Monday, March 30, 2009

A Quiet Wintry Magic

My friend Chelsea has a quiet magic in the kitchen. While everyone else is babbling, or performing (among our friends, there is a lot of performing), or just cracking up, you'll often find her standing at the counter, stirring a bowl with great concentration. She'll stop, think to herself for a second, scurry to the pantry and grab some jar, confidently sprinkle a little into her bowl, then it's back to stirring. No recipe, and no artifice. At the end of it, she'll calmly walk out with a grin and a big plate of something delicious, making the rest of us shut up just long enough to applaud, stuff it in our mouths, then applaud some more.

Somehow she can intuit exactly what satisfies, and it seems like she throws it together just as intuitively. (This culinary sixth sense may be related whatever it is that allows her to give the kind of tarot card readings whose eerie accuracy may actually make you cry.) Last weekend, Chelsea, myself, and seven other friends, new and old, drove up to Mammoth for a few days of cozy, wintry goodness. I'm not much of a cold-weather girl -- I'll opt for 100-plus temperatures over snow any day -- but, I can certainly get behind cozy. As Kit, one of the nine on the trip put it, what I wanted was "aprés ski without the ski". And I got it.

Home base was a condo made up of three tiny stories stacked on top of each other, with a little fireplace in the living room. Out the balcony window, we could see snow falling on evergreens and wood cabins. We played Pictionary at the kitchen table, we read magazines as Geordie strummed his guitar -- with Kit all snug in her Snuggie all the while, we played Taboo and Celebrity by the fireplace, and in general just enjoyed each other's company. Of course, we didn't stay in the house the whole time: Kit and I got there a day later than everyone else, so we missed the ski day (darn), but we did weather a hail storm in our snow shoes, took a gondola to the lodge for spiked coffee drinks, had the surreal experience of throwing snow balls while in the hot tub (really, you should try it sometime), then managed to squeeze the whole party into the sauna, where we belted out Nelson, Extreme, and Mr. Big as we warmed up to the bone.

And throughout the weekend, we cooked, we ate, we drank. There were a few times on this trip where I thought to myself gratefully, this is why these people are my friends (the hair band sauna sing-along for one). It's a really good feeling to know you've found your people. I missed the feast of tacos and nachos with homemade salsa and guacamole the first night, but was the official egg-cracker for French toast Saturday morning: constant pot of coffee brewing, real maple syrup, big bowl of tangerines that Jeni brought from her tree at home (how we managed to leave the condo without stealing that awesome bowl remains a mystery), and strawberry butter that Chelsea threw together. The next morning we'd go large on breakfast again: homemade biscuits, a giant veggie scramble compliments of Rachel, and slapdash cinnamon rolls -- Bisquick dough, honey, cinnamon sugar we found in the pantry, lots of butter, homemade glaze, and some other magic I can't even begin to fathom -- thrown together, unhesitatingly, by Chelsea.

Saturday night, as we played games and drank toddy, Chelsea and Ashley stepped out of the kitchen with their hands full once again. This time, they'd improvised a sweet snack. They'd slathered leftover flour tortillas with strawberry butter from the fridge and sprinkled them with cinnamon sugar, slapped them together and browned them in a pan. It turns out that ad lib strawberry quesedillas are the perfect fireside treat. But Chelsea already knew that.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

As Soon as Humanly Possible

As quickly as you can, get this insanely delicious morsel of amazingness into your mouth. You will not regret it.

Take a slice of baguette, spread with Brillat-Savarin cheese, drizzle with white truffle honey. Oh, holy.

Last night was our first planning meeting for this year's incarnation of the No Cookie Left Behind bake sale. We had a potluck dinner at the lovely Ann Le's house, and Heather Taylor, also lovely, provided this outstanding combination. We had quite a spread, but it was this combo that had us all swooning. Between the creamy, and the sticky sweet, and the heady musk of black truffles, well, just, oh, holy.

Heather got the truffle honey from Surfas, and the cheese from Monsieur Marcel. The Brillat-Savarin was wonderful, but any soft creamy cheese like Brie or a triple-cream would do great. Just stop what you're doing right now and get it to your mouth. No, seriously. Run.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Norouz: Sabzi polo all over the world

herbs for sabzi polo: dill, parsley, chives, fenugreek

Apparently the world is hungry for sabzi polo. I'm amazed to say that in the past few days, googlers searching for "sabzi polo recipe" have landed on this blog from countries as far and wide as (ready?) Canada, UK, Finland, Norway, Netherlands, Switzerland, Australia, UAE, France, Sweden, Germany, Ireland, Romania, Denmark, Spain, Saudi Arabia, Dutch Antilles, and Turkey (phew!). Served with fish alongside, sabzi polo, basmati rice with fresh herbs, is the traditional meal for Norouz, the Persian New Year,which happens to be today. It's a green, fresh dish that is the perfect way to ring in spring.

Let me make it easy for you, googlers:

Here is my sabzi polo recipe.
And here are a couple sabzi polo photos.

my haftsinn
To those of you celebrating Norouz today, I wish you a joyous one. And to everybody, it's the first day of spring! Here's to beautiful new beginnings!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Changing Face of Fairfax Falafel

Eat-A-Pita has been shut down for a while now, but earlier this month, they tore down the entire structure. I had been holding out the unlikely hope that someone else would take over that space and keep the cool outdoor patio intact. I always enjoyed lounging out there, cheesy Arabic pop wafting in the background, chowing down gut-bomb falafel. But it's gone, and I'm a little sad (despite the sweet grafitti on the wall behind the lot). According to Dave, who lives on Genessee and is deeply embedded in the Fairfax Village community, condos are coming in. But what does he know?

Meanwhile, a little further up Fairfax, we now have Pita Bar and Grill, in the space that used to be Shula and Esther's. I never went to Shula and E's, though I hear they did decent malawach and cholent, but maybe there's just not as much demand for gritty/ma-and-pa/characterless kosher spots on Fairfax anymore? The new place has some serious professionally scripted signage, and seems to always be closed when I stop by, so all I could get was a picture through the bars. Anyone been here? Is it any good?

Cook's Library Closing April 30

I just read in one of the LA Times blogs that the Cook's Library, a cozy little cookbook shop on West Third that I've walked over to on many a Saturday morning, is closing on April 30. I've always felt lucky, and a little awe-struck, that this shop, and the Traveler's Bookshelf next door, managed to stay in business year after year -- these small specialized independent bookstores seem like an anachronism on a stretch flanked by Borders on one end and Barnes and Noble on the other (not to mention looming everywhere). According to the article, Cook's Library has been in business 20 years. So sad to see it leaving the neighborhood.

Expect markdowns on the store's entire stock starting next week.

[thanks erinsikorskystewart for the photo]

Monday, March 16, 2009


My friend Erin is doing a triathlon. She's been training like a madwoman (that's her above, running with glee), and turning herself inside out trying to raise funds. The cause is a very worthy one: the Leukemia and Lymphoma society. Old friends of mine, Jana and Monica, have both survived lymphoma, and they are just two of the countless people who are affected by this horrible business. Read what Erin has to say below. Considering donating.

Dear Faithful Readers of Tannaz's Blog,

My name is Erin Ramos and I am a longtime friend of Tannaz's and one of the founding members of Team Tokyo. I write to you today not about food, but about a charity that I'm supporting. But first a little background - I'm currently training for a triathlon which takes place at the end of March. And those of you who know me know that I'm no athlete. Especially when it comes to swimming. Because really - why would I want to participate in a sport in when you get tired, you drown?

However, here I am, months later and I'm finding myself weeks away from my first race. I couldn't have done it by myself - with Team in Training, I've got a network of coaches and mentors to help with my journey. In return for the fantastic coaching, I've made a pledge to raise $5,500 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Here's where the charity part comes in.

The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society has for 60 years been helping people suffering from blood cancers live better and longer and is most importantly striving for the ultimate goal - finding a cure. Although cancer has thankfully never affected me or my immediate family, it's been inspiring to hear the survival stories told by my teammates who have suffered or know someone who has suffered from cancer. Many of the stories they told ended happily, but some may not have were it not for organizations like Team in Training or LLS.

Anyway, I'd like to take this moment to tug at your heart strings and humbly ask for your support. Your donation will mean a lot to me, and to the many men, women, and children out there fighting with blood cancer. Please take a moment to look at my training page where you can track my progress and make a donation. It's a good cause and Tannaz I'm sure wouldn't let me hijack her blog for a bit if she didn't think so herself :)

And if this post hasn't moved you to donate yet, maybe this will:

Thanks for your support and generosity!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Most Amazing Experience I've Ever Had In A Restaurant Ever

I've never claimed to be a restaurant critic, and this post is no exception. I mean, I definitely recommend you go where I did, and try what I had, but this was a culinary experience so personal that all I can guarantee is that your mileage may vary. After all, are you going to leap into your car and trek to Venice for something that tastes like painfully stubbed toes? Like an adorable granny walking around all gummy without her dentures? Like a harried young mom who's had it with her daughter who cries for no reason?

Because to me, the rosewater refresher at Sauce on Hampton in Venice tastes like all of these things. It's just three ingredients -- water, rosewater, and sugar -- but no other food or drink is as evocative to me as it is. To sit in a hip but tiny restaurant on a side street in Venice with a seemingly standard Cali-fresh menu, and have the waitress bring me a tall glass of sharbat-e-golab (she can call it rosewater refresher if she wants, but I know the truth), is, well, surreal. The first sip of the icy ade quite literally brought tears to my eyes.

In my 3 decades in this country, I've had countless meals at Persian restaurants. It's always pretty much the same: uninspired kabob-heavy menu, fake-fancy decor, cold lavash bread. But leave it to a restaurant that serves breakfast burritos and BLTs to really get to the heart of Persian eating: the simple things that we make at home. I dragged a couple friends to Sauce after discovering it via Food GPS. Turns out it's the restaurant of Sassan Rostamian, a family friend I've known since he was born, in partnership with his brother Soheil (you can call him Saul if you like, but I know the truth). Apparently Sassan did a stint as the lunch chef at Rustic Canyon, and has traipsed through various kitchens across Europe, before alighting on this tiny spot behind Main Street.

Sauce is not fake-fancy. It's intimate and inviting, with warm lighting and just a few lovely photos on the walls. The menu spans salads, various proteins on buns or in plates, and breakfast, which is served all day. There are light touches, like an 8-egg-white omelet with vegetables, and heartier fare, like Charleston char shiu pulled pork and a "super" grilled cheese sandwich with three cheeses and applewood bacon. Then, every once in a while you get a clever tip to Sassan's upbringing. The Shirazi frittata is by no means what you'd find in a humble home kitchen in Shiraz, but adding turmeric is a nice nod to the old country. Similarly, a dessert of quince baked with saffron and rosewater can't exactly be called a Persian dish, but certainly steals a few hints from the Persian flavor palette. And of course, I had to smile when I saw the Gilda's Garden sandwich: Gilda is Sassan and Soheil's mother.

A few years ago, before the frozen yogurt thing blew up, I ran into Soheil in line for the original West Hollywood Pinkberry. He noted how funny our parents would find this place, what with its taking that same everyday yogurt they've eaten for breakfast for decades and selling cups of it for five bucks a pop. Maybe this was the light bulb moment for the Rostamians. In Sauce, they've taken the simple, special recipes our parents have always loved (and have lovingly made for us), and brought them to the masses. And it works; sometimes, amazingly. The rosewater refresher is my very own Ratatouille. Not yours, and probably not anyone else's. But you should go there anyway -- I hear the BLT is delicious.


Sauce is at 259B Hampton Dr., Venice, CA 90291, one block west of Main Street, one block north of Rose Avenue.

My recipe for sharbat-e-golab is here.

Friday, March 06, 2009

LA Walkabout

So many things I love in one place: Good Magazine, city walking, my beloved Los Angeles, and enviable photography. Check it out. (Also, bread guy in that one picture, I kind of want to marry you.)

PS The burger last night did not disappoint and the photos of it are making my camera's mouth water as we speak.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Golden State Thursday!

If you're reading this and it's dark, that means tomorrow. If it's light, get yourself to 426 N. Fairfax for Golden State's opening day. We checked in with them when they were building, and I wrote about them here, but I've been obsessing pretty much every day in between. Constantly checking in with Jason and Jim (Jason Bernstein and James Starr, the owners of the place, are dear friends), stopping by to see progress, picking up a rad gold-foil-on-black g-state tshirt, listening in as they negotiated with contracters, then hearing the saga of codes and inspections and rules and fees.

And now, it's a real restaurant! So excited! A casual place in my neighborhood where I can go for a beer, for Scoops, for delicious and reasonably-priced food, all in a gorgeous industrial space, run by my own friends.

But beyond the personal connection, what's wonderful about this restaurant is how deeply entrenched it is in its surroundings, the Fairfax Village neighborhood. On one wall hang old black-and-whites of what the neighborhood used to look like: during the soft opening Saturday night, Jason's mom pointed out the The Budapest Restaurant in one photo. Formerly located in the spot where Largo was formerly located, it was a frequent dinner spot for her family. The owner of the Golden State space is the father of one of Jim and Jason's high school classmates. The art on the walls is by local artists who also happen to be personal friends. The sign outside the shop was painted by Norm Maxwell, the owner of the gallery next door, whose storefront Jim and Jason painted in return. There is so much heart in this place.

So, starting tomorrow, get yourselves to the Golden State! And tell them I sent you.

The Golden State is at 426 N. Fairfax, between Oakwood and Rosewood. Call them and tell them you already miss them: 323 STATE-31