y4pcT1JaIwGptQJPO6l_mZmgv34 tiffin unboxed: July 2013

LA Weekly's Pancake Breakfast

The 3rd annual LA Weekly Pancake Breakfast will take place again on August 11th. This year chef, author and KCRW’s “Good Food” radio host, Evan Kleiman is curating the best 30 or so breakfast tastes of Los Angeles. She definitely knows her way around food and L.A.

LA Weekly Pancake Breakfast Aug12_sweet e Village Bakery donut muffins blueberry poppyseed cake
Village Bakery - donut muffins, blueberry poppyseed bundt cake

I missed the first year because of taking the name too literally and thinking most offerings would be sweet. However, in last year's event the mix ranged from sweet to savory with a great selection of beverages.

LA Weekly Pancake Breakfast Vibiana Aug12_exterior a

LA Weekly Pancake Breakfast Vibiana Aug12_exterior c

LA Weekly Pancake Breakfast Vibiana Aug12_interior c

LA Weekly Pancake Breakfast Vibiana Aug12_interior a

LA Weekly Pancake Breakfast Vibiana Aug12_interior b

The setting at the Vibiana Cathedral is quite beautiful. It's just small enough where the lines are not exasperating.

This year I do not plan to attend, but that didn't stop me from taking a nostalgic look at last year's festivities and eats, highlights recapped below.

LA Weekly Pancake Breakfast Vibiana Aug12_people c

LA Weekly Pancake Breakfast Vibiana Aug12_people a

LA Weekly Pancake Breakfast Vibiana Aug12_people b


LA Weekly Pancake Breakfast Vibiana Aug12_drinks d chai horchata
chai horchata
LA Weekly Pancake Breakfast Vibiana Aug12_drinks b La Mill Ethiopian coffee
La Mill - Ethiopian Coffee
LA Weekly Pancake Breakfast Vibiana Aug12_drinks c detox juice
detox juice

LA Weekly Pancake Breakfast Vibiana Aug12_people f lady rose dress 

They also had a couple of hosted bars with brunch type cocktails like Bloody Mary's, with a gourmet twist.


LA Weekly Pancake Breakfast Aug12_sweet d BLD blueberry ricotta pancakes maple syrup
BLD - blueberry ricotta pancakes with maple syrup
 In terms of pancakes, of all that I tried, BLD's blueberry ricotta pancakes with maple syrup took top honors. Impossibly light and fluffy and just the right amount of sweetness.

LA Weekly Pancake Breakfast Aug12_sweet b Nickel Diner pop tarts whisky donut hole bacon maple donut hole
Nickel Diner - bacon maple and whiskey donut holes, house made pop tarts 
LA Weekly Pancake Breakfast Aug12_sweet a Nickel Diner
Nickel Diner display
LA Weekly Pancake Breakfast Aug12_sweet c Nickel Diner plate
Nickel Diner plate

LA Weekly Pancake Breakfast Aug12_savory h Gottsui okonomiyaki pancake
Gottsui - okonomiyake pancake
LA Weekly Pancake Breakfast Aug12_savory g Auntie Ems shrimp and grits
Auntie Em's - shrimp and grits
LA Weekly Pancake Breakfast Aug12_savory h Auntie Ems shrimp and grits
Auntie Em's - shrimp and grits
LA Weekly Pancake Breakfast Aug12_savory f Market chilaquiles
Market - chilaquiles
LA Weekly Pancake Breakfast Aug12_savory e Good Girl Dinette steak crostini
Good Girl Dinette - steak crostini
LA Weekly Pancake Breakfast Aug12_savory d Good Girl Dinette steak crostini e
Good Girl Dinette - steak crostini
The chilaquiles and crostinis really satisfied.

LA Weekly Pancake Breakfast Aug12_savory c Euro Pane sausage biscuit and gravy
Euro Pane sausage biscuit and gravy
Although I love Euro Pane, their sausage biscuit and gravy was lukewarm, which is not how I want to eat gravy.

LA Weekly Pancake Breakfast Aug12_savory a Hungry Cat
Hungry Cat - display with baby corn and oyster shells
LA Weekly Pancake Breakfast Aug12_savory b Hungry Cat salmon pancake
Hungry Cat - salmon pancake
Hungry Cat's salmon pancake, with mustard seeds and tangy dill sauce, took best in show for me. It's the only booth I went to twice. I could not contain my appetite for these one bite wonders.

Granted, my tastes lean toward the savory much more than sweet.

LA Weekly Pancake Breakfast Vibiana Aug12_people e Lee Sunny

On such a hot day and packed event, it was a relief that besides the interior rest areas, they put up benches and umbrellas outside. That's my friend, Sunny, waving at me.

LA Weekly Pancake Breakfast Vibiana Aug12_people e Jonathan Gold Handsome Coffee
Handsome Coffee
And finally we got a late visit from LA Times Food Writer/Restaurant Critic Jonathan Gold, who had curated the 1st event.

Handsome Coffee stopped serving when they ran out of milk, even if you wanted black coffee.... I'm sure they managed to wrangle up a cup for Mr. Gold.

No event would be complete without Starry Kitchen owner, Nguyen Tran in costume. His lederhosen did not disappoint.

These selections represent only a fraction of the offerings. I took a lot of breaks vs. a marathon eating approach. Also avoided the very long lines, of which there were not too many. And the sun slowed everyone down a bit.

Even then I surely left with a very full and satisfied tummy.

If you are wavering on whether or not to attend, this recap may help you decide. I'm sure this year will bring a whole slew of new good eats.

Getting the Most Out of Your Morning Coffee

Does that look like a tasty, creamy, frothy cup of coffee? It is....and isn't.

Bulletproof Coffee Apr13_i cup
I've been more of a tea drinker than coffee drinker. The smell of coffee definitely draws me in although nobody can accuse me of being a coffee purist.

It's like what they say about pizza - even the bad stuff is kind of good to me.That is because with both black tea and coffee I add cream and sugar - it's a cultural thing my family passed down to me.

About a year ago, I read that adding cream and sugar takes away some of the health benefits of coffee, particularly it's fat-burning capabilities. More importantly, I decided to give up dairy, at least most of the time, which made me give up my beloved lattes and capuccinos cold turkey.

It sounded like it was worth a try to go all the way and drink black coffee. However, the office-provided coffee did not call out to me. My rationale was that if the quality of coffee was good enough, the taste would improve and nothing would need to be added.

For some time I'd considered adopting a Paleo diet Through some type of serendipity, many Paleo web forums repeatedly referred to Intermittent Fasting and Bulletproof Coffee.You know how you hear of something new then notice it everywhere? While playing a business podcast in my car, the very credible host, mentioned that he drinks Bulletproof Coffee daily. I decided to give it a try too.

Bulletproof Coffee Apr13_a setup
my elaborate Bulletproof Coffee setup - on a tray for easy removal from counter
I won't bore you with the scientific details behind it, but you can read it straight from the source here if interested. In a nutshell, coffee that is single origin, organic, mycotoxin-free coffee is better.

Luckily I had most of the tools and ingredients at home, but also spent quite a bit of time and money locating the missing pieces. I thought "this better dazzle me". It did.

So the "basic" setup above, from left going clockwise, includes:

1. coffee brewer of choice. For me a French Press. Many use K-Cups.
2. insulated thermos
3. coffee grinder
3. electric teapot, or you can heat up the water on your stovetop
4. hand blender
5. MCT oil (or coconut oil), MCT = medium chain triglycerides
6. Bulletproof® Upgraded™ Coffee (or other brands that fit the same pureness criteria)
7. milk frother ($2 at Ikea!)
8. coffee scoop
9. Kerry Gold unsalted butter from grass fed cows (other brands okay as long as they are organic and from grass fed cows)
10.kitchen timer (optional)

Still with me? Here is the original recipe. The first time I made it, it took 15-20 minutes. Now I have it down to 5 minutes, including clean up. In most cases I take it in a flask to work.

Here is my process:

1. Chop up 2 tbsp. of the butter and throw into beaker. Add 1 tbsp. MCT oil or 2 tbsp. organic coconut oil. Put 2-2 1/2 scoops coffee into grinder.

Bulletproof Coffee Apr13_b butter oil whole beans 

2. grind. The smell is intoxicating, even more so than most coffee beans. During this time, microwave the beaker for 30-40 seconds if the butter is still cold. Heat up 4 cups of water.

Bulletproof Coffee Apr13_c ground beans

3. Add coffee grounds to French press. Add half the water into the press and put on lid. Set timer for 5 minutes. Add rest of the water into the thermos to heat it up.

Bulletproof Coffee Apr13_d coffee press

4. After 5 minutes, add coffee to beaker and blend with immersion blender until frothy, about 1 minute. Of course you can use a regular blender, but be careful about blending hot liquids.

Bulletproof Coffee Apr13_e blending

It should look like this afterward. A rich, golden color with milk-like foam. 

Bulletproof Coffee Apr13_f blending

Bulletproof Coffee Apr13_g blended

Bulletproof Coffee Apr13_h blended

Once you get past the weirdness of putting butter in your coffee, you will understand.The butter makes the cup of coffee look and taste like it has cream in it, but it does not take away the benefits of the black coffee. Since sugar affects the benefits, I don't add any. Some people add alternative sweeteners if they must have sweetness. I don't miss the sugar in this brew at all. It tastes very rich and creamy.

5. Drink immediately or empty water from thermos and pour coffee in. It should stay warm at least until lunch time with the lid shut. But you will be drinking it before then.

Bulletproof Coffee Apr13_i cup

Bulletproof Coffee Apr13_k flask

You can froth it up again later with the small frother, but it tastes just as delicious as is. You may find a bit of an oil slick in the cup, which is why it may be more palatable to froth again.

Bulletproof Coffee Apr13_j cup

Bulletproof Coffee Apr13_l ghee
If you opt to make it with ghee, which I did by mistake once when I was reaching for the coconut oil, it doesn't taste as good but gives a similar texture. Color is darker as you can see below. You are getting too much of a buttery taste and it's a bit harder on the tummy.

Coconut oil tastes great if you like coconut and adds the semblance of sweetness if you are leaving out the stevia. MCT oil has no taste or odor, so you are tasting more of the butter. This type of shorter chain fat gives you a burst of energy because your body burns it right away, rather than stores it. MCT oil is stronger than coconut oil but they both do the same thing.

Bulletproof Coffee Apr13_m jug

This concoction keeps me full until 1:00-2:00 p.m. so I do the intermittent fasting, but not to an extreme. People react to it in different ways. Keep in mind if you do drink this butter laden coffee and eat "normally", you are adding a lot of extra calories and fat to your diet. If you have this for breakfast, skip other foods until lunch.

Also it takes some getting used to to suddenly digest all these healthy fats, so gradually work up to the level you want to add. I took probiotoics to ease the transition. Most people naturally build a tolerance quickly. Your body does enjoy these healthy fats.

This stuff has a cult following, which is off-putting to me. In my humble opinion, good, pure coffee exists and I've heard of Tibetan butter tea. Why reinvent the wheel? 

The creator of this Bulletproof brand, Dave Asprey, aka The Bulletproof Executive, touts strong claims of higher levels of cognition, bounding energy, increased fat burning, among other benefits. To his credit he does not insist it works only with his products, but he does have them conveniently available for sale, at quite a premium + shipping.

I am not completely sold on all the claims, nor on the lifestyle. However, I cannot deny that after trying this golden elixir, I was highly focused, way more energetic, had no afternoon crashes, slept better - and loved the taste, most importantly. I recall telling people on the first few days that I felt like the Bradley Cooper character in Limitless.

My doctor checkup 3 months later showed slight improvements in vitals (lower blood sugar/blood pressure/cholesterol, weight loss, etc.). Still, I don't completely chalk that up to only the coffee since I've been making other lifestyle changes to support my health. What it does demonstrate is consuming more fat which made me feel more satisfied did not have adverse effects so far.

The effects waned a bit since then, and I do get hungy faster, but it is a good tool to boost your functioning without drinking coffee all day long. 

So the jury is still out, albeit the experiment was worth it. Just to test it out further I may experiment with different brands and combinations of ingredients. In fact, my coworker, Christine, began adding coconut oil to her black coffee and loves it. It's a simpler way to go if you don't want to invest in the whole elaborate process.

Alex 6thbday May13_n Vietnamese coffee

On a related note, my brother somehow came to his own coffee revelation at about the same time. At their house he (with help from my adorable nephew) made me a cup of Vietnamese iced coffee with chicory coffee and condensed milk, using an AeroPress. It was a lovely weekend pick-me-up and treat. During the week I go back to my buttered coffee.