Archive for July, 2010

Taste of Beverly Hills Preview

July 27, 2010

I’ve been posting about all the one-stop food marathons this summer. Most tasting events are barely organized enough to run a successful one day event. Then there’s Beverly Hills and their signature excessive abundance. Food and Wine’s Taste of Beverly Hills is a four day cornucopia (bordering on orgy) of food and drinks.

It starts on September 2nd  (9.02.10, get it?) and lasts until you explode. The dizzying list of participating restaurants includes every restaurant in LA except for Big Tomy’s and The Olive Garden:

9021PHO, Ago, Akasha, American Tea Room, Ammo, Angelini Osteria, Bastide, The Bazaar at SLS, Beacon, Boa Steakhouse, Bombay Palace, Border Grill, Cabbage Patch, Campanile, Carvel 90210, Chateau Marmont, CHAYA, Church and State, Comme Ca, Conservatory Grill, Compartes Chocolatier, Coupa Café, Craft, Culina, Darioush, Delancey, Delphine, Drago Family Restaurants, Factors Deli, Father’s Office, Fig, Ford’s Filling Station, Foundry, Fraiche, Gingergrass, Gonpachi, Got Kosher?, Guelaguetza, Hansen Cakes, Huckleberry, Il Cielo, Jar, Jer-Ne at Ritz Carlton Marina Del Rey, Jitiada, Katana, L’ Epicerie, Mariposa, McCormick and Schmick’s, Melisse, Mercantile/District, Mickey Fine Pharmacy and Grill, Milk, Mionetto, Mo Chica, Momed, Mozza, Mr. Chow, Napa Valley Grille, Nat and Al’s, Nickel Diner, Nic’s Beverly Hills, Nonna Of Italy, Oliverio, Ortolan, Osteria La Buca, Pace, Joachim Splichal and Patina, Philippe The Original, Plaisir, Porta Via, Public Kitchen and Bar, Real Food Daily, Restaurant at Sunset Marquis, Rock Sugar, Rustic Canyon, Shutters on the Beach, Simon LA, Stefan’s at L.A. Farm, STK, Sunnin, Sushi Roku, Square One Dining, Sweet Rose Creamery, Takami, Talesai, Tar Pit, Tasting Kitchen, Tender Greens, The Bagel Broker, The Belvedere at Peninsula Hotel, The Blvd at Beverly Wilshire Hotel, The Beverly Hills Cheese Store, The Grill, The Little Next Door, Thompson Beverly Hills, Tiger Sushi, Umami, Valerie Confections, Wilshire, Water Grill, WP24, Wurstkuche, XIV and Zeke’s
AND chefs:
Wolfgang Puck, Tim Love, Nancy Silverton, Ted Allen, Art Smith, Michel Nischan, Scott Conant, Ludo Lefebvre, Michael Voltaggio, Vinny Dotolo, Jon Shook, Walter Manzke, Joachim Splichal, Candace Nelson, James Overbaugh, David LeFevre

You can see the full schedule here. Each night and day will feature more than 40 restaurants. Highlights include:

  • An opening night “Picnic Under The Stars With The Stars” (yes, they mean Brandon, Brenda, Dylan, Kelly, Donna, Steve and David- sorry, Andrea) on Thursday night $150.
  • A follow up cocktail party with perfectly blended cocktails designed by some of LA’s top mixologists on Friday night $150.
  • An LG Cooking Competition on Saturday afternoon $125 and live cooking demos on Saturday night $150.
  • Gospel brunch on Sunday morning $125 and a final BBQ on Sunday evening $150 round out the insane weekend.
  • Fasting begins Monday and extends through Halloween.

Buy tickets for one or all the events here.

Happy Summer and see you in Beverly Hills!


LA Street Food Fest 2010 Review

July 24, 2010

The minds behind LA Street Food Fest learned a lot from their first event in February. They fixed a ton of the problems and threw a fun, successful event at the Rose Bowl today.

Los Angelenos obviously can’t get enough street food. 5,000 tickets were sold, and those who paid extra for VIP were rewarded.

I knocked out 20 restaurants/trucks before 5pm. By 6:30 the field was full.

The best two dishes of the day were Starry Kitchen’s tofu balls (and their pandan flan was superb as well) and Mariscos Jalisco Truck‘s shrimp tacos. Both had perfect crispy outer layers.

The worst two dishes were Monsieur Egg’s raw steak sandwich (after way too long of a wait) and Taqueria Escuela’s salty taco in a mushy tortilla.

The weather was perfect, the crowd was happy and this little guy was prepping for a career as a UCLA running back.

I want to mention Dry Soda, as I tried it at Galco’s recently (cucumber, lemongrass), and again today (rhubarb, juniper berry) at the event. They are the perfect level of sweet (14g of sugar), and the big soda companies should take note. This is the direction you should be taking your soda- away from the 40g of sugar, diabetes-inducing poison America is addicted to.

I also hung out with a bunch of bloggers, one in particular that you should check out- The Chocolate of Meats. (That’s him in the picture).

Considering how well LA Street Food Fest has progressed in the five short months since its inception, I anticipate great things in the future. This was a fantastic one-stop marathon.

Casa’s New School Flavor

July 22, 2010

Casa Cocina Y Cantina has a new menu from Chef Alex Moreno (Bastide, Jiraffe, Spago). We were invited to check it out.

Having heard a lot about Casa, but never having seen it, I was impressed by the outdoor setup. They’re not having trouble getting customers during the recession.

Flautas were the first things we sampled. They were simple and to the point.

Next we tried the pork belly sopes which were a big step forward from the flautas. Much more flavorful and rich.

Then the new menu started. First up were the Tortas “Sliders” de Carnitas. The toasted brioche was very soft and light, the braised pork carnitas were sign of things to come and the pickled chiles and lime crema rounded out the slider/torta.

The first of two tacos we sampled were Chef Alex’s Chicken Tacos. These Yucatan-style chicken tacos with cotija cheese were big and a bit underwhelming at first. They come with a mild habanero salsa, which is an oxymoron I choose not to partake in. I applied their hot habanero salsa which elevated the dish tenfold.

The second tacos were much better. The Tacos de Camarones Fritos with caramelized pineapple and house-candied almonds were fantastic.

Then the heavy hitters hit the table. The best dish of the night was the Carnitas (confit of pork shoulder) on top of a pork belly hash and pickled onions. Succulent pork, on top of smaller pieces of pork is really the only way pork should be served.

The Braised Beef Short Ribs Birria was fall off the bone tender, but couldn’t match the Carnitas flavor. It’s not a bad dish at all, it just should have been served before the carnitas.

The tamales were served at the perfect time as the corn was so sweet it could pass for dessert. They were lighter than some other tamales in town, and work well as a side to the carnitas.

Last but not least was a Pot de Creme that in one small glass balanced the sweet to salt ratio for the whole meal.

I didn’t even mention the cocktails as I think people go to Casa for cocktails already, and the point here is to get people to go for the food. With so much competition downtown (Rivera, Yxta, Ciudad), Casa has carved a good niche- food that will appeal to a wide audience in an environment that’s conducive to socializing and having fun. The service was outstanding from the hostess to the waitresses, owners and chef.

Extravaganza for the Senses 2010 Review

July 21, 2010

First, here’s the requisite shot that sums up the beautiful evening that was Extravaganza for the Senses.

In terms of charity, this is a noteworthy cause. The Saban Free Clinic offers health care to those who need it most but can’t afford it.

In terms of a food event, it was fun with a wide range of restaurants, wineries and the usual sponsors (Pom, Pop Chips, etc.). Wasting no time, the best dish of the night was from Reservoir. Their panko-crusted shrimp tacos on jicama “tortillas” with spicy aioli and fennel slaw required seconds and thirds.

Momed went all out with a nice booth

and roasted corn couscous with harissa and piqullio peppers

and duck shawarma.

Brats Brothers were a big hit, with a wide range of bratwurst to sample, a basket full of pretzel bread, potato salad and Grandma’s recipe sauerkraut.

They served Hungarian (smoked spicy pork), the Hot Texan (smoked spicy beef), Rocky Mountain Elk, the New Zealander (Moroccan spiced lamb), German (pork and veal), Alabama yard bird (smoked spicy chicken) and Swiss (veal).

Pace put together a nice booth with fresh plums and candle light.

Pace’s sea bass was very well cooked considering the conditions.

I was glad to see Bombay Cafe at the event, and although their samosa was delicious, the chicken tikka was dry.

Hansen’s Cakes pulled out all the stops with an army of cupcakes.

And the desserts didn’t stop there. Milk brought a range of sweets from macaron ice cream sandwiches, to mini drumsticks.

Lawry’s brought their tear-inducing whipped cream horseradish to accompany a slider that didn’t matter because the horseradish was so insanely powerful.

Chaya’s grilled beef skewers with horseradish creme fresh were a much better combo of meat and heat.

Angelini Osteria’s lasagna was served under the guise of Minestraio, the much lesser of Gino’s two restaurants. Regardless it was a damn good lasagna.

In the most underwhelming part of the night, Delphine and Roku proved their weakness in the face of the mildest food competition. Roku cranked out spicy tuna rolls from an orange, blob-like mass. Delphine served unappetizing braised lamb shoulder over creamy polenta.

Street brought an interesting dish- Burmese melon salad (with toasted coconut, peanuts, fried onions, sesame ginger dressing). Unfortunately it fell flat. Where the sweet and salty should have been complimentary, they ended up getting overpowered by the oily dressing and bland coconut.

Then I drank some Angel City Brewing Belgian IPA.

I didn’t get a henna tattoo.

But the DJ played on…

And so ended the first of four one-stop food marathons in four weeks. Stay tuned for much more.

Vintage Enoteca off to a Fair Start

July 16, 2010

Vintage Enoteca got a solid review from Esther last week so we gave it a try. That strip of Sunset’s less-than-stellar restaurant options were briefly discussed in her review. I have a stronger opinion about that strip.

That block of Sunset (east of Fairfax and west of La Brea) is a restaurant wasteland, and it pisses me off because I work near there. For a long time the block reeked of raw sewage. They fixed the stench but haven’t fixed the other problem- Bossa Nova, which is one of the worst restaurants in LA. Yes, I said it. I don’t understand why it’s always crowded. It’s baffling. Toi is nasty. El Compadre is gross. Cheebo is fine, but not great. Curry Palace, Sunset Thai and Elderberries… Please, someone help.

Are you that someone, Vintage Enoteca? Six weeks ago Vintage opened in the former Abbot’s Habit space (who knew Abbot even had a second location outside of Venice). Vintage serves wine, beer and small plates in a nicer space than that block deserves.

The menu looks good, small, concise, offering simple, Italian-inspired small plates. From the start they’re not being overly ambitious, which is good. Just nail the simple stuff. That’s all that block needs.

I started with an Isastegi Sagardo Naturala, a funky apple cider with minimal carbonation and barely any sweetness. It was much closer to the sour beer I tried at Golden State than any cider I’ve had.

We ordered house-made pickled vegetables ($5), which were ice cold and very tangy. The corn was interesting, a good addition to any pickle plate.

The blue crab bruschetta came next ($6). There was a good amount of crab for the price, but overall it was bland. The mint and lemon that were advertised on the menu didn’t break through, and ultimately it wasn’t very satisfying.

Next up was the flatbread with cauliflower, prosciutto, bechamel, gruyere. This was delicious. Still subtle flavors for what I expect from small plates, but a good blend of crunchy prosciutto, soft cauliflower and smooth cheese.

Seconds after the flatbread, the caprese salad hit the table. The heirloom tomatoes were luscious. The buratta was very good and overall it was a solid caprese… for what that’s worth.

The service was fine, not intrusive or upselling. The music was odd- dancehall, reggae and a lot of vocals. Just play instrumental dub, or reggae or rocksteady or anything, but bring the vocal down and the bass up.

Overall, Vintage is off to a fair start. They don’t have a very high bar to reach on that part of Sunset, so hopefully they can maintain their simple menu and execute perfectly every time.

Savor Los Angeles Sweets Preview

July 15, 2010

Here is the third one-stop food marathon preview in a row. This time, it’s dessert.

Savor Los Angeles, will host a one stop food marathon showcasing some of LA’s best sweets on Friday, July 30th. The focus is on an exclusive set of like-minded businesses (read: equally hip and focused on fresh/organic ingredients, using alternatives to high-fructose corn syrup, with vegan offerings, and clean presentation & design).

The event will take place at a photo studio/art gallery called Miauhaus Studios (I believe it’s pronounced “meow house”) and will feature:

Babycakes NYC
Frosted Cupcakery
Gotta Have S’more
N’ice Cream
P.O.P. Candy
Pure Cheesecakes
Sweets For The Soul
The Crosby
XT Patisserie

The evening will also include free champagne and paired beverages, a complimentary cheese and fruit bar, raffles, music, a photobooth, and gift bags.

General admission tickets are $35 and VIP are $55 (and include VIP gift bag, access to VIP lounge, open bar and more). Buy your tickets now and satisfy your sweet tooth.

Extravaganza for the Senses 2010 Preview

July 10, 2010

Summer is food marathon season.

Thus explaining back to back posts about one-stop food marathons. On July 17th at Sunset Gower Studios The Saban Free Clinic will throw Extravaganza for the Senses. The charity event will feature great raffle/auction prizes, a ton of wine and food from:

Upstairs 2
Bombay Cafe
Rush Street
Brats Brothers
Sushi Roku
and more

General Admission tickets are $100 and VIP tickets are $225 (and get you free valet parking, an additional hour of sampling food and wine and entry into the VIP lounge and more).

Buy tickets now and I’ll see you there…