CHICKEN WITH RUTABAGAS AND APPLES
CHICKEN WITH RUTABAGAS AND APPLES

THIS RECIPE MIGHT ALSO BE NAMED “CHICKEN Á LA LYNN”, SINCE IT INCORPORATES MY WIFE’S FAVORITE ROOT VEGETABLE, THE HUMBLE RUTABAGAS.  I DECIDED TO JAZZ IT UP WITH APPLES AND A MIDDLE EASTERN SPICE BLEND AND ADD TOUCH OF HEAT WITH ALEPPO PEPPER (IF YOU CAN’T FIND ALEPPO PEPPER, SUBSTITUTE CHILI FLAKES).  EXCEPT FOR THE PEELING AND SLICING, THIS DISH IS A BREEZE TO MAKE.  MOST OF IT IS COOKED ON TOP OF THE STOVE, BUT FINISHED IN THE OVEN, UNCOVERED, TO KEEP THE VEGETABLES FROM BURNING BUT THE CHICKEN CRISP ON TOP.  LYNN WAS PLEASED.  THE VILLAGE CAN REJOICE.
Click here to download recipe

RACK OF LAMB
RACK OF LAMB

THIS YEAR INSTEAD OF PRIME RIB, I DECIDED TO SERVE RACK OF COLORADO LAMB.  LIKE NEW ZEALAND OR, EVEN BETTER, ICELANDIC LAMB, COLORADO LAMB IS MILD BUT FLAVORFUL.  A MUSTARD AND HERB COATING AND A THIN LAYER OF BREADCRUMBS FRAMES THE PINK SUCCULENCE OF THE MEAT.  I SERVED THE LAMB WITH BROCCOLINI WITH HOLLANDAISE AND BAKED POTATOES, STUFFED WITH AGED SWISS CHEESE AND CREME FRAÎCHE. SOMEONE BROUGHT A GOOD BORDEAUX.  AND THAT’S HOW WE RANG IN THE NEW YEAR. LET’S HOPE IT BODES WELL FOR 2018.
Click here to download recipe

TILEFISH WITH SPINACH AND CELERY ROOT PURÉE
TILEFISH WITH SPINACH AND CELERY ROOT PURÉE

TILEFISH, WHICH SWIM THE ATLANTIC FROM NOVA SCOTIA TO FLORIDA, IS A WHITE-FLESHED FISH WITH A TEXTURE SOMEWHERE BETWEEN COD AND STRIPED BASS.  MY FAVORITE METHOD OF COOKING FISH IS TO START IT SKIN SIDE DOWN TO CRISP THE SKIN, THEN TURN IT OVER, ADD A HUNK OF BUTTER, REDUCE THE HEAT AND COVER, BASTING TILL IT’S DONE.  THE FISH COMES OUT CRIPS ON TOP, BUT WITH A TEXTURE MORE TENDER THAN STRAIGHT PAN-FRYING.  IN THIS RECIPE, THE FINISHED FILLETS ARE SET ON TOP OF BARELY COOKED SPINACH AND SURROUNDED BY A PURÉE OF CELERY ROOT, WHICH WHEN POACHED IN MILK, HAS A NUTTY SWEETNESS WITHOUT THE STARCHINESS OF MASHED POTATOES.  IN FACT, WITH THE EXCEPTION OF THE BUTTER, THIS MAY BE A GREAT LOW-CALORIE BREAK FROM THE EXCESSES OF THE HOLIDAYS.
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…)

CHICKEN WITH RUTABAGAS AND APPLES
CHICKEN WITH RUTABAGAS AND APPLES

THIS RECIPE MIGHT ALSO BE NAMED “CHICKEN Á LA LYNN”, SINCE IT INCORPORATES MY WIFE’S FAVORITE ROOT VEGETABLE, THE HUMBLE RUTABAGAS.  I DECIDED TO JAZZ IT UP WITH APPLES AND A MIDDLE EASTERN SPICE BLEND AND ADD TOUCH OF HEAT WITH ALEPPO PEPPER (IF YOU CAN’T FIND ALEPPO PEPPER, SUBSTITUTE CHILI FLAKES).  EXCEPT FOR THE PEELING AND SLICING, THIS DISH IS A BREEZE TO MAKE.  MOST OF IT IS COOKED ON TOP OF THE STOVE, BUT FINISHED IN THE OVEN, UNCOVERED, TO KEEP THE VEGETABLES FROM BURNING BUT THE CHICKEN CRISP ON TOP.  LYNN WAS PLEASED.  THE VILLAGE CAN REJOICE.
Click here to download recipe

RACK OF LAMB
RACK OF LAMB

THIS YEAR INSTEAD OF PRIME RIB, I DECIDED TO SERVE RACK OF COLORADO LAMB.  LIKE NEW ZEALAND OR, EVEN BETTER, ICELANDIC LAMB, COLORADO LAMB IS MILD BUT FLAVORFUL.  A MUSTARD AND HERB COATING AND A THIN LAYER OF BREADCRUMBS FRAMES THE PINK SUCCULENCE OF THE MEAT.  I SERVED THE LAMB WITH BROCCOLINI WITH HOLLANDAISE AND BAKED POTATOES, STUFFED WITH AGED SWISS CHEESE AND CREME FRAÎCHE. SOMEONE BROUGHT A GOOD BORDEAUX.  AND THAT’S HOW WE RANG IN THE NEW YEAR. LET’S HOPE IT BODES WELL FOR 2018.
Click here to download recipe

TILEFISH WITH SPINACH AND CELERY ROOT PURÉE
TILEFISH WITH SPINACH AND CELERY ROOT PURÉE

TILEFISH, WHICH SWIM THE ATLANTIC FROM NOVA SCOTIA TO FLORIDA, IS A WHITE-FLESHED FISH WITH A TEXTURE SOMEWHERE BETWEEN COD AND STRIPED BASS.  MY FAVORITE METHOD OF COOKING FISH IS TO START IT SKIN SIDE DOWN TO CRISP THE SKIN, THEN TURN IT OVER, ADD A HUNK OF BUTTER, REDUCE THE HEAT AND COVER, BASTING TILL IT’S DONE.  THE FISH COMES OUT CRIPS ON TOP, BUT WITH A TEXTURE MORE TENDER THAN STRAIGHT PAN-FRYING.  IN THIS RECIPE, THE FINISHED FILLETS ARE SET ON TOP OF BARELY COOKED SPINACH AND SURROUNDED BY A PURÉE OF CELERY ROOT, WHICH WHEN POACHED IN MILK, HAS A NUTTY SWEETNESS WITHOUT THE STARCHINESS OF MASHED POTATOES.  IN FACT, WITH THE EXCEPTION OF THE BUTTER, THIS MAY BE A GREAT LOW-CALORIE BREAK FROM THE EXCESSES OF THE HOLIDAYS.
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…)

CHICKEN WITH RUTABAGAS AND APPLES
CHICKEN WITH RUTABAGAS AND APPLES

THIS RECIPE MIGHT ALSO BE NAMED “CHICKEN Á LA LYNN”, SINCE IT INCORPORATES MY WIFE’S FAVORITE ROOT VEGETABLE, THE HUMBLE RUTABAGAS.  I DECIDED TO JAZZ IT UP WITH APPLES AND A MIDDLE EASTERN SPICE BLEND AND ADD TOUCH OF HEAT WITH ALEPPO PEPPER (IF YOU CAN’T FIND ALEPPO PEPPER, SUBSTITUTE CHILI FLAKES).  EXCEPT FOR THE PEELING AND SLICING, THIS DISH IS A BREEZE TO MAKE.  MOST OF IT IS COOKED ON TOP OF THE STOVE, BUT FINISHED IN THE OVEN, UNCOVERED, TO KEEP THE VEGETABLES FROM BURNING BUT THE CHICKEN CRISP ON TOP.  LYNN WAS PLEASED.  THE VILLAGE CAN REJOICE.
Click here to download recipe

RACK OF LAMB
RACK OF LAMB

THIS YEAR INSTEAD OF PRIME RIB, I DECIDED TO SERVE RACK OF COLORADO LAMB.  LIKE NEW ZEALAND OR, EVEN BETTER, ICELANDIC LAMB, COLORADO LAMB IS MILD BUT FLAVORFUL.  A MUSTARD AND HERB COATING AND A THIN LAYER OF BREADCRUMBS FRAMES THE PINK SUCCULENCE OF THE MEAT.  I SERVED THE LAMB WITH BROCCOLINI WITH HOLLANDAISE AND BAKED POTATOES, STUFFED WITH AGED SWISS CHEESE AND CREME FRAÎCHE. SOMEONE BROUGHT A GOOD BORDEAUX.  AND THAT’S HOW WE RANG IN THE NEW YEAR. LET’S HOPE IT BODES WELL FOR 2018.
Click here to download recipe

TILEFISH WITH SPINACH AND CELERY ROOT PURÉE
TILEFISH WITH SPINACH AND CELERY ROOT PURÉE

TILEFISH, WHICH SWIM THE ATLANTIC FROM NOVA SCOTIA TO FLORIDA, IS A WHITE-FLESHED FISH WITH A TEXTURE SOMEWHERE BETWEEN COD AND STRIPED BASS.  MY FAVORITE METHOD OF COOKING FISH IS TO START IT SKIN SIDE DOWN TO CRISP THE SKIN, THEN TURN IT OVER, ADD A HUNK OF BUTTER, REDUCE THE HEAT AND COVER, BASTING TILL IT’S DONE.  THE FISH COMES OUT CRIPS ON TOP, BUT WITH A TEXTURE MORE TENDER THAN STRAIGHT PAN-FRYING.  IN THIS RECIPE, THE FINISHED FILLETS ARE SET ON TOP OF BARELY COOKED SPINACH AND SURROUNDED BY A PURÉE OF CELERY ROOT, WHICH WHEN POACHED IN MILK, HAS A NUTTY SWEETNESS WITHOUT THE STARCHINESS OF MASHED POTATOES.  IN FACT, WITH THE EXCEPTION OF THE BUTTER, THIS MAY BE A GREAT LOW-CALORIE BREAK FROM THE EXCESSES OF THE HOLIDAYS.
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…)

CHICKEN WITH RUTABAGAS AND APPLES
CHICKEN WITH RUTABAGAS AND APPLES

THIS RECIPE MIGHT ALSO BE NAMED “CHICKEN Á LA LYNN”, SINCE IT INCORPORATES MY WIFE’S FAVORITE ROOT VEGETABLE, THE HUMBLE RUTABAGAS.  I DECIDED TO JAZZ IT UP WITH APPLES AND A MIDDLE EASTERN SPICE BLEND AND ADD TOUCH OF HEAT WITH ALEPPO PEPPER (IF YOU CAN’T FIND ALEPPO PEPPER, SUBSTITUTE CHILI FLAKES).  EXCEPT FOR THE PEELING AND SLICING, THIS DISH IS A BREEZE TO MAKE.  MOST OF IT IS COOKED ON TOP OF THE STOVE, BUT FINISHED IN THE OVEN, UNCOVERED, TO KEEP THE VEGETABLES FROM BURNING BUT THE CHICKEN CRISP ON TOP.  LYNN WAS PLEASED.  THE VILLAGE CAN REJOICE.
Click here to download recipe

RACK OF LAMB
RACK OF LAMB

THIS YEAR INSTEAD OF PRIME RIB, I DECIDED TO SERVE RACK OF COLORADO LAMB.  LIKE NEW ZEALAND OR, EVEN BETTER, ICELANDIC LAMB, COLORADO LAMB IS MILD BUT FLAVORFUL.  A MUSTARD AND HERB COATING AND A THIN LAYER OF BREADCRUMBS FRAMES THE PINK SUCCULENCE OF THE MEAT.  I SERVED THE LAMB WITH BROCCOLINI WITH HOLLANDAISE AND BAKED POTATOES, STUFFED WITH AGED SWISS CHEESE AND CREME FRAÎCHE. SOMEONE BROUGHT A GOOD BORDEAUX.  AND THAT’S HOW WE RANG IN THE NEW YEAR. LET’S HOPE IT BODES WELL FOR 2018.
Click here to download recipe

TILEFISH WITH SPINACH AND CELERY ROOT PURÉE
TILEFISH WITH SPINACH AND CELERY ROOT PURÉE

TILEFISH, WHICH SWIM THE ATLANTIC FROM NOVA SCOTIA TO FLORIDA, IS A WHITE-FLESHED FISH WITH A TEXTURE SOMEWHERE BETWEEN COD AND STRIPED BASS.  MY FAVORITE METHOD OF COOKING FISH IS TO START IT SKIN SIDE DOWN TO CRISP THE SKIN, THEN TURN IT OVER, ADD A HUNK OF BUTTER, REDUCE THE HEAT AND COVER, BASTING TILL IT’S DONE.  THE FISH COMES OUT CRIPS ON TOP, BUT WITH A TEXTURE MORE TENDER THAN STRAIGHT PAN-FRYING.  IN THIS RECIPE, THE FINISHED FILLETS ARE SET ON TOP OF BARELY COOKED SPINACH AND SURROUNDED BY A PURÉE OF CELERY ROOT, WHICH WHEN POACHED IN MILK, HAS A NUTTY SWEETNESS WITHOUT THE STARCHINESS OF MASHED POTATOES.  IN FACT, WITH THE EXCEPTION OF THE BUTTER, THIS MAY BE A GREAT LOW-CALORIE BREAK FROM THE EXCESSES OF THE HOLIDAYS.
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…)

CHICKEN WITH RUTABAGAS AND APPLES
CHICKEN WITH RUTABAGAS AND APPLES

THIS RECIPE MIGHT ALSO BE NAMED “CHICKEN Á LA LYNN”, SINCE IT INCORPORATES MY WIFE’S FAVORITE ROOT VEGETABLE, THE HUMBLE RUTABAGAS.  I DECIDED TO JAZZ IT UP WITH APPLES AND A MIDDLE EASTERN SPICE BLEND AND ADD TOUCH OF HEAT WITH ALEPPO PEPPER (IF YOU CAN’T FIND ALEPPO PEPPER, SUBSTITUTE CHILI FLAKES).  EXCEPT FOR THE PEELING AND SLICING, THIS DISH IS A BREEZE TO MAKE.  MOST OF IT IS COOKED ON TOP OF THE STOVE, BUT FINISHED IN THE OVEN, UNCOVERED, TO KEEP THE VEGETABLES FROM BURNING BUT THE CHICKEN CRISP ON TOP.  LYNN WAS PLEASED.  THE VILLAGE CAN REJOICE.
Click here to download recipe

RACK OF LAMB
RACK OF LAMB

THIS YEAR INSTEAD OF PRIME RIB, I DECIDED TO SERVE RACK OF COLORADO LAMB.  LIKE NEW ZEALAND OR, EVEN BETTER, ICELANDIC LAMB, COLORADO LAMB IS MILD BUT FLAVORFUL.  A MUSTARD AND HERB COATING AND A THIN LAYER OF BREADCRUMBS FRAMES THE PINK SUCCULENCE OF THE MEAT.  I SERVED THE LAMB WITH BROCCOLINI WITH HOLLANDAISE AND BAKED POTATOES, STUFFED WITH AGED SWISS CHEESE AND CREME FRAÎCHE. SOMEONE BROUGHT A GOOD BORDEAUX.  AND THAT’S HOW WE RANG IN THE NEW YEAR. LET’S HOPE IT BODES WELL FOR 2018.
Click here to download recipe

TILEFISH WITH SPINACH AND CELERY ROOT PURÉE
TILEFISH WITH SPINACH AND CELERY ROOT PURÉE

TILEFISH, WHICH SWIM THE ATLANTIC FROM NOVA SCOTIA TO FLORIDA, IS A WHITE-FLESHED FISH WITH A TEXTURE SOMEWHERE BETWEEN COD AND STRIPED BASS.  MY FAVORITE METHOD OF COOKING FISH IS TO START IT SKIN SIDE DOWN TO CRISP THE SKIN, THEN TURN IT OVER, ADD A HUNK OF BUTTER, REDUCE THE HEAT AND COVER, BASTING TILL IT’S DONE.  THE FISH COMES OUT CRIPS ON TOP, BUT WITH A TEXTURE MORE TENDER THAN STRAIGHT PAN-FRYING.  IN THIS RECIPE, THE FINISHED FILLETS ARE SET ON TOP OF BARELY COOKED SPINACH AND SURROUNDED BY A PURÉE OF CELERY ROOT, WHICH WHEN POACHED IN MILK, HAS A NUTTY SWEETNESS WITHOUT THE STARCHINESS OF MASHED POTATOES.  IN FACT, WITH THE EXCEPTION OF THE BUTTER, THIS MAY BE A GREAT LOW-CALORIE BREAK FROM THE EXCESSES OF THE HOLIDAYS.
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…)

CHICKEN WITH RUTABAGAS AND APPLES
CHICKEN WITH RUTABAGAS AND APPLES

THIS RECIPE MIGHT ALSO BE NAMED “CHICKEN Á LA LYNN”, SINCE IT INCORPORATES MY WIFE’S FAVORITE ROOT VEGETABLE, THE HUMBLE RUTABAGAS.  I DECIDED TO JAZZ IT UP WITH APPLES AND A MIDDLE EASTERN SPICE BLEND AND ADD TOUCH OF HEAT WITH ALEPPO PEPPER (IF YOU CAN’T FIND ALEPPO PEPPER, SUBSTITUTE CHILI FLAKES).  EXCEPT FOR THE PEELING AND SLICING, THIS DISH IS A BREEZE TO MAKE.  MOST OF IT IS COOKED ON TOP OF THE STOVE, BUT FINISHED IN THE OVEN, UNCOVERED, TO KEEP THE VEGETABLES FROM BURNING BUT THE CHICKEN CRISP ON TOP.  LYNN WAS PLEASED.  THE VILLAGE CAN REJOICE.
Click here to download recipe

RACK OF LAMB
RACK OF LAMB

THIS YEAR INSTEAD OF PRIME RIB, I DECIDED TO SERVE RACK OF COLORADO LAMB.  LIKE NEW ZEALAND OR, EVEN BETTER, ICELANDIC LAMB, COLORADO LAMB IS MILD BUT FLAVORFUL.  A MUSTARD AND HERB COATING AND A THIN LAYER OF BREADCRUMBS FRAMES THE PINK SUCCULENCE OF THE MEAT.  I SERVED THE LAMB WITH BROCCOLINI WITH HOLLANDAISE AND BAKED POTATOES, STUFFED WITH AGED SWISS CHEESE AND CREME FRAÎCHE. SOMEONE BROUGHT A GOOD BORDEAUX.  AND THAT’S HOW WE RANG IN THE NEW YEAR. LET’S HOPE IT BODES WELL FOR 2018.
Click here to download recipe

TILEFISH WITH SPINACH AND CELERY ROOT PURÉE
TILEFISH WITH SPINACH AND CELERY ROOT PURÉE

TILEFISH, WHICH SWIM THE ATLANTIC FROM NOVA SCOTIA TO FLORIDA, IS A WHITE-FLESHED FISH WITH A TEXTURE SOMEWHERE BETWEEN COD AND STRIPED BASS.  MY FAVORITE METHOD OF COOKING FISH IS TO START IT SKIN SIDE DOWN TO CRISP THE SKIN, THEN TURN IT OVER, ADD A HUNK OF BUTTER, REDUCE THE HEAT AND COVER, BASTING TILL IT’S DONE.  THE FISH COMES OUT CRIPS ON TOP, BUT WITH A TEXTURE MORE TENDER THAN STRAIGHT PAN-FRYING.  IN THIS RECIPE, THE FINISHED FILLETS ARE SET ON TOP OF BARELY COOKED SPINACH AND SURROUNDED BY A PURÉE OF CELERY ROOT, WHICH WHEN POACHED IN MILK, HAS A NUTTY SWEETNESS WITHOUT THE STARCHINESS OF MASHED POTATOES.  IN FACT, WITH THE EXCEPTION OF THE BUTTER, THIS MAY BE A GREAT LOW-CALORIE BREAK FROM THE EXCESSES OF THE HOLIDAYS.
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…)

CHICKEN WITH RUTABAGAS AND APPLES
CHICKEN WITH RUTABAGAS AND APPLES

THIS RECIPE MIGHT ALSO BE NAMED “CHICKEN Á LA LYNN”, SINCE IT INCORPORATES MY WIFE’S FAVORITE ROOT VEGETABLE, THE HUMBLE RUTABAGAS.  I DECIDED TO JAZZ IT UP WITH APPLES AND A MIDDLE EASTERN SPICE BLEND AND ADD TOUCH OF HEAT WITH ALEPPO PEPPER (IF YOU CAN’T FIND ALEPPO PEPPER, SUBSTITUTE CHILI FLAKES).  EXCEPT FOR THE PEELING AND SLICING, THIS DISH IS A BREEZE TO MAKE.  MOST OF IT IS COOKED ON TOP OF THE STOVE, BUT FINISHED IN THE OVEN, UNCOVERED, TO KEEP THE VEGETABLES FROM BURNING BUT THE CHICKEN CRISP ON TOP.  LYNN WAS PLEASED.  THE VILLAGE CAN REJOICE.
Click here to download recipe

RACK OF LAMB
RACK OF LAMB

THIS YEAR INSTEAD OF PRIME RIB, I DECIDED TO SERVE RACK OF COLORADO LAMB.  LIKE NEW ZEALAND OR, EVEN BETTER, ICELANDIC LAMB, COLORADO LAMB IS MILD BUT FLAVORFUL.  A MUSTARD AND HERB COATING AND A THIN LAYER OF BREADCRUMBS FRAMES THE PINK SUCCULENCE OF THE MEAT.  I SERVED THE LAMB WITH BROCCOLINI WITH HOLLANDAISE AND BAKED POTATOES, STUFFED WITH AGED SWISS CHEESE AND CREME FRAÎCHE. SOMEONE BROUGHT A GOOD BORDEAUX.  AND THAT’S HOW WE RANG IN THE NEW YEAR. LET’S HOPE IT BODES WELL FOR 2018.
Click here to download recipe

TILEFISH WITH SPINACH AND CELERY ROOT PURÉE
TILEFISH WITH SPINACH AND CELERY ROOT PURÉE

TILEFISH, WHICH SWIM THE ATLANTIC FROM NOVA SCOTIA TO FLORIDA, IS A WHITE-FLESHED FISH WITH A TEXTURE SOMEWHERE BETWEEN COD AND STRIPED BASS.  MY FAVORITE METHOD OF COOKING FISH IS TO START IT SKIN SIDE DOWN TO CRISP THE SKIN, THEN TURN IT OVER, ADD A HUNK OF BUTTER, REDUCE THE HEAT AND COVER, BASTING TILL IT’S DONE.  THE FISH COMES OUT CRIPS ON TOP, BUT WITH A TEXTURE MORE TENDER THAN STRAIGHT PAN-FRYING.  IN THIS RECIPE, THE FINISHED FILLETS ARE SET ON TOP OF BARELY COOKED SPINACH AND SURROUNDED BY A PURÉE OF CELERY ROOT, WHICH WHEN POACHED IN MILK, HAS A NUTTY SWEETNESS WITHOUT THE STARCHINESS OF MASHED POTATOES.  IN FACT, WITH THE EXCEPTION OF THE BUTTER, THIS MAY BE A GREAT LOW-CALORIE BREAK FROM THE EXCESSES OF THE HOLIDAYS.
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…)

CHICKEN WITH RUTABAGAS AND APPLES
CHICKEN WITH RUTABAGAS AND APPLES

THIS RECIPE MIGHT ALSO BE NAMED “CHICKEN Á LA LYNN”, SINCE IT INCORPORATES MY WIFE’S FAVORITE ROOT VEGETABLE, THE HUMBLE RUTABAGAS.  I DECIDED TO JAZZ IT UP WITH APPLES AND A MIDDLE EASTERN SPICE BLEND AND ADD TOUCH OF HEAT WITH ALEPPO PEPPER (IF YOU CAN’T FIND ALEPPO PEPPER, SUBSTITUTE CHILI FLAKES).  EXCEPT FOR THE PEELING AND SLICING, THIS DISH IS A BREEZE TO MAKE.  MOST OF IT IS COOKED ON TOP OF THE STOVE, BUT FINISHED IN THE OVEN, UNCOVERED, TO KEEP THE VEGETABLES FROM BURNING BUT THE CHICKEN CRISP ON TOP.  LYNN WAS PLEASED.  THE VILLAGE CAN REJOICE.
Click here to download recipe

RACK OF LAMB
RACK OF LAMB

THIS YEAR INSTEAD OF PRIME RIB, I DECIDED TO SERVE RACK OF COLORADO LAMB.  LIKE NEW ZEALAND OR, EVEN BETTER, ICELANDIC LAMB, COLORADO LAMB IS MILD BUT FLAVORFUL.  A MUSTARD AND HERB COATING AND A THIN LAYER OF BREADCRUMBS FRAMES THE PINK SUCCULENCE OF THE MEAT.  I SERVED THE LAMB WITH BROCCOLINI WITH HOLLANDAISE AND BAKED POTATOES, STUFFED WITH AGED SWISS CHEESE AND CREME FRAÎCHE. SOMEONE BROUGHT A GOOD BORDEAUX.  AND THAT’S HOW WE RANG IN THE NEW YEAR. LET’S HOPE IT BODES WELL FOR 2018.
Click here to download recipe

TILEFISH WITH SPINACH AND CELERY ROOT PURÉE
TILEFISH WITH SPINACH AND CELERY ROOT PURÉE

TILEFISH, WHICH SWIM THE ATLANTIC FROM NOVA SCOTIA TO FLORIDA, IS A WHITE-FLESHED FISH WITH A TEXTURE SOMEWHERE BETWEEN COD AND STRIPED BASS.  MY FAVORITE METHOD OF COOKING FISH IS TO START IT SKIN SIDE DOWN TO CRISP THE SKIN, THEN TURN IT OVER, ADD A HUNK OF BUTTER, REDUCE THE HEAT AND COVER, BASTING TILL IT’S DONE.  THE FISH COMES OUT CRIPS ON TOP, BUT WITH A TEXTURE MORE TENDER THAN STRAIGHT PAN-FRYING.  IN THIS RECIPE, THE FINISHED FILLETS ARE SET ON TOP OF BARELY COOKED SPINACH AND SURROUNDED BY A PURÉE OF CELERY ROOT, WHICH WHEN POACHED IN MILK, HAS A NUTTY SWEETNESS WITHOUT THE STARCHINESS OF MASHED POTATOES.  IN FACT, WITH THE EXCEPTION OF THE BUTTER, THIS MAY BE A GREAT LOW-CALORIE BREAK FROM THE EXCESSES OF THE HOLIDAYS.
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…)

CHICKEN WITH RUTABAGAS AND APPLES
CHICKEN WITH RUTABAGAS AND APPLES

THIS RECIPE MIGHT ALSO BE NAMED “CHICKEN Á LA LYNN”, SINCE IT INCORPORATES MY WIFE’S FAVORITE ROOT VEGETABLE, THE HUMBLE RUTABAGAS.  I DECIDED TO JAZZ IT UP WITH APPLES AND A MIDDLE EASTERN SPICE BLEND AND ADD TOUCH OF HEAT WITH ALEPPO PEPPER (IF YOU CAN’T FIND ALEPPO PEPPER, SUBSTITUTE CHILI FLAKES).  EXCEPT FOR THE PEELING AND SLICING, THIS DISH IS A BREEZE TO MAKE.  MOST OF IT IS COOKED ON TOP OF THE STOVE, BUT FINISHED IN THE OVEN, UNCOVERED, TO KEEP THE VEGETABLES FROM BURNING BUT THE CHICKEN CRISP ON TOP.  LYNN WAS PLEASED.  THE VILLAGE CAN REJOICE.
Click here to download recipe

RACK OF LAMB
RACK OF LAMB

THIS YEAR INSTEAD OF PRIME RIB, I DECIDED TO SERVE RACK OF COLORADO LAMB.  LIKE NEW ZEALAND OR, EVEN BETTER, ICELANDIC LAMB, COLORADO LAMB IS MILD BUT FLAVORFUL.  A MUSTARD AND HERB COATING AND A THIN LAYER OF BREADCRUMBS FRAMES THE PINK SUCCULENCE OF THE MEAT.  I SERVED THE LAMB WITH BROCCOLINI WITH HOLLANDAISE AND BAKED POTATOES, STUFFED WITH AGED SWISS CHEESE AND CREME FRAÎCHE. SOMEONE BROUGHT A GOOD BORDEAUX.  AND THAT’S HOW WE RANG IN THE NEW YEAR. LET’S HOPE IT BODES WELL FOR 2018.
Click here to download recipe

TILEFISH WITH SPINACH AND CELERY ROOT PURÉE
TILEFISH WITH SPINACH AND CELERY ROOT PURÉE

TILEFISH, WHICH SWIM THE ATLANTIC FROM NOVA SCOTIA TO FLORIDA, IS A WHITE-FLESHED FISH WITH A TEXTURE SOMEWHERE BETWEEN COD AND STRIPED BASS.  MY FAVORITE METHOD OF COOKING FISH IS TO START IT SKIN SIDE DOWN TO CRISP THE SKIN, THEN TURN IT OVER, ADD A HUNK OF BUTTER, REDUCE THE HEAT AND COVER, BASTING TILL IT’S DONE.  THE FISH COMES OUT CRIPS ON TOP, BUT WITH A TEXTURE MORE TENDER THAN STRAIGHT PAN-FRYING.  IN THIS RECIPE, THE FINISHED FILLETS ARE SET ON TOP OF BARELY COOKED SPINACH AND SURROUNDED BY A PURÉE OF CELERY ROOT, WHICH WHEN POACHED IN MILK, HAS A NUTTY SWEETNESS WITHOUT THE STARCHINESS OF MASHED POTATOES.  IN FACT, WITH THE EXCEPTION OF THE BUTTER, THIS MAY BE A GREAT LOW-CALORIE BREAK FROM THE EXCESSES OF THE HOLIDAYS.
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…)

CHICKEN WITH RUTABAGAS AND APPLES
CHICKEN WITH RUTABAGAS AND APPLES

THIS RECIPE MIGHT ALSO BE NAMED “CHICKEN Á LA LYNN”, SINCE IT INCORPORATES MY WIFE’S FAVORITE ROOT VEGETABLE, THE HUMBLE RUTABAGAS.  I DECIDED TO JAZZ IT UP WITH APPLES AND A MIDDLE EASTERN SPICE BLEND AND ADD TOUCH OF HEAT WITH ALEPPO PEPPER (IF YOU CAN’T FIND ALEPPO PEPPER, SUBSTITUTE CHILI FLAKES).  EXCEPT FOR THE PEELING AND SLICING, THIS DISH IS A BREEZE TO MAKE.  MOST OF IT IS COOKED ON TOP OF THE STOVE, BUT FINISHED IN THE OVEN, UNCOVERED, TO KEEP THE VEGETABLES FROM BURNING BUT THE CHICKEN CRISP ON TOP.  LYNN WAS PLEASED.  THE VILLAGE CAN REJOICE.
Click here to download recipe

RACK OF LAMB
RACK OF LAMB

THIS YEAR INSTEAD OF PRIME RIB, I DECIDED TO SERVE RACK OF COLORADO LAMB.  LIKE NEW ZEALAND OR, EVEN BETTER, ICELANDIC LAMB, COLORADO LAMB IS MILD BUT FLAVORFUL.  A MUSTARD AND HERB COATING AND A THIN LAYER OF BREADCRUMBS FRAMES THE PINK SUCCULENCE OF THE MEAT.  I SERVED THE LAMB WITH BROCCOLINI WITH HOLLANDAISE AND BAKED POTATOES, STUFFED WITH AGED SWISS CHEESE AND CREME FRAÎCHE. SOMEONE BROUGHT A GOOD BORDEAUX.  AND THAT’S HOW WE RANG IN THE NEW YEAR. LET’S HOPE IT BODES WELL FOR 2018.
Click here to download recipe

TILEFISH WITH SPINACH AND CELERY ROOT PURÉE
TILEFISH WITH SPINACH AND CELERY ROOT PURÉE

TILEFISH, WHICH SWIM THE ATLANTIC FROM NOVA SCOTIA TO FLORIDA, IS A WHITE-FLESHED FISH WITH A TEXTURE SOMEWHERE BETWEEN COD AND STRIPED BASS.  MY FAVORITE METHOD OF COOKING FISH IS TO START IT SKIN SIDE DOWN TO CRISP THE SKIN, THEN TURN IT OVER, ADD A HUNK OF BUTTER, REDUCE THE HEAT AND COVER, BASTING TILL IT’S DONE.  THE FISH COMES OUT CRIPS ON TOP, BUT WITH A TEXTURE MORE TENDER THAN STRAIGHT PAN-FRYING.  IN THIS RECIPE, THE FINISHED FILLETS ARE SET ON TOP OF BARELY COOKED SPINACH AND SURROUNDED BY A PURÉE OF CELERY ROOT, WHICH WHEN POACHED IN MILK, HAS A NUTTY SWEETNESS WITHOUT THE STARCHINESS OF MASHED POTATOES.  IN FACT, WITH THE EXCEPTION OF THE BUTTER, THIS MAY BE A GREAT LOW-CALORIE BREAK FROM THE EXCESSES OF THE HOLIDAYS.
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…)

This Week’s Meal

CHICKEN WITH RUTABAGAS AND APPLES

CHICKEN WITH RUTABAGAS AND APPLES

BROWSE BY TYPE

RECENT RECIPES

SOUL FOOD IN THE YEAR OF TRUMP (2017)

THE ONLY SECTION OF THE PAPER WHICH IS NOT DEPRESSING TO READ THESE DAYS IS THE FOOD SECTION. I FIND MYSELF LINGERING OVER INTRIGUING RECIPES, FEATURE ARTICLES AND RESTAURANT REVIEWS.

EVEN BETTER IS TO SOOTHE ONE'S SOUL AT AN EXCITING NEW RESTAURANT OR BE PAMPERED IN A FAMILIAR ONE.

THE DINING SCENE IMPROVES EACH YEAR AND 2017 WAS NO EXCEPTION.

AS WE STUMBLE INTO 2018, LET US LOOK BACK FOR A MOMENT AND REFLECT:

EVERY COUPLE OF WEEKS I TREAT MYSELF TO SUSHI AT IKE IN HOLLYWOOD, WHERE RICK, THE NEW OWNER AND HEAD CHEF, SURPRISES ME WITH HIS OMAKASE DISHES SUCH AS VINEGARY BABY SQUID, SEARED UNI, CUT ROLL OF TORO AND PICKLED BURDOCK ROOT, WASHED DOWN WITH A SAPPORO DRAFT.

JOSEF CENTENO CONTINUES TO SURPRISE AND NEVER DISAPPOINT. THERE'S ALWAYS SOME DISCOVERY OR REFINEMENT OF A FAMILIAR DISH ON HIS MENUS AT BACO, BAR AMA, ORSA&WINSTON, AND P.Y.T. IN CULVER CITY, YOU CAN TREAT YOURSELF TO A BACO AT BACO SHOP OR MAKE THESE DISHES AT HOME BY INVESTING IN THE BACO COOKBOOK.

DESPITE OUR DISMAL TREATMENT A FEW YEARS BACK AT TROIS MEC, WE FINALLY SUCCUMBED TO THE LURE OF SUPERB BISTRO DISHES AT PETIT TROIS, RIGHT NEXT DOOR AND FAR MORE WELCOMING. GRAB A SEAT AT THE COUNTER SO YOU CAN WATCH THE CHEFS ASSEMBLE YOU ONION SOUP OR SIX EGG OMELETTE.
ACROSS THE STREET IS THE MOZZAPLEX, WHERE WE GO FOR LATE LUNCHES AND SPLIT THE INSALATA FORTE AND THE PIZZA BIANCO WASHED DOWN WITH A GLASS OF ETNA ROSSO.

THANKS TO OUR URGING, YOU CAN NOW ORDER CHRIS'S INCOMPARABLE DUCK CONFIT ON A BED OF BITTER GREENS OR WITH OATMEAL PANCAKES ON THE SIDE AT SALT'S CURE ON HIGHLAND.

KAREN HATFIELD'S SYCAMORE KITCHEN MAY MAKE THE BEST KOUIGN AMANN IN TOWN WHICH SHE CALLS A BUTTERCUP. I FIND THE SHORT RIB SANDWICH OR GRILLED CHEESE WITH WILTED GREENS AND TELEGGIO EQUALLY TEMPTING.

SYCAMORE IS IN CLOSE COMPETITION WITH RÉPUBLIQUE, FURTHER DOWN ON LA BREA. SHALL I ORDER THE SMOKED SALMON TARTINE ON A BED OF GUACAMOLE OR THE CUBAN SANDWICH? DON'T LEAVE WITHOUT A MULTIGRAIN OR RAISIN NUT LOAF TUCKED UNDER YOU ARM.

FURTHER NORTH ON LA BREA, I LOVE THE SPRING ROLLS AND PHO AT NONG LA, WITH ITS DEEPLY-FLAVORED BROTH AND ORGANIC CHICKEN.

I HAVE YET TO FIND RAMEN EQUAL TO THE 16-HOUR PORK BONE RICHNESS AT SILVERLAKE RAMEN, THOUGH YOU'LL HAVE BETTER LUCK AT 3PM THAN LUNCHTIME.
BUT 2017 MARKED THE OPENING OF SEVERAL NEW DISCOVERIES, AMONG THEM KISMET, NATHAN McCALL'S 2024 HILLHURST, AND THE SUPERB BREAD, SALADS AND SANDWICHES AT FRIENDS AND FAMILY WHERE PANOS' BAKERY ONCE STOOD.

AT VERLAINE, IN THE FORMER DOMINICK'S ON BEVERLY, IT MAY SURPRISE YOU TO KNOW CHEF DIEGO HERNANDEZ IS PREPARING NOT FRENCH BUT HAUTE MEXICAN DISHES.

PERHAPS THE MOST EXCITING AND DRAMATIC NEW SPACE IS ROSSOBLU, MADE EVEN MORE DAZZLING AT NIGHT BY ITS LOCATION IN THE FASHION DISTRICT, WHICH THOUGH BUSTLING BY DAY, IS DESOLATE AT NIGHT. BUT THE RESTAURANT, ON THE SITE OF THE FORMER CITY MARKET, BOASTS A WALL SIZE PHOTO MONTAGE MURAL AND AN INVITING OUTDOOR PATIO AND GARDENS, WHERE THE DIN IS LOST IN THE BALMY NIGHT. DIG IN TO HEARTY BOLOGNESE FARE, WITH SUPERB PASTAS, SALADS AND RIB-STICKING ENTRÉES SUCH AS ROAST SUCKLING PIG AND BRICK-PRESSED CHICKEN.

AS WE TIPTOE INTO 2018, I WILL NOT BE ORDERING THE $250 TASTING MENU AT VERSPERTINE, BUT LOOK FORWARD TO MY FIRST DINNER AT APRIL BLOOMFIELD'S HEARTH AND HOUND, TO BISTROT FARE AT JOURNEYMAN IN ATWATER VILLAGE, FILIPINO FOOD, AND MOZZARELLA STICKS AT COSA BUONA.

THAT'S JUST FOR STARTERS.