Monkey’s Cafe, Fair View Heights, Los Angeles

This weekend I spent some time with one of my best girlfriends, Whitney Jeffries, learning all about her family’s tradition of baking monkey bread for the holidays. It was a cold + rainy day in View Park (near Baldwin Hills if you are unfamiliar), and nothing sounded better than cozying up in the kitchen with friend baking, and of course, eating some fresh bread out the oven. Watching Whitney, under the tutelage of her mother, was quite the beautiful experience. Seeing each intricate step of the monkey bread making process had me even more eager to try the finished product, and I must say, I was blown away. If you have never experienced the richness of such a bread, do yourself a favor and rectify that sitch asap. Monkey bread is moist and puzzle like, with each piece easily being plucked apart and ready to eat! Not only is it delish, but it’s also fun.

Fortunately for us, the Jeffries’ family has Monkey’s Cafe, their very own monkey bread business, bringing smiles to all who get a taste. They have 3 incredible flavors to choose from: original, lemon, and garlic herb. It’s hard to decide which one is my favorite, though I must admit, the herb had me begging for more. If you love good bread, then you will absolutely love this. Passed down from generations, nothing tastes better than a perfected recipe.

Make your holidays brighter + order a batch at Monkey’s Cafe!

Monkey Bread View Park, L.A. Food Blog

How to make monkey bread

Monkey Bread Whitney Jeffries

Monkey Bread Los Angeles, L.A. Food Blog

Monkey Bread, L.A. Food Blog

Monkeys Cafe MonkeyBread

Tagine, Beverly Hills

Tagine is the ultimate date spot. Located in a very low key area off Robertson Blvd., this modern Moroccan restaurant offers a delicious hideout for those seeking a little spice + romance. Some know this place as the vision Ryan Gosling helped bring to life with Chef Ben, but celeb status or not, this establishment is a real gem among the usual in Beverly Hills. I had the privilege to enjoy Tagine’s tasting menu this fall, and it’s a dining experience that won’t soon be forgotten. For $71 per person, you can enjoy a six course meal, cozied up with Moroccan pillows, soft lighting and a good mix of indie rock.

Our meal started with a delicious amuse bouche consisting of an asparagus, baby zucchini, + carrot soup, paired a sauteed vegetable stuffed filo dough and a goat cheese spread topped with dates. Following that was the Moroccan Mezze, served with hummus, marinated olives, a tomato + cucumber tartare and a sauté of eggplants. Everything about the mezze spoke to my culinary desires; it was incredibly vibrant, fresh and the warm pita bread was nice touch. Out next in a cast iron skillet was a flavorful rendition of Black Tiger Shrimp, encrusted in herbs, and served with mini zucchini, mini squash, and spinach. Crunchy and light, this vegetable rich creation is ha perfect example of eating something healthy and incredibly flavorful. Much to my enjoyment came the Sea Bass Tagine, pan roasted and placed a top a bed of sauteed vegetables with a carrot puree. Delicate and moist, I gently pulled apart layers of the fish and swirled it in the tiny drops of liquid spice lending each bite a burst of flavor. The show stopping Lamb Chops concluded our savory portion of the tasting, and were so soft and rich, they practically fell off the bone. I didn’t want to waste time with a fork, so I coddled my chop with my fingers and began to gnaw on it. Any chance that I have to call upon my animal instincts, I will. Marinated in 7 different spices, these grilled chops played quite a number on my senses and I loved it.

Last but certainly not least, a unique dessert that I have never seen on a menu before: Chocolate Soup. Warm chocolate served in a carafe then slowly poured over a scoop of vanilla ice cream, sounds incredible because it tastes just so. Maybe not the most beautiful thing in a cup, but the sweetness was just right and paired with a piece of baklava, made for quite the finish to an already stellar meal.

Tagine, 132 N Robertson Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90211

Tagine Beverly Hills, L.A. Food Blog

Tagine Mezze Plate

Tagine Beverly Hills Tasting Menu

Tagine Sea Bass

Tagine Lamb Chops

Tagine Chocolate Soup Dessert

Roscoe’s Chicken & Waffles x Popular Demand

Streetwear brand Popular Demand dropped a collaboration with Roscoe’s Chicken & Waffles this week.  A VERY RARE ACCOMPLISHMENT as it’s the first in almost 40 years! Read my piece over on Foodbeast.

Roscoes x Popular Demand

Roscoes Popular Demand

Roscoes Popular Demand

Tsujita, Sawtelle, Los Angeles

I recently met someone who loves ramen just as much as myself. Our never ending texts dedicated to noodles, broth, and where we can find the next bowl has become a regular thing these days. Having been on numerous ramen adventures in the short time we’ve known each other, I approached my friend Brandon to be a guest contributor (a first) on NJ in LA, not just because he knows his ramen, but because his knowledge of food continues to impress me. Born and raised in the Crenshaw District of Los Angeles, Brandon is a graduate of the Art Institute with 10 years of professional cooking under his belt, including 4 years in the military, 3 years in fine dining and time spent traveling, researching + further developing his skills in Asia and Europe. His craftsmanship has been seen in the kitchens of the Royal Mail Hotel, one of the most prized restaurants Australia and here in Los Angeles, at Providence, voted the best restaurant of 2013 by Jonathan Gold of the L.A. Times.

Now that L.A. has begun to cool down, it’s our goal to slurp as many noodles as we possibly can and share our detailed account of each bowl, from two different perspectives. It was pouring rain on a rare L.A. afternoon, Brandon and I landed on Sawtelle with nothing but Tsujita on our minds. Neither us equipped with an umbrella, we hit the ground running, trying our best to see amongst drops so large it almost felt torrential. Running in the rain never felt so good, knowing that a hot bowl of goodness was awaiting us. We finally arrived at Tsujita, with a line out the door and around the corner. We waited for about 15 minutes until we were seated at one of the hottest ramen houses in L.A., I have heard of much longer waits but then again our visit was on a rainy Tuesday afternoon. Many have called Tsujita the best and friends have proclaimed it life changing. The time had finally come to enjoy my very own pipping hot bowl of tonkotsu ramen.

Natalie: I ordered the Hakata Nagahama Tonkotsu Ramen, which was decorated nicely with juicy pieces of char siu (bbq pork), ajitama (a seasoned boiled egg), nori (seaweed), green onion, wood ear mushrooms and men-ma (bamboo shoots). Complimentary accoutrements on the table included beni-shoga (pickled red ginger, my absolute fave) and a jar of karashi takana (hot leaf mustard), which we quickly polished off and then asked for a re-up. The first thing I noticed, aside from the incredible fragrance emitting from my bowl, was the almost gelatinous layer that was beginning to form atop my broth. This porky liquid, slowly simmered for 60 hours, is practically a form of liquid lard, so rich you know it has to be good for the heart! I had never tasted a broth of such consistency and with each spoonful, I felt delicious drops of liquid fat roll onto my tongue, coating it with intense flavor. The noodles were thin + straight, as they typically are with tonkotsu, but I prefer my noodles on the curlier side, the standard with shoyo (soy sauce). These particular noodles were most definitely a secondary character to the immaculate broth I could not stop spooning past my lips. The flavored egg, which is my most treasured possession in a bowl of ramen, once popped open, was a beautiful hue of orange-yellow and creamy like custard. Keeping up with all things savory, this bowl included wonderfully chunky slices of pork that made chewing pieces of fat feel like buttery pieces of bubblegum. I haven’t been the same since my trip to Tsujita, a ramen join that just stepped up the game and is well worth the hype.

Tsujita Broth, L.A. Food Blog

Tsujita Ramen, L.A. Food Blog

Brandon Grey ramen feindThis is Brandon slurping noodles at Ramen Jinya, one of our many upcoming posts!

Brandon: Ooey gooey gold best describes Tsujita’s Tsukemen bowl of ramen. The key attribute of this bowl of ramen is, YOU OWN YOUR OWN DESTINY of dunking your own noodles at will. Let’s start off with the broth. Its brown and murky in color, with the viscosity of cold chicken noodle soup. An 1/8 inch of pork fat sits atop of the soup and the pork fragments nestled inside does this bowl no justice by mere appearance. This savory pig juice plays with your senses because it’s enriched with fish undertones. Dried bonito, mackerel, and sardines give this bowl an umami blast to your palate and taste buds.

My noodles were thick and perfectly springy with a texture of fresh cut Udon. They were so good, I inhaled the first serving and quickly asked for another. This time around I enveloped my noodles with this mustard leaf condiment which tasted like a Japanese version of kimchi. Lets just say, “can I get the damn recipe” to this. I heavily contemplated asking for a to-go container to smuggle some of this spicy condiment goodness, as I knew how perfectly it would compliment the ramen I create at home. The slow poached egg, once cracked into, spews out runny molting yolk. It’s quite the addition to the bowl. Other accompaniments are the standard char siu pork, nori, and a lime wedge to marry all the notes in this harmonious symphony of flavors. #flavorsonflavorsonflavors Rain or shine, sleepwalking or awake, make your way down to the west side to experience this LA gem. Just be prepared to have cash on you and an appetite for gelatinous goodness.

Tsujita L.A., 2057 Sawtelle Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90025

Tsujita Tsukemen, L.A. Food Blog

Tsujita SpicyMustard

Free Range LA x The Golden State, Fairfax, Los Angeles

I love collaborations of any kind, especially when it comes to food. It’s cool when real recognizes real, and people come together to create something for the public to enjoy. When my friend Brandon told me that there was a Free Range x The Golden State night in the works, I knew we’d have to go! Thankfully my peeps knew those peeps and we all came together for a night of delicious fried chicken sandwiches. Although this was going to be my first time indulging in Free Range LA’s most famous creation, I was well aware of their cult following, which quickly grew from slinging chicken goodness at the Melrose Trading Post every Sunday.

We pulled up to The Golden State, which was beginning to crowd with chicken lovers from all over the city. Funny enough, we both bumped into people we knew, illustrating further the immense fandom of Free Range LA. Jesse, the mastermind behind the whole thing graciously managed to steal a few minutes away from the kitchen and welcomed me into his pop up with open arms. The passion in this young man was evident, as well was his dedication to the craft. Above all, his positive attitude and hustler’s spirit is what had me wanting to know more. It’s absolutely refreshing to meet people who simply love food and want to share it with as many people as possible, with no pretension. Keeping it casual, our table only needed beer, potatoes, and chicken to make for a happy meal. First up was a basket of Loaded Baby Potatoes, packed with tarragon ranch, candied bacon bits and chives. They were almost too easy to pop in my mouth and are the kind of culinary creations I wish I could find at movie theaters or basketball games. Lots of flavor packed into one or two bites, so easy to eat.

The time had finally come for our Fried Chicken Sandwiches to be delivered to the table. Made with tempura free range chicken, jalapeño coleslaw, and whole grain honey mustard, I knew I was in for a treat. The meat was incredibly juicy + tender, with the bun feeling like two pillows in between my hands. The coleslaw added a flavorful crunch and before I knew it, my basket was empty and all that was left was a happy mess on my hands. A great meal with good company and a positive vibe. I’m so looking forward to round 2! Find me grubbing on the corner of Fairfax / Melrose, I hope you’ll join me.

Free Range x Golden State, 426 N Fairfax Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90036

Free Range Fried Chicken Sandwich, L.A. Food Blog

Free Range Loaded Baby Potatoes

Free Range x Golden State

Crème Caramel, Sherman Oaks

What’s not to love about Crème Caramel LA, the crazy good sweets spot located in Sherman Oaks. I am thankful that I don’t live closer to this gem because I know that my family and friends would have me eating there at least a few times a week, it’s simply that good. Regardless of your location, this dessert destination is crucial to all who possess a sweet tooth, and their savory surprises are delightful as well! Because I can’t begin a meal with sugar – unlike many of my pals – I ordered one of their daily specials, a Spanish tortilla. This take on the dish was inspired by a trip to Spain and after a variety of runs, the potato packed creation found a place on the menu, much to my enjoyment. Crème Caramel’s version is packed with sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, + feta and when warmed up, is the perfect thing to eat for breakfast or lunch. Paired with an vegan horchata or guava agua fresca (made in house) elevates this meal to a whole other level! I must say, especially being Mexican American, the horchata here is on point and I’m hoping that I can cop that recipe.

Owner Kristine de la Cruz, who I might add is one of the most beautiful people (practically radiating positive vibes) that I have met in the food world; she is really killing the sweets game. Having already tried some of her amazing creations at various farmers markets and at the L.A. Time’s Test Kitchen, I knew I was in for quite the experience. Her Bundido de Caramel, an Italian sweet treat, tasted as if it was sent down from the heavens! The creamy goodness was incredibly rich and had me moaning with each bite. Topped with fresh whipped cream and chocolate shavings, this is the kind of dessert that makes you weak in the knees. Up next was Crème Caramel’s popular ube upside-down pie. If you’re not familiar, ube is a purple yam, popular in Filipino desserts and IT IS SUCH AN AMAZING FLAVOR. Sweet crumbles with a dash of purple sprinkles is only a glimmer of the goodness that lies within. You must taste it to know it.

One thing that especially caught my eye was a giant slice of cheese covered bread, packed with spicy kale, goat cheese, apple and cheddar. I thought a couple of bites would suffice but before I knew it, the plate was polished off. Simply incredible, with savory notes in each morsel. The counter + deli case at Crème Caramel is quite the spread. Filled with custards, bread puddings, cookies, meringues, scones, and everything else you want to eat, it’s hard not to leave the shop with a box of goodies that will cure those late night cravings.

Creme Caramel LA, 14849 Burbank Blvd, Sherman Oaks CA. 91411

Creme Caramel Bundido, L.A. Food Blog

Creme Caramel Bundido Dessert, L.A. Food Blog

Creme Caramel Van Nuys

Creme Caramel Spanish Tortilla, L.A. Food Blog

Creme Caramel Spanish Tortilla

Creme Caramel Baguettes, L.A. Food Blog

Creme Caramel Bread Pudding

Creme Caramel Ube Upside down Cake

Creme Caramel chocolate chip cookies

Creme Caramel bread slice, L.A. Food Blog
Creme Caramel Agua Frescas, L.A. Food Blog

Another Kind of Sunrise, Venice

It’s not every day I find myself in Venice, one of the most interesting neighborhoods to walk, bike, and explore. When I got word about a new cereal takeaway cafe located on Abbot Kinney, I knew I had to leave the comforts of the Eastside and go peep this organic creation nestled next to Left House. Owned by beautiful couple, Greg and Diana, this cozy stand offers reprieve from the busy street surrounding it. This labor of love was beautifully designed by Greg’s brother Jordan, of architecture firm DXA studio, and shines with a courtyard touched by the hands of LA-based artist Matthew Morgan and landscape designer Patrick Cullina, creating a space dedicated to the love of cereal. AKOS shines with floor and wall murals of sunrises, and planters filled with exotic fruits, offering a tranquil environment to enjoy a healthy bowl of goodness.

Serving organic, natural and non-gmo cereal, with options for vegetarians, vegans, and those living a gluten-free or paleo lifestyle, AKOS sources food from small organic farms and local food artisans. They also serve cold pressed juices from Venice’s own Moon Juice and organic almond milk made with fresh young coconut water from MylkMan. On my visit, I had the opportunity to taste 3 of their “Tasty Bowls”, including Fafurina’s Paleo Granola, made with sprouted almonds, raw pumpkin seeds, pecans, shredded coconut, honey, maple syrup, Chia Porriage, prepped with chia seeds, fresh young coconut milk, vanilla, and the Açaí Bowl, bursting with açaí berries, blueberries, cashews, fresh young coconut milk, banana + wildflower honey granola. Each of my offerings were memorable in their own way but it was the flavorful açaí creation that had me wanting to lick my bowl. Experiencing a variety of flavor notes in one serving is all to rare in the cereal world, and for this creation, I am thankful. If you’re just trying to go the classic route, AKOS offers traditional cereals in their simple, whole grain form such as corn flakes, rice krispies, raisin bran and frosted flakes. Toppings are a plenty, with seasonal fresh fruits, sprouted nuts, flax seed, goji berries, raw honey, coconut, hemp hearts, and cocoa nibs. Sounds like a delicious way to start the morning, doesn’t it?

Another Kind of Sunrise, 1629 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice CA. 90291

another kind of sunrise chia bowl

Another Kind of Sunrise Acai Bowl, L.A. Food Blog

Another Kind of Sunrise Venice

Another Kind of Sunrise Venice

Another Kind of Sunrise Cereal

Another Kind of Sunrise Paleo Granola

anotherkindofsunrise_menu

Azla Vegan, Historic South-Central, Los Angeles

Ethiopian cuisine is one of my greatest culinary loves so I was psyched when a friend of mine from the Craft & Folk Art Museum invited me to come eat at his family’s new restaurant, Azla Vegan. Located in Mercado La Paloma in Historic South Central Los Angeles, this modern space is inviting with it’s vibrant food and friendly staff. Upon my visit, I was met with open arms by the beautiful Nesanet, who so eloquently runs the show, and she kindly introduced me to her mother Azla, who is the chef behind the whole operation. Azla, the only Ethiopian restaurant in South L.A., blossomed from the family’s love for healthy vegan fare but done so without sacrificing flavor. I am so thankful the family decided to share their creations with all of us!

Azla’s menu focuses on creative interpretations of traditional Ethiopian dishes, using local and organic produce. You can order a combo meal, offering 1 to 4 different items (depending on how hungry you are) and it’s paired with your choice of gluten-free injera bread or brown rice. Injera, if you are not familiar, is a porous flatbread that absorbs spices, juices, and flavors perfectly, not to mention an ideal way to eat with your hands, tearing off tiny pieces for each bite. My colorful plate consisted of a rainbow of flavors, including Keysir (marinated beets, red onion), Kale Salad with garbanzo beans + pomegranate seeds, Gomen (kale, collards, garlic), Fasolia (carrots, green beans, caramelized onions), Yatakilt (curry potatoes, carrots, cabbage), Kik (yellow split peas, tumeric, ginger) and a seasonal special of Pumpkin Curry. I had a tall glass of refreshing Sorrel with ginger, which complimented my meal, a drink that spoke to this Mexican American girl forever in love with  jamaica – hibiscus to much of the world. The beauty of eating something so incredibly healthy and dense in nutrients is that it leaves no room for a food coma, or itis if you will. Upon completion of my meal, instead of feeling like I needed a nap, I felt as if I could run a half marathon. Nes and Azla aimed to create a healthy option in the community and they most definitely succeeded.

DID SOMEONE SAY ETHIOPIAN PIZZA? My jaw dropped when Nes pulled a pizza from the oven, something they had been testing out, which has officially been added to the menu. Incredibly flavorful and unique, it’s the best vegan + gluten free pizza I have tasted, with a tomato sauce bursting with berbere, an Ethiopian mix that consists of 15 different spices. Upon my first bite, I literally jumped up in the air thinking I just ate something so few have before me – it was a special moment – and it was delicious! Azla is creating great food that makes you feel good.

Azla Vegan, 3655 S Grand Ave Ste# C2, Los Angeles, CA 90007

Azla Vegan Ethiopian, L.A. Food Blogs

Azla Vegan Ethiopian Pizza, L.A. Food Blog

Azla Vegan South Central

Azla Vegan Family

DeLuscious Cookies & Milk, Hollywood

Not typically a sweets lover, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I was invited to try a box of freshly baked cookies that would be conveniently delivered to my home. I heard the door bell ring one morning and I knew my sweet treats had arrived! I practically skipped to the door and was taken aback with just how lovely my box of cookies were, elegantly wrapped in a beautiful bow, with the words DeLuscious Cookies + Milk displayed on the side. Each cookie is prepared, packaged and delivered with impeccable quality and care; I was overwhelmed with delight as I began pulling each them out, one more intriguing than the next. Nine unique beautifully baked goods, all drool inducing and awaiting my attention. I knew I wouldn’t be able to eat these alone so I enlisted the help of the parentals – who were just as eager – to sample the variations. It was clear we were about to dive into some high-quality creations, so every moment had to be savored.

From top to bottom: Red Velvet Chocolate Brownie, Chocolate Decadence, Peanut Butter Kimchi, Peanut Butter, Gluten Free Oatmeal Raisin, Vegan Gluten Free Chocolate Chip, Vegan Oatmeal Raisin, Vegan Chocolate Chip, Chocolate Chip. This might sound crazy and if they weren’t my own words, I don’t know if I would believe them, but I was absolutely blown away by the Vegan Chocolate Chip cookie and it was undoubtedly my favorite of the bunch. All were spectacular, especially the Red Velvet Chocolate Brownie and Chocolate Decadence, but I my number one remains the same. The flavor was incredible and if you can imagine, was simultaneously soft and crispy. It looks like they’re offering a Holiday Dozen, so if you’re looking for that perfect gift of sweet, DeLuscious has you covered. If you just can’t wait and are in the L.A. area, stop by their shop and cozy up with some cookies and milk.

DeLuscious Cookies & Milk, 829 N. Highland Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90038

DeLuscious Cookies & Milk, L.A. Food Blog

Vinca Giveaway: Sriracha Earrings

It’s not every day I come across food inspired jewelry that I actually want to wear, but that all changed when I was put on to VINCA. Hailing from Austin, Texas, VINCA makes all of their products in the USA and won my heart over with these sunny side up eggs and Sriracha bottle earrings. How could you not love these? I am super psyched to be giving away a pair of Sriracha earrings to one lucky NJ in LA fan. The studs are about half an inch tall, made with acrylic and surgical steel posts. The perfect accessory when you’re craving a bowl of pho! Follow these easy instructions to enter and I’ll announce a winner a week from today.

1. Like VINCA on Facebook  /   2. Follow @NJinLA on Instagram  /  3. Leave a comment on this post

Congrats to Val Joy, you’ve been chosen as the winner!

Sriracha Earrings