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Jaywalking in LA: News and Gossip of the Restaurant World

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Newsletter Editor/Publisher Jay Weston getting ready to photograph a new restaurant!

I am a huge fan of the Saban Free Clinic (formerly the L.A. Free Clinic), which is celebrating its 43rd anniversary this year. They provide a full range of high-quality free medical, dental and social services to the homeless, the uninsured, the working poor, runaway and high-risk youth. Angela Preston tells me that this year they will provide nearly 90,000 free patient visits to the people who need them most! So please take note that their Extravaganza for the Senses fundraiser is on Saturday, July 17th, at the Sunset Gower Studios, 1438 N. Gower Street in Hollywood. Tickets are $80 before July 1st,and special VIP tix are $200, which includes special parking and other amenities. Call 323-330-1670 or go to thesabanfreeclinic.org/extravaganza. More than 40 LA restaurants and many vineyards are on show, as well as lots of music and a silent auction. Great cause, great people, see you there!

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Chef Walter Manske at Breadbar in Century City previewed his new downtown restaurant!

Went to a special 'Pop Up" dinner last Thursday evening at the Century City Breadbar where super-star Chef Walter Manske (Bastide, Church & State) previewed the menu of his forthcoming new restaurant. Every food blogger in own crowded into the space and wrote about it the next day (Go to Kevineats.com for the definite version). Chef would not reveal to me the location of the new eatery, but at lunch yesterday someone close to him spilt the beans; 1st Street and Virgil. Hope he calls it "Walter's"... The energetic, ambitious Vietnamese House of An female family has opened its 5th eatery in Santa Monica, Tiato (named after a Vietnamese herb), serving breakfast and lunch. I'm looking forward to trying the Eggplant Lasagna with Vietnamese herbs. In 1997 I helped them find their Beverly Hills Crustacean location, on which they spent some $2.5 million in renovations. Still enjoy going there for Helene An's Garlic Noodles and the Roasted Dungeness Crab. CEO Elizabeth An is now preparing a line of Crustacean frozen foods and houseware products... Bob Spivak is back at the helm of the company he co-founded 26 years ago, Grill Concepts Inc, the parent company of the Daily Grill chain, with 29 different configurations of eateries. Great man, wonderful chain, he will position it to be stronger than ever after the end of this recession... Al Cassell just died at 98, and I pay tribute to him and the wonderful Cassell's he founded, offering the first decent burger I had in LA. Remember driving down Sixth Street at lunchtime, getting the 2/3 pound prime chuck burger, and the homemade condiments at no charge. (And no fries, he didn't believe in them). He never stopped caring.

Wolfgang Puck tells me that California Spirit XXVI will be honoring Steve Mosko, the President of Sony Pictures TV. The afternoon event will be held on Sunday, August 8th, at West Hollywood's Pacific Design Center. Wolf, Sherry Lansing and Barbara Lazaroff co-host the event, which brings together many renowned chefs from our city's finest restaurants. They have raised more than $13 million for the American Cancer Sociey's programs. More than 600 people attended last year, so get your $350 tix now by calling 310-348-0356, Option #3, ext. 227...

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Pasadena's Little Flower Candy Co. sends its salty caramels all over the world!

Ever since I visited the Little Flower Candy Co. (1324 W. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena (626) 304-4800) with Ginny Mancini, I have been hooked on their salted caramels. (And I understand that President Obama has also gotten onto a salted caramel kick.) Yes, they are addictive, and I'm told they deliver them all over the country; Bill Gates is one of their customers. I just learned that salted caramels are what children snack on in Brittany, France. And I dimly remember eating salted caramel ice cream at Berthillon in Paris. Give them a ring and order a bag or two; you'll understand what I mean!

Stephen Sondheim quoted Alice Roosevelt Longworth at his 80th birthday party: "First you're young, then you're middle aged, then you're wonderful." So true... Congrats to Lawry's The Prime Rib's G.M., Todd Johnson, on becoming the Chairman of the Beverly Hills Chamber of Commerce, A terrific businessman and compassionate human being, Todd will elevate the work of the chamber to a new level... Sad to say that the brilliant Hokkusai on Wilshire is no more. It epitomized the finest fusion cuisine in the city, with Japanese and French blending beautifully, Sad...

E-mail from Sheila Hardin, visitor from Northern California, about her recent first encounter with Pink's Hot Dogs:

My last stop before driving home was at the famous hot dog stand. I wanted to taste the best. I gleefully waited in line for about 30 minutes to get my food to go. Leaving, I passed the parking lot and saw two black SUV's with Maryland plates - and two Secret Service 'types' blocking entry. Stood there to see who gets out of the vehicles... no one. Then a customer exits from blocked area and heads my way, and she says Michelle Obama. I immediately went back into Pink's and was told by secret service it was a private area. I was kind and patient and said I just want to see the First Lady and thanked them for their service. I was able to see her sitting at a table with her back to me - her famous 'bob' hairdo. I asked if I could go in, and the secret service, said, "Do you have food?" I proudly said yes and showed him my Pink's bag, so was allowed access and sat at a table within 50 feet of the First Family. Was told no pictures allowed, even from cell phone. I was slowly eating my delicious hot dog and saw Michelle, First Grandmother Mrs. Robinson, First daughters Malia and Sasha and others. When they finished, Michelle stood up and I saw her beautiful face for first time. She stopped within ten feet of me to give a Pink's staff member a hug. I excitedly began waving, and she saw me and said, "Hi, how are you?" I said hello and managed to get out a loving 'God Bless You' and she said thank you. All of us began applauding as they exited; they all smiled and waved. Thank you Pink's this June 15th for a once-in-a-lifetime dining experience.

Rudy Cole in the Beverly Hills Weekly threw out the totally unconfirmed rumor that Ali Kasikci would be leaving Montage Hotels to become Managing Director of the newly-refurbished Hotel Bel-Air, scheduled to reopen in mid-2011. It would be a brilliant move on the part of the Dorchester Group, which also owns the Beverly Hills Hotel and several others. We'll keep you informed if we hear more... Had a casual, delicious Sunday brunch at THE SIX, that rustic, charming gastropub we recently wrote about where Jack Spratt's used to be at 10668 W. Pico and Overland, (310) 837-6662. Superb Eggs Benedict ($9) and my date had the Breakfast Burrito ($9), a whopper of a wrap enclosing a sausage, scrambled egg, potato, carmelized onions, bell pepper and cheddar. Waffles, pancakes and sumptuous omelettes at reasonable prices, and then the Landmark movies beckon. Ask for manager Jake for special service... In response to your questions, I use a remarkable travel agency, Corniche Travel, 8721 Sunset Blvd., Suite 200, West Hollywood 90069, (310)854-6000. I deal with my long-time friend, Chairman Anastasia Mann, but Micki Stark and all the people there are exceptional. They specialize in difficult corporate matters as well as more routine travel experiences... Patty Eisenberg brought me a menu from Paris for PastaPaPa, a chain of pasta palaces where you can mix and choose your type of pasta and your sauce to order. Salads, pates and pizzas round out the offerings. I hear they are in New York and coming here...

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A Tower of Chocolate from the savvy Savore Catering guys for a kid's party!

At the bar mitzvah for Kobi Swerdloff last Saturday, a sensational caterer, Savore, did the event at the Marina del Rey Hotel. I was astonished at the remarkable quality of the food offered: miso-coated black cod and roast beef for the adults, while the kids had the best ribs and chicken tenders in memory. Michael Morrisette, Daniel Elkins and Richard Lauter were the cooking culprits who excelled. Highly recommended... It's been a while since I dined at OSTERIA LATINI in Brentwood (11712 San Vicente Blvd, (310) 826-9222) so joined my niece, Cindy Winebaum, and husband Jake there for a meal with Annie and Steve Shulman. Chef/Owner Paolo is as charming and hard-working as ever, and the food remains a wonder. Made a mistake ordering the red mullet, since the branzino from Italy had been delayed by the volcano. But the Linguini alla Scoglio (15.50) made up for it, a mixed shellfish pasta with a white wine and light marina sauce. Must spend more time here...

Was a guest of Fiji Water's Rich Krawiec at Mike Milken's Prostate Cancer Foundation Culinary Contest, and it was one of the most enjoyable, unusual charity events I have ever attended. A trio of top Vegas chefs provided a score of unique dishes, and then each table competed to answer questions about the food. We did pretty good, with Victorio Gonzales, the new Food and Beverage Manager of the Montage Beverly Hills giving us professional guidance. He should give a much-welcome lift to that hotel's dining scene... Enjoyed the New Yorker profile of Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo, the guys behind the brilliant, irreverent Animal on Fairfax next to Canter's Deli. I took New York food critic Gael Greene there for dinner recently and we overdosed on bacon and such. The article confirmed what I had been hearing, that the guys are going to open a sandwich shop somewhere near their restaurant. You can be sure it will be a smashing success...

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Bottega Louis Chef Sam Marvin with Barbara Bollenbach, whose son financed the hot downtown restaurant.

Had an interesting, even stimulating dinner at downtown's BOTTEGA LOUIS (700 S. Grand Ave. (213) 802-1470) with a welcoming reunion with Chef Sam Marvin ("Le Dome") and partner Daniel Flores. A new friend, Australian-born Barbara Bollenbach, arranged the fun evening, since her son is the financial backer of the operation. I understand they are looking to open several others hereabouts...

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Exec Chef/Managing Partner of Wolfgang Puck Enterprises Lee Hefter preparing Jay's take-home Szechuan Ribs.

Twice recently I've had the honor of having Puck Enterprise's Executive Chef, Lee Hefter, personally cook a meal for me. The first was at the newly-opened Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill at LA Live, where Patty and I craved a meal of liver (honest, a woman who actually likes liver!). Lee sliced two thick center-cut steaks from a side of veal liver and sautéed the lightly-breaded meat 'til just pink and tender. Utterly delicious. And last night, after the WP 24 press party, I was headed home when he offered to make me a take-out dish to eat while watching the Lakers game. Cutting a hefty number of ribs from the cooked pork belly sitting on the counter, he exhibited his amazing wok skills to prepare Szechuan Pork Ribs, sweet and spicy, fatty and fabulous. Oh, my, it was devastatingly good! He is my idol!