fresh blood orange zest and 2 tbsp of orange blossom honey (honey is listed as an adjunct in the recipe). Next time I need to add nutmeg -- I think this is an ingredient in Hitachino's White Ale.

The rolling boil wort with all the ingredients.

Sanitizing the equipment with iodine.

Yeast. I love activating the yeast package. You pound the pouch and all of a sudden, you hear it bubbling and the bag expands.

An initial sugar rating is measured with a hdyrometer. It shows that the beer can potentially be 5% alchohol by volume.

The wort (beer brew) is added to the sanitized "first fermenter" along with more filtered water and "pitching" of the yeast. On top of the rubber stopper is a three piece airlock. Once the yeast starts going, the sanitized liquid (in this case vodka) starts bubbling as air escapes. Vodka is used because it's sanitary and won't hurt the beer in case of suckbacks and it's a good visual indicator that the yeast is working.

The first night was cool so I wrapped the fermenter in my favorite wool blanket. And just like a baby, the beer burped all over the blanket when I woke up in the morning.