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Book to Plate Goes to Seattle for WCR National Conference!

GiGi (GiGi Eats Celebrities) and I will be headed to Seattle this upcoming weekend for the Women Chefs & Restaurateurs National Conference!  We are so excited to be leading the seminar: Lights, Camera, COOK! A Beginner's Guide to Starting Your Social Media Cooking Show & Recipe VideosIt's hard to believe we started shooting our YouTube Cooking Series, Book to Plate, four years ago, but what a journey it has been!  We are looking forward to sharing our knowledge and helping others to get started on their digital cooking dreams!
 
The WCR Conference takes place in Seattle May 6th - 8th and will be hosting incredible female talent from all corners of the culinary industry -- we are honored to be a part of this event!

Make sure to tune into our Facebook Live at 10 am Monday, May 8th on our Book to Plate Fan Page, so even if you aren't there you won't miss anything. 

If you're interested in attending, please click HERE.

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LA Food Bowl is Coming: Q & A with LA Times' Noelle Carter

The first ever LA Food Bowl, presented by the LA Times, kicks off May 1st and runs all month long!  This is an incredible celebration of food and chefs not only based in Los Angeles, but from all over the world! I had the opportunity to hear about some of the events from the LA Times Test Kitchen Director, Noelle Carter.  Check out the interview below and if you are interested in attending, which you should be, visit www.lafoodbowl.com

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Happy Brunch Surprise at Vernetti

When some friends and I stumbled upon Vernetti in Larchmont Village we were unaware of the delights that were to come to our table.  After reading the menu posted outside we walked in. It was a Saturday at noon, the peak of brunch-rush in LA, but there was a windowside table open - score!  I was immediately charmed by the bar and dining room decor - modern, classic and clean with tall white walls and plenty of natural light.  I don't know how this restaurant slipped under my radar - but regardless, I was happy to be introduced finally!

Okay, a darling Italian restaurant, ordering a cappuccino was a must.  Ever since my trip to Italy last year I have become obsessed with finding the most authentic Italian cappuccinos in LA.  Some have failed miserably and some have come very close, but the cappuccino at Vernetti has nailed it.  An Italian cappuccino is all about the milk foam to espresso ratio, the perfect balance. I truly felt like I was back in Rome just looking at it.  Then of course, it tasted amazing.

For a starter we ordered the cinnamon roll, since the rest of our orders were savory - something sweet was needed...also we were very hungry.  I had never seen a cinnamon roll like this before, it was made of flaky pastry dough and lacking in thick icing.  It was delicious.  Sweet cinnamon and butter clung to the walls of the dough - it didn't need icing!  Also, it looked like a piece of art.

We also ordered the Avocado Toast, Morning Carbonara and Crispy Polenta Cake.  The Avo Toast was served on delicioius multigrain bread drizzled with balsamic which was a new twist to the usual LA avocado toasts!  I loved the sweet and tangy flavor in contrast to the salty egg. 

The carbonara was overall a great order.  There was no shortage of crispy guanciale or grated cheese, that's for sure! I only wished that the noodles had been bathed in slightly more egg yolk, they were a little dry for my taste.  They didn't leave much lip-licking post bite.  

The Crispy Polenta Cake was a sweet potato polenta served with soft scrambled eggs, sautéed chantrelles and sage.  Basic, but satisfying and they certainly made the most of the mushroom serving. The key was to line up all three on the fork for one special bite.   The sweet potato was unexpected and turned out to be incredibly delicious.

I would love to visit again and try other menu items; Caramelized French Toast with candied citrus, whipped mascarpone, the Semolina Waffle and the House Cured Lox Plate with tomato, capers, red onion, cream cheese, toasted ciabatta.  I would also love to come in for dinner and sit at the bar and swirl a glass or two of wine!   

Rating: XXX

For more info visit: www.vernetti.la

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Restaurant Opening: the Ponte is coming

When Chef Scott Conant's Scarpetta, left Beverly Hills last year, I was devastated! Where was I going to get that magical Spaghetti Pomodoro?  It doesn't matter now because Conant is back! He has partnered with Stephane Bombet, of Bombet Hospitality Group (Faith & Flower, Hanjip), to transform the recently closed Terrine into The Ponte, a modern Italian restaurant with the classic technique Conant is known for. After uncoupling with all Scarpetta Italian Restaurants last year, he was ready for a new project. 

“Scott has had such an impact on modern Italian cuisine throughout his career, and I am honored to be a part of this project with him,” says Bombet. “His signature dishes have made a lasting impression in L.A., and exemplify what we’re striving for at The Ponte—just good Italian food with warm Italian hospitality that keeps you coming back. The fact that Marc was able to collaborate with us is serendipitous—his roots in both France and Italy could not be more perfect for designing this restaurant.”
 
Inspired by the tight-knit community of Pontelandolfo expats—nicknamed Pontes—in Conant's hometown of Waterbury, Connecticut, The Ponte will offer guests a relaxed and sophisticated experience complemented by Conant’s soulful Italian cuisine.

"I love the spirit and energy of L.A., so I was thrilled for the opportunity to get back behind the line in one of my favorite cities," says Conant. "Stephane and I have known each other for years and I've always admired his thoughtful approach to hospitality; you feel like you're among friends when you walk through his doors. That sense of conviviality, of warmth and comfort that comes with community, is exactly the vibe I wanted to create with The Ponte. I hope L.A. enjoys it!"
 
Conant's menu will offer a wide selection of charcuterie, antipasti, and pasta, including Spaghetti Pomodoro with his signature ragu. Assorted vegetables and pizza from the kitchen’s wood-burning oven will also be served, along with dishes that celebrate the best of local California ingredients, including Roasted Lamb Neck with raisins, smoked eggplant, goat cheese & pine nut crumble; and Prawns with celery root purée, salmoriglio & crispy sunchokes.  

The Ponte’s beverage program, helmed by BHG fixture, Ryan Wainwright, will feature classic yet bespoke Italian aperitivo- and digestivo-themed cocktails to pair with Conant’s cuisine. Best enjoyed in the restaurant’s spacious bar and lounge, The Ponte’s bar will celebrate California citrus and Italian herbs and bitters, in addition to housing an impressive collection of amaro and several varieties of housemade limoncello.
 
Wainwright’s bar menu will feature six classic and six house drinks, all in the spirit of the aperitivo tradition: an Old Fashioned with caramelized Fernet; bitter lemon tonic and grappa; and a Negroni flight with classic Camparinette, white Negroni, and mezcal variations; among many others.

I am salivating like crazy over here and can barely wait to take a seat when the restaurant officially opens it's doors toward the end of this month.

The Ponte Ristorante
8265 Beverly Blvd. in Los Angeles, CA. 
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Palm Desert Food & Wine: Sneak Peak

The Palm Desert Food & Wine Festival, presented by Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, returns for its 7th year this March 24th - 26th.  This is a food event that I have heard a lot about and this year, I am finally going!  Not only is the chef talent going to be epic, but who doesn't love an excuse to go to Palm Desert?  This week I attended a special preview event with some of the chefs; Brooke Williamson, Stuart O'Keefe and Casey Thompson and it absolutely got me excited for March.

The evening started with poké samplers from The Venue, a sushi bar in Palm Desert run by Chef Engin Onural who will be participating in the event.  All were delicious!

After our mouths were nice and juicy from the poké, we got to watch two recipe demos! The first was from Irish Chef and Cookbook Author Stuart O'Keefe, who you might have seen on the Food Network.  His new book, The Quick Six Fix, features healthy, delicious recipes that take no more than six minutes to prep.  He prepared Angel Hair Pasta with Tomato, Lemon, and Large Shrimp...don't you find that the simplest meals are often the best tasting?  Great recipe...and it was not at all hard to watch him work if you know what I'm saying (wink).  

Up next was Chef Brooke Williamson, LA restaurant empress and Top Chef contestant. Her restaurants include Hudson House, The Tripel, Playa Provisions and the recently opened Da Kikokiko.  It's a good thing I like poké because that's also what Chef Brooke prepared for us!  She wanted to share the signature flavors of Da Kikokiko, which pays homage to Hawaiian street food.  Poké shops are turning up all over Los Angeles, this was definitely one of the best bowls I've tried.

Chef Casey Thomas, also a contestant on Top Chef, wasn't able to perform a demo, but she did show her support for the other chefs and got us all excited for March!

If you need more convincing for attendance here are some of the events that will be going on.

  • “An Evening in New Orleans” at Toscana Country Club, where Chef Tory McPhail will kick start the revelry on Thursday, March 23
  • James Beard Gourmet Four-Course Luncheon on Friday, March 24 with emcee Gail Simmons, food expert, Food & Wine Special Projects Director, and judge on Bravo’s Top Chef
  • “Celebrity Chef Reception” at the Ford Estate on the evening of Friday, March 24, where guests can meet and mingle with Gail Simmons and indulge in a one-of-a-kind meal expertly prepared by Brooke Williamson, along with a tour of the restored home
  • Two Days of Grand Tastings on Saturday, March 25 and Sunday, March 26, featuring tastings from 42 celebrated restaurants plus demonstrations from excellent culinary talent, and wines poured from over 60 vintners


*Tickets are on sale now, individual events range from $35-200, with additional package and VIP options. Please continue to visit palmdesertfoodandwine.com for updates and details on full programming of events, chefs, wineries, sommeliers, and breweries participating at the 7th Annual Palm Desert Food & Wine presented by Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa.

Bonus, Palm Desert Food & Wine will donate 35 meals for every festival ticket purchased to Coachella Valley’s FIND Food Bank, which provides food and essentials to those in need throughout the community.

I hope to see you there! 

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Unicorn Hot Chocolate, It's a Thing

It's pink, layered with whipped cream, rainbow sprinkles and pastel marshmallows -- say hello to the world's prettiest white hot chocolate fantasy, Unicorn Hot Chocolate. I'm a little disappointed that my mind didn't come up with it first, but the woman who beat me to it is Joanna Czikalla and now I worship her.  

Czikalla started serving cakes, ice cream, coffee and specialty beverages last year at her dessert café, Créme & Sugar in Anaheim Hills, California.  Her Lavender Latte was the most popular beverage--until now.  The Unicorn Hot Chocolate, which is a secret menu item, has quickly become the biggest seller and an instagram superstar leading to recent features on The Huffington Post and Cosmopolitan.  

So, I bet you're dying to know what it's like! After your tongue swirls through the dense cream, chewy mallows and crisp sprinkles, the first sip hits you with the very forward flavor of white chocolate, it floats down your throat, wrapping it in a warm, soft blanket and you realize you have tasted peace on Earth. You don't even care that it's dripping down the side of your mug and coating your fingers.  This is not an order you would want everyday, but on special occasions, I don't know if there is anything better. Beware, you will experience a severe sugar coma if you decide to finish your entire mad-hatter sized mug.  

If you want to contine down the Unicorn road, Créme & Sugar also offers Unicorn Cake, a Unicorn Milkshake and Unicorn Bark (A rainbow swirled white chocolate bar). The cake looks like it came straight from a My Little Pony's birthday party -- three layers of colorful vanilla cake dressed in sparkly rainbow frosting.  It is the best vanilla cake I have ever tasted. The texture is dense and wholesome.  It is clear that Czikalla has sourced the best flour, eggs, butter and sugar for her creation. I tasted a hint of cornmeal, though I don't think there is any in the recipe, but I liked it! 

Rating: XXXX

For a complete menu listing and information visit: www.cremensugar.com

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Comfortable AF! My Top Five Comfort Foods in LA

December is an interesting month, for one, it’s my birthday month (thanks), also it’s the end of the year - the last hurrah before it starts all over again. I nicknamed December “f*ck it” month.  Seriously, just have fun in December and be comfortable.  The best way to do that is to eat all of the comfort food that you want!  I have decided to make a list of my Top Five favorite LA comfort food spots! 

Sack Sandwiches
I’ve been coming here for a few years.  Thank you Michael Voltaggio for having a concept for sandwiches that is always delicious and always consistent.  Any sandwich here is awesome, but recently I have fallen in love with the “Frenchy” - turkey, brie, fruit chutney, arugula and mayo. It’s the bread that really makes these sandwiches special. Soft, bot not too soft.  It’s an easy and always satisfying go-to for me.

8360 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90069
(323) 655-7225
www.sacksandwiches.com

33 Taps Silverlake
This is a new one, but I recently had their nachos and buffalo cauliflower and was very into it!  Nachos are one of my very favorite comfort meals, but I rarely think to order them! These ones are dressed up classically in cheddar, pico de gallo, beans, jalapeños, enchilada sauce, guacamole and sour cream and the serving is huge.  The buffalo cauliflower, which we have seen as a trend here in LA, is by far the best of any other version I’ve had.  Yes, even Mohawk Bend has nothing on the 33 Taps version!  The skin was perfectly fried and crispy, I didn’t feel like I was eating cauliflower at all!  Last note, they have wine ON TAP and it’s great. (They also have a Hollywood location FYI)

3725 W. Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90026
323-338-7777
www.33taps.com

Blue Star Donuts
Like this one needs a lot of explaining…Blue Star is batsh*t crazy delicious.  I take great pride in the fact that it was founded in my home state of Oregon, but thank God they opened shop down here!  Doughnuts have always been one of most reliable pick-me ups.  Had a bad day? An amazing doughnut will make things better, always!  Sometimes it’s hard to choose which flavor to get because they are all incredible, so I say get a few, but you have to get their signature Blueberry Bourbon Basil. (They also  have a Manhattan Beach location)

1142 Abbot Kinney Blvd
Venice, CA 90291
310-450-5630
www.bluestardonuts.com

bluestardonuts

The Oaks Gourmet Market
Because Cheeseburgers.  That was not an actual sentence, but it’s true. I’ve been eating cheeseburgers all over LA for 10 years now and the one at The Oaks Gourmet is especially endearing to me and yes, makes me feel incredibly comforted! Go in, order the Dry Aged Burger. It’s a half pound dry aged beef patty with bacon, baby arugula, red onion, tomato, jalepeño and pineapple compote, taleggio cheese served on a toasted brioche bun.  I know you just had a fantasy in your mind and it was goooooood.

1915 North Bronson Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90068
(323) 871-8894
www.theoaksgourmet.com

Photo by Benji Dell

Photo by Benji Dell

Public School on Tap 21
I have said it before and I will say it again, this is a PMS-ing woman’s paradise, also great for dudes any day of the month!  Tons of fried, gooey, cheesy, meaty, sweet and salty things to choose from.  The shrimp and grits is my favorite entree, but what really soothes my soul is the Nutella Cookie Sandwich with bacon brittle, chocolate chunk cookies and vanilla bean ice cream.  It’s everything naughty and is really fun to try shoving in your mouth.  I recommend sharing with a friend. (They also have locations in Culver City, Sherman Oaks and Thousand Oaks)

612 Flower St.
Los Angeles, CA 90017
(213) 622-4500
www.psontap.com

Photo courtesy of Dog and a Duck PR

Photo courtesy of Dog and a Duck PR

Believe me when I say, making this list was very difficult, there are definitely more favorites of mine, but I feel good about sharing these with you.  What are your favorite comfort food go-to's?? 

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Umami Burger Set for National Cheeseburger Day!

umamiburger

You may or may not know that cheeseburgers are my favorite thing to eat.  I love to tell the story that I'm made of them...my mom ate a ton of cheeseburgers when she was pregnant with me! Dandy burgers to be exact.  My last meal would absolutely be a double cheeseburger with avocado and bacon.  In honor of National Cheeseburger Day, coming up this Sunday, September 18th, I have tasted all four, location-specific Umami Burgers so that I can tell you which ones you can eat where...and so you can drool over this mad burger porn, duh!

Umami Burger Santa Monica - Loco Moco
beef patty, rice patty “buns,” gravy, fried egg, chives

The Loco Moco is not actually a cheeseburger, but I wanted to include something for you lactose intolerant burger lovers! I will warn you, this burger is rich, therefore best enjoyed with a side of crisp Umami pickles.  You will want some tang to cut through the gravy!

Umami Burger Broadway - Trattoria Burger
bacon lardon & beef patty, crispy capitol, arugula, parmesan frico, roasted garlic aioli, roasted pine nuts

Out of the four new burgers that I tried, this one was my favorite.  Probably because mixing bacon into beef is the way to my heart.  I wasn't sure how the pinenuts were going to work, but they were surprisingly tasty and added an earthy flavor that paired well with the salty parmesan and capitol. 

Umami Burger at The Grove - Kinoko Burger
portobello mushroom buns, grilled chicken breast, basil pesto, parmesan, arugula, cherry tomato confit, goat cheese, balsamic glaze

Living that carb-free life?  This is the burger of your dreams!  It does require a fork and knife to devour it though, unless you don't mind having sticky balsamic hands!  I really liked this burger, the tomato confit was delicious and I also felt like I was eating something healthy...haha.

Umami Burger Pasadena - Pepperbelly Burger
house beer-cheddar cheese stuffed beef patty, Umami chili, Fritos crumble, pickled serranos, roasted garlic aioli

Oh snap, this burger is HOT.  The Pepperbelly was my second favorite...because chili, cheese and Fritos on a burger? YES.  If you like your burgers wild and spicy, here you go, eat this thing!  That crispy Frito crunch really is something special and should probably be on more burgers.

Thanks for reading and I wish you all an awesome National Cheeseburger Day! 


For more info please visit www.umamiburger.com

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The Taste 2016: Greatest Hits

Hanging out with awesome friends, chatting with chefs, tasting wine and cocktails and EATING for a full two days and nights, I survived The Taste 2016...barely!  After attending four back to back food events all last weekend at The Taste I can say that I truly feel like a champion of sorts...a food champion. I also feel exhausted after eating and drinking so much and it will probably take me all of this week to recover. And guess what?  I get to do it all over again THIS weekend at the Lake Tahoe Autumn Food & Wine Festival!  I am a crazy person!

Back to the events I attended at The Taste, you will notice below that only three are documented and that is because during the last event, I wanted to participate as a normal, food-loving person and not feel the need to take a picture of everything I touched.  I let my "blogger" persona have a break and just had fun enjoying the deliciousness without being worried about getting the perfect Instagram shot.  Check out my favorite bites below! 

FIELD TO FORK

DINNER WITH A TWIST

BLOCK PARTY

Did you go to The Taste?  What were your favorite bites?  

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The Taste Returns!

his is by far the busiest time of year for LA food lovers. Right after the LA Food & Wine Festival comes The Taste presented by The LA Times, taking place all Labor Day Weekend at Paramount Studios.  What's unique about The Taste, is that in addition to bringing great bites and drinks, it also has several panels and speaking events for attendees to participate in! Everything kicks off Friday night with a party and ends Sunday night with Flavors of LA.  There are a total of five events you can attend, don't miss out! 

OPENING NIGHT
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 2 | 7:30 – 10:30 P.M.
AN EVENING AMONG THE CULINARY STARS
Hosted by Noelle CarterJonathan GoldJenn Harris and Amy Scattergood
Featuring a focused collection of tastings, distinctive cocktails and wines, it’s a unique chance to mingle with all The Times’ hosts and many of the weekend’s participating chefs and mixologists. 

FIELD TO FORK
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 3 | 11 A.M. – 2 P.M.
FRESH TASTES FROM LA’S BEST CHEFS
Hosted by Amy Scattergood and Michael Cimarusti
Bite after bite, experience the amazing possibilities of fresh-focused dishes inspired by the bounty of California as leading LA chefs display their mastery of cooking with locally sourced ingredients.

DINNER WITH A TWIST
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 3 | 7:30 – 10:30 P.M.
LET THE GOOD TIMES POUR
Hosted by Ray GarciaJonathan GoldJenn Harris and Michael Lay
With a great cocktail, a premium wine or your favorite spirit paired with the extraordinary culinary creations of the city’s best chefs, this evening becomes an unforgettable stroll through a studio backlot.

SUNDAY BLOCK PARTY
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 4 | 11 A.M. – 2 P.M.
SUMMER’S LAST HURRAH
Hosted by Noelle Carter and Mary Sue Milliken
It’s a holiday weekend. LA’s best chefs and mixologists will be there. And they’ll be serving up some incredible indulgences on a historic movie backlot. It’s all the ingredients for the ultimate block party. 

FLAVORS OF LA
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 4 | 7:30 – 10:30 P.M.
ONE CITY, COUNTLESS TASTES
Hosted by Jonathan Gold and Kris Yenbamroong
Let our Pulitzer Prize-winning food critic take your taste buds on a tour of this city’s vibrant collection of eclectic cuisines. This can’t-miss event is a culinary exploration of what makes LA, LA.

For all info please visit http://events.latimes.com/taste

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LA Food & Wine 2016: Greatest Hits

Great, looks like I will be hitting the gym every day this week thanks to all of the glorious food I devoured over the weekend at LA Food & Wine!  I would like to thank all of the chefs from near and far who brought their A game to give LA food lovers an amazing experience last Thursday through Sunday.  

My favorite tasting experience was last Saturday evening, at Live on Grand hosted by Tyler Florence.  Two chefs really stood out to me because not only did they create great tasting dishes, they also took into account the "event" element and created dishes that the attendees could visually see come to life.  Of course, you could see all of the chefs putting their dishes together, but Chef Tyler Florence (Tyler Florence Group) and Chef Fernando Darin (Ray's and Stark Bar) went beyond what was expected.  For them, it wasn't just about arranging food on a plate, it was executing individual meals from start to finish.

Florence served California Shrimp & Grits.  To see his team cautiously stirring the grits and gently spooning out shrimp one at a time, then drizzling with oil and sprinkling with seasoning was a testament to the passion behind the flavor.  There was true care being showed.  

Darin served elegant tangles of green spaghetti with Brazil nut pesto and cheese foam. He stood all night rolling the pasta fresh from his hands, hanging the noodles until they were ready to be cooked.  It was like a culinary art exhibition that was visually stunning, but also incredible tasting. 

To see more of my favorite bites, keep scrolling! 

EAT THE WORLD HOSTED BY EMERIL LAGASSE

LEXUS GRAND TASTING AT BARKER HANGER IN SANTA MONICA

LIVE ON GRAND HOSTED BY TYLER FLORENCE

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LA Food & Wine 2016 is Here!

Last night was the opening of Los Angeles Food & Wine Festival 2016!  I have attended this event almost every year since it began in 2010 and it never lets me or my tummy down! There are incredible chefs not just from LA but from all over the U.S. who come to our beautiful city to share their talents.  All weekend long there will be lunches, dinners, and tasting events with world-class food, wine and cocktails.  

To check out this year's best bites follow on insatagram and twitter @thefoodpervert @lafoodwine

For all ticket information please visit www.lafw.com 

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Pitchoun Bakery: As French as it Gets!

I was intrigued with Pitchoun the first time I ever walked in last year.  It had that hustle and bustle feel of a well-known neighborhood bakery.  While looking through the pastry case, the beautiful desserts began to entrance me.  Then, they reminded me of standing in line at a little patisserie in Paris with my mom when I was nine years old.  The only thing I wanted that day was a chocolate eclair.  We stood in line for nearly 15 minutes, not knowing if we would survive among the little old ladies stocking up on baguettes for dinner, scarves wound around their soft gray and white hair, shouting for the best loaf.  My mother handed me the eclair and whisked me out the door to the sidewalk where I ate it. Still a fond food memory of mine!  Pitchoun, the french saying for “kiddo”, brings that authentic patisserie experience to Los Angeles, thanks to husband and wife team Frédéric and Fabienne Souliés.

Fabienne’s accent is like lavender-honey, earthy and sweet. She grew up in Monaco, while her husband, grew up in the countryside of Southwest France.  Together they have brought the best of their French upbringings to Pitchoun.  Frédéric comes from three generations of bakers, so you could say he has good instincts.  There is something to be said for keeping things “all in the family,” the chefs and bakers are also French. Many of the ingredients are also imported from France -- most definitely the butter.  If the items don’t come from France, they are sourced as locally as possible. This is why the food tastes so real in my opinion.  “The chefs, we know them from France.  This is why we have them come here.  They are very skilled and we are on the same page. The whole team is French.  This is why I say we are truly an authentic french bakery.  I think we are the only one in this big city like this.” Fabienne says. 

The menu will serve you well from early morning through late afternoon, with traditional breakfast and lunch items: Parisian Omelette, Provencal Eggs, Croque Monsieur, Quiche Lorraine and Salad Niçoise to mention a few.  And of course there are many different breads and pastries ready to go home with you. “In our concept, we wanted to have recipes from our youth that we have grown up with because those are simple recipes, but very good. That was part of our authenticity, so for instance, all the sides that we’re doing, this is all what we would be making at home. Like the carrot salad (Carrots Like in Paris), very simple, very traditional. Then we make our French Vinaigrette. My father would make Provencal Eggs for me growing up with the roasted tomatoes.  All of these recipes have history.”

The best selling item is the Almond Croissant.  Fabienne believes it’s the specific technique they use.  “I would say we are known for the almond croissant. We make the almond croissant the French way, not the American way. The difference is that you use a baked plain croissant, you dip it in a homemade syrup and then you fill it in with the almond paste, which is homemade. And then you put on the top, some slivered almonds and then bake it again.  This is why it is flat. Then you put on the powdered sugar. That’s also why, thanks to the syrup, this croissant is less dry than the American croissant.” I tried one, trust me, they are fantastic! 

Another pastry item I don’t think you should leave without trying is the Raspberry Morning Bun.  It looks like a rose and tastes like a muffin, a croissant and garden fresh raspberries had a baby. You really can’t pass it up! Other menu items I sampled were the Summer Sandwich - proscuitto, mozzarella, grilled zucchini, tomatoes, pistou vinaigrette, basil on ciabatta and the Parisian Omelette with everything - ham, swiss, mushrooms and spinach.

I’ve been to Pitchoun three times now and although I haven’t seen any long lines of little old ladies, I can say that each experience gets better than the last.  Frédéric and Fabienne clearly care a lot about their business, it is an extension of their family.  “With the quality of the ingredients, the sourcing of the ingredients and the knowledge - the savoir faire, this is why I believe we are the best in this city.”  Either that Fabienne, or there’s something in the butter…

Rating: XXX

Pitchoun Bakery
45 S Olive Street
Los Angeles, CA 90013
213.689.3240
www.pitchounbakery.com

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Oh, hey Norah!

Norah Restaurant, helmed by Chef Mike Williams, automatically got points when I found out it was walking distance from my West Hollywood Apartment.  I had heard a little bit about it so when I looked it up and realized that it was where "Don't Tell Mama's" used to be, I was jazzed.  I made a reservation to check it out ASAP!

When I walked through the doors I was immediately impressed with the vibe and overall decor.  The aesthetic looked like something I would create with an unlimited spending limit. I loved the black marble tables, even if they were purchased with the intention of easy instagram fame.  It's all about the marble y'all.

Location, awesome.  Decor, awesome.  Cocktails, awesome.  Food, awesome.
The cocktail I ordered was delicious because it involved cucumber and egg white, two things that I love in my cocktails!  I can't remember what it was called and it's not on the menu anymore so that might make me one of the worst dining reviewers ever, but I'm going to keep going! You can see how pretty it was in the photo.

Based on the imagery you can get an idea of what I'm talking about.  The Cast Iron Cornbread with Rosemary-Honey Butter was so moist that it crumbled apart the second you tried to lift it from the skillet floor, personally I like it that moist.  And yeeaaah, that butter could make rocks rolled in tar taste like heaven.  The two together were a real smash...in my mouth! 

Roots and Burrata, Roasted Carrots, Beets, Pistachio Puree and Onion Escabeche.  I Thank god the roots were carrots.  I would have been miffed with a plate of roasted radishes. Well, radishes did make an appearance, but only a one liner, the carrots were the star. The warm carrots and cool burrata tasted so good together, earthy and slightly sweet.

I ordered the Little Sausages with Kaffir Lime Chili Jam, Herb Salad and Toasted Rice Powder, specifically for the Jam.  I love Jam and this one sounded incredibly unique and tasty. It was and I couldn't help but fantasize how good it would be on avocado toast. Dangerous! I didn't love the sausages as much as the the jam, they were a little too spicy for me.

The pasta dish, Nettle Gnocchi was my favorite.  I do not remember the fine details of this dish and like that cocktail it's not on the menu anymore so all I have to reference is my wordless palate.  I remember the flavors though, and the textures quite vividly.  The sauce was rich and creamy and coated each bite thickly. Chopped peanuts added an intense crunch that was needed to cut through the sauce.  Greens cleansed after each gnocchi bite.  I experienced the sensations of a well balanced plate, that's what great dishes give you, a smart chef knows this.

I just found out that Norah has started their brunch service and I can hardly wait to trot down to it! 

Rating: XXXX

Norah Restaurant
8279 Santa Monica Boulevard
West Hollywood, California 90046

323-450-4211
www.norahrestaurant.com

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Bareburger Goes West and Opens in Santa Monica

bareburger

You know a burger is legit when your dad calls and asks you if you've ever heard of "Bareburger" because he's reading about it right now online.  "Yes dad, I told you, I just ate there!"  Dad is calmed to know that his daughter is indeed up on all of the latest and greatest restaurant trends.  Close one.  Thanks for saving my ass Bareburger Santa Monica, which by the way, is the first Bareburger to open on the West Coast.  The chain started in New York City and now has 28 locations internationally.  Worth tasting?  I think so!

The one thing that you should know about Bareburger is that, well, it's not for sissies. As you can clearly see from the above photo, which is the "Supreme" burger, topped with bacon, lettuce, colby cheese, chopped fries, onion rings and special sauce, this burger place takes the meat and bun game extremely seriously!

Not only does Bareburger feature a fanciful array of numerous burgers complete with different patty options: we're talkin' Elk, Wild Boar, Duck, Bison, Turkey, Sweet Potato and even Mushroom...and beef of course.  Any restaurant who goes through the trouble to get Wild Boar on their menu means business.  

After a few minutes of contemplating how I was going to fit the Supreme into my mouth, I finally just went for it.  I nearly fit it all, but a few fried spilled out.  I have to say eating a burger felt better knowing that the meat had been very humanely treated: no hormones, no antibiotics, free-range, gluten free and pasture raised.  These were happy animals people! That's how Bareburger does it, if only McDonald's could say the same...back to the burger, it was totally tasty!  I would have slapped some bbq sauce on it, had it been on the table.  Because onion rings and bbq sauce work very well together.  

The burger wasn't the only thing I tried.  There was a Chocolate Milkshake, the Sunny Daze salad, Sweet Potato Fries, Pickles, Crispy Brussel Sprouts, the Falafelwraptor and an Ice Cream Cookie Sandwich that all had the pleasure of being tasted by me.

The Falafelwraptor was surprisingly a big hit.  You can never be too sure with vegetarian sandwiches, but this one was quite good; chickpea falafel, feta, spicy pico de gallo, alfalfa, cucumbers, pickled red onions, lemon tahini wrapped in collard greens. I loved the feta mixed in there, gave it that bite to cut through the falafel.  

I also have to mention the pickles.  I am a HUGE pickle fan.  I love all kinds, so I really wanted to try the ones on the menu here.  I opted for the dill pickles.  They were served to me in an adorable jar and met my standards.  Ironically, I don't like pickles on my burgers, but I love to eat them plain.  I would eat a side of these any day!

Although I don't think I will be able to make a regular commute to Santa Monica, I would definitely eat here again.  I will also be telling my westside pervs to check it out!

Rating: XXX

Bareburger
2732 Main St
Santa Monica, CA 90405

310.392.2122

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The Abbey: Come for the Meatballs and Ding Dongs

Little did I know that The Abbey, in terms of bars, is the biggest seller of Bacardi…in the world.  I knew it was the most famous Gay Bar in the world, but this information was news to me!  I hadn’t been to The Abbey since my former roommate, Michael's birthday when I was 22.  It was a grand time filled with giant mojitos, rainbow lights and dancing.  Now the Bacardi statistic makes a lot of sense.  This famed night-club and restaurant is back in the hands of the original owner, David Cooley, after 25 years.  It seemed like the appropriate time to check out the scene.

Cocktails

Georgia Peach Mint Lemonade with SKYY Infusions
This was my favorite, probably because it tastes like peach juice and I LOVE peaches and cocktails where I don’t really taste the alcohol all that much.  Two or more of these babies would really eff me and I wouldn’t realize until it was too late!

Hot Mule with Stoli
I have always been a mule fan, but never had I tasted one like this.  It was basically a classic mule, but with the addition of Jalepeño juice.  If you are a spice whore, this is probably right up your alley.  For the rest of us, it’s overkill.  The bite of ginger is enough for me!

Mango Mojito with Bacardi
The Mojito is the cocktail I associate very distinctly with The Abbey.  It’s what I remember drinking all those years ago and remember liking quite a bit! Oh yes, here is the evidence (photo).  This is why they sell more Bacardi than anyone!  People are downing these mojitos like water!  I’m sure this would be too sweet for most people, but I’ll take it.

Dinner

You will find breakfast items served all day and plenty of bar food staples on The Abbey's highly extensive menu: everything from Hashed Beef & Eggs to Potstickers...see what I mean?

BBQ Baby Back Ribs
Sliced & Grilled Pork Ribs, Sweet BBQ Sauce,Buttermilk Onion Rings, Ranch
I am not shy about saying how much I love meat, pork in particular. You hear that boys!  These ribs were my favorite of the entire slew of entrées I sampled.  They weren’t super smokey like other LA BBQ hotspots, Bludsos or Barrel & Ashes.  They leaned more to the sweet side, which was very okay with me.  The tender meat melted softly into the crispy sweet glaze of the outer, fire-kissed layer.  The lightly battered onion rings were the perfect compliment to the ribs.  I loved that they were sliced thinly, it really gave them a classy edge!


Sicilian Meatball Pasta
Bucatini Pasta, Plum Tomato Sauce, Shaved Parmesan, Basil, Fresno Chile Grilled Baguette
Let me address the balls first…fantastic!  They were plump, well seasoned and soft to chew.  The sauce surprised me.  I could almost say that too much plum juice had been added to it?  It was good, but sweeter than what I am used to for my marinara. I prefer it to be on the spicier side.

LGBTA
Applewood Smoked Bacon, Tomato, Arugula, Basil Aioli, Avocado, Smoked Gouda Cheese, Warm Ciabatta
You gotta give this props for the title, clever.  It’s essentially a BLT with some fancy sprinkled on top. It would be hard to mess up and thankfully they didn’t!  This hit the spot for me!  I especially loved the ciabatta bun and creamy, smokey gouda.

Warm Quinoa Salad
Almonds, Dates, Oranges, Olives, Tuscan Kale, Mint, Shaved Fennel
Arugula, Orange Tarragon Vinaigrette


I would only recommend this salad for your gluten-free/vegetarian/vegan friends...if you are the gluten-free friend, well then, I'm sorry.   It was a fine salad, nothing spectacular.  The quinoa needed to be seasoned, it was extremely bland.  The dressing had potential, but was on the weaker side in terms of flavor intensity.  I would have liked to have been hit slightly harder with the citrus.  If you're a meat eater, skip this, there are better options for you on the menu...like the ribs obviously! 

Dessert

Ding Dong
I have to highlight The Abbey's Ding Dong.  It was nearly an exact replica of the retro processed dessert, but tasted bakery fresh.  Applause to the Chef, it was everything I ever wanted a homemade Ding Dong to taste like: a chocolate pillow of moist cakiness smothered with milk chocolatey, creamy, velvety frosting.  God, I love Ding Dongs.

If you are looking for a fun night out The Abbey will take good care of you.  The dining experience isn't going to change your life, but it will be enjoyable...especially if you keep the mojitos coming.  

Rating: XX

The Abbey
692 North Robertson Boulevard, West Hollywood, CA 90069
(310) 289-8410
www.theabbeyweho.com

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Little Next Door's Big Deal Winter Menu

When I first moved to LA in 2006, I lived on Blackburn Avenue right behind W. 3rd street.  Little Next Door was always one of my favorite go-tos for a quality coffee or brunch on the patio.  I have lived in several neighborhoods since, but always think fondly on my first LA stomping grounds.  I recently had a great reason to go back for a visit: Little Next Door has debuted their winter menu.  I was delighted to give it a try and report back to you!

For Starters...

Baby Kale and Quinoa Salad
Pomegranate, Persimmons, Candied Ginger
Hello, I would like to introduce you to the only salad I want to eat for the rest of the Winter.  I am the first to admit I'm not a Kale worshipper, but, who ever massaged these greens did a tremendous job because I could not stop scooping them into my mouth.  Persimmons definitely don't get enough time in the spotlight and this salad was the perfect way to showcase their meaty flesh and sweetness.  The dressing coated each bite with lemon and earthiness.  So, so tasty.  More please!

Roasted Curried Cauliflower
Currants, Toasted Almonds, Organic Yogurt
Anything that's prepared with curry will most likely be something I'll love.  It's my very favorite spice.  I was excited to see it on this menu.  I'm not one that gravitates toward cauliflower, but eating it this way was something I could get used to.  The tart yogurt was a nice addition.  I loved swirly each spicy bite through its cool creaminess. 

Potato Gnocchi
Gorgonzola Cream, Walnuts 
This sounds like a dish that you could take one bite of and be full.  The truth is, it's so good that taking one bite is impossible.  For me, gnocchi offers the same comfort as Macaroni.  This dish was like a very sophisticated, rich, and adult Mac n' Cheese.  The walnuts added great crunchy contrast to the soft gnocchi.

Main Dish...

Roasted Organic Chicken
Cornbread-Wild Mushroom Stuffing, Butternut Squash, Brussels Sprouts, Pecan, Sage
I couldn't get enough of this stuffing...the bird was good too, but the stuffing really stood out to me.  Sage was the perfect herb to blend in.  I really just wanted to ask for a big bowl of stuffing to eat with a spoon, but I restrained myself...maybe I won't next time...

Roasted Pork Chop
Mustard Smoked Garlic Sauce, Olive Oil Potato Mash, Brussels Sprouts
This was the dish that stole my heart.  It had been awhile since I had eaten a nicely prepared pork chop on a restaurant menu.  I feel like you don't see it as often as you used to, unless you're at a chop house obviously.  The pork was so full of flavor, especially those nibbles clinging to the bone.  Tender too, and juicy.  It was the most comforting plate I had eaten in awhile, hitting the spot on that chilly night!  If you order this, you will have no regrets.

Before the temperatures rise to above sixty-five degrees, take advantage of this menu.  You will feel warmed up, soothed and well-fed throughout your body and spirit.  Don't forget to save room for the delicious pastries.  Macarons anyone? 

Rating: XXX

Little Next Door
8142 West 3rd Street,
Los Angeles, CA 90048
323.951.1010
www.littlenextdoor.com

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Estrella: A Dining Wish Come True + Q & A With Chef Dakota Weiss

I am in love with Chef Dakota Weiss.  More specifically, I am in love with what she’s doing with food.  At her new restaurant, Estrella, on the Sunset Strip, she is blending ingredients that are risky, bold and at times questionable.  When you read the menu, you stop and think, “Really?  Would those things taste good together?”  Then you ponder a little longer and decide "I'm ready, let's try this!"  Not only was the cuisine exceptional,  the cocktails, designed by Gia St. George, were also fantastic.  Weiss’ cooking involves the best senses;  you see, you smell, you taste and then you feel.  She also knows what’s up seasonally and uses that to her ultimate advantage. 

Sex, Drugs and Rock 'n Roll
Altos repasado tequila, mezcal, lime, ginger syrup, rosemary honey and nutmeg
A thrilling tequila cocktail - I loved the mezcal and rosemary facing off with each sip.  I prefer my alcohol to be on the sweeter side, the ginger helped with that, but I loved the edge of the tequila.

Artichoke Guacamole
Oven Dried Heirloom Tomatoes & Tortilla Chips
When I arrived this was already on the table.  I first noticed the shade.  It was a lighter green than traditional guacamole and the deep red tomatoes sat stark in contrast.  With a crisp chip I took a taste.  The artichoke was more present than I expected, and delicious.  I had to slap my own wrist to keep from eating the whole thing before more food came out. 

Sliced Figs, Turkey Chorizo
Pomegranates, Mint, Raw Almonds
This was one of my favorites.  Something that sounded a little strange, but was intoxicating at first bite.  The spicy and sweet combo is always a win for me.  I loaded the the spicy chorizo, juicy fig, and pomegranates on my fork - they smashed together in my mouth and I knew Weiss was onto something...and bravo on the use of the seasonal figs and pomegranates! I would absolutely order this dish again.

Roasted Bone Marrow
Confit Quail, Kabocha Squash Spaetzel and Red Wine-Truffle Jus
Bone Marrow is one of Weiss’ very favorite things on earth, so duh, it’s on her menu!  And when you’ve scraped out ever last bit of marrow, you use the hollow bone as a luge for a shot of sherry! This is an experience not to be missed and could become Estrella's signature.

Hamachi Crudo
Confit Squash, Citrus, Thai Chile, Truffled Pumpkin Seeds
This was my best experience with hamachi ever and I will be craving it often.  The way all of the flavors came together upon each slab of hamachi was delightful.  These ingredients sounded like they were randomly selected out of a hat, but they worked impressively well together.  I especially loved the citrus, spice and crunch.

Honey Fried Chicken, Corn Bread
Yes, yes, yes!  I had great anticipation for this plate!  Honey-fried anything sounds like something I would LOVE.  This batter was light and airy compared to the fried chicken batter I’m accustomed to. It wasn’t as light as a tempura, but almost.  The honey was present, but not overly so. The chicken under the crisp was hot and tender.  This is the only way I want to eat fried chicken now!  

Caramelized Branzino
Wild Mushrooms, Lobster-Egg Yolk Cream, Olives, Carrots
Branzino is such a lovely fish, isn’t it?  It could be prepared numerous ways and always taste amazing.  Weiss’ choice to caramelize it was intriguing.  In my opinion this technique really sealed in moisture that may have escaped otherwise.  The bits of lobster sitting in yolk took this plate a step further across culinary boundaries.  Some could argue it was too much, but I felt the intention of this dish was to be fabulous and what's more fabulous than Branzino and Lobster?  I rest my case.  It wins.

Sweet Potato Pie
Caramelized Carrot-Cream Cheese Ice Cream, Pink Peppercorns, Sage and Cinnamon Cream
OMG. This dessert should win a freaking James Beard Award for best autumn dessert of all time.  I mean really though.  The “pie” was a pillowy stack of sweet and savory pureed and baked potato.  The ice-cream on top was ridiculous - cinnamon spicy, cream cheese tart and so rich and creamy.  It would be impossible to not remember this dessert for the rest of my life.

Cast Iron Skillet seared Honey Pound Cake
Strawberries, Bee Pollen - Avocado Semifredo, Basil
A mesmerizing mix of flavors from glossy honey to matte basil.  This marked my first encounter with bee pollen, at least that I’m aware of.  I didn’t know what to expect with the bee pollen-avocado semifredo, but it was an exceptional contrast to the tart strawberries.  The pound cake soaked up every shade of flavor.

From reading this review I’m sure you get the sense that there is a lot of flavor-play going on in the Estrella kitchen.  It is described to be a Latin American-inspired dining experience, but I think the soul of this restaurant is more expansive than that.  Clearly these flavors are an influence, but they don’t define where Estrella can go.  Make your wish upon her, I dare you! 

 Q & A with Chef Dakota Weiss

FP:  What is the one spice you can't live without?  
DW:  I would have to go with Ceylon Cinnamon.  Most people think of cinnamon as only something served with sweet foods.  I feel cinnamon is great with both sweet and savory foods.  It has such an intense flavor and goes with so many other flavor profiles.  Sometimes you can add just a pinch to a dish for an extra kick.
 
FP:  If you could cook dinner with any chef past or present who would you choose and why?
DW:  Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin.  Although not a true chef but instead an Epicure, a philosopher of food.  His knowledge of food, where it came from, how or what it was made with.  I would love to listen to him talk for hours about food and hospitality. 
 
FP: What is your favorite holiday dish to prepare?
DW:  All-time favorite dish to prepare and eat is a Cheese fondue for Christmas Eve.  My mom has been making the Fondue up until my sister and I were "good enough" to take over the reins.  I like it classic with tons of garlic and sherry.  I love to play around with different items to dip but I always head straight to the bread first.
 
FP: Where do you find menu inspiration?
DW:  Honestly, I find it everywhere!  I believe it starts with the season and what's available at the Farmers Markets. Then once you have an item to work with you start to play around with ideas in your head and at that point it could be a color you love or a song you just listened to that can invoke inspiration.  Sometimes I'll find myself just walking from my office to the kitchen and in that "mental prep" time it will just hit me.  
  
FP: What makes LA a special food city?
DW:  LA is such a great food city.  There are so many great "pockets" all around town and each having their own neighborhood gems.  From Korea Town to Pasadena to Santa Monica.  LA is such a diverse city, we have so many great chefs from all over the world.    We have the best Farmers Markets to get our food from as well as local seafood and meat and dairy providers.

Rating: XXXX

Estrella
8800 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, CA 90069  
310.652.6613
www.estrellasunset.com

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