Eating Florence – Nove IX

Restaurant: Nove IX

Location: Florence, Italy

Date: June 17, 2011

Cuisine: Modern Tuscan

Rating: Tasty!

ANY CHARACTER HERE

Our Florentine friend brought us to this attractive new place on the banks of the Arno river as the sun was making it’s way into that great tunnel in the west.


It’s actually about three blocks to the left of this, past the Ponte Vecchio. Nove IX is more typical of a city like Florence than most of the Tuscan restaurants we have been eating at in that it’s a bit more modernized, trendy. Still, the cuisine is solidly rooted in the local countryside.


The menu.

The have their own olive oil.


This 90 point Chianti Rufina is readily available in the Florence area. “The 2007 Chianti Rufina Riserva shows the open, opulent personality that makes this vintage so alluring. Ripe, silky tannins frame a core of red fruits, flowers and spices, all of which come together with unsual grace. Though medium in body, there is wonderful generosity to the fruit, not to mention fabulous overall balance. Anticipated maturity: 2010-2015.”


This is a tartar of beef with parmesan.


And on a more modern note, a tartar of tuna with avocado and tomato.


And one of white fish (perhaps even yellowtail) with citrus and a light frise-type salad. Certainly showing those Matsuhisa type influences.


The Nove IX take on the mixed salad.


Risotto with spigola (sea bass), lemon, and Florentine zucchine.


Spaghettini with pesto of zucchini flowers.


Paccheri (wide pasta) with tomatos, mozzarella and fried eggplant.


Shellfish ravioli in creme of zucchine sauce.


Trofie alla genovese. Traditional twisted little pasta with pesto (basil, olive oil, garlic, parmesan, and pine-nuts) as well as a bit of sliced potato and green beans. This was the best pesto I had until we got to Liguria (where pesto comes from).


Chopped chicken with green beans and balsamic sauce. Not so far off from a chinese dish!

Nothing at all wrong with Nove IX. The food was great, and it was a welcome change to see a little bit more updated menu without compromising at all on quality.

Click here to see more Eating Italy posts.

Eating Florence – La Cantinetta Antinori

Restaurant: La Cantinetta Antinori

Location: Florence, Italy

Date: June 17, 2011

Cuisine: Modern Tuscan

Rating: Slick and tasty

ANY CHARACTER HERE

On our first trip to Florence (we went thrice) we met up with an Italian friend and her family and they brought us to the Antinori wine empire’s casual enoteca, where they combine slick modernized Tuscan food with a large selection of excellent wines.


The lovely room in Palazzo Antinori.


A nice light quafable mineral laced white. We went through about half a bottle a person at lunch!


The menu. Sorry the meat courses are out of focus.


Assorted bruschetta, Tuscan standard.


Insalta Caprese.  Tomato and buffalo mozzarella. Basil and olive oil.


Panzanella. Traditional Tuscan salad of soaked stale bread, tomato, basil, onions, olive oil.


The ubiquitous Insalta Misto.


Taglierini agli scampi freschi. Thin noodles with tomato, basil, garlic and you guessed it, a giant crayfish creature.


Fagioli. Tuscan fava beans and olive oil.


Sea bass, capers, sun dried tomatos, potatoes.


Pounded veal in mushroom sauce.


Filetto di manzo. Beef filet and potatoes.


Almond semifreddo with caramel. This is SO up my dessert alley. Creamy and sweet. Oh yes. Oh yes.


Expresso, to counter the copious amount of wine I consumed.

This was a nice place. Not radical, not staid. Fitting of a hot spot in Florence, it’s basically traditional Tuscan fare with 10% modernization. Given the quality of the ingredients and the base cuisine, this is more than enough for a great meal.

Click here to see more Eating Italy posts.

Eating Colle di Val d’Elsa – Arnolfo

Restaurant: Arnolfo Ristorante

Location: Colle di Val d’Elsa, Italy

Date: June 16 & 23, 2011

Cuisine: Tuscan

Rating: Awesome, but hard to find

ANY CHARACTER HERE

Just fifteen minutes from our villa and Siena lies the city of Colle di Val d’Elsa and its two star rated Michelin restaurant, Arnolfo. So we went twice! This is an amazing restaurant in a gorgeous location atop the old city. The rub, however, is getting there. The first time the GPS insisted we drive into a masonry wall (closed road). We gave up with that, parked, and ended up walking over a mile, including taking the elevator up to the old city. The walk back wasn’t no fun either and the staff told us that to actually drive here you have to go 6km out of your way to the next town and then come back by one particular approach — but then there is no parking in the old city.

So the next time, feeling all smart, I tried to park in the “close” (only 500m) lot below the old city. But the first entrance I tried was so narrow that I almost got stuck and had to back up my 9 seater van down 200m of alley and around a 90 degree turn — only took 30 minutes and soaked through my suit in the 88 degree humid weather. Then we had to hike up the half mile.

But it was worth it.


They have a gorgeous patio which far from “being in the middle of a city” looks out on the Tuscan hillside.


Even the non-view direction is lovely.


Grissini, first of several bread courses.


The menu on June 16 (the last of the “spring menu”).


And the new “summer” menu on June 23, as we luckily straddled the change.


Compari and soda.


Stating with a little prosecco to cool off.


In the glass.


Then comes a tray of amuses. From left to right. Green pea mouse, tomato stuffed with mozzarella, apple disc with prawn, veal croquet, and gorgonzola and fig jam sandwich. These were all good, but the last was incredible.


Like most great restaurants Arnolfo caters to every restriction. This is a variant amuse plate for vegetarians.


For example this beet and goat cheese mini.


Bread course number two, tomato bread and with lardo (sliver of pig fat).


And for those not so into the pig, the one on the right is onion.


Nor are the gluten free left out. Various potato and rice triscuits!


I’ve come to like Vernaccia, which is a D.O.C. white from San Gimignano. Very light, but with more flavor than a Pinot Grigio.


“Scampi, Goose Liver Escalope, Strawberries.”


“Sea Bass, Strawberries.” A variant for the shellfish impaired.

My notes failed me a little here, but I think it’s some kind of fish (possibly a pork belly though) in a pea soup.


Heads up, bread course three!


“Red mullets, Peas, Silver skin Onions.”


“Asparagus, Ricotta Cheese, Eggs.” Now this was an interesting dish. The white asparagus were grilled and wrapped in pancetta (bacon). The white and yellow stuff is deconstructed egg (yolk and white as powder). The ricotta is in the upper right and was delicious. The powder wasn’t as successful as the bonus egg, shown below.


This is more or less a coddled egg. I dipped the asparagus for extra umph.


This was a small production local Chianti Classico that the sommeler recommended. Good too, and like 30E. Try to find a decent wine at that price at a French 2 star!


“Guinea-Fowl, Chick-peas, I.G.P. Tuscan Ham.” Good stuff.

“Spinach soup with sea bass, tomato.”


“Perlina Aubergines, Tomato, Watermelon, Buffalo Mozzarella I.G.P.”


“Prawns, Peaches, Yellow Pepper.” Yummy. The pairing of the delicate shellfish was delicious with both the fruit and the peppers.


Arnolfo has very nice presentation, which I couldn’t photo every aspect of.


“Goose Liver, Red Onions, Spices, Cherries.” Oh wow yum. And that is some kind of cheese foam/ice cream on top. This was really good stuff.

And two extra goose liver preps for good measure. A sort of Napoleon and a little pistachio coated truffle, solid fois inside.


“Rabbit, Bloack Olives, Ratatouille.” Not your everyday Ratatouille. Notice the white asparagus too.


“Turbot with mozzerella.”


“Tortelli with chicken from Val d’Orcia, with asparagus and red pepper soup.” These are serious homemade pastas.

“Tortelli, Red Onions from Certaldo, White Beans from Sorana.”


“Mezzelune pasta, Courgettes flowers, Wedge shells.”


“Tagliolini, Rabbit, Black Olives.” In the front, out of focus, are discs of rabbit meat to go with the chunks of bunny in the pasta.


“Ravioli, Aubergines, Ewe’s Ricotta, Red Pepper.”


Gluten free pasta too!


“The 2006 Badia a Passignano Chianti Classico Riserva is a pretty, juicy red laced with cherries, dried flowers, tobacco and underbrush. The tannins dry out a touch on the finish, which is the only thing that keeps the score from going higher. Still, this forward, fruit-driven Chianti should drink nicely over the next few years. Anticipated maturity: 2010-2016. “


“Cod, with onions.” And some other stuff.


“Fish soup, Crustaceans, Mollucs, Vegetables.”


“John Dory, Asparagus, Datterini Tomatoes, Capers from Pantelleria.”


“Dentex, Gazpacho, Aubergines.”


“Swordfish, Roasted Peppers, Candied Tomatoes.” You can see that each dish is quite complex.


A brunello recommended by the sommelier.


“I.G.P. Chianina Veal Steak and cheek.”


“I.G.P. Chianina Veal Tartar and vegetables.”


I didn’t used to be into tartar, but it’s really been growing on me over the last several years. Quail egg on top.


“I.G.P. Chiania Veal Steak, Potatoes.”


“Cinta Senese Suckling Pig, Porchetta, Leg, Loin, Leaf Cabbage, Beetroots.”


This town evidently produces 14% of the world’s crystal. Italian shopping hours being what they are, despite three visits, we never saw one open.


Ah the suffering involved in dining in one of the world’s great wine regions. 93 points from Parker. “Consulting oenologist Carlo Ferrini has turned out a beautiful wine at this historic estate, a property which he speaks of in effusive terms. Talenti’s sublime 2001 Brunello Pian di Conte exhibits a deep, translucent ruby color. It opens with captivating, vibrant aromatics, with notes of freshly cut roses, raspberries and licorice. Gorgeously expressive yet delicate on the palate, it offers layers of dark fruit, earthiness and sweet oak supported by a refined, classic structure, with exceptional length and fine, silky tannins on the fresh finish. It is a superb effort. Anticipated maturity: 2008-2021.”

We are assaulted by a battery of pre-desserts. Vanilla ice cream with cherry rhubarb “soup.”

“Almond Mascarpone, pistachio ice cream.”


“Ricotta Cheese, Orange, Honey.” Tart and sweet.


“Selection of Tuscan Sheep’s-milk and Goat’s-milk Cheeses.”


And some nice condiments.


I can’t even remember what this one was.


“Zuccotto, Star Anis, Coffee, Fennel Ice Cream.”


“Grand Dessert Assortment.” Because one isn’t enough. Chocolate cake, Passionfruit sauce. Coffee something. Strawberry flan. A bit of the above Zuccotto, and something else.


“Zuccotto, Pinenuts, Alkermes, Chocolate Sorbet, Fleur del Sel.” The central thing was basically a meringue.


“Fruit and custard mille fueile.”


“Apricots, Almonds, Lavender Ice Cream.”


Worth a bit of zoom.


And this too.


We also had a birthday (mine more or less), so there was this bonus cake!

And just a few petite fours. Lemon jelly in the center. A little fruit tart on the right.

More, on the second night. Berry tart. Ricotta vanilla dome. Pistachio burger. Blackberry mouse. Almond marzipan.


Our second meal here was slightly better than the first for some reason, but both were top notch. Service was spectacular all around. Highly recommended as a very updated medium modernist take on Tuscan cuisine. The quality of local ingredients was impeccable, and they know how to modernize playfully without letting the techniques get out of control.

Click here to see more Eating Italy posts.

Sam’s by the Beach 3D

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

Location: 108 W. Channel Rd.(PCH), Santa Monica, CA90402. 310-230-9100

Date: May 14, Sept 4, & Oct 30, 2011

Cuisine: Cal French International

Rating: Stellar food and unparalleled service.

ANY CHARACTER HERE

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.


An amuse of tuna tartar on endive.


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


The glass.

Today’s menu.


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


This salad was a special, heirloom tomatoes and sashimi grade salmon with a bit of greens, orange, and a mustard vinaigrette.


Another special salad, this time with Santa Barbara shrimp (with roe), corn, and a lovely vinaigrette.


Sam’s grandmom’s butternut squash soup. Vegan with some olives. A lovely bit of fall flavor.


A special today, boar lasagne. The sauce is a tangy tomato cream sauce. This was a really good lasagne. The boar meat was tastier than ground beef.


“Vegetarian Crepes. Homemade Crepes filled with Swiss chard, wild mushrooms and zucchini served in tomato coulis.”  This is a very nice vegetarian option, and surprisingly hearty. The sauce is bread dippingly yummy.


Sam’s has a pizza oven and a variety of pizzas served mostly on Sundays. This is the margarita.


And the Shawarma pizza, which given my penchant for homemade interesting pizzas, I found very interesting. The sauce is a bit more like a harissa, and the pizza is covered with shawarma and pine-nuts.


And served with a tangy yoghurt dip. Good stuff.


Medditeranian seafood soup. But it comes with the traditional toastes and garlic aioli.


Prepping the breads.


The soup itself. Lots of different seafood and a fantastic tomato garlic broth.


With the toasts. They sog up nicely and make for gooey garlicky goodness.


“Grilled Wild Salmon. Served with braised Swiss chard, Pine Nuts, and roasted Sunchoke, with fresh oregano sauce.”


Special rack of Lamb in a dijon mustard vinaigrette. The lamb was tender. The sauce has a fantastic vinegary tone, bright with the mustard, but not overpowering. I had to sop it up with bread afterward. Served with various vegetables and ratatouille.

Green apple sorbet, with a true apple mouthfeel (even a bit mealy, like real apples).

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…).


My personal favorite, the bread pudding. Topped with a creme anglais, it is warm, rich, and soft, with a chocolate botom.


A few freebee biscotti for dessert.


The room (or technically, half the room).

For other reviews of Sam’s, see here or here.

Quick Eats: Kreation Kafe

Restaurant: Kreation Kafe

Location: 1023 Montana Ave. Santa Monica, CA 90403. (310) 458-4880

Date: January 21, 2011

Cuisine: Modern Mediterranean

Rating: Tasty and modernized take on kabobs and mezzas

 

On the once bustling Montana (now home to more than a few empty stores) is this little med cafe. They have tables out front and a patio in back. The interior space is tiny. The food is very fresh and organic.

The Menu.

Someone else’s salads.

“Eggplant Dip Flavored with Tomatoes, Red Onion and a touch of Garlic.” Basically Baba ghanuosh, but very fresh. With almonds and a crunchy fennel salad.

Yogurt Dip Persian Garden Cucumber with diced Shallots, Fresh Mint, Dill and Parsley.” A really good example of the type. Very fresh, with the bright intensity of the Yogurt front and center. There isn’t a lot of garlic here like in a tzatziki.

It all goes nicely with the Persian style flat bread.

“Smoked salmon, various salads, olives, cucumber tomato, red onion, cream cheese, capers.” All very fresh.

“Braised Beef Short Rib Plate.” Like chunks of good tender pot roast. Kind of a cross over between a kabob and Shabbat dinner.

“Braised Beef Short Rib Sandwich.” Same thing, on a roll.

Usually I get the “Niman Ranch Ground Beef Kabob” here, which slathered in the yoghurt sauce is pretty awesome.

Another nice thing about this place is that it’s only a block from Cafe Luxxe, which has hand’s down the best cafe expresso in Los Angeles. This is the most incredible cappuccino, without even the slightest hint of bitterness. It isn’r even hot, body temperature, with the micro foam blended in all perfect. Just goes down easy.

Ultimate Pizza – The Birthday

For the second half of my mother’s birthday weekend we hosted a small pizza party. I’ve already detailed the entire process involved in the making of my Ultimate Pizza (CLICK HERE for the index page). This party was merely a refinement of the process, but one which succeeded in taking the art to even higher levels.

This whole format makes a really great party. Newcomers don’t know what to make of it because pizzas come off the line slowly at first, in series, and everyone grabs a slice. No one sits down, but instead hovers around the kitchen island participating in the three hour frenzy of pizza making. Very fun and interactive.

First off the presses is this completely basic tomato and mutz pizza for my two-year old. He doesn’t appreciate complexity yet, although I have progressed him from generic orange cheddar to 2-3 year aged special reserve cheddar, which he is now very fond of :-).

 

Opening with some whites: a nice champagne, and a very nice riesling.

“The 2000 Brut Millesime Cuvee Speciale comes across as excessively heavy and almost sweet in its ripe fruit. Something is not quite right about the balance here. Disgorged: December, 2006. Anticipated maturity: 2009-2011.”

Parker gives this riesling 91 points, “An almost confectionary sense of sweetness and ripeness pervades the Prum 2009 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Spatlese, making it something of an exception in a vintage collection generally noteworthy for the restraint of residual sugar. Apple candy, caramel, and vanilla mingle on a creamy palate, with hints of salt, stone, and apple pit happily offering some counterpoint in a long and otherwise soothing finish. This showed more grip as it opened, and perhaps time will lend more cut and complexity to a Spatlese that on the basis of track record is likely to thrive for another quarter century or more. Incidentally, this represents the first of three lots of “regular” Wehlener Sonnenuhr Spatlese, the last of which was still in tank in September.”

And the first red. Parker 93, “Super-ripe aromas of cookie dough, spices, and black cherry syrup can be found in the nose of the medium-bodied 2002 Nuits-St.-Georges Les Pruliers. Its fabulously satiny texture, concentration, and purity are immensely impressive. This medium-bodied wine coats the palate with innumerable black fruits, minerals, and spices. Projected maturity: 2008-2018.”

Here is the evolution of my wife’s favorite pizza. Fresh tomato sauce (HERE for details and recipe), black mission figs, corn, mushrooms, roma tomatoes, and marcona almonds.

This is actually the second pizza of the night, as I had made my creme fraiche salmon pizza, but I forgot to get a photo. Fortunately, details can be FOUND HERE.

Cheese: mozzarella, parmesan, pecorino.

And then out of the oven. This time around I was trying to concentrate on slightly less irregular shapes, with some success. I have not mastered the art of “spinning” the pizza to get it very round, and the soft “00” based dough makes them very fragile.

This pizza employed a base of my special herb oil (detailed HERE at the end of this post). Then pesto (RECIPE HERE), steamed asparagus, almonds, tomato, various cheeses (including Bucheron), mushrooms, basil.

Out of the oven.

Caramelized onions, gorgonzola, figs.

Dressed with balsamic glaze. A very yummy sweet and salty pizza.

Besides all this pizza there was also a very yummy salad my mom made, with micro greens, granny smith apples, and a fresh homemade meyer lemon vinaigrette. I unfortunately forgot to take a photo, must have been running to the oven and back.

Here is a new one. One of my friends brought two new cheeses, a 5 year old aged Gouda and a 7 year old cheddar. Both cheeses were used here, along with breadcrumbs. This made fore a very yummy crunchy pizza, not unlike cheesy garlic toast.

My mother likes her pizzas fairly simple and veggie. This has classic tomato and mutz, plus mushrooms, basil, and julienned zucchini. I got to practice my knife skills with the julienne. She did throw a bit of the aged Gouda on.

It looks pretty different out of the oven, but it sure tasted great. The Gouda turned out to be a great sophisticated pizza cheese and melted here with the parm and mutz into a really great cheesy mess like on a good New Jersey style pie.

Gelsons was out of the Tikka Masala Sauce I used on New Years (HERE FOR DETAILS), but I bought a “coconut curry” sauce by the same company. It’s arrayed here with mutz blocks, corn, chaneterelle mushrooms, basil, red onion and bucheron.

I finished it with cilantro pesto (we had two different kinds of pesto this time around, DETAILS HERE). The purpose of the cilantro pesto was to mirror the finishing of a curry dish with a handfull of coriander (cilantro) leaves. The net affect on this pizza was less in your face than the Tikka Masala, but still very Indian, like Naan bread dipped in curry. Yum!

Pounding through the wines, had to crack a pair of brunellos.

Parker 91, “The 2004 Brunello di Montalcino is a fresh, vibrant offering bursting with dark cherries, violets, underbrush, minerals and sweet toasted oak on a medium-bodied frame. The wine reveals terrific balance in an energetic, focused style, with firm yet ripe tannins. The finish is long, clean and refreshing. This is a gorgeous effort from Loacker. Anticipated maturity: 2011-2019.”

Parker 93, “The stunning, single vineyard 1997 Brunello di Montalcino Montosoli, exhibits more new oak than its sibling, as well as more power, concentration, alcohol, and extract. A deep garnet color accompanies huge, sweet aromas of roasted herbs, red and black currants, cherries, earth, incense, tobacco, and soy. This is a wine to lay away for 5-6 years. This chewy, full-bodied, spectacular Brunello will be at its finest between 2010-2022.”

 

This was a great pizza made by a newcomer to our culinary circle. Pesto, red onion, bucheron, herb oil, some various cheeses, and I think a bit of acacia honey.

I sold her on finishing it with Burrata (details on my favorite fresh cheese HERE), and then single vineyard olive oil and balsamic must.  It was REALLY good.

This puppy, also by a newcomer, used a sauce base of both the crushed tomato sauce and homemade romesco (I had made it two days before for my special eggs, DETAILS AND RECIPE HERE). We also used both the aged cheeses, and some good aged parm.

Also a very yummy pizza, with the romesco lending an extra bit of tanginess to the sauce.

Another newbie with this novel shaped pizza. Basic stuffs, a lot of basil, lots of cheeses and onion.

Out of the oven.

Scott, one of my most regular partners in pizza crime, tried to make this “mexican pizza.” The sauce is actually salsa, not regular tomato. Then corn of course, various cheeses, tomato, red peppers, and some sliced jalepeno I think.

Finished with burrata and cilantro. We wanted to use avocado too, but our farmer’s market avocados were hard as rocks, they needed another week or two to ripen.

My mother liked her basic veggie so much (as did many others) that she whipped up another one.

This is a highly experimental pizza. It used a port wine cheese and aged gouda, along with chopped farmer’s market dates, and even some splashes of the currently open wine (either a brunello or a very good cote de rhone — below).

Then it was finished with fig jam (not shown). This made it a very interesting sweet pizza, even if the color was a putrescent pink.

I decided to experiment with my own caramelized onion based pizza. I added Bucheron, sharp cheddar, marcona almonds, cherry compote, and a bit of harrisa.

After cooking.

Dressed with burrata and balsamic glaze. This was not my most successful combo, and I think the problem was the cheddar. It added a tangy sharpness that just didn’t work.

This used romesco alone as the sauce, along with all sorts of vegetables, figs and cheeses, including bucheron.

Finished with burrata and balsamic and olive oil. Yum!

More wine. Parker 90, “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 a finale Mirella, another regular and adventurous pizza chef, concocted this baby. The sauce is a mix of Moroccan Harissa and caramelized onions! Aged cheeses, onions, sliced garlic, and gorgonzola dolce.

Cheesy, spicy, sweet, this was a delicious finisher.

But we weren’t done drinking. Parker 97, “The 2004 Reserva, according to Remirez is “a great vintage, a lot of nerve, like 1994, that needed a long aging period”. Opaque purple in color, it offers up a splendid bouquet of sandalwood, incense, Asian spices, balsamic, and black cherry. Layered, opulent, and impeccably balanced, it is a monumental effort.”

My mom’s birthday cake, yes she is one year younger than my toddler.


And after that cheese bomb of a meal, nothing like a little gelato/sorbetto to polish off the palette. We experimented with this gourmet store brand, Talenti. Pistachio, Lemon, Raspberry, Double Chocolate, and Blood Orange. For store bought ice creams these were very good, but it still doesn’t hold a candle to what you get at a good gelateria. Sigh. All were good, personally I thought the blood orange was the best.

Finito.

Ultimate Pizza – Day 3

The seventh Ultimate Pizza post. Earlier in the series were DoughPesto,SauceToppingsNew Years Pizza, and Day 2. Woah!
We had family over on Sunday to polish off the seven remaining pizza balls and work our way through some more of the toppings. I made a number of repeat pizzas that I didn’t photo, like another Tuna and another Lox pizza. So there were about four pizzas made but not pictured.

This puppy has black truffle sauce, then a generous spread of caramelized onion marmelade, gorgonzolla, parmesaen, morel mushrooms, marcona almonds, cherry compote, and drizzled honey.

After baking.

Then I added some fresh basil, burrata, and drizzled balsamic glaze and olive oil. It was really good. The sweetness of the onions mixed nicely with the salty blue cheese and nuts giving it that sweet and salty factor that I’m very fond of.

A repeat of my Tikka Masala pizza. Ricotta, Mozzarella, Parmesan, onions, corn.

Dressed with basil and olive oil.

A tomato sauce, fresh tomato, mozzerella, archichoke, sun dried tomato pizza.

Dressed with a little basil and olive oil.

We ran out of balls, and my niece wanted a pizza of her own creation so we used a tortilla. This one has pesto, tomato sauce, mozzarella, parmesan, and sliced tomatos.

Then dressed with bail. The tortilla actually worked incredibly well. It came out like a water cracker, incredibly thin and crunchy. The overall feel of the pizza was very light and crispy. I was surprised. Different than our chewy tasty pizza dough, but good.

With that I conclude the endless saga of Ultimate Pizzas. It will be at least a few weeks before I have the energy to do them again.

Ultimate Pizza – The Sauce

This is part 3 of my comprehensive coverage of our New Years pizza making, following the article on Dough and the one on the Pesto. Upcoming will be toppings and the pizzas themselves.

Here are the ingredients. Two types of marzano tomatos from Italy. Crushed and pulped. Garlic, lemons, salt, pepper, oregano, and fresh basil.

We use this recipe from the excellent pizza making book American Pie as a basis, but wing the proportions.

Dump a bunch of stuff in, and blend. This is super easy and makes a much much fresher and better tomato sauce than any canned sauce. One could use fresh Marzanos, but they can be a bit of trouble to find.

The vat.

As a tease, here is the “pizza oven” in preparation. I have two ceramic pizza stones and I shove them in a Viking outdoor gas range. If one pre-heats an hour in advance it will get up to 800-900 degrees F — hot is good for pizzas.

Southern California, December 31, 2010. 62 Degrees and gorgeous.

At the last minute I decided to try and make some of this herb oil.

I through all sorts of herbs together, including fresh rosemary from the garden, and some garlic.

Dumped in some olive oil and stirred vigorously (picture is before the stirring). We’ll see how it tastes in a couple hours.

Please CONTINUE HERE as we get closer to Ultimate Pizza.

Quick Eats: Osteria Latini

Restaurant: Osteria Latini [1, 2, 3]

Location: 11712 San Vicente Blvd.Brentwood, CA 90049 310.826.9222

Date: Dec 03, 2010

Cuisine: Italian

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LA is full of good Italian places, and, well, it was date night and my wife loves Italian. So off we went to Osteria Latini which is one of the ten or so in Brentwood, most on San Vicente. About half of the places are actually very good and we often rotate around between them. The menu can be found HERE.


“BELLA SALAD, Arrugola, pears, dry cherris, goat cheese and shaved parmesan.”

“BEEF CARPACCIO, Thin sliced filet mignon with capers, parmesan and arrugola.” This was a very good version of this classic. The beef was excellent, there was a nice tang to the dressing, and the cheese was very good. I love good cheese.

“BOMBOLOTTI, Small rigatoni with tomatoes filet and basil.” Very straight up pasta.

RISOTTO ALL’ARAGOSTA, With lobster in a light tomato sauce.” I’m a huge risotto fan, all sorts of risotto. This was an excellent seafood variant. You can’t see it, but there was a lot of lobster in there. And the light tomato sauce was indeed — light — complementing the fleshy lobster well. It was not particularly rich — but was very good. Given that I was coming off the gluttony of the ThanksGavin, light was a good thing.


Latini always gives you this little glass of lemon sorbetto mixed with prosecco at the end, regardless of whether you order desert or not. Given my penchant for lemon and my sweet tooth, I like it a lot.

This place is well above the median line for the already high bar of LA Italian (although it certainly has A LOT of company). They’re friendly, tasty, reasonably priced, and the chef has a very good touch.

For other Osteria Latini reviews, click HERE or HERE.

Or for LA Restaurant reviews.

Or an entire month of eating in Italy!