Hillary Eaton

Originally appeared on Food & Wine

The Hottest New Caviar Service Is … Vegan

When the day calls for you to treat yourself, there’s really no better way than to indulge in caviar service. From those delicate, mother-of-pearl spoons to the perfectly bronzed blinis and the shiny little beads of onyx-colored sturgeon eggs looking up at you (just beggin’ for that ‘gram), it’s an experience known to evoke a happy dance in even the staunchest of reserved restaurant-goers.

While the ornate experience itself is classic, the latest in caviar isn’t about tapping into your inner-tsar, instead it’s all about saying by to the Old World and embracing your inner plant-based-loving Angeleno and going … completely vegan.

Originally appeared on THRILLIST

All The Best Cheap Eats By UCLA

Ah fall, that magical time of year when college students flock back to campus for yet another year of hungover, pajama-clad lectures in pursuit of that super-useful liberal arts degree. But it’s not all fun and games. The start of another school year means it’s also time to fall back into broke-college-kid mode and save your money for the important things in life… like student loans. 

Luckily for those that bleed blue and gold, the area surrounding UCLA is a veritable cornucopia of delicious cheap eats, making that whole responsible adult thing all the easier when it comes to your wallet. Here are the best places for Bruins (or anyone else hanging around Westwood) to save money and still eat well.

Originally appeared on MUNCHIES

This Chef’s Culinary Incubator Is Changing the Way Chefs Develop Restaurants

It’s a common problem in the restaurant industry: Poorly matched partnerships between chefs and financiers can pose issues—and even sink restaurants before they open—when the two sides don’t see eye-to-eye.

Alvin Cailan of LA’s egg sandwich mecca EggSlut discovered this firsthand in the course of opening EggSlut Grand Central Market. “That was the time I really needed to grow [from the food truck] into a brick-and-mortar spot and didn’t have the money,” he tells me. “So I sought out partners that could help, not realizing what the consequences were for creating such a relationship.”

Originally appeared on LA Weekly

The Best Way To Explore Food in L.A.? Public Transit

Who’s never taken the bus in L.A. before?” Javier Cabral, aka the Glutser, asks through his mini portable microphone. He’s standing in the back of Monterey Park’s Tokyo Fried Chicken, in front of a restaurant full of people eating ponzu-drenched drumsticks and skirting the question by taking some extra time to chew.

“It’s OK,” he chuckles, raising his own hand to encourage others. “There’s nothing to be ashamed of. Isn’t that the point of all this anyway — to do new things?” Slowly, the hands come up.

The Metro Tour de Food — a collaboration between KCRW, Metro L.A. and Zócalo Public Square, led by longtime food blogger (and recently anointed Munchies West Coast editor) Cabral — is very much about doing new things, especially when it comes to how L.A. does food tours.

Originally appeared on MUNCHIES

Eat These Flowers Off The Side Of The Road

Last fall, I was driving down a secluded canyon road in Malibu, California, when I spotted a vine full of lily pad-shaped leaves and the occasional orange flower crawling over a fallen tree just next to the road.

After stopping and getting out to inspect a little further, I saw this tree that was covered in what I thought was nasturtium, an edible vine of peppery leaves and bright flowers. And even better, since it was nearly winter, the vines had begun to die down for the season and only the saddest of its leaves, little shriveled flowers, and seed pods remained partially withered on the plant.

To be sure, I grabbed a leaf and a flower and put them in my mouth. When I wasn’t dead five hours later, I began counting down the days until summer.

Nasturtium is the lazy forager’s dream plant. If you’re looking for it, you can find it growing all over the West Coast: on the roadside, near river banks, and maybe even in your neighbor’s garden.

Beginning to bloom in late spring and early summer, nasturtium’s brightly colored orange, yellow, or red flowers (depending on the varietal) and circular, velvety leaves, are the marker of the start of Los Angeles’s summer and begin appearing on menus shortly thereafter. With a peppery, clean vegetal taste—something between watercress and arugula—nasturtium is a versatile plant whose leaves, flowers, and seed pods can be eaten raw, cooked, and prepared every other way in between.

Originally appeared on Refinery29

The Surprising Fashion Trend Taking Over The L.A. Food Scene

Over the past few years, Los Angeles has become a more exciting and important food city than ever before, from high quality local meats and produce to the multifaceted population of ethnic communities that make some of L.A.’s most delicious food. But, the latest trend is like nothing we’ve ever seen — and strangely reminiscent of our favorite fashion trend.

Let us explain. Besides a city-wide obsession with uni and a growing food court madness, there’s one trend that’s catching on with L.A.’s best spots: they’re coming in pairs. Some of our favorite restos are now opening up faster and more affordable counterparts to their acclaimed (and more expensive) spots, creating mini restaurant empires that provide every style of dining experience you could possibly want want.

Just like the high-low trend in fashion (a $500 Mansur Gavriel bag never looks better than when it’s paired with a $59 H&M dress), similar restaurant concepts have popped up all over our fair city. Chef Ludo Lefebvre has a casual French bistro named Petit Trois right next door to his ticketed Trois Mec. Connie and Ted’s casual seafood is the chill counterpart to Michael Cimarusti’s two Michelin starred Providence. And, most recently, Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo’s newly opened Jon & Vinny’s casual red sauce Italian joint is in the same ‘hood as their more experimental and very elegant Animal.

So, What’s The Deal?
“As a chef, you always want to come up with new and different concepts,” Lefebvre tells us, taking a break from his busy evening prep schedule.“Trois Mec is very unique and special. I wanted to provide a different kind of dining experience altogether to set them apart, not compete.” For him, opening up a French bistro was always a dream: “When the space right next to Trois Mec opened up, I knew it was meant to be.”

According to Lefebvre, accessibility wasn’t the only reason he had for opening up a faster, more affordable counterpart to Trois Mec. Instead, Petit Trois was a happy byproduct. Adding that while the close proximity (read: they share a wall) wasn’t his sole intention behind the restaurant, it is a defining concept of the bistro. “I have always dreamed of a little tiny French bistro in Los Angeles and, really, it was the space that dictated the concept,” he says.

Come One, Come All
“A great restaurant owner once told me, ‘Your restaurant is always a testament of where you’re at in your life.’ And, right now, we’re both in the stage of our lives where we’re parents who have young kids and wanted to create an environment for them to grow up in,” Jon Shook tells us of his newly opened, casual American-Italian spot with partner Vinny Dotolo, Jon & Vinny’s. “And, what better food than pizza and pasta, you know what I mean?”

Wanting to tap into something that’s comforting and reminiscent of the childhood experiences with food that first sparked their interest in cooking is definitely part of what’s driving this trend. Take Michael Cimarusti: With two Michelin stars under his belt for fine dining seafood restaurant Providence, he surprised everyone and opened Connie and Ted’s, the low-key New England style seafood restaurant modeled after east coast crab shacks. Naming the restaurant after his grandparents, who fostered a love and respect for fishing and family, Connie and Ted’s acts as a culinary homage to a much simpler time. Translation: It’s insanely delicious and the average diner is in jeans.

Foodie On A Budget
But, the most exciting part about this trend is that we now have the ability to experience the talent of these amazing chefs without breaking the bank.

Lefebvre describes the contrasting styles of spots as a complete version of his style of cooking:“The complementary aspect is like the ying to its yang — very different, but together make up the whole. At Trois Mec, you never know what you will find, our menu is constantly changing and I am always trying new things, learning new techniques, and finding new combinations,” he says. “At Petit Trois, the menu is much more simple and straightforward, like comfort food should be. Together, you get the full range of my cooking.”


Of course, opening up restaurants in high and low pairs isn’t exactly revolutionary. Shook reflects, “More chefs are doing casual projects…but it wasn’t necessarily public knowledge. I remember when I was in culinary school, back in Florida, there were guys that were great chefs doing taco places and hamburger joints.” So, if it’s not exactly new, why is this model trending and proving so successful for L.A.’s restaurant scene?

A lot of it comes down to cost, care, and mindset. “I think a lot of the reason why chefs are into opening up places that are a bit more casual is because of cost operations,” Shook says, pointing out that much of the cost of a fine dining restaurant goes towards things like service, glassware, tables, design, and other non-food related things. Essentially, a more casual place frees up money for high quality ingredients.“In fine dining, you’re essentially paying for the service and not necessarily the ingredients,” says Shook, “But, in all of our restaurants we buy the nicest stuff you can buy, bar none. Even the canned tomatoes that we’re using for the pizza, we’re buying the highest quality tomatoes you can buy. Picked in California, canned in California. As good, as if not better, than some of the ones fine dining restaurants are using.”


The Next Wave
Ready your appetite, because thankfully, this trend isn’t going anywhere. “I think the trend will continue for a long time,” Lefebvre says, “Chefs want to reach a broad spectrum of guests. And, they want different dining opportunities, whether it be from a food style standpoint or a different price point. I believe chefs will continue to push the restaurant styles and concepts they create. It’s exciting.”

It is exciting, and with Cimarusti’s forthcoming Cape Seafood and Provisions slated to open this summer, Mark Peel’s new Bombo stall (brand spanking new fish market stand) at Grand Central Market, Helen’s wine shop attached to Jon & Vinny’s, and Belcampo’s new restaurant to match their burgeoning Santa Monica butcher shop, it’s safe to say the trend is on the up and up.

Originally appeared on Refinery29

Where To Find The Country’s Best Eats — Without Ever Leaving L.A.

L.A. is a city of transplants. Of course, there are a few fabled born-and-bred Angelenos out there, but most of us come from somewhere else — be it another state or even another country. Whether you’ve lived here for a decade (and consider yourself an honorary L.A. native), or you’re just settling in to your first month in the city, there’s always a little part of you that will belong to your hometown.

We know it firsthand: that nostalgic pang that affects even the most well-adjusted of L.A. transplants when we catch a scent of our native grub. Fortunately, since many of the city’s culinary purveyors hail from all over, we don’t have to leave town to get a taste of home. We’ve put together a list of the best dining spots that will immediately transport you to a different state (and state of mind) — all within city limits.

From authentic Tex-Mex and Chicago-style deep-dish pizza, to New England-style seafood and authentic Hawaiian bites, these restaurants will take you back to your roots — or somewhere new altogether. So, say hello to your new home away from home! (And, for all you international transplants, stay tuned: We’re cooking up a list for you, too!)