Winter was dragging on in a small town outside New York City. A lowness was settling in.
A craving for a brilliant change of scene took hold and inflamed the desire for something new, bright, and warm.
A plan was consrtucted. A trip home to Mom and Dad’s for a few days. Arrangements were made with my wonderful and amazing cousins, Ella and Sharon, for a Cooking/Baking tour once in Los Angeles.
This is what it looked like the morning I left for the airport.
They thrice de-iced the plane- but at last we were off, and my spirit and the plane were in perfect synchronicity.
This month’s non-cookbook reading assignment kept me pretty busy, and more than a little confused over the next five hours of flying time.
And this is what greeted me on the other end. I took a deep breath, shed my winter coat, and began to smile. Although I’m a confirmed New York/East Coast convert, Los Angeles just makes me smile.
I was constantly reminded of the gracious California sun. And marveled over the leafy green trees whose branches held onto beautiful bright colored fruit along residential sidewalks.
Shabbat dinner at Ella’s house was delicious. She is a Friday-night-dinner expert, and everything was perfect. Her dishes contain the flavors of my childhood, and are made with a perfectionist’s eye and palette. After a few hours with Ella and her family, I longed to move next door and raise my family near hers to grow old in close proximity.
Worked out the final touches for the Chocolate Matzah Brei Pudding recipe for www.kveller.com. Which got me in a chocolate mood that lasted my entire LA trip (with a brief butterscotch interlude-more on that later…)
Sunday afternoon is Family Fun Day at the Zimmer Children’s Museum. On the schedule 3/10/13: DIY Chocolate Bark.
Sometimes a picture says much more than a sentence choc-full of words.
I packed up, wiped the chocolate off my chin and cheek, put on a pair of heels and met Streus, college roomie and all around great pal. We got a table at Mozza, a pizzeria whose buzz I heard all the way from New York. Started with a really excellent chickpea small plate appetizer. The potatoes that topped the dish were shaved to whisper-thin ribbons and fried to a satisfying crunch. The chickpeas were doused with a vinaigrette that was both herbal and cumin-spiced, it was savory, well-spiced, and totally delicious, and as I enjoyed every forkful I resolved to recreate it at home.
Next up- the pizza course. We decided on the Squash Blossoms, Tomato, and Burrata. And the Long Cooked Broccoli and Chilli’s. The Squash pizza was OK, the Broccoli was really good. However, I think I can fairly say that Los Angeles’ best pizza cannot compete with New York’s best. Salad is another story.
And so is this Butterscotch Budino with Sea Salt that I just knew I had to have once I spied it on the menu. And man! It was goooood. Just the right amount of sweet, just the right balance of burnt sugar bitterness, and then a nice dash of sea salt for a really enjoyable taste contrast.
After recounting my adventures in donuteering, Streus took me to Fonuts. Baked Donuts that are all the rage ’round town. (Fun fact: The pink donut on the Saveur donut cover was from Fonuts…for this reason alone I had to check it out).
I ordered a Red Velvet. The truth? Mehhh…
On Monday morning Chocolate-for-Passover demo preparations began in earnest. My mother’s kitchen became a macaroon factory, intermittently churning out flourless chocolate tortes between the baking sheets of chocolate macaroons that aromatically emerged from the oven.
I arrived at my cousin Sharon’s house early, so that we would have time to catch up before the guests arrived, and I could stare at her dumbfounded as she arranged fruit and cheese platters, directed her kids, prepared dinner for her husband- TWO days after having back surgery! Pretty soon her dining room was filled with women. Every single one lovely and friendly. I demo’d the macaroon recipe, and served samples of that and the flourless chocolate cake to enthusiastic reviews.
Next day: Amidst my Chocolate-For-Passover baking, and a big bowl of Moroccan Quinoa Salad, thrown in for healthy measure, I took lunch with my bro at Bodhi a Kosher Thai Vegan Restaurant. We started off with a tofu salad and some coconut water to wash it all down…Salad was refreshing, I’m still working on developing a taste for coconut water.
Before long I was installed in the light-filled, spacious, and beautiful kitchen at the home of the very gracious Gill family. I demonstrated the Moroccan Quinoa Salad, Flourless Chocolate Cake, and Chocolate Macaroons to approximately 25 women gathered around a long kitchen island, which has me fantasizing about renovations for my own kitchen.
The most fun thing about doing these Cooking Celebration Demonstrations is meeting so many different people, learning about their cooking experiences, their best dishes, and reminiscing about favorite flavor memories.
I am now back home in my small town outside New York City, though, somewhat changed from when I left. Lifted up by the California sun, warmed by the friendly ways of the natives, sated by the delicious and fresh flavors I sampled, and heartened by renewed connections.