It's been so hot this summer that the August top tastes are all cool, starting with two salads, one Vietnamese and the other Indian. Next comes the Mediterranean eggplant dish baba ganoush, which is served at room temperature, followed by the perfect drink for a scorching day, an icy agua fresca.
The tastes end with what may be the best chocolate chip cookies you've ever tasted, that is, if you don't mind a dash of heat, not the temperature kind but from hot chiles.
1. This clam salad from Nongla Vietnamese cafe shows off brilliant Vietnamese flavors. Along with clams, the salad contains peanuts, onions, shallots, cilantro, mint and chile flakes, dressed with Vietnamese-style vinaigrette. That's green mango in front. The speckled chips on top are rice crackers.
Nong Lá Cafe, 145 N La Brea Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90036. (323) 938-1188.
2. Speaking of salads, here's a new take on the popular watermelon salad with feta cheese. This one is Indian, with paneer cheese replacing feta and an Indian style vinaigrette flavored with chaat masala. It's just what you need to go with the spicy food at Kapoor's Akbar Indian Restaurant in downtown Los Angeles.
Kapoor's Akbar Indian Restaurant, 701 W. Cesar E Chavez Ave., Suite 107, Los Angeles, CA 90012. (213) 372-5590.
3. The baba ganoush at Oasis Mediterranean Restaurant is spectacular, with deep layers of flavor that start with flame-grilling the eggplant. Bits of peel are left in to enhance the flavor. Try it along with other delicious mezze at this restaurant.
Oasis Mediterranean Cuisine, 1663 S. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90035. (310) 276-2747.
4. When it's hot and you're really thirsty, you need this tall, refreshing guava agua fresca. It's one of an array of fresh fruit drinks at the Oaxacan restaurant Expresion Oaxaqueña. Drink it with black mole or a tlayuda.
Expresión Oaxaquena, 3301 W. Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90019. (323) 766-0575.
5. If you're nuts about chocolate chip cookies, don't miss these. They're Hatch chile chocolate chip cookies from Bristol Farms markets. Yes, they contain nuts, also dried cherries and coffee for real flavor oomph, followed by a hit of chile heat. They're made with organic flour, organic brown sugar and cage-free eggs, which should make you feel good about indulging. But hurry to get them. Hatch season ends mid September.
Bristol Farms markets. These cookies were photographed at the Woodland Hills location, but all the markets should have them during Hatch season.