Daily Dish

The inside scoop on food in Los Angeles

Category: This Just In

This Just In: Santa Monica Bar & Grille is now closed

Dowdown3 The bleak economy has claimed yet another victim in bar land.  Pico Boulevard's Santa Monica Bar & Grille officially closed this week, according to its MySpace page.  The live music venue was known for its Saturday night Brazilian-themed parties, and apparently booked a lot of live music (although I never did see a show there). 

Regardless, it's sad to see a staple of any scene go away.

-- Charlie Amter

Photo by Justin Lane/EPA

U.S.-bound jamón ibérico pata negra to lose their black feet

PhotoAccording to a release by PRWeb, all U.S.-bound shipments of jamón ibérico de Bellota pata negra, Spain's prized bone-in full-leg jamón ibérico cured from acorn-finished black-footed pigs, must now be shipped without its signature black feet.  Effective next month, any remaining hoof-on hams will also cost roughly twice as much as they do now, thanks to a new 100% duty.  Both changes are due to recent rulings by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

These jamón ibérico are traditionally displayed and carved with the foot still attached as demonstration of authenticity, as is this jamón (right) at the Bazaar by José Andrés.  Once the last hoof-on hams are sold, you'll have to leave the country to find the product in its traditional form.  Until then, Spanish importer La Tienda (the first to retail jamón ibérico in the U.S.) is still selling foot-on hams from its last shipment from Fermín.

La Tienda's Don Harris bought up the foot-on jamón ibérico when he heard about the ruling.  He said this morning that he has about 100 left.  According to Harris, the USDA ruling -- ostensibly about health issues -- is really an import-export turf war.  "We're having a war with the EU over beef," says Harris.  Harris says keeping the foot on the jamón ibérico is about more than tariffs -- it's about aesthetics and cultural pride.  "For Americans who don't know the culture of Spain, it's not a big deal, but to the Spanish, it's a very big deal."

La Tienda, 3601 La Grange Parkway, Toano, Va.  www.tienda.com. (800) 710-4304.

-- Amy Scattergood

Photo of jamón ibérico pata negra by Amy Scattergood

Finding 'gold' in Santa Monica: Copa d'Oro's drinks dazzle [UPDATED]

In case you missed it, the Guide profiled a new bar in Santa Monica called Copa d'Oro (cup of gold) in Friday's Calendar section.  The lounge, which is the first nightlife project by Buddha's Belly co-owner Jonathan Chu, is markedly different from the location's past occupant, Lounge 217. The complete redesign includes exposed brick and custom light fixtures that emit glowing orange hues.

The cocktail destination's best attribute, however, might just be one of its staff members.  Former Providence (and Doheny) barman Vincenzo Marianella has tuned up at Copa d'Oro.  Jonathan Chu remembered working with him years ago after he read our own Betty Hallock's excellent feature on the mixologist last year.  Subsequently, he made Marianella an offer to man the bar (and invest) at the just-opened lounge.

Continue reading »

This Just In: Jared Levy named exec chef at BottleRock

Redwinepour When BottleRock downtown opens in March, it will be with a new executive chef, Jared Levy, who will continue the wine bar's menu of "restrained fine dining." Levy, who has worked with chef Michael Cimarusti (Providence) and Kris Morningstar (lately of Casa) will head the kitchen at the downtown spot while overseeing the existing Culver City location. Viet Pham, who trained at Blue Velvet and Bouchon, will join BottleRock as sous chef.

Random Chef Fact: Levy taught English in Japan, where he honed his culinary chops working at a small izakaya called Bei in Ise. The focus was "traditional Japanese ingredients prepared using French techniques."

-- Elina Shatkin

Photo: Carlos Chavez / Los Angeles Times

This Just In: Two Boots soft-opens tonight; freebies coming soon

Twobootscounter As a food-obsessed Echo Parker, I've been watching the Two Boots pizzeria next door to the Echo for quite some time now. I get hunger pangs just looking at it, especially because its lights have often been on, but its doors locked, as it has dealt with a host of delays (it was originally shooting for a December opening).

That changes today. Two Boots opened its doors (ever so softly) late this afternoon, and will remain open for several more hours. "We had our very first customer moments ago," says manager Sharon Kochanski. Tomorrow it will open for the whole night, beginning at 4 p.m., and probably closing around 2 a.m. (yes, late-night pizza binge for me!).

On Thursday, Feb. 19, Kochanski says, Two Boots will celebrate its grand opening party, hopefully in conjunction with a show at the Echo. On that day, from 6 to 8 p.m., the restaurant will hand out free slices and sodas to all comers.

Two Boots, 1814 W. Sunset Blvd., L.A. (213) 413-2668.

-- Jessica Gelt

Photo of Two Boots in November by Jessica Gelt.

Settle in for some more tea talk

Teatop10teanceteabarm In our ongoing tea talk, for all you naysayers who thought tea wasn’t hot (pun completely intended), check out Sunset Magazine’s tribute to the Top 10 teahouses on the West Coast.

Locally, it names Le Palais de Thes in Beverly Hills at No. 5. Le Palais serves over 250 teas from around the world and boasts a selection of cast iron Japanese teapots.

Now do you think there is something in the air?

--Lori Kozlowski

Photo: At Téance in Berkeley, owner Minnie Yu pours a whole-leaf white tea from China.

Credit: Jen Siska

Bag the fancy beans? The best coffee may be one of the cheapest

Coffeemakeover_2 When you coffee drinkers stumble to the coffee maker each morning in your fuzzy slippers, what are you grabbing for? Starbucks? Dunkin' Donuts? Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf? Lovingly handpicked beans from Groundwork? Or, what seems like everyone's trendy favorite, Intelligentsia? And do you grind your own beans?

Well, Consumer Reports says you could be wasting your money.

It just released a report that ranked Eight O’Clock Coffee 100% Colombian at No. 1 in a taste test of 19 ground coffees. It costs just $6.28 per pound, earning it the magazine's coveted "CR Best Buy" label.  It's in the March issue of the magazine -- and unfortunately it's behind a pay wall online, or else we'd link to it here.

As you might imagine Eight O'Clock coffee is thrilled with the designation, which coincidentally comes as the brand is celebrating its 150th birthday with a makeover. (Worth mentioning because voters could win a $5,000 grocery spree at Coffeemakeover.com.)

What do you think about this CR report? Have you tried Eight O'Clock Coffee? Is it enough to make you rethink your coffee bean of choice?

And in case you are wondering, here's a link to CR's look at coffeemakers.

-- Rene Lynch

Photo credit: Eight O'Clock Coffee

The perfect cup of tea


In our ongoing conversation about the world’s second-most-consumed beverage—tea—we noticed a lot of discussion over how to make the perfect cup of tea.

Opinions vary greatly, but this is for sure: people are passionate about their brew. George Orwell, who gave the world "1984" and "Animal Farm," also gave us an instructional essay called “A Nice Cup of Tea.”

In his short work, he laid the foundation for his ideal version of the drink. Here are Orwell’s 11 Golden Rules:

1) One should use Indian or Ceylon tea. Not tea from China.

2) Tea should be made in a teapot.

Continue reading »

San Francisco's Scharffen Berger plants to close

Sbchocolates2_2More bad news from the front lines of the recession. Beloved San Francisco chocolate maker Scharffen Berger will shut down its two Bay Area facilities, current owner Hershey Co. announced Tuesday. The San Francisco Chronicle reported yesterday that Scharffen Berger's selection of sweets "will no longer be locally made" and that "Hershey already makes the majority of its Scharffen Berger products at its newly upgraded plant in Robinson, Ill." Still, 150 people up north will be affected by the dual plant closings. 

And while most tourists buying last-minute gifts from SFO International Airport (one of the many places bittersweet Scharffen Berger products were available in the greater San Francisco area) for friends certainly won't know the difference now that the chocolate will now be made in Illinois, Bay Area fans of Scharffen Berger have a right to lament the loss of what was becoming a cherished San Francisco brand to rival the Ghirardelli Chocolate Co.

From the Chronicle:

Scharffen Berger was founded in 1996 by Robert Steinberg, a family-practice physician in San Francisco and Ukiah, along with a former patient, winemaker John Scharffenberger.

The pair experimented in Steinberg's kitchen, using everything from a mortar and pestle to a hair dryer to create their chocolate. Production started in a South San Francisco plant but was moved to the larger, 27,000-square-foot Berkeley factory in 2001.

"It was home grown. They really changed the way people regarded chocolate in this country," said Deborah Kwan, a public relations consultant for the company from the time it opened until 2003.

-- Charlie Amter

Photo: Brian Vander Brug / Los Angeles Times

This Just In: Comme Ça (finally) expands its cocktail menu

CommecaEver since the Melrose bistro-brasserie hybrid Comme Ça opened in '07, there have been only as many cocktails on the menu as I have fingers on one hand -- four signature cocktails and "dealer's choice." But with more than 300 drinks in mixologist Joel Black's repertoire, it seemed inequitable to hold back on the menu (not all of us are savvy drink orderers). But Black has gotten busy. A new cocktail menu now lists 22, by my count.

It's a selection of pithy drinks with pithy descriptions (including old-timey measurements). There are classics mixed in with new twists, such as a Gin & Tarragonic with "a jigger of gin, half a pony each of Drambuie and fresh lime juice, pinch of tarragon, splash of tonic."

"I'm really proud of that guy," says Black, who won the Martin Miller's Gin & Tonic competition with the concoction. "It was my very first competition."

As for the menu, "it took a couple months to put together," he says. "I wanted something extensive but not too overwhelming. About 20 drinks is easy to scroll through and means there's something for everyone -- sweet, tangy, straightforward." (Black says he is also gunning for Best Drinks List at the Tales of the Cocktail convention in New Orleans.)

Dubbed 18A (a reference to the 18th Amendment, which established Prohibition), the menu also includes the Hybrid, described as such: "Add a little green chartreuse to a Sidecar and you get a pleasantly responsible vehicle for good times." And the Old Fashion: "Mind your Ps & Qs. Bourbon candy with bitters, orange and lemon may cause you to forget your manners."

And there's the Caip-Germain-ha, Black's twist on the caipirinha, made with St-Germain elderflower liqueur and raspberries. Says Black: "Nobody can pronounce this one."

Comme Ça, 8479 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 782-1104.

-- Betty Hallock

Photo of Comme Ça's Penicillin from its former drinks menu, courtesy of Food Art Group


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