Bruce Kalman Ups the Ante at Union Pasadena

Smoked pork chop, market vegetables, wild mushrooms, Marsala, sage

Though I’ve been hearing that, as of late, there are more and more reasons to eat in Pasadena, I’ve admittedly yet to fully experience many of those restaurants for myself. So it made sense that I might start with Union Pasadena, where diners are enveloped in a haven of Chef Bruce Kalman’s (formerly The Churchill, The Misfit, Urbano Pizza Bar) comfort food.

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Nine Noteworthy Upcoming Los Angeles Food & Drink Events

Glimpses of Unmissable Upcoming Events

Let me take this first post in almost one month to deliver some pertinent upcoming event news. It’s now summer and thus, event season, here in sunny Southern California. Now that I’ve somewhat psychologically recovered from a huge picture-data dump from spilling a homemade cocktail all over my non-backed-up laptop, I’m finally ready to move into this crazy part of the year.

So here’s a rebirth of sorts; it’s an intentional start to the summer by tallying up the essential food events continuing into the fall (L.A. Loves Alex’s Lemonade is in September). One focuses on cocktails. One focuses on tacos. One focuses on ribs. Three are on the same day; thus, yes – I do wish that these were spread out, more. But practically all of them feature world-class chefs. So without further adieu, here’s where you need to be this summer:

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Four Los Angeles Food Events in June You Won’t Want to Miss

Picture credits: TOTNLA, @LA_Chefs

Now that it’s summer in Los Angeles, there’s a ton going on all over town. And when it comes to food events, it’s enough to make your head spin. But you want to play it smart with your time and funds, because no one’s got patience for fluff.

Fortunately, I’ve narrowed it down to the best four events you’ll want to attend this month. They’re all on the weekend, so you’ll have enough time to make your trek. Whether it’s raising money to combat childhood hunger, celebrating Fatherhood the best way possible, eating the best tacos in the city or carousing the famous Rose Bowl for the best bites in Los Angeles, June is shaping up to be an exciting time to be in L.A. Let’s get started. Continue reading

The Red White + Bluezz Sunday Southern Brunch in Pasadena

Stuffed French Toast – Cap’n Crunch crusted brioche, fresh berry mascarpone cream, wild berry sauce, bacon

There are fewer things more iconic in Southern California than a Sunday spent in Pasadena. Whether you’re on your way to The Rose Bowl Flea Market the second Sunday of the month or are in the mood to lazily stroll Old Town Pasadena afterwards, the Red White + Bluezz Sunday Brunch is a southern treat that shouldn’t be missed.

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Drunken Udder Ice Cream: Artisanal, Booze-Infused Dessert for Adults

Salted Butter Caramel infused with Bourbon

It probably goes without saying that, when ordering ice cream, you’ve never had to worry about showing your ID.

That’s about to change, thanks to The Drunken Udder, an artisanal, mom-and-pop shop ice cream company which sells its deliciously boozy product via wholesale and other storefronts. (It doesn’t quite have the liquor license to sell retail on its own.)

Yesterday, I sampled a few flavors including Salted Butter Caramel infused with Bourbon (boozy, salty-sweet deliciousness), Pumpkin Spiced Praline infused with Maple Liqueur (boozy, crunchy fall on a cone), Raspberry-Orange Sorbet infused with Orange Vodka (fresh, tangy booziness) and Bailey’s Jameson Caramel (especially boozy sweet caramel flavor).
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Things Learned From Two Years of Going Metro and Bicycling in Los Angeles

Bicycling Los Angeles

People do walk in L.A., but – let’s be honest – they mostly still don’t. People drive alone, and they carpool. They vanpool and they shuttle. They ride their bikes. They Über or Taxi Magic all over town. And yes, we Metro railway. Do you ever get the feeling that just because we’re not New York, that’s the only thing they’re rubbing our noses in?

Which is not to say that I’m not envious of their subway access – and many other things. Yet having passed the 2-year mark living near a Hollywood Metro Red Line stop, I’ve learned a lot in the process about our own public transportation options. The Expo Line has opened during that time. And we’re looking forward to more.  Just experiencing the drastic transformation in how people choose to get around – myself included, and not only on the rail – have provided so many eye-opening revelations. So when Slate says that L.A. is being turned into “America’s next great mass-transit city,” we’ll take that little bit of validation. 

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Top Ten Picks For L.A. Beer Week: September 20 – 30, 2012

Photo credit to djdphotos on Flickr

Beer cocktails. Beer floats. Sour beers. All-you-can-drink beer. Beer crawl set to music. Crappy-for-happy beer trades. Prickly pear beers from all over town. Los Angeles is comin’ up beer. And in its 4th year, not only is LA Beer Week bigger and better than ever, it’s also more unified. The camaraderie around the LA beer community is unmistakable – so get ready to drink some tasty brews while learning a lot and meeting some cool people along the way.

After perusing the 10-day schedule, I’ve come up with a few events I’d personally want to attend. With the LA beer scene at the strongest it has ever been, there’s bound to be some (or a lot of) conflicts during this extravaganza, but all we can do is do our best, right? While you’re at it, you might as well check off the four quandrants of this LA Beer Week Bucket List. Then, bring your four stickers to the LA Beer Week Festival on September 30th and get a free bottle of the official beer of the week, Unity, from Eagle Rock Brewery – a play on a traditional Berliner Weiss, yet jazzed up with a touch of rye as well as red and green prickly pear. You’ll also get to enter a drawing for tickets to the BAM Fest on October 6th in Santa Monica.

(If you don’t complete the bucket list, never fear – it’ll be on draft at select retailers throughout Los Angeles and Orange county as well as at the LA Beer Week Festival itself.)

Without further ado, here are my Top Ten of LA Beer Week:

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People Do Walk in LA: Go Metro to dineLA Restaurant Week (July 16 – 27, 2012)

Salmon, Pea Risotto, Shaved Chorizo & Yuzu at Haven Gastropub (Pasadena)

Times: They are a-changin’. So much so, that I’ve grown to love my neighborhood – even after some growing pains – for its walkability to certain things, including the Los Angeles Metro Red Line.

Now the fact that this summer’s dineLA Restaurant Week (which started yesterday) has been scheduled for the very first time in one block instead of only on the weekdays, makes for good incentive to diners to capitalize on the Metro rails and the destinations to which they flow. What better way to enjoy your wine or cocktails with dinner than to finish the trek home liability-free? (Perhaps you’ll want to make a reservation on the the last day of dineLA – the very first day the Metro runs until 2 AM, on July 27 – and make that one a late night?)

For the n00bs, lunches range from $15, $20 or $25 while dinners vary from $25, $35 or $45 for a 3-course prix fixe meal. It’s all so simple. Look below for some of my dineLA Restaurant Week recommendations along the Metro – all sorted according to the rail lines along which they are situated. (Sorry, Westsiders – you have Beverly Hills to blame for your dearth of rails.)

Expo Line

Sang  Yoon’s Lukshon (3239 Helms Avenue, Culver City) in  the  Helms  Bakery  building (one  block  east  of the  elevated  Culver  City  Station)  blends  stand-out  design  with modern  takes  on South-East  Asian  fare in the form of shared, small plates. Try the Hawaiian butterfish: half inch slices of melty cured fish layered just so and finished with slivers of pretty pink
watermelon radish and nahm jim, a coarse, nutty Thai sauce.

Steamed Black Cod, Lukshon

Nearby is one of the stalwarts of Downtown Culver City, Chef Ben Ford’s Filling Station (9531 Culver Boulevard, Culver City), with classic, non-nonsense American pub fare with an seen-and-be-scene outdoor patio with views of passers-by and available dineLA lunch and dinner menus. Or stop in at Akasha (9543 Culver Boulevard, Culver City) for dinner, with some farmer’s market-fresh, contemporary American fare offering unexpected twists on otherwise-classic dishes.

On the other end of the Expo  Line  is  the  brand new & highly anticipated  Mo-chica (514 W. 7th  St., Downtown),  whose  playful  and inviting  space  is  located  just  a  few  blocks  east  of  the  7th  Street/Metro  Station.  The  newest  restaurant (or re-location from Mercado Paloma, depending on who you ask) from 2011  Food & Wine  Best  New  Chef  and  owner  Ricardo  Zarate  is  loaded  with  playful  design  details including colorful  ekeko  figurines  decorated  by  chef  friends  of Zarate. Try the sun  dried  potato  stew with peanuts  and  chimichurri and bisteck a la pobre (skirt  steak with  fried  egg  and  pan fried  bananas).

Gold Line

Stop  one  is  Maison Akira  (713 E. Green St.,  Pasadena)  where  chef  Akira  Hirose  has  been  quietly  crafting modern  Japanese -French  fare  for  almost  14  years.  This  gorgeous  restaurant with butter  yellow  walls, is a healthy walk from Lake Station. But when you dine, you’ll definitely want to choose the tempura soft shell crab served atop wasabi potato mousseline.

Oyster Plate, Aburiya Toranoko

Haven Gastropub (42  S.  De  Lacey  Ave.,  Pasadena),  which  opened  last  December,  is  just  a  few  blocks  further  south on  the  other  side  of Colorado.  With forty beers on tap including a handful of in-house brews, Haven is happiness for beer lovers. But the excellent food will surprise you. Try Chef Greg Daniel’s deviled eggs made with smoked serrano powder and topped with Maldon smoked sea salt and crumbled, house-made bacon (on the lunch menu). For dinner, try their flavorful lamb burger finished with onion jam and tzatziki sauce.

At the opposite end of the Gold Line in Little Tokyo, is Aburiya Toranoko (243 S. San Pedro St., Little Tokyo) – four blocks Southwest of the stop on Alameda and a pleasant walk past Japanese Village Plaza. Snap up one of the all-time lunch favorites during dineLA Restaurant Week, such as their bento box. At dinner, a ten ounce New York steak with garlic soy will do just fine.

Red Line

A five minute walk from the Hollywood and Vine station lies Papilles (6221 Franklin Ave., Hollywood)  at  Argyle  and  Franklin. If you’re not keen on them already, don’t let the strip  mall deceive you when it comes to this quaint little bistro with one of the simplest yet satisfying menus. Go prix fixe as per usual in this quaint spot, which hosts just a dozen tables in its cozy dining room complete with low ceiling, red  walls and open kitchen. For dineLA Restaurant Week, choose from dishes such as roast hanger steak with potato gratin and shelling beans, or market fresh fish with red quinoa and roasted corn slaw. Don’t forget the wine, as Santos Uy has just the perfect pour to complement the excellent food by Chef Tim Carey.

The back patio at Sadie

Try Cleo (717 Vine Street, Hollywood) inside the fabulous Redbury Hotel, which serves up Mediterranean fare for dineLA dinner. Start off with two enticing appetizers before indulging in the Chicken Tagine or the Grilled Daurade. You’ll be enjoying the best of what Hollywood has to offer – trends and tastes to tantalize your tastebuds – all for $35 prix fixe. It’s one of the glitziest places in Hollywood, much less LA.

At Sadie Restaurant (1638 N. Las Palmas Avenue, Hollywood) by the Hollywood and Highland station, you’ll get the best of both the food and cocktail worlds thanks to food by Mark Gold and cocktails by Giovanni Martinez. Enjoy their Parlor Room, Lounge, or beautifully lit back patio for a customizable dining experience – all areas with elegance to spare. Start off with the Basil Risotto topped with olive oil-poached baby tomatoes. You’ll have trouble deciding your main entree, whether it be Ocean Water Poached Scottish Salmon with “hazelnut brown butter” or the Creek Stone Beef Shortrib, complete with potato creameux and roasted forest mushrooms.

Blue Line

Flan de Elote, Rivera

For dineLA lunch or dinner, stop by Rivera (1050  S.  Flower  St., Downtown), John  Sedlar’s  gorgeous, modern Latin eatery across the  street from  Pico  Station. Stellar food and cocktails (by Julian Cox) align at this stalwart Los Angeles establishment with no lack of sophistication in any of the senses. Try the  handmade, crisp corn cones  filled  with  fresh crab salad  and  finished with a tequila chipotle vinaigrette. Order the sous vide beef shank with roasted summer vegetables or the Agave-roasted duck.

Corkbar (403 W. 12th St., Downtown), just a few blocks east, is a solid wine bar with great food to complement the all-Californian list. What better way to take dineLA local than to drink the finest wines in the state. Chef Thomas Lamont’s dineLA Restaurant Week menu  features  house  made  corned  beef  brisket  sandwich with  pickled  cabbage  and  steamed  mussels with linguini.

Purple Line

There’s no better time to revisit Water Grill  (544  S.  Grand  Ave.,  Downtown), around  the  corner  from  Pershing  Square  Station, since it has just undergone a facelift with more casual but hip sights in mind. New are chocolate leather booths and a wall of antique fishing rods. But the constant, thankfully, is the beautiful raw bar. Try Chef Damon Gordon’s pan seared skate, finished with brown butter, red grapes and arugula. Perhaps the pan sautéed wild sockeye salmon with asparagus chutney and raw asparagus salad is more your speed. No matter what, your seafood craving will go more than satisfied.

Border Grill Downtown LA (445 S. Figueroa St., Downtown) always feels like a party, thanks to its festive interior and buzzing vibe. Just a short walk from 7th Street/Metro Station, Border Grill is featuring grilled local yellowtail with seared greens and quinoa. Vegetarians will appreciate and love their  take on chilaquiles on the lunchtime  restaurant  week  menu. Think tomatillo salsa and melted panela cheese draped over asparagus, fresh fava beans, artichoke hearts and a happy mix of soft and crispy chips. It’s summer!

Bar | Kitchen (819 S. Flower Street, Downtown) is one of my favorite places in LA for a cocktail and a bone luge, so why not pony on up to their lunch or dinner menu for some Shrimp & Grits for lunch or Grilled Berkshire Pork Chop for dinner? Just a block away from the 7th & Metro station, this stellar restaurant inside the O Hotel is just what you need for some instant satisfaction.

 ***

So enjoy dineLA, Los Angeles. The plethora of options can definitely be overwhelming, but as with anything, a little bit of online research will go a long way. Just use this map for your convenience (bravo, dineLA, on the re-design!), keeping in mind that not all places offer lunch. And remember, whenever you can: Go Green! And Go Metro!

Lukshon
3239 Helms Ave
Culver City, CA 90232

Ford’s Filling Station
9531 Culver Blvd
Culver City, CA 90232

AKASHA
9543 Culver Blvd
Culver City, CA 90232

@akashacc

Mo-chica
514 W 7th St
Los Angeles, CA 90017

Maison Akira
713 E Green St
Pasadena, CA 91101

Haven Gastropub
42 S De Lacey Ave
Pasadena, CA 91105

Aburiya Toranoko
243 S San Pedro St
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Papilles
6221 Franklin Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90028

Cleo in The Redbury Hotel
717 Vine St
Los Angeles, CA 90038

Sadie Restaurant
1638 N Las Palmas Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90028

Rivera
1050 S Flower St
Los Angeles, CA 90015

Corkbar
403 W 12th St
Los Angeles, CA 90015

Water Grill
544 S Grand Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90013

Border Grill Downtown LA
445 S Figueroa St
Los Angeles, CA 90071

Bar | Kitchen
819 S Flower St
Los Angeles, CA 90017

It’s Liquid Spring at The Raymond Pasadena’s 1886

Barrel Roll

It’s rare when I get a full picture of an entire cocktail menu, but it’s even rarer when I’m afforded the opportunity to do so and end up consistently impressed with cocktail after cocktail. The bar at 1886’s recent Spring menu makes it the destination in not only Pasadena drinking, but a go-to for some of the best cocktails in all of LA.

Pork Belly, Bourbon Aged Maple, Apple, Celery & Chili

Sure, it flies under the radar because of its location, but 1886 has also benefited as a result. Free of the obligation of appealing to overflow traffic, 1886 has the freedom to focus on seriously fun cocktails, akin to the audience the bar has cultivated since its opening in late-2010.

The Pimm’s #5 Cup (after previous other Pimm’s versions with other spirits) is a perfect cocktail to head off the menu for Spring. The rye, Bitter Lemon Fever Tree Tonic and housemade Pimms made for a perfect balance, rendering a super-refreshing cocktail just as a Pimm’s Cup should be.

The Cinnablossom

If you’re in the mood for their other rye cocktail, go for the 20,000 Leagues – a kind of swizzle made with peach-infused rye, mint, and housemade yellow chartreuse candy (the garnish was especially tasty!). Imagined by Pete Lloyd Jones, this delicious cocktail was the result of a request by the Pasadena Historical Society to honor residents who were aboard the Titanic. The ingredients were inspired by the Titanic’s own dessert menu.

The Water of Life, made by Garrett McKechnie with the Norwegian spirit, Aquavit, homemade Chamomile-Syrup and Nolet’s Gin, is the floral tea-influenced cocktail of the season. It’s also a light yet herbal treat and finished off with a sprig or two of Chamomile.

Bittersweet Farewell

The Cinnablossom by Lacey Murillo comes with a cinnamon garnish that is toasted – or flamed – tableside. Gin, lemon juice and homemade cinnamon bark syrup make for delicious gin-citrus cocktail with a subtle touch of spice.

One of the best beer cocktails I’ve had in awhile also happened to be the prettiest, which is quite lovely since it’s a testament to how far they’ve evolved. The Wild Orchid is a shaken cocktail made with Torontel Pisco, Vergano Bianco Vermouth, Grand Marnier and Hefeweissen with the orchid garnish. The effervescence of the beer worked well with the depth of the Pisco, vermouth and Grand Marnier for a really wonderful combination of flavors and textures.

The other flaming cocktail on the menu is the Bittersweet Farewell in honor of former 1886 barman, Danny Cymbal’s. A flaming lemon peel floats as an oasis in a shaken concoction of London Dry Gin, homemade Passion Fruit Syrup, lemon juice and Campari. It’s a beautiful gin drink with just the right amount of tart.

Rum Whistle

The all-out favorite of the night had to be the Rum Whistle, which is basically 1886’s new bottled special and bottled each and every night for a fixed amount to be sold at the bar the next day. It’s not only bottled, but it also has the widest range of appeal; boozers and non-boozers alike will love it. The green apple-celery soda base is spiked with aged white rum and finished off with fresh lime juice before being carbonated and bottled and the results are simply tasty. You may order more than one – not only because you can but also because you love it.

The Vintage Caprice Flight features three vintages of classic Beefeater Gin Barrel-Aged Caprice – made with Beefeater Gin, dry vermouth, Benedictine and orange bitters and then aged at 4-months, 8-months and 12-months. I was surprised to find that I actually favored the 8 month vintage over the 12. Older isn’t necessarily better and sometimes, your gin is just done aging.

Vintage Caprice Flight

The Barrel Roll (title picture) doesn’t just fall under the years-long trend of barrel aged cocktails, it’s also a super tasty rendition of aged Bols Genever, Carpano Antica, Green Chartreuse and a Campari chip by pastry chef Jeff Haines (who also did the Yellow Chartreuse candy). It just so happened to be one of my favorites. The chip was the slight sweet touch to the Bols cocktail and made for a strong yet nuanced cocktail.

Of course, you’ll need a few bar bites to line your stomach – but the selection at 1886 does more than that. They are daring yet successfully delicious plates, indeed. The musts: Shrimp toast and Lamb necks.

So get on over to 1886 right away and drink up. You’ll learn why it’s one of the best kept secrets in Pasadena.

All food and cocktails were hosted. Special thanks to Brady Weise.

Tue – Sun

5 PM

Parlor Hour: Tue – Fri

5 PM – 7 PM

Closed Mondays

1886 at The Raymond
1250 S. Fair Oaks Avenue
Pasadena, CA 91105
626.441.3136

Jiro Dreams of Sushi Opens Today

There are pivotal moments in a sushi lover’s life. Sukiyabashi Jiro is one of those famed restaurants that I have aspirations of eating at in the case that I not only make it to Japan, but have the money (Â¥30,000, or $360) to put up for – at maximum – 20 minutes of the best fish I’ve ever had in my life.

(The closest experience to this has to have been my last meal at Sushi Nozawa – now closed - which clocked in at about 30 minutes and not a minute longer. Warm rice with excellent fish, yes. Jiro’s? No. )

The 10-seat, 3-star Michelin starred Sukiyabashi Jiro is helmed by Jiro Ono, the first sushi chef and oldest chef to be awarded the honor. Jiro Dreams of Sushi is 81 minutes of pure food porn laying the foundation for Jiro’s life story, including the pursuit of literal perfection of his craft and the contingent (and not-so-contingent) roles of his sons and apprentices. It’s an intriguing perspective into Japanese culture and the evolution of its food.

New York opened last week, and finally Los Angeles has its chance – specifically on the Westside at the Nuart. For tonight’s showtimes, filmmaker David Gelb will appear in person for a Q&A after the 7:30pm show and to introduce the 9:40pm show. Tomorrow (Saturday, March 17), he’ll do another Q&A after the 7:30pm show and introduce the 9:40pm show. You can also check out Food GPS’ excellent Q&A with the guy.

And I would be negligent if I didn’t recommend that you be prepared to visit a decent sushi place before or after the movie – so you’re not left hungry and envious, or shall we say, “hangry” (personal experience). While there is no Jiro in LA, perhaps try a SUGARfish location, Sushi Central (Palms) or Sushi Park (Sunset Blvd, WeHo) for some unadulterated omakase nigiri made by chefs who, at the very least, say “no california roll or spicy tuna?”

Opening March 16, 2012:

Nuart Theatre
10850 W Pico Blvd Suite 520
Los Angeles, CA 90064
310.281.8223

Opening March 23, 2012:

Laemmle NoHo 7
5240 Lankershim Boulevard
San Fernando Valley, CA 91601
310.478.3836

Playhouse 7 Cinemas
673 East Colorado Boulevard
Pasadena, CA 91101
626.844.6500