The Ultimate LA Food Festival Calendar

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2015 is in full swing and here at TasteSavant, it is our duty to make sure you don’t miss a beat. Sure, Saturday night reservations at the newest restaurant in town can be exciting, but what happens when that restaurant comes together with other restaurants in one space at one time and celebrate their food in our honor? Well, thats called euphoria. Food Festivals have become a dominant force across the country in the past decade, but in Los Angeles, where the sun shines happily year round, we take it to an entirely new level. Frankly, you could find a food festival every weekend of the year in LA and we hope you do, but below are our picks for standout festivals to put into your 2015 calendar this very moment.

LA Street Food Festival | June 27th, 2015 | The Rose Bowl, PasadenaStreetFoodFest No way around it, the LA Street Food Festival is a cultural behemoth and the mother of all food festivals in Southern California. Now going into its 6th year, the Street Food Festival uses the entire grounds of The Rose Bowl in Pasadena and has a capped pre-sale ticket number at 5,000 to keep things orderly. It’s a celebration of all things food-on-the-go, in one of the world’s capital of food truck mania. But that’s not to say it’s limited just to meals-on-wheels. Chefs from Cliff’s Edge, Coni’Seafood, Guelaguetza, and Union (just to name a few) had booths last year, making this festival a must-attend for any food-crazed LA denizen.

LA Sriracha Festival | October, 2015 | ChinatownSrirachaFest Going full-steam into its 3rd year, this festival is about as LA as a food festival can get. It’s no secret that this city has a full-on obsession with this spicy, sweet sauce and it’s no wonder as its main factory is only a few miles from where the festival actually takes place. Though specific dates have yet to be announced, the first two editions have always been in October and featured the likes of Jitlada, Gardarene Swine, Mud Hen Tavern, and Sqirl all coming together in honor of this magic bottle of goodness. Expect a full array of alcoholic stands and live music to make this spice party truly complete.

626 Night Market | July-September, 2015 | Santa Anita Park, Arcadia 626NightMarket Having jumped around for the last few years, organizers have landed on the beautiful and spacious Santa Anita Park in 2015, allowing them to create a re-occurring event that lasts throughout the summer months. Much like the Street Food Fest, the 626 Night Market is a mega event with over 200 food, music, art, merchandise, and entertainment attractions in one space that only costs $3 at the door. And now residing back in the cultural and geographic heart of SoCal’s Asian community, 2015 expects to be bigger than ever. Expect the San Gabriel Valley’s culinary elite in attendance as well.

The Taste 2015 | Labor Day Weekend | Paramount Studios, HollywoodTasteFest Though still technically unannounced for 2015, there’s no reason this epic Los Angeles food festival won’t return. Almost every single heavy-hitter in the industry was represented here last year and it’s a quantifiable blockbuster event. Heck, the whole thing is put on by the LA Times and sponsored by Citi, among other national sponsors. Set within the cityscape backlots of Paramount Studios, organizers claim Taste to be the most “authentically LA” festival in the city and they’re probably not wrong. It’s glitzy and glamorous, but with attendees ranging from Alma to Osteria Mozza, Chi Spacca to smoke.oil.salt, you’re getting the best that Los Angeles has to offer.

An Interview with Atwood Kitchen & Bar Room Executive Chef Brad Warner

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Between Hidechan and Totto’s addicting ramen, classy brunch at The Smith, and now a restaurant seemingly spit out of Brooklyn with a knockout dinner menu, inventive cocktail program, and local craft beers, I think I’ll stay a little longer in Midtown East. Atwood Kitchen & Bar Room is not only a pioneer, but a beacon of hope for those who long for a place to go to after work for a drink and/or a bite to eat that isn’t Turtle Bay or another dark and rowdy pub.

Atwood Kitchen & Bar Room_Rivergate Hospitality_Photo by Oleg March 1

I had the pleasure of being introduced to Executive Chef Brad Warner over at Atwood and got to pick his brain a bit about his path to Atwood and things to look forward to (next brunch spot, anyone!?).

Interview with Atwood Kitchen & Bar Executive Chef Brad Warner

2_Chef Brad Warner_Atwood Kitchen & Bar Room_photo by Shaun Vakil, Pazmerica.com

TS:  When did you “discover” food and more so, realize that you wanted to be a chef? Was there a specific moment you can recall?

BW: I enjoyed cooking as a child and into my teenage years, and friends and family would always tell me I should go to culinary school, or become a chef. After years of hearing that, I finally began to consider it, and I realized that it was what I wanted to do. I applied to the CIA and they accepted me right out of high school, which was unusual at the time. After a few years working to get the loans to go to school, I started in 2000. I think I discovered food at the CIA, I like to cook, and enjoyed food before I went to school, but while I was there I began to understand why I enjoyed being a cook.

TS: Leaving Florida must have been an exciting decision, what made you decide to come to NYC? How was the transition?

BW: It was a now or never decision. I always wanted to work and live in New York City, but after I graduated it was difficult to find work, I think the restaurant industry in the city was still recovering after September 11th. So I moved back to Florida and worked all over the state for about eight years. When I left, I was faced with a decision of either moving to Texas with the company I was working for, or finally giving New York a chance. I knew that either way I would be far away from the comfort of my home and family, and when I really thought about it I realized that I would never really be happy unless I gave it a shot up here. The transition was shockingly easy, I was lucky to find a job within a week of moving here. I found a great apartment that I shared with my best friend for 2 ½ years, I still live there now, and I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of two restaurant openings in Manhattan. This one being my first as the Executive Chef.

TS: What have you enjoyed most about being a chef? What do you enjoy the least?

BW: I love the process of creating, testing, and refining a dish. I also love opening restaurants, the creation of a concept, from an idea is really exciting for me. My least favorite thing would be that I get tired. I really enjoy being at work, nearly every day is fun for me, but I get really annoyed with myself when I get tired, and I wish that I could just skip that part.

TS:  What was it like leading up to the opening of Atwood? I would imagine it was pretty hectic!

BW: In some ways it was very hectic, but there was also a bit of a delay for our opening, so there was also a lot of energy being stored up.

TS:  What do you look forward to as Executive Chef of this brand new restaurant?

BW: Creating and executing great food on a daily basis. This is a unique space, people have responded positively to the atmosphere and to our craft cocktail and beer program. I look forward to making sure the food makes people as excited as the atmosphere and beverage program. I want all of our guests to be happy on a consistent basis.

TS: What about the menu are you most excited about? Anything new you’re trying out? I know it’s a seasonal menu, but how often do you plan on rotating the dishes?

BW: I really love the Hot Honey Chicken, and the Country Pâte. They’re fun to make and our guests have responded well to them. I really enjoy when the guests get excited about a dish and those two we hear about a lot.

I am working on Brunch items for next month, and I hope we have a few dishes that everyone will be interested in.

Our menu will be updated first in late March. Then we’ll likely change it again in June, and October.

TS: What Atwood dish would you say most reflects your personal style?

BW: I think the Boneless Pork Short Rib is a great example of what I tried to achieve with the menu. My hope is that it comes across as a simple, delicious dish, but that the flavors and the technique create something that lingers with you.

TS: When you’re not in the kitchen, do you cook for yourself, order in, or go out to eat? If you eat out, any recommendations for our readers?

BW: I like to cook for myself and my friends, but I don’t often have the time.

I do order out regularly from places like Max Bratwurst und Bier and Butcher Bar in Astoria where I live.

As far as a recommendation for dinner out, I think ABC Kitchen is consistently one of the best meals in the city. I enjoy it every time I go there. I really like Taïm for a nice lunch.

Numero 28 is great for pizza. I wish I lived near there so I could eat it all the time. All of those are places that your readers are aware of, but I like to recommend places where I’ve had consistently good meals and service.

Atwood Kitchen & Bar Room, located at 986 Second Avenue between 52nd and 53rd Streets in Midtown East, is open 4:00pm-4:00am daily for dinner, drinks, and a late night bar menu. Atwood Kitchen & Bar accepts reservations via telephone, (212) 371-2233, or Open Table.

The Best Places in Los Angeles To Say “I Love You”

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Tis the season, haters. It’s that one special week each year where all questions you may have about a friend’s love life are answered through the level of pure, unadulterated hatred expelling from his or her Facebook status updates. It’s a thrilling time for all. But deep down in the darkest bowels of Valentine’s Day, that L word still somehow finds a way. In reality, it’s the perfect chance each year to renew your love for the significant people in your life, or even perhaps announce significant feelings for a brand new person. Now we’re talking. And while almost every place in town will happily provide the backdrop for such an important moment, a few stick out above the rest. Here are our choices for best places in LA to say “I Love You.”

Cliff’s Edge

3626 W Sunset Blvd, Silverlake

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Talk about having a good year. Long considered one of the great hidden gems in the city, Cliff’s Edge is back in the limelight thanks to Vartan Abgaryan’s take over in the kitchen and raising the game in the Eastside fine-dining scene. Everyone from LAWeekly to Eater has been in to see what the buzz is about and what they found is a re-invigorated menu in that same, iconic setting. Just about every restaurant in Los Angeles envies what Cliff’s Edge has captured in that back patio. It is those canopy trees? Perhaps. The perfectly strewn lights? Maybe. But it’s more likely the residual energy that comes from being one of our city’s elite romantic restaurants for more than a decade. And a perfect place to take that next step this coming Saturday. 

Nobu – Malibu

22706 E Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu

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If you’re able to see and mentally register the picture directly above, chances are my work here is already done. It’s no secret that Nobu’s recently opened Malibu outpost is quite possibly the most naturally stunning location of any restaurant in the Los Angeles Basin. Directly hovering over one of Malibu’s few remaining unspoiled beaches, with views of that famous turquoise water in every direction, it’s actually impossible to not feel special here. Combine that with the world-famous sushi only Chef Nobu knows how to serve and this spot is what we refer to as a home run Valentine’s Day selection.

Bestia

2121 E 7th Pl, Arts District, Los Angeles

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Cause hipsters can feel love, too, guys. It’s fairly ironic how, in one of the oldest neighborhoods in Los Angeles (the Arts District), one goes now to purely feel something new. In just 5 years, these dusty warehouses in the Eastern shadows of downtown have filled up with ground-breaking restaurants, run by today’s premiere chefs and packed full of Los Angelenos trying to experience it all first. And the beacon of this renaissance radiates brilliantly from the industrial rafters of the game-changing Bestia. Tucked away in one of the neighborhood’s many industrial back-alleys, walking into Bestia almost doesn’t seem real. It must be a movie set. Or maybe where New Girl just wrapped. But it’s not. It is real and beautiful and smothered in young romance perfect for an “I Love You.”

Republique

624 S La Brea Ave

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Republique opened just over a year ago and seemingly overnight became one of the most talked about restaurant debuts in the city, if not the entire country. Taking over the formerly-iconic Campanile space, Republique admittedly had a massive microscope hovering over it from the very beginning. But now, a year later, it’s safe to say it’s succeeded almost every critic’s expectation. From the French country interior (even the pictures don’t do it justice), to the family-style Parisian cuisine, Republique is a completely immersive experience for all diners. The three separate kitchens open out into restaurant, providing a festive sense of community, all while keeping it mutedly romantic.

The Little Door

8164 W 3rd St, Los Angeles

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The Little Door is hardly a diamond in the LA rough. But this mid-city favorite succeeds so brilliantly because every time you walk through their doors, it feels like you accidentally stumbled into your tiny unfound paradise. Unlike the glitz and glamour of Nobu Malibu, or the hustle and bustle of Republique and Bestia, The Little Door is a quiet oasis in the center of it all. Intimate and personalized, The Little Door thrives on making each and every costumer count. And its clean, mediterranean-inspired menu caters perfectly to its surroundings and the romantic glow that hovers delicately over each table. What in the world could sound better than that for this Saturday evening?

Hidden Gems of Louisville

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When people think “good food,” their thoughts gravitate towards New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New Orleans. What some may not realize is that there’s a new city on the rise: Louisville.

Right on the border of Indiana and Kentucky, Louisville brandishes diversity in its cuisine that would make any big city jealous. It’s first known for horse racing and big hats, but that’s all changing. While there are tons of chic restaurants, Louisville shines in the dives, the restaurants with one little room, handwritten menus, and hour-long waits on weekends. Here are just a few of the gems:

Hammerhead’s

921 Swan St

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Hammerhead’s is located in a tiny basement; You’ll know you have arrived when you spot at small crowd of people lurking outside waiting for a seat. They don’t take reservations and you can’t call ahead, so whatever you do, do not leave. You would be missing some of the best barbeque in Kentucky. The menu is predominantly conventional southern barbeque fare with stunners such as the brisket, fried catfish, and ribs. You’ll be pleased to hear that the masterminds behind this delightful meal elevate the dishes with truffle oil and various aiolis. You will leave Hammerhead’s in a daze and wonder if you will ever eat anything as decadently again. If I had one meal left, I think I may just head to this little basement and order one (or ten) of everything on the menu.

What to get:

  • To start: Duck and pork sliders
  • If you want to split: Whole Rack of BBQ Lamb Ribs
  • Something different: Elk burger with brie cheese on a pretzel bun
  • If you’re adhering to “Meatless Monday”: the Garcia Burger with shiitake, portabella and sun-dried tomato falafel all piled onto a Kaiser bun
  • On the side: Grippo Fries (word to the wise? Get two orders)

El Mundo

2345 Frankfort Ave

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A staple of the Clifton neighborhood since 1995, this hole-in-the-wall Mexican joint perfectly executes dishes and drinks that cure any hangover and make your stomach sing with joy. It is a quintessential “keep Louisville weird” establishment. From the outdoor seating, to the first floor fitted with an open kitchen and order-at-the-counter dining room, to the second floor with table service, they have it all. With a menu that is both reasonable and delicious, they do a great job of blending Tex-Mex with authentic fare. And if all that hasn’t convinced to give them a try, they have daily specials that are out of this world, especially the chorizo enchiladas. Oh, and did I mention their award-winning margaritas? They make them in a variety of styles from traditional to fruity to spicy and offer flights of their handpicked tequila and mezcal selection. On Wednesdays and Thursdays their margaritas are only $4. You just can’t beat El Mundo.

What to get:

  • To start: Chips & Black Bean and Chipotle Dip
  • If you want to have your mind blown: Chile Relleno with Pulled Pork
  • If you are all about those veggies: Tamales stuffed with fresh corn, poblano peppers, onion, and cheese
  • To get the party started: Mosquito (tequila, jalapeno, lime, agave nectar, and cilantro)

Mojito Tapas Restaurant

2231 Holiday Manor Center

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Mojito may seem a little off the beaten track being located in the middle of a strip mall near Prospect, KY, but the food will transport you to the middle of Barcelona. Mojito’s specializes in delicious tapas dishes inspired by Spain and Latin America. Meals are about making memories with the people you care about and there is nowhere better to do this than over little tasting plates at Mojito. I highly recommend getting three to four plates per two people and if the dish is gone in less than a minute then do yourself a favor and order a second.

What to get:

  • To start: Queso Fundido
  • If you want to pretend you’re on a tropical vacation: Ceviche de Camarones
  • If you’re starving: Paella Valenciana for 2
  • If you want to fight for the next bite: Chuleta de Cordero (Lamb Chops)

Queen of Sheba

2804 Taylorsville Rd

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When I think Louisville, the first thing that comes to my mind isn’t Ethiopian food, but after Queen of Sheba maybe it should be. Queen of Sheba serves their food authentically on a large round tray in the center of your table, making it perfect for sharing with friends or family. Each dish comes with Injera, Ethiopian flat bread, to aid in eating with your hands. It’s also delicious! At Queen of Sheba the fragrant spices will knock you back onto the pillow you’re sitting on.

What to get:

  • To start: Seneg Karia, stuffed jalapenos with diced onion, tomatoes, and seasonings in lemon dressing
  • To clear your sinuses: Gored-Gored: Fresh tender beef cubes sautéed in Awaze (special hot sauce)
  • If you want the full experience: Ethiopian coffee in a clay coffee pot

Why I Love Valentine’s Day More Than Christmas

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One word: chocolate. Dark, rich, and satisfying, chocolate in its many forms never fails to deliver that intoxicating punch. If there is one single thing I ask for Valentine’s Day each and every year, whether I’m single or not, it’s that I am able to show zero restraint on a chocolate bomb of a dessert without judgement (or at least obvious judgement). After nearly two decades of living in New York City, I’ve concluded that this town is ridden with chocolate, it’s practically drowning in it, leaving me with ample options each year. With the copious chocolatey treasures in and around the city, I am fortunate enough to constantly come across new, heavenly masterpieces, some of which you’ll find below to treat yourself to this Valentine’s Day.

Dominique Ansel Bakery

189 Spring St

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Cronut shmonut, hand over the chocolate cake and nobody gets hurt. This may be the most interesting of all my chocolate cake encounters; I mean, talk about texture! From the mousse, to the flourless cake, to the ganache, to the little meringues atop, it seems he left nothing out of this chocolatey dessert. Ready to dazzle, Dominique’s creation comes together through the power of technique, creativity, and Valrhona’s A+ quality chocolate.

Empire Diner

210 10th Ave

Brooklyn blackout cake by chef Amanda Freitag of Empire Diner.

While the doughnut holes may be delicious and highly regarded by critics such as Time Out and Tasting Table, I’m more concerned with the towering layers of chocolate I could be digging into. I will also retract what I said about polishing off the whole plate for this Brooklyn Blackout Cake only. This cake is incredibly rich and sweet in all its six-tiered glory, and simply requires a helping hand.

ChikaLicious

203 E 10th St

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Chika Tillman’s dessert bar holds the key to the balance between indulgence and elegance. This is exactly where I want to be for Valentine’s Day. It’s actually where I always want to be, but for the sake of argument, the chocolate tart provides you with a glimpse into pure delight and is a menu staple for good reason. It is melty, warm, homey, delicate, and perfectly-portioned. There’s nothing overly sweet and overwhelming about the space, the classic chocolate tart; your senses leave intact and your endorphins soaring.

Jean Georges

1 Central Park West

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Yes, I did it, I casually threw Jean Georges into the mix. While his dishes are for me in another, less thrifty life, I wanted to point out the chocolate tasting menu, and really, the molten chocolate cake. There are plenty of delicious molten chocolate cakes in this city, but if I’m putting up the best molten chocolate cake, its going to be this guy’s.

Lady M Confections

41 E 78th St

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And my last recommendation, my go-to, my rock, my haven, and hopefully no mystery to anyone in this city, Lady M. The two approaches with Lady M you can try are choosing individual slices to try different cakes, or, for special occasions, choose an entire, perfect cake. No matter which approach you go with, you will likely polish off everything like I do each and every time (not always by myself). No crumb, nor smidgen of icing can be left behind. For Valentine’s Day, the prime real estate is the chocolate mille-crepe.

 

The Best Restaurants With Even Better Drinks

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History has us believe that humans have been eating and drinking simultaneously for a very, very long time. But now, more than ever, it seems restauranteurs are putting just as much time and thought into their drink service as any other aspect of their dining experience. And in the hyper-foodie-blogsphere universe we all live in now, many times a premiere drink program is the edge that a restaurant needs to be thought of as truly elite. Here are our picks for outstanding restaurants who’ve elevated their game by way of their drinks.

Commissary at The Line Hotel

3515 Wilshire Blvd, Koreatown

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Drink To Try: Gin n’ Juice

Sitting on the pool deck of Roy Choi’s Palais de Triumphe (The Line Hotel), Commissary is a truly beautiful experiment in fresh food cultivation. If I was ever going to write about how the carrot became a culinary rockstar, Commissary would most certainly be credited. But beyond the food lies a drink program so well-fitted to its menu, you almost take it for granted. Served in what looks like a to-go container of Tom Kha soup, the Gin n’ Juice (with multiple flavors) is quite possibly perfection. Delicious, refreshing, and secretly strong, I’m tempted to name it the best in-dinner cocktail in the city. And who needs just one, when you can stroll out to the pool afterwards and sip one more under the stars?

Petty Cash Taqueria

7360 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles

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Drink To Try: The Brixton

Petty Cash made quite the splash early last year, opening their high-end (and expensive) taco service on Beverly Boulevard. But after the roar of $6 tacos died down, what remained was one of the finer Mexican restaurants in the city. And thanks to Julian Cox, a truly superb drink and cocktails list emerged as well. The drinks at Petty Cash have personality, and none shine brighter than The Brixton. A favorite since opening, The Brixton is a brilliant combination of gin, lime juice, and poblano sorbet (!!). If that wasn’t enough, it’s served with a flaming habanero pepper filled to the brim with Green Chartreuse. The Brixton is a visual crowd-pleaser with light flavors and a serious punch of heat and is perfect for washing down a menu chock full of world-class tacos.

Brilliantshine

522 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica

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Drink To Try: Autumn Sour No. 2

Remember Julian Cox? He’s back. Noted as one of LA’s great cocktail engineers, Cox has become a pioneer in the drink world and at Brilliantshine, he is finally able to run free. While almost every cocktail is worth an order, the king of the castle has to be the Autumn Sour No. 2. Made with apple brandy, Alsatian peach liqueur, lime, and egg white, this cocktail is all California sun with a major dose of Midwest Autumn. Just please don’t wait till next Fall to drink it.

Gracias Madre

8905 Melrose Ave, West Hollywood

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Drink To Try: Boozy Horchata

From the team that brought us the indelible Cafe Gratitude, Gracias Madre opened only a few years ago and quickly engrained itself as a true West Hollywood go-to spot. With one of the most beautiful outdoor patios in the city and a delicious meat-free menu, Gracias Madre was almost fool-proof in opening at its chic Melrose locale. And while patrons flock in droves for the food, the not-so-secret superstar is the cocktail program. Owning one of the more impressive Mezcal collections in the city, tequila is the way to go at Gracias Madre with the Boozy Horchata being the first order of business. Made with almond milk and Mezcal, its nothing overly-complicated but still provides that perfect refresher after a long night out on Santa Monica Boulevard.

Petit Trois

718 N Highland Ave, Hollywood

Petit Trois 718 N Highland Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90038

Drink To Try: Belle Du Jour

The little sister of Chef Ludo’s titanic Trois Mec, Petit Trois hardly needs an introduction. Its no-frills cafe ambience and steak-frites, undoubtedly the best in the city, have made Petit Trois a fast favorite. But you know Chef Ludo wasn’t going to open a Parisian-style sidewalk cafe without accompanying it with a top-notch wine selection and an even better cocktail list. Brought to us by the fantastic Danielle Motor, the drink menu at Petit Trois shines brilliantly and changes frequently. Right now, the Belle Du Jour has our attention; Gin, Casoni, Averna, St. Germain, and a toasted grapefruit zest provides the perfect bite to any of Ludo’s savory French favorites.

The Definitive Guide To Thai Cuisine in Los Angeles

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Surprise! Los Angeles has the best Thai food in the country. If you’re like me and dream of panang curry, Tom Kha soup, and drunken noodles on a nightly basis, this city is our playground. Los Angeles has the largest Thai population of any city in the world outside of Thailand so it should come as no surprise how truly spoiled we are with its cuisine. And though great Thai can be found in many areas, the first place any connoisseur goes to is Thai Town, a six block neighborhood centered along Hollywood Boulevard between Normandie and Western Avenue. Here you can find everything from traditional, family-run Southern Thai cuisine to raucous late-night experiences with Thai Elvis performing on-stage behind you. With so many great places to choose from, it can be quite overwhelming for even the experienced Thai cuisine eater. Well, rest assured, here we have the definitive guide to the best Thai cuisine in Los Angeles:

Night + Market 

9041 Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood

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Drive about 20 minutes due West of Thai Town and you will hit what is arguably the finest Thai cuisine in Los Angeles, if not the country. Several years ago, Kris Yenbamroong opened his flagship location right next door to his parent’s Thai restaurant and almost over night changed the game completely. What Yenbamroong brings to his deeply personal Northern Thai street food are flavors both authentic and intensely refreshing. Too spicy for you? Bummer. This is big boy Thai food with flavor profiles sweet enough to make you feel like a teenager skipping through the streets of Chiang Mai (but maybe that’s my dream). Despite its high-profile Sunset Strip location, the atmosphere is relaxed and prices quite reasonable. Be sure to check out Yenbamroong’s second location, opened this year in Silverlake, Night + Market Song (it’s a massive hit as well — no shocker there).

Jitlada

5233 W Sunset Blvd, Thai Town

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While Night + Market is the hot new girl in town, Jitlada is the wise old mentor who long ago became the resident epicenter of Thai cuisine in Los Angeles. This is traditional Southern Thai cuisine and that means one thing: SPICE. And more than you ever thought possible. But hey, that just means more beer! Jitlada’s menu is inarguably monstrous and not for the faint of heart. Spice levels are extreme and they will not budge on it. But Jitlada didn’t become one the premiere Thai restaurants in the city because it casually burned holes in its patrons’ mouths (it doesn’t). It’s because the flavors are some of the richest and most authentic this side of Bangkok. Also, if you want to eat at Jitlada, I recommend arriving early. Lines go down the block and pick-up orders have been known to take hours. We think that speaks for itself.

Sapp Coffee Shop 

5183 Hollywood Blvd, Thai Town

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If Jitlada and Night + Market are the titans of Thai cuisine, consider Sapp Coffee Shop the quiet little giant, happy to have its off-the-grid cult following. Perhaps this hole-in-the-wall “coffee shop” fools most people into thinking it’s just that and not home to some of the most flavorful Thai cuisine in LA. Spoiler alert: IT’S THE LATTER. Their Boat Noodle Soup is the house speciality and the stuff of legend around these parts (Note: it’s thickened with blood!). But for those who don’t fancy themselves a vampire, their Jade Noodles are equally astonishing. Sure, they serve coffee, but make no doubt about it, Sapp Coffee is a pilgrimage that every Thai food lover in Los Angeles needs to take.

Pa Ord Noodle

5301 Sunset Blvd, Thai Town

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Word on the street is that Pa Ord invented putting noodles into the spicy Tom Yum soup. So please just come here to give them thanks for that. But beyond epic noodle choices, Pa Ord has been a neighborhood stand-by for years, combining sweet, salty, and spice better than almost anyone in the city. They recently opened a second location in Hollywood proper to allow those lucky citizens a taste of absolutely spot-on Thai cuisine. This is an old throw-back joint with tacky wallpaper and bizarre trinkets scattered throughout the restaurant. You come for the ambience and then stay for the food.

Sticky Rice at GCM

317 S Broadway, Grand Central Market, Downtown

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While Sticky Rice is the newest establishment on our list, this humble food stall in the continuously gentrified Grand Central Food Market is doing some pretty special things. What’s more, for their dishes to stand out in the center of this city’s foodie paradise is saying something. While Sticky Rice recently closed to remodel and expand their fairly limited menu, there is still one main attraction: The beef Panang Curry. This is hands down the best panang curry in Los Angeles, and if anyone begs to differ please private message me. The difference starts with the beef, tender enough to dissolve in your mouth before you even start chewing. Follow that up with their sweet, savory and, perfectly spiced panang curry broth and you have entered true Thai food nirvana.

NYC Food Delivery Top Picks

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Food delivery services such as Seamless may be the only reason busy New Yorkers eat full meals every day. With temperatures dropping below freezing this week, it is undoubtedly the only reason I am not resorting to foraging through my office and apartment for remnants of past grocery runs. Instead, after skipping over the thirty plus sushi restaurants on Seamless, I have piping hot lunches and dinners that I didn’t have to trudge through sleet nor snow nor cold rain to get. Little to no effort and generous tipping never tasted so good. Here are some of the tastiest places to order from (pro tip: ask colleagues if they want to order lunch with you so you don’t have to worry about that pesky ordering minimum):

Num Pang Sandwich Shop

140 E 41st St

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The roasted cauliflower sandwich is not only highly underrated, it is also my go-to sandwich and the gold standard for all future sandwiches. It’s savory, filling, and has a satisfying kick thanks to its special Chinese and Thai eggplant spread. This sandwich is a mesmerizing combination of chewy, crunchy, savory, sweet, and spicy. Step aside, cold cuts.

Cafe China

13 E 37th St

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Cafe China provides real bang for your buck, especially when co-workers join in on the order.  The physical restaurant is only a couple blocks away from my office, but in the dead of winter, I would much rather have their addicting pork dumplings served in chili oil brought to my office. I also highly recommend the pea shoots and shredded potato. If your coworkers don’t join this time around, after seeing your lunch they’ll definitely want in next time.

Dos Toros Taqueria

17 W 32nd St/1111 Lexington Ave/137 4th Ave

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Offering delivery from their Upper East Side, West Village, and Williamsburg locations, Dos Toros provides some of the best lunch and/or dinner options for the delivery-dependent. One big plus is, if not enjoying a flavorful, monstrous lunch, is skipping the notoriously long lines.

It’s The Inside That Counts: Best Bars You Wouldn’t Expect From The Outside

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For a city so in love with it’s own exterior, Los Angeles’s nightlife is entirely the opposite. It’s all about the lure of the unknown, enticing patrons with what could possibly lie on the inside. Quiet, black doors give way to bustling speakeasies and back-alley staircases open up to full performance-art venues. What used to be a niche nightlife experience has almost become the norm in the City of Angels and our adventurous denizens are reaping the benefits. Here are our picks for the best bars you would never expect from the outside.

The Edison

108 W 2nd St #101, Downtown

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Probably not a surprise to anyone with even a slight knowledge of our city’s nightlife, The Edison is flat-out the Los Angeles institution. You can’t see it from the street because, well, it’s all underground. In fact, it’s inside a former power plant! Don’t worry, the radiation is long gone and in its place is one of the most all-encompassing nightlife experiences this city has to offer. They enforce a strict dress code that only adds to the prohibition atmosphere. Once inside, you can enjoy anything from a full dinner, a live jazz band, aerial burlesque shows, and sexy fairies serving vials of every poet’s favorite juice: Absinthe. The lines can get long and this is hardly a casual night on the town, but The Edison is one of the few places where all the bustle is entirely worth the experience.

The Woods

1533 N La Brea Ave, Hollywood

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Smack in the middle of an old Hollywood strip mall, sandwiched between a liquor store and a Lebanese restaurant, is this neighborhood gem, a place to grab a quick drink with friends or end up after a long night out on the town. If you had always assumed this place was strip club, you wouldn’t be alone. But once inside you’ll find a small, intimate environment with a comfortable, rustic vibe, and cheap drink prices. The Woods might be the only bar in the country that successfully made sitting on tree stumps not just appropriate, but also pretty damn cool. This bar is a relic and far enough off the beaten path to make anyone feel welcome.

La Descarga

1159 North Western Ave, Los Angeles

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The Houston Brothers are the unquestionable kings of LA nightlife right now. With properties such as Good Times At Davey Wayne’s, No Vacancy, Dirty Laundry, Harvard and Stone, Pour Vous, and the brand new Butchers and Barbers, Mark and Jonnie Houston have completely changed the game in the Hollywood nightlife scene. Frankly, any one of the names above could’ve made this list but we are going with one of their very first properties, and an LA classic, La Descarga. Located on a forgotten stretch of Western Avenue, La Descarga was a pioneer in transforming this city’s nightlife from bad drinks and loud music into a high-class entertainment experience. With one of the most jaw-dropping entrances into a bar you’ll ever witness, La Descarga provides all the wow factor one could ever want in a refined atmosphere that reeks of cool.

Now Boarding

7746 Santa Monica Blvd, West Hollywood

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Having opened only a few weeks ago, Now Boarding is undoubtedly the newest name on our list. But this former SixtySix space is bound to be one the hottest destinations in this year. Behind a non-descript black exterior lies this sleek, mid-century drinking hole seemingly ripped directly from the set of Catch Me If You Can. Capitalizing on the romantic nostalgia of the Pan Am era, Now Boarding is all 1960’s cool. The back wall is even adorned with a map of vintage flight routes. If you’re already getting excited, here’s the best part of all: each cocktail comes delivered in a hand-crafted wooden suitcase to your table. I’d recommend finishing it before passing through TSA.

The Best Breakfasts to Keep You Warm and Cozy This Winter

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A bowl of hot soup for breakfast is unconventional I’ve been told, but I guarantee, it’s the cure to cold, winter mornings. This particular soup, made with comforting, soothing butternut squash and coconut milk eases the pain of getting out of a warm, inviting bed. It also packs in enough ginger and spices to shake off any sleepiness and get you ready for another day. And to top it off, to go with the soup and add a bit more texture, I have Alton Brown’s Creamed Corn Cornbread. The two combined are a dangerous weapon to approach any chilled morning.

Ginger-Apple Butternut Squash Soup

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Ingredients

  • 1 butternut squash (enough to have 2 c of roasted & mashed squash)
  • 1 small apple (or ½ a large one)
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • drizzle of olive oil, salt, pepper, for roasting
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 tsp fresh grated ginger (I added 2 tsp)
  • ¼ – ½ tsp ground curry (or cardamon if you have some handy)
  • ¼ tsp cayenne (more, to taste)
  • 1 tsp additional salt (more to taste)

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 400ºF
  • Roast butternut squash by putting it in the over for a few minutes, making it easier to cut, then cut in half and scoop out the insides
  • Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast cut side up for 20 minutes, flip and roast cut side down for 20-30 or until the flesh is soft
  • Remove from oven, let cool, then peel the skin away from the flesh
  • While the squash roasts, slice the apple and onion into wedges and arrange on a baking sheet
  • Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast for 20 minutes or until the edges turn golden brown
  • During the last 10 minutes or so, add the whole garlic cloves to the baking sheet
  • In a blender, add butternut squash mash, roasted onion, apple, garlic (remove the skins), coconut milk, ginger, curry or cardamom, cayenne and salt and puree until smooth
  • If the soup is too thick, add a bit of water or broth to thin and blend again
  • Taste and adjust seasonings
  • Store leftovers in the fridge for up to a few days

Recipe courtesy of Love and Lemons

Good Eats Creamed Cornbread

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Ingredients

  • 2 c yellow cornmeal
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1⁄2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 c buttermilk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 c creamed corn (see recipe below)
  • 2 Tbsp canola oil

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 425°F
  • Place a 10-inch cast iron skillet into the oven
  • In a bowl, combine the cornmeal, salt, sugar, baking powder, and baking soda and whisk together to combine well
  • In a large bowl, combine the buttermilk, eggs, and creamed corn, whisking together to combine thoroughly
  • Add the dry ingredients to the buttermilk mixture and stir to combine
  • If the batter will not pour, add more buttermilk to the batter
  • Add 2 tablespoons canola oil to the cast iron skillet, pour the batter into the skillet, and bake until the cornbread is golden brown and springs back upon the touch, about 20 minutes

Alton’s Better Than Grannie’s Creamed Corn

Ingredients

  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 2 pinches kosher salt
  • 8 ears fresh corn
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary, bruised
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 2 Tbsp yellow cornmeal
  • 1 c heavy cream
  • Fresh ground black pepper

Instructions

  • In a saucepan over medium heat, sweat the onion in butter and salt until translucent
  • In a large mixing bowl, place a paper bowl in the middle of the bowl and resting the cob on the bowl in a vertical position remove only the tops of the kernel with a knife, using long smooth downward strokes and rotating the cob as you go
  • After the cob has been stripped, use the dull backside of your knife to scrape any remaining pulp and milk off the cob
  • Add the corn and pulp mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium high until the juice from the corn has tightened
  • Add the rosemary and sprinkle the corn with the sugar and turmeric
  • Stir constantly for about 2 minutes and then sprinkle the cornmeal onto the corn, using a whisk to combine well
  • Add the heavy cream and cook until the corn has softened, about 2 to 3 minutes
  • Remove the rosemary and then season with freshly ground black pepper

Recipes courtesy of Alton Brown

Bonus! If you have as much leftover cornbread as I did, then fry up some eggs and bacon, and voila! Another delicious, warm, and instagram-worthy breakfast.

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