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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First Taste: Pine & Crane Tailors Taiwanese Dishes to Silver Lake

Pine & Crane Storefront in Sunset Triangle Plaza

As a 2nd generation Taiwanese American, I often wondered during childhood how different my life would’ve been if, like many of their classmates in Southern Taiwan, my parents had settled in Arcadia, California instead of New Berlin, Wisconsin. My only access to Taiwanese (adamantly never Chinese) food was through my Mom’s cooking.

As the 4th of 4 kids, though, my parents were financially able to travel by the time I rolled around, and I luckily traveled to California and Taiwan often to keep somewhat in contact with my roots. As my palate matured and diversified over the years, it was also groomed for the innate craving for noodles, broth and spice I continually have today.

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Cliff’s Edge: Great Food & Drink on Silver Lake’s Top Patio

Corn Agnolotti

Silver Lake is an anomaly of sorts. It’s known as one of the hippest neighborhoods in Los Angeles, though some easter-siders might argue that its time has past and has already gone by way of the tourist. Take, for example, that there are many movie settings that tout Silver Lake, but not Echo Park, Mt. Washington or Boyle Heights.

Sunset Junction, to be specific, is the site of the Los Angeles coffee resurgence, but the quality of Silver Lake’s new restaurants haven’t really kept the pace of the other burgeoning neighborhood’s eateries. Instead, it continues to be stocked with local favorites in lieu of destination restaurants with nearby residents regularly filling covers – and Silver Lake definitely prefers it that way.

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O Banh Mi: Nondescript, No-Nonsense Silver Lake Banh Mi

Storefront

It was a Saturday afternoon after a morning of Pilates followed by procrastination, and I was in need of a snack. I craved the sort of snack that could double as a quick, reasonably priced lunch. As with most things, however, you risk quality in favor of expediency and price.

And then I read Twitter.

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Five Upcoming Food & Drink Events You Won’t Want to Miss

LudoBites 4.0 Greatest Hits: White Asparagus Veloute, Mozzarella Mousse, Candied Olives, Fennel, Salmon Roe

Now would be a great time to finally and formally introduce you to my “Upcoming Events” column over on the right (–>). It’s but a few months old, but a great way to short-handedly let you know about the best things that are coming up as far as goings on in Los Angeles. It also means less pre-event write-ups, since you can get the skinny right in that column. (You’re welcome.)

For now, though, I’ve anticipated a slew of food events in our beloved city – especially while everyone’s trying to get everything wrapped up before the holidays. I believe the following, however, warrant special attention. Be sure to make your reservations & buy your tickets. Here they are, in order of date:

1. Now: LudoBites 10.0 Reservation Window Now Open (until 10:59 AM Thursday, November 29, 2012)

Right now we’re in the middle of a 24-hour window that first opened at 11 AM PST. So until 10:59 AM tomorrow (Thursday, November 29), you’ll get to enter the lottery for a reservation on one of 14 days (weekdays, December 4-21) of LudoBites 10.0 at Gram & Papa’s in Downtown LA. No guarantees that any of you will actually GET a reservation, but all we can do is try, try, try, right? (No seriously – don’t submit that form twice. It will make Krissy very mad. Just once, guys.) Protip: To increase your chances of getting a reservation, be sure to be as available as possible, since you have to fill out your available days and time slots. Or maybe that was obvious.

And if you don’t know what LudoBites is, by now, I’m afraid I can’t help you…or can I?

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Favorite Places To Eat Raw Oysters on the Halfshell

Market Dozen at L&E Oyster Bar

If you’ve been following my Twitter feed, you’ve probably noticed how much I’ve been craving oysters recently. For awhile, I wasn’t exactly sure whether it was a by-product of my trip to New York – every day of which I enjoyed raw oysters (and what a glorious trip it was).

As it appears, my itch has failed to taper off whatsoever.

So what am I to do except create a round-up of my go-to spots for raw oysters on the halfshell? It’s pretty much the best seafood to consume in the world, with 95% of all oysters consumed being farmed with sustainable practices. And if bacon were vegan kryptonite, oysters are almost vegan … kale-beet salad? Having no central nervous system, oysters feed off plankton while filtering the waters around them and actually benefiting nearby marine life. Check them out on Seafood Watch to see that they’re “Best Choice” when it comes to consuming seafood.

I’m lucky enough to have great options in my neighborhood offering quite a variety of ambiances, as well as a variety of oysters to enjoy between Oysterholics Anonymous meetings, to boot. Of course, you’ll find more West Coast varieties with a sprinkling of East, but never fear – you’ve a handy online oyster guide spun off Rowan Jacobsen’s book to guide the way. It’s a fantastic way to have info on each oyster handy at your fingertips.

Anyway, back to it. Here’s where I personally break to slurp on those briny and not-so-briny bivalves. And yes, it’s centered on Hollywood and Silver Lake since this is my hood!

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Fanny Bay

Located down from The Satellite and across from LA MILL, the no-reservation L&E Oyster Bar is a great place to grab a dozen – the Daily Dozen, to be clear.  You’ll get three varieties while saving a few bucks off the per-oyster price. Wash each oyster down with one of the excellent varietals of wine (after all, Dustin Lancaster and Matthew Kaner also brought us Bar Covell). L&E is already a neighborhood favorite but also the subject of a recent S. Irene review, so your best bet is to arrive near their 5 PM opening time. It’s often slammed, but when it comes to oysters it’s easy to see why.

Jonesin’ for bivalves on a Tuesday? Escape into the Roosevelt Hotel and into this 1960’s library-esque restaurant with moss-lined dining rooms, high ceilings and rustic interior for their special oysters and Champagne menu. They’ve a dozen varieties of West and East Coast that switch out from week to week – so whether you want $14 for a half dozen, $20 for nine, or $28 for the dozen, you’ve got a few increments to choose from. And if you’re not looking to end on bubbly, there’s two awesome bars in the same hotel: The Spare Room and Library Bar.

Well look at that, little French Champagne & cocktail bar! This latest venture by Steve Livigni, Pablo Moix and Mark and Johnnie Houston is just one of those bars I’m so glad is in town – oysters or not. But hey, if oysters are a go, then you’ll really find no other place in the city with better libations to slurp them down with. If cocktails are the new food-is-the-new-rock, Pour Vous is essentially your rock supergroup with a vast but excellent menu featuring 26 drinks. But don’t come here if you’re looking to grab a dozen in your sweatpants; remember to come with a jacket and/or collar, guys, and ladies – you’ll have tons more fun dressed to these fabulous surroundings in your sharp garb. If you’re lucky, Livigni will be on deck…er, on the decks.

My David Lentz plate at LA Loves Alex's Lemonade

Hungry Cat’s really been the neighborhood stalwart of seafood, so when power duo David Lentz and Suzanne Goin expanded all the way over by PCH in Santa Monica, our city’s beachcombers rejoiced. Whether you supplement your oysters with one of their solid cocktails or get them as a prelude to their annual CrabFest (which sells out soon after it’s announced), you really can’t go wrong. Get the half-dozen for $15 or a full dozen for $30 – and supplement with plenty other shellfish and seafood – including plenty of other raw iterations – at will. Parking in the complex lot is also a cinch thanks to 2-hour validation.

Let’s not forget your own place or event. I was at a Dine LA media party once, and my friends and I were essentially glued to Christophe Happillon’s shucking station. It was the best party, ever. Everything I learned about oysters (away from the internet), I learned from this guy. You’ll learn a ton about oysters in the process, as in how environmental conditions and geography play a role in how each variety looks and tastes. You can also seek him out on Tuesdays at Church & State and Fridays at Joe’s Restaurant.

I’ll see you at the oyster bar!

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L&E Oyster Bar
1637 Silverlake Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90026
323.660.2255

Public Kitchen & Bar in The Hollywood Roosevelt
7000 Hollywood Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90028
323.466.7000

Pour Vous
5574 Melrose Ave.
Hollywood, CA 90004
323.871.8699

Hungry Cat Hollywood
1535 Vine St.
Los Angeles, CA 90028
323.462.2155

Hungry Cat Santa Monica
100 W. Channel Road (@PCH)
Santa Monica, CA 90402
310.459.3337

Los Angeles Bars That Don’t Belong

R Bar - Photographed by: Alen Lin (www.alenlin.com)

We all love Los Angeles for the diversity it affords in all cross-sections of life. (Or, at least I hope you do.) But let’s be honest. When it comes to food, fashion and yes, even drinking, sometimes we’ve come to expect a certain type of scene based upon the neighborhood that we’re in.

You’ll find flip-flops accepted and even expected near the beach while they’ll likely be shunned as you head eastbound. Moustaches and more indie music? East. Button-downs over straight-cut slacks? West. Dress code? All over (unfortunately).

But recently I found myself in a few bars where the interior and auras had me confused – as if I really were in a different neighborhood. Here’s the rundown on my impressions – along with my favorite cocktail at each bar:

Del Monte Speakeasy: Located in Venice, but feels like you’re in Silver Lake

The PSA

Recently outfitted with Brandon Ristaino’s elaborate cocktail menu, Del Monte has upped their game with some pretty fancy – and complicated – recipes. With a new focus on housemade ingredients, the speakeasy menu has some wacky combinations in their drinks. It’s brave and takes risks, which I admire, but unfortunately I didn’t like the majority of the cocktails. While reading the ingredients of a drink off the menu would usually provide enlightenment in my enjoyment of the cocktail, the explanation of each drink was simply confusing as many of the components seemed to clash.

The speakeasy area downstairs, however, has a ton of charm – and has only very recently legally reopened. There’s a filled-in tunnel from the Prohibition days in their stock room and the stairs are so old that you best be looking down as you descend – lest you trip down the rabbit hole into this bar that doubles as a music venue! Recommended cocktail: The PSA, made with Pisco, Aperol, citrus, house prepared demerara syrup, egg white & Peruvian bitters (Caroline on Crack explains why).

Naya Sunset: Located in Silver Lake, but feels like you’re in Hollywood

Naya Sunset Interior

Granted, I was at the media opening, but I’m thinking from the dim lighting, loungey seating and 4-on-the-floor house music, Naya Sunset’s intent was to bring the club to Sunset Junction. With a side of Indian food and a little Southeast Asian flavor mixed in, that is. Thing is, Joel Black’s cocktails are better than most others’ available in the vicinity, so if you’re craving one of the aforementioned – or both – it’d be a mistake to pass Naya up should you happen to be in the neighborhood.

My favorite cocktail: The Rocky Patel is a down-and-dirty mix of Chivas 12 Year blended Scotch whisky, Laphroaig 10 Year Islay Scotch whisky and espresso bean infused Zaya 12 Year old rum with espresso bean garnish. The smokey flavor of the Laphroaig blended beautifully with the subtle coffee flavors of the rum. Delicious. Also don’t forget to try the others on for size, such as the Spa in Goa – a refreshing cocktail utilizing Aviation Gin, fresh lime juice, Persian cucumbers, fresh thyme and agave nectar. It tastes just like it sounds, except even better (gin always has a benefit over vodka, no?).

R Bar: Located in Koreatown, but feels like you’re in Eagle Rock

Don’t look for signage, because it doesn’t exist. And…you need a password to get through the door. Yes, it initially feels a little off-putting, like a douchey dance club, but the password can be found out either on their Facebook or Twitter. And once you’re in, you’re pretty much in dive bar paradise. Heavy-hitting jukebox, check. Stiff pours, check. Old, wooden booths and furnishings with sweet nothings and loud somethings etched into said wood, check. Other than the name, it’s not a pirate bar by the strictest standards, but sometimes I just want a no-nonsense bar with a campy, divey feel.

Play Action Trivia on Tuesdays, or if you really were jonesin’ for that part of K-town, you can also karaoke on Mondays (albeit on-stage, rowdy style and without the private rooms). As far as drinks, stick to the 1:2 pours or just go with whiskey neat. I’d be wrong to recommend it, but they do offer a “mystery shot” to bravely hapless drinkers.

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I love unpredictibility. And I’ve always had a soft spot for outcasts. These little gems spread across the city offer scenes that are totally unexpected given the neighborhoods they occupy. Stop by one and prepare to be at least a little bit surprised.

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Townhouse/Del Monte Speakeasy
52 Windward Ave.
Venice, 90291
310.392.4040

Naya Sunset
3705 W. Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90026
323.663.8268

R Bar
3331 W. 8th St
Los Angeles, CA 90005
213.387.7227

This Week: Open House at Valerie Confections

Petit Fours

If there ever was a good time to visit Valerie Confections, this week would be it. Valerie Gordon and Stan Weightman are hosting a week-long open house starting today with different selections being featured each of the five days. Peep below to see which sweets suit your fancy, then go visit the shop! Do note the varying shop hours.

  • Monday, October 31st
    Debut and Sampling of SUPER-CHOC-O-FOOD

Valerie has teamed up with Commune Design to create SUPER-CHOC-O-FOOD, which combines stunning packaging enveloping an over-sized darkened chocolate bar filled with a hint of caramel but loaded with dried pears, apricots, golden raisins, macadamia nuts, cashews, almonds, sunflower seeds and peanuts.

  • Tuesday, November 1st
    Hot Chocolate and Cookie Assortment

Cookie flavors include Gingersnap, Oatmeal Raisin, Matcha White Chocolate Macadamia and the crowd-pleasing milk chocolate and almond filled Durango. Wash it down with some hot chocolate for the perfect combination.

  • Wednesday, November 2nd
    Chocolate Dipped Fruits and Mendiant Assortment

Locally sourced, organic dried figs, pears and oranges are hand-dipped in either bittersweet or darkened milk chocolate. Spices, cocoa nibs, teas, organic nuts, unique salts and dried and dehydrated fruit are blended atop disks of chocolate.

  • Thursday, November 3rd
    Preserves with Cheese and Charcuterie Pairings

I love Valerie Confections’ preserves, and apparently so does Los Angeles Magazine, which named them “Best in LA.” They’re hand-made using locally sourced fruit. Flavors include White Fuji Apple & Vanilla Bean, Blenheim Apricot, Plum Ketchup and Mango Jam. Enjoy them paired with a wide array of fine cheeses and charcuterie at this open house.

  • Friday November 4th
    Mint Petits Fours and the debut of the Valerie Confections Tea Assortment

Specially blended by American Tea Room for Valerie Confections, the new line of premium loose leaf teas are inspired by and meant to complement the line of preserves and treats. Signature flavors include Black & Blue, Moroccan Mint, Blushing Berry, Toasted Fig, Sweet Sencha and Blood Orange & Black tea. Each Mint Petits Fours are a modern take on the classic confection, with three layers of dense chocolate cake and two layers of rich white chocolate mint ganache, all covered in bittersweet chocolate and topped with an organic candied mint leaf

  • Saturday, November 5th
    Seasonal Sweet and Savory Pies from the Market

Seasonal sweet and savory pies are available in full size or hand-sized versions with flavors like Apple & Salted Caramel and Cinderella Pumpkin, Padron Pepper Potato & Fontina and Kabocha Squash & Blue Cheese. All of the pastries are sealed with a buttery, flakey crust.

With holiday season coming up (or is it already here?) – this is a great opportunity to survey really thoughtful gift ideas for your loved ones.

See you at Valerie!

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Monday – Tuesday: 10 AM – 6 PM
Wednesday – Friday: 10 AM – 6:30 PM
Saturday: 11 AM – 6 PM
Sunday: CLOSED

Valerie Confections
3360 W. First Street
Los Angeles, CA 90004
213.739.8149

Taste of the Eastside: May 15, 2011

Credit to Flickr 7500 on Flickr

Hi everyone! It’s been awhile here on the blog. Thanks for being patient while I took the time for a much-needed hiatus while I rested and regrouped my going out and blogging mojo. I’m going to continue to bring you some quality reviews and heads-up on worthy up-coming events on an on-again, regular basis – so let’s get this ball rolling again, shall we?

We’ve got a debuting, community-driven food event on our hands on Sunday at Barnsdall Art Park, featuring eateries that mostly populate, well, the east side of town. Seems as though it’s skewed towards Silver Lake and Eagle Rock in particular, but it can only mean an even wider selection on their sophomore effort, right?

At Taste of the Eastside, you’ll sample tastes from Intelligentsia, Eagle Rock Brewery, Silver Lake Wine, Xoia, Malo, Little Dom’s, Pazzo Gelato, Gingergrass and Reservoir – just to name a few. Sustain LA will be on-site to keep the event recyclable and compostable. Proceeds from ticket sales will be divided up and donated towards the Barnsdall park, SEE-LA, Rose Scharlin Cooperative Nursery School and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

Also taking place at the event will be three separate book signings brought by Skylight Books (only one of my favorite book stores), including “From Seed to Skillet” by Jimmy Williams & Susan Heeger, “The Sriracha Cookbook” by Randy Clemens and “Los Angeles’s Best Dive Bars: Drinking and Diving in the City of Angels” by Lina Lecaro. Bring the family for Barnsdall Art Sunday’s art workshop from 2-4 PM. If you like to roll in style, VIPs will enjoy a special cocktail tasting by Talmadge Lowe from 1-3 PM. Five percent of proceeds from the silent auction will be donated to Children’s Hospital LA.

Tickets are $25 and include 15 taste coupons. VIP will run you $65 but also get you 5 more (with 20 total) taste coupons and an additional, exclusive hour to the vendors before the event – as well as the cocktail tasting with Talmadge. You can purchase them at The Green Bean in and on Eagle Rock or via Brown Paper Tickets online.

Looks like a promising, inaugural event – especially if you’re local and looking to support your community at large. See you there!

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Sunday, May 15, 2011

(VIP: 12 PM) 1 – 5 PM

Tickets

Barnsdall Art Park
4800 Hollywood Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90027

My First Taste: Rad Na Kee Mow at Wat Dong Moon Lek Noodle

Rad Na Kee Mow ($7.49)

I’m somewhat new to the area, but I’ve finally hopped on the Wat Dong Moon Lek bandwagon. The Thai noodle house is one of the rarely-disputed mainstay gems nearby. Its humble enclave in that Silver Lake strip mall on Fountain Avenue exudes more personality than a n00b like me might ever expect from a noodle house on her initial visit.

Like Thai Town to the northwest, its blue interior doesn’t escape Hollywood influences. But what you won’t find here are the pages and pages of countless soup-dry-noodle-curry combinations; instead, there’s a manageable, well-executed menu that comes in pamphlet size should you not want to read the wall. You can sit at the counter, one of the high-tops or low-. The curry list is simple – just choose amongst red, green, yellow, panang or jungle. I’m also intrigued by what the rice dishes and blackboard menu have to offer

The drawback to dining alone, no matter how peaceful the experience, is the lack of companions’ dishes to scalp bites from.

My rad na kee mow (gravy boat drunken noodles) with tender slices of chicken was as delicious as it was beautiful. Those green beans were little bursts in the sea of gravy (yeah, that’s a bubble in there), with an island of delicious, soft rice noodles even having a subtle pan-fried crisp.

The Thai iced tea was good, too.

Next up: Pa Ord. And Wat Dong Moon Lek Noodle, again. Now if both places could get a 3 AM close time…

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Mon – Sun

11 AM – 10 PM

Cash only

Wat Dong Moon Lek Noodle
4356 Fountain Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90029
323.666.5993