You are currently browsing the monthly archive for June 2011.

I’ve been tweeting with @TheFemmeButcher aka Amelia, since last year when she married Erika, and they started their road trip to Los Angeles. They opened Lindy & Grundy, a butcher shop which offers local, pasteurized, and organic meats.

I felt like the woman in the commercial who chants “Open, open, open” as I awaited their Grand Opening. Having a conscientious butcher shop in Los Angeles with owners who are conscious of their impact on both their customers and their vendors, is a godsend in this age of factory farms and antibiotic laden meats. They make their own bacon, sausages, aged beef, and meals to go like espresso chili and roasted chickens. This is the only place I know of in the city where you can get farm fresh eggs.

I had a rather unusual request from a friend for beef eyeballs. I was just the delivery person, so I have no idea what she is doing with her order, but this was the only shop I knew of who could possibility fulfill that request! Erika said that she wasn’t even trained on how to get this product out of the carcass, but that didn’t stop her from figuring it out and getting the order filled!

For MY meal, I wanted some pork chops and got these beauties, each about an inch thick and absolutely tender.

They also have fresh poultry, so I got some chicken wings and made my own spicy rub to make these the ultimate finger food. For those who want pre-made mixes, they have them for every type of meat and taste in the shop.

My new favorite sausage are the pork kimchee sausages; if you love spicy artisanal food, you will love these!

For a less spicy, but very tasty substitute, try their kielbasa or andouille, which are tied in second place as my favorites.

I went back in last week for lamb, but their delivery had not yet been delivered. I am looking forward to tasting their beef, but by the time I get to their shop, it is always sold out (except for their grinds). In the meantime, I have enjoyed their bacon, sausages, chicken, and pork chops. They will have aged steaks ready this week-end for the holiday, so go and get some for your grill!

Amelia even “gift wrapped” my special order for me!

Call ahead or check their Facebook page if you are looking for something specific. They recently purchased a refrigerated truck, so if you don’t live the in area, they will be delivering soon! When you go in, tell them Elaine with the eyeball order sent you (o) (o)!

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Today’s post is for the Parellis and any other pizza aficionado who insists that their pizzas are cooked with a wood fire. Los Angeles has many places, but as any transplanted New Yorker will tell you, quantity does not qualify as a measure of quality. My favorite pizza place in Los Angeles is Antica, in Marina del Rey, but because it is Naples style, the crust is thin, and the toppings are not Americanized, so I tried Pitfire Pizza for my ex-NYer friends and those who want a US pizza, not an Italian one.

My friend Robin loves the Burrata Pie, for $9.95 made with Burrata Cheese, Tomato Sauce, Wild Arugula Caramelized Onion, Hazelnut, and Pesto Drizzle, but when she saw the special artichoke, arugula, fennel, and fennel sausage pizza, she got that instead of her usual. She loved it, but I was less impressed. I liked the toppings, but felt it was too dry to stand alone without any tomato sauce or tomatoes.

I chose the Merguez with spinach & Feta, Huntington Lamb Merguez, Wilted Spinach, Roasted Pepper Harissa, Feta, Red Onion for $9.95 and throughly enjoyed it. The crust was tender and thick enough for American tastes, the toppings were piquant and fresh, and I liked the overall combination.

Everyone has their perfect pizza, and my taste may not be yours. Pit Fire has good quality ingredients, hospitable service, and a casual atmosphere that welcomes families; you could do much worse in Los Angeles.

Pitfire Pizza Company on Urbanspoon

Mornings should be greeted with something that makes you smile at the start of your day. If you stop by Maison Du Pain for some pastries, like their Pain au Raisin, or a Pain au Chocolat, you can completely erase the pain of having to get out of bed. I had been here in 2009, but they have greatly expanded their repertoire in the last two years and when I saw the baguettes, I had to go back and taste one.

Their baguettes did look good, but how did they taste?

Cutting one open, I found the crust perfectly chewy, with a satisfying crunch, and the interior had a soft texture that is neither too soft nor too dense. The flavor bespoke the quality of the ingredients and the freshness of the loaf. This is a classic baguette, the one you want to eat plain straight out of the bakery. It’s one of the best I’ve eaten in Los Angeles (and I have eaten dozens of baguettes in this city)! If you buy two or three, you might make it home with enough to give someone else in your household a taste.

Ulysses Voyage on Urbanspoon

Although I love Papa Cristo’s for Greek Food, today I wanted a nicer ambiance and a shorter drive for my Greek food fix, so after breakfast, I went over to Ulysses in the Farmer’s Market/The Grove. I had eaten here two years ago with friends from France for a late lunch (see my previous post) before I left for Greece, so I wanted to see what I thought after having been to the country.

I was impressed that their wine list included a wine from Santorini, and that they served a very generous glass for $10. It was crisp and had a slightly mineral taste as the wines in that region are typically made.

The bread basket included a nice chewy olive bread and a good baguette, served with a creamy and tangy cheese spread in lieu of butter.

I chose a spring salad topped with Calamari for $13, and For those who prefer chicken or lamb, you can top your salad with meatier protein. The calamari were tender, and the salad of greens mixed with red and yellow peppers, olives, red onions, tomatoes, and feta was dressed in a oregano infused oil and vinegar sauce which did not overwhelm the greens. After my last disastrous salad at Villa Blanca, this was a welcome change. I loved the generous amount of calamari, but found the amount of feta on the salad was a bit too generous and left most of it.

Two years ago my friends were both impressed by the fact that this was the only Greek restaurant we stopped at where the hostess responded to “Kalimera” with “Kalimera” (Good Morning). My visit this time was no different, when I left I said “Effaristo” (thank-you) and the host answered “Malakalo” (you’re welcome).

Authentic French pastries, great baguettes, and a Greek restaurant which retains the language and the style of Greece; Los Angeles may be a melting pot, but I am glad to find the unique flavors of different food cultures are still distinctly ethnic.

La Maison Du Pain on Urbanspoon

The clean and modern decor of Villa Blanca, on the corner of Camden and Brighton in Beverly Hills, draws tourists and locals to the expansive outdoor patio like a beautiful woman draws looks from men. If Villa Blanca had a gender, she would definitely be a woman. The cream colored sunbrellas, white tablecloths, and white flowers all give a “ladies who lunch with designer handbags” feel, but on Friday nights it transforms to a hot bar scene with live music, giving it a more “South Beach” vibe.

For men who do not require leather chairs and wooden walls, this is a comfortable place to enjoy the weather and views of life on the plush streets of Beverly Hills. While I was busy taking pictures of the food, my male “non date” and a fellow male diner at the next table were admiring a Bugatti Grand Sport pulling up in front of the restaurant the way that women admire Louboutins.

Since I went with a regular, he knew our server, Sasha, and the Manager, Steve. Thanks to Phil, I tried a new place and met some very nice people. The excellent service we received may have been biased by his long term patronage, but I doubt it, since I arrived earlier and was treated like royalty before they knew whom I was there to meet.

We started with the beef carpaccio, done with triple cream Brie, shittake mushrooms, and truffle oil for $12. It was an interesting variation on traditional carpaccio, with the shittake’s crispy texture and the truffle oil’s richness, the triple cream brie was overkill. I’m not sure I would order it again, but if you are tempted to taste this dish, ask them to omit the cheese.

Phil had tried the lobster crisps ($14) and suggested them as our second appetizer. the presentation was artful and colorful and I looked forward to tasting these tempting bites. The lobster mixture had a heavy mayonnaise base into which some hot pepper was not evenly distributed. One bite burned and another was mild. Between the fried crisp, the creamy mayonnaise, and the rich avocado, this was not a light bite.

We both chose a salad Nicoise ($17) to clean our palates and lighten our stomachs after the heavy appetizers. The ahi was beautiful, tender, and done tataki style, just lightly seared with a peppery crust that was very good. The traditional olives, boiled egg, tomatoes, a few green beans, and potatoes made this a classic composition. But the heavy handed dressing of a French/Russian sauce that was slightly sweet was very disappointing. I ate the tuna, but left more than half my salad because it was soaked.

The lightness of the decor here does not translate into the food, but the service is splendid, and they have a nice selection of European wines. I would suggest coming for drinks on the patio, ordering a salad with the dressing on the side, and admiring the view of street life in Beverly Hills; there are many worse ways to spend a sunny afternoon.

Villa Blanca Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Looking for a place to eat at 11:30 pm on the Westside during a week night is no easy task. There are of course the usual diners and the Brazilian place that over cooks nearly everything on their menu, but my friend Mika was starving and wanted something good. We were willing to try something new before resorting to the old mediocre standbys.

We saw the neon “Open” sign at Asian-Ya as we were driving to the mediocre places and Mika did a U-Turn, saying, “I hope they are good” as she turned into their parking lot. We were willing to chance it and we grew hopeful as we saw half the tables filled with young students, and the posted hours said open until 00:00 (Mika translated and told me it means midnight).

They are a bit of a sake bar, with a menu devoted to flavors ranging from dry to sweet, made from sweet potato, barley, and rice. Prices ranged from $5 to $15 a glass and a “glass” is a ceramic cup that is big enough to hold about 8 oz. For some strange reason when I asked for my sake cold, they put ice IN the sake. I didn’t mind since I had not chosen a $15 sake, but be forewarned if you do want your sake cold and order a premium sake.

Since I was along mainly for company, not because I was hungry, I chose the clams in sake for $7. They were very flavorful and tender. The broth was so delicious that I could have drunk it as a soup.

Mika ordered the Miso Eggplant which had a slightly sweet paste and the toasted sesame seeds added a nice smoky crunch to the soft eggplant.

Mika also chose the shrimp fried rice which was she liked so much she kept eating spoonfuls even after she declared, “I’m full” . It was also a very generous serving, easily enough for two.

Mika’s eyes were bigger than her stomach, so she only finish about half of everything she ordered, including the grilled mackerel, which was done classically and well; not too dry, and not too oily.

The mackerel dish also came with miso soup and the grand total for everything we ate (and all the food that Mika took home) and drank (Mika had a hot tea) was only $36!
It was a steal considering the quality of the food and the wide selection (there are some Korean choices on the menu as well as ramen, curry, and exotic grilled meats like beef tongue and gizzards). Even with these prices, they have a happy hour from 5-7pm with drinks priced below the already reasonable menu prices.

I think we may have found our late night spot on the Westside open and serving with a smile at 00:00:-)

Asian-ya on Urbanspoon

After reading the Actor’s Diet blog post on True Food in the new Santa Monica Place Mall, I had to try it, and the ideal time was with a vegetarian friend in town for his birthday. With the proliferation of all things healthy and holistic in Los Angeles, it is still rare to find places that serve food omnivores and vegans would eat in the same restaurant, even more rare are places which do a good job with both types of eaters and which have a decor which feels upscale enough to take a friend for a birthday celebration.

Whether you are a meat eater, a vegan, need gluten-free choices, or vegetarian choices,  there are choices on the menu for you. That is choices (plural) for everyone. Their menu is  noted with V, GF, and Veg so you can choose your items in accordance with your preferences.

I was impressed that they had a nice international selection of wines starting at only $6 a glass, and even their wine and beer list has notes on whether the glass or bottle you choose is bio dynamically farmed, certified organically farmed, or sustainably farmed. Their coffee and tea selections are of course organic, and if you take half and half in your coffee or tea, that is also organic.

Since it was Jersey’s Birthday, he started with the Shrimp Dumplings with shiitake mushrooms, ginger, broccoli for $12. Even though he had offered to share, he could not stop eating “just one more” until he finished the appetizer. I did not want to diminish his plate by tasting one, but I did try the broccoli and the sauce, which had a nice light and slightly sweet flavor.

Mika and I split an order of the Monterey Bay Grilled Sardines with salsa verde and grilled lemons $10. They were grilled to perfection and the salsa verde and grilled lemon slices added a nice freshness to the fatty fish. I asked the waitress if many people ordered the sardines and she surprisingly said, “Yes”. Perhaps Los Angelenos are beginning to broaden their fish preferences to more than the usual salmon found on every menu. For those of you not familiar with fresh sardines, be forewarned that there are many many tiny bones, so it will take some work to get bites of the tender flesh.

I had eaten a very hearty lunch, so my dinner was the Tuscan Kale salad with lemon, Parmesan and bread crumbs for $8. You can add grilled chicken or salmon to this, but since I had eaten the sardine, this was perfect on its own. The tangy lemon and the flavorful Parmesan made the kale a hearty and satisfying dish and I could easily eat this several times a week for lunch.

The Birthday boy chose the King Salmon with quinoa, local beets and preserved lemons for $24. He requested the salmon to be done rare and was afraid it would be overcooked, but he was happy to find they had cooked it to his preference. He was a bit taken aback by the “small” portion, but after he began eating his dish, he wasn’t able to finish it all. He had never tried quinoa and was happy to find that he liked it.

Mika ordered the Miso Glazed Black Cod with bok choy for $24 based on the waitress’ suggestion and she loved it so much she literally screamed “Oh my God” after taking a bite. She insisted we all taste it and it was delectable; perfectly seared, just to the point of doneness, with a marvelous miso glaze. If you only order one dish here at dinner, order this one.

Mika loves bananas, so she ordered the banana chocolate tart with a mesquite flour crust, and brazil nut $6. She didn’t like the hard crust, but loved the flavors. I like the tart, but I would describe it as more of a hard cookie than a crust because there was no way to eat this with a fork, you had to hold it and bite into it like a big cookie topped with chocolate and banana.

I ordered the Almond Olive Oil cake with blackberries and Greek yogurt $7 so everyone could have a taste. It was a nice rendition of an olive oil cake, very moist and light, and I would have said I would order this again, but then I tried Jersey’s choice.

For his birthday, Jersey got a free dessert of Strawberry Rhubarb crisp with vanilla ice cream $7 (he had to fill in a card with his email). I loved the tangy rhubarb and the sweet strawberry flavors so much I was taking spoonful after spoonful “just to taste”, this was by far my favorite dessert of the evening.

I don’t know what Jersey wished for when he made his birthday wish, maybe it was for another birthday dinner at True Food next year.

True Food Kitchen on Urbanspoon

I must be in a Mediterranean mood, with meals at Papa Cristo’s yesterday and Aroma Cafe today. Or maybe my preferred comfort food is European and I just want to be comfortable 🙂

In a small strip mall across from the Westside Pavillion, Aroma Cafe offers a cuisine rarely seen here in Los Angeles, Bosnian food. Just as the USSR is now several countries, the former Yugoslavia is also and the distinct food of the Bosnian region is featured here with dishes I have never seen anywhere else.

The hearty menu has options of kebabs, sandwiches, and salads you will recognize, like the shish kebab with salad for $6.50, a grilled chicken sandwich for $10.50, and a Greek salad for $7.50. The bread served with meals here is similar to a ciabatta loaf, with a soft interior and chewy exterior, about 10″ in diameter.

The most interesting options here are the ones like the Sarma wrapped in sour cabbage for $14.50 that is served in a tangy sauce with sour cream. I loved this combination of a rich filling with a tangy sour exterior, but I know many will find this a bit strong and strange; I would recommend you stick to the chicken or lamb kebabs is you prefer your meals to have less complex notes.

Sarma is a mixture of rice and ground beef which is used to stuff cabbage, grape leaves or peppers and offered in all three varieties at Aroma Cafe. Since I love cabbage, I had it stuffed in the sour cabbage and somehow managed to eat all four rolls (one more bite became several).

Another unique offering here is Kajmak, a clotted cream that is spread on sandwiches of beef prosciutto. If you love the meat they use, you can also buy both cheeses and meats in their deli case to take home. I had fun perusing the deli shelves of products that I had never seen before and which had labels that did not even have an alphabet I recognized. One jar looked like nutella combined with a creamy spread that was infused with a cherry jam which I may go back just to buy for one of my sweet toothed friends. For dessert they offer baklava and apple or cherry pie, and to wash it all down they have Turkish coffee, espresso, or kefir.

Even if you don’t have a desire to travel to the Balkan region, you may want to travel across the street from the mall and get a taste of a culture and food that you won’t find elsewhere in Los Angeles.

Aroma Cafe on Urbanspoon

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