In October, LA Street Food Fest co-founder Shawna Dawson gathered dozens of local, sustainable and food-forward vendors for the first Artisanal LA. Last weekend, she shifted from the top floor of downtown’s Cooper Building to the street level. The compartmentalized space accommodated fewer artisans, but still featured plenty of compelling options, helping to ease Angelenos (and me) into the holidays.
All Spice Café co-owner JD Cowles, he of the state of the art mustache, sells mild to “very hot” chile sauces at 27 Whole Foods stores, in a dozen restaurants and at other assorted L.A. outlets.
Cowles went to school in upstate New York in the ’70s, back when Buffalo wings hit the scene. He was hooked and started experimenting with spices and heat. His Caribbean spice sauce includes nutmeg, allpspice and cinnamon, similar to Jerk. Chipotle Garlic is the company’s best seller. He also makes a sauce with the ghost chile, which was the hottest pepper in the world up until last week, when it was supplanted by the Naga Viper by a whopping 300,000 Scoville units.
Business partner John Lesko developed a line of chile-spiked caramel popcorns, including jalapeno, habanero and ghost pepper varieties, with a lingering spice that creeps up on you. They’ve also got a chipotle olive tapenade made with California-grown Kalamata olives, capers, rosemary, garlic and lime juice.
Karen Klemens of Mothercluck has been making jams for a year-and-a-half, including the Triple M – Meyer lemon with Myers’s rum marmalade; cranberry pomegranate with hand-seeded pomegranates, which limits sweetness; Paradise Jelly with quince, apples and cranberries; and chestnut jam with vanilla.
For Artisanal LA, Klemens made persimmon bread, smoked almonds and chewy sheets of smoked cheddar spiked with Anaheim chilies. She also had jars of pickles, including Moroccan preserve Meyer lemon and sweet pickled orange, apparently a traditional Christmas morning offering.
Alessandra Innamorato, she of the provocatively titled Orgasmo de la Boca (Orgasm of the Mouth), specializes in olives that are naturally salt-cured, smoked over applewood and finished with hickory. She also makes a version with chiles, garlic, lemon and a “secret herb and vinegar mix.”
Innamorato got her start while living in Barcelona, where she ran an underground supper club by the same name. Now that she’s in Los Angeles, the chef expects to host dinners every two or three months.
Crust is a relatively new venture from former Westside Tavern pastry chef Stephanie Shaiken. She developed a cracker brittle as a pie topping, then decided it stands on its own, featuring caramel and dark chocolate. She attended college in Missouri, where “ooey gooey butter cake” impressed her, so she created Missouri Butter Pie in deference. She also makes fresh pumpkin with gingerbread crust, Campfire Smore Pie and chocolate fleur de sel tart with caramel.