Friday, September 29, 2006

Berliner Friday

I received an e-mail yesterday announcing Rockenwagner Bakery started serving fresh Berliners every Friday, beginning last week. What is a Berliner? It is a jelly doughnut made by a German. I arrived shortly after opening this morning, to find their baker dusting the fluffy Berliners with sugar. Filled with a little squirt of raspberry, these doughnuts are some of the best jelly doughnuts around. I have always been strictly a cake doughnut eater, but I could eat these. The pastry was soft, fluffy, and not too sweet. Way better than Krispy Kreme. Last week they sold out before noon, so arrive early.

Rockenwagner Bakery
12835 Washington Blvd
Mar Vista, CA
Berliners, $2 each, limit one dozen per customer.

Monday, September 25, 2006

The 3rd Stop

This pub on 3rd near La Cienega is aptly called The 3rd Stop because I would only return if my first and second stops didn't work out. Actually, it is not that bad - just OK. It is the Kiwiberry of pubs, a close, but not quite as good version of Father's Office. They offer about 40 beers, ranging from Pabst Blue Ribbon to the 9% alcohol content Delirium Tremors. They do get points for serving my all-time fave: Pilsner Urquell. They offered about 7 wines as well. Their menu is larger than FO, offering items like pizzas, mac n' cheese, fried calamari, gnocchi, salads and Shepherd's Pie. Though, just like Father's Office, the menu firmly states, " substitutions, modifications, or splitting." They do beat FO in the noise department, believe it or not, The 3rd Stop is actually louder.

The highlight of the food was the pizza with mozzarella, prosciutto and rosemary ($9). Thin, crispy crust, with the couple of rosemary needles imparting their glorious flavor over the pizza (photo above).

The macaroni and cheese ($7) was delicious, although a tad heavy on the nutmeg and black pepper. The macaroni was still al dente, not mushy, and the sauce on the thin side, which I prefer.

The burger (also aptly named), The 3rd Burger ($9), is an interesting version of a hamburger. It is 6oz. of extra-lean beef thinly coated in sauce, giving it a flavor reminiscent of old fashioned meatloaf. It was tasty, but certainly not the kind of burger one would expect. I think they should make it more of a novelty item, offering small versions like sliders, as well as a regular burger.

The fried calamari ($7) were nicely fried, with a delicate, crisp coating, just cut too thick. Thiner slices make it seem less chewy.

My friend ordered the steak ($9) with "Argentinean garlic sauce" (pureed Chimichurri) and was extremely disappointed. It was small, slighlty overcooked, and a bit dry.

The most surprising dish on the menu was the ham and cheese croquettes, much in the style of those you will find in Spain, just not as good. They were beautifully coated in a thin, dark, crisp crust (and cutting through it is a pleasurable as breaking through the sugar layer on creme brulee - anyone see Amele?), but the filling was too thick and dry - not as creamy as it should have been.

The menu is hit or miss, the atmosphere comfortable and loud, priced not to break the bank, and service swift. Perhaps if I lived nearby, or worked at the hospital across the street I would return for an after work drink and snack - but I don't. So I think I will stick to my 1st and 2nd choices for now.

The 3rd Stop
8636 w 3rd St.
Los Angeles, CA 90048

Thursday, September 21, 2006


Cube is a small Italian cafe inside the Divine Pasty Company store on La Brea. It is part gourmet retail shop, part restaurant. You may purchase just about everything they serve: fresh and frozen Divine Pasta, pasta sauces, frozen marinated seafood and meats, cheese, charcuterie, oils, vinegars, salts, and much more.

I began my lunch at the counter (they also have seating outside on the sidewalk) with fried zucchini blossoms in tomato sauce. They were perfectly crisp outside, with a soft, moist center.

Then I moved on to the highlight of their menu, the cheese and charcuterie. The list of 47 cheeses was divided into 6 categories: hard, semi-hard, semi-soft, bloomy rind, soft, and blue. Mostly from California, France and Italy, they did have a few from places such as Spain, Texas, England, and this complementary amuse bouche of an 8 year old cheddar from Quebec.

The charcuterie list consisted of 24 selections, including salami from Fra'Mani, The Fatted Calf and Salumi. I had my eye on the lamb prociutto, but they were all out, so I settled on Fra'Mani Nostrano, and a petit sec from The Fatted Calf. Slim Jimesque, the petit sec was soft and chewy, with fat that melts in your mouth. Much like one I enjoyed in Spain, and have not found in Los Angeles until now.

I paired the meat with a very soft and pungent raw sheep's milk cheese from Spain called Torta de la Serena, and a Tuscan sheep's milk cheese, Tuala. Everything was good, the selection large, but the portions small. Servings are only an ounce or two, ranging from $3-7 a serving. Their main menu consists of fresh pastas, panini, pizza, salads, fish and meat, all reasonably priced between $8.95-14.95. I would like to go back, this time with a group, so I may order and try much more. If you do check out Cube, please note they do not serve alcohol. Bring in your own wine (no corkage!).

615 N La Brea Ave.
Los Angeles, Ca 90036

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Wine House Class: The Best of Current Italian Wines

I went to my first wine class at the Wine House tonight . I have been to tastings before, once in their old, dumpy, tasting room downstairs, and once upstairs, in the current Upstairs 2 location. This class was held upstairs in a private room on the other side of the kitchen. Nicely decorated, with their most precious wines on display, the class held 20 people, served 12 wines, cheese and bread. Pretty mediocre appetizers considering there is a full kitchen next door! They served slices of a some awful cheese flavored with horseradish, and a cheese ball rolled in pistachios, a recipe straight out of Better Homes and Gardens, and a handful of dried fruit. Otherwise, the class was excellent. It was lead by fellow Italiano-Americano, Lance Montalato, an extremely knowledgeable buyer of Italian wines for the store, loaded with lots of anecdotes about traveling to Italy and meeting with the winemakers, etc. The wines we tasted ranged from $7.00-199.99, all excellent. All wine purchased after the class was discounted a whopping 10%. Upstairs 2 was packed, by the way.

The Wine House
2311 Cotner Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90064
800-626-9463 x260

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Robin's Nest

I went to my dream convenience store the other day - Robin's Nest on Venice Blvd. in Venice, next to James Beach. Owned by chef Sheri Robins, formerly of James Beach and the Canal Club, Robin's Nest is a tiny little market carrying a carefully-selected array of gourmet food items every foodie should have.

Fine olive oils, fresh sausages from Paul Berlotti's Fra'Mani, Nueske's bacon, Petrossian smoked salmon, frozen racks of Mr. Cecil's baby back ribs, several cheeses including Cowgirl Creamery's Mt. Tam triplecreme (can't pass up that one), fresh pastries and even the New York Post.

Oh, you can also get household items like toothpaste and dish soap (and Newman's Own pet food). I wish it were around the corner from my apartment!
Robin's Nest
68 North Venice Blvd.
Venice, CA 90291

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Cafe Nagomi

Cafe Nagomi is not a cafe, but a high-end catering truck serving natural Japanese food. Currently located on Lindblade just east of Ince in Culver City, right next to the Sony complex, they are open for lunch from 11:30 - 2:30, Monday - Friday. I ordered the Nagomi Plate: choose from their daily selection of a seafood or vegetable main dish (I choose the fish, Chinese-style red snapper), pick two sides (stewed Japanese eggplant and vegetable pot-stickers), accompanied by a small salad and miso soup ($12.95).

They also serve fish bowls, noodles, rice balls and a couple of sushi rolls. Check out their menu online. They boast serving organic grains, tofu, and vegetables, naturally brewed organic soy sauce, and use of purified water. They do not serve dairy products, refined sugar, artificial flavoring, or use microwaves. Service was warm, friendly and prompt, the food was excellent, the rice brown, and portions a little small.

I ate everything, felt satisfied, but not stuffed. I had energy after this meal, when usually Japanese food such as Teriyaki is so loaded down with sugar I feel the need for a nap. Nagomi must be Macrobiotic, or close to it. I think folks with large appetites would need to order some extra sides to fill up. The tab came to $17 with my green mint tea (very green, very strong), a little more than I expected to pay, but the high quality of ingredients, and perfect execution were worth it.

Cafe Nagomi
On Lindblade btw. Ince and Higuera in Culver City
Mon - Fri, 11:30 -2:30

Monday, September 11, 2006

Sunday Feast

Years ago, while in high school, I had a Hare Krishna friend who lived across the street from the Hare Krisha temple on Venice Blvd in Los Angeles (across the street from downtown Culver City). One Sunday he took us to the weekly free (donations accepted) Sunday Feast at the temple. We walked to the temple, removed our shoes, and were served a wonderful vegetarian Indian meal on the steps of the temple. There were Indian Hare Krishnas next to American Hare Krishnas, some wearing saris, some in regular clothes, some with the pony tail, some with regular haircuts, and some folks like us: out to get a good, free meal. Well, I revisited the scene last Sunday and very little has changed. Rather than serving out in front of the temple, everyone gathers at an apartment building across the street on Watseka (actually they converted the parking garage into a cafeteria).

Leave your shoes at the door, grab a plate, drop some money in the donation box, and get in line. They served Basmati rice, a vegetable curry with eggplant, bell peppers, fried tofu and peas, a piece of fried cauliflower, and some sort of buttery, sweet grain for dessert. Beverages were a choice of pear juice or keifer.

The food was good, certainly not the best Indian food in town, but certainly the friendliest, most interesting atmosphere in which to enjoy it.

International Society for Krishna Consciousness of Los Angeles
3764 Watseka Ave
Los Angeles, Ca 90064
Sundays, 6:00 PM

The Essential Chocolate Collection

After driving by this place for years, I finally stopped in. It seemed to be mainly a catering/special order bakery (cakes, cheesecakes, bars, tarts, pies cookies, etc.) with a tiny retail area up front. I had heard about their Moon Pies, two chocolate chip cookies sandwiched around marshmallow filling, dipped in chocolate. I can't think of another bakery that carries Moon Pies. Do you know of one?

I was hoping to try some cupcakes too, but very disappointed to find out they do not regularly carry them - only when they have some leftover from a special order. They really should jump on the band wagon and get some business from this current cupcake rage before it dies out. They did offer a few bars, Moon Pies in 2 sizes (I got the small one and could barely finish it), mini bundt cakes and muffins. I tried the chocolate raspberry bar, and a peanut butter chocolate chip bar. Both were tasty, moist, and chewy, but they are also the kind of pastries one may easily make at home. Everything I tried was good, including this mini banana bundt cake doused in sugary-sweet glaze.

Nothing mind blowing here - just good renditions of simple, homestyle desserts. The Moon Pie was the best pastry I sampled. The cookies were soft, the marshmallow was not too sweet, and just the right amount. They are just so cute, and definitely something I do not have the patience to make at home.

The Essential Chocolate Collection
10868 Washington Blvd.
Culver City, Ca 90232

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Kiwiberri - The Pinkberry Rip-Off

My friend Heather and I checked out the blatent Pinkberry rip-off, Kiwiberri, this afternoon, on 3rd Street, just east of La Cienega. Ever since trying Pinkberry for the first time, I have found myself craving their simple, yogurt-tasting frozen yogurt, but the traffic-filled drive kept me away. The location is a little more convenient for me than Pinkberry, so I thought if their yogurt is good, I could go there instead of dealing with the lack of parking at Pinkberry, and standing in line outside in the blazing sun. Well, Kiwiberri is OK, but no replacement. The first thing I noticed about yogurt was the color and texture. It was more icy than Pinkberry, as if it had more water. It also melted faster. There was also a slight translucency, whereas Pinkberry is opaque - much like non-fat milk compared to whole milk.

It did taste pretty good, though. It had the tang of yogurt, and was just slightly sweet. I think it may even be less sweet than Pinkberry. They offer just about the same menu: 2 kinds of frozen yogurt - plain and green tea, fruit and cereal toppings (even mochi, which Pinkberry does not offer) smoothies, and crepes with Nutella (no crepes at Pinkberry - they don't need them!). The decor is very similar to Pinkberry as well: candy colored walls, even a sign extolling the health benefits of yogurt.

Heather enjoyed her yogurt (even though there was too much Mochi for this Haole) and said if there was one close to her apartment she would happily return.

Not quite satisfied after finishing my Kiwiberri yogurt, I drove us up to Pinkberry, where we waited outside in line as a security guard slowly let people in as customers left the store. One small green tea yogurt with Cap'n Crunch later, I finally satisfied my craving.

K-ZO 2; Popcorn Shrimp

I went back to K-ZO last Friday, and had the best popcorn shrimp ever! Very hot, super crispy, with an almost creamy shrimp inside. They do not offer the combo plates at dinner, they offer sushi and hot and cold appetizers. They also have two prix fixe menus. I also overheard someone say the owner/chef used to work at Sushi Roku. Go check it out and tell me what you think.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

K-ZO in Culver City

I had a terrific Japanese lunch today at the brand new K-ZO in Culver City, next to Trader Joe's on Culver Blvd. It has a very sleek, modern interior, with a bar up front for dining and drinks, about 15 tables, and a sushi bar in the rear. There is also one private booth, tucked away behind a curtain of metal beads. They offer all the usual sushi, along with some special rolls like the one I had - popcorn shrimp and asparagus ($7).

It was great, but I really did not need it, my combo plate was more than enough food. I ordered the Salmon Shioyaki combo: grilled salmon with a choice of sushi (6 pcs.), tempura, or sashimi ($15.50). I picked the sushi. It also came with creamy purple mashed potatoes, micro shoestring fries, miso soup, rice, and salad with carrot vinaigrette.

This was plenty of food for me, but I can see other people (especially men), needing some sushi or a side dish to fill up on. They offer daily specials, salads (salmon skin salad, spicy calamari salad...), hot and cold small plates (monk fish liver, sashimi, soft shell crab...), entrees (tempura, teriyaki, sushi assortments, noodles...), and combo plates. Check their website for the full menu. Beautiful presentation, swift, attentive service, and excellent food. I cannot wait to go back with a group of friends to share many dishes with from their extensive menu, or try one of thier prix fixe dinners.

9240 Culver Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232