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Newsletter: Holiday cookies, tamales — and pressed duck

As we draw to the close of another year — and another holiday season — it’s time to think about what’s been on our plates, as well as what’s going on them in the next few days. Which means that our restaurant critic has considered his favorite dishes of the year, as well as his current list of tamale shops. So maybe head to Pacoima for the latter, and pick up a few red chile tamales for your holiday table. And if you’re planning a dinner out, there are 10 dishes you could consider yourself — from a homey plate of beans to an elaborate pressed duck presentation at a new tasting menu restaurant.

And then, well, there are cookies. This week we share the results, the stories and of course the recipes from the five finalists of our Holiday Cookie Bake-Off. It was our seventh cookie extravaganza, and this year’s recipes are stunners. We have even more cookie recipes, a report on a new cookbook shop in Chinatown, more Hannukah recipes, and our weekly farmers market report (fennel!). After a long week of uncertainty, with wildfires still raging and restaurants in troubling transition, gathering with friends and family and a plate of cookies or a pyramid of tamales might be even more necessary than usual.

Amy Scattergood

2017 ON THE PLATE

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The dinuguan at Irenia in Santa Ana.
(Courtnee Jean Martinez )

With tasting menu restaurants in food courts and inspiration coming from all over the world, Jonathan wonders whether there has ever been a dining year quite like 2017 in Los Angeles. And what a year it has been. He looks back at what he’s been eating, and chooses his favorite 10 dishes of the year.

COOKIES FOR US ALL

A photo of Dan Guerrera, Katie Rodgers, Scott Cronick and Alice Nishimoto among the cookies made using recipes they submitted for this year's Cookie Bake-Off.
(Calvin B. Alagot / Los Angeles Times )

With the world in its current state, it’s both necessary and comforting to surround yourself with family, friends and holiday traditions like baking. Thus this year’s Holiday Cookie Bake-Off. Test Kitchen Director Noelle Carter shares stories and cookie recipes from five finalists.

TAMALE TIME

Beef, pork, chicken, and cheese and chile tamales from Me Gusta Gourmet Tamales.
(Calvin B. Alagot / Los Angeles )

For many of us, plates full of tamales and repeating bowls of salsa signify the holidays. So it’s the perfect time of year for Jonathan’s annual holiday tamale list. You can expect the usual suspects (Liliana’s, La Mascota, Me Gusta) and many more.

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YOUR NIGHT + MARKET UPDATE

The crispy rice dish at Night + Market Song. Night+Market in Venice is getting closer to an open.
(Mariah Tauger / For The Times )

Is the Night + Market in Venice open yet? Not quite. Deputy food editor Jenn Harris checks in with chef Kris Yenbamroong on the status of his third restaurant, Night + Market Sahm, in this week’s news column. She also has details on a new Scott Conant restaurant in Las Vegas and a new steakhouse in Whittier.

A BRIEF GUIDE TO NATURAL WINE

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A biodynamic vineyard in Oregon, tilled by draft horse.
(Patrick Comiskey )

If you’re interested in wine, chances are you’ve heard of natural wines, made without additives, and grapes grown biodynamically or organically. Wine writer Patrick Comiskey has a guide to the stuff, along with six natural wines to try now.

Jonathan Gold’s 101 Best Restaurants, the authoritative annual guide to local dining, is online for subscribers and now features his 2017 Best Restaurants. If you didn’t get a copy of the booklet, you can order one online here.

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.

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

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Check out the thousands of recipes in our Recipe Database.

Feedback? We’d love to hear from you. Email us at food@latimes.com.

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