Category Archives: California

Top 5 So Cal Coffee Shops: A Coffee Klatching, Caffeinated Road Trip

Southern California’s love affair with coffee goes way back to earlier land settlers and cattle-drivers. The pioneers would awake to the rising sun while a blazing campfire is percolating that first pot of mud juice. According to True West Magazine (October 2001), “Cowboys were undoubtedly the most devoted group of coffee drinkers in the West. As a rule, they liked it strong, scalding hot, and barefooted (black).”

Almost two centuries later, coffee houses are a fixture on every well-driven, So Cal street – although mostly emblazoned with a green mermaid logo. True to the western American ingenuity way, the Golden State still has some independent shops crafting luscious java jolts in small batches. Coffee connoisseurs in So Cal have a myriad of baristas fashioning joe in unique ways. Here are some of our favorites, from Palm Springs to Orange County and into Los Angeles. With a full tank of gas and a thermos of rocket juice as fuel, high-octane lovers can make a road trip visiting them in a single day. Go get your jitter on!

Top 5 So Cal Coffee Shops: A Coffee Klatching, Caffeinated Road Trip

Portola Coffee Lab (Costa Mesa, Orange County)

Found in an Orange County hipster strip mall called OC Mix in Costa Mesa (in the same place as famed Taco Maria), Portola rose to prominence when the coffee industry’s major publication, Roaster Magazine, honored the caffeine maker with its 2015 “Roaster of the Year.” While already beloved by locals, the award catapulted the four-year-old shop into a nationally known bean-lover mecca. Noted for their lack of syrups and additives while using only mocha and milk for additional flavors, the single store has branched to six locations, all within Orange County. Furthermore, they use three distinct brewing methods to get to the only-in-OC taste: a manual pour-over, a siphon, and the trifecta (a combination of the siphon, pour-over, and French press). For an espresso made from a single origin bean, it’s a one-shot deal with a one-of-a-kind machine. Be prepared to stand in line for your cuppa, but It’s good to the last drop.

Rose and Cardamom Latte at Portola.Top 5 So Cal Coffee Shops: A Coffee Klatching, Caffeinated Road Trip

Portola. Top 5 So Cal Coffee Shops: A Coffee Klatching, Caffeinated Road Trip

LAMill Coffee (Silver Lake, Los Angeles County)

When LA Mill first opened a decade ago, there was nothing quite like the coffee roaster and maker. For one, it cemented Silver Lake as a destination for good eats. Menu was crafted by Chef Michael Cimarusti of Providence fame, in conjunction with the LA Mill owner Craig Min. The interiors designed were commissioned by their next-door neighbor by Silverlake decorator, Rubbish Interiors. It personified early hipster-hood. And there still is nothing quite like it, as far as coffee shops go. Coffee may be the thing to try, but you’re spending your time here because, well, the grub isn’t just an afterthought. It’s a reason to eat. Coffee is made four different ways, and then there is the $11,000-dollar espresso machine. That’s almost as much as your electric Smart Car.

Outside LA Mill. Top 5 So Cal Coffee Shops: A Coffee Klatching, Caffeinated Road Trip LA Mill. Top 5 So Cal Coffee Shops: A Coffee Klatching, Caffeinated Road Trip

Koffi (Palm Springs, Riverside County)

For those who have traveled to the Palm Springs area for two decades, Koffi is as much a destination for coffee as is tramway travel to the top of the San Jacinto mountains. The flagship spot located as drivers enter the resort town is a welcome relief. Although the line winds around the counter, it moves quickly, giving the legs movement after an hour and half driving from LA or San Francisco – which can clock in at five to seven hours depending on traffic. What started off with only one roastery has clovered into three locations, with the original, a Rancho Mirage location, and another mid-century outpost on the edge of Cathedral City. Stopping at Koffi and partaking of their java is as important as a warm desert pool on a chilly night or a hike into Joshua Tree.

Koffi and Cake. Top 5 So Cal Coffee Shops: A Coffee Klatching, Caffeinated Road Trip Koffi. Top 5 So Cal Coffee Shops: A Coffee Klatching, Caffeinated Road Trip

Alfred (West Hollywood, Los Angeles County)

Most coffee lovers would bypass Alfred, as they serve the yummy but ubiquitous Stumptown beans. Alfred, though, with its two chic shops – located just two blocks from each other – is unique without the coffee roastery…and is why it’s on this list. Made in West Hollywood, the liquid energy is chock-full of L.A.’s pretty people, tourists checking out the nearby luxury shopping, and a mélange of neighborhood folks. Matter of fact, if you felt the subway rumble or heard car horns slamming, one might feel they were in New York or Paris. Yes, it’s that cosmopolitan. Yes, it’s that fashionable. And yes, it’s as much a part of the sartorial coffee scene as City of Light’s Les Deux Magot or Manhattan’s Balthazar. If you happen to be in Japan, Alfred lovers can find two Tokyo outposts – making it even more tres, tres chic. Plus, Stumptown, a Portland roastery, is nothing to sniff at – no matter where you are.

Cakes at Aroma. Top 5 So Cal Coffee Shops: A Coffee Klatching, Caffeinated Road Trip Alfred Coffee and Donuts. Top 5 So Cal Coffee Shops: A Coffee Klatching, Caffeinated Road Trip

Aroma Caffe (Studio City, Los Angeles County)

Another mainstay of the entertainment set is Aroma Café on Studio City’s treelined Tujunga. Aroma, which started as a small house and grew into a house with a garden, patio, backyard, and sidewalk café, has served up frothy cappuccinos, bracing espressos, and sipping lattes for 20 years. That’s a long time for a television series (only The Simpsons can beat that) and a restaurant. While delicious java juices and herbal teas can be imbibed on site, the coffee house is a hybrid of a one-time java house which morphed into a full-blown restaurant. Mud-drinkers can fulfill their need for high-octane lattes while filling up on fortifying salads, crusty paninis, and savory egg dishes throughout the day. If in the Los Feliz area, the independent coffee and eatery has another tree-lined outpost on Hillhurst, serving up a twinned menu for the artistic side of the hill.

Cakes at Aroma. Top 5 So Cal Coffee Shops: A Coffee Klatching, Caffeinated Road Trip Aroma Coffee and Tea. Top 5 So Cal Coffee Shops: A Coffee Klatching, Caffeinated Road Trip

 

– The End. Go Drink. –

2017 Best Restaurant Dishes in Southern California

As the end of 2017 draws to a close, one of my favorite novel quotes comes to mind. It’s from The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The legendary character says to his friend Nick Caraway, “I don’t want you to get the wrong idea of me from all these stories you hear.” Of course, Gatsby hides behind sordid tales masking his true intentions. As a man of incredible wealth, how he came by money is dubious until the end of the book, when it is revealed that he is just a typical criminal, albeit a rich one. His cohort, Caraway is a memoirist in this context, besotted by the novel’s central character until the lies of luxury and excess become stripped away. In many ways, the allegorical Fitzgerald masterpiece is prescient today, even in our food world, as real stories of harassment come bounding out of the kitchen doors. None of this is new; there have always been hidden agendas among those that want power, whether behind a stove or a desk.

While the New York Times, Washington Post, and CNN kept me up at night, I went looking for comfort in the foods that I ate this year. I wasn’t seeking hype or multi-million dollar restaurants, but honest-to-goodness eats that were democratically attainable. I desired to eat comforting ingredients showcasing the diversity of the United States – right here in Southern California. Gratefully, I think I found it without trying too hard.

In no particular order, they are:

Chori-Man’s Breakfast Burrito (San Pedro)

I discovered Humberto Raygoza and his homemade chorizo while working with Brouwerij West, the famed craft beer brewery in San Pedro. He was a regular at the spot, cooking up his artisan chorizo under a tent with a portable flat-top. From him, I learned that nearly every Mexican state makes a different version of chorizo, a spicy sausage mixture. It even came in different colors, such as green, red, and brown. Statesiders typically find the “rojo” version, but when in Mexico, seek out the others – or head to Chori-Man in San Pedro who opened a storefront/ eatery in the summer. Food Gal Carolyn Jung once said to me, “A burrito can be a thing of beauty.” Raygoza’s are the Mona Lisas.

The Chori-Man
2309 S. Alma St.
San Pedro, CA

Chori Man Breakfast Burrito. 2017 Best Restaurant Dishes in Southern California

Tony’s Burgers, The Obama Burger (Cathedral City):

According to the waiter at the decidedly unstuffy restaurant tucked into a strip mall on Date Palm Drive, the Secret Service would come in to order this messy but incredibly delicious and satisfying burger every time the President was in town. Made of almost a 3/4 pound of ground beef served with crispy bacon, goat cheese, grilled onions, and garlic aioli on a cloud-like bun, the former President was getting his tastes on with this enjoyably messy monstrosity. If the Obama burger isn’t your favorite, then try one of the other 39 types of burgers on the menu. Order up a side of hand-cut fries too, thank you very much – get the large to share amongst your dining companions.

Tony’s Burgers
35903 Date Palm Dr.
Cathedral City, CA

Obama Burger at Tony's Burgers. 2017 Best Restaurant Dishes in Southern California

Jardineros Taco at Taco Maria (Costa Mesa)

What else can I mention about the upscale Cal-Mex food experience that Food & Wine Magazine or Jonathan Gold, the masterful food critic at the LA Times, hasn’t? That it’s a glorious dining experience? Foodophiles can’t miss eating here? Out the six or so times I’ve dined here — and not all in 2017 — I keep coming back to the jardineros taco. It’s not cheap at $14 for mostly three or four bites, but it’s perfect, and memorable, a combination of flavors in an Orange County urban-setting. With the picture-perfect blue masa tortilla, smoky mushroom “chorizo,” some heft added by papas, topped off with molten cheese (or queso fundido) and some micro-greens, I feel like I’ve eaten one of the best Mexican foods ever created in California.

Taco Maria
3313 Hyland Avenue, Ste. C21
Costa Mesa, CA

Jardineros Tacos at Taco Maria. 2017 Best Restaurant Dishes in Southern California

Tropicale Café’s Tomahawk Pork Chop with Cranberry-Pear Chutney (Palm Springs)

In the early 2000s, Los Angeles was graced with Chef Scooter Kanfer-Cartmill’s homey confections of lobster mac and cheese and animal cookies served with a shot of milk at her Larchmont restaurant called The House. After closing the doors, she went on her way to a couple of other LA stints before winding her way to Palm Springs. In the desert community, Kanfer-Cartmill has hit her stride, where she has been directing the kitchen with generous portions infused with tropical themed flavors. Hence, the mighty pork chop, butchered from a massive animal, gets rubbed in savory herbs and garlic and then pan roasted. The dish comes served with a sweet and sour chunky sauce with a mild hint of heat. It is worth a Los Angeles drive to the desert every single time you want pork.

Tropicale Café
330 E. Amado Road
Palm Springs, CA

Tropicale Café’s Tomahawk Pork Chop with Cranberry-Pear Chutney (Palm Springs). 2017 Best Restaurant Dishes in Southern California

Irenia’s Pancit (Santa Ana)

As a half Pinoy and half Caucasian American, I only have good memories of my dad and his family when we ate around a dinner table. While the memories of living with him are not fond, we ate incredibly well. So when I came to eat at Irenia’s, I had to leave my baggage at the door and go in as someone who was eating Filipino food for the first time. I’m glad I did, because Chef Ryan Garlitos created something special at the restaurant he named after his grandmother. Most of the dishes are not traditional, but something ethereal, combining his Pinoy cooking experience with those that he acquired at a variety of stints, including Taco Maria. It’s not the noodle dish I remember, but something different and more delicious. Although there are nearly four dozen versions of the Filipino dish, each with different ingredients but always some form of noodle. Garlito’s pancit bihon is all his own making. Simple, mouthwatering, and memorable. Topped with a soft-boiled egg and carrots and assorted vegetables, it’s worth going to Santa Ana and carb-loading.

Irenia
400 N. Broadway
Santa Ana, CA

Pancit. 2017 Best Restaurant Dishes in Southern California

 

 

i8tonite with LA Cheese Tea Entrepreneur Jenny Zheng & Recipe for Cheese Tea

Get ready, readers! Cheese Tea is a new and interesting drink…boba with a twist! Have you tried it yet? What do you think?

i8tonite with LA Cheese Tea Entrepreneur Jenny Zheng & Recipe for Cheese TeaJenny Zheng, 25, is the Founder of Little Fluffy Head Cafe, one of the first cheese tea boba shops in Los Angeles of its kind. She graduated from the University of California Los Angeles with a Master’s degree in Bioengineering in 2016. While on a trip to Asia before graduation, she stumbled upon the latest millennials craze: cheese tea. Being a big fan of cheese, she obsessed on bringing the concept to the U.S.. So upon graduation, instead of going a traditional route with her degree, Zheng decided to spend the time to develop her own version of creamy cheese tea and opened her very first cafe in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles in the summer of 2017. Right now, she is fully dedicated to running the cafe to provide her customers the highest-quality and authentic cheese tea.

Find her online at https://www.instagram.com/littlefluffyhead/

Cheese Tea from Little Fluffy Head Cafe, LA. From i8tonite with LA Cheese Tea Entrepreneur Jenny Zheng & Recipe for Cheese Tea

Food People Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

What is your favorite food to cook at home?
My mom used to make me a tomato noodle soup every morning when I was younger, utimately it has become my favorite Asian comfort food I like to cook at home. It reminds me of my family.

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Different kinds of cheese to pair with wine

What marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
One characteristic I look for in a person is the ability to criticize or the ability to question. Especially if I am going to eat with this person, I want the dinner table conversation to be as meaningful as possible, talking about things that we could be better at.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
Unreliable

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Definitely wine!

i8tonite with LA Cheese Tea Entrepreneur Jenny Zheng & Recipe for Cheese TeaYour favorite cookbook author?
I don’t have one yet. At this moment, I spend most of my foodie time searching for great restaurants to eat at, rather than a good cookbook to teach myself how to cook.

Your favorite kitchen tool?
Hand mixer

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
East Asian cuisine

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Chicken

Favorite vegetable or fruit?
Tomato

Chef you most admire?
A sushi chef by the name of Kazunori Nozawa

Food you like the most to eat?
Squid ink pasta with lobster sauce. So yummy!

Food you dislike the most?
Anything with mushroom. My mom made me eat a lot of mushrooms when I was little, and I am mentally afraid of mushrooms now.

What is your favorite non-food thing to do?
Reading

Who do you most admire in food?
My mom. She could make you a platter of seafood like the ones you see at high end restaurants.

Where is your favorite place to eat? What is your favorite restaurant?
Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar inside the Grove in Los Angeles. Great atmosphere and fresh sushi.

Do you have any tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
I have two tattoos. I got them before I turned into a foodie, so sadly none of them were related to food.

Recipe: Jenny’s version of cheese tea

i8tonite with LA Cheese Tea Entrepreneur Jenny Zheng & Recipe for Cheese Tea

1. Prepare:
9 teaspoon of whipping cream
3 teaspoon of milk
0.5 oz of cream cheese
a pinch of salt and sugar

i8tonite with LA Cheese Tea Entrepreneur Jenny Zheng & Recipe for Cheese Tea

2. Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and whip together using a hand mixer until the texture is thick.

i8tonite with LA Cheese Tea Entrepreneur Jenny Zheng & Recipe for Cheese Tea

 

3. Brew a cup of tea

4. Sugar to taste

5. Add ice to cool down the tea

6. Layer the cream on top of the tea

 

– The End. Go Eat. –

 

i8tonite with Vicente del Rio of Frida’s: A LA Mexican Institution & Roasted Pork with Mole Recipe

i8tonite with Vicente del Rio of Frida’s: A LA Mexican Institution & Roasted Pork with Mole RecipeWhen Frida’s first opened in 2002 along the forgotten strip of Beverly Drive in Beverly Hills, there was a lack of well-crafted Mexican food in Beverly Hills. The world-renowned town at the time celebrated tomahawk steaks with martinis rather than reposado tequilas and molés. Upon opening, the small but mighty restaurant fostered a growing interest in the cuisine outside of the standard Tex-Mex that populated the City of Angels. More than 17 years later while other area restaurants have come and gone, Frida’s still stands, crafting south of the border dishes one might have in the very cosmopolitan Mexico City.

Owner Vicente del Rio, who was born in the metropolis’s historical and well-to-do borough of Coyocan, said during a phone interview, “I learned how to cook from my mother and grandmother, and I wanted to bring that authentic experience here. I feel that’s why we are successful.”

After a fruitful debut year, del Rio started to spread out to other parts of Los Angeles. As CEO of  FriMex Hospitality, he has launched eating experiences throughout Los Angeles County with Frida’s Tacos in five locations (Brentwood, Old Town and East Pasadena, Melrose, and Campus Village) and a Taco Libre in Santa Monica. His team has also expanded the original experience of Frida’s to Westwood, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Cerritos, and opening soon in Sherman Oaks.

i8tonite with Vicente del Rio of Frida’s: A LA Mexican Institution & Roasted Pork with Mole Recipe

Asked about why he thinks Frida is so successful, he says, “We don’t reduce the quality of our food to increase profits. We also have a great team of people working to make sure that we embody the Mexican culture. We want everyone to enjoy our delicious history.”

Food People Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

What is your favorite food to cook at home? 
Barbeque and paella

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
All types of fresh fruits, vegetables, and proteins

What marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
That they enjoy the food that they ate and are interested in trying diverse foods

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
They complain about the food and service

i8tonite with Vicente del Rio of Frida’s: A LA Mexican Institution & Roasted Pork with Mole Recipe

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Martini

Your favorite cookbook author?
Laura Caraza

Your favorite kitchen or bar tool?
Knives

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Mexican and Spanish

Beef, chicken, pork, seafood, or tofu?
Beef

Favorite vegetable? 
Mushrooms

Chef or culinary person you most admire?
My mother and grandmother, who taught me everything

Food you like the most to eat?
Besides Mexican and sushi?

Food you dislike the most?
Cheese

What is your favorite non-food thing to do?
Golf

Whom do you most admire in food?
Jose Andres

Where is your favorite place to eat/drink?
Mexico City

What is your favorite restaurant?
Frida Beverly Hills

i8tonite with Vicente del Rio of Frida’s: A LA Mexican Institution & Roasted Pork with Mole Recipe

Do you have any tattoos?
And if so, how many are of food?
None

Recipe: Roasted Pork with Green Mole

i8tonite with Vicente del Rio of Frida’s: A LA Mexican Institution & Roasted Pork with Mole Recipe

Total time: 3 hours, 15 minutes, largely unattended.  Serves 8

Ingredients:
3 1/2- to 4-pound pork shoulder roast, fat trimmed
Salt
Pepper
6 tablespoons oil, divided
6 cups chicken broth, divided, plus 1/4 to 1/2 cup if needed
1 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, chopped
5 tomatillos, husked and chopped (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup shelled raw peanuts
1/2 cup raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds), hulled
1 bunch cilantro (tough lower stems removed)
1/2 bunch epazote (1 cup leaves)
1 cup chopped iceberg or romaine lettuce
1 corn tortilla, torn into pieces
1 bolillo roll, sliced
3 whole jalapeno chiles (not seeded)
2 whole serrano chiles, seeds removed7 poblano chiles, seeds removed, chopped (4 cups chopped)
1/2 cup toasted pepitas

Directions:
1. Season the pork with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a Dutch oven. Add the pork shoulder and sear on all sides. Pour 2 cups chicken broth into the pan and cover.

2. Place in a 325-degree oven and cook until the meat is tender and easily pulled apart with a fork, about 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

3. Heat the remaining oil in a large skillet. Add the onion, garlic, and tomatillos and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the peanuts and the raw pepitas and cook for 2 more minutes.

4. Add the cilantro, epazote, lettuce, tortilla pieces, bolillo slices and chiles. Stir in the remaining chicken broth and bring to a boil.

5. Reduce heat. Simmer until the chiles are soft and flavors have melded, approximately 15 to 20 minutes.

6. Let the mixture cool slightly, then blend in batches until smooth. Add a little water or broth (one-fourth to one-half cup) if necessary to make a thick but pourable sauce.

7. Return the sauce to the pan and heat to serving temperature. Season with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt or to taste. Makes 6 cups sauce, ½ cup per serving.

8. Serve on shredded pork, arrange on a serving platter. Sprinkle with pepitas.

 

 

– The End. Go Eat. – 

i8tonite with Chef and Simply Fish Author Matthew Dolan & Recipe for Smoked Salmon Frittata

i8tonite with Chef and Simply Fish Author Matthew Dolan & Recipe for Smoked Salmon FrittataMatthew Dolan  is an established chef and restaurant owner who trained at The Culinary Institute of America in New York. His restaurant, Twenty Five Lusk, was named Esquire magazine’s Best New Restaurant and Open Table Diners Choice Top Hot Spot Restaurants in the United States since its opening in 2010.

Dolan notes, “I am an American, aware of my Celtic roots, and I blame these roots for the passion that I carry forth in all things, especially my love of cooking and creating dynamic experiences through food. Cooking for others is a joy rewarded by seeing the enjoyment of others. Passion and care are the fundamentals of excellent food, and I am passionate about fish.”

Chef Dolan has a new venture out, one that is accessible to food lovers around the world. His new cookbook, Simply Fish, is a treasure.

i8tonite with Chef and Simply Fish Author Matthew Dolan & Recipe for Smoked Salmon Frittata

“Simply Fish is your definitive guide to preparing seafood that is sustainable, healthy, and delicious. Matthew Dolan’s recipes are accessible and brilliant, and his stories are engaging. The bounty of the sea is here, in a book you’ll treasure.” — Drew Nieporent, restaurateur, Tribeca Grill, Nobu, Bâtard

Simply Fish explores many recipes, techniques, and secrets to delivering a restaurant-quality experience in your own home, simply through cooking fish. You’ll learn about fish, sustainability, and enjoying cooking with seafood, and get inspired by the beautiful, delicious, seasonal recipes (including no-fish desserts!). I especially love the section of each recipe entitled ‘what to tell the fish guy’ – because I think many people are stumped by fish right from the point when you need to purchase it. Genius!

Chef Dolan has also included a few stories of travel, fish, and eating that showcase his humor, quick wit, and thoughtfulness. About a sauna, swimming in the frozen sea, and the meal afterward, Dolan said, “One by one, these crazy Finns leapt in and swam about as if it was noon and they were at Club Med somewhere in the Caribbean. What else was I to do except take the plunge—literally. What a contrast as I felt my heart implode and an unexpected feeling of warmth. I thought I was dying. Then this passed and it was time to get out. Thanks to a little insane moment of ice swimming, we were ravenous and alive. At the center of the table was a beautiful arctic char, roasted whole and awaiting its place in our bellies. Dill and butter-poached potatoes, smoked whitefish, pickled herring, roasted beets, butter lettuces, caviars, and mind-blowing sour breads encircled this magnificently roasted cold-water fish. There were marinated cucumbers known as grandma’s cucumbers, sausages, wine, and beer. The inherent simplicity and care with how this feast came together would later redefine my cooking.

Chef Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

What is your favorite food to cook at home?
Risotto, seasonally driven, usually with mushrooms.

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Beer and ham. Simple staples.

Caviar+Lobster. i8tonite with Chef and Simply Fish Author Matthew Dolan & Recipe for Smoked Salmon Frittata
Caviar+Lobster

What marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
Excitement for the experience, the food, and the effort that surrounds it.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
Inferior table manners. I am worried that we are losing sight of the importance of table manners. I still believe that good manners shows that we respect each other, as well as the time we have committed to one another. And speaking with food in your mouth is silly and awful…it would be nice if we stood when others join the table, but I realize this is asking too much.

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Beer mostly, softer and gentler wines always, but I am not a tough guy who can handle heavier brown spirits, so if it’s cocktails, we are talking Dark and Stormy or a very fresh margarita – no salt nor triple sec.

Your favorite cookbook author?
Michel Roux

Your favorite kitchen tool?
Tasting spoon. The difference between good and great is determined by this tool.

i8tonite with Chef and Simply Fish Author Matthew Dolan & Recipe for Smoked Salmon Frittata

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Tough question. I’m an Irish-American with a classical French background. I employ the French and Italian, borrow from the Chinese at times, but the favorite path is driven by sustainable seafood and making the most of ethical choices that are market driven.

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Pork.

Favorite vegetable?
Asparagus

Chef you most admire?
Pierre Gagnaire

Food you like the most to eat?
Szechuan Dumplings

Food you dislike the most?
Kidneys. Can’t do it.

What is your favorite non-food thing to do?
Sky dive – only been once, but need to go again quickly

tuna cucumber persimmon terrine. From i8tonite with Chef and Simply Fish Author Matthew Dolan & Recipe for Smoked Salmon Frittata
tuna cucumber persimmon terrine

Who do you most admire in food?
Anybody that agrees that food has the ability to take people away from their lives, their issues, and create a moment of joy. There are loads of us doing this, but those that care about the individual receiving the food first, I admire you. And we waste too much food in the USA. So if you are controlling your portion size and making efforts to reduce food waste, I admire you even more.

Where is your favorite place to eat?
There is a Korean inspired place here in San Francisco, Namu Gaji, and it has become a regular thing. They do a really good job.

What is your favorite restaurant?
I have to say, Farm Shop in Brentwood (LA), California is a very amazing and consistent place. That said, Liho Liho Yacht Club in San Francisco is a stunner, as well.

Do you have any tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
I only have accidental tattoos, or scars from burns if you will, after twenty-eight years in the kitchen. I think that they are a lot cooler and less of a time commitment. Not opposed, maybe one day?

Recipe: smoked salmon and farm egg frittata with basil, lemon, chives, and tomato

serves 4

Recipe for smoked salmon and farm egg frittata. From i8tonite with Chef and Simply Fish Author Matthew Dolan & Recipe for Smoked Salmon Frittata

what I cook at home, actually this is also from the book

10 free-range or organic eggs (if farm-direct, the flavor’s even better)
½ cup sour cream
Juice of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
½ pound Pacific or sockeye smoked salmon, sliced into thin strips
1 cup basil leaves, destemmed, torn
2 Tablespoons (½ bunch) fresh chives, diced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved lengthwise (reserve ½ cup for garnish)
2 Tablespoons cooking oil
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter

what to drink
Blanc de blanc champagne
Txakolina Rosé from Spain
Your favorite daytime drinking beer
Bloody Mary

what to tell the fish guy
You probably don’t need the fish guy for this one. There is usually a refrigerated case close to the fish counter that will have what you are looking for. But, if the fish guy has some smoked fish options that are not pre-packaged, you can ask where the fish is from and when it was smoked. Normally, fish will be brined or cured before smoking. If you go the prepackaged route, check the sell by date; the fresher the better.

method
Preheat your oven to 400°F. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, sour cream, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt, pepper, and cheddar cheese. Using a wooden spoon or spatula, fold in the sliced smoked salmon, basil, chives, and ½ cup tomatoes. Heat a cast-iron skillet or nonstick pan over high heat and add the oil and butter. Once the butter has melted and the combination begins to slightly smoke, add the contents of the mixing bowl. Using a wooden spoon, stir everything in the pan in an effort to evenly distribute the garnish throughout the egg mixture. Cook for 3 minutes and place in the oven. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes or until the eggs are fully cooked. Remove from the oven and allow the frittata to cool for 2 to 3 minutes. Turn the frittata over onto a cutting board and serve.

plating
I usually cut this into pie-shaped slices. Add ½ cup of the sliced cherry tomatoes on the side to serve.

 – The End. Go Eat. – 

 

Photos copyright 2017 by Anne-Claire Thieulon

Weigh-to-Go: So Cal’s Best Hot Food Bars

While attending my New York City fashion school during the eighties, my academic cohorts and I would venture out for lunch. It wasn’t often, as most of our money was taken up in the purchase of school supplies. We’d take the elevator from our seventh-floor institution to Park Avenue South below, just south of 23rd Street. We smoked a couple of cigarettes, chased by a styrofoamed cup of coffee, and then we bustled into the market with the rest of the noonday office crowd. Owned and operated by, we assumed, a Korean family, we never knew their names but were always greeted with a pleasant, “How are you!!!?” It came across more as, “hey, good to see you,” rather than an actual question about our welfare.

At the center of the grocery were two large stainless steel table tables, one for cold eats and salads, and the other filled to the brim with piping hot multi-ethnic delicacies. Once you filled up your plastic container, it was weighed by the cashier, and you were given your choice of wooden pull apart chopsticks or plastic utensils. It was $4.00 by the pound at this particular market, but at times, if you searched down in Wall Street or the Upper West Side, prices could be lower. Somewhere in the back, cooks were making varieties of kimchi, Filipino lechon, Chinese American fried rice, refried beans, roasted pork, cool sautéed string beans tossed with sesame and soy, white and brown rices, cold tofu in peanut butter sauce, kefta, and on and on went the menu. At times, there were more than 30 to 35 items on the hot buffet, and equally the same on the cold including many glass rice noodles salads.

After leaving the Big Apple for Los Angeles in the early nineties, I didn’t think about the weigh-to go food bars. It wasn’t until I started seeing them at Whole Foods did I remember dining from them. Recently, I’ve noticed more at a variety of markets, and have been pleased by the array of eating choices from these familiar metal stands.

Over the past decade or so food, grocery bars seem to be making a comeback. It’s a natural choice for many, especially when you’re single, don’t feel like cooking, or just want to grab and go. Each store has a distinct selection of items they offer.

Here are my top five Southern California picks for best places to eat and go.

Bristol Farms: Gourmet American Comfort Food

Steam Tabled for Your Supper with Weigh to Go Food Bars: Southern California’s Best

Bristol Farms are Gucci eats compared to the low-rent items at other well-known stores. My fave is located in the building which formerly housed the celebrity old-school restaurant Chasen’s. Here, ghosts of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton roam the pasta aisle looking for cuisines of the past; occasionally, you might catch a glimpse of Ryan Seacrest or even Diana Ross wheeling a cart.

Steam Tabled for Your Supper with Weigh to Go Food Bars: Southern California’s BestOffering all three meals at the warm and go, I would often pick-up an almost two-pound breakfast burrito in the morning. Heavily packed with roasted potatoes, eggs, cheese, and bacon or sausage, it was the perfect beginning to a day. Additional fare included scrambled eggs, French Toast, pancakes, egg, cheese, potatoes, and biscuit egg sandwiches – with or without sausage or bacon. During lunch and dinner, items include macaroni and cheese, chicken in many forms (stewed, roasted, fried, boneless), spaghetti, warmed rolls, individual pizzas, vegetables medleys, sometimes with tofu, and the menu goes on.

Steam Tabled for Your Supper with Weigh to Go Food Bars: Southern California’s Best

Sometimes, the pastas do get a little dried out from sitting on the table. At the end of the day, for something hot and satiating, Bristol Farms is the chew!

Seafood City: Filipino Foodies’ Fantasy

Steam Tabled for Your Supper with Weigh to Go Food Bars: Southern California’s Best

This was recommended to me by OC Weekly food writer Anne-Marie Panoringan, whom I met at a press dinner. We discussed our Filipino-ness. She said there was great adobe in her former Nor Cal home base. Living in the OC – she is an actual neighbor – she pointed out that I could go to Seafood City to get pancit for a birthday party. Pancit is to Filipinos what spaghetti Bolognese is to Italians at a gathering – a must. Just like the world-renowned slurpy strings, pancit’s base begins with vermicelli-like rice noodles, tossed with a variety of ingredients such as fowl, beef, goat, Chinese broccoli and string beans, green onions, carrots, etc. The list is endless.

Steam Tabled for Your Supper with Weigh to Go Food Bars: Southern California’s BestAlthough technically not a grab-and-go but more of a buffet, Seafood City features traditional cuisine from the archipelago, such as brothy stews like nilaga with boiled oxtail, potatoes, and bok choy, or singang, a savory pork stew with tamarind and jalapeno. Of course, there are the pinoy faves Filipino sausage, lechon (slow-roasted pork), and lumpia (eggrolls), as well as the traditional adobe. When native Filipinos bring their families to dine on food from the store, you know it’s going to deliciously authentic.

Steam Tabled for Your Supper with Weigh to Go Food Bars: Southern California’s Best

Bonus points: Buy your seafood from the fishmonger, and then they will clean and fry it for you. You can take it home to the family.

Cardenas: Ceviche, Corn Tortillas, and Mas Comida

Steam Tabled for Your Supper with Weigh to Go Food Bars: Southern California’s Best

Like Seafood City caters to its native and non-native Filipinos, Cardenas market, a Latin grocer with almost 30 outlets throughout the Southern California area, does the same. Ingeniously, instead of trying to go against the tide of political opposition, the markets carry piñatas and play mariachi music. The grade school Spanish never mastered comes in handy when trying to find everyday items from the store’s employees. It’s almost like being in rural Mexico without ever having to get on a plane. That’s a compliment.

Steam Tabled for Your Supper with Weigh to Go Food Bars: Southern California’s BestFrom the morning desayuno to the evening cena, eaters can stock up on weigh by the food, including birrias, tamales, guacamole, and molacajete salsas, which are made right before your eyes. All their masa made on site can be purchased, and include unusual types such as blue corn and nopales. Regular white corn available to for those looking to make homemade tamales. Using leftover tortillas cut into triangles, batches are fried and salted into hearty housemade chips, making them the best in the land.

Steam Tabled for Your Supper with Weigh to Go Food Bars: Southern California’s Best

Bonus points: Watch them make fresh tortillas in at their tortilleria and then buy them still slightly warm.

Whole Foods: A Better Balanced Bar

Steam Tabled for Your Supper with Weigh to Go Food Bars: Southern California’s Best

Since its beginning – sort of like when God created man – Whole Foods has always had a prepared food table. On the massive metal stages, which include breakfast, it almost a combination of Bristol Farms, Cardenas, and Seafood City – meaning it’s appealing to the masses and those who like ethnic foods. American eats are available but it’s “Hey, here is some macaroni and cheese as well as roasted chicken quarters for those who aren’t into it. “ Personally, I’ve always found Whole Foods to be underseasoned, needing more salt and pepper for brightness.

Steam Tabled for Your Supper with Weigh to Go Food Bars: Southern California’s BestWhole Foods does have the most extensive salad bar, with everything from freshly cut vegetables to dips and about a dozen salad dressings to appeal to vegans, vegetarians, and omnivores. Chilled pastas and meats. Whole and chopped hardboiled eggs. Fresh beets, not that jelly stuff that comes in a can, as well as an array of cheeses and nuts.

For additional cooked treats, the Whole Foods kitchen makes excellent pizza and flattops, where burgers and paninis can be whipped up to its adoring masses.

Wholesome Choice: Irvine International

Steam Tabled for Your Supper with Weigh to Go Food Bars: Southern California’s Best

A food lover’s dream come true, Wholesome Choice ostensibly is a Persian market, but it caters to every ethnic group who lives in a the Orange County area. Located in a strip mall, next door to a Wells Fargo, this is a food bazaar. There’s no need to go anywhere else. A sangak bakery pleasantly assaults customers on arrival.

Steam Tabled for Your Supper with Weigh to Go Food Bars: Southern California’s BestLong curtains of unleavened Middle-Eastern bread, baked throughout the day by a team of Latins, draping over the front of shopping carts is a common sight. Waiting for the aromatic freshly baked dough is a global community of Asians, Middle-eastern, Africans, and Europeans from Central and eastern Europe. Additional baked goods such as Barbari, mashadi, and Persian sweet bread get doughed in-house too.

Head over to International Food Court, where a hot buffet tables offers an array of global cuisines. Patrons can choose from six different fares to satiate their appetite, including Persian, Mexican, Chinese, Thai, Indian, Italian and American. Over in the cold cuts area, all six varieties of feta are on offer, as well as dolmas, a selection of olives, and spreads such as hummus and tabbouleh.
If you are shopping to make food at home, I’ve counted about a dozen tahini sauces. Bundled tangles of chives, rosemary, oregano, thyme, or other branchy herb are on sale for $1.99, and will last you a lifetime. The butcher area is not for vegans or vegetarians, as there are often many sweetbreads and organ meats available, including testicles of lamb and goat. Longon, loquats, bitter Indian melon, fresh unshelled almonds, and grape leaves sell faster than the store can keep them in.

Steam Tabled for Your Supper with Weigh to Go Food Bars: Southern California’s Best

Never in all my travels, which include 30 countries and nearly 250 cities, have I seen such a Western grocery store offering a selection of international goods.

Bonus Points: The store proves that world peace can exist if we shop together for food.

Pin for later:Southern California Tips: top 5 places to eat and go!

 

The End. Go Eat. 

 

Whole Foods photos, courtesy Brian Garrido. All other photos courtesy respective stores via facebook. 

i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

Irvine, a bedroom community in Orange County, is often spoken about as a homestead of possible Utopian living with green trees, cookie cutter homes, and maybe an ethnic market selling something as exotic as dark chocolate or unroasted nuts. In truth, it’s a thriving urban area with an incredibly diverse population – and food to match.

i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

Close to Disneyland, 10 miles from the Pacific Ocean, and roughly an hour and a half drive from the City of Los Angeles, resides Irvine, opened in 1965 as a “new town.” The area’s conception was a bedroom metropolis budding out of the 405-freeway connecting LA, OC, and San Diego counties. Its sole purpose was to be a pedestrian, and yes, a conformist archetype of 20th century modernism.

Now, in the 21st century, ironically, it is the largest city in the continental U.S states with an Asian diaspora, ranging from Indian to Korean, Filipino to Chinese, Malaysian to Japan. Irvine has become a blossoming food center, offering cuisine not only throughout Asia but Mexican, Italian, Indian, and Middle Eastern – and sometimes, a fusion of several.

For residents, the town’s proximity is close enough to enjoy Pacific Ocean breezes from Newport and Laguna Beach without having to pay for the pricey coastal real estate, although that, too, is changing as it continues to grow. Indeed, the area measuring 65 square miles is home to several higher learning schools including University of California, Irvine, Concordia, Brandman and Chapman Universities, and has a median income of a little more than $93,000 per household compared to the entire state at $63,000.

During the mid-sixties, people were the leaving urban centers for places like Irvine, which quickly become synonymous as a landmark of social and political conservatism. Often a hidden tag line, going to any city within Orange County such as Anaheim, Huntington Beach, or San Juan Capistrano was said to be “visiting behind the Orange Curtain,” a post-WW II reference to communist countries and much of the then area’s non-liberal viewpoint. Much of that has changed, as OCs head into the first quarter of the 21st century.

Matter of fact, Irvine proudly stated that for the first time since WWII, the entire area went “blue,” attributable to the shifting and dying demographics that once reigned in the area. Now Irvine, also called “SoCal’s Silicon Valley,” is one of the leading centers of the state’s diverse eats and eaten by internet company denizens from Google, Houzz, Microsoft, and Oracle populating each side of the 405.

No, Dorothy, this isn’t Kansas, it’s Irvine.

Breakfast: Hotel Irvine’s Marketplace

If you’re staying here, this yummy place offers well-made grab and go sandwiches, pizzas, and salads throughout the day. However, it’s the ideal spot to grab a great sausage and egg on an English muffin ($3) or a breakfast burrito ($4). Want to order a la carte? Go for scrambled eggs ($2), any breakfast meat ($2), and a side of potatoes ($2). It’s far better than anything heated up at a chain coffee of fast food spot. Indeed, many of the young office workers start their days at Marketplace because the prices are low. Coffee is standard Starbucks, but you can have a breakfast meeting with the ample seating. Free wi-fi included so it’s easy to start up a Powerpoint presentation. Come back during the never-ending happy hour and enjoy inexpensive glasses of wines, unique cocktails, and beer along with a stellar small plate eating menu that is equally as delicious.

 

Breakfast at Hotel Irvine’s Marketplace. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

17900 Jamboree Road
Irvine, California, 92614
866.396.4201

Lunch: Wholesome Choice

You did well on that 26-slide Powerpoint presentation during breakfast, but that was at 8:00 am. It took hours to get through, and you’re famished, but the chain restaurants which proliferate in Irvine – and they do – aren’t what you want. Head to Irvine’s possibly greatest food spot: a grocery store called Wholesome Choice. At lunch (or even dinner), they have one of the best ethnic food hot bars probably in the country. Running the gamut from Chinese-American, Persian, Indian, Mexican, traditional American, to Middle -Eastern, it’s a food person’s dream. Enter in on the right side by the vegetable and fruit area, and you’re walking into a Turkish bazaar stateside.

Lunch at Wholesome Choice. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

The bins are overflowing with pomegranates, Persian cucumbers, key limes (in season), parsley, ginger, and other items not seen in traditional grocery stores.

Lunch at Wholesome Choice. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

Before getting there, though, you have to sidle by the sangak bread bakery and its bakers (who are Mexican). In line waiting for the unleavened curtains of whole wheat, which drape the shopping carts, are people of all backgrounds – Latin, Korean, Jewish, Russian, Filipino, Persian, Arabic – reflecting the neighborhood and the locals.

Lunch at Wholesome Choice. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

Buy a bottle of orange water, rose water, lily water, or drinking water. Nearly a dozen varieties of tahini rest in the sauce aisle – it’s hard to choose. If you’re a little queasy about meat products, don’t head to the butcher cases. Whole sheep and cow reside there in pieces. An eye there, a testicle here, and a little bit of tongue. (Don’t forget trying a little bit of the house-made Turkish delight. There seem to be nearly as many choices of the confection as there are stars in the sky.)

Lunch at Wholesome Choice. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

18040 Culver Drive
Irvine, CA 92612
(949) 551-4111

Cocktails

After shopping through one of the many malls, including Irvine Spectrum complete with a ferris wheel, head to Angelina’s Neapolitan Pizzeria, located in another strip area across the 405. Even though it’s a cement block with all the appeal of a wood chip, inside, the Italian bistro is light with grey, burgundy, and white.

Cocktail at Angelina's Neapolitan Pizzeria. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

Additionally, it’s well-appointed with racks of wine bottles (mostly Italian), a full bar, and a pizza-oven creating robust aromas. Although you could order a glass of Pinot Grigio with maybe a pizza to share for as an appetizer before a meal, my recommendation is a flight of Italian food and wine. It consists of three tastes, with a trio of wines of about 3 to 3.5 ounces each. For example, the Sophia Flight ($12) focusing on rosatos, imbibers sip a sparkling from Setteanime, Raboso Marca Trevigiana, paired with a bruschetta of shrimp, garlic, and bell pepper. Another pairing is a Sangiovese rosato from Il Poggione Brancato in Tuscany coupled with a bruschetta of brie, olives, and micro-basil and lastly, from Puglia, a beautifully dry rosato, Tormaresca Calafuria Negroamaro, is combined with goat cheese, artichokes, and parsley slathered onto toast. There are others, but it’s a tasty way to travel the Italian wines without going bottle by bottle. Granted, you can do that, but there are checkpoints in Irvine.

Flights of food & Wine at Angelina's Neapolitan Pizzeria. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

Los Olivos Marketplace
8573 Irvine Center Drive
Irvine, CA 92618
(949) 536 – 5200

Outside the Box of Irvine: Union Market

Union Market is one of my favorite destinations in all of Orange County, both for eating and retail shopping. It’s a unique one-of-a-kind retail and food hall destination showcasing the best of the independent shops.

Outside the Box of Irvine: Union Market. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

Located in Tustin, a small town to the north of Irvine, it’s based in another mall, called The District.

Outside the Box of Irvine: Union Market. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

There are about seven full restaurants, including Hatch which serves only sliders, Kettlebar, a New Orleans steam cooking experience, and several others. In the center of the mini-mall within a large mall – sort of like the Russian stacking dolls — lies a horseshoe shaped bar, appropriately named Central.

Outside the Box of Irvine: Union Market. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

 

Here you will find locally-sourced beers, hand-picked wines, and craft cocktails served to a robust gathering of area workers. Order a deliciously messy Country Fried Chicken Poutine ($9) from The Kroft (the tagline is “comfort food re-invented.” ‘Nuff said.), or Market 2 Table’s freshly made rigatoni served with Bolognese ($8.95), and eat at any of the tables. How much fun is doing a buffet to your liking?

Outside the Box of Irvine: Union Market. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

2493 Park Avenue
Tustin, California 92782

Dinner: Puesto

Across the parking lot from Angelina Neopolitan Pizzeria lies a Mexican restaurant created by three brothers in San Diego. Offering a variety of tacos and other South of the Border goodies, Puesto is a unique offering in the world of California Mexican food.

Dinner at Puesto Taco. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

Begin the evening in the kitchen, where four dining tables are close to the culinary action. If the meal conversation lags or your companion is completely dull, start watching the sous chefs make batch after batch of perfectly pressed blue corn tortillas. Monthly, their Executive Chef Katy Smith creates a taco, of which a dollar from each sale goes to a local charity. It’s not always a taco, either. Sometimes, it’s a margarita, and in April of this year, a frozen horchata was chilled up. The inspiration comes from a variety of Mexican states, including the street food of Distrito Federale. It’s also one of the few restaurants where I’ve had freshly made chicarrones (pork skin deep-fried). Lightly salted, they can be a gluten-free or an alternative to corn chips. Fresh, intensely flavorful, and charitable all at the same time. What more can you want from a dining experience?

Dinner at Puesto Taco. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

8577 Irvine Center Drive
Irvine, CA 92618
(949) 608 – 9990
www.market2plate.com

Hotel Irvine

Within the confines of staying in the city area of Irvine, hotel choices are limited. However, a nice casual business stay is the Hotel Irvine.

Where to stay: Hotel Irvine. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

Looking more like a seventies securities exchange building, the 536-room property is nicely appointed – free Wi Fi – with a thriving food scene. Some of the rooms have balconies but overlook a business park and freeway. Regardless, it’s a quick escape from either North or South on the 405 and comes complete with a pool. (My motto: No pool. No stay.) The restaurant is called Eats Kitchen & Bar, which in January changed executive chefs. It’s now overseen by Jeff Moore, who comes from a fourth generation Palos Verdes-based grocer. The atmosphere of the restaurant is conflicted between being a gastropub, as is seen in the décor, and an industrial edifice.

EATS Kitchen & Bar Dining Room. Breakfast at Hotel Irvine’s Marketplace. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

EATS Kitchen & Bar (Nicoise Salad). Breakfast at Hotel Irvine’s Marketplace. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

Regardless, it’s a great place to stay – hell, it’s really the only place to stay in Irvine.

Where to stay: Hotel Irvine. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

 

– The End. Go Eat. – 

 

Word photo courtesy creative commons: Derek Liang 

i8tonite: How to Put a Million Dollar Hollywood Landscape in a Bottle with Moraga Vineyards Winemaker Scott Rich & Recipe for Tuna Wasabi Canapes

i8tonite: How to Put a Million Dollar Hollywood Landscape in a Bottle with Moraga Wines Winemaker Scott Rich & Recipe for Tuna Wasabi CanapesA cursory internet search on Los Angeles wineries pulls up lists such as 10 Best Places to Go Within 50 Miles or 18 Spots to Go Wine Tasting. Although we are sure the wines are good, they don’t have the star power of, say, Napa’s Opus One or Santa Barbara’s Au Bon Climat. But, as they say, times are a changin’, and last year Australian media mogul Rupert Murdoch purchased Moraga Vineyards in the tony neighborhood of Bel-Air.  Celebrities who have resided in the area include actress Meg Ryan and rocker Avril Lavigne; Star Wars creator George Lucas recently purchased his only Los Angeles home in the wealthy community, according to Variety, at nearly $34 million. Other residents over the years have included Elizabeth Taylor, Michael Jackson, and Candy and Aaron Spelling. Therefore, Mr. Murdoch’s winery, once owned by Tom Jones, CEO at Northrup, and the former home of Gone With The Wind and Wizard of Oz director Victor Fleming, is probably one of the most expensive pieces of land in the United States…and possibly wine world.

i8tonite: How to Put a Million Dollar Hollywood Landscape in a Bottle with Moraga Wines Winemaker Scott Rich & Recipe for Tuna Wasabi CanapesEmbedded in the Santa Monica Mountains, winemaker Scott Rich, who started the making the wines under the Jones ownership, spoke to us from his home in Sonoma, where he lives part-time, tending to his vineyards and grapes at Talisman Vineyards. He travels down to the City of Angels once a week, staying three to four nights, crafting Moraga Wines under the new owner. He says, “It’s a unique grape growing area. It’s like a refrigerator at times, as we get cold Pacific Ocean air, which is only 9 miles away. We consider it hot if it reaches more than 85 degrees.”

i8tonite: How to Put a Million Dollar Hollywood Landscape in a Bottle with Moraga Wines Winemaker Scott Rich & Recipe for Tuna Wasabi Canapes

He continues, “Because of that, our wines are soft and elegant, not big and overpowering, as most associate with California.”
Rich also says that the wines they produce are from soils much like that of Bordeaux. However, true to California form, the vines sit on a fault line. “We are bisected by the Benedict Canyon fault. On one side, we have ground that was churned up two plates millions of years ago. On the south side, we have primarily uplifted sea bed. At one time, this was the Santa Monica Bay.”

i8tonite: How to Put a Million Dollar Hollywood Landscape in a Bottle with Moraga Wines Winemaker Scott Rich & Recipe for Tuna Wasabi CanapesBut at the end of the day, it’s not about the growing region so much as how they taste on the palate. Rich says, “We don’t do lots and lots of things to the fruit. We have perfect grapes, and we try not to mess them up while we craft our delicious wines.”

At the winery, the winemaking team only makes an Estate Red and an Estate Sauvignon Blanc. The white’s aromas are of peaches and nectarines, while the red is soft with currants and tobacco, which is indicative of the limestone soil. Only 10,000 bottles are produced annually, and are generally over a $100 per bottle. Not inexpensive, but it’s definitely more economical to taste the terroir in the bottle than it is to plant your mansion in the multi-million-dollar neighborhood.

i8tonite: How to Put a Million Dollar Hollywood Landscape in a Bottle with Moraga Wines Winemaker Scott Rich & Recipe for Tuna Wasabi Canapes

Food Questions with Winemaker Scott Rich (with a nod to Proust):

What is your favorite food to cook at home?
Meyer Lemon and Ricotta Puffed Pancake with Macerated Strawberries. It’s this beautiful lemony doughy-bottomed, airy-topped steroidal (pan)cake with slightly sweet clouds of ricotta, topped with strawberries from the garden that have been soaked in Meyer lemon and Grand Marnier

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Tortillas. Coffee. Milk (plain and chocolate). Veggies. Fruit. Leftovers.

i8tonite: How to Put a Million Dollar Hollywood Landscape in a Bottle with Moraga Wines Winemaker Scott Rich & Recipe for Tuna Wasabi CanapesWhat marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
A love of food and flavors. The sharing part is important. Curiosity.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
Lack of the above.

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Do you have to make a choice? There’s a lot of territory to explore in everything.

Your favorite cookbook author?
Christopher Kimball and the whole gang at Cook’s Illustrated. They do a remarkably rigorous job of testing and tweaking recipes to arrive at the best result.

Your favorite kitchen or bar tool?
A sharp knife and a corkscrew.

i8tonite: How to Put a Million Dollar Hollywood Landscape in a Bottle with Moraga Wines Winemaker Scott Rich & Recipe for Tuna Wasabi Canapes

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Italian and California/Mediterranean. It’s all about the best, freshest ingredients, rather than the process. I have a pretty decent garden and lots of fresh produce most of the year. My go-to dish during tomato season is caprese – simple preparation, rather than cooking.

Beef, chicken, pork, seafood, or tofu?
Yes.

Favorite vegetable?
Bok choy.

Chef or culinary person you most admire?
Daniel Patterson of Coi (and a few other ventures). Daniel is curious, creative, discerning, demanding, humble, and very thoughtful in his pursuits. His interests run the gamut from creating the finest, fussiest, artistic food in San Francisco to providing delicious, wholesome, inexpensive fare in one of L.A.’s poorest communities. Then there are his projects in the East Bay.

i8tonite: How to Put a Million Dollar Hollywood Landscape in a Bottle with Moraga Wines Winemaker Scott Rich & Recipe for Tuna Wasabi Canapes

Food you like the most to eat?
I’m a sucker for really good French fries. Crunchy outside, soft pillowy innards.

Food you dislike the most?
Mayonnaise.

What is your favorite non-food thing to do?
Play.

Whom do you most admire in food?
See the question four above this one.

Where is your favorite place to eat/drink?
At home with a bunch of friends.

What is your favorite restaurant?
Coi in San Francisco for something mind-blowingly fancy and beautiful.
Pizza Azzurro in Napa for their margarita pizza and an Anchor Steam beer.
Any number of taco trucks in Sonoma.

Do you have any tattoos? And if so, how many are of food/wine?
No.

i8tonite: How to Put a Million Dollar Hollywood Landscape in a Bottle with Moraga Wines Winemaker Scott Rich & Recipe for Tuna Wasabi Canapes

No-Recipe Tuna Wasabi Canapes

• Pound of Ahi Tuna
• Package of won ton wrappers (found in the Asian section of your grocery store, by the tofu)
• ¼ cup of grated fresh wasabi (Japanese markets)
• Vegetable Oil
• Wok or deep skillet
• Alfalfa sprouts
• Freshly made aioli or grated garlic, mayo, and a dash of lemon juice to thin.
• Salt and Pepper

In the center of each wonton wrapper, smear some grated wasabi and alfalfa sprouts. Fold the wontons like a miniature taco and quickly fry them in about a quarter inch of oil. Drain on a paper towel. Salt and pepper the tuna and then sear in a hot pan about two minutes on each side. Cut the tuna into bite size pieces and place on a wonton. Add a dash or two of mayo for a little fat and the perfect appetizer to accompany our Moraga wines.

 

– The End. Go Eat. – 

i8tonite with LA’s 21st Century Burger King, Adam Fleischman & Recipe for Shredded Beef Tacos with Chipotle Sauce

Umami burger. From i8tonite with LA’s 21st Century Burger King, Adam Fleischman & Recipe for Shredded Beef Tacos with Chipotle SauceAccording to food history, the earliest known burger recipe is mentioned in a Wikipedia citation alluding to a 1798 recipe from The Art of Cookery made Plain and Easy written by Nigella Lawson’s forerunner, well-known English cookery writer Hannah Glasse. In it, she refers to a “Hamburgh sausage” which is roasted and served on top of bread as her serving suggestion.

However, California took the idea and ran with it. While some 20th century chains began in Minnesota and other far-flung places such as Connecticut or Ohio, the burger became part of the surf and sand culture. Perhaps it was because of the portable ease of the sandwich, but chains such as Bob’s Big Boy, In-n-Out, and the grand-daddy of them all, McDonald’s, were conceived in the Los Angeles metro area. This truncated past of ground chuck meets roll leads us to Adam Fleischman, who in 2007 essentially revitalized the patty culture for today’s standards.

i8tonite with LA’s 21st Century Burger King, Adam Fleischman & Recipe for Shredded Beef Tacos with Chipotle SauceIt’s a familiar script; an East Coaster comes to Los Angeles like so many starving artists before him. However, Fleischman is different. His medium isn’t film, and he isn’t an actor. He’s an entrepreneur, and his business is the stove. Like many food inventors before him, he had minor success with dabblings in wine and other dining experiences around the city.

In an October 2016 Inc. Magazine article, he states, “I was trying to start a business around umami, a savory flavor that’s found in every country’s cuisine. Basically, I Googled the foods highest in umami and took out my cast-iron pan and improvised a recipe with some ground beef. The concept of the restaurant was also quick. I just wanted to make Umami Burger gourmet, an adult place that had waiters and served alcohol.” And the Umami Burger was born. With progeny gaining ground in Dubai and Tokyo, the more than two dozen locations have made Fleischman a million many times over.

800 Degrees Pizza. From i8tonite with LA’s 21st Century Burger King, Adam Fleischman & Recipe for Shredded Beef Tacos with Chipotle Sauce

Now he is a “passive” owner stealthily building new concepts and food ideas, such as 800 Degrees Pizza (which he sold), and most recently, the Culver City-based Ramen Roll, which closed after four months.

Regarding the original Los Angeles location of Umami Burger, Fleischman commented, “We opened on La Brea because it had a lot of potential. It was languishing. It was risky, but this area seemed like a good bet.”

On the future of food, Fleischman said, “I think food is changing. I think the internet has made everything sort of cross-cultural. It used to be that people would only make the food in their town. Now, people have more information and access to recipes.”

i8tonite with LA’s 21st Century Burger King, Adam Fleischman & Recipe for Shredded Beef Tacos with Chipotle SauceFleischman talked to i8tonite while in his Los Angeles office, located behind his Hancock Park home, mentioning that he had a couple of new food ideas in the future…and a cookbook, too.

Food Questions (with a nod to Proust):

What is your favorite food to cook at home?
I like to cook Italian food at home. I make everything.

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
I always have club soda for cocktail making. And, lemons and limes.

What marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
I only share meals with people who don’t have dietary restrictions. They have to be drinkers. They can’t be sober.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
I won’t invite anyone I don’t like. I’m picky about who I eat with.

Umami burger. From i8tonite with LA’s 21st Century Burger King, Adam Fleischman & Recipe for Shredded Beef Tacos with Chipotle Sauce

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
I’m a mixologist and a sommelier, so wine and cocktail.

Your favorite cookbook author?
Paul Bertolli. He has a great cookbook.

Your favorite kitchen or bar tool?
My cast-iron pan. You can cook anything in it. It retains heat well.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
French, Italian, American, and Spanish.

Beef, chicken, pork, seafood, or tofu?
Seafood.

Favorite vegetable?
Artichokes.

Chef or culinary person you most admire?
Heston Blumenthal. He is such a technical brilliant chef.

Food you like the most to eat?
Moroccan and Indian.

Food you dislike the most?
I like everything if it’s cooked well.

What is your favorite non-food thing to do?
Driving.

Whom do you most admire in food?
Everyone, really.

pumpkin spice latte umami burger. From i8tonite with LA’s 21st Century Burger King, Adam Fleischman & Recipe for Shredded Beef Tacos with Chipotle Sauce

Where is your favorite place to eat/drink?
Copenhagen.

What is your favorite restaurant?
I like Castagna in Portland.

Do you have any tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
Zero tattoos.

Recipe: Shredded Beef Tacos with Chipotle Sauce

i8tonite with LA’s 21st Century Burger King, Adam Fleischman & Recipe for Shredded Beef Tacos with Chipotle Sauce

Chipotle Sauce:
Take two large, ripe tomatoes (heirloom), half an onion and three small cloves of garlic and broil until dark. Blend with two dried chipotles, reconstituted in ¼ cup water and some sherry vinegar and s/p. Strain and blend with meat juices from shredded beef.

Shredded Beef: 
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 (2 1/2 to 3 pound) beef brisket flat, chuck or any well marbled beef.
1 ancho or New Mexico dried chile, stemmed and seeded
I small diced onion onion
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat.
Add oil and brown the beef on all sides. Pour off as much oil as possible.
Just barely cover the meat with water. Bring to a boil.
Skim off any scum that rises to the surface.
Add remaining ingredients.
Cover the pot and place it in the oven until the meat is tender about 2 to 2 1/2 hours.
Remove the meat, reserving broth.
When the meat is cool enough to handle, shred it. Hold a fork in each hand, and shred the beef with the forks.

Serve in griddled tortillas and top with grated cotija cheese.

– The End. Go Eat. –  
Recipe photo courtesy and copyright Wikimedia Commons: helmadatter

i8tonite: L.A. Woman Caroline Styne: The Other Half of Lucques Group

i8tonite: L.A. Woman Caroline Styne: The Other Half of Lucques GroupThanks to the entertainment industry, the City of Los Angeles creates opportunities arguably better than most cities in the United States. Case in point is the The Lucques Group, headed by chef Suzanne Goin and her business partner Caroline Styne, who has been the sommelier and wine director for the company since its inception.

A scant 20 years ago, there still weren’t many women who owned restaurants. Of course, Josie La Blach had her eponymous Santa Monica eatery. We also can’t forget the Border Grill ladies, Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feininger. Nancy Silverton was baking bread and scones at La Brea Bakery, and Joan McNamara, a caterer turned restaurateur, are about a few of the holdovers from the previous century.

i8tonite: L.A. Woman Caroline Styne: The Other Half of Lucques Group

Started in 1998, the now legendary Lucques was a success cementing at least the future of the two young women at the helm, Goin, in front of the stove, and Styne, managing the business and front of house and beverage direction.

i8tonite: L.A. Woman Caroline Styne: The Other Half of Lucques GroupFormer Los Angeles Times critic S. Irene Virbilia noted in her 2009 review of their Brentwood Larder, “Styne and Goin are the food world’s equivalent of Lerner and Loewe or Leiber and Stoller. Everything they do just seems to work effortlessly. The two share a certain sensibility and aesthetic. At any of their restaurants, there’s a sense of comfort and sensuality, contemporary rustic cuisine and warm but crisp service, and enticing environment. But most of all, they each have a strong sense of place.”

Ms. Styne, along with Ms. Goin, are native Angelenos, which is as hard to find as needle in a haystack. Both exude the clean living of a California life, but Ms. Styne was the epitome of West Coast style at a recent Hollywood Bowl media event. She appeared nonplussed by the media attention around her and her partner. In LA style, she smiled for the camera in a black and white herringbone frock perfect for the chill air on the stage of the arena. A glass of white swirled in her hand as the lightbulbs burst; she looked elegant and fit.

In her blog, Styne on Wine, she noted, “At my home, I played the role of wine steward and service captain. I would set the table, open the bottles of Bordeaux and pour wine for my guests throughout dinner.”

i8tonite: L.A. Woman Caroline Styne: The Other Half of Lucques GroupNow as part owner of one of the most thriving restaurant businesses in Los Angeles, with not one but five restaurants, a James Beard nominee, and catering for the Hollywood Bowl, Styne is a quintessential L.A. person living out their California dream in food and wine!

Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

What is your favorite food to cook at home?
I’m the vegetable and grain cook in our home. My husband does the grilling because I’m the least comfortable with that. I love roasting or sautéing vegetables, making salsas and other yummy sauces to spoon over them.

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
We always have Greek yogurt, olives, an array of cheeses, and wine!

What marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
I love sharing a meal with people who love food and like trying new things. I don’t necessarily need to discuss each morsel and aspect of the food to death, but I like to know that I’m with someone who appreciates food and the art of cooking.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
I don’t love eating with people who are uber picky or don’t love or appreciate food. It makes me feel uptight and uncomfortable. I’d rather just meet that person for coffee.

i8tonite: L.A. Woman Caroline Styne: The Other Half of Lucques GroupBeer, wine, or cocktail?
There is a time and place for all three, but usually cocktails and wine.

Your favorite cookbook author?
Suzanne Goin

Your favorite kitchen or bar tool?
Breville Citrus juicer

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Indian and Mediterranean

Beef, chicken, pork, seafood, or tofu?
Chicken and seafood…love pork, too

Favorite vegetable?
Romanesco

i8tonite: L.A. Woman Caroline Styne: The Other Half of Lucques Group

Chef or culinary person you most admire?
Jose Andres….great chef, great attitude, great humanitarian.

Food you like the most to eat?
Cheese – all kinds, from all milks in all shapes and sizes

Food you dislike the most?
Offal…just not into it

What is your favorite non-food thing to do?
I’m big on physical fitness. I really like to keep active and actually enjoy walking, jogging, and just moving my body. I also love fashion in too big a way.

Whom do you most admire in food?
Danny Meyer

Where is your favorite place to eat/drink?
I think Italy is one of the most fun and satisfying places to enjoy food and wine.

i8tonite: L.A. Woman Caroline Styne: The Other Half of Lucques GroupWhat is your favorite restaurant?
If I’m not at home, I really love eating at my restaurants. I obviously love the food and the drinks. Suzanne and I always try to create restaurants that we ourselves would like to patronize, so I guess we’ve succeeded in that respect

Do you have any tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
No tattoos…I’m boring that way.

Recipe: Asparagus and Proscuitto

Recipe from Sunday Suppers at Lucques. To drink, Styne recommended in a William Sonoma blog post, “You can never wrong with champagne or rosé. I think both say, “Party!” and can take you from appetizers to dessert.”

i8tonite: L.A. Woman Caroline Styne: The Other Half of Lucques Group

Ingredients:
• 1¼ pounds asparagus, pencil-thin variety
• 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
• 3 tablespoons whole grain mustard
• ½ cup creme fraiche
• 12 thin slices prosciutto di Parma or San Daniele
• ½ lemon, for juicing
• Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions:
Light the grill 30 to 40 minutes before you’re ready to cook.

Snap the ends off the asparagus to remove the tough woody portion. Toss the asparagus on a baking sheet with the olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and some pepper.

Stir the mustard and crème fraîche together in a small bowl, and set aside.

When the coals are broken down, red, and glowing, drape the prosciutto over a platter. Grill the asparagus 2 to 3 minutes, until slightly charred and tender.

Arrange the asparagus on the prosciutto and drizzle the mustard crème fraîche over the top.

The End. Go Eat.