I do like flowers

20 Apr

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It’s spring! Sunshine! Rebirth! Daffodils! Matzo!

Etc.

Time for new stuff, I say. Time for a trip to visit Faith & Flower. It has been open less than a month, but I wanted to visit. I’m trying to be a more intrepid reporter here. I can’t be totally intrepid. Maybe more in-tepid, since I do know one of the folks behind this restaurant, and therefore am not visiting undercover. I’ll save disguises for my glory days.

So, Faith and Flower. IT IS BEAUTIFUL.
And things are big.

It all started with a business card. Would you look at the weight of this thing?!

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They say it all starts with first impressions and my first impression was that Faith and Flower wants to impress. The heavy card stock connotes a certain luxury and opulence. Fortunately the actual restaurant follows suit.

It is Luxe with a capital L. A big chandelier (please pronounce French-ishly) welcomes you. There are longgggggg mustard couches for the banquette style seating, that are plush and ridiculously comfortable. I am one of the most persnickety people about comfort of couches and restaurant seating and I loved me some mustard couch.

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Sit down and a rather weighty tome or so are put into your hands. There is a wine list. There is a menu. There is a table of contents for handy navigation. Beyond the menu pages there seems to be a book in…Latin? When I go back to Faith and Flower I’m getting the scoop on that one. But seeing as I am The Book Cook I like it.

Also very important? The things you put in your mouth and don’t swallow.
I REALLY did not mean to make it sound like that. I’m talking about the cutlery and stemware. Get your mind out of the trash. This is a place where you drink your water out of chunky rather medieval goblets. I enjoy a glass with some serious weight to it. It feels encouraging to grasp that sort of cup, like it is full of the elixir of life. Actually it kind of is. Hydration is key. Your wine, if you are drinking a red like I was, was out of glasses that are Texas-sized. The better to let the wine breathe, my dear.

Service is also super-duper important to me. Based on our server’s and sommelier’s knowledge and enthusiasm you would not guess Faith and Flower had barely opened. This joint is driving like a well oiled machine: smoothly. No mistakes.

On to the food and drink. They had fantastic salad. You know me. I judge restaurants on salad (please also pronounce French-ishly-sal-AD) and stemware. My friend thoroughly loved her branzino with a blood orange reduction. Induction? Sauce? It was liquid ok? And it was pretty and according to her tasty.

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I really do apologize for that shot. It was dark in there. I know. Slap on the back of the hand.
Sommelier Jared Hooper recommended a wine to challenge our palates, an RPM Gamay. Normally you think of Gamay as a Beaujolais grape but this wine tasted like anything but. It was robust and had a pleasant bite. Later he brought a French gamay to the table so we could compare and contrast. The whole wine list is like this: full of wine to challenge and surprise your taste buds. Do the work and you are well rewarded. Later in the evening I sipped a glass of Roederer and upon learning that vodka was her calling, my friend was recommended the Vaudeville, which is the concoction you see at the top of the post.

I honestly need to go back to try more of the food and cocktails. And wine. And to lounge on those couches. I will report back, but if Faith and Flower keeps up the performance I saw it give, it is in excellent shape to be a downtown staple. Not to be confused with the downtown Staples center because that is hell on earth.

Oh, and lastly, goth me wants to smuggle the candelabra home.
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Oh, and incidentally I do LOVE flowers.

Faith & Flower
705 W. 9th Street
Los Angeles, CA
90015
213-239-0643

Pie parties, horchata cocktails, and what the hell am I doing?

8 Apr

Goth-chata

Goth-chata

Firstly, I devised the horchata cocktail. Me. Moi. Then literally a few weeks after I came up with it the recipe I’m going to share, a new trendy restaurant called Gracias Madre opened and everyone is talking about their horchata cocktail. But mine is better. And…goth-er. Which is to say I made my own horchata OUT OF BLACK RICE.

I devised the horchata cocktail for a pie party. Details to follow the following brain hemorrhage:

In between planning amazing pie parties like the one I shall regale you with tales of, I am pretty busy as an actor. I’ve been having a boatload of improv shows every
week, but in between all the performing I see the rest of the world, the people with real jobs wondering what the heck I do all day. And when asked on the spot I stammer and can’t quite remember it all because it’s a lot and so I come off as…I dunno. A not-busy person. God forbid. So I’m gonna tell you today’s activities (which now was a week ago). First off, I open up my laptop and email like a madwoman. Then I check the breakdowns to submit myself for roles that if I’m lucky I get called in to audition for. After fielding my email the breakdowns are my first stop. I go back to email and breakdowns a dozen times a day. Then I had an audition. This one was not too far, and it was in the golden hour when traffic is less horrible, so it didn’t take long. But between traffic and depending on how behind the casting office is running, an audition will bite several hours out of your day. Not counting all the prep time for it. After my audition I worked on scripts for another couple of upcoming auditions. What’s my motivation? No, really. What is it? Then I researched agents (I’m trying to find a new one) and wrote the perfect cover letter to send to one particular agent. This took a while. More work on scripts. What are my obstacles? Then I worked on the column I write for Hello Giggles. Then I updated my website with info on upcoming shows I’m doing and who my manager is because it just changed. Then I got in touch with a headshot photographer because I need new shots. Next I need to put the finishing touches on a pilot script I want to enter in a contest. And then I get to have late night coffee or who-am-I-kidding wine with a friend I want to collaborate with on a project. Because in LA your friends and the people you work are often one and the same. Which is both good and bad. Many evenings I’d be headed off to a class or a workshop or a practice or to do a show (after which there may or may not be wine) but tonight I get to skip to the wine.
And that, folks, is how I have “no job”.

And of course, there are the pie parties.

The last one was “Dark Side of the Pie” and took place right after Valentine’s Day as a palate cleanser. I made horchata with black rice, and designed a cocktail using it. I made a dark chocolate tart (recipe to come at a later date). Because I am still trying to perfect a southwest potato pie I made that but used purple potatoes to add some darkness. Guests were instructed to try to where black and red. Not all my friends came through on the attire, but many did bring red wines with delightfully goth labels.

It was pretty swell. Really, I am not sure where I’d be without my friends. Either slightly crazier or saner?

This cocktail had two variations for the party, but my friend Joel brought me a bottle of cinnamon liqueur that I later plan to use to create a third variation. Cinnamon liqueur was probably invented for the purpose of boozifying horchata.

Cocktails from the Dark Side: Amaretto and Chocolate
For horchata (adapted from David Lebovitz’s recipe here)
2/3 cups black rice, ground in the blender
3 cups warm water
1 cinnamon stick
2 cups almond milk (chocolate almond milk for the Kahlua version)
Soak the rice and cinnamon in water for a minimum of eight hours in the fridge. Remove cinnamon. Stick an immersion blender in there and blend more. Strain through a sieve lined with cheesecloth twice. Add sugar and milk. Refrigerate.
For cocktail:
1 oz. black rice horchata
1 oz. rum (light or spiced, take your pick)
3/4 oz. amaretto (or 1/2 oz. Kahlua if you made the horchata with chocolate almond milk)
a few dashes of chocolate chili bitters
cinnamon to garnish
Shake all except the cinnamon up. Strain over one giant cube. Garnish with cinnamon. Sigh in delight. Then sigh with great melodramatic tones. Nowwwwwww you’re doing goth right.

Snicker at me. Please.

7 Mar

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I made these cookies for my improv group who wigged out on how much they liked them. These are hefty cookies, and thank god I kept a few at home because the group ate them up. One group member stated that they are like a cookie form of cinnamon toast crunch. I say that is true, but they are even better. Although now I want to crumble them into a bowl with milk.

I am going to ply you with more comedy whiz-nit for a minute, but stay tuned for some thoughts on Snickerdoodles, as a thing, below.

My improv team of which I speak and I strive to make people laugh a lot, at least once a week. I am always doing comedy. I can tell you confidently that whether it is a sitcom or Shakespeare, comedy is harder. Than anything. Why did I hate it when people laughed at me as a kid? It’s all I want now.

I intend to inspire a wee bit of laughter and/or tears this weekend:
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I am rather terrified, as my story may be too serious for this crowd? It is sort of sad and funny. Screw it. It’s gonna be great. Come see the show! Even if I suck, the Hello Giggles shows at UCB always rock. Tickets here. Woot!

Now for what I had to say about Snickerdoodles. I noticed in the last year or two lots of people making any old recipe, adding cinnamon and calling it a Snickerdoodle-flavored. Someone even wrote on their blog that the only difference between Snickerdoodles and sugar cookies was the cinnamon. WRONG! SO WRONG! A Snickerdoodle has a very, very specific taste that comes largely from the introduction of an acid, usually in the form of cream of tartar. So there.

I like a good good biting flavor in a cookie. And a good biting wit.

That was lame. Oh, well. Make cookies, come see me and laugh, and all shall be well my pretties.

Snickerdoodles adapted from Baking Illustrated
2 1/4 c. flour
2 tsp. cream of tartar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 c. Sugar
3/4 c. unsalted butter
1/4 c. shortening
2 eggs
3 Tbsp. Sugar mixed with Tbsp. Cinnamon

Heat yer oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two baking trays with parchment. Parchment is perfection. Whisk the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt. Cream the butter, sugar and shortening at medium speed until well combined. Add the eggy-weggs and beat until mixed in. Add the dry ingredients and beat in at low speed. Take big tablespoons of dough and make 1 1/2 ing balls. Roll in the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Put them quite far apart on the tray. These be big cookies. Bake 8-10 minutes rotating halfway. Cool for a few minutes then transfer to a wire rack to totally cool.

Thyme and Thyme Again AGAIN

21 Feb

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I first posted my version of this Bon Appetit recipe for Sunnyside Up Eggs with Mustard Creamed Spinach and Crispy Crumbs on the Gruel back when I started the blog. That was when I was using the Gruel largely as a way to keep track of the recipes I tried. My photography was even more terrible than it is now.
I remember loving this recipe, and thought it was a timely time for a recipe with thyme. And time for a recipe redo. With better pictures. And I will actually type out the recipe for what I made. Glory! Fun times. Good thyme. And I added some more spiciness.

Plus a version that is chilled and mixed with a chopped hard-boiled egg. Sort of an egg-vegetable-panzanella type thang.

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I like that variation with some salsa or tomato sauce on the side. And truffle salt makes anything amazing. It’s almost cheating.
I am up to all sorts of nefarious acting and writing and writing for acting projects I must go work on so I am not going to go on. But just know that busy as I am, I made time for you. And thyme for you. Times two.
Kisses, dahhhlings!
Sunnyside Up Eggs on Spicy Mustard Creamed Spinach with Crispy Crumbs adapted from Bon Appetit and the Panzanella Variation
1 slice of wheat bread, crumbled roughly
olive oil spray
5 tsp. wasabi mustard, divided
1 bunch flat leaf spinach, washed and loosely chopped
1 Tbsp. chopped canned green chiles
3 Tbsp. plain almond milk
1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp. powdered dried thyme
Freshly ground black pepper
2 eggs, one to be fried or poached, one already hard-boiled
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Spritz the breadcrumbs with olive oil and toss with 2 tsp. of the mustard. Spread on a baking sheet and bake until lightly browned, 5-8 minutes.
Add a bit of water to a large pan and sauté the spinach just to wilt it. Take off heat and squeeze extra water out. Put in a small saucepan with the remaining mustard, green chilis, almond milk and thyme. Stir until medium heat until thick. Crank in some fresh pepper.
Now the fun. Divide both the spinach and crumbs in half adding half of each to a bowl with the chopped hard-boiled egg. Mix that and stick in the fridge to chill. Take the other half of the spinach mix, reheat as necessary. meanwhile, fry that egg. Toss the egg on top of the spinach then crumble on the crumb-age. Who knew you had thyme and time for two dishes?

Vegetable Crepes Say Oui

8 Feb

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Last Sunday was a long day and a good one. I watched no football. I went to an audition. I worked on lines for another upcoming audition. I made it to the tail end of improv practice. Then we had a show. Then went out with the group afterwards for a drink. Then I came home and worked more.

Then I poured a glass of red, got on hulu and queued up The Mindy Project and Super Fun Night to keep the laughs coming and ward off the cold. It was LA cold by which I mean I needed a sweater and a scarf if outdoors. Then I got cookin’. If I was Anna Thomas I probably would have gotten stoned.

And I barely heard that the Seahawks won. But congrats to my Seattle chums and aunt and uncle.

I am honestly not sure where Anna Thomas gets off calling these crepes, as they are quite thick.Even after I adapted the recipe, pureeing a bit after stirring the veggies in, this batter was still unruly and hard to deal with. Maybe it was the pot she cites smoking convivially in The Vegetarian Epicure that impaired her judgement? I’m not against her enjoying a nice smoke, I’m just speculating. Or maybe her thinking they qualified as crepes was due to the era in which the book was written? I guess she didn’t have Siri around to quiz on what made a crepe different from a pancake from a griddle cake. Good thing she didn’t include Mexican and/or Tex-Mex fare in her book. The Chillaquiles/Migas debate could go on for days. Delicious days.

As I rewarded my day of hard work with these crepes, so will the hard work you put into these reward you, regardless of how much beer and football made your day easy. Kapeesh? Ok.

I’m hungry. Let’s eat.
Vegetable Crepes adapted from The Vegetarian Epicue by Anna Thomas
A glass of robust red wine to sip whilst cooking
a dark and gloomy cold night out
olive oil spray
6 Tbsp. chopped onion
6 Tbsp. chopped scallions
1/4 tsp. chopped garlic (I used jarred)
1 jarred roasted red pepper, chopped
1 cup diced tomato (I used from a can. Convenience night, baby.)
1 tsp. dried basil
1 heaping tsp. dried parsley
sea salt
freshly ground pepper
2 T. + 2 tsp. flour
2 T. + 2 tsp. almond milk
1 egg
2 tsp. applesauce
grated Swiss cheese.
Heat a pan with olive oil spray, add onions, scallions, garlic and pepper and sauté until onions are good and soft. Add tomatoes, basil, parsley, and salt and pepper to taste and sauté until excess of liquid is evaporated. Use a blender to combine the flour, milk, egg and applesauce. Allow to sit about an hour or more. Stir in veggies when they are cool. Blend roughly with an immersion blender, you do want some chunk. If you need to add a dash of water to thin out the batter.
Heat a nonstick skillet with a wee bit of butter. Cook crepes using 1/4 cup batter for each until done on each side. Heat oven until 350 degrees. Put the crepes on a baking pan and sprinkle with a heaped up Tbsp. of cheese. Bake until melty and good. Sip wine. Revel Etc.

Triple Your Everything

29 Jan

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Except nipples. Stick with two. If you have three, that’s all well and okay, but I’d only pierce the principle two.

Just to clear up any confusion I only have two nipples. And piercings.

So I’ve been pretty busy. My improv team has been booking more gigs outside of our weekly performance.

Auditions are back up and running.

I’m harloting around to casting director workshops like crazy in the name of ye olde pilot season.

Still reading and writing like a maniac for Hello Giggles.

AND most importantly Alice and I are planning our next pie party and boy is the theme of it this time a doozy. Let’s just say that my inner goth cook is hard at work.

So I’m busy. Ergo I am presenting you with a simple sandwich. I have a lot of random thoughts about/inspired by this recipe:

I’m not sure if it is an amazing recipe so much as fun. Maybe not amazing but WORTH IT.

I think everything is better with butter.

There are people who like grape jelly and people who like strawberry.
Of course I prefer blackberry or raspberry because I am persnickety. But will always take grape over strawberry. I think what you are raised with will always be the preference.

I was skeptical as to whether a slice of toast would do much for a sandwich, but then remembered how Bill Cosby used to put potato chips in his sandwiches, so I thought maybe crunch would be good.

It was. But I wanted to double the creamy to play against the crunch. So I did. Double the amount of PB and J initially called for. I adore the looks of this sandwich. It is so…architectural.

PBJ Triple from the allrecipes app
1 piece of bread toasted and cooled
2 slices untoasted bread
4 Tbsp. Peanut butter
4 Tbsp jam
Spread jam on one side of untoasted bread. Spread pb on either side of toasted. Make a sandwich. I hope you are capable of figuring it out.

I confirm the subscription of this blog to the Paperblog service under the username ellenclifford

Hakka-lujah

20 Jan

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Oh, Hakkasan. Birthplace of the hakki-sack. I jest. Hacky-sack players are pretty much next to last on the list of people I’d think would eat at Hakkasan. Last would be the guy who is always outside my local Von’s asking for money. I offered him an orange once, which he took, then said “I’d take a banana”. Which I did not have and I doubt Hakkasan does either (except maybe mixed into a dessert?). I wanted to say “I’d take a thank you”, but decided his day had probably been worse than mine so I’d let it go. Not that I’d tell a dude off late at night outside of Von’s. Although I once got in some frat-type guys’ faces in the street late at night. They had kicked a cat. I should have kicked them.

Oh, right. Food.

I told you I was going to write about my LA dining experiences from time to time, so! For your consideration:
Hakkasan.
This is one snazzy Beverly Hills joint. It deems itself as modern Cantonese cuisine. I confess I am somewhat unequipped to really judge Chinese food. I never eat it outside the home. I rarely even cook food that requires chopsticks or qualifies as faux asian-ish.

So let’s start with the visuals. The of interior of Hakkasan is sleek. Dark but not too dark, expansive but somehow our table felt cozy. Really gorgeous wood interior. Tables are divided with the carved oak and Chinese screens. The music was a wee loud but not so much so as to really bug me.

As for the eats, that picture at the top is of the sautéed mushroom lettuce wraps. We didn’t order them, they were apology wraps. Unfortunately, there was a wee bit of a snafu with our vegetarian dumplings which turned out not to be vegetarian.
Oh, obviously but anyway, dumplings are by their cuddly nature adorable:

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A warning to vegetarians: there is a bit of cultural misunderstanding between us Los Angelenos and the rest of the world when it comes to what being a vegetarian is. At Hakkasan some of the items marked as vegetarian do in fact have seafood in them, so (nicely) grill your server accordingly. Also unfortunately, the very nice French guy who took our order-who I think might have been the manager as our official waitress was somebody else else-misunderstood that I wanted the lotus dish and brought me the stir-fried mushrooms with yam bean, sugar snap peas and macadamia nuts. It was excellent, but I’d been looking forward to the lotus. I didn’t bother bringing this to their attention though. After dealing with the dumpling ado I was not feeling like bringing up more problems, and well, I do love macadamia nuts.

Despite all the veggie confusion, they did get it right that I wanted my salad dressing on the side. This is Beverly Hills, I imagine that is their default. Next to requests to replace the dressing with something not in the menu, or air. I shouldn’t stereotype. East-siders are probably even more particular as to how they want their food.
Onward. My friend’s sea bass was rather gorgeous:

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And according to her and her empty plate, it was also delectable.

In full disclosure, another reason I did not argue for my lotus was because at that point I had pleasantly been plied with wine and saké recommended by their sommelier, Jared Hooper. Knowing Jared was also the reason I ended up venturing to Hakkasan.

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The saké was an unfiltered one. My friend had requested sweeter saké, and this was what Jared recommended. I found it quite tasty, and light in texture despite the milky appearance. The white stuff is rice…particles? “Fines” is the word maybe? I could practically have had it for dessert, but for my friend’s sweet-craving taste buds, it was perfect for dinner.

The wine list alone is really reason enough to visit Hakkasan. What I drank for dinner was a Sancerre, because when I see a Sancerre on the menu it’s a Pavlovian dog-like response of mine to start salivating and order it. Later, Jared popped by with a pour of another white he would not disclose the identity of. It was sweeter, more viscous than my Sancerre with a pleasant honeyed taste to it. After making that comparison he disclosed that it was, like the completely different Sancerre I was drinking, also a Sauvignon Blanc, but from New Zealand, as opposed to the Loire valley my Sancerre Sauvignon came from. I love doing blind tastings, especially when they surprise me. Jared is a fountain of wine knowledge, and is obviously passionate about what he does. Trust in his guidance and you will be very happy.
So to sum up. I liked it. I had a good time. A 90210 sip code restaurant is unlikely to become a regular go-to for me, but I’d go back.
After all, I DO need to try the lotus.
Hakkasan
233 N Beverly Drive
Beverly Hills, CA 90210

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