Heirloom fruits sourced from family-owned farms located no more than 350 miles from Los Angeles are transformed into beautiful jams, chutneys, fruit butters, and marmalades at Jessica Koslow’s Sqirl. Here, preserves are made the old fashion way, cooked slow and low in copper pots using as little sugar as possible and natural pectin. This “less is more” approach means that every jar practically bursts with nature’s wholesome goodness.
The magic of spring and summer is captured in flavors like wild blueberry with tarragon and Santa Rosa plums with flowering thyme, while winter’s blood oranges and kumquats are delicately tamed in marmalade form, sometimes with the addition of vanilla bean.
Ms. Koslow recently teamed up with Ria Wilson, formerly of Canelé, and Kyle Glanville and Charles Babinski of G&B Coffee to open her production space to the public for breakfast and lunch. The Astronomer and I swung by on Saturday afternoon to catch up with my favorite jam maker and to sample a few of her new menu offerings.
The well-edited menu celebrates toast in sweet and savory forms and features daily specials that change with the chef’s bounty and whims. Runny eggs and preserved goodies of all stripes punctuate each plate.
Continue reading ‘Sqirl Kitchen – Los Angeles (Silver Lake)’
After spending three days in Paris, The Astronomer, my mom, and I packed our bags and headed to the countryside. The first stop on our survey tour of France brought us to the Loire Valley, a region famous for its age-old châteaux. The Astronomer, a proficient stick-shift driver since age 15, rented a car to shuttle us from site to site. Even though things got a little hairy at times on the narrow, winding roads, he navigated the terrain like a true Frenchman.
The first fancy house that we visited was the Château d’Azay-le-Rideau, an impressive residence with its foundations built under water. From there, we headed to the Château de Villandry to scope out its intricate gardens.
Somewhere between point A and B, we found ourselves lost among the grassy pastures. Though we made a valiant effort to follow the sporadic signs pointing us in the right direction, it was a hopeless situation without a GPS.
On the search for Villandry, we drove by dozens of signs on the road advertising a plethora of artisanal products. We decided to follow the blue arrows promising foie gras after giving up on finding the château.
Fortunately for us, the signs leading to Ferme des Morinières were much easier to follow than the ones for Villandry. Ferme des Morinières is a family-run foie gras farm that has been operating for three generations. We were the only visitors on the farm this early evening, although I sensed from the farm’s welcoming spirit and gift shop that visitors exploring the countryside swing by all the time.
Continue reading ‘In the Loire Valley: Searching for Châteaux, Finding Foie Gras and Goat Cheese Instead’
I was sold on Valentine’s Day back in middle school when my crush* gifted me a heart-shaped box filled with chocolates between first and second period. No matter that the drugstore batch tasted like Halloween leftovers or that the “relationship” lasted barely a week—I was totally smitten and as far as I was concerned, Valentine’s Day ruled.
While the good ‘ol days of pastel-colored conversation hearts and flimsy perforated cards are over, I can still appreciate honoring February 14 with something sweet for my sweetie. Here are a trio of locally made desserts that will charm the pants off just about anyone. You’ll see…
Justin Chao of Le Bon Garçon crafts the most brilliant caramels I have ever tasted. Every batch is made from scratch using the best ingredients and no preservatives, which results in a soft and silky caramel that is truly like no other. It’s quality you can really sink your teeth into.
For Valentine’s Day, Le Bon Garçon has created a limited-run blood orange-infused caramel called Caramour, as well as beautiful packaging to go with it.
Other flavors available include classic salted caramel, passion fruit, and macadamia nut. Make sure to place your orders by February 7 in order to ensure delivery by Valentine’s Day.
Le Bon Garçon came into my life serendipitously earlier this month. After dropping off my bacon almond brittle at the Bake Sale For Japan, I perused the treats lining the tables to procure a stash to bring home. I picked up a jar of Meyer Lemon and Meyers Rum jam from Mothercluck, a Brown Sugar Cinnamon Pop-Tart and a Peanut Butter Crispy Bar from Tuna Toast, and on a whim, I snatched up a box of salted caramels from Le Bon Garçon.
While I was familiar with the former two contributors, Le Bon Garçon was completely new to me. I love cute packaging and adore salted caramels even more, so I figured that I couldn’t really go wrong.
I held off on trying the caramels until the following Monday afternoon. My intention was to only eat one and save the rest for later, but once I tasted how amazing they were, there was no turning back. All three caramels were down my gullet in five minutes flat. No joke. They were truly the best caramels I’d ever eaten.
What made Le Bon Garçon’s product incredibly special was its silky texture. The caramels were pleasingly chewy without being overly sticky. My molars were left caramel-free in the aftermath of my binge, which is quite a feat in the world of soft candies. In addition to its superior texture, the caramel’s flavor was rich, buttery, well-balanced, and just salty enough.
After polishing off my supply much too quickly, I went online to learn more about the talented pastry chef behind Le Bon Garçon. Justin Chao launched the gourmet caramel company after studying pastry arts at Bellouet Conseil in Paris and 3-star Michelin Le Meurice. He founded Le Bon Garçon in 2010 upon returning home to Los Angeles.
The time Chef Chao spent in France greatly influenced his craft. All of Le Bon Garçon’s caramels are made from scratch using the best ingredients and no preservatives. Every batch is painstakingly stirred by hand and meticulously wrapped. It’s quality you can really sink your teeth into.
Continue reading ‘Le Bon Garçon Gourmet Caramels’
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).
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!
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.
Continue reading ‘Bigmista’s Pig Candy’