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I love fresh figs; my friends who have fig trees always give me their excess bounty. I’ve been hearing about Fig for years but for one reason or another (usually having to do with traffic / parking at the beach), I never got to taste the food here until today. The timing worked out perfectly as I missed the Farmer’s Market morning traffic and got there in the afternoon to watch a movie at the Laemmle down the street. The movie was great (the documentary “I Am”) and the movie let out just in time for me to walk the two blocks to the Fig for their Happy Hour from 5-6pm when EVERYTHING on their menu is 50% off.

The hostess asked for my name (Fig is in the Miramar so some diners are hotel guests) and seated me with a nice view of the small pool. Service was excellent, from the waitress to the bus boys, never intrusive but always prepared to meet any need, whether it be for clarification on a menu item or a refill of water. The warm delicious bread came in a bag with a small tin of arugula butter that was absolutely addictive; I ate the entire bag of bread during the course of my meal.

The menu* offers many choices from chicken and prosciutto croquettes ($13), duck rillettes ($10), cheese flights ($18), mussels ($19), brussel sprouts with bacon & vinegar ($11), vegetable curry ($18), short rib and pancetta meatloaf ($26), or what caught my eye, the pork schnitzel ($27), made with Niman Ranch Pork, Pickled Cabbage, Walnuts, and Brown Butter.

It was beautiful and as tasty as it looked, with the tart pickled cabbage adding a nice freshness to the nearly grease less fried pork. The addition of golden raisins and walnuts to the cabbage was an interesting touch; at first I was hesitant to taste all the ingredients together, but once I did I appreciated the combination of the crunch of the walnuts, sweetness of the raisins, tartness of the pickled cabbage, and richness of the fried pork. I tasted the Trockenbeerenauslese brown butter, but it was entirely too heavy and rich for me, so I was very grateful they served it on the side. I loved this dish so much that I finished it along with my glass of French Merlot ($14) in less than half an hour!

I had absolutely no room for dessert, but that just means I will be coming back with friends for a second visit; after all if one fig is good, two is better!

*Menu prices I list do NOT reflect the 50% off happy hour price 🙂

FIG Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Warning: Today’s post is not for raw food eaters, vegans, vegetarians, or pescatarians.

Do you love pork and all pork products, especially bacon? Would you like a chance to taste five heritage pigs prepared by five chefs and judge who does the best job from head to hoof? Then Cochon 555 is a must go to event for you.

For $125 general admission or $175 VIP admission (you get to enter earlier, have access to a butchering demonstration from Lindy & Grundy, and access to an oyster station and cheese station), you can spend the afternoon and evening in the beautiful Vibiana space downtown.

Your opinion will count towards determining the winner of the competition, so while eating the efforts of chefs Octavio Becerra – Palate Food & Wine, Chad Colby – Mozza, Suzanne Tracht – Jar, Ben Ford – Ford’s Filling Station, and Joshua Whigham – The Bazaar, and drinking wines from The Scholium Project Alysian, Arnot-Roberts, Copain Wines, and Red Car Wine, keep in mind that you must decide who will win the competition.

This event is meant to raise awareness for heritage pigs and to promote breed diversity in local and national communities; your participation will help keep the agribusiness factories at bay by showing that there are people who care about where their pork comes from and how it is raised.

Chinese food is very low on my list of favorites, perhaps because I grew up in NYC and the food here on the West Coast just does not make my taste buds say “yeah”. There are some very good restaurants in San Francisco, and some decent ones in the Monterey Park and San Gabriel area, but in West LA? Only one makes my list, and that one is Hop Li. Maybe because they have restaurants in Arcadia and Chinatown as well as Westwood and West Los Angeles, they actually cook food Chinese people would eat.

When my friend Mika wanted some Chinese comfort food, Hop Li was the only place near my house that I would take her (because she not only knows good Chinese food, but she has some Chinese in her background). Another plus in favor of Hop Li is that the typical rudeness found in most Chinese places towards nonChinese is absent at Hop Li; Mika even commented about how nice everyone was to both of us.

Mika loves rice, so our rice dish was the BBQ pork fried rice. It was a very generous portion for $7.75. It was full of perfect char su (Chinese BBQ pork), egg, vegetables, and not too greasy. We loved it but could only eat about half of this order (we took the rest to go).

We had to order some vegetables, so we chose the tender greens for $8.75. Simply sauteed in oil and salt, this was a wonderful way to get our vegetables and again the portion was so generous we could only eat half of this dish (and again we took the rest to go).

Since Hop Li is one of the few places that does a dry style chow fun that I like, we got it done with beef for $8.95. The noodles were a bit greasy, but chow fun is very sticky and given a choice between slightly greasy and dry noodles stuck together, I will chose the greasy any day. The scallions and bean sprouts helped make the dish fresh and with the addition of some hot peppers, this dish was a winner. And yes, again we only ate about half and took the rest home.

Hop Li also serves fantastic fresh seafood like lobsters, crabs, and shrimp (see my previous post), so if you are craving Chinese food and are on the Westside of Los Angeles, you have an option that is both good and generous.

Hop Li on Urbanspoon

My friend Cindy wanted to spend a day shopping, eating, and getting our nails done, so we chose to spend our day in the neighborhood around Robertson in Beverly Hills. Robertson is paparazzi central during the day with numerous stores and restaurants which attract both celebrities and their stalkers; tourists get can a taste of the Hollywood lifestyle here and for an out of towner like Cindy, it added an element of entertainment to our day together.

We went to Chaya because it had been nearly a year since we have gone there and they have since remodeled and hired a new chef; it was like going to a new restaurant in a familiar location. The remodel took away the outdated rattan fans and replaced them with a bamboo and white muslin garden, creating a relaxing atrium space in the center of the restaurant. It felt clean and peaceful and the food was as clean and fresh as the new space.

Nice crusty bread was offered with an olive tapenade as we sat down.

Cindy chose to start with the roasted beet salad with oranges, mizuna, goat cheese, and campari for $9. She adored the detail design of the goat cheese and delighted in the taste of the campari.

I began with the tuna tartare for $16. It was a great rendition of this classic, with lightly dressed fresh sashimi on an avocado base. The tasted bread accompaniment was a nice touch, adding a hearty crunchiness to the delicate tartare.

Cindy chose the tuna, tuna, tuna as her entree, with spicy tuna, tuna sashimi, and tuna tataki on a bed of mixed greens for $18. She asked for pickled ginger to accompany her dish, but enjoyed her salad without the accompaniment. She said it was the best tuna combination she has ever had (and she has had a lot of tuna).

I chose the soy glazed black cod with sesame soy dressing, bok choy, steamed rice, and a side of fried shittake mushrooms for $20. I love how Chaya Venice does their fish, and this branch is just as deft in their handling of fish; it was perfectly cooked and the sides were a nice contrast of textures with the crunchy tempura shittakes and the tender steamed bok choy. Although only the fish was soy glazed, the sides really did not need any sauce since the glaze on the rice added a nice accent without overpowering the main flavor of the fish.

We had no room for dessert so we paraded ourselves around Robertson, but no paparazzi were interested in photographing us; no matter, we preferred being happy rather than being famous anyway.

Chaya on Urbanspoon

What would be more apropos than to go eat sushi and have 100% of the profits from your meal help the victims of the tsunami and earthquakes in Japan? Because several of the people at Takami Sushi have family and friends in Japan, they are donating all their profits to the Japanese branch of the Red Cross with no end date for this generous act of charity as of this post.

If you want to help and either don’t like sushi or don’t live near downtown Los Angeles, you can buy a piece of art here and 100% of the profits will go towards charitable organizations in Japan. Pieces range from $15 to $1000 so get one or get several.

To update yesterday’s post, T Mobile, Comcast, and Time Warner have finally joined AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint in offering free calls (and texts) to Japan for prepaid US subscribers; better late than never, and that applies to sending aid as well.

>Today’s post is for everyone who wishes to help the people in Japan who have had to deal with earthquakes, a tsunami, and a volcano eruption all in less than a week. If you have family or friends in Japan you can e-mail the State Department or you can use Google’s people finder link here. AT&T is offering free calling and texting from U.S. to Japan through the end of March and Sprint & Verizon are offering free calls & text until April 10th for prepaid wireless subscribers.

One of my favorite charities is Doctors Without Borders because they use so much of their donations on actual service (85.5%) to those who need them. They have a special designation for the relief efforts in Japan, so you specify where your donation will go. Having doctors assisting in Japan is essential to saving lives.

Global Giving has also set up a specific fund for relief efforts in Japan here and they are about halfway towards the goal of a million dollars to send. I also like this organization because 85% of your money will go directly to the cause you chose.

If you use iTunes (who doesn’t?) you can click here and 100% of your donation will go to the Red Cross relief efforts. Speaking of the Red Cross, you can also send a donation by texting REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation to help those affected by the earthquake in Japan and tsunami throughout the Pacific.

If you use Twitter (as I do), there is a blog page (in Japanese) with the latest news and information on how to help. There are also some hashtags for specific details/information/aid:

  • #Jishin: focuses around general earthquake information
  • #Anpi: a hashtag for the confirmation of the safety of individuals or places
  • #Hinan: Evacuation information
  • #311care: a hashtag regarding medical information for the victims
  • #PrayforJapan: A general hashtag for support and best wishes for victims of the crisis

However you decide to help, whether it is with your skills, time, money, or prayers, please help in whatever way you can. We are all connected; let’s connect with each other in a positive way.

>I miss France and whenever I am not there I look for places that remind me of France, especially the food. Since I brought back some macarons from Paul (a French Bakery) for a friend here in Los Angeles, he suggested I try the macarons at La Provence in Brentwood to contrast and compare the authentic ones from the Brentwood version. The motto of the cafe is “local, fresh, and organic” so if you care about where your food is sourced, this place will put you at ease.

This cute bakery/cafe has a beautiful display showcasing their macarons and pastries as you enter, and it is a very casual place where you order at the counter and they deliver the food to you, so it’s perfect for a quick lunch (they also serve dinner).

We decided to make a lunch of it with two other friends on a warm day when sitting out on the patio in March was not only pleasant, but preferable to sitting indoors. Shelly chose the Turkey Club Sandwich, served with a side of fries or salad for $10.95, and she enjoyed the oven roasted turkey, baked bacon, avocado, tomato, muenster cheese and mayo on fresh french bread.

Both Wendy & Jessie ordered panninis, made with avocado, mozzarella, tomato, arugula, and aioli pesto for $10.50; they both were cafe habitués and this was one of their favorites.

I chose the Nicoise Salad with Ahi, made with green beans, tomatoes, hard boiled egg, and kalamata olives served on a bed of greens in a mustard vinaigrette for $14.95; it was a decent version, with medium rare ahi and a nice balance of classic ingredients. I would probably order one of the sandwiches or specials next time, but I wanted to try my standard for lunch and see how they fared (passing).

We came for dessert, and particularly the macarons, so I got their chocolate ganache cupcake and a chocolate macaron to go. The macaron was a good version of the classic French ones, but I found them a bit too big and sweet for my taste, however most Americans would probably love them. I also found the flavors a bit artificial and the coloring a bit bright, so although they are fresh and delicate, they fell short of my requirements for excellent macarons. My friends all loved them, so I must note that I am simply pickier than most when it comes to a product I know from its place of origin.

On the other hand, the chocolate cupcake was THE BEST I have EVER had! I would come back to eat the cupcake alone! It had the perfect balance of frosting to cake, a wonderful texture with just enough moisture and crumb, and just enough sweetness to make you want to eat the entire thing (and not get a toothache). I can not rave about this cupcake enough, so you will just have to go and taste one for yourself. If you don’t like deep chocolate nirvana, there are other choices, like a red velvet and a salted caramel.

La Provence is a full fledged bakery, making full sized cakes (think a party version of the chocolate ganache cupcake), so if you fancy a white chocolate strawberry shortcake, or a hazelnut mousse cake, or a lemon caramel meringue brulee cake for a party (or dinner), order one and delight your senses.

With decent food, a varied menu, reasonable prices, and a nice atmosphere, La Provence may not be the South of France, but it is a nice place to stop by for lunch or dessert in Brentwood (or Beverly Hills) until you can get to Provence, France.

La Provence Cafe on Urbanspoon

>Yesterday was International Women’s Day, but the appreciation of women needs to continue everyday and one of the ways you can show your support for women is to attend the PPLA (Planned Parenthood Los Angeles) Food Fare in Santa Monica tomorrow; for $150* you can spend the morning (10:30-2:00pm) feasting on food choices from 150 restaurants, including the venerable Michael’s, Portia Via (see my recent blog post), Church & State, Joe’s, Westside Tavern, and even a few trucks will be there like the Border Grill truck and the Grilled Cheese truck.

If you are a late riser, go to the evening portion from 6:30-9:30pm for $225* per person, and enjoy the food, demonstrations, silent auction, and festivities all to benefit women’s health services. If you are busy all day and evening, you can also make a donation to PPLA at any time and support the health of the women in your life and your community.

Just as you make the choice of whether or not to attend this event, remember that every woman has the right to make choices for her own life.

*Advance purchase prices, at the door prices will be an additional $25 per person.

>Today is Mardi Gras, and what better way to splurge than to spend the night in Beverly Hills? Even better, how would you like an extra free night in your plush Beverly Hills hotel room?

Click here for the list of participating hotels in Beverly Hills which are giving away a free night if you book 1-3 nights*, and they are including a free breakfast in the deal! You have until June 30, 2011 to book your stay at the Beverly Hills Hotel (in a bungalow), L’Ermitage, The Penninsula (in a suite), The Montage, or the Beverly Hilton.

Laissez les bons temps rouler today or as they might say in Beverly Hills, “Let the marvelous times begin”.

*There are varying minimum stays required for different hotels, so check before you book.

>Today’s post is short, just like the subject:)

I don’t have any children, but several of my friends are parents or soon to be parents, so today’s post is for anyone with children, expecting children, or who want to buy some presents for a child.

The LA Kid’s Consignment Sale is in Burbank starting today and going on through Sunday from 9-5pm. There will be over 60,000 items on sale, including clothes, toys, and books. For the best selection, go early, for the super bargain, go on Sunday when everything will be 50% off. The address is 157 W. Providencia Ave. in Burbank, and they accept cash, credit (no American Express cards) and debit cards only.

Go shop and save in a big way for the small ones!




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