Daily Dish

The inside scoop on food in Los Angeles

Category: Barack Obama

5 Questions for Pascal Lorange

Pascal LorangeFig & Olive Melrose Place executive chef Pascal Lorange has had the recent pleasure of cooking a meal for President Obama. He describes the experience as "an honor and a privilege....  It was wonderful having the opportunity to share my love of food with such inspirational world leaders." Lorange is no stranger to cooking for high-profile clients. He was the private chef to singer Julio Iglesias and has made meals for Oscar de la Renta, Princess Stephanie of Monaco and the Clinton family.

What’s coming up next on your menu? We have a lot of fun, seasonal ingredients we're playing with. Think mushrooms, truffle, sage, pumpkin, saffron, and figs, of course! A few dishes I'm particularly excited to share with Angelenos are my warm goat cheese in fig leaf with house-made lavender honey served with fig chutney and black olive crackers; pumpkin sage ravioli made in-house with free-range chicken, pumpkin-olive oil emulsion, roasted pumpkin seeds, Parmesan cheese, and aged balsamic and frantoio olive oil; and Cote D’Azur bouillabaisse with grilled scallops, lemon sole, striped bass, shaved fennel and a saffron-garlic aioli and olive oil cracker, served with saffron-infused olive oil. We’re not going to disappoint on the dessert front either. ... Pastry chef Andrew LeStourgeon has some exciting new creations including a refreshing green apple sorbet with citrus segments, fresh mint and Picholine olive oil syrup, and a creme brulee cheesecake.

Latest ingredient obsession? Using fig leaves in lieu of parchment paper or other tools such as our classic sole papillote. I've also featured special fish dishes with olive oil infused with fig leaves. Since I came to L.A., I've been obsessed with all things fig, given California's abundant bounty! Since the opening of our Melrose Place location, I've been prowling the town and farmers markets for just the right type and size of Black Mission fig leaf. Just this week, I placed an order for 350 pounds of these fig leaves to be shipped to our other four Fig & Olive outposts on the East Coast. I'm also using Black Mission fig leaves to infuse one of our new fall 2011 collection Fig & Olive Mission Olive Oils for a poached striped bass dish. This infused olive oil adds a delicious full-bodied fruity flavor.

The one piece of kitchen equipment you can't live without, other than your knives? A 60-quart Hobart Mixer -– I use it on a daily basis to make all my olive-oil-driven sauces, marinades and tapenades at the restaurant. I couldn't begin a day without my trusty mixer, which we use to make our house-made rosemary fougasse bread.

The last cookbook you read -– and what inspired you to pick it up? "Under Pressure" by Thomas Keller. I am deeply passionate about slow cooking, and this is something I've really embraced for our Melrose Place location. I plan to eventually adopt this culinary philosophy to all our East Coast locations as well.

What chef has most influenced you? George Blanc of Vonnas, for whom I worked and from whom I learned the fundamentals of gastronomy which I still hold true to, to this day. My dream was to one day work for a three-star Michelin chef in France, and I lived my dream at 18 years old (in 1991). This came true when a one-star Michelin star chef I was working with in Belgium sent me to France to train for four months under Chef Blanc. This is an experience I will never forget. I returned in 2001 for another six-month stint to observe the evolution of his cooking and kitchen.

Fig & Olive, 8490 Melrose Place, West Hollywood, (310) 360-9100, www.figandolive.com

ALSO:

Bäco Mercat comes to downtown

Chris Consentino joins Umamicatessen

Suzanne Goin opens the Larder at Maple Drive

-- Leah Rodrigues
Twitter.com/LeahRodrigues24

Photo: Pascal Lorange. Credit: Fig & Olive

Restaurant critic S. Irene Virbila finds 'The Obama' pizza in Paris

Meg1 When I was in Paris last month, I arrived on the same day the collaborative Paris food blog Paris by Mouth was celebrating its first anniversary. The picnic was at Canal St. Martin in the 10th arrondissement, a couple of blocks, as it turns out, from my hotel.

Jet lag hadn’t clobbered me yet, so I ambled over for the festivities, where I met the blog’s founder and co-editor, Meg Zimbeck, and her co-editor, Barbra Austin (wearing a paper crown for the occasion). Pastry chef and food blogger extraordinaire David Lebovitz was in attendance. Cookbook author Dorie Greenspan showed up wearing some quirky eyeglasses. And a little later,  Patricia Wells joined the group and poured some of the quite delicious Côtes-du-Rhône made on her Chanteduc estate in Provence. She was in town to work on an app for her early book "Food Lover’s Guide to Paris." I also met food writer Jane Segal, who was once Wells’ assistant in Paris. We all sat (or stood) by the canal, talking and enjoying the beautiful day.

At a certain point, Meg ordered pizza from Pink Flamingo Pizza, specifically “the Canal1 (1 of 1) Obama,” which has bacon and pineapple chutney (for Hawaii) on top. Actually, the combination is fun, especially on the thin crust made with organic flour and good sea salt. And -- get this -- the pie was delivered right to the picnic site.

Here’s Meg showing off “the Obama.” And here’s a link to her earlier blog post about the pizzas. It turns out it’s standard practice for the pizzeria to deliver to Canal St. Martin. Who knew? On warm evenings, the banks are lined with neighborhood folks enjoying an impromptu pique-nique with wine. If only I could get Stella Rossa Pizza Bar or Sotto or the new Pizzeria il Fico to deliver to the beach! 

Looking for a budget meal in Paris? This is it.

Pink Flamingo Pizza, 7 rue Bichat, 10th arrondissement, Paris; 011-33/1-42-02-31-70; Métro Jacques Bonsergent. Closed Monday.

ALSO:

Where to find snail roe (and just about everything else) in Las Vegas

Deep-fried fun at the L.A. County Fair

An affront to the good name of 'bacon'

-- S. Irene Virbila

Follow me on twitter.com/sirenevirbila

Photo credit: S. Irene Virbila / Los Angeles Times

 

Media watch: Jamie Oliver calls Sarah Palin a 'froot loop'; Ludo's pop-up TV show; Anthony Bourdain in Haiti

Jamieoliver 
Jamie Oliver fights fire with fire: In an interview with the Associated Press, Jamie Oliver countered the barrage of finger pointing by conservatives like Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin against the Obama administration's healthful eating agenda, claiming that Palin was a “froot loop” when it came to the nation’s food issues. Oliver, who is currently filming the TV show "Jamie's Food Revolution" in Los Angeles, lamented that the nation is in a “really dark moment” regarding childhood health and nutrition, insisting that the lack of healthful eating options and awareness in the U.S. bears the significance of a “civil rights issue.” Then there’s Rachel Ray’s take: "How could you criticize the idea of children playing in the sunshine and eating healthy food?"

Ludo on the Sundance Channel: Ludo Lefebvre has parlayed his pop-up restaurantconcept into a television show on the Sundance Channel. Set for July, the mini-series takes place in six different cities. Lefebvre and his wife/business partner, Kristine Lefebvre, will set up pop-up dinner events within a six-day time frame that revolve around the local community’s regional cuisine. Ludo and his wife are no strangers to the camera, having appeared on "Top Chef Masters" and "The Apprentice," respectively. With the circuit starting up in Alabama, Texas and South Carolina, all eyes will be fixed on how the French chef will merge his high-end repertoire with local comfort foods such as BBQ and fried chicken. Don’t blink, it's a short run -- just six episodes. As ever, Ludo is here today and gone tomorrow.

Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain in Haiti: Kicking off the seventh season of "No Reservations," Anthony Bourdain broke with his more familiar landscape of sunny beaches and Mai Tais for hard-hit Haiti. Following Sean Penn around at the sprawling tent city of his J/P HROPétionville camp, Bourdain avoided painting any fuzzy pictures of joy among the rubble. Encounters were often uncomfortable and intense, including somebody getting whacked with a belt when Bourdain tried to hand out food purchased from a street vendor. Nonetheless, the episode had a strong impact on viewers, causing the website of Penn’s relief organization to crash at one point from the flood of responses.  Selecting locations that include Nicaragua and Cambodia for the new season, Bourdain has certainly grasped the notion that venturing to emotionally charged locations can raise awareness beyond his typical media antics.

-- Max Diamond 

Photo of Jamie Oliver by Pat Carter/Associated Press; photo of Anthony Bourdain by Tom Pelling.

President Obama teaches Bobby Flay a thing or two about grilling

Michelle Obama and Iron Chef team

We knew President Obama was a foodie, who at one point in his life even reviewed restaurants.


But who knew the prez has mad grilling skilz?


Chef Bobby Flay was speaking to the news media recently about Sunday night's special two-hour episode of "Iron Chef America," which goes to the White House for the first time. First Lady Michelle Obama will issue the challenge: Competitors are invited to pluck whatever they like from America's most famous garden and prepare five dishes that epitomize the ultimate American meal. Back in Kitchen Stadium, Flay and White House Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford will go up against Mario Batali and Emeril Lagasse. Judges include celebuchef Nigella Lawson, actress Jane Seymour and Olympic swimmer Natalie Coughlin. (Read more about Sunday night's show here.) 


During the media call, Flay noted that he had been to the White House before, invited to take part in an Obama initiative to mentor young men. While there, he struck up a conversation with the White House pastry chef who revealed that President Obama is quite at home in the kitchen and "can talk about banana cream pie for a really long time." At one point during the cookout portion of the mentoring event, Flay found himself -- where else? -- manning the barbecue. And out of the corner of his eye he saw the president walking toward him.


What was Flay thinking? "OK, here is the leader of the free world about to grab a pair of tongs with me. What am I supposed to do?"


As an icebreaker, Flay told Obama that he'd heard through the grapevine that the president was quite knowledgeable about food and cooking. The president struck a modest reply, "'Oh, no, I don't know much about it, but I'm interested,'" Flay recalled.


A moment later, Flay started to offer the president some gentle suggestions about what to do next at the barbecue. The president, Flay recalled, told him he needn't bother: "Hey, I know what I'm doing."


-- Rene Lynch


Photo: Check out chef Mario Batali's orange Crocs. Do you think he and Michelle Obama coordinated colors? From left, chefs Bobby Flay and Cristeta Comerford, "Iron Chef America" MC Alton Brown, the first lady, Batali and chef Emeril Lagasse. Credit: Food Network

Sampler Platter: Baja Fresh to franchise Calbi BBQ truck, 1,500-calorie Craz-E Burger, world's largest cupcake

A farmer sprays riot police with milk from a cow's udder during a demonstration in front of E.U. headquarters in Brussels.

Angry dairy farmers dousing police officers in milk, a franchised nouveau food truck and fake restaurant receipts top today's food news roundup.
-- Baja Fresh has acquired the Calbi BBQ truck and will franchise the concept. Nation's Restaurant News
-- Fresh & Easy is expected to end the year with a loss. Fast Food Maven
-- 1,316-pound Guinness World Record cupcake is unveiled at a breast cancer benefit. Breitbart
-- Farmers spray police officers with milk -- from live cows! -- at a protest against falling milk prices in Brussels. New York Times
-- Need to generate a fake restaurant receipt for your expense report? Expense-a-Steak will do it for you. Wall Street Journal
-- Meet the 1,500-calorie Craz-E Burger: beef patty, bacon and cheese on a Krispy Kreme doughnut. New York Daily News
-- Although banning fast-food eateries probably won't reduce obesity rates, some people love the soda tax idea. Los Angeles Times
-- Can an anthropomorphized pickle with skinny legs, high-top sneakers and a baseball cap make frozen pickle-juice popsicles seem cool? Bob's Pickle Pops
-- Can a 20-minute Web-only "rock opera" featuring the exploits of fake rocker White Gold get people to drink milk? Los Angeles Times
-- Six tips to get you the most out of dineLA 's Restaurant Week. LAist
-- The Obamas spend their 17th wedding anniversary at Blue Duck Tavern. Positively Barack
-- Elina Shatkin

Photo: A farmer sprays riot police with milk from a cow's udder during a demonstration in front of European Union headquarters in Brussels. Dairy farmers drove hundreds of tractors into the center of Belgium's capital on Monday in the hope of pushing farm ministers into backing more funds to help them survive the milk price crisis. Credit: Yves Logghe / Associated Press

Michelle Obama brings home the kale, eggs, peppers and more from farmers market

Sunflower

I don't know many people who go to farmers markets if what they crave is a celebrity spotting. Unless the celebrity is a chef, or the market is in Hollywood.

But at the market near the White House, shoppers got to see Michelle Obama on Thursday, the market's opening day. A major figure and fresh tomatoes. Not bad.

According to a pool press report, several hundred people gathered at the market, which is run by FreshFarm Markets. Co-director Ann Yonkers said 18 farmers and producers would sell products at the newest outpost, at a corner of Lafayette Park.

Obama has been promoting healthy eating, in public statements and with a garden at the White House, where a group of elementary school students have worked.

According to the pool report, Obama was greeted by wild cheers when she said,"I have to say, I have never seen so many people so excited about fruits and vegetables. This is a very, very good thing, and it's raining outside and everybody's pumped up."

Obama also did some shopping -- black kale, eggs, cherry tomatoes, peppers, pears, fingerling potatoes, cheese and chocolate milk, according to the White House.

Other speakers included U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who noted that there are more than 4,700 farmers markets in the country, and Washington Mayor Adrian M. Fenty.

The new FreshFarm Markets will be open Thursdays through October, from 3 to 7 p.m. The nonprofit organization operates eight other markets in Washington and Maryland.

-- Mary MacVean

Photo: First Lady Michelle Obama at the farmers market near the White House. Credit: Associated Press

It's time for lunch -- school lunch, that is

SchoollunchThirty million children eat school lunch every day. A pretty big captive audience, and plenty of healthy-food advocates want to see some changes in the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program.


So what do food people do when they want to make a statement? They do it with food, naturally. Slow Food USA has organized "Time for Lunch," a campaign to draw attention to school food. Around the country, almost 270 pot luck "eat-ins" are planned on Sept. 7, in schools, community gardens, parks, homes and other spots. One goal is to get 20,000 people to sign a petition to the federal government asking for changes in the school food programs.

“We want to tell the story of America coming together to demand food that’s good for their kids,” said Slow Food’s president, Josh Viertel.

For Viertel and others, that means more fresh fruits and vegetables and more federal money for schools to buy food -- many child nutrition advocates would like to see $1 a day per child more -- reimbursements are now less than $3 for each free lunch a cafeteria serves.

One of the Los Angeles events will be at 4 p.m. at Fancifull Fine Food and Baskets, on Melrose Avenue near Larchmont. Computers will be available for people to sign the Slow Food petition, and there will be cooking demonstrations for children by Homegirl Cafe. People are asked to bring a dish to share.

Other eat-ins are planned in Elysian Park, Culver City, Highland Park and elsewhere around L.A.

Many educators now see the cafeteria as a part of a child’s learning, and food services officials are listening to students’ opinions about food they’re served, said Matt Sharp of California Food Policy Advocates. And decision-makers are tying what kids eat at school to their long-term health and to the costs of treating conditions associated with obesity, including high blood pressure and diabetes.

Continue reading »

Obama moves to make food safer

Hardboiled-egg With scares over contamination of cookie dough, peanut butter, peppers and more still fresh in consumers' minds, the Obama administration has announced a plan to keep people safer from salmonella in eggs. The Times' Noam Levey answers some questions about the plan.

For one thing, most egg producers will have to test their poultry houses regularly. And eggs will need to be refrigerated soon after they are laid.

Vice President Joe Biden says these are just the first of many steps that will be taken.

-- Mary MacVean

Photo: Eric Boyd / Los Angeles Times

What does one wear to royal tea?

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, with Britain's Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace on Wednesday, April 1, 2009. Credit: John Stillwell / Associated Press While jeans and T's might fly at Royal/T -- the cafe and art space in Culver City influenced by Tokyo's cosplay where waitresses are known for their French maid attire -- royal tea with the Queen of England might require a nicer dress code -- but not too nice. You don't want to outshine Her Magesty.

As L.A. Times fashion critic Booth Moore pointed out, Michelle and Barack Obama visited Queen Elizabeth II today during their visit for the G-20 environmental summit. She adds:

"First Lady Michelle Obama arrived for tea at Buckingham Palace ... dressed conservatively in a black cardigan, [and a white and black Isabel Toledo dress] that appeared to have a tulle overlay. She was also wearing her trademark pearls, with her hair half-up, half-down. Because this was not an official state visit, the meeting with the queen was considered informal."

For more on Michelle Obama's fashions, check out the L.A. Times Image section's All the Rage blog.

-- Whitney Friedlander

Photo: President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, with Britain's Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace on Wednesday, April 1, 2009. Credit: John Stillwell / Associated Press

Oh, no! The Kogi Korean BBQ taco truck gets cited in Beverly Hills

Kogi Talk about down and out in Beverly Hills: A tipster tells us that the Kogi Korean BBQ taco truck received a citation earlier today while parked in front of the MySpace headquarters in Beverly Hills. "Seeing the police 'take down' the Kogi truck was not cool!" he lamented. When I called Kogi's Caroline Shin she hadn't yet heard the news, but her husband, Mark Manguera, texted her while I was on the phone. "You work fast," she said.

"No, the Kogi universe works fast," I said. Two more tips came into my mailbox before Manguera called me with the details of his hectic day. While parked in front of MySpace (as it has done for the last month without problems), the Kogi truck was cited by police for lacking the appropriate operating permits for Beverly Hills. (All Kogi's food permits are in order.)

"You know how new we are," said Manguera. "We didn't know that we needed 50 million more permits here than anywhere else." Then he added, "You know, Obama is in Beverly Hills today, so there's a huge police presence." True enough.

After making a few good jokes about how Beverly Hills needs to be treated with "tender loving care," Manguera said he planned to file for the necessary permits immediately and be back in the city in the next 14 days, hopefully sooner. "We learn every time something like this happens," he said. "Without these kind of challenges, we wouldn't grow."

-- Jessica Gelt

Photo of Kogi's tacos by Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times

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Daily Dish is written by Times staff writers.