Embrace Sweets

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Argentina By Way of Beverly Hills

I do believe I have died and gone to heaven. I truly believe I have left my body (and possibly mind) and traveled to another dimension - where Dulce de Leche is king and whatever it ask of me I must obey. Words-can't-quite-form and my feet can't feel the floor. I have entered an altered state and have no desire to return to planet earth. Wait, I see a sign, it's becoming clearer it reads.......Nonna's Empanadas. Oh, I haven't traveled far at all. I would never have guessed such pleasure was closer than I realized.

Out front w/Outdoor sitting
I was greeted with smiles and a warmth, not just from the hot summer day but from people genuinely loving what they do, what they make and wanting to share it all with you. I had passed by Nonna's a week ago, and made plans to come back and check it out (it's my job after all!). Today I happened to be in the area and thought 'this time is as good as any'. Parking was easy and the little shop that's only been open for a month was eager to accept me. Mario, the owner is a darling older gentleman, with a charm and a smirk that lets you know he was trouble in his day. "Hola Senorita, como estas?" he greets me, I respond in my limited Spanish,"muy bien senor, gracious. Y tu?", this immediately sends him rabbling more Spanish to me, I quickly stop him, letting him knowing my Spanish skill level is still quite beginners. He smiled and began explaining to me his offerings (in english).

Full Espresso Bar
Dulce de Leche butter cookies
Turn over style pastries made w/filo dough and filled w/Dulce de Leche
Sample plate of Dulce de Leche
Everything looked beautiful, the spread upfront is mostly delicate pastries of filo dough, Dulce de Leche and butter, an assortment of mini croissants, cookies and turnovers. Alex, the head chef was also upfront and when I asked what the nutella type substance was in between a cookie, his eyes perked and he excitedly told me it was Dulce de Leche, but that I must taste it to experience it, words alone can't describe it. He hurried to the back and return moments later with a small saucer of Dulce and a miniature spoon. Urging me to sample, he didn't have to ask me twice. As I brought the spoon to my lips and a heaping spoonful of Dulce touched my tongue I could feel my eyes roll back and my knees go weak. It was amazing, pure butter, cream and sugar but smooth like honey and light as air. It melted in my mouth and I was left with a sweet memory of it. It took every ounce of will power not to grab the plate and lick the remainder; I didn't want to scare Alex or Mario, we had only just met and I knew I definitely wanted to return.

As I sampled the caramely delight, Alex explained to me the process of making it. How someone literally stands and stirs for two hours the hot pot of butter, cream and sugar until the perfect consistency and temperature are reached.  All of their ingredients are sourced from Argentina, they themselves are Argentinean, oh yeah this is an Empanadas joint. Pastries are not the only good things to enjoy here, the Empanadas are by far the best I've ever had. I learned a while back that many South American countries have their versions of Empanadas but in my book Argentina know what they're talking about. I ordered a beef w/Jalapeños and a Chicken Empanada they were flaky, and packed with meat, onions, garlic and a savory blend of seasonings. My mouth is watering just thinking about them. And, to think I had just considered giving up bread for a bit and cutting my sugar intake. Oh well there's always Monday.
Another amazing cake like pastry
Crescent type pastry w/Dulce de Leche

Nonna's was everything and more, that I didn't know to expect. I am absolutely blown away by the service, the freshness and quality of everything I tried. Fortunately, I couldn't stay and ordered everything to go, Alex was kind enough to throw in a few extra sweets just to make sure I didn't miss trying anything and besides everything is better when it's shared. So that's what I did. Mum and I sat on our 3rd floor fire escape retreat, listening to Spanish music, sipping tea and feasting on our Argentinean pastries; watching the traffic go by and the Hollywood crowds; for a moment we escaped to a small province in Buenos Aires where the streets were alive with people dancing tango in the streets and enjoying their mid day siesta (just as we all should).

Hmm, ok time for another bite. :-)

Nonna's Empanadas
8570 W. 3rd St
Los Angeles, CA 90048
http://www.nonnasempanadas.com/
310.385.0445


Friday, July 23, 2010

Passions Ontop of Passions Ontop of Passions

I must confess, there is something new in my life that is slowly taking over first place as my favorite thing. Although I need food and drink to live, it is Tango that's becoming what sustains me. I am absolutely head over heels in love with this dance. I began taking lessons about three months ago and after the first class I knew I had found something that I could and wanted to devote my time and energy to. For the first time (in a long time) I have found something that takes me out of my head, something that requires precision, presence and concentration. The steps and dance are not only beautiful and powerful but almost become a meditation, you almost enter this trance-like state when you're fully in the moment. My world has changed.



I have been an advent yoga and pilates person for years and have dabbled into dance, here and there (salsa, belly dance, jazz, hip hop) oddly enough I have always loved dance more than anything but I see now it was fear that kept me from really diving into it. Perhaps a fear of how wonderful it would actually be, fear that this really could be what I've been searching for and once I surrendered myself to it I wouldn't have to look any further. Well, I have surrendered and since Saturday I haven't looked back. So, what happened Saturday?

Saturday was my first Milonga, a Milonga is generally used to describe a place or event where (in this case) Tango dancers 'unite' and celebrate the dance. They usually go on for several hours into the evening and dancers of all levels dance together, share, mingle and enjoy the music. This Milonga was held at Oxygen Tango, the place where I also practice. The festivities began at 8p with a beginners intro class and light food and wine. Around 10p the room seemed to explode and the energy was thick with passion, and fire (the room was really hot too, so that might explain the fire part). There were easily 100 people that attended and all though the space is relatively small we all made due and danced to our hearts content.


Traditionally men and women will make eye contact across the room and this signals that you wish to dance. you then walk up to each other, embrace and move into the first step. I tried things that night I hadn't even learned in class yet and somehow my feet knew what to do and I completely trusted my partners and the journey they wanted to take me on. Normally a control freak it was amazing to finally let go and just be. I didn't think, I didn't look at my feet and I didn't concern myself with anything other than just being there for my partner. God, it was amazing. I know it may seem as if I'm putting a lot on a simple dance that people have been doing for years; but the truth is - this isn't a dance for everyone and the people that I've met have the most interesting stories of how they found Tango and the ways its improved and/or changed their lives and their relationships.

Being in that room, you couldn't help but feel the love, feel the acceptance, feel that there was absolutely no pretense, no ego, there was nothing but pure passion and dance. I immediately came home that night and decided that whatever it takes I will keep dancing, learning and improving. I will make time for this in my life no matter what because it brings me joy. I now have one more love and thing that fulfills me and gives me peace. Isn't this what we're all looking for, in one way or another?

The pictures posted here are not of the Milonga I attended as I was to busy dancing to take pictures - but these will give you an idea of the community and the style. Milongas are typically held weekly - monthly and truly whether you're just starting or been dancing for years (but for some reason never ventured to a Milonga) you should definitely check it out. I promise you won't regret it.  AND, if by chance you live in Los Angeles and can find your way to Mar Vista, please please please check out Oxygen Tango, Mitra and Stefan are wonderful dancers and teachers and the community they have created around their studio is very special and welcoming.

Alright, back to more food, wine and dance (and maybe not in that order)!

Cheers!

Oxygen Tango
12958 Washington Blvd
Mar Vista, CA 90066

        

Friday, July 16, 2010

Borekas and 3rd street

Who knew that all I needed in this world was food to be happy. Who knew that walking through a french store and a gallery of exotic foods, sweets and yes even hot sauce could arouse my senses and bring me utter delight. Who knew?

This blog is going to be a series of on-going trips to the Original Farmer's Market @3rd Street. I know you're probably thinking, "my god, this woman has an obsession with Farmers' Markets!" but I promise you it's a healthy one and this market unlike the thousands of others in this city is more than just vendors, hummus, soaps and jazz bands.
The 3rd Street FM is a staple in this city, it originated in 1934 and is still going strong 76 years later. There are the day vendors; who are your typical tent vendors who lease a space for several hours on certain days (just like at a regular farmers market). Then there are the permanent vendors, who are there, well like the name would suggest, permanently. These vendors actually rent space of various sizes inside the building, they have full fledged stores, restaurants and bars. The selection is spectacular and the aromas, well I haven't quite found the words for those yet.

Few would believe me but this next statement is absolutely true - as long as I've lived in LA I've been to 3rd a hand full of times and to the Farmers' Market section once (today being my second). I had no idea what I was missing, but as I get older I realize the best things are also those that you wait for.


Today, Mum and I tackled 3rd street, this was a completely spontaneous opportunity for us, I love when this happens. Upon stepping foot into the market, I was immediately drawn to Moishe's, a Turkish restaurant specializing in tender beef and chicken kebabs, well seasoned rice and my new personal favorite, Borekas!

Borekas! Borekas! Borekas! many of you may know these delicate flatbreads as Börek (also burek, boureka, brik, piroq and other variants). They are as many different names as well as types. When I actually Googled Borekas, the recipes and styles that came up most frequently were more like pastries and similar to Baklava; but what I experienced today was no where near that syrupy, nutty delight.

We ordered the Spinach + Cheese, imagine if spanakopita and naan got together and had a baby, Borekas would be it! This dish was truly a carb-filled fantasy, long stringy cheese, perfectly seasoned, soft bread and just enough spinach to make you think it's healthy. The recipe begins with the dough, which is very thin and rolled out flat, stewed spinach and mozzarella cheese is then added to the center. The flatbread is then put into a stone fire heath and baked until the edges fluff creating almost a wall around the cheese and spinach blend. All sorts of toppings can be exchanged, things like ham, bbq chicken, eggs, bacon, the list is almost endless.
I'm actually very interested in their breakfast Borekas that has bacon and sunny-side up eggs baked on it; I can't wait to start a morning off with that.

So, to wrap this post let me just repeat that Moishe's is a definite must try on your next visit to the market and if you need some company, I'm your girl!

Till the next meal!


Sunday, July 11, 2010

A Night at the W

What a wonderful evening.

Hello all, tonight's blog will be short and sweet, I just wanted to share with you an amazing evening I just had.

I surprised mum with an evening out under the stars, we went to the W Hotel in Westwood, CA for their Sunday evening outdoor movie event.  Tonight's film, Julie/Julia - one of my favorites. The film especially touched my heart this time around and I found many similarities across all of our paths (Me, Julie and the infamous Julia) we are all in search of what brings us joy, for what we feel is our calling and what we feel so passionately about, that it drives us to jump out of bed every morning and dream about at night. As Julia said, "I think about food all the time, I do, I even dream about it....." In a way I feel the same; discovering my love of food, of wine, of butter gave my life meaning when I was certain that there was none. Discovering a love of writing and realizing that I too have a voice has given me a new found passion and strength. Unlike Julie, I can't say that "Julia saved me", or that she me pulled from the ocean" but I can say I know the feeling and when I close my eyes I can still taste that one meal that changed it all for me. YUM!

W Hotel Westwood
Sunday Night Outdoor Films @the Backyard (Pool Area)
Free Event - Memorial Day - Labor Day
Free Popcorn, blankets and pillows!


p.s. Hot Coco we paid for, and it was delicious the parfait accompaniment to the evening. :-)
Till the next meal!
B

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Vinyl Soul


I use to fear we were a world becoming complacent, settling for whatever will do. We didn’t question our surroundings, or why certain things were given to us and others are not. We accepted and allowed mediocre talent to clog our airways and steal our movie screens without ever demanding better.  What would have to happen for us to change that, how could we once again get back to what is real and not doctored up? Away from the cookie cutter molds of Brittany Spears wanna-bes, pre-tween Justin Timberlake’s and the so called hard asses like Lil Wayne and similar rappers.

I love music, dance and just a great performance; but I am tired of the same ten song rotation on my radio stations and the same music videos on constant loop on TV. They have forced me to go on the hunt for real talent; to step outside of the box and try other avenues for entertainment.

Fortunately I am not alone in my quest, thanks to shows like America’s Got Talent, So You Think You Can Dance and of course, American Idol we have become inundated with opportunities to see what else lies out there. (Does anyone remember Star Search?).

For the first time (in perhaps a long time) we, the consumer are asked, ‘what do you think?’ Instead of the big music guys and studio execs telling us what we should be buying and listening to. Good music and talent are at our fingertips and we hold the control button, or do we?

I am amazed by the level of talent found on our streets. From our subways, parks, promenades even farmers’ markets; I believe these are some of the worlds most talented men, women and kids, untouched, un-jaded and more importantly unsigned.

I am a fan of these shows and I appreciate what they are trying to do, give ordinary people (talented people) a world stage to perform and showcase their gifts which ordinarily would not have been available. I sit back and imagine that if I had the money, the resources and the capacity to help these individuals achieve their dreams I would in a heart beat; but how many of them actually get an opportunity past the show?

“The world keeps on spinning, so you might as well enjoy it while you can.” – Vinyl Soul

I had the pleasure of meeting Vinyl Soul at the Yamashiro Farmers’ Market on Thursday; they are one of those groups you listen to and ask why? Why haven’t they been picked up? No one had even noticed that the other band had stopped performing or that they’d set up until JB took to the mic; he was captivating- his vocals were that of a man twice his age, mature and experienced.   
 Immediately he grabbed everyone’s attention and we hung unto his words for the whole set.  They were a breath of fresh air with their soulful tones and Spanish/English lyrics.www.myspace.com/vinylsoul They had a groove and to be honest it was completely unexpected, at first glance I would never have guessed those sounds would have come from them. The lyrics were beautiful, heartfelt and honest; I later found out that they also wrote most of their own music and songs; truly another gift.

video

I have no doubt that all the artist that currently have ‘made it’, once came from humble beginnings and were once starving artist, but there is nothing like the fire and passion you see in the eyes of those who are just getting started or who have been at for years waiting for their break (their turn), who everyday get out there rain or shine, no entourage, no crew just them and the pavement, fighting for their dream.

I never had a desire to be a performer, actress or musician (except in my shower), I’ve always believed that that desire alone is a special gift. To know that 99% of the time you’re going to be rejected, denied and looked over; to know that all you have is a dream and  a hope that one day someone will notice just how talented you always believed you were, takes guts, courage and a will power I don’t think many of us have.

I admire and respect those that chase their dreams day in and day out, who grow and become stronger every time they are turned down and even more committed to seeing their dreams come to pass.  I admire you and wish for you everything that you want in this world.

Rock on!



Vinyl Soul
www.myspace.com/vinylsoul
323.830.6240
beatween@hotmail.com

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Sweet Dreams!

So what's a girl to do when she's got a killer sweet tooth and nothing in site to soothe it? Well, she has to pick up her britches and head out to find something, of course. My first choice is ALWAYS cupcakes, growing up in a house full of chocolate and having a parent who bakes brownies for a living, you realize pretty quickly that not just anything will do. I believe that I know good desserts when I taste them and I know GREAT desserts without a doubt; but when you can combine great taste and a great price, well that's just a recipe for success. 

So, first stop Hansen's Bakery. Before I begin I must say that I have been an advent Sprinkles lover for years and until now, no one and I mean NO ONE could come close. This is of course after trying just about every cupcake place I could find (and just fell into) from the top to the bottom of California.  Recently however, on the suggestion of my favorite Target Checkout boy, I was informed of a well kept secret cupcake location. I was told that these cupcakes were not only large, flavorful, had creamy frosting BUT (drum roll) were only $1.00 each. OMG, could this be? Something must be wrong with them? I think my Target Foodie bumped his head. 
No, Hansen's Bakery is just that and a bag of chips. The cupcakes were wonderful; mummie and I shared three delicious and as close to perfect cupcakes. My only mark is that the cupcakes are kept in a refrigerated case, which means they are cold and the frosting is stiff but after about five minutes in the sun they were chilled, slightly warming and ready to eat. 

We ordered the Lemon with Coconut, Red Velvet (because everyone claims to have the best) w/White Chocolate Chips and a Chocolate w/Chocolate sprinkles- flavors you can't really go wrong with and usually are always good. Hansen's doesn't get as creative with the flavors as say Sprinkles, Crumbs or Cupcake & Co, they stick to the basics. This is not a problem, like the old saying if it ain't broke don't fix it. Hansen's stays true to this. 
The cupcakes are only a $1.00 because they are made from the left over cake batter from cakes made that day. So there really isn't much *extra* work needed to go into the process; they're basically making use of what would have been wasted. Think of them as 'Green' or 'Eco' friendly Cupcakes. :-)

The cupcakes really are that good, and at a $1.00 a piece you really wonder how did we get so far from a cupcake just being a cupcake.  

P.S. You know what would really set this off? A cup of my Australian Cappuccino  (Longshot!).

Back Story: Hansen's Cakes is over seven generations old and has been continuously passed down from generation to generation within the family, currently Patrick Hansen runs this sweet joint. Hansen's Bakery has been a Los Angeles staple for many years and countless celebrities, athletes, people in high places and us commoners have depended on them for all our cake fulfilling needs. You may have even seen Patrick and his team making special appearances on the Tori & Dean show (Birthday cakes for the kids) and The Kardashians (Khloe + Omars Wedding).

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Flamenco in Silverlake

videoNever underestimate the power of community. Community tables that is. Tonight was one written in the stars and my wildest dreams came true (on a much more local level). I've been fantasizing of days spent sleeping in and nights wondering the streets of Barcelona in search of tantalizing tapas and soul-wrenching Spanish guitar. I've yearned for dinners surrounded by good friends, international friends, with food, wine, music and conversation. Tonight within a three mile radius I managed to get at least 80% of that.

The place is El Cid (in Silverlake off Sunset) and the theme, purely Spanish. We were wined and dined (and sipped Cava and Sangria), we were entertained with the most beautiful Spanish Guitar, singing and Live Flamenco dancing. The dancers, oh the dancers; you could feel the power of their thighs with each stomp, you could see the passion on their faces as the melody seemed to be driving them. It was truly magical.



This was my first time experiencing Flamenco up close and personal, and trust me watching it on TV is no comparison. My mom said it best, she said that a person who can do something like that [dance], really well and so passionately has to be completely present. There is no time or room for thinking about your to-do list or what's happening tomorrow. They are completely focused and in the zone.

I recently took up Tango and I have to admit that statement is true, my teacher says learning [tango] is like learning a new language but once you understand it, once it becomes a part of you, then you no longer have to think about, you just move. The dancers tonight were wonderful and there is no doubt in my mind that they love, breathe, and dream of this music. Not only is it apart of their culture, it is apart of them.

Community - I found myself surrounded by some really beautiful people tonight, we weren't long time friends, neighbors or colleagues. We didn't go to school together or even have a hobby in common (that I know of), we simply were lovers of Spanish food, Spanish music and exploring all this city has to offer. Some of us had been to El Cid before the rest (like myself) were newbies.
 
We all shared a large communal table, our seating pre-arranged by the host and one by one we opened up and turned an unfamiliar event into a soirée. We dined, talked, exchanged names, interest and then the show began; we all watched with amazement and were literally stunned by the sheer force and power of the dancers performance. We were now connected in a way that none of us expected. This is what I dream about.


I have to admit, although I still have yet to touch España soil, it was nice to experience this and to know that it's possible so close to home.


The show ended and we said our goodbyes; exchanging emails and Facebook accounts, twitter ID's and blog addresses. In a city like LA, something like this doesn't happen often enough, but you treasure it when it does. I can't say we'll all stay in touch but we definitely will remember this night fondly, and if by chance we should meet again in another Spanish dive or small Spanish town we'll know we have a friend to toast Sangria and enjoy the sounds.

Feliç aniversari, Mike! So nice to meet you Sandra.
Rose, você é linda , eu imediatamente senti sua vibe brasileira no momento em que chegou à nossa mesa. Allen, you are a lucky man.
Kristan, thank you for being so inviting and breaking the ice. Dan, I still would pay top dollar to see you on stage! Let me know when that happens.

El Cid, gràcies pel menjar , la música, el cava i l'amor. Espanya viuen molt de temps !

videoViven en España, we're rooting for you!!
video
Brandi

Friday, July 2, 2010

Celebration of the Senses!

This place is alive, people come here to socialize, to drink and eat exotic foods, they taste wines from across the world and sip Australian espresso with a scoop of Italian goat’s milk gelato. Sweet acid jazz plays in the background and the air is thick with laughter, camaraderie and a sincere feeling of community. What is this place, you’d never believe me; it’s Yamashiro’s Farmers Market.

Who knew a market could consist of more than just produce and veggies, more than Greek olives and 10 types of hummus. This farmer’s market is more of a weekly celebration of the senses and a gathering of those looking for a European experience.

The most wonderful thing about this market are the vendors, truly a unique blend that give this shindig, spice and character. My favorites by far are:



Longshot – Australian Espresso Bar; his coffee is smooth, rich, slightly sweet and clean. I am not a coffee drinker by any means but I can truly appreciate his cups and have become a fan. I never knew coffee could be so creamy and ironically he uses very little milk. There is no bitter after taste like many Starbucks and Coffee Bean drinks leave and you finish with this absolute feeling of satisfaction. If you want an instant teleportation into some small foreign coffee shop, order an espresso or chocolate mocha and you’ll know what I mean. Mark Baird is the owner and operator and a genuinely sweet and passionate man. Relocating here from Australia he came with a dream and a purpose to show us Americans that we don’t know a thing about good coffee. I have to submit and proclaim he is right. In just a short time, Mark has grown his mobile espresso bar into quite the force to reckon with and I feel this is only the tip of the sugar cube of what’s to come.

P.S Try the Australian Cappuccino, amazing!


For more information on Longshot Mobile Espresso Bars – mark@longshotcoffee.com | http://www.longshotcoffee.com/ | 323.495.3015

Also look for them on Facebook (Longshot Coffee) and Twitter (@longshotcoffee)

Bulgarini Gelato - OK, five words, Chocolate Sea Salt + Vanilla Hazelnut! Two completely different flavors that in some cosmic universe (of my choice) were destined to be together. You could not have two more perfect partners than these two. The chocolate is bitter with a salty edge but then BAM the Vanilla Hazelnut waltz's in and smooths everything out. It's literally a celebration in my $4.00 cup.




Bulgarini was recently written about in Tasting Table, in the article they state that their gelato is made from goats milk. This is not correct, only one of the flavors is (not featured here), the rest are of the standard cow's milk; but honestly this changes nothing. It is still fantastic and worth every ounce.


There is something about gelato that is much more special than ice cream and yogurt, perhaps it's just the fact that you're eating something that sounds exotic, 'Gelato' (in a strong Italian accent) or maybe it's the velvety texture and blend of such exotic flavors. Whatever the case, gelato is gift from the Italians and is meant to be enjoyed with good friends, good coffee and a good attitude; Buon appetito.




Yamsada - Last on my list of food favorites is Yamasada and not for any particular reason other than I prefer to eat my dessert first then have dinner (you know take care of the important meal first). Yamasada is Yamashiro's booth where they serve the most amazing mini Tacos in Hollywood. To be honest, I scarfed them down before I could take a photo and I'm not really sure which was which but I can tell you that I had one of each taco.

I am ashamed, but let this be proof to you just how good they are. You can purchase (3) mini tacos (and they are mini) with a good helping of chips, salsa and some kick ass guacamole ($9). All freshly made by the restaurant for your tasting pleasure.


The great thing about this meal is that all three tacos would pair beautifully with any of the wines available for tasting and buying. You can't go wrong. Although this is not the only booth to get food from, it is definitely the most popular and for good reason. The food is fresh, delicious and sharing friendly.

*******

This market is much more than just a Farmer's Market, its more of a large get together of friends and family. This is now my fifth time going and I can definitely pick out the regulars and see familiar faces. The community tables make it easier to sit, eat and share a bottle of wine (which you can pick up for sale at the bar or wine booth). The music is perfect for dancing, or just relaxing and taking in; but the view is what will take your breath away. I have yet to be there on a truly clear, crisp day/night but from what I've seen, it could be worth the wait.

There are few places (venues) in this city that offer you such an array and to top it off it is affordable, easy to get to, and family friendly. At a time, when we're (unfortunately) watching our wallets and keeping in check our budgets, gems like this don't come around enough.

The sun has set on this glorious evening, and the market slows to a close. I can’t say enough that I’m so glad I live here, in this city of lights, smog and celebrity because even in the midst of all of that there is a sanctuary if you can find it, here in the Hollywood Hills. There is truly no place like LA, and frankly no place I’d rather be.

Yamashiro Farmers' Market every Thursday 5 - 9P @Yamashiro
Free Parking and FREE shuttle service available, or valet parking ($7).
Live music, assorted vendors, wine tasting (and selling), DJ spinning eclectic sounds @the Pagoda Bar and so much more.

On a scale of 1 - 5 of must check this out, this is an 11.