Daily Dish The inside scoop on food in Los Angeles
Downtown wine buyer's tips for getting buzzed, at Buzz

On the corner of 5th and Spring streets in downtown L.A., across from the Last Bookstore, is Buzz Wine Beer Shop, the go-to store for craft beer aficionados, but also for wine fanatics intent on picking up a bottle of something unusual.

Owned by Scott Kamalski and David Bakhshi, who also operate L.A. Cafe down the street, Buzz is a magnet for the downtown crowd. And now the shop has the license not only to pour tastings, but glasses of wine (and beer) at the bar in back, where you can also order food in from L.A. Cafe.

The wine buyer is Courtney Walsh, who drives in every day from the South Bay, where she grew up. When she started at Buzz, she was issued the staff uniform: a dark blue one-piece mechanic’s jumpsuit with an embroidered Buzz tag over the right breast. She was offered a dress version of the uniform, but declined, and now looks perfectly comfortable behind the bar pouring wines for guests or taking them on a small tour around the shop with shelves labeled Francophile or...

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Weekend project: Homemade quark cheese

Take some milk, add a little acid and give the mixture time to do its thing — who would have thought homemade cheese could be this simple? What with all the equipment and specialized ingredients I'd read about, cheese making sounded as if it were better suited to a chemistry lab than to my tiny kitchen. That is, until I tried quark.

I know. Hear the word "quark" and you may conjure up images of dancing physics particles or "Star Trek" characters. Or of wending your way through "Finnegans Wake." Any of which might be even scarier than the thought of actually making cheese.

But quark is just the German word for "curds." A creamy, fresh cheese, quark's curds come together to form something magical — rich with a gentle tang, it's spreadable, kind of a cross between sour cream and soft ricotta cheese. Variations of the cheese can be found throughout Scandinavia and Eastern Europe.

And it's easy to make: Bring a couple of cups of milk to a simmer over moderate heat, then let it come to room...

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Ricardo Zarate: at Cochon, at Coachella and in your bookstore

On a recent afternoon in downtown Los Angeles, Ricardo Zarate sat sipping from a paper cup of coffee in the lobby of the Biltmore Hotel. The setting — the hotel opened in 1923 with travertine walls, crystal chandeliers, marble fountains and frescoed mural ceilings painted by an artist who worked on the Vatican — was not accidental, but a homecoming of sorts for the Peruvian-born chef.

Zarate is best known for his restaurants Mo-Chica, Picca and Paiche, but his first job in Los Angeles was at a little Japanese joint a few blocks from the hotel, also now closed. And his first L.A. residence, back in 2003, was actually at the Biltmore, where he lived for six months, while he worked on a project at the hotel that never quite materialized.

These days Zarate is in a circumspect mood, having put the melodrama of his last year largely behind him. The backstory goes like this. After many accolades and national and international recognition for his cooking at Mo-Chica, Zarate moved that modest...

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Easy dinner recipes: Get grilling with quick steak, pork and chicken ideas

The weather's great, so why not enjoy it? Cook dinner outdoors tonight with these simple grilling ideas. From pork steaks to carne asada to grilled chicken salad, these ideas grill up quickly with little effort.

Grilled pork steaks with fennel: This is a great dish when you're looking for something fast and inexpensive. Cut a pork roast crosswise into steaks and season with a little fennel seed, salt and pepper, then grill. The simple seasoning and a hot fire are all you need to turn these steaks into a great main course, ready in minutes.

Carne asada: Blend together fresh cilantro, garlic, onion, a little Worcestershire, Serrano chiles for heat and souch of salt for a quick marinade, and soak the meat for an hour or during the day, then quickly grill over a hot fire. The carne asada cooks up in minutes, great served with rice, tortillas (be sure to look for gluten-free if that is a concern), maybe a simple salad.

Daikon and grilled chicken chopped salad: For a dish that's both...

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Counter Culture Coffee is coming to Silver Lake

Counter Culture Coffee is headed west: the North Carolina-based specialty coffee roaster will open a 12,000-square-foot roastery and training facility in Emeryville, Calif., at the end of April, and, perhaps of more immediate interest for those of us in Los Angeles who love good coffee, the company will open a training and educational facility this fall in Silver Lake.

Founder Brett Smith notes that there’s been considerable interest over the last few years in Counter Culture’s coffees from all over the western U.S., and from L.A. in particular. “It’s a great opportunity to come in and be part of L.A.’s growing coffee scene,” he says.

The move comes as Counter Culture celebrates its 20th anniversary. Founded in 1995, the company is considered one of the pioneers of the direct-trade model for sourcing coffee, which promotes direct relationships with farmers and ethical, sustainable practices.

Unlike other roasters, Counter Culture is strictly a wholesale operation. Thus if you want a...

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A pizza Corvette, Sriracha sausage and more at the Pizza Expo

It's a pizza lover's dream come true. A convention center full of every cheese imaginable along with pepperoni, sausage and hundreds of ovens manned by pizzaiolos in chefs' whites turning out pies with blistered crust. And there's craft beer to wash it all down.

More than 10,000 pizza enthusiasts, pizza buyers, pizza restaurant owners, pizza makers and more turned out this week for the 31st annual International Pizza Expo at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Attendees sampled doughs, sauces, toppings, chicken wings and even new soft-drink machines. And if you needed a break from eating, you could watch one of the expo's many competitions, including dough tossing, dough stretching and pizza-box assembling.

With our stretchy pants on, we braved the venue. Here are some highlights:

Whiskey salami pizza topping: Creminelli Fine Meats in Salt Lake City is making a salami with High West Distillery's Son of Bourye whiskey. Cristiano Creminelli starts with coarsely chopped sirloin and belly...

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