Sandwiches at the beach
Grilled cheese by the sea, cocktail stations, and the best breakfast I've had in ages
Hello from sunny Santa Monica! I walked on the beach yesterday with Molly and was tempted to jump in the ocean. Being by the water is so calming and I feel extremely lucky to get to spend time here. I return to chilly New York tomorrow and it feels like the holiday season has officially begun (remember that No-vember is still an option).
Two quick plugs before we get into all the things: the sale on Meal Prep Made Simple ends tonight! Use code THANKS for 15% off your copy, which also makes a great gift. Erica and I designed this book to take planning off your plate so you can put delicious meals on it and this is a perfect time of year to help your future self out with some meal prep (as a friend put it, “leftovers are officially over and I need to go grocery shopping”). Again, it’s code THANKS! Next, if you’re doing any cyber Monday shopping, the gift guide is a great place to start and so many of the brands are having sales at the moment.
Now, let’s dive in.
Something to cook:
Thanksgiving was a team effort. My main contribution was a Cranberry Ginger Spritz cocktail station that I set up in the middle of the afternoon. I decided not to batch the drinks because I know my family and I knew everyone has different preferences about spirits, sweetness levels, and booziness. Instead, I set up an ice bucket, all the glasses, the spirits, unsweetened cranberry juice, a homemade ginger syrup, and Topo Chico alongside two handwritten recipe cards. I also put out measuring tools. I helped people make their first drinks and then everyone could refill as they wanted to. I’ve also done this at parties with a paloma bar and a spritz bar and it’s always a hit! Kaitlin made a big appetizer spread that we had as we finished prepping the meal (we ate around 6:30).
The whole meal was really delicious (shoutout to everyone who planned, shopped, prepped, and cleaned to make it happen). Some highlights were this salad, which is the perfect counterpoint to all the rich foods, Hayley’s rolls with cinnamon butter, the cornbread casserole Leah and Erika made (I’m sharing that recipe on Thursday with paid subscribers), orange soup, and mac and cheese. And of course, the company.
We also had to keep fed before the main meal. My grandma made pineapple french toast for Thanksgiving breakfast and my mom made this cranberry snacking cake for you guessed it, snacking. It did not last long.
I went back to LA on Saturday to stay with Teal and we’ve been cooking up a storm. We made linguine with clams and a simple salad for an impromptu dinner party and then we jazzed up the leftover pasta with a storebought marcona almond tomato pesto for dinner the next night. It was my first time making clams at home and it was really easy. We got them at Whole Foods and all of them opened except for one. We also got some prepared olive tapanade and baguette for appetizers and it was a lovely meal.
On Sunday, Molly and I met up for a walk. Before that, Teal and I made breakfast using what we had on hand. We riffed on huevos rancheros and the results were impressive. I heated mashed up black beans with some spices and then crisped up a few corn tortillas. Teal made a topping of chopped tomato and avocado with lime and salt and then we scrambled the eggs and layered everything together with this salsa and hot sauce.
Something to order:
When I first got to LA, I had dinner with Leah and Erika at Elephante, which is a very sceney spot. It was pretty quiet on a Monday night but still fun people watching in a pretty outdoor setting. We had the famous eggplant dip, which is so smooth and comes with fresh bread, a little gem salad, and a really good fusili with pesto. The pizza was meh but the cocktails were great.
Julianne and Ian came up to LA and we got lunch by the beach at Big Dean’s Ocean Front Cafe. It was a no frills spot with great service and views. I got a grilled cheese (which I think was $4) and we all had beers, caught up, and looked at the ocean. Pretty ideal.
I got to have dinner with Julianne’s wonderful family at Hai Master Kitchen in Laguna Hills, which was really good. Leo was so kind and we shared a bunch of stuff, including the eggplant and potatoes, smashed cucumbers, egg fried rice, and scallion pancakes with chili oil.
My parents had been raving about Blue Bowl acai bowls and I finally got to try them with Aunt Sharon and Uncle Roger. I did have three variations of acai bowls this week (when in California) and Blue Bowl was definitely the best. It’s set up like a froyo bar and you can layer different bases, like acai and pitaya. I got the Lazy Blue because I didn’t want to make decisions and it was so good.
There’s a new coffee place on Balboa Island and it’s really good (Dad’s is my favorite frozen banana spot there). We also got pre Thanksgiving takeout from Bamboo Bistro, which might be the place I first tried pho as a kid.
On Friday, we spent a cousins day in Long Beach and ate well. We visited El Barrio Cantina for lunch, which opened about a year ago. The space has beautiful art and the food was fantastic, I loved the squash quesadilla (their tortillas are excellent) and Don and Uncle Roger raved about their burritos, which had griddled cheese on the outside. It’s on 4th Street so you can walk and window shop after your meal. We also got afternoon coffee at Stereoscope and picked up Thai food from Thai District for a cozy night in (the drunken noodles with tofu were so good). For dessert, Hayley made pumpkin chocolate chip cookies using a Trader Joe’s mix and they were really good (and easy).
It wouldn’t be a visit to LA without a stop at Sweet Rose Creamery with Brooke, Teal, Beckett, and Willa. I love their dairy free dark chocolate and the mint chip is really minty. They offer a double mini, which is an option more shops should embrace.
Something to read:
Want more reads? I share additional reads every Thursday with paid subscribers
Congress to Hold Hearing After Ticketmaster-Taylor Swift Fiasco. Definitely following this story.
Looking to gift cookbooks? Erica has some great suggestions
Now, let’s talk about your kitchen wishlists! I’m on the hunt for a new nonstick pan for eggs and such. Our Ikea one is losing its nonstickness and I’m open to recs!
Hilary wants a mortar and pestle. I found this guide helpful (make sure you check how heavy it is).
Jess wants a wok: Now, to answer your question at the end, I wouldn't say that's what I want for christmas, per se, but, I would say that's a wok. I gave my old one away via craigslist or nextdoor, true story, before moving a few years ago, and I have been missing it so...especially since cooking from J. Kenji's titular latest cookbook. : )
Take care and be gentle with yourself if you’re overwhelmed this week! It will all get done and I’m rooting for you.