This weekend my parents came into town for the first time since they helped us move in, which means they finally got to see it sans boxes and with the addition of one cat. They arrived on Saturday afternoon and showered us with hugs, smiles, and Bi-Rite chocolate. They met their grand kitty, who was quite pleased to see them once she realized there were four more hands than usual trying to pet her. After a bit of socializing and some early birthday business, we hopped in the car to head over to West Hollywood. Our destination: Lucques, Suzanne Goin’s restaurant. Her cookbooks are two of my, and my mom’s, favorite cookbooks, so naturally we were ecstatic at the opportunity to finally try the recipes we have been obsessing over for years.
Once we had managed to find a parking spot around the block, we found our way to the restaurant. We were quite surprised to find the host speaking to us in Italian, not to mention the fact that he couldn’t find my name under the list of reservations. Not until the hostess asked us if we were looking for another restaurant did we realize that we were in the wrong place—Lucques happened to be right next door. We found the real Lucques and were told that we were half an hour late to our reservation: apparently I had completely switched off my brain when I made the reservation, and thought it was made for 7 PM rather than 6:30. Fortunately, the staff was very accommodating, and we were seated at least. We were quickly given a platter of fresh, warm bread and a small bowl of almonds and olives in oil. We all decided to get cocktails rather than wine, just for the fun of it and despite the fact that they are clearly a wine-oriented place—the wine list is about ten pages long. Mom and I each got the Indian Summer, which is made with gin, passionfruit, and champagne. For starters, I got ricotta dumplings over lima bean puree with buttery chanterelles, peas, and garbanzo beans. It was glorious. All the entrees that we tried were delicious, but I still think I hit the jackpot with the braised beef short ribs with barely-steamed chard and potato puree. But that wasn’t all—we got three dessert plates: hot chocolate (which was slightly different than ours and I know which one wins), assorted chocolates and confections, and warm persimmon pudding with hazelnuts and honey ice cream. I was a little too full for comfort, to say the least. But it was so worth every bite.
The next morning we awoke, slightly confused due to daylight savings, and made coffee and breakfast. We made the 9 o’clock CrossFit class and then attempted to show Mom and Dad the UCLA campus. Unfortunately, parking was so crazy and campus so large that we didn’t get to see much of the school other than the student housing. We stopped by the Farmer’s Market in Mar Vista on the way home, where I grabbed a bit of produce. I now know that I much prefer going to the Market when it starts, when there are less people and a much appreciated absence of bongo drums.
After a quick stop at home, where we had a bite to eat and fawned over the kitty, I took them all to Otis for the grand tour. And by grand tour, I showed them the floor that I most often inhabit, plus the library. Once we had seen our fill of my small campus we set off to Abbot Kinney to get some snacks at Gjelina Take-away, where we had a slice of some truly excellent berry pound cake.
Next stop: Neveux. I knew Mom would be blown away by the ice cream, and I was not disappointed. She didn’t stop talking about the rosemary butterscotch flavor until they went back home (and she probably still hasn’t stopped talking about it since). We finished up the night with some wine, chocolate, and Robin Williams stand-up, then called it quits.
The next day Jonji and I both had school, so we said our farewells early and parted ways after breakfast. My parents’ visit reminded me of how much I miss home, and the comforts that come along with it. For one thing, Dad would not stop cleaning the kitchen, which was so helpful and wonderful. Mom talked nonstop about food and fabric, which was also very pleasant. They were so positive about our schoolwork and the life that we’ve made for ourselves here. They also both adored the kitty, who actually slept with them one night even though she never sleeps with me—I guess grandparents always spoil their grandkitties the best.
Hearing my mom’s constant commentary on food always inspires me to cook and bake more. This time, she left me with the urge to make something sweet. I decided on what I now know is one of my top three favorite cookies: the chocolate dipped macaroon. I’ve strayed from David Lebovitz’s version a little bit, as is only natural. If you have any affection for coconut whatsoever, you will adore these cookies. You will probably find yourself sneaking into the kitchen every ten minutes for a bite of one. I’ve even converted Jonji, who has never been overly fond of macaroons, but who lit up at the sight of these little golden mounds cooling on the counter. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
makes about 18 cookies • adapted from Ready for Dessert by David Lebowitz
5 medium or 4 large egg whites
2 1/2 cups finely shredded coconut, unsweetened
3/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp honey (or golden syrup)
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1/4 cup almond flour
1/2 tsp vanilla
3 oz good-quality dark chocolate (I like to use Callebaut), finely chopped
Mix egg whites, 2 1/2 cups shredded coconut, 3/4 cup sugar, 1 tbsp honey, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/4 cup almond flour, and 1/2 tsp vanilla in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir together constantly with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until you hear the mixture start to sizzle (this will take 5-10 minutes, so be patient). Turn off the heat and transfer mixture to a large bowl to cool for a few minutes (or longer, if you’re forming the cookies by hand).
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Shape the cooled coconut mixture into small balls using a small-medium (about 2 inches wide) ice cream scoop or your hands. Line the balls up on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silicone mat (you’ll regret it if you don’t line it!). If you want to ensure smoother cookies, pat the coconut balls down with damp hands so as to avoid any errant coconut shreds. Bake for 25–30 minutes, until golden brown. Rotate pan halfway through baking, so as to get an even golden tone throughout the cookies.
Let cool on a cooling rack.
When the cookies are room temperature, heat the chopped chocolate in the top of a double-boiler or a medium bowl set over a pan of simmering water (but don’t let the pan touch the water). Stir occasionally, until the chocolate has completely melted. Dip the bottom of each cookie in the chocolate and place back on parchment paper. Once all cookies are coated in chocolate, place the pan in the fridge to set. Enjoy with milk or coffee, or simply as a snack!