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

Summer Desserts Debut at Nobu

Cheesecake - $12 | Photo credit Craig Takahashi

Summer is upon us, and there’s no better time to introduce a new dessert menu. Nobu on La Cienega has you covered – with three new options from pastry chef Gabriele Riva. This ever delicate-yet-decadent, deconstructed cheese cake is made with Cheesecake mousse, sable breton, raspberry coulis, and sweet gorgonzola gelato. Yes – gorgonzola gelato! (Indeed, I am on a gorgonzola ice cream kick and cannot wait to try this one – especially after the phenomenal Pear-Gorgonzola-Walnut ice cream from Tai Kim of Scoops at the Eat My Blog Bake Sale over the weekend.)

Equilibrium - $11 | Photo credit Craig Takahashi

Further along the summer theme is Chef Riva’s Equilibrium ($11), which resembles a fresh green salad. The dessert is a mix of orange segments, light goat cheese cream, baby arugula, carmelized pecans and sorbet. I’m curious to try this one out; I can’t say that I’ve ever had a salad for dessert, before.

And don’t forget that there’s a fresh summer cocktail menu to lead into or even supplement your desserts…

Nobu West Hollywood
903 N. La Cienega Blvd.
West Hollywood, CA 90069-4709
310.657.5711

Bar and Lounge
Sun – Mon: 5 – 10:15 PM
Tue – Sat: 5 – 11:15 PM
Happy Hour 7 nights per week:
5 – 8 PM

Desserts a Sleeper Delight at Drago Centro

La Torta Di Primavera (Extra Virgin Olive Oil Cake, Avocado Mousse, Grapefruit, Basil Gelato, Campari Candy)

One night, after an outing somewhere in Downtown LA, Caroline had a need to cleanse her palate with a little something that would ultimately wash away all the dissatisfying drinks we everyone else had consumed earlier that night. (I had gotten there late and benefited from the experience of those who were punctual and who found their cocktails too sweet and frankly sub-par. I ordered Highland Park 12, neat.)

Crispy Sweetbreads, Gnocchi, English Peas

We were done and I might have gone straight home to crash, but instead decided to accompany Caroline. A few tweets later and we were set to drop by Drago Centro – especially since it was known that Michael Shearin would be there. Though now set for next week (delayed from a date this week because of filming schedules – ohhh, LA…), Caroline and I wanted to possibly get a peep at drinks that are to debut as the collective Spring Cocktail Menu. It is set to debut next Wednesday, to be exact, and Michael indulged us in a couple of them – without names but with ingredients. Sweet. Caroline did a fantabulous write-up including names she made up for the cocktails themselves – so let’s defer to L.A. Weekly’s Best Drinking Blog of 2009, shall we? Just remember to get the sneak preview for the Spring menu next Wednesday, April 14th all day – all new drinks will be only $6 each.

While Michael – by choice or not – accompanied us while we sat at the bar, Chef de Cuisine Ian Gresik greeted us and sent out beautiful mini iron pans of peas, gnocchi and crispy sweetbreads. They were perfectly savory and had just the perfect amount of salt. The gnocchi were tender but had good flavor and great bite. Since this was my third stop this night, I panicked a bit that Chef Gresik would send out more food, but was consoled when Pastry Chef Jashmine Corpuz had also come out to visit us and decided to grace us with her beautiful desserts as our edible night cap. Michael Shearin had us covered with our liquid ones.

Il Budino Di Cioccollato (Chocolate Custard, Date Carpaccio, Pecan, Caramel Gelato)

And out came trays of 3 desserts each – which coincidentally were the first 3 on the dessert menu but couldn’t have covered our sweets palate more diversely. The light, fruit-adorned one intrigued me in that I had never had grapefruit for dessert, before. But there the sour fruit was, in all its glory while accompanying tiny biscuits of Extra Virgin Olive Oil Cake, Avocado Mousse and even Basil Gelato. It was aromatic, light and refreshing. The delicious, clear pink chips of Campri candy were the icing on the cake, as Pastry Chef Jashmine had apparently collaborated with Michael to use them as garnishes for both dessert and cocktail – so definitely look for this candy garnish on the new Spring cocktail menu.

I Bomboloni (Doughnuts, Apples, Amaretto Caramel, Ricotta, Brown Butter Ice Cream)

And oh, the budino! No, this isn’t the famed Osteria Mozza budino – but it’s practically as good and aesthetically elegant, to boot. The chocolate custard was the close-your-eyes heavenly centerpiece and the caramel gelato put the dessert over the top in sinful delight. The pecans gave the dish good weight and crunchy texture while the date carpaccio framed it well.

As for the I Bomboloni – it’s the dessert for doughnut lovers, everywhere. The doughy holes were a perfect, airy texture while the brown butter ice cream was savory-sweet. The tiny chopped-up apples with cinnamon brought me back to my favorite apple pie but the amaretto caramel added a note of sophistication to the dish. Mmm.

So next time you go to Drago Centro – whether for a full-on tasting menu or just a night cap – remember to not skip dessert. I was very much impressed, especially for someone with a penchant for salt-over-sweet. The desserts here are a sleeper in Downtown LA, and Jashmine Corpuz has the talent and imagination to keep your experience at Drago interesting through the very end…

Lunch: Mon – Fri, 11:30 AM – 2:30 PM
Dinner: Mon – Sat, 5 PM – 10:30 PM
Now Open Sundays: 5 PM – 9 PM

Drago Centro
525 S. Flower Street
Los Angeles, CA‎ 90071
213.228.8998‎

@dragocentro

Papabubble Hard Candy: Made By Hand, Made With Love

This past weekend, I had the unique opportunity to attend a Papabubble candy-making workshop at Ojai Valley Inn & Spa. After doing some online research, I learned that the only Papabubble shop in the U.S. is in New York City – Little Italy, to be exact – so I couldn’t wait to see the demonstration. Maybe the West Coast would finally get a taste of these hard goods.

White Chocolate-Dipped Mini Creme Brulée

When my girlfriend and I first arrived in Ojai, we couldn’t imagine a more beautiful setting within which to learn about candy. Apparently, Ojai Valley Inn is making a push to host chef-centered, educational programs for the public – something I can definitely get behind and am honored to have been a part of, for at least one event! So after we checked in to our posh room with a fireplace, we headed over to the workshop where desserts by Pastry Chef Salvatore Marcone met us – complete with coffees, teas and real hot cocoa (as in, melted chocolate). I would be remiss if I didn’t rave about how excellent these all were, including mini creme brulées dipped in white chocolate, lavender cheesecakes and gold flake-topped chocolate domes. And I can’t forget the lemon meringue tarts – with probably the best lemon meringue I’ve ever had in my life.

Chocolate Dome

Papabubble is handmade hard candy which is made through a very time-sensitive process beginning with pots of liquified sugar. I was delighted by the story of Chris and Rachel Grassi, two artists from New Mexico who co-own the American flagship in New York City, and the discovery of their love for candy-making while on an extended trek through Europe together. They learned from friends in Barcelona, and decided to bring the traditional European craft Stateside since they figured they “had to go home, eventually.” New York proved most conducive to their business plan and product, and today their Little Italy storefront hosts a most eclectic gathering of spectators intrigued by the sight of candy being made by hand.

Liquified sugar spread upon heated marble slab

When we arrived in the hotel banquet hall, we couldn’t see the extreme boiling action going on in the kitchen next door. When the pots were finally brought out, though, they went straight to a heated marble slab. Chris and Rachel then started spreading the melted sugar evenly across the slab while using metal bars to knead the sheets as they became thicker while cooling down. And then when it was solidified, the “clay” was transferred to a heated rubber mat to undergo continued stretching. Chris and Rachel continued to stretch and fold the warm putty repeatedly with respect to their separate colored shares. And then the molding began.

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