Category Archives: Blog

Chef Adam Sobel’s Ode to Sicily

Chef Adam Sobel’s Ode to Sicily

The story was first published in Life & Thyme.

In Los Angeles, Chef Adam Sobel marries California bounty with Sicilian imports to create a singular experience for diners at his restaurant, Cal Mare.

It’s dusk in Corleone, Sicily. From the jaw-dropping hilltop view overlooking the golden wheat fields and lush olive groves of Bona Furtuna, Adam Sobel, executive chef of Osteria Cal Mare in Los Angeles, California, ponders how for hundreds of years, people have been enjoying something as simple as an olive while watching the same sunsets we see today.

This is Chef Sobel’s third visit to Bona Furtuna, a 350-acre organic farm owned by Steve Luczo, former CEO of Seagate Technology. Built just six years ago on land where his grandmother was raised, the farm has a history so rich an archaeological site dating to 600 B.C. was recently discovered its property. Sobel finds inspiration in the rich history and distinct flavors of the products grown on the Sicilian farm, and he has partnered with Luczo to import his favorites—the bedrocks of the Mediterranean diet—to highlight the California bounty he equally reveres.

Later in the evening, I observe as Sobel plates a steaming bowl of pasta with the concentration of a surgeon. They’re two very different moments, but in each, nothing seems to exist for Sobel beyond what’s directly in front of him. Creating a soulful experience is what fuels the Long Island-born Italian-American chef.

Quesabirria: A Family Affair at Pobres Tacos

Quesabirria: A Family Affair at Pobres Tacos

The story was first published in Life & Thyme.

On Los Angeles’ Pico Boulevard, Pobres Tacos embodies the spirit of immigrant entrepreneurs in the city’s long celebrated multicultural history.

The late, legendary Los Angeles food critic Jonathan Gold said he learned how to eat on the artery that pulses between Downtown L.A. and Santa Monica: Pico Boulevard. A virtual United Nations of food, for many Angelenos it is impossible to drive down the street without being seduced by the plethora of sights, smells and flavors offered on every block.

Pobres Tacos, a family-owned and operated food stand at the border of Pico-Robertson and Mid-City, is a spot worth braking for. Chef and owner Janet Gonzalez puts on a hypnotizing and delicious show. As she banters with customers, Gonzalez dips homemade corn tortillas into a spicy red broth before putting them on a piping hot griddle. When the tortillas begin to puff up, she sprinkles them with mozzarella and a generous portion of juicy shredded beef. The same red broth is then poured over the tacos in a slow steady stream turning them an intense saffron-colored hue. Then—poof—the sizzling broth evaporates into an aromatic cloud that drifts down the block, luring hungry and curious crowds.

These are quesabirria tacos, a quesadilla and birria hybrid.

 

South Texas Meets Mexico City Bread Culture

South Texas Meets Mexico City Bread Culture

The story was first published in Life & Thyme.

Two brothers, David and José Cáceres, bring their passion for central Mexico’s bread history to San Antonio.

Bread is the embodiment of a long and complex history in Mexico. Its most important ingredient, wheat, was introduced during the sixteenth century by Spanish conquistadors to a native population who found it bland compared to their sacred corn. A century later, wheat had found popularity in crispy baguettes and pan dulce (sweet pastries), and by the nineteenth century, Mexico City was inundated with French bakeries. Today, Mexico’s baking traditions are among the most inventive in the world, with thousands of variations of sweet and savory breads in whimsical names and shapes.

Enter David Cáceres, head baker of the celebrated bakery La Panadería in San Antonio, Texas. “I love the connection to my past,” begins a conversation on his favorite topic: bread. David co-owns La Panadería with his brother, José.

 

A Pot of Chili and the Invention of Tex-Mex Cuisine

A Pot of Chili and the Invention of Tex-Mex Cuisine

The story was first published in Life & Thyme.

“This is not Mexican food,” said my Mexican-born parents anytime they got a whiff of chili. A mere plateful inspired disapproving gestures as they sensed the dish wafting the aroma of cumin in a San Antonio Mexican restaurant. Growing up on the Texas/Mexico border, life was more Mex than Tex. But a mere 150 miles north, it was a different story.

They were right—sort of. Chili is not Mexican, but its history is complicated. Chili is Texas Mexican, one of the country’s oldest regional cuisines. The term Tex-Mex first appeared in the culinary lexicon in 1972 when English-born cookbook author Diana Kennedy made a clear distinction between the food served in Mexico and everything served north of the border. By doing so she inadvertently defined a centuries old cuisine—one that’s heavy on meat and cheese, features flour tortillas over corn, and highlights cumin—a spice not commonly used in central Mexico.