Daily Dish

The inside scoop on food in Los Angeles

Category: O.C.

The Review | Pinot Provence in the O.C. has a new chef


Pinot Provence in Orange County once had high ambitions and served truly Provençal food, but more recently restaurateur Joachim Splichal has seemed content to position his sixth restaurant as a standard bistro with a standard menu.

Now, though, Pinot Provence has a new chef. She's Laurent "Lulu" De Rouen, who grew up in Manhattan Beach, the daughter of a New Orleans-raised Frenchman.

Click here to read more of Los Angeles Times restaurant critic S. Irene Virbila's review from today's Food section.

Photo credit: Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times

Spiny lobster season starts!

Spiny lobster season in Southern California opened last week, and that means hungry shoppers were lined up at Pearson’s Port this weekend. Located in the harbor at Newport Beach, Pearson’s is a second-generation dream come true for local lovers of seafood. Tommy Pearson is a fisherman who specializes in spot prawns during the summer and spiny lobsters during the winter. He’ll also bring in whatever fish he happens to catch while he’s out on the water tending his traps. His wife, Terese, runs the store, which is really just a shack housing a dozen or so live tanks.

The place can be a little hard to find -- it’s literally in Newport harbor, at the end of a short pier just underneath the Pacific Coast Highway bridge (I rent kayaks right next door). Turn in just before the trailer park and drive down to the water.

Prices this year are the same as last -- $17.99 a pound. And Terese says early fishing has been good, so supplies are plentiful. Spiny lobsters seem to me a bit leaner and more minerally than their Maine cousins (plus they don’t have front claws). My favorite way to fix them is to split them, brush them with herb butter and grill them -- flesh-side down for a couple of minutes, just long enough to firm the meat -- and then turn them over. They’re done when the meat begins to pull away from the shell. Don’t overcook them or they’ll dry out.

If you can’t make it to Newport, you can also find spinys at good local fish markets, including Quality Seafood in Redondo Beach, Los Angeles Fish Co. downtown, Malibu Seafood, Fish King in Glendale and the various Santa Monica Seafood stores. Call first to make sure they’re in stock.

Pearson’s Port, 100 E. Coast Highway, Newport Beach, (949) 675-6771.

-- Russ Parsons

Photo of Terese Pearson by Karen Tapia-Anderson / Los Angeles Times

Sampler Platter: Cupcake car, Godfather vodka, KISS M&M'S, Kanye West on chicken

Ground lamb skewers the Anatolian Culture and Cuisine Festival held in April 2009 in Costa Mesa.

Ridiculous branded products (from vodka to candy), risky foods and fast food chains that are trying new tricks and treats... All this and more in today's food news roundup.
-- Squabbles between street vendors are becoming more frequent at the corner of Cesar E. Chavez Avenue and Soto Street. The Eastsider LA
-- Five of the Top 10 riskiest FDA-regulated foods are vegetables and fruits. Booster Shots
-- Despite the down economy, food festivals are booming. Wall Street Journal
-- Chef Robert Danhi (brother of Grilled Cheese Truck founder Dave Danhi) leads tasting tours through Little Saigon, a.k.a. Westminster. Brand X
-- Burger King to overhaul all its restaurants in an attempt to compete with more upscale fast casual eateries. AdAge
-- Taco Bell tests cupcakes and smoothies. Fast Food Maven
-- Neiman Marcus' newest item: a $25,000 cupcake car. Slashgear
-- Godfather Vodka opens door to Oscar-winning branded booze. Movieline
-- Kanye West on chicken: I eat it because I'm black. The Boombox
-- KISS band members to be immortalized as M&M'S. KISS Army News
-- No more free cookies at Harvard faculty meetings. Oh, the humanity! New York Times
-- Elina Shatkin

Photo: Ground lamb skewers at the Anatolian Culture and Cuisine Festival held in April in Costa Mesa. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times

Sampler Platter: Chrissie Hynde protest scrapped, R.I.P. Sheila Lukins, flavors of Little Saigon and the long-gone Chili Bowl chain

The first Chili Bowl was opened by Art Whizin in 1931 on Crenshaw Boulevard.

Rock star activism, a tour of Westminster's Little Saigon, the death of Sheila Lukins and the story of the Chili Bowl chain lead today's food news roundup.

-- In the U.K., prison food beats hospital food. BBC
-- Lukins, who helped usher in the new American cooking of the 1980s with her Silver Palate food shop and line of books, died Sunday at age 66. New York Times
-- Food Marathon, the Gastronomer, LA & OC Foodie and a few pals run a food marathon: six restaurants spread out over five miles in the SGV.
-- Pretenders rocker Chrissie Hynde, who runs a vegetarian restaurant in her native Akron, Ohio, planned to protest outside a West Hollywood McDonald's today, but the event has been scrapped due to the wildfires. Contact Music
-- New York's storied Café des Artistes to close. New York Times
-- Indiana man claims he invented a microwavable plastic food container, sues two major food packagers. Chicago Tribune
-- Eat Real sustainable food festival draws thousands to Oakland. SF Gate
-- Remembering the long-gone chain of Chili Bowl restaurants, which opened in 1931 and were shaped like (what else?) a chili bowl. Los Angeles Times
-- Eating LA takes chef Robert Danhi's tour of Little Saigon in Westminster.

-- Elina Shatkin

Photo: The first Chili Bowl was opened by Art Whizin in 1931 on Crenshaw Boulevard. He sold his wife's wedding ring, among other things, to get the business going. (Jim Heimann / July 31)

Small Bites: Schmidt's Brauhaus to open downtown, 20 Italian wines in 20 days at Cube

Pretzenbeer Schnitzel! Pretzels! Beer!: German restaurant Schmidt's Brauhaus is scheduled to open downtown this fall, serving regional favorites, including sausages, schnitzels and pretzels in a 7,000-square-foot space at Olympic Boulevard near Olive Street. There will be a biergarten separate from the dining area. Also, a new supper club called First & Hope is scheduled to open in the fall -- at 1st and Hope streets -- with "modern American comfort food," according to a release. Schmidt's Brauhaus, 330 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 514-5354, www.schmidtsbrauhaus.com.

A wine a day: Cafe and marketplace Cube on La Brea Avenue is offering $12-or-less by-the-glass regional Italian wines -- one per day over 20 business days starting Sept. 8. Each wine will come from one of 20 regions and will be a winner of a Gambero Rosso award, Italy's honor for excellence in wine making. Wines will be offered only by the glass, Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Featured vintages will include the 2007 "Zuani" Collio Bianco from Friuli and the 2006 "Bonci San Michele" Verdicchio, from Le Marche. 615 N. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 939-1148, www.cubemarketplace.com.

-- Betty Hallock

Photo: Kaveh Rostamkhani / AFP / Getty Images


A two-star ParkAve in Stanton


Before it was Beach Boulevard, the Orange County road that leads straight to Huntington Beach was known as Highway 39.

That was back when Clifford Ronnenberg's parents owned a dairy and roadside diner, which is now the site of the citified ParkAve restaurant. The retro-style neon spelling out the name at the edge of the parking lot shines like a beacon among tacky motels, new town houses and the usual strip malls. Stanton is not what you'd call fancy, more working class Orange County than upscale. And that's to its credit.

The building is low-slung stone ornamented with an original Sputnik-inspired Googie ball. The restaurant's name is spelled out in a flowing retro script in brass beside the door. Inside, it's retro all the way, and that goes for the classic American fare as well. Oh, with some updates too.

For the rest of S. Irene Virbila's review, and to look at a photo gallery, click here.

Photo: Christine Cotter / Los Angeles Times

Chocolate-covered bacon, Zucchini Weenies and more join the fried fare at the O.C. Fair

Left: Zucchini Weenies. Right: Chocolate-covered bacon. Both will be sold at the 2009 O.C. Fair.

The O.C. "Super" Fair kicks off tomorrow. For some, that means Ferris wheels, pig races and chart-topping 1980s bands exploiting the power of nostalgia. For others -- you know who you are, fellow gluttons -- it's an annual pilgrimage to the mecca of deep-fried food.

Last year, I hardened my arteries by sampling nearly every fried food item at the O.C. Fair. (Make a beeline for deep-fried zucchini, apple sticks and Reese's Whips. Avoid deep-fried White Castle burgers, frog legs and Tootsie Rolls.)

This year, you can expect some brand new fried fare at the fair:

  • Zucchini Weenie: a hot dog inside a hollowed-out zucchini that's battered and deep-fried. ($5.75)
  • Pizza Bites: battered and deep-fried mini-pizza bagels. ($5.75)
  • Smores: graham crackers, marshmallows and chocolate that's sandwiched together, battered and deep-fried. ($5.75)
  • Zucchini Nachos: battered and deep-fried zucchini curls that are covered in cheese, bacon and jalapenos. ($8.75)
  • Jumbo Mexican Funnel Cake: made with churro batter, this massive, ridged and coiled funnel cake is topped with whipped cream and strawberries. If you eat it by yourself in 20 minutes, you get it for free. ($9)
  • Chocolate-Covered Bacon: bacon is coated in semi-sweet chocolate, frozen, sliced into small strips and served in a Chinese food container. ($4.50)

The O.C. Fair runs July 10 through Aug. 9.

--Elina Shatkin

Photo credit: Orange County Fair

Sampler Platter: Luxury cupcakes, school lunches and sake facts

Burgers, fries and a soda from Five Guys Burger and Fries in Carson, Calif.

Teen chefs, Louis Vuitton cupcakes, school lunches from around the world and the results of Zagat's annual fast-food survey lead Monday's lineup of food news.

  • Luxury cupcakes inspired by Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Christian Louboutin and Betsey Johnson. Luxuo
  • School lunches from around the world. What's for School Lunch
  • Results of Zagat 2009 fast-food survey: Starbucks has No. 1 coffee (but is No. 8 in overall experience); In-N-Out has No. 1 burger; McDonald's has No. 1 fries; Panera has No. 1 salad. Subway, In-N-Out and Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf are No. 1 in service.
  • Even Jose Andres messes up in the kitchen. James Beard Foundation
  • Chef Greg Grossman, 14, signs deal to star in his own reality show. The Hollywood Reporter
  • A look at Virginia-based burger chain Five Guys Burger and Fries, which recently expanded into Carson and Cerritos. USA Today
  • Twelve things a beginner should know about sake. LA Examiner

-- Elina Shatkin

Photo: Elina Shatkin / Los Angeles Times.

When American Craft Beer Week reigns, it pours

Beer If you believe that your inalienable rights include “life, liberty and the pursuit of hops and malts fermented from the finest of U.S. small and independent craft brewers,” then you need not wait until July 4 to celebrate your independence.

American Craft Beer Week, an effort by the Boulder, Colo.-based Brewers Assn., is set for May 11-17, and there are a number of occasions to raise a glass around the Southland, including Craft Beer Fest L.A., which starts the festivities two days early, on Saturday. New this year to the drive to raise awareness for small breweries is the Declaration of Beer Independence, which in addition to expanding your inalienable rights asks you to sign and declare that “the beer I choose to enjoy is not a commodity” but “an artistic creation of living liquid history,” calls for beer sellers to carry local and regional breweries  and claims that, among other things, beer “teaches us geography.”

If you’ll drink to that, here are some opportunities:

Craft Beer Fest L.A., the master machination of LA CABAL (the Los Angeles Craft and Artisanal Beer Appreciation League), invades the Echoplex on Saturday. There will be 15 California breweries present, each with at least two varieties. The $30 admission comes with 15 drink tickets and a take-home glass. Tastings will be 3 ounces each (“like a triple-espresso-size cup,” says CABAL member Evan George). Additional drink tickets will go for $1 a pop. There will be food to help sop up those suds: Expect beer nuts made to order (hot pepper peanuts, rosemary and olive oil pecans, vanilla honeyed cashews), vegan appetizers from Pure Luck (owned by CABAL member Ben Ling), salad from new Fairfax beer bar Golden State, beer-flavored desserts from Scoops, fresh-delivered pizza bites from the nearby Masa, bean and cheese burritos courtesy of the LA Burrito Project, and chips and salsa from Santa Monica’s Library Alehouse. And if you get beered out, there will be organic coffee from local roaster Cafecita Organica. And it will all be set to old-time music by the likes of Sausage Grinder and Triple Chicken Foot. Brewers will be available to discuss their work, and CABAL members and Hot Knives bloggers Alex Brown and George will give a presentation on the do's and don’ts of beer and cheese pairings. And, if you aren’t actually spent by the festival’s 9 p.m. end, the Echoplex will start selling its usual offerings at that time.

The fest, at 1154 Glendale Blvd., Los Angeles from 2  to 9 p.m., sold out its 500 presale tickets. There will be a couple hundred available at the door -- but expect a line if you don’t have a presale ticket. George says public transportation is encouraged (after all, parking is scarce and those 2 ounce tastings add up – many of the beers will be potent). Metro bus 92 stops nearby on Glendale, and the 2 and 4 buses run above on Sunset. The event benefits 826LA

Around SoCal during the big week:

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Small Bites: Craft wine dinner, Marche Moderne celebrates, Colicchio signs books


Favia Erickson wine dinner: Craft Los Angeles presents a five-course wine dinner featuring Favia Erickson Winegrowers  on Tuesday, April 21. On the menu: Maine lobster salad with 2006 Suize Viognier, Amador; crispy duck leg confit with 2006 La Josefina Pinot Noir, Russian River; Berkshire pork belly with sausage and ravioli with 2006 Rompecabezas Amador Red Wine; beef flatiron and short rib with 2005 Cerro Sur Napa Valley Red Wine; and creme fraiche panna cotta with poached sour cherries and bittersweet chocolate cake with 2006 Quarzo Amador Syrah. $120, plus tax and 20% service charge. 10100 Constellation Blvd., (310) 279-4180. www.craftrestaurant.com

Colicchio book signing: Tom Colicchio will be signing copies of his new book, "wichcraft," at the Santa Monica Williams-Sonoma on Thursday, April 23. He'll also be hosting a panini tasting. 1600 Montana Ave., Santa Monica, (310) 586-1018.

Market nights at Marche Moderne:Marche Moderne celebrates its second anniversary by setting up a European-style open market on the rooftop patio  and offering a five-course chef's tasting menu. The market will feature specialty food items for purchase. April 29 and 30. 3333 Bristol St., No. 3001, South Coast Plaza, Costa Mesa, (714) 434-7900. www.marchemodern.net

-- Betty Hallock

Photo: Craft L.A. Credit: Stefano Paltera / For The Times.


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Daily Dish is written by Times staff writers.