Artisan ice cream in LA, worth the carbs

When not just any ice cream will do, indulge in summer’s favorite frozen dessert at these top LA artisan ice cream shops, where scoops are handcrafted with premium ingredients and available in extraordinary – and bizarre — flavors beyond your imagination.

If the name fits

“Unusually creative and absolutely delicious” is the way Salt & Straw describes their ice cream. The shop’s quirky name (a reference to the rock salt once used to freeze hand-churned ice cream and the straw it was packed in to keep it cold) is as unique as their flavors. Founded by two cousins, Kim and Tyler Malek, one with a flair for the culinary arts and the other a mind for business, and both of a mind to create something amazing, the opened their first shop in Portland in 2011, and now they have three in Portland, five in LA and one in San Francisco.

Their handmade, small-batch scoops are sourced from select local and sustainable farmers and artisans, from Southern California and Oregon (they also have shops in Portland, where they started). The shop features an ice cream sommelier who will take customers through tastings of their classic delights, like, sea salt with caramel ribbons, almond brittle with salted ganache, chocolate gooey brownie and peach vinegar cobbler with toasted nutmeg, olive oil and lemon custard; or their revolving menu of inventive flavors, such as rhubarb crumble with toast anise, wildflower honey with ricotta walnut lace cookies, naked stage “we are love” tea and roses, and lemon grand poppy sherbet. The community-minded shop has frequent fundraisers to give back, such as partnerships with local schools where students get to invent flavors, and proceeds from sales are donated to the schools.

Cool is the new hot

Coolhaus’ founders Natasha Case’s and Freya Estreller’s venture into ice cream was a departure from their backgrounds in design and real estate, but they paid homage to their professions by naming their ice cream creations “cool houses,” otherwise known as ice cream sandwiches. But instead of ordinary chocolate graham cracker and vanilla, their custom-made “sammies” are filled with ice cream flavors like brown butter and candied bacon, pistachio black truffle, balsamic fig and mascarpone, aunt Glady’s fruit cake, beer and pretzels and dirty mint chip, bookended by gourmet cookies such as snickerdoodles, confetti whoopee pie, gluten-free cocoa pebbles, and of course chocolate chip.

The Coolhaus duo took their creations, dubbed “Farchitecture,” or Food + Architecture, to their hometown streets in Los Angeles in in 2009 in a beat-up old postal van, which became the first of their current national fleet of 10 mobile ice cream trucks and carts in LA, Dallas and NYC, and two storefronts in Culver City and Pasadena. Their line of treats has expanded to decadently dipped ice cream bars on a stick, such as mies vanilla rohe dipped in salted caramel milk chocolate rolled in crushed pretzels, and their scoops served up in their shops included a changing menu of seasonal flavors such as Mo’ Honey, No Problems, a sweet honey ice cream with OG Honeycomb cereal and McFaddy’s chocolate-covered honeycomb, and Hazed and Confused hazelnut ice cream with hemp protein power, Grape-Nuts cereal, hemp seeds and hemp-based CBD oil.

Ice cream by design

Before artisan ice cream was a thing, Jeni Britton Bauer was ahead of the trend. She founded Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream in 2002, using dairy from grass-pastured cows, natural ingredients and from-scratch recipes to create inspired flavor combinations, like Sweet Cream Biscuits and Peach Jam, Savannah Butter Mint, Mango Butter Milk Frozen Yogurt, Cocoa Curry Coco, and Gooey Butter Cake. Jeni’s purist approach and complex processes of building texture and flavor without synthetic flavorings and dyes, stabilizers and emulsifiers not only makes great tasting ice cream but also gives her scoops a uniquely smooth texture and buttercream body.

From art student to baker and then perfumer, Britton transferred her aesthetic eye, culinary artfulness and passion for creating sensational concoctions into an ice cream enterprise that has earned her the distinction of one of Fast Company’s most creative people in business. Her dedication to quality extends beyond her product to extraordinary service and the environment of her sparkling-clean and beautiful storefronts in four SoCal locations and eight cities nationwide, where patrons can enjoy their dessert in a space fitting to serve up sophisticated mixtures like Roxbury Road, Brown Butter Almond Brittle, Goat Cheese with Red Cherries, and Intelligentsia Black Cat Espresso.

Sweet science

Sweet Rose Creamery utilizes its ample-size research and development kitchen in Santa Monica, featuring a 1,000-square-foot freezer, to experiment with ice cream flavor combinations, using all organic daily and integrating season produce form neighborhood farmers’ markets, perfecting classics like Old Fashioned Vanilla, Chocolate Caffe Luxxe Coffee, Salted Caramel and Cookies& Cream, and inventing new flavors like their Chef’s Picks of Chef Fox’s White Chocolate with Minty Pea & Macadamia Nuts, Brown Butter with Orange Wafer, Lemon Chiffon and Rose Geranium with Raspberry Ripple.

The masterminds behind the operation, restaurateurs Josh Loeb and Zoe Nathan and co-owner/Executive Chef Shiho Yoshikawa, who opened the original ice cream shop in at the Brentwood Country Mart in 2010, have since opened four more shops and continued to grow the company and leverage its talent and resources as a member of the family of celebrated eateries that includes Huckleberry, Milo and Olive, and Rustic Canyon. In addition to ice cream, the shops sell pastries from sister restaurant Milo and Olive and coffee from local roaster Caffe Luxxe.

 

 

Petit Pot French pudding is heaven in a jar

Glad to be a puddin’ head when it comes to the world’s most delicious pots de crème

My cousin used to call people Puddin’ Head if they were dorks. Well, I’m glad to be a puddin’ head, if that means eating Petit Pot gourmet puddings every day, and every night.

These amazingly delicious French-chef-made concoctions come in tiny little baby-food-like jars, but don’t let the understated presentation steer you away from tasting these beyond-scrumptious puddings, made from simple ingredients, like milk, eggs, salt and sugar.

I sampled three varieties: dark chocolate pot de crème, lemon curd pot de crème, and the the Riz Au Lait rice pudding, and I can’t get enough, of any of them. okay, so you might not lose weight indulging in these delicious, decadent French custards, but the indulgence is totally worth the calories; and you can make yourself feel better knowing that the ingredients are certified organic, non-GMO and gluten-free, and these delicious French puddings are produced in the good ol’ USA, in South San Francisco.

These adorable tiny pots can be a special treat in your lunch tote, or an after-dinner delight, or shell them out into decorative dishes and pretend you made it yourself, and your dinner guests will talk about your incredible dessert for weeks.

LA named top Memorial Day destination

PUMP-LoungeSeats at Pump and Sur might just get a bit harder to book — This Memorial Day Weekend more American’s want to get a glimpse of LA Bravo Reality Life as LA now becomes a Top MDW destination!

That’s right Hampton’s are so last year —LA is what is hot!

This new data comes from CheapOair, who just released this year’s Top Memorial Day Weekend Destinations!

Los Angeles dominates as a top Memorial Day Destination rounding up the Top 3. While the Cubs have made Chicago the hottest destination of the year, those not after a seat at Wrigley’s are after a selfie with one of Hollywood’s most beloved reality stars!

The data also showed that prices are significantly lower this year than last, with average flight prices dropping 16% compared to last year, but insiders say flights are tentative to rise after this week!

So make your reservations before the flocks of tourists fill up LA’s hottest restaurants over the long holiday weekend.

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Del Frisco’s Grille serves up a scene

delfriscoahitacosDel Frisco’s Grille in Santa Monica never disappoints as a vibrant hangout where friends can meet up, see and be seen, and look good doing it. The crowd at Del Frisco’s for happy hour and into the night is a jubilant bunch, maybe because they are steps away from the Santa Monica beach and the action of 3rd Street Promenade, or maybe just because it’s great to be young and pretty in LA. Whatever the reason, each time I have visited this restaurant/bar it is packed and loud — though not can’t-hear-yourself-loud, just we’re-having-too-much-fun loud – and the drinks are flowing and the food is coming out of the kitchen like an assembly line.

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This hotspot has gotten the formula right for LA’s upwardly mobile millennials. Excellent location, good food, reasonable drink prices, and festive atmosphere that equals steady crowds and return customers. Granted, it’s hard to go wrong when your eatery is right on the footpath to the Santa Monica Pier, but still Del Frisco’s has managed to please its clientele with a solid menu with variety for everyone from seafood lovers and strictly carnivores to those who just came for the appetizers.

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Del Frisco’s has smartly made their starters, which they label Food to Fight Over, a large part of their menu, with variety for many tastes. Some favorites are the Ahi Tacos, with tuna tartare, avocado and spicy citrus mayo; Jumbo Lump Crabcakes with Cajun lobster sauce; Cheesesteak Eggrolls served with sweet and spicy chili sauce and honey mustard; and for those not too worried about impressing their date with messing fingers, the Lollipop Chicken Wings, served Buffalo style with avocado ranch dressing.

As with every LA eatery that caters to LA’s diet conscious patrons, there’s plenty of salads to choose from, such as the Heirloom Tomato and Burrata Salad with basil pesto, and the Kale and Brussels Sprouts salad with manchego and creole mustard vinaigrette, best topped with chicken for a filling meal.

For the knife and fork bunch, there’s the Prime Beef Short Stronganoff with pappardelle noodles and tobacco onions, and the Filet Meatloaf, a Southern Comfort concoction of ground filet mignon, served with mashed potatoes and wild mushroom Bordelaise sauce.

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After dinner indulgences include my favorite, the Nutella Bread Pudding with coffee ice cream and caramel sauce; and perfect dessert for the baby-faced grown-ups, an Adult Milkshake of Nocello walnut liqueur, creme de cacao, chocolate liqueur, and vanilla ice cream.

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Though the restaurant is upscale is causal, reservations are recommended, if you want to get in to eat and drink with the in-crowd.

ROKU LA-style sushi

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ROKU restaurant on Sunset Blvd. in West Hollywood dashes the belief that you can only get authentic sushi at an underground, insiders’ sushi bar. While there may be a certain romanticism about dining at an dive sushi bar, there is much more to be said about enjoying the ambiance of a fine restaurant while also indulging in the highest quality sushi, and that is what ROKU offers.

DSC_1229I am not a regular eater of raw seafood, but I have tagged along on plenty of sushi excursions with dining partners who are connoisseurs of this category of food art. I have been to the hole-in-the-wall sushi bars where there was no sign on the door, where you have to duck under a noren to get in. While one may find interest in the cultural experience, I much prefer the comforts and upscale environment of a modern sushi restaurant, especially one that offers an extensive menu of cooked food, like ROKU.

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As with their décor and atmosphere, ROKU challenges traditional sushi menus with inventive, modern preparations, as well as traditional style sushi for their old-school sushi enthusiasts. At the sushi bar, Chef Jiro Kobayashi prepares his recommended chef’s choice Omakase along with a variety of fresh fish daily, including Roku signature style sushi of warm rice with an innovate touch for their Ume six-piece selection or their Matsu eight-piece selection. Specialty rolls include hand rolled baked crab, Shima shrimp wrapped spicy tuna, with cilantro and avocado, and Ebi Tuna shrimp tempura topped with tuna, jalapeno vinaigrette and eel sauce.
For those who enjoy the communal and interactive dining experience of Teppanyaki, at the grill table Teppan chefs prepare A-5 Japanese Wagyu, Matsuzaka beef, Santa Barbara spot prawns and other high-quality ingredients at interactive grill tables. This dining style is offered for dinner, generally for groups of two to eight.

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On days when the weather is pleasant, which is most days in West Hollywood, the patio is open for dining; or for a serene and elegant dining experience among a garden of bonsai trees and the glow of votives, the dining room offers an environment conducive to a relaxing business lunch for dinner, or of course a date night.

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ROKU has a delicious twist on the Bento Box, traditionally a take-home or carry-out meal, but at ROKU these eat-in delights include an executive Bento Box of shrimp and vegetable tempura, tuna and yellowtail sashimi, baked miso cod, chicken yakitori, green salad, and rice.
Other entrees include kobacha and butternut squash and grilled octopus with kimchee vinaigrette , and pickled vegetables and toro tartare are prepared tableside with pomp and circumstance. The bar at ROKU also serves up progressive fare, with many Japanese whiskeys, sakes and creative cocktails, like the Matcha Mule with green tea infused vodka, ginger root, fresh lemon and honey.

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ROKU answers as the sushi restaurant that has outstanding and authentic Japanese food, personal service and an inviting atmosphere. If you are seeking the casual and dressed-down sushi experience, you will need to go elsewhere. In fact, beachwear, athletic wear and flip flops are not allowed, so wear your business causal and bring your appetite for a satisfying, new LA-style sushi scene.

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ROKU is located at 9201 W. Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood. Call for reservations at (310)278-2060.

Pure (not) junk food that kids will love

If your kids are always saying “nothing sounds good” when it comes to food, add a little fun to their snacking experience with these treats, that might even be good for them.

Super veggie pizza

Do your kids claim they are allergic to vegetables?  Good luck getting them to each that spinach ice cream; but you can sneak in some vitamin-rich cauliflower without even an argument when its served up in their favorite kid food – pizza!  CAULIPOWER is a gluten-free, delicious and nutritious ready-to-cook cauliflower crust pizza that will have them asking for more cauliflower please. Available in four tasty varieties – three-cheese pizza, veggie pizza, margherita pizza and plain crust. Available at Whole Foods or on Amazon.

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Care for some chocolate, honey?

Kids love chocolate.  Kids love honey.  But who would have thought these two flavors would taste incredible together? MANUKA did. The New Zealand company known for its potent and pure honey combined these two delicious flavors by wrapping rich dark 99-percent-cocoa chocolate around honey and adding a touch of mint or ginger.  The result is a scrumptious gluten-free, no-preservative, no-artificial-colors treat that will definitely help the medicine go down – in fact, with its anti-bacterial properties that boost the immune system, you might not need any medicine.  Available at https://www.shoppri.com/

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Squeeze in breakfast

No time for breakfast? Grab some morning time nutrition on the go with Munk Pack ready-to-eat Oatmeal Fruit Squeezes, full of whole grains and real fruit bites, and certified gluten-free, non-GMO, kosher and vegan. In a spouted pouch, these palm-size pouches are ideal for a quick healthy breakfast, or as an on-the-go snack for outdoor activities or travel. Each serving has only 90-100 calories and 3-4g of fiber and nothing artificial. Available in Maple Pear Quinoa, Peach Chai Vanilla, Raspberry Coconut, Blueberry Acai Flax, Apple Quinoa Cinnamon.  Buy at Wegmans, Raley’s, Publix, Whole Food sand select grocers nationwide.

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Have a ball, er…drink

Sugary juices are the culprit in many an unpleasant trip to the dentist, so give kids a healthier, flavorful option that is not full of sugar. AquaBall, the flavored water in a ball-shaped bottle designed to fit perfectly in kids’ hands and car cup holders, is the only zero calories, sugar-free and preservative-free children’s beverage on the market. Packaging includes Disney and Marvel characters that make drinking up cool for kids.  Available in Berry Frost, Fruit Punch, Grape, Strawberry Lemonade.  Available at grocery stores nationwide.

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Mother Nature’s Candy

Candy happens.  Stop trying to fight it by offering carrot sticks.  If they are going to eat candy, at least let it be lower sugar, organic candy, like YumEarth, makers of vegan, gluten free, Non-GMO treats with no high fructose corn syrup and free of the top 8 allergens.  Varieties include candy drops, lollipops, gummies, sour beans and chewy fruit snacks. Available at Whole Foods, Sprouts, Wegmans and other select grocery stores or online at www.yummyearth.com

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Trejos Tacos for any day of the week

DSC_1244The badboy of tacos expands into Hollywood, and soon Santa Monica, serving up edgy eats

If treking to Trejo’s tacos was too much of a task except for Tuesdays, there’s good news, Taco Tuesday can be today, as Trejo’s now has two locations and a truck.

All alliteration aside, Trejo’s tacos is one of LA’s best taco stops, and with more locations to serve Trejo’s fans, the restaurant is becoming as famous as its namesake, Hollywood bad boy Danny Trejo.

Traditional tacos like the Pulled Beef Brisket Taco remain favorites among patrons, but for those who don’t want their meat in a tortilla, there’s the hearty bowls, such as the Steak Asada Bowl. For variety there’s also tostado’s like the generously portion Shrimp Tostado, or appetizers like the Grilled Jidori Chicken quesadilla.

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Trejo’s has also just introduced big burritos that are several meals for person of average appetite. Not your topical taco joint, Trejo’s has unique offerings like an artichoke with two dipping sauces, and Street Corn, with spicy chipotle cream.

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For desserts, they keep it simple with a cooler of gourmet ice cream sandwiches from Cool Haus.

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Despite Trejo’s being open many months now, still each day after they open for business the lines winds around the restaurant to the street. To accommodate their plentiful patrons, Trejo’s has opened Trejo’s Catina on Cahuenga Blvd. in Hollywood and soon will open Trejo’s Coffee and Donuts on Santa Monica Blvd in Santa Monica.

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Good thing Trejo runs such a badass operation, and the line moves swiftly, and the place is swarming with servers who constantly cart away done dishes and keep customers coming back, here and also at their new hopping Hollywood hotspot.

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Mediterranean style hospitality and exotic flavors await at L’Ami

L’Ami invites you for a romantic dinner, drinks with friends, or a family brunch

2017-03-10 (1)Before I appraise the food at L’Ami in Santa Monica, I would be remiss not to mention another recommendation of this charming restaurant, the atmosphere.  This Mediterranean oasis, in the middle of Los Angeles, adjacent to the popular Brentwood Country Mart, is a heavenly retreat on a summery day, where patrons can sit on the patio surrounded by olive trees and imagine they are basking in the sun in St. Tropez.  Or, on one of those chilly LA days, when the temps dip way down, to the low 60s, guests can cozy up on shearling covered bar chairs next to the blazing fire inside the dining room, where the radiant heat of the stone hearth exudes a comfort equaled to the warm hospitality of the staff.

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For those lucky enough to encounter the owner Marc-Antoine Ramaud, whose childhood culinary experiences inspired the menu, you will understand from where the spirit of friendliness emanates. Ramaud aims to please his guests in every way, beginning with creating a romantic and inviting setting, and then complementing the experience with offerings of fresh, organic and seasonal dishes that capture the Mediterranean culture and cuisine.

The menu represents the varied flavor combinations along the Mediterranean shores, such as the exquisite appetizer of carpaccio of hand dived scallops with truffle vinaigrette with Jerusalem artichokes, chives, mache leaves and shaved black truffle; or a homemade foie gras au torchon on brioche toast with fig chutney and frisée salad.  And if you love French onion soup, this is the place to have it, served with caramelized onions, gruyere cheese gratiné and croutons – scrumptious next to the fire on a cold day.

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For dinner, some of the standout excellent dishes include Baby Lamb Shank, oven roasted and served with mashed potatoes, spinach and candied carrot; Couscous Royale, in a lamb stew with chicken, merguez sausage and harissa; and you can’t go wrong with the White Sea Bass, served with seasonal vegetables and a medley of quinoa and harissa emulsion.

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On weekends, it is time to indulge at L’Ami with decadent and delicious entrees such as Grilled Filet Mignon Benedict on brioche toast with beef tenderloin medallions and hollandaise; or Farro and Goad Cheese Risotto Benedict with green lentils, kale and hollandaise.

The brunch menu also features a kids menu for $12 with a beverage and kid-friendly sections like and French toast, mini waffle with eggs and bacon or a Breakfast Pita of scrambled eggs and bacon or sausage.

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While the food deserves high acclaim, the drinks cannot go without mention.  The resident mixologist serves up favorites like 1792 Old Fashion Angostora and Peychouls Bitters, with sugar cane, 1792 bitters; and surprising and exotic mixes like Seasonal Rhubarb Beluga Vodka, a blend of organic rhubarb and  lemon juice; the Moscow Mule Vodka, a cocktail with a kick made of ginger beer, and organic lime juice;  or the refreshing Marco’s Mojito Flor, blended with De Cana Rum, fresh mint, and organic lime.

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L’Ami is located at 246 26th Street, Santa Monica, California, on the Westside boarder of Santa Monica and Brentwood.  Its entry is tricky to find, hidden behind a wrought iron gate covered in ivy, but well worth the hunt.

Dining with nature at Sundance Mountain Resort

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When most of us think of Sundance, we think of the film festival founded by Robert Redford in the 1980s. The indie filmmaker event moved many years ago to nearby Park City, Utah, but still today Sundance Mountain Resort remains a beacon for creatives and independent spirits.  At Sundance, the philosophy on food is art and dining is communal, making the dining experience integrated with nature, making Sundance a wonderland for  family and friends to spend quality time together and make lifelong memories, on the mountains, and over the dinner table.

Mountains of food

When it comes to dining, you can’t go wrong with any of the resort’s restaurants, which all have stellar reputations for their culinary excellence. The romantic candlelit Tree Room Restaurant is the most formal offering, yet the ambiance is comfortable and inviting. Décor includes Native American art from Redford’s personal collection.

For more casual and family friendly dining, the frontier-themed Foundry Grill features fresh hearty fare and pizza from its open kitchen. Après ski and into the night, the late crowd can enjoy drinks and live music at the Owl Bar, the site of the original Redwood Bar where Butch Cassidy’s Hole in the Wall Gang hung out. For quick pick-me-ups, the Creekside Café offers sandwiches and soups at the base of the mountain, and for the adventurous, the Bearclaw Café is a treat at the top of the back mountain, for skiers skilled enough to get there.

While the film festival gets greatest brand recognition, and the mountains and outdoors are the main attraction for most visitors when it comes to Sundance, the food also gets top billing with rave reviews and plenty of awards, and plenty of famous faces in the dining rooms.

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