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.
Recently, popular culinary website The Daily Meal compiled its list of the top 101 restaurants in America, including 10 locations in Los Angeles, California. Representative of the city’s unique cultural blend, the restaurants combine influences from around the world, offering innovative dishes that have made them leading destinations for diners in the Los Angeles area.
The Daily Meal’s top three L.A. restaurants include Osteria Mozza, a venture by chefs Nancy Silverton, Mario Batali, and Joe Bastianich. A baker, Silverton revitalized artisanal bread in American culinary culture with La Brea Bakery, while Batali and Bastianich are widely recognized as experts in Italian cuisine. Together at the Melrose Avenue establishment, they offer a mozzarella bar and a variety of unique and sophisticated dishes, including calf’s brain ravioli, pancetta-wrapped quail, and duck al mattone.
Led by well-known culinary innovator José Andrés, Bazaar approaches traditional cuisine with a fresh, exciting perspective. The multi-part restaurant leads guests on a culinary journey through individual dining areas such as the SAAM tasting room, where guests can sample more than 15 courses personally crafted by Chef Andrés.
Topping the list is Animal, a popular destination for locals, tourists, and chefs alike. At its consistently crowded location on L.A.’s Fairfax Avenue, it offers thoughtfully developed dishes based around both classic and exotic meats. Award-winning chefs Jon Shook and Vinny Dotoli create specialties including marrow bone with chimichurri sauce and caramelized onion, and crispy pig head served with bulldog sauce, soy egg, and short-grain rice.
A new competitive reality TV show from Bravo has set out to discover the best upcoming restaurant in America. Best New Restaurant will feature 16 top new restaurants from around the country competing in challenges focusing on culinary skill, customer service, and various other aspects of successful restaurant management.
Celebrity chef Tom Colicchio, a Top Chef judge and prominent restaurateur, worked to locate these popular eateries in collaboration with Bravo and Bon Appetit magazine. His travels naturally took him to Los Angeles, a hub of culinary culture and the home of three Best New Restaurant competitors.
The L.A. metropolitan area’s list of contenders includes Union Restaurant in Pasadena. Overseen by head chef and founder Bruce Kalman, the gastropub has been serving its innovative Italian cuisine paired with a vast collection of craft beers since March 2014. To the west, Doma Beverly Hills offers seafood and Italian specialties crafted by Dustin Trani, who has competed alongside top chef Ming Tsai at the James Beard Awards in New York City. The list of the L.A. metro area’s Best New Restaurant participants also includes Church Key in West Hollywood, where head chef Steven Fretz offers modern American dim sum and expertly crafted cocktails.
Best New Restaurant is scheduled to premiere in January 2015. The winning establishment will not only receive a special editorial in Bon Appetit, but will be a featured guest at next year’s Vegas Uncork’d culinary festival.
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 native of Czechoslovakia, Kamil Majer discovered his affinity for the culinary arts as a child while watching his mother cook with fresh, handpicked ingredients. As an adult, he escaped persecution in his home country, traveling through Slovakia, Hungary, and Yugoslavia before reaching Boston. There, he took an entry-level job washing dishes at the renowned Colonnade Hotel before relocating to Los Angeles in 1992. Kamil launched his West Coast culinary career as a chef at such prominent venues as the Century Plaza Hotel, the Beverly Hills Four Seasons, and downtown’s Los Angeles Biltmore. After helping to establish a number of successful high-end restaurants, he shifted his focus to casual venues with a renovation of the Vienna Café in 1995.
After more than a decade in the culinary industry, Kamil began developing plans for a casual, affordable Hollywood café based on the belief that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. He and friend David Fris collaborated on the project, drawing on their shared Czechoslovakian heritage to craft an eclectic array of internationally inspired breakfast and lunch options. The Blu Jam Café opened in 2006 on Los Angeles’ iconic Melrose Avenue, named in honor of its location’s rich history. Previously an underground jazz club, it hosted such iconic musicians as Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie, and Blu Jam continues to honor this tradition with its music and decor.