When you get approached to reminisce about a certain time and place, nay, a certain chef and his concept – on-camera – you know you’ve been hit with something very special. In the present age of reality TV, of course, you might have suspicions it could be exploitive, but then you know the show. And multi-Emmy-award-winning Mind of a Chef just so happens to be one of your favorite shows on cooking and the culture of food.
Furthermore, when you hear that the particular episode you’re asked to be a part is about LudoBites, and you’ll get to experience Ludo recreating a few dishes right in his own brand new kitchen. you know that it’s going to be good. There’s just so much to unpack, there.
DineL.A. is back and it’s time to scour the menus of participating restaurants all over town. I’ve come up with some reasons to jet to a particular dining establishment near you, whether for lunch or for dinner. Some restaurants offer exclusive dishes to dineL.A., others are offering a particularly enticing lunch and/or dinner menu. There are also participants that might normally be out of your price range or sense of adventure, but dineLA might just be the right occasion to give them a try.
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:
As a 2nd generation Taiwanese American, I often wondered during childhood how different my life would’ve been if, like many of their classmates in Southern Taiwan, my parents had settled in Arcadia, California instead of New Berlin, Wisconsin. My only access to Taiwanese (adamantly never Chinese) food was through my Mom’s cooking.
As the 4th of 4 kids, though, my parents were financially able to travel by the time I rolled around, and I luckily traveled to California and Taiwan often to keep somewhat in contact with my roots. As my palate matured and diversified over the years, it was also groomed for the innate craving for noodles, broth and spice I continually have today.
Silver Lake is an anomaly of sorts. It’s known as one of the hippest neighborhoods in Los Angeles, though some easter-siders might argue that its time has past and has already gone by way of the tourist. Take, for example, that there are many movie settings that tout Silver Lake, but not Echo Park, Mt. Washington or Boyle Heights.
Sunset Junction, to be specific, is the site of the Los Angeles coffee resurgence, but the quality of Silver Lake’s new restaurants haven’t really kept the pace of the other burgeoning neighborhood’s eateries. Instead, it continues to be stocked with local favorites in lieu of destination restaurants with nearby residents regularly filling covers – and Silver Lake definitely prefers it that way.
It was a Saturday afternoon after a morning of Pilates followed by procrastination, and I was in need of a snack. I craved the sort of snack that could double as a quick, reasonably priced lunch. As with most things, however, you risk quality in favor of expediency and price.
With all the different places I eat at from week to week – or more accurately, day to day – I can’t help but take note of the restaurant trends that follow the seasons. Of course, depending on your tastes, this could either be a welcomed opportunity or a temporary annoyance. (Though if you’ve never fallen for the Brussels sprouts or cupcake crazes, then you’re pretty much screwed since it doesn’t seem like either of them will be going anywhere, anytime soon.)
Recently, I came upon a few meals in a row where there was grapefruit in at least one dish. Since grapefruits are in season, and thus tasting especially fantastic right now, I had a fun time seeing and tasting what everyone did with the ingredient. And it’s not just in salads, anymore (though Tortilla Republic does a good job of it in their Ensalada de la Casa).
It was the acidic component in a sophisticated deli-style trout salad (Sadie Kitchen & Lounge). A complement to Vartan Abgaryan’s fantastic octopus-fennel salad as well as the shining star (along with Passion Fruit) in Matt Biancaniello’s Italian Greyhoud (Cliff’s Edge).
I ended up conducting the bulk of my really fun research time at Michael Voltaggio‘s Ink – thanks to both he and Gabriella Mlynarczykx – the latter of whom ended up with 5 pounds of grapefruit behind her bar, while the citrus abundance became inspiration for the former. Truth be told, Ink was the perfect site to explore the utmost creativity in both the kitchen and behind the stick with that singular ingredient. And the night before I conducted more fun research at Ink, Michael had actually just added a dish meant to be a riff on the dressed sashimi appetizer you’ve most likely seen at every Japanese restaurant. But this was, oh, so inspired.
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.
I say bespoke because the act of stumbling into Heirloom was shockingly not via their famously flavor-packed, personal sized lasagna cupcakes found at farmer’s markets around town, but instead by luck of an invitation to a private dinner showcasing Bridlewood Wines in that said tasting room. Fortunately, they’ll be opening it up to the public a few days during the week, and I imagine the Eagle Rock community will meet that unveiling with elation. So bring on 2013, then. Continue reading →
Now would be a great time to finally and formally introduce you to my “Upcoming Events” column over on the right (–>). It’s but a few months old, but a great way to short-handedly let you know about the best things that are coming up as far as goings on in Los Angeles. It also means less pre-event write-ups, since you can get the skinny right in that column. (You’re welcome.)
For now, though, I’ve anticipated a slew of food events in our beloved city – especially while everyone’s trying to get everything wrapped up before the holidays. I believe the following, however, warrant special attention. Be sure to make your reservations & buy your tickets. Here they are, in order of date:
1. Now: LudoBites 10.0 Reservation Window Now Open (until 10:59 AM Thursday, November 29, 2012)
Right now we’re in the middle of a 24-hour window that first opened at 11 AM PST. So until 10:59 AM tomorrow (Thursday, November 29), you’ll get to enter the lottery for a reservation on one of 14 days (weekdays, December 4-21) of LudoBites 10.0 at Gram & Papa’s in Downtown LA. No guarantees that any of you will actually GET a reservation, but all we can do is try, try, try, right? (No seriously – don’t submit that form twice. It will make Krissy very mad. Just once, guys.) Protip: To increase your chances of getting a reservation, be sure to be as available as possible, since you have to fill out your available days and time slots. Or maybe that was obvious.
And if you don’t know what LudoBites is, by now, I’m afraid I can’t help you…or can I?