Sunday, February 20, 2011

A Day in LA with Janet

So yesterday I went down to see my friend Janet Rorschach in Los Feliz. As you may remember in previous posts she was also one of my Chef Instructors in culinary school. She made such an impression on me that we've remained friends even after all these years. 

I was in for a true LA treat. So here is my Day in LA a la Janet.

Our first destination LaMill Coffee on Silver Lake Blvd. This coffee house offers such a unique experience in the way one can enjoy coffee. They also offer a variety of teas, and have a small restaurant, which includes limited seating outside as well. The premise of their coffee - it starts with great beans and clean water. This is one of those gems that you want to share, and yet keep all to yourself. You can also see their full site here.

For those not familiar with driving in Los Angeles let me educate you - parking is a premium. There are no large parking lots where you leave your car and walk about all day. So it's a good thing I wasn't driving, parallel parking is not my thing. Janet is a pro!

After our coffee we went on the hunt for a spice shop she had heard about. We didn't have an exact location but a general idea and lo and behold we found it. It's called Spice Station. This store reminded me of an alchemy's store. Large 1 gallon jars lined the wall filled with some spices/herbs I had not experienced before. Like black limes, and habanero sugar. Well I could not resist getting 2 different salts - an Aged Balsamic Salt and a Vintage Merlot Salt. The other little spice I had to get was Tomato Powder, which I plan to use in homemade cornbread. The merlot salt I think will be a wonderful finishing salt for a grilled steak. 

Onward we go! Next stop McCall's Meat and Fish Co. This is where I realized that while I joke about living in the ghetto, I really do live in the food ghetto. To walk into a butcher and see the cuts of beef both wet and dry aged, pork, chicken, veal, lamb, rabbit, quail, duck and then you see diver scallops so plump, skate that has been prepped to perfection, mussels, clams, Ahi tuna that actually made my mouth water, salmon and sea bass. The first thing that impressed me was just how clean the store was. When you walk in the store is cool and the smell is of meat, but it's such a clean scent. Nothing is wasted, the cuts are trimmed to perfection. The counters were constantly being wiped down. Each of the butchers was dressed in professional chef attire - black pants, white coats, full black aprons, and black skull caps. Janet instinctively knew I would be drooling over this place, and she was right!

What more could I possibly see? So much, and I do know that is just the tip of the iceberg. Not too far away was our next destination, a winery Silver Lake Wine. When you first walk in you are greeted politely and asked if you have been there before. Of course I answered no, and the gentleman behind the counter pointed to the first table and said These wines are from all over the various regions and are under $25. The store is then broken down by region, Calif, France, Germany, South America, New Zealand etc. The prices range on each from $10 to $100. The back wall is the holy grail wall. These are very, very nice wines. They also offer a small selection of spirits, but wine is differently their gig. In the back is a long bar where you can have a wine tasting. They offer 5 wines and they pair it with food, $20 per person. This isn't your BevMo of wines where the staff might know a bit about the wines. These folks know their stock. Doing a special dinner - go in tell them what you're having and they will match a wine to your flavor profile of dinner. How cool is that?

Ever see images from people vacations when they go to France and visit a Fromage shoppe (cheese shop)? And you think oh I would so love to experience something like that! Well you can. Head to The Cheese Store of Silverlake. I never experience a store like this. They had so many wonderful cheeses, cow cheese, goat, sheep, pasteurized, unpasteurized you name it. They even had some very decadent looking cheeses too. And while we know I cannot do dairy I do know I can do goat cheese. I just don't care for it. So I found some cheese for Derek, it was sheep's cheese with black peppercorns. Well turns out sheep's cheese doesn't bother me! I need to test this some more to be sure. This shop also offers some wonderful olive oils, including white and black truffle oil. Do not miss out on this store!

As we leave the cheese store we are on the search for a store call Cookbook.  But prior to getting in the car and continuing our search we pass Gingergrass Fresh Vietnamese Cuisine and Janet asks if I'm hungry and would I like Vietnamese food? I informed her I have never had Vietnamese Food. (Well I guess that rock I've been living under is pretty heavy because I have been missing out!) The restaurant is small, but the seating is such that you not only enjoy the company you are with, you are close to your tablemates and it's almost a given that either you will ask what they are having, or they you. The ingredients are SO FRESH! I had the Beef Pho and this soup is just fantastic. Feeling under the weather, this will help what ails you. Hung over, this will perk you up. Cold and rainy it's like a bowl of sunshine.  I think the phrase of the day was "Heaven in bowl!" I just could not get over how good this was.  Thank you Janet for such a lovely lunch. 

Last, but not least it was time to find Cookbook which is actually a local small green grocer. They also had some local baked goods from a baker in Pasadena. I picked up two italian mini baguette with prosciutto and butter. Because it tasted so good, it proof positive that simple ingredients, few of them really make for wonderful flavors.

This was just such a wonderful day! I gotta tell you, it inspired me. I hope it does you as well. While you may not want to drive out to LA to explore, then at least explore what is in your area. I am just positive you'll find a gem. 

Here's to great friends, wonderful food and an experience of a lifetime. Memories are great aren't they? Now go make your own..stop reading mine ;)


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