Four Los Angeles Food Events in June You Won’t Want to Miss

Picture credits: TOTNLA, @LA_Chefs

Now that it’s summer in Los Angeles, there’s a ton going on all over town. And when it comes to food events, it’s enough to make your head spin. But you want to play it smart with your time and funds, because no one’s got patience for fluff.

Fortunately, I’ve narrowed it down to the best four events you’ll want to attend this month. They’re all on the weekend, so you’ll have enough time to make your trek. Whether it’s raising money to combat childhood hunger, celebrating Fatherhood the best way possible, eating the best tacos in the city or carousing the famous Rose Bowl for the best bites in Los Angeles, June is shaping up to be an exciting time to be in L.A. Let’s get started. Continue reading

Pingtung Brings Pan-Asian Café Favorites to Melrose

Neighborhood Hot Spot

It’s curious that Pingtung is called an “Eat-in Market,” the “market” designation perhaps being a way of propping up the Asian goods that lie on overhead (to me) shelves along the sides of the deep-drawn cafe. Though I have a few guilty snack pleasures such as Yan Yan, Shrimp Chips, that clear, Japanese soda with the swingy little ball, Calpico and the like, I’d make the trek to 99 Ranch, Mitsuwa or Zion if I wanted to go Asian grocery shopping. (I’m trying to cut down on the snacks, much less MSG-laden ones, anyway.)

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Clover: The Cold-Pressed Juice Bar on La Brea Opens Tomorrow

Clover Juices

I have to admit, I’m a bit of a procrastinator. Okay, let’s try that again. I very much leave things to the last minute, and now that the new year rush is over, it may just be time to do a juice cleanse. Though I’ve never done one, I’ve perhaps been inspired by my on-going, 2-month long Pilates-spin regimen. Let’s be honest: What I put into my body gets a lot more attention – despite all the events and dinners – whenever I’m working out regularly.

Clover is fittingly located next to a yoga studio for the ultimate environment in mind-body conscientiousness. The organic juices support local sustainable farming with the produce it sources. But it doesn’t stop there; there’s also kombucha on tap, Stumptown coffee, food by Silver Lake’s Flore Vegan but also sandwiches by The Churchill’s Executive Chef Bruce Kalman. Pastries sold in-store will be created by Lauren Lobley of Charm City Cakes, which will also include vegan and gluten free options baked fresh, daily.

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Best Bites and Swigs at The UMAMIcatessen

UMAMI Shrimp Burger

I have had four Umami burgers in my life and I have really enjoyed only one of them, which is probably due to the fact that all four were consumed after the quick Umami Burger expansion to Santa Monica, Hollywood and so forth. Thus, I found them to be largely inconsistent.

UMAMIcatessen Interior

Just last week, I passed the La Brea location and there was a line of at least 20 Yelp reviewers people waiting outside to get seated. I gave the same roll eyes that I reserve for those who drive in to my neighborhood expressly for Saturday night bottle service.

But this…”catessen”…is a whole new ballgame. So nothing really prepared me for how much I enjoyed pretty much everything at Adam Fleischman’s UMAMIcatessen friends and family night in Downtown LA. And is the theatre revival on Broadway ever thankful for this pre-performance dining spot, which is basically a 7,000 square foot bazaar furnished with repurposed furniture in the 1929 Art Deco Ninth and Broadway Building. Down the street at a later date we can welcome Two Boots Pizza, Ace Hotel and Clifton’s Cafeteria reopening. The Cure (read: Kosher “style”), Umami Burger, P!GG, Spring for Coffee selections, & a Donut and of course, the fabulous Back Bar all offered tasty treats and swillerific swigs. Top notch.

Wasabi Potato Salad with Sashimi

The best bite of the night was the just-unveiled-that-night Shrimp Burger with Yuzu-Kosho, which embodied that namesake fifth taste in every way. No soggy lettuce, mind you, sat between the buttery, airy buns but a bit of seaweed in keeping with that shrimp bite. It also packs a delicious, slight kick thanks to the yuzu-kosho. Also exclusive to this location was the ever delicious Wasabi Potato Salad topped with Sashimi. It’s ingenius and probably the most refreshing taters you’ll ever have, but I’d be lying if the sashimi isn’t the easiest thing to pick off the appetizer, with my somewhat guiltfully leaving some lonely spuds behind.

Chris Cosentino and a can of lardo

But let me backtrack, here. It can’t be overlooked that P!GG is a welcoming of Chris Cosentino, of San Franciscan fame, into the Los Angeles foray. Don’t forget the Pork in a Can Lardo on crostini nor the Cone O’ Cracklins, the latter of which were delightfully airier than I expected. The Country Pate with cornichons and green peppercorn was pork-solid, as well, and delicious. And don’t forget the “Brainnaise” (whole hog is key), which comes atop P!GG Style Fries. But at the center of the P!GG menu are cured selections from Spain, Italy and the U.S. The Mini Potato Knishes from The Cure were also little bits of pastry heaven. The Matzoh Ball Soup is not to be overlooked, either, since there are crunchy little chicken cracklins dispersed amongst the matzoh. The Corned Beef and Pastrami assessment will have to come at a later date.

9th and Broad Cocktail

And I would be negligent if I didn’t address the delicious cocktails helmed by Adrian Bigg. My favorite was the 9th and Broad, made with Woodford Reserve bourbon, Carpano Antica formula, Apricot liqueur and Jerry Thomas decanter bitters. The essential drink, of course, is the Bourbon Pig, essentially bacon fat washed Bulleit with Angostura, sugar and pig ear garnish.

As for gin lovers, I loved the Red Sapphire, made with Bombay Sapphire gin, St. Vincent raspberry syrup, Earl Grey tea syrup, Maraschino, fresh lemon juice and egg white. Don’t judge a cocktail by its cover, as this was a, yes – light, but perfectly balanced cocktail despite the temptation to dismiss it as a girly drink. So tasty.

& a Donut

Feeling more like beer? Ten draft beers are available for your pleasure. And the Spring for Coffee was a perfect, mid-meal pick-me-up. Now that is really good coffee.

And don’t forget dessert. The beignets were delightful as was the perfectly moist, rich donut.

So get yourself down to the UMAMIcatessen. Your appetite for whole hog, burgers, cocktails and all the extra fixins demands it. It’s really not just about burgers, anymore, and at once worthy of all the hype that surrounds Umami.

All food and drink were hosted.

 

UMAMIcatessen
846 S. Broadway
Los Angeles, CA 90015
323.782.8201

Venga! Debuts Lunch & Sweets on Canon

Quiche

Correction (10/10/11): Venga! is now closed and will re-open at a future date as a Mediterranean Restaurant with an Israeli focus.

There is a new cafe, patisserie and gelateria all rolled up into one on Canon Drive in Beverly Hills. No, it’s not Bouchon, but from one lunch experience, I ended up very surprisingly pleased with the results.

Canelé

You will appreciate the small, concentrated menu once you step inside the nondescript shop. Although it’s hard to tell exactly what they do since the dessert cases face sideways, it seemed like the neighborhood had at least mildly become acquainted with Venga! just two weeks into their opening on a sunny Saturday afternoon.

Owner Shahriar Besharat and Pastry Chef Kriss Harvey (who has studied under the tutelage of Pastry Chefs all over the world as well as with Master in Gelato Giuseppe Scaringnella and in the Carpigiani Gelato University in Bologna; Joel Robuchon Las Vegas is on his resume) have cultivated a brightly-lit cafe with a minimalist look and menu – but the strength rests in these few items.

Macarons

For instance, the slow cooked chicken sandwich is prepared in a vacuum and packs punch with slices of jalapeno and carrot. It’s tender thanks to its preparation, but it’s also got great flavor. The Croque Monsieur (or Madame, should you choose to add a sunny-side up egg for $1, as we did) is delicious. Too often have I had a Madame with bread that was too thick and overwhelming. At Venga! the layers were harmonious in thickness as well as taste – not too rich, and just enough. The quiche with spinach, shiitake mushrooms was also tasty. The crust was golden and delicious. I almost wanted another slice. The tomato salad with whipped cheese and basil is also a beautiful rendition (perfect for before the end of summer) – especially with the heirloom varieties that are used.

Pastries at Venga!

But you mustn’t leave before you have dessert. This would be a grave omission. There are plenty of gelato varieties to choose from, but my favorite was the Almond with Caramelized Almond flavor. The Passion Fruit Sorbet was also super potent and a perfect flavor for a hot day.

The macarons are also delicious, and a tad denser than others that I’ve had. I can’t argue with more flavor in my macarons, however, and there are plenty of flavors to go around. I love the dustings on the outside of some of them, which add quite delicious details. Salted Caramel and Coconut are now my go-to.

A must-try is the Canelé, which is done quite expertly with the outside coated with a crispy beeswax. The inside was a soft, tender, almost-custard texture – just how a perfect Canelé should be. As you peruse the brightly-lit pastry cases, you’ll definitely have a hard time resisting all of the beautifully presented pastries in all their colorful glory. I’m due for a return visit to try some more.

Alas, I’ve learned that they have free wifi! This could be a dangerously indulgent destination (yet productive?) for me in the near future. Blog or eat? Lunch, dinner or dessert? Now, I won’t have to choose.

All food and drink were hosted.

 

Sun – Mon

10 AM – 6 PM

Tue – Sat

10 AM – 10 PM

Menu
Beverages & Desserts Menu

Free wifi

Venga!
452 N. Canon Drive
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
310.205.9400

@vengabh

Favorite Dish: Bibimbap Style Farro at Black Cat

Bibimbap-style Farro

Though I’ve always been a kind of “over easy” kind of gal when it comes to eggs, more and more I’m apt to go “sunny side up.” Especially when it comes to Korean food. The runnier, the better.

And that’s really the only thing that the so-named “bibimbap-style farro” has in common with the actual Korean dish. I’m not questioning the taste, however; I’m just wondering what exactly is so “bibimbap” about this dish. No chili paste, no silver bowl – but you know, perhaps the mixture of vegetables – including asparagus, roasted tomato and swiss chard - on top of, yes, farro instead of rice is just enough to warrant the name. The most pleasant surprise, though, was the burrata. (If it were “dolsotbop style,” do you think farro could result in a crispy bottom caused by a stone pot?”)

Regardless, this is one delicious and surprisingly filling dish out of many tasty selections on Black Cat’s reasonably priced menu (see: $2 coffee). Though nothing can take away from the cultish longevity that Mani’s had in the same spot, I’m sure glad that Black Cat is now filling the neighborhood space.

They’ve remodeled the interior and kept the decor simple. The best indoor seats remain in the Fairfax-lining bay windows built for 2. Of course, there’s still sidewalk seating for those who like to really make the most of Black Cat’s neighborhood feel.

I came for lunch, so my appetite didn’t exactly call for one of the fresh pastries (baked on-site with breads coming from Homeboy Industries) behind the counter. But thanks to this great experience with the farro, I’ll be sure to return for more menu items, earlier in the day. My wallet can handle it.

Mon – Fri: 7:30 AM – 5 PM
Sat – Sun: 8 AM – 6 PM

Black Cat
519 S. Fairfax Ave.
Los Angeles, CA, 90036
323.932.1500

Momed: A Modern Take On Mediterranean

Pide with Ohanyan spicy soujuk sausage, red onion, and piquillo peppers with halloumi cheese

Momed, a new Eastern Mediterranean place on the south-of-Wilshire stretch of Beverly Drive, has all the makings to be a neighborhood hotspot. A contemporary interior is where you’ll enjoy an equally modern rendition of Mediterranean cuisine with beautiful wines to match. Specific cuisines that bring inspiration and are highlighted include those from Greece, Turkey, Cyprus, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt and Morocco.

Momed Exterior-to-Interior

The place, with its white and just-short-of-sterile decor, is equal parts eatery, wine bar, coffee and tea house. The aim was to create a neutral visual platform on which the vibrant spices and flavors of the cuisine would shine.

Enjoy tasty treats like their Pide topped with Ohanyan spicy sausage and sweet red onions. Or go for a more unusual, adventurous topping like Chicken ‘lahmajoun’ – minced chicken, pistachios and oven-roasted peaches. It may be wood-fired (the oven is the only thing from the previous tenants they kept) but don’t call it pizza. It’s Turkish flatbread, and it’s delicious with the right topping (the spicy sausage was my favorite).

Muhammara, Mediterranean Salad, Tzatziki

Want to dial it down a little? Momed offers a great selection of salads and dips with which to eat with your pita. I thought their tzatziki yogurt dip was especially flavorful and done well. The vast varieties of hummus, baba ganoush and other mezze (appetizers) were also palatable in large thanks to the warm, moist pitas served. The long display of spices like cardamom, sumac and cumin is evidence of Momed’s commitment to making everything from scratch with freshness being a priority.

And don’t forget selections that come already prepared with their fantastic pitas, like one filled with warm duck “shawarma” and fig confit – my personal hand-rolled pita favorite. If you’re looking for a warm side, no look further than the Baleela (chickpeas with toasted pine nuts, preserved lemon and perfectly flash-fried with brown butter) – absolutely divine!

Duck "Shawarma" with oven-dried tomatoes, fig confit & garlic spread on whole wheat pita

Intelligentsia coffee, traditional Turkish coffee, a rare selection of fine teas including Du Hammam, Moroccan mint, Eve’s rose petal and white pomegranate, as well as six different hot chocolate options from The Chocolate Box are offered. In the back, behind the wood-fired oven, is where you can get your coffee or Turkish Spa tea fix.

Momed is a great place to approach quality Eastern Mediterranean – whether it may have been intimidating before or always been a favorite. And while you’re there, try to pair your meal with one of their wines. You won’t find a French, Italian or Californian bottle of vino but rather a Greek, Israeli, Moroccan or even Lebanese. When I had the opportunity to visit I had the pleasure of tasting a beautiful Israeli ’09 Muscat Rose as well as an Israeli ’07 Golan Heights Chardonnay…delicious. No matter what, you’re in for a unique treat each time you dine at Momed.

All food and wine were hosted.

Momed Market Cafe
233 S. Beverly Drive
Beverly Hills, CA 90212-3886
310.270.4444

Menu
Wine List

Open Daily 8 AM – 9 PM
Fri & Sat 8 AM – 10 PM

Parking:
Metered street parking & 2-hour free lot adjacent to restaurant

The Black & Black: New Beverage Menu At Lamill Coffee Boutique

Black & Black

It’s not often when I visit a place on occasion of a press release – and actually, I had asked Lindsay and H.C. to forward it to me, so Twitter gets the credit for this one. Something has to have really grabbed at me, and in this case it was the Black & Black. This is no Black & Tan variation, mind you – nor the latest beer float. This is one of two new signature drinks at Lamill Coffee in Silver Lake combining two of my favorite things originating in two completely different categories.

Half Old Rasputin Imperial Russian Stout and half iced Organic Lamill House Coffee, my pre-dinner libation consumed over the composition of this blog post was sufficiently weighty to a stout and porters fan like myself. But I also felt comfortable about evading a premature nap session (I am borderline narcoleptic and pass out in even extremely loud environments) because the house coffee, which is cold-brewed, was perfectly blended with the beer and even lightened up the overall beverage whilst giving it that awesome Lamill kick. The black to my black, indeed – and don’t ask me to choose which came first. The overall result is more impressive than the sum of its parts, and that would be dark and delicious.

The other signature drink to debut today is a Tea Champagne (Imperial Palace Brut Blanc de Blancs with Lamill’s Organic White Pomogranite or Holiday in the Cup Tea). Or, perhaps you’d like to explore the sake menu, including the accessible Kuro Kabuto Junmai Daiginjo ($7 per glass) or the 21% rice grain-polished Dassai Junmai Daiginjo ($16 per glass). Full bottles of a separate selection of sake are also available.

Feel like beer? Get a pint of reliable Allagash White for a surprisingly reasonable $4.5 or go for an exotic orange brew like the Japanese Hitachino Nest Commemorative Ale ($8) or citrusy-sweet Ozeno Yukidoke IPA ($10). Got a sour palate? How about a Duchesse de Bourgogne, a sour ale from Belgium aged in oak barrels?

The predominantly French wine portion of the menu offers even further selection for folks who are in the mood for a glass of white or red. It’s apparent that Lamill is looking to corner the market in matters of tasteful elixirs and with this menu expansion, there’s a little more something for everyone. As a result, Lamill will become a little less known for their $12 Chemex coffee brews because customers now have access to rare, $10 Japanese beers.

Wine, beer and sake menu

Lamill Coffee Boutique
1636 Silver Lake Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90026
323.663.4441

@lamillcoffee