Better than pizza delivery? Khachapuri to your door

Better than pizza delivery? Khachapuri to your door

6/13/2021 6:09:00 PM

Better than pizza delivery? Khachapuri to your door

Even as restaurants fully reopen, I'll also keep covering pop-ups.

Efraimov makes agorgeous Adjarulian khachapuri, with its famous tapered canoe shape and a molten center of salty cheese (in this case a mix of mozzarella and feta) and egg. She thinks beyond the usual parameters with two variations: wild mushrooms and caramelized onions with parmesan and herbs, and a showstopper of lamb seasoned with khmeli-suneli (the Georgian dried spice and herb blend that includes fenugreek, bay leaf and summer savory) smoothed with labneh and zinged with green chile pickle. Order a little gem salad with mint and basil on the side for lightness.

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Emily Efraimov, who runs the one-woman operation Little Dacha, photographed in Malibu in May 2021.(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)Also on the menu: frozen pork pierogi, which come with sour cream and sesame oil infused with dill, garlic and chile for garnishes; balls of labneh jarred in oil with herbs (great for smearing over toasted slices of the country bread she bakes); and a handful of desserts including sharlotka, an airy, crackly-domed apple cake.

Pre-pandemic, Efraimov worked in marketing during the day — she was in the marketing department of Bon Appétit before moving to Los Angeles nearly five years ago — and at night she cooked on the line at places like Animal and Hatchet Hall. When she lost her jobs last spring, she packed her car to the brim and traveled into the desert and then to northern California before returning to L.A. She’s lived in eight different places during the last 16 months, grounding herself by cooking and focusing on Little Dacha.

AdvertisementThe word “dacha,” Efraimov told me in a recent conversation, comes from the Russian word “davat,” which broadly translates as “something to give.” They were summer homes once bequeathed by czars, often as retreats for writers and artists. During the Soviet era, Efraimov said, dachas played a vital role in subsistence — they were a haven to grow your own fruits and vegetables when food was scarce.

“Dacha is a cultural philosophy now,” she said, “rooted in nature, endurance, connection and an escapist sort of hospitality.”The connective part is key in Efraimov’s cooking: She thinks about bridging her mother’s Moscow upbringing with her father’s rural childhood in the foothills of the Caucasus Mountains, and about the East-West culinary legacy of the Silk Roads that passed through Georgia. As she’s studying the history of Georgian cuisines, she’s experimenting with new dishes for Little Dacha: an array of zakuski (cured fish and meats and salads that make a substantial feast), a variation of stroganoff made with venison.

“It’s all I think about,” she says of her one-woman operation, for which she prepares the food and then delivers it. She hopes next for a residency somewhere — a regular slot setting up at a wine bar, perhaps, or taking over the kitchen at a restaurant on nights when the place would otherwise be closed.

AdvertisementI like the idea of tearing into one of Efraimov’s khachapuris on a patio somewhere with a glass of orange wine. In the meantime, I’ll happily keep eating them gently reheated straight out of a delivery box. Read more: L.A. Times Food »

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