These days, walking into a kitchen store or a kitchenware department can make even experienced cooks feel a bit underprepared. With the proliferation of kitchen gadgets, high-priced luxury cookware, and professional equipment at professional prices, the prospect of preparing a home-cooked meal can seem positively daunting. Any good cook, however, will caution against worrying about not having some appliance or gadget; instead, by focusing on core essentials, anyone can prepare delicious meals at home without breaking the bank.
Those starting a kitchen from scratch will do well to focus on the foundational elements of a well-stocked toolkit. A chef’s knife, paring knife, and bread knife will provide all the cutting power necessary in the kitchen; everything else is just filling up space in a giant knife block. While you may drool over the expensive all-clad skillets, a far cheaper cast-iron option will offer fantastic results with just a bit of care. A medium-sized, all-purpose pot is another essential investment, as is a good wooden spoon. Add in a cutting board, measuring cups and spoons, a mixing bowl, and a baking pan, and anyone can make excellent food without any trouble.
Of course, this kind of minimalist cooking set-up can be supplemented with a few useful appliances. Many people will enjoy having a blender or hand-blender, while a slow cooker can deliver incredible flavor with very little effort. Many experts also recommend picking up a digital thermometer to prepare meat perfectly, a microplane or zester to add delicious flavor to foods, and an inexpensive scale to precisely measure ingredients for baking. After you’ve set up these elements, it’s easy to add other tools as necessary, such as larger roasting pans or pie dishes for holiday cooking, or a fine stand mixer for baking enthusiasts. When you’re just getting started, however, you should begin with the basics, and if you’re sure to purchase quality products, you may very well be cooking with these simple tools for many years to come.
Chicago has its deep-dish pizza, Philadelphia has its cheesesteak, and New York has its massive deli sandwiches. However, despite its well-deserved reputation as a food mecca and a melting pot where the world’s cuisines are endlessly hybridized and reinvented, few people associate Los Angeles with an iconic dish. By any fair accounting, this is a misrepresentation of the outstanding food offered by LA’s restaurants, food trucks, and hole-in-the-wall joints. Indeed, anyone who bothers to look will find that LA has a wide variety of dishes that Angelenos cook better than anyone else.
One shining example of LA’s food dominance can be seen in its championing of East Asian cuisines. Angelenos certainly didn’t invent Korean barbecue, sushi, pad Thai, or dim sum, but LA chefs and cooks were among the first to introduce them to the West. Whether dining in one of the many Chinese restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley, the downtown haunts of Little Tokyo, the boulevards of Koreatown, or in one of the excellent Thai restaurants dotting the city, hungry eaters can find an endless variety of delicious Asian dishes. The same can be said of other national cuisines; while Texas may claim to offer the best Mexican food in the U.S., the food trucks of LA routinely deliver the finest tacos in the country.
Beyond LA’s admirable work in introducing foreign foods to the American diet, it also has its fair share of homegrown innovations. For example, LA’s own Roy Choi is one of the chefs who pioneered the concept of gourmet meals made and served from a food truck. In terms of individual dishes, some consider LA’s French dip sandwiches the best in the country. Others have pointed to the bacon-wrapped hot dog as a key icon of LA’s food scene. However, in many ways, the city’s best food item may be the humble hamburger, which, in many Angelenos’ opinions, is unmatched anywhere else in the world.
Burbank restaurant Bea Bea’s may be best known for its breakfast, but it also serves a full lunch menu. With entrees ranging from quesadillas to soups and sandwiches, it offers up classic dishes drawn from French, American, Italian, and Tex-Mex cuisine. If breakfast out isn’t in your plans for the day, you can still stop by Bea Bea’s for one of the following lunch items.
– The chicken rancheros burrito. Bea Bea’s chicken rancheros burrito starts out with chicken breast and wild rice, while avocado and black beans are added before everything is topped off with mozzarella cheese and rancheros sauce. For a side, diners can select French fries or onion rings.
– The vegan wrap. Vegan guests can grab one of Bea Bea’s vegan wraps, which builds on a base of tofu and wild rice. The wrap incorporates veggie chorizo and spinach, as well as avocado and several other kinds of vegetables.
– The croque monsieur or croque madame. Bea Bea’s serves two versions of this French favorite. The monsieur contains grilled ham and cheese topped off with Béchamel sauce, while the madame includes fried eggs as well.
A popular dish from Southeast China, Hainan chicken has become ubiquitous in Southeast Asia and many parts of the United States. The dish includes chicken steamed with scallions, sesame oil, and fresh ginger over rice seasoned with peanut oil, shallots, and chicken broth. Several different sauces may accompany the dish, depending on the restaurant. The most common sauce ingredients include soy sauce, garlic, scallions, and/or chili oil.
In Los Angeles, Savoy Kitchen serves perhaps the best rendition of Hainan chicken, which comes on the bone and with three different dipping sauces. Tasty Choice is also known for its Hainan chicken. The restaurant offers a huge serving size complemented by pickled vegetables and a braised egg.
For the most visually appealing Hainan chicken, diners should go to Green Zone, an organic Asian fusion restaurant. The dark, boneless meat is from organic chicken, and the rice comes spiked with a deep lemongrass flavor. Tasty Garden, a Hong Kong-style cafe, serves a very simple version of Hainan chicken that explodes with flavor, especially when diners use the minced garlic and scallion condiment served on the side.
Diners searching for authentic Cuban treats need look no further than Porto’s Bakery & Cafe, a Los Angeles-area fixture for more than four decades. Since opening its first tiny store on Sunset Boulevard, the bakery has moved twice to accommodate increased demand and has launched two additional locations in Burbank and Downey to supplement the main Glendale store.
In addition to expanding its locations, Porto’s has broadened its offerings. It now serves croissants and brioche from France, classic American desserts such as Dutch apple pie, and South American mainstays such as dulce de leche and empanadas, while continuing to serve the Cuban baked goods that made the bakery a local success. Bolillo (a soft bread roll), galletas (crackers), and pastel de guayaba (guava strudel) are all made daily at each Porto’s location, as are the bakery’s trademarked refugiados, puff pastries filled with cream cheese and guava.
At the cafe in Glendale, customers can dine on breakfast sandwiches in the morning or enjoy any of its numerous other sandwiches, pastries, or breads all day long. Each Porto’s location is open seven days a week, beginning at 6:30 a.m. Monday through Saturday and 7 a.m. on Sunday.