Spring Cocktails in Full Bloom at Comme Ça

Basil Blush – White rum, strawberry, basil, balsalmic, built over ice

While we’ve gone back and forth for awhile, the weather has gotten pretty warm and I’m sure that it’s here to stay. Well, besides June Gloom in a couple weeks, that is.

But it’s hard to argue that Los Angeles is the place to be in Spring, and Comme Ça, fresh off their remodel, is the perfect place to celebrate and clink glasses. They’ve got quite an impressive cocktail menu that has been out for a couple weeks. Looks are deceiving, because while the Basil Blush, for instance, looks like your typical strawberry-basil cooler, it actually packs quite a punch thanks to its freshly muddled ingredients and tasty, spicy white rum.

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The Bayou Boil Returns to Dominick’s

Photo by VisitBatonRouge on Flickr

I’ll admit: I’ve always had a soft spot for crawfish. Once you get the hang of peeling and eating those little mudbugs (and believe me, getting proficient at it is like a rite of passage), it’s like a crafty, delicious feast doubling as entertainment.

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RivaBella: Where Bold Flavors Lend Themselves to Lush Spaces

Polibo con Patate e Olive – Roasted Octopus with Potatoes, Taggiasche Olives, and Salsa Verde

There’s a trace amount of apprehension I try to temper when I find myself dining in oversized spaces. The fear stems from the likelihood of spending time and money dining in a space that is less likely to feel personalized – whether in terms of physical sense of space and/or the quality of service enjoyed during the meal.

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Food Trend: Grapefruit Is All the Rage

Michael Voltaggio’s Ink: Hamachi with Oroblanco, Smoked Buttermilk Curds, Buttermilk Whey Kombu Bonito, Fried Onions

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.)

Sgroppino Variation

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.

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The Hudson Updates Their Look & Menu

The Hudson

The Hudson has been at the center of many a West Hollywood scene. So when they shuttered over the new year for 3 weeks to renovate their interior, they had in mind to update the feel of the place – without doing so much as to disrupt the reasons their patrons have become regulars. What you’ll feel immediately when you walk in is the added height – 8 feet, to be exact – and a now-exposed, beautiful A-frame ceiling.

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Gorge: Uncharacteristically Fantastic French Food on The Sunset Strip

Charcuterie Board

There was a post I did awhile ago on “Bars That Don’t Belong,” and the essence of that article was that the particular bars listed weren’t categorically all good or all bad – just that their ambiance and drink were divergent from those of the surrounding establishments. What that entails is a problem with the diffusion of foot traffic from nearby establishments.

Belgian endives poached in aromatic broth, vanilla bean sauce, toasted almonds

Located on Sunset Boulevard, Gorge is just a few doors down from The Whiskey. It goes without saying that The Sunset Strip is not a place you’d expect to find a French wine bar, much less one that makes all their sausages, terrine and pâtés in-house, as a proper French wine bar would. So I was surprised as anyone that at Gorge, not only is the food delicious, but the food-wine pairings are exceptional thanks to Master Sommelier Darius Allyn, who just so happens to also be the husband of head chef Elia Aboumrad. It’s quite a departure from where he came – that is, the Montage Beverly Hills – but the results of their efforts have captured all my admiration for doing so. While the food and atmosphere is comfortably no frills, it probably leans towards exotic in the perspective of your typical Sunset Boulevard patron.

The same of which could be said of Night + Market, not too far west of Gorge. And so the culinarily adventurous restaurants along The Sunset Strip continues. Thank goodness both examples are on the mark in their respective disciplines.

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My Top dineLA Restaurant Week Picks for Winter, 2013: January 21 – February 1

Braised Beef Cheek, Taleggio Pureed Potatoes, Chanterelles

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.

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Five Upcoming Food & Drink Events You Won’t Want to Miss

LudoBites 4.0 Greatest Hits: White Asparagus Veloute, Mozzarella Mousse, Candied Olives, Fennel, Salmon Roe

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?

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Get Out the Vote: Election Day Food & Drink Specials Around Los Angeles

Tavern Red State Burger – Pork, pork, pork, Manchego, Romesco

As November 6th rolls up, we’re reminded, again and again, that the best reason to vote is to realize our civic duty. We, as a society, have been preparing for next Tuesday for a long time (Californians, with all our propositions, you know what I’m talking about). Decisions will be made as a collective whether or not we decide to personally participate, so why not embrace it?

Whether you take-away a savory dinner to enjoy at home or await the returns in camaraderie at one of the viewing parties, your “I Voted” sticker will score some points with your taste buds and your wallet anywhere around town. If you voted absentee, perhaps you’ll want to carry your stub or some other proof with you so you can make your case. Check below for a deal near you:

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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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