HAVE you noticed Black Arkansas apples? These reddish black apples are finding their way into dishes all over town.
The Black Arkansas is grown primarily in Northern California, says Mike Rand of produce purveyor L.A. Specialty, and has a much shorter season than supermarket varieties. "It's not mass-produced and it can't be stored as well as other apples, which makes the Black Arkansas a fresher, more seasonal variety." It also makes it a bit more expensive than other varieties.
What is it that makes these beautiful apples appealing to chefs? "Their texture is amazing," says Jill Davie, chef de cuisine at Josie's. "They're exactly what you think of when you think of an apple." Davie uses them in savory dishes, from bacon-wrapped quail served with seared apples to an Arkansas apple soup topped with foie gras and a brioche spread with date chutney.
At the Peninsula, executive chef Bill Bracken waxes nostalgic when asked about the Black Arkansas apple. "It reminds me of the apples that grew on the tree in my backyard as a kid." He braises them with maple syrup and butter, and serves them with seared foie gras topped with roasted chopped pecans drizzled with a rich duck reduction.
Of course, they're a popular ingredient in desserts. "They're the most perfect apple," says Sona pastry chef Michelle Myers. "They're not too hard, not too soft, just the right acidity ... the right balance. And they're a gorgeous blood red." Myers caramelizes the chopped apple in vanilla, brown sugar and rum and uses it along with mascarpone to fill her cannoli.
At Moonshadows in Malibu, executive chef Deidra Henry uses them in an apple crisp topped with walnuts, oatmeal, butter and brown sugar. "The texture is just great for cooking," Henry says. "They're also not too sweet, which makes them a very versatile fruit."
Before you know it, these deep red beauties will be gone. So if you're curious, go now and find yourself a bite of this coveted fruit. Otherwise, you'll have wait until next November.
-- Jessica Strand
Alan Nathan and Anton Posniak, co-owners of Tengu in Westwood and Ivar and Nacional in Hollywood, opened Paladar on Monday. Modeled after the paladares (in-home restaurants) of Cuba, it will serve Nuevo Latino cuisine by Joe Herreros (Tengu's former executive chef) in a cozy, intimate post-modern Cuban setting designed by Tag Front Architects.
Paladar, 1651 Wilcox Ave., Hollywood, (323) 465-7500.
Michael Mina has parted company with the Aqua Development Group, with whom he opened Aqua Restaurant in San Francisco in 1991. The group spawned six restaurants, including Aqua at Bellagio in Las Vegas and the St. Regis in Dana Point. Now Mina hopes to open a place in San Francisco.