The Taste Is Coming! The Taste Is Coming!

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Every year The Los Angeles Times hosts the glorious food festival known as Los Angeles Times The Taste, and for the past three summers in a row, I’ve been ever so fortunate to snag an invitation to the newspaper’s test kitchen where massively influential food bloggers — nay, WRITERS — get to preview some of the bites at the upcoming event. For the organizers, it’s a great way to get word out. For the writers, it’s a perfect chance to stuff our faces like a bunch of malnourished baboons. We all win!

In an effort to fend off my innate pear-shaped physique, I tried to show some sort of restraint during this week’s preview, but unfortunately, I tend to get Requiem For A Dream eyeballs around food; so it was basically a lost cause. Check out some pics of me pigging out after the jump…

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ADVENTURES IN DOMESTICITY: Chocolate-Caramel Layer Cake Insanity

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When it comes to eating healthy, I’m not always known for my self-discipline. Sure, I had a month this summer where I stayed away from all carbs, breads, and otherwise joy-inducing foods, but generally, I’m in a constant state of declaring healthy intentions while simultaneously shoving Kit-Kats into my face. This past week was no exception. Things started off in a dark (read: wonderful place) when a visit to the Orange County Fair resulted in sublime consumption of funnel cake, chocolate dipped ice cream cones, and various other diet-adverse items. I swore I would do better for myself, but of course, things rapidly spiraled out of control.

You see, the latest issue of Cook’s Illustrated appeared in my mailbox, and in its monochromatic pages was a recipe for Chocolate-Caramel Layer Cake. Suddenly, hearts appeared in my eyes and Tchaikovsky’s love theme from Romeo & Juliet blared all around me. I had to make this. I had to! But I couldn’t, especially not during this week of county fair gut reparations. Besides, why would I just make a CAKE for no reason?

And then fate came calling. Turns out I had plans to attend a game night at the end of the week, and as luck would have it, that game night was now being upgraded to a birthday celebration for my friend Lodric. I was told I was on cake duty, and far be it for me to deny that responsibility. The planets had aligned: I had the perfect excuse to make the chocolate-caramel layer cake.

It was on.

But was it worth it? Keep reading to find out…

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Fighting the “Dead of Winter” with Nancy’s Fancy Gelatti & Sorbetti

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It’s been a year or two since I last dusted off my handy ice cream maker, and every time I gaze at its shiny, white shell (which is admittedly not often), I grow wistful for those heady days when I would pour fatty custards into its spinning innards and find glorious ice creams and gelatos waiting for me thirty minutes later. Damn, I love ice cream.

I mean, I really love ice cream.

Of course, who doesn’t love ice cream? Lactose intolerant people, probably. Or maybe people with six-packs. For most of us though, we all scream for ice cream, which is why I was particularly excited when a large box filled with complimentary Nancy’s Fancy gelato arrived at my doorstep last week. The creation of acclaimed pastry-chef Nancy Silverton, Nancy’s Fancy promises a luxe dessert experience, but does it deliver? And is it worth the $10.99 price tag? Yes, you read that correctly: Nancy’s Fancy retails for $10.99 a pint.

To find out the answers to these pressing issues, I brought two pints — Coconut Stracciatella with Bittersweet Chocolate Strands, Frutti di Bosco – Greek Yogurt and Mixed Berries — to my friend’s house for a group tasting. This was all rather convenient as we were all assembling anyway to play the zombie board game “Dead of Winter.” Zombies + Nancy Silverton = an intriguing night to say the least.

Pictures and revelations after the jump…

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BANTER BLENDER #104: Measles, Bruce Jenner, ‘American Sniper,’ and Bagels

This week on “The Banter Blender,” Angie Thomas (“All the Way”) joins Ben to chat about the usual grab bag of topics: the measles outbreak in CA, Bruce Jenner’s possibly trans journey, the controversy surrounding American Sniper, and, of course, the best bagels in Los Angeles. Come listen!

And remember to like the podcast on Facebook: facebook.com/banterblender

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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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