Farley Elliott is Taking it to the Streets in his DELICIOUS New Book

I am all about things that make you go “mmmmm”, and Farley Elliott’s debut book, “Los Angeles Street Food”, definitely falls in that category. Farley, a Senior Editor for Eater LA, does his city more than justice with mouth-watering descriptions of LA’s top food trucks, carts, stands, festivals and more, complete with photos that can only be described as food porn.

farley ramen'

Farley travelled far and wide for his soon to be go to guide, and I was lucky enough to catch up with him to talk about his book, the LA food scene, and of course tacos. You can check out our convo below.

cover book

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With all the great restaurants out there, what about street food gets you so excited?

It’s the innovation, the regional specificity. When you’re opening up big restaurants with big-name chefs, you sort have to take a maximalist approach — appeal to lots of people, and charge accordingly. With low overhead operations like carts and trucks, you can really focus on the one thing, or the two things, that you want to do, and do them with amazing accuracy. You can learn about the world through LA street food, because every place you visit is allowed to have its own footprint leading back to wherever it originated.

So many people come up with great ideas, but never follow through. What motivated you to actually make this book happen?

Well, for one, I always feel like I have something to say. That’s just part of being a writer. So there’s that idea — I get to say what I want, and you pick up the book and listen. That’s pretty great! I also wanted to write the book because, no matter how successful anyone is, we always try to find benchmarks to define ourselves. Having a book was a benchmark for me — a big one — and being able to see it on the shelf of my local bookstore was something that was important to me. Not wanting to fail yourself is a big motivator.

asian-night-market-meat-skewers

You travelled to the far reaches of LA to hit up some of the vendors in your book. What was the craziest thing that happened on the road?

I did have a knife pulled on me once, but that was from a drunk guy and could have happened anywhere, at any time. It just happened to be in front of a taco truck. The idea of an unsafe taco stand or Taiwanese meat skewer truck has largely become a vicious rumor. Honestly, these are hardworking families trying to make a great product to feed their own neighborhoods; rotten food or outbursts of violence would be bad for business.

The photos in your book and on your drool-worthy instagram account are always amazing. Any tips or rules of thumb for taking awesome food photos?

Lighting is key. You can make bad food look good with the right light, but you will never be able to make amazing food look even remotely interesting in the dark.

pranom-thai-wok

While delicious, the tacos, meat, pastries, etc. featured in the book might not be the most healthy. What street food would you recommend for someone trying to watch what they eat?

Well, there IS the idea of moderation in all things. But you’re right — it’s not the healthiest way to eat, especially if you spend most of your time in front of a computer screen. But there are fruit carts, juice vendors, trucks that serve goat birria with a hearty “bone broth” side of consommé. And yes, there are many, many vegetarian taco options, from huitlacoche (a funky sort of corn option) to stewed huazontle, which is a hearty green native to Mexico.

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If money and LA traffic weren’t an issue, what is your dream street food meal?

I’d start with elote from the Lincoln Heights corn man. It’s this amazingly simple corn on the cob that’s grilled, swiped with mayo and butter and dashed with salt and spices. From there, a round robin of tacos: one short rib from Kogi BBQ, one carne asada from the Tire Shop Taqueria, one al pastor from Tacos Tamix, and one carnitas from Tacos Los Guichos. Then the main: a torta cubana from Super Tortas D.F. in South LA. If there were any room left, I’d take some champurrado as a sweet finisher.

Oh, and an al pastor quesadilla from El Chato — as a late night snack, just in case.

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If you were to open up a food truck, what would it be?

I’d be no good at opening a truck. The margins are too thin, the days too long, and I’d blow up at a customer within the first few hours, probably. But in my best moments, I could see being a sort of short order breakfast cook within the food truck realm. Simple egg and sausage sandwiches, easy breakfast burritos, some high-quality drip coffee. There is something undeniably satisfying about feeding a crowd…

“Los Angeles Street food: A History from Tamaleros to Taco Trucks”, is available here, and be sure to follow Farley on Twitter and Instagram.

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Guac Club

I don’t want to brag, but I belong to one of the most exclusive clubs in New York City. A club that celebrates one of the greatest inventions of all time… Guac.

Guac club meets at no particular time for no particular reason, and in the past we’ve gone on the Nachos NY Guac Crawl, attended the 2013 Guactacular at The Bell House, caused a scene at Salsa y Salsa in Chelsea (which you can read about here), and recently had our fourth gathering at Horchata in the West Village.

Guac Club

Horchata is relatively new, inhabiting the old BLT Burger space, and with cocktails like the “Drunk In Love” and Hibiscus Margaritas, Abby, Andy, and I couldn’t wait to check it out. Sadly Dan was busy being a crazy awesome comedian, so he’ll just have to live vicariously through this post.

guac food

The first rule of guac club is to not to talk about how much you ate at guac club, but I’m gonna do it anyway. We of course started with the classic guac, although Horchata’s menu offers FOUR different kinds. One even uses apples and tomatillos. And for you meat eaters, the queso and house made chorizo option sounds like it’d be worth a shot… or a gallon.

The guac was super fresh, and therefore super good. And lemme tell ya about dem chips! By the taste of it, not five minutes earlier, someone had cut up fresh tortillas and dropped them in the fryer. Nothing from a bag here! I love Tostitos Hint of Lime as much as the next smart human, but there’s something about food made from scratch that always tastes better.

We went our own ways for the entrees. Abby and Andy stuck with tacos, which looked so so good, and I went with the avocado toast, which I feel like is the dish of the moment. I expected something a little more simple, however Horchata’s combo of radishes, cotija, and chipotle honey was interesting to say the least. Smoky, sweet, and salty, it made for some good eye candy to start, and totally delivered.

As a result of Horchata’s badass playlist, Guac club of course ended with some impromptu karaoke. Remember the 1997 hit “Love You Down” by INOJ? Turns out we still know every word. My sincerest apologies to our fellow diners, but my sincerest props to the staff at Horchata. They gave us a fun evening full of good food AND good music, sealing the deal that Guac Club will definitely meet there again.

*Points if you spotted Lil Jon in that video!

Where to go for Carbs and Cheese in NYC

Aside from this random heatwave, it’s been the most rainy and gray summer ever. Therefore, a little carb and cheese action is in order. Here are my go to spots in NYC for the day-brightening diet downfalls.

Beechers – 900 Broadway bt 19th & 20th

Seattle is home to many of my favorite things– The EMP Museum, Nirvana, Starbucks, my parents. Therefore,  I’m partial to anything that comes from our northwest neighbors. Beecher’s Handmade Cheese is high on that list. The original Beecher’s is nestled inside the famous Pike Place Market, and it’s New York location might lack that impressive address, but it makes up for it in scenery and quality grub. You can buy various gourmet items in the front of the store, watch the cheese being made while you eat off their super affordable a la carte menu in the back, and have a classic sit down experience downstairs. I usually choose to sit by the cheese making situation to enjoy what is probably the best grilled cheese I’ve ever eaten. Thick bread, super melty homemade cheese, at the bargain rate of $7. If you’re feeling rich, go for adding the tomato soup, which will only cost you $5 more. They also have fancy grilled cheese situations with things like figs, veggies, and meat, that are also delicious, and a killer mac and cheese offering,  but it’s my recommendation to stick with the classics. You won’t be sorry.

 

Professor Thom’s – 219 2nd Ave bt 13th & 14th

You wouldn’t expect an Irish pub-style bar to have the best nachos in NYC, but for me, Professor Thom’s holds that title. Said nachos are delivered on a silver platter the size of a large pizza, and are the perfect accompaniment to Thom’s impressive beer and whiskey selection. It’s possible one could polish off the crazy-generous portion of fresh cheese, vegetables, guac, and chips all by themselves, but I’ve seen groups of ten manly men bested by the challenge. Aside from the nachos, Thom’s is a rock solid bar all around that you should also be going to anyway. Good service, great playlist, private party space, Girls/Mad Men/Lost viewing parties, and reasonable prices are just a few reasons why it’s one of my go to spots. The nachos will draw you in, but everything else about Professor Thom’s will keep you there.

Melt Shop – 55 W 26th St at 6th Ave

Outdoor seating… Perfect Location… Tater tots. SEE HERE

 

Earls Beer and Cheese – 1259 Park Ave at 97th

It’s all in the name… beer and cheese… also beer cheese… but we’ll get to that later. In a relatively tucked away shop on the Upper East Side, lies a menu that spans the globe with cheese as its common denominator. Tacos made of scallion pancakes, brie and blackberry grilled cheese, ginger and sriracha laced tomato soup, and the finest beer cheese outside of the midwest, are just a few of the things you can expect to find at Earl’s. As far as carbs go, they have a rotating beer menu and all the sandwiches and food come with crazy good bread. Some would consider Earl’s limited space a downside, but I feel like it provides the opportunity to get to know the other people there, perhaps by talking about the food, or the wallpaper that looks like a forest. You’ll see what I mean when you get there.

 

Jacob’s Pickles – 509 Amsterdam bt 84th and 85th

While all the chumps out there head to S’mac to fulfill their mac and cheese needs, I like to make my way to Jacob’s Pickles on the upper west side for their $9 version of the American classic. It’s far better than any other mac and cheese in the city, and you can enjoy it while talking to one of the plaid wearing, bearded bartenders about hot sauce and indie rock music.  They have sparkling rose on tap, every random whiskey you’ve ever wanted, and a whole display case for their pickled items… And this exists above 72nd street! In addition to the mac and cheese, their fried pickles are the bomb, I’ve been told their fried chicken is some of the best ever, and their french fries come in an obscenely large sized bowl with little squeeze bottles of ketchup, hot sauce, and honey. They also seem to hit the Black Keys and Jack White Pandora pretty hard, which is obvi a plus.

Where to eat and drink in Harlem

A list of places that will make you go Brooklyn who? Downtown… why? Welcome to my favorite neighborhood spots.

TRUFA

You could go downtown to get the classic brunch you always dream of, or do it uptown at Trufa and only pay $8. Said brunch includes 2 eggs, homemade home fries, salad, and non-wonder bread toast. And after brunch, you could stay for lunch and dinner as well. Other perks include impeccable customer service, not having to fight anyone for a table or wait four thousand years to sit down, and a ton of other eating options in the event that eggs aren’t your thing. Those options include one of my favorite dinners, the portobello mushroom burger, which comes with hand cut fries (or a salad if you ask nicely) and again only totals $8. On that note, there are plenty of veggie-friendly options, which are a rarity in Harlem. The last thing I want to mention might seem small, but for me sealed the deal on Trufa. The first time I went there to get take out, it was one of those impossibly hot NYC nights where the humidity was tangible and 90 degrees would be a reprieve. Directly after placing my order, they offered me a glass of ice water while I waited. Like I said, small thing, but by taking care like that, they are sure to keep their customers coming back. Especially this one.

CHIPPED CUP

Coffee and sweets. That’s what you go to Chipped Cup for. Oh, and tea… and bagels… and a quiet place to work… and a place where you can sit on antique couches… and open mic nights… and to post up with a friend on a cold winter’s day… Okay, I guess there’s more than just the coffee and sweets. This is one of those coffee shops you can disappear in for hours and enjoy every second of your time. You’d never know you were above 14th street (or 114th street for that matter) by the decor and vibe, other than the fact that you have enough room to spin in a circle with your arms out and not hit anybody. Something I wouldn’t recommend doing with coffee in your hand. The prices are good as well, and when you order to stay, they use real china and mugs, which is always light years more pleasing than the standard paper cup. It’s also right next to Harlem Public, which means it’s a great first date stop in the event you decide to keep things going. And if you end up testing this theory out, obvi let me know how it goes.

TONALLI CAFE & BAR

tonalli

I literally just got back from eating at this pretty new spot from the same people that run the pretty old spot Picante. Tonalli has a full bar and a fully intriguing Italian-slanted menu that still has vestiges of it’s owner’s Latin food. For instance crabmeat avocado dumplings. So good! My hearts of palm/avocado/cucumber salad… overdressed but amazing! This place has some service kinks to work out, but the menu is A-okay! And the tables full of Harlem hipsters seemed to agree. Also, Little Mermaid was playing when I walked in, so consider me sold.

JIN RAMEN

*Featuring the great Anikka 🙂

Authentic, delicious, ramen made with the stuff ramen’s supposed to be made from. For my longer love note to this noodle heaven click here. Also, after you get your slurp on, keep the party going next door at Chokolat for incredible espresso and coffee creations. Their cupcakes are pretty darn good too.

HARLEM PUBLIC

Full disclosure, I haven’t had the chance to enjoy Harlem Public yet, but I did step foot in it once, and that along with countless good reviews from friends secured it’s spot on this list. Word to the wise: meeting for a quick drink on a Saturday night of one of the biggest football games ever doesn’t usually work out. That’s what happened to me. But in the three minutes I stood debating whether my friend and I should stay, I saw an amazing selection of beers and cocktails, a comfortable/cozy decor, and an S ton of people that beat me to the Harlem Public punch. I gotta go back there. Mostly because they have brunch now. Also, we all know my bias towards bars with the word “public” in their name. I rest my case.

COCCOLA

Eep! This is another place I haven’t been, but as soon as I heard about it I emailed all my Harlem friends and have gotten some pretty great feedback. That said,  gourmet+pizza+Harlem leaves little margin for error. Trying this place out ASAP.

TANTO DULCE

Tanto Dulce was the first place I discovered in my old hood that had amazing, non-bodega coffee. They had something that can be pretty hard to find in Harlem, espresso. And while it was the coffee that brought me in, it was the food that kept me coming back. Their teeny-tiny six seat setup might skimp on eating space, but makes up for it in flavor and portions. Any pastry, especially the tres leche cake and chocolate croissants, will hit that special part of your belly, and the sandwiches don’t disappoint either. The bread they use is out of this world, and in true bakery/cafe fashion, you can buy loaves of it to bring home. Another fun detail is the good college indie rock music that plays from an old boom box hidden under one of the booths. Just beware when getting a coffee to go because walking and enjoying a latte at the same time can get tricky for some people… Or maybe just me.

 

Honorable mentions go out to: Picante, La Condesa, and the best bodega ever, Nadal 🙂

A night out in Chelsea

For everyone out there who likes to have drinks, dinner, and dessert all on the same block, this post is for you.

Last night I joined up with Andy and Stacilyn for a two block Tour de Chelsea. We started for a quick drink at Jake’s Saloon on 23rd and 9th. It was quiet, full of wood paneling, and just what the doctor ordered. The actually Irish bartender poured a perfect pint of Guinness, which isn’t an easy find in the isle of Manhattan. (I think I just quoted Death Cab… Deal with it.)

Once sufficiently chilled out, we set off for the main attraction. After reading about Bombay Talkie on Serious Eats, I was left with three words looping endlessly in my brain. Cashew. Jasmine. Rice. And on our one block jaunt to the restaurant, there wasn’t time for too many saliva-inducing repetitions. While most places would seem toasty compared to the 20 degree winter night, when entering Bombay Talkie we were immediately struck by the restaurant’s warmth that was only partly due to the heating system.

The decor was dark and cozy. Tall booths against the etched wood wall allow for privacy, while a long banquet table on the other side would be perfect for a small party. There was also a bar area playing Bollywood films against a neon sign listing signature cocktails like “Truth is Beauty, “A New Phase of Life,” and “Love Story.” Or maybe they were just listing Taylor Swift songs… Regardless, romantic, serene, and inviting are all words that would fit the bill there.

bombayBut enough of that. Let’s talk about the food. Known (by me and maybe other people) for their homemade naan, we ordered the cilantro/red chili flake and onion/sesame  seed options. To go with it, we got the cucumber raita, and the cool cucumber yogurt was the perfect balance to the spice of the bread. You’re gonna notice aside from Chelsea, the other theme for the night was carbs. And speaking of carbs, once we demolished the naan, it was time for the Cashew. Jasmine. Rice. (Which, FYI, is actually called Pulao)

To go along with the Pulao, we got the Biryani, the Baigan Bharta, and the Sukhi Harabara Beans. Each contained a palate boggling burst of flavor that was beyond comprehension and explanation. The dishes’ flavors were even more complex than their names. I feel like despite eating Indian food countless times, last night was the first time I ate Indian food. The combination of spices, texture, and freshness caused a blanket of silence to engulf the table. And believe me, the three of us have NEVER been at a loss for words. The green beans tasted like they had just come from the garden, the eggplant mixture had hints of the Middle Eastern food my dad raised me on, and while I didn’t try the Biryani (stupid vegetarianism), there wasn’t one speck of it left, so I guess it was alright.

bombaymenu

The meal ended and we were full. Full enough for the following exchange:

“Stacilyn: I never want to eat again, which would be bad cause I weigh 95 pounds…

Andy: My cankles weigh 95 pounds.”

So of course from there we took a walk across the street to Billy’s Bakery. The 50 steps totally counted as enough exercise to justify the yellow daisy/chocolate buttercream cupcake that followed. Simple, sweet, delicious. Billy’s always delivers.

billys

Next time you’re hanging out on 9th bt 21st and 23rd, I urge you to go to any of these three places. But if you have to choose just one, go to Bombay Talkie. Stat. And then get a cupcake while you’re at it… And then maybe a beer too… I’m not so good at this whole restraint thing.

Where I want to eat (and drink) in 2013

The new year means trying out new restaurants, and now that the effects of drinking too much “iced tea” on NYE have left my body, this girl is ready to eat. I’m typing this, fork in hand, to share where I intend to stuff my face in 2013, and to prove that I’m a woman who doesn’t need all ten fingers to use a keyboard.

COCKTAIL BODEGA

205 Chrystie Street (LES)

It might be a little soon to talk cocktails, but these cocktails are blended with fresh fruit, so I think it’s okay. Organic Avenue meets the TGI Fridays app menu at this Lower East Side bar/restaurant, and I couldn’t be more intrigued. According to the restaurant’s website, they offer spiked juices and smoothies, and street food-inspired fare, all in the sunny upstairs cafe situation or their underground bar. I’m counting the minutes until I get to go to Cocktail Bodega, and not just because they have a Birthday Cake Smoothie… I swear.

BOB WHITE LUNCH AND SUPPER COUNTER

94 Avenue C (Alphabet City)

If I had a time machine, I’d go back and eat at all the old school diners and cafes which, in this situation, wouldn’t be old school cause I’d be eating at them in real time. But luckily I don’t have to wait on Biff and McFly to get their act together, and can just go to Bob White’s instead. Apparently, back in the day a lot of these small restaurants existed that offered seasonal food at an affordable price point, and that’s what they’re trying to replicate. Catfish, Black Eye Peas, Banana Pudding, and more populate Bob White’s menu along with other classics that are making me go deep into food fantasy mode. The best part is I could get all of the above for under $20. I think I’m in love.

EARL’S BEER AND CHEESE

1259 Park Avenue (UES)

Beer and cheese, lots and lots of cheese, is what I hope to find after taking the trip to Earl’s on the Upper (Upper) East Side. Despite being decorated to look like a hunter’s wilderness heaven, the food on Earl’s menu is far from what the camo-clad set would usually expect. The grilled cheese comes with pork belly, the tomato soup is made with sriracha, and the tacos are wrapped in scallion pancakes. I plan to set aside a whole day’s worth of hours (and calories) to indulge here and can’t wait to see their top hat wearing pig in person.

GEZUNTE BAGELS

121 W 19th Street (Chelsea)

My grandparents yelled “Gezunte” every time somebody in the family would sneeze or burp, so growing up, I heard this phrase a lot. That has nothing to do with this restaurant other than giving me the feeling that it holds some sense of home. Described as an “upscale kosher cafe” I’ve heard their bagels, cream cheeses, and Jewish food is some of the best around.  Whether you go with the aforementioned treats, a pastry, coffee, salad, or soup, Gezunte Bagels provides tons of books to sit and enjoy while you’re sitting and enjoying your food.

MISSION CHINESE

154 Orchard Street (LES)

I never made it out to this go to spot in 2012 and refuse to rest until I get my tushy to Mission Chinese. So much has been written about New York’s newest best restaurant, so I’ll refer you to Adam Platt’s opinion, until I can write a post-meal review of my own.

Peter Luger

I’m off eating meat again. Peter Luger is to blame. But it’s not what you think.

Brooklyn’s Peter Luger is known as one of the best steakhouses in the country (and the world?). And when my dad came to town recently there was really no question as to where my Aunt Rose wanted to take him. And what Aunt Rose wants, Aunt Rose gets. She’s 90, so she’s earned the right to dictate where we eat supper. I just wish she had better taste. Joking.

I anticipated this meal for months– both for the food and the company. My dad lives in Seattle, so we don’t see each other much and Rose’s niece Susan joined us all the way from Houston, Texas. It was a rock solid crew who was ready to meat party. And the food did the opposite of fall short.

After taking my first bite of PL’s trademark t-bone, I felt like I had never had steak before. It made every beef cut into strips concoction seem like a meager imitation of what steak was supposed to be. It was smooth and buttery and easy to chew and seasoned so lightly that you could most prominently taste the cut as opposed to the things it was cooked in. I clearly can’t indulge like this for a really long time for obvious health reasons, but also because no other steak will ever measure up. So I shall go meatless from now on. Or until someone suggests going to Shake Shack. Whichever comes first.

On the health front, we did incorporate some vegetables into our feast. There was creamed spinach, fresh cut tomatoes paired with Peter Luger’s famous bacon, steamed broccoli, and my favorite veggie of them all– french fries. The large cuts of spud were cooked to crispy on the outside and tender on the inside perfection. And when dipped into the meat jus they transformed into something even better. A seemingly impossible feat. So it was like really nutritious. No need to work out after… right?

This meal took a couple days to recover from. For a while my heart moo’ed instead of thumped. But it was worth it. So as I bite into my boca burgers and chew on lumps of steamed tofu, I’ll close my eyes and pretend I’m eating the best of the best with the best of the best in Brooklyn. Because that’s what Aunt Rose would want.