Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Top Chef Obsessed: Marcel Vigneron Cooking Hatchi at Breadbar, Century City 12/17

Hatchi at Breadbar
10250 Santa Monica Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90067
310 277 3770

What is this Hatchi thing at Breadbar, you might ask? You have read me waxing on about Chef Ludo Lefebvre at Breadbar in Beverly Hills here, here and here. Now I am at it again, rubbing my hands together after tasting Chef Marcel's food at The Grove last week.  Breadbar's website explains Hatchi:

"Series: 8 Plates at 8 Dollars. This unique venture features a different guest chef every month preparing an original, one-night-only suite of eight plates, including six 'savory' dishes and two 'sweet' creations. Guests can enjoy as few or as many of the eight dishes as they would like, so make sure to reserve a table for these outstanding culinary collaborations!"

And Marcel is up to bat December 17th.  Thus far, December 17th is too far in advance for reservations through the Opentable system. Who do I gotta pay to secure a reservation for me and the hubs?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Rockwell, VT via Los Feliz

Rockwell, VT
1714 N. Vermont Ave
(enter off alley behind Vermont Restaurant)
Los Angeles, CA 90027

This weekend I was surprised to see how aged the sign is behind my long beloved Vermont Restaurant. Vermont has been open since I lived in Hollywood, back in 2000-2001, and we used to be regulars there, very regular. At the time there was a dearth of high/middle-end restaurants on the East Side. The Arclight hadn't opened (or was just in the process), Magnolia, Bowery, Mission Catina, Blair's, Edendale...all yet to come. Time flies. And the Vermont sign along the alley ages.

Between my last visit to Vermont and Sunday September 27th, the back end of Vermont has been taken over by Rockwell, VT.  Josh, our wonderful server Sunday, spun a long and drawn out story about how some of the people behind Mark's in West Hollywood are involved. I was unable to keep the story straight, although I am sure T did and will email me the details which I can then insert here.  Per Eater LA, Vermont chef Stephanie Beaucamp is responsible for the menu and Steve Trowbridge of Rhetroactive is responsible for the gorgeous interior/exterior.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Two boys, two girls.

The puppies are here!

That is all.

Psst: This was my 301st post.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Cheftestant Cook-Off: Bravo's Marcel Vigneron vs. Food Network's Jeffrey Saad

TV Celebrity Chef Cook-Off
Los Angeles Magazine
The Grove
189 The Grove Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90036

Chef Marcel Vigneron of Top Chef Season 2 now sous cheffing under Jose Andres at The Bazaar.


Chef Jeffrey Saad of The Next Food Network Star, now making cooking videos as Ingredient Smuggler for The Food Network.

When did celebrity cook-offs become to the early 2000's what American Bandstand was to the 1960's? I have not been tracking this cultural zeitgeist since its genesis, only purposefully for the last 2 years or so, and probably circumstantially in my mind for the past 6 years. We (the universal we) now DVR religiously at least one cooking show, care where our produce was grown, know the hours of several local farmer's markets and have read both the biography of Alice Waters and the raunchy early memoirs of Anthony Bourdain.  And apparently we squee like stuck pigs when the handsome Marcel Vigneron messes with a nitro charge and swoon at the sight of sexy Jeff Saad gesticulating over how to get a good sear on some seafood.

Review Sans Pics: Le Saint Amour

Love the atmosphere at Saint Amour.  Brightly lit casual French bistro in the true sense of the word bistro (unlike Bistro LQ which is decidedly NOT a bistro).  Short but sweet list of wines by the glass, French focused but with a few New World options.  Menu all French bistro: Moules Frites, Frisee au Lardons, Charcuterie, L'escargot, Saucisson Lyonais on Lentils, Boudin Noir, Steak au Poivre avec Frites, etc.

The concept is simple and lovely, the execution could be better. Charcuterie meats were overly oily, moules were small and just a hair over cooked, french fries were not salty enough (quel dommage), and my BIL's steak was just meh. 

What I do like? I liked my server, a tall handsome French man who did an excellent job of choosing wine to go with my meal.  I loved the butter lettuce salad, lightly dressed in a balsamic vinaigrette with lots of shallots.  Adored the fact that there were many French people dining there, which makes me feel like they are definitely cooking French bistro fare for the French and not for the Californians.  Fortunately, only a trace of French attitude and in a good way both when making the reservation on the phone and while in the restaurant.  Not even one TRACE of the Ho'Wood/LA attitude one gets from some of the servers when dining at Church & State. The feeling here is one of authenticity, the staff is brisk and business-like, but takes very good care of your needs, just like any bistro in France where they appreciate your business and don't give a merde that you are not French.

For me the nail in the coffin of my discontent was the lack of air conditioning. I was drowning in a puddle of my own sweat by the time we were done eating. I had to leave my companions while they fiddled with the bill to get some fresh air. Come on, my Gaelic friends, in the US we really prefer ambient temps below 80 in our dining rooms.

I plan to return again when the fall starts to cool off and taste the food again.  There are enough untasted items on the menu to warrant a second visit, maybe this time with camera.

Le Saint Amour in Los Angeles

Friday, September 25, 2009

Ticket Giveaway To L.A. Luxury Chocolate Salon October 11th

Los Angeles Luxury Chocolate Salon
The Pasadena Center
300 Green Street
Pasadena, CA
Sunday October 11
11 AM- 5PM

Readers, Twitter followers, chocolate lovers!  My hosts at the Los Angeles Luxury Chocolate Salon have given me the opportunity to pass along two tickets to this wondrous tasting event.

image supplied by LA Chocolate Salon

Participating vendors whose chocolate you will get to taste include:
And so many, many, many more!

In order to win these tickets, please respond to this post in the comments section describing your love for chocolate in one word.  Please leave your twitter ID or log-in using your google account for contact purposes.

The winner will be chosen Thursday October 1st at random.   Good luck and delicious eating!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Playing With Picasa

Larry, one of my readers, recently turned me on to Picasa after reading about my need to better utilize white balance and my struggles with tech support at Adobe, re: their acursed Photoshop program. I uploaded Picasa from Google, and low and behold it worked right away. Here are the results of a few recent shots with some tweaking via Picasa.

Blue Bottle Coffee at Equator Books in Venice. Yes, Matt. I still think it is the best coffee on the planet after back-to-back taste testings at Equator and Intelligentsia last weekend. No more cuppings at Intelligentsia, sadly. That was solely a grand opening event.

Below hot chocolate, espresso and a drip from Intelligentsia, Venice. Picasa allows me to make a watermark on my photos. I never really thought this was necessary, after all who would steal the photos of a lowly blogger with a day job? Corby Kummer for one, that's who. And me. I took one of Caroline on Crack's twitter photos the other day in an insomniac haze and didn't credit her til she reminded me. Taking someone's image without proper credit is a huge issue in internet publishing. HUGE! Do I like this watermark? Maybe I do. It's small, it's subtle, and it's fairly effortless.

And a beautiful peach dessert from Ludobites...when originally posted was quite dark with few highlights and an inability to make out the curry on and under the mascarpone.

This is actually much truer to the color of the dessert. It is going to take some playing with in order to make sure the edits really represent what I saw, and don't end up looking artificial. I see strange highlights and a slightly alien cast to the photos of some of my peers that I want to be sure to avoid.

A ridiculously delicious slider from an otherwise challenging dinner at One Sunset. This was previously way too dark to even consider publishing. At a blogger dinner hosted by the One Group, we barely had candlelight to aid in shot making.

Thank you, Larry. You have done me a solid.

New Executive Chef at Checkers Downtown: Todd Allison

Checkers Restaurant
Checkers Hilton
535 So. Grand Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90071

To my in-box from the computer of Jessica Barry at The Barry Group PR:

"As the Downtown LA dining scene continues to heat up, Checkers Downtown, one of the city’s most acclaimed restaurants of recent decades, has announced the addition of a bright new executive chef, Todd Allison, along with a refined new menu and a contemporary new design throughout. Blending an independent sensibility, a fresh perspective and the warmth, service and quality of a bygone era, Checkers combines the charm and depth of old Los Angeles with the vibrancy of today’s Downtown. The new menu and renovations, including dining room, patio and lobby lounge, will unveil on October 5 and a calendar of mixology and wine-inspired special events in both the dining room and lounge will begin in late September."

Chef Todd Allison is a graduate of Scottsdale Culinary Le Cordon Bleu, and has worked beneath both James Boyce (of Studio in Scottsdale and the restaurant at Montage in Laguna Beach) and Michael Mina (Michael Mina SF & LV, Nobhill LV, Strip Steak LV, XIV LA, etc).

Highlights of Chef Allison's menu will include:

"Pan Roasted Loup de Mer with braised Underwood Ranch vegetables and Romesco sauce, Herb Crusted Rack of Lamb with Rancho Gordo heirloom bean ragout, shank meat and natural jus, and Gilroy Roasted Garlic and Fava Bean Angnolotti with Chanterelle mushrooms, crispy pancetta and English pea coulis showcase Allison’s taste for the esoteric while Grilled Loch Duart Salmon with grilled baby vegetables and lemon buerre blanc and Grilled Black Angus Filet Mignon with sautéed wild spinach, baked Yukon Golds and roasted shallot demi-glace."

The big question is, will Allison be able to put Checkers back on the map as a go-to location in the burgeoning DTLA food scene? We shall see!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Welcome Rosa Mexicano

Rosa Mexicano
800 W Olympic Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90015
(213) 746-0001

Last night in partnership with Los Angeles Magazine, Rosa Mexicano opened its doors to media and frinds alike to share its perspective on Los Angeleno Mexican food and entertainment in the L.A. Live complex, right next door to Flemings and around the corner from the Staples center.

While Rosa Mexicano did not seem to make their list of L.A.'s best new bars (maybe Rosa is too new?), everyone still had a great time sucking down creative libations, tequila shots and Mexican beers, and Los Angeles Magazine was definitely a firm presence in the house

Monday, September 21, 2009

Ruth Reichl at Williams-Sonoma Santa Monica Thursday September 24th

1600 Montana Avenue
Santa Monica, CA
Thursday September 24th

"This is not just another cookbook; Gourmet Today tracks the great American food revolution."
~Ruth Reichl

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Happy Birthday Rachelle at Mesa in the O.C.

725 Baker Street
Costa Mesa, CA 92626

Girls' mini-weekend in Costa Mesa and we headed to Mesa restaurant just a few minutes from our hotel and a short walk to several interesting bars. Mesa is owned by the same investment group that owns Firefly in Studio City, not surprising considering the minimalist nature of both their websites. Neither website is a good place to go when looking for information about the chefs, how long they have been open, the architecture and design, etc. The website does not even offer the cocktail menu nor the wine list. Le sigh. I must make phone calls. And this review? Again with the iPhone. I brought both my cameras for the weekend, but left them both in the hotel room.

Celebrating Rachelle's birthday in a de facto kind of way, we hadn't planned it but it is Monday. This is a great year for her. She has a satisfying job that has led her to a man she is very much in love with. There is nothing better than seeing your friends happy. I have never really seen Rachelle unhappy, per se. Her glass is always half full. But I am glad she is in love and obviously thrilled about it.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Hanging with a Top Chef: Stefan's at The Farm

Stefan's at L.A. Farm
3000 Olympic Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90404

The desire to try anything new in Los Angeles is met with the longing to be a part of anything Top Chef, and Angelenos are graced with not just one but three Top Chef cheffed restaurants. Ilan Hall, winner of Top Chef Season 2, has The Gorbals up and running downtown. Michael Voltaggio from thie current season is cooking up high end noms at The Langham Hotel in Pasadena and Stefan Richter, the cocky Finn finalist of Top Chef Season Five has revamped L.A. Farm in decor and menu in Santa Monica. This week we headed via the 704 from Echo Park to Santa Monica to meet Holly of The Michelin Project and her friend D (heretofore referred to as HFD) to check out Richter's confident swagger in person and his efforts in the kitchen. All were greeted at this corner of the bar right next to the front door by Richter himself and his shit-eating grin.

Before sitting down to dine, we tasted some cocktails at the bar. Holly ordered a specialty cocktail that tasted to me decidedly like a Cosmopolitan. Stefan told us later, "It's not a gay drink, I love it man." He and D shared a few of these throughout the evening.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Not New, Not L.A., Not Newsworthy. San Diego's Blue Point Coastal Cuisine

Blue Point Coastal Cuisine
565 Fifth Ave.
San Diego, CA

Last weekend, in San Diego for a family birthday party, a few members of aforementioned family got together in the Gas Lamp neighborhood for dinner at Blue Point. Blue Point, as mentioned in the title of this post, is neither new nor very newsworthy. But the food is good, and I have never eaten anything there I have been unhappy with.

Chef Jonathan Hale has cooked at Blue Point since 2001. Born in India and raised in London, Hale started his career in the kitchen after a stint as a waiter and a degree from CIA, NYC. After CIA, he worked as Chef Tournant (swing chef, working whatever station needed) at the Renaissance Restaurant in Aspen, then under Chef Jean-Marie Josselin at A Pacific Cafe in Hawaii. He cooked under Josselin 7 years, then moved to San Diego to helm Blue Point, the first sea food restaurant in the Gas Lamp neighborhood. I find his food to be consistent from dish to dish and visit to visit, something I haven't found elsewhere in that neighborhood.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Changing the Fast Food Paradigm & Breakfast on the Road at Del Taco

Del Taco
2269 S El Camino Real
Oceanside, CA 92056
(760) 433-8450

Road Trip Breakfast at Del Taco

As a heavy driver in Southern California, ground zero of the fast food movement, fast food is a reality in my life from time to time. I think in this era of long work hours, heavy traffic and an economy necessitating dual incomes, the convenience and price point of fast food makes it a reality in most people's lives at least occasionally. A couple demons plague the reputation of fast food. One of these is the safety of eating fast food while driving. A self-selected poll of readers at Reporter News tells us that almost 60% of poll takers eat in their car at least once a week. After passing and implementing a law making it illegal to drive and hold your cell phone simultaneously, I think a heightened awareness about what it is safe to do while driving (in addition to simply, uh, driving?) has developed among my peers.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Color Me Easily Amused

From my new most favorite blog, Eat Me Daily, come links for my two new most favorite internet time wasters.

Cheese or Font?

Steakhouse or Gay Bar?


Saturday, September 12, 2009

Food Digger & Chef Redzikowski: Bond ST, Thompson Hotel Beverly Hills

9360 Wilshire Boulevard
Beverly Hills, CA 90212
(310) 601-2255

This last week, Will and all the gentlemen behind Food Digger in partner with Chef Brian Redzikowski co-hosted a modern Japanese food extravaganza for a legion of food bloggers to introduce us all to Chef Redzikowski's food and think tank about the Food Digger restaurant review site and its features.

BondST is located in the Thompson Hotel on Wilshire in Beverly Hills. There were no surprises decor-wise in the hotel lobby (except a rude bartender when I asked him where the elevators were located). In the Thompson Hotel group are also included the Hollywood Roosevelt, the Thompson, Smyth Tribeca, 6 Columbus, and 60 Thompson all located in NYC. Here in LA anyway, the Thompson hotels are known for pandering to celebrities rather than the regular Joe which most likely explains the bartender but also explains their exclusive roof top lounge, where our sublime supper was located. Only Thompson Hotel guests and people who, "know someone" are allowed on the roof. Understandably so, I am sure they want to keep their roof elegant, above the fray of The Bazaar Bar Centro come-lately crowd.

Close to sunset guests linger at the roof top bar, lounge on the sofas and climb the stairway to linger poolside or chat in a cabana by a heat lamp. It really is a stunning space.

The Food Digger boys secured for us an antechamber to the bar area, an enclosed outdoor room for our private dining area so we could enjoy the last gasps of summer and watch the sun set on Wilshire heading west toward the Pacific.


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Bistro LQ: No Pommes Frites

Bistro LQ
8009 Beverly Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90048-4503
(323) 951-1088

This was the maiden voyage for my new camera, having practiced only at home prior. I have been reading Vegan Yum Yum, a food blogger who also has published a very beginner's guide to using a DSLR. Sadly, being out to dinner at a rather fancy restaurant, I didn't follow her cardinal rule #9. Take lots of photos. Dining with friends or family one doesn't see regularly can inhibit the level of obnoxiousness to which one might climb when obsessing on food shots using natural lighting in a dim restaurant. However, I am not entirely unhappy with the inaugural dinner.

Bistro LQ stands for Bistro Laurent Quenioux. Raised in Sologne, France, cooked at The Regency Club in LA, cheffed at the 7th Street Bistro in DTLA from the mid 80's, he ran the well received Bistro K in Pasadena in the early 2000's. Bistro LQ is housed on Beverly near the corner of Fairfax in the old Mimosa space.

Quenioux has received accolades on his new venture from, Sinosoul during a dessert degustation, Thrillist immediately after the soft opening, SIV for the LATimes during an Early Bird special, EatingLA, la.foodblogging, the majority of Yelpers, and Opentable diners. It was panned by some of the Yelpers, a few of the Opentable reviews, and taken to task by foodcentricity.

Personally, I/we should have done better research before making our reservations. I am not 100% sure Bistro LQ was the best go-to for our dinner event last night. In retrospect, something earthier might have been more well received. Not that everyone didn't enjoy themselves, I think we all enjoyed the spectacle, the oddities, the unusual flavor profiles listed on Quenioux's menu. But I think a couple of our diner's palate's would have been happier somewhere less risky, bistro with pommes frites perhaps. So many such French places grace our presence in always sunny Los Angeles these days.

Nevertheless! We went, we saw, we ate.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Late Night Foot Rubs at Master Wong's, Early Morning Eats at Sunday Bistro

Master Wong's Foot Clinic
311 E Valley Blvd
San Gabriel, CA 91776
(626) 280-0943

What have we been missing living further west and rarely exploring east of the 110? Hour long foot rubs at Master Wong's for $15, that's what. We entered Wong's at 12:30 am, just about closing time, and they made room for all four of us in a row. We lay down on red velvet covered therapeutic chairs, were blanketed with clean fluffy white towels and given Styrofoam cups of hot tea. The hour long massage was deep and at times challenging, focusing on the feet and legs, moving upward from there during the last 20 minutes of the massage.

Get in there!

Sunday Bistro
1032 E. Valley Blvd
Alhambra, CA 91801
(626) 282-0238

A Very Bad Meal

My husband's uncle once asked me, can all the restaurants I review be that good? Surely every restaurant is not worthy of a drive across town...And this is a good question. Typically I leave negativity out of my blog, usually saving it for Trip Advisor or some other such hosted review site. However, last night D and I shared a meal that was so bad I feel like it should be addressed here.

Before writing the review, I have investigated the Food Blogger Code of Ethics to make sure all bases are covered and I can in good conscience pen a gnarly review.

  • I have visited this restaurant multiple times. No less than 5, and probably more than that. I started dining at this restaurant when it was a new steakhouse, and indeed a hot place to dine. I continued to dine here because I like the architecture of the hotel it lives in, the ambiance of the restaurant, have always had good service, it is not far from my house and is in a good neighborhood for evening walking after dinner. And the food has previously always been good.
  • In the 5+ visits to the restaurant, I have definitely sampled a wide range of items from the menu, and even last night the menu was well represented. Oysters, two appetizers, one entree, a side dish and 3 sauces. This seems a fair amount of items on which to judge, one or even a couple items could be bad and still have had a great dining experience.
  • This is not a new restaurant. Having a hard time gleaning their opening date from their website, the earliest review on Yelp is August 2006, and some investigation on Eater LA tells me they did open in 2006.
  • I did not receive an item for free, and indeed despite lots of questions and a tiny point-and-shoot (no flash), our bartender/server did not recognize me as a food blogger.
  • I am not anonymous. People can respond to what I write, my photo is on my blog and anyone can chit chat with me on Twitter with my blog names as my Twitter ID. @foodshethought.

Friday, September 4, 2009

L.O.V.E Delivery

Los Angeles Organic Vegetables Express
p: 310-821-LOVE
f: 310-591-8251

Playing around with my new camera is so much more fun the day after my produce box arrives.

Just shooting some pics using the natural sunlight streaming through the smoke and into my living room window.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Culinary Tour of Little Saigon with Chef Robert Danhi

Chef Robert Danhi
Southeast Asian Flavors, Adventures in Cooking the Foods of Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia & Singapore

Saturday September 19, 2009 launches the first of three culinary tours in Little Saigon, guided by Thai food expert Chef Robert Danhi. The 19th is a tour of Northern Vietnamese cuisine, Saturday October 17th is Central Vietnam, and Saturday November 21st Chef Danhi will lead guests through the cuisine of Southern Vietnam.

Chef Danhi's book, "not a cookbook, a food book"

On Saturday August 29th, Chef Danhi led a group of media people, writers and bloggers on the Northern Cuisine Vietnamese Tour. Our participation in the tour was negotiated by the wonderful Vanessa Kristal of JS² Communications. Also in attendance were Esther of e*starLA, Josh of Food GPS, Emma of LAWeekly's Squid Ink, Eddie from Deep End Dining whose wife is awesome, as well as writers from Bon Appetite (Alisa) and Gourmet magazine.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

School Garden at Milor High, Rialto USD

Trying out mobile blogging...and unsure yet of the affect. Can't post more than 5 pics at a time, or choose their order. However I can share some pictures of the school garden at a Rialto USD continuation school, Milor High.

Here and there in the garden I see clear evidence of TLC. Above I see ripening figs on a thirsty branch, below I see an unfrightening scarecrow whose clothes don't look too pathetically worn & whose smile remains intact.

Blue Bottle Coffee Company in Los Angeles

Yesterday, LAWeekly's Squid Ink blog reported that Blue Bottle Coffee is being brewed in a second location in Los Angeles. Well, hot damn. A second location? I didn't know there was a first.

Equator Books, a new store specializing in out of print, collectibles, vintage vinyl and some art are now brewing up Blue Bottle. Investigating pics on Equator's website, it looks shockingly reminiscent of Echo Park's own Stories.

This being a long weekend, my having a new camera to play with and all, I will be heading west for some adventuring...and ultimately to find out of Equator is brewing Blue Bottle Coffee Blue Bottle Style, one cup at a time.

image courtesy of Yelp

PS: I am working to confirm the second location. Let's hope it's also to be found further east. Please stay tuned. And yes, regularly a non-coffee drinker due to the acidity in coffee and a tender stomach, if I am this excited about coffee it is because Blue Bottle is that damned good. Thanks T for introducing me to it.