Holiday gift guide for foodies

Still working your way through that holiday gift list? If you’re shopping for someone who likes food more than your average Joe, then check out these goodies in this holiday gift guide for foodies.

Pretzel necklace from Food52

Pretzel necklace

Pretzel necklace

Food52 also carries necklaces with pendants shaped like whisks, rotelle pasta, crawfish claws and more. All are adorable. All should be on holiday gift guides. Because food jewelry.

The Chef Says book

The Chef Says

The Chef Says

Chock full of funny and insightful quotes, The Chef Says makes a nice gift for that person who is really into what his or her favorite chef may have to say, even when not in the kitchen.

Clean Plates book

Clean Plates

Clean Plates

For the healthful eater, there are the Clean Plates books, which bills itself as “Zagat with a healthy twist.” So far the books are available in Los Angeles and New York City versions, and are also able to be personalized.

Huckleberry cookbook

Huckleberry cookbook

Huckleberry cookbook

From the creative mind of Zoe Nathan, pastry chef extraordinaire at Huckleberry Bakery & Cafe, comes the cookbook of the same name. This is great for the baker on your list, as it contains recipes of many of the bakery’s favorites, both sweet and savory.

Anthropologie gold monogram mugs

Anthropologies gold monogram mugs

Anthropologie gold monogram mugs

Because who doesn’t want their initial in gold?

16

12 2014

Bruce Kalman elevates dining with Union Pasadena

Spaghetti alla chitarra at Union Pasadena. Photo courtesy of Union.

Spaghetti alla chitarra at Union Pasadena. Photo courtesy of Union.

Chef Bruce Kalman’s Union Pasadena in Old Town is good — not just good for Pasadena, but good for anywhere. That’s good news for Pasadena, but not so good for those of us who live nowhere near there.

No matter. You’ll want to try Union Pasadena’s food in any case. The menu by Kalman (The Misfit, Urbano Pizza Bar, The Churchill) is described as a “seasonally Californian interpretation of Northern Italian cuisine,” but all you need to know is you want all the pasta. Yes, the other dishes are tasty, too — pork meatballs with San Marzano tomatoes, lardo and caper berries, and wild mushrooms over Grist & Toll polenta topped with Pedro Ximenez sherry vinegar — but Kalman’s house-made pasta is where it’s at.

The spaghetti alla chitarra (pictured above), with San Marzano tomato, garlic and fresno chili pepper, is a classic kicked up a notch with a Californian ingredient. It’s simple and satisfying.

But when Kalman starts getting creative, that’s when he really shines. The squid ink garganelli served with lobster, fennel, meyer lemon and truffle butter is holy-moly good. The toothsome pasta sucks up all the flavors, including the richness of the lobster.

Squid ink garganelli

Squid ink garganelli. Photo courtesy of Union.

In keeping with the seasonal theme, some dishes in the pasta section change periodically. One of these seasonal dishes is a duck agnolotti with pickled fiddlehead ferns, another rich dish featuring expertly crafted pasta and two of my favorite ingredients.

Duck agnolotti

Duck agnolotti. Photo courtesy of Union.

When it comes to mains, don’t overlook the pork chops. It’s not a sexy cut of meat, but boy are Kalman’s juicy (that sounded really dirty, didn’t it?). The version I had with mushrooms, root vegetables, Marsala sauce and sage was the best I’ve had in recent memory.

I really wish Union Pasadena were closer to where I live, but that would just be selfish. I guess now I have a reason to make the “trek” to Pasadena.

Note: This meal was hosted.

Further reading:

Bruce Kalman Ups the Ante at Union Pasadena by estarLA

Pasadena’s Union is not your same ol’ Old Town by Los Angeles Times

07

12 2014

Travelogue: The Pepper Pot cafe in Dublin, Ireland

Soup, salad and bread at The Pepper Pot in Dublin

Soup, salad and bread at The Pepper Pot in Dublin

Conveniently located just off the main shopping drag of Grafton Street, The Pepper Pot in Dublin, Ireland, is the perfect place to rest those weary feet with some lunch, tea or sweets.

I ate here twice last fall during a week-long trip to Dublin. Must have been good, right? The main reason my husband and I decided to return was for the brown soda bread, an Irish staple. Pepper Pot’s version is the best I’ve had: thick yet fluffy, with a nutty flavor that comes from the baked-in whole nuts and seeds.

The restaurant, which is located inside the Powerscourt Townhouse Centre on the second floor underneath a large, airy skylit roof, serves seasonal salads, soups, sandwiches and tarts, as well as cakes, teas and all-day breakfast. I had a salad of field greens, figs, almonds and burrata that was light and fresh. Rory had an apple and parsnip curry soup that hit the spot on a chilly fall Dublin afternoon. The adorable mismatched plates and tea cups don’t hurt, either.

Enjoying a spot of tea

Enjoying a spot of tea

I also had a breakfast dish, housemade granola with yogurt and berry compote. While the flavors were great, this was a lot of granola for me at once. I would have preferred more yogurt, but my sister-in-law said she liked the dish as it was. To each her own! Also, Pepper Pot offers various toppings for its organic porridge — not just the usual single option.

Granola and yogurt

Granola and yogurt

It’s worth nothing that the restaurant makes gluten-free and dairy-free bread for those who request it. Angelenos should have no problem finding something they’ll like here.

The Pepper Pot

The Pepper Pot

24

11 2014

Brunch gets fancy at Tanzy in Westwood

Tanzy Westwood

Tanzy Westwood

Tanzy, the Chef Bryan Podgorski-helmed restaurant housed inside the iPic Theater in Westwood, conveniently offers brunch to go along with your weekend matinee (there is an express menu available inside the movie theater, too).

Once inside and embraced by the wrapping tree branch decor, you’ll find sweet and savory on the brunch menu from Podgorski (The French Laundry, Bouchon Bistro Las Vegas). My favorites are the brioche French toast, which is served bread pudding style, and the bacon and eggs raviolo with a soft poached hen egg, ricotta cheese, wilted spinach and bacon vinaigrette. Both are decadent options sure to satisfy. Getting the orange currant scone would also be a good choice.

Brioche French toast

Brioche French toast

Bacon and eggs raviolo

Bacon and eggs raviolo

Other items didn’t quite hit the mark for me when I visited Tanzy. Dishes were either too salty (corned beef hash, hash browns) or suffered from poor execution (pistachio shells in the Cali Colada). But these are easy fixes that hopefully have been made by now.

Another thing to note: bottomless strawberry mimosas for $14, and any fresh juice concoction on the menu can be turned into a cocktail. Sounds like a good time to me!

Note: This meal was hosted.

11

11 2014

Waffles and beer at The Iron Press in Orange County

A beer flight at The Iron Press

A beer flight at The Iron Press

The Iron Press in Costa Mesa is the food party lovechild of co-founders Jeremy Saenz (Lucky Habanero Salsa) and Leonard Chan (California Shabu Shabu). Tucked into the once furniture store-dominated shopping plaza South Coast Collection (SOCO) next to the 405 freeway, the restaurant specializes in waffle sandwiches and top quality, California-brewed craft beers. Whether you come for the beer or come for the waffles, you’ll stay for both.

Let’s start with the waffles.  Most items on the menu are waffle sandwiches. I was very tempted by the prosciutto and gruyere waffle sandwich and the country madame, but elected to order the country style buttermilk fried chicken. This actually wasn’t a sandwich at all, but rather fried chicken tenders topped with gravy, sitting on a freshly pressed Belgian waffle. Being the breakfast food fan that I am, I threw on extras of bacon and a fried egg on top. Traditionally, this comes served with a side of maple syrup (it did), but to kick it up a notch, I was also given jalapeño maple syrup to pour on my chicken and waffles dish. Even though there’s just a subtle difference, the spiced up version is definitely the way to go.

Country Style Chicken and Waffle

Country Style Chicken and Waffle

Though everything works together, if I had it all to do again, I would have elected to forego the gravy. It’s fine in and of itself — smooth and creamy — but I would have liked to let the crispy texture of the fried chicken get more appreciation. This was no fault of the dish; I can only blame my mind for adopting the attitude of “did somebody say gravy!?” The egg yolk didn’t run as much as I usually expect from fried eggs, but then again how much liquid does one want on his waffle?

On the side and begging to be shared were the Imperial IPA Irish Nachos. A beer lover’s take on one of the heaviest snacks ever, the Iron Press version actually tastes light and fresh. The cabbage, prosciutto and jalapeño are simmered in an imperial IPA before being placed on waffle fries and topped with lager cheddar sauce and sliced avocado. Between the sauce and the simmering, they actually manage to sneak almost a whole beer into these nachos. What makes the dish feel lighter are the crisp waffle fries that aren’t overly oily as their drive-thru counterparts usually are. The cheddar sauce is used sparingly so as to not make the fries soggy, and everything is fresher when you add avocados! Ketchup is provided on the side, but you won’t need it.

Imperial IPA Irish Nachos

Imperial IPA Irish Nachos

If you’ve conquered your waffle sandwich and skillfully shared your nachos, you’re ready to move on to dessert. There’s a Cap’n Crunch Berries-infused waffle and a S’mores waffle just ready to complete your ascension into food coma heaven. On this occasion, the Wookie called to me and I answered. Using the in-house cookie dough, a waffle-shaped chocolate cookie comes warm off the iron and is topped with ice cream. Again going the extra mile, I got mine topped with strawberries and bananas and drizzled with chocolate. Say what you want about me being fancy, I have no shame. This dessert can feed a bigger group than one might expect, though it gets a little tricky gathering your bites together on the plate. The cookie is crunchy rather than chewy, since it’s cooked thin on the waffle iron, so it’s brittle and breaks apart easy.

Wookie waffle

Wookie waffle

Opening in 2012, the place quickly became known for their events and evenings focused on breweries and craft beers. Every month, the bar hosts a Tap Takeover Tuesday with local brews, including many exclusive and limited varieties. In October, the bar featured Mother Earth beers from Vista, California. This is the night where the beer big boys bring their A game.

The Iron Press recently opened a newer location at the Anaheim Packing District, spreading its loaded waffle point of view across Orange County.

Note: This meal was hosted.

02

11 2014

Beauty product review: Origins charcoal mask

Origins charcoal mask

Origins charcoal mask. From Origins.

Whenever I find a skincare product that works for me, I get excited. Like, really excited. For someone with oily skin, finding something that makes my face feel truly clean is a big deal. Enter the Origins charcoal mask.

Origins’ Clear Improvement Active Charcoal Mask looks a little scary — it’s black — but it is one of the best masks I’ve ever used. The activated charcoal, which means the charcoal has been heated to make it more porous, pulls impurities and toxins from the skin. It’s the same stuff that’s given to people in emergency rooms for having swallowed poison, so you know it’s good. And the Origins charcoal mask is easy to use: slather some all over your face (it’s best to open your pores first with a warm washcloth first), wait 10 to 15 minutes or until it’s dry, then rinse it off. Origins says you can use it as often as needed, and it’s formulated for all skin types. I use it about once a week, as it feels soothing with no tingling sensation at all.

I’ve noticed that my skin not only feels cleaner, but it’s also clearer, since I’ve been using the Origins charcoal mask. What more can you want?

Note: This product was complimentary. Opinions are my own.

26

10 2014

SunCafe ups the ante for vegan fare

SunCafe

SunCafe

ShopEatSleep was invited to try out the expanded menu at SunCafe’s new location in Studio City. Being a total novice to vegan food — my experience with veganism was limited to a vegan burger that I had a great many moons ago — I was curious to see if the meatless offerings at SunCafe could satiate my usually insatiable appetite.

Known for serving up imaginative plant-based cuisine, SunCafe operated out of a modest Studio City storefront for five years before moving to its current home on Ventura Boulevard. With more than triple the capacity, including a spacious outdoor patio, the fully renovated 1920s-era ranch-style house delivers a good blend of old and new, lending itself to a cozy and relaxed ambience.

Keep reading

12

10 2014

Get ready for Barberia restaurant

Expanding from the Barbershop Ristorante pop-up into a permanent space in downtown Los Angeles named Barberia restaurant, Chef Walter el Nagar (Il Grano, La Botte) has been hosting a run of tasting menu evenings to preview what is in store for the new restaurant. As the location on Hope Street downtown nears completion, these tastings are being hosted in Brakeman Brewery, a gallery space off of Jefferson Boulevard along the Metro Expo Line.

Barberia preview at Brakeman Brewery

Barberia preview at Brakeman Brewery

With a wonderful sound system, cozy bar and golden sunsets to die for, we recently dined on the outdoor patio area at dusk.

After being greeted by a bar inside, a carefully prepared meal was our treat outside. First up to say hello was duck tartare with shaved foie gras and anchovy on sailor bread. The laws in California don’t prevent consumption of foie gras, but the ban on the sale of foie did make this dish a pleasant surprise for many at the table. The theme of pairing these items together is appreciated, but let’s be real: you’re excited about the foie.

Duck tartare with foie gras

Duck tartare with foie gras

In a nod to the sea and barbershop, up next was an uni sponge cake in tomato broth presented in a sea urchin bowl atop a stone with a barbershop pole etching. The taste was subtle, as most of the dishes in the evening would be, and was a refreshing follow-up to the tartare on a warm evening.

Uni sponge cake

Uni sponge cake

The prawns aguachile was quite interesting. It was like a prawn enchilada in green sauce but wrapped in avocado slices instead of tortillas. I would probably prefer this as a snack rather than a dinner course, but I definitely enjoyed it. As always, avocados remind you that you’re in California.

Prawns aguachile

Prawns aguachile

The linguine alle vongole was my favorite dish of the evening. Using wheat germ pasta cooked in clam juice and fresh clams, there’s a kick at the end of each bite thanks to the chili in the spicy sauce that the pasta sat on rather than being coated in it. I could have had three more helpings of this dish, gladly.

Linguine alle vongole

Linguine alle vongole

The abalone and porcini mushroom risotto was a real hit, and for many their favorite dish of the tasting menu. Everything combined perfectly, and each bite had a great taste to it. Seaweed was also used for flavoring in this dish, and it was spot on.

Abalone and porcini mushroom risotto

Abalone and porcini mushroom risotto

Dessert came with a message: “Tomato is a fruit.” That’s literally what the dish was called. A sweet tomato in a bowl with strawberry syrup, topped with white chocolate ice cream and vanilla foam, the message was loud, clear and delightful. This wasn’t a decadent dessert, full of sin and scandal; it was more like a peaceful agreement between good looking people who never really wanted to fight each other. This will be a popular dessert for the summertime.

Tomato dessert

Tomato dessert

Overall, this peek at what’s to come for Barberia restaurant definitely shows promise. You can experience this preview (last pop-up takes place Oct. 17) and decide for yourself by making online reservations on the Barbershop website. No word on when Barberia restaurant will open, but there will be quite a few people in the food world interested to see how this joint venture with Adam Fleischman, of Umami and AdVantage fame, will turn out.

Note: This meal was hosted.

29

09 2014

5 tips for great hair

Joshua Kaplan hair stylist

Joshua Kaplan

Here’s another bikini.com post, this time on tips for getting gorgeous, healthy hair. These come courtesy of my long-time personal hair stylist, Joshua Kaplan, who has been cutting, coloring and styling hair for nearly two decades. He’s a founding member of Goo Salon on the best stretch of Fairfax Avenue as far as I’m concerned (Golden State, Animal, Plan Check and many other delicious restaurants are within walking distance). But I digress. Not only has Kaplan been cutting my hair for years, he also styled my hair for my wedding, so I trust him implicitly.

So check out his top five tips for taking care of your hair.

1. Don’t Shampoo Too Often
Oil is actually your friend, not your enemy, when it comes to hair. “Excessive shampooing dries out the hair and strips the scalp of oils that actually make your hair look better,” Kaplan says. For everyday shampooers, he says to start by trying to limit washings to every other day, then every third day and so on. For very dry hair, shampooing once a week is more than enough, with just wetting it and using conditioner on the ends in between washings. Also, “sulfate-free shampoo is always best,” he says. Sulfates are de-greasing agents found in many household cleaning products that dry out hair and fade color. Who wants that in her hair?

2. Take Biotin
“Biotin is a vitamin supplement that, when taken religiously, promotes amazingly healthy hair growth,” Kaplan says. “It gives you glowing skin and stronger nails, too.” Easy enough.

3. Lose The Extensions
Permanent extensions damage the hair because they are bonded to your real hair. “Our hair sheds naturally. This is a good thing. But when you have extensions, your hair isn’t allowed to shed, so when you remove the extensions, you lose all that hair in one shot that you would have lost over a longer period of time,” he says. “I’ve seen clients missing patches of hair from extensions and major breakage. I’ve also heard many clients complaining of headaches.” Kaplan says to use clip-in extensions if you really want to use them. But how does he really feel about extensions? “They damage the hair and look super dated. This isn’t 2006.”

Keep reading over at bikini.com to find out the last couple of tips (#4 is my favorite).

20

09 2014

Learning is fun with an Eatz cooking class

Eatz cooking class

Eatz cooking class

Looking for a fun and informative way to learn some cooking basics? Then an Eatz cooking class might be just what you need.

Located near the intersection of La Brea and Melrose avenues in a cute kitchen space, Eatz offers a variety of classes, from the casual to the technical. Go for a one-off class to learn how to make Greek food or your steakhouse favorites, or go for a series of classes to learn elevated culinary school skills.

I recently tried a Weeknights Made Easy with Chef Porsche Reid, who has a warm, inviting personality and put everyone at ease quickly. Throughout the process of making our five dishes, she explained the reasoning behind the steps and offered up tips to make cooking easier.

Cooking at Eatz

Cooking at Eatz

Our menu for the three-hour class:

  • Pan-seared skirt steak with herbed rice and jalapeno & avocado dressing
  • Cinnamon spice rubbed pork tenderloin with caramelized apples and onions
  • Chicken skewers with grilled romaine salad and a pistachio-mint pesto
  • Italian sausage and artichoke-stuffed portobello mushrooms
  • Handcrafted donuts with powdered sugar, lemon glaze chocolate glaze toppings
Spice-rubbed pork loin

Spice-rubbed pork tenderloin

I wasn’t sure how to gauge my skill level, so I went in thinking I was somewhere in the middle: a 5 out of 10. But I soon realized that my skills (most of which I’ve learned from watching Food Network shows and practicing on my own) were more on par with a 7 or 8. This Eatz cooking class suits beginners well, as all of the recipes, which are emailed to you after the class, are relatively easy to make. Bonus: You get appetizers and wine as soon as you arrive, and you make so much food that you’ll take home lots of leftovers.

Frying up donuts

Frying up doughnuts

My husband Rory with our donuts

My husband Rory with our doughnuts

Note: This class was hosted.

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15

09 2014