Top 10 Sources of Culinary Inspiration in L.A.

Contributed by Rachael Narins and Suzanne Griswold from Chicks with Knives as part of KCET's Food in L.A. package.

We are in love with Los Angeles for its diversity and endless charm. For the weather, the food trucks and simply amazing restaurants. We could write a dozen top 10 lists, hailing our favorite LA Food Blogs or Sustainable Caterers. So narrowing that down to one list was tricky. But we gave it some thought and realized what we love most is that we are able to make pretty much any of our food dreams come true here. We have always been able to find even the most esoteric ingredients and tools simply by looking around. If you are like us, and always excited to try something new, make your own, or continue learning - these spots can help you on your journey.

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1. Farmers Markets
There is actually a farmers market taking place every day of the week somewhere in Southern California; and new ones popping up all the time. They range from small to large, from strictly produce to family-entertainment stops replete with pony rides. But whatever your needs, you will be able to find beautiful, seasonal produce and a little slice of community all in one temporary spot. We are partial to the big two: Wednesday in Santa Monica and Sunday in Hollywood...but every market we have visited has yielded something exciting and new.

2. Cube Marketplace and Café
Cube is a fantastic farmers-market driven Italian restaurant on La Brea in Mid-City. But in addition to the sensational food you can sit and eat, lining the walls of this beautiful space are also all of the ingredients you could need to create your own authentic Italian meal. Olive oils, wine, capers, olives, fresh pastas, vinegars and more...Cube Marketplace really is a perfect spot. They also offer interesting and inspirational classes at their space downtown. Check out their website for information.

615 N. La Brea Avenue, Los Angeles
323-939-1148


3. The Home Wine, Beer and Cheese Making Shop
Open seven days a week, this spot is a one-stop-shop for resources and equipment. If you have any interest in making your own wine, beer or cheese, you absolutely must make a pilgrimage here. They offer really fun, super intense classes and it's a great way to connect with other enthusiasts. Armed with facts and years (and years) of experience, they can help you get on your way to building your own amazing pantry full of fermented delights. Make sure to pick up some vinegar mother, too...you'll never go back to the bottled stuff...

22836 Ventura Blvd., Woodland Hills
818-884-8586

4. Sunset Blvd. Nursery
There are at least a dozen small nurseries in LA that have a wide variety of edibles in their horticulture mix. But what we love about Sunset Nursery is the knowledge of the staff, and their ultra-unique offerings. This is a great source for European and Asian culinary seeds as well. We not only get our tomato seedlings here (and its not too late to plant those!) but inspiration. They also have a great variety of fruit trees, books, tools and herbs.

4368 W Sunset Blvd
323- 661-1642

5. Charlie's Fixtures, Inc.
On a stretch of Venice Blvd. you may not visit often, Charlie's Fixtures has been selling industrial restaurant supplies since 1989. Here we pick up pots and pans of every conceivable size, molds and rings, a variety of knives and all manner of containers. We also like to visit their Vita-Mixers. Just because we like to dream. Prices are rock bottom, and the quality is generally high, so make sure to stop in when you can.

2251 Venice Blvd., Los Angeles
323-731-9023

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6. The Spice Station Silverlake and Santa Monica
A few years ago most our local Whole Foods Markets stopped carrying spices in bulk. Broke our little hearts. Then Spice Station of Silverlake opened late last year filling that void in a much more charming (and much less corporate) way. Since spices really shouldn't be kept for more than six months (the flavors just don't hold) it's super nice to be able to get small quantities on an as needed basis. They carry a delightful variety of teas and spice choices and the owners, Peter Bahlawanian and his beautiful wife Bronwen Tawse are super-hands-on making sure you get exactly what you want and more. You can also order on line.

3819 W Sunset Blvd, Silver Lake
2305 Main Street, Santa Monica
323-660-2565

7. McCall's Meat & Fish Co.
Visiting McCalls is such a treat. It's a flawlessly contemporary version of an old world butchers shop. We love that Chef-Owners Nathan McCall and Karen Yoo are always behind the counter, offering cooking advice and guiding us towards the best of the days offerings. Go there for ethically raised meats, local seafoods and a small assortment of salts, rubs and vinegars. Ask about special orders and additional cuts that may not be on display. We get pork belly here for our bacon and it can't be beat. Keep in mind that while the prices are for sure higher than at the supermarket, so is the service and quality.

2117 Hillhurst Ave. Los Angeles
323-667-0674


8. Surfas

A culinary wonderland, for sure. This store, which is just beautiful to behold is meticulously curated to appeal to everyone from the casual diner to the serious chef. Pre made foods, ingredients, equipment and tools all vie for your attention. You can get a sandwich (or, the decadant truffled potato salad, that makes us swoon.), and sample of cheese or charcuterie or you can purchase glassware, industrial sized bowls, bazooka blenders or a whole kitchen set-up. They also offer classes (some free, some for a fee) and design consulting. On top of all that, everyone who works there is so kind and knowledgeable, you'll feel like you are home.

8777 Washington Blvd, Culver City
310-559-4770

9. Gloria's Cake and Candy Supplies
If you are a baker of any sort in LA you should know Gloria's. You can pretty much find anything you can think of (or haven't thought of) for making candy or baking a cake, and they also offer classes on Cupcake Decorating, Fondant and Chocolate Work. As a bonus...the whole store smells like heaven...

3755 Sawtelle Boulevard, Los Angeles
310-391-4557‎

10. Light My Fire
Do you remember that episode of The Simpsons when Ned Flanders opened a store exclusively for left-handed people? Kinda niche, kinda fab. That is what this shop reminds us of. Its location in the Original Farmers Market at 3rd and Fairfax, makes it a bit of a tourist attraction, but even as locals it's like a trip around the world. And it is a trip. With more than 900 hot sauces available you are sure to find something fiery-hot and fun to take home with you. Some of the sauces have decidedly PG13 names (or, really, just names that make 12 year old boys laugh) so be forewarned if you or your family are sensitive to that sort of thing. Otherwise, it is a perfect little journey in to a XX-spicy world.

6333 West 3rd Street, Stall #230
323- 930-2484

Rachael Narins and Suzanne Griswold are Chicks with Knives. They offer knife skills classes and are the hostesses of the CWK Sustainable Supper Club; LA's most popular monthly dinner party featuring Sustainable, Organic, Local and Ethical food.

The images above were taken by Flickr users alltrain43 and meddygarnet, respectively. They were used under the Creative Commons License.

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LEAVE A COMMENT Leave Comment  

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This is a great list. So many of these are places I frequent and adore. Those that I'm not familiar with I'll make a point of checking out (like The Home Wine, Beer and Cheese Making Shop!). L.A. is an amazing city! Thanks.

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Glad you liked it, CharlesGT! Keep an eye out on our new food section for more updates.... http://www.kcet.org/socal/la-food/

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What a great resource guide! The Santa Monica farmers market and Surfas are great; Cube and Charlie's Fixtures sound worth checking into. How about more info on the local food trucks?
Thank you.