Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Harry Potter and the Fiori di Zucchini

Before enduring a total mob scene at Dutton's Books in Brentwood the other night to pick up the latest (and last) Harry Potter book, we slipped into the bar at Vincenti and shared this wonderful plate of fried zuccini flowers. Stuffed with Burrata cheese, fried to an absolutely beautiful dark brown, served with more Burrata and some nice, velvetly smooth all-purpose tomato sauce. A great accompaniment to my glass of pale pink Robert Sinsky Rose.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Foundry on Melrose

Walk off bustling Melrose Ave into The Foundry and you are hit with its sleek Art Deco design, lots of pretty faces on the staff, and more hustle and bustle. They wanted to seat us on the back patio, but we balked and requested an inside table, of which I was initially disappointed to see was at the end of the row, right across from the kitchen, where chef Eric Greenspan was standing outside of, barking orders at his crew on the line. I thought it was too loud distracting. We were off to a rocky start. We were rushed like crazy. Amuses came to the table immediately, before our Domaine Tempier Bandol Rose was poured by the sommelier. We selected the tasting menu, and they wasted no time in firing the order. We told our waiter we like to go slowly - dining out is our big event for the night. We were not going on to a show or club; this is our (favorite) entertainment.

After a second amuse of smoked mackerel and candied orange, the first course of (under seasoned) tuna tartar with shihito peppers, sitting in a thin layer of melon soup was brought out. As they were clearing our plates, I spotted our next course (out-of-this-world spot prawns with saffron hollandaise) sitting, completed, on the counter. They were brought out instantly. "Slow down!!!" we said. Finally, they listened.

The restaurant is more than just an eating experience. Eric puts on a show. Loud, frenetic, brash, and, ultimately, charming. Several times he came to our table – first he apologized for moving too fast for us- to help serve and describe our dishes. When not expediting, he was making the rounds, making everyone feel welcome. There is a particular energy, excitement, and atmosphere at The Foundry, a little more east coast feel than west. It kind of reminded me of Lucques, where you can sit back and relax in an elegant, yet comfortable environment.

Midway through out meal, in our own signature style, we interrupted the tasting menu after the incredible crispy veal sweetbreads with black eyed peas, cheery tomatoes and grape puree. God, I love sweetbreads! These were great- fried to a beautiful golden crisp on the outside, and that one of a kind fatty, creamy, textural heaven on the inside.

We initially wanted another round of sweetbreads, and thought we would challenge Eric (and get him in the kitchen) by asking for them with different accompaniments – but he one-upped us. Eric presented us with a very special Spanish pork item I am not a liberty to name, the most gorgeous ham I have ever seen. A deep red, almost magenta tinted, with fat marbled into it, rather than just the lone strip on the side, placed on top of split heirloom beans. Our waiter gave us each a glass of Naia verdejo he selected to enjoy with the pork.

We soon got to talking to him about wine. He helped open a wine bar in Chicago, and was very knowledgeable – not a wine snob, but a real wine fan. And after that (still not back on the tasting menu), we shared an order of the pork belly, served with an avocado puree. Just how I like my fat: served with fat. The pork belly was an extra they had made, and gave it to us. This was the best part – we wanted to play with the menu and have an adventurous dining experience, and they stepped up to the plate and gave it to us.

Ok, back to the tasting menu. Up next was the breast of squab. The squab, however excellent, turned out to be secondary to its accompaniments of blood sausage, pan fried (and perfect) gnocchi, and swiss chard, which tasted like the best creamed spinach you’ve never had. The squab was good too, but was overshadowed and upstaged by the sides. He could make the blood sausage the main, and it would be a well-balanced, memorable dish.

For dessert we had little spiced donuts (proceeded by a satisfying cheese course, also off the tasting menu). Just the right size dessert: small. I have to admit, though, after all these fabulous courses. I would have preferred one more savory instead of dessert. When we got the bill, we had been comped about one third of our meal and wine. What a treat. We started off on the wrong foot, but Eric and his staff know how to win you over with their charm and generosity, and talent. The Foundry puts on quite a show, and we were drawn right into the center of it.

The Foundry on Melrose
7465 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90046

The Foundry On Melrose in Los Angeles

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Bel-Air Bay Club - How the Other 2% Live

I was invited to the newly rebuilt beach club, the Bel-Air Bay Club on the beach in between Temescal Canyon and Sunset Blvd. It was an absolutly beautiful summer day. We sat outside, ordered from the bar menu, and met their new French chef, Yves. Overall, the food was pleasant enough, but certainly not exceptional. I liked the sliders, even though the burgers were cooked on the wrong side of medium for me, but the fries were crisp and excellent. The lamb chops with truffled potatoes were good, but a little to hot and rich for summer, and the quivering mint Jell-o was downright gross.

The artichoke was nice with the tartar sauce, but it was served in a pool of tomato sauce that made for un unpleasant combination. The only dish I couldn't eat was the lobster and crab dip - it was milky and runny, with a strong, canned fish taste.

The other seafood dishes were probably the best. We had a shrimp cocktail, a nice seared ahi with mango, and a plate of sashimi with avocado and grapefruit that was wonderfully refreshing.

The food was edible but unmemorable. Like many mediocre restaurants with a view (Galdstone's), the location can make up for a lot (and food can sometimes taste better when someone else is paying for it).

Mario & I/Osteria Mozza

My friends and I had a fabulous dinner at The Foundry on Melrose (review to come soon), and followed it up with a visit to the brand new Osteria Mozza. We had a couple drinks of Sicilian Amaro called Averna, at the marble bar, soaked up the atmosphere, said "hi" to general manager David Rosoff, and made the earlist reservation posssibe: a weeknight in mid-August at 9:30. And, I got a photo with Mario himself! We checked out the menu, and there was a conspicuous lack of offal, in contrast to the new B&B in Las Vegas (with dishes like pasta with lamb's brain). We said so to Mario's partner Joseph, (son of Italian chef and author extrodanaire, Lidia Bastianach) and he said : "eventually". As cool as it was to see these New York legends, they did seem a bit bored while hanging out with the LA scene (maybe it was just the jetlag). Well, I worked up courage to ask Mario for a photo and he was game, (and he was quite snuggly, like a big teddy bear, and yes, he was wearing his orange clogs) and he seemed to perk up a bit. Welcome to LA, guys.

Osteria Mozza
6602 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90038

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Vanilla Bake Shop

I checked out the brand new Vanilla Bake Shop in Santa Monica on Wilshire and 5th (a stone's throw from the new Yummy Cupcakes) this morning. It is a very clean, cute shop with a pretty brown, pink and white color scheme, and lots of friendly and nervous employees ready to help you. I bought one dozen mini cupcakes (reminiscent of Leda's) for $21.65. They are 3 for $5. (I was charged tax for this take out order, which it seems everyone does nowadays - anyone know if the law has changed?) They have a special insert to hold the cupcakes like Danties, but take a look at the photo and you will see how well it works during transport.

Their menu lists several cakes one may order, but I did not see any on display today. They also have several icebox desserts such as Tiramisu and "dirt cake," arranged similarly to a trifle in a mason jar. It looks cute in the jar, but I cannot imagine what it must look like when you dish it up on a plate (or maybe, it never make it to a plate, like my pints of Ben and Jerry's...). The cupcakes are beautiful, and excellent. Light, fluffy frosting, soft, moist cake, each cupcake with a distinct look, and cute packaging - all you could ask for in a bakeshop. I thought the end of cupcakes was near - apparently not yet.

Vanilla Bake Shop
512 Wilshire Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA 90401

Saturday, July 07, 2007

The Alibi Room

Remember the funky little dive bar called The Alibi Room on Washington Blvd near Centinela? Well, it looks like the space is on its way to Hipville. Culver City/Mar Vista has gotten some dive bar make overs lately: Sloppy Joes became Carbon, Sarna's became S&S, and now Alibi Room becoming... ?

12236 W. Washington Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90230

Thursday, July 05, 2007


After a busy 4th of July, I was craving a nap this afternoon, but opted for a temporary sugar high instead. Milk is a wonderful ice cream/pastry/sandwich shop on Beverly Blvd. Sundaes, brownies, blondies, cookies, pudding, pecan bars, ice cream sandwiches, tres leches cake, chocolate cake, bon bons, and even a blue velvet cake (stunning color, but certainly not appealing as red). I choose thier version of Affogato, called Espresso a la Mode: vanilla ice cream with espresso, hazelnuts, whipped cream and chocolate sauce. It was so big and rich I was only able to eat about half of it, but enjoyed every bite.

7290 Beverly Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036