Saturday, January 23, 2010

DineLA 2010 Kickoff

Have you ever gone to a party and you are thinking, "I don't belong here...this is really awkward...who are these people anyways?" Well, the DineLA party at the Roosevelt was the exact opposite of that! It was like the party I have been waiting to attend all of my life! The Roosevelt a cool venue, the music was cool and non-thumping, and it was not too crowded.

But the most exciting part is that the room was crammed with the best chefs in LA! And I LOVE them! I get all chatty and gossipy over garnishes and game as if we are schoolgirls talking about the boys in class.

I had a conversation something like this with Chef Jean Francois Meteigner of La Cachette (Imagine it all whispered superfast):

"It's the king of foie gras!"

Did you have the pate or which foie gras?

"I love ALL of your foie gras, but especially seared."

Oh, you should have come in a few months ago. I seared it with these little kumquats...

"No way! Oh my God!"

Yes! You call ahead and I will get you your foie gras

Can you imagine the balls it would take to call ahead to inform the chef you are on your way for foie gras?

So I was running back and forth between the red carpet and greeting people and trying to make friends with Neal Fraser and I saw my darling John Sedlar Rivera! Now the party could start! He was still laughing about the llama.

When I finally stopped fawning over John, I made my way inside and hung out with Linds and Caroline on Crack. HC, and a bunch of other food writers. We tried a cold corn soup with a little teensy clamful of goodness. The event was catered by Dakota and 25 degrees.

The line for drinks was a long one, and I later discovered that was just for wine and sodas. Wine was provided by Wente.

One place they could improve upon is to have cold bottles of water available somewhere. Cocktails were passed. I tried what I thought was a mojito, but Caroline on Crack reports was not. Still, it was very mojito-ish.

The Cherry manhattan had what I thought was a cherry at the bottom - because that would make sense. But according to Linds it was a shiitake mushroom! It could have been an eyeball for all anyone knew.

They had a birria taco bar

I asked this guy to take a bite of taco for me to photograph. He was like You want me to what?

It just proves if you are nice enough, most people will cooperate eventually

The pork belly was glorious.

The goat tacos were so delicious. The sauce and juice ran down my hand and I immodestly licked it off.


I was handed a sweetbread on a skewer and hesitated. I have had sweetbreads at the Gaucho Grill and was none too impressed. But there are certain places that can make you like things you are unsure of. And this was not a night for half-assed cooking. I told John, who was chatting with other chefs, "I'm afraid to eat the sweetbread." Neal Fraser said, "It's brains."

I said, "Thats what my dad said the grit in clam chowder was when I was little."

John said, "There's no grit in that."

Josie said kindly, "It's the thymus (and demonstrated on herself where it was). You'll like it. Try it.

So it only took three chefs to get that thing down my gullet. It was nicely crisped and caramelized on the outside, which made the inner liveriness less pronounced.

The speaker started speaking on the podium, and I was standing taking pictures when I turned and noticed the mayor standing next to me. As they mentioned the sponsor, AMEX, I told the mayor, "I bet you have the black card."

He said, "What?"

"I said, there is a black AMEX with no limit."

"He said, 'Oh, I know. You have to spend an awful lot to get there.'"

Then they introduced him and he said, "Blah blah blah, and thanks to American Express...(pointing in a friendly way at them) Hey, I'm still waiting for my black card guys!"


I looked over, and was like, "Hey, that's totally Tom Labonge!" He is so friendly in a big happy dog kind of way.

Desserts were hit and miss

But the party was raging

Neal Fraser was sporting badass shoes

Sherry Yard

Robert from Laconda del Lago

Joachim Spichal

Chef Eric Greenspan of The Foundry

Friday, January 22, 2010

CBS Ushers in Autumn

Written with Lindsay William-Ross. And yes, I know it is no longer Autumn. Refer to the Kiki Maraschino Time-Space continuum for further elaboration.

CBS Radford Studios in Studio City held their 23rd Annual Great Chefs of LA last Fall to benefit the National Kidney Foundation of Southern California. Hosted by comedian and TV star George Lopez, the event was supposed to draw a number of celebrities, and I was on the lookout for Paul Stanley.

George Lopez said that the Border Grill truck was an authentic Mexican restaurant because "there is an extention cord leading to the house behind it."

La Loteria was across the way giving the Border Grill truck a little competition

Neal Fraser and Mary Sue Milliken were honored as umm, great chefs.

A refreshing cocktail made with Right Gin, fresh orange, and blood orange bitters

Neal Fraser's Braised veal short ribs with polenta. Rich, succulent meat, tender and shredding. It could have used a little more polenta to soak up the delicious meat juices

Ben Ford is so hunky

Brian Moyers of BLT is adorable too

Grilled Hanger Steak from BLT

It was all about short ribs and Fall flavors, as Lindsay puts it so eloquently

Akasha's sumptuous short rib piled atop a salty-sweet slab of pretzel bread served alongside pantry fodder like pickles and preserves. Down the way were eager ladle-fulls of gooey 3-cheese macaroni and more tender short rib meat from Charlie's Malibu--how can you resist?

If it wasn't short ribs, it was definitely game day. I was a little hesitant, in spite of having eaten moose and buffalo and god knows what in Canada and Alaska. But if youre gonna trust anyone with game it's saddle peak lodge. The meat was tender, not gamey, and the crostini made it into a nice little sandwich

Grass-fed beef sandwiches from Dakota in grass

Meanwhile, across the way, sips of seasonal soups like mushroom (okay, fine, Zuppa di Funghi) from Tanino Drago of Tanino & Panzanella Ristorantes and squash from Drago were welcoming flavors. Chef Celestino Drago was to the soup he offered a rich duck sandwich.

Bottega Louie, who also went the sandwich route, pairing tangy-sweet Blood Orange marmalade panini with a sensuous, quivering dollop of fresh burrata with an earthy pesto.

La Loggia and Bokado Langostinos wrapped kataife which was unbelievably delicious thanks to the crispy wrap reminiscent of shredded wheat cereal, which contrasted with the langostino's somewhat unusual texture.

Pintxo de Pollo (lamb)by Chef Frank Leon -- these were slammin! So intense with Indian and middle eastern-flovored spices (though the word pitxo and pinxo are skewered basque tapas). Nice moist meat, and a handy dandy bread carry-all The heat of the day and the Pinxto could be cured with a sip of their Gazpacho Andaluz, too.

Two oceanic bites courtesy of East. First, a plump scallop served sushi-style with lemongrass sambal, wasabi creme fraiche, shiso dust and micro cilantro in its own charming purple half-shell, was a tangy, smooth, vibrant respite. This was followed by a small piece of Hawaiian Walu, served with a mildly smoky miso mustard cream, micor wasabi, chive essence, and smoked chardonnay sea salt.

I was staring at the scallop, and the next thing I knew the chef was sliding a scallop into my mouth. OK, surrender to the experience. Talk about service! It was definitely one of the best bites of the day.

If you were looking for entertainment, though, you needn't have gone further than the table of the folks from Jose Andres' The Bazaar at the SLS. What a show! They brought along the always-enchanting and increasingly popular kitchen ingredient liquid nitrogen. They also had Tomato-Mozarella Pipettes (the mozarella is liquid in a tube that, sorry to say, looks like a tampon and squirts out the cheese juice, so, err, ick!)

Bazaar did pull out the stops with their passionfruit marshmallows

Chipotle-agave lamb loin with jalapeno mint organic grits, This may have been one of the best things I ate all day. A perfect autumn dish. Just enough spice to make it exciting, but not overwhelming

Frank Leon of La Loggia and Bokado

Botega Louie Roasted grape tomatoes, burata and pesto salad

Le Grande Orange Deviled Eggs

Govind Armstrong and Ben Ford

Celestino Drago

Leyna's Kitchen cupcakes with their strawberry filling are always a welcome sight.

The only star I spotted was Jenny Garth of 90210. No Paul Stanley, and I probably creeped out a lot of tall guys with black curly hair by staring at them while I determined that they were not Paul Stanley.