Joan’s on Third for Breakfast

Restaurant: Joan’s on Third

Location: 8350 West Third Street. 323.655.2285

Date: August 20, 2011

Cuisine: American

Rating: Fantastic gourmet shop & cafe


Another father/son morning rolled around and after a most enjoyable trip to the Peterson Automotive Museum (excellent boy fun) we headed over to Joan’s on Third.

The busy Third Street shop front is pretty much an institution. This is a combined cafe, gourmet shop, and bakery.

 You can pretty much bet on seeing celbrities, or at the very least lots of the beautiful people.

There is a good amount of outside seating.

Cappuccino of course.

My son went for the pancakes.

I had this grown up egg mcmuffin type sandwich. Buttered bread, egg, cheese, and of course, bacon!

Joan’s has some of the best cupcakes around and these are two of my favorites. Coconut and snickers!

It’s worth showing the interior spaces. We have all sorts of really good (but overpriced) gourmet products.

Fresh baked goods.



And even more baked goods. I only photoed a small sampling. Joan has really good taste. There may be a mark up, but there is some serious yummy going on here. That’s what impresses me the most, the general extremely high level of culinary quality of most stuff. The prices can be a shock though.

We’ve used them for catering too. They have all sorts of delicious salads, quiches, and whatnots.

For more LA dining reviews click here.

Eating Poggibonsi – Osteria da Camillo

Restaurant: Osteria da Camillo

Location: Poggibonsi, Italy

Date: June 18, 2011

Cuisine: Tuscan

Rating: Very mediocre


We were in Poggibonsi to drop my brother off at the bus/train station and we spent a few minutes wandering around and then picked a likely random lunch restaurant. This turned out to be our worst pick of the trip compared to expectations. It looked like all the other likely places — and it was even very touristy — but the food just wasn’t very good.

The menu.

This inexpensive Chianti Classico (probably 10-15 euros) was perfectly nice though.

Classic bruschetta with liver. These weren’t bad, one of the places better items. They weren’t however even close to the best bruschetta we’ve seen.

Mixed bruchetta, also fine. Starting from upper left and going clockwise. Fava beans, lard, mushrooms, and tomato.

Spicy pici with walnuts. This pasta tasted like glue. Paste. It was pretty gross. I think they added flour to the sauce, making it like elmers.

Tagliatelle al pesto. Edible, but very mediocre pesto.

Green tortelli with fossa cheese and yellow pumpkin cream. I didn’t try these.

Linguine with cheese and pepper. This was really bad too. Not even close to the amazing pepper and cheese pasta at Trattoria Pepei. I could barely eat a few bites. The pasta was pasty. Those thin slices of pecorino has an unpleasant melted cheese taste, and the sauce — there barely was one — tasted of paste.

Penne pomodoro.

Tagliatelle with tomatoes, olives, capers and hot peppers. Didn’t try this either.

Chicken, green beans, tomatoes, mushrooms. This was fine, not horrible. Not really a dish that does it for me though.

This place was completely unique for this trip in that it actually had bad dishes, several of them. That pretty much makes it the worst meal, even though it wasn’t horrible or anything. But it goes to show, eat out 50 times in Italy and you can find a dud!

Click here to see more Eating Italy posts.

Eating Castellina – Albergaccio di Castellina

Restaurant: Ristorante Albergaccio di Castellina

Location: Castellina in Chianti, Italy

Date: June 13 & 20, 2011

Cuisine: Tuscan

Rating: Great food, great service


Albergaccio di Castellina is the first “fancy” place we went to in Tuscany, and it was so good we went back twice, but like any of the repeat restaurants in the Eating Italy set I have compiled both into a single post. The place earns a single Michelin star and is located in the beautiful hills of Chianti Classico, in a town called Castellina in Chianti. The first time we arrived we had a typical “finding mishap” due to a clash between the GPS and a recent road closure. This led us to circle the area for about 45 minutes until we discovered the mysterious new (and roundabout) way to approach the restaurant.

The have lovely plates! And, as our gluten free companion observed, she’s “alergic to the plate!” (but obviously this doesn’t matter through the plastic).

They had both a lovely patio.

And a classic looking Tuscan interior.

I’m going to take to calling this course the “pre-bread” as many places in Italy have two, or even three, different rounds of bread! Those long things were like salty donuts! Yum!

The extensive menu. AC (as I’ll call it) has two very reasonable tasting menus and an unusual but easy method of pricing merely by the number of courses.

We started with a little prosecco.

Then this lighter Chianti Classico, very local.

This amuse was a tiny version of the best minestrone I ever had. It tasted like bacon! (and it had bacon).

On another night we got the Tuscan bread and tomato soup.

The second bread course.

And they even had gluten free bread — without pre-warning — earning them big points.

Mixed local cured meats, always great in Italy.

This was the best Beef Tartar I’ve had, except possibly for at Totoraku. It was Chianino, the tough but delicious Tuscan cow. It also had ginger and parmesan. Wow!

Flowers of tuscany. Some tartar, an onion stuffed with pecorino, a meat pate, and a fried squash blossom.

Moving slightly up the Chianti beefiness ladder.

Hand made ravioli filled with blue cheese of Chianti, with thyme leaf and celery soup.

Gnocchi with saffron and beef muzzle sauce, parmesan.

And even gluten free pasta!

A fantastic baked lasagne.

Swiss shard “meat” balls, with tomato, basil, and cheese. Really interesting (and good).

More homemade pasta, with a tripe and parmesan sauce, with porcini mushrooms. This was delicious, and I don’t even like tripe!

This local super Tuscan gets a 96 from Parker!  “The 2007 Cepparello (Sangiovese) makes a case for itself as one of the finest wines ever made at Isole e Olena.  It is an open, sublime Cepparello endowed with tons of clarity and definition. The ripe red fruit floats on a core of refined, silky tannins that caress the palate with exceptional elegance and finesse. As the wine sits in the glass its inner perfume gradually emerges, leading to an eternal, beautifully crafted finish. The ripeness of the vintage is beautifully balanced by the acidity that is the trademark of Sangiovese grown in these hillside plots. Simply put, this is an utterly thrilling wine that will be a joy to follow over the coming years. In many ways, the restraint, elegance and polish all suggest Cepparello is the Haut-Brion of Tuscany’s high-end, pure Sangioveses. The 2007 Cepparello was fermented in wood uprights and saw three weeks of contact on the skins. Malolactic fermentation took place in equal parts steel and French oak. The final blend was assembled and the wine was subsequently aged in French oak barrels (1/3 new) for 18 months. Proprietor Paolo De Marchi describes the 2007 season as one where periods of heat alternated with well-timed spells of rain. Overall temperatures remained warm (but never extreme) throughout the year, which allowed the fruit to ripen evenly. Still, it was a challenging vintage, and De Marchi was forced to carry out a stringent selection in his vineyards. Anticipated maturity: 2015-2027.”

Grilled Tuscan vegetables and burrata.

Lamb medallions in an anchovy sauce with herbs. Stewed giblets. Tomato and vegetable millefeuile. The meat was a little tougher than we are usually used to in the states, but full of flavor.


This dish was the single failure. Chick pea crepes with salt cod. This is a traditional salt-packed Italian fish that needs a lot of soaking — and it had 48 hours — but it still wasn’t really to our taste. They very generously pulled it from the bill.

Bisteca Toscana! The giant slab of nearly raw grilled Chianino beef.

Local cheeses!

The dessert menu.

A pre-dessert of cherry gelato and cherries. Yum!

Another pre-dessert, ricotta and fig.

Local cheesecake with fresh berries.

Two slightly different takes on ricotta cheese semifreddo in a sponge cake, flavored with vin santo.

Summer “caprese” of cream and strawberries.

Housemade gelato.

This place is really awesome. They take local ingredients, and local dishes, and do a wonderful job modernizing them.

Click here to see more Eating Italy posts.

Eating Tuscany – Boar at Home

Location: Tuscany, Italy

Date: June 12, 2011

Cuisine: Tuscan


During our day in Siena we picked up a few supplies.

Most notably, at the sign of the Cinghiale, the Tuscan wild boar.

This funny little gourmet shop sells all sorts of big products — plus some cheese and wine.

The don’t allow photos, but I stole this one of the inside. Zoome in and check out the salesman and his mustache!

Back at our temporary “home” we opened this old Barbaresco. One of my brother’s friends in Milano had given it to him thinking it wouldn’t be good anymore — being almost 40 years old — but lo and beyond it was delicious.

We did have to decant it to seperate out the sediment, but I managed to extract the cork (in 2 pieces) without loosing any.

At the boar shop we picked up two kinds of pecorino, this fresher one.

And this aged “good with old wine” one.

We also got some of this boar salami, pure wild pig mixed with Brunello!

And this “Panna Rustico” which is hearty bread with pecorino and pancetta baked into it. What more could you want with a nice old Italian wine but variants of pig and cheese?

Click here to see more Eating Italy posts.

Eating Modena – Osteria del Pozzo

Restaurant: Osteria del Pozzo

Location: Modena, Italy

Date: June 5, 2011

Cuisine: Emilia Romagna

Rating: Very good casual


This post kicks off the food portion of my 2011 Europe trip, Eating Italy. We begin our month of gastronomic excess in the heart of Emilia Romagna, Modena — home of both Ferrari and Balsamico di Modena. It’s oddly rainy for June, and exhausted from over 27 hours of air and ground travel we stumbled across the street to this local place.

The have a number of rooms in these cute little tents.

The menu.

A prosecco, slightly sweet.

Caprese of course. Each portion is a whole ball of real buffalo mozzerella! Huge.

Homemade pasta, ham, arugala, cream, parmesan. This was a VERY good pasta by my taste, the in heavy ham & cream style I love (see here or here).

Spagetti and pomodoro.

Bresola, thin sheets of cured beef and parmesan and arugala. Good stuff.

Insalata mixta.

This 15E sangiovese was very drinkable.

Homemade (all the pasta except the spagetti was) with zucchini and shrimp. A nice light pasta.

Potato gnocchi in gorgonzola sauce. These were the kind of amazing gnocchi that are nearly impossible to find in the states, where they are so fluffy they melt in the mouth.

Tortellini in broth. A very traditional dish, little meat pockets in a savory chicken broth.

Classic taggliatelli ragu.Probably mixed pork and beef.

The case of traditional northern Italian desserts. Various cakes and tortes.

The chocolate with hazelnut nougat cake. Very rich.

Cherry torte. It tasted like strawberry rhubarb pie.

A sampler of fresh fruits. The cantaloupe was particularly flavorful and sweet. The cherries were great too.

This place was a perfect choice for the right off the plane choice. It was casual, reasonable, but had very good food. Perfecto.

Click here to see more Eating Italy posts.

An Evening at Malibu Wines

It was my brother-in-law’s birthday, and a warm California Friday in late may, so his wife organized a little get together in the Santa Monica mountains at Malibu Wines. Now, I’m not super partial to California wines in general (too mechanical and over-oaked) or SoCal ones in particular (just not as good as their NorCal counterparts). But this little place in the mountains has a pretty good gig going with regard to spending an evening with friends.

We’ve had a lot of rain this year and the mountains were beautiful, the air hovering just under 80. The vineyard basically has a big green with tables that you can bring whatever food or non alcoholic drinks you want. They play live music on weekends (with dancing) and sell you their wines at the tasting room bar. There is no cover.

The stage. It gets pretty crowded and there was actually a good amount of dancing later in the evening.

We mostly stuck to this central coast 2002 Cabernet. It wasn’t bad, maybe 90 points. The couple years has taken the edge off the oak and it was certainly well made, if a little by the numbers.

But what is a wine picnic without cheese?  I stopped before hand at the local cheese shop, Andrew’s Cheese Shop. On the left is Abbaye de Bel’loc and the right a soft goat cheese from France.

In the front we have Epoisses (gooey washed rind fun), on the right Stichelton, a beautiful rich English blue cheese, and on the left a Spanish sheep milk cheese.

And sense this wasn’t in the house, some pate. Goose and duck liver with truffles on the left and French Country Pate on the right. Both intensely meaty. Andrew’s not only sells cheeses and condiments, but a few meats as well.

Someone else brought some grape leaves stuffed with rice (Greek style). There was a lot of other food I didn’t photo too.

Some more condiments from Andrew’s. Various crackers. They have really good crackers — albiet expensive.

Quince paste (the orange jelly stuff), conveniently chopped into cubes. You add it to your cracker and cheese for some extra punch.

My sister-in-law makes a yummy spinach dip.

And this being a birthday we had a rather jumbo cake to finish out the evening.

Chili Addiction – The Heartstopper

Restaurant: Chili Addiction

Location: 408 N La Cienega Blvd. (323) 203-1793

Date: May 7, 2011

Cuisine: Comfort Food

Rating: Tasty!


Last Saturday a good friend of mine had a bunch of people over for a BBQ. He got all his food from Chili Addiction, a comfort food joint over in West Hollywood. This is not a complete review, although the place is good. I just wanted to show my evil creation.

Two HUGE sausages (the dark one is Italian, the light Jalapeno & Cheddar), over a bun, smothered in some kind of spicy meat chili (I don’t know which exact flavor).

Then I added some of their “mellow yellow” homemade mustard, some “lethal injection” Habenero sauce, ad a ton of cheddar cheese. Oh the arteries!

Rolling back a second, the dogs on the grill.

Chili addiction also makes homemade ice cream. It’s not bad, but nowhere near as good as their chili and dogs, or Sweet Rose Creamery (review) for that matter. The mint had the fake green, and wasn’t real mint leaves. It wasn’t bad or anything, but not super either. The vanilla was better, a very tasty french vanilla, probably a 7/10.

This homemade tiramisu baked by another guest on the other hand was a 10/10.

Creamy goodness.

Seconds at Sam’s by the Beach

Restaurant: Sam’s by the Beach [1, 2, 3]

Location: 108 W. Channel Rd.(PCH), Santa Monica, CA 90402. 310-230-9100

Date: March 12, 2011

Cuisine: Cal French International

Rating: Stellar food and unparalleled service.


I already covered the background to Sam’s in my FIRST REVIEW. Let’s just say this is a local place with an unusual and inventive menu that’s worth a drive.

I’d never heard of this “lesser” Bordeaux, but Sam opened this half-bottle and it was very nice. Characteristic Saint-Emilion smooth. The 8 or so years gave it just enough age to settle the tanins.

Today’s menu.

The usual amuse. Little fried pockets of spinach and cheese.

Homemade bread and the olive oil sesame dip.

“Roasted Beet Salad, mixed with onions and tomato in Aged balsamic dressing, served with Feta Cheese croquet.”

This was a special. Seared Kanpachi (young yellowtail) with arugula, avocado, tomatoes, in a citrus ginger vinaigrette. The dressing was to die for, and mated perfectly with the sushi grade fish.

“Vegetarian Crepes. Homemade Crepes filled with Swiss chard, wild mushrooms and zucchini served in tomato coulis.” This is a half order, as the normal one has two of the burrito-like crepes. This is a very nice vegetarian option, and surprisingly hearty. The sauce is bread dippingly yummy.

“Lamb Chorizo Risotto, Carnaroli rice prepared with lamb sausage, fresh spinach, feta cheese, in meyer lemon broth.” This isn’t your typical Italian Risotto either, but it’s spectacular, and much lighter. There is a lovely tang from the lemon, and the sharp goat cheese, and the sausage is to die for.

The dessert menu.

His creme brulee is straight up traditional, and it’s the second best I’ve ever had in the world (there was this one in Avignon…). The meat of it is thick, creamy, and all vanilla.

A new dessert (at least for us). This take on the flowerless chocolate cake is moist, dense, and chocolately — as it should be.

Sam is also starting a new thing for Sunday nights, pizza night!  He has a pizza oven. We’ll have to come back and try these, see how they compare to my Ultimate Pizza. I’m particularly eager to try the Shawarma.

Dinner Party – It all starts with Cheese

Last Friday we hosted a little dinner party. I can’t say it was purely an excuse for more cooking and food photos, but well, here they are. Everything in this meal is made from scratch.

The first course in summary.

Cheese is always a good start. This time I tried a new cheese shop, Andrew’s Cheese Shop. This is closer than my usual haunt, the The Cheese Store of Beverly Hills. Andrew’s isn’t as big, but they had plenty of choices, and they were extremely friendly.

I put together a little foursome. Epoisses on the left (gooey washed rind fun), a fantastic goat, Monte Enebro, a nice rich nutty dutch cheese on the left (tasted halfway between a Gouda and Parmesan) and on the bottom, Stichelton, a beautiful rich English blue cheese.

Condiments. Marcona almonds, quince paste (the orange jelly stuff), Spanish olives, and accacia honey from Abruzzo.

The carbohydrates. Traditional french baguette, cranberry nut crisps, and olive oil cracker sticks. All from Andrew’s, and all excellent.

We also made these puff pastries from scratch. Stuffed with egg, cheese, and spinach. Basically little puff-Spanakopita.

What would all that cheese and bread be without some wine?

On the left a fantastic Burgundy, Parker gives it 92, but I’d give it more like a 94. “The 2003 Clos Vougeot explodes from the glass with licorice, dark cherries, and a myriad of spices. A wine of considerable depth, it is packed with suave black fruits immersed in chocolate. Well-structured, ripe, and exceptionally long, it will merit a higher score if its alcoholic warmth is absorbed into the wine with time (something that sometimes occurs with Pinot Noirs). Projected maturity: 2008-2017.”

On the right, earning 90 points (and again I’d give it more), “The 2006 Fonsalette Cotes du Rhone exhibits meaty, herbal, tapenade, pepper, animal fur, and damp earth-like notes. It is soft, round, lush, and best consumed over the next 10+ years.”

For the main course, we went with Salmon en Papillote, adapted from a recipe by non other than Julia Child. All done from scratch.

Sealed in with the juices are julianned vegetables, parsley, basil, garlic. We’ve done this before but tis batch turned out absolutely perfect.

And as the starch, couscous adapted from Houstons (see it HERE). I found a recipe on the web approximating what they do at the restaurant (HERE).

And then salad.

And this delicious but rather un-homogenized walnut vinaigrette (from scratch of course).

Then for dessert, our friend Geo’s Chocolate Ganache tart. He very graciously gave us this recipe after some prying, and it’s a terribly excellent and decadent dessert. Mostly it’s butter, sugar, and 70% cacao chocolate. Oh yes!

Then homemade whipped cream. None of those emulsifying agents. And homemade raspberry sauce (rasberries and sugar thrown in the blender).

And fruit to finish.

Breakfasts of Champions

During my mom’s birthday weekend we seized on the opportunity of a fridge filled with pizza ingredients to whip up a number of Gavin-style breakfasts. First I made my Spanish eggs (SEE HERE). The next day my brother cooked up one of his signature frittatas.

This is a big fluffy omelet stuffed with cheese and veggies.

Plus some fruit, cheese, and fresh squeezed blood orange juice (the trees had a bumper crop this year).

Then on monday a slightly different, less fried take on the Spanish eggs. A little salad, some lox, and La Brea bakery toast with pesto and romesco, arugala, and peppers.

Here is the romesco on the left, and the pesto on the right (SEE HERE for more on the pesto).

A peek under the salad at the sauces.

Some eggs poached normally. Not as crispy as the olive oil “poaching” of the classic Spanish eggs.

An egg in place.

My brother chose to supplement with ricotta.

I went with burrta. I always go with burrata (MORE on the ultimate fresh cheese HERE).

A final shop, with nice contrasty lighting and some cracked pepper. Cutting into the egg of course provides lots of yolky goodness.