A Week in LA, THE Ballymaloe Loaf, An Epic Sandwich & A Perfect Cocktail

This week’s musings are slightly longer than usual. Feel free to use this info as a little “choose your own adventure”.  If you are interested in hearing about my LA foodie tour, that’s where I’m going to start. But if you are here mainly for the recipes, scroll down for an update and a new video for THE famous Ballymaloe Brown Bread, the perfect base for a killer Triple Pickle Packed Tuna Sandwich that will knock your socks off and my current go to evening tipple, a Vermouth Spritz and quite frankly no better way to end your day.  I just thought a warning would be prudent so that you know what’s in store. Without further ado, here we go…..

I live by the theory that two things are always (or at least often) true at once.  Case in point, last week’s visit in LA, both very much needed in the restoration department with lots of quiet beach strolling and a self imposed restriction of remaining within the confines of Santa Monica and Venice. It was also filled with joyful times with good friends and plenty of eating (no surprise there).

The biggest shock (literally) on day one was my first ever experience of an earthquake, during (wait for it) a sound bath meditation. Yup. You couldn’t make this story up. There I was thinking to myself “wow those sound vibrations are seriously powerful” only to find out afterwards they were in fact magnified by the ground literally moving underneath me. To recover, I hot footed it around the corner to Erewhon to complete the full LA episode, an education in perfectionism and for the world’s most lavish smoothie.  

For those who don’t know, Erewhon has earned cult status both on social media and with all the beautiful people in town.  Arguably the most expensive supermarket I have ever set foot in (and that’s saying something), I want to hate it, but, despite being completely overwhelmed on entering, I secretly love it. Or maybe am just in such awe of this real life example of the unimaginably immaculate.  And by this I mean both in curation and presentation – there is not a gap on a shelf, a visibly missing product, a label not facing completely straight on or a vegetable not absolutely picture perfect AND organic, entirely unblemished and lined up as if on a grid.  Seriously.  

The smoothie was good. I wouldn’t necessarily say it rocked my world. Maybe because I was choking on the price, or maybe because my world had literally just been rocked……it definitely did not make me look instantly glowing from the inside out like the other customers in the store (I want what they’re having), but I did get a good lesson in organisation and how people spend (and on what).  

Onwards to the rest of my time which was somewhat less eventful and thankfully calmer with daily morning walks along the beach from my Santa Monica residence for the week (literally out of a Wes Anderson movie) to Venice and my second home, Gjusta, for coffee and the occasional breakfast (I think I live there now).  I’ve frequented Gjusta without fail on every visit over the years, and I can report that it remains consistently flawless, fabulous and inspiring from the design of the shop to every single dish and ingredient I sampled (and there were many). And I managed a fair amount of time fantasising about my LA home and pantry in the Gjusta Goods and Grocer stores (R&D obvs).  

Despite the Angelino rumour that the West Side is a culinary desert, I still managed to find some fantastic new eateries to add to the old all time favourites on my list that I happily re-visited.  Gjelina is still ranked on top (understandable as it shares ownership with the Gjusta gang) and never disappoints in always providing me with endless vegetable inspiration whenever I visit. Great White never disappoints both in coffee and breakfast and people watching. I discovered Dudley Market this visit (also open for excellent coffee in the mornings if you are prepared to wait) and finally made it to Crudo e Nudo, now firmly on my list.  They are all going crazy for smash burgers there and while I did try them, honestly I don’t get the hype. Give me a big fat juicy patty on a brioche bun oozing sauce and juice to dribble down my chin any day.

I might have filled a bag with Trader Joe’s essentials, (peanut butter filled pretzels and the chocolate variety, hot sauces, dried ginger and cherries plus many jars of everything bagel seasoning).  I also found myself on a chili crunch voyage of discovery taking me to a variety of delis and speciality food shops, of which McCalls Meat & Fish Co was a highlight with an outstanding condiments section and definitely worth a visit if you are in the hood. A few Schaner Farm Cara Cara oranges from the Santa Monica Farmers Market also managed to make it back home with me, as well as some of their dried limes and mandarins to savour the citrus alongside an embarrassing amount of Santa Barbara pistachios in all varieties.  Because they are the greenest and outstandingly delicious. I could have brought crates back…….

I want say a special to thank my patient friends who travelled across town to indulge me when I refused to leave my perch.  I know what a big deal it is and I felt very special…..LA you filled my cup and gave me so much food for thought as always. Until next time……

And now for something a little more local……

Ballymaloe Brown Bread

Very on in the early days of these pages and after an incredible weekend at Ballymaloe where I crept into the kitchens in the early hours of the morning to learn how to make their formidable loaves of bread that we devoured every morning at breakfast. The recipe is still one of the most searched for recipes on my site and a staple in my kitchen all these years later (and despite much sourdough dabbling over the years). I have updated the recipe for you, leaving the old story in tact and adding a handy little video too. (If you are enjoying my videos please do subscribe to my YouTube channel, it really helps as I embark on this new platform and I am hugely grateful for your support)

My Triple Pickle Tuna Sandwich

There is something unequivocally nostalgic about a tuna sandwich. And therefore there will be as many favourite ways and how to’s for THE best version as there are people. Never wanting to miss a chance to weigh in on a topic, here’s my triple pickle packed version with plenty of dill, a dash of hot sauce and some obligatory crunch. I dare you to try my take on the ultimate lunchtime (or anytime) classic, made all the more outstanding when on sliced of home made Ballymaloe Brown Bread.

Vermouth Spritz

The perfectly refreshing everyday cocktail to punctuate your day and that won’t knock you sideways. Takes minutes to make, easy to jhooz up with a little garnish and perfect to share with someone you love. 

Vermouth firmly found its way into my heart in all its own splendour over Covid, when some of my favourite foodies got creative and started to make their own.  It was during that time I discovered the beauty of this early evening tipple outside of my favourite negroni or poured over chicken before slow cooking.  And it’s definitely lighter than its heavier cocktail cousins, so perfect for those nights you still want to be standing after a few drinks.

With a simple ratio of one part vermouth, two parts soda, a little wedge of grapefruit and an olive if you feel fancy, no cocktail making skills necessary, just a little love…….

Thanks for following along with me on these little adventures and I love seeing what you make every week. Keep the correspondence coming, I love our kitchen conversations.  xx