The sun is out – when June Gloom isn’t in, that is. But when the high of summer arrives, you’ll bet it’ll be time for that picnic. Whether at The Hollywood Bowl, Cinespia or Barnsdall Art Park, picnicking in Los Angeles has become more than a rite of passage. It’s now an act of communal expression, with everyone in the party bringing their own contribution to the portable, potable feast.
What’s a chef to do – and where is he to go – once he quits his posh Patina Restaurant Group post as Executive Chef at Cafe Pinot?
The answer? It’s infallibly to do one’s own series of roving dinners in various homes. Chef Kevin Meehan’s intention? Hosting a group of appreciative guests with adventurous and social bents.
What you get, then, is a start-up dinner series that brings together a myriad of moving parts – but the difference with this particular dinner party is that the least questionable variable is the quality of the food. In essence, there’s no better way to enjoy a multi-course opus by Chef Meehan than within the context and intimacy of an 8-person dinner party. The mystery of the night’s dinner menu is navigated by that day’s foraged finds and treasures unearthed at the fish and farmer’s market. (Those with dietary restrictions are encouraged to let Chef know when the reservation is made.)
The evening begins with a reception of sorts as you sip wine in the comforts of an outdoor, dimly but charmingly lit patio and begin to get acquainted with your fellow diners – after all, you’ll be sharing a table so you may as well get cozy. Sidenote: It’s probably best to get a pre-dinner wine, or at least something a little unexpected or white, to share for this; it seemed that everyone at my party had food on the mind (and why wouldn’t they) when they picked out their wines.
And for five inventive and intriguing courses (plus amuse bouche) and an unexpectedly pleasant group of characters at the dinner my guest and I were privy to, it was an evening well spent. Or if you have that special occasion in mind, you can book your own dinner party for you and your friends. After all, no where else will you get top-notch courses in an ultimately casual, stress-free environment. But I really like the idea of matching your “omakase” style dinner to the chef’s choice co-mingling of guests. Dinner parties, after all, are for adventurers.
One thing I’ve noticed about many dinner parties, too, is that there’s a pacing left to be desired for the diners, or shall I say guests? But each course at Kali Dining was evenly and perfectly spaced and a fitting ascension unto the next. And I, for one, thought it was the perfect amount of food. Each plate was a piece of art yet evaded being too fussy.
So you best get to Kali Dining before Chef Kevin “goes out and gets a real job” (disclaimer: his words, not mine). This is one temporary
pop-up installment on the westside you won’t want to miss out on.
I’ve always been a fan of Stark Bar.
What’s not to love? Great cocktails made with fresh ingredients and spectacular, savory bar bites are yours to enjoy within one of the most cosmopolitan confines in Los Angeles. Ray’s and Stark Bar bring purpose and focus to LACMA‘s outdoor scene. It’s the stalwart at the center of a free-flowing patio in which the art is in the food and cocktails – a scene I’m readily available to insert myself into as I’m a new LACMA member!
But I wasn’t completely sure how much of my favor for Stark Bar would translate to the dining room at Ray’s (or if any of it would). Well into the second course of our media dinner party, it became clear that all those Stark Bar’s bar bites I’ve become familiar with really are a mere introduction to the depth of Kris Morningstar’s cooking.
There were some amazing flavors to be had from one course to the next. It’s easy to see why Ray’s and Stark Bar are one of the representative Best New Restaurants in Esquire Magazine’s recently published 2012 list. It’s no detail that the cocktails, by Michel Dozois, were a delight. The ones served (the names of which I irresponsibly didn’t record) were refreshing and particularly complementary to the dinner.
As was a theme during the meal, Kris masterfully integrated hisÂ garden ingredients into the original design of his dishes. We have all had an heirloom tomato salad, but I was floored by his version, which came topped with charred local squid, shiso and Bottarga vinaigrette.Â The Granola, aÂ wholly imaginative dish in itself (who serves granola for dinner?), had such complexities that each bite made for an evolutionary taleÂ til the very last spoonful. It was refreshing, yet savory, yet sweet and herbal…you will just have to try it before the end of the season, yourself.
TheÂ Pork Belly was a crispy, deliciousÂ slice, as coupled with a sweet cube of golden watermelon. The black vinegar and basil brought everything together while delicatelyÂ balancing out the sweetness of the other two. The Sonoma Lamb was a savory masterpieceÂ and tender asÂ as can beÂ with Butter beans, corno di toro peppers, baby artichokes, oregano and rouille – more evocative of the bar menu I’ve become accustomed with.
The dessert, which was a sweet and savory delight cooked and packaged in an iron skillet, was such a nice nightcap. It wasÂ the perfect amount of sweet with just enough savory breading, and I devoured every inch.
With Ray’s, it’s apparent thatÂ museum restaurants in Los Angeles have finallyÂ moved beyond the obligatory watering hole and feeding quartersÂ for art patrons. Instead, the space has itselfÂ become a viable destination for those looking for solid cocktails and bar bites or, what’s more, an inspirational meal.Â Since thisÂ makes for an overallÂ exciting time to be at LA’s representative art institution, it really is something all Angelenos can be proud of.
All food, wine and cocktails were hosted.
I don’t cover a lot of entertainment news on this blog, but when it comes to Los Angeles and the entertainment industry, the latter is an undeniable part of our culture as…well, television.
Tomorrow, our TV stars will be gathering at the L.A. Convention Center for the 63rd Primetime Emmy Awards Governors Ball, and Patina will be catering the star-studded, “mod illusions”-styled event for only the 16th time.
The Governors Ball will be painted in black and white and everything nice. Awhile back, I got a chance to get a glimpse of the motif as well as taste miniature versions of the courses guests will be enjoying tomorrow.
…Such as this Windrose Farms heirloom tomato salad with rosemary and cherry wood-grilled asparagus. Fried gold potatoes and fried crisps decorate the top of the dish. This is a great first course to close out the summer.
The entree course tomorrow will be Filet Mignon with an oxtail bordelaise. Gratin of macaroni (that is, a cylindrically-cut tower of horizontally-layered tube pasta with Vermont white Cheddar) and rainbow baby carrots line the plate as do a cipollini onion and caramelized broccoli emulsion.
Unless you’re vegetarian, it’s pretty hard to argue with a Filet. It’s also hard to argue with macaroni and carrots. With a 3-course menu this simple, it’s clear that Patina is going with ingredients that will provide the least fuss for a – let’s face it – potentially fussy bunch of diners.
I’m still curious as to what they’ll feed to the vegetarians and vegans. This is L.A., right? Patina will be on-hand to take care of all the needs of all 3600 sat-down guests. They’re well-equipped in the front and back of the house to tend to all dietary preferences and restrictions.
The dessert course, in all its glitz and glamour (and glitz), would be a vegan-banned course as well. The Duncan Hines milk chocolate brownie is ensconced in chocolate blackberry cream and chocolate rice crisp. Blackberries line the plate and flavor of the lone macaron on the side.
And all three of these courses will be served in a setting that is designed to trick the eye, complete with a 60-foot, centralized and elevated, circular dance floor and orchestra platform.
As for cocktails by Grey Goose, I sipped on a delicious almost-grapefruit-tasting cocktail that they’ll be serving to guests tomorrow. It was surprisingly not too sweet and as far as vodka cocktails go, this is one of the ones I’ve liked in recent memory (in no small part due to the fact that I barely drink them, period):
The EmmyÂ® Cocktail
1 1/2 part Grey GooseÂ® L’Orange Flavored Vodka
1 part BÃ©nÃ©dictineÂ® Liqueur
1/2 part Agave Syrup
1/2 part Ginger Ale
1 Orange Wheel
Combine Grey Goose L’Orange flavored vodka, BÃ©nÃ©dictine, grapefruit juice and agave syrup in a shaker and shake vigorously. Pour all contents into collins glass filled with ice. Top with ginger ale. Garnish with orange wheel (optional).
It may be September, but it sure still feels a little like summer in Los Angeles. Enjoy what’s left of it…and enjoy the weekend!
Sunday, September 18, 2011
PST broadcast: 5 PM on FOX
The 63rd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards
1201 South Figueroa Street
Los Angeles, CA 90015