Edible Blossoms: Eat Your Flowers

You know what they say—you eat with your eyes first. And honestly, I couldn’t agree more. Presentation is a major component of food preparation, which is why I’m all about natural garnishes (and we’re not talking parsley, people). Nothing looks prettier on a plate than edible blossoms. Think broccoli flowers, squash blossoms, and those lovely purple buds you’ll find on a chive plant. So. damn. pretty.

edible blossoms

Photo by Erik Neldner

edible blossoms

Photo by Erik Neldner

broccoli flowers

Broccoli flower photo by Joel Maus, Studio EMP, via Utterly Engaged

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Photo by Joel Maus, Studio EMP

But beyond glamming up a gorgeous dinner plate, edible blossoms also make a pretty yummy entrée on their own. Enter my latest obsession: fried squash blossoms with herb goat cheese and fleur de sel. We recently served these babies at an Event Brite event, and let’s just say there weren’t any leftovers. Was I surprised? Not at all. The delicate crunch and warm, cheesy filling make these blossoms an absolutely perfect bite—and a beautiful one at that. (Get the recipe here.)

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Photo by Joel Maus, Studio EMP

In addition to looking stunning on a plate, edible blossoms can also take center stage when you turn them into a centerpiece. I recently styled this edible arrangement for Utterly Engaged, and I must say, I was really quite pleased. It’s part centerpiece, part hors d’ oeuvre tray. Pretty clever, huh? And yes, pretty delicious.

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Photo by Joel Maus, Studio EMP

So here’s the lesson for the day: It’s totally time to ditch the bouquet. Scour the vegetable garden instead of the flower bed. Trim the squash plant instead of the roses. Edible blossoms are a modern approach to garnishing a plate, and a fresh cuisine trend that isn’t going anywhere soon. And to that, I say Amen!

TOP’s Guide to LA’s Best Picnic Spots

Shake out your blanket and load up the basket. It’s summertime, which is the best season of them all for picnicking. And there’s no better place for an impromptu outdoor meal than LA. Hit the farmers market before heading off to one of the hand-picked picnic spots below. But before you do, take a peek inside the ultimate TOP picnic basket.

Palos Verdes Bluffs

LA picnic spots

Photo via Yelp

The Palos Verdes Bluffs are the perfect spot for a picnic when you just want to get away from it all and get Zen. This is a California coastline at its finest, and the views of the Pacific are stunning.

Elysian Park

LA picnic spots

Photo via parlato design studio

With picnic tables and a meadow-like lawn, this peaceful park has plenty of trees (which equals plenty of shade) and breathtaking panoramic views of Los Angeles. You can hit the trails after lunch for a post-meal burn, or just take a nap in the sun.

El Matador State Beach

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Photo via Yelp

Malibu’s El Matador State Beach is without a doubt one of prettiest beaches in Southern California. It’s serene and secluded, making it the perfect spot for a seaside picnic. The rock formations and natural archways make for a pretty spectacular backdrop, and the sunsets are flat-out gorgeous.

Barnsdall Park

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Photo via californivacation: socal style

 Barnsdall Park overlooks the Hollywood Hills and has a great neighborhood vibe. The sprawling lawn is the perfect place for an afternoon picnic, and thanks to the park’s impressive views, it’s also a pretty nice spot to watch the sun go down.

(P.S. Have you been to a Friday night wine tasting?)

Silver Lake Meadow

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Photo via Yelp

Open from dawn to dusk, the Silver Lake Meadow is a gem of a picnic spot with a great view of the reservoir. Clean and quiet, this ‘no dogs allowed’ park is the perfect place to kick off your shoes and go barefoot in the grass.

Catering for Weddings: a Tale of Two Menus

LA wedding catering

Photography by Global Photography via Maharani Weddings

I love catering weddings. Creating a custom-made menu for such a memorable occasion is big time in my book—and also quite an honor. I also love bringing So Cal flavor to special events. And that’s why catering this Indian wedding at Malibu Rocky Oaks Estate Vineyard was such an absolute delight. (Have you seen this place, guys? 360-degree views of staggering beauty, and all just 30 minutes from LA).

LA wedding catering

When you’re planning a wedding, honoring your culture—and also your guests’ preferences—is equally important. But what do you do when your guests are a blend of old world and new school? That’s easy. Offer a bit of both.

This lovely bride wanted American vegetarian fare for her American guests, and also traditional Indian fare for her more traditional Indian guests. She called on Taste of Pace for the American menu, and we went right to work.

As an LA-based catering company, our approach to menu-planning is simple: Use what’s in season, and use what tastes good. If you stick with the first part, the second pretty much takes care of itself. You also end up with vibrant, colorful, perfectly seasonal (and perfectly delicious) fare.

Since I don’t have photos of the food itself to share, you’ll need to use a little imagination. Start by looking at this gorgeous place setting, closing your eyes, and picturing this seasonal menu:

LA wedding catering

  • herb goat cheese, crushed spiced almonds, caramelized leeks, endive spears
  • potato crosnes latkes, herb creme fraiche, apple, chive
  • wild mushroom truffle agnolotti
  • cone of housemade purple potato chips
  • caramelized onion, winter squash, thyme tart
  • artisanal cheese (burrata & pistou, fontina, manchego), house made date paste, spiced almonds

The bride was happy, the guests were happy, and you guys, that made me so, so happy!

Wanna hear more about Taste of Pace’s approach to wedding menu design? Check me out on My Hotel Wedding.

Ingredient of the Month: Bottarga

I’m about to let you in on a not-so-secret obsession of mine. It’s called bottarga, and it has totally and completely rocked my world.

bottarga

What is it?

Simply put, bottarga is dried, salted fish roe, typically made from tuna or mullet. The traditional method includes extracting the eggs, curing them in sea salt, and then allowing them to dry for a few days. The roe is then pressed between two wooden boards, resulting in a fantastic (and grate-friendly) block, similar to sausage. After that, the bottarga is hung, where it ripens and matures to utter perfection (which usually takes months).

How do you use it?

Bottarga has an intense, salty, and yes, since it comes from roe, fishy flavor. That’s why it’s best used sparingly. But it’s amazing on scrambled eggs in the morning, sprinkled on top of deviled eggs, or grated over a Caesar salad. You can really add it to anything that could use some extra saltiness and a little “sea” essence.

I love that it adds a level of complexity to my dishes. It’s salt with a purpose! I used it as a sea salt garnish on this sexy sepia pasta dish, and it was a match made in heaven.

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Studio EMP via Utterly Engaged

Where can you get it?

I buy mine from Monsieur Marcel Gourmet Market and Restaurant (they’ve got two locations—one in the Farmers Market at Third and Fairfax, and a second shop at the Santa Monica 3rd Street Promenade), and also at McCall’s Meat & Fish Co. in Los Feliz.