Lexus Culinary Classic: Q&A With Master Sommelier Carlton McCoy

Youngest Master Sommelier Carlton McCoy

A couple months back, I was able to spend a weekend in Sausalito at the phenomenal Cavallo Point while attending the inaugural Lexus Culinary Classic. To say there was some of the best food prepared by some of the best chefs in the country being served in view of the Golden Gate Bridge would be mostly accurate – and I’m so honored I got to be a part.

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Bruce Kalman Ups the Ante at Union Pasadena

Smoked pork chop, market vegetables, wild mushrooms, Marsala, sage

Though I’ve been hearing that, as of late, there are more and more reasons to eat in Pasadena, I’ve admittedly yet to fully experience many of those restaurants for myself. So it made sense that I might start with Union Pasadena, where diners are enveloped in a haven of Chef Bruce Kalman’s (formerly The Churchill, The Misfit, Urbano Pizza Bar) comfort food.

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Saint Martha: An Unexpected Dining Destination in Koreatown

Pecan wood smoked brisket with hoisin, tiny lettuce & root vegetables

There’s something incredibly freeing, even liberating about a Western restaurant that sets up shop in a strip mall in Koreatown. While you’d find a stellar sushi restaurant – and Korean BBQ joint, for that matter – in many a plaza in Metropolitan L.A., you wouldn’t hardly ever find a modern American restaurant in one.

But Saint Martha, named after the patron saint of cooks and servants and sister of Mary and Lazarus, demonstrates that this is where Los Angeles is, today. That smart, exciting food isn’t indicated by how hard it is to get a reservation, nor how hard a battle with L.A. sprawl is fought. The vibe was comfortably casual and inexclusive; I took the subway from my Spanish Revival apartment near East Hollywood.

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Dining at the New Wine Bar at The Hollywood Bowl

The Wine Bar

Anybody who enjoys live music in Los Angeles knows and appreciates that the outside food and drink policy at The Hollywood Bowl is the most liberal – and accessible – in the entire city. Basically, as long as you’re not making a ruckus, it is all allowed to be brought in and enjoyed at your seat. Thus, tons of restaurants offer take-away picnic options specifically designed for Bowl concerts, summer after summer. Concertgoers take advantage by bringing in bottles of booze in coolers and picnic baskets to be enjoyed and discarded on the sacred Hollywood Bowl grounds.

But if you go to The Bowl a lot – and I do, as a proud Hollywood resident – let’s just admit that sometimes we all get a bit lazy. The refusal to pay for $17 stacked parking leads to a small trek to this famous venue set against the Hollywood Hills – and sometimes I just get a little tired of all the lugging.

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Enjoying Scarpetta Classics at the Chefs Counter

Scarpetta Spaghetti

If you ever needed a reason to dine at Scarpetta inside the Montage Beverly Hills, I’ve got a few reasons.

After the unexpected exit of Executive Chef Alex Stratta and the re-entry of Freddy Vargas, a Scarpetta veteran, they’ve started offering a rather reasonably priced prix fixe menu featuring the restaurant’s classic dishes in a four-course dinner featuring none other than their famously simple yet delicious spaghetti (that is, if you choose it over the agnolotti, which sounds pretty decadent itself). It costs just $45 per person; the wine pairing option is additional.

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Get Your Tickets For Los Angeles Food & Wine: August 9-12, 2012

Kin Medai Snapper w/Geoduck, Papaya, Peanuts & Coconut foam – Morimoto Lunch at WP24, LAFW 2011

Los Angeles Food & Wine: It’s basically the hottest ticket of the year, in that there’s a hodgepodge of over forty events all packed into four days. There are out-of-town culinary stars that join with local forces to grace us with their presentations of different food and wine themes.

Caviar & Champagne at The Montage? Check. Asian Night Market with Andrew Zimmern? Check. Chocolate & Chocolate with Jacques & Hasty Torres? Check. There are also plenty of cooking demonstrations by a few chef extraordinaires.

For those with Fridays off or non-business hour workdays, don’t forget to check out one of the lunches available – for instance at CUT, which is usually not even available for lunch service.

Of course, for those of you who just can’t decide, it’ll be easy to pick a Lexus Grand Tasting on one of the two afternoons or evenings, wherein you’ll get to walk around L.A. LIVE while sampling plenty of eats & wines from kitchens and vineyards that hail from all over.

And get your tickets fast, because the event starts in a matter of 3 days. Some events are already sold out. This is your final warning.

 

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Los Angeles Food & Wine

August 9 – 12, 2012

Various events at L.A. LIVE (and elsewhere)
800 W. Olympic Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90015

FOH/BOH³: The Fixers (Zadi, Haskell & Park) Debuts at LaOn in Koreatown

LaOn Dining Room

A couple days ago, there was an announcement of an alliance formed by Farid Zadi, David Haskell & Susan Park called FOH/BOH³. Derived from Front of the House and Back of the House acronyms (“to the third power” is of no detail), the name is meant to capture the essence of their partnership – the pursuit of proper, hands-on restaurant training from the ground up.

Pyeon Chae

The trio wasted no time getting down to business as it has just been announced that they will be debuting at Jenee Park’s (also of Park’s BBQ and Don Dae Gam) LaOn (previous review) on Western this weekend. The location of their first project was secured at this newish restaurant just 3 hours after their interview with LA Weekly Squid Ink’s Amy Scattergood was finished. It’s a perfect setting for their launch, as Zadi has worked in Seoul for three years as a chef and managing partner at a restaurant. It also is expressive of David Haskell’s intense passion for Korean food.

Open Flame Abalone

Park and Zadi created a special menu of 8 dishes, dubbed “Lucky Cat”, to complement LaOn’s traditional menu. One thing’s for sure: The menu of this “limited engagement” is not to be underestimated. Nothing on the menu will be watered down, but instead will showcase the fabric of what Korean food is all about. 

“I have a lot of respect for Korean cooking. My mother in law is from Jeon-Ju, the culinary capital of South Korea,” Farid says. “This isn’t fusion or even modern Korean. We’re taking Korean ingredients, flavors and techniques and recontextualizing them while retaining the soul of Korean cuisine: the bold, stick to your guts flavors that make it so satisfying.”

Haskell will be pairing each menu item with a wine or beer, the pairing pours of which will be available for $6 each – or glass pours for $12 each. Expect this pairing experience to evolve your perceptions of and experiences in Korean food, as I can’t recall a single time I’ve had traditional Korean food with proper wine pairing. FOH/BOH³’s “front of the house” team will be on-hand to ensure top-notch service throughout both nights.

Check out the menu below:

LAON MENU (traditional tapas)

  • 편채 PYEON CHAE Beef carpaccio with onions,sesame leaf,radish sprout – 10
  • 칠절판 SEVEN WRAP Cucumber,carrot,beef,shiitake mushroom,egg with radish wrap – 7
  • ì–´ì„  FISH WRAP Steamed fish and assorted vegetables in an egg wrap – 10
  • 궁중떡볶이 TEOKBOKKI Rice cake in soy based sauce – 10
  • 갈비찜 GALBI JJIM Braised short rib – 15
  • 오징어순대 STUFFED SQUID Stuffed with tofu,beef,squid & vegetables – 10
  • 전복요리 OPEN FLAME ABALONE Lightly seasoned fresh abalone – MP
  • 잡채 JAPCHAE Clear noodle with mixed vegetables – 7

FOH/BOH³: Lucky Cat LaOn

  • Spicy chicken kochi/foie gras fat fingerlings/ garlic chips – 12
  • Crab and kimchi brik/orange and onion salad – 8
  • Thai cobb ssam – 10
  • Thai curry bacon, avocado, duck rillettes, quail egg, tomato, fried shallot, lettuce
  • Grilled oysters – 3 each
    Dashima, ponzu, serrano mignonette and gochujang vinaigrette
  • Uni and scallop chawanmushi – MP
  • ½ dozen peel ‘n’ eat grilled prawns/shiso chimichurri – MP
    Laotian curry marinated whole prawns
  • Braised beef cheeks/ slow roasted corn cheese/baby carrot/arugula quick-chi – 14
    Riff on braised kalbi

So be sure to secure your table now. This limited engagement will sell out fast! Call 323.798.4648 or email David Haskell at [email protected] (Also note that reservations go til 1 AM – perfect for you nightowls.) Reservation lines are open now.

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Sat – Sun: August 27 – 28, 2011

5 PM – 1 AM

To reserve: Call 323.798.4648 or email [email protected]

LaOn
1145 S. Western Ave
Los Angeles CA 90006

Mahon and Haskell’s Magnum Migrates To Royal T

Royal T, Culver City (Credit to Kawaiikakkoiisugoi.com)

The power duo is back – and they’re bringing back more options than ever to the Culver City cosplay cafe called Royal T. Chef Joseph Mahon and Sommelier David Haskell have expanded their thrice popped up pop-up to … you guessed it, three nights, starting on Sunday, April 17 and ending on Haskell’s 35th birthday, Tuesday, April 19th.

Mahon’s French cuisine will be paired with Haskell’s sake, Asian beer, and French and Italian wine selections. Choose from the five ($62), seven ($80), or ten-course menu ($118) with optional wine pairings ($45-92 additional) – or go for the special uni menu and separate wine pairings on Tuesday, April 19 in celebration of Haskell’s 35th birthday (The Feast LA).

Magnum is working in collaboration with Tomo Kurokawa to donate a portion of the event and silent auction proceeds to benefit the Japanese Sake Association and subsequently sake breweries affected by the tsunami in northern Japan.

Courses will include thoughtful selections such as:

  • Fennel Royale with Sea Urchin, Apple Cloud, and Nori Powder
  • Braised Baby Octopus with Leek Risotto, Pine Nuts, and Pancetta Vinaigrette
  • Miso-Cured Hangar Steak with Creamed Spinach, Shitake Mushroom Tempura, Sesame Seeds, and Ponzu Sauce
  • Yuzu Crème Brûlée with Poached Apricots

All wine, beer, and sake pairings will be announced the day of the event via Magnum and Royal/T’s Facebook and Twitter pages (@Magnum_dh and @RoyalTCafe).

At the bar, small plates and sake pairings will be available throughout the three-night series. Inspired by Royal/T’s newest street art exhibit “FACEMAKER, the bar bites will reflect graffiti’s free-form streaks, which include:

  • Sliders with Grass-Fed Beef, Potato Chips, Bibb Lettuce, and Chipotle Aïoli ($15)
  • Tuna Rolls with Crab, Jicama, Mango, and Spicy Mayonnaise ($19)
  • Oysters with Brown Butter and Lemon ($14)

Everything sounds absolutely delicious. Pop-up restaurants may come and go…and come and go…but this bigger and badder rendition of Magnum looks like one not to be missed. Be sure to call or email to reserve. Zeus The Cat will be standing by.

Also, be sure to check out the items up for silent auction, which are constantly being updated on Twitter and on the official Magnum website.

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Sunday, April 17 – Tuesday, April 19, 2011

6 – 10 PM

Call 323.798.4648 or email [email protected] to reserve your table.

Magnum at Royal T
8910 Washington Boulevard
Culver City, CA 90232
(Restaurant phone number: 310.559.6300)

The Royce Delivers Elegantly Vibrant Dishes at The Langham, Pasadena

Black Cod, Kale Greens with White Dashi Scented Milk Foam, Carrot

There is something exciting happening at The Royce in Pasadena. As the flagship restaurant at one of the oldest hotel establishments in the Los Angeles area, they are putting out something so contrastingly nouveau from the kitchen. The long overdue remodel is no slouch, either, with its effortlessly classy and fresh take in fine dining ambiance. The crown moldings are still there, but gone are the drab curtains and dark yellow tinges. What you’ll find instead is a white motif accented by sea and granite blues with just enough florals and art museum-esque flourishes.

Interior of The Royce

Finally, this dining room is creating a dining experience where the food is reflective of its backdrop. But make no mistake, Michael Voltaggio’s year-long run may have generated just the hype The Dining Room needed for its denoument and transition into The Royce, because The Royce is an entirely successful, new entity completely deserving of its own buzz under Executive Chef David Feau’s (Patina, Le Miravile, Lutece, trained under Guy Savoy) direction. My dinner took place a few months after he landed back in September, so it’s safe to say he’s settled in here.

My guest and I very much enjoyed the tasting menu, with such beautifully integrated flavors adorning each dish and painting vibrant pictures with central themes. That is, each presentation, though featuring pretty exotic ingredients, knew exactly when to stop. Sommelier Eric Espuny’s perfect wine pairings delightfully accentuated the nuances of each. If you dine at The Royce, you can expect the perfect marriage of French techniques and Californian ingredients.

Globe Omaha Artichoke, Pressure Cooked Beets, Hand Harvested Mache Salad, White Truffle Vinaigrette

I have to say that there was nary a weak component in our tasting experience. Before ordering, I convinced my guest to trust the chef and resist doubling up on the foie gras, steak and lobster, and to try everything in both 5-course tasting menus. I’m so glad we did. Our amuse bouche was a most savory Romanesco cauliflower soup paired with a tiny piece of roast duck breast, beets, apple and celerac coconut calamari. What that set us up for was a beautifully seared scallop with shaved foie gras, rhubarb granite and carrot “salad” (paired with ’07 Schafer Frohlich Nahe Medium Dry Riesling) as well as an artichoke and beet dish with Globe Omaha artichokes, pressure cooked beets, hand harvested mache salad and white truffle vinaigrette (paired with ’09 Château Guiraud Le G Bordeaux Blanc Sec). The mildly tart rhubarb granite cut the richness of the scallop and foie gras while the carrot salad provided slices of sweetness. The freshness of the beet dish was a great match for the mache salad, featuring the buttery sweet and nutty greens underneath artichokes, all seasoned with a well-balanced white truffle vinaigrette.

Salsify Prepared Four Ways | Braised, Braised and rolled in leeks ash, Pureed with goat cheese, Tagliatelle with cajun spices

The next round of courses yielded a lobster salad with butter lettuce, sweet onion and pomegranate “hot and snow” (paired with  ’06 Domaine Leflaive Macon-Verze). The powdery, vaguely sweet snow was an interesting texture to add to the buttery shades of the lettuce and lobster – especially with the addition of the sweeter pomegranate seeds. The salsify prepared four ways (paired with ’98 Kalin Cellars Livermore Valley Semillon), however, was a provocative study of the root. Not only was the vegetable completely new to me, but the diverse ways it was prepared in order to ultimately arrive on the same plate were mostly intense in flavor. The root has been described to taste like oysters. The dry, complex Semillon wine paired with this was a great way to cut the salty, creamy and robust essences on the plate.

Agnolotti Filled with Parsnips, Green Lentil and Mousseron Mushroom Veloute, Sorrel leaf

Probably my favorite farm fresh-themed dish was this combination of tiny vegetables covered in a mushroom veloute (paired with ’07 Aia Vecchia Lagone Toscana). The agnolotti were to die for, adding just the perfect amount of backbone to carry the vibrant flavors of the vegetables through, including the sweet parsnips and herb-likeness of the sorrel leaves. Truth be told, I could sip the veloute on its own. The berry notes of the Aia Vecchia were a nice added touch. The black cod (paired with ’08 Ramey Chardonnay Russian River Valley) in the title picture was also a standout, having been perfectly cooked and its mild, fatty taste enabled to stand on its own. The kale greens were topped with a white dashi scented milk foam, an ingredient I couldn’t begin to dissect but could distinctly tell it was meant to bring the greens and fish together; it did so successfully. The carrot was a sweet go-between. The fruity Chardonnay the dish was paired with was a nice compliment to the fish and kale greens.

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Magnum Pop-Up Debuts With Success at Biergarten

Duck Confit, Black Beans, Swiss Chard, Black Vinegar Sauce

Pop-ups are an oft-occurring phenomenon these days, but just because the concept is novel doesn’t mean the execution always is. My experience with pop-ups range from dinners with emphasis left on the setting and ambiance, to the exclusivity the secrecy of the event brings. Truth be told, I’ve rarely tasted food that matched up to my steadily decreasing expectations.

Coconut Soup, Mussels, Tapioca, Cilantro Pistou, Lime

Yes, it’s a hard deck to deal. Diners can and should expect hiccups to occur in kitchens unfamiliar to the chef – par for the pop-up course, that is. And that’s when things like pacing or even the overall length of the meal can go awry – like that one dinner party I was at from 7 PM to 12:30 AM. When you sign up for a pop-up dinner, don’t schedule anything afterwards unless your dining hours are extra early.

And that was the rule I broke at the debut of Magnum, Chef Joseph Mahon and Sommelier David Haskell’s pop-up session at Neil Kwon’s Biergarten in the unlikely Koreatown. Well, I was fulfilling an airport pick-up favor (beggars can’t be choosers), and even after my 7 courses of deliciousness my guest’s wait was more than bearable. Impressive.

The carrot pudding with orange granita and shaved peanuts was a beautiful amuse. It even packed a little punch – thanks to an unbeknownst-to-me ingredient – and effectively made me eager for more. I found myself devouring the following coconut soup, with mussels, tapioca, cilantro pistou and lime – and even some of Aaron’s (thanks to his Kosher-like diet). But I couldn’t appreciate the soup as much as I did without Haskell having paired it with a surprisingly acidic-for-a-junmai-daiginjo (made with 50% polished rice) - Wakatake “Onikoroshi”. It cut the spice in the soup so well yet was smooth enough to make it all go down like silk. Delicious.

Cured Salmon, Pickled Cabbage, Cucumber, Daikon, Kimchee Broth

Another one of my favorites had to be the cured salmon, with the fat of the fish cut by the spicy kimchee broth in which it stood. The really refreshing notes were brought by the sprouts and cucumber, and the softness of the daikon matching the tender salmon really well. Haskell paired this dish ingeniously with Alesmith’s Nautical Brown Nut Ale. Yes! Beer! The dark ale really grounded this course out by offsetting the spice, fish and veggies.

Haskell and Nguyen: Fond of each other

There’s no question that David Haskell really knows how to pair his food. But as far as expertly-prepared food in and of itself on Joseph Mahon’s part, the table’s (and my) favorite dish was hands-down the duck confit. It had a richness and texture that was just perfect to the taste and touch of the fork. But that doesn’t mean that the pairing was any less inspired. The 2008 Pithon-Paille from Bourgueil, France, made with Cabernet Franc grapes, was amazing in that it tasted rather flat by itself – but when sipped with the duck confit, it was the perfect wine to cut the richness of the duck. And that whole picture makes for a beautiful pairing.

When I joined Aaron (SavoryHunter) and the Starry Kitchen duo (Nguyen and Thi) for a reservation this special night, I had an inkling that the Who’s Who in LA food would be there – but not nearly to the capacity and fervor that came about. Nguyen fulfilled Haskell’s request and wore his banana suit during dinner, and endless tables of bloggers were seated throughout the dining room, near and far. It was a successful and festive pop-up night, with many leaving while wondering where Mahon and Haskell will go next. So stay tuned…!!

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Next Magnum location TBD

Biergarten
206 N. Western Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90004
323.466.4860 (after 4PM)