Holiday Gift List

Here's my list of favorite discoveries of 2012, food and non food items. If you're a last minute shopper, there's some great products that I have personally tested. They have the alli411 stamp of approval.  If you're like me and have already done your holiday shopping, think of these as potential gifts to yourself. 

Chocolate Lovers Gift: Crio Bru Brewed Cocoa

My favorite foodie item of the year is Crio Bru, roasted and ground cocoa beans that are brewed like coffee (I brew mine in a french press).

Crio Bru comes in a variety of flavors. I'm addicted to Cavalla (notes of coconut and cinnamon) and Vega Real (natural hints of red berries and dark spice ). I was drinking about 3+ cups a day until I realized that it has caffeine.  So now I savor a cup a day.  Added bonuses to this amazing drink: it's (supposedly) good for you, there's only 10 calories per 6 oz. cup and it curbs the appetite.

Sweet Gift: Republic of Jam

This is a gem I discovered in Oregon with Ette.  As far as jams go, they're tops.  My faves: Smoked Tomato Jam with Fennel and Strawberry Pasilla were tops.

The surprise at the Republic of Jam that has become a staple in my house is the flavorings that I add to sparkling water. Both remind me of summer:
Pineapple Clove and Rhubarb Lime. I use them with my Soda Stream
(if you don't already have one of these, you must get one.)

Healthy Gift: Crazy Sexy Kitchen
Kris Carr has made eating healthy sexy.  Kris Carr is inspiring to watch (see her videos on her website) and actually got me hooked on vegetable juices.  Her book with Whole Foods Chef Chad Sarno has great info and recipes. Reading the book has inspired me to be healthier.  I haven't tried the recipes yet. When I do, I'm going to try the Chickpea Crepe with Mushrooms and Artichokes and the Crazy Sexy Goddess Smoothie.

Gifts for Men: Two Dudes One Pan

For those guys on your list, or girls for that matter, Two Dudes: One Pan from Jon Shook and Vinnie Detolo, the dudes behind Animal and Son of a Gun, has great recipes in it.  I ate dinner at Son Of A Gun a couple weeks ago. Two Lobster Rolls  (about 3 bites in each of them) with a beer was serious comfort food. I'll certainly go back soon... maybe, even tonight. Resos can be a nightmare. The bar or communal table is the way to go.

Gifts for Readers: The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared

My favorite book of the year was this quirky one I found in while vacationing in Madrid this September.  Jonas Jonasson writes about a centenarian and his outlandish adventures. It's a light and uplifting read.

The Gift Splurge: RIMOWA

This is my dream luggage. It has changed the way I travel.  I can literally push a heavy bag of luggage with 2 fingers. It is that easy.

Their website is high tech, yet not that user friendly.  I preferred buying mine in the showroom.  It is also easy to check out the luggage here http://www.luggagepros.com.

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PLENTY of Decadent Vegetable Recipes

I just received my copy of PLENTY by London chef Yotam Ottolenghi in the mail.  The photos are GORGEOUS; I wish there was one for every recipe.  PLENTY gets a special place on the cookbook shelf, next to one of my all-time favorites: Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.

I've already marked many new recipes to make including:

Green Gazpacho
Fried Lima Beans with Feta, Sorrel and Sumac
Yogurt Flatbreads with Barley and Mushrooms (for the fall)

Have you made any recipe's from PLENTY?  If so, what are your favorites?

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Eatdeals.com Launches

Foodie, Jordan Katz, launched his new site EatDeals.com today with restaurant deals for 50-90% off.  Today's deal is 50% off Burger Kitchen ($20 for $40 worth of food).  Here's the scoop from Eatdeals.com.

"Eat Deals is a free membership site for people who enjoy receiving great discounts at their local restaurants. Our mission is to get friends and family to enjoy great discounts at local restaurants together. Eat Deals is open to all people and is free to sign up. Members will receive one hot restaurant discount in their local area everyday. To use the discounts members print out the certificates and present it to the restaurant that was featured in the email."

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Pitfire Pizza Saves Hunger in North Hollywood

In the deep valley on a particularly hot day, my stomach was grumbling. Looked up and down streets and could not find many options.  Pitfire Pizza was a welcome respite from the insufferable heat (hand on forehead). 

Pitfire Pizza provided a tasty pie...and cool drinks.  LOVE how they sell boxed water in milk containers.

I hear Pitfire has a handful of locations in Los Angeles:Westwood Blvd. in West LA, Washington Blvd. in Culver City, and West 2nd St. in Downtown LA.

Pitfire Pizza Company on Urbanspoon
Pitfire Pizza
5211 Lankershim Blvd
North Hollywood, CA 91601


2011 James Beard Awards: Cookbooks, Journalism and Broadcast Media

Congrats to Jonathan Gold (LA Weekly, “A Movable Beast”) for winning the M.F.K. Fisher Distinguished Writing Award from The James Beard Foundation.   And to Bill Owens and Kara Vaccaro, who won the Television Segment Award for 60 Minutes: Chef Jose Andres (after Chef Jose Andres appeared on that show, my non-foodie friends started asking me about The Bazaar by Jose Andres).  Patric Kuh won the Craig Claiborne Distinguished Restaurant Review for Los Angeles Magazine's, “Animal Magnetism ,”. Harold McGee for the Cookbook Hall of Fame: On Food and Cooking: The Science & Lore of the Kitchen.  If you haven't already seen McGee's Key to Good Cooking A Guide to Making the Best of Foods and Recipes, make sure to check it out.   Here are the other winners:

Cookbook Awards
Cookbook Hall of Fame: On Food and Cooking: The Science & Lore of the Kitchen by Harold McGee
American Cooking: Pig: King of the Southern Table by James Villas
Baking and Dessert: Good to the Grain: Baking with Whole-Grain Flours by Kim Boyce
Beverage: Secrets of the Sommeliers: How to Think and Drink Like the World’s Top Wine Professionals by Jordan Mackay and Rajat Parr
Cooking from a Professional Point of View: Noma: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine by René Redzepi
General Cooking: The Essential New York Times Cook Book: Classic Recipes for a New Century by Amanda Hesser
International: Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge: The Ultimate Guide to Mastery, with Authentic Recipes and Stories by Grace Young
Healthy Focus: The Simple Art of EatingWell Cookbook by Jessie Price & the EatingWell Test Kitchen
Photography: Noma: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine Photographer: Ditte Isager
Reference and Scholarship: Salted: A Manifesto on the World’s Most Essential Mineral, with Recipes by Mark Bitterman
Single Subject: Meat: A Kitchen Education by James Peterson
Writing and Literature: Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food by Paul Greenberg
Cookbook of the Year: Oaxaca al Gusto: An Infinite Gastronomy by Diana Kennedy

Journalism Awards
M.F.K. Fisher Distinguished Writing Award: Jonathan Gold, LA Weekly, “A Movable Beast”
Food Section of a General Interest Publication: San Francisco Chronicle, Jon Bonné and Miriam Morgan
Food-Related Feature: Dan Koeppel, Saveur, “Fruit of the Future”
Food-Related Columns & Commentary: Tim Carman, Washington City Paper, “Ignore the Pizza Police,” “Supply and Da Men,” “Schmeer Campaign”
Personal Essay: Tom Junod, Esquire, “My Mom Couldn’t Cook”
Health and Nutrition: Rachael Moeller Gorman, EatingWell, “Captain of the Happier Meal”
Environment, Food Politics, and Policy: Carl Safina, EatingWell, “Sea Change”
Profile: Benjamin Wallace, New York, “The Restaurant Auteur”
Craig Claiborne Distinguished Restaurant Review: Patric Kuh, Los Angeles, “Animal Magnetism,” “Making Their Move,” “Time for a Redo?”
Wine and Spirits: Jon Fine, Food & Wine, “Natural Wine: Weird or Wonderful?”
Multimedia Food Feature: Michael Gebert and Julia Thiel, The Chicago Reader, Key Ingredient
Food Culture and Travel: Rick Bragg, Francine Maroukian, and Robb Walsh, Garden & Gun, “The Southerner’s Guide to Oysters”
Humor: @RuthBourdain
Individual Food Blog: Barry Estabrook, Politicsoftheplate.com
Group Food Blog: Daniel Maurer, Jenny Miller, and Alan Sytsma, Newyork.grubstreet.com
Cooking, Recipes, Instruction: Amy Thielen, Minneapolis Star Tribune, “A Good Catch,” “Low-Tech Wonder” “From the Bean Patch: Plenty”
Publication of the Year Award: Edible Communities Publications

Broadcast Media Awards
Audio Webcast or Radio Show: Megan Williams, CBC Ideas: “Pasta: The Long and Short of It”
Video Webcast: Jay Selman, GrapeRadio
Television Segment: Bill Owens and Kara Vaccaro, 60 Minutes: “Chef José Andrés”
Television Program, On Location: Justin Barocas, Heather Brown, and Geoffrey Drummond, Avec Eric
Television Program, In Studio or Fixed Location: Top Chef: Season 7
Television Special/Documentary: Declan O’Driscoll and Kevin O’Keefe, Milk War
TV Food Personality/Host: Alton Brown, Good Eats

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Buddha's Belly Tasting

Buddha's Belly had a private tasting of possible new menu items.  Here were some of my faves.  Stay tuned to see what new menu items make the Buddha Belly cut.  Full disclosure: owner Jonathan Chu is a dear friend of mine.  When you visit Buddha's Belly in Santa Monica or on Beverly Blvd., or even Copa D' Oro, tell them alli411 sent you.

and we're off.. with a gorgeous presentation of shrimp

one of my faves: crab salad

                                                                        fresh tofu

sneak pic of jonathan's brother doug, serious fun

duck tacos, could eat them every day

                                                           edamame salad


                                                       shrimp, veggies, egg and noodles

                                                                 egg on fried rice

                                            the dish that taste like grandma's brisket

the cure for any cold

love those shrimp toasts with the dish

this was actually one dish...  serious beauty

stir fry with white rice

                                               tofu-strawberry dessert.  a perfect ending.
The votes will be tallied and new items added to the already fab Buddha's Belly menu.  Post a comment telling us which one is your fave or/and if you are one of the lucky ones to taste these new treats at Buddha's Belly.

Buddha's Belly
205 Broadway
Santa Monica, CA 90401
(310) 458-2500

7475 Beverly Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90036 

(323) 931-8588

Buddha's Belly on Urbanspoon

Buddha's Belly on Urbanspoon

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Crave! at work

I received the most beautiful bag of fruit from Crave! at work this holiday season: Chestnuts, Baby Bananas, Comice and Asian Pears.

Crave! at work bag comes with fruit and comes with information about the fruit.

Crave! at work has thought of everything: instructions on how to ripen, and even a brown ripening bag (love this detail).

Crave! asked me to participate in their recipe challenge.  I had fun in my kitchen with the beautiful bounty.

Pear Appetizers
With fruit this beautiful, eating it raw is my number one preference.  So I incorporated the fruit in its natural form into the recipe. I sliced the Asian Pears in 1/4 inch slices then used a clover cookie cutter to make the slices a little festive.  Delicious food seems to taste even better when it looks good.  I then placed the Pear slice on top of cheese bread.  It was a great combo, especially with home made Chestnut Spread underneath.  See below for recipe.

Cheese Bread

Chestnut Spread

I'd never cooked with Chestnuts before so I was amazed at how easy they actually are to prepare.

12 oz. Chestnuts
1 1/4 cup Milk
1 tsp. Sugar
1 tsp. Kosher Salt
1/4 cup Unsalted Butter
4 1/2 oz. Semi Sweet Choc. Chips

Peeling the Chestnuts
Bring a pot of water to a boil.  While waiting for the water to boil, put an X in the curved part of the chestnuts with a paring knife.  Add chestnuts to boiling water for 2 minutes.  Remove chestnuts from water.  Immediately remove shells and skin.  *** Don't let them cool or the nuts and skins will be nearly impossible to remove.  I used a cutting glove to protect my hands from getting burned by the nuts... it also prevent any knife accidents.

Once deshelled, fill saucepan with new water and brought to boil.  Cook chestnuts 25 minutes in water then remove chestnuts.  In another saucepan bring milk and salt to a boil. Add chestnuts and simmer 30 min.  Remove chestnuts and puree chestnuts.  Add a few tablespoons of the cooked milk to the puree along with butter, mix well.  Add remaining milk and mix.

In a saucepan or double boiler, melt chocolate.  Add melted chocolate to chestnut mixture.  Mix well.  Add to ramekin and chill in fridge for hours.  When chilled, spread on sliced bread.  Add to it pear slice.

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ALLI411 2010 Foodie Holiday Gift Guide

Whether you are looking for holiday gifts for your favorite foodies, hostess gifts or a treat for yourself, Alli411 has got you covered this holiday season.  These high-quality, out-of-the-ordinary holiday gifts will help satisfy those with serious taste buds and who love food.

Bacon Jam by Chicks with Knives is spreadable bacon made with bacon, slow cooked onions, natural sweeteners and spices.  It's fantastic stirred in to soup; on a grilled cheese sandwich or hamburger; with pasta, with your favorite charcuterie and of course, eaten right from the jar.  Bacon Jam is 100% natural and gluten-free. It is also PERISHABLE and should be refrigerated upon arrival.  They recommend warming the bacon-jam slightly prior to eating.
Fancy silverware and bone china on a paper place mat is the ultimate fauxpaus that's simply cool.  The pad of paper place mats are convenient and look great on my square, walnut table.  So what if the china is packed away, the silverware is unpolished and the crystal is gathering dust. Just tear some of these soy ink-printed paper place mats from their tablet, slip them around your tabletop and voila! You've gone from ho-hum to haute cuisine in an instant. By Cake Vintage. 

An essential foodie reference manual/cookbook/coffee table book written by Mark Bitterman, Selmelier at The Meadow that might convince the reader to stop using Kosher salt.  Give this along with one of your favorite salts.
Himalayan Salt Blocks
Whether you cook right on this real, salt block or use as a beautiful serving item, this trendy item is a fun gift that most foodies will enjoy.

My favorite knives-of-the-moment.  Zirconium oxide blades resist corrosion and hold their edge for months—even years—without sharpening. Includes 5½" Santoku and 3" paring knife. Made in Japan.

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Thanksgiving Pumpkin Pancakes a la Griddle Cafe

Who needs turkey when you have Thanksgiving Pumpkin Pancakes? The Griddle Cafe on Sunset in West Hollywood, famous for their over the top portions and breakfast decadence; you know the resto where people line up for breakfasts every weekend...  The Griddle Cafe is one of the serious Los Angeles breakfast places.  Below is their recipe.  Happy Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving Pumpkin Pancakes

You'll Need:

2 cups of your favorite dry pancake mix

3 Tbsp dark-brown sugar

2 1/2 tsp pumpkin-pie spice

1 1/2 cups milk

1 cup canned pure pumpkin puree (for an easier option ~ use 1 cup of Libby Pumpkin Pie filling, which is already seasoned.  Omit the pumpkin pie spice and vanilla if choosing this option)

1 egg, beaten

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 Tbsp vegetable oil, plus more for the griddle.


1 In a large bowl, combine the pancake mix, brown sugar, and pumpkin pie spice. In another large bowl, mix together the milk, pumpkin, egg, vanilla extract, and oil. Add the pumpkin mixture to the dry ingredients and stir to combine.

2 Heat a lightly oiled griddle or large frying pan on medium high. Pour the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake. Cook the pancakes until bubbles form in the batter and the edges begin to brown. Then flip them and cook until the other sides are lightly browned.

Top with store bought or homemade whipped cream and powdered sugar...ENJOY

**Makes 20 pancakes

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The Griddle Cafe
7916 W Sunset Blvd
West Hollywood, CA  90046 

(323) 874-0377

The Griddle Cafe on Urbanspoon


Fun at the Test Kitchen on Pico

The out-of-the-box Test Kitchen on Pico is one of the reasons the Los Angeles restaurant scene is so exciting. What started as a little fun with local chefs and a new resto breaking in their kitchen is now a temporary Los Angeles hot ticket in town with chefs, mixologists and their tasty creations as dinner theatre.

I had the pleasure of catching the Test Kitchen when Kris Morningstar was starring as chef for 3 days.

I was impressed with the enthusiastic servers, manager and staff, as excited to be there as I was, no doubt because of the delicious food and fab vibe.  Crispy Pork Bites over cabbage.  Truly decadent from the bar menu.

We were a little ambitious.  We wanted to taste as many things as possible so we had 2 bites from the Bar Menu and a 6 course meal. 

And of course, the wine pairing $30 extra.  This meal turned out to be pretty pricey after all and worth it.

Excuse the shot.  Sometimes information is more important than photo quality.  There was so much food that I took the Yellowtail home and had it the next morning.  (I love leftovers for breakfast.  The morning- after- leftover- test is a good indication of the quality of the food, which was excellent).  By the time dessert came, we were too stuffed to fully indulge in the ever-so-rich pudding that looks more like a cocktail here..

The temporary Test Kitchen will be around for another month and then *poof* it is gone.  Or maybe it will become a permanent fixture (cross my fingers).

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Test Kitchen
9575 W Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90035
(310) 277-0133

Test Kitchen on Urbanspoon


Mix 'n' Munch Cereal & Grilled Cheese Cafe South Pasadena

Lunch for 2 at Mix 'n' Munch Cereal and Grilled Cheese Cafe in South Pasadena for was completely satisfying.  You can create your own combos or order off the menu. I was tempted to have the M.O.P.: Provolone, Mushrooms, Grilled Onions on Sourdough ($4.50), but ordered my own combo: Gruyere with Grilled Onions on Sourdough.  At the last minute I changed my order to what I was really craving, an old fave, simple and sweet: Cheddar on Sourdough. Always satisfying.

Mix 'n' Match Cereal & Grilled Cheese Cafe aims to please.  They will make any combo for you.  Here's a lookey loo at the menu. 

Win had the Cheddar and Jack on Sourdough with Bacon.  Everything is always better with Bacon.  The other side of the menu. 

I especially liked the art on the back wall.  I had to take it this way so there would be no reflection in the photo.

It was a full house on Saturday afternoon.  What we loved were the complete mix of customers of all ages.  Kids with their parents, grandparents, teens, college kids.  We're all kids at heart.  After all, who doesn't like a grilled cheese or bowl of cereal.

Notice the dad in the center.  He's watching the game on a flat screen.  One last little detail: Mix 'n' Match has an "after-school happy hour". Kids get a discount when they come in after school for a snack. How cute is that?

This resto looks like it going to last longer than its predecessors: Meltdown in Culver City and JuJu Cereal Bar in Westwood.

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Mix 'n' Munch Cereal & Grilled Cheese Cafe on Urbanspoon
Mix 'n' Munch Cereal & Grilled Cheese Cafe
1005 Mission St
South Pasadena, CA 91030
(626) 441-8808