Friday, October 29, 2010

Horny Goat Elixir at Bigfoot West

Are you ready for the Horny Goat Elixir?  Among cognoscenti it is known as the love child of Fernet-Branca and Viagra.  Only available at Bigfoot West, the new bar from the Thirsty Crow team, it is a strong herbal liquor known for its amorous effects and its fragarant aroma.  Like Fernet, it is a digestif and can settle your stomach in addition to its other powerful properties.

The exact herbs that go into the "performance enhancing" recipe are a closely guarded secret known only to Head Bartender Brandon Ristaino and herbalist Borna Ilic but suffice it to say that it is a potent potion.  The elixir is appropriate for both men and women.  The custom made elixir is made in small batches from fresh herbs and liqueurs and with its legendary powers is priced at $25 per serving.  It has an aromatic, herby, almost medicinal flavor.  If you plan to try it, come prepared.

Bigfoot West: 10939 Venice Blvd (Culver City adjacent). Phone: (310) 287-2200.

Schnitzel Wagon: Fried, Breaded and on Wheels

When Zach from Midtown Lunch suggested trying out the Schnitzel Wagon, I was hesitant.  Drive all the way downtown for fried cutlets from a truck?  But the scent of fried food won out and I headed over to 350 Grand Avenue to go check it out with him.  The meat is kosher and they are in the process of converting their entire truck to having kosher certification.

The day we went the options were chicken or cod schnitzel.  On other days they have additional meats and on Fridays they have falafel.  The schnitzel comes either in a sandwich for $8 or as a combo plate with two sides for $10.  The combo plate is the way to go.  The chicken schnitzel sandwich (below) came with lettuce, tomato and choice of half a dozen different sauces.  The chicken was moist and crispy but the bread was underwhelming. It would have been even better as a plate, so we wouldn't have had to work to get at it.

The cod was perhaps even better than the chicken (comparing just the meat and ignoring the bread issue), which surprised me as I wasn't expecting to be so enthusiastic about it.  It had a nice crunch exterior and a firm yet tender interior.  We got several different sauces including sriracha and barbeque.  Coleslaw, garden salad, potato salad and french fries were the options for the sides and we opted for the potato salad and fries.  The fries were limp but I enjoyed the potato salad more than Zach, perhaps because it had no mayonnaise taste and I am mayo-averse.

The plate is the superior choice and the portion size is ample.  With the cod, they even suggested getting it as a plate as the fish portion is too much for a sandwich.  They have consistently parked on S. Grand Avenue near Starry Kitchen and CASA but I'd follow their twitter account to be sure they will be out that day.  Once the kosher certification comes through there will be delivery to the jewelry district, and hopefully other parts of downtown.  That would be great as the only thing better than fried food is fried food delivered to your door.

Fall / Winter Seasonal Cocktails at Villains Tavern

Now that summer has faded away, although the 80 degree weather downtown could fool you, its time to cycle in fall and winter seasonal cocktails and Villains Tavern has launched their new list just in time for their Dark Carnival this weekend.

Dave Whitton, formerly with Seven Grand, is both the creator of the list and the man behind the bar.  No roaming cocktail consultant here.  The drinks include the Sleepy Hollow (pictured below), which includes Gin, Pumpkin, Citrus, Egg Whites, Sugar, Heavy Whipping Cream and Chocolate Chile Bitters.  This was my favorite of the list and it was nice and light.  The egg whites foam up the drink and even though there is whipping cream it does not have a heavy mouthfeel or texture. The drink reminds me a bit of the Silver Lining, a drink I first had from Marcos Tello.

The Edgar Allan Poe (below) is a take on Jerry Thomas's classic 19th century eggnog and features Fighting Cock Bourbon, green apple juice, egg, sugar and nutmeg.  Also on the new list is the Day of the Dead, a hot mulled apple cider cocktail also featuring vodka, Laird's Apple Jack and bitters.  If you like hot apple cider you will really enjoy this as the apple jack and the bitters give the apple flavor and extra kick and the vodka adds to the booziness.  Lastly the Blackheart is a hot rum drink that was not my favorite (I tend not to be a big fan of hot drinks).  It includes several types of rum including Goslings Dark, Blackheart Spiced and Rum Batter along with hot water and heavy whipping cream.  The combination is not nearly as magical as the Sleepy Hollow but if its a chilly evening and you enjoy hot cocktails, then this might work for you.

Fortunately Villains also offers food to munch on as there isn't much else in walking distance.  I had the opportunity to sample the grilled cheese, which I enjoyed, but my favorite of their food options is the burger.  They cooked it perfectly medium rare and served it on a nice doughy bun that neither fell apart nor took over.

Villains Tavern: 1356 Palmetto @ Santa Fe, Downtown. Phone: (213) 613-0766. Website:

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Dia de los Muertos at El Carmen: Tequila drinking skeletons

On Tuesday November 2nd, El Carmen, the 3rd street Tequila specialist will be celebrating Dia de los Muertos with costumes, a mariachi band and food and drink specials. Once you have had a chance to recover from the Halloween revelry of the weekend, prepare yourself for Tuesday night as all the El Carmen employees will have their faces painted as skeletons, Dia de los Muertos style and if customers show up in Day of the Dead costumes or face paint, they will receive a free shirt.

If you aren't familiar with El Carmen, they have over 400 tequilas and mescals and are celebrating their 15th anniversary as well as Dia de los Muertos. To help los Muertos get into the proper festive spirit, their classic Margaritas will be priced at $4 and Tecates at $3. That's enough to get many a body to climb out of its grave and join in the fun.

The decor at El Carmen includes Mexican wrestler masks, velvet paintings and more agave than you can shake a bony finger at. El Carmen was the scene of an infamous birthday party of mine, so I can vouch for the tastiness and potency of their tequila and cocktails.

The festivities begin at 8 pm, so come prepared, even if your stomach has decomposed and all you have left are bones. Reservations are recommended if you want a table.

El Carmen: 8138 West 3rd Street (between La Jolla Avenue and Crescent Heights Boulevard). Phone: 323.852.1552

Photo courtesy of Learn NC

7 Deadly Sins, 7 Deadly Cocktails - Halloween at Downtown Bars

Halloween ghouls can prepare to enjoy their otherworldly elixirs at seven of the 213 Group's bars downtown, each celebrating one of the seven deadly sins with a cocktail based on a different liquor, for $7 each on Saturday night, Halloween eve.  On October 30th beginning at 8 pm, Seven Grand, Las Perlas, Cole’s Red Car Bar, Tony’s Saloon, Casey’s Irish Pub, Golden Gopher and CAÑA Rum Bar will each be offering a signature libation for only $7, but only to customers in appropriately ghoulish attire.  No costume, no drink special for you.

Look for the Horse's Neck at Seven Grand, where the rye, ginger ale, ice and lemon peel cocktail will prepare you for the treacherous night ahead.  Old school Halloween candy will be handed out at all seven bars all weekend long, making this kind of adult Trick or Treating significantly more rewarding than going door to door with your younger relatives.

Open bar for the Halloween cocktails at Tony's Saloon and the Golden Gopher will happen from 9 - 10 pm only so be ready with your game plan.  Despite the abundance of sin, ghosts should have no reason to fear the vice squad or the Ghostbusters.

Cocktail All Stars: Farmers Market Edition - What You Missed

Monday evening, First & Hope Supper Club was the host to a crew of half a dozen of the best bartenders in Los Angeles, working with farmers market fresh ingredients to create cocktails for a thirsty crew of enthusiasts and fellow bartenders at the Cocktail All Stars: Farmers Market Edition.  Matthew Biancaniello welcomed guests with an amuse cocktail with fresh pomegranate (pictured above).

The bar was literally a cornucopia of ingredients that could be combined in any form to create a drink in a collaboration between guest and bartender.  This creativity and the enthusiasm in the crowd made for a great night, both for the bartenders and the lucky customers.  Naomi Schimek (pictured below with Juan Sevilla of Big Bar) smoked her own vermouth and the other bartenders brought homemade syrups and infusions, to provide a truly custom experience.

If you missed out on this one, stay tuned for updates on the next Cocktail All Stars.

Now Open: Pal Cabron, the Koreatown Edition

Pal Cabron, the Cemitas and Clayudas specialist in Huntington Park owned by Bricia (pictured below) and Fernando Lopez of the Guelaguetza empire, has moved to Koreatown on the site of the original Guelaguetza.  Pal Cabron Koreatown opened last Friday night with a party to celebrate Bricia's birthday and friends and supporters turned out in full force to toast their success and celebrate the festivities.

The cemitas (pictured below) are just as large as at the original location.  The sandwiches are overflowing with meat, cheese and toppings.  No customer will go hungry at Pal Cabron.  In addition the menu includes tamales, memelas, clayudas and other Oaxacan offerings.  This branch is connected to their recently opened Natura Juice Bar, so customers can satisfy their juice and sandwich cravings in one spot.  Ingredients include poek, chicken, beef and quesillo (Oaxacan cheese) as well as mole sauce.

For those of you who were curious about Pal Cabron but found the location to be "geographically undesirable", you now have no excuse.  The 8th Street location is in between downtown and the Westside and a short drive from Hollywood.  The prices are reasonable (less than $10) and the service is quick and friendly and if you are in luck you may actually get to meet the legendary proprietress herself.

Pal Cabron #2: 3337 1/2 W. 8th Street (just West of Irolo) in Koreatown. Phone: (213) 427-0601. Website:

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Fried Chicken Tuesdays @ The Lazy Ox

Little Tokyo favorite the Lazy Ox Canteen, Josef Centeno's small plates restaurant, serves a different family style meal each night.  Tuesday night is fried chicken night and it is among the top fried chicken dishes in town behind only Bastide and Flossie's.  The fried chicken is available only on Tuesdays and is $27 but serves several people.

The fried chicken feast begins with a salad for the table (above), which had a nice light dressing.  Then the main event begins: fried chicken! (below)  The bowl of fried chicken arrives with six or so pieces of chicken in a large bowl.  It is a lot of food and the skin is nice and crispy.  The skin stays on after you take a bite, unlike so many inferior fried chickens.

The chicken is served with biscuits, an egg and a bacon gravy.  My dining companions who know from good cooking, loved the biscuits.

The fried chicken menu is best ordered with 2-4 people as it is a lot of food and the larger your party the more of Centeno's menu you can round out the meal with.  The atmosphere is gastropubish at Lazy Ox, comfortable but no table cloths; downtown industrial.

Reservations are recommended as last Tuesday all the tables were occupied, although there is a communal table (of course) and seating at the bar.  Note that reservations by phone only.

Lazy Ox: 241 S. San Pedro Street, Downtown Los Angeles. Phone: (213) 626-5299 Website: 

Craft LA: A DineLA Success

After all the build up to Dine LA restaurant week with the quickfire challenges, I had to try at least one of the deals. I chose Craft, the Los Angeles outpost of Tom Collichio's fine dining empire. I was joined at the meal by Dommy! of Chowhound and LA Weekly and her husband.  Usually the Dine LA menus offer choices for each course but at Craft the appetizers, side dishes and desserts are served communally for the table, while there was a choice of four different entrees.

The restaurant was packed when we arrived and we had to wait a full 30 minutes past our reservation time to be seated. Even the lounge was packed. We were shown to a table in the modern but comfortable dining room.  Craft employs many fine dining flourishes whether you are dining on a Dine LA promotion or paying full freight.  The meal began with a plate of gougeres, finishes with mignardes and we were sent on our way with a treat for the next morning.  The gougeres (small puff pastry balls filled with cheese) were made with Gruyere cheese and were served room temperature.  They were nothing special but might have been great if they were served warm.

The two appetizers were Chicory Salad, Pear, Goat Cheese & Date Purée and Braised Octopus Carpaccio. I did not eat the octopus but it was enjoyed by my dining companions. The salad (above) was a nice start to the meal and I enjoyed the traditional pairing of pear and cheese but it wasn't a very memorable dish.

It was at the entree portion of the meal that Craft really shined.  The Roasted Leg of Lamb (shown above) was especially delicious.  It was sliced like a prime rib and had a salty and slightly gamey flavor.  It was cooked a perfectly rosy medium rare and was something I would order again.  The Spotted Skate Wing was presented nicely (see below) and I was pleased to see a more adventurous dish on the Dine LA menu.  The skate was a successful dish and more interesting than the vegetarian pasta (not pictured) that was our third entree.  Unsurprisingly for Craft the three entrees were served family style as if they were all for the table.

The entrees arrived with two shared side dishes: market squash puree and grilled vegetables.  The puree arrived in a pot at the table, which some may find charming but I found a silly affectation.  The vegetables were squarely in the Craft wheelhouse of getting the best ingredients and minimally fussing with them to let their quality shine through.

Desserts were a chocolate item (below) and a vanilla panna cotta (not pictured). You can see the salt crystals on the chocolate.  I really liked this dessert a lot but didn't care for the panna cotta.  My dining companions strongly preferred the panna cotta, so it worked out for all of us.

The generosity of Craft continued with the post dessert mignardes which included caramel corn and mushroom shaped marshmallows.  We found room to eat these too.

The last impression the restaurant leaves is the mignardes and the "to go" pastry given to each of us to enjoy in the morning, which is a very classy touch.

Overall it was a good value for $44 and a great way to sample the restaurant.  The service was good and the Dine LA menu was printed right on the regular menu, not hidden at all, which was refreshing and welcomed.  Normally the fish and meat entrees cost between $29 and $54, with the side dishes extra (like a steakhouse), although note that the items are meant to be shared.  At those prices it is significantly more expensive than Bastide, my favorite of the fine dining spots in town, so not likely to be a regular spot in my rotation.  However note that the CraftBar menu is significantly more accessible in pricing and may be a good way to experience Craft without breaking the bank.

Remember that Collichio will be hosting an Australian dinner there next Monday November 1st.

Craft Los Angeles: 10100 Constellation Blvd, Century City. (310) 279-4180.  Website:

East Coast Happy Hour at Big Bar

It's hard living here in Los Angeles when 2 pm rolls around. Lunch is in the rearview mirror and happy hour is hours away. You may get a call from a friend back East headed home from the office while you head to the office kitchen to scrounge around for something to tide you over. No more. Now Big Bar in Los Feliz has an Eastern Standard Happy Hour beginning at 2 pm and running til 7 pm, Monday - Friday. Your choice of 2-3 cocktails are available for $7, draft beer for $5, wine $6 and food specials too.

So take the afternoon off and enjoy the fresh market beverages of bartender Juan Sevilla and his crew while your friends in New York or Boston trudge through the sleet and snow. The gentle prices will enable you to while away the afternoon as you think, "Who's laughing now?"

Big Bar: 1927 Hillhurst Avenue (Los Feliz). Phone: (323) 644-0100. Website:

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Yard Santa Monica - Late Night Menu

West of the 405 there are not a lot of late night food options besides the 24 hour diners, which leave something to be desired in ambition and execution.  To help rectify this situation, Santa Monica's The Yard, led by Chef CJ Jacobson, launched a late night menu available from 10 pm - 1 am on Thursday - Saturday nights, perfect to get some quality food after a night out.

Chef Jacobson (above) launched his late night menu last night with some $3 specials. Although the menu will cost a bit more than that, it is still a good value, especially considering the quality. The arancini (below) were one of the highlights of the food I sampled last night. They were crispy on the exterior and had a good crunch to them while still having a light center.

The Grilled Cheese (below) was the highlight of the evening.  It includes Gruyere, Mozzarella, Asiago & Roaring Forties Blue and sprinkled Parmesan cheese on the top.  The blue cheese gives it an extra kick and the bread was thick.  The blend of cheeses made this dish a cut above your standard grilled cheese.

I did not sample the poutine (pictured below) due to the pork in the gravy, but it was enjoyed by my tablemates, although not as enthusiastically as the veal meatballs (not pictured) which were delicious.

The arancini, meatballs and grilled cheese sandwich were the highlights of the food menu.  The Blackberry Bramble, available for $5 as the cocktail of the week, was light and refreshing.  I enjoyed it so much I drank it before I could remember to photograph it.

The full late night menu is:

Paprika spiced calamari, roasted marinara, fried lemon $10
Mini pulled pork sloppy joes, yard bbq sauce, crispy onions, pickled carrots, fries $12
The yard house-ground burger, carr valley cheddar, grilled onions, 1000 Island dressing, tomato, fries $14
Arancini, crispy risotto balls, spicy romesco sauce $8
Classic grilled cheese: Gruyere, Mozzarella, Asiago & Roaring Forties Blue $9
Grilled vegetable plate with shallot vinagrette $8
Poutine, skinny fries, brown gravy, cheese curds $8
Coffee Pot d'creme with espresso grounds and sea salt, chocolate/hazelnut biscotti $8

Pabst Blue Ribbon $3
Xante Sangria Blanca $5
Specialty Cocktail of the Week (Blackberry Bramble this week) $5
Microbrewery Darft of the Week (Craftsman 1903 this week) $4

The Yard: 119 Broadway, Santa Monica (right between Ocean and the 3rd Street Promenade). Phone: (310) 395-6037  Website:

Rock & Roll Chef Comes to Casa Downtown and Shakes Things Up

Casa Cocina and Cantina, the Mexican restaurant in California Plaza in downtown Los Angeles (across the courtyard from Starry Kitchen), recently got a new chef and a revamped menu.  I was recently invited to check it out and despite my initial misgivings due to the shnazzy corporate look and location, I left a believer in chef Alex Moreno.

Its always a pleasant surprise when someplace exceeds your expectations and beginning with his Quesadilla de Hongos (mushroom quesadilla), CASA did so.  The quesadilla (above) is fresh corn masa stuffed with red wine-braised wild king trumpet and chanterelle mushrooms and queso fresco, finished with radish and tomatillo salad.  For me this was the best dish of the evening and one I couldn't stop eating or thinking about, and as someone who doesn't usually enjoy or get excited about mushrooms, that says a lot.  This is a dish that  could make a meat-lover forget about meat.

Moreno (pictured above) spent a number of years as a rock and roll chef, in his role as personal chef to Van Halen and Sammy Hagar on their tours.  Hagar fell in love with Moreno's Mexican food and "he wanted me to cook my Mexican food for him every night," Moreno said.  Following his tour of duty on the road, Hagar asked him to join his Mexican restaurant Tres Agaves in San Francisco, from which he was recruited to join CASA this summer.  Moreno is a native Angeleno and trained under Josiah Citrin at Melisse in Santa Monica, so he is excited to be back in his hometown cooking Mexican food with his French skills and using top of the line meats and produce.

My other favorite dish of the night was the Braised Beef Short Rib Birria.  The use of braised short ribs elevates the rustic dish without compromising the rich flavors.  Moreno uses chile cascabelle braised beef short rib garnished with Cypress Grove goat cheese-stuffed peppers served with a warm flour tortilla.  The broth was poured tableside; an elegant flourish.  The broth was aromatic and full of a deep rich flavor, a savory soup I drank after I finished eating the short ribs.

Several dishes included tableside service or unusual touches, like the four salsas (above) presented with Jaime's Chicken Burrito, which is served in three pieces and is filled with shredded chicken, sushi rice and quesillo (Oaxacan style cheese).  Both the sushi rice and the four salsas (applewood bacon and black bean puree, summer corn pico de gallo with smoky tomato salsa, habanero green chili and housemade crema) twists that added an element of surprise and visual appeal to the dish.   The Nacho's Madre's Nachos appetizer also is presented with three tiers of crispy tortillas, covered with melted cheese, beans, barbacoa, pico, guacamole etc but it is cut tableside with a large knife.  These elements of drama add a bit of fun and whimsy to the meal.

One of the owners used to work in a bar and so has created some cocktails to go with the new menu.  For me the highlights were the Desayuno (breakfast in Spanish) with Herradura Silver tequila, Lillet Blanc, orange juice and egg whites (pictured above) and the classic margarita.  The orange juice and eggs, both components of a traditional breakfast, give the drink its name.  The margarita was also a good rendition of the standard.  Some of the other more adventurous drinks such as the Uvas No! read better on the menu than they taste in the cocktail glass.

There is a happy hour on Monday - Friday afternoons from 4:30 - 6:30 with $17 pitchers of margaritas and $6 tacos (for 2).  On Tuesdays tacos are only $2.  The ambiance is upscale but comfortable and the outdoor seating (pictured above) is dramatic.  The mushroom quesadillas are an essential order.  Just don't go asking the chef to sing a cover of Why Can't This Be Love.

CASA is located at 350 South Grand St. (California Plaza) in Downtown LA. There is an underground lot and CASA validates.  Phone: (213) 621-2249 Website:

Artisinal LA: Handcrafted Deliciousness this Saturday & Sunday

If you are the type of person who frequents farmers' markets, shops at Etsy, appreciates the local or handmade or just likes to munch on quality snacks, then Artisanal LA is for you. It is a weekend long community shopping, tasting, and learning experience showcasing local, sustainable and handmade foodstuffs from Los Angeles on this Saturday and Sunday, October 23-24 in the penthouse of downtown's historic Cooper Building. Tickets to the event are $10 in advance or $15 cash at the door.

Your ticket includes local craft beer and spirits tasting, totebags, demonstrations and workshops and the opportunity to shop from more than 75 vendors including Cake Monkey Bakery, Lindy & Grundy's Meats and Perishable, the pop-up pickle shop from Chicks with Knives.

The workshops include home butchering, local beekeeping with backyard beekeepers, garden cocktail infusions and many more.  Some of the proceeds will go to benefit the LAUSD Edible School Gardens, to bring gardens that grow fresh vegetables to more of the 900 public schools in Los Angeles.

If you plan on going to graze on all the fresh vittles, I highly recommend buying your ticket online, both to save some cash and to make your experience smoother.  Tickets at the door are cash only and when they reach capacity they will not sell any more tickets in person.

Seeds, veggies, chocolate, pickles, meat, caviar demos....  what more could you want?  Follow Artisinal LA on Twitter for all the latest news and updates.  The location is 9th St & Los Angeles St and parking is available in the building for $10.

The Cooper Building: 860 S Los Angeles St, 11th Floor Penthouse, Downtown LA 90014

LA Magazine's "The Food Event" this Sunday - tickets still available

This Sunday from 1 pm - 4 pm Los Angeles Magazine will host its fifth annual Food Event at the Saddlerock Ranch in Malibu. The event brings together tons of restaurants and wineries for an all you can eat all you can drink extravaganza. Over 30 restaurants including Akasha, Westside Tavern, Palate Food + Wine and Michael's will be cooking up signature bites and approximatley 40 wineries will be represented including Ampelos, Qupe, Surfrider and Saddlerock Wines (which is produced on the site of Sunday's event).

In addition to the bountiful food and wine there will be several chef/bartender panels and demonstrations including participants such as Julian Cox of Rivera, Susan Feniger of The Border Grill, Mark Gold of Eva, Piero Selvaggio of Valentino and Rory Hermann of Bouchon. Andrew Steiner of Andrew's Cheese Shop in Santa Monica will discuss wine and cheese pairings and for the beer afficionados there will be a panel on LA's craft brewing scene including representatives from Eagle Rock and Craftsman Breweries.

I have it on good authority that there will be llamas and zebras roaming the property, so if you want to combine your safari and culinary passions than this is the event for you!

This is a 21 and over event, so no babies or kids (regardless of whose they are). Tickets to the event are $95 in advance or $100 with a subscription to Los Angeles Magazine. Tickets at the door are $110. There are limited tickets remaining. For further details about the event, participating restaurants and wineries, click here. To purchase tickets click here.

Saddlerock Ranch is located at 31727 Mulholland Highway Malibu, CA 90265.

Cocktail All Stars: Farmer's Market Edition

Fresh off his win as LA's Best Bartender at the Table 20 competition, Matt Biancaniello of the Library Bar at the Hollywood Roosevelt will join Juan Sevilla of Big Bar, Naomi Schimek, Aidan Demarest, Dan Long and Brent Falco, all of First & Hope at the Cocktail All Stars: Farmer's Market Edition at First & Hope on Monday evening (October 25).

The party begins at 6 pm, and in addition to their own signature recipes, this party is a Choose Your Own Adventure in which Demarest and his merry crew of foragers cover the bar with a bountiful array of produce, fruits, vegetables, and herbs and guests will be provided a basket and "harvest" any ingredients they wish. Attendees then hand their selections to the dream team of market driven bartenders who will whip up a handcrafted one of a kind cocktail. Choose wisely because all combinations are not created equally.

For those who would like to experience some of these bartenders signature cocktails, each will be making one specialty, including Sevilla's Vermont Log Cabin made with Scotch, Smoke and Maple Syrup and Schimek's George Burns with Chivas 12, Cigar Smoked sweet vermouth and a dash of Averna and Luxardo maraschino.

Matt Biancaniello and his Library Bar team and Vincenzo Marianella and his Copa d'Oro team have both raised the profile and quality of market driven cocktails in Los Angeles. Monday night should be a great event and a wonderful opportunity to try six of the top practitioners of the Art of the Shaker work with all the fall fruits and vegetables on offer in Southern California.

First & Hope is located in the corner of the plaza at the Southwest corner of 1st and Hope Sts. Phone: (213) 617-8555 Website:

Thursday, October 21, 2010

10 Years of Tiki Farm on View at La Luz de Jesus Gallery

Until October 31st, the exhibit 10 Years of Tiki Farm will be on display at La Luz de Jesus gallery on Hollywood Boulevard (across from Bar Covell).  Tiki Farm is the foremost producer of tiki mugs and this exhibit covers their Catalogue Raisonné, including rare and infrequently seen items. The photograph above shows the gallery thronged by fans.

A party to celebrate the opening of the show was held last weekend and it was mobbed by Tiki fanatics all eager to get a look at the mugs, buy one of the limited edition items, enjoy the sounds of the live tiki band and sample the free mai tais. The party was a huge success; the rain did not appear to have dampened attendance. The line to purchase items was over 20 patrons deep and the corridors of the exhibit were crowded with excited aficionados, many of whom were wearing Hawaiian shirts and other regalia of their tribe.  The parking lot was turned into a little oasis of the South Pacific and many attendees danced to the beat of the band.  The outdoor scene is pictured in the photograph above.

You only have 10 days to get there and see it before the exhibit disappears, perhaps into the Bermuda Triangle.  So hurry!  Hawaiian shirts optional.

La Luz de Jesus gallery hours are: Monday - Wednesday 11 am - 7 pm, Thursday - Saturday 11 am - 9 pm, and Sunday 12 pm - 6 pm.  4633 Hollywood Blvd, Los Feliz.  Phone: (323) 666-7667.  Website:

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Nina's Quesadilla: Boyle Heights delicious

Nina's is a quesadilla specialist in Boyle Heights. She is reliably there on Friday and Saturday evenings beginning at eight pm or just before. Nina's operates out of a stand with a generator and sets up her kitchen on the sidewalk. The quesadillas are made from fresh masa and there are a variety of options for fillings. The quesadillas can be fried or grilled.

Squash Blossom fried quesadilla at Nina's

The first time I went to Nina's I ran into the Good Food crew, including Evan Kleiman, the host and Harriet, the producer, which is generally a good sign. On my visit last weekend I opted for a squash blossom (flor de calabaza) quesadilla fried, which was all of $3. It was cooked quickly and then I added several salsas from the selection of half a dozen to finish it off. The portion is quite large and it is delicious. I think I prefer the grilled to the fried, but both options are satisfying.

Nina's was the winner of the First Annual Vendy Awards in Los Angeles this May and she was also the beneficiary of a benefit at Kleiman's Angeli Caffe.

Nina's is cash only and is located on Breed Street across from the Breed Street Shul, just south of Cesar Chavez. Their Twitter account appears to be inactive but she is reliably there on Friday & Saturday evenings. I can't vouch for other nights of the week.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Freak Shows, Circus Stunts, Live Music await at Villains Tavern's Dark Carnival

A smorgasbord of dastardly delights await revelers at the Dark Carnival at Villains Tavern this Halloween Weekend. Like something out of Lemony Snicket's feverish imagination, Villains will host a Dark Carnival including a "Red Tent" in the adjacent parking lot hosting a terrifying experience curated by Circus Insidious. Pregnant women and those with heart conditions should think twice before attending these debauched nights of revels, which will be held on Friday October 29 and Saturday October 30.

In keeping with the time of year, the Red Tent will also feature Oktoberfest beers and cocktails from Villains new fall cocktail list. In addition to the standard menu offerings of Villains, gourmet food trucks offering fiendishly delicious delicacies will be stationed out front to feed the hungry hordes.

There will literally be a Freak Show, in addition to Tarot Card readers, face painters, magic shows, stuff on fire and two stages with live music all evening long. In order to help you ease into the creepy environment, their infamous Mix and Match beer and shot combo will be available for $9.  Admission is free and the macabre merriment begins at 7 pm both nights.

Villains Tavern: 1356 Palmetto @ Santa Fe, Downtown. Phone: (213) 613-0766. Website:

Dinner with Tom Colicchio on Monday November 1st

Attention all Top Chef fans, Craft Chef/Owner Tom Colicchio will be in town on Monday November 1st and you are invited to join him for dinner at the LA branch of Craft. Colicchio recently returned from a trip to South Australia and apparently the voyage inspired him as he will create a five course tasting menu for the evening featuring local Australian delicacies, including rock lobster tails. No word yet on whether the menu will include kangaroo or emu.

The dinner will focus on some of the great wine producers of South Australia and each course will be paired with a wine from the region. Colicchio will also be dishing about his vacation including swimming with bluefin tuna and exploring Kangaroo Island. Expect some tales about his Top Chef television experiences and the challenges and adventures of running a growing restaurant empire.

This intimate dinner is $250 per person all inclusive. The reception begins at 6:30 pm and the dinner at 7 pm. Reservations can be made by emailing Anna Morini at

You should have had plenty of time to recover from your Halloween merriment by Monday evening, so be there or be square. And no, I won't save any kangaroo jerky for you if you can't make it.

Craft Los Angeles: 10100 Constellation Blvd, Century City. (310) 279-4180.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Halloween @ Le Des Deux: Night of Rising Spirits

The mind of Aidan Demarest of Tello/Demarest Liquid Assets is devilish indeed.  The former GM of Seven Grand and the Edison will be hosting the Night of Rising Spirits on the evening of Saturday October 30th at the new Les Deux to celebrate All Hallows Eve and the relaunch of Les Deux with an all star lineup of bartenders from across the country.

Not only will advertised bartenders Simon Ford from London, Erick Castro from San Francisco (ex Rickhouse), Jennifer Contraveos of Chicago and LA's very own Naomi Schimek (First & Hope) be on hand but they will be joined by local hotshots Damian Windsor of the Roger Room and Grady Purtle of Palihouse. Note that Ford and Castro are part of the Pernod Ricard mafia.

Admission to the event is only $10 and requires an RSVP on the website and a costume. No costume, no admission, no exceptions. The party begins at 8 pm and goes til closing. Note that there will be a cash bar for beverages and part of the proceeds go to the charity the International Rescue Committee.  Demarest described the festivity as a tasty treat he was serving up, so don't miss out as this is a one night one time only offer.  Sometime it pays to make a deal with the devil when the terms are this good...

Les Deux: 1638 N. Las Palmas in Hollywood.