Apr 2020

Meyer Lemon Upside-Down Cake

Backyard Citrus Upside Down Cake by Nicole Rucker

“It’s the end of the world as we know it…” The R.E.M. song has been playing in my head ever since the coronavirus put us all on lockdown. It’s been nearly a month since I set foot in a restaurant, a workplace, a grocery store, or a school. The Astronomer, June, and I are heeding the advice of experts and hunkering down for the foreseeable future. And while it hasn’t been the easiest of transitions, Michael Stipe was right…I feel fine.

Like most folks with similar interests and in similar lots, I have been doing a lot of pantry cooking and stress baking. The stove has been working hard these days — making big ol’ pots of bolognese, fried rice with forgotten and frost-bitten brats, cold peanut noodles with soy sauce packets, and more anchovy pasta than I care to admit.

The oven has been churning overtime too — baking up loaves of bread and most recently, this Meyer lemon upside-down cake from Nicole Rucker’s cookbook Dappled. The cake didn’t go entirely according to plan. For starters, I baked it in the wrong sized pan — the difference between an 8-inch and 9-inch round can’t be underestimated. And second of all, the sliced lemons, which were intended to pretty the cake’s surface, migrated all over its sides. Still, the texture and flavors turned out well — moist, fragrant, caramelized, and delicious. It brightened up our dinner table and our neighbors’ too. And these days, that’s more than enough.

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Mar 2020

Yi Mei Deli – Rowland Heights

Yi Mei Deli - Rowland Heights

When it comes to Taiwanese breakfast, I haven’t had reason to veer from Monterey Park’s dependably great Huge Tree Pastry, but a recent lunch meet up in east San Gabriel Valley introduced me to Yi Mei Deli. With three locations in Southern California (Rowland Heights, Chino Hills, and Monrovia), Yi Mei Deli serves up a solid Taiwanese breakfast.

Yi Mei Deli - Rowland Heights

My dining companion Juliam ordered the genre’s greatest hits, and a few sleeper ones too. We settled into a communal table, and the food arrived hot from the kitchen as soon as it was ready.

Yi Mei Deli - Rowland Heights

First up was a duo of breads: a twisted cruller (you tiao) and a baked sesame flatbread (shao bing).

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Mar 2020

Melisse – Santa Monica

Melisse - Santa Monica

Chef Josiah Citrin closed Melisse about a year ago. After retooling for most of 2019, the restaurant reopened last December with just 14 seats. Though the new Melisse’s footprint is much smaller than its previous incarnation, the institution continues to dazzle diners with the kind of refined hospitality and fancy flourishes that make fine dining such a treat.

Melisse - Santa Monica

The $295 tasting menu, which includes nearly a dozen courses, takes diners on a familiar journey, with lighter, more seafood-centric dishes at the get-go and heartier proteins to finish. What makes a meal here particularly special are the table-side touches sprinkled throughout the experience. Plus, the unbeatable views of the open kitchen from every seat in the house.

Melisse - Santa Monica

Dinner began with a trio of canapes: a crab tart with sesame and trout roe, a purse filled with wagyu beef tartare, and a seaweed chip topped with wild Japanese amberjack.

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