Favorite Moments of Los Angeles Food & Wine 2014

RivaBella’s Chef Luigi Fineo shaving black truffles over Sweet Corn Agnolotti with Parmesan – Lexus Grand Tasting #LAFW14

Food festivals come and go, but the multi-event Los Angeles Food & Wine always produces many noteworthy moments across a diverse set of mediums. From lunches combining famous visiting chefs with hometown culinary stars and cooking demonstrations to Lexus grand tastings and informative seminars, the extravaganza is a great way to see how the Los Angeles culinary scene somehow fits in with the rest of the world’s.

Here are some highlights from the daytime events I attended:

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New Happy Hours of Note: The Bazaar by José Andrés and Petrossian West Hollywood

Caviar Martini – Petrossian

There are a couple new happy hours at some pretty fancy spots in Mid-City West and West Hollywood launching today. With weather in Los Angeles warming up as much as it has recently, it doesn’t get much better than these refreshing libations and succulent bites on the terrace or patio to begin your night.

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Favorite Places To Eat Raw Oysters on the Halfshell

Market Dozen at L&E Oyster Bar

If you’ve been following my Twitter feed, you’ve probably noticed how much I’ve been craving oysters recently. For awhile, I wasn’t exactly sure whether it was a by-product of my trip to New York – every day of which I enjoyed raw oysters (and what a glorious trip it was).

As it appears, my itch has failed to taper off whatsoever.

So what am I to do except create a round-up of my go-to spots for raw oysters on the halfshell? It’s pretty much the best seafood to consume in the world, with 95% of all oysters consumed being farmed with sustainable practices. And if bacon were vegan kryptonite, oysters are almost vegan … kale-beet salad? Having no central nervous system, oysters feed off plankton while filtering the waters around them and actually benefiting nearby marine life. Check them out on Seafood Watch to see that they’re “Best Choice” when it comes to consuming seafood.

I’m lucky enough to have great options in my neighborhood offering quite a variety of ambiances, as well as a variety of oysters to enjoy between Oysterholics Anonymous meetings, to boot. Of course, you’ll find more West Coast varieties with a sprinkling of East, but never fear – you’ve a handy online oyster guide spun off Rowan Jacobsen’s book to guide the way. It’s a fantastic way to have info on each oyster handy at your fingertips.

Anyway, back to it. Here’s where I personally break to slurp on those briny and not-so-briny bivalves. And yes, it’s centered on Hollywood and Silver Lake since this is my hood!

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Fanny Bay

Located down from The Satellite and across from LA MILL, the no-reservation L&E Oyster Bar is a great place to grab a dozen – the Daily Dozen, to be clear.  You’ll get three varieties while saving a few bucks off the per-oyster price. Wash each oyster down with one of the excellent varietals of wine (after all, Dustin Lancaster and Matthew Kaner also brought us Bar Covell). L&E is already a neighborhood favorite but also the subject of a recent S. Irene review, so your best bet is to arrive near their 5 PM opening time. It’s often slammed, but when it comes to oysters it’s easy to see why.

Jonesin’ for bivalves on a Tuesday? Escape into the Roosevelt Hotel and into this 1960′s library-esque restaurant with moss-lined dining rooms, high ceilings and rustic interior for their special oysters and Champagne menu. They’ve a dozen varieties of West and East Coast that switch out from week to week – so whether you want $14 for a half dozen, $20 for nine, or $28 for the dozen, you’ve got a few increments to choose from. And if you’re not looking to end on bubbly, there’s two awesome bars in the same hotel: The Spare Room and Library Bar.

Well look at that, little French Champagne & cocktail bar! This latest venture by Steve Livigni, Pablo Moix and Mark and Johnnie Houston is just one of those bars I’m so glad is in town – oysters or not. But hey, if oysters are a go, then you’ll really find no other place in the city with better libations to slurp them down with. If cocktails are the new food-is-the-new-rock, Pour Vous is essentially your rock supergroup with a vast but excellent menu featuring 26 drinks. But don’t come here if you’re looking to grab a dozen in your sweatpants; remember to come with a jacket and/or collar, guys, and ladies – you’ll have tons more fun dressed to these fabulous surroundings in your sharp garb. If you’re lucky, Livigni will be on deck…er, on the decks.

My David Lentz plate at LA Loves Alex's Lemonade

Hungry Cat’s really been the neighborhood stalwart of seafood, so when power duo David Lentz and Suzanne Goin expanded all the way over by PCH in Santa Monica, our city’s beachcombers rejoiced. Whether you supplement your oysters with one of their solid cocktails or get them as a prelude to their annual CrabFest (which sells out soon after it’s announced), you really can’t go wrong. Get the half-dozen for $15 or a full dozen for $30 – and supplement with plenty other shellfish and seafood – including plenty of other raw iterations – at will. Parking in the complex lot is also a cinch thanks to 2-hour validation.

Let’s not forget your own place or event. I was at a Dine LA media party once, and my friends and I were essentially glued to Christophe Happillon’s shucking station. It was the best party, ever. Everything I learned about oysters (away from the internet), I learned from this guy. You’ll learn a ton about oysters in the process, as in how environmental conditions and geography play a role in how each variety looks and tastes. You can also seek him out on Tuesdays at Church & State and Fridays at Joe’s Restaurant.

I’ll see you at the oyster bar!

L&E Oyster Bar
1637 Silverlake Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90026
323.660.2255

Public Kitchen & Bar in The Hollywood Roosevelt
7000 Hollywood Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90028
323.466.7000

Pour Vous
5574 Melrose Ave.
Hollywood, CA 90004
323.871.8699

Hungry Cat Hollywood
1535 Vine St.
Los Angeles, CA 90028
323.462.2155

Hungry Cat Santa Monica
100 W. Channel Road (@PCH)
Santa Monica, CA 90402
310.459.3337

Mixology101 Brings World Class Cocktails To The Farmer’s Market

We’re all familiar with our favorite stands and spots at the Farmer’s Market at 3rd and Fairfax, a Los Angeles landmark that dates back to 1934. As we fast-forward and look at the space beginning the 21st century, much hasn’t changed in awhile before the Dupars remodel. Short Order and Short Cake just recently became the stalwart newcomers for the last couple months (and with good reason).

Mixology101 360° Bar

Now, there’s a new kid on the block, and her vibe is a luxe, open-air space accentuated by sleek and simple design lines and a centerpiece 360-degree bar. Staged across from Zara and Cafe Marmalade, the bar has potential to play host to a vibrant, pulsing energy. The only thing that would make the scenery prime is if the bar were maybe just one level up (didn’t you know – The Grove parking lot has some of the best sights of the city).

But all of this barely matters, because you still get the view of the original clock tower and more importantly, cocktails by Salvatore Calabrese and helmed by his conductor, local expert barsmith Joe Brooke.

Breakfast Martini

In short, yes – go for the House Martini. It’s one of the best martinis you’ll ever have. It’s so cold while achieving the perfect dilution (see above video) and made perfect in no small part due to the frozen glass and spirits.

Another gin go-to would be the Breakfast Martini, made with Bombay Sapphire, Cointreau, fresh lemon juice and orange marmalade – a signature drink from 1997 that may immortalize Salvatore in the cocktail world. It’s just jammy enough thanks to the marmalade (an ingredient inspired by Salvatore’s wife) but not not too sweet. And of course, you’ll have to order your own to see if it actually tastes like breakfast.

Spice lovers won’t be disappointed by the still-elegant Spicy Fifty, made with Stolichnaya Vanilla vodka, elderflower cordial, fresh lime juice, honey syrup and chili pepper.

Farmers Martini

But the true signature cocktail of the menu would have to be The Farmer’s Martini, made with frozen Stoli Elit, blue curacao and Salvatore’s bitters & champagne. I can’t say I’ve ever had much of a blue cocktail since I’ve left undergrad – but while it’s not my favorite, this one is legit and, together with the Spicy Fifty, has me perhaps reconsidering my prejudices against vodka…maybe.

And for those who are secretly or not-so-secretly craving a girly drink will have to pony up (personally or not) for the $18 Hollywood Bubbles, a Champagne cocktail made with Benedictine, fresh raspberry puree and pomegranate juice. Though I might be quick to judge on looks alone, Bubbles actually packs quite the berry punch.

Mixology101 also serves bar food, though it decidedly carries less emphasis as it all fits onto the last page of the menu – after Salvatore’s bio. But really – if you were aiming to really eat, you’d go across the way to Planet Dailies.

Exterior patio

It’s an exciting time to be at The Original Farmer’s Market. People don’t have to flock there purely on account of old favorites anymore and now have reason to make new ones.

Though their location is right by the Farmer’s Market, you won’t be finding a lot of housemade syrups, as that’s a variable to contend with from batch to batch. Mixology101 focuses on using modern (not to be confused with gastronomic) methods to make the classics. But it’s clear that Joe Brooke seems happy to be exactly where he’s at, under the tutelege of a world-renowned mixologist and continually learning.

With Short Order around the corner and offering quite a different style and selection of cocktails, it becomes clear: Cocktails of all kinds will be a new pull to the Original Farmer’s Market.

We’ll just have to deal with the early call times.

Now open

Mon – Thur

5 – 10 PM

Fri – Sat

5 – 11 PM

Mixology101 at Planet Dailies
6333 W. 3rd St., Ste. O20
Los Angeles, CA 90036

The 2011 L.A. Easter Brunch Round-Up

Quail Eggs at Kaohsiung Night Market | Photo: hk_traveller on Flickr

I don’t remember ever having given up anything for Lent. But I always have celebrated Easter in non-ritualistic fashion – just as I eat and celebrate life. Every day is a rebirth, right?

Did I mention that I love eggs?

I compiled a bunch of Easter Brunch specials around town. There are plenty of restaurants offering up 3-course prix fixe menus for Sunday morning, but a lot of them have some pretty solid choices.

Go ahead…you can scan this post for the bottomless champagne or mimosa spots. I totally understand.

(By the way, I can’t believe how Westward this list skews… Do Eastsiders not celebrate Easter?) ;)

Happy Easter!!

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Eva (Beverly/Hancock Park): 12 -  8 PM

$39 per person.
Bottomless wine. 5-course prix fixe.

I know I said “brunch,” and I know Mark Gold calls this the “Eva Dinner Party,” but the noon start time has to count for something, doesn’t it? You get all of the following: Deviled Eggs, Nicoise Salad with Olive Relish and Roast Peppers, Chicken “Pallard” with Arugula and Mustard, Warm Potato Salad, Prime Skirt Steak, Grilled Asparagus and Strawberry Shortcake with Whipped Creme Fraiche. I know. Amazing. This is where I’ll be…sometime during Easter Day.

7458 Beverly Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90036, 323.634.0700

Chaya Brasserie (Downtown, Beverly Hills, Venice): 11 AM – 3 PM

$37 per person, $15 per young adult.
Bottomless champagne. 3-course prix fixe.

You get a couple choices for your 3-course prix fixe, all menus of which vary according to location! Be sure to peep the right Chaya outpost for your menu.

A few highlights from what I can see on all three menus include French Toast with Granola Crust, Kabocha Squash Ricotta Cheese Gnocchi, Grilled New York Steak and Fries with Poached Egg, Pancetta-wrapped Gulf Shrimp with Provencal Grits, Meyer Lemon Mascarpone Cheese Tart. I think the Downtown location is where to be!

525 South Flower, Los Angeles, CA 90017, 213.236.9577

8741 Alden Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90048, 213.859.8833

110 Navy Street, Venice, CA 90291, 310.396.1179

Obika (Century City): 10 AM – 4 PM

$25 per adult, $15 per child under 12.
Comes with one mimosa or glass of Prosecco. Buffet-style plus one family-style pasta.

Not feeling the prix fixe but don’t want any hassle? Obika’s doing it up buffet style – at the mall. Mozzarella di Bufala along with a selection of Smoked Wild Alaskan Salmon, Assorted, Salumi, Caponata with Pan Carsau, Artichoke Ricotta Quiche with Thyme and Mint, Ricotta Mousse and four (yes, four) flavors of Tirimisu will all be available. In addition, your table will get to pick one choice of pasta served family style, including Handmade Ricotta and Spinach Ravioli with Brown Butter and Sage, Lasagnetta with Peas and Tagliolini with Artichoke and Mint.

10250 Santa Monica Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90067, 310.556.2452

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Picks For Fashion’s Night Out Los Angeles

Studio Beauty Mix, Fred Segal Melrose

Tonight’s the night! Exactly a year ago I was in New York during Fashion Week and had an absolute blast during the first ever Fashion’s Night Out. Goodie bags, champagne, cocktails, discounts, free make-overs, cupcakes – you name it. But we’re doing our best here, in LA, so I thought I’d highlight the events going on around town that I would want to hit up.

For the complete listing, just head on over to the Official LA FNO site, which groups the retailers by neighborhood. You can also check out Mondette’s run-down, which expertly and succinctly lists what each store is doing for tonight’s special occasion. The @FNOlosangeles and @FashionWeekLA twitter accounts are also great resources. And while you’re out there on the town, don’t forget to bring your appetite because the food trucks will certainly be out in full force.

I’ll be elsewhere tonight but if I were to make a night out of succumbing my wallet to temptation (and a portal to get me all over town in a jiff), I’d go here:

Custo Barcelona, Beverly Center

  • Free Custo Jelly Bag with $50 purchase. I love Custo’s vibrant designs and mix of fabrics and patterns. Not for gals who are most comfortable with the little black dress.

A Ferris Wheel and surrounding shops, Rodeo Drive

  • I’ve never seen a ferris wheel on Rodeo Drive, so maybe this is just a cheap thrill. Still, Rodeo’s the perfect place to be a tourist in my own city since the price points at many of these shops boutiques shoot my moon. A girl can dream…and canoodle.

Paige Denim on Robertson Blvd.

  • I love Paige Jeans. The store in LA will be giving away a prize every hour on the hour starting 7 PM. If you buy a pair of jeans, you’ll get a Carasoin Spa gift. Refreshments and bites will be served.

The Dandy Warhols play Fred Segal, 8100 Melrose

  • I can’t really argue with putting music in the mix, especially on an occasion celebrating fashion. The Portland alt rock band will be playing a live set. And while you’re there…

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Twelve Days of Bubbly at Vertical Wine Bistro

Photo credit to Velo Steve on Flickr

Let’s start this countdown to Christmas, shall we? (That is – if you celebrate.) Starting this Saturday, the “Wine Dude” over at Vertical Bistro in Pasadena, David Haskell, will select a different sparkling wine every day (with the exception of Mondays) to be featured in the bar and lounge for just $5 per glass. Be sure to use Haskell’s expertise while you’re there – he’ll be on hand to offer pairing suggestions from the bar’s new California bistro-inspired small plates selection, including rare and hard-to-find artisanal cheeses and charcuterie.

Also, if you’re not in the mood for bubbly, you can stop in any time at their Tuesday – Thursday happy hour from 5 – 7  PM and 10 PM – 12 AM, featuring 25 % off the bar menu and select drink specials for $6.

Peep the menu below to see what’s available to enjoy with your sparkling (or unsparkling) wine:

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