A Weekend in LA or how I Discovered Brussels Sprouts

The City of Angels, a sunshine mecca for artists and a synonym for celebrity, is hard to call a city in the normal sense that we would normally use that term. Made of dozens of communities, there is no single place one can call a centre and, as a result, you feel like your days are spent in a car driving from neighbourhood to neighbourhood. And, while each area is unique and vibrant in its own way, each feels like it has a life of its own with no connection to a wider Los Angeles.

People say that La-La Land is like marmite – you either love it or hate it. And if it wasn’t for the food scene that LA has to offer, I would have no doubts about the group I fall into. But when I think back about  all the amazing meals we have had and the ones we didn’t have time to have, I am contemplating coming back just to be able to continue to explore the food scene this sprawling metropolis has to offer!

The one place that my mind just keeps going back to is the Ivy on Robertson – a country-cottage feel place with a stunning terrace to enjoy a sunny afternoon on. The combination of white picket fences, colourful sofas, flower pots, fruit bowls and ornate crockery (which one would never have at home, but which worked so perfectly in that setting) in combination with blue skies and sunshine on a clear day gives this  place an unforgettable charm.

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Lunch at Malibu Inn – overlooking the ocean – and sunset at the Living Room at the Shutters hotel on Santa Monica beach – with its view of the Pacific Ocean – are both an unforgettable experience. Although a very cold one in our case,  making us very grateful for the cozy blankets and heaters provided.

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However what impressed me the most is that everywhere we went I was met with abundance of Brussels sprouts on the menu! Given that – just like LA – you either love them or hate them, my first reaction was “Why Brussels sprouts out of all the vegetables in season?”! And this reaction is not surprising given that we all have a memory of limp, bitter, dull yellow colour boiled sprouts… Not here though – I can confidently say that LA has changed the way I look at Brussels sprouts in life!  I must say I am now addicted to this green little bundles and the first thing I did upon my return to Hong Kong is buy a bunch of Brussels sprouts to cook for dinner!

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Brussels sprouts are a highly nutritional vegetable, assumed to have developed from a type of kale. High content of sinigrin and progoitrin, two bitter chemicals, is what makes the taste of sprouts so particular – they have more of them than any other crucifier – and is why they are often not loved and only appear on our tables as part of Christmas dinner. But Brussels sprouts shouldn’t be just for Christmas! They have amazing health benefits and are especially known for their cancer-fighting characteristics. They are the sweetest right now, in the winter. The trick is just to choose bright green sprouts with tightly closed leaves and cook them in such a way that brings out their mild, sweet and nutty flavour. The end result should be tender, but still slightly crunchy, beautiful green vegetables that make you crave more and more of this source of nutritional goodness.

The easiest and healthiest way to cook Brussels sprouts is to simply wash and trim them and cut each little head into half. Drizzle with olive oil and a little salt and roast in the oven until crispy and browned on the outside and soft inside. I like to sprinkle some pine nuts in the last 5 mins in the oven for some added crunch. Beautiful!

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