Based in Los Angeles, Savour Fare is the home of Kate, a working mom who is low on time but high on life. I hope this site helps you find ways to make your life richer, easier, more beautiful and more delicious. You can read more about me and the site here and feel free to email me with any questions or feedback!
We’ve just returned from Paris. This sentence is one I wish were a more regular part of my life. This post, however, is about London, one of my favorite cities. Due to the intricacies of plane and train fares, we flew through London on our way to Paris, which allowed me just one full day in London, my soulmate city. And even though that day was a very, very rainy one, and we got very, very wet, we pushed through, and introduced the Nuni to the joys of Old Blighty.
We started the day (very, very early, thanks to jet lag) with a visit to the Borough Market, an old Victorian marketplace that has become a gourmet mecca in recent years. We began with a walk across Southwark bridge, undeterred by the drizzle.
Any parent of a 3 year old knows that in the summertime, popsicles are the ultimate treat. They are cold, for one, which is always a plus in the kind of heat we’ve been having. Sweet tends to rank highly for most three year olds I know as well. And best of all, they are messy. Gloriously, drippily, creamily messy.
But the dayglo colors and artificial flavors in most supermarket popsicles do not appeal to adults. We like our treats a little more decadent, a little more sophisticated. Something creamy, with subtle, sweet flavors. But we still like the fun of a frozen treat on a stick.
I’ve decided to introduce a new feature on Savour Fare. I happen to know a whole slew of amazing women (and men), who have a lot of wisdom to share. I’ve begged, pleaded and cajoled them into writing guest posts for the blog. The first post is from my friend Christine (inventor of those prosciutto pinwheels I posted last December). Christine and I met through book club, and now that she has (sadly) moved away from LA, I miss her fabulous cooking and her thoughtful comments. I hope you enjoy this post as much as I do!
When I was four years old, my family spent several months living with my grandparents. It must have been difficult for the adults, but it was magical to me. Grandma had a tight hug at the ready when I was in trouble with my parents, a bottomless candy dish, a well stocked dress-up box, and unending patience for four year old games. She helped me build Lincoln Log masterpieces and spent hours playing Go Fish and Old Maid. My grandparents are big fans of games, and these early card games were a precursor to decades of evenings spent around a table laughing and playing dominoes, cribbage, rummy or golf.
Grandma had a good sized garden and was wonderful in the kitchen. Many of my early food memories are from the time spent living at her house. My mother taught me to eat an artichoke at her table. When we were small she made us homemade macaroni and cheese and carrot salad. When I was older, she started to make a zucchini casserole for me that I still anxiously look at family gatherings. I learned the pleasures of homemade pie, with chocolate as my clear favorite. I was in awe when I watched her make lemon meringue pie, though it was too tart for my young taste buds. Her kitchen turns into an assembly line in December as she makes batch after batch of divinity, peanut brittle and rocky road. I’m a big fan of her rocky road.
My husband and I currently live 1700 miles from my family, and I sometimes get homesick, especially on holidays. So when I saw gorgeous, fat bunches of carrots at the farmers market this weekend, my mind immediately went to Grandma’s carrot salad to serve alongside grilled burgers and dogs. I half-heartedly tried to convince myself to make something more sophisticated, but this creamy and slightly sweet salad hit exactly the right note this weekend. It’s easy to pull together and variable to your particular tastes. Grandma sometimes added pineapple for my sister or doubled the raisins for me. You can make it more or less sweet by varying the quantities of fruit and sugar, or make it tangier by upping the proportion of sour cream. I can’t imagine that Grandma used cardamom, but I like the addition.
My first bite sent me back in time to Grandma’s dining table.
When I moved into Stratford House, I had visions of redecorating — immediately. Having a picture perfect house within the month. How naive I was. Our house is perfectly livable and even reasonably nicely decorated, but due to a series of obstacles, some anticipated (we ultimately prefer an eclectic house with curated furnishings and decorations amassed over years) and some unanticipated (we spent $6000 on earthquake retrofitting our foundation), it’s not the ideal I see in my head. Still, I try to tackle projects in baby steps, with the things that really bother me first.
Our nightstands were really bothering me. They were purchased many years (and three tiny New York apartments) ago, and while they were OK aesthetically, they were just too small to fit the holy quartet of nightstand accoutrements: lamp, alarm clock, book, cup of coffee. There were many many spilled cups of coffee. So I decided it was time for a change.
Because I am both thrifty (read: cheap) and crafty, I decided to make my own. Because I am also klutzy and not exactly a whiz with tools, I decided to start with Ikea. Notably, the Ikea Rast: $30 of plain, unfinished pine, just waiting for someone ambitious to come along and change it up:
Of course, I couldn’t leave it as is. Knotty pine isn’t exactly my decorating style. I was inspired by this chest from Wisteria:
A couple of trips to Home Depot and Osh, and I was ready to begin. The first step was assembling the Rast. If you know Ikea, that was its own project. A few things that the Ikea website doesn’t really indicate is the huge, ugly screws that are visible at the side of the Rast. I screwed these in extra deep, and filled the depressions with paintable wood filler, then sanded them smooth. I also wanted a different handle placement, so I filled in the handle holes on the drawers with more wood filler, and more sanding, and drilled new holes for the handles I had bought.
Then, I started with the molding. After much measuring and pencil marks, I bought premade decorative molding at Home Depot, and used the husband’s miter saw (he IS handy with tools, or at least he thinks he is) to trim them at a 45 degree angle to the lengths I needed for facing on the drawers and at the base of the chest. Using liquid nails, I glued these on (mostly straight- if I demanded perfection, I’d never get anything done). And let dry overnight.
Then I went to priming and painting. Since the Rast is unfinished wood, I didn’t feel the need to sand the surfaces except where I had filled holes. But since it is unfinished wood, I did need to prime them. I used the big can of cheap white primer, and brushed it on thinly.
Finally, the painting step. I wanted a color that was a little vintage and faded, while my lovely husband wanted turquoise. We compromised on “Washed Denim” in the new Martha Stewart line of paints, with the trim painted a contrasting muted white because I didn’t want it to be stark — Pratt & Lambert’s “Pebble” (since it was such a relatively small area, I just picked up a couple of sample pots in Pebble.) After a lot of taping, the painting was a breeze — it really only took 1 coat over the primer.
Once they were painted, even with the muted color of the paint and the trim, they still looked too stark — they didn’t have that vintage feel I was hoping for, and the details in the trim was being lost. So I used a combination of Howard Feed n Wax furniture wax and Minwax wood stain in Jacobean in a about a 1 to 3 ratio (1 part wax, 3 parts stain). Then, using an old pair of socks, one on each hand, I used one hand to wipe on the stain mixture, and one to wipe it off. The stain settled into the details on the trim, and made the whole piece feel a little more lived in.
The final step was attaching the handles I had bought (and predrilled the holes for) and then lining the drawers, since I had been less than neat in the painting of the insides of the drawers (I had had enough taping with all that trim!). I never love drawer paper, because it tends to wrinkle and shift, so I bought a set of cork placemats from Ikea. These could be trimmed with scissors to make them fit, and lay beautifully flat in addition to providing some protection and shock absorption to anything I want to put in the drawers.
The new nightstands are big enough to hold my lamp, alarm clock, coffee and a whole stack of books. They also have the added bonus of three drawers to fill with all sorts of goodies, and they gave me hours of DIY fun. What’s not to love?
I’ve lived in many places during my life, but at heart I’m an Angeleno girl. Los Angeles is my hometown, and the home of the taco. OK, bastardized home of the taco (and home of the bastardized taco). When I was in college and law school and paying flying visits home, I always made sure those visits included tacos. And when we’re talking about real tacos, there is no iceberg lettuce, no shredded cheese, and NO ground beef.
This is a taco: seasoned meat, steamed corn tortillas, onions, cilantro. Maybe a squeeze of lime, maybe a dab of hot sauce. Simple, perfect.
Now that I live here, although there are plenty of visits to the local taqueria, I can get all the ingredients to make fabulous tacos at home. The really good kind of corn tortillas. Cilantro for 25 cents a bunch, and limes for a dollar a dozen. The sweet white onions necessary to real Mexican food. And the meat. Any carniceria worth its salt will sell you carne asada — seasoned beef, ready for the grill. But I’d never attempted to make it myself, until I saw the recipe in the LA Times, in an article about the combining of Mexican and Armenian food traditions in one Angeleno family. It seemed almost laughably easy, so I picked up the ingredients at my local Mexican Armenian market — beef flap meat (though any very thin and flavorful cut of beef will do), cilantro, onions, and the ultimate authentic ingredient: Worcestershire sauce. (LA always has been, and always will be, a melting pot). A few whirls in the food processor, some quality time with the grill, and I had my tacos. No need for a taqueria run.
2 lbs. beef flap meat, or any very thinly cut and flavorful piece of beef.
In a food processor, combine all the ingredients except the beef, and a teaspoon of salt, or to taste. Blend the ingredients until liquid and rub the marinade all over the beef. Marinate in the refrigerator at least 1 hour, or up to 24.
Preheat a grill to medium heat, oil, and grill the marinated meat until the edges are charred and the meat is cooked through — about 5 minutes on each side.
Slice into small pieces against the grain, and serve in steamed corn tortillas with chopped onions, more cilantro, and a squeeze of lime. And a Corona. And a nice view. And beautiful weather. And a lot of traffic. And the smell of flowers. NOW you’re in the City of Angels.