Yesterday we got to meet Oliver the pig. He’s the mascot for Hedley & Bennett, a local company known worldwide for their stylish handmade aprons. His owner Ellen was co-hosting a Southern-themed Sunday brunch at her house along with the folks from Bake From Scratch Magazine, and we were two of the lucky attendees. Tucked away in the steep hills of Echo park, this colorful and artistic home has breathtaking views of the city. Lush gardens filled with native plants and purple sages surround the property which is also home to a half dozen chickens as well as our new friend, Oliver. Apparently he was misbehaving before we arrived, so he spent most of the afternoon in a “time out” behind a wooden gate atoning for his sins. But after a welcoming Southern brunch featuring Rebecca’s homemade melt-in-your-mouth Meyer lemon scones, Brian’s brown butter hummingbird coffee cake, Gaby’s beer bread, and a live demonstration from Callie’s Biscuits on how to make authentically Southern buttermilk biscuits, we took a peek behind the gate and introduced ourselves to the peppy pig before saying our goodbyes. It was hard to leave of course, but we had some important business to attend to at home. And by “business” we mean peanut butter cheesecake.
Everything is going to be fine. You’re cooking tonight’s Valentine’s dinner, but still haven’t decided what to make. First, take a deep breath, and realize you’re not the only one browsing the web for “romantic home-cooked meals” right now. We’ve gotcha covered, and have definitely been there before. There was the time we waited to buy champagne on our way to a New Year’s party, only to learn the store was sold out of everything bubbly. And the time we tried to buy eggs on Easter morning, finding the dairy case completely empty. Sometimes procrastination works, and sometimes it does not. But no worries: your Valentine will never know you were browsing our site at the last minute on this intimate holiday. In fact, from the very first sip of the evening’s cocktails, it will seem as though you’ve been planning this special night for a long time. And when you bring out this first course, pan-seared artichoke with an aioli trio, and see the smile on your date’s face, it can be our little secret that you just discovered it today.
Adam: It didn’t matter that Ryan had to get up at 4:30am yesterday. He was determined to test these cocktails with me late Sunday night after his choir rehearsal. Energized from making beautiful music with his friends and excited to spend this week filming a part in a new television show—which we will tell you more about once we are allowed to—he rolled up his sleeves and together we began testing after 10pm, even though he had to wake up in just a few hours. Thankfully, this drink didn’t take long to perfect, and after sampling a bit of this and a touch of that, we literally stumbled upon a secret ingredient that turned this delicious cocktail into one of the tastiest we have ever tried. Ryan was able to get to bed quickly while I finished the dishes, and because of his hardworking dedication, today we are able to present a hopping new beverage that will soothe your soul and alleviate your winter. Say hello to the white rabbit.
Being a vegetarian in Spain is not easy, but if you know what to look for you can eat like a king. Ryan has family in Bilbao and we have been fortunate to visit them a few times together over the years. Our first experience was in the summer of 2011, and while the trip was amazing… getting there was not. Thanks to weather and other delays, our sixteen-hour travel time turned into an unpleasant (and uncomfortable) thirty, leaving us exhausted and worn out by the time we arrived. But the huge hugs and warm welcome we received from all the relatives waiting at the airport made us forget the ordeal we had been through, and for the next four days we had the time of our lives. We had planned our trip to overlap with the city’s annual festival, Aste Nagusia, or “big week.” From morning till night, there were tens of thousands of locals and tourists partying in town, with colorful floats, jaw-dropping fireworks, and delicious street foods on every corner, and this is where Adam tried churros con chocolate for the first time: thin, extra-crispy churros dipped in a cup of rich, thick melted chocolate. Ryan’s family showed us all their favorite local bars and restaurants, took us to the Guggenheim Museum of modern art, and we basically spent the entire visit eating and drinking our way through this lively Basque city. At times, it was tricky to find tapas that we could eat, but almost every bar had a few classic dishes we could enjoy, like traditional Spanish tortilla de patatas, roasted pimientos de país, and the crispy, spicy, dangerously addictive potatoes known as patatas bravas.
The restaurant we used to visit on birthdays, anniversaries, and special occasions recently shut down. There are other locations, but the nearest one is now over forty miles away. They specialized in delicious fondues and the entire meal was prepared at your table. The three-course dinner would always begin with a cheese fondue of your choice. One of the friendly servers knew how much we liked garlic, so he would make sure to pile loads of it into the pot along with the shredded cheese, spices, and splashes of beer or wine that would cook until bubbling hot and fragrant, right in front of you. Cubes of crusty bread, sliced celery, carrots, and apples would accompany this savory appetizer, which was still light enough to leave room for the next two courses. The main entrée fondue was a tangy Caribbean-inspired broth, aromatic with fresh garlic and citrus. For vegetarians they offered a platter of artichoke hearts, portobello mushrooms, broccoli florets, cheese ravioli, and mixed vegetables that is simmered in the zesty broth at your leisure. But the most difficult thing to choose on the menu were the dessert fondues. With decadent combinations like chocolate peanut butter, chocolate caramel, and even s’mores fondue, we made sure to try a new one every time. Our local restaurant is long gone, so we took matters into our own hands and figured out a way to recreate this festive dessert at home, and amazed ourselves by turning it into something even better than the original. This pure white chocolate fondue is here to start 2017 off with a warm—and deliciously sweet— welcome.