The Wilshire Restaurant (Top Chef star Nyesha Arrington helms the kitchen) has recently launched a pretty spectacular Sunday weekly, and that happens to be a buffet-style brunch that is not to be missed. Since I normally relegate buffets (read: gorge parties) to Vegas, if even that, it’s really easy for me to dismiss these all-you-can eat, self-serve extravaganzas.
However, the Wilshire Restaurant’s Sunday deal has not only the brunch plate essentials, but bottomless Mimosas and Bloody Mary bar – plus a really neat patio ensconced in the cool, Santa Monica air – at the very reasonable price of $35 per person. It runs throughout the daytime for your leisure, so if you are into loitering, you could go from 11 AM until 5 PM if you really wanted to – but that would be pretty tacky.
As the Los Angeles “chill” continues, it’s only natural to crave the comforting foods in which we take refuge. Luckily, there’s Bar Pinxto, a tapas place that has reinvigorated the Spanish traditions behind the term that was once disgracefully applied to all “small plates.” The place has the most mom and pop feel of anywhere in the tourist hub of Santa Monica, and the reasonable price points, accommodating happy hour specials and prix fixe menu options clinch its status as a neighborhood favorite.
For awhile after I started food writing, there was a point where I had let go of all physical activity. At some point, I felt the repercussions, and decided to give the Pilates studio a few blocks away from my new Hollywood apartment a go. I had an inkling that I’d like Pilates, but I ended up really loving it.
I’ve gone through the distance running, Bikram yoga, Anusara-influenced yoga and spin phases in my child through adult life, but I found Pilates to be just what I needed, because I really need consistent strength training – especially since I’ve had shoulder surgery and am now perpetually conscious of it and my upper body strength. I have also found my prior yoga training really helpful for proper form while I’m on the reformer, and now whenever I’m not even in the studio, I love the extra attention I subconsciously pay to my posture, even while at the desk. In short, I highly recommend Pilates!
But it all wouldn’t have been possible without Heather Dorak, the still-twenty-something entrepreneur extraordinaire who started it all. She is an inspiration, just as working out regularly has also had an influence how it has influenced how I think about food. I asked a Heather a few questions about her lifestyle and her relationship to food:
Happy Martin Luther King Day! Also, what a joyous second inauguration day. In this case, it also means the very first day of dineLA Restaurant Week. If you haven’t, already, you best be making your reservations right now – or better yet, take advantage of your day off and find your prix fixe destination for lunch today.
I’ve done a bit of perusing the incredibly extensive list of restaurants and their offered menus around the city and came up with a few categories that struck me. With 3-course prix fixe as the standard, here are some standout menu offerings the week starting today, Monday, January 21 – Friday, February 1:
Best Opportunity to Try New Chef at Venue
Not new chefs by any definition (in fact, the tenure of this group is impressive especially by L.A. standards) – just new venues.
I associate my first experiences with potted rillettes, headcheese and pates in L.A. with Remi Lauvand, and he’s now at Le Ka, having just opened last September. Downtown workers can get their feet wet on the $25 lunch menu, but interesting dinner menu items include escargot cavatelli, lamb’s tongue and scallops with lentils and chicken skin – some things that may be too good to pass up.
With Vartan Abgaryan now serving at a venue in possession of one of the most enviable patios in Silver Lake, I can’t help but simply displace the delicious plates he was just serving at Public Kitchen & Bar and imagine them enjoyed in outdoor dim lighting surrounded by foliage. Sure, he’s changed up a few things, but I’ve always been a fan of his octopus.
Just a week ago, IDG’s RivaBella just started serving dinner in its brand-new, 8,000 square foot space, basically the antithesis of Angelini Osteria. You’ll have to settle for lunch if you want to do Restaurant Week here, but if Gino Angelini’s pasta (such as a green pappardelle in ragu) is part of the 3-course offering, that will always do.
Noodles are a perfect way to ring in the Lunar New Year. Representative in Asian cultures of long life, noodles are also one of the most comforting foods that I turn to – perfect in our “chilly” Los Angeles February. So when I heard that the first ever Noodle Bowl Fest would be held at The Viceroy, you could color me skeptical about the representations that would be served – until I actually looked at the participants.
They’re the noodle heavyweights of Arcadia, Thai Town and Little Osaka, but also the culinary heavyweights of Highland Park, Manhattan Beach, the food truck movement and Santa Monica. A $45 ticket (bought before January 31st, $55 after) will get you tastings of the following:
When it comes to The Fairmont Miramar Hotel by the beach, I’m usually raving about FIG Restaurant or covering a food event that has taken place in their driveway circle around one of the oldest trees in the city.
But it’s no secret that the balance to enjoying all the food I write about is physical activity, whichever activity you may be really into right now. While I’ve been attending Pilates classes on the reformer the past couple of years, I’m always applying the principals of yoga not only to that, but also to my minute-to-minute posture and way about moving throughout the day. Yoga is universal.
Luckily, Exhale Spa and the Fairmont Miramar have teamed up this week to offer a special rate to go with a week of unlimited yoga classes. Because who really wants to eat unlimited, heatlamped food at the buffet, anymore? For a special rate of $260 per night, you’ll get this free week of yoga included (until January 8) so you can detox with proper nights’ rest right by the beach.
Mark your calendars, walkers, runners, bikers and proud Angelenos. You won’t want to miss the Great LA Walk this Saturday. It’s a 17-mile walk from Downtown LA to the Pacific Ocean. It’s a way to say, “People DO walk in LA.” It’s a day-long appreciation of this city, whether you’re stopping for lunch, walking through one of countless urban enclaves, learning little-known facts about a historical landmark or stopping in to see a shop you’ve never even heard of before. Let’s be honest: It’s also bragging rights.
And this year, it’s a way to really get to know Melrose Avenue.
Free Range Country Fried Chicken & Dwelley Farms Corn Pudding
City-wide pastry and sweets addicts know and love Huckleberry for their wonderful selection of treats. Always a proponent of the highest quality ingredients – down to their organic flour – Huckleberry’s impressive display case is quite the Westside attraction but their fresh salads, sandwiches and weekend brunch dishes also hold their own thanks to Executive Chef, Head Baker, and Co-owner Zoe Nathan.
Now, on Thursdays, nobody will have to bid adieu to the cafe favorite earlier than they have to enjoy a family-style dinner. With a new seasonal menu featured weekly, you’re offered a different experience each time. Take-out options are also available on the 3-course, $30 per person weekly. To get the menu of the week, sign up for the restaurant’s e-newsletter.
The bites are the kind of thing where you warm up to a beautiful place with just the right ambiance. The tastes are deceptively good. Then, you proceed to order more and more, ultimately staying for what accumulates to an all-out meal. I am a grazer, not a gorger; I love bites.
Crab Cake Crostini, Chicken Liver Mousse
Now, a great place to do exactly that is Whist at The Viceroy in Santa Monica – a place where the indoor dining options are just as charming as the outdoor, with the latter coming full circle thanks to poolside and cabana options. Chicken liver mousse with pancetta on crostini? Heavenly. Dungeness crab cake with yuzu on crostinis? Refreshing. And of course, it’s not enough to put just uni on crostini, but to add lardo? Indulgent. And perfect.
The real problem is that if you don’t have a few camarades with you on this little dining adventure, you’ll probably get real full before you either: 1) Get to try all the bites you wanted to, or 2) Get to any of the also-solid main dishes available. After all, you can’t forget about the juicy, flavorful Lamb Kafka Meatballs, topped with orange, pistachio and yogurt. Nor the beautifully cured hamachi with rhubarb “ponzu,” cucumber, radish and celery.
All this, while having to avoid getting full on their extraordinary corn bread, which Chef Tony DiSalvo makes with three different renditions of corn to achieve that robust flavor. Oh, and that perfectly prepared Grilled Octopus with romesco, potatoes and charred wild leeks. It’s the kind of octopus dish that converts all those naysayers who’ve assumed octopus, by nature, is chewy. The tentacles are tender and flavorful, yet finished with a crispy exterior.
But of course, I must move on to the mains, a favorite of which was the Broiled Halibut. The filet came perched on a bed of deliciously smoked potato-miso puree and paired with crispy asparagus and ginger. It was a surprising winner – simple but a perfect combination of flavors. The smoke was a nice and unexpected touch.
And as for some other mains, sweetbreads lovers will love this version prepared with morels and fava beans in sherry. But if you’re looking for something a little lighter than that, the potato gnocchi are just as much a treat (and doubles as a vegetarian alternative), with asparagus and morels rounding out its buttery essence.
If I were to pick the one essential dessert at Whist, it would be the Rhubarb tart with its buttery crust and walnut crumble on top. Of course, it comes a la mode with vanilla ice cream. Just try it. It’s just one of those desserts where if you thought you were full before, you’ll realize you do have enough room for dessert. All of it.
So check out Tony DiSalvo and Chris Crary’s new bites, served in their chic dining room or outdoors. The tastes are just too fabulous to allow you to get too distracted by the hotel, pool or any of the beautiful views and ambiance they afford.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.)
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…
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!