Daily Dish

The inside scoop on food in Los Angeles

Category: Santa Monica

This week's Culinary SOS: Zengo's Thai chicken empanadas

Zengo's Thai chicken empanadas
This week's Culinary SOS comes from Joseph Gallana in Van Nuys: 

Recently, my boyfriend and I went to try Zengo in Santa Monica Place, and I ordered its Thai chicken empanadas. It was amazing, and I ordered another round. I was so tempted to ask the chef for the recipe, but I was, like, "Why would he give away his recipe to his customers?" If you guys can manage to get the recipe from the chef, that would be fantastic.

It's so hard to eat just one of these. The little Thai chicken empanadas are a project but are well worth the time and effort, and they make a perfect appetizer for a party or gathering.

Thanks, Joseph! You can find the recipe here.

Click here for more Culinary SOS recipes. If you have a favorite restaurant recipe you'd like to request, feel free to email me at noelle.carter@latimes.com. I'll do my best to track it down.

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Photo: Thai chicken empanadas from Zengo in Santa Monica. Credit: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times

SHOREbar soft-opening Saturday in Santa Monica

SHOREbar
Consummate cool guy John Terzian (of the buzzy nightlife-producing h.wood group) will soft-open a new lounge in Santa Monica on Saturday called SHOREbar.

Located on Channel Road, between the Hungry Cat and Giorgio Di Baldi, in the former Hideout bar space, SHOREbar touts a cocktail list by mixologist Vincenzo Marianella of the esteemed craft cocktail haven Copa D' Oro.

The redesign, featuring a nautical theme and an ivory-and-brass color scheme, was done by Rosetta Getty and is being referred to as "Nantucket chic," which immediately conjures images of Vampire Weekend. I like the idea of a bunch of sun-soaked preppies in pastel Lacoste shirts and boat shoes reclining in this beach-adjacent hang. It's very summer-like.

There is a second, smaller upstairs bar that is reserved for members only. There you can keep a house expense account, order food from local restaurants, throw wild parties and have access to your very own locker to keep, well, whatever it is that you keep in a locker at a bar.

Although unlikely, it's my personal hope that SHOREbar can help usher a new spirit of artsy revelry into the Santa Monica Canyon neighborhood, which has a rich history of just that.

In 1948, the writer Christopher Isherwood, whose short stories about Berlin inspired "Cabaret," rented Lee Strasberg's house at 333 E. Rustic Road -- a short walk from SHOREbar -- and came to believe it was haunted. He wrote in "Lost Years: A Memoir 1945-1951" about "the intensity of the unpleasant psychic atmosphere." Isherwood, who lived in Santa Monica Canyon until his death at age 81 in 1986, called it "our western Greenwich Village."

But hey, I'll take our western Nantucket.

SHOREbar, 112 W. Channel Road, Santa Monica. (310) 429-1851.

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Photo credit: SHOREbar

The perfect Saturday-afternoon pour at Chez Jay

ChezJay
This is going to be hard to believe, but before Saturday afternoon I had never been to Chez Jay, the famous little sea-side steakhouse with a 53-year history of serving the stars.

I had heard about it, of course, but I don't think I'd ever noticed it in all the years I rolled around the Westside. That changed Saturday when my friend Emily and I went to pick up an out-of-town friend at the Viceroy in Santa Monica.

We were looking for a place to stop for a cocktail when we drove by it. It's a little shack of a building with a vintage cocktail sign. As soon as I saw it I made an elaborate U-turn to enter its lot. I'm a sucker for classic bars -- I love the Prince, Musso & Frank, the H.M.S. Bounty and Dan Tana's --  so when we entered Chez Jay and saw its tiny, well-worn interior with old-school checked tablecloths, scratched bar and cast of colorful regulars, I fell in love.

It was mid-afternoon and a relaxed vibe prevailed. People ordered the omelet special and read the paper, sipping on bloody marys and beer. The top of the front door was open and warm sunlight filtered in. As Malcolm Lowry (a notorious drunk) once noted in his book "Under the Volcano," there is something sad and lovely about watching specks of dust drift through the sunlight under the crack of a bar door when you're day drinking.

And so it was at Chez Jay as Emily and I drank a tequila gimlet and enjoyed the sense of discovery that came with stumbling across this priceless piece of L.A. history.

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Photo: Chez Jay. Credit: Jessica Gelt / Los Angeles Times

Come and get it: Free food truck event in Santa Monica

Ice cream sandwiches from the Coolhaus truck

Who can resist a free meal? Especially when it involves the Lobsta Truck, ice cream sandwiches from Coolhaus and other dishes from popular food trucks.

BBC America will host a free food truck event on Tuesday in Santa Monica to celebrate its new cooking adventure series "No Kitchen Required." From 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. diners can get free food, drinks, desserts and even free T-shirts. The event is first come, first served. So its Facebook page suggests not being late.

There will also be a screening of "No Kitchen Required" at 7 p.m. The new show involves three chefs in exotic and remote locations who must work with the local community to cook meals inspired by their surroundings. The show premieres April 3 at 10 p.m. Pacific time on BBC America.

RSVPing for the food truck event requires liking the "No Kitchen Required" Facebook page.

2612 Main St., Santa Monica (corner of Main Street and Ocean Park).

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Photo: Ice cream sandwiches from the Coolhaus truck. Credit: Brian Leatart.

Tar & Roses in Santa Monica to open Tuesday

 

Chef Andrew Kirschner has announced that he'll open the doors of Tar & Roses on TuesdayChef Andrew Kirschner has announced that he'll open the doors of Tar & Roses on Tuesday. The delayed Santa Monica restaurant from the former chef of Wilshire will feature a menu of wood-fired, modern rustic cuisine.  

The menu is divided into four categories: snacks, veggies, small and large. Snacks include charred octopus skewers with salsa verde and piquillo pepper aioli, and lamb belly with minted apple chutney. Chaterelle stuffing with chestnuts, cauliflower with white anchovy, and roasted beets with feta are on the veggies list. Small plates? There's beef tongue and tuna conserva, wood-fired duck egg and gigante beans, and ricotta gnochi and charred baby broccoli. The big plates feature bone-in ribeye for two and wood-roasted half chicken. 

There's also a chalkboard of mix-and-match seasonal bruschetta, charcuterie and cheese. "The Tar Suppers" for parties of four or more -- which must be ordered five days in advance -- include wood-fired goat, whole goose, standing rib roast and a shellfish pot.   

Tar & Roses initially will be open for dinner from 5:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. 

602 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica, (310) 587-0700, www.tarandroses.com.

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Photo credit: James & James Productions

Farmshop to open artisan market Jan. 29

Farmshop 400Farmshop in the Brentwood Country Mart is welcoming a new addition to Jeff Cerciello's restaurant and bakery: a full-scale artisan market.

The market, comparable in size to the restaurant itself, boasts a deli, cheese and charcuterie counters, products such as Jessica Koslow's Sqirl preserves and seasonally inspired prepared foods. Also stocked on the market's shelves are California wines, craft beers and housewares from L.A. favorites including Heath ceramics.

Managing the floor is Emiliano Lee. With years of experience working as a cheese monger and manager (and even a "fresh foods wrangler" who sourced sustainably farmed produce) while working at Liberty Heights Fresh in Salt Lake City, Farmshop's new hire knows his cheese.

Lee, a Bay Area native, is thrilled to launch a market filled with foods crafted in California. The advocate brings farmstead American cheeses to Farmshop's cheese counter from Oregon and Vermont but mainly from California producers such as Bellwether Farms, Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese, Cowgirl Creamery, Cypress Grove Chevre, Marin French Cheese, Franklin's Cheese, Vella Cheese, Laura Chenel's Chevre, Andante Dairy, Garden Variety Cheese and Bleating Heart.

With the market in place, Cerciello and team are working to add an educational component with dinners, tasting events, cooking demonstrations and book signings on the horizon.

The artisan market at Farmshop will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.

225 26th St., Suite 25, Santa Monica, (310) 566-2400, farmshopla.com.

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Photo: Farmshop's artisan market. Credit: Spencer Lowell

Food bloggers descend on Santa Monica to meet, eat -- and tweet

Michael_MooreAsk chef Michael Moore what he plans to serve Saturday night at the International Food Bloggers Conference in Santa Monica and you are likely to get a cagey answer.

The Aussie celebrity chef with restaurants in New York, London and Sydney says something about "a salad with cheese" and a beef dish, and seasonal fruits with vanilla. If it sounds like he's being vague, he is. He wants flexibility to change the menu up until the very last minute, depending upon the produce he finds while trolling local farmers markets this week, including the famed Santa Monica Farmers Market.

After all, he has a room full of foodies to win over, and he wants to use every advantage he's got.

"I know they are going to be tweeting and photographing and making comments on the food before the main course hits the table," Moore said. "It really has to be a reflection of what is really in season right now.... I want it to be reactive to what is in California at the moment."

Although some chefs still hold bloggers at arm's length, sneering at their ability to pass judgment with the swipe of a smartphone, Moore said he embraces them. "There's a lot of resistance among some chefs, but I'm not anti-food blogger. They report what they see and experience and that has its own integrity." He asks only that bloggers be fair -- not snarky -- because a restaurant's livelihood could be at stake.

Continue reading »

Tar & Roses aims for December opening

KirschnerAndrew Kirschner, former executive chef of Wilshire, says he is a few weeks away from opening Tar & Roses, his Santa Monica restaurant in the works since early this year. The projected opening date is Dec. 1 "if all goes well," he says. 

The 2,000-square-foot restaurant on Santa Monica Boulevard will seat 75 (50 inside and 25 on the patio) in a space that Kirschner describes as a "juxtaposition that reflects the food -- a rustic elegance." Design elements include Carrara marble, reclaimed wood, concrete floors and a few different types of chairs, "from barnyard-y to modern." "No designer, I designed it all myself, with my sous chef Jacob Wildman heavily involved," Kirschner says.  

The restaurant also will feature a bruschetta bar, an open bar area that will provide daily bruschetta from the wood-burning oven. "The soul of the restaurant is the wood-burning oven," Kirschner says. 

The food is a reflection of Kirschner's travels throughout Italy, Spain and Southeast Asia. "I don't want to be categorized -- it comes from my love for straightforward and slightly adventurous cuisine. Its calling card is rusticity and robust flavors, I'm very focused on textures as well."

The menu has four categories: snacks, small plates, vegetables and large plates. Snacks include skewered chicken "oysters" with tamarind dipping sauce and bone marrow with pickled onion marmalade. Small plates include garlic soup with sourdough croutons, paprika and poached egg, and Meyer lemon ricotta gnocchi with charred broccoli. Under vegetables are chanterelle stuffing with chestnuts, currants and sage, and wood-roasted cabbage with caraway, fennel and horseradish. Large dishes include crispy pork knuckle (from the shank) with creamy farro and pickled salad, and hanger steak with wood-roasted duck fat potatoes and romesco. Kirschner also is making desserts himself.  

Chris Keller, the winemaker behind Emanuel Tres Wines, has created the wine list. 

602 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica, www.tarandroses.com.

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Photo: Andrew Kirschner. Credit: James and James Productions

5 Questions for Jeff Mahin

JeffMahinHeadshotJeff Mahin is chef-partner of Stella Rossa Pizza Bar in Santa Monica. As the son of a scientist and engineer, the 27-year-old followed in his family's footsteps by studying science and math at UC Berkeley before landing a job as a laboratory assistant at Heston Blumenthal's Fat Duck in England. He now works with Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, the restaurant group behind Stella Rossa. Mahin says he experimented with more than 30 variations to create the restaurant's signature pizza crust; talk about trial and error, in a good way.

What’s coming up next on your menu? I have a lot of fall and winter ideas. I view summer as almost cheating as a chef. Everything is so fresh and vibrant, so full of life, it’s relatively easy to put a small finishing touch on something and call it amazing. Winter, on the other hand, takes a bit more time and creativity -- braising and roasting are two of my favorite forms of preparing foods. I am looking forward to two dishes (one that we are currently running): shaved fennel with Grana Padano, fresh burrata, torn basil and organic extra virgin olive oil, and roasted cauliflower with medjool dates and Calabrian chiles and chard tomato vinaigrette.

Latest ingredient obsession? Purple mizuna, I can’t get enough of it. I love the flavor and texture. It is such a diverse green; we use the leaves in one of our salads and remove the stems, grill them over our wood-fired grill and use it as a pizza topping.

The one piece of kitchen equipment you can’t live without, other than your knives? A Japanese mandolin. I love shaving things with a mandolin. You name it, I have tried it. There is something about a vegetable that has been sliced using a sharp mandolin that interests me. Whether it’s because they are perfectly uniform, or are translucent, shaved vegetables take on a truly appealing character to me.

What’s your favorite breakfast? Greek yogurt with fresh berries (preferably blueberries) and Hawaiian white honey –- or we could go down the route of soft scrambled eggs with shaved white truffle –- a favorite, but a rarity.   

The last cookbook you read –- and what inspired you to pick it up? "Kitcho: Japan's Ultimate Dining Experience." I love the art form balanced in Japanese food. I find it far more challenging to create simple food than complex food.

Stella Rossa Pizza Bar, 2000 Main St., Santa Monica, (310) 396-9250, stellarossapizzabar.com.

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Photo credit: Gregory Cannon

Prepared-food vendors named for some Santa Monica Farmers Markets

Prepared foods

Every year, one third of Farmers Market vendor contracts expire in order to make room for new and old vendors alike to apply, or reapply, through a competitive bid process for a three-year contract at the Santa Monica Farmers Markets.

The contracts were up for renewal on three of the Santa Monica Farmers Markets while the big Wednesday Downtown Market contracts were not. Farmers Market coordinator Jodi Low oversees the annual prepared food selection process and has announced that this year's selection is complete.

Drum roll, please:

Main Street Market's returning prepared food vendors are Bean & Thyme, Ca'D'Oro Bakery, Kafe K and Finn McCools, with newcomers Secret Gold Fish Baking Co. and Sweet Rose Creamery added to the list.

Pico Market welcomes Caffe Luxxe to its Virginia Avenue Park neighborhood and Valerie Confections returns to the Saturday Downtown Market.

For more information on the Santa Monica Farmers Markets, go to www.smgov.net/portals/farmersmarket/.

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Photo: Prepared foods at the Main Street Farmers Market. Credit: David Karp / Los Angeles Times

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Daily Dish is written by Times staff writers.