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Even when it seems that nobody’s home and things get eerily quiet around here, like minutes before sunrise, don’t think for one second that I lounge with my bum buried deep between soft cushions of a couch and scratch me some balls. On the contrary, I’ve been out and about cruisin’ and schmoozin’. As a result, just the other day, I met Susan Feniger of STREET, and then Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo of ANIMAL, another wildly popular restaurant and one of LA foodies’ favorite.

A close friend’s birthday celebration brought me to a dinner table at STREET, where Susan poked her head in between us to say hi and offered her menu suggestions. I couldn’t help myself and launched across the table over a timidly flickering candle, barely missing my friend’s wine glass, in order to shake Susan’s hand. My impetuous plunge landed me right in front of our chef and I came just shy of kissing the woman. I looked up in terror, prepared to be escorted out of the venue at once. To my astonishment, after my less than graceful entrance, chef Feniger was simply delightful, all smiles, and generously opened her door to me whenever I am ready to commit some time in her kitchen. Woot-woot!

ANIMAL is a whole different animal. If you’ve been hanging around here for a while, you may remember me mentioning PIGGING OUT at the place just a few short months ago. To this day I have vivid memories of their BACON CHOCOLATE BAR (go ahead and click the link to see the chefs in action) that haunt me whenever I’m craving a dessert. I was so impressed, in fact, with the food and the entire concept behind their restaurant that I finally got my act together and approached chefs Jon and Vinny directly. I prepared a speech, and drove down Fairfax with candy up in my sleeve ready to bribe. I asked for a job, the non-paid kind, an apprenticeship.

My wish was granted even before I finished telling my long and windy story with a trembling voice and sweaty hands. I couldn’t believe how easy that was. And just like that, at 8 o’clock the following morning I was tucked in a truck along with Jon Shook and his right hand Frank heading down to Santa Monica Farmers Market in order to get fresh produce for the restaurant.

Farmers are the only providers of produce and meat for ANIMAL’s kitchen. “It’s all about the love” I was told. How classy? How elegant? And how honest an approach to making food and conducting business in general that is? Think about it. As a customer at a fine dining place you don’t want to be served some cheap rubbish full of chemicals and genetically altered by mad and corrupted scientists. As a restauranteur, you don’t want to cheapen your final product  by using crappy produce of vague origin. Also, by shopping local not only do they support their farmers, but also minimize their carbon footprint! And yes, they recycle at the restaurant as well. I was shown separate containers for food waste, trash, and then paper and metal. One of the staff members takes away all the plastic bottles they collect in a month and takes it to a recycle center.

Need I say more? I’m in love. I can’t wait to join the 2 Dudes, as they used to call themselves, and their team, and see my inner dude come out and play. Did you take a look at that video I told you to click the link to? The Bacon Chocolate one? Go ahead and do it again, this time paying close attention to the chefs’ surroundings. You see that kitchen they’re making the bacon candy bar in? From now on, a few times a week, this will be my office, my lab, my classroom, and my playground. It is going to be a fun and rewarding ride, and you bet I will be writing about it. Looks like we got a green light for Season 2 of my Restaurant Diaries. Woot-woot indeed!

Guys, I have a new fun project and I hope you can help me. I am looking for talented cooking women of certain age, basically raised before the Internet era, who learnt most or everything they know about making food from their mothers and grandmothers.

Take a look at this ad I posted on Facebook and think hard whether it’s YOU or someone you know that fits the bill:

* * *
  • Is your mother/aunt/grandma the best cook you know?
  • Do all your friends look for an excuse to come visit around mealtime, claiming they were “in the neighborhood by chance?”
  • Do your mama’s dishes take you back to her homeland, the country where she was born and raised?

* * *

If yes, I want to meet the women of your tribe.  I invite your Mama/Grandma/Aunt to try her food on me, to show me how she does it, and to let me write about her on ONE MORE BITE. Using my blog, I want to showcase the hidden culinary talents amongst us, with a special dose of love for those who, like myself, had crossed the ocean in search of a new home here in America.

There are ethnic restaurants all over Los Angeles. However, I’m looking for authenticity, hidden away from commerce, where culinary traditions have been cultivated for generations. Whether your Mama/Aunt grew up in Thailand, India, Vietnam, Lebanon, Camerún, Italy, or Sweden, I’m dying to learn the tricks she inherited from her mother and grandmother.

I know there are amazing and highly skilled cooks in Los Angeles, who, despite the lack of professional training, are experts in their native cuisine. Help me shine a spotlight on the hard-working women from your family or community, who express their love through food.

Don’t wait! Contact me ASAP within the comment section!

Monday-shmonday. Someone once told me, and this could just as easily be one of those Polish superstitions that stalk me all the way across the Big Pond, that… like Monday like the Rest of the Week. So far, I’ve cleaned the house, passed a few words of wisdom to my less than 2-years old niece in Poland via Skype, got cranky due to caffeine deficit, made lunch for Jason and sent him off to work, treated myself to Peet’s Americano with a side of Cappuccino Muffin, and struggled settling down at last in order to work.

The biggest challenge was finding a place for my office for the day. While Cosmo got himself comfortable in front of his Doggy TV and started flipping the channels…

… I finally landed back on the bed, laptop tucked right beneath my armpit and Jamie Oliver’s cook book in hand.

Last week, I left off writing about utilizing your organic chicken to the last bit. One of such “byproducts” was an organic chicken broth that we can now turn into a satisfying, delectable, rustic, and very cheap to make soup.

I love soups and cook them ALL THE TIME, which I have mentioned plenty a time before. From velvety BEET SOUP, to hearty MUSHROOM/BARLEY SOUP, to elegant CARROT/GINGER SOUP, to my Polish sentiment of SAUERKRAUT SOUP, to Italian RIBOLLITA, to refreshing HONEY-DEW MELON SOUP W/MASCARPONE (recipe from my business partner Alina that I made for the LA Food Bloggers’ meeting last week), to nutritious LENTIL SOUP, to Mexican classic–chilled GAZPACHO. The list seems never-ending, and that’s why SOUPS play such an important role on our LUNCH MENU.

Since the theme of the cooking today is ORGANIC FOR PENNIES, I chose Jamie Oliver’s ENGLISH ONION SOUP to share with you. All you need to enhance your already made stock are:

- about 2 lbs of onions variety (leeks, shallots, sweet onions, red onions, scallions, etc.)

- fresh sage

- a handful of garlic cloves

- a few slices of rustic bread, ideally 2-3 days old

- Cheddar cheese, freshly grated

- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

- 1-2 tbsp of butter

- olive oil

See, nothing expensive. Add those extra few bucks to your skinny budget, and you come out with a giant pot of filing and yummy soup. People you’ll feed with it will fall to their knees and kiss your ankles in gratitude. That’s granted.

Making the soup itself is somewhat emotional, if not dramatic. Think about it–all those onions must be peeled and chopped. If you can go through the task without uttering a single tear, I say you’re not a human.

The rest is a piece of cake. Melt the butter in a hot heavy-bottomed, non-stick pan, add a bit of olive oil, chopped garlic and a few sage leaves. Let the guys saute for a minute (and no longer, so the garlic does not burn) and toss all your onions into the pot. Season with salt and pepper, stir, cover with a lid (90% closed), and let it all cook very slowly for about an hour. Next, remove the lid and now you have another 20 minutes or so to add color to your veg. Cooking the onions slowly is the key to achieving that irresistible sweetness that onions offer.

Time to add your organic chicken stock. Bring everything to a quick boil and reduce the heat, allowing the soup to simmer for another quarter of an hour. Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning to your liking.

In the meantime, turn the oven on a full whack. Toast your bread on both sides and set aside. When the soup is ready, pour some into individual heatproof bowls and cover with your toasts, as tight as possible. Sprinkle your grated cheddar all over the bread, garnish with an extra sage leaf, drizzle with a touch of olive oil, and set the bowls on a baking sheet. Such arranged, place the sheet in the hot oven for about 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly, and serve immediately.

Jamie also suggests planting a few drops of Worcestershire Sauce (pause… let me untangle my tongue) over the servings, but you follow your own instincts.

Eating Organic, delicious, homemade food on a budget? Totally doable! So… let’s eat better, everybody.

Bon Appetit!

A glass of ruby red, full bodied, fruity, and very aromatic wine has been recommended by the authorities in the medical field. It’s good for you, in general. I won’t argue with that. I’m stepping on the breaks for a change.

Somewhere in between concocting hearty and soulful soups…

WILD MUSHROOM SOUP

baking HERBED POTATO CHIPS with a side of Green Peas Dip…

HERBED POTATO CHIPS

serving LUNCHES to starved for quality home-made food Los Angelenos…

TRICOLOR VEG & CHICKEN DISH

and stalking nearly extinct HORNED FROGS in the woods…

HORNED FROG

my silly food-ish blog ONE MORE BITE celebrated it’s FIRST ANNIVERSARY (July 21st).

I’ve been having so much fun writing all this up to day. Now I’m looking forward to more candles on your B-DAY CAKE each year to come.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MY SWEET AND DELICIOUS “ONE MORE BITE”!

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