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Hip(pie) to it

30 Aug

Edible Schoolyard

It takes time to know a city and get hip to its food culture. Six years in Los Angeles still left plenty of unopened menus and undiscovered markets. I only know a few things about the East Bay.

One is that Chez Panisse happens to be located in Berkeley. Another is that Berkeley is full of hippies.

So when I heard Chez Panisse was celebrating its 40th with a free event at the Berkeley Art Museum with food and exhibits, I had a basic idea of what to expect and promptly informed my boyfriend that we would be making the trip. The event didn’t disappoint. And neither did the weather, which was seemingly untouched by the usual San Fran fog.

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Common Thread

27 Aug

In the past few posts we’ve covered a lot of ground:

-the high cost of good, fresh, local food versus the high cost of junk food masquerading as good food

-the money we waste on processed supermarket food that we think is healthy and safe, and the waste involved in packaging supermarket and takeout food

-spending three dollars on a dozen eggs (it was actually $3.75 for a half dozen at Lily’s Egg stand this weekend, to my first point)

The argument to spend more on local, wholesome foods now seems particularly appropriate, given that the recent egg recall has risen now to a half billion eggs and more than a thousand cases of salmonella. While the FDA tries to figure out the cause (could take months, they say), it has become public knowledge that the two farms involved in the recall share ties to a supplier who has already had frequent citations for violating state and federal law.

"Boy, do I have egg on my face," the FDA seemed to say...

Are you starting to wonder where the FDA or USDA was? Are you also starting to wonder why your grocery store in California stocks eggs from Iowa?  Or are you wondering how a twenty-something blogger in the non-profit world with car payments manages to eat enough good, fresh, local food to write about it several times a week (I’m currently accepting donations, especially if you bake, by the way)?

So here’s the connection and the conundrum: How does one get a healthy full belly on a budget? Well, here’s my big secret, friends:

My inbox.

Yes, in addition to poorly-typed letters from Mom, Facebook friend requests from people I barely knew in high school and “Boycott Monsanto” petitions from the Organic Consumers Association, my inbox is choc full of covert ways to dine on a dime in the city. So here’s something I’m really good at-spilling the beans. For all my fellow broke foodies out deciding between making that student loan payment on time and resorting to another box of Ramen or being locally well-fed, here is your tool box:

Sign up for email discounts. There are countless mailing lists devoted to restaurant deals in your area. Preferdine and Blackboard Eats are two examples, but many other email discount programs exist. Living Social and Groupon both frequently feature food deals-be it on cooking classes or cocktails. Plus, signing up for other event related, L.A.-oriented emails usually gets you the skinny on upcoming food events, try Daily Candy if you want to hear about fru fru bake shops, try The Rundown if you’d rather hear about beerfest (I will admit-not really a whole lot of great deals out of these two, but good info on great spots). Follow food related people on social networking sites-use Twitter to track your food trucks for example.

Happy hour menu? Check.

Beyond that, here are the no-brainers. Cook at home and bring your lunch. Freeze your leftovers. For some reason the practice of swapping unwanted food came to a halt following elementary school. Sick of your leftover chili? Maybe your co-worker will take them in return for his/her leftover meatloaf. When you go out to eat, take home the leftovers (I can’t believe it when people don’t do this). Also, always ask if there is a happy hour menu before you order.

Cooking-it's not just for the microwave!

Use your resources-find out about eligibility for WIC and their Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program. Some farmers’ markets also except EBT cards (and some offer senior citizen discounts too). Check out Network for a Healthy California for other information. Don’t have time to go to a farmers’ market? It doesn’t mean that you’re destined for a drive-thru. Check out some community supported agriculture (CSA) programs and see if they deliver to a location near you.

Street Smarts

30 Jul

It’s summertime and travel plans are on. But working in the non-profit world and writing for free doesn’t afford me much of a budget for jet-setting to overseas dining destinations. And while the recently bygone L.A. Street Food Fest Summer Tasting Event sounded like a foodie’s playground, it was pricier than Beerfest. Well, I found the next best thing. And it doesn’t involve elbowing hipsters out of the way for the last scoop of Coolhaus’s bacon ice cream.

A dinner at Susan Feniger’s STREET on Highland is an experience. If you’ve ever looked at a menu and coveted  everything on it, we’re on the same level here. STREET is all about that feeling you get when you find a new ethnic food truck parked on your block. So how would you feel if all of the parking on your block was occupied by different ethnic food trucks (and a prime spot for your car, of course). Ecstatic? Right. So basically what I’m saying here is bring friends, so that you can fully maximize your menu choices. (Read: eat their food too.)

Behold, gnocci unlike any you've ever tasted!

And since you know me, you know I’m compelled to mention the fact that STREET only serves sustainable seafood and doesn’t serve tuna or salmon at all. They work with organic farms and I even saw some organic beers and wines on the menu (but I went for the honeydew juice, cucumber and vodka and wasn’t sorry). The counters are made from recycled materials and they recycle and compost almost all of their waste. In fact, they even recycle their used cooking oil and use it as a component for the bathroom soap. And that, well, that’s just beyond cool.

I don’t care what Top Chef Masters has to say, the Kaya Toast is not to be missed, my friends.


29 Jun

It’s been an uncompromising few weeks at the office and I have been guilty of not only replacing breakfast and lunch with coffee but also replacing dinner with such foods, uh, “foods” as licorice and Trader Joe’s-version Doritos (pretty damn good, actually). I need a vacation, or maybe, a beer. Maybe a delicious local beer. Maybe a delicious local beer described by its maker as tasting akin to “sunshine in a glass.” Yes, that sounds exactly like what I need.

And I found it, at Eagle Rock Brewery.

Beer me, please.

Manifesto, Eagle Rock’s Belgian-style white ale was light and refreshing. And quite frankly, a lot about Eagle Rock Brewery is refreshing. There are no TVs (due to a strange L.A. permit) which leads people to actually (gasp!) talk with each other. There are actually board games, if you so please. That beats standing room only and having to shout over the big screen any day in my book. But there’s something else refreshing about Eagle Rock. Despite the fact that their doors have only been open to the public for about the last 4 1/2 months, they already have some pretty impressive eco-initiatives.

They conserve and reuse as much water as possible. But wait, there’s more, and it’s really cool. Eagle Rock donates their spent grains to a local farmer to feed to livestock.  I had to read a chapter out of a brewery book to fully understand the amount of waste and waste-water created from brewing beer. It was entitled, “Down the Drain, but Not Forgotten.” Working in the environmental field, I’m surprised that this inconvenient fact about leftovers never occurred to me; the waste has to go somewhere.

If you need more info to wrap your head around the amount of waste left after making beer (I did),  picture this: even an average home-brewed batch will leave the brewer with a lot of material that would most likely end up in the trash. For one five-gallon batch, a brewer can start with two to seven pounds of dry grain. I had to ask my resident beer-master, Brent Fedor about the rest. What? I like drinking it, I don’t have a clue about making it. Once Brent’s boiled out the grain to get all the nutrients and flavor  needed for the fermentation process, he rinses out the grains and squeezes them out.  The leftover moist grains will then be about double in weight.  That’s a lot to dump just for one small batch.  A craft brewery making 30 barrel batches at a time (1 barrel = 31 U.S. gallons) can produce up around 750-2500 lbs. of waste! (I made big eyes at that statement, go ahead, you can too, I’ll wait.) Well, what does that mean for huge breweries then?  Says Brent, “Big breweries are often much more efficient than the homebrewer, so the approximation may be a little rough, but it still shows how much garbage can potentially pile up.”

So, I applaud Eagle Rock not just for their stellar beer, but also for their environmental stewardship and the fact that when you go there, you actually feel like you were invited to a really nice house party with a great beer selection. And how often do those things pair up? Yes, I’m speaking to whoever brought the Budweiser to my birthday party…

For all questions home-brewing-related, I suggest you ask the expert (who definitely did NOT bring the offending Budweiser), at Brewty and the Yeast.

Comfort Food

26 Mar

Ma Chewgooder

Home is where the food is. And for the first time in a long time, I’m heading home to Florida to visit my parents. I’m looking forward to beaches with warm water, people who think it’s appropriate to dress like Jimmy Buffet on a daily basis, my mom’s cooking and of course, seeing my dog. (Oh, and my parents, that goes without saying, right?)

Something I’m not looking forward to? Spending a full day on a plane full of people, while coming down with the dreaded pre-vacation cold. You’d think Mom’s cooking would be the perfect prescription. She always said the best way to get over a cold is with “Jewish Penicillin,” AKA matzo ball soup. But my mom refuses to cook matzo ball soup; she insists her matzo balls, without fail, come out “like hockey pucks.”

So, the search is on for a reputable matzo ball on the Westside, or at least a decent recipe that I can try myself.

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That’s so L.A.

25 Mar

I’m going to continue adding to my tab of beer-related postings…

L.A. has a beerfest and it’s a-coming up.  In typical L.A. fashion, it will be held in a movie studio and will also boast some stellar finger food doled out from your favorite roach coaches.

On April 10th, get your fill of unlimited four-ounce pours of international and domestic brewskys for three hours. Yes, it only lasts three hours each session, I share your dismay. But there are two sessions back to back, you could always do a beer-a-thon. While you’re there you’ll have the opportunity to check out a bevy of California breweries in one spot including Angel City Brewing, Skyscraper, Lagunitas, Stone and Hangar 24 among others. You’ll find more than 75 breweries represented.  It’s a lot to fit in three hours, you’ll have to multi-task.

If the beer isn’t enough to interest you, you’ll also be serenaded by two cover bands; Petty Cash, a Tom Petty/Johnny Cash cover band (you gotta admit, that’s clever) and 40oz to Freedom, a Sublime cover band (you gotta admit, that’s appropriate).

Admission sets you back forty big ones. That covers unlimited pours for three hours but not food. If you’ve got sticker shock, consider that it’s substantially less than what you’d usually pay to get trashed in a Hollywood bar with less beer variety and a subsequent trip to Canters. Tickets are not sold at the door, no matter who you know, so head here beforehand.

The stats:

April 10th from 1-4pm and/or 5-8pm

Sony Pictures Studios-10202 W. Washington Blvd, Culver City, 90232

The number for Yellow Cab: 877.733.3305