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The inside scoop on food in Los Angeles

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Ludo sans subtitles: Roast chicken for bébés

In between pop-ups and television shows, Ludo Lefebvre has been busy making Ludo Baby Bites cooking videos for baby equipment maker Bugaboo (expect gratuitous stroller shots). Note that unlike his appearances on "Top Chef Masters" and "Ludo Bites America," there are no subtitles. But he's easy to follow, with recipes for meals for parents and little ones alike, such as mac 'n' goat cheese and grandma's roast chicken. 

You might have to listen a little more closely for his anecdotes, such as his description of Sunday after-church get-togethers with his family in France. "All the family are together and big lunch together and, of course, a lot of fights. That's for sure. It's unfortunate, when you have a big family, everybody's fighting. But it's great, you know, it's okay. It's part of the family. [Smile.]" Words to live by during the holidays?  


Holiday cookies: Nana's Russian tea cookies

Food editor Russ Parsons on Cookbook Village

Monthly wine classes at the Huntington Library

-- Betty Hallock 

Best restaurant in the world? Whose world?


Nobody takes "best" lists seriously, but they are plenty of fun to argue about. And there's plenty of arguing going on right now over the list of 50 best restaurants in the world put together by Restaurant magazine and sponsored by San Pellegrino. Best restaurant in the world? The whole wide world? Noma in Denmark. Wonder how many of the voters have actually eaten there (it has only50 seats and it is, after all, in Denmark -- our Betty Hallock went last year and here's her report). Silver and bronze medals go to two Spanish restaurants: El Celler de Can Roca and Mugaritz. Osteria Francescana in Italy and Fat Duck in England round out the top five.

The top American restaurant is Grant Achatz's Alinea in Chicago at No. 6. In New York, Per Se is No. 10 and Daniel is No. 11. There were no California restaurants in the top 50. (But the Bazaar by Jose Andres in Los Angeles is No. 85.) 

-- Russ Parsons

Photo of Noma chef René Redzepi by Christian Charisius / Reuters

Super Bowl ads fail to bring the funny; but at least we know about Denny's free Grand Slam breakfast Tuesday

Because I apparently had nothing better to do while watching the Super Bowl on Sunday afternoon, I busied myself by eating Fritos and guacamole -- the calorie count tempered with the occasional cherry -- and took notes on all of the food-and-drink-related commercials.

By my count there were 22 total, six of which were for Budweiser and Bud Light and three of which were for Doritos. Also adding to the lineup were: Snickers, Coke, Papa John's Pizza, Dr Pepper, Carl's Jr., Denny's, Jack in the Box and Taco Bell. Conspicuously missing was Pepsi.

Also conspicuously missing? A big laugh. Although Super Bowl XLIV reportedly had the most ads of any Super Bowl, for my money, it also had one of the most uninspired groups of Super Bowl commercials I have ever seen. And I've been watching. I dated a football fanatic for 10 years (one who made me memorize every team in the league, and quizzed me regularly on the rules of play -- the abuse!).

The only chuckle I got was during the Bud Light commercial featuring Auto-Tune and T-Pain. Auto-Tune is zeitgeisty thanks to Mr. Pain, and just absurd enough coming out of the mouths of a bunch of geeky football fans, to be truly funny.

The most disappointing commercial for me was the Simpson's spot for Coke. The bizarrely off-key half-time show featuring the Who and the Tron-like light show was naturally imbued with more scathing "Simpsons"-esque satire than that commercial had in a single pixel. What a wasted opportunity to bring the funny.

Continue reading »

Super Bowl ads set a record (and make us hungry)

Let's see if we got this straight: McDonald's will help you dunk like LeBron, Snickers will keep you from playing football like you're Betty White, dogs will do anything to get their paws on Doritos, and having a house made out of Bud Light cans would be really cool. Think Sunday night's Super Bowl seemed like it had a lot of ads? You're right. Commercials took up nearly 48 minutes of the game — the most for any Super Bowl. Read the rest of the story, and watch ad highlights, here.

Photo credit: (AP photo / Doritos)

YouTube obsession: The Slap Chop infomercial with Vince Shlomi

I know I'm late to the game, but I just discovered the joys of watching TV spokesman Vince Shlomi hawk the Slap Chop in an insanely addictive three-minute infomercial. In addition to the chopper, which is a plastic kitchen device with a rotating blade that you place over vegetables and pummel with the palm of your hand, Shlomi does pitches for the super-absorbent towel known by its cuddly name, ShamWow.

A friend at work sent me this, calling it the "most inadvertently touching infomercial for an absolutely useless product ever." Perhaps my friend was reacting to lines that Shlomi delivers such as, "This tuna looks boring. Stop having a boring tuna. Stop having a boring life." Or in reference to chopping an onion, "Life's hard enough as it is, you don't want to cry anymore."

I was almost sold on this starry-eyed thesis concerning Shlomi's intentions until the video got to the part where he says, "You're gonna love my nuts," before producing a handful of almonds for chopping. That's when I began thinking that any guy that sports a blond-tinted faux-hawk, talks like he auditioned for MTV's "Jersey Shore," and owns a ShamWow is probably up to no good.

My suspicions were confirmed when another friend wrote to tell me that Shlomi was arrested last year in an altercation with a prostitute at a South Beach hotel, an incident the Smoking Gun refers to as "ShamWow Guy in Slap, Chop Bust."

Ouch! Still, the commercial is just weird enough to make me laugh. Life's hard enough as it is and I don't want to cry anymore. But if I do, I suppose I can always dry my tears with a ShamWow.

-- Jessica Gelt

Sampler Platter: Bacon Christmas tree postcards, L.A.'s best vegan Reuben, microwave with a brain

Imen Shan prepares to steep and serve traditional Chinese gong fu tea inside her Palos Verdes store, Tea Habitat

May your holiday be wrapped in the goodness of bacon Christmas tree cards, fancy Parisian wines, low-cost restaurant gift cards and hot tea.
-- Bacon Christmas tree postcards! Eat Me Daily
-- Cars crash in nearly 12-inches of offal. NZ Herald
-- Quarrygirl says Locali wins the vegan Reuben wars.
-- Tour d'Argent restaurant in Paris begins auctioning 18,000 bottles of wine. Guardian
-- Restaurant holiday gift card deals. Fast Food Maven
-- Animal chef Vinnie Dotolo gets married. Was bacon on the menu? 100 Layer Cake
-- Recipe junkie takes on Pillsbury challenge. Columbia Basin Herald
-- Microwave oven with a brain? Brand X
-- Food companies explain the amount of air in the bag. New York Times
-- Yelp launches Andorid app. CNET
--  FBI investigates disappearance of Italian chef Angelo Faliva aboard cruise. Los Angeles Times
-- The real tea party: Tea Habitat. Sku's Recent Eats
-- Domino's pulls ads from MTV's "Jersey Shore." Inside TV
-- Elina Shatkin

Photo: Imen Shan prepares to steep and serve traditional Chinese gong fu tea inside her Palos Verdes store, Tea Habitat. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

Hoop dreams, ramen reality

Nba_poster_300 Aaaah, the glamorous life of being an international sports star ... full of European travel and dining at the finest restaurants. Well, in theory anyway. One of the highlights of ESPN's TrueHoop basketball blog is the occasional report from former Virginia Tech basketball player Coleman Collins, who is now playing for Ulm in Germany's Bundesliga.

A 6-foot-9 (2.06-meter) center for the team, Collins is also a wonderfully gifted writer. But not so much of a cook. Think he's dining on schnitzel and sauerbrauten? Then you probably don't know any twentysomething basketball players. In his latest post, Collins turns to food writing, extolling the pleasures of Maruchan instant ramen (apparently hard to find in Germany!) and, when all else fails, lunch at IKEA.

Something tells me this isn't exactly the way Kobe Bryant eats.

-- Russ Parsons

Photo courtesy of Ulm Basketball

Sampler Platter: Make a bacon lamp, meet the White House Crustmaster, testing Campbell's Soup's noodles claim


The Crustmaster uses pies to lure Michelle Obama to the dark side. The original recipe for Worcestershire sauce is discovered (we assume it's the British equivalent of the original top-secret formula for Coca-Cola, but without cocaine). And the most practical how-to ever: making your own bacon lamp.
--Meet White House pastry chef Bill Yosses, a.k.a. the Crustmaster. CBS4 Denver
--Restaurant groups unhappy about health-care bill. Nation's Restaurant News
--"Emeril Live" may return to TV -- but not on the Food Network. ABC Action News
--The 10 most beloved and unhealthy gaming snacks. Topless Robot
--100 things restaurant staffers should never do: Part 1 and Part 2. New York Times
--Campbell's claims every can of chicken noodle soup has 32 feet of noodles. KING5
--Who would Jacques Pepin most like to cook naked with? Nigella Lawson. Gastrobuzz
--Original Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce recipe found. Daily Mail
--How to make a bacon lamp. Oddity Central
--Diners plan to spend 20% less on restaurant meals. Bloomberg
-- Elina Shatkin

Photo: Jacques Pepin's dream date, Nigella Lawson. Credit: Tina Fineberg / For The Times

Sampler Platter: bacon candle, food stamps, cheesecake and sugary cereals

Residents gather outside the Sonic Drive-In after a tornado destroyed parts of Newton, Miss. in 2002.

Food stamps and fancy restaurants, bacon candles and racist cookies -- it's a tale of two worlds in today's food news roundup.
--Gwyneth Paltrow's L.A. restaurant picks: Church and State, Gjelina, Shima, Madeo, Cecconi’s, Tavern, Animal, Osteria La Buca, Yong Su San, the Best Fish Taco in Enseneda, La Estrella Taco Truck, Kogi, Varnish. Goop
--Several sites are giving away pairs of tickets to Great Chefs of L.A., a benefit that happens on Nov. 8 for the National Kidney Foundation of Southern California.
--Costco to accept food stamps nationally. L.A. Times
--Living close to food is good for your waistline. Salt Lake Tribune
--Troy Smith, founder of Sonic drive-in chain, dies. Baltimore Sun
--UN delivers food aid by text message to Iraqi refugees in Syria. The Telegraph
--Sugariest cereals for kids get advertised the most. Consumerist
--Offensive Creole Creme cookies removed from Australian stores. 9News
--Chef Rick Gresh of David Burke’s Primehouse in Chicago brings his edible bacon fat candle to NYC. Gothamist
--Cheesecake? C'mon, what are New Yorkers really eating? New York Times
--Moderate amounts of protein, rather than a lot, might be best for muscle. Booster Shots
--Former combat marine turned chef serves up meals for seniors as a way of giving back to community. New York Daily News

-- Elina Shatkin

Photo: Residents gather outside the Sonic Drive-In after a tornado destroyed parts of Newton, Miss. in 2002. Credit: Rogelio Solis / AP

Big year for Bordeaux?

Moueix Get ready, wine collectors: Bordeaux looks like it's having a historically great vintage in 2009.

The weather has been warm and dry all summer, and most of the Merlot is already harvested. On the Right Bank, where Merlot is the dominant grape, vintners are comparing '09 to the great years of the last century.

"The '09 vintage has been the perfect vintage," said Christian Moueix, president of the family company that makes some of the most expensive wines in Pomerol, including Petrus. "We had the summer of '89 and the picking of '90. I compare it to '47. We will have that kind of extraordinary character."

There's always some hype with vintage reports, because nobody wants to tell customers that next year's product isn't worthy. But weather records don't lie.

About an inch of rain fell over three days in mid-September; then the skies stayed dry for the next three weeks. A storm was expected last week, encouraging some wineries to pick beforehand. But the clouds stayed away days longer than expected and eventually dropped just a few millimeters in some areas, a sprinkling that the Medoc's famous Cabernet Sauvignon vines probably welcomed.

Moreover, technology has advanced tremendously since great vintages like 1982, meaning quality should be more consistent. The one worry is alcohol level: All that warm weather means some of this year's wines will be pushing 15%. That, and the fear that the world economy may not be ready for the prices Bordeaux negociants might demand when word starts to get out -- which it will very soon.

"The word for the vintage is fruit," Moueix said. "Unbelievable -- you enter the tank rooms and you smell so much more fruit than I have smelled in years."

-- W. Blake Gray

Photo: Christian Moueix. Credit: Los Angeles Times Syndicate


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Daily Dish is written by Times staff writers.