I’m Back—and I’m in LA!

I’ve been a terrible blogger. My last post was almost 14 months ago!

As you might expect, many things have happened since last February, chief among them that I’ve moved to Los Angeles!


Yes, for the past 10 months, I’ve been an Angeleno, exploring this enormous city’s incomprehensibly gigantic list of choices for food and drink. Birmingham will always be close to my heart (and I’ll be visiting at least once a year: I’m still running FoodBlogSouth, and it’s not going anywhere), but The Messy Epicure is now officially a Southern Californian.

I promise not to let this site go for another year, so keep an eye out for updates on what I’m cooking, eating and drinking, but in the meantime, here are a few of my favorite spots so far in the City of Angels:

  • Starry Kitchen (you have to call ahead to request it,  but get the chili crab)
  • Jasmine Market (the most unassuming hole-in-the-wall with the greatest Burmese and Indian food)
  • Bestia (there’s nothing served here—food or cocktail—that isn’t delicious)
  • The Spare Room (the most fun you can have in Hollywood—craft cocktails, bowling and a closet full of board games)
  • Rivera (in a town full of awesome cheap Mexican, awesome expensive Mexican; also mezcal)
  • Hide (best sushi value in town—try the mackerel)
  • Slicetruck (LA’s supposed best Chicago pizza ain’t all that, but this thin-crust is)
  • The Flintridge Proper (a bar in a strip mall in the suburbs just happens to have the best gin selection in America)
  • Bigfoot West (good whiskey selection, great happy hour, fantastic bar trivia and close to where I live!)
  • POT (Korean food like someone’s grandma cooked it [only the grandma is Roy Choi] plus ’90s hip-hop blasting on the speakers, and weird/delicious drinks to boot)

One thing I haven’t yet found in LA: good Deep South barbecue. The kings of SoCal ‘cue, Bludso’s and Baby Blues, are both Texas-style, which means no smoked chicken and sure as hell no Alabama white sauce.

Anyway, watch this space.  And be sure to read my stories for LA Weekly—I’ll be writing about food, drink and cooking for the mag’s Squid Ink blog.


Apple-Goat Cheese King Cake, sliced

Apple-Goat Cheese King Cake

Apple-Goat Cheese King Cake

New Orleans is home to lots and lots of awesome food, and plenty of it is stuff most tourists never get to enjoy. Take Cake Cafe, a wonderful bakery and breakfast spot in the Marigny neighborhood. When I lived in the city pre-Katrina, I hadn’t even heard of this place; it was only on a trip a few years ago that a friend who lives nearby took me there.

So I was surprised to see the place mentioned on Serious Eats, in a post about its apple-and-goat-cheese-filled king cake. This thing is pretty decadent: cream cheese filling, goat cheese, brown sugar and cinnamon, and apples—it’s like four king cakes in one!

Too bad Serious Eats didn’t score an actual recipe. So I had to come up with one myself. I started with the dough from CHOW with a few adjustments (mine’s a bit sweeter, and theirs doesn’t measure the flour by weight, plus I went with a mix of almond and vanilla extract), and then kinda winged it based on Serious Eats’ photos.

The result was a pretty huge success, if I do say so myself. The tangy cheese and tart apples combine beautifully in the filling, whose richness provides a nice counterpoint to the bready cake. (Don’t take this as a knock; king cake is supposed to be bready.) Continue reading

Holiday Classes: Cocktails and Bread-Making

Come learn with me! I’m teaching two classes this weekend, and I want you to sign up!

On Saturday, December 15, I’m running a holiday mixology workshop at Painted Shovel Mercantile in Avondale. For $25, you’ll learn three seasonal classics: Mulled Wine, Eggnog, and the French 75—plus a Painted Shovel Holiday Margarita I’ve created just for the class. (And yes, you get to try all the drinks!) To enroll, please call 205-593-2083 or email paintedshovel@gmail.com.

And on Sunday, December 16, my bread and rolls class returns to Freshfully. This lesson sold out last time, so make sure to grab your spot now. It’s just $15, and you’ll learn my foolproof bread-from-scratch recipe, sample some delicious bread and rolls, and go home with a batch of dough all ready to bake immediately (or to freeze and bake later). Enroll online here.

See you this weekend in Avondale!

Bistro Two Eighteen's crawfish and leek crepes

First Taste: Bistro Two Eighteen

Bistro Two Eighteen's crawfish and leek crepes

When I read the Birmingham News report about Bistro Two Eighteen, I have to admit, my feelings were mixed.

It’s a new restaurant downtown (yay!) in a historic building (yay!) from a Birmingham-born, culinary-school-educated chef (yay!) with a that’s only open for lunch and during the week (boo!) and has a weird confusion of a “French” menu that includes classics like quiche Lorraine as well as burgers and gumbo (boo!).

I stopped by for lunch last week (the restaurant’s second in business), and I’m glad to say the food is better than expected! The place is similar in feel to Chez Fon Fon and Chez Lulu but with lower prices than the former and larger portions than the latter.

The food is mostly French, though there’s gumbo on the menu and they were playing New Orleans jazz, so maybe they’re going for a little Creole influence too. And for some strange reason, they have shrimp and grits available as an appetizer. I understand you’re in the South, but if you’re going to be a French restaurant, be a French restaurant.

Bistro Two Eighteen's steak frites

The specialty of the house seems to be steak frites—you can’t go wrong with meat and fries. It’s a pretty good portion of flatiron steak, with two options of sauce: horseradish cream or chausseur (a mushroom, tomato and tarragon combo). I ordered mine medium, and it came out exactly right, paired with a simple salad. And those fries are excellent: skinny and super-crunchy, and they stay that way even after they cool off. The whole deal is $12, a bit steep for an everyday lunch but a very good price for what you get.

Continue reading

Jason holding bread

Make Bread with Me!

Jason holding bread

I love bread. I love eating bread, I love baking bread, I love kneading bread dough.

And I want you to, too.

So I’m working with awesome local-food-only grocery store Freshfully to put together a bread-making class on Sunday, October 21.

Look: People are afraid of baking their own bread. For some reason, they think it takes some kind of alchemy (plus a French accent) to bake a decent loaf. They are wrong. All it takes is four ingredients and a couple hours, and you can have as much fresh-from-the-oven bread as you want.

In the class, I’ll go over my pretty-much-foolproof method for making all kinds of bread and explain some of the science behind how bread-making works while you mix and knead your own batch of dough. Then, while the dough rises, we’ll sample a bunch of my own breads (including white-chocolate, olive-and-herb, and more), paired with some local cheeses.

At the end of the class, you’ll go home with a batch of bread dough ready for baking (sorry, Freshfully doesn’t have an oven) or freezing for later (yes, I’ll tell you how to do that as well).

Registration is $30, but for reading through this post, I’ll save you five bucks! Just use coupon code DOUGH at checkout.

See you Sunday!

Food, cooking, and recipes—you'll clean up later.