Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Epicure Imports: A Secret French Wonderland

A couple weeks ago, while at work, I came across an article about the salted caramels of Brittany, France.  Though the flavor combination is ubiquitous in the states now, the sweets originated in Brittany, as did Julien, one of our animators.

I heyed him to send him the link ('hey' is our IM program at work), and a lively conversation ensued.  He waxed nostalgic about the those caramels, and had a very specific longing for the butter he grew up with.  Soon an image of Breton butter popped up on my screen, a big tapered brick wrapped in cheery blue packaging like a favorite present, with a yellow banner in the center proudly declaring its contents.  By this point, I was feeling nostalgic myself for something I'd never experienced!

And then came the secret.  Apparently all homesick French expats and those in know are privy to a very special place called Epicure Imports.  It's a giant warehouse of specialty import foods in North Hollywood that works in wholesale, but only seven times a year is open to the public for a blowout sale of cheese, chocolates, and pretty much anything else wonderful and luxe and French that you can imagine.

As it turned out, their last sale was a couple weeks after our conversation, and so I went.  It was amazing.  In every row, exciting things:  bottles of pomegranate soda, fine olive oils infused with chili, or bottles of pale pink vinegar with a few stems of lavender floating inside.  Ornately packaged chocolate bars in flavors like yuzu and ginger, jams and preserves (I got a jar of "Figue Violette" jam for my mother Violet), alongside jars of pureed chestnut (I picked up a jar of that too, flavored with espresso.  Can not wait to taste it).  Even cheap sugar cookies are made exclusively from recognizable ingredients and offer a salted butter caramel variation.  And tables of samples everywhere.  Heaven.

I saved the walk-in refrigerated room for last.  My goodness.

Crates and crates of cheese, charcuterie, an entire rack of sausages, pâtés and mousses of all varieties. (I picked up a package of truffled chicken liver mousse.  Ridic.)  And, of course, bright blue packages of salted butter imported from Brittany.
so much sausage

So, you should go to one of these sales.  Really.  But, know that it's an exercise in indulgence.  You will buy a lot of things.  You will spend more than you intended to. (Although their prices are far better than retail, these are still high-end ingredients.)

But you will make your kitchen a welcoming, abundant, wonderful place.  Your kitchen will thank you.  It'll say, "merci!"  And you'll say, "de rien!"  And then, you'll eat cheese.

Epicure Imports is located 6900 Beck Avenue in Van Nuys.
Sign up for their mailing list to be notified of future public sales.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Real Talk 1: Gratitude

This post is the first in a small series.  I've employed some practices, and have had some things on my mind, that I'm really excited about, and I'd like to share them here.  Not all directly food- nor LA-related, though food certainly weaves through these stories.  I'm calling it Real Talk, though in a less lofty moment, I could just as well have called it Better Living Through Google Docs.   Here we go.
I've been hearing people talk about gratitude a lot lately.  I think this bodes well for society (or whatever overeducated, overprivileged, over-yoga'ed, over-TED-talked corner of society I happen to run in).  We're rising above the mundane.  We're working on big ideas.

Gratitude has been a theme on this blog since the early days.  Some moments I had it, and with good reason.  Some days I struggled to get it back, remembering how overflowingly amazing those moments felt.

As we moved into 2014, I kept catching wind of people intentionally taking time to write down things they were grateful for.  Diana talked often about how jotting down a few things she was grateful at the end of each day helped her keep perspective in the rocky year that followed a pretty brutal breakup.  Chris shared lists on Facebook throughout Thanksgiving day -- of writers, food people, community leaders -- closing each with the simple hashtag "thankful".  His lists resonated and made me thankful, too.  Gabe felt the power of practicing gratitude as he navigated the shaky waters of moving across the country, quitting his job, and finding his own way.

And then there was Danielle, a person whose wise words have seen me through some rocky days of my own.  At the start of 2014, she looked back on a year that included a new husband, a new career, and baby Oliver, born on Thanksgiving day, and she tied these riches to her own gratitude practice, which she started two years back: "I don't mean to suggest that I believe being grateful can get me what I want, but rather that I can see that being grateful deepened my capacity for joy, helping me to allow in people and events that I would have felt undeserving of before."

Compelling.  So I tried it.  Google Doc.  A few items a night.  It's awesome.  And takes like 30 seconds.   I started off 2014 in amazing spirits, mostly because I was so incredibly happy that no-good, very bad, awful 2013 was over (though I could easily talk about the many profound ways in which that terrible year was in fact, great).  My year has been rich so far:  so many wonderful moments.  I do believe that taking a second to remember this every day has kept me on a path of happiness.  I'm excited to see where it leads.

I'm going to leave you with some highlights from the last couple months of gratitude.  After all this lofty talk, you should probably know how inane this list can be.  Don't judge.

  1. naps.  naps.  naps.
  2. there is a werewolf howling outside right now. i am inside.
  3. dates, even bad dates, are funny.
  4. health!  yaaaaayyyy!
  5. the good feeling of actually being in my city. i love walking.
  6. so so so so thankful that mom and dad have each other.  my god.
  7. i took a dive, and it totally paid off.
  8. the fb page and how wonderful it keeps getting.
  9. beyonce.
  10. in a minute i’m going to the trails cafe, where there is free wifi.  in the woods.
  11. my friends are amazing.  they are all so smart, and introspective, and involved, and supportive, and understanding, and interested.  amazing amazing.
  12. avocado on wheat toast with a farmer’s market fried egg, flaky salt, and tapatio.
  13. cousins.
  14. the deliciousness of kogi everything, and the fact that we can have kogi and chego anytime we want.  it’s better than having like, the mona lisa, or the sagrada familia.
  15. my poor sister, who listens to me whine all the time.
  16. the awesome current hair sitch.
  17. time bank.  serendipity.  the glory of LA.  echo park lake.
  18. that carolyn is ok, and that takashi is so cute and squishy.
  19. going out, but then coming home.
Do you have any gratitude practices?  I'd love to hear about them.

Monday, February 10, 2014

8 Things I Love and 1 Thing I Hate About My Vegan Gold Edition

8 Things I Love About My Vegan
  1. The actual name of the restaurant is endearingly unclear.  My Vegan?  Vegan Gold?  My Vegan Gold?  My Vegan, Gold Edition?  The sign says one thing, the website another, Yelp yet another.  Teehee.
  2. The brick-walled space is cheery and bright, casual enough to dine alone, fancy enough to sit with a friend.
  3. They have the grace to offer non-fake-meat options on their Thai-leaning menu.  I've heard the "chicken" is great, but I'll stick with tofu.
  4. The waitstaff is friendly and service is quick.
  5. The portions are so large that I took home more than half of my green curry.

  6. And said green curry was delicious:  fresh and bright, packed with veggies and squeaky fried tofu, served with nutty speckled-brown rice.  Super satisfying.
  7. Tea comes in cylindrical metal infusers, on a brushed metal saucer.  How I imagine tea service would go in Blade Runner.
  8. There's a giant gorgeous espresso machine behind the counter for made-to-order coffee drinks.  Admittedly, a cappuccino with no milk is like a nacho with no cheese to me, but I'd be willing to try the coconut milk version -- sounds delicious, actually.
1 Thing I Hate About My Vegan
  1. This:

I prefer my dinner without a side of evangelism, thanks.

My Vegan (Gold?)  (Edition?) is at 4319 W Sunset blvd. in Silver Lake, between Fountain and Bates.