Monday, April 12, 2010

LA Challah and Hummus Hunt Part I

So Daniel and I are on day seven of our two month trial run at being LA citizens. A few key observations thus far:

1) What they say about traffic is true.

2) What they say about it being all Hollywood is true. You literally can't go into a restaurant or coffee shop without hearing something along the lines of "I'm trying to figure out how to add an element of racial tension into Act III" or "Yeah, I'd be happy to work for free as long as I get a credit." Welcome to Hollywood, baby.

3) What they say about the weather is (mainly) true. Our first few days here were glorious. Then last night it rained so loudly, I kept making Daniel pause the episode of Project Runway we were watching to see if we needed to build an arc. Here's Daniel in Malibu, dancing for joy.

But I digress. Clearly, a key element of our decision to take or leave LA is the food. And one of the things that we look for in any city is a place to buy good challah and hummus. We love them separately (after all, what's a turkey sandwich without a good schmear of hummus?) But we REALLY love them in concert.

For all of its amazing food attributes, during our time in the Bay Area, we never found challah and hummus that could live up to the New York Pantheon of Zomicks and Damascus. But we're hoping LA may prove a little more robust in this department.

And so last Friday, we began our hunt for great C&H LA-style.

Based on a Chowhound search, I decided that we'd start with Schwartz' challah.

Located on a stretch of Pico that has an embarrassment of Kosher establishments, this 50-odd year old bakery and deli won raves from the Hounds. Because of traffic (see above) and some address confusion (see bearded man above), we arrived around 1:30 and were worried that they this late on a Friday afternoon, they might have run out of the great braided bread. But we were in luck, and the counters were stocked with it.

Being the picky texture connoisseurs that we are, we gave the challot some good squeezes, and were initially disappointed by what we felt. The bread felt too crusty, without the good soft give that our standard-bearer Zomicks offers. Not wanting to give up too soon, I kept squeezing, and strangely after testing about five loaves, I found one with precisely the right consistency.

Here's a picture of the little fellow that we took home:

He was just right. Soft squishy,

And with the perfect tear. Mmm. Look at that doughy goodness. The taste was also pretty fantastic. A little sweet. Nicely chewy. We were thoroughly impressed, although I for one still think that Zomick's has a leg up -- it's a little more eggy, which I like. This though was nothing to sneeze at and may well become our go-to LA challah (although I am slightly concerned/perplexed by the fact that there was such a range in textures of the challot on display)

From there we headed to try out some hummus. I'd read good things about a sit down Lebanese place in Westwood called Sunin, and after seeing a picture of their hummus on their website (creamy and smooth looking,) it seemed as good a place as any to begin our hunt for the second step in the one-two punch that is C&H.

The hummus that arrived at our table lived up to the picture.

It was indeed smooth and creamy, a truly perfect texture. My one complaint is that I felt it had a bit too much tahini. Sadly, I've found that this is often the case with the smoother varieties, so that you end up having to choose between a slightly overpowering sesame taste in favor of texture or a slightly grainy texture in favor of a more balanced flavor. Really, a girl shouldn't have to make such a decision.

That said, the hummus was still quite good (we definitely finished it all.) And, almost equally importantly, Sunin had the best lentil soup that I've had since my beloved Carrol Gardens Zaytoons fix. AND they have pickled turnips. So all told, a good find indeed.

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