TRI-TIP WITH MUSHROOM SAUCE
TRI-TIP WITH MUSHROOM SAUCE

TRI-TIP IS THE LOWER PART OF THE SIRLOIN, LEANER BUT EQUALLY FLAVORFUL AND CONSIDERABLY CHEAPER.  PAN-COOKED, WITH A CLASSIC FRENCH MUSHROOM AND RED WINE SAUCE, FLAVORED WITH THYME, TARRAGON, PARSLEY, AND CHIVES, IT’S SIMPLE TO MAKE AND GREAT WITH A MORE TIME-CONSUMING DISH SUCH AS POTATOES GRATIN.  BUT YOU COULD ALSO MAKE IT WITH ROASTED NEW POTATOES OR A PURÉE OF CELERY ROOT.  IF YOU CAN FIND IT, SPEND A FEW EXTRA BUCKS ON WAGYU TRI-TIP, WHICH IS MORE TENDER AND STILL LESS EXPENSIVE THAN TOP SIRLOIN OR RIB-EYE.

Click here to download recipe

CHICKEN SALAD
CHICKEN SALAD

I LOVE CHICKEN SALAD.  USUALLY, I STRIP THE MEAT FROM WHAT’S LEFT OF A LEFTOVER ROAST CHICKEN, BECAUSE I LIKE THE MIX OF WHITE AND DARK MEAT. THIS TIME, HOWEVER, I HAD AN EXTRA CHICKEN BREAST ON HAND, SO I PAN-COOKED IT WITH A LITTLE GARLIC AND THYME BEFORE CUTTING IT UP FOR THE SALAD. (more…)

L.A. RESTAURANTS 2017
L.A. RESTAURANTS 2017

JONATHAN GOLD’S 2017 BEST 101 RESTAURANTS — NO, I AM NEVER EATING AT VESPERTINE — REMINDED ME THAT I HAVEN’T AMENDED MY OWN BEST-IN-L.A. LIST IN QUITE SOME TIME. WE STILL HAVE OUR OLD FAVORITES, PLACES WE RETURN TO FREQUENTLY, BUT SO MANY WONDERFUL NEW SPOTS HAVE OPENED UP THAT IT WOULD BE CRIMINAL NOT TO CELEBRATE THEM AS WELL.

WHAT’S EXCITING NOW ABOUT THE FOOD SCENE IN L.A. IS THAT WE ARE GETTING AN EQUAL NUMBER OF MID-PRICED RESTAURANTS AS THE EXPENSIVE JOINTS SUCH AS OTIUM, MAUDE AND 71 ABOVE. AND, IN OUR EXPERIENCE, THE CHEAPER ONES ARE BETTER.

AS FAR AS THE STANDBYS ARE CONCERNED, WE STILL LOVE JOSEF CENTENO’S BACO MERCAT, BAR AMA, ORSA&WINSTON, AND HIS MOST RECENT ADDITION, THE VEGETABLE-CENTRIC P.Y.T.  SAME GOES FOR THE MOZZAPLEX, ALTHOUGH FOR SPECIAL OCCASIONS, WE PREFER CHI SPACCA TO THE ADJACENT OSTERIA. WE OFTEN FIND OURSELVES AT SALT’S CURE, IN IT’S NEW LOCATION ON HIGHLAND, ESPECIALLY SINCE CHRIS ADDED THE CONFITED DUCK LEG TO THE LUNCH MENU.  BECAUSE OF THE NOISE LEVEL, LUNCH IS THE ONLY TIME WE’LL EAT AT FACTORY KITCHEN WITH IT’S WONDERFUL FIRST-COURSE SALADS AND PASTA DISHES.  AT ADRIA AND CLAUDIO BLOTTA’S MARKET PROVISIONS AND ALL ‘AQUA, DON DICKMAN CONTINUES TO SURPRISE US WITH NEW INVENTIONS AS WELL AS STANDARDS SUCH AS OCTOPUS SALAD AND SPAGHETTI WITH CLAM SAUCE.  CLAUDIO’S WINE LISTS ARE AMONG THE MOST ORIGINAL AND BEST-PRICED IN TOWN.  WE FREQUENT SYCAMORE KITCHEN FOR THE CHOPPED SALAD AS WELL THE SHORT RIB SANDWICH AND KAREN HATFIELD’S IRRESISTIBLE BUTTERCUP.  IT’S HARD TO RESIST THE SMOKED SALMON TARTINE OR THE CHICKEN SALAD SANDWICH AT RÉPUBLIQUE; AT DINNER, WE OPT FOR THE BACK ROOM WHERE WE CAN CARRY ON A CONVERSATION WHILE DEVOURING WALTER MANZKE’S SUCCULENT ROAST CHICKEN.  CONNIE AND TED’S WINS THE LOBSTER ROLL CONTEST AND I RARELY ORDER FRESH OYSTERS ANYPLACE ELSE.

WE ARE WEEKLY REGULARS AT SANAMLUANG NOODLE SHOP WHERE WE ORDER ROAST DUCK NOODLE SOUP, SPICY SQUID SALAD AND FRIED SPARE RIBS.  IF MY WIFE WERE NOT SO AVERSE TO HOT FOOD, I’D FREQUENT  JITLADA MORE OFTEN WITH ITS ELEGANT NORTHERN THAI DISHES, BOTH SPICY AND NOT.  FOR CHINESE WE HEAD FOR THE SAN GABRIEL VALLEY WHERE DUCK HOUSE SERVES THE BEST PEKING DUCK IN TOWN IN AN INTIMATE SETTING WHERE THEY PLAY WEST COAST JAZZ.  A BIT FARTHER AFIELD, WE LIKE CHANG’S GARDEN AND FOR DIM SUM SEA HARBOR IN ROSEMEAD.

ON WITH THE NEW.  STEPHEN KALT SPENT 30 YEARS COOKING IN N.Y.C. WITH STINTS AT LE CIRQUE AND DANIEL BEFORE OPENING HIS OWN MOSTLY-ITALIAN RESTAURANT.  SPARTINA ON MELROSE IS BEHIND WHAT USED TO BE JOHNNY ROCKET’S IS ALSO MOSTLY-ITALIAN.  KALT IS A MASTER PASTA MAKER AND HIS SAUCES SUCH AS OCTOPUS AND BONE MARROW OR THE WAGYU BEEF BELLY WITH MUSHROOMS AND THAI BASIL HAVE LAYERS OF FLAVOR AND REAL HEFT.  SPARTINA IS ONE OF THE FEW PATIOS WHERE I WOULD CHOOSE TO DINE ON A WARM NIGHT.  WE WERE BEREFT WHEN CHEF TIM CAREY ABANDONED PAPILLES, WHICH IS FIVE MINUTES FROM OUR HOUSE, TO OPEN LOST AT SEA IN PASADENA.  BUT AFTER TWO PERFECT SEA FOOD DINNERS IN THE FRIENDLY BUT ELEGANT SPACE ON HOLLY, ALL IS FORGIVEN.  CAREY’S SOUPS REMAIN MEMORABLE AND NOW EMBRACE A SAFFRON-LACED BOUILLABAISE AS WELL AS VELVETY VELOUTÉ FOR THE BUTTER-POACHED LOBSTER.  AGAIN TIM HAS PARTNERED WITH SANTOS UY, WHOSE WORLD-RANGING WINE LIST IS BOTH ADVENTUROUS AS REASONABLE.  THEY RECENTLY OPENED FOR LUNCH.   THE SAME TEAM WHICH BROUGHT US FACTORY KICHEN, MATTEO AND FRANCINE-DIAMOND FERDINANDI, OPENED OFFICINE BRERA IN A SPECTACULAR INDUSTRIAL SPACE (FORMER GAS METER STORAGE FACILITY) AROUND THE CORNER ON 6TH.  ANGELO AURIANA, THE CHEF AT VALENTINO FOR 20 YEARS, FOCUSES ON THE HEARTY CUISINE OF MILAN.  I’VE NEVER HAD BETTER RISOTTO THAN HIS, BUT HIS SALADS SUCH AS HOME-MADE LARDO OVER BITTER GREENS ARE EQUALLY DELICIOUS.  AND IF YOU’RE IN THE MOOD FOR SOMETHING GRILLED, OFFICINE BRERA WILL SATISFY ANY CARNIVORE.

KISMETIN SILVERLAKE, MIGHT BE CALLED THE ANTI-BRERA, WITH ITS LOVELY LIGHT DISHES OF MOSTLY VEGETABLES, BOTH RAW AND COOKED, FLAVORED WITH LEBNI AND MIDDLE-EASTERN SPICES.  MY BUTCHER AND FISHMONGER KAREN AND NATHAN McCALL, BOTH FORMER CHEFS AT SONA, TOOK OVER A DEFUNCT JAPANESE RESTAURANT AT 2040 HILLHURST.  THAT’S ITS NAME, TOO.  THE EVER-EXPANDING MENU IS BOTH PROSAIC (FABULOUS CORNED BEEF SANDWICH) AND SOPHISTICATED (HANGER STEAK TARTARE WITH A QUAIL EGG AND CHUNKS OF PICKLED VEGETABLES).  SAVE ROOM FOR ONE OF KAREN’S SCRUMPTIOUS PASTRIES AND TAKE HOME SOME CROISSANTS FOR BREAKFAST.  IN PLACE OF PANOS BAKERY ON HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD, WE NOW HAVE THE SUPER-FRIENDLY FRIENDS AND FAMILY.  THEIR BREAKFASTS AND LUNCHES INCLUDE HOUSE-MADE CROISSANTS AND EGG DISHES; LUNCH, TOMATO SOUP, GRILLED CHEESE, SALADS, AND A PERFECT BLT ON THEIR OWN WHOLE WHEAT SOURDOUGH, WHICH YOU CAN BUY IN BIG OVAL LOAVES AND TAKE HOME.

TRAVELING WEST, STOP FOR LUNCH OR DINNER AT FUNDAMENTAL ON WESTWOOD BOULEVARD.  THEIR SANDWICHES ARE BIG AND WONDERFULLY COMPLEX.  THE DINNER MENU IS MORE EXTENSIVE AND EQUALLY SATISFYING WITH SOPHISTICATED CALIFORNIA CUISINE DISHES SUCH AS ROASTED CAULIFLOWER WITH CHILE LIME VINAIGRETTE AND JIDORI CHICKEN “ADOBO” WITH TOMATILLO, CHARRED ONION AND AVOCADO.

JOINING RÉPUBLIQUE AND SYCAMORE KITCHEN ON MY LIST OF LA BREA FAVORITES, IS NONG LÁ, A MODERN VIETNAMESE RESTAURANT, WITH A PLEASING PALE WOOD INTERIOR AND A DECENT WINE AND BEER LIST.  THERE’S NOTHING STRIKING ABOUT THE MENU; SPRING ROLLS, PHÓ, BANH MI SANDWICHES, BUT THE BROTH, MADE FROM FREE RANGE CHICKENS, IS RICH AND FLAVORFUL AND THE GREENS, CRISPY FRESH AND ORGANIC.

OUR NEWFOUND LOVE AFFAIR WITH LUDOVIC LEFEBVRE’S PETIT TROIS IS A TESTAMENT TO HOW MUCH WE ARE WILLING TO PROSTITUTE OURSELVES FOR A DECENT MEAL.  OUR DINNER AT TROIS MEC, SOME YEARS AGO, SOURED US ON LUDOVIC, BUT WE’D BEEN GETTING SO MANY GLOWING REPORTS ABOUT HIS LITTLE BISTRO NEXT DOOR THAT WE FINALLY CAVED.  WE’VE BEEN BACK THREE TIMES FOR MOULES MARINÈRE, ONION SOUP AND FRISḖE AUX LARDONS, ARGUABLY THE BEST IN TOWN.

THIS YEAR PROMISES NEW DISCOVERIES INCLUDING RESTAURANTS BY DANIEL HUMM (ELEVEN MADISON PARK), DOMINIQUE ANSELL (EVER HAD A CRONUT?), SAN FRANCISCO’S INCOMPARABLE TARTINE, NOT TO MENTION ALL THOSE RESTAURANTS ON THE TOP FLOOR OF EATALY.

PAPPARDELLE WITH SAUSAGE AND SAFFRON
PAPPARDELLE WITH SAUSAGE AND SAFFRON

MARCELLA HAZAN MAKES THIS DISH WITH GROUND VEAL, BUT I’M NOT BUYING MUCH VEAL THESE DAYS, SO I TRIED SUBSTITUTING ITALIAN SAUSAGE, COMBINING THE STUFFING FROM SWEET FENNEL AND SPICY SAUSAGE. (more…)

CHICKEN WITH SORREL CREAM SAUCE
CHICKEN WITH SORREL CREAM SAUCE

LAST WEEK THERE WAS AN EXPLOSION OF SORREL IN THE L.A.L.A. FARM. I TOOK A BUNCH HOME TO MAKE POTATO, LEEK AND SORREL SOUP, BUT THE REMAINDER I USED TO CREATE A CHICKEN DISH TO SHOW MY STUDENTS HOW THIS SOUR, GREEN LEAF IS SO DAZZLING IN A CREAMY SAUCE. MOST OF THEM HAD NEVER HEARD OF SORREL. WHEN THEY TASTED THE RAW LEAVES I COULD SEE THEIR SKEPTICISM. BUT WE PRESSED ON. I’M NOT ALLOWED TO COOK WITH WINE IN THE SCHOOL, SO I SUBSTITUTED CHICKEN STOCK, WHICH ACTUALLY GAVE THE SAUCE A BODY IT WOULDN’T HAVE HAD WITH JUST WHITE WINE. THE RECIPE WORKS WITH EITHER. WHEN WE BROUGHT THE FINISHED DISH TO THE TABLE, THE CHICKEN THIGHS SWIMMING IN CREAMY SAUCE LACED WITH SORREL, THE KIDS SOPPED UP EVERY LAST DROP.
Click here to download recipe

BACO DUCK
BACO DUCK

JOSEF CENTENO JUST CAME OUT WITH A COOKBOOK, “BÄCO, VIVID RECIPES FROM THE HEART OF LOS ANGELES”, WHICH HE WROTE WITH BETTY HALLOCK, A FOOD WRITER AND ONE-TIME DEPUTY FOOD EDITOR FOR THE L.A. TIMES.

I’M A BIG FAN OF JOSEF’S COOKING, WHICH, AS JONATHAN GOLD POINTED OUT IN HIS REVIEW OF JOSEF’S ORSA & WINSTON, REFLECTS THIS MELTING POT OF A CITY WITH POPULATIONS FROM BOTH SOUTH AND CENTRAL AMERICA AS WELL AS CHINA, JAPAN AND SOUTHEAST ASIA.

THE MIRACLE OF JOSEF’S DISHES ARE THAT THEY SEAMLESSLY COMBINE THOSE TASTES INTO ORIGINAL CREATIONS. THIS RECIPE FOR WHOLE ROASTED ORANGE-AND-SOY-GLAZED DUCK USES A SPICE RUB WHICH IS MIDDLE EASTERN AND A GLAZE WHICH IS PART FRENCH, PART CHINESE. THE RESULT IS A SUCCULENT BIRD WITH A CRISPY, SWEET-SOUR SKIN.

I REDUCED THE COOKING TIME A BIT AND FUDGED THE BAHARAT, WHICH I DID NOT HAVE ON HAND, BUT WILL NEXT TIME. THE THRILL AND CHALLENGE OF THIS BOOK WILL BE TO ASSEMBLE A NEW PANTRY OF SPICE MIXES AND SAUCES, WHICH CAN BE USED IN BOTH JOSEF’S RECIPES AND INVENTIONS OF ONE’S OWN.

Click here to download recipe

PASTA WITH ZUCCHINI, LEMON AND MINT
PASTA WITH ZUCCHINI, LEMON AND MINT

USUALLY WHEN I COOK ZUCCHINI FOR PASTA, I BROWN IT IN OLIVE OIL, ADD GARLIC AND CHERRY TOMATOES AND TOSS IT WITH THE PASTA. HERE, THIN RIBBONS OF ZUCCHINI ARE MORE RAW THAN COOKED, TOSSED IN BUTTER, OLIVE OIL AND LEMON.
(more…)

BEER BRAISED COUNTRY STYLE PORK RIBS
BEER BRAISED COUNTRY STYLE PORK RIBS

I SPOTTED A CUT IN THE BUTCHER’S CASE LABELLED “COUNTRY STYLE BONELESS PORK RIBS”.  THEY WERE THICK AND MEATY WITH LITTLE FAT BUT PLENTY OF CONNECTIVE TISSUE; AN IDEAL BRAISING CUT. (more…)

FRENCH POTATO SALAD
FRENCH POTATO SALAD

EVERYBODY’S GOT A RECIPE FOR POTATO SALAD.  SOME LIKE IT MIXED WITH MAYONNAISE OR TOSSED WITH ONIONS, RELISH OR CHOPPED PICKLES.  MY FAVORITE IS FRENCH POTATO SALAD OR A VERSION THEREOF.  NO MATTER THE VARIATION, THE ONE COMMON TECHNIQUE IS TO COOL OFF THE BOILED POTATO SLICES WITH COLD WHITE WINE, WHICH IS ABSORBED, LENDING THE POTATOES A LIGHTLY BOOZY FLAVOR.  MORE FLAVOR COMES FROM GRAINY MUSTARD, MUSTARD SEED AND A FEW TABLESPOONS OF HAZELNUT OIL IN THE DRESSING.  I LOVE TARRAGON, BUT DILL OR PARSLEY WORK EQUALLY WELL.  THIS A SUMMERY ALTERNATIVE HOT POTATOES OR PASTA THE PERFECT COMPLEMENT TO EVERYTHING FROM GRILLED FISH TO HAMBURGERS.

Click here to download recipe

PURSLANE SALAD
PURSLANE SALAD

PURSLANE HAS GREY-GREEN, TEAR-SHAPED, SUCCULENT LEAVES, WHICH ARE CRUNCHY TO THE BITE, RELEASING A PLEASANTLY SOUR JUICE.  THEY ARE COMMON IN ARMENIAN AND LEBANESE RESTAURANTS, FOUND ALWAYS IN FATTOUSH SALAD.  I COMBINED THEM WITH OTHER MEDITERRANEAN INGREDIENTS — NICOISE OLIVES, FETA, TOMATOES, BASIL, FRESH MINT, AND PERSIAN CUCUMBERS.  RED ONION IS MACERATED AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BOWL IN SALT AND VINEGAR, WHICH TAMES ITS BITE BY THE TIME THE SALD IS TOSSED AND SERVED.  THIS IS A SUBSTANTIAL FIRST-COURSE SALAD OR A MAIN COURSE FOR A SUMMER LUNCH.  SERVE WITH WEDGES OF WARM PITA AND YOU’LL THINK YOU’RE IN BEIRUT.

Click here to download recipe

TRI-TIP WITH MUSHROOM SAUCE
TRI-TIP WITH MUSHROOM SAUCE

TRI-TIP IS THE LOWER PART OF THE SIRLOIN, LEANER BUT EQUALLY FLAVORFUL AND CONSIDERABLY CHEAPER.  PAN-COOKED, WITH A CLASSIC FRENCH MUSHROOM AND RED WINE SAUCE, FLAVORED WITH THYME, TARRAGON, PARSLEY, AND CHIVES, IT’S SIMPLE TO MAKE AND GREAT WITH A MORE TIME-CONSUMING DISH SUCH AS POTATOES GRATIN.  BUT YOU COULD ALSO MAKE IT WITH ROASTED NEW POTATOES OR A PURÉE OF CELERY ROOT.  IF YOU CAN FIND IT, SPEND A FEW EXTRA BUCKS ON WAGYU TRI-TIP, WHICH IS MORE TENDER AND STILL LESS EXPENSIVE THAN TOP SIRLOIN OR RIB-EYE.

Click here to download recipe

CHICKEN SALAD
CHICKEN SALAD

I LOVE CHICKEN SALAD.  USUALLY, I STRIP THE MEAT FROM WHAT’S LEFT OF A LEFTOVER ROAST CHICKEN, BECAUSE I LIKE THE MIX OF WHITE AND DARK MEAT. THIS TIME, HOWEVER, I HAD AN EXTRA CHICKEN BREAST ON HAND, SO I PAN-COOKED IT WITH A LITTLE GARLIC AND THYME BEFORE CUTTING IT UP FOR THE SALAD. (more…)

L.A. RESTAURANTS 2017
L.A. RESTAURANTS 2017

JONATHAN GOLD’S 2017 BEST 101 RESTAURANTS — NO, I AM NEVER EATING AT VESPERTINE — REMINDED ME THAT I HAVEN’T AMENDED MY OWN BEST-IN-L.A. LIST IN QUITE SOME TIME. WE STILL HAVE OUR OLD FAVORITES, PLACES WE RETURN TO FREQUENTLY, BUT SO MANY WONDERFUL NEW SPOTS HAVE OPENED UP THAT IT WOULD BE CRIMINAL NOT TO CELEBRATE THEM AS WELL.

WHAT’S EXCITING NOW ABOUT THE FOOD SCENE IN L.A. IS THAT WE ARE GETTING AN EQUAL NUMBER OF MID-PRICED RESTAURANTS AS THE EXPENSIVE JOINTS SUCH AS OTIUM, MAUDE AND 71 ABOVE. AND, IN OUR EXPERIENCE, THE CHEAPER ONES ARE BETTER.

AS FAR AS THE STANDBYS ARE CONCERNED, WE STILL LOVE JOSEF CENTENO’S BACO MERCAT, BAR AMA, ORSA&WINSTON, AND HIS MOST RECENT ADDITION, THE VEGETABLE-CENTRIC P.Y.T.  SAME GOES FOR THE MOZZAPLEX, ALTHOUGH FOR SPECIAL OCCASIONS, WE PREFER CHI SPACCA TO THE ADJACENT OSTERIA. WE OFTEN FIND OURSELVES AT SALT’S CURE, IN IT’S NEW LOCATION ON HIGHLAND, ESPECIALLY SINCE CHRIS ADDED THE CONFITED DUCK LEG TO THE LUNCH MENU.  BECAUSE OF THE NOISE LEVEL, LUNCH IS THE ONLY TIME WE’LL EAT AT FACTORY KITCHEN WITH IT’S WONDERFUL FIRST-COURSE SALADS AND PASTA DISHES.  AT ADRIA AND CLAUDIO BLOTTA’S MARKET PROVISIONS AND ALL ‘AQUA, DON DICKMAN CONTINUES TO SURPRISE US WITH NEW INVENTIONS AS WELL AS STANDARDS SUCH AS OCTOPUS SALAD AND SPAGHETTI WITH CLAM SAUCE.  CLAUDIO’S WINE LISTS ARE AMONG THE MOST ORIGINAL AND BEST-PRICED IN TOWN.  WE FREQUENT SYCAMORE KITCHEN FOR THE CHOPPED SALAD AS WELL THE SHORT RIB SANDWICH AND KAREN HATFIELD’S IRRESISTIBLE BUTTERCUP.  IT’S HARD TO RESIST THE SMOKED SALMON TARTINE OR THE CHICKEN SALAD SANDWICH AT RÉPUBLIQUE; AT DINNER, WE OPT FOR THE BACK ROOM WHERE WE CAN CARRY ON A CONVERSATION WHILE DEVOURING WALTER MANZKE’S SUCCULENT ROAST CHICKEN.  CONNIE AND TED’S WINS THE LOBSTER ROLL CONTEST AND I RARELY ORDER FRESH OYSTERS ANYPLACE ELSE.

WE ARE WEEKLY REGULARS AT SANAMLUANG NOODLE SHOP WHERE WE ORDER ROAST DUCK NOODLE SOUP, SPICY SQUID SALAD AND FRIED SPARE RIBS.  IF MY WIFE WERE NOT SO AVERSE TO HOT FOOD, I’D FREQUENT  JITLADA MORE OFTEN WITH ITS ELEGANT NORTHERN THAI DISHES, BOTH SPICY AND NOT.  FOR CHINESE WE HEAD FOR THE SAN GABRIEL VALLEY WHERE DUCK HOUSE SERVES THE BEST PEKING DUCK IN TOWN IN AN INTIMATE SETTING WHERE THEY PLAY WEST COAST JAZZ.  A BIT FARTHER AFIELD, WE LIKE CHANG’S GARDEN AND FOR DIM SUM SEA HARBOR IN ROSEMEAD.

ON WITH THE NEW.  STEPHEN KALT SPENT 30 YEARS COOKING IN N.Y.C. WITH STINTS AT LE CIRQUE AND DANIEL BEFORE OPENING HIS OWN MOSTLY-ITALIAN RESTAURANT.  SPARTINA ON MELROSE IS BEHIND WHAT USED TO BE JOHNNY ROCKET’S IS ALSO MOSTLY-ITALIAN.  KALT IS A MASTER PASTA MAKER AND HIS SAUCES SUCH AS OCTOPUS AND BONE MARROW OR THE WAGYU BEEF BELLY WITH MUSHROOMS AND THAI BASIL HAVE LAYERS OF FLAVOR AND REAL HEFT.  SPARTINA IS ONE OF THE FEW PATIOS WHERE I WOULD CHOOSE TO DINE ON A WARM NIGHT.  WE WERE BEREFT WHEN CHEF TIM CAREY ABANDONED PAPILLES, WHICH IS FIVE MINUTES FROM OUR HOUSE, TO OPEN LOST AT SEA IN PASADENA.  BUT AFTER TWO PERFECT SEA FOOD DINNERS IN THE FRIENDLY BUT ELEGANT SPACE ON HOLLY, ALL IS FORGIVEN.  CAREY’S SOUPS REMAIN MEMORABLE AND NOW EMBRACE A SAFFRON-LACED BOUILLABAISE AS WELL AS VELVETY VELOUTÉ FOR THE BUTTER-POACHED LOBSTER.  AGAIN TIM HAS PARTNERED WITH SANTOS UY, WHOSE WORLD-RANGING WINE LIST IS BOTH ADVENTUROUS AS REASONABLE.  THEY RECENTLY OPENED FOR LUNCH.   THE SAME TEAM WHICH BROUGHT US FACTORY KICHEN, MATTEO AND FRANCINE-DIAMOND FERDINANDI, OPENED OFFICINE BRERA IN A SPECTACULAR INDUSTRIAL SPACE (FORMER GAS METER STORAGE FACILITY) AROUND THE CORNER ON 6TH.  ANGELO AURIANA, THE CHEF AT VALENTINO FOR 20 YEARS, FOCUSES ON THE HEARTY CUISINE OF MILAN.  I’VE NEVER HAD BETTER RISOTTO THAN HIS, BUT HIS SALADS SUCH AS HOME-MADE LARDO OVER BITTER GREENS ARE EQUALLY DELICIOUS.  AND IF YOU’RE IN THE MOOD FOR SOMETHING GRILLED, OFFICINE BRERA WILL SATISFY ANY CARNIVORE.

KISMETIN SILVERLAKE, MIGHT BE CALLED THE ANTI-BRERA, WITH ITS LOVELY LIGHT DISHES OF MOSTLY VEGETABLES, BOTH RAW AND COOKED, FLAVORED WITH LEBNI AND MIDDLE-EASTERN SPICES.  MY BUTCHER AND FISHMONGER KAREN AND NATHAN McCALL, BOTH FORMER CHEFS AT SONA, TOOK OVER A DEFUNCT JAPANESE RESTAURANT AT 2040 HILLHURST.  THAT’S ITS NAME, TOO.  THE EVER-EXPANDING MENU IS BOTH PROSAIC (FABULOUS CORNED BEEF SANDWICH) AND SOPHISTICATED (HANGER STEAK TARTARE WITH A QUAIL EGG AND CHUNKS OF PICKLED VEGETABLES).  SAVE ROOM FOR ONE OF KAREN’S SCRUMPTIOUS PASTRIES AND TAKE HOME SOME CROISSANTS FOR BREAKFAST.  IN PLACE OF PANOS BAKERY ON HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD, WE NOW HAVE THE SUPER-FRIENDLY FRIENDS AND FAMILY.  THEIR BREAKFASTS AND LUNCHES INCLUDE HOUSE-MADE CROISSANTS AND EGG DISHES; LUNCH, TOMATO SOUP, GRILLED CHEESE, SALADS, AND A PERFECT BLT ON THEIR OWN WHOLE WHEAT SOURDOUGH, WHICH YOU CAN BUY IN BIG OVAL LOAVES AND TAKE HOME.

TRAVELING WEST, STOP FOR LUNCH OR DINNER AT FUNDAMENTAL ON WESTWOOD BOULEVARD.  THEIR SANDWICHES ARE BIG AND WONDERFULLY COMPLEX.  THE DINNER MENU IS MORE EXTENSIVE AND EQUALLY SATISFYING WITH SOPHISTICATED CALIFORNIA CUISINE DISHES SUCH AS ROASTED CAULIFLOWER WITH CHILE LIME VINAIGRETTE AND JIDORI CHICKEN “ADOBO” WITH TOMATILLO, CHARRED ONION AND AVOCADO.

JOINING RÉPUBLIQUE AND SYCAMORE KITCHEN ON MY LIST OF LA BREA FAVORITES, IS NONG LÁ, A MODERN VIETNAMESE RESTAURANT, WITH A PLEASING PALE WOOD INTERIOR AND A DECENT WINE AND BEER LIST.  THERE’S NOTHING STRIKING ABOUT THE MENU; SPRING ROLLS, PHÓ, BANH MI SANDWICHES, BUT THE BROTH, MADE FROM FREE RANGE CHICKENS, IS RICH AND FLAVORFUL AND THE GREENS, CRISPY FRESH AND ORGANIC.

OUR NEWFOUND LOVE AFFAIR WITH LUDOVIC LEFEBVRE’S PETIT TROIS IS A TESTAMENT TO HOW MUCH WE ARE WILLING TO PROSTITUTE OURSELVES FOR A DECENT MEAL.  OUR DINNER AT TROIS MEC, SOME YEARS AGO, SOURED US ON LUDOVIC, BUT WE’D BEEN GETTING SO MANY GLOWING REPORTS ABOUT HIS LITTLE BISTRO NEXT DOOR THAT WE FINALLY CAVED.  WE’VE BEEN BACK THREE TIMES FOR MOULES MARINÈRE, ONION SOUP AND FRISḖE AUX LARDONS, ARGUABLY THE BEST IN TOWN.

THIS YEAR PROMISES NEW DISCOVERIES INCLUDING RESTAURANTS BY DANIEL HUMM (ELEVEN MADISON PARK), DOMINIQUE ANSELL (EVER HAD A CRONUT?), SAN FRANCISCO’S INCOMPARABLE TARTINE, NOT TO MENTION ALL THOSE RESTAURANTS ON THE TOP FLOOR OF EATALY.

PAPPARDELLE WITH SAUSAGE AND SAFFRON
PAPPARDELLE WITH SAUSAGE AND SAFFRON

MARCELLA HAZAN MAKES THIS DISH WITH GROUND VEAL, BUT I’M NOT BUYING MUCH VEAL THESE DAYS, SO I TRIED SUBSTITUTING ITALIAN SAUSAGE, COMBINING THE STUFFING FROM SWEET FENNEL AND SPICY SAUSAGE. (more…)

CHICKEN WITH SORREL CREAM SAUCE
CHICKEN WITH SORREL CREAM SAUCE

LAST WEEK THERE WAS AN EXPLOSION OF SORREL IN THE L.A.L.A. FARM. I TOOK A BUNCH HOME TO MAKE POTATO, LEEK AND SORREL SOUP, BUT THE REMAINDER I USED TO CREATE A CHICKEN DISH TO SHOW MY STUDENTS HOW THIS SOUR, GREEN LEAF IS SO DAZZLING IN A CREAMY SAUCE. MOST OF THEM HAD NEVER HEARD OF SORREL. WHEN THEY TASTED THE RAW LEAVES I COULD SEE THEIR SKEPTICISM. BUT WE PRESSED ON. I’M NOT ALLOWED TO COOK WITH WINE IN THE SCHOOL, SO I SUBSTITUTED CHICKEN STOCK, WHICH ACTUALLY GAVE THE SAUCE A BODY IT WOULDN’T HAVE HAD WITH JUST WHITE WINE. THE RECIPE WORKS WITH EITHER. WHEN WE BROUGHT THE FINISHED DISH TO THE TABLE, THE CHICKEN THIGHS SWIMMING IN CREAMY SAUCE LACED WITH SORREL, THE KIDS SOPPED UP EVERY LAST DROP.
Click here to download recipe

BACO DUCK
BACO DUCK

JOSEF CENTENO JUST CAME OUT WITH A COOKBOOK, “BÄCO, VIVID RECIPES FROM THE HEART OF LOS ANGELES”, WHICH HE WROTE WITH BETTY HALLOCK, A FOOD WRITER AND ONE-TIME DEPUTY FOOD EDITOR FOR THE L.A. TIMES.

I’M A BIG FAN OF JOSEF’S COOKING, WHICH, AS JONATHAN GOLD POINTED OUT IN HIS REVIEW OF JOSEF’S ORSA & WINSTON, REFLECTS THIS MELTING POT OF A CITY WITH POPULATIONS FROM BOTH SOUTH AND CENTRAL AMERICA AS WELL AS CHINA, JAPAN AND SOUTHEAST ASIA.

THE MIRACLE OF JOSEF’S DISHES ARE THAT THEY SEAMLESSLY COMBINE THOSE TASTES INTO ORIGINAL CREATIONS. THIS RECIPE FOR WHOLE ROASTED ORANGE-AND-SOY-GLAZED DUCK USES A SPICE RUB WHICH IS MIDDLE EASTERN AND A GLAZE WHICH IS PART FRENCH, PART CHINESE. THE RESULT IS A SUCCULENT BIRD WITH A CRISPY, SWEET-SOUR SKIN.

I REDUCED THE COOKING TIME A BIT AND FUDGED THE BAHARAT, WHICH I DID NOT HAVE ON HAND, BUT WILL NEXT TIME. THE THRILL AND CHALLENGE OF THIS BOOK WILL BE TO ASSEMBLE A NEW PANTRY OF SPICE MIXES AND SAUCES, WHICH CAN BE USED IN BOTH JOSEF’S RECIPES AND INVENTIONS OF ONE’S OWN.

Click here to download recipe

PASTA WITH ZUCCHINI, LEMON AND MINT
PASTA WITH ZUCCHINI, LEMON AND MINT

USUALLY WHEN I COOK ZUCCHINI FOR PASTA, I BROWN IT IN OLIVE OIL, ADD GARLIC AND CHERRY TOMATOES AND TOSS IT WITH THE PASTA. HERE, THIN RIBBONS OF ZUCCHINI ARE MORE RAW THAN COOKED, TOSSED IN BUTTER, OLIVE OIL AND LEMON.
(more…)

BEER BRAISED COUNTRY STYLE PORK RIBS
BEER BRAISED COUNTRY STYLE PORK RIBS

I SPOTTED A CUT IN THE BUTCHER’S CASE LABELLED “COUNTRY STYLE BONELESS PORK RIBS”.  THEY WERE THICK AND MEATY WITH LITTLE FAT BUT PLENTY OF CONNECTIVE TISSUE; AN IDEAL BRAISING CUT. (more…)

FRENCH POTATO SALAD
FRENCH POTATO SALAD

EVERYBODY’S GOT A RECIPE FOR POTATO SALAD.  SOME LIKE IT MIXED WITH MAYONNAISE OR TOSSED WITH ONIONS, RELISH OR CHOPPED PICKLES.  MY FAVORITE IS FRENCH POTATO SALAD OR A VERSION THEREOF.  NO MATTER THE VARIATION, THE ONE COMMON TECHNIQUE IS TO COOL OFF THE BOILED POTATO SLICES WITH COLD WHITE WINE, WHICH IS ABSORBED, LENDING THE POTATOES A LIGHTLY BOOZY FLAVOR.  MORE FLAVOR COMES FROM GRAINY MUSTARD, MUSTARD SEED AND A FEW TABLESPOONS OF HAZELNUT OIL IN THE DRESSING.  I LOVE TARRAGON, BUT DILL OR PARSLEY WORK EQUALLY WELL.  THIS A SUMMERY ALTERNATIVE HOT POTATOES OR PASTA THE PERFECT COMPLEMENT TO EVERYTHING FROM GRILLED FISH TO HAMBURGERS.

Click here to download recipe

PURSLANE SALAD
PURSLANE SALAD

PURSLANE HAS GREY-GREEN, TEAR-SHAPED, SUCCULENT LEAVES, WHICH ARE CRUNCHY TO THE BITE, RELEASING A PLEASANTLY SOUR JUICE.  THEY ARE COMMON IN ARMENIAN AND LEBANESE RESTAURANTS, FOUND ALWAYS IN FATTOUSH SALAD.  I COMBINED THEM WITH OTHER MEDITERRANEAN INGREDIENTS — NICOISE OLIVES, FETA, TOMATOES, BASIL, FRESH MINT, AND PERSIAN CUCUMBERS.  RED ONION IS MACERATED AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BOWL IN SALT AND VINEGAR, WHICH TAMES ITS BITE BY THE TIME THE SALD IS TOSSED AND SERVED.  THIS IS A SUBSTANTIAL FIRST-COURSE SALAD OR A MAIN COURSE FOR A SUMMER LUNCH.  SERVE WITH WEDGES OF WARM PITA AND YOU’LL THINK YOU’RE IN BEIRUT.

Click here to download recipe

TRI-TIP WITH MUSHROOM SAUCE
TRI-TIP WITH MUSHROOM SAUCE

TRI-TIP IS THE LOWER PART OF THE SIRLOIN, LEANER BUT EQUALLY FLAVORFUL AND CONSIDERABLY CHEAPER.  PAN-COOKED, WITH A CLASSIC FRENCH MUSHROOM AND RED WINE SAUCE, FLAVORED WITH THYME, TARRAGON, PARSLEY, AND CHIVES, IT’S SIMPLE TO MAKE AND GREAT WITH A MORE TIME-CONSUMING DISH SUCH AS POTATOES GRATIN.  BUT YOU COULD ALSO MAKE IT WITH ROASTED NEW POTATOES OR A PURÉE OF CELERY ROOT.  IF YOU CAN FIND IT, SPEND A FEW EXTRA BUCKS ON WAGYU TRI-TIP, WHICH IS MORE TENDER AND STILL LESS EXPENSIVE THAN TOP SIRLOIN OR RIB-EYE.

Click here to download recipe

CHICKEN SALAD
CHICKEN SALAD

I LOVE CHICKEN SALAD.  USUALLY, I STRIP THE MEAT FROM WHAT’S LEFT OF A LEFTOVER ROAST CHICKEN, BECAUSE I LIKE THE MIX OF WHITE AND DARK MEAT. THIS TIME, HOWEVER, I HAD AN EXTRA CHICKEN BREAST ON HAND, SO I PAN-COOKED IT WITH A LITTLE GARLIC AND THYME BEFORE CUTTING IT UP FOR THE SALAD. (more…)

L.A. RESTAURANTS 2017
L.A. RESTAURANTS 2017

JONATHAN GOLD’S 2017 BEST 101 RESTAURANTS — NO, I AM NEVER EATING AT VESPERTINE — REMINDED ME THAT I HAVEN’T AMENDED MY OWN BEST-IN-L.A. LIST IN QUITE SOME TIME. WE STILL HAVE OUR OLD FAVORITES, PLACES WE RETURN TO FREQUENTLY, BUT SO MANY WONDERFUL NEW SPOTS HAVE OPENED UP THAT IT WOULD BE CRIMINAL NOT TO CELEBRATE THEM AS WELL.

WHAT’S EXCITING NOW ABOUT THE FOOD SCENE IN L.A. IS THAT WE ARE GETTING AN EQUAL NUMBER OF MID-PRICED RESTAURANTS AS THE EXPENSIVE JOINTS SUCH AS OTIUM, MAUDE AND 71 ABOVE. AND, IN OUR EXPERIENCE, THE CHEAPER ONES ARE BETTER.

AS FAR AS THE STANDBYS ARE CONCERNED, WE STILL LOVE JOSEF CENTENO’S BACO MERCAT, BAR AMA, ORSA&WINSTON, AND HIS MOST RECENT ADDITION, THE VEGETABLE-CENTRIC P.Y.T.  SAME GOES FOR THE MOZZAPLEX, ALTHOUGH FOR SPECIAL OCCASIONS, WE PREFER CHI SPACCA TO THE ADJACENT OSTERIA. WE OFTEN FIND OURSELVES AT SALT’S CURE, IN IT’S NEW LOCATION ON HIGHLAND, ESPECIALLY SINCE CHRIS ADDED THE CONFITED DUCK LEG TO THE LUNCH MENU.  BECAUSE OF THE NOISE LEVEL, LUNCH IS THE ONLY TIME WE’LL EAT AT FACTORY KITCHEN WITH IT’S WONDERFUL FIRST-COURSE SALADS AND PASTA DISHES.  AT ADRIA AND CLAUDIO BLOTTA’S MARKET PROVISIONS AND ALL ‘AQUA, DON DICKMAN CONTINUES TO SURPRISE US WITH NEW INVENTIONS AS WELL AS STANDARDS SUCH AS OCTOPUS SALAD AND SPAGHETTI WITH CLAM SAUCE.  CLAUDIO’S WINE LISTS ARE AMONG THE MOST ORIGINAL AND BEST-PRICED IN TOWN.  WE FREQUENT SYCAMORE KITCHEN FOR THE CHOPPED SALAD AS WELL THE SHORT RIB SANDWICH AND KAREN HATFIELD’S IRRESISTIBLE BUTTERCUP.  IT’S HARD TO RESIST THE SMOKED SALMON TARTINE OR THE CHICKEN SALAD SANDWICH AT RÉPUBLIQUE; AT DINNER, WE OPT FOR THE BACK ROOM WHERE WE CAN CARRY ON A CONVERSATION WHILE DEVOURING WALTER MANZKE’S SUCCULENT ROAST CHICKEN.  CONNIE AND TED’S WINS THE LOBSTER ROLL CONTEST AND I RARELY ORDER FRESH OYSTERS ANYPLACE ELSE.

WE ARE WEEKLY REGULARS AT SANAMLUANG NOODLE SHOP WHERE WE ORDER ROAST DUCK NOODLE SOUP, SPICY SQUID SALAD AND FRIED SPARE RIBS.  IF MY WIFE WERE NOT SO AVERSE TO HOT FOOD, I’D FREQUENT  JITLADA MORE OFTEN WITH ITS ELEGANT NORTHERN THAI DISHES, BOTH SPICY AND NOT.  FOR CHINESE WE HEAD FOR THE SAN GABRIEL VALLEY WHERE DUCK HOUSE SERVES THE BEST PEKING DUCK IN TOWN IN AN INTIMATE SETTING WHERE THEY PLAY WEST COAST JAZZ.  A BIT FARTHER AFIELD, WE LIKE CHANG’S GARDEN AND FOR DIM SUM SEA HARBOR IN ROSEMEAD.

ON WITH THE NEW.  STEPHEN KALT SPENT 30 YEARS COOKING IN N.Y.C. WITH STINTS AT LE CIRQUE AND DANIEL BEFORE OPENING HIS OWN MOSTLY-ITALIAN RESTAURANT.  SPARTINA ON MELROSE IS BEHIND WHAT USED TO BE JOHNNY ROCKET’S IS ALSO MOSTLY-ITALIAN.  KALT IS A MASTER PASTA MAKER AND HIS SAUCES SUCH AS OCTOPUS AND BONE MARROW OR THE WAGYU BEEF BELLY WITH MUSHROOMS AND THAI BASIL HAVE LAYERS OF FLAVOR AND REAL HEFT.  SPARTINA IS ONE OF THE FEW PATIOS WHERE I WOULD CHOOSE TO DINE ON A WARM NIGHT.  WE WERE BEREFT WHEN CHEF TIM CAREY ABANDONED PAPILLES, WHICH IS FIVE MINUTES FROM OUR HOUSE, TO OPEN LOST AT SEA IN PASADENA.  BUT AFTER TWO PERFECT SEA FOOD DINNERS IN THE FRIENDLY BUT ELEGANT SPACE ON HOLLY, ALL IS FORGIVEN.  CAREY’S SOUPS REMAIN MEMORABLE AND NOW EMBRACE A SAFFRON-LACED BOUILLABAISE AS WELL AS VELVETY VELOUTÉ FOR THE BUTTER-POACHED LOBSTER.  AGAIN TIM HAS PARTNERED WITH SANTOS UY, WHOSE WORLD-RANGING WINE LIST IS BOTH ADVENTUROUS AS REASONABLE.  THEY RECENTLY OPENED FOR LUNCH.   THE SAME TEAM WHICH BROUGHT US FACTORY KICHEN, MATTEO AND FRANCINE-DIAMOND FERDINANDI, OPENED OFFICINE BRERA IN A SPECTACULAR INDUSTRIAL SPACE (FORMER GAS METER STORAGE FACILITY) AROUND THE CORNER ON 6TH.  ANGELO AURIANA, THE CHEF AT VALENTINO FOR 20 YEARS, FOCUSES ON THE HEARTY CUISINE OF MILAN.  I’VE NEVER HAD BETTER RISOTTO THAN HIS, BUT HIS SALADS SUCH AS HOME-MADE LARDO OVER BITTER GREENS ARE EQUALLY DELICIOUS.  AND IF YOU’RE IN THE MOOD FOR SOMETHING GRILLED, OFFICINE BRERA WILL SATISFY ANY CARNIVORE.

KISMETIN SILVERLAKE, MIGHT BE CALLED THE ANTI-BRERA, WITH ITS LOVELY LIGHT DISHES OF MOSTLY VEGETABLES, BOTH RAW AND COOKED, FLAVORED WITH LEBNI AND MIDDLE-EASTERN SPICES.  MY BUTCHER AND FISHMONGER KAREN AND NATHAN McCALL, BOTH FORMER CHEFS AT SONA, TOOK OVER A DEFUNCT JAPANESE RESTAURANT AT 2040 HILLHURST.  THAT’S ITS NAME, TOO.  THE EVER-EXPANDING MENU IS BOTH PROSAIC (FABULOUS CORNED BEEF SANDWICH) AND SOPHISTICATED (HANGER STEAK TARTARE WITH A QUAIL EGG AND CHUNKS OF PICKLED VEGETABLES).  SAVE ROOM FOR ONE OF KAREN’S SCRUMPTIOUS PASTRIES AND TAKE HOME SOME CROISSANTS FOR BREAKFAST.  IN PLACE OF PANOS BAKERY ON HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD, WE NOW HAVE THE SUPER-FRIENDLY FRIENDS AND FAMILY.  THEIR BREAKFASTS AND LUNCHES INCLUDE HOUSE-MADE CROISSANTS AND EGG DISHES; LUNCH, TOMATO SOUP, GRILLED CHEESE, SALADS, AND A PERFECT BLT ON THEIR OWN WHOLE WHEAT SOURDOUGH, WHICH YOU CAN BUY IN BIG OVAL LOAVES AND TAKE HOME.

TRAVELING WEST, STOP FOR LUNCH OR DINNER AT FUNDAMENTAL ON WESTWOOD BOULEVARD.  THEIR SANDWICHES ARE BIG AND WONDERFULLY COMPLEX.  THE DINNER MENU IS MORE EXTENSIVE AND EQUALLY SATISFYING WITH SOPHISTICATED CALIFORNIA CUISINE DISHES SUCH AS ROASTED CAULIFLOWER WITH CHILE LIME VINAIGRETTE AND JIDORI CHICKEN “ADOBO” WITH TOMATILLO, CHARRED ONION AND AVOCADO.

JOINING RÉPUBLIQUE AND SYCAMORE KITCHEN ON MY LIST OF LA BREA FAVORITES, IS NONG LÁ, A MODERN VIETNAMESE RESTAURANT, WITH A PLEASING PALE WOOD INTERIOR AND A DECENT WINE AND BEER LIST.  THERE’S NOTHING STRIKING ABOUT THE MENU; SPRING ROLLS, PHÓ, BANH MI SANDWICHES, BUT THE BROTH, MADE FROM FREE RANGE CHICKENS, IS RICH AND FLAVORFUL AND THE GREENS, CRISPY FRESH AND ORGANIC.

OUR NEWFOUND LOVE AFFAIR WITH LUDOVIC LEFEBVRE’S PETIT TROIS IS A TESTAMENT TO HOW MUCH WE ARE WILLING TO PROSTITUTE OURSELVES FOR A DECENT MEAL.  OUR DINNER AT TROIS MEC, SOME YEARS AGO, SOURED US ON LUDOVIC, BUT WE’D BEEN GETTING SO MANY GLOWING REPORTS ABOUT HIS LITTLE BISTRO NEXT DOOR THAT WE FINALLY CAVED.  WE’VE BEEN BACK THREE TIMES FOR MOULES MARINÈRE, ONION SOUP AND FRISḖE AUX LARDONS, ARGUABLY THE BEST IN TOWN.

THIS YEAR PROMISES NEW DISCOVERIES INCLUDING RESTAURANTS BY DANIEL HUMM (ELEVEN MADISON PARK), DOMINIQUE ANSELL (EVER HAD A CRONUT?), SAN FRANCISCO’S INCOMPARABLE TARTINE, NOT TO MENTION ALL THOSE RESTAURANTS ON THE TOP FLOOR OF EATALY.

PAPPARDELLE WITH SAUSAGE AND SAFFRON
PAPPARDELLE WITH SAUSAGE AND SAFFRON

MARCELLA HAZAN MAKES THIS DISH WITH GROUND VEAL, BUT I’M NOT BUYING MUCH VEAL THESE DAYS, SO I TRIED SUBSTITUTING ITALIAN SAUSAGE, COMBINING THE STUFFING FROM SWEET FENNEL AND SPICY SAUSAGE. (more…)

CHICKEN WITH SORREL CREAM SAUCE
CHICKEN WITH SORREL CREAM SAUCE

LAST WEEK THERE WAS AN EXPLOSION OF SORREL IN THE L.A.L.A. FARM. I TOOK A BUNCH HOME TO MAKE POTATO, LEEK AND SORREL SOUP, BUT THE REMAINDER I USED TO CREATE A CHICKEN DISH TO SHOW MY STUDENTS HOW THIS SOUR, GREEN LEAF IS SO DAZZLING IN A CREAMY SAUCE. MOST OF THEM HAD NEVER HEARD OF SORREL. WHEN THEY TASTED THE RAW LEAVES I COULD SEE THEIR SKEPTICISM. BUT WE PRESSED ON. I’M NOT ALLOWED TO COOK WITH WINE IN THE SCHOOL, SO I SUBSTITUTED CHICKEN STOCK, WHICH ACTUALLY GAVE THE SAUCE A BODY IT WOULDN’T HAVE HAD WITH JUST WHITE WINE. THE RECIPE WORKS WITH EITHER. WHEN WE BROUGHT THE FINISHED DISH TO THE TABLE, THE CHICKEN THIGHS SWIMMING IN CREAMY SAUCE LACED WITH SORREL, THE KIDS SOPPED UP EVERY LAST DROP.
Click here to download recipe

BACO DUCK
BACO DUCK

JOSEF CENTENO JUST CAME OUT WITH A COOKBOOK, “BÄCO, VIVID RECIPES FROM THE HEART OF LOS ANGELES”, WHICH HE WROTE WITH BETTY HALLOCK, A FOOD WRITER AND ONE-TIME DEPUTY FOOD EDITOR FOR THE L.A. TIMES.

I’M A BIG FAN OF JOSEF’S COOKING, WHICH, AS JONATHAN GOLD POINTED OUT IN HIS REVIEW OF JOSEF’S ORSA & WINSTON, REFLECTS THIS MELTING POT OF A CITY WITH POPULATIONS FROM BOTH SOUTH AND CENTRAL AMERICA AS WELL AS CHINA, JAPAN AND SOUTHEAST ASIA.

THE MIRACLE OF JOSEF’S DISHES ARE THAT THEY SEAMLESSLY COMBINE THOSE TASTES INTO ORIGINAL CREATIONS. THIS RECIPE FOR WHOLE ROASTED ORANGE-AND-SOY-GLAZED DUCK USES A SPICE RUB WHICH IS MIDDLE EASTERN AND A GLAZE WHICH IS PART FRENCH, PART CHINESE. THE RESULT IS A SUCCULENT BIRD WITH A CRISPY, SWEET-SOUR SKIN.

I REDUCED THE COOKING TIME A BIT AND FUDGED THE BAHARAT, WHICH I DID NOT HAVE ON HAND, BUT WILL NEXT TIME. THE THRILL AND CHALLENGE OF THIS BOOK WILL BE TO ASSEMBLE A NEW PANTRY OF SPICE MIXES AND SAUCES, WHICH CAN BE USED IN BOTH JOSEF’S RECIPES AND INVENTIONS OF ONE’S OWN.

Click here to download recipe

PASTA WITH ZUCCHINI, LEMON AND MINT
PASTA WITH ZUCCHINI, LEMON AND MINT

USUALLY WHEN I COOK ZUCCHINI FOR PASTA, I BROWN IT IN OLIVE OIL, ADD GARLIC AND CHERRY TOMATOES AND TOSS IT WITH THE PASTA. HERE, THIN RIBBONS OF ZUCCHINI ARE MORE RAW THAN COOKED, TOSSED IN BUTTER, OLIVE OIL AND LEMON.
(more…)

BEER BRAISED COUNTRY STYLE PORK RIBS
BEER BRAISED COUNTRY STYLE PORK RIBS

I SPOTTED A CUT IN THE BUTCHER’S CASE LABELLED “COUNTRY STYLE BONELESS PORK RIBS”.  THEY WERE THICK AND MEATY WITH LITTLE FAT BUT PLENTY OF CONNECTIVE TISSUE; AN IDEAL BRAISING CUT. (more…)

FRENCH POTATO SALAD
FRENCH POTATO SALAD

EVERYBODY’S GOT A RECIPE FOR POTATO SALAD.  SOME LIKE IT MIXED WITH MAYONNAISE OR TOSSED WITH ONIONS, RELISH OR CHOPPED PICKLES.  MY FAVORITE IS FRENCH POTATO SALAD OR A VERSION THEREOF.  NO MATTER THE VARIATION, THE ONE COMMON TECHNIQUE IS TO COOL OFF THE BOILED POTATO SLICES WITH COLD WHITE WINE, WHICH IS ABSORBED, LENDING THE POTATOES A LIGHTLY BOOZY FLAVOR.  MORE FLAVOR COMES FROM GRAINY MUSTARD, MUSTARD SEED AND A FEW TABLESPOONS OF HAZELNUT OIL IN THE DRESSING.  I LOVE TARRAGON, BUT DILL OR PARSLEY WORK EQUALLY WELL.  THIS A SUMMERY ALTERNATIVE HOT POTATOES OR PASTA THE PERFECT COMPLEMENT TO EVERYTHING FROM GRILLED FISH TO HAMBURGERS.

Click here to download recipe

PURSLANE SALAD
PURSLANE SALAD

PURSLANE HAS GREY-GREEN, TEAR-SHAPED, SUCCULENT LEAVES, WHICH ARE CRUNCHY TO THE BITE, RELEASING A PLEASANTLY SOUR JUICE.  THEY ARE COMMON IN ARMENIAN AND LEBANESE RESTAURANTS, FOUND ALWAYS IN FATTOUSH SALAD.  I COMBINED THEM WITH OTHER MEDITERRANEAN INGREDIENTS — NICOISE OLIVES, FETA, TOMATOES, BASIL, FRESH MINT, AND PERSIAN CUCUMBERS.  RED ONION IS MACERATED AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BOWL IN SALT AND VINEGAR, WHICH TAMES ITS BITE BY THE TIME THE SALD IS TOSSED AND SERVED.  THIS IS A SUBSTANTIAL FIRST-COURSE SALAD OR A MAIN COURSE FOR A SUMMER LUNCH.  SERVE WITH WEDGES OF WARM PITA AND YOU’LL THINK YOU’RE IN BEIRUT.

Click here to download recipe

TRI-TIP WITH MUSHROOM SAUCE
TRI-TIP WITH MUSHROOM SAUCE

TRI-TIP IS THE LOWER PART OF THE SIRLOIN, LEANER BUT EQUALLY FLAVORFUL AND CONSIDERABLY CHEAPER.  PAN-COOKED, WITH A CLASSIC FRENCH MUSHROOM AND RED WINE SAUCE, FLAVORED WITH THYME, TARRAGON, PARSLEY, AND CHIVES, IT’S SIMPLE TO MAKE AND GREAT WITH A MORE TIME-CONSUMING DISH SUCH AS POTATOES GRATIN.  BUT YOU COULD ALSO MAKE IT WITH ROASTED NEW POTATOES OR A PURÉE OF CELERY ROOT.  IF YOU CAN FIND IT, SPEND A FEW EXTRA BUCKS ON WAGYU TRI-TIP, WHICH IS MORE TENDER AND STILL LESS EXPENSIVE THAN TOP SIRLOIN OR RIB-EYE.

Click here to download recipe

CHICKEN SALAD
CHICKEN SALAD

I LOVE CHICKEN SALAD.  USUALLY, I STRIP THE MEAT FROM WHAT’S LEFT OF A LEFTOVER ROAST CHICKEN, BECAUSE I LIKE THE MIX OF WHITE AND DARK MEAT. THIS TIME, HOWEVER, I HAD AN EXTRA CHICKEN BREAST ON HAND, SO I PAN-COOKED IT WITH A LITTLE GARLIC AND THYME BEFORE CUTTING IT UP FOR THE SALAD. (more…)

L.A. RESTAURANTS 2017
L.A. RESTAURANTS 2017

JONATHAN GOLD’S 2017 BEST 101 RESTAURANTS — NO, I AM NEVER EATING AT VESPERTINE — REMINDED ME THAT I HAVEN’T AMENDED MY OWN BEST-IN-L.A. LIST IN QUITE SOME TIME. WE STILL HAVE OUR OLD FAVORITES, PLACES WE RETURN TO FREQUENTLY, BUT SO MANY WONDERFUL NEW SPOTS HAVE OPENED UP THAT IT WOULD BE CRIMINAL NOT TO CELEBRATE THEM AS WELL.

WHAT’S EXCITING NOW ABOUT THE FOOD SCENE IN L.A. IS THAT WE ARE GETTING AN EQUAL NUMBER OF MID-PRICED RESTAURANTS AS THE EXPENSIVE JOINTS SUCH AS OTIUM, MAUDE AND 71 ABOVE. AND, IN OUR EXPERIENCE, THE CHEAPER ONES ARE BETTER.

AS FAR AS THE STANDBYS ARE CONCERNED, WE STILL LOVE JOSEF CENTENO’S BACO MERCAT, BAR AMA, ORSA&WINSTON, AND HIS MOST RECENT ADDITION, THE VEGETABLE-CENTRIC P.Y.T.  SAME GOES FOR THE MOZZAPLEX, ALTHOUGH FOR SPECIAL OCCASIONS, WE PREFER CHI SPACCA TO THE ADJACENT OSTERIA. WE OFTEN FIND OURSELVES AT SALT’S CURE, IN IT’S NEW LOCATION ON HIGHLAND, ESPECIALLY SINCE CHRIS ADDED THE CONFITED DUCK LEG TO THE LUNCH MENU.  BECAUSE OF THE NOISE LEVEL, LUNCH IS THE ONLY TIME WE’LL EAT AT FACTORY KITCHEN WITH IT’S WONDERFUL FIRST-COURSE SALADS AND PASTA DISHES.  AT ADRIA AND CLAUDIO BLOTTA’S MARKET PROVISIONS AND ALL ‘AQUA, DON DICKMAN CONTINUES TO SURPRISE US WITH NEW INVENTIONS AS WELL AS STANDARDS SUCH AS OCTOPUS SALAD AND SPAGHETTI WITH CLAM SAUCE.  CLAUDIO’S WINE LISTS ARE AMONG THE MOST ORIGINAL AND BEST-PRICED IN TOWN.  WE FREQUENT SYCAMORE KITCHEN FOR THE CHOPPED SALAD AS WELL THE SHORT RIB SANDWICH AND KAREN HATFIELD’S IRRESISTIBLE BUTTERCUP.  IT’S HARD TO RESIST THE SMOKED SALMON TARTINE OR THE CHICKEN SALAD SANDWICH AT RÉPUBLIQUE; AT DINNER, WE OPT FOR THE BACK ROOM WHERE WE CAN CARRY ON A CONVERSATION WHILE DEVOURING WALTER MANZKE’S SUCCULENT ROAST CHICKEN.  CONNIE AND TED’S WINS THE LOBSTER ROLL CONTEST AND I RARELY ORDER FRESH OYSTERS ANYPLACE ELSE.

WE ARE WEEKLY REGULARS AT SANAMLUANG NOODLE SHOP WHERE WE ORDER ROAST DUCK NOODLE SOUP, SPICY SQUID SALAD AND FRIED SPARE RIBS.  IF MY WIFE WERE NOT SO AVERSE TO HOT FOOD, I’D FREQUENT  JITLADA MORE OFTEN WITH ITS ELEGANT NORTHERN THAI DISHES, BOTH SPICY AND NOT.  FOR CHINESE WE HEAD FOR THE SAN GABRIEL VALLEY WHERE DUCK HOUSE SERVES THE BEST PEKING DUCK IN TOWN IN AN INTIMATE SETTING WHERE THEY PLAY WEST COAST JAZZ.  A BIT FARTHER AFIELD, WE LIKE CHANG’S GARDEN AND FOR DIM SUM SEA HARBOR IN ROSEMEAD.

ON WITH THE NEW.  STEPHEN KALT SPENT 30 YEARS COOKING IN N.Y.C. WITH STINTS AT LE CIRQUE AND DANIEL BEFORE OPENING HIS OWN MOSTLY-ITALIAN RESTAURANT.  SPARTINA ON MELROSE IS BEHIND WHAT USED TO BE JOHNNY ROCKET’S IS ALSO MOSTLY-ITALIAN.  KALT IS A MASTER PASTA MAKER AND HIS SAUCES SUCH AS OCTOPUS AND BONE MARROW OR THE WAGYU BEEF BELLY WITH MUSHROOMS AND THAI BASIL HAVE LAYERS OF FLAVOR AND REAL HEFT.  SPARTINA IS ONE OF THE FEW PATIOS WHERE I WOULD CHOOSE TO DINE ON A WARM NIGHT.  WE WERE BEREFT WHEN CHEF TIM CAREY ABANDONED PAPILLES, WHICH IS FIVE MINUTES FROM OUR HOUSE, TO OPEN LOST AT SEA IN PASADENA.  BUT AFTER TWO PERFECT SEA FOOD DINNERS IN THE FRIENDLY BUT ELEGANT SPACE ON HOLLY, ALL IS FORGIVEN.  CAREY’S SOUPS REMAIN MEMORABLE AND NOW EMBRACE A SAFFRON-LACED BOUILLABAISE AS WELL AS VELVETY VELOUTÉ FOR THE BUTTER-POACHED LOBSTER.  AGAIN TIM HAS PARTNERED WITH SANTOS UY, WHOSE WORLD-RANGING WINE LIST IS BOTH ADVENTUROUS AS REASONABLE.  THEY RECENTLY OPENED FOR LUNCH.   THE SAME TEAM WHICH BROUGHT US FACTORY KICHEN, MATTEO AND FRANCINE-DIAMOND FERDINANDI, OPENED OFFICINE BRERA IN A SPECTACULAR INDUSTRIAL SPACE (FORMER GAS METER STORAGE FACILITY) AROUND THE CORNER ON 6TH.  ANGELO AURIANA, THE CHEF AT VALENTINO FOR 20 YEARS, FOCUSES ON THE HEARTY CUISINE OF MILAN.  I’VE NEVER HAD BETTER RISOTTO THAN HIS, BUT HIS SALADS SUCH AS HOME-MADE LARDO OVER BITTER GREENS ARE EQUALLY DELICIOUS.  AND IF YOU’RE IN THE MOOD FOR SOMETHING GRILLED, OFFICINE BRERA WILL SATISFY ANY CARNIVORE.

KISMETIN SILVERLAKE, MIGHT BE CALLED THE ANTI-BRERA, WITH ITS LOVELY LIGHT DISHES OF MOSTLY VEGETABLES, BOTH RAW AND COOKED, FLAVORED WITH LEBNI AND MIDDLE-EASTERN SPICES.  MY BUTCHER AND FISHMONGER KAREN AND NATHAN McCALL, BOTH FORMER CHEFS AT SONA, TOOK OVER A DEFUNCT JAPANESE RESTAURANT AT 2040 HILLHURST.  THAT’S ITS NAME, TOO.  THE EVER-EXPANDING MENU IS BOTH PROSAIC (FABULOUS CORNED BEEF SANDWICH) AND SOPHISTICATED (HANGER STEAK TARTARE WITH A QUAIL EGG AND CHUNKS OF PICKLED VEGETABLES).  SAVE ROOM FOR ONE OF KAREN’S SCRUMPTIOUS PASTRIES AND TAKE HOME SOME CROISSANTS FOR BREAKFAST.  IN PLACE OF PANOS BAKERY ON HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD, WE NOW HAVE THE SUPER-FRIENDLY FRIENDS AND FAMILY.  THEIR BREAKFASTS AND LUNCHES INCLUDE HOUSE-MADE CROISSANTS AND EGG DISHES; LUNCH, TOMATO SOUP, GRILLED CHEESE, SALADS, AND A PERFECT BLT ON THEIR OWN WHOLE WHEAT SOURDOUGH, WHICH YOU CAN BUY IN BIG OVAL LOAVES AND TAKE HOME.

TRAVELING WEST, STOP FOR LUNCH OR DINNER AT FUNDAMENTAL ON WESTWOOD BOULEVARD.  THEIR SANDWICHES ARE BIG AND WONDERFULLY COMPLEX.  THE DINNER MENU IS MORE EXTENSIVE AND EQUALLY SATISFYING WITH SOPHISTICATED CALIFORNIA CUISINE DISHES SUCH AS ROASTED CAULIFLOWER WITH CHILE LIME VINAIGRETTE AND JIDORI CHICKEN “ADOBO” WITH TOMATILLO, CHARRED ONION AND AVOCADO.

JOINING RÉPUBLIQUE AND SYCAMORE KITCHEN ON MY LIST OF LA BREA FAVORITES, IS NONG LÁ, A MODERN VIETNAMESE RESTAURANT, WITH A PLEASING PALE WOOD INTERIOR AND A DECENT WINE AND BEER LIST.  THERE’S NOTHING STRIKING ABOUT THE MENU; SPRING ROLLS, PHÓ, BANH MI SANDWICHES, BUT THE BROTH, MADE FROM FREE RANGE CHICKENS, IS RICH AND FLAVORFUL AND THE GREENS, CRISPY FRESH AND ORGANIC.

OUR NEWFOUND LOVE AFFAIR WITH LUDOVIC LEFEBVRE’S PETIT TROIS IS A TESTAMENT TO HOW MUCH WE ARE WILLING TO PROSTITUTE OURSELVES FOR A DECENT MEAL.  OUR DINNER AT TROIS MEC, SOME YEARS AGO, SOURED US ON LUDOVIC, BUT WE’D BEEN GETTING SO MANY GLOWING REPORTS ABOUT HIS LITTLE BISTRO NEXT DOOR THAT WE FINALLY CAVED.  WE’VE BEEN BACK THREE TIMES FOR MOULES MARINÈRE, ONION SOUP AND FRISḖE AUX LARDONS, ARGUABLY THE BEST IN TOWN.

THIS YEAR PROMISES NEW DISCOVERIES INCLUDING RESTAURANTS BY DANIEL HUMM (ELEVEN MADISON PARK), DOMINIQUE ANSELL (EVER HAD A CRONUT?), SAN FRANCISCO’S INCOMPARABLE TARTINE, NOT TO MENTION ALL THOSE RESTAURANTS ON THE TOP FLOOR OF EATALY.

PAPPARDELLE WITH SAUSAGE AND SAFFRON
PAPPARDELLE WITH SAUSAGE AND SAFFRON

MARCELLA HAZAN MAKES THIS DISH WITH GROUND VEAL, BUT I’M NOT BUYING MUCH VEAL THESE DAYS, SO I TRIED SUBSTITUTING ITALIAN SAUSAGE, COMBINING THE STUFFING FROM SWEET FENNEL AND SPICY SAUSAGE. (more…)

CHICKEN WITH SORREL CREAM SAUCE
CHICKEN WITH SORREL CREAM SAUCE

LAST WEEK THERE WAS AN EXPLOSION OF SORREL IN THE L.A.L.A. FARM. I TOOK A BUNCH HOME TO MAKE POTATO, LEEK AND SORREL SOUP, BUT THE REMAINDER I USED TO CREATE A CHICKEN DISH TO SHOW MY STUDENTS HOW THIS SOUR, GREEN LEAF IS SO DAZZLING IN A CREAMY SAUCE. MOST OF THEM HAD NEVER HEARD OF SORREL. WHEN THEY TASTED THE RAW LEAVES I COULD SEE THEIR SKEPTICISM. BUT WE PRESSED ON. I’M NOT ALLOWED TO COOK WITH WINE IN THE SCHOOL, SO I SUBSTITUTED CHICKEN STOCK, WHICH ACTUALLY GAVE THE SAUCE A BODY IT WOULDN’T HAVE HAD WITH JUST WHITE WINE. THE RECIPE WORKS WITH EITHER. WHEN WE BROUGHT THE FINISHED DISH TO THE TABLE, THE CHICKEN THIGHS SWIMMING IN CREAMY SAUCE LACED WITH SORREL, THE KIDS SOPPED UP EVERY LAST DROP.
Click here to download recipe

BACO DUCK
BACO DUCK

JOSEF CENTENO JUST CAME OUT WITH A COOKBOOK, “BÄCO, VIVID RECIPES FROM THE HEART OF LOS ANGELES”, WHICH HE WROTE WITH BETTY HALLOCK, A FOOD WRITER AND ONE-TIME DEPUTY FOOD EDITOR FOR THE L.A. TIMES.

I’M A BIG FAN OF JOSEF’S COOKING, WHICH, AS JONATHAN GOLD POINTED OUT IN HIS REVIEW OF JOSEF’S ORSA & WINSTON, REFLECTS THIS MELTING POT OF A CITY WITH POPULATIONS FROM BOTH SOUTH AND CENTRAL AMERICA AS WELL AS CHINA, JAPAN AND SOUTHEAST ASIA.

THE MIRACLE OF JOSEF’S DISHES ARE THAT THEY SEAMLESSLY COMBINE THOSE TASTES INTO ORIGINAL CREATIONS. THIS RECIPE FOR WHOLE ROASTED ORANGE-AND-SOY-GLAZED DUCK USES A SPICE RUB WHICH IS MIDDLE EASTERN AND A GLAZE WHICH IS PART FRENCH, PART CHINESE. THE RESULT IS A SUCCULENT BIRD WITH A CRISPY, SWEET-SOUR SKIN.

I REDUCED THE COOKING TIME A BIT AND FUDGED THE BAHARAT, WHICH I DID NOT HAVE ON HAND, BUT WILL NEXT TIME. THE THRILL AND CHALLENGE OF THIS BOOK WILL BE TO ASSEMBLE A NEW PANTRY OF SPICE MIXES AND SAUCES, WHICH CAN BE USED IN BOTH JOSEF’S RECIPES AND INVENTIONS OF ONE’S OWN.

Click here to download recipe

PASTA WITH ZUCCHINI, LEMON AND MINT
PASTA WITH ZUCCHINI, LEMON AND MINT

USUALLY WHEN I COOK ZUCCHINI FOR PASTA, I BROWN IT IN OLIVE OIL, ADD GARLIC AND CHERRY TOMATOES AND TOSS IT WITH THE PASTA. HERE, THIN RIBBONS OF ZUCCHINI ARE MORE RAW THAN COOKED, TOSSED IN BUTTER, OLIVE OIL AND LEMON.
(more…)

BEER BRAISED COUNTRY STYLE PORK RIBS
BEER BRAISED COUNTRY STYLE PORK RIBS

I SPOTTED A CUT IN THE BUTCHER’S CASE LABELLED “COUNTRY STYLE BONELESS PORK RIBS”.  THEY WERE THICK AND MEATY WITH LITTLE FAT BUT PLENTY OF CONNECTIVE TISSUE; AN IDEAL BRAISING CUT. (more…)

FRENCH POTATO SALAD
FRENCH POTATO SALAD

EVERYBODY’S GOT A RECIPE FOR POTATO SALAD.  SOME LIKE IT MIXED WITH MAYONNAISE OR TOSSED WITH ONIONS, RELISH OR CHOPPED PICKLES.  MY FAVORITE IS FRENCH POTATO SALAD OR A VERSION THEREOF.  NO MATTER THE VARIATION, THE ONE COMMON TECHNIQUE IS TO COOL OFF THE BOILED POTATO SLICES WITH COLD WHITE WINE, WHICH IS ABSORBED, LENDING THE POTATOES A LIGHTLY BOOZY FLAVOR.  MORE FLAVOR COMES FROM GRAINY MUSTARD, MUSTARD SEED AND A FEW TABLESPOONS OF HAZELNUT OIL IN THE DRESSING.  I LOVE TARRAGON, BUT DILL OR PARSLEY WORK EQUALLY WELL.  THIS A SUMMERY ALTERNATIVE HOT POTATOES OR PASTA THE PERFECT COMPLEMENT TO EVERYTHING FROM GRILLED FISH TO HAMBURGERS.

Click here to download recipe

PURSLANE SALAD
PURSLANE SALAD

PURSLANE HAS GREY-GREEN, TEAR-SHAPED, SUCCULENT LEAVES, WHICH ARE CRUNCHY TO THE BITE, RELEASING A PLEASANTLY SOUR JUICE.  THEY ARE COMMON IN ARMENIAN AND LEBANESE RESTAURANTS, FOUND ALWAYS IN FATTOUSH SALAD.  I COMBINED THEM WITH OTHER MEDITERRANEAN INGREDIENTS — NICOISE OLIVES, FETA, TOMATOES, BASIL, FRESH MINT, AND PERSIAN CUCUMBERS.  RED ONION IS MACERATED AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BOWL IN SALT AND VINEGAR, WHICH TAMES ITS BITE BY THE TIME THE SALD IS TOSSED AND SERVED.  THIS IS A SUBSTANTIAL FIRST-COURSE SALAD OR A MAIN COURSE FOR A SUMMER LUNCH.  SERVE WITH WEDGES OF WARM PITA AND YOU’LL THINK YOU’RE IN BEIRUT.

Click here to download recipe

TRI-TIP WITH MUSHROOM SAUCE
TRI-TIP WITH MUSHROOM SAUCE

TRI-TIP IS THE LOWER PART OF THE SIRLOIN, LEANER BUT EQUALLY FLAVORFUL AND CONSIDERABLY CHEAPER.  PAN-COOKED, WITH A CLASSIC FRENCH MUSHROOM AND RED WINE SAUCE, FLAVORED WITH THYME, TARRAGON, PARSLEY, AND CHIVES, IT’S SIMPLE TO MAKE AND GREAT WITH A MORE TIME-CONSUMING DISH SUCH AS POTATOES GRATIN.  BUT YOU COULD ALSO MAKE IT WITH ROASTED NEW POTATOES OR A PURÉE OF CELERY ROOT.  IF YOU CAN FIND IT, SPEND A FEW EXTRA BUCKS ON WAGYU TRI-TIP, WHICH IS MORE TENDER AND STILL LESS EXPENSIVE THAN TOP SIRLOIN OR RIB-EYE.

Click here to download recipe

CHICKEN SALAD
CHICKEN SALAD

I LOVE CHICKEN SALAD.  USUALLY, I STRIP THE MEAT FROM WHAT’S LEFT OF A LEFTOVER ROAST CHICKEN, BECAUSE I LIKE THE MIX OF WHITE AND DARK MEAT. THIS TIME, HOWEVER, I HAD AN EXTRA CHICKEN BREAST ON HAND, SO I PAN-COOKED IT WITH A LITTLE GARLIC AND THYME BEFORE CUTTING IT UP FOR THE SALAD. (more…)

L.A. RESTAURANTS 2017
L.A. RESTAURANTS 2017

JONATHAN GOLD’S 2017 BEST 101 RESTAURANTS — NO, I AM NEVER EATING AT VESPERTINE — REMINDED ME THAT I HAVEN’T AMENDED MY OWN BEST-IN-L.A. LIST IN QUITE SOME TIME. WE STILL HAVE OUR OLD FAVORITES, PLACES WE RETURN TO FREQUENTLY, BUT SO MANY WONDERFUL NEW SPOTS HAVE OPENED UP THAT IT WOULD BE CRIMINAL NOT TO CELEBRATE THEM AS WELL.

WHAT’S EXCITING NOW ABOUT THE FOOD SCENE IN L.A. IS THAT WE ARE GETTING AN EQUAL NUMBER OF MID-PRICED RESTAURANTS AS THE EXPENSIVE JOINTS SUCH AS OTIUM, MAUDE AND 71 ABOVE. AND, IN OUR EXPERIENCE, THE CHEAPER ONES ARE BETTER.

AS FAR AS THE STANDBYS ARE CONCERNED, WE STILL LOVE JOSEF CENTENO’S BACO MERCAT, BAR AMA, ORSA&WINSTON, AND HIS MOST RECENT ADDITION, THE VEGETABLE-CENTRIC P.Y.T.  SAME GOES FOR THE MOZZAPLEX, ALTHOUGH FOR SPECIAL OCCASIONS, WE PREFER CHI SPACCA TO THE ADJACENT OSTERIA. WE OFTEN FIND OURSELVES AT SALT’S CURE, IN IT’S NEW LOCATION ON HIGHLAND, ESPECIALLY SINCE CHRIS ADDED THE CONFITED DUCK LEG TO THE LUNCH MENU.  BECAUSE OF THE NOISE LEVEL, LUNCH IS THE ONLY TIME WE’LL EAT AT FACTORY KITCHEN WITH IT’S WONDERFUL FIRST-COURSE SALADS AND PASTA DISHES.  AT ADRIA AND CLAUDIO BLOTTA’S MARKET PROVISIONS AND ALL ‘AQUA, DON DICKMAN CONTINUES TO SURPRISE US WITH NEW INVENTIONS AS WELL AS STANDARDS SUCH AS OCTOPUS SALAD AND SPAGHETTI WITH CLAM SAUCE.  CLAUDIO’S WINE LISTS ARE AMONG THE MOST ORIGINAL AND BEST-PRICED IN TOWN.  WE FREQUENT SYCAMORE KITCHEN FOR THE CHOPPED SALAD AS WELL THE SHORT RIB SANDWICH AND KAREN HATFIELD’S IRRESISTIBLE BUTTERCUP.  IT’S HARD TO RESIST THE SMOKED SALMON TARTINE OR THE CHICKEN SALAD SANDWICH AT RÉPUBLIQUE; AT DINNER, WE OPT FOR THE BACK ROOM WHERE WE CAN CARRY ON A CONVERSATION WHILE DEVOURING WALTER MANZKE’S SUCCULENT ROAST CHICKEN.  CONNIE AND TED’S WINS THE LOBSTER ROLL CONTEST AND I RARELY ORDER FRESH OYSTERS ANYPLACE ELSE.

WE ARE WEEKLY REGULARS AT SANAMLUANG NOODLE SHOP WHERE WE ORDER ROAST DUCK NOODLE SOUP, SPICY SQUID SALAD AND FRIED SPARE RIBS.  IF MY WIFE WERE NOT SO AVERSE TO HOT FOOD, I’D FREQUENT  JITLADA MORE OFTEN WITH ITS ELEGANT NORTHERN THAI DISHES, BOTH SPICY AND NOT.  FOR CHINESE WE HEAD FOR THE SAN GABRIEL VALLEY WHERE DUCK HOUSE SERVES THE BEST PEKING DUCK IN TOWN IN AN INTIMATE SETTING WHERE THEY PLAY WEST COAST JAZZ.  A BIT FARTHER AFIELD, WE LIKE CHANG’S GARDEN AND FOR DIM SUM SEA HARBOR IN ROSEMEAD.

ON WITH THE NEW.  STEPHEN KALT SPENT 30 YEARS COOKING IN N.Y.C. WITH STINTS AT LE CIRQUE AND DANIEL BEFORE OPENING HIS OWN MOSTLY-ITALIAN RESTAURANT.  SPARTINA ON MELROSE IS BEHIND WHAT USED TO BE JOHNNY ROCKET’S IS ALSO MOSTLY-ITALIAN.  KALT IS A MASTER PASTA MAKER AND HIS SAUCES SUCH AS OCTOPUS AND BONE MARROW OR THE WAGYU BEEF BELLY WITH MUSHROOMS AND THAI BASIL HAVE LAYERS OF FLAVOR AND REAL HEFT.  SPARTINA IS ONE OF THE FEW PATIOS WHERE I WOULD CHOOSE TO DINE ON A WARM NIGHT.  WE WERE BEREFT WHEN CHEF TIM CAREY ABANDONED PAPILLES, WHICH IS FIVE MINUTES FROM OUR HOUSE, TO OPEN LOST AT SEA IN PASADENA.  BUT AFTER TWO PERFECT SEA FOOD DINNERS IN THE FRIENDLY BUT ELEGANT SPACE ON HOLLY, ALL IS FORGIVEN.  CAREY’S SOUPS REMAIN MEMORABLE AND NOW EMBRACE A SAFFRON-LACED BOUILLABAISE AS WELL AS VELVETY VELOUTÉ FOR THE BUTTER-POACHED LOBSTER.  AGAIN TIM HAS PARTNERED WITH SANTOS UY, WHOSE WORLD-RANGING WINE LIST IS BOTH ADVENTUROUS AS REASONABLE.  THEY RECENTLY OPENED FOR LUNCH.   THE SAME TEAM WHICH BROUGHT US FACTORY KICHEN, MATTEO AND FRANCINE-DIAMOND FERDINANDI, OPENED OFFICINE BRERA IN A SPECTACULAR INDUSTRIAL SPACE (FORMER GAS METER STORAGE FACILITY) AROUND THE CORNER ON 6TH.  ANGELO AURIANA, THE CHEF AT VALENTINO FOR 20 YEARS, FOCUSES ON THE HEARTY CUISINE OF MILAN.  I’VE NEVER HAD BETTER RISOTTO THAN HIS, BUT HIS SALADS SUCH AS HOME-MADE LARDO OVER BITTER GREENS ARE EQUALLY DELICIOUS.  AND IF YOU’RE IN THE MOOD FOR SOMETHING GRILLED, OFFICINE BRERA WILL SATISFY ANY CARNIVORE.

KISMETIN SILVERLAKE, MIGHT BE CALLED THE ANTI-BRERA, WITH ITS LOVELY LIGHT DISHES OF MOSTLY VEGETABLES, BOTH RAW AND COOKED, FLAVORED WITH LEBNI AND MIDDLE-EASTERN SPICES.  MY BUTCHER AND FISHMONGER KAREN AND NATHAN McCALL, BOTH FORMER CHEFS AT SONA, TOOK OVER A DEFUNCT JAPANESE RESTAURANT AT 2040 HILLHURST.  THAT’S ITS NAME, TOO.  THE EVER-EXPANDING MENU IS BOTH PROSAIC (FABULOUS CORNED BEEF SANDWICH) AND SOPHISTICATED (HANGER STEAK TARTARE WITH A QUAIL EGG AND CHUNKS OF PICKLED VEGETABLES).  SAVE ROOM FOR ONE OF KAREN’S SCRUMPTIOUS PASTRIES AND TAKE HOME SOME CROISSANTS FOR BREAKFAST.  IN PLACE OF PANOS BAKERY ON HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD, WE NOW HAVE THE SUPER-FRIENDLY FRIENDS AND FAMILY.  THEIR BREAKFASTS AND LUNCHES INCLUDE HOUSE-MADE CROISSANTS AND EGG DISHES; LUNCH, TOMATO SOUP, GRILLED CHEESE, SALADS, AND A PERFECT BLT ON THEIR OWN WHOLE WHEAT SOURDOUGH, WHICH YOU CAN BUY IN BIG OVAL LOAVES AND TAKE HOME.

TRAVELING WEST, STOP FOR LUNCH OR DINNER AT FUNDAMENTAL ON WESTWOOD BOULEVARD.  THEIR SANDWICHES ARE BIG AND WONDERFULLY COMPLEX.  THE DINNER MENU IS MORE EXTENSIVE AND EQUALLY SATISFYING WITH SOPHISTICATED CALIFORNIA CUISINE DISHES SUCH AS ROASTED CAULIFLOWER WITH CHILE LIME VINAIGRETTE AND JIDORI CHICKEN “ADOBO” WITH TOMATILLO, CHARRED ONION AND AVOCADO.

JOINING RÉPUBLIQUE AND SYCAMORE KITCHEN ON MY LIST OF LA BREA FAVORITES, IS NONG LÁ, A MODERN VIETNAMESE RESTAURANT, WITH A PLEASING PALE WOOD INTERIOR AND A DECENT WINE AND BEER LIST.  THERE’S NOTHING STRIKING ABOUT THE MENU; SPRING ROLLS, PHÓ, BANH MI SANDWICHES, BUT THE BROTH, MADE FROM FREE RANGE CHICKENS, IS RICH AND FLAVORFUL AND THE GREENS, CRISPY FRESH AND ORGANIC.

OUR NEWFOUND LOVE AFFAIR WITH LUDOVIC LEFEBVRE’S PETIT TROIS IS A TESTAMENT TO HOW MUCH WE ARE WILLING TO PROSTITUTE OURSELVES FOR A DECENT MEAL.  OUR DINNER AT TROIS MEC, SOME YEARS AGO, SOURED US ON LUDOVIC, BUT WE’D BEEN GETTING SO MANY GLOWING REPORTS ABOUT HIS LITTLE BISTRO NEXT DOOR THAT WE FINALLY CAVED.  WE’VE BEEN BACK THREE TIMES FOR MOULES MARINÈRE, ONION SOUP AND FRISḖE AUX LARDONS, ARGUABLY THE BEST IN TOWN.

THIS YEAR PROMISES NEW DISCOVERIES INCLUDING RESTAURANTS BY DANIEL HUMM (ELEVEN MADISON PARK), DOMINIQUE ANSELL (EVER HAD A CRONUT?), SAN FRANCISCO’S INCOMPARABLE TARTINE, NOT TO MENTION ALL THOSE RESTAURANTS ON THE TOP FLOOR OF EATALY.

PAPPARDELLE WITH SAUSAGE AND SAFFRON
PAPPARDELLE WITH SAUSAGE AND SAFFRON

MARCELLA HAZAN MAKES THIS DISH WITH GROUND VEAL, BUT I’M NOT BUYING MUCH VEAL THESE DAYS, SO I TRIED SUBSTITUTING ITALIAN SAUSAGE, COMBINING THE STUFFING FROM SWEET FENNEL AND SPICY SAUSAGE. (more…)

CHICKEN WITH SORREL CREAM SAUCE
CHICKEN WITH SORREL CREAM SAUCE

LAST WEEK THERE WAS AN EXPLOSION OF SORREL IN THE L.A.L.A. FARM. I TOOK A BUNCH HOME TO MAKE POTATO, LEEK AND SORREL SOUP, BUT THE REMAINDER I USED TO CREATE A CHICKEN DISH TO SHOW MY STUDENTS HOW THIS SOUR, GREEN LEAF IS SO DAZZLING IN A CREAMY SAUCE. MOST OF THEM HAD NEVER HEARD OF SORREL. WHEN THEY TASTED THE RAW LEAVES I COULD SEE THEIR SKEPTICISM. BUT WE PRESSED ON. I’M NOT ALLOWED TO COOK WITH WINE IN THE SCHOOL, SO I SUBSTITUTED CHICKEN STOCK, WHICH ACTUALLY GAVE THE SAUCE A BODY IT WOULDN’T HAVE HAD WITH JUST WHITE WINE. THE RECIPE WORKS WITH EITHER. WHEN WE BROUGHT THE FINISHED DISH TO THE TABLE, THE CHICKEN THIGHS SWIMMING IN CREAMY SAUCE LACED WITH SORREL, THE KIDS SOPPED UP EVERY LAST DROP.
Click here to download recipe

BACO DUCK
BACO DUCK

JOSEF CENTENO JUST CAME OUT WITH A COOKBOOK, “BÄCO, VIVID RECIPES FROM THE HEART OF LOS ANGELES”, WHICH HE WROTE WITH BETTY HALLOCK, A FOOD WRITER AND ONE-TIME DEPUTY FOOD EDITOR FOR THE L.A. TIMES.

I’M A BIG FAN OF JOSEF’S COOKING, WHICH, AS JONATHAN GOLD POINTED OUT IN HIS REVIEW OF JOSEF’S ORSA & WINSTON, REFLECTS THIS MELTING POT OF A CITY WITH POPULATIONS FROM BOTH SOUTH AND CENTRAL AMERICA AS WELL AS CHINA, JAPAN AND SOUTHEAST ASIA.

THE MIRACLE OF JOSEF’S DISHES ARE THAT THEY SEAMLESSLY COMBINE THOSE TASTES INTO ORIGINAL CREATIONS. THIS RECIPE FOR WHOLE ROASTED ORANGE-AND-SOY-GLAZED DUCK USES A SPICE RUB WHICH IS MIDDLE EASTERN AND A GLAZE WHICH IS PART FRENCH, PART CHINESE. THE RESULT IS A SUCCULENT BIRD WITH A CRISPY, SWEET-SOUR SKIN.

I REDUCED THE COOKING TIME A BIT AND FUDGED THE BAHARAT, WHICH I DID NOT HAVE ON HAND, BUT WILL NEXT TIME. THE THRILL AND CHALLENGE OF THIS BOOK WILL BE TO ASSEMBLE A NEW PANTRY OF SPICE MIXES AND SAUCES, WHICH CAN BE USED IN BOTH JOSEF’S RECIPES AND INVENTIONS OF ONE’S OWN.

Click here to download recipe

PASTA WITH ZUCCHINI, LEMON AND MINT
PASTA WITH ZUCCHINI, LEMON AND MINT

USUALLY WHEN I COOK ZUCCHINI FOR PASTA, I BROWN IT IN OLIVE OIL, ADD GARLIC AND CHERRY TOMATOES AND TOSS IT WITH THE PASTA. HERE, THIN RIBBONS OF ZUCCHINI ARE MORE RAW THAN COOKED, TOSSED IN BUTTER, OLIVE OIL AND LEMON.
(more…)

BEER BRAISED COUNTRY STYLE PORK RIBS
BEER BRAISED COUNTRY STYLE PORK RIBS

I SPOTTED A CUT IN THE BUTCHER’S CASE LABELLED “COUNTRY STYLE BONELESS PORK RIBS”.  THEY WERE THICK AND MEATY WITH LITTLE FAT BUT PLENTY OF CONNECTIVE TISSUE; AN IDEAL BRAISING CUT. (more…)

FRENCH POTATO SALAD
FRENCH POTATO SALAD

EVERYBODY’S GOT A RECIPE FOR POTATO SALAD.  SOME LIKE IT MIXED WITH MAYONNAISE OR TOSSED WITH ONIONS, RELISH OR CHOPPED PICKLES.  MY FAVORITE IS FRENCH POTATO SALAD OR A VERSION THEREOF.  NO MATTER THE VARIATION, THE ONE COMMON TECHNIQUE IS TO COOL OFF THE BOILED POTATO SLICES WITH COLD WHITE WINE, WHICH IS ABSORBED, LENDING THE POTATOES A LIGHTLY BOOZY FLAVOR.  MORE FLAVOR COMES FROM GRAINY MUSTARD, MUSTARD SEED AND A FEW TABLESPOONS OF HAZELNUT OIL IN THE DRESSING.  I LOVE TARRAGON, BUT DILL OR PARSLEY WORK EQUALLY WELL.  THIS A SUMMERY ALTERNATIVE HOT POTATOES OR PASTA THE PERFECT COMPLEMENT TO EVERYTHING FROM GRILLED FISH TO HAMBURGERS.

Click here to download recipe

PURSLANE SALAD
PURSLANE SALAD

PURSLANE HAS GREY-GREEN, TEAR-SHAPED, SUCCULENT LEAVES, WHICH ARE CRUNCHY TO THE BITE, RELEASING A PLEASANTLY SOUR JUICE.  THEY ARE COMMON IN ARMENIAN AND LEBANESE RESTAURANTS, FOUND ALWAYS IN FATTOUSH SALAD.  I COMBINED THEM WITH OTHER MEDITERRANEAN INGREDIENTS — NICOISE OLIVES, FETA, TOMATOES, BASIL, FRESH MINT, AND PERSIAN CUCUMBERS.  RED ONION IS MACERATED AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BOWL IN SALT AND VINEGAR, WHICH TAMES ITS BITE BY THE TIME THE SALD IS TOSSED AND SERVED.  THIS IS A SUBSTANTIAL FIRST-COURSE SALAD OR A MAIN COURSE FOR A SUMMER LUNCH.  SERVE WITH WEDGES OF WARM PITA AND YOU’LL THINK YOU’RE IN BEIRUT.

Click here to download recipe

TRI-TIP WITH MUSHROOM SAUCE
TRI-TIP WITH MUSHROOM SAUCE

TRI-TIP IS THE LOWER PART OF THE SIRLOIN, LEANER BUT EQUALLY FLAVORFUL AND CONSIDERABLY CHEAPER.  PAN-COOKED, WITH A CLASSIC FRENCH MUSHROOM AND RED WINE SAUCE, FLAVORED WITH THYME, TARRAGON, PARSLEY, AND CHIVES, IT’S SIMPLE TO MAKE AND GREAT WITH A MORE TIME-CONSUMING DISH SUCH AS POTATOES GRATIN.  BUT YOU COULD ALSO MAKE IT WITH ROASTED NEW POTATOES OR A PURÉE OF CELERY ROOT.  IF YOU CAN FIND IT, SPEND A FEW EXTRA BUCKS ON WAGYU TRI-TIP, WHICH IS MORE TENDER AND STILL LESS EXPENSIVE THAN TOP SIRLOIN OR RIB-EYE.

Click here to download recipe

CHICKEN SALAD
CHICKEN SALAD

I LOVE CHICKEN SALAD.  USUALLY, I STRIP THE MEAT FROM WHAT’S LEFT OF A LEFTOVER ROAST CHICKEN, BECAUSE I LIKE THE MIX OF WHITE AND DARK MEAT. THIS TIME, HOWEVER, I HAD AN EXTRA CHICKEN BREAST ON HAND, SO I PAN-COOKED IT WITH A LITTLE GARLIC AND THYME BEFORE CUTTING IT UP FOR THE SALAD. (more…)

L.A. RESTAURANTS 2017
L.A. RESTAURANTS 2017

JONATHAN GOLD’S 2017 BEST 101 RESTAURANTS — NO, I AM NEVER EATING AT VESPERTINE — REMINDED ME THAT I HAVEN’T AMENDED MY OWN BEST-IN-L.A. LIST IN QUITE SOME TIME. WE STILL HAVE OUR OLD FAVORITES, PLACES WE RETURN TO FREQUENTLY, BUT SO MANY WONDERFUL NEW SPOTS HAVE OPENED UP THAT IT WOULD BE CRIMINAL NOT TO CELEBRATE THEM AS WELL.

WHAT’S EXCITING NOW ABOUT THE FOOD SCENE IN L.A. IS THAT WE ARE GETTING AN EQUAL NUMBER OF MID-PRICED RESTAURANTS AS THE EXPENSIVE JOINTS SUCH AS OTIUM, MAUDE AND 71 ABOVE. AND, IN OUR EXPERIENCE, THE CHEAPER ONES ARE BETTER.

AS FAR AS THE STANDBYS ARE CONCERNED, WE STILL LOVE JOSEF CENTENO’S BACO MERCAT, BAR AMA, ORSA&WINSTON, AND HIS MOST RECENT ADDITION, THE VEGETABLE-CENTRIC P.Y.T.  SAME GOES FOR THE MOZZAPLEX, ALTHOUGH FOR SPECIAL OCCASIONS, WE PREFER CHI SPACCA TO THE ADJACENT OSTERIA. WE OFTEN FIND OURSELVES AT SALT’S CURE, IN IT’S NEW LOCATION ON HIGHLAND, ESPECIALLY SINCE CHRIS ADDED THE CONFITED DUCK LEG TO THE LUNCH MENU.  BECAUSE OF THE NOISE LEVEL, LUNCH IS THE ONLY TIME WE’LL EAT AT FACTORY KITCHEN WITH IT’S WONDERFUL FIRST-COURSE SALADS AND PASTA DISHES.  AT ADRIA AND CLAUDIO BLOTTA’S MARKET PROVISIONS AND ALL ‘AQUA, DON DICKMAN CONTINUES TO SURPRISE US WITH NEW INVENTIONS AS WELL AS STANDARDS SUCH AS OCTOPUS SALAD AND SPAGHETTI WITH CLAM SAUCE.  CLAUDIO’S WINE LISTS ARE AMONG THE MOST ORIGINAL AND BEST-PRICED IN TOWN.  WE FREQUENT SYCAMORE KITCHEN FOR THE CHOPPED SALAD AS WELL THE SHORT RIB SANDWICH AND KAREN HATFIELD’S IRRESISTIBLE BUTTERCUP.  IT’S HARD TO RESIST THE SMOKED SALMON TARTINE OR THE CHICKEN SALAD SANDWICH AT RÉPUBLIQUE; AT DINNER, WE OPT FOR THE BACK ROOM WHERE WE CAN CARRY ON A CONVERSATION WHILE DEVOURING WALTER MANZKE’S SUCCULENT ROAST CHICKEN.  CONNIE AND TED’S WINS THE LOBSTER ROLL CONTEST AND I RARELY ORDER FRESH OYSTERS ANYPLACE ELSE.

WE ARE WEEKLY REGULARS AT SANAMLUANG NOODLE SHOP WHERE WE ORDER ROAST DUCK NOODLE SOUP, SPICY SQUID SALAD AND FRIED SPARE RIBS.  IF MY WIFE WERE NOT SO AVERSE TO HOT FOOD, I’D FREQUENT  JITLADA MORE OFTEN WITH ITS ELEGANT NORTHERN THAI DISHES, BOTH SPICY AND NOT.  FOR CHINESE WE HEAD FOR THE SAN GABRIEL VALLEY WHERE DUCK HOUSE SERVES THE BEST PEKING DUCK IN TOWN IN AN INTIMATE SETTING WHERE THEY PLAY WEST COAST JAZZ.  A BIT FARTHER AFIELD, WE LIKE CHANG’S GARDEN AND FOR DIM SUM SEA HARBOR IN ROSEMEAD.

ON WITH THE NEW.  STEPHEN KALT SPENT 30 YEARS COOKING IN N.Y.C. WITH STINTS AT LE CIRQUE AND DANIEL BEFORE OPENING HIS OWN MOSTLY-ITALIAN RESTAURANT.  SPARTINA ON MELROSE IS BEHIND WHAT USED TO BE JOHNNY ROCKET’S IS ALSO MOSTLY-ITALIAN.  KALT IS A MASTER PASTA MAKER AND HIS SAUCES SUCH AS OCTOPUS AND BONE MARROW OR THE WAGYU BEEF BELLY WITH MUSHROOMS AND THAI BASIL HAVE LAYERS OF FLAVOR AND REAL HEFT.  SPARTINA IS ONE OF THE FEW PATIOS WHERE I WOULD CHOOSE TO DINE ON A WARM NIGHT.  WE WERE BEREFT WHEN CHEF TIM CAREY ABANDONED PAPILLES, WHICH IS FIVE MINUTES FROM OUR HOUSE, TO OPEN LOST AT SEA IN PASADENA.  BUT AFTER TWO PERFECT SEA FOOD DINNERS IN THE FRIENDLY BUT ELEGANT SPACE ON HOLLY, ALL IS FORGIVEN.  CAREY’S SOUPS REMAIN MEMORABLE AND NOW EMBRACE A SAFFRON-LACED BOUILLABAISE AS WELL AS VELVETY VELOUTÉ FOR THE BUTTER-POACHED LOBSTER.  AGAIN TIM HAS PARTNERED WITH SANTOS UY, WHOSE WORLD-RANGING WINE LIST IS BOTH ADVENTUROUS AS REASONABLE.  THEY RECENTLY OPENED FOR LUNCH.   THE SAME TEAM WHICH BROUGHT US FACTORY KICHEN, MATTEO AND FRANCINE-DIAMOND FERDINANDI, OPENED OFFICINE BRERA IN A SPECTACULAR INDUSTRIAL SPACE (FORMER GAS METER STORAGE FACILITY) AROUND THE CORNER ON 6TH.  ANGELO AURIANA, THE CHEF AT VALENTINO FOR 20 YEARS, FOCUSES ON THE HEARTY CUISINE OF MILAN.  I’VE NEVER HAD BETTER RISOTTO THAN HIS, BUT HIS SALADS SUCH AS HOME-MADE LARDO OVER BITTER GREENS ARE EQUALLY DELICIOUS.  AND IF YOU’RE IN THE MOOD FOR SOMETHING GRILLED, OFFICINE BRERA WILL SATISFY ANY CARNIVORE.

KISMETIN SILVERLAKE, MIGHT BE CALLED THE ANTI-BRERA, WITH ITS LOVELY LIGHT DISHES OF MOSTLY VEGETABLES, BOTH RAW AND COOKED, FLAVORED WITH LEBNI AND MIDDLE-EASTERN SPICES.  MY BUTCHER AND FISHMONGER KAREN AND NATHAN McCALL, BOTH FORMER CHEFS AT SONA, TOOK OVER A DEFUNCT JAPANESE RESTAURANT AT 2040 HILLHURST.  THAT’S ITS NAME, TOO.  THE EVER-EXPANDING MENU IS BOTH PROSAIC (FABULOUS CORNED BEEF SANDWICH) AND SOPHISTICATED (HANGER STEAK TARTARE WITH A QUAIL EGG AND CHUNKS OF PICKLED VEGETABLES).  SAVE ROOM FOR ONE OF KAREN’S SCRUMPTIOUS PASTRIES AND TAKE HOME SOME CROISSANTS FOR BREAKFAST.  IN PLACE OF PANOS BAKERY ON HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD, WE NOW HAVE THE SUPER-FRIENDLY FRIENDS AND FAMILY.  THEIR BREAKFASTS AND LUNCHES INCLUDE HOUSE-MADE CROISSANTS AND EGG DISHES; LUNCH, TOMATO SOUP, GRILLED CHEESE, SALADS, AND A PERFECT BLT ON THEIR OWN WHOLE WHEAT SOURDOUGH, WHICH YOU CAN BUY IN BIG OVAL LOAVES AND TAKE HOME.

TRAVELING WEST, STOP FOR LUNCH OR DINNER AT FUNDAMENTAL ON WESTWOOD BOULEVARD.  THEIR SANDWICHES ARE BIG AND WONDERFULLY COMPLEX.  THE DINNER MENU IS MORE EXTENSIVE AND EQUALLY SATISFYING WITH SOPHISTICATED CALIFORNIA CUISINE DISHES SUCH AS ROASTED CAULIFLOWER WITH CHILE LIME VINAIGRETTE AND JIDORI CHICKEN “ADOBO” WITH TOMATILLO, CHARRED ONION AND AVOCADO.

JOINING RÉPUBLIQUE AND SYCAMORE KITCHEN ON MY LIST OF LA BREA FAVORITES, IS NONG LÁ, A MODERN VIETNAMESE RESTAURANT, WITH A PLEASING PALE WOOD INTERIOR AND A DECENT WINE AND BEER LIST.  THERE’S NOTHING STRIKING ABOUT THE MENU; SPRING ROLLS, PHÓ, BANH MI SANDWICHES, BUT THE BROTH, MADE FROM FREE RANGE CHICKENS, IS RICH AND FLAVORFUL AND THE GREENS, CRISPY FRESH AND ORGANIC.

OUR NEWFOUND LOVE AFFAIR WITH LUDOVIC LEFEBVRE’S PETIT TROIS IS A TESTAMENT TO HOW MUCH WE ARE WILLING TO PROSTITUTE OURSELVES FOR A DECENT MEAL.  OUR DINNER AT TROIS MEC, SOME YEARS AGO, SOURED US ON LUDOVIC, BUT WE’D BEEN GETTING SO MANY GLOWING REPORTS ABOUT HIS LITTLE BISTRO NEXT DOOR THAT WE FINALLY CAVED.  WE’VE BEEN BACK THREE TIMES FOR MOULES MARINÈRE, ONION SOUP AND FRISḖE AUX LARDONS, ARGUABLY THE BEST IN TOWN.

THIS YEAR PROMISES NEW DISCOVERIES INCLUDING RESTAURANTS BY DANIEL HUMM (ELEVEN MADISON PARK), DOMINIQUE ANSELL (EVER HAD A CRONUT?), SAN FRANCISCO’S INCOMPARABLE TARTINE, NOT TO MENTION ALL THOSE RESTAURANTS ON THE TOP FLOOR OF EATALY.

PAPPARDELLE WITH SAUSAGE AND SAFFRON
PAPPARDELLE WITH SAUSAGE AND SAFFRON

MARCELLA HAZAN MAKES THIS DISH WITH GROUND VEAL, BUT I’M NOT BUYING MUCH VEAL THESE DAYS, SO I TRIED SUBSTITUTING ITALIAN SAUSAGE, COMBINING THE STUFFING FROM SWEET FENNEL AND SPICY SAUSAGE. (more…)

CHICKEN WITH SORREL CREAM SAUCE
CHICKEN WITH SORREL CREAM SAUCE

LAST WEEK THERE WAS AN EXPLOSION OF SORREL IN THE L.A.L.A. FARM. I TOOK A BUNCH HOME TO MAKE POTATO, LEEK AND SORREL SOUP, BUT THE REMAINDER I USED TO CREATE A CHICKEN DISH TO SHOW MY STUDENTS HOW THIS SOUR, GREEN LEAF IS SO DAZZLING IN A CREAMY SAUCE. MOST OF THEM HAD NEVER HEARD OF SORREL. WHEN THEY TASTED THE RAW LEAVES I COULD SEE THEIR SKEPTICISM. BUT WE PRESSED ON. I’M NOT ALLOWED TO COOK WITH WINE IN THE SCHOOL, SO I SUBSTITUTED CHICKEN STOCK, WHICH ACTUALLY GAVE THE SAUCE A BODY IT WOULDN’T HAVE HAD WITH JUST WHITE WINE. THE RECIPE WORKS WITH EITHER. WHEN WE BROUGHT THE FINISHED DISH TO THE TABLE, THE CHICKEN THIGHS SWIMMING IN CREAMY SAUCE LACED WITH SORREL, THE KIDS SOPPED UP EVERY LAST DROP.
Click here to download recipe

BACO DUCK
BACO DUCK

JOSEF CENTENO JUST CAME OUT WITH A COOKBOOK, “BÄCO, VIVID RECIPES FROM THE HEART OF LOS ANGELES”, WHICH HE WROTE WITH BETTY HALLOCK, A FOOD WRITER AND ONE-TIME DEPUTY FOOD EDITOR FOR THE L.A. TIMES.

I’M A BIG FAN OF JOSEF’S COOKING, WHICH, AS JONATHAN GOLD POINTED OUT IN HIS REVIEW OF JOSEF’S ORSA & WINSTON, REFLECTS THIS MELTING POT OF A CITY WITH POPULATIONS FROM BOTH SOUTH AND CENTRAL AMERICA AS WELL AS CHINA, JAPAN AND SOUTHEAST ASIA.

THE MIRACLE OF JOSEF’S DISHES ARE THAT THEY SEAMLESSLY COMBINE THOSE TASTES INTO ORIGINAL CREATIONS. THIS RECIPE FOR WHOLE ROASTED ORANGE-AND-SOY-GLAZED DUCK USES A SPICE RUB WHICH IS MIDDLE EASTERN AND A GLAZE WHICH IS PART FRENCH, PART CHINESE. THE RESULT IS A SUCCULENT BIRD WITH A CRISPY, SWEET-SOUR SKIN.

I REDUCED THE COOKING TIME A BIT AND FUDGED THE BAHARAT, WHICH I DID NOT HAVE ON HAND, BUT WILL NEXT TIME. THE THRILL AND CHALLENGE OF THIS BOOK WILL BE TO ASSEMBLE A NEW PANTRY OF SPICE MIXES AND SAUCES, WHICH CAN BE USED IN BOTH JOSEF’S RECIPES AND INVENTIONS OF ONE’S OWN.

Click here to download recipe

PASTA WITH ZUCCHINI, LEMON AND MINT
PASTA WITH ZUCCHINI, LEMON AND MINT

USUALLY WHEN I COOK ZUCCHINI FOR PASTA, I BROWN IT IN OLIVE OIL, ADD GARLIC AND CHERRY TOMATOES AND TOSS IT WITH THE PASTA. HERE, THIN RIBBONS OF ZUCCHINI ARE MORE RAW THAN COOKED, TOSSED IN BUTTER, OLIVE OIL AND LEMON.
(more…)

BEER BRAISED COUNTRY STYLE PORK RIBS
BEER BRAISED COUNTRY STYLE PORK RIBS

I SPOTTED A CUT IN THE BUTCHER’S CASE LABELLED “COUNTRY STYLE BONELESS PORK RIBS”.  THEY WERE THICK AND MEATY WITH LITTLE FAT BUT PLENTY OF CONNECTIVE TISSUE; AN IDEAL BRAISING CUT. (more…)

FRENCH POTATO SALAD
FRENCH POTATO SALAD

EVERYBODY’S GOT A RECIPE FOR POTATO SALAD.  SOME LIKE IT MIXED WITH MAYONNAISE OR TOSSED WITH ONIONS, RELISH OR CHOPPED PICKLES.  MY FAVORITE IS FRENCH POTATO SALAD OR A VERSION THEREOF.  NO MATTER THE VARIATION, THE ONE COMMON TECHNIQUE IS TO COOL OFF THE BOILED POTATO SLICES WITH COLD WHITE WINE, WHICH IS ABSORBED, LENDING THE POTATOES A LIGHTLY BOOZY FLAVOR.  MORE FLAVOR COMES FROM GRAINY MUSTARD, MUSTARD SEED AND A FEW TABLESPOONS OF HAZELNUT OIL IN THE DRESSING.  I LOVE TARRAGON, BUT DILL OR PARSLEY WORK EQUALLY WELL.  THIS A SUMMERY ALTERNATIVE HOT POTATOES OR PASTA THE PERFECT COMPLEMENT TO EVERYTHING FROM GRILLED FISH TO HAMBURGERS.

Click here to download recipe

PURSLANE SALAD
PURSLANE SALAD

PURSLANE HAS GREY-GREEN, TEAR-SHAPED, SUCCULENT LEAVES, WHICH ARE CRUNCHY TO THE BITE, RELEASING A PLEASANTLY SOUR JUICE.  THEY ARE COMMON IN ARMENIAN AND LEBANESE RESTAURANTS, FOUND ALWAYS IN FATTOUSH SALAD.  I COMBINED THEM WITH OTHER MEDITERRANEAN INGREDIENTS — NICOISE OLIVES, FETA, TOMATOES, BASIL, FRESH MINT, AND PERSIAN CUCUMBERS.  RED ONION IS MACERATED AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BOWL IN SALT AND VINEGAR, WHICH TAMES ITS BITE BY THE TIME THE SALD IS TOSSED AND SERVED.  THIS IS A SUBSTANTIAL FIRST-COURSE SALAD OR A MAIN COURSE FOR A SUMMER LUNCH.  SERVE WITH WEDGES OF WARM PITA AND YOU’LL THINK YOU’RE IN BEIRUT.

Click here to download recipe

TRI-TIP WITH MUSHROOM SAUCE
TRI-TIP WITH MUSHROOM SAUCE

TRI-TIP IS THE LOWER PART OF THE SIRLOIN, LEANER BUT EQUALLY FLAVORFUL AND CONSIDERABLY CHEAPER.  PAN-COOKED, WITH A CLASSIC FRENCH MUSHROOM AND RED WINE SAUCE, FLAVORED WITH THYME, TARRAGON, PARSLEY, AND CHIVES, IT’S SIMPLE TO MAKE AND GREAT WITH A MORE TIME-CONSUMING DISH SUCH AS POTATOES GRATIN.  BUT YOU COULD ALSO MAKE IT WITH ROASTED NEW POTATOES OR A PURÉE OF CELERY ROOT.  IF YOU CAN FIND IT, SPEND A FEW EXTRA BUCKS ON WAGYU TRI-TIP, WHICH IS MORE TENDER AND STILL LESS EXPENSIVE THAN TOP SIRLOIN OR RIB-EYE.

Click here to download recipe

CHICKEN SALAD
CHICKEN SALAD

I LOVE CHICKEN SALAD.  USUALLY, I STRIP THE MEAT FROM WHAT’S LEFT OF A LEFTOVER ROAST CHICKEN, BECAUSE I LIKE THE MIX OF WHITE AND DARK MEAT. THIS TIME, HOWEVER, I HAD AN EXTRA CHICKEN BREAST ON HAND, SO I PAN-COOKED IT WITH A LITTLE GARLIC AND THYME BEFORE CUTTING IT UP FOR THE SALAD. (more…)

L.A. RESTAURANTS 2017
L.A. RESTAURANTS 2017

JONATHAN GOLD’S 2017 BEST 101 RESTAURANTS — NO, I AM NEVER EATING AT VESPERTINE — REMINDED ME THAT I HAVEN’T AMENDED MY OWN BEST-IN-L.A. LIST IN QUITE SOME TIME. WE STILL HAVE OUR OLD FAVORITES, PLACES WE RETURN TO FREQUENTLY, BUT SO MANY WONDERFUL NEW SPOTS HAVE OPENED UP THAT IT WOULD BE CRIMINAL NOT TO CELEBRATE THEM AS WELL.

WHAT’S EXCITING NOW ABOUT THE FOOD SCENE IN L.A. IS THAT WE ARE GETTING AN EQUAL NUMBER OF MID-PRICED RESTAURANTS AS THE EXPENSIVE JOINTS SUCH AS OTIUM, MAUDE AND 71 ABOVE. AND, IN OUR EXPERIENCE, THE CHEAPER ONES ARE BETTER.

AS FAR AS THE STANDBYS ARE CONCERNED, WE STILL LOVE JOSEF CENTENO’S BACO MERCAT, BAR AMA, ORSA&WINSTON, AND HIS MOST RECENT ADDITION, THE VEGETABLE-CENTRIC P.Y.T.  SAME GOES FOR THE MOZZAPLEX, ALTHOUGH FOR SPECIAL OCCASIONS, WE PREFER CHI SPACCA TO THE ADJACENT OSTERIA. WE OFTEN FIND OURSELVES AT SALT’S CURE, IN IT’S NEW LOCATION ON HIGHLAND, ESPECIALLY SINCE CHRIS ADDED THE CONFITED DUCK LEG TO THE LUNCH MENU.  BECAUSE OF THE NOISE LEVEL, LUNCH IS THE ONLY TIME WE’LL EAT AT FACTORY KITCHEN WITH IT’S WONDERFUL FIRST-COURSE SALADS AND PASTA DISHES.  AT ADRIA AND CLAUDIO BLOTTA’S MARKET PROVISIONS AND ALL ‘AQUA, DON DICKMAN CONTINUES TO SURPRISE US WITH NEW INVENTIONS AS WELL AS STANDARDS SUCH AS OCTOPUS SALAD AND SPAGHETTI WITH CLAM SAUCE.  CLAUDIO’S WINE LISTS ARE AMONG THE MOST ORIGINAL AND BEST-PRICED IN TOWN.  WE FREQUENT SYCAMORE KITCHEN FOR THE CHOPPED SALAD AS WELL THE SHORT RIB SANDWICH AND KAREN HATFIELD’S IRRESISTIBLE BUTTERCUP.  IT’S HARD TO RESIST THE SMOKED SALMON TARTINE OR THE CHICKEN SALAD SANDWICH AT RÉPUBLIQUE; AT DINNER, WE OPT FOR THE BACK ROOM WHERE WE CAN CARRY ON A CONVERSATION WHILE DEVOURING WALTER MANZKE’S SUCCULENT ROAST CHICKEN.  CONNIE AND TED’S WINS THE LOBSTER ROLL CONTEST AND I RARELY ORDER FRESH OYSTERS ANYPLACE ELSE.

WE ARE WEEKLY REGULARS AT SANAMLUANG NOODLE SHOP WHERE WE ORDER ROAST DUCK NOODLE SOUP, SPICY SQUID SALAD AND FRIED SPARE RIBS.  IF MY WIFE WERE NOT SO AVERSE TO HOT FOOD, I’D FREQUENT  JITLADA MORE OFTEN WITH ITS ELEGANT NORTHERN THAI DISHES, BOTH SPICY AND NOT.  FOR CHINESE WE HEAD FOR THE SAN GABRIEL VALLEY WHERE DUCK HOUSE SERVES THE BEST PEKING DUCK IN TOWN IN AN INTIMATE SETTING WHERE THEY PLAY WEST COAST JAZZ.  A BIT FARTHER AFIELD, WE LIKE CHANG’S GARDEN AND FOR DIM SUM SEA HARBOR IN ROSEMEAD.

ON WITH THE NEW.  STEPHEN KALT SPENT 30 YEARS COOKING IN N.Y.C. WITH STINTS AT LE CIRQUE AND DANIEL BEFORE OPENING HIS OWN MOSTLY-ITALIAN RESTAURANT.  SPARTINA ON MELROSE IS BEHIND WHAT USED TO BE JOHNNY ROCKET’S IS ALSO MOSTLY-ITALIAN.  KALT IS A MASTER PASTA MAKER AND HIS SAUCES SUCH AS OCTOPUS AND BONE MARROW OR THE WAGYU BEEF BELLY WITH MUSHROOMS AND THAI BASIL HAVE LAYERS OF FLAVOR AND REAL HEFT.  SPARTINA IS ONE OF THE FEW PATIOS WHERE I WOULD CHOOSE TO DINE ON A WARM NIGHT.  WE WERE BEREFT WHEN CHEF TIM CAREY ABANDONED PAPILLES, WHICH IS FIVE MINUTES FROM OUR HOUSE, TO OPEN LOST AT SEA IN PASADENA.  BUT AFTER TWO PERFECT SEA FOOD DINNERS IN THE FRIENDLY BUT ELEGANT SPACE ON HOLLY, ALL IS FORGIVEN.  CAREY’S SOUPS REMAIN MEMORABLE AND NOW EMBRACE A SAFFRON-LACED BOUILLABAISE AS WELL AS VELVETY VELOUTÉ FOR THE BUTTER-POACHED LOBSTER.  AGAIN TIM HAS PARTNERED WITH SANTOS UY, WHOSE WORLD-RANGING WINE LIST IS BOTH ADVENTUROUS AS REASONABLE.  THEY RECENTLY OPENED FOR LUNCH.   THE SAME TEAM WHICH BROUGHT US FACTORY KICHEN, MATTEO AND FRANCINE-DIAMOND FERDINANDI, OPENED OFFICINE BRERA IN A SPECTACULAR INDUSTRIAL SPACE (FORMER GAS METER STORAGE FACILITY) AROUND THE CORNER ON 6TH.  ANGELO AURIANA, THE CHEF AT VALENTINO FOR 20 YEARS, FOCUSES ON THE HEARTY CUISINE OF MILAN.  I’VE NEVER HAD BETTER RISOTTO THAN HIS, BUT HIS SALADS SUCH AS HOME-MADE LARDO OVER BITTER GREENS ARE EQUALLY DELICIOUS.  AND IF YOU’RE IN THE MOOD FOR SOMETHING GRILLED, OFFICINE BRERA WILL SATISFY ANY CARNIVORE.

KISMETIN SILVERLAKE, MIGHT BE CALLED THE ANTI-BRERA, WITH ITS LOVELY LIGHT DISHES OF MOSTLY VEGETABLES, BOTH RAW AND COOKED, FLAVORED WITH LEBNI AND MIDDLE-EASTERN SPICES.  MY BUTCHER AND FISHMONGER KAREN AND NATHAN McCALL, BOTH FORMER CHEFS AT SONA, TOOK OVER A DEFUNCT JAPANESE RESTAURANT AT 2040 HILLHURST.  THAT’S ITS NAME, TOO.  THE EVER-EXPANDING MENU IS BOTH PROSAIC (FABULOUS CORNED BEEF SANDWICH) AND SOPHISTICATED (HANGER STEAK TARTARE WITH A QUAIL EGG AND CHUNKS OF PICKLED VEGETABLES).  SAVE ROOM FOR ONE OF KAREN’S SCRUMPTIOUS PASTRIES AND TAKE HOME SOME CROISSANTS FOR BREAKFAST.  IN PLACE OF PANOS BAKERY ON HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD, WE NOW HAVE THE SUPER-FRIENDLY FRIENDS AND FAMILY.  THEIR BREAKFASTS AND LUNCHES INCLUDE HOUSE-MADE CROISSANTS AND EGG DISHES; LUNCH, TOMATO SOUP, GRILLED CHEESE, SALADS, AND A PERFECT BLT ON THEIR OWN WHOLE WHEAT SOURDOUGH, WHICH YOU CAN BUY IN BIG OVAL LOAVES AND TAKE HOME.

TRAVELING WEST, STOP FOR LUNCH OR DINNER AT FUNDAMENTAL ON WESTWOOD BOULEVARD.  THEIR SANDWICHES ARE BIG AND WONDERFULLY COMPLEX.  THE DINNER MENU IS MORE EXTENSIVE AND EQUALLY SATISFYING WITH SOPHISTICATED CALIFORNIA CUISINE DISHES SUCH AS ROASTED CAULIFLOWER WITH CHILE LIME VINAIGRETTE AND JIDORI CHICKEN “ADOBO” WITH TOMATILLO, CHARRED ONION AND AVOCADO.

JOINING RÉPUBLIQUE AND SYCAMORE KITCHEN ON MY LIST OF LA BREA FAVORITES, IS NONG LÁ, A MODERN VIETNAMESE RESTAURANT, WITH A PLEASING PALE WOOD INTERIOR AND A DECENT WINE AND BEER LIST.  THERE’S NOTHING STRIKING ABOUT THE MENU; SPRING ROLLS, PHÓ, BANH MI SANDWICHES, BUT THE BROTH, MADE FROM FREE RANGE CHICKENS, IS RICH AND FLAVORFUL AND THE GREENS, CRISPY FRESH AND ORGANIC.

OUR NEWFOUND LOVE AFFAIR WITH LUDOVIC LEFEBVRE’S PETIT TROIS IS A TESTAMENT TO HOW MUCH WE ARE WILLING TO PROSTITUTE OURSELVES FOR A DECENT MEAL.  OUR DINNER AT TROIS MEC, SOME YEARS AGO, SOURED US ON LUDOVIC, BUT WE’D BEEN GETTING SO MANY GLOWING REPORTS ABOUT HIS LITTLE BISTRO NEXT DOOR THAT WE FINALLY CAVED.  WE’VE BEEN BACK THREE TIMES FOR MOULES MARINÈRE, ONION SOUP AND FRISḖE AUX LARDONS, ARGUABLY THE BEST IN TOWN.

THIS YEAR PROMISES NEW DISCOVERIES INCLUDING RESTAURANTS BY DANIEL HUMM (ELEVEN MADISON PARK), DOMINIQUE ANSELL (EVER HAD A CRONUT?), SAN FRANCISCO’S INCOMPARABLE TARTINE, NOT TO MENTION ALL THOSE RESTAURANTS ON THE TOP FLOOR OF EATALY.

PAPPARDELLE WITH SAUSAGE AND SAFFRON
PAPPARDELLE WITH SAUSAGE AND SAFFRON

MARCELLA HAZAN MAKES THIS DISH WITH GROUND VEAL, BUT I’M NOT BUYING MUCH VEAL THESE DAYS, SO I TRIED SUBSTITUTING ITALIAN SAUSAGE, COMBINING THE STUFFING FROM SWEET FENNEL AND SPICY SAUSAGE. (more…)

CHICKEN WITH SORREL CREAM SAUCE
CHICKEN WITH SORREL CREAM SAUCE

LAST WEEK THERE WAS AN EXPLOSION OF SORREL IN THE L.A.L.A. FARM. I TOOK A BUNCH HOME TO MAKE POTATO, LEEK AND SORREL SOUP, BUT THE REMAINDER I USED TO CREATE A CHICKEN DISH TO SHOW MY STUDENTS HOW THIS SOUR, GREEN LEAF IS SO DAZZLING IN A CREAMY SAUCE. MOST OF THEM HAD NEVER HEARD OF SORREL. WHEN THEY TASTED THE RAW LEAVES I COULD SEE THEIR SKEPTICISM. BUT WE PRESSED ON. I’M NOT ALLOWED TO COOK WITH WINE IN THE SCHOOL, SO I SUBSTITUTED CHICKEN STOCK, WHICH ACTUALLY GAVE THE SAUCE A BODY IT WOULDN’T HAVE HAD WITH JUST WHITE WINE. THE RECIPE WORKS WITH EITHER. WHEN WE BROUGHT THE FINISHED DISH TO THE TABLE, THE CHICKEN THIGHS SWIMMING IN CREAMY SAUCE LACED WITH SORREL, THE KIDS SOPPED UP EVERY LAST DROP.
Click here to download recipe

BACO DUCK
BACO DUCK

JOSEF CENTENO JUST CAME OUT WITH A COOKBOOK, “BÄCO, VIVID RECIPES FROM THE HEART OF LOS ANGELES”, WHICH HE WROTE WITH BETTY HALLOCK, A FOOD WRITER AND ONE-TIME DEPUTY FOOD EDITOR FOR THE L.A. TIMES.

I’M A BIG FAN OF JOSEF’S COOKING, WHICH, AS JONATHAN GOLD POINTED OUT IN HIS REVIEW OF JOSEF’S ORSA & WINSTON, REFLECTS THIS MELTING POT OF A CITY WITH POPULATIONS FROM BOTH SOUTH AND CENTRAL AMERICA AS WELL AS CHINA, JAPAN AND SOUTHEAST ASIA.

THE MIRACLE OF JOSEF’S DISHES ARE THAT THEY SEAMLESSLY COMBINE THOSE TASTES INTO ORIGINAL CREATIONS. THIS RECIPE FOR WHOLE ROASTED ORANGE-AND-SOY-GLAZED DUCK USES A SPICE RUB WHICH IS MIDDLE EASTERN AND A GLAZE WHICH IS PART FRENCH, PART CHINESE. THE RESULT IS A SUCCULENT BIRD WITH A CRISPY, SWEET-SOUR SKIN.

I REDUCED THE COOKING TIME A BIT AND FUDGED THE BAHARAT, WHICH I DID NOT HAVE ON HAND, BUT WILL NEXT TIME. THE THRILL AND CHALLENGE OF THIS BOOK WILL BE TO ASSEMBLE A NEW PANTRY OF SPICE MIXES AND SAUCES, WHICH CAN BE USED IN BOTH JOSEF’S RECIPES AND INVENTIONS OF ONE’S OWN.

Click here to download recipe

PASTA WITH ZUCCHINI, LEMON AND MINT
PASTA WITH ZUCCHINI, LEMON AND MINT

USUALLY WHEN I COOK ZUCCHINI FOR PASTA, I BROWN IT IN OLIVE OIL, ADD GARLIC AND CHERRY TOMATOES AND TOSS IT WITH THE PASTA. HERE, THIN RIBBONS OF ZUCCHINI ARE MORE RAW THAN COOKED, TOSSED IN BUTTER, OLIVE OIL AND LEMON.
(more…)

BEER BRAISED COUNTRY STYLE PORK RIBS
BEER BRAISED COUNTRY STYLE PORK RIBS

I SPOTTED A CUT IN THE BUTCHER’S CASE LABELLED “COUNTRY STYLE BONELESS PORK RIBS”.  THEY WERE THICK AND MEATY WITH LITTLE FAT BUT PLENTY OF CONNECTIVE TISSUE; AN IDEAL BRAISING CUT. (more…)

FRENCH POTATO SALAD
FRENCH POTATO SALAD

EVERYBODY’S GOT A RECIPE FOR POTATO SALAD.  SOME LIKE IT MIXED WITH MAYONNAISE OR TOSSED WITH ONIONS, RELISH OR CHOPPED PICKLES.  MY FAVORITE IS FRENCH POTATO SALAD OR A VERSION THEREOF.  NO MATTER THE VARIATION, THE ONE COMMON TECHNIQUE IS TO COOL OFF THE BOILED POTATO SLICES WITH COLD WHITE WINE, WHICH IS ABSORBED, LENDING THE POTATOES A LIGHTLY BOOZY FLAVOR.  MORE FLAVOR COMES FROM GRAINY MUSTARD, MUSTARD SEED AND A FEW TABLESPOONS OF HAZELNUT OIL IN THE DRESSING.  I LOVE TARRAGON, BUT DILL OR PARSLEY WORK EQUALLY WELL.  THIS A SUMMERY ALTERNATIVE HOT POTATOES OR PASTA THE PERFECT COMPLEMENT TO EVERYTHING FROM GRILLED FISH TO HAMBURGERS.

Click here to download recipe

PURSLANE SALAD
PURSLANE SALAD

PURSLANE HAS GREY-GREEN, TEAR-SHAPED, SUCCULENT LEAVES, WHICH ARE CRUNCHY TO THE BITE, RELEASING A PLEASANTLY SOUR JUICE.  THEY ARE COMMON IN ARMENIAN AND LEBANESE RESTAURANTS, FOUND ALWAYS IN FATTOUSH SALAD.  I COMBINED THEM WITH OTHER MEDITERRANEAN INGREDIENTS — NICOISE OLIVES, FETA, TOMATOES, BASIL, FRESH MINT, AND PERSIAN CUCUMBERS.  RED ONION IS MACERATED AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BOWL IN SALT AND VINEGAR, WHICH TAMES ITS BITE BY THE TIME THE SALD IS TOSSED AND SERVED.  THIS IS A SUBSTANTIAL FIRST-COURSE SALAD OR A MAIN COURSE FOR A SUMMER LUNCH.  SERVE WITH WEDGES OF WARM PITA AND YOU’LL THINK YOU’RE IN BEIRUT.

Click here to download recipe

TRI-TIP WITH MUSHROOM SAUCE
TRI-TIP WITH MUSHROOM SAUCE

TRI-TIP IS THE LOWER PART OF THE SIRLOIN, LEANER BUT EQUALLY FLAVORFUL AND CONSIDERABLY CHEAPER.  PAN-COOKED, WITH A CLASSIC FRENCH MUSHROOM AND RED WINE SAUCE, FLAVORED WITH THYME, TARRAGON, PARSLEY, AND CHIVES, IT’S SIMPLE TO MAKE AND GREAT WITH A MORE TIME-CONSUMING DISH SUCH AS POTATOES GRATIN.  BUT YOU COULD ALSO MAKE IT WITH ROASTED NEW POTATOES OR A PURÉE OF CELERY ROOT.  IF YOU CAN FIND IT, SPEND A FEW EXTRA BUCKS ON WAGYU TRI-TIP, WHICH IS MORE TENDER AND STILL LESS EXPENSIVE THAN TOP SIRLOIN OR RIB-EYE.

Click here to download recipe

CHICKEN SALAD
CHICKEN SALAD

I LOVE CHICKEN SALAD.  USUALLY, I STRIP THE MEAT FROM WHAT’S LEFT OF A LEFTOVER ROAST CHICKEN, BECAUSE I LIKE THE MIX OF WHITE AND DARK MEAT. THIS TIME, HOWEVER, I HAD AN EXTRA CHICKEN BREAST ON HAND, SO I PAN-COOKED IT WITH A LITTLE GARLIC AND THYME BEFORE CUTTING IT UP FOR THE SALAD. (more…)

L.A. RESTAURANTS 2017
L.A. RESTAURANTS 2017

JONATHAN GOLD’S 2017 BEST 101 RESTAURANTS — NO, I AM NEVER EATING AT VESPERTINE — REMINDED ME THAT I HAVEN’T AMENDED MY OWN BEST-IN-L.A. LIST IN QUITE SOME TIME. WE STILL HAVE OUR OLD FAVORITES, PLACES WE RETURN TO FREQUENTLY, BUT SO MANY WONDERFUL NEW SPOTS HAVE OPENED UP THAT IT WOULD BE CRIMINAL NOT TO CELEBRATE THEM AS WELL.

WHAT’S EXCITING NOW ABOUT THE FOOD SCENE IN L.A. IS THAT WE ARE GETTING AN EQUAL NUMBER OF MID-PRICED RESTAURANTS AS THE EXPENSIVE JOINTS SUCH AS OTIUM, MAUDE AND 71 ABOVE. AND, IN OUR EXPERIENCE, THE CHEAPER ONES ARE BETTER.

AS FAR AS THE STANDBYS ARE CONCERNED, WE STILL LOVE JOSEF CENTENO’S BACO MERCAT, BAR AMA, ORSA&WINSTON, AND HIS MOST RECENT ADDITION, THE VEGETABLE-CENTRIC P.Y.T.  SAME GOES FOR THE MOZZAPLEX, ALTHOUGH FOR SPECIAL OCCASIONS, WE PREFER CHI SPACCA TO THE ADJACENT OSTERIA. WE OFTEN FIND OURSELVES AT SALT’S CURE, IN IT’S NEW LOCATION ON HIGHLAND, ESPECIALLY SINCE CHRIS ADDED THE CONFITED DUCK LEG TO THE LUNCH MENU.  BECAUSE OF THE NOISE LEVEL, LUNCH IS THE ONLY TIME WE’LL EAT AT FACTORY KITCHEN WITH IT’S WONDERFUL FIRST-COURSE SALADS AND PASTA DISHES.  AT ADRIA AND CLAUDIO BLOTTA’S MARKET PROVISIONS AND ALL ‘AQUA, DON DICKMAN CONTINUES TO SURPRISE US WITH NEW INVENTIONS AS WELL AS STANDARDS SUCH AS OCTOPUS SALAD AND SPAGHETTI WITH CLAM SAUCE.  CLAUDIO’S WINE LISTS ARE AMONG THE MOST ORIGINAL AND BEST-PRICED IN TOWN.  WE FREQUENT SYCAMORE KITCHEN FOR THE CHOPPED SALAD AS WELL THE SHORT RIB SANDWICH AND KAREN HATFIELD’S IRRESISTIBLE BUTTERCUP.  IT’S HARD TO RESIST THE SMOKED SALMON TARTINE OR THE CHICKEN SALAD SANDWICH AT RÉPUBLIQUE; AT DINNER, WE OPT FOR THE BACK ROOM WHERE WE CAN CARRY ON A CONVERSATION WHILE DEVOURING WALTER MANZKE’S SUCCULENT ROAST CHICKEN.  CONNIE AND TED’S WINS THE LOBSTER ROLL CONTEST AND I RARELY ORDER FRESH OYSTERS ANYPLACE ELSE.

WE ARE WEEKLY REGULARS AT SANAMLUANG NOODLE SHOP WHERE WE ORDER ROAST DUCK NOODLE SOUP, SPICY SQUID SALAD AND FRIED SPARE RIBS.  IF MY WIFE WERE NOT SO AVERSE TO HOT FOOD, I’D FREQUENT  JITLADA MORE OFTEN WITH ITS ELEGANT NORTHERN THAI DISHES, BOTH SPICY AND NOT.  FOR CHINESE WE HEAD FOR THE SAN GABRIEL VALLEY WHERE DUCK HOUSE SERVES THE BEST PEKING DUCK IN TOWN IN AN INTIMATE SETTING WHERE THEY PLAY WEST COAST JAZZ.  A BIT FARTHER AFIELD, WE LIKE CHANG’S GARDEN AND FOR DIM SUM SEA HARBOR IN ROSEMEAD.

ON WITH THE NEW.  STEPHEN KALT SPENT 30 YEARS COOKING IN N.Y.C. WITH STINTS AT LE CIRQUE AND DANIEL BEFORE OPENING HIS OWN MOSTLY-ITALIAN RESTAURANT.  SPARTINA ON MELROSE IS BEHIND WHAT USED TO BE JOHNNY ROCKET’S IS ALSO MOSTLY-ITALIAN.  KALT IS A MASTER PASTA MAKER AND HIS SAUCES SUCH AS OCTOPUS AND BONE MARROW OR THE WAGYU BEEF BELLY WITH MUSHROOMS AND THAI BASIL HAVE LAYERS OF FLAVOR AND REAL HEFT.  SPARTINA IS ONE OF THE FEW PATIOS WHERE I WOULD CHOOSE TO DINE ON A WARM NIGHT.  WE WERE BEREFT WHEN CHEF TIM CAREY ABANDONED PAPILLES, WHICH IS FIVE MINUTES FROM OUR HOUSE, TO OPEN LOST AT SEA IN PASADENA.  BUT AFTER TWO PERFECT SEA FOOD DINNERS IN THE FRIENDLY BUT ELEGANT SPACE ON HOLLY, ALL IS FORGIVEN.  CAREY’S SOUPS REMAIN MEMORABLE AND NOW EMBRACE A SAFFRON-LACED BOUILLABAISE AS WELL AS VELVETY VELOUTÉ FOR THE BUTTER-POACHED LOBSTER.  AGAIN TIM HAS PARTNERED WITH SANTOS UY, WHOSE WORLD-RANGING WINE LIST IS BOTH ADVENTUROUS AS REASONABLE.  THEY RECENTLY OPENED FOR LUNCH.   THE SAME TEAM WHICH BROUGHT US FACTORY KICHEN, MATTEO AND FRANCINE-DIAMOND FERDINANDI, OPENED OFFICINE BRERA IN A SPECTACULAR INDUSTRIAL SPACE (FORMER GAS METER STORAGE FACILITY) AROUND THE CORNER ON 6TH.  ANGELO AURIANA, THE CHEF AT VALENTINO FOR 20 YEARS, FOCUSES ON THE HEARTY CUISINE OF MILAN.  I’VE NEVER HAD BETTER RISOTTO THAN HIS, BUT HIS SALADS SUCH AS HOME-MADE LARDO OVER BITTER GREENS ARE EQUALLY DELICIOUS.  AND IF YOU’RE IN THE MOOD FOR SOMETHING GRILLED, OFFICINE BRERA WILL SATISFY ANY CARNIVORE.

KISMETIN SILVERLAKE, MIGHT BE CALLED THE ANTI-BRERA, WITH ITS LOVELY LIGHT DISHES OF MOSTLY VEGETABLES, BOTH RAW AND COOKED, FLAVORED WITH LEBNI AND MIDDLE-EASTERN SPICES.  MY BUTCHER AND FISHMONGER KAREN AND NATHAN McCALL, BOTH FORMER CHEFS AT SONA, TOOK OVER A DEFUNCT JAPANESE RESTAURANT AT 2040 HILLHURST.  THAT’S ITS NAME, TOO.  THE EVER-EXPANDING MENU IS BOTH PROSAIC (FABULOUS CORNED BEEF SANDWICH) AND SOPHISTICATED (HANGER STEAK TARTARE WITH A QUAIL EGG AND CHUNKS OF PICKLED VEGETABLES).  SAVE ROOM FOR ONE OF KAREN’S SCRUMPTIOUS PASTRIES AND TAKE HOME SOME CROISSANTS FOR BREAKFAST.  IN PLACE OF PANOS BAKERY ON HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD, WE NOW HAVE THE SUPER-FRIENDLY FRIENDS AND FAMILY.  THEIR BREAKFASTS AND LUNCHES INCLUDE HOUSE-MADE CROISSANTS AND EGG DISHES; LUNCH, TOMATO SOUP, GRILLED CHEESE, SALADS, AND A PERFECT BLT ON THEIR OWN WHOLE WHEAT SOURDOUGH, WHICH YOU CAN BUY IN BIG OVAL LOAVES AND TAKE HOME.

TRAVELING WEST, STOP FOR LUNCH OR DINNER AT FUNDAMENTAL ON WESTWOOD BOULEVARD.  THEIR SANDWICHES ARE BIG AND WONDERFULLY COMPLEX.  THE DINNER MENU IS MORE EXTENSIVE AND EQUALLY SATISFYING WITH SOPHISTICATED CALIFORNIA CUISINE DISHES SUCH AS ROASTED CAULIFLOWER WITH CHILE LIME VINAIGRETTE AND JIDORI CHICKEN “ADOBO” WITH TOMATILLO, CHARRED ONION AND AVOCADO.

JOINING RÉPUBLIQUE AND SYCAMORE KITCHEN ON MY LIST OF LA BREA FAVORITES, IS NONG LÁ, A MODERN VIETNAMESE RESTAURANT, WITH A PLEASING PALE WOOD INTERIOR AND A DECENT WINE AND BEER LIST.  THERE’S NOTHING STRIKING ABOUT THE MENU; SPRING ROLLS, PHÓ, BANH MI SANDWICHES, BUT THE BROTH, MADE FROM FREE RANGE CHICKENS, IS RICH AND FLAVORFUL AND THE GREENS, CRISPY FRESH AND ORGANIC.

OUR NEWFOUND LOVE AFFAIR WITH LUDOVIC LEFEBVRE’S PETIT TROIS IS A TESTAMENT TO HOW MUCH WE ARE WILLING TO PROSTITUTE OURSELVES FOR A DECENT MEAL.  OUR DINNER AT TROIS MEC, SOME YEARS AGO, SOURED US ON LUDOVIC, BUT WE’D BEEN GETTING SO MANY GLOWING REPORTS ABOUT HIS LITTLE BISTRO NEXT DOOR THAT WE FINALLY CAVED.  WE’VE BEEN BACK THREE TIMES FOR MOULES MARINÈRE, ONION SOUP AND FRISḖE AUX LARDONS, ARGUABLY THE BEST IN TOWN.

THIS YEAR PROMISES NEW DISCOVERIES INCLUDING RESTAURANTS BY DANIEL HUMM (ELEVEN MADISON PARK), DOMINIQUE ANSELL (EVER HAD A CRONUT?), SAN FRANCISCO’S INCOMPARABLE TARTINE, NOT TO MENTION ALL THOSE RESTAURANTS ON THE TOP FLOOR OF EATALY.

PAPPARDELLE WITH SAUSAGE AND SAFFRON
PAPPARDELLE WITH SAUSAGE AND SAFFRON

MARCELLA HAZAN MAKES THIS DISH WITH GROUND VEAL, BUT I’M NOT BUYING MUCH VEAL THESE DAYS, SO I TRIED SUBSTITUTING ITALIAN SAUSAGE, COMBINING THE STUFFING FROM SWEET FENNEL AND SPICY SAUSAGE. (more…)

CHICKEN WITH SORREL CREAM SAUCE
CHICKEN WITH SORREL CREAM SAUCE

LAST WEEK THERE WAS AN EXPLOSION OF SORREL IN THE L.A.L.A. FARM. I TOOK A BUNCH HOME TO MAKE POTATO, LEEK AND SORREL SOUP, BUT THE REMAINDER I USED TO CREATE A CHICKEN DISH TO SHOW MY STUDENTS HOW THIS SOUR, GREEN LEAF IS SO DAZZLING IN A CREAMY SAUCE. MOST OF THEM HAD NEVER HEARD OF SORREL. WHEN THEY TASTED THE RAW LEAVES I COULD SEE THEIR SKEPTICISM. BUT WE PRESSED ON. I’M NOT ALLOWED TO COOK WITH WINE IN THE SCHOOL, SO I SUBSTITUTED CHICKEN STOCK, WHICH ACTUALLY GAVE THE SAUCE A BODY IT WOULDN’T HAVE HAD WITH JUST WHITE WINE. THE RECIPE WORKS WITH EITHER. WHEN WE BROUGHT THE FINISHED DISH TO THE TABLE, THE CHICKEN THIGHS SWIMMING IN CREAMY SAUCE LACED WITH SORREL, THE KIDS SOPPED UP EVERY LAST DROP.
Click here to download recipe

BACO DUCK
BACO DUCK

JOSEF CENTENO JUST CAME OUT WITH A COOKBOOK, “BÄCO, VIVID RECIPES FROM THE HEART OF LOS ANGELES”, WHICH HE WROTE WITH BETTY HALLOCK, A FOOD WRITER AND ONE-TIME DEPUTY FOOD EDITOR FOR THE L.A. TIMES.

I’M A BIG FAN OF JOSEF’S COOKING, WHICH, AS JONATHAN GOLD POINTED OUT IN HIS REVIEW OF JOSEF’S ORSA & WINSTON, REFLECTS THIS MELTING POT OF A CITY WITH POPULATIONS FROM BOTH SOUTH AND CENTRAL AMERICA AS WELL AS CHINA, JAPAN AND SOUTHEAST ASIA.

THE MIRACLE OF JOSEF’S DISHES ARE THAT THEY SEAMLESSLY COMBINE THOSE TASTES INTO ORIGINAL CREATIONS. THIS RECIPE FOR WHOLE ROASTED ORANGE-AND-SOY-GLAZED DUCK USES A SPICE RUB WHICH IS MIDDLE EASTERN AND A GLAZE WHICH IS PART FRENCH, PART CHINESE. THE RESULT IS A SUCCULENT BIRD WITH A CRISPY, SWEET-SOUR SKIN.

I REDUCED THE COOKING TIME A BIT AND FUDGED THE BAHARAT, WHICH I DID NOT HAVE ON HAND, BUT WILL NEXT TIME. THE THRILL AND CHALLENGE OF THIS BOOK WILL BE TO ASSEMBLE A NEW PANTRY OF SPICE MIXES AND SAUCES, WHICH CAN BE USED IN BOTH JOSEF’S RECIPES AND INVENTIONS OF ONE’S OWN.

Click here to download recipe

PASTA WITH ZUCCHINI, LEMON AND MINT
PASTA WITH ZUCCHINI, LEMON AND MINT

USUALLY WHEN I COOK ZUCCHINI FOR PASTA, I BROWN IT IN OLIVE OIL, ADD GARLIC AND CHERRY TOMATOES AND TOSS IT WITH THE PASTA. HERE, THIN RIBBONS OF ZUCCHINI ARE MORE RAW THAN COOKED, TOSSED IN BUTTER, OLIVE OIL AND LEMON.
(more…)

BEER BRAISED COUNTRY STYLE PORK RIBS
BEER BRAISED COUNTRY STYLE PORK RIBS

I SPOTTED A CUT IN THE BUTCHER’S CASE LABELLED “COUNTRY STYLE BONELESS PORK RIBS”.  THEY WERE THICK AND MEATY WITH LITTLE FAT BUT PLENTY OF CONNECTIVE TISSUE; AN IDEAL BRAISING CUT. (more…)

FRENCH POTATO SALAD
FRENCH POTATO SALAD

EVERYBODY’S GOT A RECIPE FOR POTATO SALAD.  SOME LIKE IT MIXED WITH MAYONNAISE OR TOSSED WITH ONIONS, RELISH OR CHOPPED PICKLES.  MY FAVORITE IS FRENCH POTATO SALAD OR A VERSION THEREOF.  NO MATTER THE VARIATION, THE ONE COMMON TECHNIQUE IS TO COOL OFF THE BOILED POTATO SLICES WITH COLD WHITE WINE, WHICH IS ABSORBED, LENDING THE POTATOES A LIGHTLY BOOZY FLAVOR.  MORE FLAVOR COMES FROM GRAINY MUSTARD, MUSTARD SEED AND A FEW TABLESPOONS OF HAZELNUT OIL IN THE DRESSING.  I LOVE TARRAGON, BUT DILL OR PARSLEY WORK EQUALLY WELL.  THIS A SUMMERY ALTERNATIVE HOT POTATOES OR PASTA THE PERFECT COMPLEMENT TO EVERYTHING FROM GRILLED FISH TO HAMBURGERS.

Click here to download recipe

PURSLANE SALAD
PURSLANE SALAD

PURSLANE HAS GREY-GREEN, TEAR-SHAPED, SUCCULENT LEAVES, WHICH ARE CRUNCHY TO THE BITE, RELEASING A PLEASANTLY SOUR JUICE.  THEY ARE COMMON IN ARMENIAN AND LEBANESE RESTAURANTS, FOUND ALWAYS IN FATTOUSH SALAD.  I COMBINED THEM WITH OTHER MEDITERRANEAN INGREDIENTS — NICOISE OLIVES, FETA, TOMATOES, BASIL, FRESH MINT, AND PERSIAN CUCUMBERS.  RED ONION IS MACERATED AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BOWL IN SALT AND VINEGAR, WHICH TAMES ITS BITE BY THE TIME THE SALD IS TOSSED AND SERVED.  THIS IS A SUBSTANTIAL FIRST-COURSE SALAD OR A MAIN COURSE FOR A SUMMER LUNCH.  SERVE WITH WEDGES OF WARM PITA AND YOU’LL THINK YOU’RE IN BEIRUT.

Click here to download recipe

TRI-TIP WITH MUSHROOM SAUCE
TRI-TIP WITH MUSHROOM SAUCE

TRI-TIP IS THE LOWER PART OF THE SIRLOIN, LEANER BUT EQUALLY FLAVORFUL AND CONSIDERABLY CHEAPER.  PAN-COOKED, WITH A CLASSIC FRENCH MUSHROOM AND RED WINE SAUCE, FLAVORED WITH THYME, TARRAGON, PARSLEY, AND CHIVES, IT’S SIMPLE TO MAKE AND GREAT WITH A MORE TIME-CONSUMING DISH SUCH AS POTATOES GRATIN.  BUT YOU COULD ALSO MAKE IT WITH ROASTED NEW POTATOES OR A PURÉE OF CELERY ROOT.  IF YOU CAN FIND IT, SPEND A FEW EXTRA BUCKS ON WAGYU TRI-TIP, WHICH IS MORE TENDER AND STILL LESS EXPENSIVE THAN TOP SIRLOIN OR RIB-EYE.

Click here to download recipe

CHICKEN SALAD
CHICKEN SALAD

I LOVE CHICKEN SALAD.  USUALLY, I STRIP THE MEAT FROM WHAT’S LEFT OF A LEFTOVER ROAST CHICKEN, BECAUSE I LIKE THE MIX OF WHITE AND DARK MEAT. THIS TIME, HOWEVER, I HAD AN EXTRA CHICKEN BREAST ON HAND, SO I PAN-COOKED IT WITH A LITTLE GARLIC AND THYME BEFORE CUTTING IT UP FOR THE SALAD. (more…)

L.A. RESTAURANTS 2017
L.A. RESTAURANTS 2017

JONATHAN GOLD’S 2017 BEST 101 RESTAURANTS — NO, I AM NEVER EATING AT VESPERTINE — REMINDED ME THAT I HAVEN’T AMENDED MY OWN BEST-IN-L.A. LIST IN QUITE SOME TIME. WE STILL HAVE OUR OLD FAVORITES, PLACES WE RETURN TO FREQUENTLY, BUT SO MANY WONDERFUL NEW SPOTS HAVE OPENED UP THAT IT WOULD BE CRIMINAL NOT TO CELEBRATE THEM AS WELL.

WHAT’S EXCITING NOW ABOUT THE FOOD SCENE IN L.A. IS THAT WE ARE GETTING AN EQUAL NUMBER OF MID-PRICED RESTAURANTS AS THE EXPENSIVE JOINTS SUCH AS OTIUM, MAUDE AND 71 ABOVE. AND, IN OUR EXPERIENCE, THE CHEAPER ONES ARE BETTER.

AS FAR AS THE STANDBYS ARE CONCERNED, WE STILL LOVE JOSEF CENTENO’S BACO MERCAT, BAR AMA, ORSA&WINSTON, AND HIS MOST RECENT ADDITION, THE VEGETABLE-CENTRIC P.Y.T.  SAME GOES FOR THE MOZZAPLEX, ALTHOUGH FOR SPECIAL OCCASIONS, WE PREFER CHI SPACCA TO THE ADJACENT OSTERIA. WE OFTEN FIND OURSELVES AT SALT’S CURE, IN IT’S NEW LOCATION ON HIGHLAND, ESPECIALLY SINCE CHRIS ADDED THE CONFITED DUCK LEG TO THE LUNCH MENU.  BECAUSE OF THE NOISE LEVEL, LUNCH IS THE ONLY TIME WE’LL EAT AT FACTORY KITCHEN WITH IT’S WONDERFUL FIRST-COURSE SALADS AND PASTA DISHES.  AT ADRIA AND CLAUDIO BLOTTA’S MARKET PROVISIONS AND ALL ‘AQUA, DON DICKMAN CONTINUES TO SURPRISE US WITH NEW INVENTIONS AS WELL AS STANDARDS SUCH AS OCTOPUS SALAD AND SPAGHETTI WITH CLAM SAUCE.  CLAUDIO’S WINE LISTS ARE AMONG THE MOST ORIGINAL AND BEST-PRICED IN TOWN.  WE FREQUENT SYCAMORE KITCHEN FOR THE CHOPPED SALAD AS WELL THE SHORT RIB SANDWICH AND KAREN HATFIELD’S IRRESISTIBLE BUTTERCUP.  IT’S HARD TO RESIST THE SMOKED SALMON TARTINE OR THE CHICKEN SALAD SANDWICH AT RÉPUBLIQUE; AT DINNER, WE OPT FOR THE BACK ROOM WHERE WE CAN CARRY ON A CONVERSATION WHILE DEVOURING WALTER MANZKE’S SUCCULENT ROAST CHICKEN.  CONNIE AND TED’S WINS THE LOBSTER ROLL CONTEST AND I RARELY ORDER FRESH OYSTERS ANYPLACE ELSE.

WE ARE WEEKLY REGULARS AT SANAMLUANG NOODLE SHOP WHERE WE ORDER ROAST DUCK NOODLE SOUP, SPICY SQUID SALAD AND FRIED SPARE RIBS.  IF MY WIFE WERE NOT SO AVERSE TO HOT FOOD, I’D FREQUENT  JITLADA MORE OFTEN WITH ITS ELEGANT NORTHERN THAI DISHES, BOTH SPICY AND NOT.  FOR CHINESE WE HEAD FOR THE SAN GABRIEL VALLEY WHERE DUCK HOUSE SERVES THE BEST PEKING DUCK IN TOWN IN AN INTIMATE SETTING WHERE THEY PLAY WEST COAST JAZZ.  A BIT FARTHER AFIELD, WE LIKE CHANG’S GARDEN AND FOR DIM SUM SEA HARBOR IN ROSEMEAD.

ON WITH THE NEW.  STEPHEN KALT SPENT 30 YEARS COOKING IN N.Y.C. WITH STINTS AT LE CIRQUE AND DANIEL BEFORE OPENING HIS OWN MOSTLY-ITALIAN RESTAURANT.  SPARTINA ON MELROSE IS BEHIND WHAT USED TO BE JOHNNY ROCKET’S IS ALSO MOSTLY-ITALIAN.  KALT IS A MASTER PASTA MAKER AND HIS SAUCES SUCH AS OCTOPUS AND BONE MARROW OR THE WAGYU BEEF BELLY WITH MUSHROOMS AND THAI BASIL HAVE LAYERS OF FLAVOR AND REAL HEFT.  SPARTINA IS ONE OF THE FEW PATIOS WHERE I WOULD CHOOSE TO DINE ON A WARM NIGHT.  WE WERE BEREFT WHEN CHEF TIM CAREY ABANDONED PAPILLES, WHICH IS FIVE MINUTES FROM OUR HOUSE, TO OPEN LOST AT SEA IN PASADENA.  BUT AFTER TWO PERFECT SEA FOOD DINNERS IN THE FRIENDLY BUT ELEGANT SPACE ON HOLLY, ALL IS FORGIVEN.  CAREY’S SOUPS REMAIN MEMORABLE AND NOW EMBRACE A SAFFRON-LACED BOUILLABAISE AS WELL AS VELVETY VELOUTÉ FOR THE BUTTER-POACHED LOBSTER.  AGAIN TIM HAS PARTNERED WITH SANTOS UY, WHOSE WORLD-RANGING WINE LIST IS BOTH ADVENTUROUS AS REASONABLE.  THEY RECENTLY OPENED FOR LUNCH.   THE SAME TEAM WHICH BROUGHT US FACTORY KICHEN, MATTEO AND FRANCINE-DIAMOND FERDINANDI, OPENED OFFICINE BRERA IN A SPECTACULAR INDUSTRIAL SPACE (FORMER GAS METER STORAGE FACILITY) AROUND THE CORNER ON 6TH.  ANGELO AURIANA, THE CHEF AT VALENTINO FOR 20 YEARS, FOCUSES ON THE HEARTY CUISINE OF MILAN.  I’VE NEVER HAD BETTER RISOTTO THAN HIS, BUT HIS SALADS SUCH AS HOME-MADE LARDO OVER BITTER GREENS ARE EQUALLY DELICIOUS.  AND IF YOU’RE IN THE MOOD FOR SOMETHING GRILLED, OFFICINE BRERA WILL SATISFY ANY CARNIVORE.

KISMETIN SILVERLAKE, MIGHT BE CALLED THE ANTI-BRERA, WITH ITS LOVELY LIGHT DISHES OF MOSTLY VEGETABLES, BOTH RAW AND COOKED, FLAVORED WITH LEBNI AND MIDDLE-EASTERN SPICES.  MY BUTCHER AND FISHMONGER KAREN AND NATHAN McCALL, BOTH FORMER CHEFS AT SONA, TOOK OVER A DEFUNCT JAPANESE RESTAURANT AT 2040 HILLHURST.  THAT’S ITS NAME, TOO.  THE EVER-EXPANDING MENU IS BOTH PROSAIC (FABULOUS CORNED BEEF SANDWICH) AND SOPHISTICATED (HANGER STEAK TARTARE WITH A QUAIL EGG AND CHUNKS OF PICKLED VEGETABLES).  SAVE ROOM FOR ONE OF KAREN’S SCRUMPTIOUS PASTRIES AND TAKE HOME SOME CROISSANTS FOR BREAKFAST.  IN PLACE OF PANOS BAKERY ON HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD, WE NOW HAVE THE SUPER-FRIENDLY FRIENDS AND FAMILY.  THEIR BREAKFASTS AND LUNCHES INCLUDE HOUSE-MADE CROISSANTS AND EGG DISHES; LUNCH, TOMATO SOUP, GRILLED CHEESE, SALADS, AND A PERFECT BLT ON THEIR OWN WHOLE WHEAT SOURDOUGH, WHICH YOU CAN BUY IN BIG OVAL LOAVES AND TAKE HOME.

TRAVELING WEST, STOP FOR LUNCH OR DINNER AT FUNDAMENTAL ON WESTWOOD BOULEVARD.  THEIR SANDWICHES ARE BIG AND WONDERFULLY COMPLEX.  THE DINNER MENU IS MORE EXTENSIVE AND EQUALLY SATISFYING WITH SOPHISTICATED CALIFORNIA CUISINE DISHES SUCH AS ROASTED CAULIFLOWER WITH CHILE LIME VINAIGRETTE AND JIDORI CHICKEN “ADOBO” WITH TOMATILLO, CHARRED ONION AND AVOCADO.

JOINING RÉPUBLIQUE AND SYCAMORE KITCHEN ON MY LIST OF LA BREA FAVORITES, IS NONG LÁ, A MODERN VIETNAMESE RESTAURANT, WITH A PLEASING PALE WOOD INTERIOR AND A DECENT WINE AND BEER LIST.  THERE’S NOTHING STRIKING ABOUT THE MENU; SPRING ROLLS, PHÓ, BANH MI SANDWICHES, BUT THE BROTH, MADE FROM FREE RANGE CHICKENS, IS RICH AND FLAVORFUL AND THE GREENS, CRISPY FRESH AND ORGANIC.

OUR NEWFOUND LOVE AFFAIR WITH LUDOVIC LEFEBVRE’S PETIT TROIS IS A TESTAMENT TO HOW MUCH WE ARE WILLING TO PROSTITUTE OURSELVES FOR A DECENT MEAL.  OUR DINNER AT TROIS MEC, SOME YEARS AGO, SOURED US ON LUDOVIC, BUT WE’D BEEN GETTING SO MANY GLOWING REPORTS ABOUT HIS LITTLE BISTRO NEXT DOOR THAT WE FINALLY CAVED.  WE’VE BEEN BACK THREE TIMES FOR MOULES MARINÈRE, ONION SOUP AND FRISḖE AUX LARDONS, ARGUABLY THE BEST IN TOWN.

THIS YEAR PROMISES NEW DISCOVERIES INCLUDING RESTAURANTS BY DANIEL HUMM (ELEVEN MADISON PARK), DOMINIQUE ANSELL (EVER HAD A CRONUT?), SAN FRANCISCO’S INCOMPARABLE TARTINE, NOT TO MENTION ALL THOSE RESTAURANTS ON THE TOP FLOOR OF EATALY.

PAPPARDELLE WITH SAUSAGE AND SAFFRON
PAPPARDELLE WITH SAUSAGE AND SAFFRON

MARCELLA HAZAN MAKES THIS DISH WITH GROUND VEAL, BUT I’M NOT BUYING MUCH VEAL THESE DAYS, SO I TRIED SUBSTITUTING ITALIAN SAUSAGE, COMBINING THE STUFFING FROM SWEET FENNEL AND SPICY SAUSAGE. (more…)

CHICKEN WITH SORREL CREAM SAUCE
CHICKEN WITH SORREL CREAM SAUCE

LAST WEEK THERE WAS AN EXPLOSION OF SORREL IN THE L.A.L.A. FARM. I TOOK A BUNCH HOME TO MAKE POTATO, LEEK AND SORREL SOUP, BUT THE REMAINDER I USED TO CREATE A CHICKEN DISH TO SHOW MY STUDENTS HOW THIS SOUR, GREEN LEAF IS SO DAZZLING IN A CREAMY SAUCE. MOST OF THEM HAD NEVER HEARD OF SORREL. WHEN THEY TASTED THE RAW LEAVES I COULD SEE THEIR SKEPTICISM. BUT WE PRESSED ON. I’M NOT ALLOWED TO COOK WITH WINE IN THE SCHOOL, SO I SUBSTITUTED CHICKEN STOCK, WHICH ACTUALLY GAVE THE SAUCE A BODY IT WOULDN’T HAVE HAD WITH JUST WHITE WINE. THE RECIPE WORKS WITH EITHER. WHEN WE BROUGHT THE FINISHED DISH TO THE TABLE, THE CHICKEN THIGHS SWIMMING IN CREAMY SAUCE LACED WITH SORREL, THE KIDS SOPPED UP EVERY LAST DROP.
Click here to download recipe

BACO DUCK
BACO DUCK

JOSEF CENTENO JUST CAME OUT WITH A COOKBOOK, “BÄCO, VIVID RECIPES FROM THE HEART OF LOS ANGELES”, WHICH HE WROTE WITH BETTY HALLOCK, A FOOD WRITER AND ONE-TIME DEPUTY FOOD EDITOR FOR THE L.A. TIMES.

I’M A BIG FAN OF JOSEF’S COOKING, WHICH, AS JONATHAN GOLD POINTED OUT IN HIS REVIEW OF JOSEF’S ORSA & WINSTON, REFLECTS THIS MELTING POT OF A CITY WITH POPULATIONS FROM BOTH SOUTH AND CENTRAL AMERICA AS WELL AS CHINA, JAPAN AND SOUTHEAST ASIA.

THE MIRACLE OF JOSEF’S DISHES ARE THAT THEY SEAMLESSLY COMBINE THOSE TASTES INTO ORIGINAL CREATIONS. THIS RECIPE FOR WHOLE ROASTED ORANGE-AND-SOY-GLAZED DUCK USES A SPICE RUB WHICH IS MIDDLE EASTERN AND A GLAZE WHICH IS PART FRENCH, PART CHINESE. THE RESULT IS A SUCCULENT BIRD WITH A CRISPY, SWEET-SOUR SKIN.

I REDUCED THE COOKING TIME A BIT AND FUDGED THE BAHARAT, WHICH I DID NOT HAVE ON HAND, BUT WILL NEXT TIME. THE THRILL AND CHALLENGE OF THIS BOOK WILL BE TO ASSEMBLE A NEW PANTRY OF SPICE MIXES AND SAUCES, WHICH CAN BE USED IN BOTH JOSEF’S RECIPES AND INVENTIONS OF ONE’S OWN.

Click here to download recipe

PASTA WITH ZUCCHINI, LEMON AND MINT
PASTA WITH ZUCCHINI, LEMON AND MINT

USUALLY WHEN I COOK ZUCCHINI FOR PASTA, I BROWN IT IN OLIVE OIL, ADD GARLIC AND CHERRY TOMATOES AND TOSS IT WITH THE PASTA. HERE, THIN RIBBONS OF ZUCCHINI ARE MORE RAW THAN COOKED, TOSSED IN BUTTER, OLIVE OIL AND LEMON.
(more…)

BEER BRAISED COUNTRY STYLE PORK RIBS
BEER BRAISED COUNTRY STYLE PORK RIBS

I SPOTTED A CUT IN THE BUTCHER’S CASE LABELLED “COUNTRY STYLE BONELESS PORK RIBS”.  THEY WERE THICK AND MEATY WITH LITTLE FAT BUT PLENTY OF CONNECTIVE TISSUE; AN IDEAL BRAISING CUT. (more…)

FRENCH POTATO SALAD
FRENCH POTATO SALAD

EVERYBODY’S GOT A RECIPE FOR POTATO SALAD.  SOME LIKE IT MIXED WITH MAYONNAISE OR TOSSED WITH ONIONS, RELISH OR CHOPPED PICKLES.  MY FAVORITE IS FRENCH POTATO SALAD OR A VERSION THEREOF.  NO MATTER THE VARIATION, THE ONE COMMON TECHNIQUE IS TO COOL OFF THE BOILED POTATO SLICES WITH COLD WHITE WINE, WHICH IS ABSORBED, LENDING THE POTATOES A LIGHTLY BOOZY FLAVOR.  MORE FLAVOR COMES FROM GRAINY MUSTARD, MUSTARD SEED AND A FEW TABLESPOONS OF HAZELNUT OIL IN THE DRESSING.  I LOVE TARRAGON, BUT DILL OR PARSLEY WORK EQUALLY WELL.  THIS A SUMMERY ALTERNATIVE HOT POTATOES OR PASTA THE PERFECT COMPLEMENT TO EVERYTHING FROM GRILLED FISH TO HAMBURGERS.

Click here to download recipe

PURSLANE SALAD
PURSLANE SALAD

PURSLANE HAS GREY-GREEN, TEAR-SHAPED, SUCCULENT LEAVES, WHICH ARE CRUNCHY TO THE BITE, RELEASING A PLEASANTLY SOUR JUICE.  THEY ARE COMMON IN ARMENIAN AND LEBANESE RESTAURANTS, FOUND ALWAYS IN FATTOUSH SALAD.  I COMBINED THEM WITH OTHER MEDITERRANEAN INGREDIENTS — NICOISE OLIVES, FETA, TOMATOES, BASIL, FRESH MINT, AND PERSIAN CUCUMBERS.  RED ONION IS MACERATED AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BOWL IN SALT AND VINEGAR, WHICH TAMES ITS BITE BY THE TIME THE SALD IS TOSSED AND SERVED.  THIS IS A SUBSTANTIAL FIRST-COURSE SALAD OR A MAIN COURSE FOR A SUMMER LUNCH.  SERVE WITH WEDGES OF WARM PITA AND YOU’LL THINK YOU’RE IN BEIRUT.

Click here to download recipe

TRI-TIP WITH MUSHROOM SAUCE
TRI-TIP WITH MUSHROOM SAUCE

TRI-TIP IS THE LOWER PART OF THE SIRLOIN, LEANER BUT EQUALLY FLAVORFUL AND CONSIDERABLY CHEAPER.  PAN-COOKED, WITH A CLASSIC FRENCH MUSHROOM AND RED WINE SAUCE, FLAVORED WITH THYME, TARRAGON, PARSLEY, AND CHIVES, IT’S SIMPLE TO MAKE AND GREAT WITH A MORE TIME-CONSUMING DISH SUCH AS POTATOES GRATIN.  BUT YOU COULD ALSO MAKE IT WITH ROASTED NEW POTATOES OR A PURÉE OF CELERY ROOT.  IF YOU CAN FIND IT, SPEND A FEW EXTRA BUCKS ON WAGYU TRI-TIP, WHICH IS MORE TENDER AND STILL LESS EXPENSIVE THAN TOP SIRLOIN OR RIB-EYE.

Click here to download recipe

CHICKEN SALAD
CHICKEN SALAD

I LOVE CHICKEN SALAD.  USUALLY, I STRIP THE MEAT FROM WHAT’S LEFT OF A LEFTOVER ROAST CHICKEN, BECAUSE I LIKE THE MIX OF WHITE AND DARK MEAT. THIS TIME, HOWEVER, I HAD AN EXTRA CHICKEN BREAST ON HAND, SO I PAN-COOKED IT WITH A LITTLE GARLIC AND THYME BEFORE CUTTING IT UP FOR THE SALAD. (more…)

L.A. RESTAURANTS 2017
L.A. RESTAURANTS 2017

JONATHAN GOLD’S 2017 BEST 101 RESTAURANTS — NO, I AM NEVER EATING AT VESPERTINE — REMINDED ME THAT I HAVEN’T AMENDED MY OWN BEST-IN-L.A. LIST IN QUITE SOME TIME. WE STILL HAVE OUR OLD FAVORITES, PLACES WE RETURN TO FREQUENTLY, BUT SO MANY WONDERFUL NEW SPOTS HAVE OPENED UP THAT IT WOULD BE CRIMINAL NOT TO CELEBRATE THEM AS WELL.

WHAT’S EXCITING NOW ABOUT THE FOOD SCENE IN L.A. IS THAT WE ARE GETTING AN EQUAL NUMBER OF MID-PRICED RESTAURANTS AS THE EXPENSIVE JOINTS SUCH AS OTIUM, MAUDE AND 71 ABOVE. AND, IN OUR EXPERIENCE, THE CHEAPER ONES ARE BETTER.

AS FAR AS THE STANDBYS ARE CONCERNED, WE STILL LOVE JOSEF CENTENO’S BACO MERCAT, BAR AMA, ORSA&WINSTON, AND HIS MOST RECENT ADDITION, THE VEGETABLE-CENTRIC P.Y.T.  SAME GOES FOR THE MOZZAPLEX, ALTHOUGH FOR SPECIAL OCCASIONS, WE PREFER CHI SPACCA TO THE ADJACENT OSTERIA. WE OFTEN FIND OURSELVES AT SALT’S CURE, IN IT’S NEW LOCATION ON HIGHLAND, ESPECIALLY SINCE CHRIS ADDED THE CONFITED DUCK LEG TO THE LUNCH MENU.  BECAUSE OF THE NOISE LEVEL, LUNCH IS THE ONLY TIME WE’LL EAT AT FACTORY KITCHEN WITH IT’S WONDERFUL FIRST-COURSE SALADS AND PASTA DISHES.  AT ADRIA AND CLAUDIO BLOTTA’S MARKET PROVISIONS AND ALL ‘AQUA, DON DICKMAN CONTINUES TO SURPRISE US WITH NEW INVENTIONS AS WELL AS STANDARDS SUCH AS OCTOPUS SALAD AND SPAGHETTI WITH CLAM SAUCE.  CLAUDIO’S WINE LISTS ARE AMONG THE MOST ORIGINAL AND BEST-PRICED IN TOWN.  WE FREQUENT SYCAMORE KITCHEN FOR THE CHOPPED SALAD AS WELL THE SHORT RIB SANDWICH AND KAREN HATFIELD’S IRRESISTIBLE BUTTERCUP.  IT’S HARD TO RESIST THE SMOKED SALMON TARTINE OR THE CHICKEN SALAD SANDWICH AT RÉPUBLIQUE; AT DINNER, WE OPT FOR THE BACK ROOM WHERE WE CAN CARRY ON A CONVERSATION WHILE DEVOURING WALTER MANZKE’S SUCCULENT ROAST CHICKEN.  CONNIE AND TED’S WINS THE LOBSTER ROLL CONTEST AND I RARELY ORDER FRESH OYSTERS ANYPLACE ELSE.

WE ARE WEEKLY REGULARS AT SANAMLUANG NOODLE SHOP WHERE WE ORDER ROAST DUCK NOODLE SOUP, SPICY SQUID SALAD AND FRIED SPARE RIBS.  IF MY WIFE WERE NOT SO AVERSE TO HOT FOOD, I’D FREQUENT  JITLADA MORE OFTEN WITH ITS ELEGANT NORTHERN THAI DISHES, BOTH SPICY AND NOT.  FOR CHINESE WE HEAD FOR THE SAN GABRIEL VALLEY WHERE DUCK HOUSE SERVES THE BEST PEKING DUCK IN TOWN IN AN INTIMATE SETTING WHERE THEY PLAY WEST COAST JAZZ.  A BIT FARTHER AFIELD, WE LIKE CHANG’S GARDEN AND FOR DIM SUM SEA HARBOR IN ROSEMEAD.

ON WITH THE NEW.  STEPHEN KALT SPENT 30 YEARS COOKING IN N.Y.C. WITH STINTS AT LE CIRQUE AND DANIEL BEFORE OPENING HIS OWN MOSTLY-ITALIAN RESTAURANT.  SPARTINA ON MELROSE IS BEHIND WHAT USED TO BE JOHNNY ROCKET’S IS ALSO MOSTLY-ITALIAN.  KALT IS A MASTER PASTA MAKER AND HIS SAUCES SUCH AS OCTOPUS AND BONE MARROW OR THE WAGYU BEEF BELLY WITH MUSHROOMS AND THAI BASIL HAVE LAYERS OF FLAVOR AND REAL HEFT.  SPARTINA IS ONE OF THE FEW PATIOS WHERE I WOULD CHOOSE TO DINE ON A WARM NIGHT.  WE WERE BEREFT WHEN CHEF TIM CAREY ABANDONED PAPILLES, WHICH IS FIVE MINUTES FROM OUR HOUSE, TO OPEN LOST AT SEA IN PASADENA.  BUT AFTER TWO PERFECT SEA FOOD DINNERS IN THE FRIENDLY BUT ELEGANT SPACE ON HOLLY, ALL IS FORGIVEN.  CAREY’S SOUPS REMAIN MEMORABLE AND NOW EMBRACE A SAFFRON-LACED BOUILLABAISE AS WELL AS VELVETY VELOUTÉ FOR THE BUTTER-POACHED LOBSTER.  AGAIN TIM HAS PARTNERED WITH SANTOS UY, WHOSE WORLD-RANGING WINE LIST IS BOTH ADVENTUROUS AS REASONABLE.  THEY RECENTLY OPENED FOR LUNCH.   THE SAME TEAM WHICH BROUGHT US FACTORY KICHEN, MATTEO AND FRANCINE-DIAMOND FERDINANDI, OPENED OFFICINE BRERA IN A SPECTACULAR INDUSTRIAL SPACE (FORMER GAS METER STORAGE FACILITY) AROUND THE CORNER ON 6TH.  ANGELO AURIANA, THE CHEF AT VALENTINO FOR 20 YEARS, FOCUSES ON THE HEARTY CUISINE OF MILAN.  I’VE NEVER HAD BETTER RISOTTO THAN HIS, BUT HIS SALADS SUCH AS HOME-MADE LARDO OVER BITTER GREENS ARE EQUALLY DELICIOUS.  AND IF YOU’RE IN THE MOOD FOR SOMETHING GRILLED, OFFICINE BRERA WILL SATISFY ANY CARNIVORE.

KISMETIN SILVERLAKE, MIGHT BE CALLED THE ANTI-BRERA, WITH ITS LOVELY LIGHT DISHES OF MOSTLY VEGETABLES, BOTH RAW AND COOKED, FLAVORED WITH LEBNI AND MIDDLE-EASTERN SPICES.  MY BUTCHER AND FISHMONGER KAREN AND NATHAN McCALL, BOTH FORMER CHEFS AT SONA, TOOK OVER A DEFUNCT JAPANESE RESTAURANT AT 2040 HILLHURST.  THAT’S ITS NAME, TOO.  THE EVER-EXPANDING MENU IS BOTH PROSAIC (FABULOUS CORNED BEEF SANDWICH) AND SOPHISTICATED (HANGER STEAK TARTARE WITH A QUAIL EGG AND CHUNKS OF PICKLED VEGETABLES).  SAVE ROOM FOR ONE OF KAREN’S SCRUMPTIOUS PASTRIES AND TAKE HOME SOME CROISSANTS FOR BREAKFAST.  IN PLACE OF PANOS BAKERY ON HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD, WE NOW HAVE THE SUPER-FRIENDLY FRIENDS AND FAMILY.  THEIR BREAKFASTS AND LUNCHES INCLUDE HOUSE-MADE CROISSANTS AND EGG DISHES; LUNCH, TOMATO SOUP, GRILLED CHEESE, SALADS, AND A PERFECT BLT ON THEIR OWN WHOLE WHEAT SOURDOUGH, WHICH YOU CAN BUY IN BIG OVAL LOAVES AND TAKE HOME.

TRAVELING WEST, STOP FOR LUNCH OR DINNER AT FUNDAMENTAL ON WESTWOOD BOULEVARD.  THEIR SANDWICHES ARE BIG AND WONDERFULLY COMPLEX.  THE DINNER MENU IS MORE EXTENSIVE AND EQUALLY SATISFYING WITH SOPHISTICATED CALIFORNIA CUISINE DISHES SUCH AS ROASTED CAULIFLOWER WITH CHILE LIME VINAIGRETTE AND JIDORI CHICKEN “ADOBO” WITH TOMATILLO, CHARRED ONION AND AVOCADO.

JOINING RÉPUBLIQUE AND SYCAMORE KITCHEN ON MY LIST OF LA BREA FAVORITES, IS NONG LÁ, A MODERN VIETNAMESE RESTAURANT, WITH A PLEASING PALE WOOD INTERIOR AND A DECENT WINE AND BEER LIST.  THERE’S NOTHING STRIKING ABOUT THE MENU; SPRING ROLLS, PHÓ, BANH MI SANDWICHES, BUT THE BROTH, MADE FROM FREE RANGE CHICKENS, IS RICH AND FLAVORFUL AND THE GREENS, CRISPY FRESH AND ORGANIC.

OUR NEWFOUND LOVE AFFAIR WITH LUDOVIC LEFEBVRE’S PETIT TROIS IS A TESTAMENT TO HOW MUCH WE ARE WILLING TO PROSTITUTE OURSELVES FOR A DECENT MEAL.  OUR DINNER AT TROIS MEC, SOME YEARS AGO, SOURED US ON LUDOVIC, BUT WE’D BEEN GETTING SO MANY GLOWING REPORTS ABOUT HIS LITTLE BISTRO NEXT DOOR THAT WE FINALLY CAVED.  WE’VE BEEN BACK THREE TIMES FOR MOULES MARINÈRE, ONION SOUP AND FRISḖE AUX LARDONS, ARGUABLY THE BEST IN TOWN.

THIS YEAR PROMISES NEW DISCOVERIES INCLUDING RESTAURANTS BY DANIEL HUMM (ELEVEN MADISON PARK), DOMINIQUE ANSELL (EVER HAD A CRONUT?), SAN FRANCISCO’S INCOMPARABLE TARTINE, NOT TO MENTION ALL THOSE RESTAURANTS ON THE TOP FLOOR OF EATALY.

PAPPARDELLE WITH SAUSAGE AND SAFFRON
PAPPARDELLE WITH SAUSAGE AND SAFFRON

MARCELLA HAZAN MAKES THIS DISH WITH GROUND VEAL, BUT I’M NOT BUYING MUCH VEAL THESE DAYS, SO I TRIED SUBSTITUTING ITALIAN SAUSAGE, COMBINING THE STUFFING FROM SWEET FENNEL AND SPICY SAUSAGE. (more…)

CHICKEN WITH SORREL CREAM SAUCE
CHICKEN WITH SORREL CREAM SAUCE

LAST WEEK THERE WAS AN EXPLOSION OF SORREL IN THE L.A.L.A. FARM. I TOOK A BUNCH HOME TO MAKE POTATO, LEEK AND SORREL SOUP, BUT THE REMAINDER I USED TO CREATE A CHICKEN DISH TO SHOW MY STUDENTS HOW THIS SOUR, GREEN LEAF IS SO DAZZLING IN A CREAMY SAUCE. MOST OF THEM HAD NEVER HEARD OF SORREL. WHEN THEY TASTED THE RAW LEAVES I COULD SEE THEIR SKEPTICISM. BUT WE PRESSED ON. I’M NOT ALLOWED TO COOK WITH WINE IN THE SCHOOL, SO I SUBSTITUTED CHICKEN STOCK, WHICH ACTUALLY GAVE THE SAUCE A BODY IT WOULDN’T HAVE HAD WITH JUST WHITE WINE. THE RECIPE WORKS WITH EITHER. WHEN WE BROUGHT THE FINISHED DISH TO THE TABLE, THE CHICKEN THIGHS SWIMMING IN CREAMY SAUCE LACED WITH SORREL, THE KIDS SOPPED UP EVERY LAST DROP.
Click here to download recipe

BACO DUCK
BACO DUCK

JOSEF CENTENO JUST CAME OUT WITH A COOKBOOK, “BÄCO, VIVID RECIPES FROM THE HEART OF LOS ANGELES”, WHICH HE WROTE WITH BETTY HALLOCK, A FOOD WRITER AND ONE-TIME DEPUTY FOOD EDITOR FOR THE L.A. TIMES.

I’M A BIG FAN OF JOSEF’S COOKING, WHICH, AS JONATHAN GOLD POINTED OUT IN HIS REVIEW OF JOSEF’S ORSA & WINSTON, REFLECTS THIS MELTING POT OF A CITY WITH POPULATIONS FROM BOTH SOUTH AND CENTRAL AMERICA AS WELL AS CHINA, JAPAN AND SOUTHEAST ASIA.

THE MIRACLE OF JOSEF’S DISHES ARE THAT THEY SEAMLESSLY COMBINE THOSE TASTES INTO ORIGINAL CREATIONS. THIS RECIPE FOR WHOLE ROASTED ORANGE-AND-SOY-GLAZED DUCK USES A SPICE RUB WHICH IS MIDDLE EASTERN AND A GLAZE WHICH IS PART FRENCH, PART CHINESE. THE RESULT IS A SUCCULENT BIRD WITH A CRISPY, SWEET-SOUR SKIN.

I REDUCED THE COOKING TIME A BIT AND FUDGED THE BAHARAT, WHICH I DID NOT HAVE ON HAND, BUT WILL NEXT TIME. THE THRILL AND CHALLENGE OF THIS BOOK WILL BE TO ASSEMBLE A NEW PANTRY OF SPICE MIXES AND SAUCES, WHICH CAN BE USED IN BOTH JOSEF’S RECIPES AND INVENTIONS OF ONE’S OWN.

Click here to download recipe

PASTA WITH ZUCCHINI, LEMON AND MINT
PASTA WITH ZUCCHINI, LEMON AND MINT

USUALLY WHEN I COOK ZUCCHINI FOR PASTA, I BROWN IT IN OLIVE OIL, ADD GARLIC AND CHERRY TOMATOES AND TOSS IT WITH THE PASTA. HERE, THIN RIBBONS OF ZUCCHINI ARE MORE RAW THAN COOKED, TOSSED IN BUTTER, OLIVE OIL AND LEMON.
(more…)

BEER BRAISED COUNTRY STYLE PORK RIBS
BEER BRAISED COUNTRY STYLE PORK RIBS

I SPOTTED A CUT IN THE BUTCHER’S CASE LABELLED “COUNTRY STYLE BONELESS PORK RIBS”.  THEY WERE THICK AND MEATY WITH LITTLE FAT BUT PLENTY OF CONNECTIVE TISSUE; AN IDEAL BRAISING CUT. (more…)

FRENCH POTATO SALAD
FRENCH POTATO SALAD

EVERYBODY’S GOT A RECIPE FOR POTATO SALAD.  SOME LIKE IT MIXED WITH MAYONNAISE OR TOSSED WITH ONIONS, RELISH OR CHOPPED PICKLES.  MY FAVORITE IS FRENCH POTATO SALAD OR A VERSION THEREOF.  NO MATTER THE VARIATION, THE ONE COMMON TECHNIQUE IS TO COOL OFF THE BOILED POTATO SLICES WITH COLD WHITE WINE, WHICH IS ABSORBED, LENDING THE POTATOES A LIGHTLY BOOZY FLAVOR.  MORE FLAVOR COMES FROM GRAINY MUSTARD, MUSTARD SEED AND A FEW TABLESPOONS OF HAZELNUT OIL IN THE DRESSING.  I LOVE TARRAGON, BUT DILL OR PARSLEY WORK EQUALLY WELL.  THIS A SUMMERY ALTERNATIVE HOT POTATOES OR PASTA THE PERFECT COMPLEMENT TO EVERYTHING FROM GRILLED FISH TO HAMBURGERS.

Click here to download recipe

PURSLANE SALAD
PURSLANE SALAD

PURSLANE HAS GREY-GREEN, TEAR-SHAPED, SUCCULENT LEAVES, WHICH ARE CRUNCHY TO THE BITE, RELEASING A PLEASANTLY SOUR JUICE.  THEY ARE COMMON IN ARMENIAN AND LEBANESE RESTAURANTS, FOUND ALWAYS IN FATTOUSH SALAD.  I COMBINED THEM WITH OTHER MEDITERRANEAN INGREDIENTS — NICOISE OLIVES, FETA, TOMATOES, BASIL, FRESH MINT, AND PERSIAN CUCUMBERS.  RED ONION IS MACERATED AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BOWL IN SALT AND VINEGAR, WHICH TAMES ITS BITE BY THE TIME THE SALD IS TOSSED AND SERVED.  THIS IS A SUBSTANTIAL FIRST-COURSE SALAD OR A MAIN COURSE FOR A SUMMER LUNCH.  SERVE WITH WEDGES OF WARM PITA AND YOU’LL THINK YOU’RE IN BEIRUT.

Click here to download recipe

This Week’s Meal

TRI-TIP WITH MUSHROOM SAUCE

TRI-TIP WITH MUSHROOM SAUCE

BROWSE BY TYPE

RECENT RECIPES

  • TRI-TIP WITH MUSHROOM SAUCE TRI-TIP WITH MUSHROOM SAUCE
  • CHICKEN SALAD CHICKEN SALAD
  • PAPPARDELLE WITH SAUSAGE AND SAFFRON PAPPARDELLE WITH SAUSAGE AND SAFFRON

BATTERIE DE CUISINE

People often ask me about kitchen equipment, something I've been collecting (and giving away) for over forty years.

My mother made good with Reynold's Ware and some Le Creuset casseroles. In those days, there was a clear distinction between equipment for the home cook and professional chef.

Fred Bridge changed all that. Fred was a former Army cook who opened a cookware store for pros when he got out of the service. In the early Sixties, Fred, who didn't think much of domestic chefs, almost all of whom were women, opened his shop a couple of days a week, and only for a few hours a day, to us amateurs.

Wandering into his store in Turtle Bay (it later moved to the east 52nd) was, for me, a version of food porn. Copper sautoirs, carbon steel chefs knives, stainless steel stock pots, and every conceivable gadget or kitchen tool filled the shelves, hung from the ceiling and lay hidden in wooden drawers. Fred knew the stock number of every item and would shout out, "Jose, get me an 1127 and a dozen 962s!" and a frightened stock boy would dash off to fill the order.

Despite his gruffness, Fred was intrigued by me, a 23-year-old kid interested in serious cooking. He got even friendlier when I stocked my sister's kitchen as a wedding present.

After the success of the Cuisinart, which was just a professional Robot Coupe reconfigured for home use; plus the popularity of Industrial Chic, a number of companies began making restaurant equipment for home cooks.

Another important innovation was copper and aluminum sandwiches married to stainless steel pans. Stainless is bullet-proof and easy to maintain, but it's a terrible conductor of heat. Before that the best pots were tin-lined copper with cast iron handles. I lugged a set home from Paris sometime in the Eighties. They are beautiful and wonderful to cook with, but expensive to maintain, since once the tin wears down, they have to be re-lined and that costs more than what I paid for them in the first place.

When I was in KNOT'S LANDING, I made friends with a product-placement rep, who hung around the set, trying to place Toshiba microwaves and Black and Decker toaster ovens in the kitchen scenes. She represented Cuisinart cookware, so I asked her if I used those pans in the scenes where I was cooking if I could get a few cookware. To make a long story short, I wound up with a full set of Cuisinart cookware: sauce pans, frying pans, stockpots, and knives. I'm still using my Cuisnart pots and my original Cuisnart food processor, which my mom gave me in 1965.

As a brand, Cuisinart has been eclipsed by All-Clad, Calphalon, Demeyere, Mauviel, and a score of others. (William Sonoma carries 28 brands of cookware, but not Cuisinart).

I have a few All-Clad pans, a fantastic Sitram roundel, two excellent round-bottomed saucepans by Paderno, a set of Le Creuset au gratin dishes, and Lodge cast iron skillets in diameters ranging from six to twelve inches. Nothing beats cast iron for searing a steak, roasting potatoes or a whole chicken. Nor have I found a competitor for Le Creuset. They last forever.

Recently, I stocked the kitchen for my class at the L.A. Leadership Academy. I went to Amazon. It was just after the holidays, so everything was on sale. Still, when I compared the sale prices for practically every high-end brand, nothing came close to Cuisinart's prices. I bought a full set of pots and pans for less than I would have paid for two All-Clad frying pans. And I've been cooking with those Cuisinart pans in class, so I can attest to their quality, which seems not to have flagged in thirty years.

Knives? Who can resist a beautiful knife? I recently paid a fortune for a few Japanese-made knives designed by Michel Bras. I love working with them, but, frankly, you can do just as well with inexpensive knives from Forschner with composite handles. They're lightweight, easily sharpened and when they wear down in five years, you can replace them for a lot less than you'll pay for expensive knives.

What else? Well, I love my immersion blender and my moulis, which can't be beat for mashed potatoes or tomato soup. Wooden spoons, natch. A large colander, strainers, few heat-resistant silicone scrapers, a good box grater, Good Grips peelers, a microplane, and a wooden citrus reamer.

I have lots of stainless steel bowls; six small ones for my mis-en-place. When you're making a complicated dish or making a last minute sauce, it's great to have your ingredients sliced and diced and ready to go.

Lynn, who's a serious baker, swears by her Hobart K5A standing mixer.

Whatever you buy, and if you're starting off, you can get by with a few saucepans, frying pans, one casserole, a stockpot, and a limited set of knives, spend the money or high-quality equipment, which will last you a lifetime. They are the best investment you'll ever make. Most important, good kitchen equipment makes cooking a pleasure.