As with all good things, Spring Break has come to an end. I was not as productive as I would have liked (curse you, flu-slash-cold!), but it was enjoyable nontheless. Mom, Dad, and Emma made the trip down to LA last weekend, which was both extremely fun and refreshing—a dose of family can sometimes be just the thing you need.
I spent most of the day on Friday cleaning our apartment and readying the food supply for the visit. Mom, Dad, and Emma got to LA on Friday afternoon, whereupon they deluged me with treats from Companion Bakeshop and Smaug’s treasure hoard (AKA Mom’s stores of apricot jam). After I had greedily consumed a good portion of the treats, we left to pick up Jonji from Westwood. Driving my mom around LA was like putting a cat in a cage full of dogs—she was in constant panic mode. Not that I blame her: LA drivers are crazy. Once we had battled our way through the traffic and picked Jonji up, we drove the short way to Depot so that Jonji (and, last minute, Dad) could get 15.4 over with.
After the workout, we drove home to eat dinner. Fortunately, I had made the chicken soup ahead of time, which meant that all I had to do when we got home was to cook the rice, cornbread, and make the salad while everyone else showered. Dinner was a hit—you know you did a good job when The Dawn O’Regan gives her approval multiple times! We had planned to go to Neveux after dinner, but we were all too full of soup to get up off the couch. Instead, we ate chocolate and caught each other up on life.
The next day, we got up early to go to the 9 AM CrossFit class. Everyone had slept relatively well, although my dad had plotted, half-asleep and partially dreaming, to use a combination of roadkill and scotch tape as a revenge tool against several loud neighbors. Nonetheless, we all got up at 7:15, except for poor Emma, who just wanted to sleep in. Yet, sleeping on the living room floor in a one-bedroom apartment doesn’t work so well when everyone else is awake. She was a good sport, however, and tagged along with us to the gym. We all (minus Emma) struggled through a long workout at Depot, then hurried home to shower before going to get coffee and treats on Abbot Kinney. Our first stop was Gjelina Take-Away, as per Mom’s request. After we’d each ordered a sandwich, we stepped outside to find crates to sit on. Once the food came out, we hungrily tore into it. Dad may have been too eager, for his first bite resulted in a deluge of egg yolk falling all over his shorts. And in case you don’t know, egg yolk does not wipe cleanly off of clothing. Worth it (?)! After our meal, we meandered down the road to Intelligentsia to get coffee. After battling through an order with one of the snobby baristas, we each held a “scalding hot” (quote by Daddad) cup of coffee. Jonji stayed behind to study, while the rest of us went window shopping along Abbot Kinney.
We then drove home for a break from the sun, and lounged about in the living room while Kitty went crazy for the lights shining off of our phones. After a quick snack for Emma and Jonji, we all piled back into the car and headed to UCLA. Jonji gave us a quick tour, and we all marveled at the architecture and grandeur of the undergrad campus. I wish Otis could have one, just ONE, of those buildings.
From there, we drove to West Hollywood, where we would have gotten hit by a texting driver had it not been for Jonji’s quick reflexes. Shortly after that near miss, we arrived safe and sound at our destination: The Fat Dog. The restaurant is a kind of gastropub, with plenty of meat and beer to go around. We squeezed into a booth and gave our orders to the friendly waitress. We each had a salad (I had the beet salad with orange slices, arugula, and goat cheese) and then awaited the main course. I had the burger, which was superb—the brioche bun was on point. Everyone was content and full to the bursting at the end of the meal.
From The Fat Dog, we journeyed a short ways to Neveux, which was one of the must-dos of the trip. The ice cream was, as always, heavenly, and Tim (the ice cream scooper-man) was perfectly friendly, as usual. Mom got her long-awaited Rosemary Butterscotch scoop, while I stuck to Creme Fraiche and Salted Caramel. On the ride home, we all reminisced on the meals we’d ate and the places we’d been that day. Emma puzzled over the extensive cityscape and the little patches of large buildings, while Mom bawled at her to “look over here! Look at the sprawl!”—for some reason, she really wanted Emma to see “the sprawl.” Mom, Emma, and I laughed at that until our stomaches and faces hurt.
The next morning was mellow, although we got up around the same time as we had before, much to Emma’s chagrin. After a hefty breakfast of eggs and toast, we got ready to walk to the Venice Grind for coffee, and to the Farmer’s Market. We first walked to the Grind, where the baristas were friendly and the coffee was great. After sitting a bit to chat, we made our way over to the Market. Jonji and I got very excited about some mushrooms—one kind was inside out and looked like a bunch of pygmy puffs—and Mom went exploring. She even got me some hazelnut-chocolate butter, which is like a better Nutella (yep, I said it, Nutella lovers!).
We slowly made the trek back home, talking and drinking our coffee. Alas, Emma, Dad, and Mom had to leave. As they drove by our apartment on their way out, Kitty sat by the door, seeing them off with Jonji and I. The visit was short but very sweet—I miss them already! I lived with them for 21 years, but it wasn’t until I left home did I realize how truly generous, loving, and fun they truly are.
All the treats and sweets that I had over the weekend inspired me to create more sweetness for myself once my family had left (sorry, guys). Since I had used a few egg whites making macaroons for Todd’s birthday on Sunday evening, and I had a surplus of mint in my tiny garden, I decided to make some ice cream. Now, let me just say, I hated mint ice cream when I was younger. I mean, sure, I might have eaten it if there were no other options because I’ve always been an ice cream fiend, but it was close to my last choice. After I tried real, fresh mint ice cream, however, I realized how good it can be. It’s refreshing, light, and downright lovely. If you don’t have an ice cream maker, I would advise you to get one—as far as appliances go, they’re relatively cheap. Or you can try to find one in a free pile, like Jonji did, but I’d say those odds are pretty slim.
Fresh Mint Ice Cream
makes about 4 cups (1 quart) • adapted from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebowitz
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
hefty pinch of salt
2 cups fresh mint leaves (from roughly 1 very large bunch)
5 large egg yolks
Combine 1 cup of the cream, 1 cup milk, 6 tbsp (half of 3/4 cup) sugar, and pinch of salt in a small pot and set over medium heat. Heat up, stirring often, until the sugar has dissolved and the liquid feels hot (but not boiling) to the touch and a few little bubbles are popping up around the edges. Stir in all of the mint leaves, turn off the heat, cover with a lid, and set aside for at least one hour.
Once the mint has steeped, place the other 1 cup of cream in a medium bowl and set a fine-mesh strainer on top. Ready an even larger bowl with the ice bath—I use about 2 cups of cold water and several ice cubes).
Place the 5 egg yolks in a medium heatproof bowl and whisk them lightly with the other 6 tbsp of the sugar until the mixture is light in color, about 1 minute. Set close to the stove on a kitchen towel (this will ensure the bowl doesn’t slide around the counter).
Strain the mint mixture into a bowl, pressing on the mint leaves to extract as much flavor as possible. Pour into the same pot and set on the stove over medium heat. Bring to a bare simmer—bubbles will just be forming on the edges of the pot, but not in the middle. Set the bowl containing the egg yolks directly next to the pot. Whisking the egg yolks constantly and quickly, slowly pour 1/2 cup (about 1 ladle full) of the hot milk mixture into the yolks. Repeat once more, with another 1/2 cup, continuing to whisk (if you don’t whisk quickly and constantly, some of the egg may curdle).
Pour the yolk mixture slowly into the milk mixture on the stove, while constantly stirring the milk mixture with a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula. Cook the mixture over medium heat, stirring all the while, for a couple more minutes or until thickened. To know if the custard is properly thickened, run one finger over the back of the spoon: if it is done, there will be a clean trail where your finger was (the mixture will hold the line relatively well).
Moving quickly, pour the custard through the strainer on top of the bowl with the rest of the cream (the bowl should now be sitting in the ice bath). Remove the strainer and stir the custard and cream together with a clean spoon or spatula. Stir every few minutes, until the ice cream mixture is cool. Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours, or overnight.
Freeze the ice cream according to your mixture’s instructions—generally, it takes about 20 minutes to freeze. Allow at least a few hours for the now-frozen ice cream to sit in the freezer to set. Enjoy!
Note: If you’re very excited about making ice cream, I would suggest getting one or both of these books: Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones, by Kris Hoogerhyde, Anne Walker, and Dabney Gough (the Bi-Rite Ice Cream book) and David Lebowitz’s The Perfect Scoop. Each has many flavors to offer, and also a great variety of tips for ice cream making.