Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Why I Won't Be At the Next No Cookie Left Behind Bake Sale

There is a No Cookie Left Behind bake sale coming up Saturday, and I won't even be there.  I'm cutting the cord on this one, and couldn't be happier about it.  You see, since we started holding our bake sales in 2007, they've grown into a community event.  They are pretty much inseparable from Scoops and the surrounding neighborhood, and they just wouldn't be right without Tai watching over the operations with his smiley goodwill.  Our baked goods come from neighborhood businesses like Lark Cakeshop, Spork Foods, and Large Marge Sustainables, and with the advent of the raffle last year, we've even been able to bring local non-food businesses, like The Echo and Pal Cabrón, into the mix.  Ours is an East Side bake sale, held by eastsiders (which isn't to say all aren't welcome:  we open our arms and tables full of sweets to any and all who want to join us!).

So, when people started telling us during the Haiti bake sale that we ought to have a bake sale on the west side, or in Orange County, it just seemed strange to us.  We didn't want to.  Schlepping this operation to someone else's community just didn't jibe with what works so well for our bake sales.  It got me thinking though.

Our bake sale is designed to bring community together.  But it doesn't have to be my community.  Any community can have a bake sale, and it'll be a wonderful thing wherever it happens to be.  After this revalation, I was prepared to respond to those suggestions.  So, the next time someone told us to have a bake sale on the west side, we'd tell them, "No thanks, but you should have a bake sale on the west side."  And we'd mean it.

I love the idea of planting a seed for local events in communities all over.  It's been a goal for the last year or two:  to convince someone -- even just one person -- to hold a bake sale in their own neighborhood, then provide them the support and the knowledge we've gathered over the past few years, to help empower them to make it happen.  Miraculously, someone has taken me up on it.

A couple months ago, I'd never met Jen.  She sent me an email back in June of 2010, suggesting we do a bake sale on Abbott Kinney.  True to form, I didn't respond March of this year, a full nine months later.  Buzzing off our first bake sale meeting for the year, I checked the old bake sale email address and happened to see her message sitting there, and decided I'd try my new line on her.  A couple days later, an 8.9 earthquake hit the coast of Japan.  I got a reply from Jen: "Given the tragedy in Japan, I think we have to!"  Yes.

Meeting each other over coffee in Echo Park (Jen graciously made the big trek east) went swimmingly.  We found mutual connections, traded restaurant recommendations (Jen has since tried dreamy Robata Jinya, I have yet to make it to Red Medicine), commiserated over boys, and planned her bake sale! And this bake sale is going to be awesome.  It takes place at Tortoise General Store on Abbott Kinney, and Jen has rounded up baked goods from plenty of home bakers, plus a few local businesses (Gjelina and Platine Cookies -- nothing to scoff at) and one very un-local but lovely business:  Seattle's Theo Chocolate.  And of course, dear Lesley over at Chow Balla will be providing her now-legendary maple bacon popcorn. I'm so excited that Jen is making this happen.

So, please come by the bake sale on Saturday -- even better if you whip up a batch of cookies and bring it along.  You'll be supporting Japan and No Cookie Left Behind, but also you'll be supporting Jen.  We'll be back in June with our regularly scheduled east side bake sale, but in the meantime, she's taking the first step in creating a brand new hub of goodwill, good times, and deliciousness in her own community.  But she can't do it without the community itself. 

Some links:
The No Abbott Kinney Cookie Left Behind Facebook event (Accept it!  Tell your friends!)
The No Cookie Left Behind webpage.
Our Facebook page.  (Like it!)
Our Twitter.  (Follow it!)

Monday, May 09, 2011

Ich Bin Ein Hipster: Berlin Currywurst

Here's the thing about Berlin Currywurst:  its location is perfect.  Should we be surprised that Silverlakers are fascinated with this little slice of hip urban Germany in the middle of Sunset Junction?  I mean, if this place existed on the west side, say, or in the valley, would anyone be impressed with the space's cool minimalist feel, their commitment to organic ingredients, or the co-owner's totally awesome haircut?

But as it stands, everyone who walks into the tiny space  -- cleaned up considerably since its time as a beloved pupusería -- seems to just 'get it'.  A guy in a fedora chats up the disarmingly handsome young German couple who do triple duty as owners, waiters, and cashiers, waxing poetic about his own time in Berlin, getting nostalgic not only about currywurst, but that lovely young German girl who who got away.  A young couple lets their two towheaded boys run around the restaurant while they chat with the owners in German.  Another guy asks about the restaurant's furnishings, and comes to find out that the awesome industrial-looking chairs have been acquired over years, while the tables -- wood tabletops on legs made of metal piping -- were created by a friend of the owners.  Of course.

Berlin Currywurst's menu, scrawled across one chalkboard-painted wall behind the counter, consists of two things:  fritten, nubby chunks of hand-cut french fried potato; and the namesake currywurstCurrywurst is a German street food consisting of bite-sized chunks of sausage drenched in curry sauce and sprinkled generously with spicy curry powder.  While the menu seems sparse, you have many options:  you can choose from a variety of sausages (pork, veal, beef, and chicken are represented in various combinations, in addition to two different tofu options), and several flavors of curry, all made in-house (I went with a daily special of orange-ginger, but you might try chipotle or jambalaya).

The fritten have a rich real-potato taste. They come topped with lots of black pepper, and if you choose, you can add grilled onions or jambalaya sauce.  The gnarliest, most roughly cut are the best ones, as they're crisped through in all those well-browned nooks and crannies. The real prize at Berlin Currywurst is to take one of those crisped chunks of potato, pull it through the warm curry sauce from your wurst, then dip it in mayonnaise: spicy, fried, salty, and creamy, all in one bite.

Which brings us to the other thing about Berlin Currywurst.  Essentially, you're getting street food in a sit-down restaurant.  The cornerstone of the menu is heavily spiced sausage (you can order yours at a heat rating from 1 to 4, and 3 and 4 are not available to children), and it's served with deep fried potatoes.  Your only utensil is an adorable wooden pitchfork of sorts.  All this is bliss when you're wobbling out of the bar at 2 o'clock in the morning, but this place is for daylight hours: don't be shocked when the bill comes and you're out 13 bucks.  Of course, there's a reason for the price:  they use high-quality organic ingredients, and the offerings are generous (along with a hefty portion of wurst, you get a slice of their hearty homemade bread, too).  The thing is, I'm here for dinner and my judgement is not clouded by way too many tequilas.  I just wish they had some vegetables.

But still, between the comforting food, the great space, and the welcoming service, the place has a nice feel.  And the fact that they've managed to bring a novel ethnic food item to Los Angeles in 2011 is impressive in itself.  So, Berlin Currywurst, welcome to Silver Lake.  We love your aesthetic, and your saucy, spicy chunks of sausagey goodness.  We also love vegetables.

Berlin Currywurst is at 3827 Sunset Blvd, at Hyperion, in Silver Lake.