Category Archives: Shop N Tell

The 2nd Annual ChewNtell Edible Gift Guide

I just took a glance back at my very first post (Gift Guide Numero Uno), almost a year ago to the day. It unsurprisingly confirmed one thing for me -my enthusiasm for all things tasty hasn’t wavered much in the last year . I still want to force feed my favorite foods to friends, and a gift guide is still a much kinder and palatable way of doing so (pun intended, of course). The fact is, I spent a good bulk of this last year trying to have as many new food experiences as possible, discovering along the way all the great edible items out there that people are putting hard work into making.  It makes me so happy to share the “fruits” of my labor with you, and for you to share them  with other people (or hoard them for yourself – I won’t judge). The holidays are a perfect time for this to happen. So,  if you have someone (or two) on your list that loves delicious food, be happy….your holiday shopping just got a heck of a lot easier.  I’ve compiled a list (and snapped beauty shots) of my tastiest discoveries of 2014….click on the names for links. Happy shopping!

Baia Pasta

photo 6 Okay, so….I freakin’ LOVE Baia pasta.  These guys are fighting the good fight in reminding the world that gluten consumption is a damn good thing.  Based out of the Bay area, they have crafted some of the tastiest noodles I have had the pleasure of eating. What really sets them apart is their  beautiful varieties of cuts – accordions, spinners, and mohawks, oh my! They are 100% organic, and they offer flavored pastas that will really take your homemade pasta dish up a notch or two. I tried their new Ajo & Olio(aka garlic & habanero) flavored pasta  for the first time a few months ago, and it was a spicy, garlicky party in my mouth. That pretty much cemented them in the #1 spot as my top pasta provider.  It’s worth mentioning that the folks at Baia are super nice….so nice, in fact, that they want to give you guys 15% off your online purchase! Enter CHEWNTELL at checkout, and try not to feel smug you got the best pasta money can buy at a discount.

 Compartés Chocolate

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If there was such a thing as a Chocolate Bar Beauty Contest,  Compartes would shut the whole thing down and send the other bars home crying.  With some of the prettiest wrappers you’ll ever lay eyes on and an array of uniquely exotic flavors , these bars have both style and substance.  Handcrafted in small batches here in the City of Angels, each of these bars feels like you are unwrapping a present sent down from the gods of chocolate. So, your shopping for that choco-lover in your life is pretty much done-zo, and you don’t even have to bother putting a bow on it.  With flavors like Donuts and Coffee milk chocolate, Cereal Bowl white chocolate, and Thailand (Ginger & Lemongrass) Dark Chocolate, your biggest problem will be keeping these bars under the tree and out of your mouth.

Laguna Salt Company Smoked Salt

photo 3The fact that I only discovered the magic of smoked salt this year is something I’m almost ashamed to admit publicly. It is, without question, a serious pantry game-changer.  Salt is already the #1 most important ingredient in your kitchen, but smoked salt is an awesome and dynamic way to change up your cooking.  Avocado toast was  the “it” girl of the food world this year, but have you tried it with a sprinkle of smoked salt? Better. Scrambled eggs? Better with smoked salt. Roasted veggies? Better with smoked salt. Hell, I even put it on chocolate chip cookies. There are a ton of different smoked salts out there, varying by which types of wood they are smoked with. After trying extensive “research”  my favorite is Summer Smoke salt from Laguna Salt company. It is smoked with pecan, red oak, alder, cherry, hickory, maple, and mesquite woods.  Apparently that’s a truly winning combo – so you can put that in  your dish and smoke it!

Flying Disc Ranch Dates

photo 5Here’s one I highly doubt you will find on any other gift guide out there….dates.  Not just any dates, though – the BEST dates you will EVER have in your life. Yeah, I know that’s a bold statement, but I have witnessed these particular dates convert date-haters into date-lovers.  For those who don’t know, I spend a lot of time scouring farmer’s markets in the LA area, sampling every possible bit of produce I can.  One Wednesday I came across an unassuming stand in Santa Monica, and what happened took me by surprise .  What looked like an average, everyday date crossed my lips and changed my life.  It was lovingly grown by the folks at Flying Disc Ranch in the Coachella Valley, who use eco-dynamic farming practices. Don’t know what that means? That will have to be a whole ‘nother post (and it’s worth knowing!).  They carry several amazing varieties, but the ones I have in mind are the Zahidi and Barhi dates.  They are pillowy, buttery bites of sun-fed happiness. If you don’t want to just take my word for it, Martha Stewart and Alain Ducasse (a fancy French chef) are both fans. The little sweet buttery babes are  just $5 & $8 a pound. The important thing to believe is that I want to be your foodie matchmaker, and this is one blind date you can count on ending well.

Plenty More

photo 2I have a LOT of cookbooks, and I love each one of them so much it practically warrants a DSM-IV diagnosis (that’s some mental health humor for those of you unfamiliar ). This cookbook came out two months ago, and I have barely been able to stay out of the kitchen since. I dare say no other cookbook has ever been as inspiring to me….the photos are absolutely beautiful, and recipes are filled with gorgeous flavors and ingredients. The fact that it is vegetarian is a minor detail overshadowed by the beauty of the dishes (and let’s face it, we ALL need to be eating more vegetables).  This is truly a wonderful gift for that person in your life who loves to cook (and hopefully they have an Amazon prime account or a Whole Foods nearby….there are some amazing exotic ingredients involved). So order away, and plan on “randomly” dropping by around dinner time, all the time.

Happy and delicious holidays to you all!

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Grand Central Marvelous: why DTLA is your next stop when hunger hits

At first mention,  DTLA’s  Grand Central Market’s name might be enough to pique your interest : it’s grand (a whopping 30,000 sq. feet), and central (-ish: because nothing  can really be central in a megalopolis like the City of Angels). Most Angelenos I talk to have no idea that it even exists. That’s easy to believe, because despite its impressive square footage, GCM is  easy to miss. Chances are, you’ve driven down Broadway a thousand times and never noticed it (ten times, if you live on the Westside). In addition to those suggested by its moniker, there are many more, less apparent qualities that should make this urban gem your next dining destination. If you are anything like me, you will find yourself going back to this open-air food bazaar again and again….and again. Wondering if you and I are kindred dining spirits? The answer lies below.

1. I like eating at the bar.

GCM has bar-eating options aplenty.  I prefer to cut out the middle man, sit where the action is, and chow down.

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2. I prefer to be overwhelmed with dining options.

Thai food? Mexican food? Chinese food? Grass-fed burger? Egg dishes of loose morals? Bratwurst? Coffee? Pastries? Cold-pressed juice? Pizza? GCM has me covered. It also helps with the classic “I thought I wanted a juice but I realized I wanted a burger” scenario (This happens to me. A lot).

Sticky Rice's Papaya Salad

Sticky Rice’s Papaya Salad: they do it right

Egg Slut's the Slut

Egg Slut’s the Slut: you know you want it…and it definitely wants you.

Blood Orange and Vanilla Cream tart from Valerie

Blood Orange and Vanilla Cream tart from Valerie: pretty pastry perfection

The organic, grass-fed Belcampo burger with beef-tallow fries: Mr. Ketchup's face says it all

The organic, grass-fed Belcampo burger with beef-tallow fries: Mr. Ketchup’s face says it all

3. I like peppers.

See below.

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Valeria’s: one-stop pepper shop

4. I eat meat, and I like to feel good about eating it.

I tried vegetarianism – it didn’t work out.  I decided that the next best thing is to eat meat that has been humanely and sustainably raised. That usually means I need to put my money where my mouth is and pay a little more. In the case of the ultra-awesome Belcampo Meat Co., I don’t mind one bit. They have some of the most beautiful, tasty meat I have ever had the pleasure of devouring. These guys are everything I could possibly hope for in a butcher shop – they raise their animals on their own farm and butcher their meat by hand, in their own processing facility. Please take a moment to look at their website to learn more about them. I also have gladly pronounced their burger  my new Favorite Burger in LA (eaten at the bar, ‘natch). Do yourself a favor and get an order of their spicy fried broccolini to balance out the meat intake while you are there – it’s the best thing a piece of broccolini could ever aspire to be.

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Belcampo Butchers giving good service

5. Sometimes, I miss New York.

I’m a LA girl through and through, but every so often I feel a pang of longing for my favorite city on the opposite coast (worth noting: this never happens anytime during December-March). No, there is no substitute for the feeling of walking the streets of NYC. But, GCM has a fantastic city vibe  that is very contrary to the non-urban experience that many areas of LA can be. It’s a little gritty, it’s not solely filled with white people, and it’s old (built in 1917 – ancient by LA standards).  Situated in the ground floor of the Homer Laughlin Building, its walls are filled with LA history, such as  housing Frank Lloyd Wright’s office space in the 20’s. There is a ton to see/eat/do within walking distance (yes- walking!!). You can even grab a bagel, lox, and cream cheese at Wexler’s  Deli and pretend you are at Katz’s (it’s a stretch, but work with me).  Like The Big Apple, GCM is ever-evolving. New vendors are announced regularly, and word on the street is that we might even have some NYC chef transplants in our midst here soon.

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So, if you have found that you like to eat all kinds of delicious food while basking in urban vibes like me, head down to GCM ASAP. There is even free garage parking, which is so rare in downtown that you might as well go just for that experience. (The downside – its only an hour, and validation can be trickier than assembling a desk from Ikea.) One of my main gripes about GCM is their hours – 8am- 6pm, which makes it REALLY hard for the under-65 crowd to have dinner. Well, as of July 3rd, the market will now be open until 9pm on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. Rejoice, my darling Angelenos, your warm summer nights just got a WHOLE lot tastier.

Grand Central Market : 317 S. Broadway. LA, CA 90013

The Chew-n-Tell Edible Gift Guide

After much  deliberation as to what should be the topic of my inaugural post on this site, I had a realization. Anyone who knows me knows that I am, err…..“enthusiastic”  (read: obsessive) about  new, delicious food items that I discover. If I could buy them for everyone I know and force them to try them, I would. In a decidedly less aggressive (and much cheaper) move, I give you this: a tasty guide that is sure to please the palate of your loved ones – and hopefully make checking off your holiday shopping  list a little easier.


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  • If they believe in four main food groups : candy, candy canes, candy corns, and syrup.   Ahhhh, sugar – my raison d’etre.  I love it  in all its forms, caramelized being no exception.  After pain-staking, tireless research, I have found THE BEST caramel corn ever to exist. Everrrr. Maybe you are thinking to yourself,  “Eh, I don’t really like caramel corn. Too sweet. [or, insert whatever crazy reason here]”. Well, friends,  Z Confections has made a salted caramel corn that will change your mind. It is, for lack of a better word, spectacular.  I stumbled across the Cinnamon flavor over  a year ago and ate the whole bag in 5 seconds (which, admittedly, is not abnormal behavior for me). But when I tried the Rosemary flavor a few months ago, I realized that the caramel-corn game had been changed forever. It is soooo good. Soooo special.  Do one of the awesome people in your life a favor – and stuff their stocking with this. zconfections.bigcartel.com/product/salted-caramel-corn

 

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  • They like it really, really hot. And right now they are sweating  it.  Is your loved one experiencing insomnia, night terrors, and generalized anxiety over the Sriracha factory shutdown? Well, don’t fill their Xanax prescription just yet, because I have found something even better to assault their taste buds (yeah, I said it). SoCal’s very own condiment kings SoNoTrading Company debuted their newest creation a few months ago – a Red Chile Sriracha that tastes good with everything. As an added bonus, they made some of the ingredients organic and left out the preservatives.  Place your order now before the rooster-sauce – loving masses  find out about it (and throw some of their Hong Kong Habanero mustard in that basket for yourself too). sonotrading.com/shop/red-chile-sriracha/

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  • A treat for the one you love, who doesn’t love meat.  This is one bacon-crazed nation right now – but in a flash of good news for piggies and vegetarians everywhere, Phoney Baloney has come into existence.  If you’ve ever had the joy-inducing experience of eating the BLTA at Cafe Gratitude, this is a similar concept to their coconut bacon.  It is super tasty and delicious – I put it on salads, sandwiches, and sprinkle it on soups. No, it doesn’t taste exactly like bacon – but for being made of coconut, it’s pretty damn close! And, bacon-eaters, let’s face it: sometimes you want bacon-y goodness in your mouth, but you don’t want to actually make bacon.  Boom. phoneybaloneys.com

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  • For that  special someone who loves caffeine (and cute rodent mascots):  Coffee is awesome. Much like sunshine, fresh-baked cookies, and Waze, it just makes life better. The clandestine folks at Secret Squirrel know that, which is why they took some organic, fair-trade coffee beans and concentrated them down for your joyful caffeine consumption. Just add water. Or almond milk. Or milk, ice, and condensed milk if you prefer your java à la Vietnam-style.  It’s going to be good times no matter how you do it!  As an added bonus, I discovered that it helps when you have one of those terrifying  “I just made weak coffee” situations. Just pour a little in, and Secret Squirrel saves the day! secretsquirrelcoldbrew.goodsie.com

 

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  • For the one random friend you have that doesn’t like peanut butter:  Seriously, buy this for them.  When they open it,  make a sad face, tell them you “forgot”, and then take this glass of goodness home for yourself.  (I mean, we all know that you have probably made it on the “Naughty” list anyway, so what the hell).  The truth is, there is a lot of crappy, average peanut butter out there. So, be glad that I’m telling you about Big Spoon Roasters’ handcrafted, next-level tastiness . They use simple, delicious ingredients that have been harvested locally in North Carolina . No artificial preservatives – just  freshly-harvested wildflower honey in all of their flavors  to keep things naturally preserved.  I have technically only tried the original Peanut Butter and Peanut Pecan. Which means that the Chai Spice flavor pictured above is on my very own wish list. (Santa, take note). bigspoonroasters.com

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  • For your very sad, very cold friend living in New York or some other non-tropical state:  Send them a little bit of Hawaiian warmth with one of Kauai’s Lotus Fudge  treats. I could talk story all day long about how amazing their line of choco-goodness is. They are painstaking about finding the best ingredients Kauai has to offer, like Nioi Chili Peppers, Alaea Red Sea Salt, and Macadamia nuts. If you are at all like me and like creative control of your fudge, order the Fudge Mix and make it at home…you can mix in whatever makes you happy! (My personal fave: toasted pecans and tart cherries). Best of all, the company is owned by some of the raddest people on the planet who put a LOT of love into their chocolate . Rad people + high quality, delicious chocolate = no brainer.  lotusfudge.com

So, there you have it – the objects my food affection and obsession compiled into one tasty list for your holiday shopping convenience. Order up, and enjoy!