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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Baja Chef Series at Playa Rivera Has Launched With Paired Cocktails


Mini Tostada with Sea Urchin at 2011 Street Food Fest – La Guerrerense, “Best in Show”

I remember the anticipation we all felt when the Baja chefs came to Street Food Fest at the Rose Bowl in the summer of 2011. It was just the ingredient needed to take the festival to a new level. Not only would we be having access to some of the best street food in LA at one place, we’d also be experiencing the best of Baja.

Thanks to Reverse Coyote Bill Esparza, there’s been quite a bit of sharing going on across the California-Mexico border. We Angelenos get to reap the benefits at Playa, the playground of Sedlar’s latest experimentation. As he is currently changing the menus here, we’ll get to go straight to the sources of his inspiration thanks to this series.

Cue the installment going on now, starting with Sabina Bandera Gonzales of La Guerrerense, who will be cooking with Chef Sedlar now until tomorrow, Tuesday, September 18th – though the menus for each installment will actually be available all week long. Sabina brings dishes her top seafood stand seasoned with a variety of unique salsas. A la carte menu items are $5-$18 and include:

  • Tostada of sea urchin ceviche with clam on top
  • Tostada of sea snail ceviche with slices of sea snail on top
  • Tostada campechana (tuna fish ceviche with scallops, octopus, shrimp and sea snail on top)
  • Campechano cocktail (Cup of shrimp, octopus, scallops and sea snail)
  • Codfish ceviche (cooked in olive oil with vegetables, olives, capers)
  • Tostada of tuna smoked pate with scallops on top

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The Weekend Brunch at Playa Rivera: Modern & Elegant Southwestern

Huevos Polenta ($11)

There may be many a nightowl in the circles I run, but I still can’t remember the last time I heard or read about breakfast. Brunch is the meal of leisure over sustenance and a time when friends can order eggs or sandwiches. Brunch makes it okay to drink before noon. And brunch brings purpose to sleeping in on a weekend morning.

Blue Corn Muffins

Enter Playa Rivera, Chef John Sedlar’s newest venture in the space that was formerly Grace. While dinner service may be pricey for some, Playa’s brunch menu (in lieu of happy hour) is a great foray into Sedlar’s Santa Fe-influenced cuisine. Entrees range from $10-15, with no shortage of the chef’s artistic expression – or cinematic appreciation, for that matter (you may find a scene from Clockwork Orange beneath your Tamal).

But do not start with the entree. The don’t-miss at Playa Rivera’s brunch is the blue corn muffins, which are made with organic cornmeal and furnished with almond butter (I could’ve spread that butter on anything). And if you do order a cocktail, be sure you look at Julian Cox’s full selection before you autopilot that bloody mary or mimosa. The sangria is no ordinary sangria, but a complex cocktail with a hint of sour. It’s so good!

Duck Hash ($14)

As for the entrees, I have resigned to the fact that in early-day weekend meals, eggs are king. In a recent episode of “Ladies Who Brunch” at Playa, I sorely wished that my Croque Monsieur Senor was a Senorita. The layers of chorizo and queso in each bite were really good, but when the eggs on three other plates waver at you with their perfectly poached, sunny and easy yolks, you can’t help but become envious.

The duck hash was one such example as two round eggs stood against a colorful plate of potatoes, delicious dark meat and arugula. It was as beautiful a display of savory as it was tasty.

For those more Santa Fe-inclined, go with one of the red chile-laden dishes, such as the Huevos Polenta. Once I was finished with my sandwich, I couldn’t help but steal spoonful after spoonful of Maya’s dish. Sedlar’s red chile really is that good, and dare I include “authentic.” (I am no expert, though I did enjoy a blitz in chile education during a weekend trip to Santa Fe with other food bloggers a year ago, in which we were lucky enough to observe Sedlar in his native environmental and culinary elements.) Ladled over the top of a bed of polenta, the red chile just makes for a super delicious soup.

Ice Cream Sundae ($7)

If you’re feeling like a tamale, you can enjoy that same red chile atop the Tamal – that of which are topped by some beautiful, sunny-side up eggs. Yes, you get the Clockwork Orange mural, as well. (In the latest series of dish art at Playa, expect a controversial radioactive theme – an homage to the chef’s native New Mexico.)

But just like the muffins, you best not miss dessert. The Sundae comes with a blue corn chocolate chip on a jar with goat’s milk ice cream, cocoanibs, hazelnuts as well as hazelnut syrup. If the blue corn muffins were mind-blowing, the dessert rendition is really the icing on the blue corn cake.

With just one experience under my belt, Playa Rivera brunch is in the ranks of being one of my favorite brunches in town. It won’t break the bank and isn’t one of your standard issue pancake-waffle breakfasts over mimosas. Not that those are necessarily a bad thing, but it’s a good idea to change the pace – and the cuisine – when the results come out this good.

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Brunch: Sat – Sun

10 AM – 2 PM

Playa Rivera
7360 Beverly Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
323.933.5300

@playarivera

L.A. Times Celebration of Food & Wine: September 5, 2010

L.A. Times Wine & Food Festival at Paramount Pictures Studios | Photo credit to isayx3 on Flickr

It’s another culinary bazaar (we here in Los Angeles know how often these come around) but this time, it’s our city-wide flagship publication pulling out all the stops. It looks like the L.A. Times will live up to their name, too, because there are names to be had at this event held at on New York Street (yeah, pretty funny) in the backlot of Paramount Pictures.

Feelin’ a little indie with your wine? There will also be music, as She & Him are scheduled to headline the event with a full set. Angela McClusky will support.

Demonstrations will be taking place for your pleasure and education, as will panels by the following:

  • Michael Voltaggio – Winner, Top Chef Season 6
  • Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo – Animal Restaurant
  • Mark Peel –Campanile, The Tar Pit, Top Chef Masters Seasons 1 & 2
  • Suzanne Goin –AOC, Lucques, Tavern and The Hungry Cat
  • Jimmy Shaw -Loteria Grill
  • Ludo Lefebvre – LudoBites
  • Betty Fraser – Grub, Top Chef Season 2
  • Chris “C.J.” Jacobsen – The Yard, Top Chef Season 3
  • Alex Reznik – Ivan Kane’s Cafe Was, Top Chef Season 7
  • John Sedlar – Rivera
  • Barrie Lynn – The Cheese Impresario
  • Ricardo Zarate – Mo-chica
  • Russ Parsons – Food Editor, Los Angeles Times
  • Noelle Carter – Manager, Los Angeles Times Test Kitchen
  • Rene Lynch – Assistant Food Editor, Los Angeles Times
  • Jessica Gelt – Staff Writer, Los Angeles Times
  • Betty Hallock – Deputy Food Editor, Los Angeles Times
  • Krista Simmons – Associate Editor, Brand X

And of course, high brow or not, it wouldn’t truly be a Los Angeles food event without food trucks present. Don Chow Tacos, Wahoo’s, The Sweets Truck, The Buttermilk Truck, DosaTruck, Coolhaus will all be there if you so prefer your food off a 4-wheeler.

Wine, sake and spirits from various vendors will help you wash down your bites. Blackheart Spiced Rum, Broc Cellars / Broadside Wines, Conway Family Wines, Dutcher Crossing Winery, Evan Williams Hong Reserve Bourbon, Flora Springs Winery & Vineyards, Gekkeikan Sake, Hook & Ladder Winery, Lunazul 100% Agave Tequila, Kook Soon Dang Beer, Michael David Winery, Rideau Vineyard, Sinatra Family Estates, and Venteux Vineyards will all be present during the event.

If you buy in advance, you’ll save $10. The best part is that general admission attendees also get to enjoy a good number of pours (8 to be exact) with their food. But if VIP is more your speed, you’ll get unlimited pours and in addition, you’ll get to taste bites from these participants. Benefiting from ticket sales are Share Our Strength and the Los Angeles Times Family Fund, so you can feel good that you’ve spent your day also supporting worthy causes.

Seems like a it’ll be a great debut. I’ll see you there.

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Sunday, September 5, 2010

12 – 8 PM

$125 VIP Admission ($135 door)
$55 General Admission ($65 door)
$40 Concert Only, advance and door

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L.A. Times Celebration of Food & Wine at
Paramount Pictures
5555 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90038

The FoodGPS Beverly Blvd Walking Tour: The Recap

Creamed Corn and Fried Chicken at Eva

On Sunday, I joined Josh Lurie of Food GPS and a good showing of food bloggers, writers and fans for a Beverly Blvd walking tour. It was really nice to get a flagship bite from each of four stops as well as glean some history from a couple landmarks on the way, such as CBS Studios and Pan Pacific Park.

Mark Gold

We started off at Eva where Mark Gold was reminiscent of his posh tenure with Patina and his subsequent move to his own venture, occupying the old Hatfield’s space. Left to his own devices, he is free to thrive, free to fail – but free, nonetheless – and it certainly looks like it’s the former case for him a mere 10 months later.

Tuesday night is a popular night at Eva, when guests can enjoy his famous buttermilk, duck fat and tabasco battered fried chicken and beer to their heart’s content for just $25. The restaurant as a whole – for lunch or dinner – is a place you can rely on for good bang for the buck, as there are consistently solid dishes that emerge from Gold’s kitchen at reasonable prices. I could eat Eva’s creamed corn – infused with bay leaf and bechamel – and fried chicken for days.

Steamed Mussels in Tomato, White Wine & Chili Broth

Afterwards, we walked two doors down to BLD, which is owned by Neal Fraser (Grace). Chef Diana Stavaridis runs the kitchen, which prepared steamed, tomato and white wine mussels for the tour group. They were delicious with a surprisingly deep flavor to the light broth.

On our way to MILK, we passed the former location of Grace, which Josh divulged was relocating to the Vibiana Cathedral in Downtown Los Angeles. A location reversal of sorts will occur, as Chef John Sedlar of Rivera in downtown will be expanding and serving up more casual eats under the name R26 in Grace’s former space. It’s slated for fall of this year.

Watermelon Sorbet Ice Cream Sandwich

At MILK, we enjoyed an array of ice cream served different ways and in a large variety of flavors. I was lucky to be first in line (or shall we say, prompt?) and secured a cookie sandwich with oversized, flat green macarons encasing watermelon sorbet with chocolate chips  mixed in, which somewhat resembled watermelon seeds for that delicious and cute factor.

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LA Magazine’s The Food Event Lives Up To Hype

The thing about these food extravaganzas is sometimes you can expect a lot of piecemeal efforts from restaurants who run the gambit of quality and notoriety and are there to garner publicity because they need it. Not so with Los Angeles Magazine‘s The Food Event – held at Saddlerock Ranch in Malibu last Sunday and which featured a ton of power players in the L.A. scene. First of all, the setting was beautiful and couldn’t be more fairy tale. Imagine food and wine in a bowl set inside rolling hills with rows of grape vines and a clear blue sky above. Second, I actually regretted not having enough capacity to try everything. If I knew what everyone was serving ahead of time as I perused stand to stand, I could prioritize the space in my stomach somehow. Then again, that would have taken oodles of self-control that – let’s face it – I frankly don’t have.

Highlights that I was actually able to digest included a steak sandwich from Dakota (above), three different tacos including a potato variety from Loteria! Grill, an interesting foie gras-eel sushi roll (yes, the magic was in the foie gras) as well as an astounding lettuce wrap (below) from Wilshire Restaurant, and – I’m sure – tons of other things I eyed with a look only a diner with an overwhelmed yet yearning palate could exude.

Oh – and how nice it was to see the newly-expanded Petrossian in my neighborhood, in Malibu. Their blinis and borscht was one of the smallest bites there but also the most delectable and luxurious. And you’d think I’d never be so excited to see so many sliders, which I’d normally view as fillers. There were so many varieties of meats and perfect buns to accompany them, including Westside Tavern‘s lamb dip.

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