8 Of LA's Best Halloween And Fall Foods
We love skeleton-shaped cakes and pumpkin-spiced lattes as much as the next basic witch but there is more to Decorative Gourd Season than... well, decorative gourds. This is especially true in Southern California, where local autumnal cuisine is rich with season-specific recipes.
The fall harvest brings us not only chunky stews and apple turnovers; it ushers in months of warm cocktails and way too much candy. The sugar frenzy goes into overdrive on Halloween, when mini-Snickers become the base of our national food pyramid. While Fright Night isn't the most sophisticated culinary holiday (at least in the U.S.), the opportunity to experiment with themed dishes still bewitches L.A.'s chefs.
Here are eight gourmet spins on autumnal classics around Los Angeles.
Philippe's: Baked Apples
No L.A. restaurant makes baked apples with as much care as Philippe's. Instead of suffocating the humble fruit in molasses, their kitchen staff drizzles cinnamon sugar syrup onto pans of carmine Rome apples, baste them throughout the morning as they cook, then serve them in quaint white tureens under dollops of vanilla ice cream. The result is both comforting and photogenic, a crisp, sparkling dessert so popular that last October, Philippe's finally added it to their menu year-round. Even so, you must arrive early. Batches are small -- sometimes as few as 30 or 50 apples per day -- and they sell out fast at only $3.15 per apple.
1001 N. Alameda St., Chinatown. 213-617-3781.
Kien Giang Bakery: Mooncakes
This year's Mid-Autumn Festival, the harvest celebration honored in Chinese and Vietnamese cultures, has already come and gone. But with enough pleading, the 39-year-old, Echo Park-based Kien Giang Bakery will let you special order a batch of their signature mooncakes. Whether you want a traditional red bean or durian cake (aka Mooncake-28) or you prefer specials like the abalone, nuts and egg-filled Mooncake-1, Kien Giang makes them with understated elegance, stamping their elaborate knotted crusts with their red crest. These delicate, sculptural pastries also make for great seasonal gifts among family members. With Halloween, Christmas, and the Chinese New Year on the horizon, you have plenty of excuses... not that you need them.
1471 Echo Park Ave., Echo Park. 213-250-0159.
Wurstküche: Seasonal Spiced Mulled Wine
Hand-made glühwein, the Teutonic cousin of sangria, is the most satisfying hot boozy beverage this side of a toddy. It's difficult to find in the U.S. and the restaurants that make it, usually German, often use readymade spicing packets. Mulling wine isn't easy. It's a time-consuming process that involves hours of simmering vanilla beans, cloves, citrus and, of course, red wine in cauldrons. In recent years, Wurstküche's two locations have become key destinations for the libation. Glühwein is deceptive. It's sweeter than most dry wines but more potent than cider. So if it's on offer, best to sip it during or after eating something hearty, maybe one of Wurstküche's signature sausages, perhaps the buffalo with luxardo cherries or rattlesnake and rabbit with jalapenos.
625 Lincoln Blvd., Venice Beach. 213-687-4444.
800 E. 3rd St., downtown L.A. 213-687-4444.
Edelweiss Chocolates: Candy Corn Bar
Candy corn, a gelatinous mass of corn syrup, food coloring and stiffened wax, is as lazy a candy as has ever existed. But Edelweiss Chocolates, the Beverly Hills store founded in 1942 and featured in the famous I Love Lucy candy factory episode, has elevated it to unexplored heights. Its dark chocolate candy corn bar is studded with "kernels" of chewy orange, yellow, and white sugar globules. (They're imported from an outside provider and the recipe is proprietary.) Mixed by hand and made onsite, the bars are dense, smoky, somewhat grainy and available only in the weeks leading up to Halloween. Be prepared to battle fellow candy corn fans for a spot in Edelweiss's notoriously unwelcoming parking lot.
444 N. Canon Dr., Beverly Hills. 310-275-0341.
Verve Roastery Del Sur: Smoked Chicory Latte
One of the specialities at Arts District newbie Roastery Del Sur, which opened in the summer of 2019, is the smoked chicory latte. The chilled specialty combines parent company Verve's patented Flash Brew with a biting simple syrup, a chicory cordial derived from housemade bitters and a pinch of crunchy coconut sugar to mediate the acidity and richness. The chicory leaves, from Penn Herb Co., are at their most flavorful after a high summer harvest, which makes L.A.'s temperate autumn the best time for this handsome treat.
500 Mateo St., downtown L.A. 213-419-5077.
Littlejohn's Candies: Caramel Apples
You won't find caramel-dipped, almond-encrusted Granny Smith apples on Littlejohn's website. The 95-year-old candy shop only sells these tart, nutty goodies to customers who come to their Farmers Market stand. These old school Halloween delicacies have a price to match: $8.99 each. The small-batch caramel, made from "fresh milk, cream and pure cane sugar," is beyond sumptuous and the apples are large enough to feed multiple people. Littlejohn's also offers dippings and coatings like dark chocolate and chopped pecans, if you want to customize your creation.
6333 W. 3rd St., Beverly Grove. 323-936-5379.
Griffins of Kinsale: Salmon Boxty
Americans know October 31 as a night of costumes and candy but in Gaelic tradition, it's Samhain, a holiday that marks the end of summer. Here in the U.S., "Celtic Halloween" isn't a national holiday (yet) but intimate Irish pub Griffins of Kinsale, in South Pasadena, lets you try foods from the popular harvest festival. Their shepherd's pie and corned beef with cabbage are much loved but it's their house boxty, a potato pancake caught somewhere between a crepe and a latke, that's the unexpected treasure. Although the boxty is associated with St. Brigid's Day in February, it's also savored in the autumn. Griffins of Kinsale offers a version topped with smoked salmon throughout the year, including on Samhain.
1007 Mission St., South Pasadena. 626-799-0926.
Turkey & Gravy Potato Balls: Porto's Bakery & Café
Nobody does potato balls (also called papas rellenas) like Porto's, the über-popular boulangerie with locations scattered around Los Angeles. No surprise, then, that the Cuban bakery chain is applying its ingenuity to a seasonal version featuring turkey. Porto's recently unveiled a breaded and deep-fried ball packed with its standard potato puree as well as turkey breast, carrots, onions and celery seasoned with sage and white wine, and served in porcini mushroom gravy. It's like a Thanksgiving donut hole. These specialty papas rellenas will stay on the menu through the end of December.
3614 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank. 818-846-9100.
315 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale. 818-956-5996.
8233 Firestone Blvd. #4842, Downey. 562-862-8888.
7640 Beach Blvd., Buena Park. 714-367-2030.
584 S. Sunset Ave., West Covina. 626-214-3490.