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LA Weekly Archives - Benjamin Caro

Benjamin Caro

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Hipcooks class

After realizing I was living next to the Best Thai grocery store in Los Angeles, I decided it was time to make use of it. Scouring the net, I found the Hipcooks “Thai Two On” cooking class (Their most popular class was “Thai One On,” but after cringing every time I read the name, I just couldn’t do it). Luckily class seemed geared toward culinary idiots like myself, so I grabbed my friend Rosey, we strapped on our aprons and wrong-turned our way downtown. (Rosey is definitely the name of the girl you want to put an apron on and take to a cooking class with you. If you don’t have a friend named Rosey, Suzy, Judy, or possibly Joyce will do).

What did I learn? I learned how to make my roommate uncomfortable by filling my pantry full of bottles of fish sauce, galangal spice, and a massive block of tamarind, all of which I have little plan but the best intentions for. So far, everything tastes great in eggs. (Except the tamarind, which I’ve been pulling apart and eating raw). But really, you should read the article on LA Weekly where you might learn a bit about the class rather than a bit about my avant-garde home eating habits. Really, I’m ahead of my time.

  A few classmates pretend they're okay with using their pinky fingers to taste things.
A couple of my classmates pretend they’re okay with using their pinky fingers to taste things.

Since spices are so prominent in Thai cooking, we spent a lot of time slaving over a massive mortar and pestles to grind up the raw ingredients, looking like an army of miniature apron-wearing Gandalfs. The food turned out delicious:

By far the best dish was the Chiang Mai sausage skewers, ground pork patties seared into compact, little sausage shapes. Another highlight was the Thai me up! rum cocktail, a bright, creamy concoction of mint, coconut milk, ginger beer and a secret weapon, vanilla bean paste, more raw and flavorful than vanilla extract.

Chiang Mai "sausage" skewers
Chiang Mai “sausage” skewers. Just look at that sear. Look at it.

Really, I was blown away by those little sausage guys. The sear provided a delightful crunch which lent itself to a fatty, complex flavor reminiscent of salty-sweet potato chips. Check out the full article for more details on the class, as well as a recipe for a rum drink so good you won’t even mind that it’s called “Thai Me Up! rum cocktail.”

 LA Weekly – “Hipcooks: Where to Make Friends, and Cook For Them (Recipe)”

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Pork chop with apple slaw and polenta. Pork chop with apple slaw and creamy polenta.

The Beverly Garland hotel is going under the knife, doing a 20 million dollar renovation and reemerging as “The Garland” this May. It’ll be newly redesigned, featuring retro and colorful decor and an all new restaurant by Chef Warren, previously of Westside Tavern. The hotel wants to get the menu right, though, so in the interim, they’ve set up Warren’s Blackboard, a modest but upscale restaurant that changes their menu twice a week through a patriotically democratic process. Choose your own adventure! I wrote about it for LA Weekly:

Warren’s Blackboard blackboard is updated a couple times a week based on customer’s wishes. With your bill, you’re handed a feedback card reminiscent of something you’d see at a family restaurant chain: “How would you rate our service? What dishes were your favorite? Is there anything you would change about your dining experience?” The difference from say, Red Robin, is that Warren’s Blackboard listens.

So far, because of the “winning” feedback, displayed like award ribbons on a bulletin board by the entrance, Warren’s Blackboard has implemented less salt, more fish entrees, more vegetable appetizers and another dessert. Other suggestions looked like flame wars from a Crossfit message board: One guest suggested “Make more vegan friendly” while another “Less vegan friendly. More steak!” Not a challenge at all.

The most popular dishes will likely be incorporated as the permanent Front Yard menu later this year, possibly with a price hike. If you’re interested in tasting the cooking, I’d go now.

Read more: Now Open: Warren’s Blackboard at the Beverly Garland

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This past summer I hatched a harebrained scheme to make some money while I was away on vacation. I used every start up share economy service I could get my hands on, including FlightCar, AirBnB and Zimride. In short, all hell broke loose—busted tires, stranger road trips, fine print. I wrote about the crazy experience in a piece for LA Weekly called “How I Hacked My Vacation”:

“Early the next morning, I arrived at the FlightCar parking lot in the quiet predawn dark. Floodlights illuminated the lot while a small office offered free water and coffee. The little operation felt like a relief tent at a refugee camp. I stepped into a slick black town car with another FlightCar patron, giving him a brotherly, knowing look just like, I imagine, any other secret society member might.”

Since then, FlightCar, which allows you to park at the airport for free and rent your vehicle while away on vacation, has opened in LAX. While I might’ve had a roller coaster ride the first time I used the service, you can bet I’ll be rolling up to the FlightCar lot at LAX on Monday on a trip I’m taking to Colorado. In the end, it’s just way too convenient not to have to ask your friends for a ride to the airport. You get to keep your friends.

 

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