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Comfort Foods and Indulgences

Sassy Sliders

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by Jessica Harper

SLIDERS1A couple years back i reported about a prize-winning, record-setting burger that weighed in at over 210 pounds. Well, apparently that record has been obliterated, shattered, knuckle-dropped, air-popped, heel-stomped and other synonyms for royally busted. A burger in Minnesota weighed in at just north of one ton. (It’s 2014 pounds.) Not just your basic lazy cook’s plain burger, this one featured 60 pounds of bacon, 40 pounds each of pickles and cheese and 50 pounds of lettuce.

I, or one, would never make such a burger. First of all, they needed a crane to flip it, and my kitchen will not accommodate a vehicle larger than a bicycle. Also, I would be much to irritable to fry all that bacon. And as much as I would love to eat this monster, I’m not sure there is enough Pepto-Bismol in the world to calm the post-prandial abdominal pushback. I will therefore stick to cooking that burger’s diminutive cousin, the slider.

This little guy weighs in at only a few ounces, but I’m guessing that, flavor-wise, it is David to the Ton One’s Goliath. Only a couple of inches in diameter (vs. gonzo-burger’s ten feet), it packs a killer punch with it’s dab of chipotle mayonnaise.

Cherry Tomato Pizza

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by Amy Sherman

cherrytompizzaIt's hard to say no to cheese. Since I never tasted Parrano cheese I was more than happy to accept a sample to try. Apparently it has been around since the 1970's but I can't recall ever seeing it at the market. It's a semi-firm cheese created by a Dutch cheese maker who went to Italy and was inspired to create a Gouda that would be reminiscent of Northern Italian style cheese. It's aged for at least 5 months and often described as tasting like a cross between Gouda and Parmesan. I'm not sure I agree with that assessment, but I can tell you it's buttery and has a caramel like flavor that complements tomatoes beautifully.

I've been inundated with cherry tomatoes recently and decided I would use them on a pizza with Parrano cheese. I also happened to have some grilled marinated artichokes and that combination is really something. I added chives for a little color and oniony flavor, but really, just a plain cherry tomato pizza would be delicious too. The good thing about using cherry tomatoes instead of tomato slices and Parrano cheese instead of mozzarella is that neither will make your pizza soggy. That said, biting into a cherry tomato half can be a deliciously juicy experience.

Individual No-Bake Banana Split "Cakes"

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by Cathy Pollak

No-Bake-Banana-Split-CakesI have been making a version of this cake for the past 20 years. However, I’ve always made it in a 9 x 13 pan. I finally decided to streamline the recipe and serve it in individual portions. Since this cake was always something I would normally make for a party, it just made more sense to put it together this way. It’s so much easier to serve. And cuter too.

Nothing falls apart, it tastes great and believe it or not, it’s not overly sweet. The oven also never goes on! 

This cake gets a walnut crust just because it tastes so much better…more complex. The crust does not need baking, chilling it in the refrigerator keeps it all intact. If you have a nut allergy you could make a graham cracker crust using the same method. It works too.

I bought a wooden tamper originally to make mojitos. However, I rarely make mojitos but find I use this tool for so many baking and cooking projects. It worked especially well flattening the crusts in the bottom of the glasses.

Layered Chocolate and Peanut Butter Brownies

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by Cathy Pollak

Chocolate-and-Peanut-Butter-BrowniesLast weekend I went to a wine auction and indulged in chocolate-peanut butter brownies. Needless to say I thought about them all week. On about the third day of having brownie on the brain, I figured I better make a batch for myself. Does anyone else daydream about dessert like this?

Truthfully these are really, really easy to make. It just takes time with cooling and I like to let them sit overnight in the refrigerator. This is how you get those really nice side cuts for brownies.

Using parchment paper in the pan allows you to lift them right out into a block. They are much easier to cut this way.

The Juiciest Mediterranean-Style Burger

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by Cathy Pollak

MediterraneanBurgersIt's burger season. I don't care if it's cold out or a 100 degrees... it's time to enjoy some summery meals and eat outdoors. The weather here has been decent (knock on wood). Our summers in the Pacific Northwest often don't begin until July 5th, but I have my hopes up. We've already had our first 90-degree day....kind of amazing for these parts.

Anyway, with Father's Day coming up it's time to start getting some of my husband's favorite recipes and food together. And for him, that means lamb. The hubby couldn't be happier, it's his absolute favorite.

In order to make a juicier, more complex burger, I paired together three different types of ground meat; chuck, lamb and pork. I call it the meat trifecta and it's the perfect combination for a juicier burger. And if you love lamb, the flavor comes through nicely and doesn't disappear within the other meat.

The Squeeze Inn

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by Scott R. Kline

Squeeze Inn BurgerThe Squeeze Inn in Tracy, CA claims to have pioneered the cheese skirt, which I first experienced in at Nobby’s in Chico. The owner, Dean Davis, told me that the Nobby’s founder had learned the technique when he worked at Squeeze Inn before starting Nobby’s. Having gone to the source, I could not wait to try it.

I ordered the Famous Squeezeburger with cheese and bacon ($8.59). It has Mayo, mustard, dill pickle, tomato, onion, lettuce. I ordered my onions grilled. The burger has 1/3 lb patty on sesame bun. I also ordered the combo fries and onion rings. $3.99.

The Squeeze in is a very friendly place walking in. When I had arrived the server proudly told me they were famous from a stint with Guy Fieri on The Food Network. The owner Dean, came over and said hello. Another nice touch is a photo of Kramer from Seinfeld on the wall.

Getting Comfort from The Kids

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by Annie Stein

bergdorfshoesMy, my how the tables have turned! It wasn’t so long ago that I was the comfort food provider. Ok, I wasn’t the best at it, that's true. But I did try in my own non-foodie fashion. My own particular way of comforting tends to be located in the shoe department. Whenever I needed a bit of TLC, be it from a broken heart, a lost job or just a downright crappy day, I wouldn’t even think of heading into the kitchen but would head straight to Barneys shoe department. Better yet, if in NYC, into the shoe Mecca of all shoe Mecca’s, Bergdorf’s.

As a matter of fact, I was in NYC last week and after a family luncheon that left me feeling rather low, I marched myself straight into Bergdorf’s, took the escalator to the second floor and personally said hello to every shoe out on display. And this took a bit of time too.

Don’t know if you’ve ever been to Bergdorf’s shoe department but it is huge. Stellar and Amazing! A world unto itself. By the time I’d greeted each shoe, said “Hi, I’m Annie and I totally get and appreciate you”, an hour had passed and I felt all better. Thank God it’s the looking not the buying that sets me straight, shoe prices being what they are today.

Lamb Burgers with Feta and Pickled Red Onions

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by Joseph Erdos

lambburgerIt's time to pull out the grill! The official start of grilling season is this Memorial weekend. The weather is finally warm, making it the perfect occasion for a large celebratory gathering. And what would a backyard barbecue be without the ubiquitous burger? After all burgers are part of the American tradition. They're easy to make, relatively inexpensive, and easily please a crowd of family and friends.

Everyone knows beef burgers, but what about lamb burgers? OK, they're not the most traditional for Memorial Day, but they're really good. And who said we can't try something new? I can't forget the famous lamb burger at The Breslin, April Bloomfield's British-style pub. The burger I had there was perfectly cooked and juicy, thick and full of flavor. This burger is my attempt at recreating it at home.

This recipe has a bit of a Mediterranean feel, almost Greek. The lamb burgers are topped with salty feta and tangy pickled red onions. The feta complements the burgers very well, adding a tangy, salty flavor. The onions cut right through the rich flavor of the lamb. I like to serve all my burgers on toasted brioche buns, which absorbs the meat's juices. This is the way to enjoy a burger, pure and simple.

Coconut-Lime Rice Pudding with Mangoes

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by Susan Russo

mangopuddingDo you ever get the Sunday night blues? You know, that feeling of disappointment that the weekend is over and Monday morning looms like a dark cloud?

It happens to me sometimes. And when I feel this way, I usually crave something comforting. This past Sunday it was rice pudding--the quintessential comfort food. That's because it's warm, creamy, and unabashedly carb-y. These are the good carbs though, the ones that make you feel like you're receiving a hug from your mom.

Even if you don't get the Sunday night blues, everyone needs a little comfort now and again. And rice pudding leaves you feeling good every time.

Hoisin Burger with Sriracha Relish

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by Cathy Pollak

hoisinburgerI keep seeing all these different versions of burgers in the summer issues of magazines. I want to try them all! This particular recipe stood out because I love the idea of the ingredients together…hoisin and Sriracha. I love them both but had never incorporated them into the same meal.

The original recipe had things a little differently, and I changed them for a couple of different reasons.  First of all, I believe the cucumbers were added to this burger to give it a textural change while eating, soft burger-crunchy cucumber. However, when I thought about it, I knew that placing a hot burger on top of cucumbers would equal a mushy-cucumber result. The recipe also called for grilled scallions in 4″ slices as a topping.  

What I did instead was make a relish with the Sriracha mayo, cucumber and grilled scallions.  I knew this would give a more crunchy result, and I still added more thinly sliced cucumbers to the ensemble, just for fun and looks.  One of the key flavor ingredients was using sesame oil to brush onto the scallions while grilling. This flavor really carried over nicely to the mayo-relish combo, so don’t leave this out.

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