ADVENTURES IN DOMESTICITY: Holiday Cakes Edition

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Thanksgiving is just around the corner, which means it’s the perfect time to celebrate Christmas. I mean, technically, we should probably wait to throw a holiday party until December, but we all know that the Holiday season officially kicked off on November 1st. At least, that’s when it seems socially acceptable to admit that it began. The truth is that most people were probably humming “Deck the Halls” halfway through Columbus Day.

Well, the not-so-surprise twist is that I’m Jewish and don’t celebrate Christmas, but it doesn’t mean I can’t get into the Holiday spirit, especially since it’s a great excuse to bake up cakes and cookies. Conveniently, Baker’s Secret recently sent me some complimentary colored metal bakeware and encouraged me to whip up some holiday recipes. Challenge ACCEPTED.

After the jump, check out pics of my holiday cake party, starring Ina Garten’s mocha icebox cake and a banana cake with cream cheese frosting….

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ADVENTURES IN DOMESTICITY: International Friendsgiving Edition (Plus, A Sweet Potato Casserole Recipe)

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This may be somewhat shocking, but I’ll just come out with it: last weekend, my friends and I convened for yet another Friendsgiving. This marks the third Friendsgiving I’ve hosted since actual Thanksgiving last year (which, admittedly, was also a Friendsgiving). Have we gone turkey crazy? Not really. This time around the mania was inspired by Corningware. You see, Corningware has this handy dandy new line of colorful products called CW By Corningware, and the company was kind enough to send over some samples (and subsidize the turkey) if I put together a Friendsgiving meal and blogged about it. So here I am: an apartment full of unhealthy leftovers, writing about Friendsgiving again.

To change things up, I decided to throw a twist into the typical Friendsgiving affairs. This would be no ordinary meal. This would be a global affair. Yes, every dish would be an international take on a classic American Thanksgiving staple. OooOOOooh. So very Top Chef of us.

I’m happy to report that my friends all lived up to the challenge, and the resultant meal was beyond delicious. Pics of the dishes as well as a bonus recipe (!!) after the jump!

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THINGS I ATE: A Chef’s Tasting at Philippe Chow

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On a quiet stretch of Wilshire Boulevard, just around the corner from Los Angeles’ famed Restaurant Row, sits Philippe Chow — an upscale Chinese eatery that caters to the rich and famous or anyone aspiring to such things. Naturally, I was rather intrigued when I was invited to a media-comped chef’s tasting, and so I called up my friend Kambra and after trekking through some of the worst LA traffic I’ve endured all year, we made it to the restaurant (albeit, 45 minutes late).

After the jump, pics of our meal.

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ADVENTURES IN DOMESTICITY: Fun With Collard Greens Edition

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What does one do with collard greens? Well, one usually makes collard greens. Yes, that signature soul food dish is probably the first thing that springs to most people’s minds, but here’s a fun twist: collard greens can also be used in the tasty Portuguese soup caldo verde. This is my awkward way of announcing that I’ve recently made both collard greens and caldo verde soup, and I deeply wish to share my experiences here on this blog.

Behold, if you will, a collard adventure for the ages.

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ADVENTURES IN DOMESTICITY: Of Cakes, Carrot and Red Velvet Edition

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For some reason, I found myself baking a lot of birthday cakes this summer. Specifically, I made two carrot cakes and two red velvet cakes. Based on this staggeringly high output, I now consider myself an expert on the subject, which means nothing really, but any chance I get to call myself an expert on something is celebration enough (for me). This all is my way of saying that in my EXPERT opinion, you all should make these cakes.

First, we have a carrot cake. Technically, it’s Ina Garten’s carrot and pineapple cake. Here’s what you need to know: this will be the very best carrot cake you will ever make. I’ve made it twice now (and once another time), and it has been stupendous. Seasoned carrot cake fans such as my dear friend Sly will attest that it is the best carrot they’ve ever eaten. This is no joke, people While Ina Garten may be known for her Beatty’s Chocolate Cake recipe, it’s this wonderful carrot masterpiece that should be the crown jewel in her dessert empire (I’ve made both, and I say it with authority — although, the chocolate cake is delicious too).

And then we have the red velvet cake. This beloved cake is a bit of a tricky beast to master — I think we’ve all taken bites of our fare share of dry, crumbly versions. But I’m happy to report that the recipe I’ve found online delivers a moist, flavorful cake that will please even the snobbiest of red velvet fans.

Pics of the cakes after the jump…

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ADVENTURES IN DOMESTICITY: Roast Chicken Picadillo Edition

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Just under a year ago, I found myself at the renowned Powell’s Bookstore in Portland, Oregan browsing the hundreds of cookbooks on display. The process took hours, and just when I thought I was ready to check out, I suddenly had this bizarre desire to procure a Native American / New Mexican / Southwestern cookbook. I don’t know where the impulse came from — I think I’d had a vision of corn and green peppers. Either way, I found a nifty book for $5 called Mark Miller’s Indian Market Cookbook which promised “Recipes from Santa Fe’s Coyote Cafe.” Sounded good to me. Ten minutes later, I was lugging the tome back to my hotel.

It was then that I realized practically all the recipes in this book were super involved. This was a restaurant cookbook, and it called for highly specialized ingredients. Groan. Still, I was determined to make at least one recipe from this book, and now twelve months later, I have finally fulfilled that promise. Last week, I made Roast Chicken Picadillo with Quinoa Grain Salad, Olives, and Caperberries. Was it worth the wait? Answer after the jump…

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ADVENTURES IN DOMESTICITY: Carne Deshebrada Edition

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As I mentioned earlier today, one of my favorite tacos in Los Angeles is the carne deshebrada from Lotería Grill. I have consumed many of these garlicky, beefy concoctions (often in burrito form too) for years now, and all the while, I have wondered how I could recreate the magic in my lil’ home kitchen. To be fair, I did once try my hand at the elusive deshebrada, but it was a middling failure (see pictures of the whole affair from my younger, slimmer days here). Of course, that was 2010, and all I had to guide my naive self was a random Internet recipe from Epicurious. Nowadays, I’m older, wiser, and more importantly, equipped with a subscription to Cook’s Illustrated (thanks, Mom!). Naturally, when I saw that this detail-oriented cooking mag had its very own carne deshebrada recipe, I knew I had to give it a whirl.

Would I strike out a second time? Or would I finally find success? Pictures after the jump…

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THINGS I ATE: Tortas at Torta Company

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I think it’s safe to say that the difference between a good sandwich and a dreamy sandwich usually comes down to the bread. True, the stuff between the slices matters too, but it’s the bread that’s the real game-changer. That’s one of the reasons why Chef Jimmy Shaw’s Torta Company in Downtown LA serves up such tasty food. As the name suggests, this eatery (located within the swanky FIGat7th complex) focuses on Mexican tortas and their signature telera bread — something I admittedly have very little to no experience with.

Well, that all changed when I was invited to enjoy a media-comped meal at the Torta Company with Chef Shaw himself. Shaw’s other restaurant, Lotería Grill, has been a favorite of mine for several years now; so naturally I leapt at the opportunity to try his new venture.

After the jump, pics from Torta Company and a few nuggets of wisdom from Chef Shaw.

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I Came, I Saw, I Was Conquered By ‘The Taste’

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When it’s convenient for me, I like to consider myself a food blogger (or, at the very least, a man about town, a gadabout, or a poorly dressed dandy). I don’t always look the part — what with my lack of a Digital SLR or any halfway decent photographic equipment, for that matter — but I swear I can be just as nitpicky and snobby as the best of them. However, the one area where I completely fail as a food blogger is the hallowed Food Festival. In Los Angeles, these things happen at least nine times per week during the summer. I swear I can’t keep these festivals straight. If it can be eaten, it will be made into a festival. I’m shocked I haven’t received a press release for a kohlrabi appreciation event.

This is all an overdrawn way for me to say that I never go to food festivals. I can’t keep them straight, and I usually am too cheap to pony up the dough for a ticket. Luckily, as a Food Blogger™, I occasionally receive press passes to things, and I was ever so lucky to receive such a golden ticket to the Los Angeles Times THE TASTE 2014 festival, which featured food, wine, and cooking demos from a wide swath of LA’s varied culinary scene. How could I resist? And so on a blazingly hot Saturday afternoon, I Über’d it over to Paramount Studios where the event was being held and threw myself into foodie heaven.

You guys, it was SO FUNNNNN.

How fun was it? I was only going to go for the afternoon, but then I went back AT NIGHT. ON A DATE. This is serious, yo. Plus, I got, like, eight free glasses, which really should be the beginning and end of this post right there.

Some pics after the jump…

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FYI: Thanksgiving Is 90 Days Away

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It may be hard to believe, but Thanksgiving is a mere 90 days away from today. That’s right: time is a-flying, and before you know it, Turkey Day will be upon you, and you’ll be standing in your kitchen thinking to yourself “What the HELL am I going to make?” Okay, you probably won’t be saying that since Thanksgiving menus are pretty obvious, but just in case you want to spice it up this year, I’m proud to announce that my friends and I have been road-testing a few recipes.

You see, while the rest of America has been enjoying salads and corn on the cob this summer, my crew has hosted not one, but two Thanksgivings, both of which have landed on miserably hot 100°+ days. I’ll admit it was odd roasting a giant turkey breast while heat vapors outside on the street threatened to melt any slow-walking pedestrian, but we made it work.

After the jump, check out pics from our Friendsgiving meals. Hopefully they’ll provide some inspiration as we head into the final Turkey Day stretch…

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