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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First Taste: Neal Fraser’s Redbird at The Vibiana

Maine Lobster, gnocchi sardi, nettles, black trumpets

The long-awaited restaurant from Neal Fraser, Amy Knoll Fraser and Bill Chait is finally here, and all of Los Angeles is the better for it. With a cocktail program focused on the classics by Julian Cox and a wine list curated by Diane Pandolfini, Redbird will stand to be one of the most exciting openings of 2015 – something everyone can confidently say even while it’s still January.

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Fritzi Dog by Neal Fraser Brings Top Dogs to The Original Farmer’s Market

Memphis BBQ Dog – Porker Dog, grilled peppers, crushed paprika chips

What happens when you take an iconic, American food known for consisting of meat trimmings, fat and preservatives and reinvent it utilizing top notch ingredients and dress them up with imaginative combinations – before framing it all in a delicious bun?

You get Fritzi Dog, now at its first outpost in The Original Farmer’s Market at 3rd and Fairfax, serving up awesome dogs and sausages made with prime cuts sourced from veggie-fed, humanely treated animals. What you won’t find are snouts, tails, antibiotics, added nitrates nor mechanically separated meat. “You’ll find the same quality of ingredients [at Fritzi Dog] as you’ve found at [my other restaurants] Grace or BLD,” Neal states. Continue reading

Test Kitchen to Re-Open at Bestia Featuring Walter Manzke and Neal Fraser on October 16, 2012

Test Kitchen at Bestia

The story of Test Kitchen is something of a legend. Legends, though, are usually long gone – relegated to a time past. And yes, that was the year-long story of the Westside Test Kitchen (which now houses Sotto), but it’s about to be revived come next Tuesday.

The series, brought to you again by Bill Chait, heads downtown to Ori Menashe’s (formerly Angelini Osteria) new digs at Bestia and it runs from October 16 through November 11. Notable chefs hailing from Los Angeles and around the country will rotate, just like the 2010 incarnation. Future menus and projects as well as collaborative exhibition nights will be the focus, much like before.

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L.A. Loves Alex’s Lemonade Draws Top Culinary Talent in Fight Against Childhood Cancer

Chicken Oysters by Michael Voltaggio

L.A. Loves Alex’s Lemonade, for my third year in attendance, remains one of my favorite food events. The original idea of Alex’s Lemonade arose out of a courageous four-year-old’s battle with neuroblastoma and her desire to donate the proceeds of her lemonade stand to doctors who have helped her. Childhood cancer strikes a chord personally, as my first born nephew was diagnosed with Acute lymphocytic leukemia at the age of 1 1/2. Thanks to treatment and some faith, he’s now entering his teen years as a survivor. Of course, more research needs to be done.

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A Graceful Gathering: La Fenêtre Winery and Neal Fraser Team Up at Learn About Wine

La Fenêtre 2008 Vintage

In celebration of their fifth vintage, La Fenêtre winery will be hosting a wine and food pairing in downtown Los Angeles on August 14th, 2010 at the Learn About Wine Loft. Sommelier-turned-winemaker Joshua Klapper will be on hand to launch the release of his 2008 vintage, which consists of eight small-lot Santa Barbara County wines. Chef Neal Fraser (BLD/Grace) will prepare a small plate to complement each of the wines’ unique flavor profile.

Eight wines will be showcased, including a first-ever rosé – of which only 24 cases have been produced, three chardonnays, three single-vineyard sourced pinot noirs and a syrah. Founded in 2004, La Fenêtre focuses on expressing classic Old World style and technique with modern sensibilities. Klapper aims to select grapes of the highest quality. Amongst his vineyard sources is Bien Nacido Vineyard, recently named California Vineyard of the Year by the California State Fair.

Chef Neal Fraser will prepare the following dishes* for the tasting:

Chilean Shellfish Ceviche
Crab Salad, lemon vinaigrette, mint
Salmon Tartare, chive blini, American caviar
Bay Scallops, peas, aged goat cheese, risotto
Squab Crostini, liver mousse, rare breast, confit leg, crostini
Grilled NY Steak, farro, red wine gelee

*final menu TBD based on market availability

What better way to try beautiful wines and get your Grace fix before they re-open downtown?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Tickets: $39 in advance or 2 for $70

5 PM, 6:30 PM, 8 PM

Street parking

Learn About Wine Loft
530 Molino St, Loft 218
Los Angeles, CA 90013
310.451.7600

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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Share Our Strength’s Taste of the Nation On Sunday, June 6

Credit: Taste of the Nation: Los Angeles 2010 PSA – Spot #3 (Alternate Version) from Jeff Vespa on Vimeo

As is evident in my coverage on this blog, culinary and food events in Los Angeles come and go – but what is probably the most important event all year will happen this coming Sunday. Personally, this has been a long time coming – since I helped host a fashion and foodie event at the Tory Burch boutique back in mid-April to help sell tickets to this event. Share Our Strength‘s Taste of the Nation takes place at Media Park in Culver City from 1 – 4 PM, and 100% of the proceeds from ticket sales to the event go towards ending child hunger in Los Angeles. You will not find an event anywhere with more star chef power, so if the barrage of food events (understandably) overwhelm you, pick Taste of the Nation as your charitable culinary bazaar of choice.

Here’s exactly why:

The 2010 Participating Restaurants, Chefs and featured dishes:

8 OZ, GOVIND ARMSTRONG / JACOB WILDMAN
Tuna melt: albacore confit with a cucumber salad

AKASHA, AKASHA RICHMOND
Pulled Niman pork on pretzel rolls with slaw & pickles
Grilled market vegetable salad

BAR 210, MARCEL VIGNERON
Thai shrimp skewers

BAZAAR / THE SLS HOTEL, JOSE ANDRES / JORGE CHICAS
Liquid nitro margarita
Liquid olives
Watermelon gazpacho shots

BISTRO LQ, LAURENT QUENIOUX
Macedoine salad, uni dressing, Maine lobster
Chilled porcini soup, mirabelle coulis, foie gras chantilly/espuma
Soy milk white chocolat ice cream, american caviar – macarons

BLT STEAK, LAURENT TOURNDEL / BRIAN MOYERS
Shortrib tortelli “caramelles,” sweet corn, chantrelles, summer truffle

BORDER GRILL / CIUDAD, MARY SUE MILLIKEN / SUSAN FENIGER
Cochinita pibil tostaditas
Chilean sea bass ceviche sushi, from St. Joseph Center’s Bread and Roses Café and Culinary Training Program

BOTTEGA LOUIE, SAM MARVIN
Torchon foie gras with organic apple gastrique & marcona almond brittle
Heirloom tomato, watermelon & feta salad

CACHE, JOSIAH CITRIN
Market-driven seasonal creations

CAFÉ WAS, ALEX REZNIK
Bohemian bistro food

CHURCH & STATE, JOSH SMITH
Cervelle de canut
Green chickpea socca with roasted eggplant, Anaheim chilis

COMME CA, DAVID MYERS
Salmon tartare

CULINA, VICTOR CASANOVA
Burrata with peperonata and Manni estra virgin olive oil “Toscano”

EVA, MARK GOLD
Charred beef, grated radish

FIG, RAYMOND GARCIA
FIG dog with bacon habanero marmalade, cheesy comte fondue and fritos

FORD’S FILLING STATION, BEN FORD
Lamb burger with wild arugula, spicy tomato chutney and melted Wisconsin hook’s baby blue
BBQ pork buns with bread & butter pickles and melted Wisconsin pleasant ridge

FRAICHE, ELDEROY ARENDSE
Albacore tuna tartare, harissa aioli, potato chips

GELATO BAR, JOEL GUTMAN / GAIL SILVERTON
Artisan gelato

GRACE / BLD RESTAURANT, NEAL FRASER
Grilled pork sliders, onion & bacon jam, violet mustard

HATFIELD’S, QUINN HATFIELD
Horseradish dusted braised short rib on smoked potatoes

JOE’S RESTAURANT / BAR PINTXO, JOE MILLER
Braised artichoke with buretta cheese and jamon Iberico
Carpaccio of pineapple, pineapple blueberry compote, coconut mousse
House-made ricotta tapas with anchovy, dried tomato, and Jimenez

LOCANDO DE LAGO, ROBERTO MAGGIONI
Gelato di Parmigiano alla Caprese (Housemade Parmesan Gelato with Market Grape Tomatoes “Caprese-Style” and 12-year Balsamic Vinegar)
Lingua in Salsa Verde (Braised Beef Tongue with Fresh Parsley Pesto)

LOTERIA GRILL, JIMMY SHAW
Papa con rajas (Potato with roasted poblano peppers)
Mole poblano con pollo (Chicken mole poblano)
Carne Deshebrada (Shredded beef with fresh guacamole and chipotle sauce)

LUCQUES/AOC/TAVERN, SUZANNE GOIN
Yellow tomato gazpacho with avocado and cilantro
Olive oil cake with citrus and pistachio aillade

M CAFE/CHAYA BRASSERIE, SHIGEFUMI TACHIBE
Tuna tartare and beef skewers, yakitori grilled

MAR’SEL, MICHAEL FIORELLI
Barbequed beef bahn mi with house pickled vegetables and chili aioli
California avocado salad fresh hearts of palm, Persian cucumber, yogurt, lemon and dill

MERCANTILE/DISTRICT, KRIS MORNINGSTAR
Shrimp and grits
Spicy pork meatball soup
Home made “Better Than Oreos”

MOONSHADOWS
Spicy tuna tartare

OSTERIA MOZZA / PIZZARIA MOZZA, NANCY SILVERTON
Panna cotta vaniglia with conserva di frutti & biscotti (Vanilla panna cotta with Mixed Berry Compote and Biscotti)

NAPA VALLEY GRILLE, JOSEPH GILLARD
Sweet Corn Agnolotti with La Quercia Pancetta

NOBU, NOBU MATSUHISA
Miso Marinated Black Cod with Butter Lettuce

PATINA, JOACHIM SPLICHAL / TONY ESNAULT
Marinated Hamachi, Cucumber Vinegar, Avocado, Granny Smith Apple
Crispy chocolate hazelnut, chocolate mousse

PUBLIC / 25 DEGREES AT THE ROOSEVELT HOTEL, TIM GOODELL / JEREMY STRUBEL
Seasonal specialties

RIVERA, JOHN SEDLAR
Tortillas Flor de Calabaza

SIMON LA, KERRY SIMON / MARIUS BLIN
Crab salad

SPRINKLES, CANDACE NELSON
Freshly baked Sprinkles cupcakes

STREET, SUSAN FENIGER / KAJSA ALGER
Burmese melon salad

THE FOUNDRY ON MELROSE, ERIC GREENSPAN
Grilled Cheese

WESTSIDE TAVERN, WARREN SCHWARTZ
California modern tavern cuisine

XIV, MICHAEL MINA / STEVEN FRETZ
Braised and Grilled Piedmontese Beef Cheeks, Lime Hoisin Glaze, Summer Corn Foam, Micro Cilantro
Hamachi Tartare, Nuoc Cham Gelee, Caramelized Lapxuoug, Peanut Carmel Powder, Compressed Cucumber

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