Taking a Leap

This is a leap year. Last Wednesday was the twenty-ninth day of February. A date that occurs once every four years.

"A leap year is a year containing one additional day in order to keep the calendar year synchronized with the astronomical year. Because seasons and astronomical events do not repeat in a whole number of days, a calendar that had the same number of days in each year would, over time, drift with respect to the event it was supposed to track. By occasionally inserting an additional day or month into the year, the drift can be corrected." -Katherine Morgan in Skeans

A year that is not a leap year is called a common year.

Admittedly, thus far, this year has been anything but common. At least for me.

But I’m not writing about me today. Well, not much. This one is about my mom. My mom is also anything but common. My mom is also taking a leap right now. This isn’t unusual for her – a woman that packed up her entire life at sixty-one years of age and moved clear across the country with nothing but her two Chihuahuas – to be closer to her daughter. That’s me.

Mom had accomplished a great deal in Richmond prior to up and leaving. She was a bit of a local celebrity there – reinvigorating the 17th Street Farmers' Market, establishing Shockoe Tomato Festival, The Brunswick Stew Festival, a street/art/food festival called Broad Appetît and opened an art gallery – all of which are going strong to this day. She had two cafes that enjoyed much success and appreciation. People still lament the absence of her lumples and  signature sandwich: grilled fresh roasted turkey, pistachio goat cheese spread and red onion on a glazed doughnut.

Since she arrived those three years ago she has had all sorts of unusual jobs. But none of them have resembled the work she did in Virginia. Not even remotely. Let’s face it: this town can be really tough. Really tough.

And so very recently my mom decided that by Independence Day she will be independent of her current job situation - one that is both unrewarding and grueling. 

She is taking a leap.

This past Sunday she launched a project she has been considering for some time now: La Weekend. On Sundays, in the lobby of her rad, old-school building in Koreatown, my mom has set up shop. She’s selling her amazing baked goods – sweet and savory - from breakfast pastries to lavender cupcakes to buttermilk and pecan pies to Ghirardelli brownies to apple cake to sandwiches and breads with compound butters. She’s also offering bottomless coffee (free if you bring your own mug) and iced tea infused with honey and Meyer lemon. Everything ranges from $1 to $4 – and that you cannot beat.

And, no joke, this woman can bake - it is her passion. She was doing all of the desserts for Dinner at Eight until recently. Nastassia said Mom's pecan pie was the best she had ever had (and Nastassia is quite the baker, herself). On Sunday a woman that ordered a slice of her buttermilk pie in the morning (who had never had buttermilk pie before) knocked on her door at five o’clock that afternoon to order a whole pie. So mom got back to baking. Heck, since I've been writing this she's told me she has received two more pie orders: another buttermilk pie and an apple pie.

It’s pretty cool. It’s like she’s got her own, little pop-up. People from the neighborhood and people from the building milling about, chatting, mingling, reading the paper, doing the crossword, watching their dogs running around in the grassy courtyard and around the fountain, Marvin Gaye crooning from the speakers, everyone with their coffee (mostly in their own mugs) and their little breakfasts. It’s something you don’t see in this big ocean of a town too much. My mom has brought that Southern, small town, sense of community to a little nook of Los Angeles. And did I mention she can bake?

You know I’m a savory girl. My favorite item of the day was something she calls Left on Red, a little tribute to a significant element of our fair city. It’s simple, it’s her signature pimiento cheese sandwiched between a plain lumple. It’s rich, creamy and salty surrounded by soft, slightly crumbly and crispy. It’s perfect. It’s filling, yet you’ll want to want another. It’s $3.

However, as I’ve shared the recipes for both pimiento cheese and lumples here in the past, today’s recipe is that of Byrd’s Apple Cake. Mom found the recipe in one of those local Junior League-y type cookbooks in Richmond.  You know, the kind that have spiral binding and very low printing expenses involved; yeah, that kind.  This cookbook is called "Historic Richmond Cooks" and the recipe was submitted by Mrs. James E. Ukrop.  These are the very cookbooks that have some of the best finds.

You can make it yourself or you can meet me, Fred, Maggie, Uncle DougertonNastassia and the gang next Sunday to sample it straight from my mom. And she’ll probably be dancing to Marvin Gaye while she serves it to you.

Oh, and true to the monikor, La Weekend will be open on Saturdays as well after Mom's independence day. 

Until then La Weekend is: SUNDAYS from 9am-1pm  
Ancelle Lobby - 701 Gramercy Drive, Los Angeles CA 90005 

*All photo credits go to Mr. Fred Turko.

Byrd's Fresh Apple Cake
(Recipe from Mrs. James E. Ukrop in Historic Richmond Cooks)

Note:  This is the recipe exactly as it appears in the cookbook.  Mom does not include dates; she uses pecans and Granny Smith apples, goes heavier on the cinnamon, puts in a little fresh ginger and 2 to 3 generous tablespoons of bourbon.

2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon salt
juice of 1/2 lemon
3 cups all purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3 cups peeled and chopped fresh apples (about 3-4 apples)
1 cup chopped nuts 
1/2 cup chopped dates

Mix sugar, oil, eggs, vanilla, salt and lemon juice.  Beat well.  Sift flour, soda and spices.  Add flour mixture to sugar mixture and beat well.  Add fruit and nuts.  Mix well.  Bake in greased and floured Bundt pan at 325 for 1 1/2 hours.  
This cake freezes well.

One year ago: Son of a Gun
Two years ago: Creamy Artichoke Soup


  1. i can't wait for Sunday and I can't wait to make this cake with all of my yummy Honey Crisp apples!

  2. I just happened upon your blog. I love it and your mom is my hero. I love it....renegade baker with marvin gaye playing in the background. my friend and i have decided that we need to stop by one sunday. She's vegan and knows there won't be anything for her...but it's all so wonderful.

  3. Wow, thanks! I showed my mom your message and she was so touched that she cried! Please say hello to her when you see her Sunday. And thanks for reading!

  4. I've just discovered your blog...

    Within an hour I have pinned 4 recipes, shared 2 aloud to my boyfriend, read your blog posts from march-recent in full, and have become completely obsessed with F is for Food.

    You (and your mother!) are officially my new favorite people....

    THANK YOU for your humor, your stories and your FOOD.


  5. Neesa,

    What an incredibly sweet comment you've left for me! I'm truly touched you connected with my words and my world.
    Thank you!