Life & Thyme (& gelato)

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Too many people are broadcasting content about food. There, I said it. The power that the internet gives us is immense, it is growing, and it is a gift to humanity. But just because you can publish a photo, or an essay, or a restaurant review, doesn't mean you should. There's just too much noise. Too much content without soul, or sincerity. In a crowded landscape of people using food-related content to get attention for themselves, one voice jumped out at me about two years ago - a humble online-only publication called Life & Thyme.

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A Sweet Tribute to our Neighbor: Guisados

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Armando De La Torre Jr. of Guisados, left, helped us craft two new flavors, jamaica-mint sorbetto and horchata gelato.

Our Spring Arcade neighbors Guisados are a daily inspiration. Their tacos are legend. Their people, like their fresh tortillas, are always warm. The owners, the De La Torres, are a family with their hearts square in the right place.

We’ve been waiting to tribute these fine neighbors, and the time has come. Father and son, Armando and Armando De La Torre Jr., worked with me to fine-tune two new flavors: horchata gelato and jamaica-mint sorbetto. Count me among the Guisados fans that consider their horchata the best in the city (and if you haven’t yet had it spiked with Stumptown cold brew, you’re in for a treat). I can’t reveal any secrets – theirs or ours – but the gelato is made from a reduction of sweetened rice milk, with cinnamon and a bit of freshly grated nutmeg. We kept a little bit of the rice grain in the gelato for a bit of texture.

Next, we were inspired by Guisado’s jamaica agua fresca. 

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New Flavor: Olive oil with black pepper and lemon

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Olive oil is one of those ingredients that has crept its way toward popularity as an ice cream flavor. You'll see it on the menus of inventive ice cream joints. Often, we found that the flavor of the olive oil gets buried. So when working on this flavor, we knew we couldn't skimp on the olive oil. It wasn't enough for the gelato to remind us of olive oil. It had to punch us in the face with flavor. After a couple of weeks in the lab, I think we nailed it.

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Beer Gelato

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We love beer, almost as much as we love gelato. Why not marry the two? That's what we're doing this weekend, in collaboration with a fantastic brewery from San Francisco, Almanac Beer Company, and in honor of LA Beer Week.

Starting today, until supplies last (very limited, folks), you can sample three new flavors in our case. Almanac's IPA is infused in a new gelato. We tried to honor the beer's hoppiness and fruitness in the context of a creamy gelato. It's got some bite to it, but we rounded it out with some really good honey.

Then there's the Heirloom Pumpkin, one of Almanac's amazing barrel-aged beers. We infused our recipe for pumpkin gelato with the Barleywine-style ale - we hope you'll dig the pairing as much as we do. For all the dairy-free homies in the house, we also made a lemony, beer-y sorbet featuring Almanac's Farmer's Reserve Citrus. The beer is aged in wine barrels with tart Bergamot oranges and citrons. 

Stop by and try one, or if you try all three - gelato flight, y'all - get 15% off. Check out Almanac at @almanacbeer. 

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New Flavor: Watermelon Sorbet

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Is there any fruit more synonymous with hot summer days than watermelon? We've been getting some plump watermelons from the Santa Monica Farmer's Market recently, and the results have been pretty darned good. We add a health splash of extra citrus to the watermelon to bring out the watermelon flavor (citrus is sort of like salt in the way that it can bring out the unique flavor of other fruits). Several people lately have been pairing the watermelon with basil gelato. Tastes like summer.

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New Flavor: Tarragon

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Like many herbs used in cooking, tarragon usually functions as an accent. Its sharp, licorice-y flavor tends to be more of a grace note in buttery cream sauces, or fresh vegetable salads. Even in my gelato kitchen, tarragon has so far been used only as an accent to beets. In my family, we started many meals with plates of tomatoes, other fresh vegetables and a few handfuls of fresh herbs. Tarragon was my favorite. I love it on its own. 

So, we decided to feature tarragon in a new gelato flavor. We think it's really nice - licorice fans will especially appreciate the singular tarragon flavor. That said, it of course pairs very well. Try it with raspberry sorbet or stracciatella. If you are adventurous, try it in an affogato (espresso poured over gelato) - you'll be pleasantly surprised.

 

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New Flavor: Bee Pollen

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We've seen, and made, gelato flavors that incorporate honey. But never have we seen a frozen dessert that features another ingredient made by honey bees: pollen. Bee pollen is considered by many to be a health food. It's rich in anti-oxidants. It's also very flavorful.

If you haven't had bee pollen, you should try it. It goes well in smoothies, or in cereal. It also happens to make a really nice gelato flavor. The taste is actually nothing like honey. In its raw unadorned state, it's not sweet at all. To me, it tastes nutty and a little floral, which makes sense since pollen is a collection of flower particles, collected on the legs of honey bees as they bounce from plant to plant.

It's pretty neat how bee-keepers harvest the little golden granules of pollen. The technique is shown in this video:

We get our pollen from Aunt Willie's Apiary in Bellflower, via the City Hall Farmer's Market in Downtown LA. Try the bee pollen gelato with one of our fruit sorbettos, like strawberry or lemon. 

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New Flavor: Sesame Halva

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Our new friend Rachel recently suggested tahini as a flavor and we instantly got excited. Tahini is essentially what you get when you take sesame seeds and grind them into a paste. It’s nutty, subtle and delicious.

Tahini is usually used as a dip, or dressing, in various savory cuisines. But it reminded us of a flavor we developed a while back, but hadn’t yet debuted in the case: halva.

Halva is a Middle Eastern confection made from sweetened sesame paste – it’s tahini’s sweet cousin. Halva is a soft, dry, but dense treat that is usually served with tea. It’s sometimes made with flour, but we prefer the sesame-based varieties.

 

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Build a shop, unearth L.A. history

When we started building our shop in the Spring Arcade building, there were decades-worth of materials and paint covering up the space's original details.

There was a clumsy dry-wall partition separating the space and a square plywood casing covered up an original octagonal column. We knocked down the partition and ripped away the plywood to expose that grand column. But the floor was a different story.

It was comprised of layers upon layers of old tile, cement and what may have been tile glue. The floor was so thick and at-first impenetrable that a subcontractor could only suggest that we cover it with a new coat of concrete and paint it a soft gray tone. I reluctantly agreed. Of course, I hated the result, and decided to grind down deeper through the decades of new floors in search of the original. I rented a more powerful machine and hired a more determined helper. As he broke through the surface, the distinct pattern of terrazzo flooring emerged.

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David Bowie <3's Gelato

We're not the only ones who think of gelato in the winter time. Happy new year all!

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