The Best Things I Ate in 2015

Branzino, Maré

Los Angeles has been a phenomenal place to eat for the duration of 2015. In fact, it’s been really hard to keep up with everything going on in all parts of the city, but what a great problem to have. Better food is available in more neighborhoods, helping raise the standard of dining out in all parts. Hopefully all parts, anyway. We do have our native Roy Choi, doing what he can to make sure such positive change reaches otherwise forgotten neighborhoods, with his and Daniel Patterson’s project, LocaL.

But for all the Fig & Olives of the see-and-be-seen L.A. dining scene, there have been some indisputable favorites of mine to rise to the top. I see 2015 as the year we’ve surpassed the huffing and puffing about authenticity and what that even means for all the history and diversity we have in this city. It’s been exciting to taste how we’ve moved beyond all that to a place and time where chefs can confidently make their mark using flavors from all over the world as their paintbrushes.

So read on, and get to it. 2016 is just around the corner:

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Twenty-One Reasons to dineL.A.: January 19 – February 1, 2015

Lobster Roll – Blue Plate Oysterette

DineL.A. is back and it’s time to scour the menus of participating restaurants all over town. I’ve come up with some reasons to jet to a particular dining establishment near you, whether for lunch or for dinner. Some restaurants offer exclusive dishes to dineL.A., others are offering a particularly enticing lunch and/or dinner menu. There are also participants that might normally be out of your price range or sense of adventure, but dineLA might just be the right occasion to give them a try.

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Nine Noteworthy Upcoming Los Angeles Food & Drink Events

Glimpses of Unmissable Upcoming Events

Let me take this first post in almost one month to deliver some pertinent upcoming event news. It’s now summer and thus, event season, here in sunny Southern California. Now that I’ve somewhat psychologically recovered from a huge picture-data dump from spilling a homemade cocktail all over my non-backed-up laptop, I’m finally ready to move into this crazy part of the year.

So here’s a rebirth of sorts; it’s an intentional start to the summer by tallying up the essential food events continuing into the fall (L.A. Loves Alex’s Lemonade is in September). One focuses on cocktails. One focuses on tacos. One focuses on ribs. Three are on the same day; thus, yes – I do wish that these were spread out, more. But practically all of them feature world-class chefs. So without further adieu, here’s where you need to be this summer:

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First Taste: Exclusives at The Oinkster in Hollywood, Open Today

Pork Adobo Burger with garlic aioli & Onion Rings

The long-awaited Hollywood location of Andre Guerrero’s The Oinkster has finally opened. On the east side of Vine, sitting north of Melrose Avenue, the new 3,000-square foot space seats more than 100 people in its open design concept by Design, Bitches and includes two-tops all the way to communal seating – as well as an open air, dog-friendly patio with heat lamps.

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Guinness Menu Items In and Around Hollywood

Guinness Milkshake at 25 Degrees

Last week, I got to enjoy up close a private concert by Paul McCartney right on Hollywood Boulevard. Considering the audience reached all the way back to La Brea Avenue (or, for the first two songs, the audience of the Jimmy Kimmel Live telecast), it was truly an honor when Guinness asked me to be a part, first with Guinness in the makeshift green room and with a great view of Sir Paul on the Boulevard.

Beforehand, we had an early burger dinner at 25 Degrees in the Roosevelt Hotel furnished with none other than creamy Guinness milkshakes. If you haven’t already had one of these shakes, it’s a definite must-try. They’ve other adult varieties like Salty Caramel, but the Guinness is my favorite.

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Adam Perry Lang’s Serious Barbecue in the Jimmy Kimmel Live! Back Lot

Serious Barbecue – Pork Shoulder, Beef Ribs

While I have had a lot of close calls, I recently came upon what I can honestly call “the best barbecue” I’ve had in my entire life. And I owe that honor to a summer-long residency by Adam Perry Lang, who currently lives (that’s what the Airstream is for), cooks and feeds serious barbecue seekers on the Jimmy Kimmel Live! backlot in Hollywood.

From now until September 5th, he’ll be serving up his pecan wood-smoked specialties every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday for lunch. Everything in this awesome ‘cue is made from scratch (okay, perhaps not the meats), from the charcoal in the Texas burn pit to his 2-ton, custom pit smoker – and even the cutlery, which he literally carves himself.

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My Top dineLA Restaurant Week Lunch Picks for Summer, 2013: July 15 – 26

RivaBella’s Nidi di Rondine

This summer’s dineLA Restaurant Week commences today and lasts 10 days – over two weekday stretches and one weekend. And since we’ve had a few of these by now, it’s probably time we got smart on maneuvering through the multitude of menus. The trick with dineLA prix fixe is that it may get people through the door, but it may or may not be quite the deal you had in mind. The danger is that you might just be stuck with fewer, albeit recommended, choices for about the same price you’d normally pay.

May I propose lunch? They tend to be better deals than dinner – often true between both offerings of the same restaurant – because there’s more incentive to increase lunch traffic with dinner reservations filling up more readily. So whether you’ve got a 9-5 in the area or are in a certain neighborhood for an audition or client appointment, there’s probably a great dineLA power lunch strategy wherever you end up.

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Recap: L.A. Weekly and Bill Esparza’s Inaugural Tacolandia

Sabina’s sea urchin & clam, smoked fish pate and scallop tostadas from La Guerrerense

The food festival circuit is a doozy, these days. And with how exhausting each event is, it’s easy to fatigue early on. There’s dealing with the line wait in front of the popular stands, but there’s also the prioritizing that goes on to ensure you’re getting the good stuff before you get full. The sold-out Tacolandia stood to be no different.

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Monday League Nights at The Spare Room Hollywood with Caliche Rum Cocktails

Jazz the Glass – Caliche Rum, fresh pineapple and basil, house orgeat, citrus, float of medium Fino Sherry

It’s always a good time to visit The Spare Room inside the Roosevelt, but in case you needed a better reason to visit on a Monday, they’ve got one. League Nights by Caliche Rum at this first-rate hotel bar give Naomi Schimek good reason to come up with some fantastic cocktails, and she runs the gamut with her cocktail menu that goes 4 deep.

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Talking with Heather Dorak of Pilates Platinum

Heather Dorak of Pilates Platinum

For awhile after I started food writing, there was a point where I had let go of all physical activity. At some point, I felt the repercussions, and decided to give the Pilates studio a few blocks away from my new Hollywood apartment a go. I had an inkling that I’d like Pilates, but I ended up really loving it.

I’ve gone through the distance running, Bikram yoga, Anusara-influenced yoga and spin phases in my child through adult life, but I found Pilates to be just what I needed, because I really need consistent strength training – especially since I’ve had shoulder surgery and am now perpetually conscious of it and my upper body strength. I have also found my prior yoga training really helpful for proper form while I’m on the reformer, and now whenever I’m not even in the studio, I love the extra attention I subconsciously pay to my posture, even while at the desk. In short, I highly recommend Pilates!

But it all wouldn’t have been possible without Heather Dorak, the still-twenty-something entrepreneur extraordinaire who started it all. She is an inspiration, just as working out regularly has also had an influence how it has influenced how I think about food. I asked a Heather a few questions about her lifestyle and her relationship to food:

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