Gjelina Brunch

Restaurant: Gjelina [1, 2, 3]

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

Date: August 6 & 14, 2011

Cuisine: New Californian

Rating: Great food, annoying service!

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I hadn’t been to Gjelina (despite it being a favorite) in a few months but I headed back there for two brunches only a week apart, one with my son and the other with my brother and cousin.


The all important Cappuccino. They make a good one as attested by the nice micro-foam. I’m not a fan of those coffee with a pile of foam on top versions.


Moroccan Baked Eggs with Merguez, Chili, Tomato Sauce, Cilantro & Spiced Yogurt.” This was REALLY tasty. The sausage was awesome, as was the sauce and yogurt combo. It had a pretty genuine Moroccan flavor profile.


My son wanted eggs. He didn’t even touch them though. Toddlers!


“Crispy Sunny Eggs with Prosciutto, Romesco, Arugula & Lemon.” This was also very good, and very similar (except for the ham) to my special Breakfast Eggs.


Pizza Margherita.” A very nice version of the classic. Rich tomatoey sauce, lots of basil.


My son ate most of this, although he complained about the “green stuff” and made me remove it.


“Duck Sausage, Nameko Mushroom, Garlic & Mozzarella.” The sausage was fantastic, and the overall pizza was very smokey with an interesting chewy mushroom texture. I liked it a lot, but you certainly have to be a shroom person.


“Peach crumble with Crème Fraiche.” I like my crumbles more crumbly.


“Butterscotch Pot de Crème with Salted Caramel w/ Crème Fraiche.” This is just incredible as always. I could eat like 10 of them. Bad me. Bad me.

Overall, the food at Gjelina is fantastic as always, but I need to snark about the service, and I’m not the first. Apparently the owner/managers even like to hire staff with attitude! Boo hiss! The first time, I asked to get some eggs that on the menu had strips of bacon on top with the bacon on the side (or gone). I was told (very rudely) that I could remove the bacon myself. In this day and age of people with dietary restrictions this just isn’t acceptable. I can understand not building totally custom dishes, but trivial omissions? Give me a break.

On the second trip we ordered some vegetables which didn’t come (the waiter read them back to us too). Plus similar with an ice tea even after asking about three times. Eventually, after the waiter went AWOL we found him and brought up both. He didn’t even apologize. 10 minutes after that he brought the ice tea and said he’d take it off the bill. Ooh ah, $4 ice tea for free (it’s all profit anyway). We mentioned something to the manager. He didn’t apologize either, just nodded his head. Then finally, about 5 minutes after that he snuck back and apologized, like it had been eating at him and he felt he needed to. There was no offer of a freebee or anything. My brother asked him point blank about that and he took a dessert off the tab.

I go for the food, but they do need to lose a bit of the ‘tude.

You can check out two other Gjelina reviews HERE and HERE.

Or my index of LA Restaurants.

Eating Santa Margherita – Pizzeria Santa Lucia

Restaurant: Pizzeria Santa Lucia

Location: Santa Margherita, Italy

Date: June 29, 2011

Cuisine: Ligurian / Pizza

Rating: Good pizza

ANY CHARACTER HERE

On our last night in Italy (/cry) we wanted an early and quick meal prior to getting up at 4am the next morning. So I asked the hotel staff where they went for pizza and they all voted Santa Lucia as their favorite.


It’s located in the heart of the eastern marina, inside a cluster of many restaurants.


The menu.


The have a pleasant little patio. It was also just across the street from the Carousel, so I took my 2 year-old son while we waited.


On my last night I was a bad boy and ordered pasta and pizza at the same time! Again the waitress looked at me funny. This is lasagna pesto. Very simple, fresh noodles with fresh pesto and cheese. Simple but good.


The last shredded carrot salad you’ll see for awhile.


Santa Lucia takes its pizza seriously enough to have dedicated knives. Italians almost never serve pizza precut.


Pizza funghi (with mushrooms).


Pizza Margherita, apro pos in this town.


Pizza Prosciutto.


And mine, Pizza di mare. The seafood pizza is always a bit of a gamble, but as we were sitting right on the marina I figured I’d give it a go and I wasn’t disapointed. The briny factor was there (as it should be) but light.

Santa Lucia was a nice little pizza place, not quite as good as Pretorio in Tuscany, but in the three or so best we had on the trip (the third being Pizzeria Notte E Di).

Click here to see more Eating Italy posts.

Eating Santa Margherita – Miramare Breakfast

Restaurant: Grand Hotel Miramare (Breakfast)

Location: Santa Margherita, Italy

Date: June 26-29, 2011

Cuisine: Ligurian

Rating: Mid level Italian breakfast

ANY CHARACTER HERE

As I’ve written about earlier, almost all hotels in Italy include buffet breakfast. The Grand Hotel Miramare is no exception.


This is the same dining terrace as we ate dinner at on the previous evening.

And the view still doesn’t suck.


The have cappuccino and juice as always.


Various sausages, sauteed mushrooms, tomatoes.


Italian bacon. Eggs.


Breads.


Juices.


Yogurt.

Cereals.


A few cakes and jams, although nothing compared to the cake selection at the Adriatic beach hotel.


Fruit and cheese.


And a closeup of the cheese. Missing here, oddly for Italy, were the cured meats like Prosciutto.


My plate. A bit of protein, a bit of cake.

This local cake was really interesting. Not only did it have various dried fruits inside (raisons and some other stuff), but it had fennel seeds!

Overall this breakfast, while totally fine, was a bit of a disappointment considering the level of the hotel. The more commercial Palace Hotel (here for breakfast) we stayed at earlier in the trip had a much more extensive buffet, with even a slightly higher ingredient level. Even the Real Fini (here for breakfast) may have had a few more options, although the breakfasts were fairly comparable.

Click here to see more Eating Italy posts.

Eating Montalcino – Le Potazzine

Restaurant: Ristorante Le Potazzine

Location: Montalcino, Italy

Date: June 20, 2011

Cuisine: Tuscan

Rating: Tasty traditional

ANY CHARACTER HERE

We took a most excellent wine tasting tour of Montalcino (the home of the one and only Brunello). This was led by a top flight young guide named Matteo Perinti, who took us to a pair of top flight small wineries (but more on that itself later). In between we stopped at Montalcino the home base for Brunello.


Montalcino is one of Tuscany‘s long list of ugly locales — just kidding. It’s a gorgeous mediaeval village — with a LOT of wine for sale.


We went to the restaurant owned by the Le Potoazzine vineyard, which was one that we visited. Not only was their wine incredible, but they run a nice restaurant.


For lunch we actually had their IGT Tuscan, slightly down the curve than this amazing Rosso Di Montalcino, but I didn’t get a photo. If you can find the above wine in the states do — it was incredibly seductive.


Tuscan Prosciutto.


And a wider selection of local cured meats.


Panzenella, the very traditional “salad” of stale bread crumbs, onions, tomatos, and fresh olive oil.


Bruschetta with tomato, basil, and olive oil. Tuscan’s have no fear of serving bread too many ways.


Minestrone soup.


Gnocchi done the simple way, with cream, butter, and cheese.


Risotto Brunello. Very fitting, and very tasty.


Local wide pasta fresca with vegetables.

This was a nice little lunch place. Certainly nothing radical about the cooking but every dish was delicious.

Click here to see more Eating Italy posts.

Eating Tuscany – Villa Breakfast

Location: Staggia, Italy

Date: June 11-25, 2011

Cuisine: Tuscan

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This is our third year renting a villa in Europe for a big chunk of June. I’ve experimented with different ways to handle the breakfast situation for a large number of people (9-15 is what we’ve had). It’s not practical to go out everyday, it would just take too long to wrangle everyone, and a free for all at the house (which we tried last year) has all sorts of issues. Namely the challenge of restocking the groceries and cleaning up. So, our houses at this year’s villa arranged to set and clear a continental breakfast table, to which we added some local products. Overall it worked out very well.


The first thing I need is my coffee. Cappuccino this time of morning. Our hosts made them, which was convenient as last year my dad was making them straight for 90 minutes every morning. Given that many people have two, and the slow speed of the little home machines, it’s hard to churn a lot of them out.


The full spread.


Various dry goods, yogurts, jams, cereal, orange juice.


Fruit, cookies, toast, blood orange juice (yum).


We also put out some of the local cheeses, mostly Pecorino.


And more.


And the stubs of all sorts of them.


A few cow cheeses from the local market.


No Italian breakfast is complete without Prosciutto.


Or Salami.


Our hosts also baked a variety of pastries and breads over the two weeks. Homemade croissants in this case.


A really yummy chocolate torte. Buttery crust, with congealed nuttella type filling.


We had some extra ricotta and our baker turned it into this wonderful cheesecake.


Chocolate inside, with a tasty crust and coco top. It was like breakfast tiramisu!


Pound cake.


Cherry tart.

Delicious chocolate cake, tasted like a giant brownie. Nothing like chocolate to pick you up in the morning.


Tuscan apple pie. Really good stuff, perhaps drier and more bready than the American version, halfway between that and an apple strudel. Delicious.


Blackberry tart. These kind of fruit tarts are typically Tuscan.


Mixed local fruit.


And cherries, which are local and in season.

Click here to see more Eating Italy posts.

Eating Siena – Trattoria Pepei

Restaurant: Trattoria Pepei

Location: Siena, Italy

Date: June 12 & 19, 2011

Cuisine: Tuscan

Rating: Delicious & Fun!

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Our first full day in tuscany and we went into Siena. We selected a restaurant the night before using Michelin, picking a centrally located one that earned a bib gourmet.


Trattoria Papei which is located in the piazza Mercato right behind the Campos.


They have an extensive terrace area under a network of awnings and umbrellas.


The menu.


We ordered this local, inexpensive, and very pleasant chianti classico reserva. Parker gives it 90 points. “The 2007 Chianti Classico Riserva Il Grigio (Sangiovese) comes across as soft and pliant, very much in the style of the vintage. A warm, open bouquet leads to succulent ripe cherries, flowers and spices, all of which flow through nicely to the enveloping finish. Today the juiciness of the fruit makes Il Grigio very attractive, but readers who prefer more tertiary complexity will want to wait for a few years. Anticipated maturity: 2010-2017. “


A typical (you’ll here this word a lot here) Tuscan anti-pasta: mixed bruschetta. Here are tomato and marinated mushrooms, both delicious.


Melon with Prosciutto di Toscana.

More cured meats and bruschetta. The brown mud like stuff is chicken liver. The round salami is Finnochiona, a typical (again) local salami with a bit of fennel and pepper inside.


A truly excellent Zuppe Minestrone. The vegetables maintained their shape, but were cooked wuch that they melt in the mouth.


Tuscan bread and vegetable (mostly tomato) soup.


The kitchen is run my mama, literally.


Spaghetti pomodoro.


Pappardelle al Ragu Di Cinghiale! Wild boar strikes again.


Tagliatelle with ragu Toscana (mixed meat ragu probably).


Tagliatelle with duck ragu. This was deep and meaty. There must have been some duck liver in the sauce too.


Penne pomodoro.

Cheese ravioli with marinated mushroom sauce.


Pici (homemade local pasta) with cheese and pepper. This is a very simple dish, but when done right, as it was here, it’s amazing! The bright black papper flavor stands out. They have this now at Sotto, a new rustic Italian in LA.


Gnocchi pomodoro. The gnocchi here were soft and delicious, although not quite as good as the ones the first night in Modena.


Gnocchi with butter and sage.


Mixed salad (again).

Another salad, arugala or rocket with tomatos.


Pounded veal in lemon sauce. I’m not a big veal fan but this was good.


BBQ Ribs, Tuscan style. These were not unlike spare ribs at a chinese restaurant. They were a bit chewier than I was used too as the flavorful Tuscan pigs are leaner and free range, and the Italians don’t nuke the meat.


Delicious potatoes in a tomato sauce.

Pounded veal in a mushroom sauce — also excellent.


Chicken Cacciatore.


And at the end some free grappa. Ouch! taste-buds still stinging.


Cafe expresso.

This is a fun and delicious place. It’s located in the lovely square above. They may cater to tourists, but they serve amazing traditional Tuscan food prepared with very fresh ingredients. And the service is extremely friendly.

Click here to see more Eating Italy posts.

Eating Milano Marittima – Notte E Di’

Restaurant: Ristorante Notte E Di’

Location: Cervia / Milano Marittima, Italy

Date: June 10, 2011

Cuisine: Pizza etc

Rating: Great pizza place, bug menu

ANY CHARACTER HERE

After a morning touring ancient mosaics in Ravenna we were hanking for pizza — having reached a certain saturation level on good pasta (how would have thought that possibile?). We located a likely prospect on the Milano Marittima main drag, this time making sure that the pizza oven was on.


They had a huge menu, but i only photoed the pizza section.


Insalta Misto.

And the condiments. This place had a hot oil!


One of us evidently wasn’t ready to make the pasta -> pizza transition. Pistoli del mare. Look at that squidy goodness!


Pizza fungi.

Four cheese with arugula.


And my brother and I went for the “house for two,” which requires this stand.


It had prosciutto, arugula, sausage, mushrooms, and various cheeses.  Mmmm good. The crust was perfect too.


Check out the size!


And they brought us Limoncello (nicely chilled) at the end. Like melted lemon drops with a kick.


Cafe!

And a bit of foam for those that need to take it as a macchiato.

This was a fantastic pizza place, just what we wanted.

Click here to see more Eating Italy posts.