Jazz Up Your Fridays at LACMA With Patina’s Picnic Baskets

The Louis Picnic Basket (minus one serving of chicken)

The sun is out – when June Gloom isn’t in, that is. But when the high of summer arrives, you’ll bet it’ll be time for that picnic. Whether at The Hollywood Bowl, Cinespia or Barnsdall Art Park, picnicking in Los Angeles has become more than a rite of passage. It’s now an act of communal expression, with everyone in the party bringing their own contribution to the portable, potable feast.

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Celebrate July 4th at The Roof on Wilshire

The Roof on Wilshire

With The Foundry in the middle of an overhaul and Chef Eric Greenspan’s neighboring grilled cheese operative still under construction, the only place that Angelenos can get a piece of his comforting cooking is ironically in the middle of one of the best 360 degree views of the entire city. What better occasion than Independence Day to take advantage of not only the views but an affordable all-you-can-eat extravaganza?

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V-day or Bust: Make a Miracle Mile Getaway at Kimpton’s Hotel Wilshire

Hotel Wilshire Roof Pool

Back in the Fall, I made a little getaway to a familiar area (no, I won’t use that word that begins with “stay” and ends with “-tion”). It was a welcome chance to really explore what I already thought I knew, and the Hotel Wilshire was the perfect home base.

The Hotel Wilshire is walking distance to LACMA, but also to Petersen Automotive Museum. Both museums are the venues of so many cultural events, which makes the hotel seem like a great place for out-of-town visitors to establish their base or for locals to crash after a nearby gala. The rotating exhibits make it perfect for locals to visit time and time again.

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A Toast to 50 Years of James Bond in Los Angeles on National Martini Day

Best James Bond Quotes (Sean Connery era)

I grew up with a particular older brother who had all of the James Bond flicks (half on Beta, half on VHS), so I had enough exposure to the British spy series to pick the cues up quite a few years later. Just recently, it re-started with my viewing of the Mad Men Season 5 finale. That Peggy and Don viewed Casino Royale while playing hooky from work and the finale’s credits closed out with You Only Live Twice made me take notice of everything going on around us. My girlfriend, who volunteers at The Aero, mentioned their Bond marathon. The James Bond frenzy is currently overtaking Los Angeles.

Vesper Martini

Why? Only the 50th anniversary of the Sean Connery-to-Daniel Craig franchise, I eventually found out, and we Angelenos have plenty of chances to get dosages of our own:

American Cinematheque’s The Aero Theatre (Santa Monica) is concluding their Complete James Bond Retrospective this weekend with Golden Eye and Tomorrow Never Dies on Friday, June 22nd and Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace on Sunday, June 24th. The Egyptian (Hollywood) will be screening The World Is Not Enough and Die Another day on Saturday, the 23rd.

If you want to see Bond inspiration articulated in the museum, check out the  “…Is James Bond” exhibit at LACMA, now through September 9, which happens to be co-organized with Loyola Marymount School of Film and Television. You can also catch Bond movie double screenings here every Thursday in July and September. (You can also score a free summer pass at the museum with purchase of regular general admission!)

***

But it’s not really celebrating Bond if you don’t toast his tradition of drinking, or concocting, the classics. Lo and behold – today is also National Martini Day! But if you’re like me, you already know which places really know how to make a martini just how you like it. So let’s mix things up with some help from the spy.

If you want to go for a classic formulated and named by the spy himself a la Casino Royale (circa 1953), and the cocktail that just so happens to be Ian Fleming’s favorite, you’ll look for a Vesper. Just remember that you’ll want to correct that infamous phrase to “Stirred, not shaken” and you’re set. (No man is perfect, after all.) But if James Bond were in Los Angeles, you can bet that you’d see him at one of these awesome bars:

Hemingway’s Lounge

After a screening or exhibit viewing at LACMA, head on over to the adjacent Ray’s & Stark Bar, the bar of which is helmed by Paul Sanguinetti, where you can order a Cali Blonde (think Eva Green with a dye job). It’s essentially a Vesper made with Hangar One vodka, Martin Millers gin, Lillet Blanc and lemon peel.

If you prefer the flipped version, you’ll go for the Reverse Vesper at Hemingway’s Lounge with Alex Straus:

3 oz Akvinta Vodka
1 oz Beefeater Gin
1/2 oz Lillet Blanc
Stir these with ice, strain and garnish with a twist

Here with the Reverse, the vodka and gin proportions are switched because after all, 007 gravitated more towards vodka further along his career.

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Lounge at The Spare Room

Take things to the next level with a barrel-aged cocktail tribute to author Ian Fleming called The Living Daylights over at The Spare Room inside Hollywood’s Roosevelt Hotel.

Spiced rum
Dry vermouth
Velvet Falernum
Green Chartreuse
Jerry Thomas bitters

Naomi Schimek, the bar manager, explains, “Ian Fleming wrote all of the James Bond stories from his estate Goldeneye on the beach in Jamaica,” where he of course drank a lot of rum, too. “Like cocktail aging in a barrel, a story develops over time, so we thought this was a fitting tribute to Mr. Fleming, the brilliant man who gave us so many wonderful stories.” Fantastic! (Though Naomi had me at Velvet Falernum and Green Chartreuse.)

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David Fernie at Pour Vous

You can also head on over to Steve Livigni and Pablo Moix‘s Pour Vous, the beautiful new, admittedly French-and-not-English cocktail and Champagne bar. But never fear, because Lindsay Nader has put together the vermouth-based Eau de Chambery, an herbal extravaganza that Pablo can see “Bond sipping [on] as he spits game at a model.”

2.5 oz Dolin Dry
.5 oz Maraschino
2 dash Orange bitters
Stir these with ice, strain and pour into coupe glass and garnish with a twist
Sounds like the perfect dry aperitif to get the spy started…
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But we mustn’t forget the Classic Daquiri at Steve & Pablo’s La Descarga, which always come out superb. Again, here we’re waxing Fleming’s glamorous time in the Caribbean. Kenny Arbuckle will have you covered and it is always a fantastic time with plenty of live music and great tunes. If you want rum neat – and why wouldn’t you? – don’t miss the sipping bar in the cigar lounge out back. There are specialty rums that make limited appearances but always leave you craving more.

Viva la Bond and Happy National (modified) Martini Day! I’m definitely grabbing a Vesper or something else Bond-inspired after work. Enjoy you and yours!

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Ray’s & Stark Bar
5905 Wilshire Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90036
323.857.6180

Hemingway’s Lounge
6356 Hollywood Blvd
Hollywood, CA 90028
323.469.0040

The Spare Room at Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel
7000 Hollywood Blvd
Hollywood, CA 90028
323.466.7000

Pour Vous
5574 Melrose Ave
Hollywood, CA 90004
323.871.8699

La Descarga
1159 North Western Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90029
323.466.1324

Garden-To-Table Dinner at Ray’s a Delight at LACMA

Pork Belly | Golden watermelon, black vinegar, opal basil

I’ve always been a fan of Stark Bar.

What’s not to love? Great cocktails made with fresh ingredients and spectacular, savory bar bites are yours to enjoy within one of the most cosmopolitan confines in Los Angeles. Ray’s and Stark Bar bring purpose and focus to LACMA‘s outdoor scene. It’s the stalwart at the center of a free-flowing patio in which the art is in the food and cocktails – a scene I’m readily available to insert myself into as I’m a new LACMA member!

Granola | Savory, Candy Stripe figs, pears, baby greens, sweet goat cheese

But I wasn’t completely sure how much of my favor for Stark Bar would translate to the dining room at Ray’s (or if any of it would). Well into the second course of our media dinner party, it became clear that all those Stark Bar’s bar bites I’ve become familiar with really are a mere introduction to the depth of Kris Morningstar’s cooking.

There were some amazing flavors to be had from one course to the next. It’s easy to see why Ray’s and Stark Bar are one of the representative Best New Restaurants in Esquire Magazine’s recently published 2012 list. It’s no detail that the cocktails, by Michel Dozois, were a delight. The ones served (the names of which I irresponsibly didn’t record) were refreshing and particularly complementary to the dinner.

As was a theme during the meal, Kris masterfully integrated his garden ingredients into the original design of his dishes. We have all had an heirloom tomato salad, but I was floored by his version, which came topped with charred local squid, shiso and Bottarga vinaigrette. The Granola, a wholly imaginative dish in itself (who serves granola for dinner?), had such complexities that each bite made for an evolutionary tale til the very last spoonful. It was refreshing, yet savory, yet sweet and herbal…you will just have to try it before the end of the season, yourself.

Peach | Roasted peaches, almond financier, Lady Plymouth geranium ice cream

The Pork Belly was a crispy, delicious slice, as coupled with a sweet cube of golden watermelon. The black vinegar and basil brought everything together while delicately balancing out the sweetness of the other two. The Sonoma Lamb was a savory masterpiece and tender as as can be with Butter beans, corno di toro peppers, baby artichokes, oregano and rouille – more evocative of the bar menu I’ve become accustomed with.

The dessert, which was a sweet and savory delight cooked and packaged in an iron skillet, was such a nice nightcap. It was the perfect amount of sweet with just enough savory breading, and I devoured every inch.

With Ray’s, it’s apparent that museum restaurants in Los Angeles have finally moved beyond the obligatory watering hole and feeding quarters for art patrons. Instead, the space has itself become a viable destination for those looking for solid cocktails and bar bites or, what’s more, an inspirational meal. Since this makes for an overall exciting time to be at LA’s representative art institution, it really is something all Angelenos can be proud of.

All food, wine and cocktails were hosted.

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Lunch

12 – 3 PM (11:30 AM on weekends)

Dinner

5 – 10 PM

Closed Wednesdays

Ray’s at LACMA
5905 Wilshire Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90036
323.857.6180

Ray’s & Stark Bar: A Dining & Cocktail Destination Within LACMA

Beef Tendon | Red braise, mushrooms, mustard fruit, broccoli ($9)

It may be commonplace for a museum to have a gift shop and furthermore, a restaurant, available within its walls for the convenience of its guests. The quality of Ray’s and Stark Bar, however, serves to make it a viable rival as far as being a destination in itself.

Ray's and Stark Bar at LACMA

Upon approach, the beautiful but complementary decor and setting of Ray’s and Stark Bar (so-named after the late film producer and former LACMA Trustee) expertly enable the restaurant and bar to blend in with its surroundings on the museum’s middle patio. But nothing about it dwindles in comparison to even the largest campus of the largest art museum in the western United States.

Certainly not the food menu, curated by Kris Morningstar (District), and certainly not the cocktail selection – which currently runs 25 deep – by Michel Dozois (Neve Ice). The treats are just as savory as what you’ve found on Chef Morningstar’s menus past – thank god – and at first taste during a media cocktail party, just as delicious.

The charcuterie, pates, rillette and cheese are all top-notch. You’ll find your standard selections of meat but also a decent selection of rarer cheeses available to start your evening off on the right foot.

Chile Relleno with Chorizo, Goat Cheese, Dates, Almond Sauce ($12)

The beef tendon – whether or not you’ve ever particularly been a fan of connective tissue – is a must-order as it stands one of the most tender meat dishes on the menu. The chile relleno, with its fillings of chorizo, goat cheese, dates and almond sauce, is such a uniquely rich rendition – it’s no wonder the (venison) version Kris left back at District is one of Alan Richman’s top five eats of 2010 in GQ Mag. This is also an essential item in your visit.

The flatbreads are no slouch, either, thanks to their wood-fired oven and apricot wood upon which they are cooked and browned. The pie crusts bubble up around the edges and are finished off with that charred crisp only an oven like that can achieve. The combination of toppings are simple (tomato and oregano) inspirational (truffle cheese, fontina, mushrooms) or plain thematic (goat shoulder and goat cheese). Truth be told, though, the real danger is letting these fill you up and thereby preventing you from exploring the rarer treats on the menu. Even their burrata is given a not-so-typical treatment with delicious, savory olive oil and tapenade.

Burrata with Tapenade

Feeling the beef tendon was too tame? Try the blood sausage, which comes dressed in pea tendrils and pickled cippolini onions. Or, you can order the crispy, fried head cheese as another savory treat. The mustardy, tangy carrot piccalilli that accompanies it gives the plate a good kick. 

And if you’re in the mood for a French classic, the Croque Madame, with its sunny side up egg on top, is cooked to perfection in all its rich glory. You’re best sharing one of these sandwiches unless this eye of the egg is what you particularly crave.

Dr. Blinker | Rye, freshly squeezed grapefruit juice, raspberry syrup ($11)

And the cocktails…oh, the delicious cocktails. Michel Dozois, whose cocktails headline Ray’s and Stark Bar and whose Neve Ice keeps said cocktails chilled, said he was given the task of coming up with 100 cocktails yet was able to convince the higher-ups to allow him whittle it down to 25. You will find yourself paging through that still-large selection not able to quite make up your mind and even quite possibly throwing up your hands. No worries, because Michel will be happy to help you discover the cocktail exactly to your liking.

It’s not that the recipes are complicated; to the contrary, they’re quite simple. But the selection of spirits, combined with juices made in-house, make for some very vibrant cocktails. Even Smokey and the Bandit, which employs Laphroaig, made even the band-aid-ish Islay single malt taste refreshing.

Morning Glory Fizz | Scotch, Absinth, egg white, freshly squeezed lemon juice, simple syrup ($10)

If you’re looking for a light, airy treat, try the Morning Glory Fizz – with Scotch, Absinth, egg white, freshly squeezed lemon juice and simple syrup. And though I love rye, I wouldn’t have guessed I’d enjoy it with grapefruit juice as in Michel’s Dr. Blinker. If you’re looking for something sweet and spicy, try the Owl and Pussycat, made with rum, freshly squeezed lemon juice, simple syrup, chilis and cherries.

Truth be told, there are really just so many cocktails and treats – not to mention mains – to try on this menu. I was just lucky to get a peek. In all, though, it was a great window into what promises to be an interesting and exciting place to explore all the corners of your palate. Art on this block has indeed transcended above and beyond to include the other senses, making the kitchen at Ray’s and Stark Bar an essential and rich (in multiple ways) LACMA experience.

All food and cocktails were hosted.

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Ray’s

Lunch: 12 – 3 PM, Dinner: 5 – 10 PM
Closed Wednesdays

Stark Bar

11 AM – 11 PM
Closed Wednesdays

Ray’s & Stark Bar

LACMA
5905 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
323.857.6180

Favorite Dish: Bibimbap Style Farro at Black Cat

Bibimbap-style Farro

Though I’ve always been a kind of “over easy” kind of gal when it comes to eggs, more and more I’m apt to go “sunny side up.” Especially when it comes to Korean food. The runnier, the better.

And that’s really the only thing that the so-named “bibimbap-style farro” has in common with the actual Korean dish. I’m not questioning the taste, however; I’m just wondering what exactly is so “bibimbap” about this dish. No chili paste, no silver bowl – but you know, perhaps the mixture of vegetables – including asparagus, roasted tomato and swiss chard - on top of, yes, farro instead of rice is just enough to warrant the name. The most pleasant surprise, though, was the burrata. (If it were “dolsotbop style,” do you think farro could result in a crispy bottom caused by a stone pot?”)

Regardless, this is one delicious and surprisingly filling dish out of many tasty selections on Black Cat’s reasonably priced menu (see: $2 coffee). Though nothing can take away from the cultish longevity that Mani’s had in the same spot, I’m sure glad that Black Cat is now filling the neighborhood space.

They’ve remodeled the interior and kept the decor simple. The best indoor seats remain in the Fairfax-lining bay windows built for 2. Of course, there’s still sidewalk seating for those who like to really make the most of Black Cat’s neighborhood feel.

I came for lunch, so my appetite didn’t exactly call for one of the fresh pastries (baked on-site with breads coming from Homeboy Industries) behind the counter. But thanks to this great experience with the farro, I’ll be sure to return for more menu items, earlier in the day. My wallet can handle it.

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Mon – Fri: 7:30 AM – 5 PM
Sat – Sun: 8 AM – 6 PM

Black Cat
519 S. Fairfax Ave.
Los Angeles, CA, 90036
323.932.1500

Dine LA Restaurant Week Happens Now: My Picks

Duck "Shawarma" With Oven-dried Tomatoes, Fig Confit & Garlic Spread on Homemade Whole Wheat Pita | Momed

I’ve been kind of sleeping on this one, because we are already half-way through the first of two weeks of this season‘s restaurant week. But don’t let me be the example, because if there are a couple restaurants in LA you’ve been meaning to check out, now is the time to see if they’re participating in Dine LA. From the Quickfire Challenges that have been held around the city (and culminating last night with Chef Eric Greenspan of The Foundry on Melrose winning the dessert challenge finale) to the incentive to dine at least three times with your American Express (but not before registering your card here), there has been a good amount of hoopla surrounding this fall’s Restaurant Week installment. You get a prix fixe 3 courses for varying price points.

So, if you have an American Express and plan on dining out at least three times, be sure to register it because if you spend at least $21 each time, you’ll get a $20 statement credit.

Of course, not all restaurants nor menus are considered equal. I browsed the list and pulled the ones that I’d be most interested in. Keep in mind there are three different price points each for lunch ($16, $22, $28) and dinner ($26, $34, $44) – and not all restaurants serve a Dine LA prix fixe for both. I also highlighted a menu item that particularly piqued my interest.

The Bazaar by Jose Andres ($$$) – Catalan Pork Sausage
Bistro LQ ($$) – Ham Hock
District ($$) – Venison Chile Relleno
Drago Centro ($$$) – Veal Osso Bucco
Eva ($$) – Cod and Caponata
FIG Santa Monica ($$) – Red Beet Risotto
The Foundry on Melrose ($$$) – Miso Honey Glazed Duck
Laxy Ox Canteen ($) – Veal Breast with Pee Wee Potato Salad
Locanda del Lago ($$) – Lobster-Dill-Ricotta Ravioli
Ortega 120 ($) – Petite Sterling Silver, Pasilla Pepper, Queso Oaxaca, Red Chile Potato Hash
Petrossian ($$$) – Crab Risotto
Piccolo ($$$) – Pumpkin pasta w/Black Truffle Filling
RH Restaurant ($$) – Roasted Boothbay Harbor Lobster
Rivera ($$$) – Banana leaf-braised pork shoulder
Urban Noodle ($) – Urban Noodle House Special Noodles

I admit, there is no way I’m going to make it out to half on my list so I’m leaving it up to you. They are all restaurants that I’ve had good experiences at so you can call these educated guesses. So get out there and experiment. You’d be remiss to not take the opportunity to try the restaurants you’ve always been curious about.

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Sunday – Friday

October 3 – 8, 10 15, 2010

Lunch, Dinner (Not all restaurants serve both)

Dine LA List

All over Los Angeles

Dine LA Restaurant Week Launches Sunday

Last week, the food and restauranteur community of Los Angeles gathered at The Hollywood Roosevelt to celebrate the launch of the winter installment of Dine LA – a two-week-long collaborative effort to offer diners three-course lunches and dinners at six specific price points.

$      Deluxe Dining   $16  $26
$$    Deluxe Dining   $22  $34
$$$   Fine Dining       $28  $44

Burger Slider

The red carpet was out and almost 100 chefs – many donning their white jackets straight from the kitchen – were the stars of the night. Oh – plus Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Writers, journalists, bloggers – what have you – were or weren’t donning our white “PRESS” badges. The purpose was clear: To celebrate food’s imminent role in Los Angeles culture – and the accessibility every man has to fine dining. And why don’t we enjoy some fixins from Dakota Chop House and 25 Degrees with cocktails from Matt Biancaniello of Library Bar to wash them down while we’re at it? Pork belly, tacos, quesadillas, salads, burger sliders and even a shiitake mushroom-infused Manhattan were passed around – but the hits of the night were undeniably the spicy burger sliders and Biancaniello’s arugula gimlet.

Arugula Gimlet

If you haven’t already, make your reservations soon; Dine LA runs Jan 24 – 29 and Jan 31 – Feb 5. The bevy of restaurants this round tops 243. Schedule a lunch in there to save a few dollars – it’s a great occasion to take an extended break from work. Eva (lunch or dinner), Palate (dinner), Cube (lunch or dinner) and Petrossian (lunch or dinner) rise to the top of my personal list.

And don’t forget to enter the daily contests Dine LA is holding: Starting 10 AM and running all day, answer a trivia question to be entered to win $100 gift certificates to participating restaurants (today’s is Petrossian, lo and behold). Also follow @dine_la on Twitter for updates.

Bonus: If you’re an American Express card holder, all you have to do is “do” Dine LA three times and you get a $20 credit on your statement. Just spend more than $21 per time.

And if you’re interested in the names behind the scene in Los Angeles food, it might interest you to peep the Dine LA Family Tree to see how they – and we – are all interconnected. Food brings us all together, doesn’t it?

Further reading:

DineLA Flickr Set

Restaurant Deals Ahead: It’s dineLA, the winter version; plus a “family tree” of L.A. chefs & restaurants – LATimes

DineLA Restaurant Week Kicks Off With Celebri-Chef Party – LAist

Dine LA Restaurant  Week Launch Party – ShopEatSleep

Jan 24 – 29 and Jan 31 – Feb 5, 2010

Dine LA Website
Various locations throughout Los Angeles
Call early for reservations

Lindsay, Dawson and Sabrina

Cowboys & Turbans For Indian Street Food

Shrimp burrito

I first stumbled across Cowboys & Turbans after a show at the El Rey. I was with my girlfriend and of course, we needed up to sop up the overpriced vodka tonics in our bellies with some grub. We ended up discovering the joint immediately next door, with lit-up signage labeling it simply, “Diner” and banners adorning Cowboys & Turbans’ correct name.

Diner food it is not, Indian street food it is. Nothing like a little spice to spruce things up before diving into bed. We ended up sharing a shrimp burrito for $9 and at the time, it was worth every penny. There’s a decent amount of shrimp in the burrito (despite what the picture may depict) and they keep a variety of 3 sauces with which to drizzle your tacos or burritos. I could come back to this taco stand.

And during a lunch break at work, I sure did. I ordered the same thing since it was “safe” – and found out the lunch menu on average is $2 less per item than their late-night “show menu.” But now I’m ready for some more. Thank goodness for Twitter; I got recommendations from Abby of PleasurePalate who got to sample more of their menu. The potato samosa, fish taco and apple samosa for dessert are next on my list!!

Know in order to go:

I love KCRW! KCRW members get 10% off which provides even more incentive. Also, the storefront serves as an El Rey box office during its business hours. So if you are feeling wallet-savvy and don’t want to give Ticketbastard any more of your hard-earned money with convenience and venue charges for a show at the El Rey, stop in while you’re getting tacos and buy tickets for any show that’s upcoming.

Lunch menu (11 AM – 6 PM):

Samosas $3
Naanwich (chicken or tofu) $5.99
Chicken tikka $5.99
Masala $5.99
Tofu or spinach Masala $5.99
Tandoori quesadilla (chicken, chicken jalapeño or tofu $5.99; shrimp $6.99)
Tandoori tacos (chicken or tofu $2, fish $2.50, shrimp $3)
Tandoori burritos (chicken, tofu, spinach tofu, breakfast burrito $5.99, shrimp $6.99)
Chips and masala (large $4, small $3)
Basmati rice $2
Naan $2
Masala fries (large $4, small $3)

I want a report back on all the menu items! Enjoy. 🙂

Cowboys & Turbans
5515 Wilshire Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90036
323.936.6400