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Seeking "Ginger Snap" Recipe

Growing up in suburban Chicago, my grandma used to make something that she called "ginger snaps." Always marching to the beat of her own drum, these weren't cookies but more like spice cake brownies with a hot milk/sugar glaze poured over the top. I've looked all over the internet and performed countless experiments trying to work out the recipe for myself. None match my recollection of this childhood treat.

Anyone out there have any recipes which seem like they could fit the bill?

Jun 18, 2008
cpanagakis in Home Cooking

Mr. Pizza Factory...GO THERE!

In addition to being the best example of culinary telephone (Italian-to-American-to-Korean-to-American) this place is just plain delicious. It's nothing you expect, and for a Chicagoan who also did serious time in NYC as I am, a bit of a challenge. It is, however, thoroughly delicious.

Jun 17, 2008
cpanagakis in Los Angeles Area

West Hollywood = Chowhound Wasteland?

I am SO late to this party, but I feel the need to stick up for my little corner of L.A. and the culinary treats that lie therein!

- Ajisai (SMB & Palm) is indeed THE BEST sushi in WeHo, if not Los Angeles. I've been going since it opened in '03 and have never been disappointed. Regulars will be pleased to discover a secret menu that includes delights such as homemade ramen.

- Tango Grill (SMB between Larrabee & Palm) is nothing special, but the food is competent and consistent. Their ham and cheese empanada and giant wedge o' flan are personal favorites.

- Traktir (SMB @ Crescent Heights) does indeed offer nice Russian/Armenian cuisine, though the service is less-than if you aren't from that part of the globe. Regardless, the lamb lula will have you in heaven if you can bear the wait.

- La Boheme (SMB @ Westmount?) reopened last autumn with a redone interior and menu. While some favorites like the duck breast have been "reimagined" to within an inch of their life, the food and service are still excellent. Do not fail to make a reservation if you plan to dine after about 6p on the weekends.

- Salades de Provence (La Cienega @ Holloway) is the first restaurant to occupy its particular location and actually remain in business for more than about three months. While the chef seems a bit timid with the seasonings, the food is fresh and the offerings a pleasant departure from the expected. The fresh gelatos are reason enough to pay a visit, as is the homemade soup au pistou offered on some evenings.

- Kiichi (SMB @ Flores) is a yakitori house that could rival those you'll find in Little Tokyo. Especially delicious is the "fried chicken!"

Jun 17, 2008
cpanagakis in Los Angeles Area

In Photos: Opening Night at Gordon Ramsay at The London West Hollywood

My husband and I dined at the WeHo Ramsays during the opening week (they're our neighbors, and we just had to see what the place looked like from the inside). As many others have said, the overall experience was uneven at best. The wait staff, trying to do their best to impersonate proper formal staff, were just the usual overactive model-waiters I expect at all the trendy spots in town. And the decor reminiscent of "The Prisoner" more than anything else; I wouldn't recommend it as somewhere to go for a relaxing evening.

All other factors aside, the food was delicious where it bothered to be. And by this I mean that the menu DID look like it was pulled straight from an episode of "Hell's Kitchen." The apps were mostly nothing special, though the Kobe shortrib and poussin were lovely. Desserts were also excellent, even if the waiter nearly sent me into a narcoleptic fit trying to explain it all. The portions are indeed small. The hubby and I sucked down two apps, four mains, and two desserts and had plenty of room to spare.

We'll go back to try the place over the summer once the staff have settled into their groove, but for now, my fine dining restaurant of choice in WeHo remains La Boheme.

Jun 17, 2008
cpanagakis in Los Angeles Area

Tarte Tatin in West Hollywood?

Salades de Provence (La Cienega and Holloway) often has this on their desert specials menu, and it's excellent! If you're nice to Richard, he'll let you order some to-go.

Jun 17, 2008
cpanagakis in Los Angeles Area

Review: Eleven Bar & Restaurant (WeHo)

After having slagged on them for months because their valet parking makes a wreck of our street, some friends and I broke down and went in on Sunday for the champagne brunch. Arriving just after Eleven opened (at 11a, conveniently) on Sunday, we were able to get a lovely table for six on the patio. And even though there was only one menu available for us to share amongst ourselves, the waiter was friendly and attentive.

Then we got to the champagne portion of the brunch. At first, we were told that bottomless champagne came with all of the brunch menu items. However when we placed our order, we were informed by our waiter that the champagne was still bottomless but had to be ordered separately from the brunch items. Odd given that the menu billed the brunch as "Champagne Brunch," but we're an adaptable crew and carried on ordering our champagne.

The champagne, which we'd never thought to ask the price of, arrived promptly with our other drink orders. Sadly, even though we were only one of two tables seated at the time, our food took thirty minutes to arrive at the table. Given that it was a beautiful morning, there weren't too many complaints, though. The food arrived, and was all competent and well-presented. None of it was better than what one could get at other local W. Hollywood breakfast haunts such as Hugo's, French Market, and Swingers, but it was certainly more than I've come expect from the kitchens of the other bar/restaurants along Santa Monica. I would give a strong recommendation to the breakfast sandwich as well as the spinach and mushroom omelette. The fries with the breakfast sandwich were hand-cut and perfectly cooked, something sure to cover for a myriad of other sins any day.

But the one sin that those delicious fries could not cover was the champagne! As we finished our meals, everyone was ready for another glass of the bottomless champagne we thought we'd ordered. Ah, but it turned out there was very much a bottom on that glass, and we'd have to order and pay for more if we wanted. Now the champagne wasn't all that great, so no one was up for actually paying for another glass. This was a good thing as when the bill arrived, itemized were our glasses of Mumm champagne for $12 each!!!

$12 a glass. For Mumm. Originally billed as "bottomless."

With that we paid our bill and, while the food wasn't bad, the bait-and-switch on the cheap-o champagne was enough to keep me away.

I would be interested to hear other's experiences, especially for dinner or cocktails.

-----
Eleven
8811 Santa Monica Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90069

Aug 08, 2007
cpanagakis in Los Angeles Area

Yogurtpia in WeHo... better than Pink Berry!

Living at the epicenter of the Pink Berry phenom in WeHo, I was forced to give up that particular tasty treat when the rest of L.A. went crazy for it and the wait for a fro-yo crept near an hour. Luckily, a decent imitator has opened down the street on Santa Monica just west of San Vicente. Yogurtpia, despite its odd name and the fact that they push premade sushi along with fro-yo, may be better than Pink Berry. And not only because you don't need armed guards to make it to the counter! Their fresh fruit is not only ACTUALLY fresh, but it's been carefully picked so that it's also ripe, something Pink Berry always seemed to find a bit of a challenge.

So if you're looking for the Pink Berry experience without needing to pop a valium first, Yogurtpia is the spot. And best of all, there's often parking to be found in the adjacent West Hollywood Park.

Jul 19, 2007
cpanagakis in Los Angeles Area

Looking for good restaurant westside/hollywood/west hollywood

If you're looking for solid basics, The French Market in WeHo is perfect for an economic party, though I would call ahead to make sure a table can be assembled. The Hugo's in WeHo is also delish (and they have a fancy new bar), but with the remodel, I'm not sure how big of a party can be accommodated. It could push the edge of your budget, but The Hamlet on N. Doheny in WeHo (formerly The Hamburger Hamlet) has excellent party spaces and quality food. If you can, sit in Jim's section in the evenings. There never was a better waiter in this town.

Jul 19, 2007
cpanagakis in Los Angeles Area

Awful dinner at Eat Well on Beverly

After waiting thirty minutes for menus at the WeHo location, I officially gave up on the Eat Wells. It's my understanding that each is now operated by different owners. The law of averages would say that one of them would have to be good, but that's not been my experience. When I want good diner, I head out to Fred 62 or Swingers.

Jul 19, 2007
cpanagakis in Los Angeles Area

Problems with Pie Crust

To emphasize what has already been said: it is all about very cold ingredients, not working the dough a single stroke more than necessary, and chilling the dough completely before rolling. I use the food processor to make all of my pie and biscuit doughs and literally freeze everything but the cream or water before using. But above all, it's about practice. I made dozens of tragic pie crusts before I finally learned to see what a good crust would look like at every stage. Keep at at, and I guarantee delicious rewards!

Jul 18, 2007
cpanagakis in Home Cooking

Sinking Chocolate Cake - HELP!

So I've been working the chocolate cake recipe from my go-to source for solid, basic recipes, "Joy of Cooking," and am meeting with nothing but disappointment! Every time I've made the Devil's Food Cake, despite being delicious and a constant source of compliment (people will look past nearly anything for chocolate cake), the hateful thing sinks in the middle. I don't have this problem with any other cake recipe, and I'm an experienced baker who carefully weighs and measures all ingredients and constantly monitors the oven temperature.

For those who might be able to diagnose the problem, here's exactly what happens: I start one cake in the upper third and one in the lower and bake them for just over half of the time. Then I quickly open the oven and rotate the cakes, being careful not to jiggle them too much in the process. At this point, the cake are both beginning to puff in the middle and are of even heights. I know exactly how long they take to bake, so I'm normally able to open the oven, check each cake for doneness, and pull. By now, the cakes have already lost that lovely little dome and are flat. This isn't to say they haven't risen; I still get about 2" on each cake in a 9" round. Once they cooled enough to turn out, however, the middles of the cakes are collapsed about 1/2" below the edges. And yes, I'm using the correct cocoa powder (non-alkalized), and I start with all ingredients at room temperature.

Frosting and careful trimming hide the problem, but honestly I'd rather have a cake I don't have to fiddle with so much to be properly presentable! I seem to have the same problem with chocolate cakes in general, I admit...

Any and all advice is heartily welcomed.

Jul 18, 2007
cpanagakis in Home Cooking

Kitchenaid Repair in Los Angeles

My beloved Kitchenaid K45SS (from the Hobart years!), a true heirloom from my Grandma, is starting to show her age. This past weekend, while making a cake, the poor dear started to chug and rattle and, for the first time ever, failed to make it past #6 on the speed. Knowing full well that a new Kitchenaid is a sad shadow of the brand it was when Hobart was the manufacturer, and currently unable to purchase a Hobart N50 ($1,200!!!), I am desperate to find a trusted service shop who can give the old girl the TLC she needs. Any and all suggestions for such a shop in the Los Angeles area are MUCH appreciated.

Jul 18, 2007
cpanagakis in Cookware

Peking duck for New Year's

I *just* did my Peking Duck dress rehearsal dinner on Saturday night! I've tried a lot of Americanized recipes, but decided this would be the year to do the classic preparation. In addition to making sure that you work the recipe at least once before serving to guests, look out for the following...

1. You absolutely, positively cannot make traditional Peking Duck without a WHOLE duck to work with. By this I mean that you need the head still on the duck, or there's no way to effectively pump in the air and have the skin form the "seal" to make it separate.

2. You'll want a bike or other pump that's got a pretty big volume of air to pump in, otherwise there won't be consistently high enough pressure to separate the skin.

3. This bit about pumping air into the duck to separate the skin IS THE KEY to getting the crisp texture you want. After you've salted and rinsed the duck, you have to tie it off below the slit in the neck and insert the "pin" nozzle from the pump. Do not trim any other part of the bird before this point, or you won't get the inflation you need. Keep your hand firmly around the insertion point of the nozzle to keep the deal tight.

4. Allow enough drying time after the scald (at least an hour) and glaze (at least another 7 hours) before roasting. A fan is especially helpful if you live somewhere it rains a lot this time of year (like L.A.). Like the skin inflating bit, the drying time is the other major determinant of how crisp your skin will be.

5. Keep a very close eye on the duck as it roasts, and turn it frequently. Make sure you roast directly on the rack with a water-filled roasting pan below to catch the fat.

6. Just before you put the duck in to roast, lightly pierce the shoulders and haunches (this is where the largest fat stores are) with a filet knife to help that fat render out during roasting.

7. Make sure there's someone around to help you clean up and stay sane.

Dec 18, 2006
cpanagakis in Home Cooking

Cooking Barley so it's tasty

Pearl barley makes an amazing, and surprisingly light, risotto. Make your risotto as you normally would (I think spinach and garlic are perfect with barley) subbing barley for arborio. You mercifully don't have to stir it as often to develop the starch, so it's great for this time of year when you need something filling for a side dish that doesn't consume all of your attention.

Dec 18, 2006
cpanagakis in Home Cooking

Apple pie filling: to prebake or not

I've always gotten the best results by par-cooking the apples first. Not only does it guarantee you have a fully cooked apple in your pie, but it also keeps the crust from getting too, too soggy as the pie bakes. Make sure to let your apples cool before adding your thickener and scooping into the crust.

Dec 18, 2006
cpanagakis in Home Cooking

Sichuan/Szechuan Peppercorns

You can also pick them up at 99 Ranch (Sepulveda at Victory, northeast corner, in Van Nuys). They're labeled as "dried peppercorn" or something equally misleading in the spice aisle. Look for the pink bag with the panda on it.

Dec 18, 2006
cpanagakis in Los Angeles Area

question re. buying a stand mixer

I have an ancient (25+ years) Kitchenaid K45 which I inherited from my grandmother. It'll knead 6 - 8 cups of dough for 30 minutes without so much as a whimper. Everyone I know who's purchased a KA recently, though, has had to replace it within a couple of years of moderate use. Apparently Hobart no longer manufactures the Kitchenaid "consumer" line, thus the decline in quality and durability.

If you plan to use this puppy to knead things, skip the Kitchenaids entirely and move up to one of the Hobart pro models. You can pick them up on Ebay.com for a reasonable amount (relatively speaking - this is high-end pro kitchenware which will probably last you to the end of your natural life).

Oh, and don't even bother with the Viking stand mixers. I know someone who had hers literally go up in smoke the first time she tried to knead dough with it.

Dec 14, 2006
cpanagakis in Cookware

What to do with a wooden cutting board of unknown origin?

I, too, arrived in my WWII-era apartment (many moons ago) to find a similar cutting board built into the counter. Having the same concerns that anyone would have when confronting a cutting surface of unknown past, I treated it as I do all wooden cutting boards - a handfull of kosher salt rubbed well into the wood with half a lemon. Then I just parked the board in direct sunlight for the afternoon to dry out the lemon/salt mixture and add some extra UV disinfection. Tragically, the board simply gave up about a year later and began shedding splinters into my chopped onions (the thing was 50+ years old).

And this is where I get to the important bit. You can buy replacement boards at your local mom-and-pop hardware store for usually under $30. Make sure to seal it with food grade mineral oil the night before you intend to use it the first time.

Dec 14, 2006
cpanagakis in Cookware

Is it Possible to Make Vegan Latkes?

I second btnfood's matzoh recommendation. It's also really important that you purge as much moisture from those potatoes and onions as possible before cooking. From experience with other fried veg patties, I'd think you may also want to try a bit of rice flour as a binder. You'll certainly get a nice texture, and it will help to take up any moisture left in your veg.

Dec 14, 2006
cpanagakis in Home Cooking

Jam won't set up!

I believe mangoes and papaya contain enzymes that prevent pectin and gelatin from setting properly, no matter what you do.

Dec 14, 2006
cpanagakis in Home Cooking

baking tortellini

Pasta bake is pasta bake, really. I'm not certain why your ricotta goes on the bottom, either. Generally I gently mix up my cooked pasta, sauce, cheese, etc. and then turn it out into a baker and sprinkle with more cheese. A 350 - 375 oven never fails me.

Dec 13, 2006
cpanagakis in Home Cooking

Local source for tofu making supplies, equipment

I'd assume Mitsuwa carries what you need, and I also know that Silom in Hollwyood (on Hollywood Blvd. just east of the 10) has the nigari.

Dec 13, 2006
cpanagakis in Los Angeles Area

looking for good Chicago style pizza

A native Chicagoan myself, I think BJ's comes the closest to the pies you would get at Lou Malnatti's or similar places in Chicago. But honestly, sometimes it's better just to cough up the $70 and order them frozen from Chicago...

Dec 13, 2006
cpanagakis in Los Angeles Area

Fresh Strawberries

Harry's Berries (from Oxnard) is usually at the Sunday Hollywood Farmers' Market with the best strawberries in L.A.

Dec 13, 2006
cpanagakis in Los Angeles Area

Greek Eats in L.A.?

So I heeded many of your recommendations and headed, with a group of nine, to Petro's for dinner this past weekend. While I can say that the restaurant was lovely and the staff fantastic and attentive, the food... maybe not so much. The keftedes were salty beyond belief, chicken and shrimp overdone, many of the entrees seemed overpriced ($22 for a souvlaki plate of four shrimp and four chunks of chicken?!?!). And of all the sins for a Greek to commit, both orders of saganaki to come to our table had cooled to the point where the cheese had to be hacked apart. Somewhere in the Great Beyond, my Yaya was laughing at me...

I've asked my dad to bring out a bunch of Greek grocery staples from Chicago for the holidays and am just going to have to see if I can't repliacte Yaya's recipes.

Dec 11, 2006
cpanagakis in Los Angeles Area

Parker House rolls recipe--please advise

Recipe #2 is your winner. Without the milk and REAL butter, you don't have Parker House rolls.

Dec 06, 2006
cpanagakis in Home Cooking

What to do with dry leftover chicken?

I appreciate that everyone else is trying to give you a direct way to use these birds, but when I see "dry chicken" I generally assume there is no hope. Personally, I don't have much patience with overcooked and dry meat. In my kitchen, such items can go one of two places. Either I dice it up and dole it out to the pets over the course of a week OR I use the carcasses to make stock with. Anything is better than getting a sore jaw trying to choke down chicken-cum-leather! And using these essentially whole birds with all of the meat will give you a fantastic flavor base in the stock.

Dec 06, 2006
cpanagakis in Home Cooking

Seasoning a Stainless Skillet?

I don't own nonstick anything any longer as I'm just too hard on my pots and pans, apparently. Thus all of my cookware is either stainless, aluminum, or cast iron. All are fabulous when used correctly, and for stainless and aluminum, the real key is getting the pan hot enough. Put your cooking fat/oil into the pan as it heats, and when you see the oil begin to shimmer (watch it closely, and you'll see exactly what I'm talking about), you know you're ready to add your food. If the fat starts to smoke, you know you took it too far!

Dec 06, 2006
cpanagakis in Cookware

mangosteen?

TJ's has (had?) the freeze dried mangosteens last month in their "new products" endcaps. Delicious, but I'm sure a shadow of the fresh item.

Dec 06, 2006
cpanagakis in Los Angeles Area

HELP!! What are the BEST ASIAN MARKETS around town?

I would also recommend Wing Hop Fung in Chinatown (Broadway between College and Alpine - you cannot miss it) as a fantastic place to get a lot of Asian kitchen staples. They've an excellent selection of dried herbs, mushrooms, sea veg, etc. It is also the only place to get really good quality imported whole-leaf teas at a reasonable price as far as I'm concerned.

Dec 06, 2006
cpanagakis in Los Angeles Area