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Finding good BBQ in France is like trying to find a great baguette in the US; it’s possible, but rare. Some foods are best in their native land, and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on some “low and slow” hardwood BBQ.

I’d wanted to try Bludso’s since they opened three years ago in Hollywood, but trying to find the time to drive to Hollywood on one of the nights when they had their beef short ribs was too much of a challenge right before my move. One of the perks of living in LA is that there are several delivery services which will bring you any meal you wish from nearly any restaurant you wish, all for a price. I am NOT recommending the service I used because they advertised a $2.99 delivery, then tacked on an additional $15 of “other” charges AFTER they processed my order, bringing my delivery total to about 30% of my total bill, and that was before my tip for the driver. The price was worth the lesson to either pick up a take-out order myself, or go eat at the restaurant.

I ordered the BBQ Beef Short Ribs, only offered on the Thursday-Monday dinner menu, a half rack of four for $20, and a half rack of the pork ribs for $16. There were two containers of BBQ sauce, one spicy and one mild, and even though I usually like spicy, I combined the two 🙂

with a side of collard greens $8 for a pint,

and a piece of cornbread for $1.75

Even though I had waited until a week-end night just to get the beef short ribs, I preferred the pork ribs. The amount of black pepper rub on the beef ribs overwhelmed the meat. Although tender and smoky, the beef short ribs needed the spicy sweet BBQ sauce to enhance the flavor, but I could (and did) eat the pork ribs without any sauce. They could stand by themselves on texture of the meat (not falling off the bone, but easily taken off with a bite), and the rub and smoke both married to the meat in a happy combination.

I was grateful that the collard greens were not cooked to death, and that they still retained some vibrancy along with their rich pork infused flavor. The cornbread was classically and simply made, instantly perked up with some honey or butter; they provided a container of “honey butter” but I preferred using my own.

I’d like to go back to try the beef brisket and pulled pork, but now that I’m back in the land of BBQ, it will be awhile before I go back to one I’ve already tried when there are so many other choices beckoning with masterful techniques and tantalizing aromas.

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I spent last week at COLCOA (City of Lights, City of Angels), otherwise known as the French Film Festival in Los Angeles held at the Director’s Guild in Hollywood. I go almost every year as my version of a staycation, combining the fun of seeing foreign films debuting in the US with Question & Answer dialogues with the directors, writers, and actors. Of the six films I saw, my two favorites were “Haute Cuisine” (Saveurs du Palais) and “What’s in A Name” (Le Prénom). Best of all it’s only a 10 mile drive away and I always try new places to eat when I go.

This year I found The Pikey. It was so good that throughout the week of the film festival, I went back four times! The word “Pikey” is slang for “traveler” as in the kind who are known for taking advantage of people, but in the case of this place, I would gladly volunteer to be used as a gastronomic guinea pig.

Although it looks like an English pub from the outside, the food they serve here definitely has its roots in Los Angeles. Their ingredients are all locally or organically sourced, and all their meat is free range and cruelty free. The interior has a restaurant side and a bar side, but on most days the patio is a perfect spot to sit with the sunbrellas and heat lamps.

Not wishing to compete with 700 people at COLCOA for the free continental breakfast, I parked and walked the four blocks to the Pikey from the DGA building and had brunch. Their Bloody Mary for $8 is made with Vegemite! Yes, you read that correctly, Vegemite! Yes, those are pickled green beans as garnish. Yes, it was delicious!

I needed something more substantial than a $4 Crumpet with honeycomb and clotted cream for my movie marathon, so I ordered the cured Arctic Char with scrambled eggs in Hollandaise and biscuit for $14. This was probably the best brunch plate I have ever eaten.

The eggs were done perfectly, not too runny, not overcooked, the cured Arctic Char was sublime, and the Hollandaise was perfect proportion to the eggs and cured fish. The biscuit was fluffy and flaky (a difficult combination to master), needing nothing on it, and the watercress salad had a fresh lemon dressing that balanced the rich eggs and biscuit. Writing about it now makes me wish it was the week-end now so I can go get this again!

I went back after a show and ordered a dinner of the vegan eggplant, tomato and lentil curry served with Punjabi cornbread for $15, and the redolent spices of the curry made me smile with joy when it arrived on my table. I’m sorry to not have a picture for you, but it was dark and I did not want to disturb the other diners with a flash from my camera.

On another day I came before a movie and had appetizers outside. Even though they are a “pub”, they serve great wines like Muscadet, wonderful scotches, and exotic liqueurs mixed in signature drinks with names like the “Twiggy” the “Guvnor” and the “Coach and Horses” for about $14. I ordered a glass of Entre Deux Mers White Bordeaux (yes, I can be boring at times).

A white Bordeaux just tasted better with the Arctic Char Crudo with Sea Beans and California Citrus for $16. Both were delightful. The fish was amazingly fresh with a light citrus and olive oil dressing and the sea beans were slightly salty vegetables that resemble tiny asparagus. If you love sashimi this dish has your name on it.

Every server and host I had on my four visits was exceptionally friendly and professional, and since I couldn’t decide whether I wanted curried cauliflower or the thrice cooked chips with Worcestershire aioli (both $6), I asked my waitress to decide for me. She wisely chose the chips since she said, “You’ve already been so healthy with the crudo”!

The chips ($6) came with an assortment of sauces in case I did not like the Worcestershire aioli (it was good). They were so great simply plain (see, I  told you I’m boring) that I nearly ate them all (although I did sprinkle some malt vinegar on them just to be traditionally British).

On another afternoon I stopped in for the seared squid with curried chick peas for $13.The squid was absolutely tender and the curried chick peas had a nice smoky flavor. My only complaint about this plate was that there wasn’t more squid!

The key to watching two movies in one day is staying awake for both of them, so I had a latte before I left and was surprised at how well they make their coffee drinks! I would come here for just coffee (it was that good).

Another pleasant surprise was the sweet puff of meringue that came with the bill 🙂

They offer valet parking in the evening, but depending on when you are going, you can find free parking in the back or on one of the side streets off Sunset Boulevard.

Their menu says “Me Likey The Pikey”, and I couldn’t agree more!

The Pikey on Urbanspoon

 

The weather in Los Angeles is one of the many reasons people move here from all over the world. Another reason is that they want to be in the movies. Now for everyone who loves the movies and enjoys the weather here, you can watch Oscar winning movies in Hollywood for only $5 (for students and Academy members it’s only $3) at Oscars Outdoors.

This is as close as we get to having our own outdoor projection screening room; the 20 x 40 foot screen is probably bigger than what you could put up, and being able to bring your own food and drinks, makes this a Friday or Saturday night fiesta. All you need to bring is a blanket or lawn chair, get here by sundown, and enjoy Oscar winners like Casablanca (June 15) or classics like The Princess Bride (July 14).

A classic movie, food, drinks & great company….sounds like a recipe for a spectacular summer evening!

Very few places are still in business after one decade, much less NINE, but Musso & Frank’s is one of the rare legends that lives on, weathering wars and trends with equal aplomb. Once you step inside, you may suddenly feel more sophisticated or worldly, but it is the old school service which has elevated your attitude. The red jackets and formal greetings are anachronisms which remind us that decorum should never die.

My friend has been coming here for decades, with “the old guys” who inhabit the booths like godfathers. The fact that I was deemed worthy to enter this sacred space with an old timer flattered me. The food was was like a time machine; it brought me back to the 60’s and like an episode of “Mad Men“, I enjoyed every minute.

My friend started off with the house salad with blue cheese dressing. You may opt for additions to your salad, but like a true old man, my friend had only the greens.

I chose the sand dabs ($23), which I never see on menus anymore. They were perfect, just as Julia Child swooned over in her first trip to France, I swooned over these delicate filets done “comme il faut” (as it should be) with capers, butter and lemon. If anyone you know does not like fish, make them taste this and convert them!

Since this is old world style dining, every entree is served separately, so I ordered braised spinach ($8) with my fish and the side was as lovely and perfectly done as my main course.

Most people who come here order the steak ($33) and they cook it exactly as ordered, meaning, rare is bloody and well is brown. Of course the old timer ordered rare, and of course it was done as ordered. Nearly every table ordered steak, so if you can’t decide what to get, I suggest you go with the odds and order the steak.

The steak fries ($5) were wonderfully crisp on the outside and tender on the inside.

As a child, I always like jello ($3.50), but I haven’t seen it on a menu since I was a child, so I had to order it here. Served with fruit, I felt as if I was 5 years old and finished every bite!

I was not the only one to finish my dessert, my friend ordered the sundae ($6.25) and ate every spoonful!

On another night I came and had the special duck a l’orange with a friend who ordered the lobster thermidor. Both dishes were so rich and decadent that the pictures came out fuzzy; I guess even cameras get thrown off balance when transported to another era!
Musso & Frank Grill on Urbanspoon

Although some people are weary of tasting menus (yes Anthony Bourdain I am talking about you), most of us revel in being able to sample a chef’s skill in a menu designed to amuse, beguile, and seduce diners into a food nirvana.

Some friends and out of country visitors went to the Hollywood location of Katsuya on a night when an infamous celebrity (a certain tall thin blond heiress) had paparazzi swarming the place. Since we were not sought for photographs, we entered the place easily and were escorted to an ensconced booth facing the sushi bar. No one could decide what to order (besides a few bottles of a delicious Sancerre), so we each went with the tasting menu of five courses ($65).

A ceviche began the meal, with nicely dressed citrus ponzu sashimi of yellowtail, tuna, salmon and a sprinkle of jalapeno and cilantro in a tea cup sized serving dish. A nice light beginning for a very delectable journey.

The second course was actually four samples of the most famous dishes offered: crispy shrimp, lightly battered and fried with a rich creamy sauce on the side, the yellowtail with jalapeno, crispy rice with spicy tuna, and spicy albacore tuna with crispy onion. Everything was nice if not necessarily inspired. I found the crispy shrimp too rich with the sauce, but nice without it. The spicy albacore with crispy onion too salty, and the spicy albacore tuna on crispy rice was not at all spicy but tasty, but the jalapeno yellowtail was perfect.

The next dish was Kobe beef with a small slice of foie gras. I loved the foie gras, but found my beef too cooked (medium); it is a shame for such a wonderful piece of meat to be overdone, but in the tasting menu they do not ask how you want the meat portion prepared, so if you are like me and love your meat rare, be sure to tell your server before you order.

The final savory course was tuna, halibut and unagi sushi with a rice paper wrapped baked crab hand roll. It was divine, but we were all too full to completely finish this penultimate course; we tasted what we loved and left the rest to save some room for dessert.

Since there were five of us dining, we got to see that each dessert plate had a different flavor of mochi ice cream along with the cream filled profiteroles and fresh fruit we all got.

We literally had to stagger out of the restaurant (good thing the paparazzi were gone by then). Next time we will order more judiciously, picking out our favorite dishes amongst those we sampled, but we were glad to have tasted it all celebrity sighting in Hollywood included.

Katsuya on Urbanspoon

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