The Great White Truffle Round-up of Los Angeles

White Truffles at SAAM, The Bazaar

It’s that wonderful time of year when it’s time to indulge in one of the true delicacies of the world. Forget the artificial truffle oil (redundant) of the ’90s – the real thing has a season and the time to enjoy white truffles is now.

Of course, at two to three thousand dollars per pound, it’s quite easy to break the bank while partaking. Fortunately, I’ve got a lot of options in different forms (cocktails! tasting menus! burgers!) and price points that will ensure you’re able to get your fungi fix.

Let’s start out with a cocktail by Matty B, why don’t we?

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First Taste: Paiche Brings Refined Peruvian Izakaya to Marina del Rey

Uni Shrimp Toast

While I caught a peek of the new Marina del Rey restaurant’s interior and fare through one of the Best New Chef reunion dinners brought to Paiche by Food GPS (Portland’s Naomi Pomeroy was guest chef), last night was the first time I got a real taste of Ricardo Zarate’s new menu, taking center stage, thanks to a lucky invite to Friends & Family night.

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Get Out the Vote: Election Day Food & Drink Specials Around Los Angeles

Tavern Red State Burger – Pork, pork, pork, Manchego, Romesco

As November 6th rolls up, we’re reminded, again and again, that the best reason to vote is to realize our civic duty. We, as a society, have been preparing for next Tuesday for a long time (Californians, with all our propositions, you know what I’m talking about). Decisions will be made as a collective whether or not we decide to personally participate, so why not embrace it?

Whether you take-away a savory dinner to enjoy at home or await the returns in camaraderie at one of the viewing parties, your “I Voted” sticker will score some points with your taste buds and your wallet anywhere around town. If you voted absentee, perhaps you’ll want to carry your stub or some other proof with you so you can make your case. Check below for a deal near you:

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The BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich & More at J. Nichols

BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich

As far as Los Angeles neighborhoods go, Marina del Rey isn’t exactly known as a culinary hotbed. So imagine my surprise when I found quite a few well-conceived menu items at J. Nichols, a recently revamped strip mall eatery.

Black Pepper Wings

My favorite of the meal was the BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich – an item that you’ll find under the “sandwich,” not “burger,” column. How many times have I had a pulled pork sandwich where the bun sopped up all the sauce before essentially becoming a shell of itself, having lost its integrity? We all know and even love what a mess any handheld pulled pork item can be, but what if the “mess” part was contained somewhat by a firm, but tasty, pretzel bun? What’s more – the lightly fried, even delicate onion rings also help absorb the sauce, giving the pulled pork sandwich more structure and even crunch than anything this saucy and tasty ever afforded, before.

The Black Pepper Wings were another stand-out, an atypical nod of the Asian (Fusion) Persuasion. Think Black Pepper Beef, but with chicken, instead – and in a manner best enjoyed while your eyes are set on the sports screen. Tasty wings, they are, and there’s no better sauce from which to lick from your lips and fingers.

Of course, there are the menu essentials such as the beet salad and Brussels sprouts, both of which are done as well as anywhere. But my favorite pasta was the Creamy Chipotle Rigatoni, which was done al dente and finished off with that perfect kick. Corn and cherry tomatoes give the dish a nice, sweet touch while the mushrooms sustain its earthy notes.

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The 2011 L.A. Easter Brunch Round-Up

Quail Eggs at Kaohsiung Night Market | Photo: hk_traveller on Flickr

I don’t remember ever having given up anything for Lent. But I always have celebrated Easter in non-ritualistic fashion – just as I eat and celebrate life. Every day is a rebirth, right?

Did I mention that I love eggs?

I compiled a bunch of Easter Brunch specials around town. There are plenty of restaurants offering up 3-course prix fixe menus for Sunday morning, but a lot of them have some pretty solid choices.

Go ahead…you can scan this post for the bottomless champagne or mimosa spots. I totally understand.

(By the way, I can’t believe how Westward this list skews… Do Eastsiders not celebrate Easter?) 😉

Happy Easter!!

***

Eva (Beverly/Hancock Park): 12 -  8 PM

$39 per person.
Bottomless wine. 5-course prix fixe.

I know I said “brunch,” and I know Mark Gold calls this the “Eva Dinner Party,” but the noon start time has to count for something, doesn’t it? You get all of the following: Deviled Eggs, Nicoise Salad with Olive Relish and Roast Peppers, Chicken “Pallard” with Arugula and Mustard, Warm Potato Salad, Prime Skirt Steak, Grilled Asparagus and Strawberry Shortcake with Whipped Creme Fraiche. I know. Amazing. This is where I’ll be…sometime during Easter Day.

7458 Beverly Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90036, 323.634.0700

Chaya Brasserie (Downtown, Beverly Hills, Venice): 11 AM – 3 PM

$37 per person, $15 per young adult.
Bottomless champagne. 3-course prix fixe.

You get a couple choices for your 3-course prix fixe, all menus of which vary according to location! Be sure to peep the right Chaya outpost for your menu.

A few highlights from what I can see on all three menus include French Toast with Granola Crust, Kabocha Squash Ricotta Cheese Gnocchi, Grilled New York Steak and Fries with Poached Egg, Pancetta-wrapped Gulf Shrimp with Provencal Grits, Meyer Lemon Mascarpone Cheese Tart. I think the Downtown location is where to be!

525 South Flower, Los Angeles, CA 90017, 213.236.9577

8741 Alden Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90048, 213.859.8833

110 Navy Street, Venice, CA 90291, 310.396.1179

Obika (Century City): 10 AM – 4 PM

$25 per adult, $15 per child under 12.
Comes with one mimosa or glass of Prosecco. Buffet-style plus one family-style pasta.

Not feeling the prix fixe but don’t want any hassle? Obika’s doing it up buffet style – at the mall. Mozzarella di Bufala along with a selection of Smoked Wild Alaskan Salmon, Assorted, Salumi, Caponata with Pan Carsau, Artichoke Ricotta Quiche with Thyme and Mint, Ricotta Mousse and four (yes, four) flavors of Tirimisu will all be available. In addition, your table will get to pick one choice of pasta served family style, including Handmade Ricotta and Spinach Ravioli with Brown Butter and Sage, Lasagnetta with Peas and Tagliolini with Artichoke and Mint.

10250 Santa Monica Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90067, 310.556.2452

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Essential Bites and Cocktails With a VÅ«

Pork Belly, Crispy Grits, Root Beer Jello

Welcome to my first blog entry on an establishment in Marina del Rey. Yes, it’s true – I’m rarely in the area except to visit fabulous divorcee girlfriends and out-of-town friends being put up in corporate housing. But VÅ«, located inside a curiously named hotel called Jamaica Bay Inn (in an area that is the antithesis of Jamaica), is one of those destination islands in a marina wasteland where you’ll find surprisingly unique and delicious bites in VÅ« of a beautiful waterfront.

White Manhattan

 There are more than a few reasons to visit. Caroline on Crack covers a huuuge one – that, of course, being the simple yet imaginative cocktails by the talented, self-taught Jolie Klein. She only uses the freshest and natural ingredients, only bridled by the desire to create a cocktail that caters to the guest’s palate. My favorite cocktail of the night had to be the White Manhattan, made with a spirit from my own home state of Wisconsin. Death’s Door White Whiskey – that is, newly distilled whiskey - is accented with Luxardo maraschino liqueur and The Bitter Truth Jerry Thomas’ Own Decanter Bitters. I am a whiskey girl, and that also includes new make spirits. What a deliciously simple cocktail.

Beer After Branca

Now, places with a solid cocktail program definitely merit a visit (make sure Jolie is there to make your drink), but VÅ« also offers interesting, avant garde small plates by Chef Kyle Schutte. My favorites happen to be a spin on Southern specialties (curious enough since Kyle is a Southern transplant). The Root Beer Jello atop Pork Belly and Crispy Grits actually evokes a chicken fried steak – just with some super flavorful pork belly in the middle. The root beer jello is, of course, the novelty of the bite but its temperature, flavor and consistency really complements the richness of the other two elements. What Caroline and I thought it could be paired with was Jolie’s is Beer After Branca, essentially Fernet Branca, Canton liqueur and Averna chased by ginger beer. Yes, I am a fernet fan, and ginger beer is an appropriate, spicy back to the fernet’s bitterness – so perhaps it was a bit unfair to call this a shoe-in (sue me!). But altogether, the bite and cocktail would be a great voyage in sweetness and richness, countered by the bitter fernet and finished off with the ginger beer. I could go all the way to Marina del Rey for another, and another.

Chicken Fried Watermelon, Pickled Rind ($5 during HH)

Speaking of chicken fried steak, how about some Chicken Fried Watermelon? The buttermilk batter surrounding the cubes of watermelon made the entire bite savory and sweet – while the pickled watermelon rind was just the perfect, barely-sour twist. I displayed probably my most thoughtful facial expressions as I piled in bite after bite.

Thai Mussels

Another one of my favorites were the Thai Mussels, which came on spoonfuls sitting in Green Curry Broth, Hamachi Salad, Coconut Jello, Scallion and Micro Cilantro. Curried mussels come and go, which is really no fault of anyone’s, but I appreciate the addition of the hamachi and coconut, which lightens things up and keeps the bite interesting.

The entrees are quite a jump, price-wise, from the various crudo, small plates (hot and cold) and cheese and charcuterie that VÅ« has to offer. But that really shouldn’t bother most because the smaller items on the menu are the most interesting, offering the biggest range during a night at VÅ«.

Center map
Traffic
Bicycling
Transit

Happy Hour ($6 cocktails/wines, $4 tap & $5 small plates):
Mon – Fri: 4 – 7 PM
Sun: 8 PM – Close

VÅ« at Jamaica Bay Inn
4175 Admiralty Way
Marina del Rey, CA 90292
310.439.3033