Showing posts with label rivera. Show all posts
Showing posts with label rivera. Show all posts

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Spanish Olive Oil Tasting, and a Feast at Playa

What country do you think of when you think of olive oil? Italy? Greece? How many thought of Spain? Well, Spain is in fact the number one producer of olive oil in the world. It's not just the quantity, either. Apparently the winner of the latest international olive oil contest is an olive oil from Spain.

I had gone to a Spanish Olive Oil tasting last year, but it was so much fun that when they invited me again this year, I went. The tasting was led by Alfonso Fernandez, an olive oil expert from the LA trade commissioner of Spain
The formal tastings are done using this dark blue tasting glass, as they do not want to see the color while tasting. Perhaps they don't want to have any misconception based only on visual elements.

We tasted four of the main varietals from Spain: Arbequina, Hojiblanca, Cornicabra, and Picual. For each one, we determined whether the aroma is of ripe fruit or green fruit, and if there is any bitterness and astringency to the olive oil.

The arbequina smelled of ripe fruit (banana) and was sweet with no bitterness. There's a spiciness at the back palate as you swallow.
The Hojiblanca had a medium intensity in aroma and smelled of kiwi. There's bitterness and piquancy in this oil which is great for cooking.
The cornicabra smelled of ripe apple and bananas. It had some astringency but no bitterness and there's less spiciness which came deeper in the throat. This varietal is apparently only found in Spain.
The Picual was many people's favorite. The aroma is much more intense and smelled of green tomato. It was very bitter with some piquancy. It was much thicker. Everything about this olive oil was intense yet it was well balanced.

For more detailed tasting notes, you can see my post from last year!

The tasting was followed a lavish meal prepared by Chef John Sedlar (all incorporating olive oil, naturally). Even though we knew it would be a four course tasting menu, little did we know that each course would consist of four dishes!

Before the courses started we also had a rather big "amuse bouche" in the form of Rivera's famous flan de elote with quinoa. I've had this dish a few times at various festivals and I still fall in love with it all over again, every time.
Flan, Quinoa

The first dishes we had were served with a blend of gewurtztraminer and riesling.
Papas salsa verde, serranos, micro cilantro

Picual, fried chiles gueros, crab. The picual varietal is good for dishes with bold flavors such as this.
Chile Relleno

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Hot Brunch at Playa

The promise of a free pitcher of Julian Cox's cocktail during brunch was all I needed to try out the brunch at Playa, John Sedlar's newest restaurant (thanks, BlackboardEats!). And I was glad I did.

Now, being a Latin restaurant (they call it "urban Latin"), you can expect a lot of kick in your egg dish. Spicy sauces abound, though not everyone.

I love tamales so obviously went with the Tamal (Cracked Corn Masa, Pulled Pork, Sunnyside-Up Egg, $12)

Pork Tamal
Yes, that is Clockwork Orange on the plate (part of his changing Reflexiones series). The sauce was pretty spicy for me but the egg yolks helped with that. A hearty and satisfying breakfast plate!

Oh, and make sure you get the Blue Corn Muffins made with Anson Farms Organic Cornmeal, served with a side Almond Butter ($6)
Not only were they cheap at $6 for 4 pieces, they are incredible. I have never had an unfilled muffin so moist with such a distinctive flavor. I'll be back for these. Over and over.
(Look, it's really blue inside! Or more like purple?)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Rivera's New Menu Connects Miles and Millennias

John Sedlar had a vision when he first opened up Rivera in downtown Los Angeles. Now, he's finally putting his vision into practice. Chef Sedlar and the team of Rivera don't want to just cook food, they also want to delve into the question of why we eat what we eat today. That's why Rivera's new menu traces Latin food back 3000 years.

The menu at Rivera is divided into three menus, each specific to the different dining rooms/areas and connected together by a main menu called Conexiones. The Sangre room's menu focuses on the Iberian roots of Latin cuisine, and the Samba room follows with South American, Central American, and Caribbean influences. The Playa room offers a seafood-heavy cuisine of modern Mexican influences.
Including the dessert menu "Azucar", there are four menus.

To launch the new menus and 'Conexiones' menu that ties them together, the restaurant invited some friends and also some media for a full-on tasting. While waiting for our food, I had a cocktail, of course, since this is where one of the best bartenders in LA, Julian Cox, works.

The meal started with a bang. The cabeza de oro was literally served on a golden head and consisted of layers of your most coveted delicacies: foie gras, scallop, truffle, jamon iberico, and caviar (from the Playa Bar menu - not cheap, $50).
If you've never had it before, make sure you try the Argentine Mushroom Carpacchio (king oyster, bluefoot, and chanterelle mushrooms with chimichurri spices and combava lime) - Samba, $11
This was no doubt inspired by a meal at La Querencia on one of the trips Chef Sedlar took to Baja. It reminded me of the beet and squash carpaccios I had there and I'm glad he's taking that Baja Med concept across the border.

In the same spirit, the dish was followed by Equadorian Crudo (hiromasa, kumquats, fresno chiles, chives) - $14

As a weakling when it comes to spicy food, I loved the burrata here in the Chile Relleno (ahaheim chile with martian red corn salsa, burrata cheese, cherokee tomatoes)
Not only did it adds a nice creamy texture, it really cuts the heat while the corn adds a welcomed sweetness.

Within the Playa's more modern offerings, you can find some asian influences as well, like their
Chile Guero Relleno (tempura chile, crab, corn, soy, ginger, scallion) - Playa, $12

Every now on then, you'll encounted dishes garnished with spice dusting which forms a message of sorts, like the "Bravo Gustavo!" on the Venezuelan Arepas (traditional fried corn cakes) with softshell crab (in the style of Cartagena, Columbia) - Samba, $14

Corn is a central part of Mexican cuisine and the team at Rivera does wonders with it.
Clam Tamalli (pismo clam, poblano chiles, sweet corn, garlic, oregano leaf, blistered chile verde meuniere) - Playa bar, $10

Flan de Elote (corn custard, black quinoa, squash blossom sauce)
It may seem like such a simple dish but this was definitely one of my favorites: creamy yet delicate, I can eat this lightly sweet corn custard all day long.

On the entree side, everyone seemed to enjoy the Parilla (rib-eye fillet, habanero chimichurri, yucca chips)

The next dish was another of my favorite: Brazilian Feijoada with Lamb - Samba, $24
They have brilliantly captured the essence of feijoada and turned the rustic "peasant fare" into a refined dish that is accentuated even more by the tender lamb chop.

Desserts here aren't too be missed either. Try the aptly named "Hielo y Fuego" (Poblano sorbet, port reduction)
A spicy cold sorbet that cleanses and tantalizes your palate at the same time.

Pan de Santa Teresa with Spanish peanuts, cherimoya ice cream
Named after St Teresa of Avila, this seems to be a traditional Catholic dish in Spain and is similar to the French Toast.

Xochimilco (chocolate guajillo cake, avocado mousse with lime, sugared sunflower seeds)
The creamy avocado mousse rounds down the spiciness in the guajillo cake yet the lime kept it from being too heavy.

You can get the Conexiones menu anywhere in the restaurant (dishes aren't labeled by the menu origin above are from the Conexiones). You may have to visit Rivera multiple times though, as there are some "musts" in every menu. Do not miss the mushroom carpaccio, the flan de elote, and the feijoada.
Wonder how a particular dish fits in to the picture? In another spin to the dining experience, guests can now dial 310-464-6884 to hear Chef Sedlar himself explain the story behind a dish.

Rivera Restaurant
1050 S Flower St #102
Los Angeles, CA 90015
(213) 749-1460

Disclosure: This was a gratis tasting hosted by Rivera.
I also have to thank Wandering Chopsticks for driving out of her way to lend me her camera since I stupidly left mine! :)

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Los Angeles Mag Brings You in the Kitchen with LA's Best Chefs

Los Angeles Magazine hosts a series of culinary events featuring cooking demonstrations with some of LA's best chefs.

The next "In The Kitchen" event will take place on June 16th with Chef Ray Garcia from FIG Restaurant in Santa Monica. The event costs $40 per person.

Here's what you can expect:

The last In The Kitchen with Chef John Sedlar from Rivera started out with a Casino Cocktail prepared by one of Rivera's bartenders. There is also wine served during the "cocktail hour" as well wine paired with your main meal prepared by Ian Blackburn of Learn About Wine.

Passed hors d'oeuvres were prepared by Eddie Sell, The Firehouse Chef (that's right, he's a chef and he's a fireman. He's a whole other interesting story on his own).
The shrimp ceviche with the tiny bits of blue tortilla chips was wonderful - the flavors smooth and not too acidic, the chips really added a nice textural contrast. Bruschetta was latin-ized by spicy salsa.

The events take place at Synder Diamond showroom in Santa Monica, but just because it's a showroom don't expect to be standing while eating with your plate on top of a displayed washing machine. The showroom is decked out with round tables, black tablecloth, complete with fresh roses as centerpieces.

Taking the "stage" in front will be your guest chef of the night. Last time, chef John Sedlar brought along his executive chef at Rivera, Kevin to help him demonstrate how to prepare two delicious dishes.
Chef Sedlar will show you how to go from these raw scallops:

to this:
Scallop Arabesque (here's the recipe)
The menu for the night will typically be one savory dish followed by one dessert.

Chef Sedlar prepared Chocolate Torte with Caramel Lime Sauce (recipe)
That's not all. You won't be leaving empty handed. Each attendee received a goodie bag filled with various items. My loot: a bottle of wine, Los Angeles Magazine's newest movie, and other treats including this chocolate cupcake from Vanilla Bakeshop:

Don't forget, the next In The Kitchen event with Chef Ray Garcia from FIG will take place on W ednesday, June 16, 7 – 9 pm at Snyder Diamond (1399 Olympic Blvd, Santa Monica).

Tickets: $40. Call Estrellita Dacanay at (323) 801-0034 to purchase.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Recipe: Torta Xocolata (Chef John Sedlar, Rivera)

Here's another recipe from chef John Sedlar (Rivera Restaurant)! This was the dessert he made for the LA Mag's latest culinary event at Snyder Diamond. Rich and smooth, this was so good. Definitely worth a try. Enjoy.

Chocolate Torte with Caramel Lime Sauce
by Chef John Sedlar, Rivera Restaurant

Chocolate Torte

3/4 cup heavy cream
10 oz dark, semisweet chocolate, broken into 1/2-inch pieces (Rivera uses 61% Valrhona w/ cream added)

1 1/2 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

Line an 8-inch circular cake pan with a large circular coffee filter or a circle of waxed paper large enough to come halfway up to the pan's side.

In the top of a double boiler, place the cream and chocolate pieces and stir until the chocolate has melted completely and is fully blended with the cream.

Pour the mixture into the lined cake pan and chill it in the refrigerator until solid, at least 2 hours. To unmold the torte, place a circle of cardboard or a flat plate over the pan. Dunk the bottom of the pan in warm water, then invert it turning it out onto the cardboard or plate. Lift off the pan and peel off the paper.

Place a decorative stencil on top of the torte. Hold a small, fine sieve over the torte's surface and spoon the cocoa poder into the sieve. Gently tap the sieve as you move it around above the torte to dust its surface evenly. Carefully lift off the stencil. Store the torte in the refrigerator until serving time.

Caramel Lime Sauce
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon water
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup fresh lime juice

Put the sugar and water in a heavy medium-sized skillet. Heat the mixture over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until the sugar melts and turns a medium caramel color, 10 to 15 minutes.

Immediately add the cream and stir until it is fully incorporated. Remove the pan from the heat. Then, stir in the lime juice and let the sauce cool to room temperature.

To serve the torte, spoon some of the sauce into the middle of each chilled dessert plate. Cut a wedge of the torte and place it on top of the sauce.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Recipe: Scallops Arabesque (Chef John Sedlar, Rivera)

A few weeks ago, Los Angeles Magazine held a culinary demonstration at the Santa Monica Snyder Diamond showroom with Chef John Sedlar of Rivera Restaurant. We tasted the Casino cocktail by one of Rivera's bartender, watched and learned as chef Sedlar and his executive chef Kevin made two dishes for us: Scallops Arabesque and Torta Xocolata.

Since I haven't had time to write a full post on it yet, in the meantime I will give you the recipe for Chef Sedlar's Scallops Arabesque! Enjoy!
Scallops Arabesque
by Chef John Sedlar (Rivera)

Eggplant Puree
2 Italian eggplant
2 whole roasted garlic
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil

Cut eggplant in half, score, season with salt and pepper and pour olive oil over the flesh. Roast in 300 degree oven until soft, about an hour. Once eggplant is fully cooked remove skin and put cooked eggplant in a food processor, add the garlic and puree together. Add additional salt and pepper to taste if desire.

Ras El Hanout Sauce
2 cups chicken stock
5 tbsp Vadouvan*
1 1/2 oz cold butter, cubed
salt to taste

Place chicken stock and vadouvan in sauce pan. Over low heat reduce to sauce consistency. Add salt and cold butter cubes stirring constantly.

*Vadouvan is a blend of spices and the recipe may vary for each person/chef. To get an idea, here's one recipe from Epicurious. Or you can buy it (from Amazon or wherever): Vadouvan, Ground.

Preserved Lemons
4 lemon
3 cups sugar
1 cup salt

Juice lemons and remove pith. Bring salt water to a boil and cook lemons for 5 minutes. Repeat process 3-4 times using new salt water each time. Dry lemons and place in pan. Cover with sugar and salt mixture, wrap container and store in refrigerator for 5-7 days. After 5-7 days remove lemon from container and rinse off. Cut lemon into small cubes and store in olive oil.

Sea Scallops
18 large sea scallops
1/2 cup grapeseed oil


Heat all components and keep warm on the stovetop. Season the scallops with sea salt. Over high heat fill a large saute pan with the grapeseed oil.

Once the oil is almost smoking, gently place the scallops in the pan. Once the scallops have a dark golden sear, turn the scallops and finish cooking on the other side until preferred doneness. If you enjoy your scallops cooked over medium-medium well, place the pan in the oven for about 6 minutes. Spoon a line of eggplant puree onto the center of your dish, creating a bed for the scallops. Place three scallops per plate and top with the ras el hanout (vadouvan) sauce. Finally top the scallops with about 1/2 tsp of the preserved lemons. Sprinkle with Ras el Hanout.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Rivera: Spicing Up Downtown

Being at the right place at the right time really does get you places! Since I happened to be out with Carolineoncrack, LA&OC Foodie and Rumdood when they were making plans to hit Rivera in downtown, I got extended an invitation also, which I of course, took! So one Wednesday night I made my way there. Rivera apparently has valet parking about two doors down, but I didn't know about it and it was hard to notice so I ended parking a block away at a $5 lot (being right by Staples makes parking hard and pricey).

When I got there, everyone else was already sitting at the bar trying out the cocktails.
As a disclaimer, most of our meal ended up being comped by the restaurant (we paid for drinks), although I wasn't aware of this in the beginning. Thanks to the fame of Carolineoncrack and LA&OC Foodie!

Besides a cocktail menu featuring cocktails with awesome names like Blood Sugar Sex Machine (rye whiskey, red pepper, agave nectar basil), Rivera also features flights of infused tequila. LA&OC Foodie got a flight of three tequilas ($10). From right to left: vanilla, passionfruit (IIRC) and anise.
I enjoyed the anise the most flavor-wise, although it did have a distinct and weird smell. All these infused tequilas were pretty sweet and smooth - very drinkable. I definitely want to get one of these next time.

Throughout the meal between the four of us we've tried a majority of their cocktail list and then a couple of "bespoke cocktail"-- basically "bartender's choice."
My favorite cocktail on the menu ended up being the Rivera's cup - think Pimm's cup but with tequila. Sounds simple but very well done.

Since we wanted to a lot of stuff on the menu we ended up sharing a whole bunch of appetizers:
patates xips (caviar, chipotle-lime crema, kennebec potato chips) - $6
The potato chips are light and crispy and they're pretty delicious with the lime-chipotle dip and the caviar. Our only complaint is just that there were so few potato chips. Like 10 chips? Divided by 4? We had leftover dip, which luckily came in handy for this next dish.

tortillas florales (housemade nixtamal tortillas w/ 'indian butter' -- just guacamole actually). 4 tortillas, $6.
Since it's more impressive to show you the individual tortillas rather than all wrapped in cloth, I'll do just that:
These tortillas are wonderful. Lightly crispy and had a great flavor. I would definitely recommend people try an order. Unfortunately the 'Indian butter' was not as exciting as it sounds - but these tortillas actually go great with the lime-chipotle crema from the previous dish (patates xips).

The highlight of the night for me was the jamon iberico de bellota pata negra - $36.
This particular ham comes the black footed Iberian pig (hence the iberico) that only eats acorns (bellota=acorns).
It's the world's best ham, what more do I need to say? Sure different restaurants may carry different qualities of even the world's best ham and prepare differently, but this is the first time I've had the bellota, so I can't say. I can only say I still drool over it. Even now. Writing this. *wipe* Excuse me.

The next dish was a surprise to all of us. We didn't order it and actually it wasn't even on the menu. But anyway, they brought over a plate of foie gras pate with fruit compote. Not complaining.
Pretty good pate - it's pretty smooth and I like the cranberry (I think it was cranberry) compote that goes with it.

bacalao negro fresco (black cod, seared. With serrano ham crisps) - $14
The way they write/draw things on the plate with some sort of dusting is cute. Although ... why a radioactive sign? Right next to my food?
Well, radioactive or not the black cod was good. Moist and not overcooked. The serrano ham crisp added a kick both flavor and texture-wise.

LA&OC Foodie got the trucha (tasmanian sea trout, saffron quinoa, yellow gazpacho sauce) - $23.
I tried a bite of this. Good, but pretty standard. It's a safe bet but there's nothing special.

I went with the mole (kurobuta pork chop, mole, black carrots) - $21
The pork chop is not as tender as I expected, but still good, and the mole sauce is great.
My favorite out of all the entrees (Carolineoncrack got the rib eye and rumdood went with the maya puerco pibil). If the pork chop was just a bit more tender ...

The appetizers here are definitely more varied, more interesting, and better than the entrees.

Rivera offers four desserts on their menu ($7 each). Perfect. Caroline, LA&OC Foodie, and I all wanted different desserts and while Rumdood was in the bathroom we decided that he must want the other one ...

torta xocolata (chocolate tort, drunken pineapples)
I love the writing they did with the chocolate powder! How fun, I love playing with my food :P
Pretty rich and dense chocolate torte, me likey.

I went with the crepas mojito (mint, lime, white rum) because I love my mojito and because I get everything that says "mint" on it
Crepes were a bit on the dry side until you douse it with the syrup that came in the graduated cylinder (oh I'm sorry, am I bringing back bad memories from Chem lab?). The white foam you see is the lime and it's extremely sour - use sparingly.
I like this dessert but you do have to concoct each bite carefully yourself so it doesn't become too sour or too sweet.

Rumdood was made to get the baba cachaca (citrus, dulce de leche)
A slight spin off the baba au rhum, this one is soaked in Cachaca. The bottom pastry is moist but the top is a bit dry. Plus this dessert is rather small. Nothing special.

LA&OC Foodie got the crema catalana (almonds, xerez creme)
Creme brulee, basically? I just had a bite so can't tell much more than that but LA&OC Foodie liked it.
The safest desserts seem to the boring but good ones, and those that sound more interesting weren't as great.

Rivera's another good and welcome addition to the revitalization of downtown LA, especially so close to the Staples center. With great cocktails and pretty solid food (I'd get the appetizers over the entrees, hands down), if I ever find myself in/near Staples, I at least know I don't have to eat at that sports bar there ...
I want to go back to try the tequila flights, anyhow :P

Read Caroline's take on it.

1050 S Flower St #102
Los Angeles, CA 90015
(213) 749-1460

Rivera on Urbanspoon

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