It’s been a banner year for Valerie Gordon and Stan Weightman Jr., the husband and wife team behind Valerie Confections. The dynamic duo, who first introduced L.A. to their outrageously good toffee, jams, and petit fours in 2004 with their storefront in Silver Lake, have expanded to Downtown’s Grand Central Market and most recently, to Echo Park.
Valerie GCM opened in late May with weekday breakfast and lunch service, and introduced weekend brunch a few weeks later.
Whereas the Silver Lake shop is squarely focused on sweets, with the occasional savory hand pie available on weekends, Valerie GCM offers an updated take on the classic lunch counter slash coffee shop experience, fitting of its vintage environs.
On the two occasions that The Astronomer and I visited Valerie’s, the counter was humming but not bustling, which made finding a seat a breeze and service very much on point.
Continue reading ‘Valerie Grand Central Market – Los Angeles (Downtown)’
My girl Minh‘s been dying to try Alma, so we booked a table in celebration of her recent birthday. Situated on an unexpected stretch of Broadway, Alma can be difficult to spot. If it weren’t for the fanciful script scrolled across the door, nothing would let on that there’s something good to eat this way.
Chef Ari Taymor (dark haired and bearded fella above) opened Alma last March after running a successful pop-up of the same name. Here in this minimally appointed dining room with a tremendous open kitchen, the young chef and his team are creating ambitious and beautiful food that’s globally influenced. The restaurant’s format and style reminded me a bit of Le Chateaubriand in Paris.
Alma offers both an a la carte menu and a formal tasting menu. Minh’s birthday fortunately fell on a Tuesday, so we took advantage of the abbreviated four-course “Tuesday Tasting” for $45. We also ordered one of every “snack” on the menu to supplement our dinner. The price for the regular tasting menu is $90 for nine courses plus “snacks.”
Continue reading ‘Alma – Los Angeles (Downtown)’
Inventive sweets that aren’t too sugary are what it’s all about at this Downtown bakeshop. The lovely lady behind the operation is Sharlena Fong, a one-time New York City consultant who left the corporate world to pursue her true passion: desserts.
After refining her palate and techniques at Eleven Madison Park, Per Se, and Bouchon Bakery in New York City and at Nickel Diner in Los Angeles, she teamed up with Dennis Hunter and James Gonzales to open Semi Sweet Bakery.
My first visit to the bakery coincided with an early morning photo shoot. I’d been snapping away since the wee hours and wanted nothing more than to be comforted and re-energized with a suite of sweets.
Quite predictably, I zeroed in on the doughnuts first. Semi Sweet’s cake doughnuts are baked rather than fried, and the results were damn good. The “Strawberry Shortcake” had a delicate crumb and terrific texture; I didn’t miss the deep-fried oil bath one bit. Fonuts: take note.
Continue reading ‘Semi Sweet Bakery – Los Angeles (Downtown)’
Chef Connie Tran’s bi-monthly pop-up exploring Vietnamese food traditions brings together classic Vietnamese dishes with a smattering of twists that a Vietnamese grandma probably wouldn’t approve of, in a good way. Filing my second scout report, “BEP Kitchen is for Vietnamese food lovers seeking to go beyond pho,” on the Los Angeles Times‘ Daily Dish. Bon appetit.
Continue reading ‘Jonathan Gold’s Scouting Report #2: Bếp Kitchen’