Daily Dish

The inside scoop on food in Los Angeles

Category: Restaurants

Catching the Wedge in Seal Beach

There's not much that beats a walk on the beach and a Wedge salad at The Abbey bar and grill in Seal BeachLook, I'm not going to argue that it's better than Alain Passard's harlequin of spring vegetables with sweet and sour sauce followed by a stroll through the gardens at the Musee Rodin. But at the end of a warm summer day, I can't think of much that beats a walk on the beach and a Wedge salad at The Abbey bar and grill in Seal Beach.

It's Southern California beer food at its best: a wedge of crisp iceberg lettuce, topped with a gloppy blue cheese dressing and sprinkled with bacon, diced red onions and tomatoes and chopped cilantro (blue cheese and cilantro, great combination!).

Follow that up with one of the restaurant's pizzas or -- if you took a really long walk -- one of its monument-sized hamburgers, and a craft beer (in this case, a refreshing orange-wheat from Hanger 24 in Redlands) and you've got a perfect summer Sunday dinner.

Be warned, it's a lot of food -- pictured above is half of a Wedge.

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Photo credit: Russ Parsons / Los Angeles Times

Celebrate Rainier cherry season at Bierbeisl

BothCherryBeauty-001Don’t let this one get away: Wednesday is National Rainier Cherry Day, marking the Rainier cherry’s short six-week season in the Pacific Northwest. That’s the beautiful yellow cherry blushed with red and blessed with a sweet, delicate flavor.

At Bierbeisl  in Beverly Hills, young Austrian chef/owner Bernhard Mairinger is getting in a cache of Rainier beauties from Northwest Cherries. And starting on Wednesday, he’ll be serving the coveted cherries in several ways: vanilla-infused goat cheese with homemade Rainier cherry compote, toasted pistachios, green peppercorns and frisée salad, or house-made vanilla ice cream with marinated Rainier cherries. This last one sounds really terrific--cherry-chocolate strudel with house-made pistachio ice cream. I'm there. What about you?

Bierbeisl, 9669 Little Santa Monica Blvd. (between Bedford and Roxbury), Beverly Hills; (310) 271-7274; www.bierbeisl-la.com.

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-- S. Irene Virbila
Twitter.com/sirenevirbila

Photos: Rainier cherries. Credit: Northwest Cherries.

 

Bon Appétit Grub Crawl is set for July 13-15

GrubCrawl_logo_black_final-After experiencing many a pub crawl abroad, the founders of Grub Crawl came back to the States with a business venture: to lead guided tours--not of bars--but restaurants. The company has been taking groups of foodies on a series of grub crawls around the Bay Area since 2009 and now brings the idea of food "crawling" to L.A.

The Los Angeles edition of the Bon Appétit Grub Crawl will be hitting up three delicious neighborhoods to dine July 13-15.

The tour starts on Friday in downtown L.A. with stops at Cole's, Umamicatessen, Las Perlas and Seven Grand. Next up on the tour, continued on Saturday, is Hollywood and West Hollywood with Mozza, Scuola Di Pizza, Pour Vous, Street, the Spare Room and Night + Market on the itinerary. Saturday's crawl will conclude with a live music performance by Vacationer at the Roxy. The final leg of the tour will include eateries on the Westside with visits to Father's Office, Sotto, Picca and Lukshon. Yum...

Attend the entire three-day event for $200 per person or pick one of the three-neighborhood food crawls for $80-$100. Tickets can be purchased online.

Bagrubcrawl.com.

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There a fascinating story about how the push for redness in tomatoes led to the downfall of flavor
BETTER RED?

There a fascinating story from Gina Kolata at the New York Times about how the push for redness in tomatoes led to the downfall of flavor. A similar thing happened years ago with the Red Delicious apple, which was originally pink with pale green stripes and good flavor. As plant breeders focused on making the apples more red, the flavor deteriorated; it was found (too late) that the red pigment being produced actually had a bitter flavor.

MORE BURGERS!

Our great Battle of the Burgers wasn't enough? National Geographic has a book out on the 10 best of everything (yeah, I know, huh?), and it includes hamburgers. Local winners are In-N-Out (well, duh), and Apple Pan (have to confess, never understood the love). They also like the burgers at Gott's Roadside in St. Helena (used to be Taylor's Refreshers) and one of my personal favorites -- Blake's Lotaburger in New Mexico (the green chile cheeseburger is amazing).

IS ISRAELI THE NEXT THAI?

OK, maybe it's a stretch, but one of my favorite cookbook authors, Yotam Ottolenghi, has a book coming this fall on the cuisine of Jerusalem (look for an interview with him in the next couple of weeks from our own S. Irene Virbila). And one of my favorite food bloggers, Paris-based David Lebovitz, is positively paroxysmic over his meal at Haj Kahil in Tel Aviv. Do not look at his photos before lunch!

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Photo credit: All-American Selections

Thursday: Taste schnapps from Austria's top distiller at BierBeisl

Hans ReisetbauerHere’s the chance to taste the world-class schnapps and spirits of artisanal Austrian distiller Hans Reisetbauer. He’ll be in town on Thursday for a special tasting from 6 to 10 p.m. at BierBeisl in Beverly Hills.

The ticket price of $65 includes a tasting of six fruit brandies, plus Reisetbauer’s seven-year aged whiskey and his Blue Gin. In Austria, fruit brandies, or eaux de vie, are a way of life.  And Reisetbauer turns out an astonishing lineup, starting with the classic fruit flavors of wild cherry, Damson plum, apricot and Williams pear and ending with uncanny flavors like carrot, ginger and dried pear. You won't taste all of them, but enough to get a primer in Austrian spirits.

For the event, BierBeisl’s chef-owner Bernhard Mairinger, who is a big Reisetbauer fan, will prepare a series of little bites designed to complement the spirits. For example, with the apricot brandy, he’ll serve sachertorte with homemade apricot jam; with the plum, crispy bacon-wrapped plums with toasted almonds; and with the Blue Gin, weisswurst poached in milk and onions.

This could be fun.

Space is limited. To reserve, email office@bierbeisl-la.com or call (310) 271-7274. BierBeisl is at 9669 S. Santa Monica Boulevard, Beverly Hills.

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Photo: Hans Reisetbauer. Credit:  Manfred Klimek

3 wine dinners: Enoteca Drago, Rosso Wine Shop, Bistro 45

Wine dinnerTo reflect the current economic realities, even once indulgent and sybaritic wine dinners and tastings are reining in the prices. Here are three that should be informative and fun, but won’t tax the wallet too dramatically.

On Wednesday, Enoteca Drago hosts a tasting featuring the wines of Talbott Vineyards. Try their offerings while nibbling on the Beverly Hills wine bar’s antipasti and thin-crusted pizzas. Admission price? Just $20, plus tax and gratuity. Call (310) 786-8235 for information.

Every once in a while, after the shop closes, Rosso Wine Shop in Glendale leads a second (secret) life as a private supper club. Chef Michael Ruiz creates the menu; Rosso provides the wines. The next event is June 20, $55 per person (cash only) for the four-course meal and wines to match each course. The good thing? After dinner, a 10% discount on any of the wines served at the meal: no bottle limit. Sign up by emailing info@rossowineshop.com or calling (818) 330-9130 for more information.

In Pasadena, Bistro 45 helps Rick Longoria celebrate 30 years of winemaking at Longoria Wines in Santa Barbara County on June 25. Five wines and five courses, $65 per person. Bistro chef Steven Lona is planning a Santa Barbara-themed dinner with local produce, fish and live shrimp. Call (626) 795-2478 for more information.

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-- S. Irene Virbila

Twitter.com/sirenevirbila

Photo: Gina Ferrazi/Los Angeles Times

Rabbit, it's what's for dinner at Locanda del Lago

Locanda del Lago

Rabbit may not be the first meat that comes to mind when trying to decide what's for dinner, but today at Locanda del Lago restaurant in Santa Monica, there's rabbit on the menu -- lots of it.

Executive chef Gianfranco Minuz has created a five-course meal celebrating the flavors of rabbit as part of the restaurant's ongoing Morso della Bestia, Bite of the Beast, monthly dinner series that occurs the last Thursday of every month. This month's menu will highlight produce from the Santa Monica farmers market and De Bruin Brothers rabbit, a breed that's been fed a diet of alfalfa, oats, wheat and barley. Dishes will include a roasted rabbit loin, rabbit shoulder and belly risotto, rabbit liver and roasted rabbit leg. The dessert, a chocolate cake, is thankfully void of the long-eared creature.

The five-course meal begins at 7 p.m., is $48 per person and includes unlimited litros of house red and white Italian wine (not including tax and gratuity). Reservations are recommended.

231 Arizona Ave., Santa Monica, CA 90401 (310) 451.3525

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Photo: Interior of Locanda del Lago. Credit: Emanuela Cottu for Locanda del Lago

Fraiche goes out with a bang

Fraiche restaurant in Culver City is going out of business, so it's putting its whole menu on sale
Who doesn't love a deal? How about a deal on great food? Fraiche restaurant in Culver City is going out of business, so it's putting its whole menu on sale. Hey, it works for rugs and clothes, why not oysters and agnolotti? The deal is good at both the Culver City restaurant, which is closing sometime in late June, and the Santa Monica location, which is staying open.

The "Secret Menu" (well, not so secret anymore) features a kind of greatest hits of Fraiche's dishes at prices that average about 20% off. Cheaper dishes, such as fried calamari (now $11) or the Fraiche salad of citrus, manchego cheese, walnuts and red onions ($11) are only a couple bucks less while pricier items such as steak frites ($18) and the great braised short ribs ($23) are roughly a third off.

The only catch is that you have to have a copy of the secret menu in hand when you go in. That's not that much of a hitch, actually, as you can find it on the restaurant's Facebook page.

Fraiche, 9411 Culver Blvd., Culver City, (310) 839-6800; and 312 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, (310) 451-7482.

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First Impression: End of Communism at Rivera

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Photo: Steak frites at Fraiche. Credit: Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times

First Impressions: End of Communism menu

ohn Sedlar's Rivera restaurant is offering a special End of Communism menu
When you are eating piroshki off of a photo of Lenin, chicken from a plate stenciled with a chile-powder hammer-and-sickle, or chocolate eggs off of a Soviet flag, you know you are probably in a John Sedlar restaurant, albeit one mysteriously serving proto-Russian food instead of one dedicated to the Spanish-speaking diaspora. And if you visit Rivera this month, you will notice that the video-montage wall is dedicated to Red Square instead of Madrid, that the servers seem to be of Russian descent, and that half the people in the dining room seem to be eating tiny blini with golden caviar instead of freshly pressed tortillas with "Indian butter.'' You will be handed an End of Communism menu along with the regular one.

In 1992, Sedlar was part of a brigade of American chefs, also including Simon L.A.'s Kerry Simon, invited to march in the first post-Soviet Russian May Day parade in Red Square, and also to prepare grand dinners for officials of the newly formed state. The food in Moscow then was pretty awful, Sedlar reports -- many of the chefs were basically starving, he says, and they regarded the Americans' pineapples and bananas, which none of them had ever tasted, as miracles.

When Sedlar came back to Los Angeles, he devised a menu of lightened Soviet-era dishes for his (long-deceased) Santa Monica restaurant Bikini, with prices denominated in dollars and rubles. To celebrate the 20th anniversary of that trip, he put the dishes on his Rivera menu, also listed in dollars and rubles. (If you happen to be visiting from Yaroslavl, it's a bargain -- Ukrainian-style venison borscht with boiled potatoes is a mere 755 rubles, a steep discount from the 965.6 you'd expect to pay if you looked at this morning's exchange rate.)

It probably goes without saying, but Rivera, even this month, is not the first place you'd come for authentic Russian cuisine -- it is a collection of riffs, such as stroganoff made with salmon instead of beef, served with a "tamale'' of lightly cooked cabbage; crisp-skinned chicken "KGB" on a bed of kasha sauteed with garlic and bacon as if it were spaetzle; blini topped with smoked cabbage as well as caviar and crème fraiche. And then there's that chocolate egg, filled with pistachio crème.

The End of Communism menu runs until the end of May. 1050 S. Flower St., downtown, (213) 749-1460.

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Taco Tuesday: Taco de birria

El Parian has the best Jalisco-style birria in a Los Angeles lousy with birrieras
The very first Counter Intelligence column I wrote for The Times, back when pigs could fly and raccoons had the miraculous power of speech, was of the Jalisco-style birria dive El Parian, a restaurant I had run into a few years before in a stretch when I decided to eat at every restaurant on Pico Boulevard, more as a performance-art stunt than as an act of cuisine.

Then as now, El Parian looked from the street as if it had gone out of business long before; a metal security door, grimy windows, and walls lumpy from many, many coats of graffiti-obscuring paint. Then as now, the restaurant was decorated with beer signs, what looked like a first-grade map of Mexico painted on the wall, and a glittery jukebox grinding out music even when nobody was in the room to hear.

El Parian also had -– has! -- the best Jalisco-style birria in a Los Angeles lousy with birrieras, crisp roast goat served in a shallow bowl of goat consomme, a dish so goaty and spicy and utterly delicious that it is easy to see why birria has become the emblematic dish of Guadalajara, a city rich in characteristic preparations that any metropolis would be proud to call its own.

In that old Times column, a yellowing copy of which can still be seen on the walls, I called El Parian's birria the best single Mexican dish to be found anywhere in Los Angeles, and the succeeding decades have done little to blunt that claim. Flor del Rio, Chalio and Birriera Guadalajara, among many, many others all serve excellent birria, and I like all of them, but I am always happiest at El Parian's sticky tables on a Saturday morning, surrounded by cheerful families, the miserably hungover and bowls-full of L.A.'s worst chips.

So: the birria taco, moistened with broth, tucked inside a thick, handmade, practically bulletproof corn tortilla with cilantro and onions and the usual accompaniments, including a squirt or two of the mean, thin house chile sauce custom-formatted to combat the richness of the goat. Or the bowl of birria (pictured above), which is more or less the same thing deconstructed, only with lots and lots of life-giving consomme.

1528 W Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 386-7361. 

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Daily Dish is written by Times staff writers.