Every time you pick up a menu, it tells you a story. The feel of the pages in your hands, the way the items are described, and even the tiny details like the serifs on the type become a part of the story, even before a single word is read. It’s easy to create a menu that you love, but how do you craft a menu design that tells the story of your brand, while growing the bottom line? Because your menu isn’t just your story, it’s your sales tool. A well-designed menu both reinforces your brand to create loyalty and subtly directs guests to your best items.
When we tackle a brand new menu, we always start with the brand – so we know what story to tell. Then we create different ways to share that story through three key elements of the design.
1. The physical menu.
Plain paper or laminated? A leather-bound beast that should be filled with wine and steak, or a plastic tri-fold that makes you think of hash browns and homemade soup? Is it a printed menu board or a digital screen? The piece that people hold in their hands has a deep impact on their understanding of a restaurant – if the physical menu doesn’t match the surroundings, the brand or the advertising, it makes people uncomfortable. Unless you’re building the next Vespertine, that’s a really terrible start to a dining experience.
For instance, for our client Magnolia House, a comfortable and sophisticated bar concept with hospitality in its very name, we designed the menus to feel like a library book, substantial and fabric covered and more inviting than the expected vinyl.
2. The words on the page.
Like the format, the copy should fit your restaurant’s brand personality and voice. Strangely enough, there are two categories of restaurants that can get away with minimalistic descriptions: conceptual, high-end restaurants, and fast food chains that rely on photos. For the restaurants in the middle, names and descriptions are key to both the story and profitability. Guests are drawn to creative names and longer descriptions – within reason, adjectives are good, paragraphs are not. A family-owned trattoria that shares the origin of grandma’s meatball recipe reinforces their story, while a chef-driven restaurant should share a few details on the culinary techniques and unique preparations. Even the choice of “Appetizers” vs “Shared” will impact how guests see your restaurant.
For our client Black Angus, injecting brand voice and mouthwatering, steakhouse-speak makes each item jump out at guests. Every word on the page has to reinforce your brand.
3. The graphic design.
Once you have the materials and copy, all that remains is the design–which we tend to think is the most important piece. Menu design must be legible, to your audience and in your space (romantic, dim lighting requires some special care). Legibility includes the choice of font, size of the type, color, white space and a plethora of other factors. A good design will establish a clear hierarchy, drawing attention to highly profitable items, and leading them away from the ones you need to have on there.
For recent client Bobcat Diner, strong design meant creating graphic elements from scratch, ones that could provide both whimsy and the spirit of the wilderness; hand-drawn maps and characters helped orient the important menu items and gave it a guide-book feel.
Great design brings your brand to life and creates value, and those two things are the first steps to creating loyalty.
COLUMN – Josh Terry; Creative Director
As the Creative Director of a restaurant branding agency, I feel like I should enjoy oysters. I feel like I should enjoy all food and drink and for the most part I do– except oysters. Believe me though, it’s not for lack of trying. I’ve sought out these briny bites up and down the coast from Swan Oyster Depot, to L&E, to Olympia Oyster Bar. Every time thinking that this will be the time that wins me over.
Why would I subject myself to all this unsatisfactory slurping? Because I really FEEL like I should enjoy oysters. And pretty much everyone I’m with loves them. They go nuts for them. And when everyone’s eyes light up as an icy plateau of shellfish is paraded across the restaurant, I’m always there to kill the buzz with an unenthusiastic “meh.”
Oh but I’ve seen the pearly light! (Figuratively, pearls would probably be a choking hazard). All it took was a trip up to the Hog Island Oyster farm in Tomales Bay. In my day, I’ve eaten some weird stuff produced by interesting processes (think Sun Cooked Stew in Africa and Live-Shrimp in Cambodia) so when it came to this hang-up, I realized maybe it was the process that was missing. Sometimes I need to go through a gastronomic gauntlet to really appreciate the product. In this case, it was shucking my own oysters.
Hog Island is a simple setup. It’s a working oyster farm, so the frills are for function not form. That’s a welcome treat for someone who has worked in an industry rife with overdone design and empty restaurant concept development. Past the piled up nets, buoys, and gurgling troughs of oysters in various stages of processing there is a “pick-up” window. You place your order and get a quick demo to hopefully reduce the amount of self-stabbings and bits of broken oyster shell you consume. Armed with the requisite amount of instruction and appropriate tools: oyster knife, protective glove, and cold beers- we carried our tray of 60 (you basically order by the dozen…or five dozen. That’s commitment.) assorted Sweetwaters, Kumamotos, and French hogs over the to picnic/shucking zone.
By about the 5th or 6th oyster you really start getting the hang of it. By the 12th, I was a machine and by the 20th+ I was a machine covered in sea-water, bits of shell, and beer. Pro tip – be wary of the beer-to-oyster ratio, as your newfound shucking skills may regress. By the end of it all, I had put down more oysters in that one sitting then I’d probably had in my entire life. Shell yes! Shuck yeah!
I now love oysters.
This past weekend, the 46th Walker Cup returned to California for the first time in 35 years, teeing off at the Los Angeles Country Club. The legendary golf match is a biennial team competition that pits USA against Great Britain and Ireland— three countries that sure do love a good lawn mower. The Match is held over two days as 20 amateur players vie for the team title and national pride.
The impressive grounds of Los Angeles Country Club North demanded an impressive and refined dining experience for fans and participants alike. Wolfgang Puck Catering won the dining contract with a strong proposal last year. Can you guess which LA marketing agency helped them with it? Yep, Six Degrees LA at your service. As the event drew near, we joined the marketing team to make sure the signage and print elements were also up to par.
We don’t want to brag, but we’ve had plenty of experience in both special event branding and venue branding.
Our design sensibility led us to create clean graphics for each of the food stands; the menus were packed with flavor synonymous with California and Wolfgang Puck, including wood-fired pizza, street food, and farmers market staples that showcased LA’s rich cultural core to the rest of the world. Our work kept things simple and straightforward so attendees could get back to the action on the fairway.
The trick for big events is understanding the flow of space and the variations of deliverables needed to fit it. Experience teaches you how each piece fits together, in order to drive the customer towards the product. The job of a restaurant marketing agency like us is to take the list of food offerings from Wolfgang Puck and create print-ready materials.
For this event, we created menu boards, menus for tent posts, and a brochure dining guide that helped people find food options on site. Our font choices and unique icons reflected the local, fresh energy and helped the food experience at the Walker Cup feel very SoCal— even with the sound of posh accents all around.
The weekend wrapped up with a resounding win for Team USA, bolstered by efforts from several California players, including a La Cañada native. We’d like to think we were part of the victory–maybe catching sight of our menu boards helped them feel right at home.
Photo by Harry How
If there’s one thing we recognize at Six Degrees LA, it’s that feeling good about where you eat is a must for all people. Shockingly, food tastes better when you’re not having an identity crisis and guilt isn’t choking you up! It may seem simple, but during our many years in restaurant branding, especially as a LA marketing agency with a whole range of clients, we’ve learned time and time again that the dining choices customers make reflect their emotions, desires, and yes—sometimes politics— rather than simply deciding on a food price point. To help make this more complex call, they rely on a perception of a brand from start to finish.
This past week, big restaurant branding headlines coming from Tom Colicchio’s Fowler & Wells in Manhattan and Brad Greenhill’s Katoi in Corktown, Detroit have brought the issue of naming and social responsibility to the forefront. As the NYT and Eater reported, both restaurants have come under heavy criticism for problematic monikers; their historical and cultural implications weighed on the conscience of customers and critics and, ultimately, lead to a need to re-name in order to remain loyal to the brand vision .
And then of course there’s the grumblings over Dunkin Donuts, who are playing the name-game in their own corporate way. Sometimes it’s hard not to throw up your hands and roll your eyes (Come on guys, you sell donuts— everyone knows you sell donuts), but this news cycle just confirms that ethics, ethos, and the bottom-line all drive choices to try and better represent a restaurant to a customer.
We won’t get political and dwell on whether motivations are always pure (because it’s a Monday and no one needs that kind of suffering) but as a LA marketing agency we know that branding extends beyond a name and into skills we’ve mastered— like restaurant logo design and photography revamps— and each element must reflect the brand identity. Usually the situation isn’t as extreme as the issues getting recent press attention, but our role is the same.
Clients come to us when they recognize a disconnect between where they see themselves and where customers see them, and we use strategy, aesthetics, and brand messaging to help create an experience that each guest can feel good about.
Don’t get us wrong, the big name on the sign is important. The one moniker lives beyond every medium, making it the single lasting impression of a brand. But if picking a whole new name feels like an insurmountable logistical nightmare (To-Go bag reprint? Legal footer EVERYWHERE? Bartender pocket squares, anyone?), that’s where we step in and help make adjustments to a brand identity through a whole spectrum of elements. We’ve helped with everything from VIP fundraisers to community murals to sticking logos on Magic 8 balls.
If you have the slightest inkling that you may want a name change, it should be addressed immediately. “Sooner-rather-than-later” couldn’t ring more true (Tom Colicchio and Brad Greenhill would agree, we think). There are tools we can employ to explore the possibility, from market research to guest surveys. Analytics + our instincts can help you be sure your company is making the responsible call.
Can’t wait for the data? Check out our “When Restaurant Branding Should Happen” infographic that takes our signature tongue-in-cheek approach to answering the pesky question.
In any case, fixing a perception problem starts with finding a partner that can handle the logistical and creative heat. Let’s talk— before the angry tweets roll in and well before the pain of chiseling out logos on all those beautiful engraved maple cutting boards.
From a brand perspective, “Stu and His Friends Support Stu and the Kids” does not seem to be a great event name. Aside from being very clear that someone name “Stu” is looking for support, it doesn’t provide a lot of clues to either the cause or the event. But, despite the cryptic naming, Stu’s event is one that everyone looks forward to each year and one we’ve been proud to support for a number of years.
What you need to know is that Stu’s “Friends” are some of Los Angeles’s best chefs, and “the Kids” are underserved and orphaned children from the Hill Tribe in Northern Thailand. Stu is Stuart Skversky, and he’s made it his mission to help these kids; he teaches English and cooking to the younger kids, and raises money to help the older kids get a college education and build themselves a better future.
The first fundraiser for Stu and the Kids was held in 2011, and it’s grown tremendously each year. We got involved in 2014, and have helped each year since then. Over the years, we’ve helped with everything from finding a location (OK, it was a parking lot), to making the hand-drawn logo, and, of course, volunteering to take out the trash at the event. This year, we created the event’s signature graphic and event-day signage, and handled Stu’s Facebook advertising and content calendar.
The event has grown so popular that there were plenty of volunteers to take out the trash, so we got to focus on taking pictures of the food as we sampled it, and went live on Facebook for his presentation, from thank-yous to Thai dancers. The past weekend’s fundraiser featured some of LA’s top chefs and restaurants – including Walter Manzke, Neal Fraser, Jason Neroni, Sherry Yard and Ray Garcia – not to mention chefs Jet Tila and Rocco Whalen. We’re honored to be in such talented company and help raise money for Stu and the Kids. See you next year!
Thanks to Erik Fischer Photography and Victor Vic Photography.
Pop the champagne and toss some confetti! We’re celebrating a huge milestone with our friends at Black Angus Steakhouse – one million subscribers to their email Prime Club. That’s nearly double the number from when we updated their branding a little over three years ago. We found the sweet spot of success by connecting with Black Angus loyalists about promotions, celebrations, and a consistent flow of news about what’s going on at each of their 45 locations.
Over 200,000 members signed up in the past year, after we launched a brand new Black Angus website. When you have 50 years of steak-making history, it can be a challenge to bring your guests into the digital age with you, but we’ve proven that email is an effective way to connect restaurant guests. We see up to a 17% increase in sales in the day following a key email blast!
Our homepage redesign focused on putting the Prime Club front and center for our daily visitors and making the sign-up process simple. We designed a pop-up that was to the point – sign up for the Prime Club and receive free goodies, mainly a free birthday steak dinner. (Of course, with a sign-up offer that good, we’d be remiss if we didn’t also mention that in-store sign ups are also going strong.) It’s a bold offering, and one that many marketers would tell you would lead to a low-quality list, but the results say otherwise. Not only do the sales jump after each blast, but the list has low attrition and strong engagement.
To keep up the momentum, we completely revamped the design of the emails, staying on-brand with direct messaging but with a fresh photography style and bold graphic elements. We diversified our promotions, from traditional coupons and LTOs to celebrating National Hamburger Day and highlighting our newest cocktails. We successfully expanded our appeal from the everyday Black Angus diner to include a newer and younger audience (you know, that elusive millennial everyone’s fighting over).
At a time when there are so many avenues for digital marketing, we’re thrilled we’ve found success for Black Angus with organic branded content that actually inspires people to go out for dinner (or lunch, or drinks…). So cheers to steak & success – and here’s to another million members.
Most discussions about walls these days are negative and politically charged. Let’s take a break from all that and talk about a wall we just put up on Beverly Blvd. with the help of Hattas Public Murals to advertise L.A.’s next greatest, fantastic, amazing food hall, Edin Park.
While many of the submissions for the proposed border wall design featured drab facades and intimidating features, we’re proud to say that none of them had a slice of pizza wearing a wide-brimmed hat talking on its phone, nor a 10ft bacon-wrapped hot-dog bouncer with a clipboard. Our design did. Now we just have to worry about the 30+ food concepts and 10+ fitness studios we need to develop on the other side of it. It’s going to be tremendous.
Some of us are of an age where we still harbor a (tiny) crush on our first supermodel. We may be all grown-up now, but Cindy Crawford gives us a little flutter in our hearts and reminds us of a time when the world was filled with possibility, and we could go anywhere and become anyone, as long as we wore our Calvins, with a cold Pepsi at hand.
by Amanda, Marketing & Strategy
This year, we’ve had several clients in need of social media strategy, and inevitably, content calendars, as part of their restaurant marketing package. So, we thought it was time to fine-tune our own content calendar template.
by Josh, Creative & Design
Millennials, millennials, those damn millennials. Just the mention quickly diverges into a fist-shaking critique of their work habits, emotional sensitivity, and their cyborgian connection to social media. Well, we’re not here to jump on that conversation. We like millennials. In fact, with nearly $1.3 trillion in purchasing power and almost 50% of their food expenses coming from dining out, we LOVE millennials. Gen Z on the other hand, geez it’s like they are a bunch of socially conscious, risk-averse babies. Basically, the younger generation will never be as hard-working/enlightened/pleasant-smelling/athletic or as awesome as our generation, says EVERY GENERATION EVER. Continue Reading…
by Jennie, Operations & Marketing
One of the first things people notice when they’re in our office (besides the never-ending construction on Wilshire) is the full bar in our conference room. What can we say except every office should be set up for success with a multitude of spirits at the ready. We even recently found (and promptly purchased) perfect glasses for our weekly sipping.
by Amanda, Marketing & Strategy
Recently, we had the chance to break out of our delicious Los Angeles foodie bubble and take a trip to the gateway of Yosemite: Merced, California. We created the brand identity for Bobcat Diner, a new restaurant concept with ambitious plans for growth. With the location and expansion plans in mind, we took inspiration from the iconic graphics of the National and State Parks to create a design that would resonate with the local Merced community, and work just as well in new locations across the country. We didn’t take it too seriously, though, with a tongue-in-cheek approach to the outdoors tucked away within the copy.
We were lucky to be brought in at the very beginning of construction, so you’ll find our graphic design work in the campfire logo, oversized trail maps on the walls (providing helpful directions to lunch and dinner over the mountainous milkshakes), and the guide to Bobcat Guide merit badges. The menus serve as a Guide Book, filled with hand-drawn illustrations for our Bobcat Guide Tips to accompany the menu of diner mainstays including breakfast skillets, burgers and sandwiches.
Once the design was complete and construction underway, our marketing team took over the restaurant’s pre-opening social media, bringing the brand’s outdoorsy voice to life and building anticipation for the opening. When California’s unexpected rain caused construction delays, we tackled the challenge of keeping interest high as the opening day changed, and changed again. When the grand opening finally arrived, we were there to capture the excitement before handing the social reins back to to the restaurant team.
All in all, we enjoyed our excursion into the wilds of Central California, and like the restaurant, we try to be true to the Bobcat Oath, even back here in Los Angeles.
We want to make things look better. That’s what Beautify Earth wants, too. Their mission is to link up loving artists with unloved spaces to turn them into something everyone can love. Yeah, we used “love” 3 times because there is a lot needed right now and Pico Boulevard in Santa Monica was a great place to start.
Our lead designer, Uriel Bautista, took charge of the design, planning, and application. He also moonlighted as the mechanical lift operator (shhh…don’t tell OSHA). Literally, in the moonlight.
“Unurban Coffee House has one of the chillest vibes in Santa Monica. The owner, staff and regulars are filled with positive energy. They do open mic nights, it’s cozy and funky. This place’s atmosphere rejuvenates my hope in good people. The mission was to have the exterior match the spirit of the inside. So, I used their existing logo as a focal point and rays of energy radiating from it. With organic ribbons and leaves in visually-pleasing colors, the wall was filled with expanding love. It was an unforgettable experience.”
We’re giving 2016 the finger. Ok, not THE finger. In fact some people don’t even consider it a finger at all. We’re giving 2016 a thumb – a “thumbs up” to be exact. Because honestly 2016 was solid. Bombarded by social-media bad mouthing it seems like a lot of people were pretty pissed about the whole year. We just don’t share that sentiment. Just look below. Good times were had, great work was done, and we still have all of our limbs (maybe a few injuries that we swear were NOT Pokemon Go-related). What else can be said? It was a damn good year.
In that regard, we’re giving 2017 an enthusiastic handshake. You know, the one that’s a little firm. Maybe just a little bit too firm, but not to the point of actually hurting – just firm enough to confidently say, “I’m in charge.” Yeah 2017, we’re going to own you. Ahhh, who are we kidding…give us a hug.
No thanks to furry walls or Jonah Hill, but we finally got into The Greek Theatre. We say “finally” because our first go was a few years back supporting AEG and Nederlander with new branding and environmental design as they bid against Live Nation. It got ugly. Lots of news articles, community uproar, council meetings, legalities and petitions – and the result was nobody got the contract.
Well, when it comes to outdoor music venues in LA, THIS was our season (read about the Hollywood Bowl just a few swipes down). This time on the side of SMG and Premier with a monolithic bar concept as our Trojan horse. And it worked. The Greek really holds a special place in our hearts; where the Hollywood Bowl captures an elevated cultural evening of performance and food and wine pairing, The Greek has the soul of a club venue in a gorgeous setting; hip-flasks and hard-rock (harder rock at least…and then there’s Josh Groban).
There are two evening activities in Los Angeles we recommend to visitors. Go to The Hollywood Bowl and go to The Edison (hey, we did that brand too!). Though the Edison is cool for the aesthetic and absinthe, going to The Bowl is just one of those quintessential L.A. experiences that combines the best in food, music, atmosphere and summer-SoCal outdoor lifestyle. And you can bring your own absinthe! (Update: Guess you can’t bring liquor in, just beer and wine. Anyway, bringing absinthe into a venue is both a reckless decision for your liver, the people around you, and you can’t even do the cool pour-over the sugar-cube spoony thing).
First off, let’s clear up the location. Afrikaburn. It’s like Burning Man but in Africa. If that still doesn’t put an image in your head then imagine the cast of Mad Max: Fury Road having a huge party in-between takes (actually any Mad Max film…and yes – there is an actual Thunderdome at Burning Man sans Tina Turner). That doesn’t even scratch the surface of the magic of this event(s) but I just want to give you a visual.
We’re crouched in a roadside ditch about 25km north of Baghdad. Securing my M4 to my dust-caked shoulder harness, I reached deep under my heavy chest armor to pull out a small water-proof notebook. It’s time to give a Creative Brief. Okay okay, there really isn’t anything creative about it and it’s actually called an Operations Order. But the purpose is the same: deliver essential information effectively to your troops so they’re clear on the mission and everyone – down to the lowest rank – knows how to accomplish the objective. You know, in case something happens like your comms drop out in a blinding 120+ degrees sandstorm, or your Creative Director had to attend an unexpected site-visit at the new Firestone Brewery (I’m just giving you a heads up that’s going to happen) at 11 a.m. on a Tuesday.
There isn’t much of my military past that I can apply to my creative present, but the Operations Order is one of them. Sometimes you have weeks to prepare building a miniature movie set that would make Lucas swoon, and sometimes you’re crouching in a ditch in Iraq scratching in the sand with sticks.
In it’s simplest format, it is quick and direct – it cuts to the essentials. That lack of focus is the bane of most Creative Briefs; long biblical doctrines of bullshit that turn over every stone to include the anecdote about the CFOs nephew who burped up a yellow marble at Easter and hence inspired their spherical logo design. Sure, sure – there’s good stuff in there – but in the bulk of it the momentum and direction gets lost. Leaving the team bewildered and thinking only about joining their CD on mid-day brewery tours. And frankly, I don’t have time to write that shit, so it never gets done.
And so, in a wonderful blending of militant urgency and creative need, the Brief Creative Brief was born.
Following the format of the Army’s Operation Order this simple 5-paragraph (mmm…maybe more like keywords and sentence fragments) format gets to the project-specific goods without all the thirst inducing clutter. If it’s more than a page, you’re doing it wrong.
Here we go:
SITUATION: Recon. This isn’t a snapshot of your Wikipedia page, but the reasoning and background that has gotten the client to the point of doing this project. It’s also good to give a few keywords that describes the current state of the client.
MISSION: Objective. What are we trying to accomplish? Is it changing the perception of the client from those keywords we addressed above? Get butts in seats. We need to be as clear as possible, and highlight the main goals of the project in order to create. Again, highlight keywords. If in fact that sandstorm whips through our agency, our personnel need to know the direction we’re headed.
TARGET: Well…it’s the target. These are our demographics. Who do we want to engage with the this project? Who is the audience? It’s also important to quickly explain the current demo if we are looking to shift that focus.
EXECUTION: Deliverables. Often there will be an over-arching not-so-brief Creative Brief for larger campaigns. This brief is a breakdown of those individual parts so we have a measurable approach in accomplishable steps.
SCHEDULE: Oh yes, the deadlines. It’s important to set smaller, accomplishable goals and checkpoints to make sure the big drop-dead date is met and the creative on track.
We want to rant. Drone on about heat-lamp-esque lighting, plate compositions that read like the portfolio pages of the finest Japanese faux-food artists, and of course physics defying drop-shadows that cling unnaturally to the bottom of plates like miserable clouds. We’re talking about most of the chain restaurant photography pre-Instagram. Those were dark times. Well, actually, over-lit, over-saturated times.
But instead of just complaining we’ve done something about it. We partnered up with Eskite Photography Studio and shot new photographs for Black Angus. They had a dated photo collection that needed to be…well, refreshed to match the rebrand we’ve been working on. Ah hell, we might as well just show you. The new photos are on the right, by the way.
When we think of an Italian sandwich, it’s a cross between catering on a Scorsese set and one of Subway’s monuments of deli meat. When we think of Italian fashion? It’s more like velour tracksuits with gold chains and marinara dotted undershirts (if it IS a Scorsese set, it’s probably not marinara). Clearly, we had some stereotypes to dispel when we took on our newest client. Cue amazing branded designs.
We see tourists in Los Angeles year round, but our favorite time to host friends and family is fall, when temperatures dip into the low 70s, afternoons are sunny and crisp, and the season brings festive touches to all our local haunts – pumpkins at coffee shop doors, gourds aplenty at the farmers markets…we finally feel ready to hit the town instead of being holed up in AC with our blackout curtains up. With the outdoor temperature on-point for frolicking around in a scarf with hot coffee, here are six places you must visit in LA this fall.
We love Los Angeles because it’s infuriating in its movement and overstimulation; construction cranes everywhere, billboards soaring from every building screaming for our attention, peeling and cracked brick walls looming in every alleyway on every major boulevard from DTLA to the sea. But near those construction sites are rows of plywood walls asking to be drawn on, painted, and plastered with wheat paste. Those billboards and alleyways are just asking for color, creativity, and the perfect quippy message to be scrawled in the dead of night.
With temperatures dipping from 75 to 90 and back again like a boomerang summer that just won’t quit, we here at 6D are willing fall to start in earnest and we’re dreaming of highs in the low 70s. To help it along, we’ve started baking again, heat be damned – the pumpkin goods are out, the lattes are cinnamon-heavy, and the desserts should be full of stone fruits. Continue Reading…
We find inspiration all over – in billboards we see on the way to the office, in nature on our weekend hikes, in the grocery store on unique packaging (ok, ok, booze bottles). But obviously the source of most of our inspiration is online – from Pinterest to Tumblr to traditional blogs, we crave creativity from every corner of the web. So, we had two of our designers round up some of their favorite sites to they go to to help get their creative juices flowing. Continue Reading…
We know we’ve been gone for awhile, and we’re here to clear up the confusion. No, we haven’t given ourselves huge raises and headed off to a tropical paradise for good. Even though we deserve it. The truth is, we’ve embraced LA more than ever before. Six Degrees has been off the radar because we’re hard at work putting a handful of fresh, revamped brands back on it. With our signature creative, unapologetic approach, we’ve given these clients an attitude- and aesthetic- adjustment. With all this new exposure, its almost our way of embracing the scandalous California summer dress code. Almost. Here’s what we’ve been up to:
I think Tinder has ruined the hiring process. I have a few friends who go on a 30-minute blitzkrieg of right-swipes before we go out at night. It’s a numbers game. If you connect with everyone, then maybe someone will connect with you. It doesn’t go any deeper than that, and I kind of get it.
The same depressing phenomenon happens when we post a job listing—we get hundreds of replies that are so cookie-cutter, so copy-pasted that I can just tell we’re on the other side of someone’s rapid right-swipe. To the point that our postings have become so specific and obscure that just the subject line tells me whether you’ve read it. Unfortunately, there could also be some brilliant applicants out there who have fallen into the auto response trap. So how do you dazzle us with your sheer brilliance and talent? Continue Reading…
We’ll give you this Snapchat, in the social-photo-app game your logo is a standout. Whether that was the intent or just a remnant from your Pictaboo beginnings, it is effective in at least being different.
But let’s step back. Suppose you are knocking on our door looking for some branding (next time email or call us first, you completely interrupted our dart game). We’re sitting in the conference room and you’re pitching us this cool new concept. The UI is rock solid, you’re ebbing into UAT and all you need is a new logo to polish off the package. We’re in. We’re fans of any technology that allows us to share regrettable content without lasting repercussions.
There are many old and tired brands out there that fail to realize the value of good branding and that their lack there of may be a reason for their shortcomings as a business. As a marketing and branding agency, we’ve created a handy (albeit snarky) infographic to determine whether your brand is fit as a fiddle, needs a check up, or is in dire need of an ambulance.
Ever wanted to take a short trip back to the 1970s, but without the avocado-hued appliances, shag carpet and other assorted “missteps” of the decade? We’ve got you covered. Just cruise up the 101 into North Hollywood and find yourself in the idyllic setting of The Garland. Stylish, modern, yet thoroughly nostalgic, it’s the best spot in LA to retreat from the chaos, but not get too far-out*. (*puns are very ’70s, the lack of internet access made people desperate for cheesy entertainment) Continue Reading…
As people everywhere are trading in their cup of corporate chain coffee for specialty brews crafted by expert baristas, coffee culture is infiltrating the far corners of the world and the United States is leading the caffeine-fueled charge. Coffee is no longer just a way to wake up; it’s a science and an art.
Over the weekend we had the privilege to observe this science and art in action as the best baristas from across the United States gathered at the Long Beach Convention Center for the 14th annual U.S. Coffee Championships. The ever-growing coffee scene of Los Angeles was well represented at the competition with baristas from Verve Coffee Roasters, Intelligentsia, Klatch Coffee, Adante Coffee Roasters and of course three time Barista Championship runner up Charles Babinski from Go Get Em Tiger and G&B Coffee.
We arrived promptly at 9am. Having starved ourselves of coffee before arriving at the championships, we were ready to indulge in unlimited cups of delicious brew from the many coffee roasters on rotation at the espresso bar. After suitably caffeinating ourselves with High Wire Coffee and perusing the many vendors of coffee related paraphernalia, we finally took a seat in the bleacher stands to watch the semifinals of the Barista Championships.
In each routine, baristas must present four sensory judges a shot of espresso, a cappuccino and a signature drink, while two technical judges grade their working skills from prep to clean up. Many baristas excitedly discussed the unique origin stories of their specialty coffees or shared inspiring anecdotes of small coffee farms in the far reaches of the world. Baristas expertly guided judges and viewers alike through the flavor profiles of their coffee and the techniques used to craft each drink.
The signature drink was a true expression of combined science and art. Utilizing various syrups, aromatics, fruit and different heating and cooling methods, Baristas took a chemist-like approach to their signature drinks, producing mouth watering coffee cocktails. Eden Marie Abramowicz (pictured above) of Intelligentsia topped her coffee beverage off with a hibiscus infused foam, where as Charles Babinski of Go Get Em Tiger/G&B Coffee utilized pine tree honey, juniper syrup and a grapefruit reduction to accentuate the vanilla sweetness of his Honduras grown Ocotillo espresso.
Speaking of Charles Babinski, the seasoned competitor finally won the championships and the well deserved (long overdue) title of best barista in the United States. Aside from his elegant signature beverage that obviously rocked the judges taste buds, Charles approached his routine in a way that stood out from the rest. Instead of discussing the rare origin of his coffee or sharing a lofty story about experimental production methods, Babinski kept things real by reflecting on the importance of utilizing established systems and standards in order to provide a quality and consistent experience, whether it be producing the coffee on the 3.5 hectare Honduras farm or serving a cappuccino at Go Get Em Tiger. Speaking as an owner of two successful coffee shops in LA,
Upon opening a shop it became exceedingly clear that it is all about the customer’s experience. If you serve somebody a delicious cup of coffee they are grateful and if you did it quickly they are even happier. It was when we were able to give a service that was thoughtful and considerate that the whole idea really resonated with me. I’m talking about automation, yes it gives us a consistent recipe and it serves coffeeshop logistics great, but more than anything, it gives us time. Time to give the type of service that we are proud of. Time to make a connection.
This is exactly the model Go Get Em Tiger and G&B are based around, with their long walk up bars that allow for connections to be made between baristas and customers alike. Charles noted that often these things are swept under the rug in favor of something small and handcrafted. Sincere, passionate and relatable, Charles Babinski is a true master of his craft.
Overall it was an exciting and educational experience fueled by an excessive amount of delicious coffee. The moral of the story is Los Angeles is home to some of the best baristas in the world (sorry, Seattle).
In Los Angeles, we are currently experiencing the sunny warmth of what we like to call June-uary. We love to rub in the fact that we can don tank tops and hang out on the beach in the middle of winter, but we do feel a bit of sympathy for the majority of you toughing out snowmaggedon 2015. With that said, we are sending warmth to the frozen regions via a sun-kissed playlist full of good vibes and tropical beats. Here are 25 of the best tropical house tracks that will melt away the harsh winter and transport you to a hammock underneath the palm trees. So grab your sunscreen and pineapples, turn up the volume and relax. Welcome to a tropical winter!
The brothers behind Bicos Hospitality came to us to help them create and launch a new concept in Pasadena. They wanted to build a new, laid-back bar that was comfortable & sophisticated in equal measure – a destination for hanging out with friends, meeting a colleague for a drink, or taking a date. We were anxious to rise to the challenge and give new life to a 100 year old house. Check out the whole process below. We started with a name, then colors, logos, a story, hand-sketched elements, and Magnolia House was born.
Once we had the brand nailed down, we came up with ways to translate the heart of the house into every aspect of the experience. We designed the menus to feel like a library book, substantial and fabric covered and more inviting than the expected vinyl. The signage was given a similarly understated yet impactful treatment, and we also put together fun collateral pieces that harken back to an old-school pub vibe and blended seamlessly with the ambiance of the interior and the space’s history. The final products are shown here (along with the website, which we also designed).
And here’s a little of Magnolia House’s well-earned buzz:
In Los Angeles, it takes constant reminders to realize that it is, in fact, December and the holidays are approaching at full speed. Things are hectic and before you hit that festive brick wall, there simply is not enough time to get into the holiday spirit. We have crafted a holiday playlist to help you get in the mood, don that ugly Christmas sweater and string up a few lights around the house. Oh, and this holiday music selection won’t make your ears bleed, from The Who to No Doubt, to a little Kaskade, there is some alternative holiday cheer here for everyone. Enjoy!
It’s that time of year when the leaves turn brilliant shades of orange and the weather makes you want to curl up in front of a warm, flickering hearth with a delicious seasonal drink. Oh wait…this is Los Angeles, where summer lingers all year and the only falling foliage is drought-ridden palm fronds. The only orange we experience during the fall season are blazing wild fires, sunsets/sunrises, the obnoxious Ferrari that takes our parking spot, and PUMPKINS. The start of autumn is marked by a plethora of pumpkin products hitting store shelves, the availability of pumpkin spice in our lattes (Starbucks may have jumped the gun this year—August?), and most importantly, pumpkin beer.
To pay homage to these supposed autumnal months, we decided to curate the Mother of all pumpkin beer tastings. We took the best pumpkin beers from all the “best pumpkin beers” lists from the past 3 years. We cross-referenced them, analyzed their characteristics, corroborated their stories, and wound up with the most elite, delicious, pumpkiny, pumpkin beers of the past decade. We even had a frickin’ spreadsheet! Well, we couldn’t buy most of them (dang your uppity distribution radiuses). We scrapped the list and decided to just grab what was available to us. The result? An eclectic spread of pumpkin brews ranging from ales to sours, all brewed on the western side of the United States where autumn barely whispers.
Let’s be honest, we’re no cicerones (guess that’s like a beer sommelier), but we collectively have enough beer drinking experience to be able to recognize a good brew and describe its qualities, rating it on a scale of 1 to 5. Before we began the tasting our Creative Director asked, “Are we going to talk about floral notes and shit?” No. No we are not. But being designers and all, we did feel the need to judge the label design as well as the beer. To highlight our tasting expertise and by “expertise” we mean lively “personalities”, we recorded the entire tasting session, hence the hilarious quotes found throughout. Yes, we actually said that shit. Cheers!
We began the tasting with the least alcoholic beer and planned to work our way up to the more alcoholic ones. The order was quickly forgotten after we were a few beers in.
Pumpkin aromas and flavors abound, Rogue’s Pumpkin Patch Ale satiated our pumpkin craving taste buds. A beer so smooth that the conversation drifted to a less savory part of the beer spectrum regarding malt liquor, more specifically, Steel Reserve. Don’t ask. After such a delicious beer, we were entirely unprepared for what we tasted next…one sip left the entire team spluttering.
In effort to make our pumpkin beer tasting a little more authentic, we lit the fireplace. Well, rather we found a video that promised three hours of the best fireplace on our laptop. Pair that with some choice classical music and Epic Brewing’s pumpkin porter. You can almost hear the faint whispers of autumn.
By this time we were all feeling the heat from the fireplace screensaver…or was it the booze? Doesn’t matter, we were all ready for a little more heat from Avery Brewing’s 17.22% porter aged in bourbon barrels. For dramatic effect, classical violins were singing in the background as we took our first sips.
Maybe they do need pumpkins in their beer, or perhaps yams were a substitute simply because The Bruery is located in Orange County where they don’t have legitimate pumpkin patches. Whatever the reason, we thought this beer was a perfect example of autumn in Los Angeles. Underwhelming.
These beers ended up our tasting list due to the limited availability of pumpkin beer, so would we drink most of these again? Probably not, except for Rogue’s Pumpkin Patch Ale…we will take a case of that!
Four words: Bourbon Banana Pudding Cheesecake. And, if you want to get technical: With Bourbon Whipped Cream. You know you want to see how this all goes down.
Basically, we followed this recipe from The Candid Appetite, minus the extraneous garnish. And if our crust experience was any indication, I’d swap out the Nilla wafers for your typical graham cracker crust (but that might be due to our use of gluten-free wafer impersonators, so take that for what it’s worth). We also pared way back on the photos, ’cause you know what isn’t cute? Mashed banana, numerous portioned amounts of the same ingredient, whipped cream cheese and pouring. So much pouring. We’re assuming you’ve got that stuff covered. We did take some liberties with the quantity of bourbon in the whipped cream, though. (Full disclosure: we may’ve doubled it…and then splashed in a little extra. Shhhh, just go with it.)
So this dairy-fueled adventure concludes our Bourbon Series. I mean, seriously, where do you go after Bourbon Banana Pudding Cheesecake? Nowhere. There’s no next step from there. Except a nap, maybe.
Hope you enjoyed our favorite booze 3 different ways! Did you try them all? Just 1? Are you one of those bourbon-haters we’ve heard about? Let us know what you think we should build a series around next!
This is a meaty, smoky, spicy, messy and totally irresistible sort of dish. It’s for people who aren’t shy about having sauce on their face, their hands, maybe down the front of their shirt. Basically, it’s a recipe for bros. Or ladies with a little edge. Ready? Let’s get to it.
This time of year, weekends are dominated by football. College, pro and (in some parts of the country) Friday night lights. Am I right, fellow Southerners? You know what I’m talking about. Anyway, regardless of your preferred level of play, tailgating, fantasy leagues and weekends crowded around big screen TVs or bar booths wearing your team’s jersey is totally a thing. To rise to the occasion, we’ve got bacon-wrapped chicken, slathered in bourbon BBQ sauce.
These will disappear quickly, so be sure to make probably a dozen or more than you think you need. Seriously. The upside is that it’s so simple to throw these together that you won’t even mind. 1) Wrap chicken in bacon 2) Place in oven 3) Combine sauce ingredients and simmer for a few minutes. So easy it should be criminal.
Here’s the recipe we used. Don’t judge, Betty’s been around the block and she knows a thing or two.
Now go get messy. Ready? Break!
In case you hadn’t noticed, it’s October. Which means that in all reasonable parts of the country (but not Southern California), there’s a chill in the air, pumpkins seem like an appropriate seasonal purchase and footwear has transitioned into cute boot territory. Not that I’m jealous. Ahem.
Anyway, in an effort to capture even the tiniest sip of autumnal magic, we decided to hop behind the bar (it’s never a tough decision to make) and whip up a cocktail that conjures the crunch of crisp fallen leaves, buffalo print scarves and the smell of crackling fires. Or, y’know, knock a few back while watching football and impress the socks off your friends. Choose your own autumnal magic here, we’re not judging. Let’s get to the bourbon, shall we?
First, you gotta make the apple cider ice cubes. We were working with some giant ice trays, so 2 cubes were all that would fit in the glass, but if you have a “standard” tray, you’d probably want 3 or 4. Once those are nice and solid, all you’ve got to do is toss in a small spoon of brown sugar, a few dashes of bitters and muddle that business. Add the cider ice cubes and then top with bourbon. Feel free to play with the ratios of frozen cider to bourbon (or just pour a bit of leftover cider on top for a less boozy cocktail). Easy peasy and super seasonal. Cheers!
Apple Cider Old Fashioned
Apple Cider Ice Cubes
1 spoonful Brown Sugar
2-3 dashes Angostura bitters
Bourbon (we used Bulleit, but go with your favorite)
Here at 6D, we’re big fans of bourbon – smoky, sweet and smooth, with just a smoldering hint of heat at the end, it’s one of our go-to liquors. (What? We like a cocktail.) With whiskey as our muse, we wanted to put together a little series for you that showcases 3 ways to enjoy a shot (or two) of the good stuff. So here’s what’s coming up: a bourbon cocktail with fall flair and a nice spicy depth, a bourbon BBQ sauce (and bacon-wrapped chicken to slather it on), and a sinfully Southern-inspired, bourbon-infused cheesecake that will blow your mind. Stay tuned, because we’re kicking off soon.
The last time we were in an old garage ingesting stimulants and listening to punk-rock was…well, this morning. How’s that for some quick blogging? Here are some other adjectives that may describe this post; expedient, fast, cracky, super-pumped-and-excited-to-write-about-this-awesome-coffee-purple-monkey-dishwasher (really refraining from engaging the ‘caps lock’ here)! But let’s not get caught up in caffeine side-effects. The bottom line is there is a really good guy named Greg, roasting some artisan beans in a rented garage on Glendale Boulevard.
Between flipping through the pages of “Two Cheers for Anarchism” and sips of an Ethiopian/Geisha blend of cold-brew, Greg gave us a run down of the beginnings of Trystero. Espresso is up, an extremely smooth, earthy, and bold Kenyan. A few years back, he started roasting beans on his stove top. Damn, this coffee is strong. That hobby grew, equipment got upgraded, beans were carefully selected, a few apartments got a little too smoky and well, here he is in Atwater Village, roasting full-time on-demand, and that demand is high. Damn, the cup’s empty. Back to the cold-brew. www.trysterocoffee.com
Hello friends. It may only be Wednesday, but this week has been long, right? No? Just us, then? Well, that’s fair. At any rate, we put a little playlist together for you to carry you through those days when the clients are humorless, the conference calls are tedious and the agendas are long. We tend to take the “laugh it off” tactic to scenarios such as those, so we may all sound maniacal, but at least we’re having a good time. Welcome to the madness.
Stu has a bunch of friends and we’re happy to be one of them. But really this isn’t about his friends, acquaintances or even casual-Facebook-birthday-well-wishers. It’s about the kids.
The short story, Stu moved to Thailand to help kids in need (the long story is here stuandthekids.org/about/, we’ll let him tell it). Our story is that we met Stu in Chiang Mai about a year ago and he became our Los Angeles-Thailand ambassador. He introduced us to interesting local cuisine, raucous nightlife, and of course the kids! Came to find out that we know a lot of the same people, him being a Chef (notably for the best Mexican food in Southeast Asia) and that we could use these connections to do some good.
Good is what we did, and lots of it. Last Saturday everyone came together to raise money, awareness, and the culinary bar with their spin on Thai inspired dishes.
A huge thank you to Bodega Wine Bar, BLD, Cooks County, Chefs To End Hunger, The Ensaymada Project, Greenspan’s Grilled Cheese, Golden Road Brewery, Helms Bakery, Hudson House, LA Specialty, Patina Restaurant Group, Playa Provisions, Savore Catering, République, Simple Things, Solsticio Wines, Susina Bakery, The Tripel, Warren’s Blackboard, Wolfgang Puck, and Erick Fischer for the great photos.
Check out the full gallery right HERE.
Life as a carb-loving glutard (def. one who is unable to deal with gluten due to allergy, sensitivity, or Celiac) sucks. You’ll wistfully remember every sandwich you unfairly deemed “boring” or scone you passed up on the chance that it was too dry and regret you didn’t devour every last morsel with flour-loving abandon. Or maybe that’s just me. At any rate, once you know the mere suggestion of your typical baked good will send your body into DEFCON 3, you will do almost anything for a substitute that doesn’t taste like gritty cardboard. Enter this recipe.
This cake is light, lovely and has a wonderful balance of tart lemony sunshine, warm vanilla bean and delicate powdered sweetness. But be warned, it is a bit labor-intensive (I’m looking at you, unreasonable amount of lemon zest and meringue), but it will TOTALLY pass the, “This is gluten-free?!” test of incredulousness. The best part (if it gets better than being an actually delicious gf cake) is that it actually gets better after a day or two in the refrigerator, so feel free to
hog it all for yourself share generous pieces with people so they may also have leftovers. But enough with the chit-chat. Let’s get to the good stuff.
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
1/4 cup lemon zest
4 eggs, separated and at room temperature
2 1/2 cups almond flour
10 1/2 oz ricotta
Flaked almonds, to decorate
Powdered sugar, for dusting
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line the base and sides of a 9″ springform pan with baking paper and set aside.Place the butter, 1 cup of sugar, vanilla seeds and lemon zest in an electric mixer and beat for 8-10 minutes or until pale and creamy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then gradually add the egg yolks, one at a time, continuing to beat until fully combined. Add the almond flour and beat to combine. Fold ricotta through the almond meal mixture.Beat the egg whites in a clean bowl with a hand-held electric mixer until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining sugar to the egg whites mixture and whisk until stiff peaks form. Gently fold a third of the egg whites into the cake mixture. Repeat with the rest of the egg whites.
Pour the mixture into the prepared pan, smooth the tops with a palette knife, decorate the cake with almond flakes, and bake for 40-45 minutes or until cooked and firm to touch. Allow to cool completely in the pan, then carefully remove the outer rim and transfer to a cake plate. Dust with powdered sugar to serve.
For your listening pleasure, we’ve put together a little playlist for you, featuring a little questionable language. Our favorites are when the f-bombs come out of nowhere – happy, upbeat songs that toss one in or even a slower ballad-y situation that suddenly gets a bit more…emotive. Anyway, hope you enjoy this eclectic little mix (with headphones, if you’re in that type of office).
We’ve been spending a lot of time in the kitchen around here, and we’re not at all ashamed that much of said time centers around mixing drinks. So when we happened across a particularly (innocent enough) non-alcoholic summery beverage over on Smitten Kitchen, we simply couldn’t resist the opportunity to turn it into a delicious frozen blended rum concoction. Can you blame us?
Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen. Serves 6:
1C frozen pineapple chunks
2C coconut milk (we used the canned kind)
2/3C lime juice
1/3C granulated or superfine sugar (more or less to taste)
1C coconut rum (optional)
Lime slices & mint for garnish
Basically, all you have to do is throw everything in a blender (depending on what you’re working with, you may want to pulverize the ice and pineapple a bit first before you add the remaining ingredients) and pulse until you have a nice slushy consistency. Top with a lime wedge and some fragrant mint and your taste buds may as well be on a tropical vacation. Warning: this is EXCEPTIONALLY easy to drink, especially if you’re hot, thirsty, or umm…alive, so just keep that in mind. Cheers!
If you spend time around Gardena or Long Beach, you may’ve seen (or even tasted) the first few stores of Japanese import, Tokyo Bento. A concept by Dream Dining, a successful and well-known company in Japan, their team approached us to help them crack the US market with a new fast-casual concept. That process began with a brand story that educated customers on the differences between the bentos we’re familiar with and the traditional Japanese style, and then translated the brand personality into design. Tokyo Bento has big plans for rolling out more locations, so we’re excited to see it grow and develop.
Of course, the first order of business was to create colors and type that reflect the casual style of service that also tipped its hat to the nostalgia felt by those who grew up with homemade bentos. We created the origami pieces to capture the whimsical personality and also showcase the company’s Japanese roots. It provided the perfect graphic backdrop to their minimal collateral: menus, wax paper for service and the bento builders’ uniforms.
We also created an instructional (and fun!) menu graphic that would be easy to understand as customers got acquainted with what Tokyo Bento’s meals were like and how they could be customized. Besides serving a more traditional bento, Tokyo Bento also offers several sauces with an international flair that really elevates the whole situation. Have you visited yet? Our favorite is the portobello mushroom on the unbelievably soft, sweet bao bun, topped with the Peruvian Salsa sauce. So insanely craveable. The only downside is that they don’t have more locations….yet.
The changing of seasons always makes us thirsty. As do Mondays, busy days, slow days, all phases of the moon, weather of any sort and food. So, maybe we just like drinking. At any rate, this seemed as good of an excuse as any to jump behind the bar and share three different cocktails that all boast a lot of freshness to celebrate Spring. Or Wednesday. Whatever.
First up is this light and refreshing concoction with champagne, elderflower liqueur, cucumber and mint. Thankfully, it couldn’t be simpler, so even those with zero bartending skills can whip this out and impress a fancy crowd.
Throw some ice in a lowball glass, pour what looks like a socially acceptable amount of bubbly in there, top off with elderflower liqueur (St. Germaine is a staple, but we opted to try an organic version here) and then toss in a few cucumber slices, some mint and give it a stir. The champagne may make it seem fussy, but the cocktail is actually quite refreshing, perfect for pairing with a meal, or you can enjoy the delicate flavor on its own.
Next on the docket is a springy twist on a cocktail staple in the 6D repertoire. A quick bourbon and ginger ale is our zingy happy hour go-to, but the addition of muddled strawberries and basil makes it more special and seasonal.
Start with a highball, toss in 3 or 4 ripe strawberries and give them a good crushing. (Nothing personal strawberries, and I promise it’s for a good cause.) Then add ice and bourbon (we used 2oz. of Bulleit). Add the ginger ale to taste (less if you like this one beefy, more if you’re just looking for a little afternoon pick-me-up), and then top with basil. The result? A little sweet, a little spice, a little heat, and a little snack at the end. Boozy strawberries are the best.
And finally, a rum concoction that will have you magically transported to Hawaii. Because that’s where we got the rum. And the idea. And this drink is best enjoyed beachside, because it’s essentially a papaya mojito.
Plop a single sugar cube at the bottom of a highball. Pour some papaya juice over the top (an ounce or two, depending on your taste), toss in your mint and then muddle them together to meld the flavors. Pour in 2 oz of rum (light, spiced or dark, it’s up to you – we liked spiced) and then get fizzy and top it off with club soda. (I always add a splash more juice at this point, too, mostly because it helps complete the illusion that I’m back in Hawaii. Just go with it.) Give it a stir, then garnish with more mint, a squeeze of lime and enjoy.
The first thing you should order is french fries covered in étouffée. Just trust us on this one. It’s not on the menu, so don’t even bother looking yet. First things first. From there, you can take many turns. Gumbo, jambalaya and po’boys are the easy choices, and basically any fried seafood is guaranteed to make you happy. There are other southern staples like fried chicken, meatloaf and pork chops, if that’s more your speed. And a few Legaux specialties like Shrimp Ryan and Harold & Belle’s Scampi round out the offerings. Oh, and did I mention they won Best Creole in LA from LA Magazine? Not too shabby.
So flash to the big event. I’m crouched on a thatched-bamboo platform in Southern Cambodia, about to eat a mouthful of live shrimp. Actually, they’re called Dancing Shrimp. The cute name doesn’t make it any better as I’m now picturing a playful group of “Off-Broadway” shellfish, passionate about their performance and a brood of brine on the way. My appetite and curiosity (and peer pressure) is about to end that life. Damn that second rule.
To the best of my understanding, I’m supposed to give the clay-pot in front of me three hard shakes (the shrimp are probably pissed-off enough without being rigorously agitated), rip off the lid, and scoop the contents into my mouth. The group of Cambodian teens that have convinced me to do this are at the edge or their floor-cushions and I’m getting the feeling this is one of those times that humor is the point over pride. Whatever.
I shake the pot, pop the lid, and like Pandora’s box little shrimp shoot out in all directions. Spoon in hand I dig into the container and heap a pile into my mouth. To any animal rights activists, I say this in the most compassionate and remorseful way possible. The shrimp were extraordinary. The initial shock of their flicking was quickly surpassed by an intense blast of scolding chili, garlic and cooling citrus. I chewed quickly but guiltily savored what could be described as the weirdest/best/freshest ceviche I’ve tried. Although wide-eyed and grinning, no one laughed. I had another scoop.
Karma typically dictates against eating unconscious crustaceans, but in a predominantly Buddhist country I’ll believe their sacrifice was probably deserved and definitely delicious. Would I eat it again? No. But that one-time guilt is easily diluted with an afternoon/evening/morning of beers with new friends.
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I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m an Anthony Bourdain groupie. Ok, there is a little bit of shame so let me clarify. It’s not that I’m into him specifically but the lifestyle he portrays on No Reservations, The Layover, and now Parts Unknown. Traveling, great food, wild nights, and interesting times. I don’t chat about him on fan sites or stalk him at speaking engagements. Hell, I haven’t even liked him on Facebook (I like you Anthony, I just don’t like like you). I’m a follower of his adventures and that’s the lifestyle I want to lead. Eat, Drink, Travel, Repeat.
I realized this as I was perched on a curb, devouring the greatest sandwich of my life. As a lover of all things between two pieces of bread, I had remembered one of his episodes about Bahn Mi. A quick Google search placed me right there on the Bourdain Trail in Hoi An, a sleepy, cobble-stoned village on the central-coast of Vietnam.
Positioned between an alleyway and a shoe store, Bahn Mi Phuong is nothing more than a display case and a small kitchen with a round-plastic table and a few stools (additional seating can be found on the curb). Despite their fame, they’ve been slinging sandwiches out of the same unpretentious location for over 20 years. Behind stacks of crispy baguettes, fresh produce, and mounds of pork, two cooks are working with impressive speed and precision, churning out irresistible sandwiches to the masses.
If Subway has “sandwich artists” then these guys make that “art” look like stick figures sketched by toddlers. With only a few options which I’ll call “The Works” and “The Works with Egg,” I can see how they’ve perfected their craft. There may be more varieties, but I don’t speak Vietnamese and I was too hungry to care. It was 9am and I wanted sandwiches (I’m writing this at 4pm and I REALLY want sandwiches again. Always plural). I pass them 30,000 VND, about $1.50 USD, and watch them split open two huge baguettes, slather them with paté and homemade mayo, lay down a charcuterie of different pork parts, and top that with a pile of thinly julienned cucumber, green mango, carrots, daikon, and a secret sauce rendered from roasted pig. Topped with fresh cilantro and an egg, the two masterpieces slid off the line and straight into my hands.
No chairs, no table, no napkins and I managed to make quite a mess of myself, perched on a curb, with motorbikes streaking by inches from my feet. It wasn’t one of my more refined eating moments (though to be honest, there aren’t many), but I don’t care because these are the greatest sandwiches I’ve ever eaten. My mouth is on fire but I still don’t care because there is another curb around the corner that I can perch on and drink frosty 5000 VND beers. That’s only 25 Cents. Vietnam is heaven.
Now that I think about it, I’m not AS ashamed to call myself a Bourdain groupie. If it results in amazing food in interesting places then I’ll follow him anywhere. So, thanks Tony, I may even “like” you on Facebook someday.
Digging in to the comfort food at Tart is like visiting your impossibly cool hippie aunt…if you were from Georgia. Or at least that’s what was conjured for this Southern girl. Every detail toes the line between quirky-cool and too-kitschy, somehow managing to land on being too much and just enough all at once.
We ordered fried chicken sandwiches, the BLET and 2 eggs with smoked trout (breakfast all day!). Executive Chef Nick Erven (formerly of Messhall) came to Tart just earlier this year and his menu didn’t disappoint. With a flair for Southern flavors tempered with a California affinity for healthier choices, everything tasted indulgent and authentic without venturing into butter-soaked Southern caricature territory (you know who you are).
While I’m always a sucker for an all-day breakfast, (not to mention bottomless mimosas and a whole punch bowl situation), the dinner menu proved just tempting enough to lure me back at a later date. Meatloaf? Hush puppies? Black eyed peas? Don’t even get me started on the desserts. I’d beat a path back to my ancestral side of the Mason-Dixon line for any of those things, but as long as Tart’s around, I can find all that goodness a lot closer to home.
After lunch, we got a quick tour of Farmer’s Daughter, the hotel similarly decked out in quirky kitsch goodness. It’s hip, but friendly. There’s a pool (which you can dive into fully clothed for a discount on your meal at Tart or take your phone in with you and get it for free), a cool outdoor lounge and totally renovated rooms (complete with denim comforters) that only hint at their cheesy motel past…but in a cool way. The location is hard to beat, and the available rental bikes make sure you can cruise the neighborhood with ease. Next time you have out-of-town guests, you should suggest they stay here. Or at least stop by for an awesome crowd-pleasing meal. If you’re cheap, you can always take a quick dip and score a deal.
This edition of “In the Kitchen” is going to take a bit of a turn. Why, you ask? Well, because one of our own is in the middle of her own personal hell – an extremely (and we can’t emphasize extremely enough) limited diet to identify food allergies and sensitivities. We won’t give you all the details, because, well, they’re kinda gross. But here’s a little peek at what happens when you take someone who loves food (and writes about it daily) and take away dairy, grains, gluten, soy, sugar, tomatoes, eggplant, spices, tropical fruit, eggs, shellfish, beans, alcohol (and some other stuff she can’t even remember right now because she’s carb-deprived) for 6 weeks. Spoiler alert: it’s not pretty. (My dog/kitchen helper is awfully cute, though.)
You may notice from that list above that my food choices mostly include meat and green vegetables. So, that’s I’ve been cooking…a lot of. My local Farmer’s Market has become my new best friend. I can get pretty much all my produce there and save the major investment for meat from Whole Foods (and I do mean ‘major investment’). Working long-ish days means I usually have to do all my cooking on the weekend and then reheat leftovers throughout the week. Here’s one such weekend.
So I start by soaking all the green stuff in a vinegar mixture to kill any yucky stuff like E. Coli and agitate everything around to get off the dirt/bugs/other things I don’t want to think about. We’ve got kale, brussels sprouts and some broccoli in there. Fiber, much? Not pictured is all the bacon I cooked while my veggies were in the bath. Now, I don’t normally condone cooking things in bacon fat (despite my solidly Southern roots), but desperate times call for desperate measures. Spoiler alert: that kale is getting cooked in all the bacon pan drippings. Believe it.
Here it is, freshly washed and dried and piled in the dutch oven. With the added bacon-y deliciousness in there, all I add is a little garlic and a sprinkle of pepper. Stir it all together and then let it wilt down to a texture you don’t have to chew for about 3 days (you know what I’m talking about). I keep the kale leaves moving so they all get a nice even coating and don’t burn. Try this. You can thank me later.
While that’s working, I gather and prep all the fixin’s for my chicken. The stuff in the bowl (sage, thyme, rosemary, salt, pepper, and olive oil) go on top of the bird. Everything else goes inside. Yes, I feel a little strange taking advantage of a chicken with aromatics. After you taste the finished product, it’ll feel less wrong. A couple garlic cloves, about 1/4 – 1/2 of a sweet onion (depending on the size), some citrus (lemon or lime), and a little bonus basil gets tucked inside, and the oil and herbs get rubbed into the skin. Like so.
(Note: I hate fussing with twine nonsense, so I just cut a small slit through the skin to tuck the legs in and keep them from getting too dry.) Pop that bird in a 425 oven for around an hour ’til it’s lovely, golden and ready to be devoured.
While the oven is occupied, I’ll put the crock pot to use, too. Chop up some onion, more herbs, pour in some chicken stock (for moisture) and top with pork chops, salt, pepper, dry mustard and anything else that would go well. (If I was allowed, there would also be some cumin and maybe a little chipotle in there.) Set that sucker on low for about 8 hours.
Not pictured: the broccoli and Brussels sprouts I roasted with garlic, rosemary-infused olive oil and onion. Also not pictured: the parmesan cheese I would’ve really liked to sprinkle on top of both those vegetables….if I could.
So there you have it, friends. If you’re free to eat whatever your heart desires, have some cheese for me. I’ll be eating my bazillionth salad and sweating meat until this madness ends.
Many of you avid Starbucks fans may have noticed the change in the pastry display at your favorite neighborhood coffee chain. Where are your maple cranberry orange scones? What about the marshmallow dream bars? Gone are the dull baggies used to carry your breakfast, and in are unfamiliar pink paper pockets that oddly complement the famous (if slightly odd) mermaid logo. Everything’s changing. I’m confused. Hold me, Starbucks.
The coffee company has recently partnered with La Boulange – a delightful landmark of a French bakery and café in San Francisco – to bring about a new era of offering fine pastries along with your daily hit of caffeine that keeps you functional and happy. Native Frenchman and founder of the bay area bakery, Pascal Rigo, has been whipping up baked goods for most of his life and is finally expanding his puffy little delicacies across the country. When we heard the news that the partnership was happening and La Boulange’s incredible pastries would be making their debut at our local Starbucks, we knew we had to pick some up to try. It was a good life decision.
Here’s what we daintily sampled with grace and dignity (and definitely did not gluttonously shove into our faces): raspberry passion fruit loaf cake, blueberry yogurt muffin with honey, carrot cake muffin with pecans, ham and cheese croissant, and tomato and cheese croissant. (The chocolate croissant didn’t make an appearance here because they are apparently in such high demand that seeing one is akin to crossing paths with a sasquatch…though hopefully more tasty.)
Not only were the muffins moist and the croissants perfectly flakey, but the flavors were well balanced – no cheap knockoffs here. As someone whose morning tastes skew towards the savory over the sweet, the ham and cheese croissant was the clear winner, mostly because the tomato and cheese reminded me too much of pizza. Unless you’re into that sort of thing. For diehard fans of La Boulange, it’s hard to compare to the just-out-of-the-oven freshness and mind-blowing variety of the real thing, but Starbucks has won a huge victory for their food reputation with these new additions. Our only negative was the bit of despair when you realize a few crumbs on your greedy little fingers are all that’s left of your pastry.
Crenshaw Boulevard, Skid Row, South Vermont: these are places we Angelenos associate with the term “street.” Night + Market’s location on Sunset? Perhaps slightly “street” when Little Wayne is performing down the strip at the Roxy, but even then… not exactly. While the address of the restaurant is somewhat contradictory to its street food concept, I’ll let it slide—Night + Market’s flavors are better fitting for a Thai palace than our pot-holed LA roads anyway.
Step into Night + Market and you get a sense of authenticity right off the bat. With walls full of a mishmash of framed artwork, Thai album covers, sporadic neon signs and a Buddhist homage to one’s ancestors, one could easily forget they’re in West Hollywood. Well, if they didn’t notice the communal tables. Or the ever-so popular Mason jar glasses. Oh, or the mixologist-approved drink list. And once you notice the list, trust me when I say, the Mekong Old-Fashioned with a splash of lychee juice makes the perfect aperitif. In terms of flavor, this is just the beginning…
After a single sip of that drink, I put myself in Chef Kris Yenbamroong’s hands. So when it said the papaya salad “should be enjoyed with sticky or coconut rice” on the menu, I had to oblige. The curried crab and crab fried rice, I swear was made with ingredients straight from Krabi. And the pad thai? Had the perfect amount of spice and tasted like the Thai noodle we all know and love, yet was somehow better than any other—could the dried shrimp have made it that good? Foolishly stuffing myself with their generous portions, I saved no room for dessert, but I have no doubt that the ice cream sandwich would have been mind blowing. Because hell, even the beef grapow sounded mind blowing and I don’t even eat meat.
I can’t quite put my tongue on it, but Night + Market really is the freshest tasting, most flavorful, yet authentically done Thai food sans MSG I’ve ever had… well, ever. But be warned: mentally prepare to wait a bit, as everything takes a bit longer than you’d expect. And the bill you’ll receive in the end is much, much greater than any you’ve paid in Thaitown. Your belly will un-regretfully know exactly why.
I know it’s been a rough week when I start planning what I’ll be baking over the weekend on Friday night. It was one of those weeks. Therapy baking ensued.
Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s get to the cheesy baked goodness.
As an avid reader of Shutterbean, I owe Tracy a thank you for providing me with lots of new recipes to try, this one included. So here it is:
makes 2 5 x 9 loaves
recipe slightly adapted from Rachael Ray Magazine
- 3 1/2 cups flour
- 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 3 tablespoons butter, softened
- 5 ounces sharp orange cheddar, coarsely shredded
- 1 3/4 cups buttermilk
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees . Grease two 5-by-9-inch loaf pans. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and baking soda. Using your fingers, mix 2 tbsp. butter into the flour mixture until well incorporated (it should look like sand). Add the cheese; toss to coat. Add the buttermilk and stir until the dough just comes together. Divide between the pans; smooth the tops.
Cut a shallow cross all the way across the tops of the loaves. Thinly slice the remaining 1 tbsp. butter. Place the butter in the cuts in each loaf. Bake until the top is browned and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool in the pan at least 30 minutes before slicing.
I definitely did not wait the prescribed cooling period before slicing. How can any normal human being resist not one but TWO pans of warm, melty, buttery, fresh-out-of-the-oven-y cheese bread?! They can’t. Or at least I couldn’t. And it was just as dreamy as I had hoped.
Curious how the process looks? Oh, good. Because there are photos to share.
Shred up your cheese. Sneak a few bites. Get your dry ingredients whisked, mix in the cheese, and bring the wet ingredients to the party.
Stir it up until all the liquid is incorporated. It’s gonna be messy. Divide the dough in half and plop it into 2 greased baking dishes.
Now it gets really diabolical. Slash a little cross into the tops and shove some butter in there. Trust me.
Once it comes out of the oven, all golden and buttery and delicious, I dare you to try to wait long enough for it to cool down before you begin shoving pieces in your mouth like an animal.
Can you believe it? The man behind 23 turns 5-0 this Sunday, February 17th. Obviously the occasion needed to be celebrated. And clearly no small gathering was going to cut it.
Michael Jordan’s Steak House is celebrating this milestone event with a five-course wine dinner in Chicago, New York, and Connecticut. Each course features Terlato wines (including some of Michael’s favorites), expertly paired with featured dishes crafted by chefs in MJ’s restaurants (you can see a sample above). The meal follows the course of Jordan’s career, from high school, through his record-shattering basketball career, and to present day as a majority owner of the Charlotte Bobcats.
We’re proud to have had a hand in the design celebrating the first 50 years of Michael Jordan and wish him nothing but continued success for the next 50.
If you’re near a Michael Jordan’s Steak House this Sunday, make reservations soon to enjoy this special wine dinner & charity auction. But because he’s just that kind of guy, each table dining that night will receive a complimentary slice of 23 layer cake to celebrate.
Leisure activities can be so inefficient. You gotta go to dinner. THEN the movie (or the other way around if you’re into matinees) and there’s still cocktails afterwards. It’s such a time suck. Thankfully, AMC has found a way to maximize your free time by stacking the meal, the drinks and the entertainment all in one reclining lounge chair of indulgence.
Here’s the skinny: it’s 21+ only, so no poorly behaved children & teenagers (and the poorly behaved adults have no excuse). Seats are assigned, so no line-standing. There’s a full bar in the lobby if you’ve got time to kill, or you can order anything from the bar in the theater (if you’ve had a rough day or really hate your movie). You’ll be seated in an impressively comfy recliner with a swivel tray and a server will stop by to give you instructions and/or take your order. If you want to wait ’til the film gets underway, there’s a call button to push and your server will pop up out of the shadows. We ordered a lobster flatbread and were pleasantly surprised by how good it was. The prices are a little inflated across the board, but it’s hard to argue with on-demand service in the middle of a movie.
Overall, I’d recommend checking it out because I’m not a big movie-goer, but I’d be a much more willing participant with good food and drinks to help pass the time.
See for yourself:
AMC Loews Marina 6
13455 Maxella Ave Ste 270
Marina Del Rey, CA 90292
Obviously, we love food. We also love lending our talents to worthy causes. Luckily, we got to combine the two for the local do-gooders at Los Angeles Food Bank. For forty years, the LA Food Bank has provided food, support, and hope to needy individuals and families in the Los Angeles area. So we jumped at the chance to have the honor of designing their 40th anniversary logo.
Just last year, the food bank distributed 60 million pounds of food to over 1 million individuals throughout Los Angeles County, with the help of more than 31,000 volunteers. To learn more about what they do, how to help, or to donate, please visit their website: http://www.lafoodbank.org.
Andrew’s Cheese Shop in Santa Monica is a veritable wonderland for the cheese-obsessed (like Andrew Steiner himself), but a minefield of nightmares for the lactose-intolerant. Thankfully, we fall into the former category. Or at least we’re wannabe cheese-obsessed. We’ve had cheese. We enjoy cheese. So we went to the Cheese Man to delve deeper into dairy. The consensus? That place stinks! In the best way possible.
If you’d like to tag along on this little cheese adventure, read on. Vegans, avert your eyes. This is about to get real.
With a solid four years of press surrounding his successful shop, Andrew’s back story is pretty well known. Back when he was a server at Patina, it all started with a cart, a bunch of books and strong feelings for cheese. Innumerable wheels later, Andrew was named Maitre d’Fromage (Cheese Man for us laypeople), and the rest is history.
Being decidedly on the ‘novice’ side when it comes to cheese, we had some questions for Andrew. And if you’ve got holiday plans that call for fancy cheese, we even have some of his seasonal recommendations and tasting notes below.
When people come in and don’t know anything about cheese, where do you start? What’s a good entry-level cheese?
Well, usually I ask what they like, and most of the time the answer is, “I don’t know,” or they lead off with, “I really don’t like…” which is fine. I mean, it’s funny how many people think they do or don’t like something, but they don’t actually know. So if I’m really starting off with no information, I’ll have them try a mild cheese first, something rich and buttery, because those tend to be crowd-pleasers. It’s fun to get someone excited about something new or different. But it’s important to remember that the whole point is to enjoy what you’re eating. So when people come in and just ask for what my favorites are, I really encourage them to go through some samples. My taste could be totally different from their taste. You try some and find what you like. And then pair it with what appeals to you. It’s really pretty simple.
What about the other side of the coin? How do you deal with the folks who think they know it all?
They’re a little trickier. I’ve had people come in and tell me about some great cheese they had in France and they’re so sad when I tell them they can get that cheese at Von’s. Or someone will come in raving about a cheese and I’ll order a sample to try it, because I love it when I can learn something new. But it comes in and I’ll taste and it’s just terrible. Then these people will call me or come back in asking, “Hey, what did you think of the cheese?” or “So when are you going to start selling it?” and I have to tell them no. ‘No, I did not enjoy that,’ which is really the key factor.
Then what does it take to get you excited about stocking a new cheese? And how often does that happen these days?
There’s definitely a lot of tasting involved – I get samples all the time. I’d say that as far as being surprised by a cheese, it comes down to complexity of flavors and the length – how long it stays with you. And I only find a new great one maybe once or twice a month, so it’s pretty rare. There was a cheese recently that I tried and wasn’t blown away at first, but the flavor just extended and the more it lingered, the more I liked it. I had read a review that really ripped it, and that really sucked, because I don’t think the reviewer knew what he was talking about. But that was a good one. I wrote them a letter saying I disagreed with the review. (laughs)
This is probably like asking you to choose a favorite child, but if you had to pick your favorite cheese-producing animal, is it cow, goat, or sheep?
It’s funny you ask about the favorite child because like parents would probably tell you, it depends on the day. (laughs) But if I really had to choose, I’d probably say sheep. Their milk is higher in protein and fat, so you can really pack a lot of flavor in there. Even more specifically I’d say a certain breed called Lacaune. Their milk is used for Roquefort cheese. It’s really phenomenal.
This time of year tends to involve a lot of hostess gifts and finger food for parties. What are your seasonal recommendations?
This first one is a work of art. It’s a Grevenbroecker from Belgium. It’s really stunning on a platter. It’s made differently than a typical blue cheese, so it develops all these “fingers” going all the way through the cheese. It’s really rich, with some sweetness and a peppery zing. It’s a wonderfully complex treat, but also really accessible for everyone. Definitely one of my top picks.
This next one is Brin d’Amour, from Corsica. It’s a sheep’s milk cheese covered in rosemary, savory, juniper berries and chili peppers. Obviously, it’s really herbaceous, but also a little sour. It’s rich enough so all those herbs really complement the flavor instead of being overpowered by it. As far as wine goes, it’s made to go with big reds, but I prefer a grassy Sauvignon Blanc for a pairing.
Oh man, this Vacherin Mont d’Or is one of the finest achievements of human civilization. It’s made from raw milk way up in the Swiss Alps. It’s this precious, high-altitude winter milk, and they wrap it in the bark of a spruce tree. The flavor is just incredible – scrambled eggs, butter, and wood. So, so good.
Thanks, Andrew for your time and cheese-pertise (exper-cheese? …too much?) After all this cheese talk (and sampling, we’re not gonna lie), we couldn’t walk out without some treats. We picked up 3 cheeses to snack on back at the office and some awesome hard-to-find beers to pair with them. And we got one of these bags to cart our loot off in.
If you get a chance to swing by Andrew’s Cheese Shop in Santa Monica, we strongly suggest you stop in. Just don’t let the smell stop you.
Andrew’s Cheese Shop
Monday – Friday
11:00 AM-7:00 PM
Saturday 10:00 AM – 7:00 PM
Sunday 11:00 AM – 6:00 PM
The long-awaited Georgetown Cupcake found its way to the West Coast. And to make its presence known, they brought rainy weather with them to make Saturday’s grand opening a little more DC-esque. As much as we’d like to say we waited in the two hour line for a free cupcake and to meet the lovely ladies behind the baking tins, we opted to fork out the $2.75 per frosted treat the day after instead. Some of us Angelenos just aren’t cut out for this rain thing.
Despite LA’s cupcake overload, we wanted to check out Georgetown Cupcake to see if we’d miraculously be wowed. Our friends over at Ralph Gentile Architects (hi, guys!) designed the space, a lovely homage to its East Coast roots. The marble, columns and moldings are all classic and clean — unlike the table after eating our goodies, but we wouldn’t call the experience at all crummy. At the first bite, I was wowed! The inch of maple-infused cream cheese frosting was sweet and fluffy and the moist pumpkin cake had just the perfect amount of spice. While the frosting appeared overwhelming at first, I savored every bit of it with its cakey counterpart and was even saddened a little with each fallen crumb on my napkin.
While I don’t have any plans of becoming a cupcake connoisseur in the near future, I now understand a little more about the love of the cupcake. With that being said, I’d like to welcome Georgetown to LA with open arms. (And an open mouth. We’ll gladly accept deliveries.)
If Industriel were really a farm, the farmers would be decked out in Yves Saint Laurent overalls and the chickens would eat truffle-infused feed by hand. Just when I thought I was over the industrial chic restaurants popping up all over Los Angeles, this “Urban Farm” is a refreshing reminder as to how it’s done well. With eye-catching details in every direction and bold artwork anywhere you turn, it’s safe to say the space is equally as fresh as the food.
I found Industriel via Eater before heading downtown to run some errands. En route to FedEx? Check. Good reviews on Yelp? Check. “Local”, “specialty” and “house crafted,” in the menu? Check, check aaand check. Although, I won’t lie—it didn’t take much convincing past the food and interior shots on their website. Industriel was definitely on my Sunday’s list of to-do’s.
And there was nothing chore-like about it. From the enormous farmers’ portraits at the entrance to the honey bear chandelier hanging above a claw-foot tub, your eyes are guaranteed to be stimulated the second you walk in. As will your tongue. Start off with the daily bread. No, it isn’t complimentary, but the focaccia and (what I assume is) house-made butter and olive oil is well worth the $3. If you’re feeling really wild, investing another $3 on Castelvetrano olives is also highly suggested.
For my entrée, I wasn’t feeling particularly adventurous, but the exotic dishes like the rabbit and shiitake pelmeni, cider-brined pork loin and foie gras trio sparked curiosity on even my pescetarian palate. Staying on the “safe side,” I opted for the spring squash risotto, which was served in a dramatic, over-sized dish with a beautiful presentation. And yes, the burrata-stuffed squash blossom tasted as good as it sounds.
If you’re in the mood for some fancy farming, throw on your designer flannel and head to Industriel. Oh, and don’t forget to put “pick up their house-made goodies” on your list.
If you haven’t been by Diablo Tacos, billed as “urban taco fabricator and crafter of fine micheladas”, you’re missing out on a relative newcomer that’s making quite the impression at the crossroads of Silverlake and Echo Park. They serve a selection of six signature tacos and two seasonal tacos daily for lunch and dinner. And don’t think for a second that “signature” is code for “expected”. They range from things like butter roasted Maine lobster with key lime crema, and refried brioche to braised pork belly with caramelized banana and Thai peanut relish to maple fried chicken, with purple kale and Red Rooster vinaigrette. Hungry yet?
We chatted with Summer Stearns of Diablo Tacos about how she’s (along with executive chef Angel Flores) dealing with the haters, surprising the industry, and generally living the American dream. Turns out, the whole thing is far from sinister. In fact, aside from Diablo’s maddeningly addictive twist on the Michelada, we found the place to be downright heavenly.
How did you get into this business and how did it prepare or inspire you to open Diablo Taco?
Well, I started bartending back in college and that’s when I really fell in love with hospitality and all the challenges and logistics that go along with serving people. I was lucky enough to wonderful, passionate mentors at both Patina and Gordon Ramsay, who really challenged me to be the best. After having those experiences, the next logical step seemed to be opening my own restaurant. Working for yourself is the dream, right? So that’s really how it all started.
Ok, so why the taco? Here in LA, taco places are literally everywhere.
We’re native Angelenos! To us, the taco is like a sandwich. It’s casual, it’s comfortable. We were initially attracted to the idea of small plates, but that concept is less accessible to some people. So we spun it. It’s the unique flavors and combinations of small plates, but more approachable. And portable!
Were you met with resistance initially?
Definitely. On the internet, it’s so easy to be negative. We felt some backlash against the idea of “another taco joint”, but we really believed in what we were doing and believed other people would, too. And so far, they have.
How about the hurdles you face as a female restaurateur? How has it been to start out a young entrepreneur in the business as a woman?
You know, it is what it is. There are a lot more men in the industry. And I still get people asking to speak to my supervisor, just because they don’t believe I’m the one in charge. So there are definitely obstacles. It’s a man’s world, but I’ve got big plans, and I’m tough enough and resilient enough to do it. So I just keep plowing through.
That really seems to be going well for you! Tell us how these crazy popsicle Micheladas came to be.
It’s kind of a funny story. I was walking around the flea market at the Rose Bowl in July with friends – it was over 100 degrees and we were dying. I just blurted out that I could really go for a Bloody Mary popsicle, and that was it. Plus, I’m a big beer fan. Putting the two together in a twist on the Michelada just made perfect sense. That’s why we also feature a lot of local and craft beers – I mean, tacos and beer, how can you go wrong? Then we went even further and created another version with Japanese yuzu fruit and fresh lime juice paired with a cherry cider, plus our seasonal option. Right now it’s a blood-orange pop paired with Hefeweizen.
So with all the unique flavors, what’s your go-to meal at Diablo?
You mean, besides the micheladas I just spent 5 minutes talking about? Definitely the maple fried chicken taco and grilled sweet corn. That taco is one of our best sellers and it’s so good. Plus, the corn has this great mix of cheese and creamy citrus and truffle oil. It’s the best.
To check out the menu, see hours, get connected to their social media, or plan a party at Diablo (can we come?), check out their website here.
Did you miss out on Oktoberfest? Did it only whet your proverbial whistle for delicious, seasonal craft(ish) beer? We’re here to fully convert you with some personal favorites to carry you through fall and winter with a delightful beer buzz.
First, a real Oktoberfest. So real, in fact, it’s one of the few beers allowed in the REAL Oktoberfest in Munich. Though Paulaner produces a solid range of beers, this one takes the medal. It’s nutty and not overpowering, with a slight caramel aroma. It’s a great choice for just about any occasion, but the beginning of fall seems as good as any to enjoy some.
This is a year-round favorite for me, though I understand that many beer drinkers have a hard time hitting the serious darks in any season that involves short sleeves. Rich and roasty, it’s full of chocolate and coffee flavors with just the right amount of bitterness. And yes, it’s a big beer. Don’t take the “Black Ale” lightly. But it’s the perfect brew to curl up next to the fire with, or pair with a hearty meal to make the most of the bold flavors. It’ll warm you right up.
Sierra Nevada is a solid go-to brewery for hoppy, drinkable beers. Now, hoppy is not usually what I’m looking for (if the rest of this list was any indication), but this fall seasonal brew is nicely balanced with roasted flavors and a nice depth that conjures all sorts of warm and fuzzy fall flavors. Smooth and malty, this seems like a perfect match for tailgating, visiting a pumpkin patch, or taking a break from raking leaves.
I know what you’re thinking – Sam Adams can hardly be considered a craft beer. And you’re right, but this little pumpkin gem deserves some love, and nothing screams fall like putting pumpkin in your beer. And while Sam is far from an artisanal brewer, pumpkin beer is a uniquely American invention, and (I feel) should be celebrated as such by an iconic American (and I mean that in a good way) brewery. Go get your spice on, courtesy of Boston.
When it comes to craft beer, it may not get any craftier than Dogfish Head. Known as being highly experimental (and highly successful), this brewery consistently produces unique and delicious beers. This particular brew is no different. An homage to the 40th anniversary of the Miles Davis album by the same name, this beer fuses 3 key flavors to create something altogether different (much like Miles did). Find out more of the story, direct from Dogfish Head here. Or just go pick some up and enjoy a hearty and truly special seasonal treat.
What? You didn’t know it was our new website launch day? Were you also blissfully unaware that last week was National Fig Week? Or that November 7 is National Bittersweet Chocolate with Almonds Day? (I wish I was making this up.)
At any rate, we would be thrilled if you’d celebrate with us. Just cruise on over to www.sixdegreesla.com and enjoy. If you’re feeling extra jubilant, you could do so while enjoying a lovely glass of champagne or a piece of cake or something, but no pressure.
And don’t forget to tell your friends. Everyone loves a totally obscure Day. Especially if it involves bubbly drinks.
This recurring column will feature chefs, farmers, food writers, caterers, sommeliers, cheese mongers, and all manner of food-obsessed characters sharing what they know, love, and do best. Check back regularly for recipes, behind-the-scenes looks at events, tips and a growing community for those driven by taste.
We’re hungry to bring the colorful, the flavorful, and the irrepressible food enthusiasts together for an unprecedented interactive digital neighborhood of sharing. Determined to discover the cutting edge, the underground, and the fringe of the next big thing in food, we are on a quest to bring it all to you with this OFF MENU experience.
In a city endlessly obsessed with what’s new and trendy, The Little Door on West 3rd St. continues to happily defy that notion as it approaches its 16th anniversary. We sat down with Chef Nicolas to hear his take on success, seasonality, and what makes his toes wiggle.
Coming up on 16 years, that’s an impressive milestone in LA. How has The Little Door evolved?
Well, we started out mostly Provençal, with a very small menu and there was no sign, no advertising. The first wave of customers were mostly industry people. And I was looking for great dishes to add to the menu, so it changed frequently! Slowly we became more Mediterranean with Moroccan influences, as it is today. The Little Next Door came after about 10 years, serving all day long – breakfast through dinner, full catering menu, plus all the homemade jams and sauces, baskets, etc. And we only added liquor this summer at The Little Door. That brought in a whole new clientele.
How often does the menu change now?
About every month. I love working with seasons because it gives you a very distinct sense of time and place. I’m at the farmer’s markets twice a week, looking over everything, picking and choosing what I want to work with. We’ve got a core group of farmers we buy from, but it still comes down to the highest quality ingredients. Personally, one of my favorite things to eat is an amazing piece of fruit, perfectly ripe or a fresh vegetable. All the flavor is there.
What are your go-to dishes to cook for yourself or your family?
I love comfort food, food that makes sense. Lately, it seems like everyone wants to reinvent the wheel in food all the time. You don’t need something fancy, just the food that makes your toes wiggle. Something like a great grilled fish and in-season vegetables and rice or potatoes. It’s homey, it’s spontaneous – you open the refrigerator and see what can be created from what you have.
How does that approach to food in general influence The Little Door?
You know, I’m old school. I believe that consistency is the key. I believe in serving great food that makes you feel good after you’ve eaten it. It’s very straightforward. Here, most of my kitchen staff has been here for over 14 years. I think if you keep people happy at work, they become family. And it’s the consistency that holds everything together. At The Little Door, what you see is what you get. I’m just being myself, and I’m not here to impress, I just like keeping a low profile. Look, I don’t have any tattoos like so many chefs now! This is what I love, and I’m so happy we stay busy with people who love it, too.
Now that we’re finally getting into some fall weather, what ingredients are you excited to work with this season?
It’s funny, years ago no one did anything with figs. I could go to the markets and be the only one buying them. Now, figs are everywhere! So I really like quince. Growing up in the south of France, we had a tree in our backyard. You can use them for the fragrance, in closets and around the house because they have a very strong perfume. But they’re not great to eat raw until they’re very ripe, so people don’t mess with them much. I love to cook quince down for jams and jellies or for tarts or a salad. It’s interesting, the fruit is yellow, but once you cook it for a while, it turns this bright red. It’s great for autumn – a wonderful unique flavor.
Speaking of quince, Chef Nicolas also gave us this recipe for a great fall salad, starring the intriguing little fruit.
To poached the quinces:
- 2 quinces peeled, cored and quartered
- 1 ounce of lemon juice
- 2 rind of lemon
- 2 ounces of honey
In a sauce pan, poache the quinces with the lemond, rind, honey and enough water to cover.
Cook until the quinces are cooked but still a little firm.
Set aside to cool.
For the vinaigrette:
In a stainless bowl, whisk together:
- 1 tablespoon of pomegranate molasses
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1 teaspoon of mustard (dijon)
- ½ cup of extra virgin olive oil
- Salt, white pepper and cayenne to taste
- Drain and wedge the quartered quinces in three pieces each
- 5 slices of prosciutto, cut crosswise in ribbons
- 16 slices onetik cheese with vegetable peeler (1″ x 2″)
- 3 bunches of wild arugula, washed
- ½ cup fresh pomegranate
- ¼ cup of roughly chopped marcona almonds
- 1 tablespoon of chopped parsley
- 2 tablespoons of fine diced shallots
In a serving bowl mix all ingredients together, add the dressing to coat to your liking.
What do you do when you’re craving fall, possess an urgent desire to bake, and hungry coworkers are freely dropping hints about their favorite cookie? Obviously, you make pumpkin snickerdoodles. Or maybe that’s just me.
The fact that the weather here in LA is still arguably too warm to be considered autumn and the thought of turning on an oven for a half hour gives you anxiety (and actual) sweats is a minor consideration. There were cookies to be baked!
(Full disclosure: I made the recipe straight from Annie’s Eats for the first batch, but I found they were missing a little something, so I made a fresh batch with the following recipe.)
Pumpkin Snickerdoodles (adapted from Annie’s Eats)
Yield: about 3-4 dozen cookies
For the cookies:
- 3¾ cups all-purpose flour
- 1½ tsp. baking powder
- ½ tsp. salt
- ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp. ground nutmeg
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup light brown sugar
- ¾ cup pumpkin puree
- 1 large egg
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
For the coating:
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Whisk to blend and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the butter and both sugars on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Blend in the pumpkin puree. Beat in the egg and vanilla until incorporated. With the mixer on low speed add in the dry ingredients and mix just until incorporated. Cover and chill the dough for at least 1 hour (I did it overnight, and it really helped the rolling and sugar/spice coating.)
Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Combine the sugar and spices for the coating in a bowl and mix to blend. Scoop the dough (about 2 tablespoons) and roll into a ball. Coat the dough ball in the sugar-spice mixture and place on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough to fill the sheets, spacing the dough balls 2-3 inches apart. Using your fingers, flatten down the tops of your dough balls a little to make small discs. These cookies are definitely on the cake-y side, so they won’t spread much.
Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes, or until just set and baked through. Let cool on the baking sheets about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining dough. Store in an airtight container. Or devour immediately. Whichever appeals to you most.
If you’re looking for a chic brunch spot, desserts to blow your sweet tooth’s mind, or an interesting cocktail, we’ve got a place that covers all three bases—and we can understand why it’s the talk of the towne.
I found Towne on a Sunday when in search of a new downtown restaurant to impress a couple girlfriends visiting from San Francisco. I’ll admit, I was a little skeptical making reservations fearing Towne would lack some LA edge, but after walking into the elegantly modern space with a friendly, attentive staff, my doubts were left by the mints and business cards at the hostess stand. In retrospect, it was silly to expect anything less than memorable from the owner of Mi Piace in Pasadena and Bottega Louie’s former pastry chef.
And everything was memorable, indeed. The salt and pepper shakers that made us giggle. The service. The Phil Collin’s inspired drink list. The fresh burrata and squash blossoms on my scramble. The dramatic pour of the strawberry consommé on the Nutella French Toast at our table. Even the French pressed, after-brunch coffees and lattes left a lasting impression. Oh, and the original banana and red velvet twinkies—we wouldn’t dare forget about those!
In the end, we were completely satisfied with our trip to Towne. We were wow’ed by each bite and we savored every sip… it all tasted as good as it looked! If I had to come up with a complaint, it would be not saving enough room to try a PB&J macaron, but there’s always next time.
The Ecology Center is San Juan Capistrano has a mission to teach mindfulness in order to preserve, sustain, and transform our global community. They also host a delicious benefit called Green Feast, and we love activism you can eat.
Billed as an annual dinner celebrating connection to local food, Green Feast just wrapped its fourth event. Teamed up with Southern California chefs, farmers, fishermen, ranchers and winemakers, the event became a destination for nature-lovers and food-lovers alike.
Over 200 hungry and environmentally-conscious folks participated in the four-course family-style smorgasbord. The event began with the Eco App Off, a competition pitting 12 reknown chefs against each other in a diner-determined battle for the best appetizer.
Then everyone settled around 200-foot long communal tables for the rich, responsible, and delicious main event, featuring the fare of five notable local chefs. Lit by twinkling lights and flickering candles on a lush expanse of an eco-conscious landscape, we say that there’s no shortage of south and romance in the sustainable food movement.
And if you don’t believe in the magic of farm-to-table dining, mark your calendars for next year’s Green Feast.
Oh, him? That’s just Wolfgang Puck. Mega-chef. And one of our clients. No big deal.
Seriously, though, we love collaborating with the Wolfgang Puck team. And how could we not when it gives us the privilege of creating such lovely work? We wanted to create simple pieces that capture the sophistication of Wolfgang Puck’s design with the energy and motion found in his airport cafés. Next time you’re traveling, stop in at a WP concept and enjoy.
Don’t get us wrong, we love a great cocktail. But is there any better liquor than tequila when it comes to really getting people into the partying spirit? Add to that the summer heat and the immensely snackable nature of chips and salsa and our dear friend tequila reigns supreme. So, in advance of National Tequila Day tomorrow, we thought we’d share some yummy cocktail recipes to get everyone excited. At least until tomorrow, then it’s up to the tequila to keep you excited.
The Paloma Cooler recipe comes from the undisputed queen of entertaining herself, Ms. Martha Stewart.
- 1 lime wedge, for garnish
- Coarse salt, for rim
- 1 teaspoon lime juice
- 1 ounce platinum tequila
- 1 bottle Mexican grapefruit soda
- Rub rim of a highball glass with lime wedge; invert glass in a small dish of coarse salt, twisting to coat rim. Fill glass halfway with ice, 1 teaspoon lime juice, and 1 ounce platinum tequila, then top with Mexican grapefruit soda. Stir. Place cored-out lime half in drink and fill with tequila (try a reposado for added flavor).
See the original post here.
This next one was created by Bobby Flay, proving that the man not only knows his way around a grill, but also behind a bar. Here’s the Watermelon Plata Tequila Cocktail.
- 6 cups seedless watermelon chunks
- 1/4 cup simple syrup*
- 2 limes, cut into chunks
- 1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
- 1/2 cup lightly packed fresh mint leaves, plus sprigs for garnish
- 1 cup plata (silver) tequila
- Crushed ice
Puree the watermelon in a food processor until smooth. Strain the juice into a bowl pressing on the pulp, then discard the solids.
Put the simple syrup, lime chunks, berries and mint in a pitcher and muddle until the berries are slightly crushed. Add the tequila and watermelon juice and stir to combine. Refrigerate until cold, at least 1 hour. Serve over crushed ice, garnished with mint sprigs.
*Put a 1/2 cup of water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Whisk in the sugar and cook until the sugar is completely dissolved. Let cool.
See the original post here.
And finally the Tropical Fizz, courtesy of Rachael Ray.
Makes 10 servings.
- 32 ounces pineapple juice, chilled
- 12 ounces silver tequila, chilled
- 1 club soda
- Fresh pineapple chunks, for garnish
- In a large pitcher, combine the pineapple juice and tequila.
- Pour the pineapple mixture into rocks glasses filled with ice. Top with a splash of club soda and the pineapple chunks.
See the original post here.
Here’s to a festive National Tequila Day. Cheers!