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Hot take: The food in Southern California is really good
Good afternoon and happy Tuesday that feels like a Monday from San Diego! I got here yesterday and am loving it so far. We’re staying in Little Italy, close to the airport and planes fly dramatically close to the windows. It feels like I’ve been gone for a long time and I’m so glad we were able to take this trip. I’m heading home tomorrow and hope New York has warmed up. Today’s newsletter has lots of Southern California recs, so save it for your next trip or forward it to a friend planning some summer travel.
Now, let’s dive in.
Something to cook:
A few of you asked for my grandma’s Southwestern tart recipe and it turns out she clipped it from an old Gourmet magazine. Here it is. She uses 2 cans of black beans instead of making them from scratch.
While in LA, we made lots of avocado toasts and scrambled eggs. Simple cooking that takes advantage of the great produce.
My grandma also made a great brunch on Sunday featuring pineapple upside down french toast. She prepped it the day before and used almond milk. I’ll share the recipe (and some more brunch thoughts) with paid subscribers on Thursday!
I shared a recipe for yogurt flatbread pizzas with Becca! It’s such a fun one to make with a group (and you can use this rolling pin substitute).
Something to order:
I’m organizing this by city rather than chronology since we went back and forth a bit.
We’ve been going to Taco Mesa in Costa Mesa since I was a kid and it’s so good. You can’t go wrong with the tacos, burritos, or quesadillas. Grab a side of escabeche and a bunch of salsas on your way out and don’t skip the guacamole.
Hayley found Paderia bakery on TikTok and the cookies were really good. They’re more of a Levain style but less underbaked (a good thing as I think Levain is too raw) and the chocolate walnut was my favorite. The citrus refresher was also great.
Donut shops are such a big thing in Southern California and we picked some up for brunch from Dippity Donut (Oh Those Donuts is another favorite but they were low on inventory). Most of the donut shops are run by Cambodian immigrants and the donuts are affordable and fresh.
Long Beach Area:
Kaitlin, Don, Hayley, Dale and I grabbed dinner at Panxa Cocina in Long Beach, which is a New Mexican restaurant. They have a great chips and dips trio, cornbread, and cucumber jalapeño margaritas. I got a fry bread special with beans, corn, and crema.
On Sunday night, we drove up to Torrance to get okonomiyaki at Chinchikurin (the shopping center it’s in has a bunch of great restaurants). There was a bit of a wait but it was worth it. All the okonomiyaki come with beef or pork and crispy or soft noodles and are served with kewpie mayo and extra sauce. The veggie one was made with udon noodles (I added an egg on top).
We took a walk yesterday morning to get breakfast burritos at Ma N’ Pa Grocery, which has been there for over 100 years. The tortillas are so good and the spicy veggie burrito is a great way to start the day.
Molly and I had such a fun night on Sawtelle Boulevard. We grabbed dinner at Seoul–House of Tofu, known for its Soondubu, soft tofu stew. You can get any of them with water or beef broth and all the stews come with banchan. After dinner, we broswed Daiso, a Japanese discount store and then got soft serve at Somi Somi. The ube matcha swirl was so good and toppings are free.
I had a free night and decided to treat myself to Jon and Vinny’s takeout. It’s an LA institution and not cheap (the parking lot was a scene and I got blocked from exiting by a Tesla). The little gem salad with breadcrumbs is so good, as is the spicy fusili. I prefer other cacio e pepes though. One great part of Jon and Vinny’s is Helen’s Wines (I spoke to Helen for this piece on shopping for natural wine). She offers surprise options for wine bottles starting at $25 and it’s a fine way to avoid making a decision and try something new.
Clare and I ate in the beautiful backyard at Alta in West Adams (a great location for someone who lives on the East side and someone on the West side to meet up). It’s a soul food spot with an incredible wine list (it’s attached to a wine shop). All the sides are vegetarian. We had the black eyed pea fritters, the smoked fried tofu (so good!), red beans and rice, and collards. We drank an Aslina Sauvingon Blanc, made by Ntsiki Biyela, the first Black woman winemaker in South Africa.
Molly, Dale, and I met up early friday at Erewhon, the grocery store that’s more than a grocery store. It was great fun to browse the shelves and see what’s popular in the CPG world (lots of cassava flour and coconut yogurt). My one disappointment was seeing Driscoll berries in stock. We got the off menu Tinx smoothie with cacao, avocado, and banana. Dale got the breakfast burrito, which was really good with cheese, eggs, and hashbrowns.
Brooke, Beckett, and I had an ice cream date at Rori’s Creamery. They have a happy hour where kids get free ice cream and can do split scoops. I got espresso and milk and cookies, a great combo.
Friday night, Dale and I tried to go to Wabi on Rose and it was a scene (there was a bouncer standing on the corner, lots of escalades). We crossed the street to Chulita and loved the low key vibes and vegetarian options. We started with sweet potato taquitos made with blue corn and I loved the spicy mezcal margarita. There are three vegetarian tacos (mushroom, cauliflower al pastor, and nopales).
My first San Diego meal was at a brewery, of course! Pure Project Brewing has lots of seating and really good thin crust bar style pizza (they even had a pie with hot honey and jalapeños). You can create your own flight with small pours and they have a lot of seasonal beers.
We got dinner at Bencotto Italian Kitchen in Little Italy. The fresh pasta is really good and the pesto was really nice. Little Italy is very intense here—Italian flags, piazzas, murals, and a display of Italian American baseball players.
I got coffee at Bird Rock Coffee Roasters this morning and their vanilla bean latte is so flavorful (in my mind, the word bean completely justified the price).
Something to read:
My first recommendation is High on the Hog on Netflix! I’m going to rewatch it when I’m home and have been thinking about the first two episodes constantly. There’s so much great stuff to read/listen to around the show. High on the Hog Tastes like Life, Rob Petrone talked to the show’s executive producers, and of course, the book that started it all, by Dr. Jessica B. Harris.
When it comes to Asian markets, there’s no one size fits all.
Why is hot sauce marketing so aggressive?
Alexis Nikole on urban foraging while Black
The queer history of Zuni Cafe
If you’re not following the Sussmans for memes, you will be after you read this.
Guy Fieri’s newly minted deal makes him one of cable’s highest paid hosts.
Related: Food Network says it’s dedicated to teaching. But it never let me say ‘slavery’ on air.
Don’t approach life like a picky eater
Two entrepreneurs have built a business dredging up white women’s shame
What did the pandemic teach chefs about accessibility?
My Mom’s Meatloaf Mixes Americana with Vietnamese Home Cooking
Take a dumpling crawl through NYC’s Chinatown
Kithul is Sri Lanka’s ‘syrup with a funk.' One entrepreneur wants to bring it to the world.
Anela Malik is so generous with her content! Her page of content creation tools is a must bookmark (and she’s a must follow)
From Eater’s gas station package: an ode to Wawa, the importance of Black owned gas stations, and the gas stations that sell natural wine.
About a year after George Floyd’s murder, it turns out all those woke white allies were lying
What was destroyed in the Tulsa massacre (look at this on desktop)
A Survivor of the Tulsa Race Massacre Says Her Family Is Still Trying to Break Its Curse, 100 Years Later
From Victor Luckerson of the excellent Run it back newsletter, The Women who Preserved the Story of the Tulsa Race Massacre
Now, on to burritos! I loved hearing about regional varieties in burritos.
Jess is here to defend a chain burrito: I know there are much better burritos than those served at Midwest-founded chains, but I have to take this opportunity to rant that I can’t get any of the best chain burritos near me anymore. I have a thing where being my favorite chain burrito is a sign your chain is about to go out of business in Kansas City. It’s happened three times! Moe’s, then Panchero’s, then Freebirds. My ideal is Moe’s tofu, Panchero’s tortilla (they start in front of you as dough) and hot sauce (it’s got great adobo flavor), and probably Freebird’s fresh jalapeño and rice.
Since summer has unofficially started, I want to know, what’s on your summer bucket list? I have a bunch of professional things I want to tick off and and also want to spend a lot of time at the beach and do some grilling. Reply to this email with any bucket list items, food related or not!
What else is happening with TNHS?
Erica and I are running a summer sale on our meal prep classes! Use code SUMMERSALE to take 10% off the package and individual classes. This is likely the only time we’ll discount the package, so it’s a great time to purchase.
My dad and I are so excited for our father’s day class on June 17th! The recipes are classics you’ll make again and again (he’ll share his well tested risotto technique) and you can bring a guest for free!
Paid subscribers will get that french toast recipe and some summer brunch strategies on Thursday.
Thanks for reading and happy summer!