Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Quick Supper at AIA Design Award Winning Bottega Louie

Bottega Louie
700 S Grand Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90017
(866) 418-9162

Catching up with some yumminesses prior to the Vegas food-extravaganza...a couple weeks ago after errand running we slid our gas guzzling behemoth (his) into the loading zone only parking spot along the west facing wall of Bottega Louie and had ourselves an early dinner.

D started with the Louie salad: iceberg lettuce, jumbo shrimp, hearts of palm, avocado, sweet onions, bell pepper & an ever so slightly creamy Dijon vinaigrette. This could have been a meal on its own, it was sized pretty generously. I admit to stealing hearts of palm when he wasn't looking.

I started my meal off with an arugula salad...I have said it before and I will say it again. I love that the entrees here are small sized. I knew my fish course wasn't going to be overwhelmingly large so I did order the arugula salad, something that I adore. With red onions, Reggiano-Parm, EVOO, lemon juice and cracked pepper, it's not like I cannot make this at home. But I find arugula irresistible and the simplicity of this salad delicious. And if I wanted to prep this at home you'd have nothing to read right now.

For an entree, D ate the penne pomodoro, which is spectacularly unfun to photograph. For a main, I requested the Branzino. I love Branzino. But what is Branzino? It is a Mediterranean seabass, found mostly in lagoons, estuaries and coastal waters. Branzino is nothing texturally at all similar to Chilean seabass. Probably due to a lesser fat content. Branzino has a much leaner mouth-feel. This is good. I ate way too much Chilean sea bass in the late 90's and no longer love it, thanks partially to Suzanne Tracht and the wonderful sea bass she used to cook at Jozu.

Bottega Louie simply stuffs their Branzino with micro-herbs and a scarpa sauce. What the hades is scarpa sauce? I can find no non-Bottega Louie recipe or reference to it on the Internets. And honestly, this fish tasted and felt like there was no sauce whatsoever. It was fantastically delicious. Light, moist but because of the prep of the fish not any detectable sauce. Mysterious. Maybe even slightly evil. In a way that made me take the leftovers home.

Look! Bottega Louie sends leftovers home in aluminum foil swans! No, no they do not. That was all me. I ate the leftover Brazino for b'fast.

Kudos to Bottega Louie for winning an award in the American Institute of Architects/LA design awards. Louie, along with Chaya Downtown, KAA and Houston's all won in the restaurant category in Los Angeles. Commenters on Eater LA, have chided Bottega Louie for being too minimalistic, too bare with huge expanses of white walls. I wonder if all these critics have been to Louie. I believe that it is not only the expansiveness of the white walls and marble floors that won the award, but this in combination with the open kitchen, breakfast/cafe/bar area, massive picture windows and beautiful gourmet deli. All of this on one space would seem crowded and competitive. However, within the giant expanse of floor space within Louie it feels generous and spacious. I am a fan. Congratulations, Bottega Louie. The people who actually know things about architecture and restaurant design are fans too.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Las Vegas Getaway: Downtown Cocktail Room...or, Don't Lose Your Debit Card in Sin City

Downtown Cocktail Room
111 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89101
(702) 300-6268

Located in downtown Las Vegas near the auspicious Glitter Gulch, Binion's (where someone at the cash cage allowed a nefarious criminal to get cash from my debit card without an ID & the cops are coming for you, BTW, so start job hunting), adjacent to all the old school Vegas signs and beneath the new school obnoxious (IMO) light and music show overhead, you will find the Downtown Cocktail Room.

Right there at the corner of Las Vegas Blvd and Fremont Street, close to the corner of sleazy and shady, is this beautiful cocktail lounge where they make the best drinks in town. Hands down, this is my favorite bar in the city.

Their cocktails are made with large format cubes cube-master Michel Dozois of Church & State would be proud to call his own. A handsome loquacious bartender hand chipped from a giant cube ice to make my cocktail Achille's heel, a lychee martini. It was beautiful. Although they do kinda gotta fix the A/C at the Downtown. My friends were immediately impatient in the slightly balmy temperature and left sans moi to hang close by at the Vegas outpost of Atwater Village's The Griffin. They left there almost immediately as well, but sometimes in life one is a passenger. I enjoyed my damn lychee martini, despite it all.

I love the lights of downtown, reminding us of Las Vegas pre-super casino. Downtown used to hold a definite romance for me. There's a strong chance that the theft of my money at cash window without my ID has marred some of that. But I have to give credit where credit is due. I dropped my debit card. A dishonest person picked it up. Someone not doing their job gave that dishonest person my cash without checking to make sure that dishonest person was not me.

And it could have happened anywhere in Vegas. Criminals are everywhere. I should have been more careful with my debit card. I don't even have being drunk as an excuse. I was dead sober. Kinda.

Brunch at Dusty's Silverlake; No Wonder It's Slammed

Dusty's Bistro
3200 W Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90026
(323) 906-1018

The morning after a girls' evening on the porch drinking copious amounts of wine and watching the twinkling lights of downtown Los Angeles below us, we piled in the car and headed down the hill to Dusty's for some brunch. It was packed. I haven't been in ages because I am not a breakfast eater, and it never occurs to me to eat there for dinner. This experience is going to change that.

I'll start with what we drank because I know JH loves when I do this. Priorities and all, don't you know? Dusty's house mimosa is strawberry/OJ and champers. Um...delicious. Dee-lish-ouse. Don't have one. Have two. They are only $5. FIVE DOLLARS EACH!

Dusty's also offers a pomegranate mimosa, as well as OJ and a couple other juices. The pomegranate was great until I tasted the strawberry/OJ. Don't test it, do the house special to begin with.

Lovely and generous little bread basket with soft butter (thank you), marmalade and raspberry jam. This basket and a couple mimosas would make a beautiful Sunday breakfast on its own, but no.

They have to offer eggs benedict served over potato latkes with heaps of fresh fruit. Spetziel.

Latke eggs benedict comes with several meat choices including Canadian bacon, regular bacon (this is clearly not kosher), spinach or with smoked salmon (geshmak). I caved on the smoked salmon which made for a crazy delicious oy vey! kind of entree. My kishkas were gliklech.

The lovely K tried something a little different, but equally decadent. Stuffed French Toast with ricotta, strawberries and bananas. Again, with the generous fruit. Loves.

This was too sweet for me to eat as an entire meal, but I admit it was maykholim.

Despite the fact that we sat at the bar because the restaurant was gaping at the seams, coffee service was a little slow. 150% pleasant, however, and I plan to do this again immediately.

Dusty's Bistro in Los Angeles

Las Vegas Getaway: Raku Izakaya

Japanese Charcoal Grill
5030 Spring Mountain Rd #2
Las Vegas, NV 89146
(702) 367-3511

Located a short but beautiful cab ride away from the strip, through what I think of as Little Asia, sits Raku at the back of a strip mall. It can be difficult to see Raku from the street, where it is tucked away. In my mind I am calling the neighborhood Little Asia because the retail and dining options of China, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam and more all merge together in shiny brightly lit strip malls merging as one long neon streak as your taxi zooms toward its destination.

We originally made a reservation for Wednesday, then thought how fun it would be to bring a group of friends in town the following night so canceled and made a different one for Thursday. About an hour later we changed our minds (typical), called back and they had already booked our table. We came out anyway and ate at the small but lovely bar.

Our server's husband was sitting at the bar with us, and it turns out he is a sake rep. It was a bit like sitting with our own personal sake sommelier. He works for World Sake Imports, and kindly and deftly guided us through a couple of beautiful sakes. I really have never met a sake I didn't like, so I am an easy and willing victim. We started with a 10 oz bottle of 出羽桜“ミニ大吟醸” Dewazakura "Sakura Boy". Light and lovely, without any of the distinguishing melon flavors I sometimes love in a cold sake. This was slightly dry and linear and it was great.

Over our shoulder, we spied someone eating a beautiful giant squid dish that was not on the regular menu. The main body of the squid was served as sashimi, while the upper tentacles were marinated and grilled.

I love a little squid sashimi, and this was not a little. It can be hard to chew, so be careful how much you put in your mouth at once.

The tentacles were marvelous however, and we had no problem gobbling these down.

Another item not on the regular menu you will find online, is a Kurobuta pork belly in a dark sauce. Delicious and incredibly fatty. In most western restaurants I find the pork belly to be cooked so that the fat is served more solid. The flavors here are delicious, but the meat fell from the flesh readily making it easy to separate the muscle from fat. Please, don't hate me. Each bite was still thoroughly embedded in silky fatty flavorful tissue. However, the amount of fat in the dish altogether was a little overwhelming. Bitter greens on the side were psychotically and deliciously infused with fat and sauce. My mouth waters for them.

Hands down my favorite dish of the evening was the agedashi tofu. ZOMG. What? How have I never had this before? Where can I get a Los Angeleno equivalent? The soft tofu here is homemade, served in a hot savory/sweet broth with green onions, ginger and ikura on top. I want a vat of this. I want to roll around in it like a dog. Want.

The second bottle our new friend suggested was 山形出羽桜出羽燦々Dewasansan Junmai Ginjo. This bottle exhibited more of the fruitlike flavors I love. It is so beautiful I treated myself to a glass a couple nights later at Restaurant Charlie, despite the fact that Trotter's booze mark up is ass-rapingly ridiculous. $40 for a glass of Veuve Cliquot Yellow Label. Really? I understand a healthy booze mark-up to cover costs, but Trotter may have lost his mind a little. I digress. This is a fantastic sake, anytime, anywhere at any price (kinda).

The last item we nommed on was suggested by our friend the sake rep. A chicken breast wrapped in skin, from the robata.

This was outstanding. The most succulent, tantalizing piece of chicken I have ever put in my mouth. It needed no sauce and no formal introduction.

Such a beautiful little breast of chicken, protected from the hot fires of the grill by an insulating piece of chicken skin.

I was sent to Raku by Tony of Sinosoul, as a sort-of challenge. He has deep disdain for The Open Door Izakaya in Monterey Park, and I liked it quite a bit. My answer to this challenge is that one cannot compare The Open Door to Raku, it is apples to oranges. The Open Door is a lovely little spot for fairly white-washed but yummy Japanese pub food. Raku is excellent, much more authentic food of the same genre but perhaps not always to the tastes of people who enjoy their food less exotic. Please view these menu shots provided kindly by John Curtas of Eating Las Vegas.

courtesy of Eating Las Vegas

I don't know many people who would order something simply called meat guts. I just don't. Call it something fancy like foie gras, or add it to a tray with other meat parts and call it charcuterie.

courtesy of Eating Las Vegas

Same basic premise goes for bonito guts, and I even know one person who actually fears the ghost-like movement of bonito flakes in a breeze from an air conditioner or an open door. Although I am sure most people would indulge in Meltin' & Creamy Chocolate Cake. In terms of a competition for flavor, experience and authenticity, Raku wins. It also wins in my mind as my best food experience in Las Vegas to date. But I stand firm in my stance that the two, The Open Door and Raku, cannot be compared. So, suck it Tony. I kid, I kid. You know I love ya.

A wonderful piece of trivia for anyone slightly inclined or slightly dubious of heading off the strip for maybe the best izakaya I have ever had. Dining at the bar at Bartolotta (do you sense a trend in preferred restaurant geography, there's a trend) our wonderful bartender shared with us the fact that Raku is Chef Bartolotta's favorite Japanese in Vegas. He speaks of its culinary wonders frequently, and often takes guests there to dine when service in his own establishment is done for the evening. Raku, open til 3am. When in Vegas, go eat.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

East LA Meets Napa Friday July 10th Union Station

A press release for this upcoming event:

AltaMed Health Services will host the Fourth Annual East LA Meets Napa celebration, featuring the diversity of Latin cuisine from Los Angeles area restaurants coupled with fine wine from Latino-owned or –operated Napa wineries. Attended by more than 1,000 wine and culinary enthusiasts,East LA Meets Napa speaks to the ongoing preference among aficionados to pair wine with Latin food instead of beer or margaritas. Attendees will also enjoy entertainment and wonderful conversation in one of Los Angeles’ most historic venues – Union Station. The first official event to celebrate the pairing of wine with Latin cuisine, East LA Meets Napa has historically been a showcase for emerging wineries and culinary talents. Many of the participating business owners share an immigrant experience, with some of the winemakers working their way up from the fields. The event provides these entrepreneurs with the opportunity to come together to support AltaMed’s mission – providing quality, culturally relevant health care to underserved populations throughout Southern California. This event will sell out.

Starting at $125, Tickets can be purchased through this link at Social Domain Los Angeles.

Participating restaurants include:
Atilla The Flan
Birrieria Chalio
Casa de Moles "LaTia"
Cook's Tortas
El Portal
El Tepeyac Café
Frida Restaurant
Hacienda de San Ysidro
Homegirl Cafe
La Casita Mexicana
La Parrilla Restaurant
Palate Food & Wine
Phlight Restaurant
Porto's Bakery & Cafe
Rivera Restaurant
Tamayo Restaurant
Tila's Kitchen

Alex Sotelo Cellars
Cobblestone Vineyards
El Centauro del Norte
El Encanto Winery
Elements of Sonoma
Thrace Wines
J Lohr Vineyards & Wine
Karl Lawrence
Lucio Perez Family Vineyards
Maritas Vineyards
Mi SueñoNevarez Vineyard
Renteria Wines
Rios Wine Cellars
Robledo Vineyards
San Antonio Winery
Sequoia Grove Vineyards
Summers Estate Wines

Next week Rivera will be hosting a press preview of the event, which I plan to attend and report on. Stay tuned, eaters.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Moules Frites Truck Coming Soon

My Twittering friend Squashblossom, professor and editor of LAist, and I tweeted endlessly last week about creating a moules frites taco truck. My dreams can now come to fruition on an imaginary scale. This scale is similar to my childhood fantasy life living in a beach van parked at the edge of Malibu Beach and sleeping in a plastic sleeping bag. Malibu Barbie was my surrogate self and the edge of my best friend's swimming pool stood in for Malibu Beach.

Here is the mock up of our moules frites truck (found at Goopymart), prior to customization:

We will paint it with our French/Belgian inspired logo, and name it something like "Moules for les Masses', or "Frites pour les Gens Fous", or something along those lines, to be sure. We also plan to use these plates for our food:
However, instead of hors d'ouvres on the plate we will set styrofoam bowls of steamed moules on the large flat area. And instead of a wine glass in the hole, we will hand the plate through the window with a small newspaper cone (a la a London chip shop) filled with frites avec herbes! One side of saffron aoili for free, but several flavors to choose from for an extra $.50 per flavor.

Doesn't that sound like a sublime addition to the gastrotruck offerings here in the Southland?

I know Southern California is waiting for mobile Japanese food. Someone dreaming of this needs to print the following truck out and put it together to inspire them into seeking investors.

And because I adore all things Dia de los Meurtos, I added this to the post for the fun of it. I may drive this one around my house all October.

There is nothing more fun than dreaming big and playing with toys.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Love Ya Blog Award

While the "Love Ya Blog Award" does appear to be the blogger equivalent of a chain letter, I am nevertheless pleased as punch at being on the receiving end. My Twittering friend Marmie blogging from Pamplemousse! awarded it to me this week. The gist of the award is as follows:

"Apparently this award is bestowed on to blogs that are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers. Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award."

I am not going to say I am above self-aggrandizement. The act of blogging itself is about the most self-aggrandizing event that occurs in my life on a regular basis and I somewhat revel in my ability and willingness to participate in such an endeavor, never having been self-aggrandizing previously in life. It sure can be fun.

Now, onto the forwarding of my eight "Love Ya Blog Award"s.

1. Tony of Sinosoul

2. H.C. from LA-OC-Foodventures

3. Matt of mattatouille

4. Vervets from the woolly monkey

5. E from Reykjavik Harbor Watch (and who I miss dearly)

6. EKD from Blog of Me (even though she already got one :-p)

7. T from dClutterfly

8. Kevin from KevinEats

8. Aaron from FoodDestination

8. M (?) from Street Gourmet LA (who I hope to stir up trouble with sometime soon)

8. Cristine from Folie a Choisauce (last but not least)

Monday, June 22, 2009

Sunday at Tavern.

11648 San Vicente Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90049
(310) 806-6464

Sunday afternoon, still recovering from a brutal work week while simultaneously prepping for the next one, I found myself at Tavern wanting to be fed. I say this like we came about the decision casually, just meandered over. It is impossible to be casual when you live 17 miles away through the thick insanity of Los Angeles traffic and another world away from Brentwood face lifts and Chanel handbags.

Tavern is another spin on the now familiar MO of restaurant/gourmet shops like Bottega Louie, and Cube. One can dine stylishly and deliciously, then bring home some noms to enjoy for the next couple days. The "larder" at Tavern includes lots of pastries, some savory items, and for the eater on the go, a nice coffee and drinks menu.

Pecan pie, cinnamon rolls, a berry crumble.

The requisite cupcakes. Three or four different lovingly but very professionally decorated kinds of cupcakes. Cupcakes. Cakes in a cup. Genius.

Love the smattering of brass roosters everywhere. I want to steal a couple of these, a few gophers from the Golden Goph, and start a brass menagerie in my backyard.

Despite the fact that we are not in Lucques anymore, Dorothy, there are definite traces of Lucques here. The interior is by Jeffrey Alan Marks, or Jam Designs and it is definitely reminiscent of the interior patio of Lucques. It has that same interior/exterior feel to it, with skylit ceilings, and ever-so-slightly garden-esque touches.

In the daytime the atmosphere is both stimulating and relaxingly luxurious.

I am sure at night time it is the epitome of hushed yet busy sophistication. Much like Lucques. A pub this is not.

They start us off with a basket of simply crusty white bread and ice cold butter. I miss the sea salt, olives and almonds from Lucques, but I get over this.

I am obsessed by Hitachino Nest. Not the drinking, the picture taking. There has just never been a cuter beer. Luckily the DH really loves this one so I have had lots of opportunities. 10%.

I drank a beautiful Rousanne-Marsanne blend, one of my favorite wines. It slightly echoes some of the richness of a Chardonnay with none of the oak or butter. My one OCD flaw is wanting to drink out of a clean wine glass at all times. Tavern brings your wine in a mini-carafe each time you order a new glass, so you will be using the same wine glass throughout the meal. This engenders a lot of glass wiping for me, so I request some bar naps. I do not like Chapstick of gloss on my glass. I even attempt to continually drink out of the same spot so as not to mess up the entire rim. If you saw my office/closet/car interior you would know this is my only OCD area.

I adore the way they serve their catsup in a small medicinal bottle. It doesn't taste homemade. And the top of the bottle and the cap are really messy. I wipe this down well with a bar nap, because yuck.

For my main dish, I order the Niman burger with fontina cheese, a huge tomato slice and not a lot of lettuce. As a matter of fact, my lettuce is a little sad. It's kinda wilty and there wasn't enough of it. I am an unfortunate product of In n' Out protein style burgers, so I like a lot of lettuce.

The burger is served with a choice of fries or an arugula salad, and I clearly go for the arugula choice. Arugula is the best green in existence. Bitter, sharp, small enough to fit quite a few leaves in one's mouth at once. Tastes good with red onions, olives, cherry tomatoes and as a foil against lots of different kinds of fruit. Yet another small hitch in the meal was the salt. Both the meat in my burger and the arugula were a little oversalted. My burger was oversalted to the extent that I wondered briefly if they had erred and sent me the pork burger which is made with pork shoulder, prosciutto and chorizo. But no, this is clearly beef by sight and flavor, just a hair over salted. Nevertheless the meat is delicious and it is cooked perfectly medium rare. I can handle some salt. When working in the field, I bring my lunch and often carry one of my little tubs of sea salt or truffle salt in my purse for almost everything in my lunch bag. This Sunday, salt does not ruin my burger.

C orders the special fish of the day. IIRC (if I recall correctly) she ate barramundi. I believe it was barramundi because that is one of my favorite fish types and I almost ordered this dish. Grilled, it was served atop a hash of fresh corn, zucchini, green beans, shaved red onion and cherry tomatoes.

I love the way these sauteed cherry tomatoes look with the caramelized onions. I can taste it just by looking at the deliciousness of this dish. And C cleared her entire plate. I think she licked it when I was looking the other way at the West Side bridal shower in the corner.

D ordered a sandwich called "The Pilgrim". Chunks of turkey, cranberry sauce and stuffing on wheat bread. That was one thick and beautiful sandwich. He is still talking about it. On his plate was a side of sweet potato chips, and they were sweet potato perfection.

Despite a couple extremely minor flaws, our experience at Tavern was wonderful. One of the hostesses was incredibly gracious, finding a great table for us despite a canceled reservation, our slightly high maintenance attitude, and a completely empty bar area. Our server was nothing short of charming. Knowledgeable and pampering without being obsequious, he provided very smooth and easy service, knew the answers to all our questions and took great care of us.

Now, I just have to get across town to hit Tavern for dinner.

Tavern in Los Angeles