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LA (PASADENA): THE BEST GRIND-YOUR-OWN-PEANUT-BUTTER SITCH

By Nora Zelevansky / August 4th, 2009

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Before I met Andrew, I thought I hated peanut butter.

Then he pointed out that, actually, I love peanut butter more than life itself.  At first, I denied the accusation, as if he'd argued that I liked something really gross like cilantro or mayonnaise.  After all, hating peanut butter was part of my identity, albeit one of those stupid parts that you hang onto for dear life even though it means absolutely nothing about you.  "I'm one of those people who hates onions blah blah blah.  Isn't that interesting and illuminating?" No.

Actually, I really don't like onions.  But anyway. 

Then I started to realize: I love Reeses Pieces above almost all other candy and, from amazing sweets shop Candy Alley in Brentwood, I'll inhale the peanut butter cups with caramel any day.  But it wasn't 'til I was on deadline and my computer committed suicide, sending me to my friend C.L.'s house to work, that I discovered the source of the confusion.  She told me to help myself to whatever was in her fridge, so at lunchtime I grabbed an orange soda (yum) and, because there was nothing else, a peanut butter sandwich.  But not just any peanut butter.  It was that crappy, bad-for-you fake kind of peanut butter like Peter Pan or Jiff.  And, lo and behold, I LOVED it.

It was then that I realized: I don't hate peanut butter.  I just hate that oily, nasty, crunchy health food store nasto mess that my parents fed me with honey.  Have you people never heard of jelly???

But bad for you peanut butter?  That is the stuff of Gods!

Anyway, I was blown away this week at the Whole Foods in Pasadena, when my sis and I discovered a "Blend Your Own" station.  She spotted it from a mile away.  We're talking almond butter, peanut butter, chocolate chips . . . the works.  And you blend it all fresh yourself.

I'm still not sure I like this kind.  I mean, the one bite I had tasted good, but who knows about longterm like?  Still, I am definitely impressed with the ingenuity.

In fact, I'll even forgive them for not selling Jiff.  Obviously someone at Whole Foods understands the human psyche: we just love to blend things ourselves.  One some level I guess it's like playing ice cream shop or something.  Too bad it's not fun when it's your actual job.

xo – N.

P.S. Speaking of great supermarkets, I checked out the new crazy huge Pavilions on Santa Monica with Claudette too and it's sort of awesome.  This is the time to go too: samples galore for the Grand Opening Celebration.  And that's what I call the ultimate poor-ISH ladies lunch out:)  Dahlink.

LA (AND BEYOND): THE BEST RASPBERRY GRANOLA

By Nora Zelevansky / March 30th, 2009

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You know what's the worst?

I mean, besides stressful Monday mornings, the down-sliding economy, people starving in Africa, Ann Coulter and Lacey on Hell's Kitchen (bye, bye).

The worst is when you eat something disguised in beige as healthy (in that it doesn't taste good enough to be bad) and the food ends up being really fattening.  I'm sure many of us can recall such an experience, perhaps with humus or protein bars or sunflower seeds or, my personal cross to bear, granola.  You eat a pound, feel virtuous and then, low and behold, you realize you've eaten the equivalent of a Double Cheeseburger Combo sans the yumminess.  So. Not. Cool.

Well, recently my love/hate frenemy affair with those fickle oats was resolved when I discovered Galaxy Granola at Whole Foods.  First of all, the Radically Raspberry flavor (my fave, despite the slightly lamo name) has chunks of freeze dried raspberries in it.  I love that stuff, but usually begrudge myself the pleasure because the containers at checkout are not cost effective when you eat the entire thing in fifteen seconds. (But how could anyone be expected to do anything else?  I mean, we're human, right?)

But, most significantly, this company replaces the usual cup of oil with "the juice of three apples."  I just like how they say that: eye of newt, hair of the dog that bit ya and the juice of three apples. Anyway, this granola is so so good and it's literally 1.5 grams of fat per serving instead of A MILLION in the normal kind.

Anyway, just passing on a happy tip.  I'll be eating my granola and thinking of you all this Monday morning, while I try not to dwell on Ann Coulter's existence.

xo – N.

LA (WEHO-ISH): THE BEST OLD SCHOOL NYC SALAD

By Nora Zelevansky / February 10th, 2009

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(NYC-Style Carrot Ginger Dressing To-Go)

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(Artichokes, hearts of palm and chickpeas–oh my!)

As a born and bred New Yorker living in LA, I admit to missing certain east coast foods.  Don't worry, I'm not about to launch into some boring, predictable tirade about bagels and pizza.**

[**For the record, Bagel Broker is my pick for best LA bagel spot–just don't order the white fish salad cause it's like pureed–and Barney Greengrass has H & H, so stuff it.  Also, New Yorkers who complain about LA pizza should take a listen to what New Haven locals have to say about NYC slices.  WWIII.  I'm just saying.]

ANYWAY, so, I'm NOT going to talk about bagels and pizza.  Ahem.  Or even the fact that sometimes a girl wants some hot apple cider, you know?  No, I want to talk about salad bars.  Now, I know that Whole Foods has a salad bar and swanky Beverly Hills Bristol Farms even has a new one and there's a place in The Water Garden in Santa Monica that rips you off weight-wise just like you're back home. (Actually, if you guess the exact weight, your salad used to be free and my friend Roseanne once succeeded).  And I know that salad bars can be questionable for germaphobes and that about a billion LA cafes are famous for their salads, BUT I'm trying to recreate an experience, you know?

The only salad bar that really brings me back to the Korean groceries of my childhood is the one at Gelson's on Santa Monica Blvd.  Actually, to Andrew's mystified chagrin because it's out of the way, Gelson's is also my favorite supermarket overall, but I won't bore you with the details of that (although it is the perfect mixture of swanky and regular).  All I'm saying is TRY THE JEWISH COOKIES AND SPICY TUNA ROLLS.  That's all I'm saying.  Anyway, this salad bar has all the iceberg lettuce, gloppy Italian dressing, macaroni salad and fake krab that one needs to replicate the old school NYC experience.

One more issue (and you thought we were done): at NYC Japanese restaurants and even health food spots like Dojo's, carrot ginger dressing flows like water.  After years of searching, I have FINALLY found a similar situation in LA!  Our neighborhood hosts many of the city's hottest lunch spots from Joan's On Third (we'll talk about their wilted arugula potato salad later) to Toast, but the dressing is found at a lesser visited joint around the corner at 8486 Third Street, which has changed ownership like 85 times in that last two years.  It used to be called Chicken and Grill and now, well, I don't even know if it has a name, but it's worthwhile to stop in just for the ginger dressing.  Not for the ambience.

And now, my very low-end food post is over.  Sorry guys.  But sometimes I have to vent.

xo – N.

P.S. For LA bagels, my father swears by some place called Kosher Land, but I can't confirm until I try them myself.