Cheese and crackers — it’s a snack pairing as common and comforting as milk and cookies, or hummus and pita bread. At Leona in Venice (named for the original street name for Washington Boulevard where the restaurant is located), cheese and crackers are listed as a starter. But chef Nyesha Arrington doesn’t just do anything at her restaurant. The “Top Chef” alum and Southern California native puts lamb belly in her wontons, uses beef heart in her meatballs and makes her cheese and crackers from scratch.
These are gluten-free crackers made with five kinds of seeds — and don’t let the gluten-free part dissuade you. Served in broken, crisp thin sheets, the crackers have whole pumpkin and sunflower seeds peppered throughout. You can pick out the flavors of toasted almond, pumpkin seeds and just a hint of smoked paprika. These are the perfect vessel for Arrington’s cheese — a fresh, smooth, tangy spread made at the restaurant. It’s similar to the labneh (yogurt cheese) found at most Middle Eastern and small plates restaurants in the city, only better. Thus, next-level seed crackers and cheese, a pairing far better than your usual afternoon snack.