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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My Top dineLA Restaurant Week Lunch Picks for Summer, 2013: July 15 – 26

RivaBella’s Nidi di Rondine

This summer’s dineLA Restaurant Week commences today and lasts 10 days – over two weekday stretches and one weekend. And since we’ve had a few of these by now, it’s probably time we got smart on maneuvering through the multitude of menus. The trick with dineLA prix fixe is that it may get people through the door, but it may or may not be quite the deal you had in mind. The danger is that you might just be stuck with fewer, albeit recommended, choices for about the same price you’d normally pay.

May I propose lunch? They tend to be better deals than dinner – often true between both offerings of the same restaurant – because there’s more incentive to increase lunch traffic with dinner reservations filling up more readily. So whether you’ve got a 9-5 in the area or are in a certain neighborhood for an audition or client appointment, there’s probably a great dineLA power lunch strategy wherever you end up.

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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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Sotto Is Oh, So Good

Tomato-Braised Octopus ai Ferri

As they say: “Better late than never.”

Blistered Little Gems

I had wanted to make it out to Sotto for awhile since it opened back in March, when it had taken over the space formerly occupied by the all-abuzz Test Kitchen, the establishment that was a literal revolving door for LA chefs to test out their menus on adventurous diners. Gone are the one- (and two- and three-) offs and in come Steve Samson and Zach Pollack – permanently.

Sotto is the incarnation of Steve and Zach’s thankful relocation to LA from behind the Orange Curtain, and I am so glad they are here. With the inclusion of a stellar cocktail program making it an all-around solid place for food and drink, my pocketbook itself is thankful I’m not actually located on the Westside. Regardless, Sotto is a place I would gladly become a regular.

Sardines alla piastra

The Southern Italian dishes source Southern Californian ingredients beautifully – starting with a grilled salad enticingly called “Blistered Little Gems,” with anchovy garlic pestata, breadcrumbs, pecorino Moliterno. Yes, it’s a delicious warm salad, three words I never thought I’d ever have put together, but the way in which the flavored bread crumbs, anchovies and garlic gracefully season the still-crisp lettuce was an impressive, physics-defying feat. My knife cut through the greens as loudly as the crunch of the crumbs while bite after bite tickled my tastebuds. It was a starter that made me more than eager about what was to come.

From the ravings from friends in my Twitter feed, however, I had missed out on the most blissful yet simplest of starters: The housemade bread with lardo pestado. So – you’re hereby ordered to try that. I, on the other hand, won’t make the mistake, again.

Next were the Sardines and Sicilian citrus salad, with shaved fennel in a crushed olive-pistachio vinaigrette. I loved how the salty skin of the sardines were complimented by the fennel and parsley, making the entire dish a medley of fresh and flavorful textures. The grapefruit was the perfect citrus – not too sweet, a little sour and adding nicely to the overall aroma.

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