Sunday, November 29, 2015

EMC Seafood and Cambodian Hot Sauces - Sea Change Coming to Suburbia?

The tide of rising-quality-food-venues has been moving north in LA, as seen most particularly in Top Chefs / chefs from Michelin-starred kitchens setting up in Studio City and Sherman Oaks in recent years.

So I was excited to see the upgrading of dining in shopping complexes, like at Westfield Century City and The Americana at Brand, to offer affordable good food was hitting the SFV as well, namely at one of my new favorite shop/dine/play spots - The Village at Westfield Topanga with EMC Seafood.

EMC Seafood's first location is a highly successful and popular one in Koreatown.  That location is attached to the City Center Mall - a shop/dine/play complex with good foot traffic due to a giant Korean supermarket, cute beauty and novelty shops, and a top floor of entertainment / fitness from a karaoke bar/club to a korean spa that also features a gym.

Smart play to replicate the new-school-mall-based strategy in Woodland Hills, a sprawling suburb in need of better quality dining venues - especially seafood with a dash of excitement - a psuedo-blue ocean strategy localized edition, if you will (irony intended).

I LOVE the set up and vibe, actually much more chill than the one in Ktown.  There is a mostly al fresco seating plan (with a few tables under a 3-walled, glass roofed area), including a lovely raw bar where you can slurp down oysters, clams and take down fresh shellfish while enjoying a glass of local wine under the gorgeous SoCal sunshine pretty much year round.  On a November day, after putting in my pre-meal burn time at YogaWorks (newly opened on the 2nd floor) - I had a beautiful Sea Urchin in one of the most simply artful presentations of the creature I've seen in the city.

(And yes, I also may have a #foodporn bias for this location thanks to the gorgeous natural lighting that makes even iPhone photos look much better)

Then I double-downed with the decadent Uni Pasta ($21) with Cream, Fish Roe, Chives, Dried Seaweed.  I was in Sea Urchin umami / carb heaven between the two dishes.

It may not be destination dining for those who already live ocean-side - but it's another fantastic option for those who don't.

Hoping that the local community will support and sustain it - so far since its opening in September, looks like there has been a solid turnout.

And, foodie-night-owls-in-the-SFV take note: this location of EMC Seafood is also open for late night dining (til 2am, daily)!  Now there is an actual tasty option beyond corporate chains, and an alternative to 24 hour diners!

So, although foot traffic to OG malls have been declining, I'm a big fan of the NEW complexes that make it convenient for you to spend the day doing the key things you need to get done without needing to fight LA traffic.

For me, that's usually: work out, eat, food / juice shop, and the occasional bit of clothing / accessories / beauty shopping.

You can do all this at The Village: YogaWorks is there as I mentioned, 24 Hour Fitness too if you're into that, and FlyWheel is coming soon; Burke Williams spa if you feel like splurging; EMC is there now, GoGreek yogurt, and there are other restaurant options I have yet to try; quite a few small chain / boutique shops (big chain stores if needed are just across the street like Nordstrom), Pressed Juicery, and then Costco for your grocery / home needs.

BUT ON TOP OF ALL THAT:  they also host a Farmers Market every Sunday from 9am-1pm!

It spans about 2 blocks in the parking lot by Pressed Juicery, and beyond local produce vendors, they also have a fresh fish stall, artisanal Breadbar, and the fantastic Vagabond Cheese stall who is very generous with samples and with sharing knowledge about cheeses and meats (Lactaid is even offered in consideration of those who neeed it)!  They carry some great gourmet selections of both, including moliterno truffle cheese, iberico bellota underloin, and white truffle salami made with berkshire pork.

The one stall I was very surprised (and delighted) to find was Yeak Inc. Cambodian hot sauces ($8/ bottle) - definitely not something I would have expected in a mall farmers market in this part of town!

The local, handmade, small batch sauces on offer include: 
Krahom (red) made with Tien Tsin Chilies & Charred Garlic, Baithong (green) made with roasted seasonal green chilies and garlic charred and blended with palm sugar, vinegar and touch of fish sauce, and Kmao (black) made with dried Bird's Eye chile and Tien Tsin chilies wok-fried with garlic, that will set your mouth on fire, and still make you come back for more with its complex and nuanced flavors.  Each is recommended to go with anything from eggs, breakfast burritos, fried rice, grilled steak, roasted chicken to crawfish tails to oysters to dim sum and potato chips.

In addition to the hot sauces, Yeak also offers seasonal pickled chiles called Chruk, which I will need to try next time.

The two-person team behind these tasty sauces are passionate about sharing culture through food, and that's the beauty of the farmers market setting, that you get to chat with them about their heartfelt project! (If you don't live in the area or can't make it over there, some of their products are available for sale online)

I anticipate that we'll be seeing a lot more of and about these sauces in the food world - will be rooting you guys on, Melinda and Allen!

On the way back, along the row of shops next to the Farmers Market, I noticed a charming shop called Bitter Root Pottery, which was advertising classes for just $35 a person.

Exciting for another fun activity to do at The Village.  Sadly, though, I noticed on closer inspection that the classes are only on weekdays.  Hoping that they will offer weekend options soon for those of us who are not independently wealthy, self-employed or HousewivesTM, but actually holding down full-time jobs during the week.

All in all though, a big fan of the changes afoot on this side of the city, and hoping the shop/dine/play concept with local small businesses mixed in will catch and spread within the SFV.  But this is a solid start - sometimes, it just takes The Village.


EMC Seafood & Raw Bar
6252 Topanga Canyon Blvd. #1695 (Inside The Village at Westfield Topanga)
Woodland Hills, CA 91367
Ph: 818.704.1899
(Other location: 3500 W. 6th St #101, Los Angeles, CA 90020. Ph: 213 351 9988)

Parking: in mall parking structure

Farmers Market at The Village at Westfield Topanga
Sundays 9am-1pm 

Yeak, Inc.


Vagabond Cheese


Not food, still delicious:
6256 Topanga Canyon Blvd., Woodland Hills, CA 91367  
Ph: 818.337.3571
New users get a free week here.


Saturday, November 28, 2015

Holiday Bites: Top 12 Gift Ideas for Your Fav Foodie 2015

The holidays are officially upon us again. If you're wondering what to get the food / drink lover in your life, here are some ideas: this year, I'm combining edibles and non-edibles into one master list.

All gifts are under $150, and where scaled options or deals / discounts are available, I have noted them below each product description.

1. For the Holiday Enthusiast (Who Just.Can't.Wait.For.Every.Day.In.December.)

Photo source:
Let them countdown to Christmas...with a daily dose of gourmet chocolate.  Housed in a beautiful keepsake advent calendar table box, with an individual drawer for each day in December til Christmas.  There's also a fun 'secret message' element - flip each drawer after indulging in that day's chocolate, and eventually a holiday greeting will be revealed.  Drawers filled with Caramels, Organic Peanut Butter Bonbons, Toffee and Mini Exotic Chocolate Bars.
The drawers are refillable too of course!  Just contact the Vosges "Chocolate Concierge".  Awesome, right?

Buy from: $135

[Deal Alert: 20% off $100 spend at on Cyber Monday only! No code required.]

Photo source:
2.  For Island Dreamers

Take them to the islands in the thick of winter, with Honolulu Cookie Company's insanely delicious shortbread cookies in the shape of pineapples, often dipped in chocolate.  

Get a sampler assortment like in the keepsake holiday box, which contains 8 cookies featuring 6 flavors: Pineapple Macadamia, Butter Macadamia, Chocolate Dipped Macadamia, Dark Chocolate Coconut, Dark Chocolate Peppermint, and White Chocolate Peppermint.

You can even get the pineapple shaped cookies in a fun clear pineapple shaped ornament, in case they can't get enough of...pineapple.

Buy from:

Photo source: Anthropologie

3.  Fit to a Tea

Fancy a cup and saucer set with some holiday sparkle?

Tea connoisseurs would also raise their pinkies to this floral loose leaf tea from Palais des Thes, in a highly civilized and sophisticated cup and saucer set tinged with holiday sparkle.

For an excellent locally handcrafted tea, check out Art of Tea.  They have the most incredible Egyptian Chamomile herbal tea with actual floral buds in a beautiful tin, or you can go all out and gift the leatherette box with a mix of their most popular teas in tea bags.
Buy from: 

4. For the Constant Caffeinator Concerned with Consistent Temperature

Because needs to be 'smart' nowadays.  This smart mug keeps coffee or tea at the perfect temperature up to 2 hours on the go, or use charging coaster to maintain desired temperature all day

The Ember app then lets them customize their mug with a "name", temperature presets, and notification preferences.

Buy from: / Indiegogo $129

5. For the Star Wars Fanatic
Because this won't just be ANY old holiday this year, it is as you're sure to have heard by now, the #SeasonoftheForce. Don't let your favorite Star Wars enthusiast hyperspace jump into their every day battles without fueling up with Rebel-worthy bites / sips.

Photo source: ThinkGeek
Let R2D2 take over duties for time watch, and precision with a cool measuring cup set that stacks up to the image of the charismatic droid.  Then, break out the Death Star for some Wookie...I mean...cookie containment.  And, give the gift of the best theme party ice breaker with Han Solo in Carbonite ice cubes made with the special shaping tray.

Buy from:

  • Han Solo in Carbonite Ice Cube Tray from ThinkGeek $9.99
  • R2D2 Measuring Cup Set from ThinkGeek $19.99
  • R2D2 Kitchen Timer from ThinkGeek $19.99
  • Death Star Cookie Jar from ThinkGeek $29.99

6. For the Nostalgic Sweettooth

If you've ventured into either of the major malls in Sherman Oaks or Glendale lately, you might have noticed what looks like an old-timey sweets shop with an elegant old-world / classic European aesthetic.
You'll literally feel like an adult in a candy shop, and may be at risk of whip lash trying to take in all the wonders of sugary confections in every direction at once. 

There are bulk bins of delectable chocolates and candies that you can fill gummy bear shaped glass jars, mason jars or beautifully etched nostalgic tins with.  And designer artisanal often single-origin chocolate bars wrapped in the most gorgeous handmade paper you may have ever seen.  

These aren't run of the mill confections either - you'll see anything from Mr. Stanley Turkish Delights with rose & lemon, champagne mimosa / croissant and almond flavored chocolate bars, Remy Martin Cognac filled bonbons to Harry Potter pez dispensers.

Create your own tin, basket for your favorite sweets loving foodie - then double the order for yourself, as it'll definitely not be easy to part with your selections.  

Buy from: Lolli & Pops stores in select cities: see list here.

7. For the Novice Chef / Home Cooks Strapped for Time

Photo source: Blue Apron
This ready-to-cook-meals-in-a-box-to-your-door subscription service is fantastic: saves the headache of fighting traffic and crowds at the grocery store or planning your meals for the week out to ensure you use up all the ingredients.  Each week that you sign up for a box they send you all the fresh ingredients you need + simple recipe cards to make 3 curated dishes, and they are often very creative ones as well, using ingredients you may not normally encounter or think to use yourself, like finger limes, hominy (for pozole) and tomatillos. The great thing is that you can skip a week or as many weeks as you want in advance, with no penalties or fees.

Again, especially for single eaters - this service prevents food waste as well: they give you exactly the amount of ingredients you need to make the dishes of the week - for example, if your recipe calls for 1 stalk of celery, they will send you just the 1 stalk, so you don't have to buy an entire head that may go to waste if you don't have any use for it outside of that recipe.  And you can save the second portion of each dish for lunch or dinner the next day.

Buy from: Blue Apron $59.95 per week of your selection (for 3 meals x 2 servings per meal = 6 total meals)

[Deal Alert: save 3% + 35% + 25%!!! Do it in this order:

  • eBates - Gilt City (free to sign up) for 3% rebate this weekend (must go through desktop, not mobile) to save $0.94 (3% on paid amount if you follow the steps below, which will be paid by check to you after you accumulate $50 worth of rebates from various shopping within their vast network of partner sites)
  • Buy Gilt City voucher: pay $39 for $60 value to save $21
    • Use code: BLACKOUT25 for extra 25% off the order (ends Nov 28 11:59pm EST) to save $7.80]

Total cost with all 3 steps = $30.26; savings with all 3 steps = $8.74]

8. For the Love of Art

Gift a unique experience to remember: an after hours tour of LACMA galleries with an  art expert, learn about master works based on a theme, then dine after the tour with dishes around that theme (often at Ray's and Stark bar on the terrace of the musuem). Or learn to cook dishes around the theme.  

Previous themes have included Dali and Surrealism, German Art, and in January there is a Spanish Art & Tapas tour.

Photo source:

Buy from: artbites $80 or $110 gift certificates good towards artbites classes

9. For Wine Lovers

Wine is always a welcome gift, and the Oremus Tokaji is sure to please even connoisseurs' tastes (afterall, if it's good enough to be served at Chef Curtis Stone's restaurant Maude in Beverly Hills...)

Pinnacle Iced Cider is another dessert wine I loved from our visit to Montreal - still trying to find out how to get a hold of a bottle in the US though - stay tuned!

And, not that anyone would reasonably have any leftovers after opening these wines - but for ahem, future other wines, should there be any remaining, get them a Savino Wine Carafe, an elegant glass cruet that they can not only serve from, but also preserve the wine for up to a week after opening.

Buy from: 

10. For DIY Fans

Know someone who loves to add spice to everything?  The DIY Hot Sauce kit with let them create their own unique blend with cayenne, ancho, curry, and chili spice packs, peppers, vinegars, and brown sugar. 

Photo source: Uncommon Goods

      For spirits / cocktail enthusiasts: the absinthe kit has everything they need - besides their favorite high proof neutral spirit - to brew their own "Green Fairy" beloved of 19th century artists and writers (obviously without wormwood or the notorious hallucinogenic neurotoxin). Add complexity with a blend of 11 certified organic botanicals including fennel, anise, licorice, hyssop, angelica, and artemisia. The kit also includes a custom labeled 500ml Tortuga antique green bottle, 4" funnel, natural coffee filter, and  instructions. 

Buy from:

11. For the Breath Obsessed / Those Who Tend to Overindulge in Holiday Spirits

Photo source: Breathometer

Let them check the quality of their breath, and be safe whether for the road (or on a date), with a personal portable smart breathalyzer, as seen on Shark Tank.

Buy from: Indiegogo  $49.99

12. For the Food Styling / Modernist Cuisine / Foodporn Enthusiast
Photo source: Darby Smart

Whether they are creators of food art or just want to style their food like one, this kit gives them all key tools to play with their food in a sophisticated way: includes precision tweezers, fine scissors, scalpel + 2 blades, culinary syringe + 2 syringe tips, oil mister, spatulas

Buy from: darbysmart $45

BONUS: Stocking Stuffer ideas:


For Hollywood Bowl Frequenters / Picnic Lovers: the foldable Wine2Go travel plastic bottle is easy to fill with your favorite wine (it holds a full bottle and are BPA free!), much more lightweight to carry than glass, with less risk of breakage.  Just roll up when you're done and it fits easily into your bag.

Buy from: The Grommet $12.99

Pressed Juicery

Regular readers know that Pressed Juicery is one of the only ways I really get my veggies in, and actually enjoy it. Toast to your fav foodie's health with gift cards from Pressed Juicery - take advantage of their annual Black Friday deal to get more for your money too (see deal alert below).

Buy from: Pressed Juicery any denomination

[Deal alert: get 20% off gift cards any denomination, ends 11/29, in-stores only excluding Montecito, Paseo Nuevo, Manhattan Beach]

For any of your other holiday shopping, first check eBates to score any retail rebates available, simply by clicking through the site first (free to sign up).
Ebates Coupons and Cash Back

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

LA Weekly The Essentials: Presale Tickets Now Available: Use Passcode: THE99BITE!

LA Weekly The Essentials

What: LA Weekly's signature food and wine extravaganza curated by award-winning food critic Besha Rodell: taste signature bites from select restaurants from the 99 Essentials list while enjoying wine, cocktails and beer and checking out artisanal vendors.

When: Saturday, February 20th, from 6pm-10pm (VIP Hour 5pm – 6pm)

Where: California Market Center, 110 E 9th St., Los Angeles, CA 90079

How much:
  •  General Admission:
    • Presale: $60 (November 17th @10am – November 22nd @10pm)
    • Super Advance: $60 (November 23rd @10am – January 3rd @11:59pm)
    • Advance: $65 (January 4th @12am – January 31st @ 11:59pm)
    • Pricing: $70 (February 1st @12am – February 19th at 5pm)
    • Door: $75*
  • VIP 
    • Difference from GA: 1 hour early entry + VIP gift bag
    • Presale: $95 (November 17th @10am – November 22nd @10pm)
    • Super Advance: $95 (November 23rd @10am – January 3rd @11:59pm)
    • Advance: $100 (January 4th @12am – January 31st @ 11:59pm)
    • Pricing: $105 (February 1st @12am – February 19th at 5pm)
    • Door: $110*
*If available.

Buy tickets here: (use my passcode: THE99BITE to access presale tix: get them before they open it up to the general public!)

Event site:

Anticipated drool factor: 100%, perfect for those who want to sample before committing to a full dinner at some of the hottest / best and some of my favorite restaurants in the city including Providence (which you won't see at very many other food events like this!), Broken Spanish, Cassia, SqirlLA, ink, Le Comptoir, animal, Baroo, Chengdu Taste, Republique, and Redbird!


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