Serving Larchmont Village, Hancock Park, and the Greater Wilshire neighborhoods of Los Angeles since 2011.

Newcomer Journals: Family Chef Searches for Novel Ingredients

Peter Grottel-Brown
Peter Grottel-Brown is new to the neighborhood, and already has some great leads on where to get those special ingredients every chef needs.

Anya Grottel-Brown is a recent transplant to LA from the East Coast.  Her series, The Newcomer Journals, is about all things local that are new, different and same.

My husband is our family’s executive chef.  He shops often, scours multiple food stores (and the Larchmont Farmer’s Market) for supplies and ingredients, and gets into a creative menu planning zone at least once a week (don’t talk to me, I’m thinking!)

Like many chefs, he hates being unprepared.  Bottles of canola oil, extra virgin olive oil, sherry wine vinegar, champagne vinegar, rice vinegar and balsamic vinegar stand to attention on the kitchen counter.  There are hidden shelves of grains and lentils, and multiple packages of pasta shapes from farfalle to orecchiette and tortellini.

Short-grain rice, rice vinegar and soy sauce from MitsuwaAfter nine months in Los Angeles, he has gotten our food shopping expeditions down to a science.  There is no one-size-fits all; the goal, inspired by years of globetrotting and intense pâté-making sessions with a French uncle, is to find the best source for the required dish or flavor.  Here are three great Los Angeles haunts for family chefs with ingredients to match:

Herbs and spices:  Fresh herbs are best of course but dry spices are essential to any pantry.  Spice Station in Silver Lake has an impressive collection of aromatic spices and teas that range from all-purpose to highly unusual. The courtyard, complete with colorful tiles, fountain and peaceful-looking Buddha, always make me feel as if I’m walking into a spice bazaar somewhere in the Orient.

Japanese vinegars, mirins, soy sauces, tofu, rice seasonings, seaweed (nori) and a top-notch selection of short-grain white and brown rice:  the Mitsuwa supermarkets are a fabulous place to get all this and consume a pork flavor-bursting bowl of Santouka ramen.  The only downside:  the food court is generally filled with Japanese families whose ramen-eating technique far outstrip mine.

Hot mustard from Odessa GroceryMustard, horseradish:  for condiments with a powerful Eastern European bite, we head to one of the Russian stores on Santa Monica (Odessa Grocery at 7781 Santa Monica Boulevard is one).  Our favorite mustard brand is named, appropriately, “Mother-in-law’s mustard.”  I’m usually tearing up after the first dollop.

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Anya Grottel-Brown
Anya Grottel-Brown
Anya Grottel-Brown discovered Larchmont by accident while visiting LA on vacation and was instantly hooked. Anya was born in Russia and has lived in Canada, Japan and New York before settling in the Hancock Park area in the summer of 2013. An award-winning PR/communications expert, she specializes in amplifying the voices of non-profits, foundations and education-focused organizations through the media. Anya can be reached at [email protected].

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