Saturday, June 30, 2012

Cielo Verde - Playa Restaurant Rooftop Garden - Los Angeles

While dining at Playa Restaurant for the media preview for AltaMed's 7th Annual East LA Meets Napa food and wine event, when Chef John Rivera Sedlar mentioned that all the greens and flowers used in his dishes were grown on his restaurant's rooftop garden, I was amazed.

Rooftop Garden - Playa Restaurant - Los Angeles 2

Even better was when I found out he was allowing small groups of visitors on the roof to check it out. After climbing the ladder, which you saw in the previous post, I saw this. The view is from the next level up, looking down. The ladder I climbed is just to the right of the green rooftop.

It's not the fancy terrace-like rooftop garden depicted in many a home magazine. What it is, is a functional garden with towers and towers of plants grown in a soil substitute shoved into what space was available on an industrial rooftop in the center of Los Angeles. This was just the herb and starter plant area, the next level up was simply incredible!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Media Preview: AltaMed's 7th Annual East LA Meets Napa - Playa Restaurant - Los Angeles

Media Preview AltaMed's 7th Annual East LA Meets Napa - Playa Restaurant - Los Angeles 1

I was invited to a media preview luncheon at Playa Restaurant in Los Angeles for AltaMed's East LA Meets Napa 7th annual food and wine event. It's my favorite food and wine event, not only does it benefit underserved communities in Los Angeles and Orange Counties, but East LA Meets Napa brings together mostly Mexican, and other Latino restaurants, and wineries. It's a great way to explore regional Mexican cuisine, and even sample pre-Hispanic dishes.

Check out my previous posts of the 4th, 5th, and 6th Annual East LA Meets Napa food and wine events.

Playa Restaurant is owned by John Rivera Sedlar, of Top Chef Masters Season 3 fame who also owns Rivera Restaurant, known for its flower-pressed tortillas. While waiting for the others to arrive, I checked out how the flower tortillas were being made.

Saturday, June 09, 2012


Gumbo 1

Sometimes I wonder how much my palate would have been broadened without the blog. For sure, I sometimes pay more attention now to how food is presented. Not so much with the food styling as with the authenticity of the ingredients themselves. In the beginning, I often substituted one ingredient for another depending on availability and price, which isn't bad necessarily because that's how I often cooked. But with blogging, I try to remain true to the spirit of the dish, regardless of its origins. After all, certain dishes became famous because of the interplay of those very ingredients.

I had made gumbo several times before, but when I originally photographed it for the blog in 2008, celery was a ridiculous $1.99 apiece at the grocery store. So, I substituted with fennel stems I had saved from my Orange and Fennel Salad. It tasted fine, but the trinity of three in New Orleans cuisine -- onions, green bell peppers, and celery exist for a reason.

Of course, variations do exist and recipes often change, especially with regards to soups and stews. What's the difference between Creole and Cajun gumbos? Apparently Creole gumbo is more tomato-based and like a soup, with a roux made from butter and flour like they do in France. While Cajun gumbo with its more rustic origins requires a roux made with lard and flour, with readily available meats such as game, and file powder for thickening so it's more like a stew.

I've made several other pots of gumbo since then, each time a little different depending on what's in my fridge and pantry. But there are some ingredients that I always include: the meats are often a combination of chicken, shrimp, and sausage; the trinity of onions, green bell peppers, and celery; and okra. I love okra and often make gumbo just to give me an excuse to eat it. Sometimes I add tomatoes, but not always. In any case, gumbo is easy enough to adapt to what you have in your kitchen.