Trés – Lunch Fantastique

Restaurant: Trés [1, 2]

Location: 465 S La Cienega Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90048. 310.246.5555

Date: October 31, 2011

Cuisine: Modern Spanish

Rating: Fantastique

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My brother and I were in midtown and decided to check out Trésfor lunch. I’d already hit it for weekend brunch a couple months ago, and figuring as I’ve recently hit everything else Jose Andres (é by José Andrés and Jaleo in Vegas and a recent Saam meal), stopped in.


The room was dead at 11:45am, but the food wasn’t.


The lunch menu.


“Octopus tacos. Hydroponic bib lettuce, maggie’s farm baby greens, smoked heirloom cherry tomatoes.” Very nice octopus treatment. Succulent grilled meat and a zesty limey vinaigrette on the whole thing.


“Hawaiian bigeye tuna ceviche. Coconut ginger soy, plantain chips.” Not your typical cerviche as the lime flavors weren’t that blast you Peruvian type. But that meant you could taste the fish, and it was good. The plantain chips were tasty too.


I’m nuts over Jose’s Gazpacho. I’ve even made it from his recipe a number of times at home.


And with the soup itself. Yum yum!


“Herb roasted ham and cheese. Tomme de savoie cheese, carmelized onions, herbs.” This was like a Spanish Croque Monsieur. I love this kind of grilled ham and cheese.


Some good fries too with a spicy ketchup.


“The SLS Burger. House made brioche bun, lettuce, tomatoes, onions with cheddar.”


“Lemon tart. Raspberry sorbet.” Not your typical version, but really good. Bright bright flavors and some pate de fruits thrown in there too.


“Hazelnut pear clafoutis. Coffee ice cream.” Like a bread pudding. The ice cream was really good too.

And this crazy zesty lemonade, which served nicely as an aperitif.

Overall, this was a very tasty lunch. It was a little expensive — as you’d expect from a hotel restaurant — but it was very good, which I’ve come to expect from the SLS offerings.

A review of Trés for brunch can be found here.

Click here to see more LA dining, or reviews of The Bazaar and Saam (also at the SLS).

Jer-ne to the center of the Marina

Restaurant: Jer-ne

Location: Ritz-Carlton. 4375 Admiralty Way. Marina del Rey, California 90292 USA. (310) 823-1700

Date: October 29, 2011

Cuisine: Californian

Rating: Solid

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When the Ritz-Carlton Marina Del Rey renovated and opened its new restaurant in the early 2000s the naming committee was obviously inspired by Steve Martin‘s classic LA Story (and its 80s restaurant, lee-dee-oh — spelled l’idiot). In any case, the original Jer-ne actually served up top notch California Asian Fusion when it opened. Like most hotel restaurants, there has been chef turnover — who knows how many times in the last decade. I hadn’t been in a few years (except for the pretty amazing Sunday brunch) and when an old friend from High School Facebook IMed me that he was in town, we headed on over.


The menu is mean and lean, all streamlined modern Californian.


From my cellar. Parker 96 points. “The 2008 Flor de Pingus offers up an enticing nose of smoke, Asian spices, incense, espresso, black cherry, and blackberry. On the palate it displays outstanding volume, intensity, and balance. Rich, dense, and succulent, it has enough structure to evolve for 4-5 years and will offer prime drinking from 2015 to 2028.”


The Ritz always had good cheesy cracker things.


caesar. organic romaine, santa barbara olives, tomatoes, crouton.”


oyster. pacific oysters, crispy potato, spanish ham, sambuca hollandaise.” The sauces were really good, but the oysters had that bitter note that fried oysters often have. Every time I have them I’m reminded that I like my oysters raw.


halibut. sautéed leek, double smoked bacon, corn, potato, clam chowder sauce.”


salmon. green bean, glazed carrots, potato puree, parsley butter.”


lamb. sirloin, heirloom tomato, organic ratatouille, tomato mustard chutney.” Some very tasty and relatively lean lamb. The sauce was one of those meaty jus reductions that I love.


The dessert menu.


greek yogurt panna cotta. slow roasted market stonefruit, corn praline, thymje.”


spiced peanut butter mousse. crunchy peanut butter chocolate, candied ginger ice cream, spicy caramelized honey.” This was a nice dessert. A good interplay between the fluffy peanut butter, crunch, and the ginger ice cream.

Overall the food at this new Jer-ne was good. It didn’t blow me away or anything, and it’s very different than it used to be 8 or so years ago (full of Japanese influenced dishes), but it was a very solid take on conservative but well executed the New American. Even the desserts show plating influences that are very contemporary — what I think of as geometric and dust — the use of cubes, spheres, and ovals in a sort of post war art kind of arrangement, often dusted with granular flavor components. Red Medicine’s desserts are typical examples, but I suspect it’s really a Ferran Adrià thing.

For more LA dining reviews click here.

Fraiche Santa Monica part deux

Restaurant: Fraiche Santa Monica [1, 2]

Location: 312 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90401. Phone : 310.451.7482

Date: October 21, 2011

Cuisine: Cal French Italian

Rating: Not a bad facelift.

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Fraiche and Fraiche Santa Monica have gone through a number of ownership and chef changes in the last year. It’s been a couple of months so we decided to try it again.


The is a new menu, about 80% different. Bigger, with more entrees.


“Hierloom tomato salad, burrata, pesto, crispy shallots.”


Beef tartare. Hand cut NY strip. Bacon sabayon, lemon.” I’ve grown increasingly fond of steak tartare and this was a tasty one. The arugala and parmesan complemented nicely.


“Pizza Margarita.”

“Pancetta risotto. Black kale. Faum um bert.” A nice rissoto with a cheesy richness bolstered by the rich chunks of ham.


And a trio of creme brulee for dessert. Chocolate, vanilla, and caramel. Nothing not to like here.

While hardly a comprehensive survey of the new menu I enjoyed what we had here. I’ll check in sooner to try it again.

For more LA dining reviews click here.

Loving Lukshon

Restaurant: Lukshon

Location: 3239 Helms Ave, Culver City, CA 90034. 310.202.6808

Date: October 20, 2011

Cuisine: New Asian

Rating: Pretty damn tasty

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A couple of years ago my office was in Culver City, and the restaurant revolution there was already well under way. But the trend continues apace with Lukshon, a sort of re-imagined southern Asian (vaguely Chinese — sort of) joint opened by the same owners as adjacent Father’s Office. I’ve been itching to try it for better on six months and we finally got the Foodie Club together for an impromptu meeting.


The modern interior space. There is also a generous and attractive patio.


The menu. We ordered about two thirds of it, for eight people, all family style.


“atlantic fluke  pickled watermelon, black sesame, cucumber, kinh gioi.” Light flavored, but tasty. The black sesame lent it a pleasant gritty texture.


Lukshon does not allow corkage. I didn’t know that and Foodie Club co-president EP and I hauled four bottles to the table. I was skeptical at first of the small wine list too, as it’s devoid of big name offerings. But with some help from the Sommelier we put together what turned out to be a very enjoyable trio.


We had the 2010, but the 2009 got 92 from parker, “Ollivier’s 2009 Muscadet de Sevre et Maine Sur Lie Clos des Briords is as perfumed and lusciously-fruited a wine of its genre as you are likely to encounter, though that by no means precludes depth of mineral character. Scents of pear, clover, Persian melon, and fennel inform the nose and migrate to a buoyant yet expansive, mouthwateringly juicy palate tinged with a shimmering crystalline sense of minerality characteristic for this cuvee. This sensational value finishes with an uncanny combination of soothing refreshment and vibrancy. It is apt to be even more ravishing in another year or so and be worth following for at least 3-4.”


“shrimp toast  rock shrimp, cilantro, chiles, tiny croutons.” These are little fried balls with a sweet and spicy sauce. They tasted pretty fried, with an understated flavor.


“baby monterey squid!! chiang mai pork sausage, candlenut, mint, rau ram.” Really tasty. The fried tentacles in the center were pretty straight up calimari. The bodies were stuffed with the yummy sausage.


“duck popiah.  cilantro stems, pickled jicama, hoisin chile sauce.” With the texture of a Saigon Roll, these duck rolls were packed with meaty flavor inside. Plus, being a sauce guy, I love hoison. One of my favorite dishes.


“spicy chicken pops!! shelton farms’ drumettes, garlic, kecap manis, spicy sichuan salt.” Nice little “wings” with a lot of flavor and a bit of heat. A kind of BBQ sweet heat.


This was a very interesting wine. Old fashioned — like 2,000 years old fashioned. Evidently, it’s kept in amphorae, large greek/roman style terra-cotta vessels. While a white, it was so unfiltered as to be almost cloudy. But damn good.


“kurobuta pork ribs.  spicy chicory coffee bbq sauce.” The meat just fell of the bones. A bit of char. Seriously good ribs, what cheap Chinese restaurant ribs aspire to be.


“rib eye steak yam neua. gem lettuce, radish, carrot, tomato, herbs, spicy lime vinaigrette.” This was fine, but just kinda beefy.


“foie gras ganache!! carob, ceylon cinnamon, tamarind gastrique, almond, puffed rice.” These were more a dessert than a savory. The creamy foie texture and richness leant them the character of some kind of ultra rich mousse.


“lamb belly roti. canai  chana dal, cumin, mint, raita, pickled cauliflower.” Another of my favorite dishes. A kind of vaguely middle eastern, vaguely Asian pizza. The little sour marinated crunchy cauliflower was good too.


“garlic pork belly  do ban jian, rice cakes, cabbage, garlic chives.” Probably my favorite dish. This had some good heat and that rich fermented bean paste flavor. The meat was rich, but not too fatty, and under the sauce you could only tell it from the rice cakes by texture. They added a chewiness to complement the some pork.


“short rib rendang!! malay spices, red chile lemongrass rempah, coconut cream.” More meat. I liked the sauce better on this one.


Parker gives this very solid Riesling 90 points. “Pepper-laced pears and apples are found in the nose of the zesty, vivacious 2002 Riesling Eiswein Oberemmeler Hutte. This molasses, brown sugar and white fruit-flavored offering sports eye-popping acidity, loads of depth, and a long, sweet finish. Anticipated maturity: 2007-2025.”

“heirloom black rice  lap cheong, onion, roasted garlic, lilly’s farm fried egg.”


Mixed up. This was pleasant, rich, sweet, and ricey.


“gai lan aged ham, shaoxing wine, garlic.” Nice stir fried greens. But I wanted more ham flavor.


“chiang mai curry noodles  chile, tumeric, lemongrass, chicken, prawn, yu choy, rice noodles.” A curry with noodles. Nothing wrong with that, as I love curry.


“dandan noodles!! kurobuta pork, sesame, preserved mustard greens, sichuan peppercorns, peanuts.” I really liked this too. Noodles with a pretty spicy Chinese pork ragu. I had a better version in western China, but this was pretty damn good. Decently hot, but not nearly real Szechuan hot. I guess the sauce isn’t so different than Pocked Marked Old Ladies Tofu (yes, that is a real dish).


Dessert is “free” (as Matt Groning said, “at no additional perceivable cost”). They bring out one per person, but three types. I would’ve liked to try each, but I had the leftmost, which was a delicious form of deconstructed pina colada. Some kind of pana cotta with coconut and pineapple. The middle was chocolate, the rightmost more fruity.

For more LA dining reviews click here.

For other Foodie Club meals (all crazy great) see here.

Takao Top Omakase

Restaurant: Takao [123, 4, 5]

Location: 11656 San Vicente Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90049. (310) 207-8636

Date: October 16, 2011

Cuisine: Japanese / Sushi

Rating: 9/10 creative “new style” sushi

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I’ve already covered Takao in some detail HERE and then separately herehere and here. The full menu and some information on the history of the place can be found through the first link. This particular meal covers a full $120 Omakase, which actually is a very good value compared to ordering ala carte.


We started off with a lovely “shaved rice” style cold sake. I’ve become increasingly fond of this old-school premium form of sake.


Ankimo (Monk Fish Liver) with ponzu, scallions, and slightly spiced daikkon radish. An excellent example of this classic dish.


White fish with a bit of micro greens, citrus zest, and red peppercorns. A very light and delicious “sashimi salad.”


Toro tartar with caviar. A takao (and Nobu) classic.


Baracuda with ginger, scallions, in a light ponzu. This is not normally my favorite fish, but this preparation was very nice, with a light hint of char on the partially cooked fish.


Grilled Alaskan king crab legs. A sprig of pickled ginger. Very fresh and not frozen tasting, but the sweet vinegar sauce (in the back) totally made the dish.


A classic Japanese style unami flavor. A autumn broth of three kinds of mushrooms and some kind of light fish. The two sauces were a sour plum sauce (I think traditional with this fish) and a really tasty vinegary ponzu.


Sweet Santa Barabara prawn and asparagus tempura. The batter had little crispy riceballs in it which gave the whole thing a different texture. Plus there was both curry salt and sea salt and the traditional tempura sauce for dipping.


Salmon slices, marinated in a miso broth, served sizzling hot in this cast iron pan. You could cook as little or much as you liked. The sweet miso sauce was very tasty too.


A sushi flight. Starting at the left: red snapper, gizzard shad, blue fin tuna, toro, and in front, Santa Barbara uni (sea urchin).


Clam miso. Like regular miso, but with an extra hint of brine.


And for dessert, green tea creme brule with strawberries. It’s very green, with a fairly intense creamy tea flavor.

This was probably my best official omakase at Takao yet (and it’s always good). A very nice meal.

Check out other Takao reviews:  [1234, 5]

For more LA area sushi, see here.

Breakfast = Carbs + Salt

The best part about the 26 hour fast of Yom Kippur is breaking it!

Best to start with some wine on a really empty stomach.

Parker 91. “Bottled the week before I visited, his 2005 Morey-St.-Denis en la Rue de Vergy displays aromas of fresh, ripe plum, black cherry, bitter herbs and toasted nuts. Ripe plum and black cherry along with deep rich meatiness mingle in the mouth with notes of mineral salt and iodine and sweet nut oil nuances. Creamy in texture and boasting remarkably fine tannins for a village wine and no hint of its 50% new wood, this finishes with a flattering persistence of crisp, subtly-bitter fresh fruit skin and fascinating mineral suggestions. It should drink fabulously over at least a 5-7 year period.”


Traditional, of course, is deli (i.e. bagels and lox etc.). We get ours from Brent’s Deli, which is my favorite for dairy and fish.


The bagels.


Rye bread of course.


A variety of cream cheeses, old school, new whipped, veggie, and my personal favorite, honey almond (I like the whole sweet and salty thing).


The all important “monster cheese” (what my three year-old calls it).


Various bagel toppings: lettuce, tomato, onion, cucumber.


Brent’s lox is so thick 18 of us toasted 3-4 pounds of it.


Chopped marinated herring. An acquired taste, but I spent too much time in the mid east not to.


Tuna salad (this is homemade by my sister-in-law Wendy).


My personal favorite, whitefish salad. Oh so good.


Salted cod, another classic.


Brent’s slightly sweet cucumber salad (like that) and cole slaw.


And old school pickles.


And fruit.

Plus a bit of homemade chinese chicken-less salad.


Parker 90. “The 2009 Rosso di Montalcino is totally beautiful and elegant in its expressive bouquet, silky fruit and understated, harmonious personality. This is a wonderful, impeccable Rosso from Le Potazzine. Anticipated maturity: 2011-2017.”


And my plate of gluttony. Four bagel halves. I even had another afterward.


The dessert spread is even more deadly.


Parker 99! “A monumental effort, the 2001 Rieussec boasts a light to medium gold color in addition to a fabulous perfume of honeysuckle, smoky oak, caramelized tropical fruits, creme brulee, and Grand Marnier. The wine is massive and full-bodied yet neither over the top nor heavy because of good acidity. With intense botrytis as well as a 70-75-second finish, this amazing Sauternes will be its apogee between 2010-2035.”

It was that good too!


Most of the desserts come from Viktor Benes, an old school Czech bakery with really good Eastern European baked goods. This is a chocolate fudge cake. My in-laws are chocoholics.


Apple pie. Halfway between American style and strudel.


Same with the cherry.


And an assortment of decadent baked goodies. Cookies, macaroons, apple fritters, rugelach, almond strudel-like things etc.

Afterward I stumbled upstairs in a pleasant salt and carb coma. I still felt bloated the next morning too.

Saam – José Andrés Squared

Restaurant: Saam [1, 2]

Location: 465 S La Cienega Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90048. 310.246.5555

Date: October 1, 2011

Cuisine: Spanish influenced Molecular Gastronomy

Rating: Awesome, even better than The Bazaar.

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I’m a bit of a Jose Andres groupie as not only have I been many times to the The Bazaar (REVIEW HERE), but also to brunch at Trés, and just last week to é by José Andrés and Jaleo in Vegas.

For those who don’t know, José Andrés is perhaps America’s leading practitioner of  my favorite culinary style: Spanish Molecular Gastronomy. This school of cooking, a radical interpretation of the preparation of food, was begun at El Bulli outside of Barcellona. Andrés cooked and studied there with master chef Ferran Adrià. I first encountered Andrés’s cooking in Washington DC at Cafe Atlantico, and it’s own restaurant within a restaurant, Minibar.

I’ve eaten molecular a number of times in Spain, for example at Calima and La Terraza. The Bazaar and Saam brought molecular style to LA.

Saam is the “secret” prix fixe only room within the Bazaar, open Thurs-Sat.


This is the normal menu for the night. If you let them know they do however adapt very adeptly to dietary restrictions.


Tonight begins with a “Kaviar Kir Royale” which is a deconstructed cocktail consisting of cava.


And miniature “kaviar” (spheres of kir).


You can see them more clearly here, looking every bit like fish eggs. Basically it’s mostly cava, but at your whim you can bit into the little balls of flavor for bits of kir flavor blast.


Then “Lotus Root Chips” with anise powder, making them taste like licorice Pringles.


Then “Tuna Handroll 2009″ which are crispy cones stuffed with very fresh tuna, a bit of wasabi, and a caviar ring in the middle. Nice mix of textures and flavors.


It came time to decide on the beverages. Above is the pairing menu ($100 a person). We didn’t opt for this but I’m sure it’s good. Being as we are talking beverages I’ll mention briefly the water trap. We were five people, and this is a long meal. We ordered bottled water. As usual with nice restaurants they just served it. And served it. Fine, but it added up to $180 of water! This was the only thing on the bill that offended me — but it was mighty offensive. $30-40 would have been sufficient tariff, but $36 a person for water?


We did order cocktails individually, which were both yummy and reasonable enough for such things. “Passion Fruit Up! Orange rum, passion fruit and ginger-laurel syrup, topped with passion fruit foam.” Yum!


“Oyster and Jamon.” A little spoonful of oyster with some ham powder and a crispy crouton. It tasted exactly like it sounds. Like intense oyster and a good dollop of HAM!


“Black Olives Ferran Adria.” Instructions on how to make these can be found here. The pureed juice of the olives is coated in a thin gel. They are colored black with squid ink. There is one green olive that is vegetarian. In general, the olives bursts easily in the mouth, exploding intense oliveness.


A signature “Nitro Caprina” which is the classic brazilian drink, frozen with liquid nitrogen. It tastes like a sherbet, with a highly unusual smooth texture, but it’s intensely potent (in terms of proof). Goes down all too easy.


“Jicama wrapped Guacamole.” Micro cilantro, corn chips. The vegetarian substitution for the ham.


Watermelon and tomato with a bit of a kick (some chili or another).


A traditional mojito. Even way back in the Cafe Atlantico days Andrés always served a great mojito.


“Jose’s Combination.” Jamón Ibérico de Bellota with a blob of real caviar. This ham is regarded as the best in Spain, and among the best in the world. They are fed on acorns. Salt on salt here. A very savory combination.


Deconstructed “patatas bravas.” In spain this is a common dish basically being roasted chopped potatoes with a cayenne mayo. This preserves the flavor, but changes up the texture into a little fried cigar. The inside was fluffy and soft. Quite tasty.


“Ottoman Carrot fritter.” Apricots, pistachio sauce. Vegetarian substitute for the chicken below. A deep fried ball of flavor, with a very exotic taste.


“Buffalo Wing.” Looks like fried chicken (and it is), but Wow. Boneless, with a dab of spicy sauce and a blue cheese aioli. An explosion of flavor.


“Not Your Everyday Caprese.” The mozzarella has been through the same sphere process as the olives above, then we have a peeled cherry tomato, tomato seeds, a bit of basil, sea salt, little crackers, and a very fine house made pesto genovese (with extra virgin olive oil). I’m not even a raw tomato fan and this is delectable. The pesto cheese combo really makes it. This pesto is as good as mine (recipe here).


I’m a big fan of priorat and so we chose this wine off the list. Besides the great food and crazy water prices Saam has an annoying high corkage ($50 and one bottle more or less!).


“White truffle risotto.” Instead of the normal Italian risotto rice it used a premium Spanish one, calasparra bomba, and extra virgin olive oil instead of butter. Very tasty.


A fantastic special risotto also using bomba rice, with a chunk of fresh santa barbara uni, some black garlic paste, and a bit of bbq eel. It was tremendously good.


“Crispy Nigiri.” A bit of red snapper on a blob of crispy Spanish rice.


“Chipirones en su Tinta.” More or less a classic Spanish dish, octopus in it’s own ink. Plus some squid ink chips. Very soft and tender meat, complemented by the sweetness of the ink.


A non-shellfish variant containing a bit of bbq fish.


“Banh Mi.” A brioche bun with wagyu beef, tofu, cilantro, pickles, pickled carrots, and a kind of mayo. Tasty tasty sandwich. A mix of soft and crunchy too, but the pickles give it a very distinct tang.


“Banh Mi, vegetarian.”


“Carrot gnocchi.” The broth had a vaguely thai curry flavor. The gnocchi are actually cylinders of sphereized carrots, so they burst in the mouth.


“Brussel sprouts, lemon puree, apricots, grapes, lemon air.” This was a big hit, the sprouts aren’t bitter at all, and have a light cabbage-like texture. The lemon air is the best part, adding a nice zing.


“Mirugai.” A bit of geoduck giant clam, radish, and a watercress puree. This wasn’t my favorite dish, being a bit “clammy.”


“Kurobuta Pork Belly.” Massively flavorful bacon chunk, with a spanish cheese infused turnip mouse and little carrots. Yum yum, heart stop heart stop.


Replacing the pork for the vegetarian was a pomegranate cous cous.


With a poured in broth.


“Philly Cheese Steak.” Air bread, cheddar, Wagyu beef. This is on the Bazaar menu, but it’s so damn good. The crispy bread is filled with liquid cheddar goodness.


“Hilly Cheese Steak.” Air bread, cheddar, mushrooms. The vegetarian version of above. Monkey man will get you!


For the dessert courses we ordered some classes of this fine cream sherry.


A very nice sherry, not quite as thick and syrupy as the PX by the same maker (which I love), but still very fine.


“Japanese Baby Peaches.” Burrata, hazelnuts, arugula.Really interesting. The peaches were so tart off the trees that they were soaked in simple syrup. Paired with the blobs of burrata (a favorite of mine), the nuts, and arugala it was pretty divine.


“Dragon’s breath popcorn.” The pre dessert. A gimmick, but neat.

Carmel corn “boiled” in liquid nitrogen.


Breath on a spoon.

It tastes like… carmel corn, but you can exhale it through your nose for a dragon-like effect.


Smaug, eat your scaly heart out.


They call this “saam buca.” It was apple balls with a nice soft creamy custard — good stuff.


“Chocolate rock.” A nitro frozen chocolate foam/mousse with some citrus foam. This was very reminiscent of the chocolate/cream pairings at  é by José Andrés and Jaleo.


Chamomile tea.


The usual Bazaar “sexy little sweets,” a number of flavored chocolates (flat and in domes) and very good pate de fruits. One of the great things about the brunch at Trés is that they have an all you can eat tower of containing all of these!


A little chocolate hazelnut cube and the menu as a “parting gift.”

Overall, Saam is a tremendous meal, even if not every dish is successful (geoduck!). Since I was at cousin restaurant é by José Andrés a week before I can do a head to head comparison. Saam was slightly disadvantaged by the fact that perhaps 40-50% of the dishes hadn’t changed from my previous visit (making them less novel). I’d say that the food at é is perhaps 5% better, really quite close. The format in Vegas is, however, more fun and intimate. Getting to witness the plating and creation of each and every dish is really interesting.

And the $180 for water was really offensive. I really should have taken the manager to task on it. The stuff costs less than a dollar a bottle in bulk. Pure profit center. Otherwise the meal is fairly reasonable given the extremely high level of production. And it is very very good.

For a previous Saam meal, click here.

For a meal and The Bazaar proper, click here.

Ultimate Pizza – The Comeback

After long hiatus, Ultimate Pizza is back (click the think for posts on the components). We’ve brewed up a new batch of dough, and called up some friends and family.

For those of you who don’t know, Ultimate Pizza is our super homemade pizza where we make everything from scratch. In the past I’ve written separate articles detailing elements such as the Dough, Sauce, Pesto, and Toppings.


Every dough batch is different. For more on making it, see here. After three days cold fermenting in the fridge this batch had a weird spiderwebby quality and was very sticky. But that wasn’t anything a little dusting of flour didn’t solve. And baked, it tasted great as always.


This 1997 Barolo served as a good opener, warming up the palette.


The first pizza on the block. Starts with basic totally fresh raw tomato sauce made with Santa Monica Farmer’s Market Marzano tomatoes and mozzarella.


Then some parmesan, basil.


Mushrooms.


Figs, marcona almonds.


And after baking. They aren’t always pretty, but they are good!


I “found” this 1966 Chateau Lafite-Rothchild in my cellar and figured it wasn’t getting any better.

Parker says: “Except for the 1966 and 1870 vintages of Lafite-Rothschild, these wines were poured on virgin territory on my palate. Isn’t it ironic that the most disappointing wine (forgetting the spoiled 1875 Lafite-Rothschild, which had frightful levels of volatile acidity) was the youngest wine, the 1966 Lafite. With a light to medium ruby/garnet color, this wine exhibited a classy, weedy, herbal, Cabernet-dominated nose, soft, washed-out flavors, and little body and length. It is also beginning to dry out. I suppose if one were to taste a 30-year old Cabernet from Monterey County, California, it might reveal similar characteristics. The 1966 Lafite-Rothschild has consistently been a major disappointment from what is an irregular, but very good vintage.”

But we had good luck with this bottle, and it was actually rather wonderful.


The next pizza. Fairly similar, but no sauce.


Finished with balsamic glaze.


Then a cheesier mushroom one.


Finished.

Then my special salmon pizza, which I do just with olive oil and rosemary (picked from the garden).


Then add a mixture of creme fraiche (detail on that here), dill, and chives, plus capers and onions.


And lox. Yum!


The 2004 il Cocco riserva. Only one barrel made!


Another fairly normal pizza, with figs and mushrooms.


My “famous” tikka masala pizza. Masala sauce instead of tomato. Corn, cilantro, goat cheese, mozzarella balls, morel mushrooms, almonds, scallions.


Cooked. This is an amazing (and strong flavored) pizza.


Mirella (one of our frequent pizza chefs) likes to make unique pizzas. This “Lebanese Pizza” began with her homemade muhammara sauce, which is a Lebanese sauce made from peppers, walnuts, olive oil and various other things. She baked it fairly simple.


Then added amazing fresh burrata on top and fresh mint. This was also fantastic.


Another tomato sauce based pizza, with parmesan, figs, goat cheese (a slightly aged chevre from an artisan California dairy), marcona almonds, scallions.


Baked.

And as the last pizza of the evening, my Formaggio Maximus. Olive oil, a little pesto. Fresh chanterelle and lobster mushrooms. Corn, figs, almonds, a little basil, and nearly every type of cheese I have: parmesan, mozzarella, pecorino, goat, and gorgonzola dulce.


Baked.

Then key to the FM is a big blog of burrata and an olive oil and balsamic drizzle.


Dessert time. A giant raspberry macaroon.


And a sinful red velvet, chocolate, and cream-cheese icing cake. Oh the suffering. The worst thing about this cake is that half was left over and I personally ate all of it over the next four days.


The next day for lunch we whipped up a few more pizzas. Here another variant of my tikka masala pizza.


On the stone.


And finished. I do so love this pizza.


Then a green pesto and salad pizza. The greens are arugala tossed with black pepper and fresh meyer lemon juice.


Baked.


Two buns in the oven.


An even greener pizza.


Which we left in about 1 minute too long.


And my special “tuna salad” pizza. Tomato sauce, fresh chunk Italian tuna, parmesan, pecorino, capers, red onions, and arugala salad.


Baked.

That sure was a good amount of pizza!

For more Ultimate Pizza posts, click here.

New Year’s Feast

Since 2005 we’ve been hosting the family feast for Rosh Hashanah. And what is a traditional holiday dinner without an excuse to do some cooking.


Rosh Hashanah occurs in September or October and so it’s traditional to include fall produce, particularly fruits which symbolize the hoped for sweetness of the new year. To this effect we made a huge run on the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market and picked up nearly all of the fruits and vegetables for the meal, including this apples.


When you have to slice two dozen of them, the slicer helps. These are served with honey (also from the market).


A traditional first course is the chicken McNugget of the fish world, Gefilte Fish. We made ours from scratch using this recipe.


As we have a beet dish, we used the beet greens as garnish.


You can see some of the appetizer plates prepped and ready to go.


And the fish plated with the greens and horseradish sauce (using Atomic Horseradish naturally).


Second course was a dish we’ve been working on this fall. Jose AndresGazpacho (recipe here). This is the garnish of homemade croutons and various vegetables from the farmer’s market.


And with the soup added, dressed with a bit of olive oil and toasted pinenuts. You can see the chef’s own version at my recent é outing.


Then the main course is served buffet style. Here is the finished spread.


It includes farmer’s market mixed potatoes in olive oil, salt, and garlic.


Roasted.


And in their final form.


This beet salad (recipe here). We adapted it for buffet style serving (chopped everything finer).


Here with dressing.


My brother’s homemade couscous with various farmer’s market vegetables, mint, etc.


Brisket is one of the traditional meats for the dinner. This is one of two giant slabs of beef we cook up.


We used this recipe (more or less). Which involves slow cooking (for a long time) with carrots and various fruits.


And here is the finished and dressed version. At some point in the middle the brisket is pulled out, sliced, and put back into the stew.


A more conventional “autumn salad.”


The bottom of “Wendy’s Kugel.”


And extracted. I’m not generally a big kugel fan, but this one tastes like a cinnamon, so I’m very partial to it.


And my gluttonous plate.


Then the dessert spread.


My mom generally makes a fruit crumble out of whatever is in season. This year we picked up at the farmer’s market these lovely nectarines.


And added some fresh blackberries.


Here dabbed in flour to prevent them getting too damp.


The crumble itself is a mixture of crisco, nuts, flour, cinnamon, and sugar.


You just sprinkle it on top of the fruit.


And bake.

We also made a traditional seven layer cake. You bake seven very thin cakes.


Make butter-creme icing.


And then layer them up one by one.


And add some finishing touches!

There were snacks and a lot of wine too, but I’m too full to get into it.

Picca Potency

Restaurant: Picca [1, 2]

Location: 9575 West Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90035. Tel: 310 277 0133

Date: September 27, 2011

Cuisine: Modern Peruvian

Rating: Really interesting flavors

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My parents were in town and I wanted to take them back to Picca, which I had recently tried. Peruvian food is on fire right now in LA, and for good reason.


The Pico Blvd frontage is hard to miss.


Picca’s Peruvian cuisine has enough citrus and Asian notes that it goes best with a lighter fruiter red like this lovely Burgundy (from my cellars as usual).


The bar was hoping when we arrived and at least ten people were waiting for tables, but they honored our reservation and seated us immediately (love to see that).


The interesting handmade cocktail menu.


Rhubarb Sidecar.” Cognac, pisco, fresh lemon juice, rhubarb gastrique, shake violentyly (and they mean it), garnished with spiced sugar.”


Today’s menu. There are so many dishes that I took to underlining the ones we wanted. Saved on recitation to the waitress.


papa rellena. stuffed potato, slow cooked beef, boiled egg, rocoto aioli.” Tasted like potato and chilli (known in Texas as a super-spud).


empanada trio. beef, chicken, eggplant, salad.” I tried the chicken one, it was good. Not too heavy (considering).


jalea mixta. crispy mixed seafood, tartare sauce.” Some really good fried seafood. The tartare sauce was fantastic too.


Parker 93 points, “The 2008 Vico made from 100% Mencia with 30% whole clusters and aged for 9 months in seasoned French oak. Opaque purple-colored, it offers up a slightly reticent bouquet of damp earth, mineral, incense, black cherry, and black raspberry. Dense and loaded on the palate, the flavors are already complex and mouth-filling. Impeccably balanced and with a 45-second finish, it has the stuffing to blossom for another 2-3 years but can be approached now. It is a great value.”


ceviche criollo. seabass, rocoto leche de tigre, choclo, sweet potato.” The leche de tigre (vinegary lime sauce) makes all these cerviche‘s taste fairly similar, but this one had big soft chunks of seabass.


ceviche crocante. halibut, leche de tigre, crispy calamari.” And this followup was rendered considerably different by the addition of crunchy calamari.


One of the menu’s many sections is “terceras – antichuchos” which are mostly grilled skewers, sort of Peruvian yakatori.


tomatoes. burrata, black mint pesto.”


beef filet. sea urchin butter, garlic chip.” Good stuff, with just a hint of the classic Uni flavor.


scallops. aji amarillo aioli, wasabi peas.” Lightly cooked, very nice.


black cod. miso anticucho, crispy sweet potato.”


Then we have a round of “causa sushi,” with yellow Peruvian potato replacing the rice. In general, as I’ve mentioned before rice is more successful, but these are still tasty.


This is the “unagi. avocado, cucumber, eel sauce” and it’s pretty much your eel sushi. Of all these causas this was my favorite as the polenta is heavier and stronger flavored than rice and the eel held up to it best.


spicy yellow tail. spicy mayo, green onions, wasabi tobiko.”


smoked salmon. hijiki, shallots, aji amarillo yogurt.”


shrimp. pickled cucumbers, yuzu kosho guacamole.”


albacore. garlic chip, ceviche sauce.” My second favorite of this set.


scallops. mentaiko.” Certainly tasty, but it would have been better with rice.


snow crab. cucumber, avocado, huancaina sauce.”


seabass tiradito. thin slice sea bass, soy sauce, lemon dressing, sweet potato puree.” Very nice. Bright fish, even further brightened by the bold flavors.


Our server was very perky and friendly. Although she got caught up talking to lots of other guests and took a while with the check :-).


chicharron de costillas. crispy pork ribs crostini, sweet potato puree, feta cheese sauce, salsa criolla.” This however was pretty spectacular, one of the best pork sandwiches I’ve tried.


arroz chaufa de mariscos. mixed seafood, peruvian fried rice, pickled radish.” This was a nice version of paella. Brighter and more citrusy (by far) than it’s Spanish cousin. The ingredients were very fresh.


sudado de lenguado. halibut stew, peruvian corn beer sauce, yuyo.” This really added some flavor to the nicely cooked fish.


pollo saltado. chicken, onion, tomato, ginger, potato fritters.” This was also a tasty chicken. Like a south american stir-fry. With fries!


chanfainita. braised oxtail, mote and potato stew.” This was our least favorite dish of the evening. There was a lot of bone on the tail, and a lot of fat. Not that it tasted bad or anything, but I think we were done for.


I love even street cart churros but these were pretty supreme. The churros were stuffed with some kind of dulce de leche custard. It kept squirting out but was intensely good. The carob sauce was surprisingly amazing. I remember carob from the 1970s as the horrible chocolate bars that weren’t. This could have been caramel.


Lemon tart.” This was a pretty amazing dessert. Light and airy, almost foamy, the intense lemoness paired nicely with the sweet pineapple stuff on the side.


Picca was just as good the second time. We rounded out the menu and ordered mostly new stuff. As long as you are of the “bland is banned” school like I am, there really isn’t anything not to like about their solid implementation of this bright and flavorful cuisine.

For my previous review of Picca, click here.

For more LA dining reviews, click here.