Karen Hatfield Inspired New Year’s Bread Bath

IMG_9390While most well meaning citizens of the world are busy embarking on New Year’s Resolutions to lose weight, eat better, exercise more and indulge less, the Cute Gardener and I decided to go the masochistic route as the non-conformists we are and celebrate 2015 with a Karen Hatfield-inspired bread bath.

Karen Hatfield is the prettier half of the husband wife team making some of the best food Los Angeles has to offer. Husband Quinn’s Hatfield’s Restaurant provided one of the dinners early on in my relationship with the CG that made me swoon the most. It is where I had an extremely memorable coconut soup, lamb lollipop and earl grey milkshake before jumping on a flight mid-summer to Santa Fe to see one of my best friend’s get married; a multi-course meal that will forever be connected to whimsy and romance in my mind. It is also where the CG and I ducked in post-dinner elsewhere for an unconventional dessert of exquisite agnolotti and popcorn at the bar one eclectic evening. Good times.

Hatfield’s decided to close its doors this past month to much local chagrin but I think it was a smart move. The CG was already talking about how, after being there multiple times, the food was losing its shine. Not because it was no longer good, but because it was no longer new. The couple decided the restaurant had run its course and are now working on a new venture called Odys and Penelope which is garnering much anticipation. Like true artists they allowed a vision to materialize in Hatfield’s, gave it their all, and are now moving on to the next project. Restaurateurs should be so lucky.

Odys and Penelope will be a few doors down from Karen’s pastry chef passion pit The Sycamore Kitchen. Having never been to the trendy bakery/cafe, we decided to spend New Year’s weekend trying out the goods. At eleven a.m. on a Saturday the line to the order counter was twenty people deep and all seats were taken. The twenty minute wait gave us plenty of time to view the salivation-starter baked goods case overflowing with dense, sweet loaf breads of chocolate, lemon and pumpkin, top hat high quiches, shiny iced fennel flower shaped cookies and thick rosemary shortbread triangles. Normally we aren’t seduced by this kind of display but if Karen makes food anywhere near like her husband we knew we would want to try everything. After ordering our lunch, we added a chocolate chip rye cookie, salted caramel pecan babka, onion and chorizo roll and flaky buttercup to go.

IMG_9384Our meal was heavenly. The woman knows how to bake. Even though I am a pork belly whore by nature, I felt the star of my Double BLT was not the tender, flabby, luscious pork stuffed with avocado, perfectly cooked bacon and butter lettuce into the sandwich, but the soft, doughy, white bread that acted as a perfect sponge to the balsamic-tinged mayo that brightened the traditional dish into something meriting praise. The CG’s grilled short rib sandwich was a runny gooey pile of yum on an equally great piece of bread seared up nicely on the outside. If Karen did bread this good, I couldn’t wait to try my sweets.

IMG_9388The chocolate chip rye cookie didn’t last five minutes after arriving home. It was a crunchy mess with melted disks of chocolate on the inside, accentuated by the sweet-detracting acerbic nature of rye—perfect for a grain lover like me. Later that evening, we participated in a Roman-orgy worthy carb fest. Leftover regular and marbled rye from Diamond Bakery and Brent’s (another two favorite bread joints in L.A.) surrounded tomatoes on a platter for use as carriers of the CG’s homemade chicken liver mousse.

IMG_9386The onion chorizo roll was heated so that the fat from the meat mingled with the warm, sweet onions within the crispy bread exterior. We cut the buttercup into fourths so that we could lick the sweet insides of sugary butter prior to popping the rest of the croissant like, crystal sugar coated bliss into our mouths. We sipped champagne along with this gluttony until the main course was through.

IMG_9393Finally, we transitioned to caramel-noted bourbon to accompany the dessert babka—another bread bomb smothered with thick salted caramel that, once cut into, revealed ant farm like trails of glistening cinnamon.

Being two people who are not prone to eat bread on a regular basis, we sure got our fill in one evening for the entire year and it was worth every bite.

Foodies in Love

IMG_8273This elegant little block of tofu doused with a perfect amount of soy and striped with tender piles of meticulously placed chives represents the Cute Gardener. He is neat, ordered, minimal and aesthetically clean.

IMG_8274This chaotic bowl of ramen with awkwardly large noodles trying to elbow for room amongst the greens and wobbly eggs punctuated by strands of fatty pork represents me. I am messy, cluttered, rich and juicy.

Together these dishes make one of our favorite at home meals – food being the common denominator in our sea of differences that have always fueled our relationship with curiosity, wonder and mutual adventure. As we celebrate our third anniversary I thought I would pay homage to some of the best things I’ve learned or come to understand about our foodie life together.

  1. The CG will never share my love of white foods, i.e. bananas, coconut, etc.
  2. I will never share his love of sucking the goo from a crab head.
  3. When it comes to a bird, he likes stripping the carcass whereas I like digging the marrow from the bones.
  4. The CG received the gene that makes a person hate cilantro. I did not.
  5. If you want a cake or cookie in this household, you better ask the CG otherwise you may get something resembling rabbit food and granola without proper fat and termed raw.
  6. I make better homemade pizzas but his look prettier.
  7. Cooking the entire Dorie Greenspan Around My French Table is taking me a lot longer than I had envisioned when I gifted the book to him for our first Christmas together.
  8. Whereas the flavor of peppermint is like garlic and the sign of the cross to the CG, my kryptonite remains any form of poultry skin not fried to a non-flabby crisp.
  9. I am in charge of the baked salmon and other things in the oven; he is the king of the stove top.
  10. Rye bread doesn’t last in our household, especially if it’s from Diamond Bakery on Fairfax. He prefers it lighter without seeds and I crave dark loaves with seeds. Sometimes we get marbled.
  11. I am most assuredly spoiled because I get dinner cooked for me at least five days a week but I don’t take it for granted.
  12. Backyard produce has made grocery store produce unbearable to me.
  13. Bourbon is to be respected.
  14. For red wines, he likes his complex and balanced while I prefer funky, dark and big.
  15. We have found that there are very few restaurants that make us want to return more than once and so many good ones to choose from that it seems normally silly to do so. But there are exceptions that include Asenabo for simple yet sophisticated Japanese, Hatfield’s for buttery agnolotti, Scarpetta for scrumptious spaghetti, Papilles for Chef Tim Carey’s new-nightly dinner menu,  Il Fico for belly comforting pastas, Osteria and Pizza Mozza, Brent’s for the best pastrami in Los Angeles, El Faro for dollar fifty pastor tacos, TLT for pork belly nachos and Kokekokko because we will never tire of skewered chicken parts and cursing, beer slinging cooks.
  16. We will always enjoy non-American food for the Fourth of July.
  17. We will never eat out on Valentine’s Day preferring to whip up a feast at home.
  18. He was right when he told me I should ban dessert at restaurants because I would forever be disappointed.
  19. I was right when I told him he should do the same with BBQ anywhere on the West Coast.
  20. It is mutually understood at this point that we will never meet a pork belly we don’t like.
  21. You don’t have to like the same foods to be compatible but you have to be a foodie to be in love with a foodie.
  22. We are very lucky.

I say that last one, “We are lucky,” while knocking on wood because when you find your food soul mate you never want to lose him.