Your Table is Ready

Archive for May, 2013

Plat du Jour Thursday May 23, 2013: Writing on the State of Food Writing

Food writing and writers have been the topic of choice this week for an industry that usually focuses on what’s on your plate or in your glass. Layoffs have been everywhere in this continuing to downsize and outsource economy. The media is no exception, including food and drink print media. On this pre- Holiday weekend Thursday, we have two bits of good news about the state of food writing and then the…not so good news.

What better way, however, to celebrate food writing than to acknowledge one of the true maestros in this profession, the Pulitzer Prize winning Jonathan Gold. His “Essential 99 Restaurants” guide with the LA Weekly was an annual obsession for the Los Angeles dining audience, as essential as the restaurants themselves.



Now for the first time since joining the Los Angeles Times roughly a year ago, Mr. Gold has released his Best Los Angeles Restaurants for 2013 (paywall alert to read the article). This time around, the list is ranked in order and he’s added to more to his essential collection.


It is fitting for one of the food and restaurant community’s most eloquent present day storytellers to release one of his crowning achievements this week, at a time where the common answer to young food writers asking how to break into the industry is, “you don’t want to be a food writer.” Yours truly personally broke into the profession in the Los Angeles area and Jonathan Gold was at the time and still is the dean of the Los Angeles restaurant writing world. He is the authority, where his opinion will make you or break you. Most importantly, he’s a writer full of so much brilliant character who happens to write about food. Most of us forget that first and foremost to be a good food writer, you must be…a writer. What’s that you mean?! Grammar? Vocabulary? (more…)

Spring Cooking: Fava Beans with a Nice Chianti (Or Quinoa)

Over the past few weeks we’ve examined all sorts of spring produce, from rhubarb to strawberries to artichokes to asparagus and beyond. You haven’t heard much in the way of ramps over here since the West Coast doesn’t have them. We aren’t so, um, rampant about ramps if you will, like in the Midwest or East Coast. It’s asparagus all day, every day out here. But, we do need green spring vegetable variety.

This time of year, everybody loves fava beans. Yes, fava beans have a slightly negative connotation from the famous Anthony Hopkins quote in “The Silence of the Lambs.” After a few fava bean dishes, you’ll quickly get over the need to pair fava beans with a Chianti.

Oenotri, Napa: Beets with Citrus, Wood Oven Roasted Young Fava Beans, Sunflower Sprouts, and Pistachios

Oenotri, Napa: Beets with Citrus, Wood Oven Roasted Young Fava Beans, Sunflower Sprouts, and Pistachios

Last week, I truly enjoyed a fresh, bright red quinoa salad at Forage in Silver Lake, the epicenter of fresh, bright quinoa salads in Los Angeles. The quinoa mingled with chickpeas (not seasonal), artichokes (very Spring), and yes, no shortage of shelled fava beans (very Spring).

The salad reminded me of how fava beans deserve the same fervent fan base that asparagus has. If you’ve ever been to Germany this time of year, you’ll know what I mean. Literally every single meal incorporates the precious white asparagus for three weeks in May.

What I love about fava beans is that they are softer than edamame beans, with a wonderful nutty meets sweet flavor that isn’t far off from an Oloroso Sherry.

Remember, whether you choose to eat the beans raw or cooked, not only do you have to take the beans out of the pods à la green beans, but then also take off the secondary thin white layer on each individual bean with a knife to puncture the surface, or boiling them in water for 30 seconds.  (more…)

Dining for Oklahoma Tornado Relief

In the aftermath of the tragic tornado yesterday in Moore, Oklahoma and Oklahoma City, Eater National has put together an ongoing list of restaurants nationwide who are conducting fundraisers or donating proceeds from meals to help the victims of this disaster. Please take a look to see if a restaurant or shop near you is participating in these relief efforts. Our hearts today all go out to those affected by the tornado in Oklahoma.

Plat du Jour Tuesday May 21, 2013: Film and Television Cocktails…Illustrated


filmcocktails-600x466The folks at Pop Chart Lab have the poster for all cocktail aficionados: 49 illustrated recipes of the most legendary television and film cocktails. Don Draper’s Old Fashioned. Carrie Bradshaw’s Cosmopolitan. James Bond’s Vesper Martini.

What will I try first? Why of course, Roger O. Thornhill’s Gibson from “North by Northwest.” Who knows what will happen afterwards with the suspense of Hitchcock cocktails…

Beer of the Week: Green Flash Imperial IPA, Plus Tasting Notes From Green Flash Brewery in San Diego

A few weeks ago at dusk standing amongst the seals sprawled out on in the La Jolla Cove sand, I could’ve sworn I finally saw the elusive green flash emerge from the sea as the sun set into the Pacific horizon.

Or, it could’ve been because of an earlier extensive beer tasting of two dozen beers served on draught at Green Flash’s tap room inside their San Diego brewery not far from an assortment of other breweries (AleSmith, Ballast Point…) just north of the Miramar Naval Air Station.

"Research" at Green Flash

“Research” at Green Flash

It’s hard to say who is necessarily the most “famous” or “highly-regarded” of the over three dozen nano and micro breweries across San Diego County. You’re dealing with worldwide heavy-hitters ranging from Stone to Ballast Point to AleSmith to the more obscure, but critically adored IPA pioneering Alpine.

Green Flash is right up there at the top. If 20 plus beers sampled tells you anything, they certainly know how to diversify. Yet like what your Merril Lynch adviser would tell you, it’s good to have variety, but you still must maintain a high level of quality. From a Double Stout powered by a hefty amount of Serrano chile to world class Double IPAs and Imperial IPAs, there is no doubting Green Flash’s prominence as one of the most accomplished craft breweries in the country, not just the county.


Beer drinkers everywhere know the Green Flash West Coast IPA by heart. Now, it’s time to start getting to know the Imperial IPA, the commanding King compared to the Prine Charming. (more…)

Tuesday’s Project: Scallops with Blood Orange Gastrique, Brussels Sprouts, and Orange Salad

Vitaly Paley is an immensely gifted chef with a cooking vision from many different viewpoints. His training comes from high-end kitchens of France and New York in the 1980’s and 1990’s, while he has helped pioneer the hyper-local focused Pacific Northwest regional cuisine since moving across the country to Portland, Oregon, opening his now iconic Paley’s Place.

Over dinner at the charming Victorian in the city’s Northwest Alphabet District, you certainly get a sense of the classical background with textbook veal osso bucco, a consummate egg yolk crowned steak tartare, and a unique new  meets old classic French tripleheader combining the not familiar together escargots, bone marrow, and sauce Bordélaise. On the other 2013 hipper side, Paley makes a burger that every new gastropub aspires to replicate, and he gladly brings elements of the local forests and fields into a spring pickled green strawberry salad with crispy sweetbreads, and a confit of local spring vegetables joining the halibut a la plancha on a white bean purée accented by a piquillo pepper coulis.

Scallops ready for caramelizing, gastrique boiling

Scallops ready for caramelizing, gastrique boiling

That’s not haute cuisine. That’s Paley’s cuisine.

What about scallops with a blood orange gastrique? It’s not necessarily envelope-pushing or a clear-cut haute cuisine or Pacific Northwest standard. Instead, think of this as a unique adaptation of duck à l’orange, evolved in many directions.

Paley's Place

Paley’s Place

Just because there aren’t Oregon blueberries or Copper River salmon doesn’t mean this isn’t a terrific Pacific Northwest recipe. Paley’s scallops and gastrique idea should be your go-to scallops recipe. (more…)

Restaurants: La Ciccia, San Francisco

To fall in love with Sardinia’s cuisine, all you need to experience is a few bites of Massimiliano Conti’s spaghetti with bottarga and spicy olive oil. It doesn’t sound complicated and it isn’t. It doesn’t seem at first to be much more than a lighter sun-splashed, seafaring version of spaghetti and meatballs. But, my goodness the intensity of every dimension put together on this plate by Conti. I’ve heard stories of diners booking tickets to Sardinia the next day because of eye-opening dinners at the incredibly humble La Ciccia. I’m guessing a few of those diners officially announced those vacation plans immediately after encountering the spaghetti.

Conti makes all of his pasta in house at La Ciccia, his and his wife Lorella Degan’s ode to their home island. The spaghetti in the signature dish achieves that golden al dente texture, relaxed, flexible, with some bite to it. Most cooks would say it needs another minute of boiling. To Conti and chefs back at home, that extra minute turns high caliber flour and water into mush. If you want porridge or polenta, that’s a different story.

La Ciccia, San Francisco: Spaghetti with Bottarga and Spicy Oil

La Ciccia, San Francisco: Spaghetti with Bottarga and Spicy Oil

For correct al dente pasta, there must be a slight crunchy note. That allows you to actually taste and feel the pasta. It’s a participatory experience.

Then the spaghetti gets twirled atop a pool of chile- fortified olive oil, as seductive as an extra hour on a Mediterranean beach. You think the spaghetti is coated in a generous dusting of cinnamon or paprika, but really that rust-colored topping is the key ingredient to Sardinian cooking: bottarga. (more…)