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Of Italian comfort food and wine

August can often seem like limbo, an over-heated section of summer when not too much happens, when other folks are on vacation (as Jonathan Gold is this week) and when it’s hard to bestir yourself from the lawn chair, when you finally have time to sink into it. But maybe try, as there’s some pretty fun things going on.

There’s MTN, chef Travis Lett’s new izakaya, which just opened on Abbot Kinney and where the Gjelina chef is making not pizza and pasta but ramen and gyoza. If, however, you want Italian comfort food, Evan Kleiman has the recipe for you: an extremely rustic tomato and bread soup, and just the thing for all those heirloom tomatoes in market stalls and backyard gardens right now. If, rather than make it yourself, you’d rather eat the Italian food at Bestia, we have a story on that restaurant’s interesting and rather odd wine program. Tastes run more to fresh-pressed juice than wine? We check in on an old-school juice bar in Highland Park, where the folks who run it are as fond of their Instagram feed as their juicer.

We also report on an unusual food truck, one devoted not just to Argentine food, but the particular cuisine of the Mapuche people. And back to issues of heat, a reminder that the third annual California Hot Sauce Expo is coming up soon, in Anaheim, with not only food and plenty of hot sauce, but competitions and something called the Stage of Doom. Right. Because sometimes it’s best to fight fire, or at least the August heat, with more fire.

Amy Scattergood

PERIPATETIC PATAGONIAN COOKING

You may have had Argentinian food, even Patagonian food, but odds are you haven’t tried the cooking of the Mapuche people, a tribe in Chile and Patagonia. So maybe check out what’s onboard the Mapuche Native Argentinian Food truck, where chef Carlos Leiva is cooking dishes inspired by the food of his homeland. Deputy Food Editor Jenn Harris checks out his cooking, much of which is flavored with merkén, a distinctive rust-colored spice made from Goat Horn chile that’s featured in the cooking of the Mapuche people.

ITALIAN COMFORT FOOD

Decades ago in Florence, Italy, food writer and longtime KCRW “Good Food” host Evan Kleiman had her first taste of the Tuscan dish pappa al pomodoro. It’s a decidedly unassuming dish, a thick soup of bread and tomatoes, and Kleiman was hooked: “It was the most elegant mush I’d ever held in a spoon.” The dish became a go-to recipe, at both her restaurant and in her kitchen.

WHAT TO DRINK AT BESTIA

You might think that the wine list at Bestia, Ori Menashe’s excellent, consistently packed Arts District restaurant, would tend toward reds, given that the Italian menu is jammed with charcuterie, roasted meats and intense sauces. But, as wine writer Patrick Comiskey tells it, the list is increasingly skewed toward white wines — interesting, eclectic, even weird. This is thanks to wine director Ryan Ibsen, who took over the program in 2015.

JUICING IT UP IN HIGHLAND PARK

Not all juice bars are expensive, hipster enclaves — Jugos Azteca in Highland Park has been making fresh, colorful, healthful juices for two decades. Food writer Javier Cabral talks to the Peña family, Efrain and his wife and two sons, who not only make juice, but also tortas and tostadas — and Instagram videos. For the last year, after his son showed him how it worked, Efrain Peña has been posting as many as 30 videos a day, to the delight of his neighbors.

THROUGH THE GRAPEVINE

Among all the stone fruit and corn, peppers and eggplant, loading your farmers market stalls at the moment, there’s likely to be some pretty impressive bunches of grapes. Test Kitchen Director Noelle Carter gives her weekly market report, detailing the varieties (Black Emerald, Summer Royal, Flame) and what to do with them — if you want some alternatives to just eating them out of hand.

The Taste, our annual Labor Day food festival (this one is three days, not a whole month!) is returning to Paramount Studios. Check out the lineup, the demos and panels, the chefs and bartenders, and of course all the food. Tickets are on sale.

Goldbot: You can now talk to Jonathan Gold any time you want — or at least the robot version of him that now lives on Facebook Messenger. You can ask Goldbot for a personal restaurant recommendation based on location, type of food or price. The bot will also deliver Jonathan Gold’s latest reviews straight to your device.

The Daily Meal, the food and drink website under the editorial direction of Colman Andrews, is now one of our partners. Check out their city food guides, restaurant lists, food stories, recipes and videos.

Jonathan Gold’s 101 Best Restaurants, the authoritative annual guide to local dining, is online for subscribers and now features his 2016 Best Restaurants. If you didn’t get a copy of the booklet, you can order one online here.

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