Daily Dish

The inside scoop on food in Los Angeles

Category: Westside

Longtime Southland chef Amy Pressman dies at 53

Amy Pressman Amy Pressman, a longtime Southern California chef who was due to open Short Order hamburger restaurant and Short Cake bakery with Nancy Silverton this fall at the Farmers Market in the Fairfax district, has died of cancer, according to a statement from her family Friday. She was 53.

Pressman was the founder of Pasadena's Old Town Bakery and had a hand in several other well-known restaurant projects around Southern California, including Parkway Grill.

"This past Wednesday, Amy came to my home to barbecue burgers and make final adjustments in preparation of the upcoming opening of Short Order," Silverton said in a statement. "I knew she was hurting, but her will and determination to complete this project she was so passionate about won out that day over her pain.

"When I heard today that she had passed away, I was heartbroken. But, I know her beautiful spirit will be alive and well at Short Order and Short Cake and in my heart forever."

Among Pressman's survivors are two sons, Joshua Pressman and Sean Weiss; her mother, Muriel Nellis; her longtime partner Rob Beckham; and a brother, Adam Pressman. [UPDATED: An earlier version of this story did not include Beckham.] Funeral arrangements are pending.

Instead of flowers, the family suggests contributions be made to organizations that fund research into esophageal cancer or to Union Station Homeless Services in Pasadena.

Friends are remembering Pressman at a Facebook page.

"Amy was the one of the singularly most passionate people I have ever met," said Bill Chait, a partner in the new restaurants, who said they would open as scheduled sometime in October. "She was more than my partner. She was my sister. She will be with me the rest of my life and there is no advocate I would rather have by my side. For me, there will never be a moment where I eat a piece of cake, or now, a burger, without thinking fondly of my dearest friend."

 -- Russ Parsons

Photo: Amy Pressman


Tomato Wednesdays at Il Grano

At Il Grano in West Los Angeles, chef-owner Sal Marino is deep into his seventh year of Tomato Wednesdays. From now until the end of tomato season, he’s cooking and serving a splendiferous menu based on tomatoes grown in his own garden.

We’re talking an entire menu, which he changes every Wednesday. He might put a Sunrise or Green Zebra gazpacho on as a starter, a Caprese salad made with Black Cherokee tomatoes and imported bufala mozzarella, or grilled albacore with Momotaro panzanella. He might embellish a dish of spaghetti and clams with oven-dried Amish Gold and Sweet Million tomatoes.  Or ladle San Marzano tomato sauce over a branzino cannelloni. Even a couple of meat dishes get the tomato love: veal pizzaiola with San Marzano tomato sauce and pink oregano, or even better, veal sorrentina with bufala, basil and that same loose Neapolitan-style tomato sauce. Of course, you’re free to order anything from the regular menu as well.

If you love tomatoes, decide which tomatoes to plant next year by eating your way through Il Grano’s tomato menu. A passionate gardener, Marino is growing some 22 varieties this year and even has some 7-foot-tall plants ripening their fruit just steps from the restaurant’s kitchen.

Il Grano Restaurant, 11359 Santa Monica Blvd., West Los Angeles; (310) 477-7886; www.ilgrano.com. Tomato menu Wednesdays only. Starters, $7 to $18; panini, $12; pizza, $14 to $15; pasta, $12 to $14; meat, $14 to $15.


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Photo: Some of the home-grown tomatoes at Il Grano in 2005. Credit: Jamie Rector / For The Times


For hot days, cold noodles at Ramen Bull


In 92-degree heat in the middle of August in L.A., even the hardiest ramen aficionado might think twice about sticking her face over a steaming bowl of ramen -- no matter how hungry for hot noodle soup with roast pork that first issue of Lucky Peach made her. That's where hiyashi chuka comes in: cold ramen noodles served in a refreshingly rice-vinegary sauce, typically topped with julienned vegetables and omelet, shredded chicken, sliced ham, maybe some beni shoga (pickled red ginger) and strips of dried seaweed and a little spicy mustard.

Chef Noriyuki Sugie is serving, off-the-menu and for a limited time, his own version of hiyashi chuka at the ramen-shop-in-a-bakery called Ramen Bull, which runs through at least the end of September at Breadbar on 3rd Street. He sources his fresh chukamen noodles (made with wheat flour and kansui, an alkaline solution) from a San Jose-based company. The toppings are unusual: fresh tiny leaves of spinach and flowers, crispy onions, avocado, bits of beef shank, halved cherry tomatoes, julienned radish, soy-marinated boiled egg, and pomegranate seeds -- "for crunch," says Sugie, who notes ramen "is my passion." The best part might be the sauce, based on Sugie's beef shank consomme, just slightly gelatinous and super rich, touched with the tang of rice vinegar. Mix it all together with some of his house-made chile paste.

Get it while you can.

Ramen Bull at Breadbar on 3rd Street, 8718 W. 3rd St., Los Angeles, (310) 205-0124, www.breadbar.net. Ramen Bull hours are 5 to 10 p.m. Monday to Saturday.


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-- Betty Hallock

Photo: Betty Hallock


Keeping cool in L.A.: Today is National Ice Cream Sandwich Day

Ice Cream Sand600

Whether part of the food truck scene or as a creamery's menu staple, ice cream sandwiches are a frozen treat geniusly invented to get the best of both worlds -- cookies and ice cream -- in the realm of sweets. Angelenos can get their fix from local producers with flavors, from classic to wacky, to satisfy a spectrum of cravings during summer's warm months. Or, as it so happens, on National Ice Cream Sandwich Day.

Beachy Cream: Made in small batches with local and organic ingredients, Beachy Cream’s ice cream sandwiches are made with a spin on names and flavors sure to fit the SoCal scene: Key Lime Cowabunga, Strawberry Surfer Girl, Surfin' Safari Chocolate Chip and Ginger Wipe Out. These tasty treats can be found on the streets of Malibu, at select stores and online. Beachycream.com

Father's Office: A recent addition to the menu, ice cream sandwiches are now offered at the Culver City location. Creations include the hazelnut and foie gras ice cream on oatmeal cookies and the buttermilk ice cream and raspberry sorbet on lemon shortbread. 3229 Helms Ave., L.A., (310) 736-2224, fathersoffice.com

MILK: The brightly colored sandwiches are made of fresh macarons and ice cream flavors such as grasshopper (mint chip), Thai tea, rocky road, coffee toffee and red velvet. 7290 Beverly Blvd., L.A., (323) 939-6455, themilkshop.com

Sweet Rose Creamery: Located in the Brentwood Country Mart, the shop bakes its cookies on site daily, and ice cream flavors change regularly in accordance with what's in season at the farmers market. Classics include fresh mint with homemade chocolate chip and salted caramel while August's ice cream flavors include melon, summer corn, peaches 'n' cream and watermelon granita, among others. 225 26th St., Ste. 51, Santa Monica, (310) 260-2663, sweetrosecreamery.com.

More after the jump:

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Axe reopens on Abbot Kinney

Axe, Venice's beloved neighborhood eatery, is back in business (since last Wednesday) after being closed down for renovations last August following a small fire.

With slight changes in opening hours and subtle changes made to the menu, owner and executive chef Joanna Moore aims to maintain sustainability and consistency, as before, in her approach to fresh, market-inspired dishes. Joanna's menu at Axe is full of grains, nuts and vegetables, which the restaurant describes as California soul food, nourishing the body and spirit.

Regulars will be happy to know that a replaced ceiling has vastly improved the restaurant's sound level and a few native trees have found a new home to complete the restaurant's interior decor.

Axe, 1009 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, (310) 664-9787, axerestaurant.com.


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Photo credit: Saam Gabbay

Tsujita L.A. opens on Sawtelle (but no ramen until September)


Ramen-heads have been waiting for the opening of Tsujita L.A., the Los Angeles outpost of the Japan-based noodle shop (now with locations in China and Thailand, and several locations in Tokyo). But they'll have to wait a few more weeks before trying the ramen, even though the Sawtelle Boulevard spot had a soft opening this weekend. 

Ramen will be served only at lunch, and lunch service is expected to start in September. 

Meanwhile, dinner is Tokyo-style Japanese fusion: seafood gratin baked in an apple; noodle salad with curry vinaigrette; simmered beef tongue in consommé; organic vegetable sushi; chilled avocado chawanmushi (savory custard); and uni shooter in ponzu -- "enjoy as an aperitif," the menu says.  

2057 Sawtelle Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 231-7373, www.tsujita-la.com. 


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-- Betty Hallock

Photo: Betty Hallock

Carmageddon Eats: Ben & Jerry's honor 405 Freeway closure with free scoops of What a Cluster

Carmageddon Eats: Ben & Jerry's comes up wit a new ice cream flavor for the 405 closure: 'What a Cluster'

Carmageddon_Ben_and_Jerrys_new_flavor Carmageddon, so far, isn't all bad. Carmageddon made for a sweet Friday morning commute, and now comes news that Carmageddon brings us free scoops of a new Ben & Jerry's flavor called, appropriately enough: What a Cluster. Those shrewd marketeers -- I mean ice cream makers -- are offering free scoops from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Ben & Jerry's shop at the Promenade at the Howard Hughes Center.

One catch: The free scoops are located a short distance from Carmageddon's ground zero.

Carmageddon is scheduled to begin later this evening, when the 405 Freeway will be shut down between the 10 and 101 freeways for about 50 hours for bridge work. The Howard Hughes Center is located off the 405, a few miles south of the 10 Freeway.

That better be some good ice cream. Sure sounds like it, though: It's a peanut butter ice cream with streaks of peanut butter, marshmallow swirls and caramel clusters. It was a new flavor unveiled in shops earlier this year. The "nuttiness" in the free offering is especially appropriate given that everyone seems to be going nuts over the freeway closure. The latest: Bicyclists have challenged JetBlue -- an airline -- to see who can make the Long Beach-to-Burbank trek faster. Can't wait to see how that bike-versus-plane race turns out.

Here are some other ways that you can eat your way through Carmageddon.


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Photo: Ben & Jerry's

“Kimchi Chronicles” premieres at the Korean Cultural Center

What more do you need when your husband is famed chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, whose lamb chops with black trumpet mushrooms and caramelized foie gras helped win him three Michelin stars and several James Beard awards? Apparently, nothing can compare to mom’s cooking. And in Marja Vongerichten’s case, it’s her Korean mother’s traditional dishes like bulgogi and bibimbap.

Marja (who is half Korean) will be at the Korean Cultural Center on July 7 to talk about her upcoming APT television series “Kimchi Chronicles” after a premiere screening of its first episode.

It’s a 13-series half-hour-long show—a part travelogue, part food fantasy and part documentary about self-discovery through Vongerichten’s native cuisine—because after all, you are what you eat.

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4 Food Events You Should Know About: Drago tasting menu; Public Kitchen happy hour; Yujean Kang's 20th anniversary; Surfrider dinner at Cafe del Rey

Peaches Seasonal tasting menu: On June 27, executive chef Evan Gotanda and two guest chefs will create a five-course tasting menu highlighting local and seasonal ingredients at Santa Monica's Drago restaurant. Dishes include pan-seared branzino and chai-spiced duck. The menu is $65 per person with an option to add cocktail pairings for an extra $25. For a reservation call (310) 828-1585. 2628 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica.

5 for 5 happy hour: Public Kitchen at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel is offering five signature menu items priced at $5 for happy hour. The specialty cocktail and appetizers change daily, meaning one night you might devour chickpea-and-three-cheese fritters, and the next time chicharrones with chili and lime. 3 to 7p.m. Monday to Friday. 7000 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 769-8888.

20th-anniversary specials: Yujean Kang's Chinese restaurant is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. The restaurant will be serving two different menus priced at $20 per person.  A four-course chef's tasting menu will be offered Monday through Saturday. On Sundays, a family-style dinner for two will be served. Menu items will change monthly. 67 N. Raymond Ave., Pasadena, (626) 858-0855.

Saturday soiree: Cafe del Rey is teaming up with Surfrider Foundation's West L.A./Malibu chapter to commemorate the restaurant's 20th anniversary. The event will include live music and a Champagne tasting, and executive chef Daniel Roberts will make Mediterranean-inspired hors d'oeuvres. The celebration will be held June 25 from 5 to 8 p.m. The Surfrider Foundation is asking for a $20 donation per guest.  4451 Admiralty Way, Marina del Rey, (310) 823-6395.


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Photo credit: La Grande Farmers' Market

The Churchill to open on West Third Street helmed by chef Jason Tuley of Santa Barbara's Square One


This post has been corrected. See the note at the bottom for details.

A shiny new restaurant is coming early next month to West Third Street's bustling dining and shopping district. It's called the Churchill and its the work of the same guys -- Beau Laughlin and Brett Cranston--who opened the Hudson in 2009. For a chef they've tapped Jason Tuley, who formerly worked at Santa Barbara's Square One.

It's practically impossible to write about a new restaurant in L.A. these days without using the words "sustainable" and "local," and the Churchill is no exception. Tuley will source herbs, lettuce, tomatoes, root vegetables and more from an edible garden planted on the restaurant's roof. The seasonal American menu will feature cured meats, pasta, pickled veggies, artisanal pizzas and fresh breads.

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Daily Dish is written by Times staff writers.