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One of the Best Cakeries In LA: Sweet Lady Jane

2 Feb
A slice of Sweet Lady Jane’s signature triple berry shortcake. Three layers of airy, moist yellow butter cake separated by fluffy whipped cream and fresh berries.
          If you have not visited Los Angeles’s acclaimed Sweet Lady Jane, you are missing out on an incredible experience. This sunny city hosts a number of wonderful dessert shops, all so different and delicious in their own way that I cannot select one as my absolute favorite. What I can conclude, though, is that Sweet Lady Jane ranks in the top three on my list of best patisseries. 
          This cozy bakery offers a wide array of items from hearty loaves of homemade bread to rustic seasonal fruit pies, but its specialty is by far the cakes. With a variety of decadent flavors such as four-layer German chocolate, coconut with vanilla buttercream, and buttermilk red velvet with cream cheese frosting, choosing which cake to sample presents a considerable feat. It is virtually impossible to go wrong with any option however, as each recipe has been perfected over the 24 year period the bakery has been open. 
          Over the years, as new businesses moved in and out of the desirable retail spaces on Melrose Avenue, Sweet Lady Jane stood its ground. This homey, English cottage-style shop has become an LA staple, a go-to destination both for its magnificent baked goods and its irresistible charm.

Best of the Bay, Part II: A Day in Berkeley

8 Jan
Café Fanny’s perfect almond croissant.

          In 1971, Alice Waters first made her mark on the culinary map with her acclaimed French bistro, Chez Panisse. She advocates the idea “that cooking should be based on the finest and freshest seasonal ingredients that are produced sustainably and locally.” Alice’s hole-in-the-wall café, affectionately named after her daughter Fanny, Café Fanny is no exception to her trademark philosophy. 
          Alice allows the food to shine, showcasing the ingredients’ natural goodness with simple dishes such as poached farm eggs with vinegar and oregano on thinly-sliced toast. Other favorites include the light buckwheat crepes with homemade preserves and fresh, vibrant pink salmon with crusty rye bread, cream cheese, and pickled onions. The café’s ambience is quintessentially Berkeley: small, rustic, the fragrant aroma of coffee permeating the space. Both for its casual atmosphere and superb food, Café Fanny cannot be missed.

Ici’s cherry vanilla rum and chocolate cocoa nib ice cream served atop their organic, hand-rolled  cone.

          Ici Ice Cream shop makes me want to move to Berkeley. Their delicious, seasonal flavors and homemade cones with chocolate-filled tips are the finest I have ever tasted. Like several other Bay area institutions, Ici bases their products on the highest quality, sustainably raised ingredients. From the perfectly round scoops to the elegantly adorn ice cream bombes, every offering on the menu is crafted with extreme attention to detail. The store’s chic decor makes me reminisce of summer afternoons in Paris spent strolling by the Seine with a refreshing ice cream cone in hand. With the clean marble counter, shiny trash cans with gold piping, and the dainty, individually-packaged candies and cookies, Ici brings French sophistication and style to Berkeley. If you have never visited Berkeley, Café Fanny and Ici Ice Cream are two wonderful reasons to plan a trip.

Best of the Bay, Part I: The Slanted Door

20 Dec
Wild California uni (sea urchin) with black tobiko, avocado, and strings of cucumber.
Moist daikon rice cakes with shitake mushrooms and scallions.
Cellophane noodles tossed with soft dungeness crab meat, scallions, and cilantro.

          I have visited San Francisco an handful of times and cannot begin to explain what makes this place so special. What I can say, however, is that one experience three years ago marked the start of my love affair with the vibrant city. That was the moment I sat down for lunch at The Slanted Door

          Since my first trip, I have returned on a number of occasions. With each new visit, I come to The Slanted Door to remember where it all began. Serving modern Vietnamese cuisine, this Michelin recommended restaurant blows me away every time. You cannot go wrong with any option on the menu as every dish contains bold flavors that come to life in your mouth. Some of my favorite items include the daikon rice cakes, the shaking beef, and the clay pot catfish. Juicy, tossed with fragrant cilantro, ginger, and Thai chilies, and caramelized to perfection, the catfish is a must. In addition, the polished wood tables, floor length windows looking out into the bay, and clean, minimalistic decor create a comfortable ambience. If you are an adventurous traveler with a passion for food, The Slanted Door is just the place to start your memorable journey in San Francisco. 

Best Chinese: Wing Lei, Las Vegas

13 Nov
Alaskan king crab, soft, juicy mango, avocado, aromatic cilantro, chili flakes, and miso-yusu dressing. 

Pan-seared pot stickers with minced pork and sweet Napa cabbage. 

Tender sauteed prawns and crunchy caramelized walnuts in a thick honey cream sauce and garnished with strawberries.
Imperial peking duck, airy steamed buns, crisp cucumber, scallions, and sweet Hoisin plum sauce.

          Rarely do I use the adjective “best” to describe anything, especially when it comes to food. Why? Because I cannot declare something of the highest quality or standard without exposing myself to all that is available. I want to sample every possible option before deciding which one rises above the rest. 
          I live in Los Angeles, the city with the second-largest Chinese population in the country and host to countless Chinese restaurants. I have dined in some of the most acclaimed Chinese restaurants in the world, including London’s Michelen one-star-rated, HakassanThat being said, Wing Lei, located in Las Vegas’s Wynn Hotel, is by far the best Chinese restaurant I have ever been to, for a variety of reasons. 
          Wing Lei offers a refined mix of Cantonese, Shanghai, and Szechwan cooking styles. Each dish wowed me beyond belief, combining several distinct tastes into an incredible final product. My family and I barely conversed throughout the meal and when we did our comments pertained to the food. We savored every bite, “oeeing” and “ahhing”and ultimately arguing over which dish reigned supreme. To cap off the evening: refreshing homemade fruit sorbets and smooth green tea and red bean ice creams accompanied by slightly chewy, petite almond cookies.
          Inspired by early, French-influenced Shanghai, the regal red and gold decor created a warm, inviting ambiance. The waiters remained professional and attentive throughout the meal, though not invasive. In short, I have no criticism of Wing Lei other than I wish the restaurant relocated to Los Angeles.

Good Eats: Umami Burger

11 Aug

Juicy, angus beef patty, thin, paper-like parmesan crisp, sauteed wild mushrooms, and a watery, char-grilled tomato slice all pressed together within an airy, lightly-toasted brioche bun. That is what the first bite of an Umami burger tastes like. Their signature sandwich harmoniously combines these individually-distinct flavors into a single, heavenly dish. Each burger on Umami’s menu is carefully-assembled, incorporating various unusual tastes to create a brilliant final product. Featured in today’s Los Angeles Times food section, Umami has five locations within Los Angeles, each restaurant with its own original decor and ambience. During our visit, my family and I sampled the Umami, SoCal, and Earth burgers. All three exceeded my expectations. With its trademark beef, crunchy butter lettuce, savory house spread, and sweet, caramelized onions, the SoCal burger ranked highest on my list of menu recommendations. The pleasant, attentive service heightened the experience as each server patiently explained the menu items and enthusiastically answered any questions I had. I highly recommend Umami for its ideal mix of fresh, quality ingredients with new, innovative pairings that will surely leave you craving for more.