Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Local Peasant - Bread Pudding Worth Sneaking Out of the Palace For

The SFV generally gets a bad rep for suburban quality everything.  But if you take a closer look, there are more and more neighborhood gems springing up here.

The Local Peasant is one of them - I love that it doesn't aspire to be anything other than what its name evokes - an informal gathering place for those in the community.  There is, however, one menu item  that should draw even culinary royalty - whether or not they feel the need to be incognito, visiting this plebeian part of town - more on this later in the post.
On the less hip stretch of Ventura (West of the Studio City, in Sherman Oaks), a stone's throw from other popular brunch spot Sweet Butter, The Local Peasant has a laid back vibe, with its rustic wood paneled decor and giant frosted windows that on a warm day opens out for great people watching.  They serve beer, wine and Pre and Post Prohibition cocktails.  Always down for savory drinks, I loved the Basil Pepper Martini ($10) which was a gorgeous golden color, light, and refreshing.

Then there was the Rainbow Heirloom Salad ($12) with Santa Barbara heirloom tomatoes, red & yellow beets, burrata cheese with balsamic-lemon vinaigrette.  I didn't like this the first time I had it, as I made the mistake of ordering it when tomatoes were not in season, and I found the giant wedges awkward to eat - and I was not happy with how expensive it was for a salad.  My second visit was at the height of summer, and as I went with a friend who loves fresh in season veggies, we gave this salad another try.  Second time round I fell in love with this salad - it's all about the ingredients with this one, and we happened to catch them when the tomatoes and beets were at perfect ripeness, luscious and deliciously, subtly sweet.  That second time made me recognize that Santa Barbara was more than just amazing sea urchin, spot prawns, and wine.  Their heirloom tomatoes are incredible as well.  And that time I didn't mind the plating as the portion size for the farm fresh fare felt like it gave us our money's worth.

Then there was the Fish & Chips ($14) beer battered red snapper with housemade tartar sauce.  The fish was fresh, though the batter was on the soggy side.  We liked that the malt vinegar on the side was presented in a little spray bottle, the better for even distribution on fries without causing them to lose their crunch.
I was in the mood for - and loved the price of - The Peasant Burger ($10) grassfed beef patty with cheese, onion, fried egg and 'special sauce'. A tasty, juicy burger, not mind blowing but good enough that you don't even care if sauce and egg yolk gets all over your face.
And for the grand finale: Chocolate Chunk Bread Pudding ($8) with booker bourbon cream sauce.  This might be the best bread pudding I've tasted in the city!

Served in a giant ceramic...tub...this bread pudding is hefty yet light, packed with chocolate flavor without being overwhelming, served steaming hot (the only way to do bread pudding properly!), topped by a beautiful crust dusted with powdered sugar, that could reduce anyone to tears.  All that and it would be easy to miss the adorable little jar on the side, of booker bourbon cream sauce (that is more the consistency of milk) which sends this way, way over the edge, in the best way.

While some of the other dishes we tasted were good, this bread pudding IS.IT.  If you are ever find yourself this side of town, and at The Local not leave without trying this bread pudding.  I think I just triggered a craving while writing this...the place IS open til 2am daily...tempted to get dressed to drive over...

On a 7 point scale:
Flavor - 6 bites  
Presentation - 6 bites
Originality - 5 bites
Ambience -  5 stars
Service - 6 stars
Overall experience - 6 bites
Price - $$ (2 bite marks)
Probability of return visit - 100% 


The Local Peasant
14058 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, CA 91423
Ph: 818.501.0234


The Local Peasant on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 29, 2013

Holiday Bites: Top 10 Gift Ideas for Your Fav Foodie 2013

Happy Black Friday! While the deal chaser in me is tempted to brave the crowds, the other part of me that likes to give more unique gifts than what you can find at the local mall would rather focus on scouting the best gift ideas from my couch.

So here they are, my picks for your fav foodie in your life this holiday... (edibles to come in separate post). There are options at various price ranges, but I upped the self-imposed upper limit this year to $250 as there were some things that were too cool not to include!  Where deals are available, they are noted under each product listing.

Happy holiday shopping!

1. For the Baker and Egg White Hater: Yolk Separator 

Yes, you did first see the idea for this in that video with the water bottle (and using suction to separate an egg yolk from egg white).  This is that idea come to life in a way more stylish and giftable form.

As someone who'd rather have an all egg yolk scramble anyday than a bland, boring egg white one - I think this lightbulb-shaped gadget is a brilliant idea.  I don't cook much if at all (though I do find creme brulee super fun to make), but these Yolkrs are so fun looking and seemingly easy to use, I kind of want to find more things to cook/bake just so I can justify buying one of these...

And btw, love that this product was a Kickstarter project that met its goals, so apparently enough people thought it was a good idea too, that it got the funding to move forward!

Check out the video...

Actually, put 1 or 2 of these in a gift basket with a creme brulee torch and/or ramekin set and your foodie friend just may become your BFF :)

Buy from: Yolkr £18 (~$24.50 USD)

2. For the Food Pornographer: iZZi Orbit Rotating Lenses for iPhones

Friends don't let friends take bad foodporn.  Trick out their iPhone with pro-grade, rotating lenses that will help them take better shots.

The Orbit 5 iPhone case features 4 different camera lenses: 
  • 180-degree fish-eye lens
  • 0.67x wide-angle lens
  • 2x telephoto lens
  • macro lens (located under wide-angle lens)
The case is also made of aircraft-grade aluminum so it's  lightweight and sturdy!

This one is also launched by a successful Kickstarter campaign - love crowdfunding that allow good ideas to get to market!

Buy from iZZi Gadgets $239.99

[Deal Alert: BOGO Orbit 5 on Black Friday between 6am-6pm PST, or save $50 on one from 6pm-midnight PST]

3. Flask Bangle by Cynthia Rowley

Yes, you read that right. It's genius, really.  Style meets function for those who don't have time for Happy Hour, but bring Happy Hour with them everywhere they go.  This one is totally out of the regular budget but is just so cool that I had to include it on the list.

Buy from: $225

4. For the Forgetful Foodie: Rococo Chalkboard Decal

Beautifully designed decal beats post-it notes or messy notepaper tacked on their fridge with magnets. Chalk included and the decal is removable and reusable!

Buy at OpenSky $36

[Deal alert: $28.80 sale price if you buy by 12/2]

5. Food + Art + Info Fans

Know someone who loves food, art and infographics? Combine all three in one perfect gift with these awesome prints featuring fun and informative designs covering everything from cheese to varieties of fruit to martinis!

Buy from: Pop Chart Labs $28 print only / $73 print mounted on panel (options for hanging rail or framed available as well at higher prices)

6. For the Foodart Fan: Salvador Dali Cookbook

The charismatic/enigmatic artist...was also a chef?!!?

Makes sense as food can be like art that appeals to more senses than visual, presents more of a challenge to control many 'live' variables, and can also create deep emotional connections / responses.

[Apparently Michael Voltaggio hosted a dinner at ink. one NYE inspired by this book, which I will be eternally sad that I missed!]

Buy from Amazon $140 for hardcover

[Deal Alert: Get $25 statement credit when you spend $75 or more at Amazon: just sync your American Express card to your Twitter account, then tweet out @AmericanExpress with #AmexAmazon to enroll in the offer.  See Amex terms and conditions for details here.]

7. Dominique Ansel Cookbook

From the super creative inventor of Cronuts (in case you've been living under a rock: that ingenius mashup of croissants and donuts which caused a frenzy of hours long queues at his shop in NYC) and magic frozen s'mores...Chef Dominique Ansel's first cookbook. It's not releasing til October 2014 - but like Cronut-fever, the book has already commanded 'lines down the block' with pre-orders already being taken a little less than a year out from release.  For those who don't live in NYC or can't spend hours in line for a chance to taste the now infamous original cronut...maybe the recipe and DIY route may be easier once the cookbook is out.

Pre-order now from Amazon $12.74 on Kindle
8. For Foodies Who Appreciate the Beauty of Seafood Marine Life On or Off The Plate

Sea urchins are a bit of an obsession lately...and this extends to their beautiful form, captured here in lovely serving bowls.

Buy from Michael Aram $59

9.  For the Easily Bored: AdNArt Flavour It Water Infusion Bottles

I.hate.water. It's a necessary part of life, yes, but I don't actually enjoy drinking it - it has no flavor!  So I was excited to see these infusion bottles - perfect for gifting to SoCal residents, who are blessed with amazing farmers markets.  So they can fill the infuser with the latest organic, seasonal, farm-fresh fruits and/or veggies and make their water taste good and deliver healthy vitamins, antioxidants etc. etc. And change it up whenever they want.

Love that this version is made of glass as well, so no worries about any flavors lingering in the plastic...and it also means this bottle can withstand hot or cold fill.

Buy from Amazon $13.05

10. For the Impatient Wine Lover: Corksicle

For those who (maybe have had a really long day and) can't wait for their wine to chill out. This is basically an icicle-shaped freeze gel rod attached to a cork, that they can keep in the freezer and when needed, simply stick into their wine bottle when they want cool wine, fast.

Buy from Amazon $24.95 (Prime eligible)

Daydreaming / If Money Were No Object...

Cirrus Ice Ball Maker
For cocktail / spirits connoisseurs.  You've seen all the A-list bartenders / bar chefs do it: use one giant ice cube / sphere vs. the traditional multiple ice cubes: the better to chill the drink without diluting it.

This kit makes it simple for your fav cocktail / spirits fan to make a pro-grade drink at home without having to get a 'lake ice' making machine and chainsaw.

  • Press produces one perfectly formed ice sphere at a time.
  • Small press makes 2" diameter ice sphere

Kit includes:
  • Cirrus ice ball press.
  • Drip tray.
  • 3 cup molds.
  • Tongs.
  • Premium die-cut storage and travel case.

Buy from Williams-Sonoma $699.95 for small set

Have fun, and good luck with the holiday shopping!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Thanksgiving for Procrastinators Who Don't Cook (Where to Pick Up Dessert to Take to Dinner...)

If you're like me and waited til last minute to plan what you're going to bring to Thanksgiving dinner, and cooking is not part of those plans...

Here's a quick guide to where you can pick up some tasty desserts that will score you points and great conversation with your fellow diners...

Photo credit: Creme Caramel LA Facebook page
Creme Caramel - order by Sunday 11/25  

Lovely single-serve portions of creme caramel (like flan) and the fluffiest bread pudding with classic to playful flavors / toppings:
  • Pumpkin Creme Caramel 
  • Pumpkin White Chocolate Bread Pudding 
  • Caramelized Bacon Bread Pudding
  • Caramelized Spam Bread Pudding 
  • Holiday Spice Bread Pudding
Flavors above only available in 6-packs when you order online.  48 hours notice needed for deliveries.
See menu here

Crème Caramel LA
14849 Burbank Blvd., Sherman Oaks, CA 91411
Ph: 818.949.8352

Photo credit: Sweet Rose Creamery
Sweet Rose Creamery - order by Saturday 11/23 pickup Tuesday 11/27 after 5pm

Pie and ice cream go together cream pie.  For a fun twist on traditional holiday pies, check out Sweet Rose Creamery's ice cream versions of classic flavor combos:
  • Apple Pie: apple pie  ice cream, walnut crumble topping, caramel sauce, graham cracker crust.
  • Pecan Pie: Brown Sugar ice cream, topped with buttered pecan halves, chocolate cookie crust.
  • Spiced Pumpkin: spiced pumpkin ice cream, whipped milk topping, pumpkin seeds, ginger cookie crust. 
All pies listed $35 each

See menu here
Sweet Rose Creamery
225 26th Avenue, Suite 51 Santa Monica, CA 90402
Ph: 310.260.2663

Photo credit: Craft LA
Craft - order by Sunday 11/25
email Pick up 11/27 after 5pm or 11/28 8am-12pm

If you're in the mood to splurge, hit up Top Chef judge Tom Colicchio's reliably good restaurant in Century City, and pick up one of Chef Shannon Swindle's amazing desserts:
  • Pumpkin Pie $45
  • Pecan Pie $55
  • Apple Cranberry Crisp With Oat Streusel $55
  • Chocolate Peanut Butter S’mores Tart $65

Craft LA
10100 Constellation Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90067

Du-par's - pre-order or walk-in!

If you really, really just left things til the very last minute and missed all the pre-order deadlines, Du-par's is here to save your life:  while the most popular pies are sold out via pre-orders (I was told they moved literally thousands of pies the day before Thanksgiving!), they know how it goes and always have a batch of extra pies handy for walk-ins on turkey day.  I've been able to pick up my 'spare' pies last minute at the Studio City location.

  • Pecan pie
  • Pumpkin pie
  • Cherry pie

12036 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, CA 91602

Happy Turkey Day everyone!!


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