Author Archive for Gastronomer

La Azteca Tortilleria – East Los Angeles

La Azteca Tortilleria - Boyle Heights - Los Angeles

As much as I love exploring the San Gabriel Valley’s restaurant scene for my weekday lunches, I was thrilled to discover recently that East Los Angeles is a stone’s throw from my office. Easy access to some of the city’s finest Mexican food is most definitely a lunchtime game changer.

For my inaugural midday jaunt to the Eastside of town, I wrangled a crew of fellow food lovers and headed to one of my favorite spots: La Azteca Tortilleria.

La Azteca Tortilleria - Boyle Heights - Los Angeles

When the shop’s original owners, Alex Bernal and his wife, Maria Rodriguez, retired in 2010 after three decades of making tortillas the old-fashioned way, from scratch and in small batches, their good friends Juan and Candalaria Villa purchased the business and continued the tradition. It’s a painstaking process, to be sure, but the results are truly fantastic.

La Azteca Tortilleria - Boyle Heights - Los Angeles

The difference between a store-bought tortilla and the handmade wonders here is like night and day. While the former cracks as it rolls and tastes like the plastic it’s wrapped in, the latter is hefty yet plush and is capable of curving around copious amounts of pork, cheese, beans, or most likely, all three.

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Q Sushi – Los Angeles (Downtown)

Q Sushi - Japanese - Downtown - Los Angeles

I had the pleasure of dining with my mom at Q Sushi a few Fridays ago. She’s been taking care of June while The Astronomer and I are bringing home the bacon, so this meal was a small token of our gratitude. Bà Ngoại is the best!

Q Sushi - Japanese - Downtown - Los Angeles

Chef Hiroyuki Naruke, who ran a six-seat sushi bar in Tokyo’s Roppongi district prior to relocating to Los Angeles, serves a hyper-traditional, omakase-only sushi experience at Q. I am a total purist when it comes to sushi, so I knew that Q and I would get along swimmingly from the start.

Priced at $165 per person, the omakase typically begins with a slew of tsumami (small appetizers), followed by a perfectly orchestrated parade of sashimi and nigiri sushi courses. All in all, it’s a 2.5 hour feast comprised of 20 or so courses that passes by much too quickly.

Q Sushi - Japanese - Downtown - Los Angeles

Taking care of Mom and me this evening was Chef Rui. He seemed a bit chattier than Chef Hiro, which was a good thing, because I had plenty of questions up my sleeve (per usual).

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Christina Tosi’s Grandma’s Oatmeal Cookies

Milk Life | Grandma's Oatmeal Cookies

“This cookie is the reason I learned to bake,” writes pastry superstar Christina Tosi in her latest book, Milk Bar Life. If you’ve ever tasted any of her daring and delicious Momofuku Milk Bar creations (See: Crack Pie! Confetti Cookies! Salty Cucumber Soft Serve!), then you’ll understand that this is a very bold statement.

While The Astronomer and June were on a long walk last weekend, I dusted off my Kitchen Aid and got to baking these life-altering cookies. Aside from having to bring the butter to room temperature, this recipe is as low maintenance (and fast!) as they come. Butter and two kinds of sugar are creamed until fluffy, eggs and vanilla are added in, then finally, the “dry” ingredients are incorporated just so.

Following 10 minutes in the oven, Grandma’s Oatmeal Cookies baked up crispy along the edges and moist throughout. The combination of rolled oats and sweetened shredded coconut brought a double punch of flavor and texture, while a good hit of salt kept all sweetness in check.

While these cookies are certainly solid as is, the batter is an excellent base for a more complex cookie. Classic oatmeal cookie add-ins like dried fruit, chocolate chips, and nuts would work great here, or more Tosi-esque ingredients like popcorn, potato chips, and pretzels. Go crazy because Christina Tosi would definitely approve.

  • 14 tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut (optional)
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar

Milk Life | Grandma's Oatmeal Cookies

Heat the oven to 375°F.

Combine the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on high and cream together until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

Milk Life | Grandma's Oatmeal Cookies

Add the eggs and vanilla and mix until incorporated, about 1 minute.

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Maude – Los Angeles (Beverly Hills)

Maude - Los Angeles (Beverly Hills)

It’s avocado season here in Southern California, and Maude, Curtis Stone’s critically adored restaurant, is celebrating in grand fashion with a month-long tasting menu dedicated to the super-luscious, downright buttery ingredient.

Maude Restaurant - June 2015 - Avocados

Maude’s menu changes with the seasons, focusing on “one key ingredient” each month. [See what the restaurant is cooking for the rest of this year.]

Our ten-plus course dinner featured California-grown Hass avocados in every single dish. Sometimes avocado was the star of the plate, while other times it elevated the ingredients surrounding it. As a lifelong avocado lover, it was a pleasure to experience the fruit in a plethora of forms, both classic and innovative—avocado leaf ice cream, anyone?

Maude Restaurant - June 2015 - Avocados

Named after Curtis Stone’s grandmother, Maude is a jewel box of a restaurant with just 25 seats and an impressive open kitchen. The space and service were warm and welcoming with the ideal touch of sophistication.

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