Harissa’s Triumphant Charcuterie and Seafood Boards

When Chef Alain Cohen opened Got Kosher? in 2009, he wowed the culinary panorama of Los Angeles with his extraordinary Tunisian, French and Moroccan inspired cuisine. Shortly thereafter, his innovative pretzel challah was named Best Non-Traditional Challah by Los Angeles Magazine. Cohen continues invigorating each braided egg bread with ingredients ranging from Belgian Chocolate Chunks, to Kalamata Olive & Rosemary, or Apple Honey Raisin, to name just a few options.

Always pushing the envelope, Got Kosher? has now been revitalized and renamed by its founder into Harissa. The new moniker is a nod to the beloved Tunisian signature spicy condiment, and the signage out front is not the only transformation. A remodel of the space and introduction of new delicacies await patrons as well.

All guests are treated to a complementary basket of their award-winning pretzel challah along with a dollop of vibrant harissa. Together they pack a delightful sweet, mildly spicy punch that wakes up the palate for the gourmet treasures to come.

New menu offerings include a Charcuterie Board overflowing with house-cured beef prosciutto, soprasetta, saucisson sec, lamb pancetta, chicken pate with cognac, walnuts, tunisian olives, cornichons, moutarde and crostini.

Those in the mood for something a bit lighter will appreciate the delectable seafood board. The plank comes laden with house-smoked gravlax and whitefish, salmon terrine, boutargue, taramasalata and whitefish salad. All showcasing the breadth of culinary talents mastered by Chef Cohen and his staff.

The menu continues to feature the classics that have kept this establishment on LA foodie maps. The ever popular Pulled beef brisket, Alain’s Tunisian Tuna Sandwich, B’stilla and Short Rib Beef Bourguignon continue to enchant.

As does the harissa spiced burger, which shimmers with just a touch of heat and tons of savory integrity. Embraced in a soft pretzel bun, the burger is further amplified with a noteworthy combination of roasted tomato, balsamic glazed red onion and harissa mayo. Yum.

Don’t overlook the hard-to-find couscous dishes at Harissa. We were particularly taken with the Lemon Raisin Chicken Tajine which makes a tangy, sweet romp across the tongue.

Besides the noteworthy bread pudding, an ideal conclusion to your tunisian feast is Mom’s Sweet Harissa Almond Cake doused in orange blossom syrup and served with chilled sabayon.

The bakery, shabbat and catering menus here are all superlative and can be accessed next door to the restaurant. Please feel free to stop by even if you only need a pretzel loaf or one sweet treat to go.

And of course no meal at Harissa is complete without traditional Tunisian Green Mint Tea.

For the unique opportunity to try Tunisian cuisine from a master chef, Harissa is one of the few establishments dishing out the best Tunisia has to offer right here in our own backyard.

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Middle Eastern Market Experience

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Elat Market is a Middle Eastern, kosher supermarket that draws customers in with great prices, specialty products and a central location near Pico and Robertson.

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The busy aisles require some finesse to navigate and we have learned the hard way not to get in the way of elderly patrons hellbent on finding affordable flawless produce.

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Once we got used to the assertive nature of the clientele, we found the shop to be a wonderful resource.  Elat is mid sized and easy to navigate, while also stocking everything we need.

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Prices far below those at conventional markets are the norm, as are nontraditional items such as Persian cucumber which are referred to simply as cucumber.

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Hard to find seasonal fruit, such as fresh dates are readily available.

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The market is divided into sections that overflow with each particular item, such as the nut and dried fruit corner where bins as well as prepackaged items abound.

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The deli counter lays out freshly made sushi as in most markets, so we don’t feel we are missing out in any way.

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A preserved fuit and vegetable case offers olives and pickled vegetables to adorn the dinner table.

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While the feta cheese case displays the tangy white dairy product from a variety of  countries.

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Both the meat and fish counters provide an assortment of kosher products for the orthodox and nonreligious alike.

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The beautiful meats and fish adhere to strict standards and tend, in our experience, to be of high quality and freshness.

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A small area houses bread including challah, lavash and a number of other exotic loaves and flatbreads.

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While pastries galore line the shelves.

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We love Elat Market for its diversity, reasonable pricing, foreign ambiance and fresh produce, fish, meat and poultry.  They have everything we look for in a supermarket experience with the added benefit of Middle Eastern flair.

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Elat Market, 8730 West Pico Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90035
Phone _ 310- 659-7070  web site – elatkoshermarket.com

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We Love Sabzee Mediterranean Market

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Foreign markets come in all shapes, sizes and configurations, which is a big part of the enjoyment.  We do however have our preferences, and Sabzee Mediterranean Market embraces our vision of a well thought out set up.  The perimeter is divided into clearly defined stations focusing on Persian baked goods, deli items, prepared dishes, a butcher counter and a nut/seed area, all organized and displayed to make our lives as easy as possible.

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Sabzee is a Mediterranean Market with strong Persian leanings, which means lots of fantastic Iranian cuisine and products along with other Mediterranean offerings.  Grateful thanks go out to cook book author and ethnic market maven, Faye Levy, for guiding us to Sabzee Market.

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Immediately upon entering the spotless establishment we are thrust into the bakery, which displays artfully designed sweetness at prices that make celebrating easy on the wallet.

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The deli section and attached cafe offer effortless choices for lunch, planning a party or making dinner, with cases and steam trays presenting a myriad of possibilities.  Sabzee also encourages sampling.  We tried both the fesenjan (pomegranate and walnut) and the ghormeh sabzi (herb and bean) stews and absolutely fell in love with the fresh clean flavors of these two opposite ends of the stew spectrum.

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Persian stews can be served over fluffy Basmati rice or the way we like it best, over tahdig, a crispy rice that turns the rich stews into even more of a festivity than they already are.  But order ahead or show up early because by 6 PM we found they were sold clean out of tahdig.

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Kabobs abound on the menu as do a variety of rice and roast chicken options.  We adore knowing that someone is manning the Mediterranean kitchen if we don’t have the time or inclination.

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Prices, as you can see, make letting someone else cook an easy choice and a huge saver of time and money.

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If you arrive at the right time you can see the “show” of Iranian bread being fashioned and baked right before your eyes.  This never fails to entertain and amuse us, mostly because the bakers are so accomplished and make it look so easy.

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The vibrant, clean and fresh produce section is a joy to shop, with the added benefit of traditional Middle Eastern herb and vegetable staples.

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Shelves are laden with products from various parts of the world covering cuisines as diverse as South East Asian, Latin American, German and of course Mediterranean.

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Ice Cream comes in the traditional flavors of saffron, pistachio, rose water and pomegranate.  Exciting tastes to savor as a sweet finish to any meal.

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Nuts, seeds and snacks abound, a reflection of the healthy Mediterranean diet.

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For a stunning example of a market that caters to the needs of their clientele, Sabzee Mediterranean Market is an enchanting environment to explore, learn and discover flavorful options to add to the dinning experience.

Sabzee Mediterranean Market, 17461 Ventura Boulevard, Encino, CA 91316
Phone – 818-745-1313      web site – sabzeemarket.com

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Blintz Nirvana

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As part of Orthodox Jewish tradition, milk and meat may not be cooked or eaten together.  Kosher restaurants are either fleishik, serve meat products, or milchik, serve milk products, following the Jewish dietary laws of kashrut.

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Kosher restaurants are abundant on Pico Boulevard between Beverwill and La Cienega and today we were charmed by one of the standouts, The Milky Way.   As the name suggests this establishment is milchik, serves dairy, and we happily jumped on the milky bandwagon to explore the cuisine.

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The vivacious owner Leah Adler, also known as Steven Spielberg’s mother, came over to greet us and was happy to make suggestions,  “The blintzes and the potato pancakes,” rolled off her tongue.

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The menu is an eclectic mix of Italian, Mexican and American food.  We began our exploration with the hot mushroom sandwich, a layering of sliced avocado,  tomato, and spicy mushrooms atop garlic bread, all smothered in melted swiss cheese, resulting in a hearty open-faced homey creation with a kick.  We then moved on to the famous off-menu pistachio pasta which was a garlic laden enchantress.  But the star of the day, after Leah herself, were the blintzes.

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We love blintzes and have been searching for the perfect cheese filled package. We believe we have now located our Shangri-la.  The secret to a flawless blintz is the quintessential balancing of its parts.  From the warm, rich, mildly sweet, creamy cottage cheese based filling to the crisped brown, light yet sturdy crepe, to the sour cream and strawberry preserve toppings, all of Ms. Adler’s blintz components are in perfect zen alignment.  Nirvana achieved.

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Most prices land below the $10 mark and the quality definitely goes into each dish.  Order whatever tickles your fancy, but don’t miss the blintzes.

The Milky Way, 9108 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90035    Phone – 310-859-0004

Open 11:30 to 2:00 and 5:30 to 8:00 Sunday thru Thursday.  Closed Friday evening and all day and evening Saturday.

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More Pretzel Challah Please

We generally shy away from bread, but sometimes it’s so good we have to dig in.   Got Kosher? crafts a variety of pretzel and traditional challot, plural for challah, that makes us rethink our stand on this marvelous loaf in all its incarnations.  Their original pretzel challah is a slightly sweet, soft, full bodied bread encased in a brown, chewy pretzel crust that honestly makes us giddy.

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The pretzel challah comes in numerous flavors including olive and rosemary, whole wheat, apple, honey and raisin and Belgian chocolate chunk.  They also offer traditional challah in flavors as exotic as turmeric with mixed nuts and dried fruit.  We’ve yet to try one that didn’t make us kvell.

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The beautiful braided loaves line the wall near the front door, and certain flavors sell out quickly, so be sure to call ahead if you have your heart set on a particular one.   Whichever you take home will be a delight straight from the bag, toasted and slathered with butter and honey, bookending a sandwich, or any other way you can invent to consume it.

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As long as your at the restaurant, we highly recommend a nosh.  Some excellent options are the house-made merguez appetizer, a grilled cumin, fennel and garlic scented sausage and be sure to request the smoky baba ganoush as part of your amuse bouche.

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If you’re in the mood to spurge a bit at dinner, we wouldn’t want you to miss the tajine of lamb stew with prunes and roasted almonds.  This substantial dish consists of a mound of light, fluffy couscous snuggled up against a rich, mildly sweet and wonderful tender lamb, dried fruit and nut amalgamation.  The tajine can easily serve two and we had no problem sharing it between three.

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Got Kosher? is a kosher restaurant, so they close at 4 PM on Fridays and remain shuttered up all day and evening Saturday for Shabbat.   The rest of the week they are open from 11 AM to 9 PM, which affords more than enough time to sneak over and pick up a loaf of pretzel challah.

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Got Kosher ?,  8914 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90035                                      Phone – 310-858-1920    web site – gotkosher.com

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