For many years my (now ex) wife and I had a box for four every summer at the Hollywood Bowl. Every other Thursday, classical music, glorious. Since I was the food maven, the dinner was my responsibility... and I was challenged to provide a different dining experience each time... so it involved several days of creating, shopping, cooking, packing and shlepping to the box.
Arduous, but fun. In those days, before Patina took over the catering at the Bowl, there were no decent food stands at the entrance, only tacky fast food. There was a grill restaurant on top but it was inexorable. If I chose to get gourmet take-out for our excursion, it involved a trip to Matsuhisa or Mr. Chow, The Grill or Gelson's... and was mightily expensive.
All of this came to mind this week when I was invited by Patina Catering and the Hollywood Bowl management to a sample of the new Patina Bowl menus... to be held on the stage of the Bowl early one May evening. Over the years I have been to the Bowl a hundred or more times... starting with the first time I visited L.A. in the '50s and had a $1 seat in the last row on top.
For the past few years, I have been a guest of friend Patty Eisenberg at her four-person box, and she obsessively prepares a truly gourmet meal, cooked over the course of days and served exquisitely. I have offered to help, but she refuses. This story is a tribute to her.
But I never made it to the stage... 'til now. It's kind of imposing and impressive to stand on the huge stage and look out at the enormous arena, even when empty. Improvements have been made this year to the Bowl structure, from expanded bathrooms (yes!) to a new parking setup and ramps. The Patina staff had assembled different food stages to demonstrate all of the various possibilities available to concert-goers this year, the 13th in which they were serving the facility.
From elaborate full dinners delivered to the box ($39 to $65 per person) to Staccato's street food stand near the entrance (burgers, sausages, beer and wine), even to the Market Café next to the stage, to pick up random dinner items (think rotisserie chicken, artisan cheeses, wine), the possibilities were endless. And the Rooftop Grill is now a fine steak and chop house with smoky savory odors wafting to your nostrils as you enter the bowl.
Patina's Chef and Founder Joachim Splichal was out of town, but his West Coast Culinary Director, Gregg Wiele, competently oversaw the event. I told him of the night many decades ago when I first discovered Joachim cooking at an upstairs venue in Beverly Hills in a kitchen the size of a bathtub. He now commands an impressive empire. Wiele told me that their eclectic menu for 2012 shines the spotlight on summer farm-to-table flavors through freshly-made offerings, family-style dining, internationally-inspired street foods and custom picnic baskets for two.
Returning for his ninth season, Sushi Chef Travis Kamiyama oversees the Nishi Sushi Bar at Market West here. An intimate eatery, he offers a wide range of sushi items, including his specialty rolls, prepared daily. More interesting is that you can pre-order a level of sushi delivered right to your box. The chef told me, "You can order a personal jubako box ($47-67) which features a salad, selection of sushi, entrée, and fresh strawberries... as well as large sushi platters ($40-125) perfect for groups up to eight." All of the Patina Restaurant Group's offerings can be ordered on-line here or by calling (323) 850-1885 to place your order before 4 p.m. of the previous day. Ain't technology wonderful!
But this occasion was also an opportunity for the L.A. Philharmonic Association to provide some details of the upcoming season, and I was happy to see the dynamic president of the L.A. Phil, Debra Borda, take the podium to welcome the press and board members. You may remember that Deb was the person who relentlessly pursued the legendary young Gustavo Dudamel to become musical director of our orchestra, and she snatched him from under the noses of some very prestigious musical organizations who thought they had the inside track.
A surprise guest she brought on stage was Gustavo Dudamel himself, who was his usual charming, self-effacing persona. We had an opportunity to chat later, and I gave him a copy of my recent Jay Weston's Restaurant Newsletter which featured a cover story about the Beverly Hills' Venezuelan restaurant, Coupa Café, and he informed me that their family were close friends. He ended the evening by telling us all about the opening night celebration on Friday, June 22, when Julie Andrews hosts and Reba McEntire and Chaka Khan will be be inducted into the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame, with a video show and live performance by both. Call (213) 972-3051 for prime seating. See you there... but don't expect to share my picnic basket.
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