Chicks With Knives, Too Hot Tamales & Retro Desserts: Local Cooking Classes Worth Your Dough

When: Saturday, May 21 at 3:30 p.m.
How Much: $110/guest

Chicks with Knives will teach an intensive hands-on knife skills class at Surfas in Culver City. Guests are asked to please bring your own chef's knife. Handling a knife with dexterity and skill is the most basic building block of cooking, giving you greater consistency and confidence in the kitchen. The class starts with a quick lesson on proper posture (positioning your body, grasping the knife and holding food that's being chopped) and then moves on to slicing and dicing. You'll start with basic vegetable cuts, progress to julienne, chiffonade and other advanced skills. Instruction on knife identification, sharpening and care will also be discussed. While you slice and dice, the Chicks will prepare an early dinner of flank steak & roasted vegetable sandwiches on focaccia, marinated cucumber salad, and creme fraiche mashed potatoes. You'll also go home with a Chicks with Knives gift bag and a Surfas discount coupon for shopping on the day of the class. Reserve your seat on Eventbee.

8777 Washington Blvd
Culver City, CA 90230
(310) 559-4770

What: RockSugar Pan Asian Kitchen's “Foods from Saigon” Cooking Class & Lunch
When: Saturday, May 21 from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
How Much: $100/guest

Rock Sugar's Executive Chef Mohan will teach you how to prepare dishes such as grilled lemongrass pork skewers; crab and shrimp spring rolls; claypot caramel halibut; shaking beef; and pandan chiffon cake. As you learn (and feast), sip on a Mekong Delta cocktail; a Vietnamese coffee drink with vanilla-infused vodka and a condensed milk foam. I can speak from personal experience at Chef Mohan's recent "Foods From Bangkok" class, it's a great time with a ton of delicious food. Recipes, refreshments and up-close seating with an unobstructed view included. Reservations required; call 310.552.9988 to make yours.

Rock Sugar Pan Asian Kitchen
Westfield Century City
10250 Santa Monica Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90067
(310) 552-9988

When: Saturday, May 28 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Where: Sur La Table, The Original Farmers Market
How Much: $69/guest (ages 18 and older only)

Remember your first whoopie pie? Nothing brings back memories or creates new ones like a really delicious sweet treat. In this class you'll learn how to make an assortment of treasured favorites from the past like chocolate and salted caramel whoopie pies, lemon and strawberry-filled ice cream sandwiches, bacon and maple bar doughnuts, and cherry-filled pocket pies. Reserve your spot at Sur La Table's website.

Sur La Table
The Original Farmers Market
6333 West 3rd Street
Los Angeles, CA 90048
(323) 954-9190

When: Saturday, July 23 at 11 a.m. --OR-- 2 p.m.
How Much: $75/guest

Chefs Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger teach you how to cook like Top Chef Masters in true Too Hot Tamales style at this exclusive Border Grill cooking class.Join them at on Saturday, July 23, 2011 at 11 a.m. or 2 p.m. for a demonstration-style cooking class at Border Grill Downtown LA, including a multi-course lunch, signature cocktails, and a recipe booklet, all for $75. Classes fill up fast (the June 11 class is already sold out) so call 213.486.5171 to make your reservations.

Border Grill Downtown L.A.
445 South Figueroa Street
Los Angeles, CA 90071
(213) 486-5171


Top 10 Ingenious Ways to Cook With California Avocados: Twinkies, Gelato & Consommé, Oh My!

When it comes to avocados, guacamole is so passé.

Who am I kidding? It's still undeniably delicious, but it's just so... predictable. When it comes to cooking with avocados, versatility is the name of the game. After my weekend with the California Avocado Commission, I couldn't be more inspired to try my hand at recipes boldly featuring the fat-laden fruit in ways it's rarely been featured before.

California avocado Twinkies, anyone? How about avocado cheesecake (recipe here), so sumptuous and silky it melts in your mouth? Or chocolate avocado truffles, rolled in rich Belgian chocolate? Savory fans would go nuts over the "life-changing" (per my husband) avocado/chorizo/potato croquettes, rolled in truffled potato chip crumbs and deep fried. The avocado-Yuzu consommé, delicately pooled under a pan-fried sea bream. The list goes on and on, even including a liquid nitrogen avocado ice cream sundae, topped with avocado pistachio brittle and avocado anglaise. All resulting from the simple, yet sublime, California Haas avocado.

Last weekend, three superb Southern California chefs -- Chef Paul McCabe from L'Auberge Del Mar's Kitchen 1540, Chef Trey Foshee from George's At The Cove, and Chef Evan Cruz from Pacific Del Mar -- let the California-grown Haas avocado run wild in their kitchens, creating multi-course menus in which the fruit proved its worth. As an avocado lover, I couldn't have been more pleased or more inspired by the flavors, the ingenuity and the passion that all three chefs exhibited for the avocado along the way. I think a few of them even surprised themselves...

Top 10 Ingenious Ways To Cook With California Avocados:
1. Textures of California Avocado | Mosaic | Frozen Sponge Cake (Chef Paul McCabe)

2. Liquid Nitrogren California Avocado Sundae | California Avocado Ice Cream | California Avocado Rocks | California Avocado Pistachio Brittle | California Avocado Anglaise (Chef Paul McCabe)

3. Smoked California Avocado-Chorizo Croquettes | Filet Mignon | White Corn Succotash (Chef Paul McCabe)

4. California Avocado Tempura | Hiramasa Crudo | Grapefruit | Bottarga

5. California Avocado Dessert Trio: Homemade Twinkies | Chocolate Truffles | Cheesecake with Tomato-Vanilla Jam

6. A Trio of Stuffed California Avocado Salads (Chef Trey Foshee)
a. Poached chicken | Almonds | Mango | Ginger
b. Halibut Ceviche | Coconut | Lemongrass | Cilantro
c. Red Quinoa | Tomato | Cucumber | Orange | Parsley | Mint

7. Avocado Flour Tortillas (not shown) | Citrus-Marinated Mahi Mahi | Chipotle-Braised Beef Short Ribs | Slow-Roasted Niman Ranch Pork Shoulder | Spicy Tomatillo California Avocado Salsa | Chino Farms Tomato & California Avocado Salsa (Chef Trey Foshee)

8. California Avocado Dressing | Hamachi | Hearts of Palm (Chef Evan Cruz)

9. Short Ribs | Chimichurri | Charred California Avocado (Chef Evan Cruz)

10. California Avocado Gelato | Pistachio Cake & Avocado Foam | Lemon Curd (Chef Evan Cruz)


Top 10 Things You Need To Know About Avocados

As you may have surmised from my last post, over the past few days Bryan and I have been in California avocado heaven, an experience made possible by the wonderful folk at the California Avocado Commission. It was only a few hours ago that we parted ways from our fellow partners in California avocado crime, including coast-to-coast food bloggers, produce trade professionals, and even the manager of Bon Appetit's test kitchen.

It was a fantastic group with extensive experience and enthusiasm, not to mention a hefty appetite for avocados. An appetite which our hosts did their absolute best to satiate through behind-the-scenes education, culinary celebration, and endless inspiration from the unparalleled versatility of the avocado. I'm so inspired I'm kicking off the first of a series of avocado-related posts with my very own Letterman-esque list: Top 10 Thing You Need To Know About Avocados. How many do you know? Do you have any to add?

California-grown Haas Avocados

1. The two biggest avocado sales happen during the Super Bowl and Cinco de Mayo.

2. Refrigerating perfectly ripe avocados will stop the ripening process, giving you perfect avocados for up to two weeks.

3. Ninety-five percent of avocados grown in California are of the Haas variety.

4. California's avocado season is from March to August, but can occasionally extend as long as October. Varieties from Chile and Mexico fill in the blanks.

5. It takes 360 gallons to water ONE avocado tree each week.

6. California is the only state in the U.S. that grows Haas avocados.

7. Avocado picking rods -- think a 10 foot-long pole with a basket and clipper at the end -- are made from fiberglass. Previous aluminum versions posed electrocution risks.

8. An avocado has more potassium than a banana.

9. Avocados are a great healthy alternative to oil, butter and lard in recipes. Just replace the fat with equal parts avocado and breads, cakes, and even Italian creams will come out moist and rich.

10. A new variety of Haas, called the Lamb Haas, is about to hit stores come July. They're bigger, more pear-shaped and slightly more fibrous than regular Haas avocados.


San Diego: An Avocado Lover's Paradise

I've been traveling the past week, touching down in Chicago and Dallas for my corporate gig. It's been a long, albeit great week that hasn't leave a lot of time for blogging. This afternoon, however, that all changed as Bryan and I touched down at a much less remote destination -- San Diego's L'Auberge Del Mar hotel -- in anticipation of a much different type of gig: an avocado lover's extravaganza.

A Hipstamatic View of L'Auberge Del Mar's Barside Terrace*
Why are we here? Just over a month ago I received an invitation by the California Avocado Commission to partake in a fabulous weekend dedicated to the leathery fruit. Guests would stay at the beachside, boutique L'Auberge Del Mar hotel and enjoy tours of local avocado groves, processing plants (satisfying the curiosity of those -- like myself -- who have ever pondered how avocados go from grove to grocery), and experience avocado-centric meals prepared by renowned chefs Paul McCabe (Kitchen 1540), Trey Foshee (George's at the Cove), and Evan Cruz (Pacifica Del Mar).

Awaiting this evening's festivities...
Considering Bryan and I are two of the world's biggest avocado fans -- heck, we're even avocado ice cream aficionados -- it was a pleasure to accept the invitation. Which brings us to, well, now. We've spent the afternoon sipping on frosty, local Stone IPA and snacking on a goat cheese and prosciutto thin-crust pizza on L'Auberge's terrace, patiently awaiting the weekend's kick-off event: a multi-course meal prepared by Kitchen 1540's Executive Chef Paul McCabe. We're very much looking forward to meeting our hosts, fellow foodies and enjoying the weekend festivities as a whole. Expect live updates and photos from the front lines... But in the meantime, here's a shot of our pizza to tide you over!

Kitchen 1540's Prosciutto Pizza

*Excuse the poor photo quality; they were taken on my iPhone.


Happy Cinco de Mayo + Casa Vega's Skinny Margarita Recipe

Happy Cinco de Mayo! Or, more appropriately, Tequila de Mayo! Today is basically a day dedicated to meals at divey Mexican joints that serve, at a minimum, chips, salsa and killer margaritas. Having great food and a festive atmosphere is a bonus, but luckily I've got just the place that meets all the fiesta requirements: Casa Vega. You might recognize Casa Vega from the restaurant's stint on Bravo's Flipping Out, when the Valley establishment underwent a small renovation of its front patio. Other than that small change, the majority of Casa Vega's decor and passed-down family recipes have remained untouched since its doors opened in 1956. If you're one of the loyal patrons, you'll be intimately familiar with the dark atmosphere, leather booths' lining the walls and knock-you-on-your-butt margaritas.

Casa Vega Skinny Margarita
Photo Credit: Casa Vega

If you're not lucky enough to have a reservation to celebrate Cinco de Mayo at Casa Vega, not to worry. I've got recipe for the restaurant's famous Skinny Margarita. No, it's not the original Cas Vega margarita, but for those partiers who are watching their calories, this recipe gives you an excuse to have two. Okay, maybe even three!

Casa Vega Skinny Margarita
Makes: One Margarita
  • 1 oz. fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 3/4 oz. organic agave nectar
  • 3/4 oz. spring water
  • 1.5 oz. Partida Reposado
Directions: Mix and serve over ice. Enjoy. It doesn't get easier than that!

13301 Ventura Boulevard
Sherman Oaks, CA 91423
(818) 788-4868


Forget Cookies & Give Your Mom "Kukees" For Mother's Day!

Mother's Day is only four days away... so what are you going to get Mom? If she's not the type for flowers or candy, and you don't have the time for homebaked goods, why not try the next best thing: Kukees!

I recently received a box of Kukees (thank you, Denise!) and at first glance, was shocked by the package. The Kukee's box is essentially a jewelry box for cookies, complete with a top lid and two drawers that reveal each "Kukee" tucked away comfortably in its own compartment. After I stopped ooh-ing and aah-ing over the packaging, I noticed the sheer size of the cookies themselves. They were HUGE. And not in a Man v. Food kind of way; more in a "let's make cookies that resemble a mini mountain range of cookie dough" way. Except this cookie dough is filled to the brim with chunks of nuts, chocolate (of all types), cranberries, raisins, oatmeal, and bits of Reeses peanut butter cups. Sound healthy-ish for an indulgent treat? You're not far off. Compared to the regular store-bought cookie, Kukees have no preservatives or hydrogenated oils, and even come packed with three grams of fiber.

My box alone came with 12 cookies, which is the standard packing size. A sweet hand-written note accompanied the box, welcoming me to my first batch of Kukees and enlightening me to the Original Kukee flavors: chocolate chip, dark chocolate cherry, Reeses peanut butter cup, peanut butter banana, white chocolate macadamia, and oatmeal raisin. Now that's a lot of cookies. There was no way Bryan and I could eat them all, and while Kukees recommends that any unfinished Kukee gets stored in the freezer for up to a month, I just didn't want to them to get forgotten in the icebox only to be discovered with a sad "Ohhhh, we forgot about the Kukees" six months from now. We've all been there, right?

Take a peek inside each of the classic Kukees...

So instead, I took them to a friend's BBQ. It turned out perfect, actually, as the hostess had everything but dessert on hand. Bryan brought out the two-tiered box and everybody dug in, breaking apart bits of each cookie mountain and passing them around. The general consensus? Kukees' cookies were delightful, if not hearty. The flavors were creative and on-point, and the contrasting smooth vs. chunky texture from the dough and fillings was liked by most. The one word of caution? Turns out you really can only have just one Kukee. While the mini mountain range of cookies are delightful to look at and delicious to eat, one Kukee really does fill you up. If you ask me, that's a benefit: built-in portion control!

Want to try Kukees for yourself? Boxes are $39/each; choose 12 of one flavor, six each of two flavors, or a sampler with two each of six flavors. Order them here.

Email: order@kukees.com
Phone: 310.426.0440


Save the Date: Dominicks' Crawfish Boil Every Saturday in May!

Crawfish. Crayfish. Crawdad(dy). Ecrivesse. Mudbugs.

Whatever you call the little Louisiana crustaceans, crawfish are perhaps most famous for their leading role in Cajun and Creole cuisines. Especially in New Orleans. From andouille sausage and crawfish omelets, to crawfish etoufette, to crawfish pie, it's nearly impossible to find a Cajun dish that doesn't prominently feature the tiny "spiny lobster." This is especially true for one of New Orlean's staple springtime events: crawfish boils!

Photo Credit: Dominick's

Never been to a crawfish boil? Let me break it down for you: several pounds of crawfish are ceremoniously "dumped" into the strainer fitting a giant aluminum pot. Boiling water cooks the crawfish until they're bright red and ready-to-eat, after which point they're (again) ceremoniously dumped onto a newspaper-covered picnic table. Add some steamed red potatoes, corn cobs, onions, hot sauce, lemon halves, and a stack of sanitizing hand wipes, and you've got yourself a crawfish boil! Now, how do you eat them? Some people believe freeing the crawfish meat from its itty-bitty exoskeleton is too much work, but I don't fall into that camp. On the contrary, I think it's fun to get your hands dirty, chase the crawfish with an ice cold brew, and enjoy the company of friends. It's also fantastic to watch the inevitable hazing ritual that occurs when first-timers are told the "best part" of a crawfish is "sucking the head" (read: guts). The look on their faces is, well, priceless.

Crawfish boils are few and far between in Los Angeles, but Chef Brandon Boudet of West Hollywood's Dominick's is changing that. At least for one month. Starting Saturday, May 7 and continuing each Saturday of the month from noon to 4 p.m., the New Orleans native and crawfish enthusiast hosts Dominick's second annual crawfish boil. Watch as Boudet seasons 300 pounds of crawfish ($10.99/pound) with salt, garlic, and cayenne pepper, then boils and serves them alongside New Orleans specialities like roast beef Po’ Boys ($8) and crawfish boiled artichokes with Creole remoulade ($11).

Photo Credit: FDL Flavors

No matter how many pounds of crawfish you've downed, make sure to make room for the New Orleans "snow balls" ($3.25), basically a snow cone drizzled with a choice of blueberry, raspberry, chocolate, or coconut cream flavored syrups. Make it really authentic by adding a shot of Old New Orleans spiced rum for $9. If nothing else, it's refreshing and boozy; a perfect combination for a warm May afternoon.

8715 Beverly Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90048
(310) 652-2335
Follow: @Dominicks1948
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