We hope you had a very Merry Christmas and now some much deserved relaxation time before the big New Years celebrations in a few days to welcome in 2013!
The lack of recent articles is obviously reflective of the increased activities and travel of the Holiday season. As 2012 comes to a close, we’ll count down the 12 restaurants, bites, and sips of the year…because there just aren’t enough of those year end countdown lists, are there? We’ll also reveal our restaurant of the year, dish of the year, wine of the year, cocktail of the year, beer of the year, espresso of the year, and then when January arrives, the 13 changes for 2013 cooking, dining, and drinking you should anticipate from your fearless forecaster. Let’s face it, Trev’s Bistro is always correct.
First things first, however. How did Trev’s Bistro celebrate the Christmas dinner? With a sensational Beef Wellington, our now traditional loaf of no- knead olive bread, Brussels sprouts tossed with soy sauce, honey, raisins, extra mushrooms from the duxelle, and some fish sauce, and for dessert, the family’s cheesecake leftover from a recent birthday celebration.
For the Beef Wellington, we followed the classic Joy of Cooking recipe, wrapping the filet tail in puff pastry brushed with butter. On the bottom side of the filet go strips of pâté, while a quick mushroom duxelle with criminis, baby portobellos, and shiitake sautéed with olive oil and fresh thyme goes on the top side of the meat. (more…)
With winter lingering just a week away, it’s almost time to bid adieu to the fall. Of course, nothing speaks of the autumnal spirit of crisp winds and spectacular foliage than the 70 degree sunshine and swaying palm trees of a late November day in Los Angeles. Here now, on display the spectacular creativity of Los Angeles chefs. The bites might not seem very autumnal, but at least they’re seasonal. Get the “Running Leap” cocktail at the Hollywood Roosevelt’s Spare Room bar for actual autumn flavor (apples, maple, and fallen leaves).
Trev’s Bistro: Maple-Glazed Turkey with Dijon Gravy
Of course, we must first start with yours truly’s Thanksgiving masterpiece. Now for a decade we’ve been using this excellent recipe leading to moist, even exciting turkeys. The maple butter, accented by beautiful marjoram notes, gets rubbed underneath the bird’s skin, one of the more unique experiences of a Thanksgiving morning. The Dijon gravy always ends up stealing the show.
Bäco Mercat: The “Original Bäco”
Josef Centano’s gyro meets flatbread meets taco invention is lunch perfected. The namesake for his flat-out sensational Downtown restaurant is far from the only hit on the dynamic menu, heavy on the vegetable small plates. However, you’d be remiss to skip the “Original” that started it all. Tender, braised, not fatty cubes of pork and beef “carnitas” serve as the platform for what really sets this particular bäco apart– the Salbitxada sauce based on almonds and tomatoes. Don’t miss the “Toron” either with oxtail hash, pickles, and cheddar cheese, or the double mushroom “coca,” a Catalan pizza.
Bäco Mercat: Chocolate Peanut Butter Molden Cake with Fudge and Vanilla Semifreddo
Seriously, how come it seems nobody has served a molten chocolate cake with peanut butter mixed in the liquid chocolate filling before, despite the millions of molten liquid center chocolate cakes at neighborhood bistros nationwide? Inspired one would think from a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, this is as exceptional as it sounds. The cake itself could actually use a tad bit more warmth. Usually these burn your mouth.
Canelé: Deep Dish Quiche Lorraine
Corina Weibel’s powerhouse brunch reaches its pinnacle with this pitch-perfect, delicate slice of quiche. Studded with no shortage of ham hocks, everything from the quivering custard to the buttery, flaky crust is just how you imagine the perfect quiche in a small Alsace village should be. I never had a quiche in Strasbourg of this caliber.
Ink: BBQ Beef Short Rib/ Horseradish Tofu/ Carrot/ Tendon
Michael Voltaggio’s tour de force Wagyu beef preparation is truly a work of art; visually and culinary speaking. Even the carrot is of a silky texture. The meat itself is poinsettia-red, looking like a well marbled filet ready for a sukiyaki cooking dunk in hot oil. Except, it’s already cooked, just perfectly rare. The pristine beef is ready for the grand stage, shared by the chicharrones- evoking, whispy horseradish tofu crisps.
Ink: Apple/ Caramel/ Walnut/ Burnt Wood Ice Cream
Autumn’s official dessert and Voltaggio’s signature dessert. Something you’d expect at El Bulli, burnt wood (a taste sensation similar to maple) ice cream and nitro frozen burnt wood sabayon melt onto a crême caramel that doesn’t taste far from Pizzeria Mozza’s butterscotch budino base, with candied walnuts, dehydrated- peeled apples bursting with cider, and a maple streusel for a masterpiece of textures and fall comfort. Absolutely magnificent in every aspect, a clear master on display.
Maison Giraud: Pain au Chocolat
In France, it’s the butter that’s the secret to a worthwhile pain au chocolat. You don’t want too much grease on your hands, but you do want the tan colored shards of the pastry. What they don’t do often enough in France is the chocolate part of the pastry, usually just a thin strand or two in the center. That is where Alain Giraud has lifted the pain au chocolat to another level. He doesn’t skimp on the chocolate spread. Oh, and the pastry choux is every bit on par of the ones at Pierre Hermé on Rue Bonaparte.
Pizzeria Mozza: Pizza with Coach Farm Goat Cheese, Leeks, Scallions, Garlic, and Bacon
Pick your favorite at Mozza–mine’s usually is the pie with rapini, anchovies, olives, cherry tomatoes, and chiles. It could also be one with a soft poached egg, guanciale, escarole, radicchio, and bagna cruda. Recently, I was blown away by the less salt-driven, calmer toppings combination with the creamy, almost smoky goat cheese, the crisp bacon nubs, and most importantly, velvety soft leeks. Leeks deserve more acclaim. Whatever pie you choose, it’s sure to have a pork product on it and Nancy Silverton’s superb charred crust that should be sold in bakeries.
Pizzeria Mozza: Butterscotch Budino with Maldon Sea Salt and Rosemary Pine Nut Cookies
It’s startling to say with the superb pizzas, but the most memorable part of any meal at Pizzeria Mozza always is the dessert. That’s close to common knowledge now. The butterscotch budino by Dahlia Narvaez is possibly the city’s iconic dessert, mostly consisting of luscious caramel pudding, with a thin layer of caramel sauce, a dollop of whipped cream that helps cut the sauce’s sugary bite, and a crowning sprinkle of sea salt. Here, the salted caramel sensation of sweet and savory is an achievement that has been replicated the world over. I was just perusing a dessert menu for a well-known Portland, Oregon Italian restaurant. Their butterscotch budino even is credited to Pizzeria Mozza.The sensation continues with the petite cookies that you wish could be a dessert on their own. Make sure to also get the bittersweet chocolate tartufo with Narvaez’s other signature: olive oil gelato.
Proof Bakery: Canelé
The classic Bordeaux region pastry in all its regal glory is on display at Atwater Village’s beloved, impossibly cute bakery. This version is just a touch more custardy on the interior, the beeswax exterior glaze a little sweeter, and the whole just a pinch more refined than most other renditions. Don’t pass up the Cognoscenti Coffee or the pain au chocolat either.
Ray’s & Stark Bar: Wood Roasted Sunchokes with Sunflower Seed Salsa
Hey, why not let vegetables get their moment in the spotlight? It’s happening everywhere in L.A., from Gjelina in Venice to Bäco Mercat in Downtown. And in between at LACMA’s Joachim Splichal- Patina Group owned restaurant and bar, sunchokes get a gorgeous char, leading to a candy- like sweetness. The salsa verde is beautifully vibrant, aided by the crunch of the salsa. It’s a side dish in a starring role, making you forget the scruffy 1950’s inspired interior by Renzo Piano.
Son of a Gun: Shrimp Toast Sandwich with Herbs and Sriracha Mayo
Almost everything from the brilliant minds of Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo (co-owners/ chefs of Animal) could be on this menu. New creations rock an evening at the nautical themed restaurant on West 3rd, including a Texas redfish with kabocha squash, vadouvan, and hazelnut, or a fascinating mash-up of smoked steelhead roe and maple cream, spread together on pumpernickel chips. However, it’s three classic sandwiches that you see on every table: the fried chicken sandwich, the lobster roll, and the most gallant of them all, the Southeast Asia street food favorite of spicy sriracha and tiny shrimp with mayonnaise gushing out of the buttery brioche slices.
Son of a Gun: Apple Pie with Date Ice Cream
Apple pie is…apple pie, right? You know what to expect. Except this is a knockout version, singing with cinnamon and moist, vivid apples. The date ice cream actually is spiced heavily with mustard seed, a twist on the American dessert staple you’ve never seen and should see a lot more now.
Spago: Pumpkin Agnolotti with Amoretti, Sage, and Parmigiano Reggiano
Lee Hefter has a special gift with pastas…after all, “Spago” is an Italian term for spaghetti. A plate full of this Tootsie Roll- shaped dough might be aesthetically dull to the eyes with white sauce on yellow pasta on a tan plate. Fortunately, the pasta itself melts almost in the spoon, textbook precision to the pasta’s filling, tasting clearly of spiced pumpkin. Like all showstopping pastas, there is a certain textural “it” factor here that is impossible to describe, only achievable by the masters.
Spago: Bartlett Pear/ Black Mission Figs, Caramel Bourbon Pain Perdu, Vanilla- Maple Roasted Pear, 50 Bean Tahitian Vanilla Ice Cream
Hurry now to try Sherry Yard’s creations at Spago, worth a trip on their own. Most reflective of Yard’s baking prowess was this caramel and bourbon soaked pain perdu (Brioche French toast essentially), with a bottom layer of Bartlett pears and Black Mission figs. Then vanilla and maple roasted pear segments, and raspberries decorate outside the pain perdu centerpiece. How autumnal, how comforting, and yet, how new feeling the dessert is. Yard’s 50 bean Tahitian vanilla ice cream is back from the “old” Spago for the pain perdu and sure isn’t your run of the mill vanilla scoop, with pure vanilla resonating through every sample.
Sycamore Kitchen: Cherry Molasses Cookie
Having enjoyed Karen Hatfield’s desserts several times at the excellent restaurant, Hatfields, she co-owns with husband Quinn ( I preferred the more homey, original bistro version on Beverly Blvd. compared to the grander, formal one now on Melrose), expectations were high for the new bakery- café on La Brea that displays her baked goods on their own. There is no let down here. How in the world do you choose? Sensational, pristine apple galettes or the spot on flourless chocolate brownies with a pinch of sea salt? Begin or end with the cookies, soft the way they should be, robust as one of her haute desserts at the restaurant. Dried cherries and molasses lead this cookie to open new doors of what the humble cookie can be.
Thomas Hills Organics (Paso Robles): Grilled Shrimp Skewers with Zucchini Noodles, Basil, Mint, Cilantro, Avocado, Strawberries, Watermelon, and Green Onion Relish
As my dining partner mentioned, so this is what food really tastes like? So pure, so full of life. Every fruit bursting with juice. Every vegetable exuding precise ripeness. Every herb and spice shining on its own and contributing a vital sparkle to the group as a whole. I’ve never had a composed salad of this nature, everything that the Chez Panisse- Michael Pollan teams stand for. Except here, there is just a little more skip in each ingredient’s step than elsewhere, perhaps since Thomas Hill has its own farm. Or, they just have a magic touch with strawberries and mint. It’s a commanding, gentle display of virDon’t pass up the equally sublime smoked salmon sandwich with sriracha aioli, macerated onions, and sliced avocado on equally stand-out levain bread.
Waterloo & City: Sticky Toffee Pudding with Salted Caramel and Vanilla Ice Cream
For the finale, what better way to end than with a classic rendition of that quintessential English dessert. Who needs the salted caramel of a butterscotch budino when you can just have a good ol’ plain sugar rush. Somehow, this Culver City gastropub always hits the right sticky toffee notes. Start with the wild boar terrine and do explore the excellent beer list. And, you’ll want one of these puddings on your own. Hold out and share with a partner. Do make sure to skip the chalky, unsweetened oatmeal tasting “pumpkin mousse” in a gingerbread- like chocolate crust.
Rioja gets all of the attention. Spain’s leading wine growing region is synonymous with Spanish red wine, and known for its rugged, dry climate that perfectly suits Tempranillo grapes. Rioja is one of two DOCa (Denominación de Origen Calificada) in the entire country, the highest classification for Spanish appellations.
Who could possibly be the other region to be on Rioja’s esteemed premier summit?
It’s not even a region that specializes, or really even grows, Spain’s darling Tempranillo. The signature grape is Grenacha. Think of this region as the exciting, vibrant Rhône compared to Rioja’s classic, grand Bordeaux.
The region in question would be the Priorat. Located in Catalonia, the Priorat is a two hour drive south from Barcelona (a city known more for its cocktails and sangria than being near a major wine epicenter), and roughly 40 miles inland from the Mediterranean Costa Daurada (not to be mistaken with the Costa Brava northeast of Barcelona where El Bulli was located in the town of Rosas).
Being near the sea and a mountainous region without much altitude, it’s not surprising that the wines here pack lots of punch and stay in the middle ground of stature. When dining recently at The French Laundry in Yountville, CA, I perused the phone book-sized wine list (now on an iPad in 2012, of course), looking for a middle-of-the-road red to complement chicken and pigeon, along with not being overpowered by an upcoming beef dish. Pinot Noir might be too light. Malbec or Cabernet Sauvignon certainly would be too forceful.
Then the sommelier yanked the iPad out of my grasp. He knew what would be perfect. (more…)
This Tuesday, we’ll celebrate the end of the game season and the end of Autumn with… poultry.
“Hunter’s Chicken” is one of the classic Americana dishes of the 1950’s with origins not based in America.
Hold on a second. Repeat that again for me. “Hunter’s Chicken?” What is that? It sounds like some stew Davy Crockett may have concocted with mutton, squirrel, and whatever leaves in the Kentucky forest he could forage.
No, no. No mutton here. For that, go to Keen’s Steakhouse in Manhattan for the chop. This “Hunter’s Chicken” is not a gimmicky name. Everybody knows of “Hunter’s Chicken,” or at least has heard of it at some point when browsing through cookbooks.
“Hunter’s Chicken” is the translation for Chicken Cacciatore. (more…)
Los Angeles doesn’t strike you as a coffee town like its rainy Pacific Northwest friends Seattle and Portland, or its foggy neighbor San Francisco to the north might. The sun is always shining. The temperature hovers in that 65-75 degree sweet spot seemingly year round. Hence there is no need for a warm-up mocha, right? Who needs the caffeine here?
Well, you need the caffeine, or at least Vin Scully on the radio to entertain during those sluggish commutes on the 405 or the 10.
Let’s be fair though about coffee. Los Angeles deserves world-class baristas and local micro bean roasters just as much as any cold weather or rain-abundant destination. Coffee is as comforting as your favorite blanket and nuanced as intricate Rhône blends. When in capable hands at the espresso machine or drip filters, the morning cup and afternoon pick-me-up can be a transcendent drink, regardless of the climate
Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf and Starbucks can be found anywhere across Southern California. Though Los Angeles might have been a little behind many other pivotal cities for “Third Wave” coffee options, the great metropolis has certainly caught up. Now, you’ll be plenty awake on the freeways after enjoying some of the finest espresso and coffee in the country. (more…)
In today’s television driven culture, what exactly constitutes being, every food writer’s favorite term, a celebrity chef? In the young days of chef television, there was the Food Network constantly, and then chefs teaching Diane Sawyer and Matt Lauer new recipes on morning news programs. These were a highly select group of gifted restaurant chefs with a side project of television. The focus was about the food, not the entertainment. Slowly, things evolved. Remember when Emeril Lagasse’s Food Network program included a jazz band? Bam!
Across the Pacific from Japan arrived “Iron Chef,” pioneering the television chef competition genre at the same time that “Survivor” was a reality television hit for CBS. Viewers of “Iron Chef” were far more interested in the “Survivor” elements than the gastrique made of wood sorrel on the duck confit a chef might have made if the confit was the secret ingredient.
Today, with all of the bells and whistles of blogs, social media, numerous television platforms, and the dining public as captivated by dashing young chefs as thirteen year old girls now are to Justin Bieber, there are hundreds of celebrity chefs. Or at least chefs called “celebrity chefs.” Wolfgang Puck, Emeril (as iconic a first name as Madonna), Bobby Flay, and Rick Bayless were just the forefathers of what has now reached this fever pitch.
It often seems there are more celebrity chefs today than actual entertainment industry celebrities.
Plain and simple– if this is where California Chardonnay is going, book me a ticket now.
The days of ye olde oak and butter explosions in a bottle fortunately are evaporating to make way for a new crop that burst with citrus fruit, balance the oak often with neutral oak aging, and reflect the mineral and nutrient rich soil so abundant in the Golden State.
Santa Barbara County and its Santa Rita Hills near the Pacific, north of the city of Santa Barbara and west of the famed “Sideways” town of Los Olivos with many of the area’s tasting rooms, have long been known as coveted Pinot Noir terroir. Move over Pinot. It’s now Chardonnay territory, led by the powerhouse new label now on its third vintage, Sandhi Wines.
Of the three Chardonnays currently offered at Sandhi’s brand new tasting room in Los Olivos, this 2010 Rita’s Crown is the runaway beauty, exuding a gravitas of the Princess at the ball. Thoroughly well-rounded, plush with tropical fruits, notably hints of passion fruit and guava, the Rita’s Hills is captivating and refined, with plenty of edge to keep matters exciting. (more…)