Monday, January 31, 2011

Hatfield's Ends Lunch Service

Since the new year began, Hatfield's restaurant is no longer open for lunch.  Hatfield's relocated last year to a larger space on Melrose from its former home on Beverly Blvd and is helmed by husband and wife duo Quinn (pictured above) and Karen Hatfield.

The lunch service had been well received in multiple reviews, so it is disappointing news to report that there is one fewer fine dining restaurant serving a quality lunch menu.  This follows on the heels of Bastide and Eva eliminating or sharply reducing their lunch programs last summer.

So if you want to try Quinn's cuisine, the restaurant is now only open for dinner, but it is open seven nights a week.  The dinner menu includes a seasonal prix fixe at $59, a vegetarian prix fixe for $49 and a la carte options.

Hatfields: 6703 Melrose Avenue. Phone: (323) 935 - 2977.  Website:

Friday, January 28, 2011

Fried Chicken & Waffles @ The Tasting Kitchen

Earlier this month Chef Casey Lane launched a brunch menu at his Venice restaurant, The Tasting Kitchen.  The highlight of the menu is his signature chicken and waffles ($18).  The dish is served with one large waffle, two pieces of chicken, some greens and pitchers of syrup and gravy.  This dish is spendy but is one of the top three fried chicken meals I can currently recommend in Los Angeles, along with The Lazy Ox Canteen and Flossie's.  (Alas as Joseph Mahon is no longer at Bastide or cooking someplace full time, his amazing fried chicken has been removed from my recommended options.)

The waffle is thicker (less fluffy) than a Belgian waffle, but softer than a traditional small waffle.  Kind of medium dense.  With some of the maple syrup, it did not last long on my plate despite its large size.  The chicken I had was a leg and a boneless piece.  They were hot and crispy with a nice ratio of skin/coating to bird.  The chicken meat itself was nice and juicy.

The brunch environment at The Tasting Kitchen is so relaxed and comfortable and the food so good, if it were a little less expensive I would be there every Saturday and every Sunday.  I can also vouch for the ricotta muffin ($5) which was a nice sweet and savory way to begin the brunch.  Brunch cocktails, whether mimosas, bloody marys or signature creations such as the Eye Opener, are the equal in quality and deliciousness to Casey's food.  So far weekend brunch is quiet, especially compared to the popularity of the restaurant at dinner.  Enjoy the calm while you can; its not likely to last.

The Tasting Kitchen: 1633 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice. Phone: (310) 392-6644.  Website:
Brunch hours: Saturday & Sunday 10:30 am - 2:00 pm

DineLA Restaurant Week: Now through February 4th

 At a kickoff event, Chef Kerry Simon (above) welcomed Los Angeles food lovers and restaurateurs to Restaurant Week 2011.  From January 23 - 28 and January 30th - February 4th, almost 300 restaurants (297 to be exact) are offering diners the opportunity to experience a three course meal at their eateries for a special reduced price.  Some are participating and lunch, others at dinner, and many more at both.  New to Restaurant Week are Beachwood, Inn of the Seventh Ray and The Hungry Cat and the many returning restaurants include hotspots such as AOC, Cleo, Comme Ca and Petrossian (newly home to Chef Giselle Wellman).

Participating restaurants are organized into three price tiers: Deluxe Dining, Premier Dining and Fine Dining.  What this means for you is that the special DineLA Restaurant Week meals are priced at $16, $22 or $28 at lunch and $26, $34, or $44 at dinner.  Whether you have always wanted to try Spago, Michael's, Lucques, The Bazaar by Jose Andres or any of the hundreds of participating restaurants, now is your chance to do so.  There are still plenty of reservations available for next week.  I already have several reservations and have my eye on a few more.

Restaurant Week is a fun way to experience old favorites or places that have been on your list and includes a broad range of price points and cuisines, including Starry Kitchen, a Savory Hunter favorite, and the Brazilian meat fest, Fogo de Chao.  So unbuckle your belt a few notches, and start eating!

The list of participating restaurants and their menus are here.

DineLA Chief Carrie Kommers at right, Kerry Simon at center

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Adam Horton @ Saddle Peak Lodge: Experience it while you can

Its not often that my expectations are wildly exceeded or that I have an outstanding meal from a chef who not many of the Los Angeles food cognoscenti are speaking about, but both happened at my meal last week at the Saddle Peak Lodge cooked by Executive Chef Adam Horton, who at only 28 is turning out sophisticated and assured cuisine, dish after dish.  Saddle Peak Lodge is located in the Malibu Hills, between Pepperdine and Calabasas and is an expensive restaurant.  I suspect that its location far from the Westside, the price point, and its reputation as a wild-game-focused restaurant have all conspired to keep Adam's talent a secret from many.

Go now!  Adam shared with us the news that he is leaving the restaurant as of Valentine's Day, only a month away.  After a sojourn to travel, he will be assuming the chef position at a restaurant on Ventura Blvd in Studio City.  So the bad news is there remains only weeks to try his food at Saddle Peak Lodge; but the good news is that his new restaurant's location will be much more convenient to many diners.  As it is impossible to predict what he will be serving at his new restaurant, I highly suggest that you  get yourself over to the Malibu Hills ASAP to enjoy an amazing feast.

I was joined at the meal by DJ Jewelz, Olivejina and Kung Food Panda.  Panda has an excellent writeup and way better photos than me of this meal as I did not use flash, you can see it here.  As he noted this was not a media dinner.  We arranged in advance for a tasting menu so when we sat down, we were off to the races.  The meal began with a house-made brioche roll.  It was warm, flavorful and had a great texture.  A good start to the meal.

The amuse bouche was a roasted tomato soup in a small cup.  The soup was hot, rich and perfect to combat any lingering chill from outside.  If only we had a crouton or perhaps a very large bowl of soup, it would have been perfect.  Some may scoff at tomato soup in winter, but I think a hot tomato soup is a treat to look forward to in the cold months.

Another pleasant surprise were the cocktails by the bartender/mixologist Chris Barragan.  A traditional formal restaurant specializing in wild game and decorated like a hunting lodge is not where I expect to find innovative cocktails, but Barragan's En Fleur (above) was a refreshing and tasty.  It included Hendrick’s Gin, St Germaine, Sauvignon Blanc, fresh lime juice, and thyme served on the rocks.

Egg caviar with oscetra caviar, egg, dill yogurt espuma and house smoked salmon served in an egg shell.  I am a fan of eggs and roe and this was a delicious flavor combination served attractively.  Many others have served egg dishes in a shell, but Horton made this version his own with the combination of the eggs with the yogurt and salmon.

Albacore Sashimi: with cauliflower, green apple, almond, soy, mirin, ras el hanout.  The albacore (click here to see Panda's pic) was light and the sauces, especially the mirin, complemented the delicate raw fish.  The apple was crunchy and again provided a textural counterpoint to the fish.

Crispy skin wild striped bass with variations of salsify and brussel sprouts.  The fish lived up to its billing and the skin was indeed crispy, which made the dish.  Texture is often underutilized, but here Horton let it shine.  The chef's skill with fish as well as the signature game was evident.

Guinea hen "galantine" with wild mushroom agnolotti and shaved perigord truffles.  The guinea hen lay on top of the agnolotti and a generous shaving of truffles topped off the dish.  This dish had many layers, both of flavor and of components.  The agnolotti were great flavor packets and cooked well and on top of them the galantine was beautiful.  Horton has a way with game birds.  The truffles were gilding the lily but I didn't mind as these truffles actually had that wonderful earthy truffle smell and taste.

Wood grilled Muscovy duck breast with persimmon, sweet soy, yuzu, ash and flowers.  This dish was very artistic, and as some of my fellow diners pointed out, would have fit in well at a Wolvesmouth dinner.  The visuals on this dish were stunning, but more importantly the duck tasted wonderfully rich.  The ash was interesting touch, though one that wasn't really essential to the dish.

Seared foie gras with a sherry maple sauce, brioche and a study of organic apples.  (Unpictured)  The foie gras was a decadent way to continue the meal after the duck, but as a fan of foie, I don't mind turning up the decadence meter an extra notch every now and then.  The foie, brioche and apple combined for a mid meal dessert that unified together the three flavor components.  The acidity of the apple prevented the dish from being too sweet.  The foie was just unctuous.

Texas Antelope with cauliflower, truffle, pear and foie gras.  The antelope was cooked a beautiful medium rare and served with foie gras on top with more of those fragrant truffle shavings.  The antelope taste was reminiscent of venison.  Again the sauces were streaked artfully across the plate; Horton's food is visually appealing as well as delicious.

New Zealand Elk tenderloin with celery root, sweet potato, arugula, currants and hunter sauce.  The key to the elk was how soft and tender it was.  We used regular knives, not steak knives with this course and we could have probably just used forks.  The meet was sweet and tender and covered by crispy potato shavings.

Intermezzo: Lemon meringue ice cream, cherries and ginger.  For the dessert courses Horton passed the baton to Pastry Chef Kasra Ajdari.  The desserts while good were not as stellar as the savory courses.  The first of the dessert courses was labeled "Intermezzo" and the lemon meringue ice cream was very light and had the nice sharp citrus acid of lemons.

Flan abstract: Bell pepper croquante, flan, spiced yogurt and pepitas.  At this point I was full and waving the white napkin of surrender (literally).  The bell pepper crystalized was cool looking but aside from adding a visual component, none of us felt it added to the flavor of the dish.  Something simpler might have been a better way to ease us out of the meal.

Chocolate: Crustless chocolate torte, white chocolate namelaka, cocoa nib brittle and chocolate sorbet.  This was enjoyable but I only had room for a bite or two.  I am not a fan of "white chocolate" but otherwise this was a good dish.  Memo to pastry chefs: when you have adventurous eaters, you don't have to put the obligatory chocolate dessert on the menu.

This was an A dinner overall and well worth the drive.  As Horton will only be at the Lodge for four more weeks consider his remaining tenure there to be a one month pop-up, a la LudoBites, and get it while you can.  For Horton 2.0 will be unlike his 1.0 at Saddle Peak Lodge and it would be a shame to miss out on food this precise and food with such strong flavors and soul.  There is real personality in Horton's cooking and it was a pleasure to get to taste so many of his dishes.  This was my third dinner in three months that was outstanding, along with Grant Achatz's Absolut dinner and Craig Thorton's Wolvesmouth dinner.  If Horton is cooking like this now, it will be exciting to see him continue to develop.  I'm glad that he is staying in Los Angeles for his next venture.  So what are you waiting for?  Book that table now.

Saddle Peak Lodge: 419 Cold Canyon Road, Calabasas. (Malibu/Calabasas hills).  Phone: (818) 222-3888.  Website:

Friday, January 14, 2011

Bock Fest sold out, St. Patrick's Day Festival to come

If you didn't buy your tickets in advance to Bock Fest, the beer festival focused on German Bocks on Saturday at the Olympic Collection, you are out of luck as it is sold out.  The event also raises money for the Children's Tumor Foundation, so proceeds will go to a good cause.  It is a good sign for the Los Angeles beer community when events like this sell out.

The same organizers are hosting a St. Patrick's Day Festival at the same location, the Olympic Collection, on Saturday March 13th.  So if you want to get in on the Guinness etc, don't wait too long or you will be a sad leprechaun.  The link for tickets is not live, but should be soon.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Great Scott: Beattie Resurfaces at Spoonbar in Healdsburg

Scott Beattie gained national renown for his market driven cocktails at Michelin two star restaurant Cyrus during his three years at the Sonoma restaurant from 2005 – 2008.  He frequented the twice weekly Healdsburg Farmers’ Market and was known for his cocktails that not only used the freshest seasonal ingredients but were visually stunning.  He wrote a cookbook entitled Artisinal Cocktails in 2008 and left Cyrus to go on tour to promote the book; in the interim he has been under the radar.

This summer Beattie resurfaced with a splash in Healdsburg again, creating and managing the cocktail program at Spoonbar, just a few blocks from his old perch at Cyrus.  He also launched HMS Catering with H. Joseph Ehrmann of Elixir and Marco Dionysos of Rye & Smuggler’s Cove to provide cocktail catering for parties and events in the Bay Area.  Lastly, Beattie is working with well-known chef Daniel Patterson of Coi on the cocktail programs for his two new Oakland restaurants, Bracina and Plum, the latter of which will have a bar in an adjacent storefront.

Spoonbar is located on the ground floor of the new H2 Hotel, an eco-conscious upscale 36-room hotel that is LEED Gold certified.  At Spoonbar, Beattie’s philosophy is “classic cocktails done properly with great ingredients and at a fair price.”  Most of the menu is classic drinks made with spirits that provide the best representation of the cocktail.  Beattie is looking to offer a “classic drink but refined a bit to make it more interesting using spirits that are quality products but reasonably priced.”  He also seeks to use spirits that are environmental and progressive in their farming practices and to use local or organic whenever possible.
For each of many of the classics, such as the Negroni, the Old Fashioned, and the Manhattan, Beattie’s menu provides three options at different price points.  Amazingly, these classics begin at only $7.50, a bargain, especially for beverages of this quality.  

An example of the menu is the Negroni variations:
Classic: Beefeater Gin, Carpano Antica, Campari, Orange Zest ($7.50)
Boulevardier: Maker’s Mark, Noilly Prat Sweet Vermouth, Campari, Lemon Zest ($7.50)
Tempus Fugit: Ransom Old Tom Gin, Dolin Rouge Vermouth, Gran Classico Bitter, Orange Zest ($8.50)

A Negroni
To create the list of classic cocktails, he picked through old cocktail books and sought out the best products, using small producers whenever possible.  “We’d rather be busy year-round, than just be a place for tourists.  We built this place for the local community.”

In keeping with the more casual atmosphere and to be able to serve quality drinks to the 110-seat restaurant and bar, Beattie’s menu includes pitchers of several classics that are meant to serve five.  This is his fun take on the punch service trend.  For example, a pitcher of the version with the traditional spirit Appleton Reserve rum is $37.50.  Beattie tweaks the traditional recipe by using fresh lime juice, essential oil of ginger and Angostura bitters rather than just the traditional ginger beer.

Beattie’s favorite cocktail is The Last Word, although he finds the perfect version to use slightly more lime juice.  Typically the drink is made with equal parts gin, green Chartreuse, maraschino liqueur, and lime juice.  Beattie prefers ¾ parts of the three alcohols and 1 part lime juice for the high acid and uses Blade Gin and Luxardo Maraschino at Spoonbar when making The Last Word at Spoonbar.  He missed being behind the bar during his hiatus to promote his book and is excited to be making drinks again.  Spoonbar is considerably more casual than Cyrus and Beattie enjoys the relaxed environment, “I love it here.  I can wear a t-shirt during service.”

The legendary Bloody Mary

One of Beattie’s signature drinks at Spoonbar has been his Bloody Mary.   He makes it using tomatoes that he picks from Le Bonne Terre farm that he grinds down and pushes through a sieve.  He adds verjus, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, black pepper, cutting celery and Bustelo’s Very Hot Pepper Sauce.  It was by far the best Bloody Mary I have ever had and Beattie attributes that to the fresh tomatoes. 

Beattie sees the cocktail resurgence as more than a temporary fad.  “Cocktails are more popular everywhere.  There are more bars creating more drinks than ever before in history.  I don’t think it is a trend; I think it is permanent.”  The upcoming Plum project will be with David Lazar, the co-author of Left Coast Libations, and will feature cocktails and inspiration from the book.  Bracina will be more focused on seasonal ingredients, like his program at Cyrus.  Patterson will have a farm that will grow fruits and vegetables specifically for the bar.

Those who loved his infusions at Cyrus should not fear that he has left his herbal touch behind.  Beattie is still creating his own ginger and bergamot essential oils.  His focus on creating his own ingredients to create superior cocktails gives him a greater degree of control over the final product than at most cocktail spots and he takes full advantage of the natural bounty in Sonoma.

The HMS catering program is still nascent but includes options such as Sazerac Tea Service with a Chinese teapot and a side of fortune cookies.  The ability to bring top level cocktails and service outside a bar or restaurant to a home or other private setting without diluting the quality makes it special.  The fortune cookies are emblematic of Beattie’s attitude towards cocktails: he wants the customer to have a fun and comfortable experience while enjoying a great drink without any pretentiousness.

Sitting at Scott’s bar at Spoonbar and sipping one of his cocktails is a great way to begin or end an evening.  It is truly “worth a detour.”

Spoonbar: 219 Healdsburg Avenue, Healdsburg, CA. Phone: (707) 433-7222. Website:

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Simplethings is satisfying

Simplethings sandwich and pie shop opened up Thanksgiving week in a spot on West 3rd Street in West Hollywood.  The menu lives up to the name of the restaurant with sandwiches, pot pies, salads, soups and sweet pies dominating the menu.

I had seen favorable reports from Zach of MidtownLunchLA and Esther of E*Star LA  and over the holidays decided to check it out for lunch to see for myself.  My dining companion and I split a bowl of roasted tomato soup, the thanksgiving sandwich and the steak and lager pot pie.

The roasted tomato soup ($3.50 for a cup, $5.50 for a bowl) was generously portioned, piping hot and delicious.  This was the perfect thing to warm up on a cold day.  The crouton in the soup was also nice and crunchy and then got wonderfully soggy.  The soup was not overly rich or creamy, rather simply tasting of roasted tomatoes.

The Thanksgiving sandiwch (roast turkey, cranberry chutney, jalapeƱo cornbread
stuffing, sage gravy, michetti roll) brought back the holiday meal to my plate all in one sandwich.  Hearty and flavorful.  The cornbread stuffing had some heft and the jalepano gave it an extra boost plus the roll was not overwhelming (a pet peeve is when the bread completely dominates a sandwich).  I will be back for the half sandwich and soup deal (only $10) and as much as I want to explore the menu further I suspect I will stick with the tomato soup and the thanksgiving sandwich, as they were such winners.

The steak and lager pot pie ($10) was good but not as strong as the other dishes.  As my dining companion put it, the flavors were great and spot on, but the consistency was less appealing.  I enjoyed it more than she did but still felt the Thanksgiving sandwich won the savory derby at simplethings.

I have not yet tried the pies, which come in three sizes: cutie pie (a bite), simple pie (a large slice) or big pie (full size) and each day a rotating selection of six of the fourteen varieties are on offer (see website for the pie schedule).

Simplethings: 8310 W 3rd Street, West Hollywood. Phone: (323) 592-3390.  Website: