Posts Tagged ‘Italian’

NYC to Los Angeles: Foodie Reflections

April 28, 2015

It’s really hard to believe that it’s been almost two years from this date that I have touched this blog.  My last entry was right before I enjoyed Camp Blogaway in California and I dreamed about being here since that time. Fast forward and my journey has led me here to the city of Angels as of this past July.

I love blogging and I love writing. I love food. None of that went away when I wasn’t blogging here, but there was always a little sensation, a passing comment or curiosity peaked when I mentioned that I have a blog related to the culinary adventures I had documented here. Those little moments kept the blog alive for me even while I wasn’t faithfully writing.

So with that in mind, after a nearly two year respite of writing here, it only makes sense to me to share you with, dear readers, a journey from nearly 10 years in NYC to one in Los Angeles, a place I had wanted to be and now am, on this greater journey called life.

I was really fortunate to have experienced all the culinary delights I had the chance to explore in New York City – from City Lobster to Bell Book & Candle, Kaia Wine Bar, The London, Social Eatz, Koi, B. Smith’s, Dardanel, and my all time favorite (yes, I’m revealing it!) David Burke Townhouse, to name a few – these are not only the places I remember and have documented, but the moments I truly cherish in looking back on the delicious experiences – culinary and company wise, almost as if they were yesterday.  I remember exactly who I was sitting with and what the experience was like. After all, good food is supposed to take you right back to that moment you experienced it, right?

I don’t have a verdict yet on NYC vs. Los Angeles like you might be wondering as I’m still new-ish to Los Angeles, I can give you some compare and contrasts.  The biggest is certainly the distance. While in NYC you can easily get from delight to delight, Los Angeles is a bit harder in that way as it is very spread out. Both NYC and Los Angeles boast great chefs and great establishments so those are a fair comparison, and there are definitely hidden gems in both cities.

So what are some of my favorite haunts in Los Angeles thus far? Read on…

Greenbelt (36 Pier Avenue, Hermosa Beach, CA) – Greenbelt serves everything using local farmer’s market produce and the dishes are delicious for it. I’ve now been for brunch, lunch and dinner and can tell you that you can’t choose a wrong item on this menu.  Depending on what meal you’re going for, I recommend the Grilled Avocado benedict with basil hollandaise. Best part? No bread and you get the healthy fats from the avocado with other great seasonal vegetables that’s filling and it’s also gluten-free for those who have any allergies. Lunch?  Go for a shared pizza like the burrata, mushrooms, fresh tomatoes, basil and pesto. Simple and yummy. Dinner?  I love tuna so the Grilled Yellowfin Tuna with coconut black rice, shitake mushrooms and thai curry is great. Spicy alert on this one though, so the faint beware.

Grilled Avocado Benedict

Grilled Avocado Benedict

Grilled Yellowfin Tuna

Grilled Yellowfin Tuna

Uncle Bill’s Pancake House (1305 Highland Ave., Manhattan Beach, CA) is the ultimate comfort food. I went on a weekday holiday with friends which was great as only on weekday holidays and weekends do they serve the eggs benedict which was delicious.  We also opted to share a side of what they are famous for – pancakes (when in Rome, right?) with coconut and chocolate chips. And for the view alone, the picture says it all.

Eggs Benedict

Eggs Benedict & Coconut Chocolate Chip Pancakes

Uncle Bill's

Uncle Bill’s

Manhattan Beach

Manhattan Beach

Others not pictured?

Mediterraneo (73 Pier Avenue, Hermosa Beach, CA) because of its can’t beat shared apps like the Deviled Eggs with harissa oil, Roasted Dates prosciutto wrapped and stuffed with cambozola blue cheese (my favorite on the menu), Polpette beaf meatballs with San Marzano tomato sauce and parmagiano (really you can’t go wrong with anything here), in addition to the very carefully crafted cocktails, do yourself a favor and check it out. Plus you can walk off dinner as you’ll be right by The Strand for a lazy afternoon or crisp evening beach walk.

Manhattan Beach Post (1142 Manhattan Ave., Manhattan Beach, CA), it’s called a “Social House” for a reason. It’s always busy. And the food and scene is why. I also came on a Sunday for brunch when it’s likely at its peak. But it’s entirely worth the wait starting with some Bacon Cheddar biscuits with maple butter like the tasty ones at Red Lobster (but better) and for shared plates like the French Toast stuffed with house ricotta, bartlett pears and candied almonds and the benedict (yes of course I had to try it, lest you forget the name of my blog).  What else is cool?  The fact that the menu changes seasonally and on the whim of a chef. Can’t hate on that.

Zinc at the Shade Hotel (1221 N. Valley Drive, Manhattan Beach, CA) come for brunch, walk the beach later. Or come during the week and enjoy one of the festive cocktails like the Are You Man Enough? with the Patron Silver Tequila, Veev acai spirit, agave, lime and muddled jalapenos or for a less spicy option the Aviation with gin, lemon juice, maraschino liqeur and creme de violette.

Ok, ok, you’re asking where are all the places not at the beach?  Don’t worry, my friends, I have you covered!

Check out:

Taste on Melrose (8454 Melrose Ave, West Hollywood, CA) – their tagline is “eat, drink, indulge” and that my friends, you can do. I came with some friends who also happen to be awesome work colleagues and we shared the calamari and Pommes Frites with garlic aioli and remoulade. They have great dishes all around whether you’re going healthier with a grilled natural salmon, or more indulgent like the Rigatoni Bolognese I tried.  Fun fact: Grilled cheese night is every Tuesday and you can add their housemade Pommes Frites for only $5. Yep.

Sugarfish by Sushi Nozawa (Multiple locations, I went to 4722 1/4 Admiralty Way, Marina Del Rey, CA) – You can’t explain this sushi, you just have to try it for yourself. It’s served warm and melt in your mouth worthy. I know what you’re thinking. After I was in NYC for so long, can it get any better?  But this truly is an experience.  If you’re really hungry, go for the Nozawa Trust Me. It’s worth it. It includes organic edamame, tuna sashimi, albacore, salmon and yellowtail sushi, halibut sushi, Toro hand roll, Blue Crab hand roll and the daily special.

041 Bacaro (9552 Washington Blvd, Culver City, CA) Chef Conrad came from NYC so that’s almost enough to be said there, but there is true Italian love in this food. Try the roasted brussel sprouts or french fries with truffle oil to start (or both if you’re sharing) and the entrees speak for themselves though I enjoyed the risotto with mixed wild mushrooms. It’s like a slice of Little Italy NYC. Go.

And of course there are more to come.  Have a must try place for me to check out?  Feel free to comment here whether you’re an Angeleno or just know some great spots here in the City of Angels.

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Brunching

May 9, 2011

I’m back!  I do apologize for the delay in postings, dear readers, as I failed to bring you any April content, despite my busy eating schedule. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy my Mother’s Day eating adventures documented below.  Back on schedule and bon appetit!

Mom and dad came into town to support me as I sang in two concerts over the weekend. Of course the weekend wouldn’t be complete without celebratory eating occasions for and with mom.

Our first stop for Sunday brunch was a hidden gem, Dardanel, at 1071 First Avenue (between 58th and 59th Streets). While near the busy Queensboro Bridge, the airy ambiance of the restaurant transported me to an island in Greece. The booths are outfitted in white leather and the restaurant includes several murals reminiscent of the view by the strait that connects the Black and Mediterranean seas.  The decor is my favorite type of interior design – simple and clean.

Dardanel

Interestingly enough, Dardanel has been 2011 Zagat Rated as well as written up in the Daily News and The New York Times, so I was sincerely surprised that we were one of the only tables in the restaurant.  But the food certainly lived up to its merits.

We started off with appetizers of hummus, cheese rolls and the falafel, perfect for whetting our appetite for the main courses. We paired the starters with Angora, a Turkish white wine that’s clean and smooth. When I informed the waiter I’d never had Turkish wine he wasn’t too surprised as he said it’s popular in Europe, but for some reason has been picked up in the states. Consider it a treat when you see it on the menu!

Cheese rolls

Hummus

Falafel

For the main courses, Mom chose the Chicken Kebabs. I opted for the Chicken Adana which is pre-marinated hand-chopped chicken blended with cayenne pepper and East Antolian herbs, served with Turkish rice pilaf and mixed grilled vegetables. Dad chose the Pan Seared Tilapia. According to the website, Dardanel’s fish is imported daily from the Mediterranean region, so there’s no doubt you’re paying for quality.

Chicken Adana

Pan Seared Tilapia

For dessert, we enjoyed a traditional baklava and a milk custard.

While only a few hours went by, it was then time for dinner, and I chose a staple, Per Lei, at 1347 Second Avenue and 71st Street, also apropos for Mom as Per Lei means “for her” in Italian.  The service is always top-notch and the food is outstanding.  For mom’s day, they offered a special Lobster Linguine, so neither mom nor I could pass it up.

Lobster Linguine

And since we were still somewhat full from brunch earlier, we opted to split the Insalata di Spinaci Novelli all’ aceto, Gorgonzola, Macadamia, Lamponi e Pancetta (Baby Spinach, Macadamia nut, Gorgonzola, Raspberry and crispy Pancetta). Say that five times fast.

Insalata di Spinaci

While we didn’t save room for dessert, having dined here previously I can highly recommend the dark chocolate lava cake with coconut gelato.

Only in Manhattan can you experience Greece and Italy in the same day. Love you mom!

Eating Hamptons Style

July 21, 2010

This past weekend I journeyed for my second weekend in the Hamptons since the big Memorial Day kick-off. With a Greek, Italian and Norwegian friend in tow, it was sure to be a blast.

We first found ourselves at Bobby Van’s Steakhouse (2393 Montauk Highway, Bridgehampton, NY) which, according to the Website, was named aptly for a piano player who dazzled diners and is still family owned and operated.  The open, airy feel of the restaurant made for a perfect lunch with a classic shrimp cocktail and a crabmeat salad with avocado, bacon, carrots and fried wontons:

Shrimp cocktail at Bobby Vans

Crabmeat salad at Bobby Vans

 In keeping with our fine dining streak, we ventured in Saturday night to Trata (1020 Montauk Highway, Watermill, NY). While not named for a piano player dazzling diners, the Greeks will have you up dancing  (Trata is a traditional commemorative dance performed every two years in Attica, Greece).  We first started with a round of shared appetizers including the Pikilia, a sampling of five homemade Greek spreads including Tarama, Tzatziki and Skordalia amoung others; a signature Greek salad (Horiatiki); a salmon roll and the Octapodi (yes, that’s octopus and it’s delicious).

Pikilia at Trata

Salmon roll at Trata

For dinner, I opted for the house specialty in the whole fish selection with the Artic Char from Alaska perfectly cooked to fall off the bone while still retaining its flavor:

Artic Char at Trata

With all the fine food, we couldn’t miss out on the chance to sample some decadence and tried the Yiaourti, greek yogurt with three mix-ins including sour cherry, fig and quince – brilliant.  We also sampled the Sokolata, a warm chocolate cake which was then followed by a traditional Baklava.  After finishing dinner, you can top off your experience with a jaunt outside to the beautiful outdoor seating area and cozy up with a glass of white sangria made fresh onsite.

Yiaourti at Trata

Warm chocolate cake

Baklava at Trata

Certainly not a bad weekend to spend if you’re headed “out east.”

Kickin’ It Trump Style

April 8, 2010

I had the opportunity to attend the Trump SoHo preview party this evening – and it was quite a preview!  From the splendid views overlooking the Hudson River, to the room full of decadent desserts to the freshly carved meat, risotto and cheeses … I was wowed.

Upon check-in, I was ushered up to the third floor which is called Hudson Square with adjoining access to the private Spring Terrace:

Trump SoHo Hudson Square

Trump SoHo Spring Terrace

In the Hudson Square, the chefs were serving up risotto and freshly carved prime rib:

On the other side of the third floor were some meeting spaces including the TriBeca, Trump Boardroom and the SoHo Ballroom (which can be split into SoHo One and SoHo Two) – which held the fine collection of desserts and gorgeous flower displays to showcase how these can be arranged.

TriBeca at Trump SoHo

Trump Boardroom at Trump SoHo

Soho Ballroom at Trump SoHo

 

I felt like a kid in a candy shop with the massive dessert table stacked with goodies ranging from tiramisu to doughnut holes filled with nutella and sprinkled with sugar to lemon curd chocolates, key lime pie tarts and even rosemary and olive oil cakes topped with mandarin oranges, reminiscent of the chef’s Northern Italian roots (also reflected in the hotel restaurant Quattro Gastronomia – to be discussed a bit later).

Following this, (I promise I didn’t sufficiently gorge myself on the desserts), I made my way up to the private rooms – deluxe rooms and one bedroom suites on the 26th floor. The 9 foot floor to ceiling windows offer amazing views of the city overlooking the Hudson and I certainly felt ready to jump in the lavish bath (stocked with toiletries from the Spa at Trump), tuck myself under the covers (Egyptian cotton!) and call this place home for a night. The furnishings are custom designed by Fendi Casa (yes, the design collection for the international luxury brand Fendi).

Trump SoHo Deluxe Bedroom

Trump SoHo Deluxe Bedroom bath

After touring the bedrooms, I jaunted back down to the Mezzanine level which offers The Library stocked with Taschen books (they publish art, architecture, design and photography).

The Library at Trump Soho

I then made my way into Quattro Gastronomia, the restaurant featuring Northern Italian cuisine as I referenced earlier. I had a chance to sample some fine Italian cured meats including prosciutto, bresaola and salami, paired with some fine cheeses including Italian goat cheese, blue cheese, parmesan and even one with sheep’s milk which had quite a kick!

Well, Mr. Trump – job well done and glad there is no firing to be done tonight. (According to Hotel Chatter, the inspiration was actually Ivanka’s).