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.

Joe’s Restaurant – California Classic

Restaurant: Joe’s Restaurant

Location: 1023 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice, CA 90291

Date: September 16, 2011

Cuisine: California Farmer’s Market

Rating: Consistently good

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I’ve been coming to Joe’s since 1995 or 1996 and they are approaching their 20th anniversary any day now. In a major metropolitan restaurant scene, that’s an eternity. Chef Joe Miller was an early proponent of the ingredient driven “farmer’s market style” of California cooking that is very popular right now. And despite the restaurant’s venerable age, the menu is continually rotating and the dishes remain fresh and relevant.


The Abbot Kinney frontage.


Quaint bar. Further inside is a little maze of little rooms and a lovely patio that is perfect for brunch.


The daily tasting menu, which is a pretty awesome value.


And the regular menu.

I brought this 2006 Brunello from my cellar. It’s not rated, but it is good, being from a tiny producer who makes only 3,000 bottles a year.


The back for the vintage.


Joe’s has good bread. Particularly the butter toasty thing.


Olive tappanade and butter.


“Heirloom tomato salad, smoked garlic tomato vinaigrette, young greens, seared bread.”


“Bocconcini di bufala mozzarella, smoked o’henry peaches, plums, sweet pea, purslane, almonds, olive oil.” This was a really yummy combo. The fruit was perfectly ripe, the mozzarella fantastic, and all in combination, particularly with the nuts and the purslane pesto-like stuff, it was really yummy.


“Hiramasa Crudo. Pickled plum, shishito, flowering coriander, pickled garlic vinaigrette.” Also wonderful. Hiramasa is just yellowtail, but this was some very good fish, and the vinaigrette had a powerful tang that contrasted nicely with the sweet and sour plums.


“New zealand red snapper filet with potato scales and wild rice. Salsify, red wine sauce.”


“Sonoma lamb sirloin, figs, chantarelle mushroms, wild rice soubise, english peas, huckleberry jus.” Also a wonderful dish. Like rack of lamb, but without the bone. Slow cooked in the sous-vide. The rich jus and vegetables complemented nicely.


The dessert menu.


“Vanilla buttermilk custard. Market berries, bittersweet chocolate, pistachios.” I light fun dessert, with a berries and cream vibe.

It’s been a little while since I was at Joe’s and I somehow expected it to be more staid. The food is just as contemporary and relevant as any other ingredient driven Califonian. It’s not fat focused like the Gastropubs, or avant garde, but it is really good. And setting it far above many wanna-be followers of this tradition, each dish expresses a really balanced interplay of elements.

For more LA dining reviews click here.

Rustic Canyon 4

Restaurant: Rustic Canyon [12, 3, 4]

Location: 1119 Wilshire Blvd. Santa Monica, Ca 90401. 310-393-7050

Date: May 13, 2011

Cuisine: Farmer’s Market Californian

Summary: Excellent Seasonal New American

ANY CHARACTER HERE

As a seasonal market driven California restaurant Rustic canyon can be counted on to mix up the menu a bit fairly frequently. It’s a friday night favorite for us, and we return every two months or so. Many of the specific dishes change, but the overall types and categories stay consistant. If you are interested in the previous meals at Rustic Canyon, meal 1 heremeal 2 here, and meal 3 here.


The front.


Today’s current menu.


Spanish style – olives on the table.


I got a glass of Riesling.


“Burrata, roasted artichokes, fava beans, stinging nettle pesto, ramps toast.” This is sort of like make your own cheese bruschetta as the blog of Burrata (here for more on this wonderful cheese) can just be slathered on the toast.


“Asparagus soup, asparagus tips, smoked bacon.” It was of course the lardons that made this entire dish.

“Roasted beets & farro, roasted beets, feta, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, red onion, fennel, yogurt.”


This was a special, not on the menu. A squid ink homemade pasta with botarga and fiore di sardo (Sardinian peccorino). Very nice, with a sweet and briny flavor.


The desserts, which are very good here, but we were full.

Check out other LA meals here.

JiRaffe is no Joke

Restaurant: JiRaffe

Location: 502 Santa Monica Blvd. Santa Monica, CA 90401. 310.917.6671

Date: April 1, 2011

Cuisine: French American

Rating: Santa Monica Classic

 

To me, it seems JiRaffe has been here forever. It opened in 1996, and to have made it 15 years in Santa Monica is no small feat. The space next door (which is a really nice two floor space) has had 7 restaurants in the same period! JiRaffe remains not only in business, but busy — and good. It is headed by Chef/Owner Raphael Lunetta and serves creative California adapted French influenced flair with a concentration on farmer’s market ingredients. Lunetta was ahead of the recent trend exemplified by places like Gjelina, Rustic Canyon, and Fig. His style is more classic, but not in the least outdated.

The nice two floor space. There is a loft (not visible) with a number of tables too.

The cocktail menu.

“Blood Orange Cosmopolitan, Grey Goose Vodka, Key Lime and Fresh Blood Orange.” This is the kind of real cocktail I like to see, not the saccharine kind of concoction I got the other week at Gladstones (see here), but a drink made from fresh ingredients and no flavored alcohols. It was tart, but really flavorful.

The appetizers.

A variety of breads.

The amuse, a mushroom cream cappuccino. Very tasty, almost truffle flavored and very rich. They actually goofed slightly and brought this after our appetizers, making it more of an intermezzo, but it didn’t matter.

“Roasted Organic Beet Salad, organic beets, carmelized walnuts, dried cherries, goat cheese cream, banyuls-ginger vinaigrette.” This dish has become ubiquitous, but I suspect JiRaffe was one of the earliest to offer it on their menu (it might have been an 80s Wolfgang Puck invention, but I’m not sure). This particularly implementation has always been one of the best I’ve ever had. The sweet of the beets pairing beautifully with the sharpness of the goat cheese, and the chewy crunch of the walnut/cherry combo adding to the effect.

“Purple Peruvian Gnocchi, rock shrimp, pearl onions, mandarin tomato concassé, herb infused tomato nage.” Although these gnocchi look like the grubs I encountered in china (as a breakfast condiment for congi), they tasted delicious. The sauce was extremely buttery, and paired perfectly with the soft little pillows and the tender shrimp.

Les entrees.

“Crispy Scottish Salmon with parsnip puree, white wine braised fennel, and an aged balsamic nage.” Note that the fennel was substituted out here for spinach.

“New Zealand Lamb Rack, yellowfin potato samosas, vegetable moussaka, thyme-scented lamb jus.” The lamb itself was delicious, exactly what you’d want. The jus perfect as well. My only complaint was the samosas which were very bland, tasting only of potato. I’m not such a plain starch fan. They were okay soaked in the jus, but I would have preferred a strong curry flavor or something.

JiRaffe also has a VERY yummy looking dessert menu, but we were too full to partake. The full menu can be found HERE.

Overall JiRaffe is a Santa Monica classic, and for good reason. This is a solid kitchen and everything is very tasty. The menu remains consistant. It does change, but in a slow evolutionary way, mostly swapping out seasonal ingredients and preserving what is essentially the same dish. They could experiment a little more, but they do have a good thing going.

Brunch at Tavern 3D

Restaurant: Tavern [1, 2, 3, 4]

Location: 11648 San Vicente Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90049. (310) 806-6464

Date: March 6, 2011

Cuisine: Market driven Californian

Rating: Not just your typical short order brunch — but better.

 

Tavern is a favorite midend brunch spot of ours. It’s much yummier than the typical short order grills, and not as gluttonous as the high end brunches (like this). I’ve reviewed it twice before HEREHERE, and HERE, but the menu is seasonal and so always changing a bit.

Today’s menu. Online version can be found HERE, but it’s always changing and never current.

Double cap. Not a bad restaurant cappuccino.

Simple pancakes for the boy (2.4 years old).

“Brisket hash with fried eggs and horseradish cream.” In its own way, a variant on the beef and horseradish tradition. But… um richer… and more breakfasty.

“Market fish (salmon) with carrot purée, gingered beets and lime salsa.” I didn’t try it, but looked very good with a really nice selection of fresh ingredients.

“Pumpkin waffle with pecan butter and maple syrup.” What could go wrong with this?

“Smoked fish with toasted rye & redwood hill goat cheese.” A very nice fish plate. The fish is fresh, and the goat cheese a nice improvement on cream cheese. I also like the very crunchy pickles.

“The Angeleno sandwich, artichokes, buratta, cavola nero, and meyer lemon. With prosciutto added.” I modified this vegetarian sandwich to add the good stuff (ham), and it turned out fantastic. The bread had the prefect texture and the burrata (more on that HERE), combined perfectly with the prosciutto and the marinated artichokes. The chips and pickles were awesome too.

“Fried Potatoes.”

“Sauteed Cavola Nero.” This wasn’t on the menu, but they did it anyway. The green is a kind of Italian Kale.

The dessert menu.

“Carrot cake with toasted walnuts and cinnamon anglaise.” Top example of the type, with a bit of creme anglaise in case the icing wasn’t rich enough.

“Snickers Bar, salted peanut caramel and vanilla ice cream.” Very nice dessert. Inside the hard dark chocolate shell was a kind of peanut and carmel mouse.

Tavern continues to hold up as a top breakfast spot, and pretty reasonable considering the level of sophistication.

Figs are in Season

Restaurant: Fig

Location: 101 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, Ca 90401. 310-319-3111

Date: January 14, 2011

Cuisine: Farmer’s Market American

Rating: Solid!

 

It’s fairly impressive that the Santa Monica Fairmont invested in getting a REAL chef (Ray Garcia) and turned their in-house restaurant into a place that’s worth going to even if you don’t have any other reason to be in the hotel. I’ve written extensively about all the new LA Farmer’s Market driven restaurants, and this is a place in line with Gjelina (REVIEW 1, REVIEW 2), Rustic Canyon (REVIEW 1, REVIEW 2), or Tavern (REVIEW 1, REVIEW 2). You can’t really go wrong with any of them, although each has its own distinctive personality.

Bread is in the bag. It comes with this arugala butter. Even better than normal butter.

The menu. You can also find it online HERE, but they change it constantly based on the seasonal ingredients. Notice that they even tell you which produce is in season at the bottom.

 

The by the glass wine list.

I wanted something light and got a glass of this Husch Anderson valley Gurtz. It was ok, but reinforced my opinion that old world imitations of German whites don’t really compete.

 

For a fairly casual place, it’s nice to get an amuse. Mandrin orange with micro greens.

“Apple and Butter Lettuce, Pecans, Cabecou, Spring Herbs.”

This was a special. Shrimp ravioli (singular), with ginger, micro salad, and grapefruit. This was really good, but very different. The Ginger/Seafood/Citrus pairing was very nice and light, and went well with my wine.

“Pumpkin Tortellini Blue Hubbard Squash, Sage.” Other than being mysteriously overpriced at $28 this was a very nice dish, and my wife LOVES pumpkin Tortellini. Still, it wasn’t quite as good as the completely classic form from Verona/Mantua with the amaretto cookies and the simple butter and sage sauce.

Meat Pie, Chanterelles, German Butterballs.” This was the ultimate “shepherd’s pie.”

Inside is braised waygu beef cheeks! Very tasty, rich meaty inside with a fluffy layer of mashers on top. My style of meat and potatoes.

The dessert menu, but we were too full.

The hotel has this very cool tree out front in the valet circle. Parking is free with validation, which is nice given that hotel parking (Peninsula, you know who you are) can sometimes be crazy expensive.

I like fig, and we’ve been 5-6 times. The atmosphere by the pool/garden is very nice too, particularly during the day. But the food is very good, and changes frequently, which I like. They have a lot of meats and cheeses too. Once I ordered the “Foie Gras and Chicken Liver Parfait, Fig Marmalade, Grilled Baguette,” but it was just too fatty EVEN FOR ME!

The New American – Gjelina

Restaurant: Gjelina [1, 2, 3]

Location: 1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd, CA 90291. (310) 250-1429

Date: December 16, 2010

Cuisine: New Californian

Rating: Everything just tastes great!

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My parents flew into town but their flight was four hours late so we needed to find dinner after 10pm. This can actually be a problem on the westside, but it turns out that Gjelina serves until midnight! Now Gjelina has gotten lots of rave reviews, and for good reason. It’s also one of our favorite lunch spots. They serve fairly casual fare, American with all sorts of influences, and most things are farmer’s market driven. The kitchen is just really good — so everything tastes great. The menu changes constantly.

“Squash-Farro-Kale Soup with Grilled Bread.”


“Charred Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Dates & Vinegar.” One of the things about Gjelina is that they can make even vegetables incredibly delicious — yes I’m a bit of a carnivore. These brussel sprouts aren’t bitter at all, and the thick chunks of smokey bacon (more pancetta really) are incredible.

“Lamb Sausage, Confit Tomato, Rapini, Pecorino & Asiago Pizza.” They make great pizzas too. These are very thin neo-neo Neapolitan pizzas baked very fast in a wood wire oven. The crust is very crispy, and there is a strong charcoal grill taste. This one has a nice cheesy, herby flavor offset with the very yummy lamb sausage.

“Wood Roasted Cauliflower with Garlic, Chili & Vinegar.” Another example of the unusually yummy vegetables. This cauliflower has a nice double tang, vinegar and chili. Crunch Zing!

“Grilled Radicchio, Bacon, Fontina & Tomato Confit Pizza.” Another great pizza. The bacon makes it of course.

“Potato Gnocchi with a Short Rib Ragout & Pecorino.” Melt in your mouth.

“Charred Niman Hanger Steak with Watercress-Horseradish Pesto, Red Onion & Piquillo.”

Inside they have both regular and communal tables, and outside they have a fantastic patio. It was pretty crowded at 11pm, with down tempo blaring on the speakers. Even on a chilly December LA night (roughly 50 degrees) the fire pit and heat lamp made me take off my jacket. Serious LA ambiance — and food!

The New Cal Cuisine: Rustic Canyon

Restaurant: Rustic Canyon [1, 2, 3, 4]

Location: 1119 Wilshire Blvd. Santa Monica, Ca 90401. 310-393-7050

Date: Aug 25, 2010

Cuisine: Farmer’s Market Californian

ANY CHARACTER HERE

Having lived for 16 years in LA I’ve watched the evolution of California Cuisine. When I first came here we were still in the fading years of the 80s eclectic, typified by places like Spago or 90s fusion like Matsuhisa or the much missed Abiquiu. Today, it’s all about being ingredient driven, and Rustic Canyon is one of our many fine examples of this trend.

Burrata with peaches. You can pretty much never go wrong with Burrata or Fresh peaches.

An heirloom tomato (this very buzz word a legacy of the trend), cucumber, yogurt, goat cheese salad.

Tonight’s pick from my cellar. I love my burgs. RP gives it 93, “The dark colored 1997 Latricieres-Chambertin has profound prune, plum, and licorice flavors. This satin-textured, explosive, deep, masculine wine is tannic, structured, and powerful. Blackberry juice, mint, and plums can be found throughout its deep flavor profile and opulently flavored, persistent finish. It will require cellaring patience yet has the potential for mid- to long-term aging. Projected maturity: 2003-2012+.”

Sweet corn soup, with Pistou. This dish had an unctuous foamy texture, and brought out the very best in sweet corn flavor.

A trio of crustini. Each with very interesting (and delicious) flavor profiles. Tomatos and basil, new style. Anchovies (not the over salted sort) and a sweetish tapanade, crisp goat cheese and olives.

Homemade Gnocchi, with fresh Genoese pesto. This brought out the lovely brightness of the basil.

Sweet corn (again :-)) Agnolotti. Yum. Fresh pasta, which you never saw 10 years ago.

Cinnamon beignets with a foamy chocolate cappachino sauce. This is really a variant of the traditional Spanish churro with chocolate. And that’s not a bad thing because both are delicious! These were hot hot out of the frier.