Recently I attended two massive food events, each with more than 50+ restaurants in attendance, which gave me an opportunity to survey the current dining scene in our fair city. The first event was Planned Parenthood's Food Fair at the Barker Hanger, while the second was L.A, Weekly's at downtown's Convention Center. Lots of excellent fast food taco places were featured; after all, the taco is the heartbeat of the L. A. culinary scene...but enough fine dining establishments showed to indicate that it is still possible to find white tablecloth-fine silver eateries here. Speaking of which, Melisse's Josiah Citron served one of the most unusual tidbits I have ever experience.....Beef Bearnaise Balls. He jelled a bearnaise sauce, coated it with a thin covering, and deep fried it for a few seconds. It exploded in your mouth with the sauce's flavor.....yes, totoally unique, like this extraordinary chef.
Fine dining on the level of the defunct L'Orangerie is rare, but Providence, Melisse, Spago and Patina still make it happen. Incidentally, its presence at Food Fair reminded me of one of the best dinners I have had in many months. It was at a little, unheralded but sophisticated restaurant called DOMA (362 N. Camden Dr. 310-277-7346) in the heart of Beverly Hills just doors from the celebrity-haunted Mr. Chow. Doma's Exec Chef Dustin Trani is a fourth-generation chef, with his family restaurant in San Pedro serving up Italian seafood there for decades. My friend Sonata and I had a multi-course dinner of exquisite food in a cool quiet room on Camden just across from the WME offices and screening room. (The fact that she is gluten-free was no obstacle to this brilliant chef, who served her a hand-cut wide corn noodle pasta-with-local spiny lobster which was utterly delicious.) I had grilled Spanish octopus and Norwegian cod. DOMA also serves up a blackt truffle pizza whch rivals my favorite pie from Vito's
Planned Parenthood is a cause which I fiercely advocate so of course I attend its Food Fair every year and laud the participants. It began in 1979 with a cooking demonstration by Julia Child and grew from that. This was their 36th such event, and they honored two delightful chefs, Brooke Williamson and hubby Nick Roberts (chef/owners of Playa Provisions, Hudson House and The Tripel). And every year I head first to the booth manned by Elizabeth of Angelini Osteria (7313 Beverly Blvd.). She smiles and knows to cut a generous crusty corner of their sublime meaty lasagna for me. Ambrosia. Then greeted Annie Miler of that superb Clementine (1751 Ensley Ave., right across from the Century City Mall.) an eat-in take-out place with the world's best chicken pot pie....roasted chicken breast, carrots, celery, onions and leeks in rich broth, topped with a flaky crust. It's $9.50 for an individual one and $30 for a huge family-size. She told me that April wills see their 14th annual celebration of National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Month...you won't believe the many delicious preparations they will come up with...I had to eat a tamale from EL CHOLO (1121 S. Western Ave.) where Chef Gerardo Ochoa hs been dishing up authentic Mexican fare for many, many years. They have a branch in Santa Monica but I always go to the original, started by Ron Salisbury's relations some 74 years ago. On Monday, April 27th, I will be there celebrating the start of Green Corn Tamale Season...
Although I am trying to be gluten-free these days, I stopped at the Locanda del Lago booth for a taste of their Italian salad. Their Santa Monica corner of Third and Arizona is West Hooker's haven for Northern Italian fare from the Lake Como region.... Peter Garland was manning his booth, and I told him that his Porta Via (424 N. Canon Drive, Beverly Hills) has become a really popular destination for the ladies-who-lunch. I looked for Chef Suzanne Goin of A.O.C. and Lucques to tell her how much I was enjoying her new menus, but she was wandering around. Joe Miller was, as always, dispensing food and fun; his Bar Pintxo (109 Santa Monica BLvd.) and Joe's on Abbott Kinney have been doing this event since the beginning. Praised Jenny Rush Morton of the various BLUE PLATE venues on her new Third Street branch. The Two Hot Tamales Girls, Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger, were dishing up tasty vegan food...not for me right then. I hugged Chef Alain Giraud of Maison Giraud (1032 Swarthmore Ave. in Pacific Palisades) and discussed the changes which The Grove's Rick Caruso will bring to his neck of the woods. I had to stop off at Pinches Tacos (8665 W. Washington Blvd. Culver City) for one of their Camaron tacos, a shrimp monster with Veracruz coleslaw. Incredible place...
Like almost every benefit that I attend, my last stop is always the booth-stand of PINK'S FAMOUS HOT DOGS (709 N. La Brea Ave.) where Richard, Gloria and Beverly Pink stand firm. When they see me coming, they know to wrap two hot dogs with mustard and sauerkraut in some silver foil for me to take home for a midnight snack. (The privilege of being a reviewer and friend.) Richard told me that they opened this week in Maui. Lucky Hawaiians.
I had never been to the California Market Center on Main at Ninth downtown until I attended the LA WEEKLY'S 7TH Annual Food & Wine Event , The Essentials, on the top floor there. Oh, my, it was gigantic, the largest collection of participating restaurants I have ever seen. The two guys from ANIMAL, Vinne and Jon (435 N. Fairfax Ave.) stopped me to say that they would be open 'for brunch' shortly, something I have been opportuniig them for some time. Yes, poitine for lunch.....My Huffington readers may recall that I have been converted of late to grass-fed beef, and the guys from BELCAMPO MEAT CO. in the Grand Central Market informed me they will be opening another butcher shop in Santa Monica shortly. They feature 13 kinds of grass-fed meat, and you have never had a great burger 'til you have tasted one of their organic grass-fed ones. They gave me a recipe for their braised lamb neck made with garlic and white wine....I told the BESTIA guys that I have been beseeched by dozens of people asking for help in getting reservations at their esteemed tiny eatery. They smiled and shrugged; not much help...Anyone who loves good barbeque knows about PARK BARBEQUE (955 S. Vermont Ave. #G) in Koreatown, which was featured here, but what most don't know is that those regulars for lunch invariably order a rich. flavorsome bone broth called Galbi Tang, a soup which contains lots of beef tenson morsels and rice noodles. Worth the trip just for the soup...Loved the name of one of the participants, Horse Thief, a barbeque place at 324 S. Hill Street (213-625-0341)run by Wade McElroy. Did he know what they did to horse thieves in the old days? His Rib Tips, brisket and pulled pork from Central Texas were extraordinary....The Helms Bakery District on Venice Blvd. was well-reprsented by Bucato, Father's Office, Let's Be Frank and Lukson. (That name is the Yiddish word for 'noodle,' although it's an Asiatic food place.)
Spago's Chef de Cuisine Tetsu and Wolfgang's new marketing woman were here. He served
a pork belly and pig's ear sandwich!
Yes, the dining scene in Los Angeles is robust, healthy and ever-changing. What I came away with from these events is that we are a city of a hundred neighborhoods, each of which is different and delicious. My favorite 'happenings' at the moment are in Koreatown, with the highest concentration of exciting new restaurants in the entire country. But any city which harbors a Langer's, Valentino's, Vito's and Musso & Frank is a heavenly place to live.
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