You know that annoying cliché “effortlessly stylish,” which appears too often in fashion magazines these days? Well, local chocolatier/jam maker/baker Valerie Gordon reminds me of why it can be a useful phrase. Gordon and Stan Weightman have operated the elegant chocolate and goodies business, Valerie Confections, for six years, making and selling their stuff in a charming shop on 1st between Virgil and Commonwealth. The couple has a three-year-old son, August, and Valerie maintains a certain panache even when wearing an apron and stirring a boiling cauldron of strawberry jam, or dipping toffees into molten chocolate using zen-like movements. As a mom with a son around the same age, I wish I could always be so casually chic!
We’re huge fans of Valerie products in our family. The naturally flavorful jams from the Valerie at the Market line are nice and loose, not overly congealed. They’re made with local farmers’ market produce and are literally part of our household’s (homemade) daily bread. I’m a little bit obsessed with the brilliant Classic Cakes collection, since it combines local food history with stunningly delicious desserts, and epitomizes Valerie’s contemporary yet timeless sensibility. I talked to Valerie during their family’s Sunday Carmela ice cream ritual in what they call the “ice cream lounge” — which is actually a spot August chooses on the sidewalk on Ivar outside of Bed, Bath & Beyond — after they’d wrapped up their business at the Valerie Confections’ Hollywood Farmers’ Market stand.August, Valerie and Stan enjoy some Carmela in the very glamorous “ice cream lounge” of August’s choosing.
What do you like to cook for August?
August likes pasta in every form. His favorite vegetables right now are cauliflower and broccoli. He likes them sautéed in olive oil with a little bit of garlic and shaved Parmesan on top. His father makes fabulous pizza on a cast iron skillet in the oven, so we have a lot of pizza nights. And [he likes] ice cream. And August makes his own scrambled eggs.
So you let him get close to the stove? Closely supervised, right?
Yup. He has his own apron and his own kitchen tools.
Where do you like to eat out as a family?
Well, eating out can be a challenge. So we found things like farmers’ markets to be very helpful, and grabbing pre-made food that’s delicious and locally made. We like to do picnics. We do picnics every Friday night at LACMA. We pack up a basket with either things we’ve made at home, or we’ll go by Joan’s on Third, or something similar to that. And head over and do a picnic with a bottle of wine and some friends.
Our feeling is we take him to places that have a high volume in general, where it’s obvious that if he throws something it’s not going to be an issue. And we just don’t stress out about it. He’s a little kid; they make a mess, and we just tip extra.
Where do you guys like to go for a date night, when given the chance?
We have very few date nights. Shockingly we had a date the other night, it was fabulous! We went to LudoBites, and it was incredible. It was amazing! We like Hirozen for sushi. We find Canele kid-friendly. That’s a fun either [with or without kid] situation. We love taking him to Wurstküche.
We also like Sunset Tower for date night. We like to get dressed up and have fun, definitely, because every day life is so casual. It’s either about being covered in chocolate, jam, and all forms of sugar. Or covered with him [August]. When we actually have a night out we like to do it up a little bit.