Chefs Zoe Nathan and her husband Josh Loeb have smartly created one of the most important restaurant groups in LA - with each opening they serve up an authentic, unpretentious but still exciting dining experience. They co-own Rustic Canyon Wine Bar & Seasonal Kitchen, Huckleberry Café and Bakery, Sweet Rose Creamery, and the newly expanded Milo & Olive and two new exciting projects this summer: Cassia and Esters.
In addition to welcoming another baby, Zoe and her husband partnered with another rock-star couple, Kim Luu-Ng and husband Bryant Ng (2012 Food & Wine Best New Chef for the shuttered-by-the-LA-subway-project The Spice Table). They opened Cassia in June in a gorgeous 1937 Art Deco building in Santa Monica as a 200 seat (140 inside and 60 outside on the patio) SE Asian Brasserie that is a unique balance of soulful, ancestral cuisine and a California sensibility.
Right next door is Esters Wine Shop & Bar, with a stone bar and seating for 50, created in partnership with longtime Rustic Canyon staffer Kathryn Coker (née Weil) and her husband Tug. A shop for wine from small production bottlers in addition to meat, cheese and small bites from Rustic Canyon’s Jeremy Fox. Esters is now open 4 pm - 11pm and starting August 11th, will be opening at 11 am.
Zoe Nathan is a Zen Baker: “Baking is all about process,” she explains. “Mostly, we as bakers, if we’re doing it right, we are using very few ingredients. Making really great baked goods means we have to rely on the process. I like that you have to be involved in each step and that it’s not just about the ending. Baking is a great meditation.”
The restaurants are dedicated to the best quality ingredients from local farmers. For example, Huckleberry Bakery is fiercely committed to supporting local food producers who use sustainable farming practices. Purveyors like Fat Uncle Farms in the San Joaquin Valley for all almond products (the bakers at Huckleberry “geek out” when the blocks of almond paste arrive) and Bill’s Bees in the San Gabriel Mountains for honey. Sausage comes from Peads and Barnetts, which raises all heritage pork without hormones or antibiotics, beef is 100% organic from SunFed Ranch, turkey from Diestel Farms, flour from Central Milling Company and chocolate from TCHO.
Zoe’s first cookbook, Huckleberry: Stories, Secrets, and Recipes from Our Kitchen (Chronicle Books), was released in September 2014. In addition to being a beautiful cookbook with 115 recipes, it’s a book in which she tells her story about the journey from home baker to professional baker and credits starting a family with her rediscovering of the joys of baking.
Zoe Nathan worked at both Traci Des Jardins’s restaurant Jardiniere and Tartine, crediting Elisabeth Prueitt (new to THE LIST after COOKGIRL’s The San Francisco Project) and Chad Robertson as her mentors. As she told Food & Wine about her experience at Tartine, “They taught me that color can be a flavor and that salt is the most important thing in a recipe.”