Monday, October 14, 2013

Eating LA. A Journey to Artesia and Chocolate Goes Back To Its Roots.

   Way, way back a long time ago, back before I officially lived in Los Angeles, back before I ever dreamed of cooking Indian food, all Artesia meant to me was the place my father usually made the wrong connection on the way to Disneyland. This usually entailed much swearing and gnashing of teeth. A family of Northern Californians awash on the Southern California freeway system, Artesia was the zig where there should have been the zag, and that's what it meant to me for years and years.

   Later, after Artesia became known as Little India, I would hear stories of the wonderful markets and restaurants to be found there. But of course being a typical Angeleño, I always talked about going but never did. There were so many Indian markets closer to home, it just seemed to be too much effort. Recently we were in LA on business and our friend Irving said you guys have got to go, so he threw us in his Cube and took us down there. Boy howdy was I sorry I'd missed  this place for all those years. For lovers of Indian cuisine, Artesia is the real Disneyland.

Wall to wall shops selling bangles, sarees, groceries, DVDs, Indian cookware and some of the best restaurants to be found anywhere. The cuisine ranges from the North to the South of the subcontinent and includes some things rarely found anywhere else.

   Irving took us on a round of his favorites which started at Udupi Palace. Of course we had to have the paper dosa.

 This was one huge freaking dosa. To give you a little idea of the scale of this thing, here's Irving next to the dosa.

That is a grown man and one big ass dosa. We would have been perceived as idiots had we ordered more than one. It was served with a sambar and coconut curd. Of course, we added some medu vada unfortunately unphotographable as the mouth is quicker than the camera.

   We did manage to snag the avial...

and a mixed vegetable uthappam...

There were vadai.

Of course we added in samosas, chapatti, and pappadums. We finished up with a vermicelli payasam which we split three ways.

   One would think that that would pretty well take care of our food needs for a while, but we set off on a march down Artesia's main drag in search of an elusive Gujarati place that Irving told us had the best Khandvi and pani puri ever. We explored Artesias many shops.

Finally after bangle shopping and buying sacks of groceries at Pioneer Cash and Carry...

... we found surati farsan mart, one of Irving's favorite places and all I can say is if you have a chance.....go!!!!! Read the Yelp reviews as they say it better than I can.

Here are some burfi.

We also enjoyed khandvi...

..., and delicious pani puri...

 ...both of which I can't wait to make here at home. We returned to LA fully sated and loaded with Indian groceries to take back to Sonoma, but wait, there's more!

   This is one excited lady.

This very excited person is one of our former neighbors in LA. We visited them one evening back in the old neighborhood and she and her husband shared a new secret discovery with us. It was actually chocolate from a little place that had opened in our old neighborhood since we'd moved North, it's called Chocovivo.

  In this small shop, Patricia Tsai, roasts, grinds and makes her chocolate by hand the old school way, and by old school I'm talking Mayan and Aztec, the original old school chocolatiers. No tempering, just stone grinding.

   Peter and Amy, our former neighbors shared some of their chocolate with us. It was the sort of discovery you reveal to friends when you know they're leaving town, or you're planning on killing them. Peter took out some glass containers of the sort that I hadn't seen since college party days, only this time they were filled with chocolate. He slowly opened them to share with us. The last time I'd seen someone so enthusiastic about something....

    Peter and Amy explained how to properly taste the chocolate, and even served a special chocolate-friendly wine. They were so taken with this new local shop, that we simply had to check it out for ourselves. So, the next day, off we went to 12469 W. Washington Blvd. Culver City.

   If Artesia was an Indian food Disneyland, Chocovivo was a chocolate wonderland, and I quickly turned into Alice.

We had a chocolate tasting.

Here, a sampling of chocolates were laid before us from the darkest to the lightest flavors. We sampled a cup of traditional chocolate drink, and some chocolate nut spreads. Hazelnut and almond chocolate butters. Don't get me wrong, this is not Nutella, this is Nutella died and gone to heaven.

There are several regular flavors, and special flavors made on certain days.

   Of course, we loved all of it and bought everything we tried. Loaded with chocolate and dal, the next day we headed back to Sonoma really feeling as though we'd tasted some of the best our former home had to offer.

   Now back to reality. About a week after we got back home my dad fell and broke his hip. After having surgery, he's now in skilled nursing where he's suffering from post-op delirium. If I hadn't gone through this with my mom just a year ago, I'd be pretty freaked out, but I know  that as bad as it looks, it will pass and hopefully he'll be back to normal again. I want to thank all of you who've been so supportive through all of this.

   I did manage to get back into the kitchen again over the weekend (always my happy place) and I'll be sharing a Great Pumpkin recipe from South India and a sweet dessert Payasam from chennai made with chana dal. Follow along on Twitter @kathygori.


  1. I just found your blog yesterday on Evernote Food app of the iphone and it was so interesting that have spent so much time since then going thru yr recipes. I loved this particular one since khadavi happens to be one of my all time fav snack and lucky me that I got married to a Gujarati. Will soon try your microwave recipe as the traditional one is quite time consuming. We also happen to have a vacation home in Sonoma right off the square and just returned from there a couple days ago. So next time we are there would definitely explore Artesia and he restaurants you have mentioned. My mouth is waterng as I was reading this, so thank you so much and will keep checking your blog for some new food stories that take me back to India. BTW, we love Yeti in Sonoma and is one of our most favorite restaurant to eat at.

    1. Shree,
      thanks for getting in touch, I cannot wait to get back to Artesia for more delicious food. Yeti is a place we go to occasionally after hiking in the regional park next door. Nothing better after a long hot summer hike than a cooling glass of their mango lassi! Let me know next time you are up here in Sonoma, we should definitely get together!



Blog Widget by LinkWithin