10.30.2009

The Great Pumpkin


Its hue is bright orange, it’s shape spherical and portly, and its taste is absolutely delicious. I am of course referring to my favorite Fall fruit: pumpkin. I love eating pumpkin. From pumpkin bread to pumpkin ravioli, just the mention of pumpkin makes my mouth water.

While I have always enjoyed eating pumpkin, I have never considered cooking pumpkin myself. Honestly, I wouldn't know where to begin. So when I saw that LA Food Works was offering a pumpkin-inspired cooking class- The Great Pumpkin, I was there!

This was my first cooking class. I am not an expert cook, but do enjoy my many adventures and misadventures with R in our kitchen. This class was the perfect opportunity to hone my skills and finally learn how to prepare pumpkin in an array of recipes.

The class was held in the beautiful kitchen of LA Food Works. The magnificent Rachael Narins of Chicks with Knives led the class.

On the cooking menu:

Pumpkin Lasagna

Curried Pumpkin Soup

Roasted Pork with Pumpkin Seed Sauce

Sweet and Sour Pumpkin

Pumpkin Gingersnap Tiramisu


Rachael started the class by talking pumpkin to us. The different varietals and what you can make with them. Next, as a group, we prepared the Pumpkin Lasagna.

For the lasagna we scooped and mashed a roasted sugar pumpkin. While one person was scooping, another was beginning a Béchamel sauce that would be the base of the lasagna. Then we layered the pasta with the sauce, mascarpone cheese, pumpkin puree, fontina cheese, and dotted with salty thin proscuitto. We were taken through the recipe step by step. The process was interactive and fun. The result was a decadent, bubbly, and creamy lasagna. It was so rich, so delicious, so perfectly oozing with pumpkin.

While our lasagna cooked we divided into little groups to prepare one item from the menu. I got the Sweet and Sour Pumpkin. Our sugar pumpkin was too hard to work with so we roasted it before cubing it. We also, added a can of organic pumpkin puree, which is not included on the original recipe. Next, we placed the cubed roasted pumpkin and canned pumpkin in a skilled over medium heat, sprinkled with garlic, red pepper flakes, sugar and red wine vinegar. Our Sweet and Sour Pumpkin turned into a dip rather than an entrée, but it was a pleasant surprise. We toasted up so pita chips to scoop the hot pumpkin mash and it was bursting with flavors. It is similar to a babaganoush in texture, but with pumpkin instead of eggplant, and a few flavorful sour notes from the vinegar and spices. Garnished with fresh mint, this recipe if beautiful and appetizing. It would be a perfect Fall party starter.

While I did not participate in the other recipes from start to finish, everyone in the class was able to watch and help each other with their recipes. The Pumpkin Seed sauce was fragrant and light. The Curried Pumpkin soup was smooth and comforting. The Pumpkin Tiramisu was a pillowy pumpkin custard layered with gingersnaps brushed with brandy, need I say more.

the sweetest dog and her name was Pumpkin!

When everything was finished cooking, we sat together and enjoyed the afternoon’s work. Everything came out perfectly - and I’m not just saying that because we cooked it. I left full from all of our creations, but more than that I left with new skills and new friends. I can’t wait for the next LA Food Works class!

10.25.2009

Fresh From the Market: The Gastrobus


A new farmer’s market has sprung up in my neighborhood. This excites me to no end. While I love the Hollywood farmer’s market on the rare occasion that I get a Sunday away from the restaurant, it is so much more satisfying to be able to enjoy the morning walking to a farmer’s market right in my neck of the woods.


The Los Feliz farmer’s market is nestled in a small parking lot behind the legendary Dresden Room. Compared to other farmer’s markets around Los Angeles, like those in Hollywood or Santa Monica, this hidden gem is small and charming. There is a sweet fragrance in the air and its quaint size is so much more appealing than the busy hustle bustle of the larger markets. There is a peace here, a sense of calm that allowed me to fully enjoy the beauty of the market on a Sunday morning. Small as it is, this farmer’s market still has everything one would need to fill a weekend shopping basket. There are fruit vendors galore, an abundance of greens, a specialty mushroom man, a fresh egg merchant, hand crafted soaps, fresh juices, flowers and more. On my first visit a few weeks ago, my favorite part of the market was the big bright Gastrobus parked right in front.

The Gastrobus differs from the other trendy LA food trucks because their ever-changing menu is created based on what is available at the market on any particular morning. Each week the chef on board this restaurant on wheels finds what is seasonally perfect and delicious to create a simple tapas-style brunch menu. R and I were more than happy with what we ordered.


The corn flapjacks were plump orbs of sweet and savory goodness. The corn was crisp against the light dough. It was sprinkled with thin scallions and fresh farmer’s cheese, which gave it a delightfully light finish.

The homemade sausage was a mound of salty, well-seasoned meat. It was thick and hearty.

The French toast with fresh peaches and plum jam was sticky and sweet. The toast was fluffy and moist, the peaches tender and plump, and the jam coated all of the flavors together.



I am happy to report that on my second visit this weekend, my neighborhood farmer’s market is beginning to grow. There were more happy faces and purveyors, but the market still maintained its peaceful air. Lucky for us, the Gastrobus was still parked right in front.

True to form, today’s menu at the Gastrobus had a different offering. I was happy to find my favorite corn flapjacks so I eagerly ordered those. In addition, we ordered the persimmon beignets with ginger and sugar and the pear almond pancakes.


The beignets were not as I had imagined. Rather than being a hot chewy deep fried confection, the batter was stuffed with a crisp chunk of persimmon. Being a doughnut lover, I was sad that my beignet was not all dough but the beignet was still pleasantly delicate and folded sweetly into each crunchy bite of persimmon.

The almond pear pancakes were soft and fragrant. The pancakes’ components were tender sweet pears in a nutty batter crowned with caramelized pear slivers. And they were magical.


Eat fresh, eat local, and support your neighborhood famer’s market.

10.14.2009

A Cheeseburger Wednesday Edition-- Umami Burger Los Feliz



My friend Mike likes to eat cheeseburgers on Wednesdays. I have grown to love it too. While I enjoy a burger any day of the week there is something so special and satisfying about eating a cheeseburger on Wednesdays with Mike. Wednesdays will be henceforth known as Cheeseburger Wednesdays.

This post is dedicated to Mike and to cheeseburgers - It is the Cheeseburger Wednesday edition of LetMeEatCake.

Last Wednesday we enjoyed our cheeseburgers at the recently opened Umami Burger. Umami Burger resides in the former home of the late Cobras and Matadors in Los Feliz.

Living in Los Angeles, the burger capitol of the world, it is not hard to find a burger joint at every corner. Formerly relegated to the domain of fast food, the cheeseburger has now acquired an elevated status. Cheeseburger components now include gourmet condiments, organic greens, and artisan cheeses. Cheeseburgers are now bigger, more exotic, and even more stylish.

Umami Burger demonstrates how a seemingly ordinary dish such as a cheeseburger can be magically transformed into something magnificent with a few well-selected ingredients.

Umami Burger offers a mouthwatering selection of cheeseburgers.

The Manly Burger is a perfectly seasoned ground beef patty with gooey melted beer-cheddar cheese atop a pillowy bun, and sprinkled with smoked salt onion strings and bacon lardons. The bun was so delicate with each bite it became one with the burger. Need I say more?

R and I gave Umami another visit this week to try more of their delicious burgers. This time we chose the Port & Stilton Burger with Stilton blue cheese and Pocas port-carmelized onions, and the signature Umami Burger with a parmesan crisp, roasted tomatoes, shiitake mushrooms and carmelized onions.

Nothing beats the Manly Burger. While the eponymous Umami Burger was good, the bun got soggy too fast, the parmesan crisp lost it's crunch, and the roasted tomatoes dominated the other flavors.

The restaurant also offers a variety of fries to accompany your burger. I tried all three versions- Hand Cut Fries (triple-cooked), Sweet Potato Fries, and Thin Fries. The Hand Cut fries were thick wedges of potato reminiscent of biting into a hot mashed potato. The Sweet Potato fries were no different then any other variety of sweet potato fries at other gourmet burger spots. The Thin Fries were too salty on both occasions. My side dish recommendation is the Malt Liquour Tempura Onion Rings. They were thick, flavorful and understated. They we consumed so rapidly by the table I did not have a second to photograph their glory.

Happy Cheeseburger Wednesday!


10.11.2009

Los Moles



In an effort to enjoy everything LA has to offer, R and I decided to spend our Sunday afternoon exploring Olvera Street, a historic marketplace reflecting Mexican and Lation culture and traditions. Olvera Street is located in Downtown Los Angeles, at what is known as the general site of the birthplace of the city of Los Angeles. Fortuitously, today at Olvera Street it happened to be La Feria De Los Moles- a fair celebrating the moles of Oaxaca. Mole means ‘sauce’ or concoction’, it is a complex thick sauce of spices used as the base for dishes around regions of Mexico. La Feria De Los Moles celebrated the most popular moles, those of the Mexican states of Puebla and Oaxaca. The streets were alive with people enjoying the crisp Fall weather, the live Oaxacan music, and the countless food stands eager to serve all of the hungry mouths. I wanted to eat everything in sight, I wanted to try it all, but my feeble stomach would not oblige. I enjoyed a small taste of the plethora of foods at the fair.


There are a multitude of mole variations. We tried two dishes with mole negro from La Guelaguetza. The mole negro is a blend of chilies, nuts, seeds, spices, and Oaxacan chocolate. We enjoyed a mole negro con pierna de pollo which was chicken covered with mole negro over rice. We also tried the taquitos covered in mole negro and topped with fresh onion and queso fresco.


The mole had a rich bold flavor. The sweet, smooth chocolate married well with the subtle heat from the chilies and spices.

We were too full to enjoy the giant tortas filled with seasoned meats but we enjoyed watching them being made.

The traditional clayudas con todo tipo de carne was an incredible site to behold. The sheer size of it was astounding. It is a giant flour tortilla served open faced and topped with a black bean paste, cheese, and crowned with grilled meats and fresh radishes.

There were endless variations of aguas frescas and an array of sweet breads from churros to conachas.

The half moon shaped pastillito was soft, sweet, and delicious with a subtle milky flavor.

For dessert we enjoyed platanos fritos with sweet cream sauce. Hot and fresh, coated in sweet cream, it was the perfect bite.

For the road we grabbed a candied lime stuffed with shredded coconut. For $1 I had to know what this confection was. It is called fruita cubierta and there are many variations on this candied treat. Nibbling on this chewy candy I realized that this is what it would taste like if you could bite into a Sprite. It was sweet but still tasted fresh. I loved it and I will be coming back for more.

You can visit Guelaguetza at

3014 W. Olympic Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90006

M-F 9am – 10pm. Sat 8am – 11pm.
Sun 8am – 10pm


* for more Los Angeles activities or restaurant recommendations please email me theletmeeatcake@gmail.com

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