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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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A Chat with Katie Quinn AKA The Food World’s Next Star

You’ve seen epicurean extraordinaire Katie Quinn on Today Show, The Meredith Vieria Show, covering Sundance, and more, and now is your chance to get to know this amazing lady a little better.

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I met Katie way back when in the NBC Page Program, and she’s gone on to strut her stuff as a seriously inspiring self-starter, covering all things food. Her passion for the food world and drool-worthy YouTube Channel had me all kinds of curious, so I caught up with Katie to pick her brain about cooking, traveling the world, and how she made the brave decision to take her career into her own hands. Bon Appetit!

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After working for larger companies like the Today Show, Serious Eats, and NowThis News, how did you make the brave decision to go into business for yourself?

It was, indeed, a tough decision. A saying I kept in mind throughout the whole process was “Leap, and the net will appear.” I’ve found it to be outstandingly true. Here’s what happened for me: I was offered a staff position at a big network and going through the whole interview process, I completely intended on accepting the offer. Once the offer was made, though, I had a crisis: I did not have that feeling of excitement that you should really have when diving into a new position. I immediately knew why: I had to give myself a chance to make it on my own, for my own brand. It was a hard decision to make, but as soon as I made it, I knew it was the right thing. My heart was smiling. And it was time to hustle to make it work.

For many people, self-employment equals Netflix and sleeping in, but you post videos on your YouTube page twice a week, in addition to a ton of other amazing content. How do you stay on track, and what is your day to day workflow?

This question makes me laugh. For anyone who knows me personally, they know that I’m entirely too Type A for the pitfalls of self-employment to be much of an issue. Even in college, I was bordering on being the stereotypical obnoxious achiever. I think it’s probably just a personality thing. I’m a morning person, so I usually wake up with the sun. I do set a schedule for my days, which helps me organize the different projects I have and allows me keep my YouTube videos a priority–even though they are not the most profitable part of my work.

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Where does your love of food come from? What are some of the specific meals or dishes that inspired you to work with it full time?

I love this question! My love of food is inspired by the incredible variety of dishes that exists all around the world and the fascinating characters who make them. When I worked backstage at the TODAY show, I would get as excited about Thomas Keller coming on the show as other people would get about Kim Kardashian being a guest. Every morning, I hung around the TODAY kitchen set and would interview as many chefs as I could. Their stories and their passion is what wrapped me into the food world. So my love of food is less focused on a specific dish, but rather embellished by a good story, or an interesting person behind the dish.

I can’t help but notice the global feel of your recipes, which are no doubt a result of all your travels. What are some of the places you’ve traveled, and which ones have inspired your cooking the most?

Yes! Travel is SO inspiring, for so many reasons, but especially when it comes to food. Peru and China have had the greatest impact on the way I look at spices, at which parts of the animal can be eating, and at the eating ritual.

A lot of people reading are city dwellers, who maybe don’t have the time or resources to make extravagant meals. What are some staples you recommend keeping on hand to avoid a steady diet of Seamless and Chinese Food?

Lentil soup or a stew where you can just use up the variety of things in your fridge. Pasta tossed with sautéed veggies (whatever kind of veggies you like or have on hand). You can swap out the pasta for rice, quinoa, or any other grain. Put a fried egg on top–and you’re golden.

PHOTO CREDIT: Robert Caplin

In this video, you call YouTube your “metaphorical table” to gather and talk about food. If you could sit down at a real life table with three people from the food world, who would they be?

Holy moly, I love this question. I’ve never considered it before. Off the top of my head I’m going to say: Ina Garten, David Chang, Anthony Bourdain.

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Pre-Summer Discoveries

A few things to make the best time of year even better…

The Meadow – 532 Hudson Street

The Meadow came into my life on a recent post-Sixteen Handles walk. Thankfully my frequent froyo partner in crime Emmy knew it was the kind of place I would be pretty into. The Meadow sells three things: salt, chocolate, and bitters. Shoppers can taste test different varieties of all three, while navigating the tiny shop, and every inch of the store is filled to the brim with gourmet goodness. Emmy suggested we try the truffle salt and black salt, and both were great. Fun fact: salt has flavors… I didn’t know that before. Prices at The Meadow are pretty reasonable, especially when it comes to the wall of chocolate bars. I got this treat for $4. And before you judge,  think salty/crunchy/sweet to inform your opinion.

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Ed Sheeran

Before you judge Ed Sheeran for being 22 and the opening act on Taylor Swift’s tour, listen to his album “Plus.” Good music doesn’t always have to be loud and in your face, and Plus is a subtle, almost hypnotic record that gracefully weaves together rock, folk, R&B, and hip hop influences. Since Ed is lumped into the “teen pop” world, it’s easy to overlook him, but after his performance at the recent Billboard Music Awards, that’s no longer the case. Following over-produced, vocal track-heavy acts like Selena Gomez, Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, and Will-I-Am, Ed took the stage with a guitar, an amp, and his voice, and blew them all out of the water. I was lucky enough to see him perform at a small Fuse-hosted event, and his raw talent is something that doesn’t come along often. Also, “Kiss Me” might be the most romantic song ever written, and I’d argue that with any music aficionado out there.

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Saturday Window ShopVarious

Combine the fashions of Kate Spade with those crazy touch screens in Minority Report, and you have the genius that is the Saturday Window Shop. Use the touch screen to literally window shop through Kate Spade’s more affordable Saturday offerings, and whatever you choose to purchase will be delivered to you an hour later. Just like that. The only thing left to be desired is a brick and mortar Saturday shop. Though, my bank account would probably disagree with me on that.

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Faux-Cro-Nut – Gregory’s Coffee – 874 6th Avenue 

Last summer you couldn’t read a food blog without reading the words “Mission Chinese Food,” but these days it’s talk of the Cronut that’s crowding the blogosphere. The donut/croissant hybrid created by Dominique Ansel Bakery is the most desired sweet treat out there, resulting in Disney World-type lines, and Craigslist schemes inflating the pastry’s price upwards of $40. If all that sounds like crazy talk, then do what I did, and buy the Cro-Dough from Gregory’s Coffee. Same results, without the extraordinary measures. Maybe once the hoopla dies down, I’ll head over to Dominique Ansel’s, but in the meantime, the flaky and sweet faux-cro is just fine.

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Melt Shop

I started my career as a New Yorker in Brooklyn. This informed my idea of comfort and home and what’s involved in a night out on the town. Ideal dining conditions for me equal wooden interiors, unexpected ingredient combos, solid playlists, and still having a few bucks in your pocket when you leave. Since moving to Manhattan, the biggest challenge has been finding places that fit this mold. The highest compliment I can give a place is “I feel like I’m in Brooklyn,” and that’s the first thing I said upon entering Melt Shop in Chelsea.

Mid-Blizzard last week, I met the amazingly talented and hilarious Emmy there for a catch up session over cheese and carbs. The golden spatula at the restaurant’s door stood out amidst the snow and hinted at the goodness that lay inside. We were immediately greeted by the enthusiastic staff who helped us with the arduous task of picking what we’d order. As a veggie, my options were minorly limited. Melt seems to be a fan of pork, chicken, and bacon and includes them on most of their sandwiches. That said, I still had some great things to choose from. Emmy went with the buttermilk fried chicken, and I chose the three cheese.

Melt offers tater tots as a side, and as we are people of the human race, Emmy and I were set on getting them with all of our hearts. But due to a self-imposed $20 budget, we had to opt out of the tots. Then, the best thing ever happened. The dude taking our order gave them to us for free!! For like no reason at all!! Gotta love the Thanksgiving spirit.

Our food was bomb.com. The roasted tomatoes on my sandwich were sweet, yet smoky, prompting me to check more than once to see if they had added bacon by mistake. And we all know my thoughts on bacon. Emmy’s sandwich looked like someone gourmet’d up a KFC value meal and then encased it in bread and cheese. (Which is obvi a good thing) And holy guacamole the free tots were good. They were sprinkled in Parmesan cheese and fried in the most perfect way. Also, make sure to get the dipping sauce, cause it tastes good with just about everything. Like it’s still good when you ate all your tots and use your finger to scoop it up. (Not that I’d know.)

Even though it’s in Manhattan, Melt’s got it going on. The only problem I foresee with this place is people getting tired of me bringing them there. If you’re into enjoying yourself and not spending a million bucks, I urge you to check it out ASAP. Also, check out Emmy’s twitter. Neither will leave you disappointed.