What We’re Into: <i>Farinata</i> at Officine Brera, LetterPress Chocolate, <i>lonches</i> at Primera Taza Coffee House
Farinata: The focaccia is great and the fritters are justly renowned, but the most popular street food in Genoa, Italy, is probably farinata: a warm slice of a massive crepe, nearly identical to the socca you find in Nice, France. Farinata should be easy enough to make — the classic ingredients include not much beyond chickpea flour, water, olive oil and salt — but for some reason it isn’t. Neither the moist, puddingy kind with a lightly crisped crust nor the slightly drier kind with a more profound crunch. Could it be because the best versions in Italy tend to involve both a wood oven and a pan as big around as a truck tire? Hard to say. But Angelo Auriana’s farinata at downtown L.A.'s new Officine Brera is pretty spectacular, softer than it is crunchy, with a vague tartness from what I imagine is slightly fermented batter and served from a wheeled cart barely big enough to hold the heavy metal pan. It is exactly what you want to be snacking on when the Negronis arrive.
LetterPress Chocolate: David and Corey Menkes run LetterPress Chocolate out of their two-bedroom, 900-square-foot, second-floor apartment in Cheviot Hills. In that cramped space, the couple operates its minuscule bean-to-bar chocolate factory, making outstanding bars in the kitchen, laundry room and living room. Founded in 2014, the company produces micro-batches of single origin chocolate, with beans sourced from mostly Central and South America. David, who spends a lot of time at origin, finds and brings back fermented cocoa beans, then roasts them and grinds them in LetterPress’ “main nerve” — the couple’s laundry room. The pair make about 60 bars a day — not bad, considering that Corey has an e-commerce day job, and that David spent 17 years as a graphic designer. When they’re not making chocolate, they’re also docents at the International Printing Museum in Carson. Which is why this apartment chocolate factory is called LetterPress in the first place.
Lonches: If you’re looking for a truly great sandwich, head to Primera Taza Coffee House across from Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights, where co-owner Chuy Tovar and his wife, Rosalinda Hernandez, are making lonches. The catch? You can get them only about once a month, when Tovar gets torpedo-shaped loaves of bread flown in from Guadalajara. It has to be this bread, or there will be no sandwiches. The pork lonche is packed with thick slabs of pan-seared pork loin, cooked at Corazon y Miel in Bell, plus Mexican crema, tomato, red onion and a hot red salsa made by Hernandez. The bread’s crunchy exterior gives way to a chewy core, creating the perfect shell for the tender meat and what seems like a ladle-full of spicy salsa and crema. Tovar is using that same bread for a cheese lonche, layered with avocado, crema, pickled jalapeños and a creamy panela cheese made by a vendor he found at a local farmers market. Call ahead, or check the shop’s Instagram account for availability.
Drink this now: In Los Angeles you can either take a lunch, or you can take a power lunch. If you’re someone who prefers the latter, the newest place to do so is at Spring in downtown L.A., the French restaurant from chef Tony Esnault and partner Yassmin Sarmadi, the team behind Church & State. This is where you’ll find a spacious sunlit room with a skylight, lush trees and a running fountain in the middle of the dining room. It’s the perfect setting for a power lunch (or a romantic date), where you can lounge and sip the restaurant’s appropriately named Power Lunch cocktail. Burnett’s gin, Salers Gentiane liqueur, Pastis and triple sec are combined then served up in a beautiful antique glass, garnished with just two leaves of tarragon. There’s a strong, calming anise flavor from the Pastis and the Salers, and the two leaves of tarragon succeed in extenuating the flavor. And with the sound of the water trickling in the fountain, the sunlight filtering down and a cheese plate on the table in front of you, it’s all too easy to appreciate the lunchtime cocktail.
Cookbook of the week: “Koreatown: A Cookbook,” by Deuki Hong and Matt Rodbard (Clarkson Potter, $39). For food enthusiasts — and people who watch a lot of Anthony Bourdain’s shows — Koreatown is arguably the epicenter of Los Angeles these days, between all the barbecue joints and bibimbap specialists and Roy Choi’s headquarters at the Line Hotel. So a cookbook called “Koreatown” is likely to stand out, and justifiably so. It is not L.A.-specific, although there is a lot on our Koreatown, but rather a guide to many Koreatowns in America, from L.A. to New York City to Duluth, Ga. Chef Deuki Hong, a Momofuku alum who has a restaurant in Manhattan’s K-town, and food writer Matt Rodbard have woven together more than 100 recipes and many anecdotes, Q&A’s and sidebars, to assemble a book that is as diverse and multifaceted as its subject. Thus there’s a recipe for Our Mildly Insane Kimchi Bokkeumbap (bacon!) and a section titled “Eric Ripert really likes Korea, and we really like Eric Ripert,” along with a detour into an Atlanta Korean barbecue restaurant and a method for 100-Year Punch, plus another subtitled “the soju bomb on steroids.” Will you have an almost unbearable craving for bibimbap soon after you start reading this book? Yes, you will. So turn to page 78 — or head to Koreatown. Or maybe, do both.
Eat your way across L.A.
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