Monday, December 30, 2013

HomeState: Texas in Los Feliz

Texas.  Lone Star State.  Home of cowboy hats, Tim Riggins, and people who say y'all.  I've had the good fortune to work with quite a few Texans, and what I've learned is that when you talk to Texans about their home cuisine, tears might well up in their eyes.  There's some serious passion behind delicacies like queso, breakfast tacos, Texas barbecue (why, oh why have we not talked about Bludso's here?), and -- unknown here, but ubiquitous there -- the bready, fruit-topped Czech pastries called kolaches.

It's clear that this kind of passion is behind the new Texas-themed restaurant, HomeState, that recently took over the old Storefront space in Los Feliz.  You immediately feel the place's hospitable vibe -- there's a giant sign behind the open kitchen that says "Welcome Home"; a dark wood bookshelf is filled with books, knick-knacks, and bags of Austin's own Cuvee Coffee; and pretty white cake plates by the counter hold piles of that very stuff of legend, kolaches.


The flavors here are familiar and super satisfying.  A fat breakfast taco of eggs and shredded brisket is smoky and gooey, on a fresh, thick homemade flour tortilla (which you can also take home by the dozen).  There are in fact several varieties of  breakfast taco, including chorizo, refried charro beans, and a potato, bacon, and cheddar combo.  (There's even an egg white and mushroom taco, which I will likely never try, though I appreciate the concession to the needs of the neighborhood.)  Also included on the breakfast menu is migas -- eggs scrambled with crispy strips of corn tortilla, cheddar, and various add-ins.  All are served with red and green salsa that are appropriately fiery, and very fresh.
classy frito pie
We didn't have any of the lunch mains (sandwiches, tacos, and a couple awesome-sounding salads will have to wait for another trip), but we did try a couple classic sides:  the Frito pie, Fritos with homemade chili con carne and toppings, were served out of a Fritos bag, but the complex flavors of the rich chili belie the kitschy-trashy presentation.
And of course, their queso, served with tortilla chips, is properly addictive.

HomeState achieves the Texas theme with a welcoming coziness and a little bit of hipster savvy.  The espresso drinks, made with Cuvee coffee roasted in Austin, are better than they need to be.

The back wall is lined with green glass bottles of TopoChico, a Mexican mineral water popular in Austin.  And to drive the down-home point home, the O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack quietly played in the background the whole time we were there.

hospitality for all

They also have buñuelos in a bag, which I can't believe I didn't try.  Doesn't matter; I'll certainly be back.  Living in Los Angeles, there is very little regional food that still seems exotic to us.  So it's always exciting to be introduced to a new world through its food.  Texas has invaded Los Feliz with deliciousness, hospitality, kolaches, and really great coffee.  I for one welcome the takeover.

HomeState is located at 4624 Hollywood Blvd., between Vermont and Hillhurst.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Grand Central Market: Where pig snout meets eggslut

I have some concerns about Grand Central Market.  I'd like to talk about them.

But I'm getting a little distracted.

the slut, with biscuit

The first time I went to Grand Central Market was probably about a decade ago, when Downtown LA held tons of promise for an urban explosion, but we weren't seeing much yet.  At that time, I noticed a few things.  Grand Central Market was amazing.  A huge, bustling open space, mountains of produce, aromas wafting from pupuserías, taco stands, Chinese steam plate places, and more.  It was a little rundown, but this didn't detract from the magic.  And the vast majority of the clientele were speaking Spanish.

open kitchen

Fast forward to 2013.  As we know, the Downtown prophesies came true.  And, you know where this is going: a somewhat absurd rant about gentrification from the very person the Market's new tenants are there to cater to.  Not the first time.  Indeed, we kill what we love.  The latest additions to Grand Central Market include eggslut, home of the 9 dollar breakfast sandwich, Valerie Confections, beloved bake sale contributors and purveyors of delicious, high-end chocolates, and G&B Coffee, notorious among my circle for the time, back when they ran the coffee service at SQIRL Cafe, that they gave one friend her to-go coffee in a jam jar with a bandana wrapped around it, snickering at her request for half-and-half, then charging her seven dollars for the lot.  Um.

the happiest of breakfasts

So, yeah, I'm all for progress and all, but, as always, I'm conflicted.  But I recently checked out eggslut, and honestly, the food was so delicious that it's hard to scoff.  What I loved was the attention to detail.  I mean, the fat-salt-pork formula is hard to mess up.  But, when someone asked for butter with their warm, tender, perfectly cooked biscuit, the chef made sure the server sprinkled some flaky salt on it before handing it off.  The signature dish -- named The Slut, natch -- a velvety potato puree topped with a coddled egg and served in a jar with crostini on the side, is accented accented with a sprinkle of celery salt.  And, even their simplest bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich is really well-executed and totally satisfying.


Across the market, G&B now offers actual paper to-go cups.  Their space is laid out like a bar -- you walk up and give your order to a friendly and appropriately dapper barista.  And my little macchiatto, served in a Gibraltar glass and topped with a foamed-milk heart, was wonderful.

hard to sneer at the movement that brought this sunny patio
So, what do we think, kids?  Is Grand Central Market's unique local color doomed?  I for one am not too worried about it at the moment.  There are a few of these new hipstery fancy stands, but for the most part, the populist bustle of the Market remains.  If the attempt here is to turn Grand Central into San Francisco's uber-gourmet Ferry Plaza, happily, it has failed.  Because, just as we were waiting in line for our precious sandwiches, another equally eager line was forming at the stand next door, to order every imaginable part of a pig, from an age-worn, hand-edited sign, all in Spanish.  

trompas y orejas y riñón, oh my!
(And also because I like fancy coffee and slutty eggs.)

Grand Central Market is located at 317 S. Broadway, between 3rd and 4th Streets. It's a 5 minute walk from the Pershing Square Red Line station.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Churros: The Official Hanukkah Food of Los Angeles

A new post, one year later.  Is this awkward?

Seriously, people, food blogging is such a giant pain that Instant Gratification Monkey often takes over, sometimes for months (or year. welp!) at a time.  But there have been so many moments lately that led to me telling myself, man, I really should blog.  I really should!  From a glorious summer Stone Fruit Feastival in Griffith Park, to an LA River coffee shop pop-up at a gorgeous Frogtown design firm, from an opera performed throughout Union Station, to a tapas pop-up (we're into pop-ups here) at an artspace/foodspace that's run by volunteers and constantly changes form, menu, and message, I just feel like Los Angeles has been offering me so much awesomeness lately that I need to share.

So, for this moment, here I am.  I make no promises.  Get it while you can.

Early Arrivals
And I'm here today to talk about a crucial movement that began way back in 2011.  It started with a simple inquiry:  Echo Park resident Daniela wanted to celebrate Hanukkah with the fried-in-oil foods that are traditional for the holiday, but didn't want to stink up her apartment with the frying.  So she asked Mr. Gold -- Jonathan Gold, Pulitzer Prize-winning food writer laureate of Los Angeles, that is -- in his eponymous column, where she could find good churros.
He of course picked up the cultural significance of her genius idea, "a pastry that layers the mandatory Hanukkah use-of-oil motif with contemporary Los Angeles pluralism."  Churros for Hanukkah had begun.

We here at All Kinds of Yum (ie, me, Tannaz) really love contemporary Los Angeles pluralism and made-up Hannukah foods.  Needless to say, we were (I was) stoked.

the full crew

The first year, we walked down to Salina's Churro Truck in Echo Park, ran into local heroes Bruce and Avishay and their crew of fellow fried dough enthusiasts, sat on some steps where some people were playing cribbage, and churroed up a storm (of cinnamon sugar, obvs).  It was pretty magical.

This year and last, we went to Mr. Churro on Olvera Street.  Though I am partial to the knobby, imperfect fritters that come straight from the fryer (and are sold 8 to the bag) at Salina's truck, Mr. Churro sells his churros filled -- with custard, cajeta, condensed milk, or even guava.  We downloaded a dreidel app, tried to remember the words to our favorite Hanukkah songs, and even danced in the plaza as Olvera Street lit up with crowds of people for Las Posadas.
a churro friend from last year
So I am calling on you, dear reader, as Hanukkah 2013 nears its end.  Go forth and celebrate the miracle of oil with the best our city has to offer.  Latkes, schmatkes.  Tonight we dine on churros.