Friday, May 02, 2008

Best Bread Found At Last

But there is a catch. You have to make it. But it is so easy. It is the NY Times Minimalist recipe.

I substitute 1/8 cup of olive oil for the equivalent of the water called for. It is perfect for my taste. I also have had fun mixing in other flours as an alternative. When doing this, I have found it works best if I keep the recipe pure for the first rise and use the alternative flours (rye, whole wheat, e.g.) as the flour I add in before the second rise.

I find, by the by, I have to add an ample amount of flour before the second rise, if I don't want it to stick to the towel. Yes, I use a towel rather than plastic wrap called for in the original recipe. I don't do plastic wrap generally due to the ecological and other havoc it is wreaking upon life on earth.

It is tremendously difficult to screw up this recipe. I have not managed to. If I add too little flour, and it gets sticky on the towel, it doesn't matter. I wash the towel and get a flatter, but still delicious loaf. If I add more flour, I get a denser delicious bread. All that said, two friends have reported screwing it up. One used ancient yeast that did not rise. Oops. And one used all whole wheat flour. Unless you want to build a brick house in your tum, not recommended!

Enjoy great bread in L.A. or wherever you are!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Found a good bakery (in Kauai...)

Well folks, I did find a place where one can get some good bread west of the Hudson, but the good or bad news depending on how you choose to view it is that it is in Kilauea, Kauai. Now Kilauea happens to be paradise. But it's also a little far and you can't get there from here by car alone.

Kilauea Bakery was a find my husband and I were particularly proud to have found without guidebooks or other outside advice. Perhaps I'll flatter us and think of us like homing pigeons subliminally programed to sniff out the good bread no matter where we are...We especially liked their Hawaiian Sweet Bread and their Hawaiian Sourdough made with guava juice. They went especially nicely with the outstanding local honey--not surprising that it is outstanding in a locale known as the "Garden Isle." We bought our honey at the health food store in Hanalei called Papaya's (Try this link, if that one I gave is not working). The breads were also superb with some local goat cheese that we found at the Saturday morning farmer's market in Hanalei. The goat cheese comes in several varieties, including plain, sun dried tomato, and passion fruit. My husband insists it might be the best goat cheese he's ever had, and them be mighty words for a guy who grew up surrounded by farms in Germany and who has lived in Greece, Italy, and France. The challah at Kilauea Bakery is also quite good, a bit like the Hawaiian Sweet Bread. NYC readers will be charmed or alarmed to know that the guy behind the counter shared with me that challah (the "ch" of which he pronounced like that in "chair") is a kind of Portuguese bread. I put on my best Great Neck accent to explain that challah (the "ch" of which is pronounced like a mix of the "ch" in "christamighty" and gathering spit) is actually not Portuguese, but Jewish. And possibly why they had it available on a Thursday but hadn't had it on Monday or Tuesday was because it is traditionally eaten on Friday. I was not raised religiously Jewish, but one needn't be to know this I believe, if one has lived long enough in New York City. The fellow, like almost everyone who was working at Kilauea Bakery who more often than not also had wide gaps in the information they had on hand about the bread at the bakery, was good-natured and enormously generous of spirit upon hearing the news.

Kilauea Bakery is located in the Kong Lung Center on Keneke Street in Kilauea on the North Shore. It's open 7 days a week 6:30 am-9 pm. Phone is 808-928-2020

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Chowhound is awesome

For those foodies who haven't yet discovered it, I have been getting a lot of good recipe and food advice on a website called Chowhound. Check out their L.A. section here--and tell them you heard about them here!

More raves for Cake Divas

I called yesterday to ask how long the cake would last in the fridge. I was told a week, and then I was told that two weeks before our one year anniversary, we should call them and they would remake the top tier of the cake for us. And all they ask for in return is a professional photo of the wedding. The Cake Divas rock.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Cake, Catering and other Paradise Found in L.A. at last

The curmudgeon (I) was made oh so happy this weekend. And wasn't it generous of the Powers That Be to bestow this happiness at my Official Family Wedding Celebration? The Bride did not have to make the cake afterall. Cake Divas saved the day. Recommended by a friend who knows all good things, the Cake Divas were nice, they prepared (the same morning we called--no appointment needed) a luscious tasting box that this terribly busy couple thankfully could taste on the road, they use all organic ingredients (the only ones we found that did so in a non hippie, vegan, but instead gourmet appreciation of fine ingredients kind of way). They were even not far from our house! We chose the white cake with chocolate fudge frosting on two layers, and the amazing berry cream on the third layer. The outer frosting was a white butter cream. Got tons of compliments. It still is tasting good after five days in the fridge--moist, pure, yummy.
A perfect end to the thrilling meal done by Five Star Catering (no website--let me know if you want their contact info). Folks, I wish I could keep it a secret (or have them as my private cooks), but it just would be too selfish. These gentleman rock the house, hit every dish out of the ballpark, with good nature and reasonable prices to boot. One foodie at the party said it was the best catering she could remember for a party that size (sixty guests). People, myself included, were bowled over.
They got their bread, by the way, at Le Pain Quotidien, which I have had recommended to me by people for years. It was very good. We are still eating one of the loaves and the rolls 5 days later, and they are making very nice toast and hamburger buns. They get a higher vote than La Brea Bakery and Whole Foods bread, which we have normally been buying. Happy, happy, yum, yum. CORRECTION ADDED 6/19: The bakery used was NOT LE PAIN QUOTIDIEN but instead a bakery in Silverlake, which the caterer sadly tells me has just closed shop. I tried the bread at Le Pain Quotidien in Santa Monica the other day--a whole wheat sourdough and a baguette. Eh. It was okaaaay. The texture wasn't great--the usual stiff stuff I tend to get here in the Southland. The flavor was alright. They have only a few choices of bread, all dark except the baguette (and I noticed a sign for challah tucked away in the corner, but there was no bread in front of it, and it was not offered to me as a choice by the sales lady.) I'm not going to run back there.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Sweet Lady Jane's Lost Its Lustre

In an earlier post, I raved about Sweet Lady Jane bakery on Melrose. I have to take a lot of it back, alas. I tasted a white (yellow?) cake of theirs at a friend's birthday party about 5 years or so ago. I was new in town and thought it was spectacular. I had no doubts that this was where my wedding cake was going to come from. (To clarify, although my husband and I married almost a year ago, our Official Wedding Party with all the family is not until this May). Friends suggested other locales, but I was unmoved. I called to make my appointment (I was amazed I had to make an appointment, but this betrays more my relative unawareness of all things Bridal rather than anything terribly unusual at Sweet Lady Jane). The woman I was told to speak with was turse and impatient over the phone, almost off-puttingly so, but I thought she was probably just caught at a bad moment when she sounded annoyed by my mentioning that her suggestion of 10 am was a little early for us on a Saturday given that we were coming from across town, and did she perhaps have any time later. She relented and put us in at 3:30, and I was sure that I just needed a Wedding Princess attitude adjustment, and that I'd love her upon meeting, or at least I'd love her cakes.

Cut to the chase. The good news is that we were served tea and an espresso and tastes of their cakes, and we were not charged for these, even when I mentioned being perfectly willing to pay. The tea was fine. My husband reports the espresso was not, but since he is known to make waitresses in L.A. want to cry with his espresso standards, I won't hold this against them too much. The table we were seated at had a sign that instructed a 3 person minimum and a $6 minimum per person at this table, so the special treatment was particularly notable. The rule-sy signage at the cafe-sy place, though, was questionable. The selection of cakes in their catalogue were lovely, many downright gorgeous. No ridiculous, utterly impractical design ideas like on some wedding cake websites, and the kind of artistry that makes one think a style looks classic rather than hackneyed. The person we met with was obviously very bright and not giving us a hard sell, which I appreciated. She was straight up business, which is a style I happen to like. When she brought the cake tastes to us on a plate, however, and I put a morsel in my mouth with my fingers and my husband used his espresso spoon, she grabbed forks from the next table and handed them to us, saying "These are called forks." I wasn't sure if she was being condescending or funny. I was willing to believe the latter, but my husband thought it was the former. The critical bad news is that the cakes are, well, not spectacular. Don't get me wrong. They don't taste awful or anything. But we weren't wowed by any of them. And at prices that would start at 7 dollars per person plus delivery, we needed to be wowed. We tried the lemon curd, the coconut, the Italian Wedding cake, the Old Fashioned Chocolate, and the Chocolate Blackout Fudge. We had requested the White Chocolate Lemon, but it didn't arrive, and by the end of our tasting, we were non-plussed enough to not push the issue. The Italian wedding cake and the lemon curd were the best of the bunch, and the old-fashioned chocolate was not bad, but they were all too sweet and all of them lacked a complexity and nuance of flavor that we think makes a cake great rather than just alright. By the time we reached the car, my mere 10 small bites of cake were going straight to my head and not in a good way. It might have been partly the smog of the hot West Hollywood afternoon, but I felt pretty darn crappy, full of blah, sugar rush and headache. I bought some water at a nearby shop, which helped, and which I mention only as a means of unburdening my guilt for having absent mindedly and embarassingly left at Sweet Lady Jane the bottle of water that I absent-mindedly and embarassingly brought in with me. And now I am saying bad things about their cakes. But wait, I just remembered what happened when we got home. I don't feel sooo guilty come to think of it. Shortly after we returned from our mission, my husband whose constitution is far stronger than mine--let's put it this way, he lived in Nigeria without much fuss--had let's put it this way, an interesting time on the toilet.
It's my belief from experience that most often a dessert, if made from the finest ingredients (and at the risk of sounding woo woo, made with good vibes), doesn't make me feel bad. I might feel a bit of a buzz or like I haven't necessarily just had a health drink, but not downright icky.
We're thinking of making our own wedding cake...When in L.A....Sigh.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

History of Chinese Food in L.A.

Check this article out in the L.A. Times, especially those of you who say there is no such thing as good Chinese food in Los Angeles.

Monday, December 18, 2006

L.A. Foodie Blog

All Kinds Of Yum is a neat blog about all things food in L.A., especially Fairfax and East. Check it out. And thanks Julie!