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.

Top California foodies say recipes that’got milk’ trending

 

milkCalifornia’s Culinary Experts, Including Bravo-TV’s “Top Chef” Shirley Chung and Napa’s Ethan Speizer, Showcase Milk-based Recipes For 2017

Cooking with milk and a return-to-indulgence movement is back this year, according to chefs from across the state of California who participated in a January 2017 Food Trends culinary competition. With semi-finalist recipe submissions ranging from pork chops braised in milk to Latin-fusion desserts including Coconut Tres Leches and Churro Sando with Horchata Ice Cream and Dulce de Leche, one thing is certain – 2017 will be a stellar year for milk-loving foodies.

The winning recipe – Smoky Chili Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Kahlua Milk Frosting & Vanilla Milk Drizzle – was created by Merry Graham, a Southern California award-winning home cook and published author. Her recipe combines Dutch cocoa, ancho chili, brewed coffee, Kahlua and milk for a decadent dessert.

The competition was hosted by the California Milk Processor Board (CMPB), creator of the iconic got milk? and Toma Leche campaigns, which invited California-based culinary artists to submit on-trend recipes featuring milk. Notable influencers who participated in the campaign include Shirley Chung, a season 11 finalist and current contestant on Season 14 of Bravo’s popular show, Top Chef, and Napa-foodie Ethan Speizer, founder and executive chef at late-night pop-up Nuri Napa.

Chef Chung contributed a Milk-Braised Napa Cabbage recipe that incorporates Virginia cured ham, ginger, Goji berries, a reflection of her “modern American cooking with Chinese soul” philosophy.  Napa-notable Ethan Speizer contributed a traditional-style Milk-Braised Lamb Neck recipe that incorporates an array of spices and herbs such as bouquet garni and Shisho gremolata.

“The start of a new year inspires an openness to try something new, especially in the kitchen,” said Steve James, CMPB Executive Director. “We’re excited to showcase new culinary creations that demonstrate milk’s central role in expected food trends for 2017.”

Culinary Fight Club announces 2017 competition schedule and expansion into new cities

culinaryfightclub Culinary Fight Club, the popular food sport event series, announces its expansion into 12 new cities in 2017, with a fresh list of competition series scheduled and key sponsors returning to add to the exciting year. Chefs will now battle in 17 markets, including Chicago, Omaha, New Orleans, Cincinnati, Boston, Knoxville, Johnson City, Pittsburgh, Virginia Beach, Charlotte, Twin Cities, Kansas City, Montgomery, Charlotte, Charleston, Indianapolis, Atlanta and Los Angeles!

Culinary Fight Club competitions will be title-sponsored by Reinhart Foodservice, as the official pantry sponsor in 11 of 17 markets. The pantry provides fresh ingredients that allow the competitors the opportunity to battle for the best dish.

“We are excited to continue to grow our relationship with Culinary Fight Club,” says Eric Cronert, Vice President Marketing and Communications, Reinhart Foodservice. “Partnering with organizations like Culinary Fight Club allows us to be part of the food sports movement and local food scenes all while helping support a great cause, Fight2Feed.”

2017 will host various themes, including Chocolate, Pork, Taco, Pitmaster, Blended Burger, Steak, Seafood, Chocolate and Sip + Bite. Culinary Fight Club also brings back by popular demand its Amazing Culinary Fight Club Pantry Race competition.

“Food sports is one of the fastest growing events in the nation,” says Culinary Fight Club founder, Jiwon McCartney. “We are thrilled to expand our reach and work with amazing chefs who can battle it out and create delicious dishes in a competitive environment.”

With the successful launch of the 2016 Chicago Culinary Fight Fest, the Culinary Fight Club tournament series will be hosted in Chicago, Atlanta and Kansas City in 2017.  In addition, a new Mystery Box Series will launch center stage at this year’s Travel & Adventure Show in seven cities.  As with all CFC events, each benefits Fight2Feed, a non-profit that aims to feed the hungry.

“Culinary Fight Club is one of the most entertaining live events,” says Matt Hensler Director of Integrated Marketing Communication, Blast Marketing & PR and Advisory Board Member, Culinary Fight Club. “Blast Marketing & PR is delighted to be partner with Culinary Fight Club and be a part of its growth, as the company offers our clients’ chefs the opportunity to receive the recognition they deserve in food sports.”

Join your new best friends for dinner at Fleming’s steakhouse

flemings-filet-and-ribeye-group-shot_largeFleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar in Beverly Hills has a hipper swagger than your traditional steakhouse. It has the dim lighting, crisp white table cloths and large booth seating that you expect from a fine dining establishment, but unlike the staid and almost library-like atmosphere of many steakhouses, Fleming’s feels like a party.

This energy could be partially owing to the vivaciousness of the servers, like Tyler, who we figured must be an actor, because his flashy smile was at any moment headshot ready, who took care of me and my dining companion on our last visit, but it is also the general vibe of the place, from the laughter of the well-heeled patrons mingling at the bar to the steady flow of patrons in and out of the restaurant, milling about in the entry, greeting the host and hostess as if they were old friends, maybe they were.

But of course, the ambience and atmosphere are important, but the food is essential, and here is where Fleming’s truly excels. Being a steakhouse, of course I ordered a steak. As a huge fan of the bone-in T-bone, I ordered the one and only size of its variety, the 20-ounce steak, which was a meal fit for a king, or two. Of course, with an Uncle Buck sized steak like this, I figured I would end up boxing up a good portion of it to take home, but it was so juicy and flavorful that I did not leave as much on my plate as I had expected, but still enough for a second excellent meal the next day.

As we had started our meal with the outstanding crabcakes, wading in a puddle of roasted red pepper and lime butter sauce, followed by the Flemings salad of candied walnuts, dried cranberries, tomatoes, onions, herbed crostini, lemon vinaigrette, we did not want to overdo it, and so we only ordered the shoestring potatoes as a side, though we had heard good things about the crispy fried brussels sprouts and the monstrous onion rings, but we will have to wait until next time to order those.

Tyler kept us happy, making sure all our dishes arrived as ordered, hot and fresh. He was not afraid to give his opinion on the best way to have our food prepared, such as recommending having my steak seared on both sides before cooking it to a perfect medium rare, versus broiling it. He also had excellent suggestions regarding wines, and he didn’t judge when I asked for white wine with my steak, and he selected for me a rich and buttery Chardonnay that paired perfectly with the juicy flavor of my steak.

To finish off our most excellent dining adventure, Tyler recommended Fleming’s extraordinary carrot cake. A tall layered slice of this goodness was delivered with a bowl of fresh whipped cream, which we sampled liberally with each bite of this decadently delicious dessert.

Our dinner experience was leisurely, with Tyler pacing the delivery of each course to give us time for conversation and to whet our appetites for the next course. Noticeably, many of the same folks at the bar who were there when we arrived we’re still there when we left.

Despite the festive, jovial atmosphere, full of lively conversation and activity, it did not feel hectic, nor did we feel rushed, even though it was a busy night. Our experience felt more like we were among a gathering of family and old friends.

In Beverly Hills, where the scene can sometimes be, well, scene-y, Fleming’s was a nice respite, where one could be dressed up and enjoy an upscale evening out without the uppity stiffness of some restaurants in town where in the end you are just glad it’s over. Fleming’s is a place where guests want to linger, for the food and drinks, and just because it feels comfortable to be there.

Flemings has 13 locations in California, including a newly opened restaurant in Pasadena.

 

LA’s Hottest New Year’s Eve Dining Spots

What were Los Angeles’ hottest New Years’ Eve fine dining spots last year – and how are these restaurants making this year’s experiences even more spectacular?

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A new data company that does research on such matters, SAP, just released a study using their technology which can pinpoint how many people are at a specific location, recently reviewed Reserve’s most popular fine dining locations across the L.A. metro area to help people plan for New Year’s Eve 2016.

The data showed that Ostrich Farm, Salt Air, Barrique, Bao Dim Sum and Wallflower were the most crowded at midnight last year.

“Our restaurants will typically see a large spike in activity around New Year’s Eve,” says Greg Hong, CEO of Reserve, the country’s premier hospitality technology platform. “One of the most incredible things SAP Digital Consumer Insight showed us is that Venice Beach had three of the top five busiest restaurants on December 31, making it the most popular fine dining location in Los Angeles for end-of-the-year celebrations.”

Salt and Straw is no flavor-of-the-week

img_3534Two years after it has been established on Larchmont Boulevard, Salt and Straw is still blowing up the sidewalk every night of the week. Even on a Tuesday night at 10 PM, there is a line out the door and 20 people long outside the ice cream shop. In a town where indie shops come and go in a blink of an eye, it is a testament to Salt and Straw’s superior product and a bit of marketing prowess that it is still immensely popular.

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Now with several locations throughout Los Angeles, including Studio City, Venice Beach, the Arts District downtown, and a new location opening in West Hollywood, the ice cream shop draws a steady stream of crowds who crave its signature savory flavor of sea salt with caramel ribbons, almond brittle with salted ganache, double folded vanilla, and chocolate gooey brownie and the adventure of enjoying samples of its out-of-the-carton flavors such as black olive and goat cheese brittle, freckled woodblock chocolate, avocado and strawberry sherbet, honey lavender, Silencio black tea and coconut strawberry Stracciatella. 

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Tiffany, the manager at the Larchmont store, graciously explains the many flavors to guests, unfrazzled by the lines pouring in the door, she maintains a smile and pleasant demeanor as she efficiently multitasks, ringing up customers and scooping out samples, setting up a tasting flight of four flavors, and giving newbies a 101 lesson in Salt and Straw’s secret sauce, so to speak, which is sourcing its fine ingredients from local purveyors with the best local, organic and sustainable ingredients, and hand making their ice cream in small batches, adding imported flavors from small hand-picked farms from around the world, and changing up its seasonal menu to delight the tastes of its customers.

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Most customers prefer their scoops in cups, though those who splurge for a dollar more can have their scoop served up in a house-made waffle cone that is to-die for.  For those who want to be truly indulgent, their cones can be slathered with whip cream. For those who can’t get enough, hand packed pints are available for takeout.

If you don’t want to wait in line, head for the shop earlier in the evening, before 8 PM, which in Larchmont Village is about the time diners finish eating at the local restaurants and go for a delectable dessert. The shop is small but easy to find. Just follow the trail of people walking down the street with the red and white cups in their hands, cooing about the incredibly good taste of the ice cream they are eating.

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