food

The Best Challah

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A couple of Sunday’s ago, Joey (my roommate and partner in crime) and I decided we’d try the impossible: make Deb Perleman’s fig, olive oil and sea salt challah bread. How were we going to get the dough right? How in the world were we going to be able to do THAT braid? Two people who had never made bread before said screw it, and rose to the challenge. What resulted from our feat in the kitchen was the best challah I’ve ever had.

Deb, my friend! You never let me down.

Below are a couple of photos I snapped with my phone during the process.

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M & D Visit Los Angeles

Mom and Dad Ward joined me for a weekend in Los Angeles a few months back.

It was one of those gloriously flawless weekends that remind you how awesome life is and why you should appreciate everything around you.

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We spent Saturday afternoon at the Getty, looking at fine impressionist paintings, strolling through gardens, and enjoying the (clear!) views of LA.

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Dad found particular interest in the imported stone materials used to build the museum itself…Geology majors never quit!

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It was a beautiful day to spend outside, catching up and sharing stories.

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Our evening was spent dining at the Manhattan Beach Post, a post office turned social house, with long wooden tables and a modern earthy vibe. Dinner started out with bacon cheddar buttermilk biscuits with maple butter, and was followed by several small, family-style dishes that were unique and delicious. MB Post cocktails do not disappoint either, mine consisted of Chopin, grapefruit, basil, raspberry, and pink peppercorns. Definitely check this place out if you’re in the LA area!

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Los Feliz welcomed us for breakfast on Sunday, followed by a short visit to the Griffith Observatory. Though 48 hours isn’t enough time to really experience LA, I was happy to show the rents a few of the places I’ve come to love the most, and I can’t wait for the next visitors that come my way!

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Do you cook for each other?

There’s nothing better than bringing people together through food. And while I enjoy throwing dinner parties and sharing my favorite recipes with my favorite people, sometimes it’s pretty damn awesome to be on the receiving end of a wonderful home-cooked meal in an intimate setting.

photoLast year, Josh and I decided we’d like to spend more time exploring new cooking techniques and recipes…and came up with a (brilliant?) plan. Each week we’d cook one meal for each other. The catch? We had to explore foreign land and create something we had never attempted before.

We’ve carried this plan into the new year, and I must say it’s pretty rad. Each week I get to improve my skills in the kitchen and look forward to having someone cook a delicious meal for me. What’s not to love?

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(photo: hasselback potatoes with spinach cashew pesto, and seared pork chops au poivre)

the best caramel sauce & a few winter treats

If you’ve been searching for the world’s best caramel sauce, look no further. Meg introduced this recipe to the family last year around the holidays, and this year I made some for all of my close Portland friends (…and myself). Who knew sugar, butter, and cream could produce such a heavenly substance!

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 This rich, buttery sauce makes the perfect topping for ice cream, warm apple pie, or a large spoon.

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Here’s the recipe (courtesy of Deb at the Smitten Kitchen).

A few more Winter favorites are Douglas Fir Spring Tips tea, and Joy the Baker’s Orange Gingerbread with Cream Cheese Frosting, which go hand in hand and are best accompanied by a good book and a fireplace.

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Relish the charm of the Winter season, Spring will be here before we know it!

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Cooking with Deb

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Lauren and I both found copies of Deb Perelman’s Smitten Kitchen cookbook hiding under the tree this Christmas, and my goodness! The woman went all out. With over 100 scrumptious recipes, beautiful photographs (dare I say, food porn?) and hilarious kitchen stories, Deb has won over our hearts (and our drooling mouths) more than we thought possible.

In the New Year, we are excited to try a new recipe from the book each week. We’ll share photos, and our cooking/baking experiences here.

A few things we’re especially looking forward to testing out…

(Lauren)
Honey and Harissa Farro Salad
Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Gallette
Cranberry Crumb Bars with Mulling Spices

(Me)
Greens, Eggs and Hollandaise
Corn Risotto-Stuffed Poblanos
Heart-Stuffed Shells in Lemon Ricotta Bechamel

“I hope you’re hungry” – Deb (and the Wards)

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From Stumptown to La La Land

I headed south to Los Angeles from Portland, Oregon last July, where a yearlong job in education and the opportunity to get out and try something new awaited. My quiet life among the damp green transitioned quickly into one of sun, subways, and sixth graders…and coffee.

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A woman recently asked me what I do in LA when I’m not working…I told her I spend a lot of time in cafés. Can that be a hobby? I hope so. I’ve scoured the city for the best places to hunker down on Saturday mornings and Sunday afternoons, and I think I’ve been pretty successful. Here are a few of my favorites:

1. Stories, Echo Park. Stories is a bookstore with a café in the back, and a darling patio area outside. They have good coffee and great pastries (which you can find at the Hollywood Farmer’s Market most Sundays), but the best part about Stories is the cozy ambiance and friendly people. And who doesn’t love to be surrounded by books while doing work? Totally inspiring.

2. Square One Dining, Hollywood. Square One is one my favorite places for breakfast in LA. They use fresh, local ingredients, serve bottomless cups of Intelligentsia coffee, and have one heck of an outdoor seating area.

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Brioche french toast with banana-citrus caramel at Square One

3. Mornings Nights, Silverlake. This place has the best bagel sandwiches of all time, AND some of the nicest baristas (though I have generally been impressed with the friendliness of Angelinos). The inside is a bit small, but there is ample space out front to sip a latte and watch all the beautiful young people mosey down Sunset Blvd in their weekend best.

4. Café Los Feliz, Los Feliz. This place. This is the place you come to when you need a hearty breakfast and a smile. I came here with my parents when they visited for my birthday, and they were impressed with the down to earth owner (even before she gave us an assortment of sweets for the road) and the quaintness of this small café in the big city. Killer breakfast sandwiches and croissants to boot!

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A lovely almond croissant at Café Los Feliz

Cheers!

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