California Specialty

Establishment neighborhood
1716 Sunset Blvd., Echo Park
Stories is Echo Park’s much-loved local bookstore, but what most people don’t realize is that behind all the books is a tiny café (and a good one, at that). We love escaping here for the quiet—the stacks and stacks of haphazardly arranged tomes soak up all the street noise. The tables are filled with other studious folks tapping away on computers or reading through screenplays, so there’s not much chatter. You can sit here for hours munching through the pastry selection without being disturbed.
Ashes & Diamonds Winery
4130 Howard Lane, Napa
Sitting somewhere between a community gathering hub and a winery, Ashes & Diamonds, a new Napa Valley-owned spot by Kashy Khaledi is looking to shake things up. Khaledi cut his teeth as an ad exec at the likes of Capitol Records and MTV before deciding to get into the wine business. The first clue that Ashes & Diamond is unlike any other winery in the Napa Valley is the design: porthole windows, stark white facade, and mid-century modern furnishings are a nod to the Napa Valley of the 1960s thanks to LA-based architect Barbara Bestor. As for the wine itself, Khaledi brought in organic and biodynamic wine makers Steve Matthiasson and Diana Snowden Seysses who are churning out a particularly good Blanc (a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon from three vineyards in the Oak Knoll District and Yountville). And, in a true nod to his music roots, Khaledi tapped Brian Roettinger, who concepted the album cover of Jay-Z’s Magna Carta Holy Grail, to design the wine labels. Their yearly membership program starts at three bottles ($345), and perks include access to the "leaders and conspirators" conversation series, plus,…
Kae Sung Market
1010 S. St Andrews Pl., Koreatown
The tendency to romanticize the food cooked by our grandmothers runs through every culture, and Korean culture is no exception. At Kae Sung Market, an actual grandmother, Sook Jae Cho, spends her days brining and fermenting the vegetables that make up her kimchi, famous among in-the-know neighborhood locals. Cho has been living in LA. for over forty years and started selling her homemade kimchi as a side business in the ’80s. (The mart is named for her North Korean hometown, Kae Sung.) This side hustle has turned into a full-day market, and on any given day there are up to ten kinds of kimchi on offer, including kosher and vegan-friendly varieties. The signage is entirely in Korean, so look out for the yellow storefront on the corner of St. Andrew’s Place and West Olympic, or just ask a bystander—chances are anyone you ask in the area will know how to get there.
Chong’s Sesame Oil
3560 W. 8th St., Koreatown
The taste of freshly pressed sesame oil is distinct—nutty, a little smoky, and deeply savory. The seeds for this particular oil come from El Salvador, and the owner (simply known as Mr. Chong) roasts and presses them himself. Add a splash of it in dressings and stir-fries and you’ll never go back to the mass-produced stuff again. Like many of Koreatown’s gems, Chong’s is hidden (it’s behind Pollo Alla Brasa). It’s the best sesame oil you’ll find in Los Angeles.
California Market
450 S. Western Ave., Koreatown
What was formerly called Gaju Marketplace has recently been remodeled into an incredibly vast food court and grocery store that’s a staple for the goop staffers who live in Koreatown. The banchan (small prepared sides like bean sprouts with sesame oil) are convenient to pick up for a light solo meal or for an impromptu dinner party. And because of the big Latino community that also lives within K-town, you’ll find the freshest avocados and papayas alongside daikon and jars of kimchi. The best part: the free, on-site, five-floor parking structure with panoramic views stretching from DTLA to Culver City.
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