Monday, August 31, 2009

First Shot: Summer Bounty

As this blog moves forward, so does my obsession with better pics and thus better equipment. Experiencing months long rumination on my next camera steps, calmly and indulgently guided by my friend Matt of, it took a dishonest/negligent hotel staff in Victorville to finally push me over the edge.

Observe one of the first shot from my new D90. Summertime organic produce delivered to my front porch last Thursday by Love Organics, on my bar made by Jib Peres, the talent responsible for not only the bar at Three Clubs (where D & I met many years ago playing gin-rummy) but also the interior of Rosso Wine among other things.

Matt rec'd the Nikon Nikkor 35mm F1.8, which is the lens used for this shot. And I have only begun! *insert evilly maniacal laughter*

Sunday, August 30, 2009

LA Burns & We Eat at Blue Fish in Pasadena

As the 2009 fires raged on north of Altadena, and Flintridge/La Canada, D and I headed out to Pasadena to run errands and experience the wilting temperatures of the current heat wave. Below is our view from the car heading north on the 2.

Blue Fish Sushi Bar Restaurant & Lounge
58 E Colorado
Pasadena, CA 91105

Looking for some decent sushi in Pasadena, I found good Yelp reviews for a little spot in Old Town Pasadena called Tani. We drove all the way across Pasadena, and found it had been tranmogrified into a hipster sushi restaurant and lounge. Starving and sweating, we decided to stay and have some lunch.

Given the surroundings, I should have known what kind of sushi we were in for...sleek, trendy, self titled lounge.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Patina Group Celebrates Coastal Organic Farms' Tomato Harvest

Patina Group

Nick & Stef's Steakhouse
330 S Hope St
Ste 12
Los Angeles, CA 90071
(213) 680-0330

Cafe Pinot
700 W 5th St
Los Angeles, CA 90071
(213) 239-6500

801 S Figueroa St
Los Angeles, CA 90017
(213) 614-7800

Thursday evening, the Patina Group partnered with Coastal Organic Farms to pull out the stops in a media preview of the First National Tomato Festival celebrating 2009's tomato harvest. The entire East/West coast Patina group is participating including Patina, Kendall's, Tangata and more. This week, Vanessa Kristal gathered a group of bloggers, tweeters, writers to meet chefs at Nick & Stef's, Cafe Pinot DTLA and Zucca, chat with Paul and Maryann Carpenter from Coastal Organic Farms and to enjoy some of the tomato bounty of the 2009 season.

Other bloggers in attendance included Neil from Food Marathon, H.C. of LA-OC Foodventures, the lovely Estar from e*star LA, Gastronomyblog was represented, Lindsay my moules frites co-conspirator from LAist, Matt from DigLounge was in the house (and I always forget his name), and Hadley from Grub Street LA which is fast becoming my favorite news site. As much fun was had socializing as tasting and drinking.

Our walking tour of DTLA started at Nick & Stef's. Nick & Stef's is doing something very fun in DTLA this summer. Every Thursday on the patio they offer $6 cocktails, BBQ, live music and a giant flat screen TV for baseball from 3:30-9.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Ortolan Bordeaux Dinner August 26, 2009

8338 W 3rd St
Los Angeles, CA 90048
(323) 653-3300

Wednesday August 26th Ortolan offered a prix fixe 5 course Bordeaux accompanied tasting menu. Despite being arguably the most beautiful dining room in town with exceptional French fare, Ortolan is often quiet and I have feared for its lasting power during this recession. Last night cured me of those worries. Ortolan has undergone a few minor changes in seating arrangements, is now offering live music to accompany the Chef Eme dining experience, the place was packed.

In terms of seating, the long middle white banquette is now located along the back wall in the bar. This adds more cohesiveness in the decor between the front room and bar area. Also, the dark slightly rustic wood floor in the dining room is more visible adding a little casual balance to the formerly rather formal crystal chandeliers and white leather upholstered chaises in the dining room. I like the change. Our four top was seated next to an enjoyable jazz trio that became livelier as the evening wore on. Skillful and enjoyable, just occasionally a hair too loud.

Our friends D & Y are on Ortolan's special event mailing list, and contacted us early this week about the Bordeaux dinner. With so many places to dine in Los Angeles, and something enticing opening nearly weekly, I sometimes forget how much I love Ortolan and Eme's elegant food. So happy to have returned to enjoy it again.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Whole Foods Boycott

Enjoying watching the Whole Foods boycott develop, I thought I would share some opinionated and thought provoking links from both camps. Should Mackey have spoken out publicly against creating a government health care system as health care reform? Will it hurt Whole Foods' bottom line and public image in the long term among its liberal client base? Or will hearing a liberal public figure speak out against public health add levity to the liberal argument in favor of establishing public health?

Whole Foods CEO John Mackey's Wall Street Journal editorial that raised the ire of some liberal customers and launched the boycott movement.

Dennis Allard in The Ocean Park Column addresses Mackey's 8 points arguing against a public health care system.

Daniel Boulud Blew

Daniel Boulud Brasserie
Wynn Las Vegas
3131 Las Vegas Blvd S

Las Vegas, NV 89136
(888) 320-7110

Thirty-five plus minutes between apps and entrees. Room temperature steak and burger. Really, no decent attempt at an apology or reconciliation after requesting an early bill. I have never looked more forward to a burger and been so disappointed. The oysters were good, but that's genetics and farming. Meh.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Gastrobus Saturday

Gastrobus Roadside Bistro
Gastrobus on Facebook

Checking out my Twitter feed pre-Saturday tennis and errand running, I saw that GastroBus was going to be in the hood right around my post-tennis lunchtime. Score. We pulled up to Hillhurst and Price, right where they said they would be, illegally parked and strolled up for some grubbing.

Nice little menu, I was intrigued by the dates but trying to be healthy so instead ordered a BLT and a sweet corn salad. D caved on the skirt steak sandwich with tomatoes and chimichurri. The prices are certainly right and their attitude was lovely. We chatted with Lana at the counter while Tony made our sandwiches.

Things to Love at Ludobites

Ludobites at Breadbar
8718 West 3rd Street
Los Angeles, CA 90048
310 205 0124
Through August 22, 2009

Last week I hit Ludobites for the third time this summer. For the third time in 6 weeks, no less. His food is not only that good, it is that fun. Inventive, ever changing, playful.

One thing to notice about the menu at Ludobites is how different it is with every visit. Not 100% different. But tweaks seem to be made to each dish, I notice, when I have had one repeatedly.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Patina Group Celebrates Summer with Bi-Coastal Tomato Fest

This just in from Vanessa Kristal of JS2 Communications:
The juicy jewel of summer takes center stage at Patina Group restaurants on both coasts
Patina Restaurant Group announces its first national Tomato Festival this summer beginning August 1st on both coasts and lasting until the tomatoes run out. Special menus featuring a wide range of heirloom and local vine-ripened tomato varietals will be available at various Patina Restaurant Group locations from coast to coast. There is nothing more symbolic of summer than a ripe tomato. Delicious on its own, with nothing more than sea salt and olive oil, in the hands of a great chef the summer tomato becomes a masterpiece. Add one in, put one under, layer it, chop it, puree it, serve it hot or cold, an heirloom tomato adds the very essence of summer to all that it graces. In glorious hues of red, yellow, green, purple and orange, these versatile fruit scream summer and are impossible to resist.
“Cherokee purple, green zebra, ida gold, brandywine, black crimson – these are just a few of the varieties of tomatoes that we will spotlight,” said Patina Restaurant Group Chef and Founder Joachim Splichal. “We make them into cocktails, tarts, gazpacho, terrines, sorbets, chutney, salads, risotto, consommé – the possibilities are endless, and always a pleasant surprise. It’s one of the creative pleasures I most look forward to every year.”
Patina Restaurant Group’s chefs work with local farmers, such as Double Decker Farm in Hillsdale, NY, Windrose Farm in Paso Robles, CA, and Coastal Organics in Oxnard, CA, to source the best and most diverse produce available. They also collaborate with greenmarkets and forge long-standing relationships with tomato specialists across the country.

I am particularly enamored of Patina's menu, naturally being fancy like that.

Grilled Octopus, Tomate au Sel, Onaway Potatoes, Blackberry Essence $16
Tomato & Melon Tartar, Cured Kobe Beef, Black Bread $18
Salt Crusted Santa Barbara Prawn, BLTA $22
Warm Lobster Salad, Sesame Ginger, Barbecue Corn Sorbet, Tomato Air $24
Grilled Honjake Salmon, Blistered Baby Heirloom Tomato, Saffron Emulsion Lemon Basil $32
East Coast:
  • Brasserie: 100 East 53rd Street, New York, NY. (212) 751-4840
  • Brasserie 8½: 9 West 57th Street, New York, NY. (212) 829-0812
  • Café Centro: 200 Park Ave, New York, NY. (212) 818-1222
  • Naples 45: 200 Park Ave, New York, NY. (212) 972-7001
  • Nick & Stef’s Steakhouse: 9 Penn Plz, New York, NY. (212) 563-4444
  • Rock Center Café: 20 West 50th Street, New York, NY. (212) 332-7620
  • The Sea Grill: 19 W 49th St, New York, NY. (212) 332-7610
West Coast:
  • Patina: 141 S. Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA. (213) 972-3331
  • Cafe Pinot 700 W 5th St, Los Angeles, CA. (213) 239-6500
  • Catal 1580 S Disneyland Dr # 103, Anaheim, CA. (714) 774-4442
  • Kendall's Brasserie 135 N Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA. (213) 972-7322
  • Nick + Stef's LA 330 S Hope St, Los Angeles, CA. (213) 680-0330
  • Pinot Bistro: 12969 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, CA. (818) 990-0500
  • Pinot Provence: 686 Anton Blvd., Costa Mesa, CA. (714) 444-5900
  • Tangata 2002 N Main St, Santa Ana, CA. (714) 550-0906
  • Zucca Ristorante 801 S Figueroa St, Los Angeles, CA. (213) 614-7800

Lucky Devils' Questionable Behavior; The Other Side

After ruminating over EaterLA's coverage on Hollywood Girl's complaint and the ensuing comments thread during my lovely drive home from my Pasadena cubicle with a belly full of Inaka's spicy tuna bowl, (Yes, haters, spicy tuna! Blah blah bad spicy tuna blah blah spice covers flavor of poor quality tuna blah blah sushi on a Monday blah blah muthaeffing blah. Well, I like the occasional spicy tuna bowl, yum yum yum with a little hot miso on the left over sushi rice. Suck it.) I spent some time considering the opposing argument of Lucky Devil's management posted on the alternate newsy food site, newcomer Grub Street LA.

What's Up in the Blogosphere

With nothing much to report on after a week working the nether regions of California and another week of the same to come, I decided to share with you reportage from blogs of note close to my heart.

Matt of launches his series, The Pantheon of Animals on Food GPS. Matt describes this carnivorous series as ranking the animals used for cooking and eating according to four criteria: Tastiness, Usefulness, Versatility, and Relevance. He starts the series with the 10th ranked animal, the turkey.

itself reports that Chef/Partner Gary Menes is leaving Palate Food + Wine to chef at Marche, an opening replacing Max in Studio City. Leaving me wondering, who will be in the kitchen at Palate?

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Great Drink Program by Michael Tips & Good Grub at Essex Public House on Hollywood

Essex Public House
6683 Hollywood Blvd.
Hollywood CA, 90028

Friday night making our way by foot headed west on Hollywood, D requested a stop into Essex Public House, a gastropub located next door to Bella on the north side of the street. D had been pleasantly surprised earlier this week when bopping around Hollywood with bandmate R, amazing drinks, he reported. And he was right.

Michael Tips, the master behind the drinks program, chatted with us while we perused the list. I was white whining it Friday night but D convinced me to order a cocktail. Rarely endorsing mixed drinks beyond a vodka soda or martini, his suggestion holds weight. He tried the Five Points. With lemon juice, Woodford Reserve Bourbon, Honey Simple Syrup, this is a modern interpretation of a sidecar. And delicious.

And beautiful. Note oversized ice cubes.

Michael told us he does not buy his cubes from Neve Luxury Ice, that would be too spendy. Rather, he makes the giant cubes in the back and chips off smaller pieces for each evening.

Feeling brave under the spell of our friendly conversation with Michael, I ordered the Grace, Stoli Raz, Lime Juice, Simple Syrup, Hefty Spoonful of Strawberries, Topped with Champagne.

Normally way too sweet sounding for me, but this was easy on the simple syrup. Summery berry deliciousness.

No oversized ice cube chips, but this was so refreshing and fizzy. I would return here again when in the neighborhood just for a cocktail. As a matter of fact, after seeing the beautifully art directed content light 500 Days of Summer at the Arclight Saturday night, we walked back to the Eseex to have a late dinner. Michael and crew were behind a not quite full bar, so we sallied up and ordered some grub.

I was trying to be somewhat discreet with my camera, a bar being relatively more public than a table, so shots of last nights suppage kinda suck. My apologies.

I started with squash blossoms, something I jump at anytime they are on the menu. Essex's are stuffed with niçoise olives and ahi tuna, satisfyingly hearty and salty but overtaking the light zucchini flavor of the blossoms. A delicious romesco sauce accompanies, which I used to nibble with other stuff instead of on the blossoms themselves. Lightly fried, lightly battered. Good.

A standard beet, orange and burrata salad was also good. This one has a little kick to it containing chunks of hazelnut brittle. Not my favorite thing, but it definitely added an unexpected dimension, and D really loved them sizable chunks. The freshness and flavors of this salad are solid.

We shared the fairly giant bowl of grilled sweet corn succotash. This is a winning side dish for any menu item. Lots of corn cut from the cob, and not overcooked. Slices of new potato and halves of cherry tomatoes. On top two cherry tomatoes were stuffed with jalapeño cheese, a nice touch reminiscent of jalapeño poppers (one of my favorite guilty pleasures).

For a main, D ordered the Grilled Angus Hanger Steak. Petite Tomato Salad, Housemade Steak Sauce. Because he orders steak medium-well/well, I am almost embarrassed to show a picture of the resulting shoe leather. The tomato salad was gorgeous, though. Dressed very lightly, with leaves of arugula, the summery freshness of the tomatoes really stood out.

After some internal debate, I decided to show it anyway, to represent the generous sizing of the cut.

In summation, of the food I would say the style lands somewhere between pub grub and gastropub. Gastropub bring to mind London's The Eagle and their Spanish influenced fare or locally The Village Idiot on Melrose with their slightly more highbrow food. However, the items on the menu and their quality is miles above the food served at Ye Rustic Inn on Hillhurst (not that I don't enjoy Rustic's meatloaf). Unsure how to categorize the food at Essex correctly, I will say that I was very pleased with the quality of their food, the freshness of the ingredients and the variety on the menu. Other tempting items on the menu include Pork Belly + Scallop Skewers, Figs in a Blanket (prosciutto wrapped figs), Duck Confit Salad, Short Rib Shepherd's Pie, and Oxtail Beef Ravioli. This hearty menu definitely deserves another go-round by yours truly. And if timed correctly, the 2 bus will pick us up down the hill and drop us off in front of Essex 24 minutes later.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Sexual Harrassment in Hiring Policies at Lucky Devils in Hollywood?

I was floored when I read this blogpost by Isn't she lovely, this Hollywood girl. I was referred to the post via my friend Tony at Sinosoul, in the midst of his pan of the Lucky Devil burger.

This whole conversation makes me bristle with neck hair standing on end. If I were younger, I would consider throwing a chair across the room. My anger was much more apparent when I lived in Doc Martens.

"I go in, fill out all the paperwork and the dude keeps staring at me, talking to another server and let's me sit there forever. He finally sits down with me, looks over my paperwork, asks me if i have any questions (which I did about parking and he says "street, figure it out, ask around".) He still staring at me then he starts talking how the restaurant is a place with open communication regarding safety issues, sexual harassment, etc. Then he starts saying how the restaurant has a certain look that they're going for and says he doesn't think my hairstyle goes with the look because he says it looks like I just rolled out of bed & if I can change it (for the record, another server walked in with her hair in almost the same style as mine). So I pull it down into a regular ponytail. That's when things start to get uncomfortable and weird. He asks me if I can go to the restroom and put on some makeup. I say I already have makeup on, that I don't wear a lot to begin with and that I can't wear eye makeup at the moment until my eyes heal. Then he gets up, goes back to talking to the other server, is gone for like another 5 minutes, then he sits back down with me (I'm already thinking "wtf?" and I'm close to saying I'm feeling rather uncomfortable & bailing).

When he sits back down, he tells me that "we" have a problem. He said that I looked different than when I came in for my interview because then I look put together and wholesome and now I don't (um, I don't look wholesome now, yet you want me to go to the restroom & put on enough makeup to look like a whore? confused much? I know I was was). I ask if I possibly look different because the glasses and he says it's not the glasses, but asks if it's necessary that I wear them. (no, douche, they're the fake trendy ones from like 1989...of course, they're real, you idiot...and they're PRADA!). Now here's the best part, he looks me up and down when he says I look and hints that I'm heavier than when I interviewed (he's staring at my midsection). Then he tells me "well you can either come back tomorrow and try again or we can be done here". I'm so shocked & so appalled that I'm absolutely speechless. I can't even make the words come out of my mouth & trust me they were in my head (like: "I think we're done here because you're making me severely uncomfortable" "do you realize how ILLEGAL the shit spewing from your mouth is" "Are you fucking serious?"). So I say nothing because i physically can't & he says "well you're not saying anything so we're done here. get out" . I say "yeah, i guess we are" and I leave."

Wow. Just wow. I remember being young and unable to verbalize when my rights were challenged or I was being taken advantage of. The funny thing is, as one gets older and able to stand up for themselves more confidently the need to do so begins to evaporate. Also surprising is the fact that Hollywood Girl has contacted two law firms and neither jumped to take the case.

Well, Hollywood Girl, I will not be eating at Lucky Devils. Not this weekend and not ever. No one deserves this kind of treatment.

Psst: I don't eat anywhere Tony tells me not to anyway, but this time I am taking a stand for Hollywood Girl. :-p

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Project by Project, Plate by Plate

California Science Center
700 Exposition Park Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90037

Project by Project
P.O. Box 7093
General Post Office
New York, NY 10116

Asian Pacific Islander Small Business Program (API SBP)

231 E. 3rd St. #G106
Los Angeles, CA 90013

Last Saturday, Project by Project held their annual benefit Plate by Plate, this year to benefit the Asian Pacific Islander Small Business Program. More details about the partnership between these two groups can be found here. The event was a smashing success, packed with people, good food and interesting drink. Several things about the event struck me as special, one of them being the prominence of these API SBP Success Stories front and center.

API SBP helped Ladda Panvong and Polawat Khunthikuki get their Thai clothing store Muzer off the ground.

Sy Tiaprasith was assisted in developing and opening his own auto repair shop on Beverly Blvd, Sy's Auto Repair.

The API SBP aided Diep Tran in crafting a business plan and eventually opening her restaurant, Good Girl Dinette in Highland Park.

Sushi Chef Matsuda was assisted in setting up an outreach program to non-Japanese people to elevate enrollment in his sushi school, the Sushi Chef Institute.

All these success stories are not only heart warming, but speak volumes about the strength and knowledge behind the API SBP. They do good work for members of their community. Good work with measurable results. I was impressed.

I was also impressed with the caliber of the event. Delicious food, drink, entertainment and crowds dressed to kill packed the rooms all night long. Walking in the door just past 7, I was greeted immediately by these lovely little cupcakes.

Tea Infused cupcakes from Layers. Below is Crimson Berry.

Crimson Berry -- Four berry (strawberry, raspberry, blueberry, blackberry) cupcake colored crimson red infused with Crimson Berry Iced Tea. Filled with four berry compote, topped with raspberry/strawberry frosting and fresh berries

Above is Sassafrass: Sassafras -- Sassafras Chai Tea infused cupcake (ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, pepper, and black tea) filled with wild yam mousse frosted with Vanilla Swiss meringue butter cream and topped with freshly grated cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg.

The first actual thing I put in my mouth was from Michel Cordon Bleu, Inc. The Finest Smoked Fish.
I don't know what they called this, but it was like a smoked salmon and creme fraiche mille feuille...basically layers of puff pastry with smoked salmon, caviar and creme fraiche. D went back for a couple of these.

Vanille Patisserie in San Marino was on site with various mousse type treats.

Above is Concerto, with Pistachio & Chocolate mousses.

Katsuya manned a booth, and the line was loooooooong. I was interested to see what everyone was waiting so patiently for because I don't think their food is all that amazing, and there were a lot of tables without lines. And it did look pretty tempting.

Thinly sliced Berkshire pork...

shabu shabu. Snapping pics and a press bracelet did not get me a taste without waiting in line.

This event was rather boozy, with all kinds of lovely beverages available at many different tables all over the event. MoMo Nigori Sake was on hand.

MoMo was offering straight sake shots and sake cosmopolitans. Both were light and lovely, although the unfiltered sake was very milky. Milkier than the standard Sayuri unfiltered that I often drink. I am not a good judge of the quality of their sake, as I know next to nothing about sake.

Moonshadows was represented.

In small clear cups, the layered all together the ingredients above. Truffled Cauliflower Panna Cotta, Lobster Gelee and Butter Poached Lobster, American Sturgeon Caviar.

While it tasted pretty good, the person behind the table said the restaurant just brought in whatever was left from the week's service and put it all together. I don't necessarily want to hear this when eating seafood. But OK.


Japon Bistro from Pasadena offered something very nice.

A simple and spicy salmon ceviche. These went as fast as they could fill up the cups.

I loved the creative table display at Mendocino Farms. Giant heirloom tomatoes in wire baskets holding up a chalkboard-like table full (I never actually saw it full, there was always a short line) of sandwich plates.

On each plate were two small sandwiches. One was a tiny bahn mi from Korubota pork belly. D had never has bahn mi, but has heard me rave about it forever. He loved.

The bread was beautifully soft on the inside with a nice crunchy resistance to the tooth on the 0utside.

Mendocino Farms also offered heirloom tomato and arugula BLTs with thickly sliced bacon and housemade mayo.

Courvoisier in the house. I am sure as the evening wore on, that table became a little lighter.

Wabi-Sabi Restaurant from Chino serving up fried oysters.

I could not get an appetizing shot from the dark corner, but these were delicious.

The infamous Scoops and Golden State partnership was serving up beer floats!

Lychee Ice Cream and sour beer, this was light, creamy, fizzy and sweet. The ice cream and beer partnership were very well balanced with neither flavor nor texture overpowering the other.

And scooping for Scoops was my friend Matt from

Debbie Lee from the Food Network's The Next Food Network Star was one of several celebrities on hand.

Once we were full, we took drinks and headed upstairs to the beautiful bamboo garden to peruse the silent auction.

Yours truly put a bid in the silent auction for 4 one hour tennis sessions with Pro Ken Huang and a one month pass to Equinox. I assume my bid was not high enough because I haven't received a phone call. I am waiting.

There were several $50 gift certificates available to Corkbar, and when I say several I mean maybe 6?

Four tickets to the Dodgers v. Padres September 6th.

And some gorgeous photos of Marilyn, one on the balcony at her Hollywood apartment.

Eponymous Marilyn on the beach.

And I cannot remember if this was from the same shoot above nor not...hard to tell from the pics. But I can never resist a gander at some Marilyn Monroe, bidding on these started at $1.5k.

A view from above. The crowd was thick and very fashionable. I tasted, drank, eyeballed, shot and made my imminent escape around 8 pm-ish. I also saw and chatted with Josh from FoodGPS and Neil from Food Marathon.

A successful event and a worthy cause. Many thanks to Abby of Pleasure Palate for brokering the invite.