Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Good Pizza - Westchester

The other day I recieved an e-mail from a site called Grub Street, with their top 10 list of the best Neopolitan style pizzerias in the area (Antica, Mozza, Ortica...). There was one called The Good Pizza in Westchester that cought my eye. Westchester? Yes. Nestled in a little strip mall right in the middle of a residential neighborhood, The Good Pizza is quite a pleasant surprise. One of the owners, Nando, is from Napoli, pizza capital of the world (not New York!). It is a small store front, primarily set up for take out, but the do have two small tables inside, and a couple out front, where we sat and enjoyed our pizza. All the pizzas are large 18 inchers - we decided to split one. Half pizza bianca, half meat lovers. They don't call it The Good Pizza for nothing. Just thin enough, just thick enough, with really good dough. We had to force ourselves to stop eating pizza when Nando brought out a slice of cheesecake for us to try. Owners Nando and Carlos chatted us up and made us feel very welcome and comfortable. We are so excited we made this discovery - it is almost our pizzeria version of Metro Cafe. Small, unassuming, great food and great company.

The Good Pizza
7929 Emerson Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90045

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Let's Hear it for Sepia

In Logroño, Spain, there is a street, Calle Laurel, which is jam packed with tapas bars and people, which we slowly walked through sampling the fare at many bars each night of our stay. Some specialize in particular tapas, and this one specialized in sepia. I normally don't eat it, but I figured I ought to give it a fair try. Tender, not too chewy sepia, covered in a thin, garlicky alioli and a drizzle of parsley oil on bread. With a small glass of white Rioja it was a fantastic starter in a night full of wonderful little bites.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Chalet Edelweiss

After several days of driving by Chalet Edelwiess, I finally stopped in. It is a cute (and a bit hokey) Swiss restaurant in Westchester, specializing in Swiss fare like raclette, Schnitzel, fondue, spaetzel, beer, etc. While browsing through the menu I was reminded of Waterfront Cafe in Venice, and rightly so - they share the same owners. Along with the traditional Swiss fare they also serve pizzas from their wood burning pizza oven, but while sitting in the covered patio in between a paper mache Matterhorn and a speaker blaring Swiss accordion music, you might as well skip the pizza and go full speed ahead for a Swiss experience.

I started of with 17oz of Erdinger, and we shared my first raclette ($15.95). Quite good, actually - potatoes, melted cheese, pickles and onions.

Then onto my main course of Rahmschnitzel with Spätzle, (spatzle and pork smothered in a mushroom cream sauce $17.95). Yes, it was filling, and good. You can't beat a bunch of cheese, cream and carbs can you?

Then we shared a "just OK" apple strudel. After the beer, bread, cheese, potatoes, spatzle I was so stuffed by this time, it was really hard to enjoy the strudel.

This place is really cute and funny with the all the corny Swiss nick-nacks and blaring music, but can be a lot of fun. Go after the sun sets, since there are no blinds and most of the tables come with a clear view of the sun. Just be sure to come hungry.

Chalet Edelweiss
8740 Sepulveda Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90045

Tuesday, June 30, 2009


This place is so cool. They serve southern Italian fare, with an exotic, all-Italian wine list, and many so pizzas and pastas it took me forever to decide. Uber-cool decor, including an exaggerated giant chandelier hanging ominously above the bar, and an old Sophia Loren film projected on the wall. We shared fried zucchini blossoms, and I had a pizza with speck, pear, gorgonzola and walnuts ($15.95). Not too expensive, a ton of intersting wine and dishes to choose from, and a cool vibe (and way easy to get a last minute table then Mozza). Now I have more pizza ideas to try at home!

7605 Beverly Blvd
Los Angeles, CA

Monday, June 29, 2009

La Cuchara de San Telmo - San Sebastian

This tapas bar/restaurant was by far our favorite in San Sebastian. They offer several contempory style tapas, a great reprive when you think you may have overdosed on traditional pixtos bars. We had Foie gras, duck breast, scallops, sweetbreads, blood sausage...all my faves! And so cheap! Each dish was only a couple of Euros, a steal. Look how big that foie gras is! Every dish was very good, very rich, and beautiful. The only shame is you eat standing up at the bar, and I kept thinking that it would be so nice to sit down, relax and savor every bite. We went there twice on this trip, and if I return to San Sebastian I will go there first.

On egin!

Calle de 31 de Agosto
San Sebastian Spain

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Sazon - Mar Vista

After driving past this restaurant a million times, I finally checked it out last night with a friend who has eaten there a couple of times and enjoyed it very much. This is why: inexpensive, creative food, intimate neighborhood cafe vibe, and BYOB.

The owner/chef Claudia, calls her food Latin fusion. You will recognize flavors and dishes from various Hispanic countries, all with her twist on them. We started off with a variety of empanadas like spinach, potato and chicken. They were great and prepared the way I like them: fried. We also shared some tostones, fried plantain chips.

Mi Gaditano had coconut crusted fish with spinach mashed potatoes and ate it so fast I didn't have an opportunity to try a bite!

I had the spinach stuffed chicken breast with vegetables, rice and black beans. The chicken was very moist, especially for white meat. I enjoyed everything here, but I found myself sprinkling salt on everything, which I rarely do in a restaurant. The menu boasts their use of little or no salt, but the food needs it to really come alive. The entrees are very reasonably priced under $10, and the portions are good. Bring in your own wine, and it is even a better deal. To finish, we enjoyed her version of natillas, which was altered a bit to resemble a cake than pudding. I was too stuffed to eat much, but the sweet corn and chocolate combo was nice.

I am so excited I finally tried this place, it is so nice having a terrific neighborhood joint to walk to, linger over a good meal, feel welcomed by the staff, and not break the bank.

12406 Washington Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90066

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Wurstkuche - Downtown Los Angeles

I ventured downtown the other night to check out Wurstkuche, a Father's Office-esque grilled sausage bar. It is in the Arts District of downtown, with a nice view of what I like to call "the backside of downtown." You place your order at the counter, grab your drinks and your number, head down the hall and try to find a seat in the main dining room. Dark, with communal tables, bar and DJ station. They bring out your food pretty quickly, but if you decide to get more food, it is back to the first room and wait in line. The menu is just suasages, choice of a toppings, fries with many dipping sauces, and pleanty of exotic beer on tap. We both opted for the Bockwurst with grilled onlins and sweet peppers, large fries with pesto mayo and blue cheese walnut and bacon dip. We should have just gotten two of the blue cheese, it was so good. Two pints of Pabst Blue Ribbon (I know, not very exotic, but cheap) brought the tab to $22.78. A bargin. I was full but not stuffed. If you are hungry, go ahead and order two sausages. This place is pretty cool, with good food and comfortable atmoshere for lingering and enjoying the night.

800 E 3rd St.
Los Angeles, CA 90013

Thursday, May 14, 2009


Right down the street from (one of my) workplace on the Italian-heavy stretch of San Vicente Boulevard in Brentwood is the newly opened Tavern, by Suzanne Goin and Caroline Styne of (my fave) Lucques. I strolled down there for lunch, and ordered the Americano sandwich from the lunch counter - cavalo nero, artichokes and burrata, along with a salad and buttermilk dressing. The burrata was so creamy it emulated mayonaisse on the sandwich, but much better!

The breakfast and lunch counter has coffee drinks, baked goods, cold salads and sandwiches, salad dressings, cheese and some pantry items available for take-out or dine-in at the long banquette.

I returned after work with my mom for some appetizers and drinks at the bar. We arrived at 5 PM, and sat near group of four drunk businessmen about 30 minutes away from wearing one of the lampshades on their heads (my mom overheard, "this was the longest lunch I've ever had!"), but thankfully they left soon thereafter and the wine and food provided a very good distraction.

Many items on Tavern's menu come right from the Lucques cookbook, the menu selection seems more American in style than Lucques, and certainly larger, even including a special kid's menu. The bar menu consists of small appetizers, along with burgers and fries. We ordered each a glass of rose, a perfect aperitivo. We shared the brochette of oyster and bacon dipped in batter and deep fried (I dare you to find any fault in that combination), along with fried gougeres and french radishes. Fried/cheese/bacon/wine/bread=good.

The soothing greys and blues, the cozy loveseats and chairs, the always wonderful food by Suzanne Goin, polite, professional service, a perfectly wonderful experience.

11648 San Vicente Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA

Friday, May 08, 2009

Back From Spain

I just got back home from a wonderful trip to Spain. Madrid, Logrono, San Sebastian and Granada. Lots of food and fun in every city. Pictures and stories coming soon!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Bacaro LA - Downtown

I discovered this downtown wine bar from a wine blog called Do Bianchi. After I picked up my Gaditano from Union Station the other night, we headed straight for this cozy and modern little wine bar. We landed the last available table by the front window, and sat in the banquette facing the chalk board filled with all the wines by the glass, and a nice rendering of Italy divided into its provinces (the wine list was pleasantly heavy on Italian wines, with many wines under $40).

Their menu consists of cichetti (small plates), very reasonably priced at $7 each or three for $19. At that price, I expected the serving to be skimpy, but they were not at all. We shared 3 crostini (the 3 for $7), our favorite being the mascarpone and sun-dried tomato tapenade. Then on to a create-your-own panino: we choose black forest ham, caramelized onions and gruyere a fail-safe combination.

The Bacaro burger was not your ordinary hamburger: open faced of thick toasted bread, beef patty, beefsteak tomato doused in a creamy steak-sauce. Not the best burger, but an enjoyable, creative surprise.

Also on the menu are cheeses, salame, bruschette, scallops, steak, chicken, nuts, olives, etc. I love the casual atmosphere, the tasty inexpensive food and out of the way locale in a quiet, not too dodgy area of downtown. I'll be back.

Bacaro LA
2308 Union St.
Los Angeles, CA 90007

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A-16 - San Francisco

I picked up their new cookbook a couple weeks ago, after reading about it in Gourmet Magazine, and I love it. When our trip to San Francisco came up, I made sure we had a reservation here. The place was absolutely packed. We waited a few minutes for our table in the very crowded bar area, which gave up time to check out all the dishes that passed us by. We started with a plate of soft, salty, sweet, delicate Prociutto San Daniele.

We shared the spinach gnocchi with mushrooms and broth (one of the dishes we saw at the bar, but I mistook the broth for butter) which were fluffly and delicate, not too rich at all (but I do wish they were in a pool of butter instead of broth!).

My Gaditano had their version of pizza bianca, which I have made form their book. Mozzeralla, basil, and olives, it was great, even better than mine (I need a wood fired pizza oven..).

For my main course, I had the trippa alla Napoleatana, which was just like the trippa all Romana I had in Rome, except with bread crumbs.

We sipped a nice cerasuolo from Sicily and enjoyed our selves and the meal tremendously.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

César - Berkeley

In Berkeley, next door to Chez Panisse is César, a Spanish tapas restaurant. Basically it is good, but a bit expensive. We ordered the piquillo peppers stuffed with queso fresco, raisins and pine nuts, which I enjoyed the combination very much, but they were tiny, especially for $9.75. The cheese plate was skimpy and ugly, at $11.75.

They should add some accompaniments such as mebrillo paste or almonds. The highlight was certainly the croque señor bacadillos.

We should of just ordered two of these and forgotten the cheese and peppers. A toasted sandwich of manchego, jamon serrano and a creamy ailioli for $10.75. A glass of manzanilla and house-made lemon mint soda proved to be refreshing.

1515 Shattuck Ave
Berkeley, CA

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Flour Girl Desserts

Minda Trotta, pastry chef and owner of Flour Girl Desserts offered to send me a sample of her rocky road to try, so, of course I accepted. I received this box filled with wonderful rocky road. It lasted mere minutes with my family. Rocky road typically is not my favorite, but this one was better than most, due to the rich dark chocolate and homemade marshmallows. I quickly forgot that I normally don't dig rocky road!

Flower Girl Desserts

Friday, March 06, 2009

Citizen Cake - San Francisco

On our way to see the seven painted ladies in San Francisco, we stooped at Citizen Cake for a little pick me up. A cappucino, an individual chocolate mousse cake, a brownie and an alfajore, and we were ready for the uphill trek to Alamo Square. The cupcakes and croissants were so tempting that we made a quick stop on our way out of town the next morning for one of each (and a bag of chocolate cookies). All were fantastic.

Citizen Cake
399 Grove Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
Tel. (415) 861-2228

The Zuni Burger - San Francisco

We had a nice late lunch on our first day in San Francisco at Zuni Cafe. I had dinner there a few years ago and the meal was exceptional. I had heard about their burger, and went in with high expectations. It was good, but not exceptional. It was served on a buttery focaccia bun, and for a couple dollars more with a skimpy slice of cheese. For an extra $6, we got a pile of super crisp shoestring fries. The patty was moist and tender, but overall slightly under-salted, especially considering they salt all their meat a day or two in advance. Had I not gone in with such high expectations, I think I would have been more pleased. Instead, it was just OK.

Zuni Cafe
1658 Market St
San Francisco, CA 94102

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The Real San Francisco Treat

The real San francisco treat is an Irish coffee from the Buena Vista - not the salt-carb-bomb of Rice o' Roni. Without fail I have had breakfast here on every visit to San Francisco. Two Irish coffees (try to have just one) with San Francisco sourdough bread, and a view of the cable car and the bay. The drink is so popular here that the waiters don't even have to order it by name, they just tell the bartender "make one."

Buena Vista
2765 Hyde St
San Francisco, CA 94109
Phone: 415-474-5044

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Venice Beach Wines

I heard about Venice Beach Wines several months ago, when it was just a little wine shop without it's tasting license yet. Well, they have it now, and have trasformed from a little wine shop to a really great neighborhood wine bar.

It is a tiny spot in a still funky stretch of Rose Ave, just west of Lincoln Blvd. The enclosed, heated patio is a cozy and intimate place to enjoy a glass or bottle from thier small but interesting wine selection (all available for take-home purchase), some charcuterie, cheese, panino or salad from their menu. Last night we had some big, beautiful green olives ($4) to nibble on with my 2006 Ca'Luca pinot grigio ($7), then we had some jamon serrano ($6.50) and robiola ($4.50) served with almonds, fruit compotes, mustard and crostini, along with my 2007 Vale de Torre from Portugal ($8).

Good food, good wine, fantastic intimate and relaxing atmosphere with not-to-loud electic music perfect for sippling wine and enjoying friends.

Venice Beach Wines
529 Rose Ave.
Venice, CA 90291

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Western Regional Barista Competition

I dropped by Day One of the 2009 Western Regional Barista Competition yesterday (continuing today and tomorrow) held downtown. Hosted by intelligentsia Coffee, spectators could sip on free espresso, purchase gourmet Ding-Dong's from Monkey Bakery while watching some very serious espresso making.

Each contestant has 15 minutes to make an espresso, a cappuccino, and their own signature creation for each the four seated judges, who were vigoursly taking notes during the "performance" while 3 other judges hovered over them, checking their tamping technique, among other things. Each barista tells the judges about their choice of coffee and milk, describing the nuances much like a fine wine. The afternoon proved to be entertaining and informative.

Western Regional Barista Competition
453 S Spring St
Jan. 23 & 24, 10-5
Jan. 25, 10-3

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Restaurant Week Press Conference, Year 2

I attended a press conference for LA's second annual Dine LA Restaurant week. This year's conference was bigger and better than last year's. It was held at the new SLS Hotel, with a reception in Jose Andres' The Bazaar restaurant. go see the hotel and restuarant yourself - I cannot even begin to describe the cool, outlandish decor. There were several chef's present, all in their chef whites (and blacks) such as Mary Sue Milikin, Kerry Simon, Fred Eric, Evan Kleiman, Todd Barrie, Ben Ford, Celestino Drago, and Katzuto Matsusaka of Beacon, who approached my Gaditano boyfriend thinking he knew him (he must think all Spaniards look alike). I did use Luis to my advantage - he approached Jose Andres and chatted him up in Spanish and asked him to pose for this photo.

The food passed around was exquisite. We had crab with raspberry sauce,

traditional Spanish croquetas, pata negra that melted in your mouth, sangria,

Jose Andres' version of a Philly cheese steak, and El Bulli's famous "olives" that burst pure liquid olive into your mouth when you break the delicate skin holding it together.

Restaurant week is from January 25-30, and February 1-6. Prix fixe lunches and dinners, many of which are steals compared to their normal menus. Bigger and better than last year, I cannot wait for my Bazaar reservation to roll around.