OMG Food!

Soup's on, folks! I'm Tina M. Courtney, aka PoetKitty -- a Los Angeles based food writer audacious enough to think I can critique all manner of eateries. It's a labor of love, and I'm honored to welcome you. Grab a fork and let's get this party started.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Peru Vs. Chile - The Pisco Debeat

The first time I feasted on a Pisco Sour, I was in a depressed state sans a brutal break-up with a faraway love when a very-best-friend, Miss Holly GoLightly, ordered me up her native drink. She's Chilean, and damn proud. We shimmied our butts up to the bar at Ciudad in downtown los angeles, and Hollz rattled off the order in Spanish. I was not afraid.

Mmmmm damn this had a good kick. Pisco itself is a brandy, distilled from muscat grapes, and the sour edge is achieved by adding lemon, egg whites, and simple syrup or powdered sugar. It's creamy, refreshing, citrusy, and goes down like a dream. I think it took two before I was smiling non-stop. Apparently, it doubles as a break-up cure. God bless alcohol.

The origins of Pisco aren't debated, but the claim-to-fame is. Peru and Chile have been in a curious battle for eons over this liquor. It was invented in Peru - that much folks can agree on. But due to some tumultuous internal issues, production was halted for many many years. Once production of Pisco was re-established, however, too many grape varieties were used to produce it, leading to a variet of quality issues. This harmed attempts to export the product and, as such, a number of regulations were established to take back the liquor's noteriety.

We therefore now see four levels of Pisco variety in Peru:
1) Pure, made from a single variety of grape, mostly Quebranta, although Mollar or Common Black can be used; however, no blending between varieties is accepted ("pure" pisco should contain only one variety of grape).

2) Aromatic, made from Muscat or Muscat-derived grape varieties, and also from Italia and Torontel grape varieties; once again, the pisco should only contain one variety of grape in any production lot.

3) Green Must, distilled from partially fermented must, this must be distilled before the fermentation process has transformed sugars into alcohol.

4) Acholado (Half-breed), blended from the must of several varieties of grape.

Pisco production is also restricted by aging, additives, and the ability to call the result "pure". This is serious business, as it's such a mainstay to the identity of Peru.

Chile, however, has a different way of doing things. They use the Muscat grape almost exclusively, but have also divised regulations.
Regular, 30° to 35° (60 to 70 proof).
Special, 35° to 40° (70 to 80 proof).
Reserve, 40° to 43° (80 to 86 proof).
Great, 43° or more (86 or more proof).

No other distinctions, however, between varietal mixes is made.

It is important to note that the two products - Peru's version and Chile's version - are quite different on many aspects. They could very well tout them as different products and cease the battle over who reigns supreme. But the dispute continues.
Peru, of coures, claims proprietorship because of the genesis. Chile disagrees with the production process and regulations, and feels theirs is more native. Both nations have established decrees, laws, regulations, treaties, etc. in order to declare their Pisco THE Pisco, though their efforts have created the opposite effect. Chile has concentrated on internal regulations, specifying from what a "Pisco grape" is to what a "Pisco bottle" is, in order to establish standardization among its products. Peru, on the other hand, has focused on the international arena, preferring to establish trademarks and treaties with other nations in order to cement its status as a purely Peruvian product; though years after Chile standardized everything relating to Pisco internally, Peru has begun to do the same, with a application for international registration of an appellation of origin "pisco" as a Peruvian product, in the WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization). But the legal fight still goes on.

It's exhausting. My suggestion - don't lose yourself in the politics or origination and ownership, but land sakes, have a drink of this liquor-goodness. See what all the fuss is about.

Whist Way LA - The Viceroy's Culinary Gem

Whist at the Viceroy
1819 Ocean Ave.
Santa Monica, CA
7.30.06 - Sunday, 6:30 PM
Moi + Todd, aka French Foodie Friend

Todd - one my dearest peeps - and I had quite a day yesterday. After attending a Dream Circle with new-agey artist-types at the Elixir on Melrose, then hitting Neiman Marcus in Beverly Hills for more goodies from Bar on 4, and then cutting a rug at LA's best weekend day party at EM/Hollywood Canteen, we finally landed for dinner. And hot damn, did we work up an appetite.

The Viceroy hotel is a swanky little spot a stone's throw from the Santa Monica beach, right on Ocean Avenue. It's not really a famous LA hotspot, but it certainly has it's historical significance. Inside this decadently decorated hotel lives Whist, the only dining establishment. I'm not sure how to describe the ambiance, but I was smitten - very British, with a kicky modern cool-girl flair. Lots of cushy white chairs, decorative mirrors, antique plates, and sleek silver. There's an indoor section and an outdoor dream - these beautiful, structured cabanas with more high-back white chairs. Really elegant - I was quite impressed. But the logo - imprinted on the back of every chair - is asymmetrical and really unbalanced. Distracting, over the top, but whatever. Nobody's perfect, righto?

Just FYI, the Executive Chef is a man named Warren Schwartz - there for about 2 years. And bless them to pieces, they do employ a Pastry Chef - Kim Seely.

The place was hopping when we arrived at 6:15 PM - or at least the pool area, directly adjacent to the outdoor eating section, was attempting to burst to life. A DJ played mediocre tunes, and a pitiful/typical LA crowd tried to look cool while sipping their 'tinis and ogling each other, trying to network and look effortless. Heehee, I enjoyed the show. Music blasting, no one dancing. So, so sad.

That didn't last long - by 7:30 or so, the pool had cleared out, and the restaurant was slowly coming to life. We had long since eyeballed the menu, and agonized, truly, over what to order. There's some unique items served up in this joint, and I was feeling adventurous. Oh yes, this is quite the tasting extravaganza we embarked on.

It's important to note that the menu has recently changed with the season. The tasting menu and many appetizers and mains are different than what the web site displays, and who knows when they'll get things in sync. That said, the additions, which obviously embrace seasonal ingredients like zuccini blossoms and heirloom tomatoes, were all quite tantilizing.

Service was steady, polite, but nothing to write home about. We did ask what Whist meant, and was told, rather flippantly, that it's an English boardgame. I guess patrons are expecting a more opulent definition. Yeah, so was I. Strange name choice indeed. Anyway, on with the goods!


Sparkling Water
Bottle of BlueJay Pinot Noir, 2004 Vintage


Choice of Olive, Apricot, and Baguette
* All were chewy and good, and served with butter, but no sea salt, which is always a bummer to me.

Amuse Bouche:

Blue Cheese and Polenta Cake with Marmalade
*Oh-la-la, this was punchy and good. A really fabulous mouth-kicking beginner.


Prime beef tartare
* Egg, capers, pickled onions, arugula and whole grain mustard aioli
** This had a really special presentation, and an equally phenomenal flavor. I'm not sure why this city is mortified of a good steak tartare, but will shovel in the sushi. In any event, I loved the peppery, creamy flavors and the incredible textures. We spooned this onto some toasted baguettes, and it was like buttah. Super dish.

Zuccini Blossoms
* Crab, macadamia nut mousse
** The blossoms were stuffed with the crab mixture, encrusted with a batter and pan fried, then served on top the creamy nut mousse. I liked this a tremendous amount, but have to agree with my astute dining companion - the blossom texture was lost, and it's such a delicate treat, we rather wished they were allowed to shine a bit more.


Roasted Elk Tenderloin
* Bacon wrapped asparagus, swiss chard, dried cherry reduction
** That's right folks, I had the elk. Several medium-rare medallions were servied on top of the swiss chard and asparagus, with a too-small serving of the *divine* dried cherry reduction sauce. I like this dish a lot, but the problem with it matched our compaint with the Blossoms - the elk was severely overpowered by the ridiculously rich but very tasty bacon. The elk by itself was mild, lean, and very lovely, texture-wise, but lacking a lot of flavor. I would have loved this dish more with an additional helping of the cherry sauce and no bacon (did I just write that out loud?) - sacreligious, I know, but I'm a fan of letting the main ingredient shine.

Day boat scallops
*American caviar, braised leeks, potato puree and lobster butter
** Wow, this was ridiculously good. The caviar punched out a salty heavenly flavor from the very fresh scallops, and the lobster butter was surprisingly strong and heavenly. The scallops were served on mashed potatoes, with potato chips lodged in between - gorgeous, and really, really flavorful. Spot-on delish.


Wild mushrooms, shallots, and parsley
* Ohhh, these were woodsy, earthy, tasty morsels, but WAY too many of them were included. We eyeballed one table's Parmesan and Oregaon Fries and about fell out of our chair - HUGE portion. That's just not necessary. The mushies were good, however, just not AOC crack-shrooms good.

Hudson Valley Camembert
* GREAT cheese presentation. Yes, I know, Camembert isn't Camembert when it's from upstate New York, but we were curious. This was pretty damn close - consistency was awesome (soft but not as runny as usual), and the flavor was fierce, although a tad off from what I'm used to. Served with lots of figs, dried fruit, bread, and nuts.

Caramelized crepes with mascapone lemon and blueberry compote
**Let me start by saying that the dessert menu itself, although comprehensive and split into "Traditional" and "Contemporary", was woefully boring. Cakes, fruits, *yawns* - nothing inventive. All of it was seemed uninspired. But the crepes sounded interesting enough, so we gave 'em a shot.
I have never had caramelized crepes before, and let me start by saying I would like to have them again - every day of my freaking life. WOW. The crepes had the a near-perfect consistency, but there was too much lemony cheesey stuff slammed in the center. The blueberries were subtle enough to accent the dish perfectly, but I wasn't jiving on the over-filled insides. Overall, though, this was a marvelous dessert. I was pleasantly surprised.

The damage for one bottle of water, one bottle of wine, two appetizers, two entrees, one side, one cheese, and one dessert was $234 before tip.


Ambiance - A-
Service - B
Food (Taste) - B
Food (Presentation) - B+
Wine/Drinks - B+
Value - C+
Vibe/Energy/Scene - B-
Overall Experience - B

Final word - This was a bit too pricey for the actual results, but the design is intoxicating and Warren's food is quite special. I'm super glad for the experience.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Mooo-licious -- The Mukka Express

I am such a sucker for a super-cute kitchen gadget. I am equally burned, however, by lame ass product web sites. Cue the Bialette Mukka Express stove top wonder. It's a coffee maker extraordinaire - this little guy will cook up two steamy cappucinos or lattes right on your stove. How very kind of him!

The pluses:
1) That cow design. Stare into the spots and you might pass out from cuteness.
2) If you're not into cow-inspired designs, they have a plain version.
3) Built-in frothy valve makes a mean cup o' capp and/or latte
4) Easy usage and clean-up
5) Can use on gas, electric, or ceramic stovetops

The minuses:
1) $89 - steep for a gadget
2) The web site blows - incredibly HORRIFIC marketing copy, with typos. Boo for the moo.
3) Comes with an instructional booklet AND DVD - I'm sorry, but who's going to use the DVD if it's so bloody easy to use? I object to this wasteful packaging.

Still, I'm tempted. I think those damn spots are hypnotizing me. I can see this little honey simmering away in my black and white kitchen, and it makes me a little too gleeful.
If I succumb, I will most certainly report-back.

Chef Spotlight - The Real Deal Neal (Fraser)

Neal Fraser is one of those magificent, humble, seen-and-not-heard chef's that LA should tackle hug. He's helping to refine this world of scene-first food-second Hollywood food house trends, and do a smashing job of it. Neal opened Grace in 2003, and she's way more than a flash in the pan. This Beverly Boulevard gem is better than ever, a shining jewel in a sea of pretty on inside eateries that just can't deliver the goods (Geisha House, I'm talking to you).

Neal's even an LA darling. He started his tenure two decades ago at Eureka, and oldschool Wolfgang Puck eatery. He's hopped arround immensely since then, first getting educated at Culinary Institute of America, then on to work at Checkers in downtown with none other than Thomas Keller. He's also manned the ship at The Park Avenue Cafe in New York City, Splichal's Pinot Bistro, the evergreen and much beloved Spago, and many more.

Neal took on his first very-own with Boxer, another Beverly Blvd. princess, located in a small space now occupied by Cobras Y Matadors. Reviews were all over the map, but he had a good run. He left that for a short-lived stint at Jimmy's in Beverly Hills (so many Beverly's!), and then found himself jobless and ready to start-up another new venture. Enter the birth of Grace. She's a gorgeous space, very loft-like and open, warm and modern - an absolute beauty. But it's what Neal is serving that gets the gold star. Wild Boar sans any gamey flavor or toughness, Buffalo Tenderloin worth raffling your husband for, and every Wednesday is "Doughnut Night". Are you sold? I thought so.

One of Neal's latest accomplishments involves a most impressive Iron Chef America throwdown. He absolutely cleaned the floor with the woefully mediocre Cat Cora in a pork battle. And she even made bacon ice cream, something I've mentioned previously that I'm awfully fond of.

Regardless, Neal is indeed the real deal. Risk-taking, subtle, crafty, and smart enough to the let the food shine, he's definitely one to watch in the coming months and years. There just aren't enough chefs in this town willing to try crazy things like a hemp-focused tasting menu, AND make it outstanding. All hail the chef.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Favorite Food Memories - Ivar's Chowdah

The first and only time I ate at Ivar's, I was all of ten years old, embarking on a magical journey. My father, oldest brother Scott, and little old me had trekked west from our Montana home to the lovely city of Seattle. Our main destination was a Mariners game - my first major league soiree. I was ecstatic. Unthwarted by Dad's thrifty stresses (he was still peeved about the bargain hotel that charged us a crazy expensive $75 a night), I had my eyes on the prize.

We took a break from fast food ventures and hit up Ivar's on the afternoon of game day. Daddy likes a good chowdah, see, and they're famous for 'em. I remember us each getting a steamy creamy bowl of clam goodness, and piling over to a nearby picnic table. The scents of the chowder meshed with the sea-salt air and the echoes of gulls and tourists is etched forever in my memory bank - like gold engraving on a leather bound diary. I recall looking at Dad and Scott and seeing they were just as happy, and I thought they must have food like this in heaven. Hell, I was already there.

I don't remember too much about the game. I did catch a fly ball and got Jose Canseco'sautograph, which rocked, but just wasn't as special as my chowdah moment. Thinking back on this now, I am mindful of why I love food so much - it's like the glue that holds together our memories. Only tastier.

A Lunchtime Grazing at Gingergrass

2396 Glendale
Silverlake, CA
7.26.06 - Wednesday, 12:30 PM
Moi + Noah

Noah is my weekly lunch buddy, an ex-work associate that can finally just be a friend. We hop all over Los Felix and Silverlake for yummy eats, and this week, we landed in Gingergrass.

First impression - love the lofty, minimalist feel. The building feels unfinished, and yet, I was comfy. No distracting frou frou scenester fanfare - and the smells were intoxicating from the get-go. The place was slammin', and a little too warm (but where isn't it a little too warm these days), but other than tat, good start.

Service was consistent and non-evasive - great for a lunchtime buzz, as everyone seemed rushed. I loved the very fresh and yummy sounding menu, loaded with unique ingredients (Asian jackfruit, pickled veggies, etc.) and all priced super duper reasonably.

They do serve a wee bit o' alcohol, but at 100 degrees and noon on the dial, I held back the urge.


Just sodas


Gingergrass Fresh Rolls
* Crab and avocado rolled with lettuce and cucumbers served with a creamy spicy aioli
I was a little disappointed by the texture on these - the skin was too chewy and overall, unsubstantial. The flavors were a bit overtaken by the heavy mayo sauce, but overall, this was an OK dish. What annoyed me - they serve 1 1/2 rolls, or 3 half pieces. I loathe appetizers that become difficult to share - because let's face it, that's what most of us do. Why not just serve us the two whole rolls? Would it really break the bank? Grr.


Jack and Ginger Salad
* Asian jackfruit mixed with fresh cabbage, lotus root, poached shrimp, caramelized shallots and topped with white and black sesame seeds and peanuts tossed with a shrimp sauce vinaigrette
THIS is where things got interesting. What a unique, refreshing, and incredibly flavor salad. The textures and, as you can see, colors, were stunning. I really loved this dish. The lotus root and jackfruit were succulent, juicy, and perfectly matched. I also spied a significant amount of shrimp and goodies for the low $8 price tag. This one was so well played.


Shrimp Noodles
* Shrimp served over rice stick noodles with shredded lettuce, pickled vegetables, herbs and nuoc cham
Just what you'd expect - freshly wok-ed noodles, veggies, and shrimp. Tasty, but rather insignificant.

The damage for one soda, one appetizer, one entree, and one salad was about $29 before tip.


Ambiance - B-
Service - B-
Food (Taste) - B-
Food (Presentation) - B-
Wine/Drinks - C
Value - B+
Vibe/Energy/Scene - C+
Overall Experience - B-

Final word - Great local lunch hang, if you like 'em original and LOUD!

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Blowfish Sushi - To Die For?

Blowfish Sushi
9229 Sunset Blvd.
West Hollywood, CA
Cross Street - Doheny
7.25.06 - Tuesday, 6:30 PM
Moi + Val

I've said it before - I like a good helping of raw fish. I've hit a bazillion sushi joints in this town (barely a dent in those available), and this has been on the list for a while - the place that dares to call themselves "to die for." I was willing to take my chances.

Val, the incredibly hunky friend I call my "Promises Partner", met me in this WeHo hottie spottie recently for dindin. I got there first, and had the supreme (ahem) pleasure of dealing with the too-young, too-arrogant Can I help you? blonde bitch that gave me tons of 'tude for no apparent reason and sat me in Siberia, even though the place was near-empty. Great start. Then she sat a table of four RIGHT next to us just moments later - with the place still full of chirping crickets. Oh, poo on that.

The place is lovely - dark, incredibly comfortable benches line the long back wall and are scattered with bright, cushy pillows. The sushi bar sat empty all night, even though the dining room filled-up substantially - I found that sad. I wanted to go over and say hi and keep them company. Oh, and I did spy a very young femme sushi chef, which gets the place high marks. I like a little variety. You know, equal opportunity roll-making.

Our server, by the way, more than made up for the angsty hostess by a mile, but she had way too many tables hit all at once, and didn't take very good care of us. She tried, she really did, but blondie triple downed her, so I had mercy.

OK, now on to what really matters:


They have exclusively Japanese beer, so Val had a Kirin and I had *gasp* Diet Coke. They have a full bar, however, but I wasn't in the mood.


Pyramid of Tartar
* A trio of bigeye tuna, Atlantic king salmon and avocado with sweet ginger soy
This was purrrty; a literal pyramid starting with the tuna, then the salmon, followed by the avocado. All the ingredients were mushy-fied, however, and they suggested we pour the accompanying sauce (too sweet) over the artwork and mix merrily. We did - this was tasty. Oh, and lest I forget, it was served with house made criss-cross potato chips. Well played on that one.


* Albacore tataki with marinated Japanese cucumber and sauteed red onions and a ponzu dressing
I apparently can't read well and was expecting more greens with this, but it was lovely - almost primarily a sashimi dish, the ginger and ponzu weren't at all unusual, but the whole combo was very fresh and tasty.


Chef's Choice
* This was a gorgeous display - served in a basket with layers of crushed ice, there were something like 14 pieces of fish in this puppy, and all were top quality.


Animal Style Roll
* Spicy tuna, snow crab, red onion and shrimp tempura wrapped in soy paper
This tasted good, but was too finally chopped and full of mayo - I wanted the fish to shine through more, and it didn't have a prayer.


Chocolate Quartet
* Dark chocolate truffle cake, white chocolate and dark chocolate mousse and white chocolate ice cream with an almond biscotti cookie
All right, let me break this down: Biscotti=boring. Truffle cake= oh hell yes but way rich. Dark chocolate mousse = surprisingly velvety and good. White chocolate ice cream = white chocolate? Really? All I taste is vanilla and sugar.
So, all in all - so-so. Wouldn't order again.

The damage for one beer, one soda, one appetizer, one sashimi omakase, one roll, and one salad was about $90 before tip.


Ambiance - B-
Service - C
Food (Taste) - B-
Food (Presentation) - A-
Wine/Drinks - B-
Value - C+
Vibe/Energy/Scene - B+
Overall Experience - B-

Final word - Oh, it's not so bad. Just bypass the hostess and head straight for the bar!

My Perfect Man - The Swedish Chef

Flappen jacken hooten, people!

Huge, mad, heaping happy props to Nick at Slashfood for steering me to the holy grail - Swedish Chef Google Videos. Oh my good god, if these don't lift your spirits from the depths of boo-hoo-dom, nothing will. What's not to love about this knife-weilding psychopath? His almost incomprehensible babbling, his invisible peepers, his obsession with making the kill and making the meal - he's the chef we all aspire to be. The Swedish Chef doesn't mess around with recipes or precise measurements - one of my favorite scenes is his tossed salad; an iceberg head thrown up into the air, blasted with a shotgun, and flailing little lettuce pieces everywhere. So classic, so funny - and filling me with a nostalgic spin that's going to cause all kinds of possible repercussions. I may have to make mom's pasta dish - the one with fried eggs we used to eat during The Muppet Show. I may have to make mom's criss-cross peanut butter cookies - a staple of childhood, just like the Chef.

Or I may just have to watch these damn videos a few more times and laugh my bunskies off. Dee film is okey dokey!

Amaretto - Fruit (Liquor) of the Italian Gods

While I am truly not a fan of sickly sweet, syrupy liquors, Amaretto has my heart. There's something about the almond depth and complex sweetness of a top-shelf Amaretto that absolutley woos me. I prefer a few shots of this on the rocks to dessert some nights - so comforting and tasty. But make no mistake - it MUST be top-shelf, because the cheap stuff tastes like cough syrup. Oy. Disaronno is the well-known brand, and it is, quite simply, the best.

The origins of the liquor are pretty fascinating. Legend has it that when the painter Bernardino Luini was commissioned in 1525 to paint a fresco of the Madonna for the Santa Maria delle Grazie church in Saronno, Italy, he was housed at the home of a young widow. Her piety and beauty moved him so much, he had a romantic affair with the innkeeper, and hired her to pose for the painting. Wanting to repay the master painter, the woman soaked a few apricot kernels in a brandy, and presented him with the gift. Amaretto, thusly, was born.

Nowadays, almond extracts, along with apricot kernels and seeds, are steeped in brandy to create the final product. Most Amarettos are about 56 proof, or 28% alcohol. The best way to serve this nectar is on the rocks, or shaken cold, ala a martini. Ye olde Amaretto Sour is a popular "girly" drink, but personally, I think the flavor gets lots in the intense sugary layers. If you're really feeling sassy, add a small ribbon of light cream to a 2 oz shot, on ice, and have a sip of heaven.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Fab Food Media - Intermezzo Magazine

Am I the last to know about this one? Something tells me - yes. I needed a mag for a solo lunchtime soiree a few days back, and the local Borders stand felt like a good place to say hello to. I spied the usual food-related gems, and then, tucked behind Food and Wine magazine I saw it gleaming - Intermezzo. The cover showcased a gravy-glistening chicken dish with mustard seeds. Since I don't eat chicken, this wasn't the draw. It just looked elegant. After a two-second flip-through, I affirmed this first impression and took the puppy to lunch.

Intermezzo is all-kinds-of-glossy, and features a mostly foodie line-up with anecdotes about fashion, travel, and home too. The layout is elegant and organized, and the entire tone really does feel upscale and informative. They cover various food-focused destinations, highlight a handful of luscious desserts, and otherwise wax poetic on our favorite topic.

So what's the bad news? The web site. It doesn't showcase anything about the current issue, has a layout circa 200, and isn't all that informative. A huge let-down, after how much I enjoyed the mag itself. Of course you can subscribe on the homepage, and hit a recipe index, but the rest is woefully lacking. Boo for that. Still, I might just subscribe. I think I'll give it one more trial run with the next issue (there's only 6 per year right now), and if I'm happy again, I'll take the plunge. Oh, and by the by, if any of you crazy cats have some opinions on this matter, hit me. Help this Gemini make a decision.

Just Like Mom Used to Make - Peanut Butter Bacon Sandwiches

Sometimes, I am just *so* lucky.
I recently swooped into a Very Favorite Restaurant for an incredible treat - to taste a new dessert creation by the local master, not yet on the menu. Should he put this a-maz-ing dish up for public consumption, I'll reveal the local, but for now, hush hush. This was a daring, fantastic delight - again, I won't divulge the entire lowdown, but bacon was involved. And peanut butter powder. And maple syrup, brown sugar, and bananas. Yes, this is a dessert, not a breakfast plate. Special doesn't even begin to describe this. And while I was crazy about the banana's texture, I was apeshit about the flavors.

That night, as I was drifting off to sleep thinking "peanut butter and bacon - who knew?" a voice answered back "your MOTHER, that's who." And then I remember. When I was a wee one, Mom used to toast a couple of slices of white bread, slather them up with creamy peanut butter, and generously topped on several slices of crispy, hot bacon. I LOVED these creations. But it's been eons since I thought of them, and who would have thought a dessert would jog my memory?

I just love it when a dish takes you back in time to a spot in your life long since covered in cobwebs. Scents and tastes have a magical transportation power. I called Mom the next day to share this revelation. She wants to fly out just to try this dessert. We had a bonding moment. Life is good.

Can I Get An Ohm - Zen Zoo Tea Cafe

Zen Zoo Tea Cafe
1517 N. Vine Street
Hollywood, CA
7.24.06 - Monday, 12:30 PM
Myself myself confound

I locked myself out of my house on Monday afternoon. Oopsie. Luckily, these things don't matter much when you're a freelancer with laptop in hand. I made my way to a Starbucks, worked up a storm, then felt the hunger grumble. I don't know why, but the Zen Zoo Tea Cafe sprung to mind - this often passed but never visited small cafe next to Bed Bath and Beyond and the Hungry Cat (if only they served lunch).

It saddens me that this place is normally so empty. Even during the throes of lunch, it was lonely. Myself and maybe three other patrons. It's counter service, so I ponied up to order, only to find out that didn't have what I wanted. I compromised - no biggee. Odd that they didn't have the salad fixins when, as I mentioned, it was a graveyard. Perhaps I missed the spinach salad rush.

I found a table (which is a miracle, as there are only two indoors, plus a counter), leafed through my maggie, and waited for Zen to overtake me.


Tap water - was rather tea-ed out, so I didn't partake in the delicacy.


Crystal Shrimp Dumplings
**Served with hot mustard and hot sauce (but no soy sauce?), these came in a dim sum container. Each of the three dumplings had a too mushy outside and lacked flavor. They were *ok*, just not on par with the realllllly good dumplings out there. Not even in the same stratosphere.

Miso Soup
**Didn't like the flavor on this one either - rather funky, and I'm a big miso freak. It did have large chunks of mushroom and tofu, which I loved, but overall, I didn't want to touch this bowl.


Thai Peanut Tofu Salad
**Heaps of sprouts, a bit of lettuce, and loads of peanut dressing and related condiments. Plus a lot of tofu. I liked this dish - flavor was decent, wonderful textures, and a fine substitute for the lettuce-based concoction I had tried to order. Very fresh tasting and yummy.

The damage for the dumplings, soup, and half salad was $12 before tip.


Ambiance - C
Service - C
Food (Taste) - C+
Food (Presentation) - C-
Wine/Drinks - B
Value - B+
Overall Experience - C+

Final word - I don't plan on locking myself again soon, but if I do, I think I'll skip the Zen. Maybe chaos suits me better :)

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Crossing the Bridge

755 N. La Cienega Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA
7.22.06 - Friday, 10:30 PM
Myself + 2 guests (Out of towners)

My Miami peeps want more LA action, cocktail style, so it seemed high-time I eyeball the oft-reveled at interior of The Bridge Restaurant. Owned by the group responsible for Koi, Bridge is located just across the street from this Hollywood mecca, and as such, a shoo-in for the same it-crowd. We got there at 10:30 on a Saturday, and I expected a mob scene. Close, but not so much.

The first big annoyance was Mr. Man guarding the door. He was a finely dressed yet surly gentleman that demanded to know if we had reservations. I said we just wanted to hit the bar (which was clearly not full) - he pondered this a moment, rather wondering if we were worthy, or just making a show of his authority - whatever the reason, it was lame. Of course he let us in. But honestly, what's with the attitude? It makes me shun my lovely little city - but I know better than to judge the metropolis on one snotty doorman.

Once inside, I must say, we couldn't help a round of oooh's and ahhh's. The space is outlandishly elegant. Huge, golden-glowing chandeliers, dark wood tables and chairs, and just an ambiance that made you feel warm, fuzzy, and decadent. The bar area, at the front of the restaurant, was a lot more understated but still grand and lovely. The very hot bartender took care of us immediately, and we sipped our over-priced drinks and eyeballed the wanna-be's. No rich and famous folks here, just the crowd that likes to pretend they are. And a nice handful of real peeps too - I liked the vibe a lot. I could be comfortable having a cocktail here on a regular basis if the valet wasn't so annoying (but I found street parking - GO ME!) and if the doorman didn't make me feel unwelcome.


Ambiance - A-
Staff/Service - C
Wine/Drinks - B-
Value - C+
Vibe/Energy/Scene - A-
Overall Experience - B-

Final word - If you're husband-shopping, into being seen, or like a grand venue, Bridge is a fab place for a cocktail.

Sushiya Saves Sunset

8650 W. Sunset Blvd
West Hollywood, CA
7.23.06 - Sunday, 12 AM
Myself + 7 guests (Out of town investor peeps)

It had been a long, long night. Bar hopping. Out of towners. Chasing them down as they maneuvered through the sceney Sunset Strip, in search of sushi for a large party without a reservation. We ducked into various places and were received with disgruntled flippancy. Sushiya - in the Sunset Plaza area - didn't sound promising; only because I know it's popular, and of course, I know the area is teaming with hipsters. Lo and behold, however, the folks had space, were still serving food, AND they smiled at us. A lot. The boys were all-a-buzz, and even I wanted to make out with our waitress - she made us HAPPY.

I didn't eat much, I'll say that out right, but the crew ordered tons. The menu at Sushiya is loaded with speciality rolls and standbys - clearly catering to the Sunset Strip masses who want spicy tuna in 17 different ways and don't give a damn about tradition. Which, by the way, is fine by me - I like my raw fish any number of ways, from traditional to cuckoo. Our waitress was so charming and adorable, I even tried to get her to join the party. We were super well taken care of, and the food - that which I sampled and spied - was above average for sushi.

Drinks, too, hit the spot. Sake - of course! The ambiance here is also adorable - it's a narrow cavern with a long bar, and great people-watching opportunities. The inside is mostly red - that's the color I recall. We dug it. Comfy seats, great view, all kinds-of-relaxed.

I won't do my normal run-through of samplings, only because I ate so little and don't want to misrepresent. Put it this way, however - I will be returning. What I had was definitely good enough for an encore. And since they stay open until 2:30 AM on weekends - those are hours I can work with.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Sidebar - Too Bad About the Bill

9500 Wilshire Blvd.
Beverly Hills, CA
7.21.06 - Friday, 10 PM
Myself + 7 guests (Out of town investor peeps)

When a gaggle of rich friends swirl in from out of town, and one of them says "Hey, T, get us a true LA bar scene, would ya?" there's quite a few choices. And rest assured, we went to quite a few places.

First on the list - an easy call: Sidebar. The crew was staying at the Regent Beverly Wilshire, after all, so they didn't have far to travel. Sidebar is a newbie - open only for the past 2 months. It's across the hall from Wolfgang Puck's new steakhouse, Cut - a place I can't yet speak to but can affirm is beautiful. Miss Side is in fact a sister to the restaurant, also designed by Richard Meier (the man who designed the Getty Center.) It's a stunner - lit up in opulent golden hues, scattered with cushy chocolate couches, and with a sparsely decorated but equally elegant bar. I was one of the first two of our soiree to arrive, and shockingly, we found bar seats - at 10 PM on a Friday. The place was all a-buzz, but certainly not crowded. Oh, and if it's celebrities you be a-seekin', this place is a go-to. We saw Shaq and Eve. Woo.

They have a cocktail menu - inventive, but very limited. They also don't carry a lot of the bar staples - this is high end/top shelf or no-thing. The bartenders are nice, but often not available. That would prove to be frustrating as the crew shuffled in. And then there's the matter of the bill . . .

The slowness of the staff almost cost my a pretty penny. At one point, one of our friends arrived and needed a drink on my tab. We ordered it, at the same time an impatient and loud gentleman to my left ordered a couple of his own. Our bartender took the orders . . .and disappeared. For a LONG time. When she returned with the drinks, Mr. Impatient had exited stage left. His drinks sat there all night, untouched.

When it came time, hours later, for my portion of the par-tay to vacate, I closed my tab and - you guessed it - when the check arrived, saw I was asked to pay for the long-gone hasty-one. This did not make me happy. An argument - albeit a tame one - ensued over these fair drinks, and I finally - FINALLY - won out. After minutes of button pushing and discussion, the final check was served. By this time, I was annoyed enough to agree with the voices in my head - we wouldn't be coming back. And, in fact, Cut was now on probation too.

When you're charging $14 for drinks, at least charge them to the right peeps. That's all I'm askin'.

Here's the listing of what we had:

1 Glass of house Prosecco - somewhat flat - only so-so.
2 Push-ups - made with Grey Goose Vanilla, 7-up, and a splash of orange juice
2 Rum and Cokes - not strong, but OK
3 Kettle One Martinis - excellent, but hard to mess-up
1 Mojito - the evening's clear winner
1 screwdriver - also just OK

Snacks -
They serve an elegant tray of candied almonds, wasabi peas, and olives - very nice touch. Aces on this one.


Ambiance - B+
Service - C-
Wine/Drinks - C+
Value - C
Vibe/Energy/Scene - B
Overall Experience - C+

Final word - Look, there's a million places in this town to ogle the famous ones, impressive a crew of out-of-towners, and get overcharged on drinks. Sidebar isn't a must-see.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Chateau de Roquefort - Wine, Oh!

I've recently fallen all over the new Biodynamics wine making process. As a devout astrologer and planetary energy believer, I'm gaga about the way this new age system takes into account all of the organic elements - not just the grapevine - along with moon phases and planetary cycles. Whether or not you think this is poppycock, I assure you it produces damn fine wine. So why question the process?

Take Chateau de Roquefort - proprietor Raimond de Villeneuve took over this landmark Southern France house in 1995, restoring his family's name and, in the process, converting to the biodynamics method. Biodynamics believers monitor the health of all living elements in the grape growing process - the grapevines, the soil, and any/all related flora and fauna. Each organism is considered in its individual state, and as a part of the master whole. In addition, the notion that farming can be rhythmically matched to the energetic ebb and flow of the cosmos is also added to the mix. Some see this in an astrologically sense, some in a more spiritual manner. Either way, this does produce one undeniably beneficial effect - growers become incredibly attuned to all aspects of their crops. As a result, the flavors formed are so intertwined with the region and the soil, it's what makes so many prominent growers faithful to the process.

One of my favorites from this method is the 2005 Chateau de Roquefort Corail Rose tes de Provence - a strawberry burst of sweetness with just the right amount of underlying acidity. The gorgeous rose color is intoxicating in it's own right, and at just $14 a bottle, it's a bargain as well.

Regardless of whether or not you're behind the methodology, I dare you to give biodynamic wines a shot. My theory is that if the moon can source the dramatic movement of our oceans, it stands to reason that these energies would affect human beings, and, yes, even grapevines.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Sushi Mashiko, You Surprised Me!

Sushi Mashiko
10726 Jefferson Blvd.
Culver City, CA
7.21.06 - Friday, 7 PM
Myself + 1 guest (Gay Hubbie RyRy)

There I was, deep in the throes of Culver City for what felt like the first time ever. This is not a 'hood I frequent in this fair town, so when it was time for dinner with my angel-friend Ry, I had to leave it up to him. We wanted sushi. He's not adventurous, I am. He'd done some CitySearch research on the place, saw a few fab reviews, and we thought - yes, Mashiko, we want that.

The place is in the obligatory strip mall - almost a sign that it'll be good, these days, as my fav fish joints normally reside in one. The ambiance of this place is AWFUL - so eighties, in the worst possible way, with washed out menu photos, fading polaroids, and all manner of dated decor. It also smelled a bit fishy back by the bathrooms - this worried me, but I said nothing. The show must go on.

The menu is a normal potpourri of hot plates (tempura, teryaki) and sushi basics. We didn't want anything cooked. Except the edamame. The service was annoying - they asked us 4 times in the span of 2 minutes if we were ready to order - we weren't. Each time. And then we called them over when we were, as the restaurant was almost empty. On a Friday night. Hmmm. And ohmagod did it take FOREVER to get our fish. We didn't order much, and did I mention the place was woefully dead? The sushi chef is a delightful looking fellow, but he took his sweet time. Woah nellie.

But the sushi? Land sakes it was GOOD! Read on :)


Just sodas - nothin' excitin'.


Boiled, bland, no salt, obviously old, not even warm anymore - HORRIBLE!



**All were pretty high-quality and fresh, with FAT cuts - I was pleased to see they weren't skimpy at all. And the prices were low for this kind of generosity.


California Roll
Nothing special here - but 8 large pieces were served.

Spicy Tuna Roll
Weak - very small, not at all spicy. Did not care for this one.

Special Cucumber Roll
**With tuna, yellowtail, salmon, avocado, and rice, wrapped in a cucumber
This was GOOD but GIGANTIC! Couldn't even begin to finish this puppy, but it was quite yummy.

The damage for 3 sodas, 3 orders of sushi and 3 rolls was about $40, before tip.


Ambiance - D-
Service - C-
Food (Taste) - C+
Food (Presentation) - C
Wine/Drinks - C
Value - B+
Overall Experience - C

Final word - For no frills, fat fish slices, it's fine. This would only be a place I'd duck into if I lived nearby.

Lounge. On Sunset. With Fried Olives.

Lounge. On Sunset
1448 N. Gower
Hollywood, CA
7.20.06 - Thursday, 8 PM
Myself + 1 guest (Screenwriter J)

Eat. On Sunset and Lounge. On Sunset - could these names be any more generic AND pretentious? I wanted to loathe this place. After waltzing in for the first time and spying what looked like glowing q-tips in the outdoor area and a navy-motif in the dining room, I wanted to hate it even more. It's very masculine inside - navy blue cushions with white piping and very dark wood accents. I've had good dinners here, I'll be honest - not HOLD THE PHONE Providence-style dishes, but decent fare. This night, however, was all about the sauce. Sorry, chef, we're here for the Lounge.

When my pal J and I first descended into the dimly lit, very spacious bar area in the back, there was a small party brewing. I figured it was a sign of things to come - after all, it was a Thursday night, and the clock had barely struck 8. We grabbed a couple of bar seats and a couple of drink menus, and things were looking good. As in, they have an entire SECTION of the drink menu dedicated to Red Bull mixtures. Something like six or more choices! Well all RIGHT then! I also spied many other fab-o options, including something I've had before - their self-proclaimed world's best Bloody Mary (it's good, but not quite up to the title). The bar menu also looked promising. So order we did.

Our female bartender was also excellente - of course, she had all of four customers to contend with in no-time - the little soiree brewing behind us fizzled out in short order. And then it was a virtual graveyard back there - odd. I wonder if this place is suffering? The dining room, indoors, was almost empty, but outside was moderately alive. Sad, as they just redid this space, since the Pinot Hollywood gig had faded in the limelight. Perhaps Eat/Lounge just need new names.

In any event, here's what we devoured:


White Sangria - certainly not traditional, this had white wine, some citrus splash, a little soda kick, and loads of garnish. *Yawn*
Wings - from the Bull Ring, this had Red Bull and Absolut Vanilla. Good!

Small Bar Plates:

Roasted Spanish Marcona Almonds
** Roasted in extra virgin olive oil and sea salt
These came out mega-hot and really tasty. The perfect bar snack, I do declare.

Fried Spanish Olives
** Served with a pesto cream dipping sauce
Small olives coated in a light batter and fried - I thought I'd like these way more than I did. The olive-y flavor was actually lost in the frying ritual, and in the end, these were nothing special.


Dungenous Crab and Corn
** Crab meat served with corn in a creamy sauce with potato crisps
I'm all for quality over quantity, but this was SO small and expensive, and rather tasteless. The sweetness of the crab was mellowed out by the creamy and otherwise tasteless sauce. Would it be rude to yawn again?

Look, this wasn't a *bad* experience, but it wasn't exciting in any way either. Except for the multiple Red Bull ideas, but now that they've triggered the flow, we can order these anywhere. For the moolah, it wasn't worth it. And it is a bummer that we basically had the place to ourselves - where's that exciting Hollywood vibe?

The damage for 3 drinks and 3 small plates was about $75, before tip.


Ambiance - C+
Service - B
Food (Taste) - C+
Food (Presentation) - B-
Wine/Drinks - B-
Value - C
Overall Experience - C+

Final word - If someone else is buying, or if I just want a drink or two, I'm in. But likely not.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Weird Gadget of the Year - Bottle Mounted Camera

I want one! I want one! The fine folks at OSN have put forth what I'm calling the weirdest foodie-esque gadget of the year - a nifty little digital camera that can be clasped on places like a bottle top. Sure, this conjures up images of family reunions at the picnic park finally saved from shaky hands - who knew your Coke bottle could double as a tripod? Yet I have a different vision for this little honey - food photography. Those tableside shots that make your dessert creation look fuzzier than cotton candy - a thing of the past! I can't find pricing information, but I did see that the camera can be posted to other objects, too - things like car windows and bookshelves are all fair game. Visit the link above for more information - and if you have one of these babies, take some food pics and show me the goods!

Birds - Happy Hour Good, Food Baaaad

I'm a Beachwood Canyon dweller these days, and there's not a lot to walk to in zee hills. Occasionally, I make the trek down to "The Strip" - a section of Franklin Ave. sporting a solid block of mediocre, at best, food experiences. Victor's, La Poubelle, the Pig, Taiyo, and Birds among them - none are known for good eats, but a few have decent cocktails. I hit the happy hour at Birds last night - featured from 4-6 - and I gotta say, that's a damn happy happy hour.

The decor is somewhat pleasant inside this down-home neighborhood hang, and everyone has a sense of humor. It's also one of those places where you can pony up to the bar solo and have a new best friend in five minutes flat. I met my screenwriter pal there but made friends with a nice man next to me - he was lamenting a break-up with Margheritas. I can relate. So if you want a side of friendliness with your happy hour, Birds delivers.

Did I mention the food sucks? Oy vey, it's nasty. I didn't chow on the latest visit - I now know better. The chicken is dry, the wraps slathered in icky condiments - everything is bland, fatty, and not worth the calories. But after a lovely couple of hours chatting away and sipping on Stellas and champagne, my companion and I were served with a $20 check. 5 drinks, 20 bucks. Happy hour? I dare say I was jubilant. It just goes to show that different places are good for different things. Birds - it's all about the bar. Get there early and your buzz is borderline free.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Pass the Cheese, Please - Camembert

I love me some cheese. Camembert is among the most heavenly, and not because of the creamy flavor, but because of that soft, smooth, caramel-like consistency. The travels this puppy embarks on a tongue are almost illegal. So are my reactions. It's got a Brie-like remeniscense, but features a far better palette, in my humble opinion.

Camembert is a French gem, allegedly discovered in 1791 by a Marie Harel. She housed a priest from Brie, and in exchange for her generosity, was apparently given the "secret" to this crazy-good concoction. Lucky lady. Its popularity, however, was sealed-up-good during WWII, when it was served to the French soldiers. It's good stuff, but worth waging a war over? I'd say not.

Made from unpastuerized cow's milk, Camembert actually has a dry, crumbly consistency when it's super-fresh, but leave this to age for a few weeks, and the runniness takes over. Believe me, you want this. It's been served since the 1890's in these adorable wooden rounds. Not traditionally used in cooking, I suggest you simply get a killer Bourdeaux and some crusty bread, and have a feast. All hail Camembert.

Neiman Marcus Beverly Hills - Food Mecca?

I can admit to a certain Neiman Marcus obsession. I have an NM card. I've used it. Heavily. And I'm outing myself here by saying that yes, I'm a foodie, but goddamn, I love me an NM throw-down.
Wait! I can explain, honest!

Let's start with the good part. At the Beverly Hills location, the top floor (men's department) has a wide open, oval-shaped bar called Bar on 4. It's always staffed with super-hot, and in some cases, equally sweet male bartenders, and more plastic surgery devotees than you shake a martini at. I find the scene so fascinating - power-lunchers in suits; there to buy another, husband hunters with wrinkle-less foreheads and chihuahuas in tow, and the occasional oddball - like, well, me. There's a gigantic window by the bar that let's you enjoy the BH view, and it's flooded with golden sunlight up there - makes me feel lucky to live in this crazy metro. Maybe it's the mean cocktails they're whisking up that's blinding me here, but it is *the* perfect place to take a couple of girlfriends to, get drunk by noon, and shop like the LA girls we are. The huge bonus - I've had extremely tasty food here. No, really. The Lobster Club is divine. The Caviar service - overpriced to the hilt but worth every last egg. I can't help it, people, I love it here. I've made friends with a couple of the bartenders (like Adam, featured below, whom I just adore), and, you know, I guess it's the wanna-be rich girl in me that just delights in this excess. Plus, there's the cocktails - they make 'em tasty AND strong.

That's Adam - bartender, documentary filmmaker, and mega-hottie with a sublime taste in music AND cocktails. What's not to love?

Yesterday, I had what I'd call an NM double-hitter. My girl Hollz and I arrived early for the Last Call Sale and for a little Veuve Cliquot. We're smarties, we first sailed down to the bottom floor and scored two large chocolatey treats. Then up to the top for a our champagne toast. So far, so good. We had hair appointments across the street at some chi-chi salon (free gifts, folks, this is not the Normal Life) so after our locks got love, we headed back for lunch. And shopping. Having already graced the Bar on 4 chairs, we opted for a never-before-frequented spot on the third level - The FreshMarket Assuming the foodstuffs in this joint likely came from the same kitchen, we figured only the ambiance would be different. Ahem, wrong answer. The menu was vastly different (just a few salads and sannies) and what we opted for - An open-faced tuna melt and an Egg salad on wheat - were abysmal. SERIOUSLY bad. Bland, fatty, stale bread - all kinds of icky. And to think, we were one floor away from bliss. We even tried a cake slice - lemon bundt badness. All sugar, no citrus - AHHHH!

Lesson learned, believe that. There's a bottom floor restaurant called Mariposa - I will likely never have the courage to put a toe in there. I guess I've learned a valuable lesson here - go where the cute bartenders are. If the food sucks, at least the view will still be top-notch. ;)

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The Art of Food Sharing - Ethiopian-Style

1076 S. Fairfax
Los Angeles, CA
7.16.06 - Sunday, 7:15 PM
Myself + 2 guesta (Bestest Friend plus Australian Angel)

There's a stretch of Fairfax Avenue, just south of Olympic, called Little Ethiopia. Both sides of the street are lined with fragrant smelling, colorful restaurant fronts serving all kinds of ethnic delicacies. Nyala lives on the south east corner of this stretch, and sports a lavender neon sign. The place is incredibly welcoming, larger than expected, and full of gorgeous art, golden hues, and the most incredible, spicy scents.

This place is a mainstay for my best friend and I - a great place to go with the girls (or the guys) and dish about the latest developments. This evening, the BF and our darling Australian goddess friend swooped in for hardcore girl-talk and delicious, communal eats. We scampered into one of the many banquets and didn't even spy the menu. Nyala may not be the best of its kind on this strip, but there are two dishes here we can't pass up. I'll dish the details on those in a just a jiffy. Be warned, however, that service is not their strong point. It's slow, at best, but warm and friendly. Just don't come here in a hurry, or you shall be more than a little peeved.

If you've never had an Ethiopian food experience before, it's a special treat. Not only does the food itself sport very unique and heavenly flavors, but eating this kind of cuisine is a community affair. Plates of food are served on gigantic platters - there are no individual settings. And silverware? Forget about it - there's no formality to this throw-down, and instead of forks and knives, you'll be served injer. Injer is the native bread - more spongy and pliable than a typical slice - with a semi-sour kick that matches the spices spot-on perfectly. Patrons take pieces of the injer and scoop up their bite-size pieces - be it seafood, veggies, or meat. So if your mother never taught you to share, perhaps you should stick to American fare ;)

Now for the good part!


We stuck to sodas - they serve Ethiopian beer (bland) and wine (too sweet).
We also had the amazing and fragrant native tea - highly recommended.

Our platter consisted of:

Vegetarian Combo
- This consists of one good-sized portion of all their vegetarian offerings.
1. Yemiser Wot
Red lentil stew simmered in seasoned red pepper sauce, fresh garlic and ginger.

2. Kik Alecha
Mild yellow split peas cooked with onion, fresh garlic and ginger.

3. Defen Yemiser Wot
Bean stew cooked in fresh garlic and ginger.

4. Yatakilt Wot
Mixed vegetables: fresh carrots, potatoes, and cabbage cooked with garlic and ginger.

5. Yabesha Gommen
Collard greens seasoned with fresh garlic and ginger.

** This selection is a MUST - so many yummy flavors and consistencies to enjoy - and all of them melt in your mouth with the injer.

Shrimp Tibs
- Shrimp sauteed with onion, tomato, garlic, seasoned red pepper sauce and olive oil. (Medium Spicy). It can be ordered mild.
** My favorite thing on the menu - perfectly cooked shrimp with mild yet kicky flavor and fantastic peppers. So freakin' good!

And so much fun to eat in such a share-and-share-alike fashion.
To be fair, word has it Nyala is not the number one taste-sensation in Little Ethiopia, but it's incredibly comfortable, and truly reliable.

The damage for 2 teas, 1 soft drink and a platter for 3 entrees was about $35, before tip.


Ambiance - B-
Service - C
Food (Taste) - B
Food (Presentation) - B
Wine/Drinks - C-
Value - B
Overall Experience - B-

Final word - Partly because we're sentimental, and partly because it's damn tasty, this is a frequent haunt.

Monday, July 17, 2006

What Do They Eat In . . .Peru?

Any poor soul who knows me in-person or blog-wise is well aware of my recent jaunt to The Amazon. No, not the .com book store, the real deal - river, jungle, bliss. Although the majority of this locale is tucked into the grand and magnificent country of Brazil, I had the distinct pleasure of visiting the Peruvian side. I flew into Lima and then hopped a small flight to Iquitos - considered the gateway to the Amazon on the western side. I had so few expectations for this journey, which turned out to be life-changing in SO many ways, but I gotta say - the food? Fresh, naturally-organic, and just absolutely to-die for.

The main staples in Peru are seafood, chicken, potatoes and rice - the usual. But these folks certainly do interesting preparations - like the ceviche, often with a citrus and spice kick, which is outstanding. They have a special pepper in those parts called an Aji - hard to duplicate and describe, but smoky and tasty and really lovely. And the local fruits - I can't even begin to tell you have amazing they are. A lot of the locals drink cane sugar water straight for the source - so refreshing on a scorching and humid day.

I remember one fruit in particular - a banana by anyone's definition, but unlike any such fruit I've ever had before. The consistency was as-expected, but the flavor was more like a granny smith apple - an amazing hybrid, and I'm drooling just pondering this taste-punch.

Maybe it was the scenery influencing my taste buds, but I remember the fish, plantains, potatoes, and especially the fruit - everything tasted garden-fresh, and had a special zing. The Amazon is the womb of the Earth, so it only makes sense that the food she brings forth is on another level entirely.

I can't wait to return. And eat - like crazy.

I'm Not Seein' Grand. I'm Not Seein' Lux.

Grand Lux Cafe
121 N. La Cienega Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA
7.16.06 - Sunday, 1:15 PM
Myself + 1 guest (apocalypse Wow! drummer)

My boy PR (I call him Punk Rocker) needed a keen woman's eye on his latest shopping spree, and I was all a-flutter. He's an ex-internet boyfriend from way back, and he's also the inspiration for the male protagonist in le novel. A special boy. Anyhoo, I haven't been to the Beverly Center in *eons* (since I made the change to a writer's salary, ahem), so I was all-a-flutter. But when you shop like I do, you first need to get some fuel.

I had originally suggested we meet at The Wave - the horrific R&B lounge in the center of the main mall floor, but PR got confused (which I'm grateful for) and ended up at the Grand Lux. After flurries of cell phone calls and "where are you again?"s, we, at last, got to dine.

This place, our little GL, is over. The. Top. Way to big, way to gold, way too silly. I've been there before without any impressions other than, it's just too much. And at the top of the too list - too mediocre. The menu is gargantuan - they're just trying to tackle too much of failing across the board. I suspect this place is owned the Cheesecake Factory crew - same tacky decor, same massive-esque menu, same tasteless parade of fatty and flavorless food. But incredibly convenient, so what they heckerz.


Moi - Bloody Mary. So-so. Rather weak, not very spicy. Blah.
PR - Vodka lemonade. About the same.

I will say our bartender was cute as can be and sweet to boot. But, well, slow. I forgive her.

My entree:

Spicy Calamari Salad
- Iceberg lettuce, fried calamari chunks, spicy miso dressing
** The only truly redeeming feature of this dish - the squid didn't have the consistency of chewing gum. But flavor? They forgot that in the kitchen, apparently. It had a spice, I suppose, but of the oily, after-thought variety - just not good. Bor-ing.

Cheeseburger Melt
- Medium well patty with cheddar cheese on Parmesan cheese bread and served with french fries.
* Holy crap this was decadent. But not really in a good way - too much of a good thing. SO greasy. Fries were decent and warm and somewhat tasty. But if you're going to blow the diet, hell, just got to In 'n Out.

The damage for 4 drinks and 2 entrees was about $62, before tip. Did I mention it was also too expensive? Affirmative.


Ambiance - C
Service - C
Food (Taste) - C-
Food (Presentation) - D+
Wine/Drinks - C
Value - C-
Overall Experience - C-

Final word - Unless I'm bribed, I won't go back. Blech.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

National Ice Cream Day - Scream For It!

Oh heck YES - here's a holiday I can get all fired-up over. Today, July 16th, 2006, is National Ice Cream day. How will you celebrate?

President Reagan blessed our darling month o' July back in 1984, naming all 31 days (one for each flavor, nifty!) Ice Cream Month, but he gave a special honor to the third Sunday of July, and here we are again. I'll admit, I'm one of those annoying waist-watchers that gets a little gun-shy around the frozen creamy goods, but I'm throwing caution to the wind in celebration. I hope I can inspire a little of the same in you.

To incite salivation, I'm listing some of the new/exciting flavors I've spied across the dairy land lately - see if any of these whet your whistle:

First up, Ben and Jerry's American Pie ice cream - a brand new flavor from our trusted Vermont hipsters. This one packs apple and pie crust punch into - you guessed it - an appie pie cream base. I'd add some caramel into the mix, but that's just me. Sounds like this should be THE flavor of the whole month, what with our independence celebrations and all. Yum squared.

Speaking of caramel, the folks at Baskin Robbins have a newbie they're quite proud of too - it's called Triple Play, and it's loaded with popcorn, pretzels, and peanuts, all woven into a caramel ice cream base. Probably more appropriate for the youngsters amongst us - and those who like their ice cream to crunch.

And for us choco-holics, fear not Haagan Dazs to the rescue (yet again). They've got a sassy new flavor called Mayan Chocolate. It's' an uber-rich chocolate base with a cinnamon kick. Sounds interesting, and apparently is based on a Mayan recipe from waaayyyy back when - before National Ice Cream Day was but a twinkle in some wise-one's eye.

If none of these float your boat, hit up the e-quiz below and get inspired by the ice cream flavor that most represents you. Great ice-breaker, don't you think? Exciting, because my flavor is, actually, one of zee bestest.

You Are Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

Creative. Expressive. Unique.

All right, that does it - breakfast time or no, I'm in search of frozen cream.
ColdStone, anyone?

Friday, July 14, 2006

The New Chowhound - Bigger Better Faster More?

Yeah, we all new it was bound to happen. For years and more, devoted foodies across the nation devoured a little web site called Chowhound - nothing more than an old school BBS system, full of meager text links and lackluster search capabilities. But man, were we devoted. Scores of food-fans made Chowhoud their virtual mecca for all eat-it-up news, reviews, and most prominent - Where Can I Find questions. Some of us checked and triple-checked the boards many times a day, offering advice, opinions, and our own barrage of Help Me Find's. Chowhound became an identity - "I'm a Chow!" And yet, the site stayed the same. Graphic-less, frustrating, and beautiful.

Humans - especially hungry ones - don't respond well to change. When most of us heard the rumblings that our beloved boards were being merged with the big dogs at CNet, we didn't throw a party. I had high hopes, however - the dream that I could one day have access to, say, all the Foie Gras favs in the city, just by performing a *gasp* search on the site gave me (pardon the pun) goose bumps. But would a revamp take away our happy little family? Would massive changes mean I could no longer attend an LA party and, at some point in the evening, delight to the sound of - "Wait, you're PoetKitty from CHOWHOUND!?!?! I love your reviews!" I wanted it all, people - I won't lie.

The Day of Change has come and gone. There were, of course, hiccups from the get-go -- folks couldn't get their long-time monikers. Somehow they were snatched up, or errors abounded. Some of us received early registration offers - supposedly the diehards. I received no such invite, but it turns out that was a blessing. Those that tried the early bird entry didn't get the reward of a worm, unless that equates to errors and mayhem. Dommy! had to lose her trademark exclamation point. Others had to swap identities all together. This was pandemonium. But yet, we toiled on.

I might get hosed for saying this, but I like the new Chowhound. The reds and beiges are prettier than the grayscale of yesteryear. It's much easier to post - no confirm! Deny! step, no non-intuitive navigation. And - lo and behold - I can hit the Search bottom, type in Foie Gras - and WAHLAH - all related postings magically appear. I could do without the mass of CNet related links at the bottom, but they're easy to ignore. I don't read any of the features - I'm still very LA-centric, and very much devoted. Of course, my nickname was still available. Rest-assured this would be an all out war if someone had stolen the PK label before I descended.

As it stands, I'm still hungry, and I'm still relying on the Chows to steer me right.

Ciao, 'Hounds.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Best 7 Course Dessert Experience. Ever.

5955 Melrose Ave.
Los Angeles, CA
Cross street - Wilcox
Myself + 2 Guests (The Very Best Friend + Her Other Half)

The first time I had dessert at Providence, I knew how the restaurant got its name. As an amateur dessert master myself (well, cookie-master is more like it), I'm critical of the sweets in this city. And for good reason. It's a chicken or the egg conundrum - do restaurants not have worthy pastry chefs (and in most cases, none at all) because people in LA don't want to eat dessert, or do people in LA not want to eat dessert because, as a rule, it sucks? We have scores of chefs experimenting with flavors and ingredients, fusing methodologies and giving us lollipops and test tubes - with accolades and question marks, admittedly, but the opportunity is there. It hasn't seem that way for pastry chefs. It's creme brulee, tiramisu, and chocolate cake or nothing. And yet, there's hope.

Adrian R. Vasquez is a rare breed in Hollywood - not only is he exclusively a pastry chef, but he's also a risk-taker. He'll put unusual ingredients like herbs, corn, and jalapenos in his creations, and at times, you can't even identify the flavors. But in just a few short minutes, he can change your mind about what desserts should be.

Providence, in a show of faith for their shining sugar-star, is displaying Adrian's talents in a full-on dessert tasting menu. I recently had the supreme honor of devouring every last spoonful. Coupled with the incredible wine-pairings from the sommelier, Drew (arguably the absolute best in the city, because he knows his stuff AND he treats all his guests without condescension - I've never ever said that about his profession before), this experience left the three of us wondering why we'd ever passed on dessert before. Let me tell you - at least where Adrian is involved - that won't happen again.

Here are my meager descriptions - just trust me when I say these don't do the equally gorgeous and flavorful dishes justice, but let it whet your appetite.


Coconut, Carrot, and Passion
* The Amuse Bouche of the dessert world, this tiny but incredibly powerful beginning is served on a gorgeous white porcelain spoon. A ribbon of carrot is accented on one side by a coconut emulsion, and on the other by a dollop of punchy passionfruit. This the proverbial wake-up call for your tastebuds. Such a perfect summertime accent.


Yogurt Cucumber Mint Sorbet and Cantaloupe Soup
* In trying to describe this to my mother, she immediately gasped and declared "A soup? With cantaloupe? I don't know about that." And that's the thing with Adrian's desserts - you read the ingredients on an elegant menu and it's hard to know what to expect. Since most of us have never had such flavor combinations, there's no experience with which to judge. But come on now, the foodies of the world branch out for the savory goods all the time - it's time caution take a nose-dive for desserts as well. And this course is the perfect starting point. Small and elegant, the refreshing sorbet has just a hint of mint, which manages to highlight the cool and vibrant flavor of the cantaloupe. It's absolutely amazing.


Warm Blackberries, Polenta Streusal, Corn Ice Cream
* Let's think about corn for a moment. The best ears are sweet and lightly yellow, and need very little condiments to kick them up. We drench the kernels in salads with fruity vinaigrette, so why not highlight them in a fruity dessert? I think, of all the courses, this was my favorite. Massive, juicy blackberries resting on a divine but not too-sweet-streusal, capped with a spoonful of Adrian's most gifted offerings - ice cream. In this case, velvety smooth ice cream with the loveliest sweet corn zing.
Drew paired this with a true dessert wine - a 2003 Domaine Jo Pithon Coteaux du Layon - with a gorgeously sweet apple note, this combo was almost coma-inducing.

(Adrian deviated from his tasting menu and treated us to one of his ala carte offerings here)
Harry's Strawberries, Lemon Curd, Ras el Hanout Ice Cream, and Pistachios
* You've had strawberries and lemon before, in many combinations. This is an undeniably lovely match. Adrian sends this into another statosphere with what I believe is his signature ice cream - Ras el Hanout. This is a melange of Moroccan spices, and it leaks out a complex, other-worldly punch of flavor that draws together the strawberries and citrus in a magnificent union. Add the delightful crunch of the pistachios, and you have the package deal.

(Another tiny off-the-menu treat from Adrian, this won Best Of raves from one of my guests)
* Forgive me, I don't know the official name of this gem, but out came a tiny glass mug with a strawberries and cream-like soda concoction, scattered with what were called "Tonka beans", and what tasted to me like tiny malted chocolate balls. This simple yet highly original palette tickler made me realize part of his genius - textures don't play second stage in anything he serves. All the dishes had soft and creamy, refreshing, velvety, and crunchy elements, among others. I think that's why everything feels so adventurous, in addition to their presented beauty.

Apricot and Fennel Ice Cream
* If you've never had fennel with fruit before, you're missing a magnificent marriage. The herb pushes out the fruity flavor all the more, and almost fools your palette into thinking it's more tropical and complex. Drew served us a 2004 Terre Rouge Muscat, which, as he described, was blended with a bit of Grappa, and therefore still had a layer of acidity. I loathe the syrupy aspects of a typical dessert wine - this creation did not offend. Potent yet airy, sweet yet acidic - perfection.

Raspberries, Chocolate Cremeux, and Raspberry Beer
* This one breaks all the rules. Sure, it's got the normal raspberry/chocolate combo, but this is not what you had last night at the Cheesecake Factory. Woah god. The bottom layer is a gelatin-esque raspberry disc, highlighted with the flavor of the fruity beer. On top of that, Adrian layers a smattering of - get ready - micro-greens and flower petals. Yes, there's a salad in the dessert. On top of that goes an exquisite chocolate ice cream and, of course, raspberries. I don't know how, I don't know why, but this WORKS. Again, he offers up a ton of flavor and texture - every bite is a mystery. Drew gave us a surprise too - an Italian red bubbly called, I believe, Bella Rosa. We loved it so much my friends purchased a bottle (he has a retail license too, bless his heart - can this place be any more perfect?)

Is it a sign of a bad critic to not criticize? Fine then, at this point, I would have said - gee, why not have more chocolate? Most of us dessert-ie types are addicted. And then came the check. With the finally dessert offering - a tray of three bite-sized goodies.

1) Lycee gelee - melt-in-your mouth sweet
2) Black Olive Caramel - oh hell YES! And why not? Olives are salty, and so should a be good caramel be. LOVE THIS!
3) Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup - I think you know by now Adrian's version is decadent, amazing, and kicks Reese's ass. This was the chocolate overload I needed.

Yeah, we can die now.

Seriously gang - do yourself a favor and hit up Providence for this rare and delicious tasting menu. If you have to skip dinner, so be it. Lord knows you've skipped dessert enough times - let's repay the favor and show the sugars of the world we care.

The tasting menu is $30 - $50 with the wine pairing. An incredible bargain, if you do the math. Even more so when you see and taste.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Dissident Chef Comes to LaLaLand

What on god's green earth is a Dissident Chef? I'm not entirely sure at this point, but I do know one thing - homeboy can *cook*. See for yourself.

I first met this man of mystery via an online personals site. Shut-up, you know you're using them too. This was around Christmas time last year, and I wasn't even aware of his culinary interests when at first he popped onto my screen. Nothing materialized for us romantically, but I'm a very smart girl - I know greatness when it lands in my inbox. And once I tasted his cooking, I was once again reminded that my instincts are uncanny.
But I digress.

He's an LA born lad, this incognito gourmet, and in my humble opinion, he's still way more LA than San Francisco Bay. He made the jump up north years ago after a failed restaurant venture here in Hollywood - on La Cienega, no less - but his time spent here was hardly a waste. This is home, in all fairness, and he worked in various famed kitchens before running his own. He was and still-is a critic's darling (S. Irene raved - yes, RAVED!), but as we all know, this business is a bitch. The mission up north has been the fulfillment of a dream for him - to open a high-end, gourmet-without-pretentiousness hot-spot that highlights locale produce, farmers, and ingredients in imaginative and refined avenues. During my one-time visit to his San Fran loft, I got to sample the goods - a tasting menu he whipped up on a whim for myself and a couple of friends, and it was one of those - "Ohmagod I'm gonna cry it's THAT GOOD" experiences. Sure, it was heightened by the fact that I was in the man's home, experiencing this elevated, rare little treat, but I'd repeat the offering in a less-homey environment in a heartbeat.

Ah, but why wait for a grand restaurant gala opening? If you're curious about this mysteriously infamous chef, you're in luck - he's cooking in a kitchen near you. In part to raise additional funds for his upcoming restaurant venture, and in part to just get back to what he loves the most (he hadn't cooked for an audience in many moons, and trust me, the beast was starting to surface) - he created the Dissident Chef dinners, hosted by local friends and family, but open to anyone daring enough to reserve a seat. Visit the web site for the gory details, but trust me when I tell you this is an extra-special treat. How often do you get to sample dishes from a true food master without the pomp and circumstance of a pretentious LA eatery? You won't even have to be seated by the bathroom.

He'll be in town on August 8th through the 12th, with dinners nightly. Go deep. Go underground. And go get some killer grub.

Monday, July 10, 2006

The Cobblestone Cove

The Alcove
1929 Hillhurst Ave.
Los Feliz, CA
Cross street: Franklin (just north of, on the east side of the street)
7.9.06 - Sunday, 5 PM
Myself + 1 guest (BFF)


ambiance - B
Service - C
Food (Taste) - B-
Food (Presentation) - B-
Wine/Drinks - C+
Value - B-
Overall Experience - B-

This was a return visit to The Alcove - the first time, I had brunch, and this time, it was all about dindin. The location is cozy - lots of brick and stone accents, and a very warm and friendly vibe. The service is counter-only, but for this style of eatin', these guys do it up right. The staff is lovely and helpful, and the food is a sight.

It's a cafe that fits in with the Los Feliz vibe like white on rice - dotted with outdoor tables and mist machines, and always scattered with hungry hipsters, sipping lattes and planning scripts. But it lacks the pretentiousness of similar Hollywood haunts - this place truly is all-charm.

Food-wise, Alcove has a solid menu - lots of organic goodies, salads to die for, and decent sandwiches. The burgers look so-so, the brunch is above average, and the coffee is yummy. Did I mention desserts? They're part bakery, after-all, so there are heaps of selections. I sampled the cookies last time - gotta say the textures were spot-on, but the flavor - eh. Just average. The cakes look pretty fantastic, however - will need to try those in short order.

Here's the lowdown on food stuffs --


I had a nonfat iced soy latte - absolutely perfect.
Best friend in zee world had a green-tea based iced concoction - awesome!

My entree:

Summer Shrimp Salad
- Features greens, tri-color peppers, shrimp, strawberries, almonds, and a killer raspberry vinaigrette.
** Definitely a fabulous and refreshing sumsum dish - and an absolutely gorgeous one at that (see picture above). Flavors were well matched and quite delish.

Roast Beef Panini
- Featured medium-rare roast beef, caramelized onions, sourdough, tomatoes, and served with a side o' fries
* Tasty little devil, this one - the sannie, while not piled-high, did feature very high quality beef, and the onions were tres-tastic. But the fries? Yeah, they're decent, yet way too chilly. We like 'em hot + fresh - these did not qualify.

The damage for a latte, iced tea, salad, and sandwich - about $25, before tip.

Final word - A really lovely outdoor food-haven. Not top-notch, but a great little hang all the same.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

5 Course Bliss on the Sunset Strip

8570 Sunset Blvd.
West Hollywood, CA
7.7.06 - Thursday, 7:30 P.M.
Myself + 1 guest (Val)


Ambiance - B
Service - B+
Food (Taste) - A
Food (Presentation) - B+
Wine/Drinks - B+
Value - B-
Overall Experience -B+

About 2 weeks ago, a beloved foodie on the Chowhound LA boards named JBC kindly asked me if I would review one of his favorites - Norman's. Never one to refuse a food challenge, I grabbed my darling friend Val, starved myself the majority of the week, and prepared for what I hoped would be a very memorable meal. The place has got some accolades.

As it turns out, Friday nights are special events at Norman's - they feature a Pig and Paella night, where a porky critter is roasted on their patio and served up with a seafood paella. From the moment my nose wafted into the front door, I was in heaven - woah god, the scents. That was one sweet-smelling pig.

Val was waiting at the bar to the right of the entrance - a large, expansive area dimly glowing in oranges and browns, and empty, save my companion and his glowing martini. We were then ushered to our table, on the other side of the restaurant - nestled against a gigantic window that looked out onto the strip. And so the journey began.

Environmentally speaking, Norman's is certainly elegant, but not perfectly designed. Val's observations were spot-on - while the windows were dramatic and lovely, the liveliness transpiring on the Strip ala Friday eve was tres distracting. If we were a married couple bored to tears with each other, this would have been a godsend. But as two not-sick-of-each-other-yet close friends with a ton to discuss, we didn't need a show to escape to.
And speaking of shows, just beyond our area in the sunken-in dining section, additional gigantic windows looked into the kitchen - one could get lost in watching the well-rehearsed movement of white coats and white plates, all maneuvering gorgeous looking, colorful dishes. So much movement. I was getting hungry.

We were relatively well taken care of by a few members of the wait staff, though I did have to do some flagging to order the wine. I have to say, however, from the hostess to the servers, everyone was incredibly personable and friendly here. I felt right at home - if home were an ultra-fancy locale with a tasting menu. Why can't I live at Norman's? Curses.

I pondered a marriage proposal to the menu, I'll be honest. There's a ton of daring, creative, and mouth-watering combinations, with all kinds of meats and seafoods represented. And the pig was beckoning. Damn it, what's a girl to do?

Order the tasting menu. Duh.
And so I went for it, and Val was feeling piggy. Which means I got to sample heaps of amazing dishes.
Here's the scoop --


For cocktails, Val had a straight-up martini -- standard, strong. I went dirty, but not dirty enough - a solid gin martini, but I needed more olive goodness.

With dinner, we had a bottle from one of my top 3 wine regions - the Loire Valley. I opted for a modest Michael Redde Sancerre - kind of an old standby for me. Very smooth and lovely.


Ohhhh, these are marvelous selections, and man did I eat a lot of them. We were served both small french toasted rolls and flatbread with an awesome, if not somewhat greasy, spice rub. Butter was included, along with an elegant smattering of red sea salt and olive oil. It's the little things that wow me, and this succeeded.

Course #1:

Creamy Cracked Conch Chowder Saffron, Toasted Coconut, Oranges and a “Cloud”
** Featured in the picture above, this was an absolute treasure. A very small portion, but rich enough to warrant such things. The citrus was subtle, and conch absolutely divine. A whole myriad of textures and flavors, but perfectly balanced.

Shrimp Ceviche
* This was *amazing* - complete with table side presentation, and served with a pineapple roja salsa.

Course #2:

Down Island French Toast, Curaçao Scented Foie Gras, Passion Fruit Caramel, Gingery Candied Lime Zest
** There really are no words. An absolutely daring, not-too-sweet, texture-perfect dish.

Course #3:

Amuse Bouche

We were served a tiny portion of peach and fennel soup, chilled. A fantastic pallet refresher - it's also interesting to note that that fennel fooled me into thinking it was mango, not peach - fascinating how flavors play upon each other.

Course #4:

Roasted Pork Havana, “21st Century Mole”, Golden Haitian Grits, Sweet Corn-Black Bean Salsa, Sherry Wine Reduction
**Wow, this was quite the complex creation. The pork was a bit cold, unfortunately, and I was crazy about the dryness of the Haitian grits, but the update mole and reduction - some of the most difficult flavors in the world to master - were beyond stellar. I definitely enjoyed the artisty of this dish, just not all of the textures.

Roasted Pork and Seafood Paella
** This was served with a sweet potato + plantain mixture - a very large portion, and goddamn was it good. The pork literally melted on tongue-contact -- I highly recommend this LA lua.

Course #5:

Dessert - shared (a part of my tasting menu)

A “New World” Banana Split, Rhum Flamed Bananas and, Macadamia Nut Brittle
** A damn-near perfect dessert, this was also prepared in dramatic fashion table-side (the flames! the flames!) The brown sugar caramel sauce may be my favorite dessert drizzle ever. Loved. This. Dish.

Course #6:


We were given five tiny dessert morsels as a last hoorah - they were decent, but not mind-blowing. Not after that New World banana split; it's a tough act to follow.

The damage for 1 cocktail, 1 bottle of wine, the tasting menu and pig + paella meal was $230, including tax and tip. I didn't bat an eyelash. This was quality.

Final word - For pig's sake, people, go on Friday night and let loose. This is a very special spot.