Sunday, September 29, 2013

An Intimate Sushi Omakase Experience at Nozawa Bar (Beverly Hills)

When they built Sugarfish in Beverly Hills, they had planned for Nozawa Bar all along and kept a room in the back for that sole purpose. Now, Nozawa Bar is open and taking reservations for ten people, two seatings per night for a sushi omakase experience. It's not Nozawa wielding the knife, but Osamu Fujita has long worked with Nozawa and has his stamp of approval. After my omakase meal there, I would say perhaps the setting and timing actually allows for a more refined experience than the busy Sushi Nozawa was in Studio City.

I knew my sushi, or thought I did, but for more than a couple of courses at Nozawa Bar I had a few moments where I went "no way, that wasn't ...". There were moments of learning that season really matters, and preparation matters. More on that later, on to the meal first. 

As I said, there are two seatings per night for everyone (at 6PM and 8:30PM), so don't be late! I was five minutes late and missed Fujita-san slicing up the jelly fish for the first course. I didn't miss eating the course, though, luckily (everyone is served the courses at the same time).
jellyfish
The crisp jellyfish was a nice opener to whet your appetite.
Sashimi plate of tuna and octopus before moving on to nigiri sushi
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The nigiri courses start out with a bang with the chu toro. This a blue fin tuna chu toro, although the fattiness is close to oo toro.
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Just like Nozawa's style, the rice is served slightly warm so that the sushi feels like it's melting in your mouth.

Ika (squid)
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Fresh and firm squid on top of a shiso leaf.

Switching to the opposite spectrum of texture is a perfectly creamy Santa Barbara uni
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A generous serving of it, too!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

CAST: The Reinvented Restaurant at Viceroy Santa Monica

Whist at The Viceroy in Santa Monica has reinvented itself as CAST, but Chef Tony DiSalvo is still going strong in the kitchen. The new name, CAST, draws focus to its proximity to the ocean and the seafood dishes.

Pay attention to the crostini section, and don't miss the sea urchin crostini with sea salt, lemon, and larda ($6 each). Perfectly creamy, and the light dressing of salt and lemon brings out the rich flavors even more.

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Equally worthy but less of a splurge is the burrata crostini with pesto, tomato ($3 each). This was also one of the creamiest burrata I've had in LA.
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The crostinis are thin, meant to serve as a vessel to the uni and burrata without masking the flavors.
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Oh, if you are on Instagram, be sure to take a photo and tag @viceroySM. You will get a free glass of sparkling wine for doing so! For a glass of white wine that will go with seafood dishes, we enjoyed the 2010 Supernatural Sauvignon Blanc, Napa, California ($13).

It's not all seafood here, of course. Chef DiSalvo kept his famous Lamb Kefta meatballs because riots might break out if he ever takes it off the menu. At the moment they are served with orange, pistachio, and yogurt ($10)
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We started our feast with the Diver scallops, dungeness crab risotto, snap peas, shiso vinaigrette ($18 or $33 for full size - I believe the one pictured is the half size)
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Perfectly cooked scallops, creamy risotto with chunks of sweet crab, crisp snap peas. What a nice seafood dish, the flavors are light yet satisfying.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Save the Date: IAMLA's Annual Taste of Italy on October 12

We all know how great Italian food and wines are, and we have some great restaurants in Los Angeles, so a Taste of Italy festival in Los Angeles certainly sounds good! The 5th Annual Taste of Italy will be held on October 12, 2013, at beautiful, historic Pico House in downtown LA. The event benefits the Italian American Museum of Los Angeles, which is planned to open in early 2014.

Participants include Di Stefano Cheese (who makes the best burrata in town), Bulgarini Gelato and GROM (my two favorite gelaterias), Trattoria Neapolis, Drago Centro, Il Grano, Fabio Viviani's Cafe Firenze, and more. The event also boasts 100+ Italian wines to be poured (see more participants listed here).

There will be live entertainment from Italian artists and "chanteuses".

The $55 general admission ticket gets you 6 food tickets and 4 beverage tickets (more tickets are available for purchase at the event). The $125 VIP ticket gets you VIP entrance (and red carpet photo), 6 food and 6 beverage tickets, a VIP gift bag, and 20% off your purchase at Gastromercato. Tickets can be purchased here.
PLUS, get $5 OFF your ticket purchase with code GOURMETPIGS.

Want to win VIP tickets for you and your friends? You can create a video of yourself singing Taste of Italy or the SoCal Italian American history for a shot to win (see more details here).

When: October 12, 2013. 5-10PM

Where: Pico House
424 N. Main St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Monday, September 23, 2013

Drago Centro's Latest Cocktail Menu and Bartender

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Yes, there has been a lot of changes in the bar management at Dragon Centro, but the man in charge now has actually been there for a while. Jason Eisner came to work at Drago Centro because he was inspired and wanted to work with Jaymee Mandeville. Now he's taken his experience and designed a fun menu for Drago Centro.

He enhanced whiskey sour with apple nectar in the namesake Drago Sour (bourbon, fuji apple nectar, lemon, maple syrup, egg white,  angostura - $10)
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One of my favorites was the Italian Roots ($14) with cognac, ciaciaro amaro, demerara syrup, chocolate bitters, angostura, vanilla bourbon extract, fernet branca whipped cream
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This is Jason's version of an adult root beer. It smells just like root beer and tastes like a less sweet, more complex version of root beer. And that fernet whipped cream? So much awesomeness.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Casual and Healthy Lunch at Twist Eatery

Twist Eatery recently opened in La Brea, serving breakfast, lunch and baked goods along with coffee.

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The lunch menu is mostly healthy (although they do have a burger if you're so inclined).
I got the Salmon Bowl, with lentil, quinoa salad tossed in a pomegranate, vinaigrette served with moroccan spiced salmon and a citrus salsa ($14)
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The salmon was nicely cooked, still moist, and the sauce and dressing were flavorful yet still light. I really liked this for a healthy yet still filling lunch.
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Thursday, September 19, 2013

September 28: Trattoria Neapolis One Year Anniversary Celebration (Pasadena, CA)

Trattoria Neapolis is one of my favorite places in Pasadena, both for food and drinks, and they're celebrating their one year anniversary next week! On Saturday September 28, starting at 7pm, the different rooms and balcony will turn into different tasting areas with food from Chef Bryant Wigger, wine, beers, distilleries, and Stumptown coffee. Since the menu is not posted on their website, I wanted to share it with you here!

Tickets are only $60 (advance purchase) and looks like it will be a great value! Plus $10 of each ticket purchase will be donated to Foothill Family Service. You can purchase the tickets in advance by calling (626) 792-3000.

Here's the menu and the list of wineries/breweries/distilleries!



TASTING MENU:

A few bite-sized versions of dishes will include:

Vitello Tonnato
Veal Tenderloin, Frisee, Caperberries, Grana Padano
& Ahi Tuna-Caper Aioli

Wood Grilled Baby Octopus
Crispy Potato Torta, Cerignola Olives & Lemon

Arancini
Crispy Lobster Arancini, Sweet Basil, Mozzarella
& Lemon Aioli

Barolo Risotto
Braised Oxtail, Sautéed Brussels Sprouts
& Castelrosso Cheese

Rabbit
Rosemary, Roasted Garlic, Chestnut Farrotto
& Crostini Toscano

Tiramisu
Roasted Bartlett Pears, House Made Ladyfingers, Mascarpone,
Buttered Pecans, Pear Moscato Sorbetto
& Salted Caramel

Bombolini
Pumpkin Spiced Mini Italian Donuts, Limoncello & Pumpkin Crema,
& Candied Pecans
PARTICIPATING
VENDORS:                               
U.S. West Coast Wineries
Duckhorn Vineyards
Stags Leap Wine Cellars
Northstar Winery
Erath Winery
Antica Napa Valley
Rutherford Ranch
Stolpman Vineyards
Frog’s Leap Winery

Italian Wineries
Antinori
Tormaresca
Castello della Sala
Col de’ Salici
Donnafugata
Maculan
Villa Sandi
Cantele
Tenuta
Luisa
Suavia
Moretti Omero
Riseccoli
Tenuta Monteti
Tenuta Argentiera

Distillers & Spirits

Bourbon
Buffalo Trace
Maker’s Mark
Maker’s Mark 46
Rye Whiskey
Templeton Old
Overholt
Knob Creek

Vodka
Tito’s

Scotch
Famous Grouse
Black Grouse

Single Malt Scotch
Auchentoshan Three Wood
Bowmore Islay

Limoncello
Limoncello Originale
Orangecello Blood Orange

Beer
Eagle Rock Brewery
Bootleggers Brewery
Telegraph Brewery
The Bruery

Coffee
Stumptown Coffee Roasters

WHEN:                  Saturday, September 28th
                             7:00 p.m.

WHERE:                336 South Lake Avenue
Pasadena, California 91101

Monday, September 16, 2013

Fishing With Dynamite: The Bomb in Manhattan Beach

Manhattan Beach dining scene is blowing up. Following his success at M. B. Post, Chef David Lefevre opened up Fishing with Dynamite just a few doors down, this time focusing on seafood.

Not to miss at Fishing with Dynamite is their raw bar selection, including (of course) a great selection of eight different oysters. My recent favorite is the Sweet Petite (Cape Cod, MA). Like the name suggests, it's one of the sweetest oysters out there!

Raw Seafood
Think you know scallops? Hold that thought until you try the Peruvian Scallops ($22/dozen), perhaps the most unique item on the raw bar menu. Small yet succulent and sweet, perfectly accented by the grapefruit.
Peruvian Scallop
We also had Littleneck clams ($26/dozen) and Atlantic Lobster ($20 for half), both excellent.
Lobster
Uni lovers (that would be me) shouldn't miss the special and aptly named Bomb.com: hand harvested Santa Barbara sea urchin ($15)
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You can choose two of these sauces: mignonette, cocktail, ponzu, pico de gallo, yuzu kosho mayo, saffron aioli, remoulade. Which one you should get depends on what raw items you're getting!
sauces

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Cocktails are also great here and designed to go with the seafood dishes and there are options for all palates from martini lovers to those who like richer, sweeter cocktails like flips. If you want something spicier, try the Regalo de Dios (Hacienda de Chihuahua sotol, Combier, strawberry-rhubarb puree, serrano, rhubarb bitters).
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Those who prefer more aromatic drinks should opt for Through the Looking Glass (No. 3 gin, Tio Pepe fino sherry, Cocchi Americano, orange bitters, Dolin dry vermouth rinse).

There were also a couple of specials on the menu that day:
Hamachi, avocado, ponzu, radish, serrano, shiso ($16)
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Saturday, September 14, 2013

"Naanstrami" And Comfort Food at The Belmont (West Hollywood)

The Belmont on La Cienega has a long history but now there's a new ownership and a new chef in charge, and things are looking pretty fun. Sports fans can sit inside with the large screen TV and enjoy some beers, or you can sit outside for a quieter dinner. Either way, these days the beer selections are getting more interesting and so is the food.

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They now have items like the Naanstrami (pastrami, swiss cheese, spicy chipotle slaw, naan bread - $14) - yes, that is a pastrami sandwich on naan bread!
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The naan makes a pretty good vehicle, as you can taste more of the pastrami, but there's still that nice char. I liked the little kick from the spicy slaw here also.

It's not all new menu items here, they kept the popular Original Belmont Mac n Cheese (crab, scallion, bacon, tomato, cheese - $13)
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I mean, it's crab mac and cheese with crispy, crumbly top. I don't think I have to say too much about it, do I? It's rich but so good!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Patina Toasts 10th Anniversary With Build-Your-Own Tastings For $10/Dish

On October 10th, Patina Restaurant in downtown LA will be celebrating their tenth anniversary in a big way. On that day only, guests can design their own tasting menu for just $10 per dish. For Patina, that's an amazing deal!

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I was lucky enough to taste a few of the dishes that will be served on October 10th during a lunch preview.

The man behind the food at Patina now is Executive Chef Charles Olalia who was previously Chef de Cuisine, with experience at French Laundry and Guy Savoy. 
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My lunch started with an Amuse bouche duo of Paradise Cove oyster topped with caviar and vichyssoise, and a Scallop and potato chip sandwich
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What a decadent start to a weekday lunch! The scallop "sandwich" was a unique combination.
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Bread service: olive bread
Big Eye Tuna Tower, soya onion, avocado, oven dried tomato, yuzu granite.
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Paired with Albarino from Galicia, Spain. 
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I thought this tuna and avocado combination would be like any other tuna tartar-like dish, but I was wrong. The flavors here were surprising and delightful and the tuna was fresh and almost melted in my mouth. The Albariño was a great wine, crisp, lightly sweet. This was my favorite pairing and wine of the day.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Giveaway! Tickets to LA County Fair

As you may know from my post last week, the LA County Fair in Pomona is going on until September 30. Fun fried food, Star Trek exhibit, circus performers, beer and wine tasting ...

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Because I attended the preview they gave me 4 admission tickets and a parking pass. Unfortunately for me, this month is crazy busy and I can't go so instead I'm giving away the tickets to you guys! I'll be splitting the prize into two so each winner will get two tickets and one will also get a parking pass :) Just follow the instructions on the entry form below and good luck!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

G&B Coffee Elevates Coffee Experience at Grand Central Market(DowntownLA)

The Grand Central Market in downtown LA is experiencing a revival with the opening of some great destinations, including G & B Coffee, which used to be located inside Sqirl. The coffee bar is also visible from the street and pedestrians can just walk up to it without going through the market itself first.

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G & B Coffee wanted coffee to return to being a social experience, more like a bar, where guests can interact with baristas and other guests instead of moving down the line to get your pourover.
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By the way, I came here for a preview tasting so for some, the pictured portions are much smaller than the full size that you'll get when you purchase.
IMG_6735 G & B doesn't roast their own coffee, instead you'll find a rotating selection of their current favorite coffees from other roasters. Right now they seem to be liking Heart from Portland, but they'll have 6-10 different varieties each day so there will always be something for everyone.
The most popular item may be the almond latte. Kyle Glanville, one of the co-founders, thinks that soy tastes weird with coffee, so instead they have almond milk made in house which is only slightly sweet and is quite good. It has a nice subtle flavor that goes well with coffee.

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The coffee shop sells pastries from Pete the Baker, who used to do pastry for Storefront Deli in Los Feliz.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

San Fernando Valley Reviews


**** SAN FERNANDO VALLEY ****


BLVD Bar (Studio City)
Bow and Truss (North Hollywood)
Casa Vega (Sherman Oaks)
Firenze Osteria (Toluca Lake)
Idle Hour (North Hollywood)
Mac-O-Licious (Valley Village)
Mariscos El Teto's (Sun Valley)
Ombra Ristorante (Studio City)
Pedalers Fork (Calabasas)
PizzaRev (Studio City)
Public School 818 (Sherman Oaks)
Saddle Peak Lodge (Calabasas) *
Sushi Katsu-ya (Encino)
The Tasting Room and Lobby Lounge at Four Seasons Hotel (Westlake Village)
Tipple and Brine (Sherman Oaks)
Tee's on the Green (Tujunga)
Vitello's (Studio City)

Friday, September 6, 2013

Pedalers Fork (Calabasas, CA): Where Bikers Meet Food and Cocktails

Pedalers Fork in Calabasas is where a restaurant meets a bike shop, opened by two good friends who combined their respective passions (one loves food, one loves biking). It's a bit of a drive but I finally managed to come here on my way to taking my mom to the outlet mall. The restaurant is spacious, with high ceilings and more seats on the second floor. On a good day, head outside to sit next to the creek and watch people get to work on the bike shop - you'll get the feeling this is what California is all about.

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View of the bike shop
 It was early in the day but since the cocktails here were designed by Marcos Tello and Aidan Demarest so I had to try one. Or a few.
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IMG_6127 The menu's probably changed by now (I know, I'm slow!), but I enjoyed the Second Gear (rye, coffee infused Punt e Mes, Maraschino, and coffee bean float) and Rye Hummingbird Down (Chartreuse, rye, honey and lemon). It's a solid cocktail menu - probably the best one in the Calabasas area - you can hardly go wrong.

My mom and aunt don't eat much, so we decided to share two dishes and a dessert between the three of us.
Seared Albacore Tuna sandwich with avocado, chili vinaigrette, savoy cabbage, cucumber kimchi, rainbow carrot ($15). I chose the mixed greens as a side.
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They give you a pretty thick cut of tuna. The cucumber kimchi is not very spicy or pungent but added a nice flavor regardless.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Eating Around LA County Fair

The annual LA County Fair started this past weekend at the Fairplex in Pomona and will go on until September 29. Yes, there's petting zoo (and milking demonstration), Esmeralda's Traveling Circus, magic show, safari show, sharks, and all that, but you know I'm all about the food. As usual, there are tons of fun food around. Fair food!

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Chicken Charlie's always has some fun items. This year's includes Krispy Kreme Burger or Sloppy Joe (two mini glazed donuts with either a burger patty or sloppy joe in the middle), deep fried Twinkies, bacon wrapped pickles ...
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Deep fried twinkie
There's also a deep fried Dodger Dog although I didn't try this. Where's the chicken in Chicken Charlie, you ask? They do have chicken kebabs which looked pretty good, but everyone's here for the deep fried creations.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Recipe: Evan Kleiman's Chicken Pot Pie With Duck-Butter Dough

Remember when I took that pie making class with Evan Kleiman and Sherry Yard as a fundraiser for KCRW? Well, here's Evan's amazing chicken pot pie recipe. I get hungry thinking about this pie!

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The first part is, of course, the pie dough. Evan uses part butter and part duck fat for her chicken pot pie dough. Love ...

Evan Kleiman's Duck-Butter Dough
Ingredients:
12 oz flour
pinch of salt
5 oz high fat butter (Plugra, Kerrygold) cut into 5 pieces, chilled
3 oz rendered duck fat, pulled into 3 pieces, chilled
4 to 5 oz ice cold water

Directions:
Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Toss the butter and duck fat lumps around until they are coated with flour. Use a pastry cutter or your fingers to mix the fats and flour together until you have a mixture with uneven crumbles, some as big as almonds and some as small as peas.
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Add the water a tablespoon at a time, fluffing up the mixture after each addition with a fork. Once you can create a clump by squeezing the dough in your fist it has enough water. Don't worry if it's a little shaggy, as long as it sticks together.

Divide the dough in half and form into flat discs.
Dump the crumbly mixture onto your work surface and bring the mass together by first pushing it away from you with the heel of your hand then gathering it up with a bench scraper. Repeat if necessary. Here's a video of Evan's instructions on rolling the dough:


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