Saturday, May 29, 2010

Cheese of the Week: Roaring Forties Blue

Roaring Forties Blue Cheese is from the King Island Dairy, which is located on King Island, a small island (with an area smaller than that of the city of Los Angeles) South of Melbourne and North of Tasmania, in Australia's Bass Strait.

This cheese is not named for the decade, but for the fiercely strong westerly winds which bear down on the island which lies along the 40 degrees South latitude and caused many shipwrecks over the years. (Calling all treasure hunters!) It is a medium creamy rind-less blue cheese in the Roquefort style made from cow's milk exclusively from cows who graze on the island's lush vegetation. The cheese has a slight nuttiness in the taste and some nice salty tangy flavor. It is more creamy than crumbly and is matured in rounds in a thick blue wax coating, the effects of which may contribute to its sweetness.

Roaring Forties has won several awards including the 2006 Championship at the 78th Annual British Empire Cheese Show in Ontario, Canada. It is available locally at Surfas for $17.00 per pound and also via mail order.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Fried Chicken Sundays @ The Hungry Cat

When the Hungry Cat restaurant in Hollywood tweeted "Fried Chicken & Waffles @ thehungrycat Hollywood: Sunday Nights until the end of summer. Starting today 5/2/10" I knew I had to get there as soon as possible. Announcing your special fried chicken is my version of putting up the Bat Signal for Batman - the Savory Hunter must respond. So I rushed over that night to try the fried chicken and waffles and continue the Derby weekend with another Mint Julep.

The fried chicken (pictured above) is generously portioned and served over a Belgian waffle, with maple syrup on the side. The chicken was juicy and tasted good, although does not exceed the Southern California champion, Flossies. I prefer not to have so much sweet in my salty savory food, so had the waffle and syrup for dessert. The little bits of chicken skin and salt made the otherwise sweet waffle better. The chicken skin did not stay on the bird as well as I would have liked. One notable aspect was that this chicken was hot hot hot, straight out of the fryer. Steaming!

I enjoy french fries with fried chicken so ordered a side of fries, not realizing it was enough to feed 6-8 diners. I only ate 10 - 20% of the fries, which was a waste as these were good. Had I known I was ordering a jumbo item I might have skipped them as I hate to throw out food, and as I was headed to the Library Bar at the Hollywood Roosevelt afterwards. The picture below better captures the size comparison between the french fries and the chicken and waffles.

The bartender initially wasn't sure if he had all the supplies to make me a mint julep (it was the day after, not day of the Derby) but managed to rustle up the ingredients including a julep cup. The drink was very good for a restaurant but not up to the standards of the Tar Pit, Library Bar or Seven Grand.

Fried Chicken & Waffles every Sunday at The Hungry Cat in Hollywood, now through Labor Day. My meal, including the chicken & waffles, the fries and the julep was about $35 + tip, inclusive of tax.

Please call ahead (day of) to confirm that they are offering the special each Sunday. The fried chicken & waffles is usually priced about $15 + tax & tip.

The Hungry Cat is located at 1535 North Vine @ Sunset. Telephone: (323) 462-2155. Website:

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Reddi Chick: A Westside Institution

Reddi Chick is a Santa Monica / Westside institution, and has been located in the Brentwood Country Mart since 1979 (according to the country mart website). Their specialty is baskets of rotisserie chicken over french fries. Generations of westsiders have grown up on their famous "chicken baskets." Josh Loeb and Zoe Nathan, the owners of the new Sweet Rose Creamery also in the Brentwood Country Mart, mentioned to me that they ate at Reddi Chick literally hundreds of times while growing up in the neighborhood.

They have other things on the menu but almost everyone gets a chicken basket as the fries come hot right out the the fryer and then some seasoned salt is added. The chickens are rotating on rotisseries right in front of you and they get tremendous turnover. The line can appear long but it rarely takes more than 10 minutes to order and usually less than five. The chicken is juicy and part of the appeal is the little cups of ketchup and bbq sauce provided with your order. Reddi Chick BBQ provides wet napkins because this is the kind of spot where your hands are going to get very dirty. A chicken basket and a soda is about $10 + tax.

I am not sure what goes into the bbq sauce, but it is addictive, both for dipping the chicken and the fries. Part of the charm of Reddi Chick is sitting on the patio of the Brentwood Country Mart and relaxing. You order at the counter, step over to the left and shortly thereafter your tray of baskets is placed in front of you. Customers bring their food to their tables; there is no waiter service. Reddi Chick is popular with families and kids, so expect to see a bunch of them around.

If you are getting your order to go, it is more economical to order a whole chicken and a side of fries than to get multiple chicken baskets. Pictured above are chickens waiting to be cut into pieces and placed in baskets of golden fries.

Free parking is available in the Brentwood Country Mart parking lots. There are many parking attendants who are vigilant about people only going to the mart (there is a Starbucks and a Yoga studio next door on San Vicente, both of whose customers are notorious for trying to park for free in the BCM lot).

Reddi Chick is located in the Brentwood Country Mart, 225 26th St. (just South of San Vicente). Phone: 310-393-5238. No website.

Momed - Casual Mediterranean in Beverly Hills

Momed, a casual "Modern Mediterranean" (hence the name Momed) cafe recently opened on South Beverly Drive in Beverly Hills. It is open continuously from breakfast through dinner, with breakfast served 8:00 - 11:30 AM, and the lunch/dinner menu from 11:30 AM - 9:00 PM. There are also nightly dinner specials available in addition to the regular menu.

Last week I had dinner there with a confederate and we each ordered from the "skewers" section of the menu, which in addition to the skewered meat come with house made pita, rice pilaf or momo chips, and one of the marketplace salads. The extensive selection of salads are the heart of the menu. They include beet, cucumber, hummus, avocado hummus, carrot, lentil and about a dozen more.

We got the lamb and beef koefte skewer with herb salad (pictured above) and the yogurt marinated chicken breast with chickpea aioli (pictured below). The "momo" potatoes are delicious versions of french fries but are cross sectioned rather than cut into french fry shaped. I had the cucumber salad, which had a pleasing zing to it from some hot peppers. The fries were hot and delicious.

The chicken skewer was a winner as well and they permitted us to sub a second market salad for the starch. I sampled the beet salad which was well prepared and refreshing. The portions of the skewers while not large, are enough for those of normal appetites, especially with the sides of salad and potatoes. Harissa and tomato sauce are both available upon request for the momo potatoes.

Each of the skewer plates we tried was $14. Tuna costs $16 and Shrimp or steak is $18. You can also get a selection of three of the signature salads for $15. We saw some pizza-like flatbreads at neighboring tables that looked delicious and would make an excellent appetizer to share. I am intrigued by the flatbread with Ohanyan spicy soujuk sausage, red onion and piquillo peppers with halloumi cheese. The sausage is cured and made with beef and lamb.

Momed also serves Intelligentsia Coffee, so if you are in the neighborhood, there is no need to go to Silverlake or Venice to get your fix, as they have been trained by the educators/trainers of Intelligentsia in their method and style. Momed also sells the whole beans.

Momed is a very attractive space; much nicer than other restaurants in this category (whether middle eastern or tender greens style spots). You order at the counter and a server brings the food to your table. Service was friendly and they leave a pitcher of water on your table for easy refills.

Momed is located at 233 South Beverly Drive (@ Charleville) in Beverly Hills. Phone: (310) 270-4444. Website:

Starry Kitchen Opening Party

In honor of its 3 month anniversary and the launch of dinner service tomorrow, Starry Kitchen had a grand opening party last Thursday to celebrate their success. The restaurant was filled with friends, family, supporters and plenty of bloggers and hosts Nguyen and Thi Tran and their staff provided a cornucopia of their signature food, the star of which was their legendary green crispy green tofu balls.

Founder/owner/host Nguyen welcomed the crowd from the kitchen.

Chicken drumsticks, sandwiches, glass noodles and of course crispy green tofu balls were all part of the Starry Kitchen grand opening bounty.

Below are a couple of pictures of the happy crowds hanging out and enjoying the celebration.

Some of the many bloggers in attendance were Bill Esparza, Pat Saperstein, Josh Lurie, Javier Cabral, Diana Hossfeld, the Minty, and literally about a dozen others.

Don't forget to check out Starry Kitchen's new dinner service on Thursdays & Fridays, beginning tomorrow!

Starry Kitchen is located at 350 S Grand Ave (California Plaza). Phone: (213) 617-3474. Website:

Pal Cabron: Cemitas are big time sandwiches

Pal Cabron, a Mexican restaurant in Huntington Park, specializes in Cemitas & Clayudas. For the uninitiated, Cemitas are large Mexican sandwiches on a roll that include avocado, meat, cheese and salsa. Clayudas are flat (like a pizza) and are made with a crispy tortilla with a layer of beans and pork fat on top, with meat and/or cheese added to taste.

Pal Cabron is the creation of Bricia & Fernando Lopez, part of the local restaurant dynasty that owns the Guelaguetza chain of Oaxacan restaurants in Los Angeles. (This location was formerly a Guelaguetza.)

Last week, I drove out to Huntington Park to try a cemita and see what all the fuss was about. I had met Bricia at La Descarga at a party to celebrate the drink which is named after her. Coverage here. I had the "La de Barbacha" with quesillo ($7.25), which is a lamb barbacoa cemita with quesillo (Mexican string cheese) and chipotle sauce. The sandwich was large, and quite good. The different flavors all came together to create a unified whole. There was nothing dainty about this sandwich and those with small appetites need not apply. I had originally planned on making the most of my trip to Huntington Park by pairing my visit to Pal Cabron with another meal at a nearby restaurant but a friend told me that wasn't possible, "You can't pair Pal Cabron with anyplace else. It simply isn't possible to eat another meal after eating at Pal Cabron," he said. Boy was he right.

What better to wash down the sandwich which ate Huntington Park than a horchata, the traditional Mexican beverage made with rice and cinammon and no shortage of hearty ingredients. There would be no sense to serve a wimpy horchata with the Hercules of sandwiches, and Pal Cabron's is up to the challenge.

The restaurant is covered with murals, including pictures of LA Weekly critic Jonathan Gold and local blogger Javier Cabral, Teenage Glutster, above. There are also murals of Steve Livigni and Pablo Moix from La Descarga

There is ample street parking at meters and the prices are very reasonable for the cemitas & clayudas. The only drawback about Pal Cabron for me is that it is over 16 miles from my house, so it is just far away and a long drive to get there.

Pal Cabron is located at 2560 E Gage Ave (just west of Pacific) in Huntington Park. Phone: (323) 277-9899 Website:
Huntington Park is 5 miles South of downtown Los Angeles.

District: the home of Duck Fat Yorkshire Pudding in the heart of Hollywood

District is the new Hollywood spot from George Abou-Daoud, who owns spots including Mission Cantina, Delancey, the Bowery and the Mercantile (next door to District). The chef is Kris Morningstar who most recently was the opening chef at Casa (in California Plaza, across from Starry Kitchen), and prior to that was at 750 ml, Blue Velvet, Meson G, AOC, Grace and Patina. I guess you could say that Morningstar gets around.

District is a bistro / gastropub going for a classic old Hollywood look, as if it had been there forever, although it just opened two months ago at the end of March. The website touts its nearly 100 year old bar. I found myself there this past Sunday for a light bite before heading to the Mutineer Magazine party at Falcon nearby.

The meal began with an amuse of burrata cheese with blueberry and hazelnut. It was a pleasant and unexpected way to begin the meal. At a restaurant where almost all the entrees hover just over the $20 mark, an amuse bouche is surprising. A nice touch but I am not sure it fits with the casual vibe of the restaurant. Perhaps it is a sign of Morningstar's ambitions.

The first section on the menu is labeled breads and had duck fat yorkshire pudding, house made dinner rolls, and biscuits, each for $3. I ordered the dinner rolls with truffle butter and the yorkshire pudding.

The dinner rolls with truffle butter (first picture above) came in an order of four connected rolls with both the truffle butter and the garlic chive butter. The flavor of the garlic chive butter was very strong, so much as to be unappetizing. However, the truffle butter was delicious and had large chunks of mushroom in it (no simple truffle oil here). I enjoyed the butter so much I kept it to use on the pudding.

Nearly all the opening press mentioned the Duck Fat popovers, called Duck Fat Yorkshire Pudding w Thyme on the menu. They come six to an order and arrive in a napkin. (Bottom of the two pictures above.) It is a variation of the classic English dish of Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding. The puddings were eggy, warm, and rich, like a savory French Toast. Note that the menu warns to expect this dish to take 15 minutes as it is cooked to order.

I followed up my cavalcade of breads with an order of "Bone Marrow in the Style of Fergus Henderson with Parsley Salad, Pickled Pearl Onions, Fried Capers and Bread." ($9) It was a bold move to pay homage to Fergus Henderson, the chef/proprietor of St. John restaurant in London and one of the leading proponents of nose to tail dining. The bone marrow is one of his signature dishes and one I tried last year at a dinner at St. John. This version was not nearly as good and had too little parsley to evoke Henderson's dish. It was served with a dish of gray salt, in addition to the accompaniments mentioned above. There were two cylinders of bone with marrow and two toasts; as the bones contained a lot of marrow, two toasts is not enough. I recommend that they serve three toasts with this dish or proactively ask if more is needed. The dish was tasty but it wasn't special in the way the title led me to believe it might be, although it is a very good value.

The entree of dry aged chop steak comes with a side of aged beef fat fries. I was curious about these fries but was not up to ordering an entree as I had eaten a lot and was about to go to an event where food was being served. The chef came out of the kitchen while I was eating the marrow and I asked him if I could have the beef fat fries as a side. He said they don't usually do that but was willing to do so this time. The fries had a beefy assertive flavor: these were not shy potatoes but spuds cooked in beef fat and smelled of it. They were served with a dipping sauce and came with herbs (green onions?) on them. Not something I would order again but I was glad for the opportunity to try them.

The restaurant is attractive but was almost completely empty when I was there from 6:15 - 7:15 on a Sunday evening. Despite the fact that only one table was occupied and I was the only patron at the bar, service was poor. I had to ask several times to get a glass of water and it was never refilled. The bartender/waiter did not know how to use the POS system to input my order. His delay meant the 15 minute wait for the popovers turned into a 25 minute wait, which was annoying. It would have been much faster if he had walked the 20 feet to the kitchen to input my order while he tried to figure out the complicated technology.

This same bartender/waiter also refused to ask the kitchen if they would make me the fries a la carte, instead as part of the steak entree. He said, "we don't do that here. It's part of the meal." If he had gone into the kitchen and they refused, that is their prerogative. I found it frustrating that he wouldn't even ask, especially considering that when the chef came out to the front of the house, he was willing to do so. I wouldn't have gotten to try the fries otherwise. In short customer service is lacking, although the staff is cheerful.

Surprisingly for a restaurant of this type, there is no beer on tap, only 9 bottles that range in price from $6 to $12. I had a Weihenstephaner Weiss Bier ($6) which was refreshing. There are several wines by the glass in each category, although many of the bottles are quite expensive relative to the price point of the menu.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Starry Kitchen - Tofu Balls are Back, Adios Malaysian Curry Chicken

Starry Kitchen opened three months ago in California Plaza downtown as a lunchtime option offering a rotating choice of four proteins in wraps or sandwiches with flavorful pan Asian flavors (think Malaysian curry chicken). The downtown location represents a migration from an operation that founders Nguyen and Thi Tran originally ran in their North Hollywood apartment last fall. Note that dinner service begins next Thursday.

The Trans have gone legit and they have a menu that changes every week. In order to showcase the extent of the menu and to provide variety to their customers, a dish is rotated off of the menu each week, and a new one rotated on, with the departing dish to return after a few months vacation. Today is the last day for the popular Malaysian chicken curry and the accompanying coconut rice, so hurry downtown if you want to try it, else you will have to wait a few months.

The Malaysian chicken curry (pictured above) was tasty and came with Korean glass noodles, a sesame slaw and coconut rice (a $1 upcharge from standard rice). The chicken was flavorful and I added some sriracha sauce to give it an added kick, which made it even better. The sweetness of the coconut rice tends to mute the spiciness of the curry. If you want additional spicy, the pickled chilies pictured at the bottom of this post are available to add to any dish. The japchae were well cooked and complemented the chicken and rice well. I really didn't need the slaw, but then again I don't get excited by slaw.

The infamous crispy tofu balls (pictured above) returned from a long hiatus this week and demand was high for these neon green crispy treats. Customers had been clamoring for their return and their wishes were granted. On Monday when I had lunch at Starry Kitchen, perhaps half of the customers ordered the tofu as Nguyen excitedly told people in line about its return. I preferred the Malaysian chicken to the tofu balls. The crispy exterior was fun to crunch on but it was just not as flavorful as the chicken.

At Starry Kitchen you order at the counter, receive a number and one of the staff will bring your food to your table. The staff and owners take pride in their product and are excited evangelists. The menu is on the blackboard (pictured above with Nguyen in the yellow shirt) and the crowd of eager lunchers can stretch out into the plaza at peak meal times. On Monday they were having a free soda day, which was a fun and unexpected bonus to the adventure of eating at Starry Kitchen. The genuineness of the proprietors comes through in their cooking, menu, and attitude: they want to feed you and make you happy. Starry Kitchen is what Chego should be, but fails to be.

Starry Kitchen is a feel good story but more importantly a happy belly story. To get the full backstory, read about their origins in LA Weekly.

Starry Kitchen is open Monday - Friday 11 am - 3 pm and will begin offering dinner on Thursday & Friday nights starting on Thursday May 27th.

Parking: Starry Kitchen will validate so parking is only $3 for 2 hours, which should leave you plenty of time to check out nearby Angel's Flight. $3 is a huge bargain downtown and is even less expensive than parking on the street at a meter.

Starry Kitchen is located at 350 S Grand Ave (California Plaza). Phone: (213) 617-3474. Website:

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Jeremy Fox Dinner @ Animal - May 18th, 2010

Last night I ate dinner at Animal Restaurant, where for one week chefs Vinny Dotolo and Jon Shook are collaborating with guest chef Jeremy Fox, the former chef of Ubuntu in Napa, on a series of vegetarian dinners.

Each dinner is a tasting menu ($70) and has the option of adding one of two wine pairings ($35 or $65). Last night's meal consisted of eight courses, with the first two served together. The concept of a vegetarian meal in a restaurant named Animal and devoted to rich meaty cuisine is ironic and they have fun with it.

Marcona Almonds with lavender sugar, sea salt, olive oil & Crunchy 'French Breakfast' Radishes with whipped chevre with nori, black salt

The almonds were served spilling out of their container in a generous presentation. One of my tablemates said that they tasted like the children's cereal Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and we all agreed. The breakfast radishes were served with nori (seaweed) infused creamy goat cheese and black salt. The salt flavor was intense if you got too much of it in one bite. The radishes were presented simply in a signal of what was to come with the rest of the vegetable focused meal.

Spring Peas with white chocolate, 'chocolate' mint, macadamia

The peas were presented as three quenelles on a plate with the mint on top and small bits of white chocolate and nuts scattered on the plate. There were both mashed and whole peas and the dish was both beautiful and delicious. One of my favorites of the evening. The white chocolate was in very small doses and the dish played off of the mint chip flavor of ice cream.

'Pee Wee' Potato Salad - 3-hour favas, anchovy 'flavor', parmesan

This dish was the least successful of the evening. It was served cold, as most potato salads are, and the flavors just didn't come together cohesively. We did not taste anything resembling anchovy flavor. Parmesan shreds were on the bottom of the plate and were light as clouds.

Heirloom Carrots, Rescoldo Style, in Root Embers with parsnip, vadouvan, cocount, citrus

The carrots were of several different colors and the stalks were still on. The stalks had been roasted or crisped so that they were crunchy while the body of the carrots were soft; a nice textural contrast.

Triple Corn Anson Mills Grits - smoked cast-iron corn, agretti

This dish was nice and smoky. The grits were very smooth and the agretti stuck up out of the bowl like the tentacles of a sea creature. It was a deceptively simple dish and one of the favorites of the evening at my table.

Slow Roasted Beets: ruta-kraut, 'calaloo' amaranth, horseradish

The beets was a flavorful dish with the "saurkraut" on top and the horseradish flavor, a typical pairing. Often in LA you only see beets in salads, so it was a pleasant change to see them be the star of this dish. This dish was also paired with both a rose wine and a Bok beer.

Chocolate Puffed with Wild Rice Pudding: strawberry gel, rose geranium, green strawberry

This was the other dish that didn't work for our table of four. The presentation is dramatic with the layers in the jar, capped with the green strawberry with its stem still on and sticking out of the jar. There were various textures with the crunchy rice and gooey pudding but it all just seemed like a mess and was unpleasant. I had never seen a green strawberry served in a restaurant before.

Summary: Overall all four of us really enjoyed the meal. The food was beautifully presented and mostly delicious. It was vegetarian food but did not go for the mock-meat thing and there was no tofu or seitan used. The vegetables themselves were allowed to shine and the flavors were good and you we did not feel at all deprived of meat. The service was also first rate, especially Helen Johannesen, the manager and wine director. We felt that the value was good and that the $70 was well worth it. The wine pairings were mostly good (one Barolo was not pleasant) and if anything, too generous. The champagne from Marc Hebrart and the Silvaner Halbtrocken by Gysler were especially good.

I was fortunate to have eaten a meal at Ubuntu while Jeremy was cooking there and it was spectacular. Go and sit at the bar if you can't get off the wait list, but this is something special and if you enjoy food, go!

Classics: Philippe the Original

Philippe the Original has been in business since 1908, which would make it a landmark in any American city, but in Los Angeles, that makes it a living legend as ancient as the pyramids. Philippe is famous for its French Dipped sandwiches, which involve beef (or lamb, turkey, pork or ham) sandwich on a roll dipped in meat juices. Philippe and Cole's have both claimed to be the originator of the dish, a dispute which I do not claim to be able to settle.

I have been to its current location (since 1951 according to the Phillipe website) countless times. Following the Natural Wine Symposium I went for a late lunch and got the classic beef french dip, double dipped, as well as a pickle. The beef sandwich is $5.75 and the pickle is $1.05. The french dip sandwich was appropriately wet and the roll was nicely soggy. It was good but not as delicious as on my prior visits. It was just not as flavorful. Having been so many times previously I will judge this an anomaly until I obtain "further evidence" of a decline.

Even after 3 pm on a Sunday, the lines stretched long from each order taker (not cashier as they never touch the money) to the back wall. Some tourists at an adjacent table commented that they thought the sandwiches were small. Yes, half or more of the customers are likely to be tourists, but just because it is in every guidebook doesn't mean it isn't good. I agree that they are on the small side and recommend that two people share 3 sandwiches as I have found 1.5 sandwiches to be the ideal amount of food at Philippe. Personally I recommend 1 beef french dip each and to split a lamb (with or without blue cheese) but that is up to personal preference.

I also sampled the chicken tortilla soup, which confirmed my hypothesis that the best way to enjoy a meal at Philippe is to stick to the sandwiches, chips and beverages. The roast beef au jus is a signature dish of Los Angeles. In addition to their classic lemonade and iced tea, they have beer (including Fat Tire on draft) and a surprisingly large selection of wines by the glass.

Philippe is located adjacent to Chinatown and across Alameda from Union Station at 1001 N. Alameda @ Ord, in downtown. Phone: (213) 628-3781. Website:

LA Natural Wine Week: Natural Wine Symposium

On Sunday a symposium on natural wine was held at LACE in Hollywood as the culmination of Los Angeles Natural Wine Week. Lou Amdur of Lou on Vine moderated the panel of wine experts Jonathan Gold and Alice Feiring, and vintners Randall Graham of Bonny Doon, Abe Schoener of the Scholium Project, Jared Brandt of A Donkey and a Goat, and Hank Beckmeyer of La Clarine.

Photo above: the full panel. Photo below: moderator/organizer Lou Amdur.

A full room of wine enthusiasts, including a large contingent from Venice's the Tasting Kitchen, filled the seats in the art gallery to taste some of the panel's wines and hear their opinions on natural wines and what makes them special. Feiring said, "Give a shit about natural wine because if you really want to taste terroir, get a terroir driven wine."

Many on the panel espoused the merits of dry farming (not irrigating the vines). Amdur noted that the fruit has more flavor when it is dry farmed. Graham said that "irrigation is not compatible with terroir," and Schoener said "for me, the most important question is irrigation."

Beckmeyer commented on how it can be difficult to change the prevailing momentum to continually be doing something to the vines/farm, "I look to do as little as possible, because I'm basically lazy. The natural tendency is to do things all the time."

Now that the market for natural wines is growing, not only can biodynamics make the vineyard more itself, as one winemaker noted, but as Brandt said "biodynamics can help sell wine."

Photo above: Beckmeyer and Graham. Photo below: Schoener, Feiring and Gold.

The panel had a spirited discussion about sulfur, which is the only additive that many of the winemakers on the panel use. Sulfur acts to preserve the wine and without it, most white wine would turn brown. Additionally it prevents some bacteria from forming or making a presence in the flavor of the wine. Graham said, "Sulfur adds a predictable trajectory," and Feiring commented that "not using sulfur can obscure terroir."

Natural wine does not have to mean funky, although some wines do fall into that category and they have their fans, including Gold. He said, "There is a certain time at which you just have to embrace the baby diaper. Wines with a little something rank in them are those I tend to love the best."

Note that LACE is having a benefit art auction Thursday May 20th - click here to learn more.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Taste of the Nation - Preview Fundraiser @ Synder Diamond

Last Monday Taste of the Nation Los Angeles held a preview fundraiser at Snyder Diamond in Santa Monica featuring cooking demonstrations by Laurent Quenioux of Bistro LQ, Walter Manzke (ex Church & State) and Quinn Hatfield of Hatfields restaurant. A crowd of 100 foodies came to see the cooks each demonstrate and serve a dish and support the cause of ending childhood hunger in America, which is the mission of Share Our Strength. Quenioux and Hatfield are pictured above and Manzke is pictured below.

This event sponsored by the host Snyder Diamond and by Angeleno Magazine, was one of several preview events designed to raise money as well as awareness about the main event in Culver City on June 6. You can buy tickets here.

Before the cooking demonstrations began, attendees mingled, drinking wine and sampling cheese from the Cheese Impresario. The featured cheeses were all from Wisconsin and generous portions were served. A highlight for me was the 10 yr aged Hook's Cheddar, from the same cheesemakers who created the 15 yr I wrote about previously. It was great to speak with someone so knowledgeable and enthusiastic about cheese.

The first cooking demo featured Chef Quenioux's Wild Mushroom Tapioca, Mirabelle Plum Coulis, Tonka Bean Chantilly, which had an interesting texture and was served in small cups which showed off the multiple layers of the dish. This was followed up by Chef Manzke's Alsatian Tarte Flambee, which he demonstrated in front of and then cooked in an amazing oven. It is a savory flatbread with bacon, onions and cheese. I did not sample it due to the bacon but those around me were looking for second helpings.

The last demonstration was Chef Hatfield making a signature item, his Croque Madame with Hamachi, Proscuitto, Quail Egg. He described it as "a simple dish that relies on product." He originated this dish when he worked at Rocco DiSpirito's Union Pacific, in the Flatiron District in New York City. Due to its labor intensiveness he could not produce it on short notice for Rocco, so he was able to keep this signature dish for himself. He said that the "ham plays like soy sauce but the fish plays like cheese in a ham and cheese." I did not try this dish either but it looked beautiful with the tiny quail eggs atop the little sandwiches. A feast for the eyes as well as the stomach.

In addition to the three chefs, Devin Pedde and Chris Owens (pictured below), from Intelligentsia Coffee in Silverlake and Venice, respectively, were on hand to provide samples and discuss coffee. Their third Southern California location will be opening later in Pasadena, but no opening date has been announced publicly yet. Intelligentsia was one of the sponsors of the event.

Check the Taste of the Nation website for more information about upcoming events, including the 2010 Taste of the Nation Los Angeles in Culver City on June 6th.

Bistro LQ: 8009 Beverly Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA. Phone: (323) 951-1088‎
Hatfields Restaurant: 6703 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles. Phone: (323) 935-2977‎
Snyder Diamond: 1399 Olympic Blvd, Santa Monica, CA. Phone: (310) 450-1000

Hatchi Mix debuts at Breadbar Century City

On May 6th, the new monthly Hatchi Mix cocktail series debuted at Breadbar Century City. On the first Thursday evening of each month a guest bartender will present eight cocktails at $8 each and there will be food available both from the Breadbar menu and some special dishes. The first Hatchi Mix was hosted by Devon Espinosa (pictured above), from the Tasting Kitchen, who will be curating future editions by finding other leading bartenders to bring their shakers and recipes to Breadbar for a one night stand.

The premier Hatchi Mix, entitled Vive Le Cocktail, featured classic cocktails such as the Manhattan, Sazerac, Last Word, and Hemingway Daiquiri. Chef Nori Sugie created three dishes to be served with the cocktails. (He was not there so others executed his recipes.)

My drinking companion and I tried four of the cocktails. We began with the Hemingway Daiquiri and the Manhattan. The Hemingway was served in a highball glass rather than the traditional coupe. This drink was not my favorite due to the amount of ice in it and the method of serving it as if the theme of the night was traditional classic cocktails it made no sense to serve this in a different way as it didn't add to the drink. However the Manhattan was tasty and a nice beginning to the evening.

We moved onto the Last Word and the Sazerac (pictured above). They were both better than the first batch of two, perhaps because Devon mixed them. The Last Word, a Chartreuse based cocktail, was especially good and nicely balanced.

Devon did a good job of working the room and managing the bar, but I would have preferred it if he had been behind the bar more of the time. When the drink list is composed of classics, part of what is being showcased is the bartender's drink making skills, as opposed to recipes.

The restaurant and bar area were full while we were there, especially the outdoor seating. Hatchi Mix takes reservations, which are recommended as these special events are each for one evening only.

I sampled two of the three food dishes, the bone marrow and the chicken wings. The bone marrow (above) was successful but it would have been helpful if they had the narrow spoons often provided with marrow bones to get at the marrow deep in the bone. The chicken wings (below) were mushy and unappetizing and are not something I would recommend. Soft texture is not an attractive quality for chicken wings.

The next two Hatchi Mix events will feature bartenders Joel Black from Cana Rum Baron June 3rd and Julian Cox from Rivera on July 1st.

For more information on the Hatchi Series, check out the Breadbar website.
Breadbar is located in the Century City Shopping Center, directly beneath the movie theaters. Phone: (310) 277-3770.