Archive for the 'Atwater Village' Category

Proof Bakery – Los Angeles (Atwater Village)

Proof Bakery - Los Angeles (Atwater Village)

If you thought the recent heat wave was rough, imagine having to make croissants without air conditioning in that weather. That’s exactly what the team at Proof Bakery did, and I will forever bow down to Chef Na Young Ma and her band of talented bakers for possessing that kind of masochistic moxy. This redefines the meaning of bad ass.

Proof Bakery - Los Angeles (Atwater Village)

Proof Bakery, which debuted in Atwater Village in late 2010, has been a stellar addition to an already happening neighborhood (See: Canele and Viet Noodle Bar).

The aforementioned croissants are made with a touch of sourdough starter and are considered to be some of the city’s best. In addition to plain ones, Proof also makes croissants filled with Valrhona chocolate, almonds, and ham and Gruyere. These flaky pastries sell out in a heartbeat; each and every one had been scooped up by earlier birds when I arrived at 11:30 on the nose.

Proof Bakery - Los Angeles (Atwater Village)

Available throughout the day is an array of stunning sweets ranging from simple to intricate. The gorgeous tart with fresh figs and diplomat cream was damn near perfect. The fruit was plain luscious, while the cream was cool and balanced. The buttery, crumbly crust tied everything together.

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Bigmista’s Pig Candy

Bigmista's Barbecue - Los Angeles

A lengthy wait for a table at Canele prompted the Astronomer and me to stroll over to the Atwater Village Farmers Market to kill some time. After skipping along the aisles and nabbing samples of oranges, apples, and strawberries, we stumbled upon a man with a giant-ass smoker and a long-ass line. It turns out that Bigmista’s Barbecue is a big draw here on Sunday mornings.

Neil and Phyllis Strawder, also known as Bigmista and Mrs. Mista, launched the roving barbecue operation in 2008. They started vending at the Watts farmers market, but have since moved on to the Atwater farmers market (Sunday), the Torrance farmers market (Tuesday and Saturday), the El Segundo farmers market (Thursday), and the Echo Park farmers market (Friday).

Bigmista's Barbecue - Los Angeles

After checking out Bigmista’s menu of delights, a part of me wanted to ditch our brunching plans and instead dine on some down home goodness. Alas, I was accompanied by The Astronomer’s visiting family from Alabama who eat ‘cue on a regular basis, so only a small bite would do. I guess the ribs, pulled pork, brisket, and Moink balls (bacon-wrapped meatballs) will just have to wait!

Bigmista's Barbecue - Los Angeles

I could not resist ordering some Pig Candy ($1.50) even though brunch was moments away. It was comprised of thick slices of bacon, slathered in brown sugar and spices and smoked until the edges caramelized. Initially, it was the smoky sweetness that registered on my tongue. As I savored a little more, an intense heat was unleashed. Small, deliberate bites are the best way to approach this beastly good Pig Candy.

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Viet Noodle Bar – Los Angeles (Atwater Village)

Viet Noodle Bar - Los Angeles

While I was living in Vietnam, one of the most popular restaurant trends was repackaging traditional street food with Western aesthetics in mind. Dubbed “air-con street food” by the expatriate crowd, these joints served Vietnamese fare in comfortable settings, complete with competent waiters and English language menus. While I didn’t care too much for these sterile eateries, places like  Pho 24 and Bun Bo Xu were extremely popular with middle-class locals, tourists, and expats.

I thought that I had left air-con street food behind me when I moved to Los Angeles, but the moment I stepped into Viet Noodle Bar in Atwater Village, I was instantly transported back in time. Something about the exposed brick walls, sleek furnishings, and the romantically dated Vespa on display was reminiscent of District 1, Saigon.

Viet Noodle Bar - Los Angeles

Viet Noodle Bar serves a hodgepodge of Vietnamese dishes to a hip and trendy crowd.  According to the Los Angeles Times article “Inspired by a World of Ingredients”, the restaurant’s owner, Viet Tran, traveled across North Vietnam for five years and studied noodle-making and soy milk-making in little villages. Viet Soy Cafe in Silverlake and Viet Noodle Bar were inspired by his experiences abroad.

Viet Noodle Bar - Los Angeles

My posse of noodle-goers [Laurie, Diana, and Anjali] and I started with an order of jicama spring rolls, also known as bo bia ($5). Rolled to order, each one was filled with tofu, a jicama and carrot slaw, fried shallots, and a basil leaf. A sweet hoisin dipping sauce was served on the side. Although I generally prefer the non-vegetarian version of this dish, the freshness of the ingredients, especially the powerful punch of the basil, made me forget about the missing Chinese sausages and scrambled eggs.

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Canelé – Los Angeles (Atwater Village)

CANELE SIGNAGE

Whereas the majority of the restaurant write ups featured on this site are based on one lone visit, with Canelé, I decided to shake things up a bit. Inspired by professional restaurant reviewers across the land and one of my favorite Los Angeles-based food blogs, Exile Kiss, I decided to eat at Canelé three times before pounding out a post. So, from September to November, I brunched at Canelé once and sat down for dinner twice. To get the fullest sense of the kitchen’s range and abilities, I ordered from both the regular and specials menus. Here’s how my little experiment went down:

FORK

Chef Corina Weibel and her business partner Jane Choi are the two forces behind Canelé, a neighborhood gem in Atwater Village. Chef Weibel previously cooked at two of the city’s most beloved restaurants, Campanile and Lucques, while Ms. Choi worked the front of the house at New York City’s Balthazar and Pastis. The gals joined forces to open Canelé in 2006.

FRENCH TOAST

On my first visit to Canelé on a sunny Saturday morning, I was joined by The Astronomer, Mattatouille, and D takes a B. Although we each gave the brunch menu a cursory glance, all of us knew good and well that the famed French toast ($7.50) would be ours. For an additional $2.50, it came adorned with marscapone and figs.

FRENCH TOAST

When my plate of French toast arrived, my jaw dropped to the ground. I couldn’t believe that a single serving entailed three massive slices, each of which were two-inches deep and weighed in at half a pound. I had never been so intimidated by French toast before! With a fork and a sharp knife in hand, I dug right in. I loved that the the bread was perfectly seared on the outside and silky smooth, almost custardy, within. The marscapone and figs were outstanding complements. Canelé’s French toast is regarded by many as one of Los Angeles’ finest, and I wholeheartedly agree.

BLACKBOARD

I returned to Canelé several weeks later for Friends Cook Night, a periodic event where friends of the restaurant are invited to create and execute a unique menu. My friend Jessica Koslow of eat.sip.chew. took over the restaurant’s stoves in early October to prepare a three-course dinner featuring local ingredients.  Jessica recently moved to Los Angeles from Atlanta, where she worked as a pastry chef at Bacchanalia.

BREAD AND BUTTER

Dinners at Canelé begin with complimentary bread and butter. The crusty white bread was adequate, but the butter was cold and hard. I prefer butter at room temperature, especially when served alongside bread.

FRIENDS COOK NIGHT COLLAGE

Jessica’s three-course meal ($35) was phenomenal. The first course was a Cavolo nero salad with preserved Meyer lemons and fingerling potatoes Provençal, the second course was handmade poppy seed pappardelle with lamb and wild mushrooms in a porter ragu, and the final course was a Valrhona 66% caribe torino made with free range eggs and homemade vanilla bean ice cream with pumpkin seed brittle.

Best of all, the number of food miles that made this meal possible was kept in check. The lamb came from Niman Ranch, the mushrooms from Lili Bih Shan (Cerritos and Long Beach Farmer’s Markets), the eggs were from Silver Lake urban farmers John Whitton and Erin Burrell, and the preserved Meyer lemons from San Pedro urban farmers Steve and Melissa Griswald.

BURRATA AND MELON SALAD

To supplement Jessica’s menu, The Astronomer and I shared an arugula, melon, and burrata salad ($8) from Canelé’s specials menu. The pairing of ripened cantaloupe with burrata was glorious.

DUCK CONFIT

We also ordered a plate of duck confit with parsnip mashed potatoes, red cabbage, and plum sauce ($20). The duck had a fantastic sear and its meat was fall-off-the-bone tender. The potatoes and cabbage gave the dish a homey and comforting quality.

CANELE

As we headed out the door, The Astronomer and I were each presented with a tiny canelé, a French pastry with a soft and tender custard center and a dark, thick caramelized crust.

CANELE SIGNAGE

I returned to Canelé a third time with the Eat My Blog committee (Laurie, Diana, and Anjali). We were weeks away from the big day and needed to discuss the finer details over a hearty meal in a quiet space.

BREAD AND BUTTER

We were all starving once we were seated and quickly mauled the bread and butter. Once again, the butter was disappointingly cold.

BRANDADE

For my appetizer, I took Anjali’s advice and ordered the brandade with tomato confit and toast ($10). The brandade, an amazing combination of of salt cod, olive oil and milk, arrived bubbling in its vessel and smelled unbelievably great. The savory and cheesy mixture was at its best slathered atop the buttery slivers of toast.

BEEF BOURGUIGNON

For my main course, I settled on the boeuf bourguignon with buttered noodles ($22). This dish was easy to love because stewed meat and tender noodles are an unstoppable paring. The tiny mushrooms, pearl onions, and salty bacon kept me captivated when I was all beefed-out.

COFFEE ICE CREAM SANDWICHES

For dessert, Laurie and I shared well-executed coffee ice cream sandwiches with caramel sauce ($7).

CANELES

Canelé is a solid restaurant that consistently churns out food ranging from very good to great. Service is mostly friendly and always adept. In this particular case, I can’t say that multiple visits added any real insights about Canelé that I would not have been able to gather from one meal. However, the opportunity to explore the menu in depth cannot be discounted.

Canelé
3219 Glendale Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90039
Phone: 323-666-7133

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