Friday, December 07, 2007

The Gift of Food

Time is short. Are you running around the mall like crazy trying to find a few last minute holiday gifts? When in doubt, I like to give the gift of food. No, I'm not going to slave over my mixmaster and hot oven and bake cookies. I'm going to run over to my neighborhood ethnic shop and BUY a few items. Granted, you can always just go to your local Trader Joe's, Williams-Sonoma, Cost Plus WorldMarket or Sur La Table and find good gift items, but EVERYONE goes to those obvious places. I like to frequent more unusual little markets. None of these establishments are paying me to mention their names, but I always like to give my friends insider tips on places around L.A. to purchase interesting presents.

Since we live in the Mid-City area of Los Angeles, the possibilites to shop at small, ethnic grocery stores are endless. Here are some of my faves:

1. Papa Cristo's. This is a Greek restaurant and market on Pico near Normandie, across the street from Saint Sophia's Greek Orthodox Church. This area of town is now called The Byzantine-Latino District. Papa's has an amazing array of olive oils from all over the Mediterranean, wine, cheese, coffees, freshly cooked and baked goods. Just walking in the place is like taking a mini-trip to Athens.

2. Olsen's Scandinavian Deli, 5660 W. Pico Blvd., east of Fairfax, Mid-City. Christmastime is especially festive at Olsen's. They have all kinds of cooked Scandinamvian delicacies as well as canned and bottled goodies.

3. Monsieur Marcel Gourmet Market at the Farmers Market, 3rd and Fairfax, L.A. This is a great French grocery store located inside the Original Farmers Market. They also have a restaurant. This shop is famous for it's cheeses, wines, spices, olives and other gourmet foodstuffs.

4. Surfas, touted as "a chef's paradise" is at National Blvd., and Washington Blvd. at the Eastern end of Culver City. Many of L.A.'s chefs shop here for gourmet cookware along with all kinds of hard-to-find delicacies and food-prep-equipment.

5. Mitsuwa Marketplace. There are two locations: 3760 S Centinela Ave, WLA and 333 S Alameda St., Downtown in Little Tokyo. Just walk down the aisles of this market and be amazed at the variety of items.

6. Spain Restaurant and Take-Out has a small grocery area at the entrance to the restaurant. They have all sorts of interesting products that would make excellent gifts. Have a nice roast chicken lunch while you're there.

7. There are four Guelaguetza Restaurants in our area. All of them have small market shelves near their entrances chock full of wonderful food, spices, drinks and snacks that would make delightful gifts.

8. I love walking through the California Market, 450 So. Western Ave. in Koreatown. They have an amazing array of fruits and vegetables, aisles and aisles of different types of soy sauce, little restaurants and gift shops inside the market!

Don't forget a visit to downtown L.A. There's Chinatown, Little Tokyo, Olvera Street....all excellent places to purchase interesting gifties. When you're downtown, you can never go wrong with a gift of Philippe's mustard!

There are so many little markets with Mexican specialties around town, that I'm not even going to list them. I can even find excellent Mexican delicacies at my local Von's and Ralph's. I'm partial to Ibarra Chocolate! Don't forget to stop by the Sawtelle area in WLA, between Olympic and Santa Monica Blvds.. There are many Japanese and Mexican restaurants and shops. Also, East Hollywood is loaded with Armenian and Thai markets.

I can't wait to see what you're getting me for my holiday food giftie this year! Have a great shopping weekend!



At 4:46 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great ideas, Ellen. I'm running out right now to do some food-gift-shopping!


At 4:48 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Ellen,

Have you tried some of the gift shops and little ethnic markets along Venice Blvd. in Mar Vista. They have some interesting items too.

Mar Vista

At 4:48 PM PST, Blogger Ellen Bloom said...

Hi Mae and Ruth!

Thanks for the comments and suggestions!

Ellen B.

At 12:22 AM PST, Blogger Will Pillage For Yarn said...

next time you're up at Farmer's Market, take a meander over to The Grove and visit Oliviers and Co - we're right next door to L'Occitane on Bow St., and we sell fabulous olive oils, balsamics, tapenades, and treats. I'd LOVE to share some of my favorite goodies with you!!

I adore Mr. Marcel - I am in there practically every day I am working, either to buy cheese or get a jambon, beurre and cornichon sandwich. They have fantastic stuff. Have you tried their deli for a fast lunch, yet?

Surfas and Papa Cristos are great too! :-) How can you not love a store (Surfas) that sells 80 lb. flats of Valhrona chocolate? :-D

At 2:46 PM PST, Blogger mj said...

What fabulous suggestions!! And great for the last minute Hostess gift. Thanks!

At 10:46 PM PST, Blogger Viva Scrapper! said...

If only you knew of a great Peruvian market where I could get a little somthing for my BFs mother who always gets me thoughtfull wonderfull holiday gifts...she's from Lima Peru btw


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