Soundtrack to this recipe: Valerie by Amy Winehouse, BBC Live version
So after nine months of traipsing about New York City, I finally made a short pilgrimage home to Irvine, CA. I know–how did such an interesting person come out of the most boring, safest city in America? I attribute it to all the paint fumes I inhaled in my friend’s garage in high school when I was painting murals as a student council member for Spirit Day. I seen things, man.
Well, no trip home is complete without stopping by some of the best places to eat in L.A./Orange counties, though I’d probably feel sick if I went to every spot on my list–that’s what happens when you only have 5 days. Here’s a quick photo recap…my first stop was Din Tai Fung in Rosemead, an international soup dumpling house known for making some of (if not the best) soup dumplings in the world. A few years ago the L.A. shop was the only North American outpost, but it looks like they have plans to open up in Seattle; the original was founded in Taiwan in 1969 by a transplant chef from mainland China. The rest, as they say, is history: they’ve been serving crack in a steamer ever since.
For dinner I met up with my friend Joanne and her boyfriend, David, for dinner. I have an awful track record when it comes up to keeping up with friends from high school, especially since everyone’s scattered around. Back when I was planning my trip home we bonded over our mutual love for craft beer, good burgers, and awesome pizza, so we pledged to meet up so I could check at least one of those off my list. I met them at Pizzeria Ortica in Costa Mesa, which makes amazing Neapolitan wood-fired pizza crust for a non-NYC institution. In fact, I’d rank it somewhere up there with Paulie Gee’s and Motorino in NYC, though Paulie still holds the top spot in my heart. I had the “Amalfitana,” with roasted squash, burrata, anchovies, and red onions; Joanne got the “Guanciale” with guanciale, ricotta, and shaved ramps; and David got the Milanese, a wonderful combination of fontina, asparagus, and a fried egg. I paired my pizza with a Green Flash IPA (summer’s almost officially over!) and we topped off dinner with a few bites of budino (a sinful marriage of pot de creme, salted caramel, and whipped cream).
And naturally, after a day of decadence I woke up today and went for a run early in the morning in a light drizzle to work some things out–pounding pavement to Beyonce and Kanye these days. I’d made plans to make Ina Garten’s plum tart a couple of days ago, but decided to switch gears when I came home to a basket full of nectarines. Stone fruit’s stone fruit, right? So I made this exact recipe, but substituted nectarines for plums, used whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose, and added a little cinnamon to the tart and crumble mix for a little kick. Here’s how it turned out: