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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Meet Me In…

Vacation #2 of the summer found me in Montauk, surrounded by amazing beaches, super fresh seafood, and the constant temptation to quote  “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”. Here’s the low down on where to stay and what to eat in Montauk, along with some snapshots from my trip.

LODGING: Windward Shores

EATS: Goldberg’s Bagel, Lunch aka The Lobster Roll, Clam Bar, Surfside Inn, Gosman’s, John’s Drive-In

WARDROBE: All bathing suits, all the time… Except for lobster bibs with maxi dresses at dinner

Team Brooklyn takes Cape Cod

Every year my college friends and I spend July 4th weekend celebrating Kristina’s birthday at her house in Cape Cod. We always hit up the beach, the seafood shop, and the local “Packie”, which is New England-speak for the liquor store, and Kristina’s parents are the best, most perfect hosts. This annual trek up north has seen us go from single to engaged to married to expecting, from playing Beer Pong and Kings all night to watching Wes Anderson movies, from loading up on Miller Light to making ginger-grapefruit cocktails with Bulleit Bourbon, and from a group of friends to straight up family. The memories from these weekends are priceless, and I’m already looking forward to next year. Here are some snapshots from Team Brooklyn’s 2014 trip to The Cape. Happy birthday, Xstina!

What to do in NYC this weekend

Wondering what to get into this weekend? Here’s some suggestions running the gamut from costly to free, and brainy to brain-numbing. The one thing they all have in common though is fun. Here’s to making the first weekend of Spring an awesome one! But first things first… Go see Garbage at Terminal 5 tonight. I’ll be there!

-Get your 90’s on at the New Museum

This exhibition that I’ll be visiting ASAP focuses on 1993 and the art that came from that oh so 90’s year.

-Eat at the new Num Pang

One of my fav spots now has a whole sit-down situation on 29th street. I recommend going with a ton of people so you can order as many types of their insanely delicious Vietnemese sammies as possible.

Hunker down in front of the tube for MTV’s Retro Real World Marathon.

Starting tonight, they’ll be playing the first season ever of the show, followed by the Vegas season on Saturday, and the legendary run in San Francisco on Sunday.

-Eat some Korean comfort food at Food Gallery 32

All options are good, but my fav is the Soon Dooboo tofu from the stall in the back left corner. And snack on a $2.50 kimchi bun from the front while you choose what to get.

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-Check out Brandi Carlisle at Beacon Theatre

Pricey, but worth it.

-Take a dance fitness class at M Dance & Fitness

Pretend you’re in Slumdog Millionaire, Save the Last Dance, and the salsa scene of Center Stage all under one roof!

-Check out the Studio Museum of Harlem and it’s amazing flag

Bonus: There’s a GAP Outlet next door!

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-Learn about condoms

Head on over to the Museum of Sex for what’s sure to be an eyeful… Of information… Don’t be gross.

-THEN head to Birch Coffee

Some of the most delicious brew you’ll ever drink plus your choice of boardgames are sure to bring things back down to PG.

-Get a cocktail at Murray Hill speakeasy, Middle Branch.

The drinks are spendy, but worth it! Feeling risky? Go with the Bartender’s Choice!

HAPPY WEEKEND-ING!

Ramen Coast to Coast

I don’t mind the East Coast and West Coast beef, as long as that beef comes with noodles and broth. Some go for pho, some go for ramen, I go for both. Bottom line… if the people and places are right, give me some Asian soup and I’m right at home. 

Home is where your parents are, and when I visit my parents, eating at Janbo is a must. Phenomenal pho, seafood from the nearby Pacific, and each meal is ended with a complimentary cream puff. Sweet right?!

Now at my other home, with neighborhood pal, and super funny lady, Annika. That tofu was the best I’ve EVER eaten, and the broth was out of this world. Be sure to get the plum wine with soda. It has the taste of a spritzer without grandma implications.