You’ll notice right away that LA is a city of dinner parties, barbecues and get-togethers with awesome tapas and appetizers.
The food scene here broadens out way past the restaurants and into gardens, markets and home kitchens. Whether you fancy yourself Top Chef material or are just learning how to fend for yourself, here are a couple cool spots to get you started.
Depending on what you’re looking to learn, there’s a cooking class just waiting for you. If you’re looking for a not-so-serious night of learning, check Groupon; they frequently offer easygoing and affordable cooking classes.
Hipcooks: With Eastside and Westside locations, Hipcooks specializes in one-time classes for novice cooks around themes like “Thai One On” and “The Thrill of the Grill.” The BYOB policy makes it a fun night with friends or dates.
Saute Culinary Academy: Former Le Cordon Bleu professor Alexander Reyes teaches these three-hour courses that focus on baking, international cuisine, and vegetarian cooking. These classes tend to be a little more academic and are assisted by Cordon Bleu alumni.
New School of Cooking: If you’re looking to get a little more serious than a one-off class, the New School of Cooking offers classes for both professional, aspiring and recreational chefs in the way of full-time programs, classes, or the weekly Pro Series for baking or cooking.
There are literally dozens of farmer’s markets every week around LA, bringing out not only locally grown produce but organic artisanal products and restaurant suppliers. If you plan it right, you can hit up a farmer’s market every day of the week. The year-round sunny weather’s gotta be good for something, right?
LA Weekly’s Map of Farmer’s Markets: This ultimate guide to farmer’s markets lists them from Thousand Oaks to Irvine and Riverside.
The Grove Farmer’s Market: Around since 1934, LA’s original farmer’s market is a relaxing daily stroll through the Grove’s trendy shops and restaurants. Vendors are a little more permanent here but are just as homegrown as the rest. An outdoor patio area and local indie food stands make this market a great lunch option too.
The Hollywood Farmer’s Market: One of the biggest in LA, the Hollywood Farmer’s Market is every Sunday from 8am to 1pm. It’s great for people (and celebrity) watching, grocery shopping, and cuddling with the occasional baby farm animal visitor.
LA is home to not only great one-stop shopping grocery stores (Vons, Ralphs, Albertsons, Trader Joe’s) but specialty shops for whatever kind of cuisine you could imagine. Here are a few local grocery shops of note:
99 Ranch: This chain, the largest Chinese American store in the United States, originates in LA and thrives with one store in Van Nuys and three just a bit east of downtown. 99 Ranch has just about any Asian cooking item you could imagine with an extensive fresh-caught seafood section.
Bay Cities: This luxury Santa Monica grocery store specializes in Mediterranean ingredients, particularly Italian and Argentinian. It’s terribly pricey but perfect for finding gifts. Avoid going in anywhere near lunchtime; their sandwiches are to die for but the lunch rush is madness.
Vallerta, Superior Grocers, Top Valu, Jons, El Super: These LA grocers are independently and locally owned and operated. Besides just being good for your local economy, they tend to have smaller contracts with food suppliers, meaning that fresher ingredients reach the store faster and are sold at a lower price. Ingredients commonly found in Latino cuisine really shine in these markets.
Bargain Fair: Across from the Grove on Fairfax, this should be your first stop in furnishing your kitchen and dining room. Virtually every shape, size and function of porcelain dining ware is available here, as are sturdy pots, pans, and hard-to-find cooking gadgets for bargain prices.