John Besh Wows at The Strand House in Culinary Master Series

Oyster Stew with black garlic, Meyer lemon, petit herbs

Last month, I got a chance to partake in one night of the excellent Culinary Masters series going on at The Strand House in Manhattan Beach. The chef of the night was John Besh in the wake of the release of the Louisiana native and home cooking champion’s latest cookbook, “Cooking From the Heart,” and the celebratory 6-course dinner, expertly paired with Bwise Vineyard Wines, was nothing short of fantastic.

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Maruhide Uni Club: A Sea Urchin-Lover’s Paradise in Torrance

#3 Bowl: Uni, Scallop, Salmon Roe

It may have been ambitious to have driven down to the South Bay on a Friday late afternoon, but we knew what we wanted, and what we wanted was uni.

Having 4 people in my little Mini Cooper enabled us to use the 110 Southbound’s alternating Express Lane (it weaves in and out with more preference now given to FastPassers), which was key in our Silver-Lake-to-South-Bay commute and miraculously amounted to little more than a half hour. We made it to Maruhide’s resident strip mall just after its 5:30 PM opening and, though we imagined there being a line out the door, we were the only table seated for another 10 minutes.

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The Raw Power of Fishing With Dynamite

1/2 Dungeness crab, 8 Shrimp, 16 Oysters

You can tell a city has entered a seafood renaissance when several of its most admired chefs and restauranteurs make it a centerpiece of their sophomore-or-later efforts. We watched with delight as they’ve sprung up all over town these past couple of years, and as recently as last week. It’s indicative of a supply feeding the demand, which appears to still grow.

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New Fall Cocktails Hit M.B. Post on Thanksgiving Eve

Man in the Yellow Hat, The Hessian & The Fall of Man (Photo credit to Rick Poon)

If you ever needed a reason to hang out in Manhattan Beach the day before Thanksgiving, I’ve got three liquid reasons right here. Known in the food and beverage industry as the “biggest drinking night of the year,” Thanksgiving Eve will see some new, fall-appropriate cocktails at the destination restaurant, M.B. Post. Think of these cocktails as autumn-tinged takes on some classics.

Don’t forget to try some bites to to line your stomach. After all, I can’t see myself ever visiting M.B. Post without having a taste of Chef David LeFevre’s small plates…make that many tastes…all Los Angeles “seasons” of the year. Or, if you’ve got the home bar with the capacity, I’ve included the recipes to the Jerry Garbus’ team’s cocktails below. Score!

All cocktails cost $12 each – whether fall-inspired or not.

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Soaking in Summer Weekends at M.B. Post

Truffle honey laced fried chicken

I don’t make it a secret that M.B. Post is practically my favorite restaurant in the South Bay and one of my top picks for all of Los Angeles. So it pains me to admit that I wish I lived closer so that I could take advantage of their new “Nooner” menu – essentially a weekend daytime menu that’s served from 2 – 5 in the weekend afternoon but also lunchtime until dinner on Friday afternoons.

Albondigas

You can count on Chef David Lefevre’s terrific truffle honey laced fried chicken to be on the mid-day list, as well as Albondigas and Meyers’ Farm “Never Ever” Skirt Steak. Order the Pomegranate Cous Cous with lavender feta, Marcona almonds and grapefruit and the Blistered Green Beans with Thai basil, chili sauce and crispy pork to pair, and you’re pretty much all set.

Oh, but wait. You’d be remiss not to try one of the awesome cocktails at M.B. Post. Since it’s daytime, go for the Coughlin’s Law, or the glorified Bloody Mary. Complete with quail egg, dill and picante, this will likely be the best Bloody Mary you’ve had in awhile.

If you’re good to actually make it to weekend brunch at M.B. Post, even better. You’ll have your choice of egg dishes, including the incredible Breakfast Frittata and the same Meyers’ Farm steak but with a sunny side up egg. Their Benedict incorporates the famous bacon cheddar biscuit and La Quercia prosciutto and truly makes me do a happy dance.

Either way, any time of day – even dinner – is prime time at M.B. Post, since there’s such a great selection and execution of small plates for every occasion.

Peep below for a slideshow of their brunch items:

Brunch: 10:30 AM – 1:30 PM
Saturday & Sunday Nooner: 2  – 5 PM
Friday Nooner: 11:30 AM – 5:30 PM
Nooner menu

M.B. Post
1142 Manhattan Avenue
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
310.545.5405

Giveaway: Port of Los Angeles Lobster Festival – September 16-18, 2011

Photo credit to lizfairhurst on Flickr

Who loves seafood? Or more specifically, lobster?

Time to celebrate that lobster love at the 13th annual Port of Los Angeles Lobster Festival happening next Friday through Sunday, September 16 – 18th, 2011. And while festivals come and go, this particular event takes the crustacean as it currently holds the Guiness Book World Record for most seafood served at an outdoor event. Impressive.

So, what’s the deal before and when you get there? You can buy a First Class (VIP) ticket in advance for $41 per person, whereby you secure your lobster feast, one beverage, a poster by artists in The Uprising Creative and priority in the food and bar lines. There’s even a special dining area for First Class ticket-holders and 1/3rd of these ticket proceeds benefit the Harbor Interfaith Services.

Feeling more like a pay-as-you-go program? Admission to the festival is $10 (be sure to print out the $2 off coupon) and Maine lobster meals are $19 each. Thinking you’ll want more than one lobster? You can “double up” and add an extra lobster to your plate for a total 2.50 lbs for $33. Every meal comes with cole slaw, potatoes, sweet bread, lemon wedges and a buttery dipping sauce.

If you’re vegetarian, the Lobster Festival has a great deal going on with the adjacent Ports O’ Call Restaurant, where you can dine on their 50 item salad bar. Take your receipt to the front desk for free admission to the festival.

And, while you’re there, you might as well stay for the fun. There will be bands (flashback to the ’80s, anyone? Berlin!) and even Taiko drummers to keep you entertained once you’ve devoured your lobster dinner. And as the L.A. festival tradition goes, there will also be food trucks there like The Lobstatruck (of course), Rajun Cajun, Coolhaus and Barbie’s Q.

*****

And if you’d like to enjoy lobster for free and think you’ve got good luck, I’ve got a giveaway for tickets to the Lobsterfest. On the giveaway block are one pair of First Class (VIP) tickets and one pair of General Admission tickets. The winner and runner-up must have a mailing address to give me in order to receive your tickets. To enter, you must do all of the following:

  1. “Like” e*starLA on Facebook (yes, friends, I’ve given in to the beast)
  2. Leave a comment below (with email address field complete; this will not be shared with anyone) detailing your favorite lobster dish in memory. Make me salivate. Include your Twitter handle if you’d like to be announced as the winner on Twitter (and can be notified in a timely manner).
  3. Tweet this: “I want to win tickets to @PoLALobsterfest, @estarLA! http://estar.la/e/br”
  4. Be ready to give me your mailing address when I announce the winner at noon on Monday, September 12th and email you. If you don’t respond by 2:30 PM I will be forced to choose another winner and/or runner-up!

I’ll be checking all entries to make sure you’ve done #1, #2 and #3 before I put you in the drawing bucket, so make sure you’re thorough. ;) Good luck, everyone! And see you next weekend at the Lobsterfest!!

Friday – Sunday, September 16 – 18, 2011

Friday: 5 – 11 PM
Saturday: 11 AM – 11 PM
Sunday: 11 AM – 7 PM

Free Parking – Cruise Ship Parking Lot

Cash only at the event

Lobsterfest at
The Ports O’ Call Village
1100 Berth
San Pedro, CA 90731
(Harbor Blvd. exit off 110 Fwy)

M.B. Post Delivers As The Star of South Bay

Vietnamese Caramel Pork Jowl, Green Papaya Salad, Lime

There’s something really exciting going on over in Manhattan Beach. The cooking is so titillating I’d gladly make the trek to meet a Westside or South Bay friend at M.B. Post, Chef David LeFevre’s exciting and as-yet-still-new venture. It is this that he left Downtown L.A.’s seafood heavyweight, Water Grill, for and it’s a beautiful thing to see his unbridled passion coming out of the kitchen. Call M.B. Post a gastropub, if you will (everyone is doing it), but I can’t remember the last time the small plates in one spot hit it so consistently out of the park. They were playful, but also well-executed.

Cheese, Meats & Accompaniments

Each tasty bread selection is accompanied by a sauce of sorts, with maple butter on the side of their crumbly Bacon Cheddar Buttermilk biscuits, a delicious horseradish mustard on the side of the Fleur de Sel Pretzel and a harissa yogurt sauce dippable by naan. And if that doesn’t properly start things, don’t forget the cheese and cured meat selection – and all the accompaniments.

The cocktail menu by Sal Roses, Jerry Garbus, Gregg Wescott, and Beau du Bois is a composition of riffs on old favorites. I was more than pleased with my Manhattan Avenue, made with Sazerac Rye and finished off with bacon dust. The Landing Strip is their Aviation with a Creme de Violet twist. The real stand-out, though, is the Day of the Dead, made with Fortaleza Silver, amaretto, lemon and sage. It’s a refreshing yet boozefully delightful Spanish Fly – and Fortaleza is one of my favorite tequilas. If you’re feeling like an aperitif, go with their off-menu Virgil’s Ascent, a not-so-ordinary Negroni made with Hendricks, Aperol, pomegranate seeds and orange clove nectar. I love that all the cocktails were personalized to M.B. Post with the use natural fruits while still paying proper homage to the classics by being great stand-alone cocktails.

Yellow Cauliflower wtih Sultanas, Mint, Caper Berries

All of the vegetable dishes that we ordered were exceptional, from the Blistering Green Beans with Thai basil, chili sauce and crispy pork to the Yellow Cauliflower with sultanas, mint and caper berries. They also weren’t just roasted iron dishes brought out with different vegetables, but they were all individually constructed dishes, very thoughtfully seasoned with unique flavorings. Enjoy them before or with your seafood and/or meat dishes, because while I have yet to try their fish and shrimp plates, I can vouch that the Steamed Green Curry Mussels are pretty much as solid as others I’ve had elsewhere. While it’s probably more betraying of which piece of the food pie I’m partial to, I thought the meat dishes were the real highlights.

The Elvis: Peanut Butter Mousse, Caramelized Banana, Chocolate Pudding, Bacon Brittle

Such as the Vietnamese Caramelized Pork Jowl atop a green papaya salad. So tender and flavorful, this pork part is a must-order. The Meyers Farm “Never Ever” Skirt Steak is seasoned with a delicious red chimichurri sauce and comes accompanied by grilled broccolini. It’s got that perfect pink center and it’s as unordinary a skirt steak as I’ve had in recent memory. But don’t forget the Moroccan BBQ Lamb Belly with creamy semolina and cardamom carrots. And if you’re lucky enough to visit while Chef LeFevre still has the Albondigas on the menu, don’t forget those, either. (Bring your people.) It comes glazed with maple miso on top of garnet yam puree – perfectly delicious compliments - and the shishito peppers that top the meatballs make for a slightly spicy garnish.

Day of the Dead

As far as dessert, there are just enough offerings to satisfy that sweet tooth (admittedly, mine borders on savory), with my personal favorite, the Lemon Ricotta Cheesecake, coming in a sealed jar. But if you love all desserts Elvis, you’re sure to order this “wonderful mess” of peanut butter mousse, carmelized banana, chocolate pudding and bacon brittle. It’s the closest thing to that heavenly Wolvesmouth dessert since I’ve been.

M.B. Post wins as my favorite gastropub in South Bay – and dare I say, even all of L.A. Though I’m loath to let trends (yes, communal dining exists here too) filter through my radar, there’s no mistake that I immensely enjoyed practically everything Chef David LeFevre sent out of the kitchen. Then again, is it still a gastropub if there are only two draught beers on tap? To me, it’s not a weakness. It’s indicative of focus. So the end-all is that we can throw away the labels. I have no qualms about calling M.B. Post simply a great place that serves great small plates.

All food and cocktails were hosted.

Sun – Thur

5 – 10 PM

Fri – Sat

5 – 11 PM

M.B. Post
1142 Manhattan Ave.
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
310.545.5405

@chefdlefevre

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.

Sunday – Friday

October 3 – 8, 10 15, 2010

Lunch, Dinner (Not all restaurants serve both)

Dine LA List

All over Los Angeles

Go Green Tomorrow: Celebrating Earth Day Around L.A.

Mojave Desert: Dawn Drive to Mammoth

Tomorrow, for Earth Day, you may want to change things up a bit. Maybe ride your bike or walk to a neighborhood watering ground when you’d normally drive. Eat lunch at a restaurant that prides itself on sourcing from local farmers. Or pack a trashless lunch.

Fortunately, some local restaurants and businesses are getting involved by hosting events or specials in an effort to celebrate conservation. Here are just a few:

(Added) Veggie Grill – West Hollywood or El Segundo

Are you a Veggie Grill virgin and have always wanted to try (or have a friend who is)? All such virgins need to do is accompany a veteran to their nearest location and cash in on a free entree with purchase of a first.

This goes on all day, so check below for their South Bay and Sunset Blvd. locations (there are also 2 locations in Irvine):

11 AM – 11 PM

Veggie Grill
8000 Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90046
323.822.7575

11 AM – 10 Pm

Veggie Grill
Plaza El Segundo
720 Allied Way
El Segundo, CA 90245
310.535.0025

Church & State: Downtown LA

Church & State will be kicking off their on-site Production Garden on Earth Day with a short afternoon of planned events with the community:

3:45 PM – 4:45 PM – Church & State, Pedal Patch Community and the Heart of Los Angeles Youth will sow seeds in the Production Garden.

4:45 PM – 5:30 PM – Church & State will host a Q & A Reception with the Pedal Patch Community for HOLA Kids.

And if you can’t make the afternoon ceremonies, you can always stop by Church & State anytime during the week (Monday, April 19th – Sunday, April 25th) to try out their hand-crafted cocktails ($12 each) that are all made with fresh herbs from the brand new Production Garden.

  • Sorrel-Gin Fizz – Plymouth gin, Garden Sorrel leaves, fresh Lime, Sugar & Soda
  • Parsley Mojito – Garden Parsley, Garden fresh Mint, Rum, Lime, Sugar
  • The Spice Trade – Dark Rum, St. Germain, Garden Cilantro, Anaheim Chili & Saffron

Come in all week for Earth Week cocktails

Church & State Bistro
1850 Industrial Street
Los Angeles, CA 90021
213.405.1434

@churchstatela

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Tequila Mixology Contest at Ortega 120

Tequila Cocktails at Ortega 120

Ortega 120 in Redondo Beach, where you can order LA Weekly’s Best Classic Margarita of 2009, will also be the site for an inaugural “Toma Tequila” Mixology Contest. Amateurs will compete for the grand prize of a $250 gift certificate to the restaurant, an editorial feature in Mutineer Magazine and, of course, have their winning recipe on Ortega 120’s cocktail menu alongside Chef Thomas Ortega’s imaginative dishes.

No professionals allowed – only amateurs are eligible to compete. To enter, submit your best tequila-infused recipe. Judges will narrow it down to a final three, which will have been chosen on a set criteria: taste, creativity, visual presentation and mixology practicality. And you should be excited (or intimidated) to find out who the judges are, including Ortega 120’s Demi Stevens, Mutineer Magazine Editor-in-Chief Alan Kropf, Carole Dixon of FEAST LA, Hadley Tomicky of Grub Street LA and Josh Lurie of Food GPS. Selected finalists will compete live at the restaurant on the evening of May 3rd.

Other events going on at Ortega 120 for that week include:

Sunday, May 2 – Sister Cities International Charity Fundraiser
Monday, May 3 – Ortega 120 “Toma Tequila” Mixology Competition Finals
Tuesday, May 4 – Tequila University
Wednesday, May 5 – Cinco de Mayo Grand Fiesta with folklorico dancers

May the best tequila cocktail win!

Finals: Monday, May 3rd, 2010

Entry form

Submit to ortega120contest [dot] com.

Ortega 120
1814 Pacific Coast Highway
Redondo Beach, CA 90277
310.792.4120

@Ortega120