Great Cheap Eats in Los Angeles

Finally -- the elusive fresh strawberry donut at The Donut Man!

Finally — the elusive fresh strawberry donut at The Donut Man!

 

On a recent trip down to Los Angeles, I had a chance to try some new favorite eats. All satisfying. All affordable, too. The best kind, don’t you, think?

Donut Nirvana

I’d heard about it, seen pics online and salivated over it on the Food Network. But try as I might, I never seemed to be in Los Angeles at the right time of year to snag a fresh strawberry donut at The Donut Man in Glendora.

Until this trip.

Let me tell you, it was definitely worth the wait and lived up to all the hype.

Imagine a fresh brioche donut split in half, then stuffed to the gills with fresh, juicy whole strawberries that have been macerated in just a smidge of syrup.

What I love is that it’s not overly sweet at all, thanks to the fact that the donut, itself, is not glazed. As a result, the flavor of the berries shine through.

It’s sort of like strawberry shortcake. Only better.

Of course, after making the drive, you've got to get more than one donut. You've got to get a box-load.

Of course, after making the drive, you’ve got to get more than one donut. You’ve got to get a box-load.

A beloved institution for more than 40 years, The Donut Man is sort of in the middle of nowhere. It’s essentially a humble kiosk with a walk-up window in a parking lot shared by a martial arts school, of all things.

If you’re anywhere in the vicinity, do make the drive.

Now, if I can only make it back one later in the summer when the fresh peach donut is available. Yes, same as the strawberry one, but with fresh slices of yellow peaches instead. That’s definitely worth making a return trip.

Grand Central Market is Plenty Grand

Think the Ferry Building in San Francisco — but a version that keeps it a little more real.

That’s Grand Central Market in downtown Los Angeles, a market arcade that originally opened in 1917, but was infused with new life two years ago.

Sure, there are upscale food vendors now such as Belcampo Meat Co., and Bombo, esteemed Chef Mark Peel’s seafood-centric cafe.

Inside Grand Central Market.

Inside Grand Central Market.

But there are also old-school, ethnic outposts such as China Cafe, which dishes up chop suey and egg fo yeung; Valeria’s, which offers a well-stocked Latin pantry of items, including fresh mole pastes to take home to cook with; and La Casa Verde, a large produce market with very down-to-earth prices.

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Porking Out on Father’s Day

Pork loin gets all pretty and tasty with a profusion of fresh orange slices.

Pork loin gets all pretty and tasty with a profusion of fresh orange slices.

 

My Dad never met a piece of pork he didn’t like.

Chinese char siu cut into itty-bits and scrambled with eggs for breakfast.

Lacquered pork ribs from Chinatown to gnaw on blissfully until they were picked clean.

A big ham he’d stud with cloves and bake with rings of pineapple for Christmas dinner.

And neatly tied roasts brushed with soy sauce and honey, purposely big enough to allow for leftover slices to stuff into sandwiches packed for lunch the next day.

It’s been seven years since my Dad passed away. But every time I enjoy an exceptional porky meal, I can’t help but think of him.

Chef Charlie Palmer’s “Pork Loin with Oranges” is a dish I know he would have loved. My Dad wasn’t into fancy. While this dish isn’t pretentious, it’s pretty enough to be a party plate for a special celebration, yet easy enough to prepare for an every day meal.

It’s unfussy — just a generous pork loin roasted gently with an abundance of onion and fresh orange slices until the tangy citrus marries with the sweetness of the meat in perfect harmony.

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Nutty for Zena’s Sass Sauces

Shrimp with Zena's Sass Sassy Almond-Sesame Sauce.

Shrimp with Zena’s Sass Sassy Almond-Sesame Sauce.

 

These sauces definitely have sass.

So does their creator.

Zena’s Sass are nut-based artisan sauces made in Santa Cruz that are vegan, gluten-free and low-glycemic.

They’re made by Zena Krakowsky, who ran her own restaurant, C.B. White’s, and bakery, Zena’s Bakery-Cafe & Catering, both in Truckee.

Even after selling those businesses, fans of her almond-sesame and peanut-sesame sauces continued to clamor for them, even bringing their own empty salad dressing bottles to her door, hoping to get them filled.

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Chef Sachin Chopra Returns to His Repertoire with All Spice San Francisco

A stunning octopus dish at the new All Spice San Francisco.

A stunning octopus dish at the new All Spice San Francisco.

 

Having enjoyed quite a few wonderful meals at the Michelin-starred All Spice, tucked inside a charming Victorian house in San Mateo, I was intrigued to see what Chef-Owner Sachin Chopra and his wife, Shoshana Wolff, had in store when they took over the legendary Masa’s spot in San Francisco last year.

When I learned it would be called Game, and specialize in wild game, I admit I was surprised. Not because Chopra doesn’t have the talent to pull off such a radically different turn, but because I feared it would be a hard sell among Bay Area diners who worship at the altar of local and sustainable, rather than exotica flown in from all parts of the world.

Game was intended to be playful and energetic with its surreal paintings of animals in costumes. But having visited as a guest of the restaurant when it first opened, the vibe was actually quite formal feeling with a white-jacketed host and a hushed environment. When you have a menu featuring turtle, venison, boar and a load of other meat, the place almost cries out for a bodacious dose of bold and brash — kind of along the lines of what Chef Chris Cosentino created at Cockscomb in San Francisco.

Chopra and Wolff rolled the dice with Game, but didn’t end up with a winner. However, they were smart enough to re-evaluate after a few short months. The result is the transformation of Game into All Spice San Francisco.

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Scenes From the Inaugural BITE Silicon Valley

"Top Chef'' winner Brian Voltaggio hamming it up with his crew at BITE Silicon Valley. Gee, can you guess why his Los Angeles restaurants are called Ink and Ink.Sack?

“Top Chef” winner Michael Voltaggio hamming it up with his crew at BITE Silicon Valley. Gee, can you guess why his Los Angeles restaurants are called Ink and Ink.Sack?

 

If ever there was a place where food and technology intersect, it’s Silicon Valley.

So it was only apropos that the inaugural BITE Silicon Valley extravaganza be held this past weekend at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.

The three-day affair brought together some of the country’s most famed chefs, cutting-edge food entrepreneurs, food scientists and food activists to not only talk about how technology has impacted food, but to offer delicious tastes of their work.

Food and technology -- not football -- were the focus of attention this past weekend.

Food and technology — not football — were the focus of attention this past weekend.

Event chair Jose Andres, renowned chef and founder of the ThinkFoodGroup, spoke passionately about how his humanitarian organization, World Central Kitchen, has worked in developing countries to bring about more efficient and safer cooking methods.

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