Monday, August 30, 2010

Echo Park's New Greengrocer: Cookbook

Cookbook is the corner store Echo Park has been waiting for and it's finally opening up tomorrow. We had a chance to take a sneak peek during tonight's friends and family night, where Echo Park locals, Marta Teegan and Robert Stelzner(below), opened up their beautiful space to share what they've created.

It's a small shop, and you can tell that they thoughtfully edited the store's offerings. Craving ice cream? Only one brand to choose from, but it's cult favorite Dr. Bob's in several luscious flavors. They've worked hard to bring some of the best from the Farmers' Market scene: Weiser's padron peppers, McGrath's haricot verts, Givens' carrots, Kenter Canyon herbs, plus heirlooms, avocados, late summer fruit, and more. Motivating to get to the Sunday market just got a bit harder.

Aside from the lovely selection of organic produce (at reasonable prices, by the way), Cookbook is the gourmet marketplace I honestly never thought I'd see in Echo Park. I need a few more visits to take everything in but some of the items I spotted included: Fermin Jamon Iberico, Sightglass Coffee (ex-Blue Bottle & Four Barrel guys), Cafe Fanny granola, Rustic Bakery sweets, Morning Glory Confections' artisan brittles (disclosure: my husband)and Strauss Family Creamery dairy.

In addition to organic produce, gourmet finds and staples, Cookbook will also offer an ever-changing array of prepared foods, a blessing for the neighborhood's busy parents. Recipes will come from Heirloom L.A., Marta's archives, and the week's featured cookbook. Tonight's dishes included a fatoush salad with cauliflower and eggplant, gazpacho, roasted asparagus and potatoes, a fava bean & pea tendril salad, pesto gnocchi and grilled corn. We devoured every bite and, more importantly, my two-year-old loved it all. That's him with some corn.

Oh, and there's a huge selection of Heirloom L.A.'s lasagna cupcakes, pasta sauces, lasagnas, and fresh pastas.

On our walk back up the hill, we imagined all of the times we'll head to Cookbook: When we're too tired to cook, if we just need a bottle of milk or some herbs for a recipe, if we skip the farmers' market but need some veggies for the week, when we're in need of a hostess gift, or if we just need to indulge in some Dr. Bob's.

1549 Echo Park Avenue
LA, 90026
Open daily, 8am-8pm

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Tater & Mommy: Forage

OK, so Forage has the basics every parent needs: plenty of high chairs, booster seats, and a changing table. What sets Forage apart is the TLC the staff provides, not as some customer service schtick but because they're all just so darn nice. Can Tater have a side of avocado instead of one of their available sides? Of course! And for $1.50, it's a bargain, trust me. They have little kiddie plates they provide if your kiddo's into his own special plate.

Other than the warm, family vibe they've cultivated, the food keeps us coming back again and again. Succulent Jidori chicken's always a hit with Tater, but so is almost everything else we've ever tried. They always seem to have a pot of Rancho Gordo beans available, another no-brainer for our guy. Today we both gobbled up the watermelon, feta, and arugula salad, the heirloom tomato & ricotta salata salad, and the Jidori. The tomatoes were summer in a good. And the classic watermelon dish was juicy, sweet, and salty. I'm still thinking about the fava bean, mint and ricotta crostini and avocado sandwich I had months ago.

Forage is great too if you just don't have time to cook, but you still want your kid to eat whole foods. On our way out, I picked up dinner for him tonight: those heirloom beans, roasted summer vegetables, and navy beans & couscous with cherry tomatoes.

If Tater's losin' it, the crazy good pastries and cookies keep him planted in his seat long enough for mommy to finish chatting with her friend. Forage gets the beauty of thin, buttery cookies - today's oatmeal raisin was perfection. And the cream cheese bundt? Cushiony and creamy with a tender crumb, another winner. Would be perfect with any summer fruit.

Some complain it's expensive. I always end up spending a ton at Forage, though you don't have to. It's just impossible for me to resist the expertly-made food, prepared with the finest and freshest ingredients, much of it from the backyards of local amateur farmers.

We're never the only family there because Forage is a godsend for parents who want the very best for their family in a comfy setting.