Sweet, Sweet Success

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Photo Credit: Shilah Montiel

Imagine walking through the doors of Stacy’s Cookie Lounge at happy hour. There are drinks being poured (lots of tea) and cookies all around: Super Snickerdoodle, El Gringo Picante and gluten-free chocolate chip, just to name a few. You melt into a comfy couch or sit with friends at the bar. There’s even a cookie decorating class at a back table. It’s a snapshot of girls’ night heaven.

For now though, Stacy’s Cookie Lounge is Stacy Parker’s apartment in Playa Vista, which churns out dozens of gourmet and hand-decorated cookies each day — mostly for corporate clients like Google, Prada, Univision, Twitter, Hulu and Estée Lauder

“About 90% of my business is decorated cookies,” shares Parker, who moved to Los Angeles in 2001 to pursue acting. When her acting career didn’t pan out, Parker went back to the 9-to-5 she had for 20 years in construction management. But she never stopped believing in herself, and in November 2015 started making and selling cookies. …

Read the full article at Playa Vista Direct.

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Like Mother, Like Daughter

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Sisters Cathy and Vanda (left and right) and mother Anna Asapahu

Some people are born into a business but choose to follow a different career path. Others opt to walk in their parents’ footsteps. And then there’s Vanda Asapahu, who has done both: She grew up helping her parents run Thai restaurants, decided to spend four years working for the United Nations in Thailand, and then came back to carry forward the legacy of her family’s restaurant, Ayara Thai in Westchester.

“I don’t think you appreciate working with family until you work with everything else and then decide for yourself you want to come back,” she says.

Vanda’s parents, Andy and Anna Asapahu, opened Ayara Thai Cuisine in 2004. It was their third restaurant, and, as they had hoped, the third time was a charm.

“My dad has always been a serial entrepreneur,” says Vanda. “And my mom is his biggest supporter, the implementer of his crazy dreams, the backbone behind it all. They are an amazing pair.”

The Asapahus initially immigrated from Thailand to Montebello, and their experience preparing meals with other immigrant families eventually led to small eateries there and in East L.A. …

Read the full article at The Argonaut.

In with the New

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Photo Credit: Laure Joliet via nightmarketla.com

I had been to Siam Best, the Thai restaurant in Venice on the corner of Lincoln Boulevard and Grant Avenue, a few times. The food was always good, but the standout feature was a colorful fish tank down the center of the room.

Most of the time, the restaurant was empty. My brother would comment that the quiet made for good conversation. I always felt a wave of sadness as I scanned the place.

As more and more hip restaurants began to pop up in Venice, Siam Best began to feel more like a relic. Each time I drove by, I would think incredulously, “Still here, eh?”

Then one day, the lights were off at Siam Best. It had become another casualty of the rising rents and changing demographics of Venice.

I’m not so sure anyone was too upset about this closing. This wasn’t like Hal’s or Abbot’s Habit on Abbot Kinney.

Conversely, soon came jubilation as news headlines declared with delight: Night + Market Sahm is coming to the Westside.

Chef Kris Yenbamroong, owner of Night + Market in West Hollywood and Night + Market Song in Silver Lake, was opening a third incarnation in Venice — replacing Siam Best. …

Read the full article at The Argonaut.

Where Brunch Is King

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Photo by Andrew Noel and Tegan Butler

There’s a huge fork on the exterior of 2424 Main St. in Santa Monica, signaling this might be a place to eat. And it is … at least for another month or two, or maybe longer.

What used to be the California-Mediterranean eatery Fork in the Road is now a pop-up brunch and cocktails spot called Little Prince, so named after the French children’s book which chef Ari Taymor’s mother read to him as a kid.

Taymor has a few notches on his culinary belt: He has been named a Food & Wine Best New Chef and was nominated as a Rising Star Chef by the James Beard Foundation. The celebrated culinarian was the force behind Alma, which closed its doors inside The Standard in West Hollywood this past New Year’s Eve.

Perhaps there were many signs pointing to Taymor’s eventually landing on the Westside. His first Los Angeles home was near Rose and Pacific avenues. His first-ever chef job was in Santa Monica, across the street from Little Prince. And he loves to surf. …

Read the full article at The Argonaut.

Poseidon’s Envy

food1-2It’s hard to write an article about Coni’Seafood Restaurant without mentioning the pescado zarandeado and Pulitzer Prize-winning Los Angeles Times food critic Jonathan Gold. He called the dish “one of the wonders of the seafood world” and has made the Inglewood restaurant a regular on his annual 101 Best Restaurants list.

On Jan. 6 Connie Cossio’s Coni’Seafood celebrated the grand opening of its second location: the corner of Centinela and Gilmore avenues in Del Rey, near local favorites Angel Maid Bakery and Sakura Japanese Restaurant. But the name Cossio and Coni’Seafood were already well-known throughout Los Angeles.

Connie and her father, Vicente “Chente” Cossio, are restaurant royalty in L.A. Los Angeles Magazine referred to Vicente as “L.A.’s Godfather of Mexican Seafood,” and quoted him as saying Connie was the best cook he ever trained.

Vincente planted the seeds for Coni’Seafood in 1987 in the backyard of the Cossio home in Inglewood. That’s when the neighborhood got a taste of Acaponeta, Nayarit-style seafood. …

Read the full article at The Argonaut.

Café Culture

food1-1“Sandy feet welcome,” declares Sam Trude, sitting on a sidewalk stool outside Great White, his new Venice Beach restaurant. “Come in with your towel after a surf!”

There are no surfers eating here today, but the place is packed with bubbly, smartly dressed men, women and toddlers, too. The young, handsome crowd resembles a postcard for chic Venice. The décor is open and airy, and the food is bursting with color.

More than a few customers are hovering on the sidewalk, waiting for a table, eyeing diners as they munch on menu items like the Blue Smoothie Bowl with e3 live blue algae; the fish tacos with citrus slaw, chipotle aioli and mango herb sauce; and corn fritters with poached egg, avocado salsa and fresh greens.

Great White occupies the space where Seed Kitchen once stood, sandwiched between Mollusk Surf Shop and Subway in the mall on the southeast corner of Pacific and Windward avenues.

For eight years, chef Eric Lechasseur whipped up tasty organic, vegan, macrobiotic dishes at Seed, which he co-owned with his wife. Locals would pop in for healthy eat-in and to-go favorites, like the rosemary seitan bowl and tempeh chorizo tacos.

Seed closed in September 2016, leaving up for grabs an ideal spot for another eatery to blossom. The location has its own parking lot, albeit small, plus guaranteed foot traffic and a growing workforce in the surrounding neighborhood. …

Read the full article at The Argonaut.

Where Happiness is on the Menu

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Photos by Erica Allen

Hash. It’s a breezy word, with a few different meanings. Merriam-Webster lists it as “chopped meat mixed with potatoes and browned.” Or, “a confused muddle.” Apparently, it’s also Irish slang, used to refer to mixing things up completely. And then, of course, there’s … well, you know.

It’s almost as if the mind wanders automatically when hearing or uttering the word. Hash … in a subtle way, whispers “hunger.”

Which makes it the perfect name for an eatery tucked down a side street off Bluff Creek Drive, surrounded by large office buildings on the Campus at Playa Vista.

Pop in any weekday between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m., order, take a seat with your number, wait for the food to arrive and look around — you’re in the company of the young and industrious types who populate the nearby offices of companies like Yahoo, YouTube, 72andSunny and Science 37.

On weekends, the hours are the same but Hash is a little less crowded, but you’ll still find Loyola Marymount University students, travelers who recently arrived at LAX and, of course, plenty of Playa Vista residents. …

Read the full article at Playa Vista Direct.

Praise the Pomegranate

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Fried Sweet Potato Slices at Upper West

Zagat has spoken: Los Angeles was the most exciting food city in America in 2017. And many of the restaurants and chefs putting L.A. at the top of the Zagat list actually work in Santa Monica, which makes the city perfectly suited to host its own Restaurant Week.

Unlike other such culinary programs that focus on meal discounts, Santa Monica Restaurant Week celebrates Santa Monica’s healthy eating scene. The city boasts four weekly farmers markets that are packed three days a week: Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday. And Santa Monica is, after all, a popular tourist destination where locals can bike ride, roller skate, surf, swim and paddleboard all year round. Eating well is the way
to live here.

Spanning Jan. 8 to 14, Santa Monica Restaurant Week has more than 30 restaurants across eight neighborhoods offering at least one dish that features a special ingredient available this winter at any of the city’s farmers markets. It could have been blood orange, cauliflower, kale, or the tangerine, but this year Santa Monica Travel & Tourism picked the pomegranate: a ruby-red fruit that’s rich in Vitamin C and antioxidants. …

Read the full article at The Argonaut.

Birth of a Dream

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Photo by Carley Rudd

“Chez Tex,” reads the yellow painted letters on the glass door on Main Street. Maybe you’ve passed by and wondered, “Who’s Tex?”

It’s Jesse Tex Feldman, a 36-year-old restaurateur named after his grandfather, and whose restaurant is the only eatery on the east side of Main Street between Rose Avenue and Marine Street.

Jesse grew up at Ashland Avenue and Fourth Street in Santa Monica. Twelve years ago his family opened Barndiva, a wedding destination in Healdsburg known for its elegant farm-to-table fine dining. Let’s just say hospitality is in his blood.

After spending some time in New York City, where he worked in corporate America and met his wife Hayley, the two decided to shake things up. They quit their jobs in pursuit of their passion: food. This past August, Chez Tex celebrated its one-year anniversary.

It took the couple, who also have a 10-month-old daughter named Loulou, about three years for their dreams to materialize. It took one year to find a location, one year to build it out, and one year to acquire permits and a beer and wine license.

“This was the first place we saw when we started our hunt in Santa Monica and Venice,” says Hayley. “But it presented a lot of challenges. It would take a lot of work.” …

Read the full article at The Argonaut.

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Home for Christmas

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Nutella Panettone French Toast

‘Tis the season to be jolly. But judging by Angie Corrente’s bright smile, she’s happy year-round.

She grins while talking to a talent manager about hanging local art on her walls. She bristles with excitement when describing Eastern European menu items like pelmeni and vareniki. And she overflows with enthusiasm when discussing the live music lineup at her restaurant, and her and her husband’s handmade contributions — like the tables, floors, aprons and sewn-denim cushions.

Corrente and husband Stanislav Mayzalis are the founders and owners of Doma Kitchen, which occupies the former Panini Grill space in the Villa Marina Marketplace Mall.

“Our food is gorgeous,” she gushes. “Every dish is beautiful as well as tasty.”

Doma Kitchen takes holiday eating seriously. …

Read the full article at The Argonaut.