Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Eat my mailbox

What's ten times better than getting cooking magazines in the mail*?
Getting cookies in the mail.

From Amy at This Heart of Mine

From Patricia at Patricia's Patticakes

From Stacy at Baking Bandit

I'm also a fan of sending cookies in the mail.

So long as the recipe makes a lot of extras.

Unlike the seasonal stream of Amazon boxes from my annoyingly on-the-ball sister, which only engender feelings of inadequacy and panic in me, I loved getting these deliveries. The postal-borne bounty was the happy result of The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap**.  To hold up my end of the deal, I turned to my already indispensable copy of Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy by Alice Medrich for inspiration, and was drawn immediately to this cookie recipe for three reasons:

a.  They were supposed to keep and travel well.
b.  I had all the requisite ingredients handy.
c.  The photo in the cookbook made me drool like a St. Bernard on a hot day in July.

Foodie Girls Lunch Brigade - Episode 29: Bonus Pie Visit

Unlike our previous deliberate detour for pie, this bonus visit was truly just luck.  Republic of Pie is right next to Bow & Truss, and what self-respecting FG could miss the bright red beacon above her head?

This had all the ingredients of a true find.  The handwritten menu with a wide variety of pies to choose from:

Great looking options in the glass cases to lust after while you wait (there was a mac & cheese pot pie too!):

And even more to crave around the corner:


And a space that was airy, bright and warm, with exposed wood beams, comfy couches and wooden chairs, trees and greenery, cozy cupboards and tables, free wi-fi, and plenty of room to spread out.  There was even a small stage, where apparently they have live music in the evenings.

Oh, how elated we were! Despite being stuffed from lunch, we each got a slice of pie and a hot drink, plus a few takeout items (pecan brownies, oatmeal bars, macarons, whoopie pies).
For the kids, of course.
For the kids.

We found a table.  The cappuccino was a work of art, and the tea was brewed in a beautiful Japanse tea pot, individually timed to be strong without being at all bitter.

The pies arrived, after being warmed up in the oven.  Our forks rose as one and we prepared to be blown away.

The dense, smooth, well spiced sweet potato pie was the best of the lot.

The chocolate pecan pie was overly sweet and oddly dry

The coconut cream pie didn't taste much like coconut, and what is up with that caramel squirter in the kitchen anyway? Give it a rest!

Oh, how underwhelmed we were! With the exception of the sweet potato, which was quite good, the other pies were OK at best.  Plus, on every pie, the crust was flat and bland, instead of flaky and tasty, and everyone knows that crust is the best part!

We dutifully nibbled while we talked, and noted again how very pleasant it was to hang out in the bright, cheerful room.  So pleasant, in fact, that I thought it just might be worth giving Republic of Pie one more chance.

Nah.  The pecan brownie I brought home wasn't all that good either.
I mean, the kids hated it.
The kids.

Foodie Girls Lunch Brigade - Episode 29

When there a gap between things, such as the banks of a river, or two walls of of a building, it is common to build a bridge between them.  These span bridges can take many forms, and are often marvels of engineering, albeit with the sturdiness and endurance of traditional structural forms.

When there is a gap between food-laden holiday gatherings, such as Thanksgiving dinner and the neighborhood Christmas pot luck, it is common for the Foodie Girls to get together and socially eat between them.  This span dining can take many forms, and is often a marvel of plating, albeit with the comforting flavors of seasonal local ingredients.

Episode 29 - Bow & Truss, Plus!

We were fortunately able to combine these facts in one outing, when three FG's arrived at the architecturally named Bow & Truss, in early December.  The restaurant is located on a section of Magnolia Blvd. in North Hollywood that is seemingly becoming hipper by the second.  Walking through the entry doorway into a patio filled with low-slung, modern furniture and a striking outdoor bar area,  we glanced at each other and began to get excited.  The vibe was casual, welcoming, and upscale, all at once.  The designer here had done a great job converting a former auto repair shop into a very cool place to grab a bite to eat.  It had the looks, but what about the food?

The former auto bay doors, converted into windows, roll up to allow light to stream into the brick-walled, contemporary restaurant*. 

At 12:15 on a Tuesday, the place was nearly empty.  The hostess greeted us warmly and showed us to a sunlit booth by the window.

Billed as a Spanish Taverna, Bow & Truss' evening menu features more traditional Spanish tapas and paella, not available at lunch.  Instead, the mid-day offerings include a few soups, salads, sandwiches, tacos, cheese and charcuterie plates, and small appetizers.

According to Yelp, nighttime service can be hit or miss, particularly if there's a crowd, but we seemed to have the kitchen's undivided attention and it showed in the quality of our meal.

Our waitress unhesitatingly recommended their soup, the Cheesy Jamon sandwich, the pork belly tacos and the empanadas.   After taking our drink orders, she rushed back over to advise us that the soup was not up to par that day, and that the chef had taken it off the menu.  With one non-pork eater in our trio, we skipped the tacos, and opted instead for a salad, two sandwiches, and two appetizers.

After ordering, we discussed the unexpectedly thrilling sighting of a great looking pie place right next door!  FG6 immediately went over to scout out the dessert options and returned almost breathless with excitement.  Not wanting to lose any information in translation, she pulled out her phone to show us the photos she'd not-so-surreptitiously taken of the pies under the suspicious stares of the customers and staff.  Unfortunately, she forgot briefly how to find the photos on her phone, causing a mild anxiety attack around the table, but soon they were on the tiny screen.  After seeing the pictures, we vowed to save plenty of room for our FG bonus outing..

The green salad, at $7, was a generously sized portion of frisee, arugula, and spring greens, with pepitas, cotija and Spanish Mahon cheese, roasted pasilla peppers, and an intriguing spicy-salty dressing that seemed to have a touch of soy flavor in it.  It was bracing, refreshing, and delicious. There was plenty for us to share, and we ate every last bit.  I'd order this again in a heartbeat.

There are quite a few options for vegetarians here, including both of the appetizers we ordered.  The excellent button mushroom empanadas were another group favorite.  The rich, burnished dough is house made, as is the filling, and they are served piping hot with two different dipping sauces.  Our helpful server advised mixing the two, and she was on the money again.  One is a thin, dark, soy based sauce, and the other is a creamy pepper sauce.  With the earthiness of the empanadas, the combination worked.

Our other appetizer was less successful, at least for me. Definitely good looking, the sope was a remarkably light and crispy fried corn cake, almost like a corn waffle, with a handful of arugula, burrata cheese, some pine nuts, and salsa on top. The salsa was one-dimensional and lacked punch, making the whole dish flat and uninteresting, despite an ingredient list that could have made a fantastic plate.  Instead, it definitely needed something to wake it up. I say skip this, although FG20 really liked it.

You can also give a miss to the anchiote chicken sandwich.  Served open faced with pickled shallots and a smattering of cheese, it was very good, particularly the sauce, but not memorable, and it got soggy quickly since the pulled chicken was terrifically moist.  If we hadn't had the Other Sandwich (OMG!), we probably would have been content.  But we did, and this chicken dish suffered terribly in comparison.

Before I go there, though, can I just point out those sweet potato chips?  How gorgeous are these?

Freshly fried, thin, light and crispy, with just the right amount of salt.  Seriously tasty!

Even better, you get a heap of them when you order the Cheesy Jamon sandwich.  Something you should run to Bow & Truss and do immediately.  It's AMAZING! 

Fresh, crusty baguette, filled with thinly sliced salty-smoky Spanish ham, that Mahon cheese, and pickled jalapeno pepper slices.  Grilled lightly on a panini press until the whole thing is warm, the top and bottom are crusty, and the hard, nutty cheese is toasted on the edges.  The jalapenos have just enough of the bite taken off of them to be addictive: tangy and just a touch sweet and delightfully spicy against the ham and cheese and bread.  I've eaten many, many sandwiches in my life, and this is way at the top of my list.  WE LOVED IT!! (Even FG6, who doesn't normally eat pork, raved).

At $8, it's quite a deal, too.

Having polished that off, with regret at the last little bit disappearing, we focused with true FG dedication on decamping, post haste, to get pie. The bill came ($24 apiece, with food, soft drinks, tax and tip), we paid, and walked out very, very happy with our lunch. We had no expectations going in, and the sheer pleasure of discovering a welcoming place with delicious, relatively affordable, high quality food had all of us beaming.

That, and the prospect of pie.

FG Final verdict?  Bow & Truss is ON the list!
Pricing Info: Everything on the lunch menu was between $6 and $12.  Two could share the green salad and the Cheesy Jamon just over $20.
FG Value Rating:  Fair Deal.

* Can you spot FG1 in this picture?