Fall and Full Bar Descend Upon Pitfire Pizza on Fairfax

Apple & Pork Festival, Sprouts ‘n Bacon Pizza, Rumpkin Pie Cocktail, Linguica Ragout (clockwise)

The place known for its consistently great, tasty and reasonable Neopolitan crust with the sides and pasta to match has stepped it up in the booze department – at least at their location on Fairfax. Formerly confined to wine and beer, Pitfire Pizza now has a full liquor license with a fall cocktail menu to debut with the return of a few fall food favorites.

The great thing about their new cocktail menu is that they’ve streamlined it to just a trio of pretty phenomenal seasonals but also Moscow Mules made with Tito’s on tap, a few classics like the Old Fashioned and Negroni, and another trio of customizable sours with your choice of spirit. And they all go for a wallet-happy $8 per cocktail.

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Animal’s Jon Shook & Vinny Dotolo Declared Lexus Culinary Masters

Vinny Dotolo, Jon Shook

When you get offered car service in a Lexus RX450h to a celebratory dinner at Animal because Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo are to be presented as the next Culinary Masters, you say Yes. Especially when last year’s anointed, Miami’s Latin fusion extraordinaire and longtime mentor to Jon & Vinny, Michelle Bernstein, is in town and also presenting dishes of her own at the dinner.

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Pitfire Pizza Celebrates its 15th Anniversary and New Fall Menu

Roasted Pumpkin Pizza, Kale, Pumpkin Seeds

It’s been a few years since Pitfire Pizza had found a special place in my heart. Though I first became surprisingly enamored with the well built-out chain starting with the unveiling of their Culver City location, I was surprised to learn that they’re actually celebrating the 15th anniversary of the first, their North Hollywood location, this year.

Their quality is ensured by a well sized, manageable menu that joins the locations together. If you only order pizza, you’re actually missing a big part of their appeal. They always have excellent vegetable sides and well executed pastas to cover all their bases. And now, you’ll have fall flavors to look forward to on your next visit, starting with their Roasted Pumpkin Pizza with kale and pumpkin seeds.

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Superba Snack Bar Preview at Pitfire Artisan Pizza in West Hollywood

Chicken liver mousse, lardo, pate, etc. - Osteria La Buca

Since Jason Neroni left Osteria La Buca, Hollywood’s been feeling a little blue since he was the center of some of the best Italian the neighborhood ever knew. It’s a great thing, then, that he’s scheduled to make a comeback with his and Paul Hibler’s own Superba Snack Bar (nay, not so great that it’s all the way in Venice). But we can take advantage of the pop-up going on this week, however, at the West Hollywood location of Pitfire Pizza.

The pop-up at Hibler’s Pitfire is essentially a preview of what’s to come in about a month at Superba Snack Bar, which will be located at 933 Rose in Venice. So check the menu below (subject to change) and hop on over to the Fairfax District in the next couple of days:

  • Snack: Chicken Liver Mousse, Rye Toast, Balsamic Cherries, Basil Buds ($10)
  • Salad: Eclectic Acres Greens, Superba Ricotta, Famers’ Market Vegetables, Blossoms, Picked Jalapeño Dressing ($8)
  • Pizza: Ramps and Ramp Greens, Ricotta, Crème Fraiche, Smoked Bone Marrow ($12)
  • Pasta: Garganelli, Lamb Bolognese, Black Garlic, Smoked Ricotta Salata ($14)
  • Sandwich: Porchetta, Wild Arugula, Preserved Lemon, Garlic Confit ($12)
  • Drinks: Beer Sangria ($7), Belgian White, Prosecco, Chardonnay, Apricot Juice ($8)

It promises to be a hearty yet flavorful set, so I’m looking forward to it. Buon appetito!

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Wednesday & Thursday
May 23 – 24, 2012

7 PM
No reservations needed

Pitfire Artisan Pizza
801 N. Fairfax Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90046
323.544.6240

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.

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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

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.

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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

Freshii And the Affordable, Customizable Power Lunch

Antioxidant Chop Salad

CBS (and vicinity) power lunchers, rejoice. If you’re tired of Chipotle and want a greener lunch alternative – at an also really competitive price point – Freshii brings tireless options with its 3rd Los Angeles outpost, at the 3rd and Fairfax Farmer’s Market.

Spicy Lemongrass Soup

Try soups, salads and wraps starting at $6.50. You can go with one of the chef’s recipes for simple ordering, or build your own. Some add-ons are free of charge, while others go for nominal fee. There are a ton of options, so while the plethora of choices may leave you either energized or overwhelmed – depending on your personality – you always have the option to go with a tried and true chef-designed item.

Freshii also prides itself on simple, easy, biodegradable and recyclable packaging. You won’t get any fancy plates or bowls with your meal, but you whether you grab and go or stay and dine, checking out your order is simple.

On my first visit, I also made my order simple by going with two of the “chef designed” items: The Spicy Lemongrass Soup ($7.59), which resembled a simplified yet delicious tom yum and the Antioxidant Chop Salad with added goat cheese. (To be clear, just one of these items was more than enough to fill me up, so I took both of them in their original containers to-go and finish, later.) The produce indeed was fresh and the salad tossed extremely well with just the right amount of dressing.

The (Perhaps) Daunting Order Form

The most popular item at Freshii, which originally started as a salad-focused place, is the wrap – an item I still have to try on for size. But what I’m most excited about is their breakfast items. You can get a coffee or tea plus breakfast wrap for only $4.49. The only drawback is that they open at 9 AM so that means I have to venture back out after my 7:30 AM workday begins. But when you consider that the same price point is comparable to a McDonald’s breakfast, Freshii sounds like a fresh alternative.

In the near future, Freshii aims to have a delivery service. They’re also looking to become fully integrated with a breakthrough, tech-savvy system with iPads used for ordering, where you can personalize your own profiles with menu items that you frequent. So while you can probably visit Freshii every day for a full month without repeating yourself, they’re also aiming to make it personable – making it easy to remember your personal preferences so there’s always incentive to return to your favorites. For now, rest assured that you can call it in, grab and go.

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Mon – Fri, 9 AM – 9 PM
Sat 9 AM – 8 PM
Sun 10 AM – 7 PM

Freshii at Farmer’s Market
110 S. Fairfax Ave #A14
Los Angeles, CA 90036
323.933.1500
[email protected]

Thanksgiving In a Sandwich at simplethings

Thanksgiving Sandwich

Something special is coming to 3rd Street in Mid-City West, and it’s simplethings sandwich and pie shop. Third street is one of Mid-City West’s main treasures, and the store is a nice departure from the hustle and bustle of Joan’s on Third and the scene-y brunch hullabaloo of Toast.

3" Bourbon Pecan Cutie Pie ($2.50)

At simplethings, you’ll get to choose pies from three different sizes (3″, 5″ & 9″) in delicious varieties like Pumpkin, Key Lime, Banofee (banana + toffee = deliciousness), Bourbon Pecan, Orange Creamsicle, Chocolate Peanut Butter and Blueberry. Feelin’ like whoopie? They got plenty of varieties of whoopie pie for your hollerin’.

Or maybe you were feeling like a meal, first. They have specialty sandwiches like the Prime Rib sandwich, with their prime rib made in-house, and a Veggie Sandwich that tastes as hearty as a meat party. They also serve breakfast on the weekends until 2 PM and have fresh salads available all day.

But my favorite bite of the media preview had to be the Thanksgiving Sandwich, made with cranberry chutney and jalapeno stuffing. They also use chunks instead of slices of the bird, which helps keep the turkey meat tender. It’s seasonal, comprehensive and everything I could want since I’ll be on the plane on Thanksgiving Day. I’m celebrating early!

And if you’re craving pies and sandwiches now, today’s your lucky day since simplethings just opened at 11 AM. Call in your order or stop by – its simple decor is a charming set-up for the drop-in.

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Open today (Monday, November 22, 2010) at 11 AM

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simplethings
8310 W. 3rd Street
Los Angeles, CA 90048
323-592-3390

Website

The Franks of Frankies Spuntino Visit Animal

Meatballs With Pinenuts and Raisins

I admit, I had never visited Frankies Spuntino in Brooklyn – nor Manhattan – but I was intrigued when I received a copy of their cookbook in the mail. How fascinating the story is, of how The Franks (Falcinelli and Castronovo, if I must be specific) had actually grown up in the same neighborhood, just to reconnect later on by sheer coincidence of running into each other on the street. As always, food brings people together.

Caesar Salad

Before that reconnection, both had worked in Michelin-starred French restaurants before coming back to Manhattan to work under big names like David Bouley and Charlie Palmer – and then ran their own kitchens to the tune of Moomba and Bistro Jean-Claude. But the drive to create their own Italian-American endeavor and get back to the home-styled cooking of their youth – without the gimmicks like red-checkered tablecloths yet with the affordability of a neighborhood hangout – rang loud and clear. It would have to be Brooklyn; later, their success would allow them to expand to the island and import their own olive oil.

Gnocchi alla Marinara with Fresh Ricotta

And now, the cookbook. What a beautiful styling it beholds, as if a volume in a series of classic novels. And the world tour that would bring them to a one-off at Animal on Fairfax, Los Angeles – with a certain New York Times article on medicinal appetite aids that would bring he, Vinny, Don and Roy Choi together (all were present during the Franks’ dinner).

The cheese and salumi plate, complete with fresh olives, roasted mushrooms and browned cauliflower was solid, as was the bread – especially when dipped in the Franks’ olive oil. Whether that olive oil passed the “extra virgin” test that’s been in the news lately remains to be seen, but it was some of the most flavorful I’ve tasted in awhile.

The Caesar salad was fresh, delicious and … made with Hellmann’s. Yes, Hellmann’s. Apparently, this very recipe was rejected by Koo Koo Roo (Falcinelli used to be a consultant for them) but I can guess that all Frankies Spuntino customers are ever so thankful.

House-made Cavatelli with Faiccos Hot Sausage and Browned Sage Butter

My favorite, however, had to be the Cavatelli with Faiccos Hot Sausage and Browned Sage Butter (recipe). Not too heavy but having plenty of flavor – including the kick at the end thanks to the sausage – the Cavatelli were ever so fun to bite, with a perfect, almost-gummy consistency.

Red Wine Prunes With Marscarpone

It is hard, though, to decide which meatballs I liked better – but the beef meatballs made with garlic, bread crumbs, pinenuts, raisins – and topped with Pecorino – probably won out on the pork braciola variety since I’m a mere traditionalist. But both are awesome, moist and baked, in keeping with the Franks’ desire to create hearty but not overwhelming dishes. The classic Gnocchi alla Marinara fit the same bill – with the vibrant tomato sauce really bringing out fresh flavors on the perfect canvas that was the gnocchi. I don’t remember appreciating gnocchi as much as the Franks’, much less one that was simply dressed with marinara, yet enhanced with a rich ricotta. Then again, margherita pizza is my favorite because it’s simple.

And the dessert. The cheesecake was heavenly – not too rich and having a perfect, creamy consistency. But the real favorite was the prunes steeped in red wine and paired with marscarpone. I love wine and cheese but I could not have imagined this perfect marriage. It was a savory dessert thanks to the creamy-wet cheese but also subtly sweetened by the prunes. The richness of the dessert was perfectly accentuated by the red wine those prunes were soaked in. I would go to New York just to order this dessert after the pinenut-raisin meatballs and Cavatelli!

I can tell the Franks’ Frankies Spuntinos are both special, neighborhood spots just from having tried their food. The prices are remarkably low for the quality – especially given their New York locations. I wonder if I might blend in if I tried…(doubt it).

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Frankies Spuntino Website

Frankies 457
457 Court Street
Brooklyn, NY 11231-4010
718.403.0033

Frankies 17
17 Clinton Street
New York, NY 10002-1718
212.253.2303