Category Archives: Los Angeles

i8tonite with Larchmont Village’s Vernetti Chef Steve Vernetti & his Semolina Pancakes Recipe

i8tonite with Larchmont Village’s Vernetti Chef Steve Vernetti & his Semolina Pancakes RecipeOn a Wednesday night in Larchmont Village in the heart of Los Angeles, every table at Vernetti was full. The owner and chef Steve Vernetti was in the house, moving between the kitchen and the dining room, talking to everyone as though they were old friends. Indeed, it was obvious that there were many regulars. Vernetti is a neighborhood restaurant, the kind of place you come to rely on for all the important events of life – birthdays, anniversaries, and first dates. The atmosphere was lively, casual, and comfortable. There’s a modern European bistro aesthetic, thanks to Steve’s wife Joanne, who worked with designer David Thompson on the remodel of the original space. The staff made us feel like rock stars. The food was excellent.

His chef training started early. Vernetti notes, “Growing up, we learned how to butcher our goats, pigs, chicken, and turkeys. My brother and I got up at 5 every day before we went to school and milked the goats. We learned how to grow our food. My mother bought me my first cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The first thing I made from that book was chocolate eclairs.”

Before settling in Los Angeles in the 90s, Vernetti traveled throughout Europe, gathering influences from Berlin, Paris, Venice, Amsterdam, and Florence. He then lived in London for seven years, working with Chef Charles Fontaine at Quality Chop House and Le Caprice. It is easy to see the old world influences mixed with the new at Vernetti, where Steve is in the kitchen every day experimenting with inventive takes on classic recipes.

i8tonite with Larchmont Village’s Vernetti Chef Steve Vernetti & his Semolina Pancakes Recipe

He’s also a thoughtful owner – “Working in the restaurant industry for as long as I have, I want my staff to be happy. We run a place where my dishwashers are key players in the business, just as much as the front of the house. We need the staff to be happy. If they are happy, my customers will notice it and they will be happy, too.”

We decided to try many dishes and share them round, starting with the gnocchi, a traditional northern Italian dish that is typically a rather dense potato pasta. This gnocchi was light and airy, rich with ricotta cheese and egg yolks, and topped with sage butter.

i8tonite with Larchmont Village’s Vernetti Chef Steve Vernetti & his Semolina Pancakes Recipe

We followed the gnocchi with vongole and shrimp scampi, since Vernetti is known for their house-made pastas. You’ll definitely want to try at least one.

i8tonite with Larchmont Village’s Vernetti Chef Steve Vernetti & his Semolina Pancakes Recipe
Linguine alla Vongole
i8tonite with Larchmont Village’s Vernetti Chef Steve Vernetti & his Semolina Pancakes Recipe
Shrimp Scampi

Dessert was a trifecta of orange cannoli, strawberry cheesecake, and chocolate mousse. Hey, there were three of us! I didn’t eat all of this on my own. Look, though…

i8tonite with Larchmont Village’s Vernetti Chef Steve Vernetti & his Semolina Pancakes Recipe
Chocolate Budino

Vernetti has an excellent wine menu, with a selection of Italian wines that covers the boot from north to south. There are also some great California wines on the menu. We decided to order by the glass so we could pair a different wine with each dish, which I think is a lot more fun. If you find something you love, you can always order more! You can also bring your own bottle and pay the corkage fee of $25.00. If wine is not your thing, Vernetti’s has a decent beer selection, though I confess my knowledge of beer is limited. I prefer the juice of the grape.

Vernetti is a neighborhood restaurant, and since I’m not a local there, I felt quite lucky to have found it. It reminded me of an Italian trattoria where the owners are always there and live nearby. The menu is fresh, and dishes are served until they run out of the ingredients to make that particular dish. I recommend this restaurant to everyone!

Steve Vernetti’s philosophy is to “feed the community as I do my family, providing a special place to celebrate all the amazing things that happen when sharing a delicious meal.” Cin Cin, Steve Vernetti.

 

Chef’s Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

How long have you been cooking? 41 years

What is your favorite food to cook? Thanksgiving dinner

What do you always have in your fridge at home? strawberry jam

What do you cook at home? everything

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer? hunger

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer? unadventurous

i8tonite with Larchmont Village’s Vernetti Chef Steve Vernetti & his Semolina Pancakes Recipe

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex? pyrex

Beer, wine, or cocktail? wine

Your favorite cookbook author? Julia Child

Your favorite kitchen tool? my tongue

Your favorite ingredient? salt

Your least favorite ingredient? kale

i8tonite with Larchmont Village’s Vernetti Chef Steve Vernetti & his Semolina Pancakes RecipeLeast favorite thing to do in a kitchen? dishes

Favorite types of cuisine to cook? French, Italian, & British

Beef, chicken, pork or tofu? beef

Favorite vegetable? potato

Chef you most admire? Eric Rippert

Food you like the most to eat? sweetbreads prepared by my mother

Food you dislike the most? anything that has the word molecular in it

How many tattoos? one

And if so, how many are of food? None

Recipe: Vernetti’s Semolina Pancakes

i8tonite with Larchmont Village’s Vernetti Chef Steve Vernetti & his Semolina Pancakes Recipe

Ingredients
2cups Semolina
2cups all purpose flour
4tsp baking powder
2tsp baking soda
1/2tsp salt

Sift dry ingredients in a bowl and add:
4eggs
3-4 cups buttermilk (plain whole milk will work)
1/2cup vegetable oil

Directions
Mix but leave lumps. Use well oiled cast iron pan or griddle on medium high heat and brush browned tops with melted butter – enjoy!

 

 

The End. Go Eat. 

i8tonite with Manhattan Beach’s Doma Kitchen Chef Kristina Miksyte & Recipe for Borscht

i8tonite with Manhattan Beach’s Doma Kitchen Chef Kristina Miksyte & Recipe for BorschtA cursory internet search on Lithuanian chefs yields one or two male names located in Europe. Narrowing the searching to California leads us to San Francisco’s East Bay and the Los Angeles’ Annual Lithuanian Festival, which recently celebrated its annual event in the city’s Silver Lake neighborhood.  Digging a little deeper brings us to Doma (which means “home” in Lithuanian) Kitchen in Los Angeles County’s coastal community of Manhattan Beach. It’s a delicious neighborhood bistro with a heavy focus on Eastern European foods using seasonal California ingredients. In other words, going to Doma Kitchen is an enlightening travel experience without having to leave the county.

i8tonite with Manhattan Beach’s Doma Kitchen Chef Kristina Miksyte & Recipe for Borscht

Owned by three people, Chef Kristina Miksyte and entrepreneurial couple Angelika Corrente and Stanislav Mayzalis, Doma Kitchen brings together a taste of Lithuania to the Southern California food scene. The latter was already a working chef in her homeland before winning the green card lottery and becoming an American citizen.

i8tonite with Manhattan Beach’s Doma Kitchen Chef Kristina Miksyte & Recipe for Borscht

Having attended a culinary school in her hometown of Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, like so many immigrants, Miksyte’s dream was to live and cook in the United States. She says, “I love my country but it didn’t give me the opportunities to work. In Los Angeles, I have a restaurant, I am married, and I cook what I want.”

Lithuanian food is characterized by the cooking of potatoes, beets, pork, barley, berries, and mushrooms. The use of indigenous herbs such as dill, caraway, and juniper mimic their Eastern European neighbors (Uzbekistan, southern Russia, Latvia, Poland, and Belarus). And Doma Kitchen’s menu reflects this rich, fragrant cuisine with plov (braised rice or rice pilaf), kasha (braised barley or buckwheat-like risotto), and vareniki (similar to pierogies).

i8tonite with Manhattan Beach’s Doma Kitchen Chef Kristina Miksyte & Recipe for Borscht

However the food isn’t all relegated to the “stans” of the world; Chef Miksyte makes liberal use of other Mediterranean ingredients, such as burrata, basil, tomato, and walnuts to showcase her global tastes. “I wanted to come to the States to become a better cook and learn more of what the world offers,” says Doma Kitchen’s stove director.

Los Angeles is all the better for it.

i8tonite with Manhattan Beach’s Doma Kitchen Chef Kristina Miksyte & Recipe for Borscht

Chef’s Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

How long have you been cooking?
I’ve been cooking for almost twenty years.

What is your favorite food to cook?
I love to bake and also enjoy cooking good meat

i8tonite with Manhattan Beach’s Doma Kitchen Chef Kristina Miksyte & Recipe for BorschtWhat do you always have in your fridge at home?
Fresh veggies and fruits, fresh meat or fish, few cheeses and salami. Almost nothing in the freezer. Basically I’m stocked with produce for all meals, something for breakfast, snacks and for a nice dinner.

What do you cook at home?
I’m constantly experimenting and messing around with new recipes. Often go back to authentic recipes either from Russia, Lithuania, or Persian. Weekends are BBQ.

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer?
I love to make my customers happy through eating my food. When I see the excitement after first look at the food followed up with “Wow,” “OMG,” “This looks so good and tastes even better.” The love is mutual between us – I love to cook and they like to eat.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer?
I hate when the customer changes the ingredients in my dishes. It’s basically changing the whole dish completely, and creating a new dish.

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
Pyrex

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Wine

i8tonite with Manhattan Beach’s Doma Kitchen Chef Kristina Miksyte & Recipe for Borscht

Your favorite cookbook author?
My Grandma

Your favorite kitchen tool?
Knives

Your favorite ingredient?
Fresh herbs and dill, of course!

Your least favorite ingredient?
Don’t have one

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
Wipe down and polishing the dishes

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Central Asian, Middle eastern, and whatever that’s on my mind

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Beef

i8tonite with Manhattan Beach’s Doma Kitchen Chef Kristina Miksyte & Recipe for BorschtFavorite vegetable?
Fresh cucumbers from my mother’s garden

Chef you most admire?
Egidijus Lapinskas in Lithuania

Food you like the most to eat?
Good piece of meat, sushi, or fish

Food you dislike the most?
Overly spicy food that you can’t taste anything else.

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
I have two tattoos. No food tattoos to date.

Recipe: Doma Kitchen’s Borscht

i8tonite with Manhattan Beach’s Doma Kitchen Chef Kristina Miksyte & Recipe for Borscht

Doma Kitchen Borscht recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 lb Lamb, stew meat, or whatever kind of beef you like, bone-in or boneless
  • 1 Tbsp salt + more to taste
  • 2 large or 3 medium beets, washed, peeled and grated
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • 2 large or 3 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced into bite-sized pieces
  • ½ head of small cabbage, sliced
  • 2 tomatoes, peeled and diced (**see note)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground pepper
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley and dill
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed
  • Garnish: Sour cream and fresh sprigs of parsley or dill.

Instructions

  1. Wash meat in cold water, cut into 1″ pieces and place in a large soup pot with 14 cups cold water and 1 Tbsp salt. Bring it to a boil and remove the foam crud as soon as it boils (if you wait, it will be hard to get rid of the crud as it integrates into the broth and you’d have to strain it later). Reduce heat, partially cover and simmer 45 minutes – 1 hr, periodically skimming off any crud that rises to the top.
  2. Grate beets on the large grater holes (a food processor works amazingly well). Place them in a large heavy-bottom skillet with 4 Tbsp olive oil and 1 Tbsp vinegar and sauté for 5 minutes, then reduce heat to med/low and add 1 Tbsp sugar. Mix thoroughly and sauté until starting to soften, stirring occasionally (about 10 min). Remove from pan and set aside. In the same skillet (no need to wash it), Sauté onion in 1 Tbsp butter for 2 min. Add grated carrot and sauté another 5 min or until softened, adding more oil if it seems too dry.
  3. Once the meat has been cooking at least 45 min, place sliced potatoes into the soup pot and cook 10 min, then add cabbage, sautéed beets, onion & carrot, and chopped tomatoes. Cook another 10 minutes or until potatoes can be easily pierced with a fork.
  4. Add 2 bay leaves, ¼ tsp pepper, and more salt to taste (I added another ½ tsp salt).
  5. Chop parsley and pressed garlic then stir them into the soup pot, immediately cover and remove from heat. Let the pot rest covered for 20 minutes for the flavors to meld.

The End. Go Eat. 

i8tonite: with Chef Tyler Gugliotta, Baran’s 2239 in Hermosa Beach & Jerk Pork Recipe

i8tonite: with Chef Tyler Gugliotta, Baran's 2239 in Hermosa Beach & Jerk PorkThe petite picturesque coastal town of Hermosa Beach, along with its sister sandlots, Manhattan and Redondo, has never been known as a culinary hub. Typical Southern California seaside fare of good burgers, sustainable salads and grilled meats paired with frothy beers and California wines is de rigueur.   Yet, epicures who love the waves between their toes and food prepared with culinary prowess can now have both at the few weeks old Baran’s 2239 and their chef Tyler Gugliotta, using South of the Border and Asian influences.

i8tonite: with Chef Tyler Gugliotta, Baran's 2239 in Hermosa Beach & Jerk Pork Recipe. Photo Kent Kanouse
Photo Kent Kanouse

Generally speaking, food made by a cook of some repute can be had at any of the Golden State’s seaside hotels, which dot the Pacific Coast Highway. Luxury resorts such as Monterey’s Post Ranch Inn, Aubergine in Carmel-By-The-Sea, or The Resort at Pelican Hill’s Andrea in Newport Beach come to mind, yet it’s difficult to find independent dining. With Gugliotta, his ambition is to change that direction – and with his background, he just might. His father, a chef who cooks at Shugrue’s in Lake Havasu, Arizona – and his aunt and uncle own noted Weiser Farms, one of California’s best producers of root vegetables – so food is in his blood.

Interestingly, Gugliotta’s first love and his college major was English Literature. He was planning to become a professor but when he got on the kitchen line, all bets were off. On why he changed career directions, “Honestly, it was the creative aspect. As a young cook, I wanted to be mixing my own flavors, putting together my tastes.”

i8tonite: with Chef Tyler Gugliotta, Baran's 2239 in Hermosa Beach & Jerk Pork Recipe. Photo by Robin Kanouse
Photo by Robin Kanouse

His menus are fairly sophisticated for a sleepy seashore town – and, rightly, are a perfect stage for his family’s farms vegetable fortune. There is the nod to Gugliotta’s Italian roots with spigarello (broccoli leaves) with cauliflower, cannellini beans, and garlic scapes; plus, the bounty of California’s seasonality with white asparagus, chanterelle, and truffles. Then on the meat side a pork char sui with a crispy coleslaw or housemade chorizo verde.

More importantly, the thirty-one year old is excited to be elevating the food scene in his hometown, presenting exciting California cuisine with inspirations from his travels to Mexico, the Pan-Pacific, and Europe. And, the Hermosa Beach gourmands, flip-flops and board shorts, are happy to have him.

Chef Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust); 

i8tonite: with Chef Tyler Gugliotta, Baran's 2239 in Hermosa Beach & Jerk Pork Recipe
Photo by Monica Simpson

How long have you been cooking? Cooking since 8 years old, but professionally for 10 years.

What is your favorite food to cook? Anything with chilies.

What do you always have in your fridge at home? Cheese.

What do you cook at home? I like to grill.

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer ?Adventurous.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer? No shows.

i8tonite: with Chef Tyler Gugliotta, Baran's 2239 in Hermosa Beach & Jerk Pork RecipeTupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex? Deli cups.

Beer, wine, or cocktail? Beer when I’m thirsty, wine with food, cocktails on my day off.

Your favorite cookbook author? Escoffier.

Your favorite kitchen tool? My hands.

Your favorite ingredient? Cilantro.

Your least favorite ingredient? Not big on tripe. Hate canned vegetables.

i8tonite: with Chef Tyler Gugliotta, Baran's 2239 in Hermosa Beach & Jerk Pork RecipeLeast favorite thing to do in a kitchen? Dishes.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook? Mexican/ Italian/Southeast Asian.

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu? All but tofu.

Favorite vegetable? Chilies.

Chef you most admire? My Dad.

Food you like the most to eat? Tacos/sandwiches.

Food you dislike the most? Fake meat products.

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food? One tattoo which is of food.

Recipe: Jerk pork Tenderloin – Chef Tyler Gugliotta

  • 2 cups chopped green onions
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • ½ cup chopped cilantro
  • 4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons chopped peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 habanero peppers, seed for less spice (i leave them in)
  • 1 (1 1/2-pound) pork tenderloin

Blend or food process all ingredients, and pour into a ziploc bag with the pork. Marinade for at least three hours, but the day before works best. Grill until caramelized, about 4-6 mins a side and the internal temp is 140.

 

–       The End. Go Eat. –

 

i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating at Women-owned Restaurants in Los Angeles

Women work hard, and that includes being a mother, an actress, or a chef. Therefore, regardless of gender, women should be paid equally, and that’s this year’s International Women’s Day theme: Parity.  It’s the reason we decided to highlight women-owned places – more specifically female chefs of Los Angeles –  for our bi-monthly edition of Food Destinations. Tuesday, March 8 is International Women’s Day.

In the City of Angels, not only are there delicious places to eat, but there are many women creating delicious dining experiences, whether as an owner or as an owner-chef. If you want to choose an eating theme, why not an interesting food tour of women-owned restaurants?

Margarita Manzke, Republique. From i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating at Women-owned Restaurants in Los Angeles
Margarita and Walter Manzke

Breakfast: Margarita Manzke, Republique:

Start your day at Republique with one of the pastry creations by Philippines Islands-born Margarita Manzke, co-owner of the famed space with her husband Walter. While Mr. Manzke is noted for his French-inspired culinary prowess in the evening, the mornings belong to “Madge.” Her pastries are clouds of flour and butter in the former of buttery croissants, brioches, scones, muffins, and breads. Go ahead and eat her Brioche French Toast, dipped in the egg and served up with fresh fruit. The idea of never eating carbs won’t enter your mind again. Or even better, for something just a little lighter to get the energy going with a cup of the couple’s hand-selected coffee, have a few slices of Ms. Manzke’s daily selection, fresh from the oven, daily served with housemade butter, jam, or honey. Everyday it’s something different – rye, whole cracked wheat, 7-grain, raisin, pumpernickel, sourdough ($4).

Republique

  • 624 South La Brea Avenue
  • Los Angeles, CA  90036
  • (310) 362 – 6115
  • www.republicquela.com
  • Breakfast 8:00 am – 3:00 pm
  • Coffee and pastries until 4:00pm

 

Alisa Reynolds, My Two Cents. From i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating at Women-owned Restaurants in Los Angeles
Chef Alisa Reynolds

Lunch:  Alisa Reynolds, My Two Cents

In a residential part of Los Angeles, far from the maddening crowd, Chef Alisa Reynolds crafted a small eatery, with a dedicated following – including Beyoncé – cooking healthy soul food cooking, definitely words you don’t hear together. With six tables on the sidewalk and about as many on the inside, Reynolds has become known for her gluten-free quinoa macaroni and cheese, Creole Shrimp and Corn Grits, and BBQ Fried Chicken. Her recipes are still rich in flavor and family tradition, but have lower calories and a higher nutrition value than what she grew up eating. Yes, you can have your mac and cheese, but with a dose of healthy grains as well. What a concept.

My Two Cents

  • 5583 West Pico Boulevard
  • Los Angeles, CA  90016
  • (323) 938 – 1012
  • www.mytwocentsla.com
  • Closed on Mondays
  • Tuesday – Thursday 12:00 pm – 9:00 pm
  • Friday – Saturday 12:00 pm – 10:00 pm
  • Sundays: Brunch only  11: 00 am – 4:00pm

 

Restauranteur Amy Fraser and Pastry Chef Maria Swan: ICDC. From i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating at Women-owned Restaurants in Los AngelesSnack: Restauranteur Amy Fraser and Pastry Chef Maria Swan: ICDC

Last year, co-owners Amy Fraser and Pastry Chef Maria Swan created a loving ode to ice cream, donuts, and coffee (ICDC), right next door to BLD (Neal Fraser’s eatery — Amy’s husband’s place — with breakfast, lunch and dinner). Out of the gate, the freshly churned cream made into adult type flavors such as the Guiness with Bourbon Fudge Ripple, and the Grapefruit Campari, or the Salt and Pepper Donut, or Beer Nuts and Pretzels have become an immediate hit — sort of like a Stars Wars sequel. Everything is handcrafted and single-batched, so once a flavor is out – it’s out for the rest of the day (or even the week). Therefore, you keep coming back hoping to catch that favorite flavor – but never quite making it, so it’s discover another taste – which keeps you coming back for that, and before you know it – you are in a 12-step group saying, “Hi, my name is (your name here) and I’m an ICDC addict.”

ICDC LA

  • 7454 1/2 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036
  • (323) 746-3346
  • http://icdc.la/
  • Monday-Friday, 11am-10pm
  • Saturday and Sunday, 11am-11pm

 

 Susan Feniger: Mud Hen Tavern & Border Grill. From i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating at Women-owned Restaurants in Los Angeles
Chef Susan Feniger

Dinner:  Susan Feniger:  Mud Hen Tavern & Border Grill

Long before the Food Network was stuck on Guy Fieri road trips and Bobby Flay contests, Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken were broadcast to millions of homes. Then, the gourmet duo known as Two Hot Tamales showcased mostly Mexican but Latin flavored cuisine in an epicurean setting at Border Grill. Prior to that – in the long forgotten eighties — the cooking partners had another nationally-recognized establishment named City, changing Los Angeles’ culinary landscape much like Spago’s Wolfgang Puck. Milliken and Feniger still operate Border Grill together in Santa Monica – but Feniger wanted to explore other tasty riches and opened the much-lauded Street in Hollywood – showcasing global cuisine. After a couple of years, Feniger morphed Street into Mud Hen Tavern – a cozy neighborhood eatery and bar. Whether you are eating at Mud Hen Tavern or the legendary Border Grill, the food you are tasting isn’t just by a female chef but by an historical figure in the culinary realm. Delicious food, farm-to-table, nose-to-tail — Susan Feniger has been there, done that, and thankfully is still cooking some yummy eats.

Mud Hen Tavern

  • 742 No. Highland Avenue
  • LA, CA 90038
  • (323) 203 – 0500
  • www.mudhentavern.com
  • Sunday – Tuesday 5:00 – 10:00pm
  • Wednesday – Sunday 5:00 pm – midnight

Santa Monica Border Grill

  • 1445 4th Street
  • Santa Monica, CA  90401
  • http://www.bordergrill.com/
  • Sunday – Thursday 4:00 – 10:00pm
  • Friday – Saturday  4:00 – 11:00pm

The end. Go eat. 

 

 

 

 

 

i8tonite: Los Angeles’ Franco on Melrose, Chef Franco de Dominicis

IMG_1422Along a strip of Melrose Avenue, just past La Brea is Franco on Melrose. It’s location is in the City of Angel’s culinary corridor featuring a few of the most lauded epicurean stops in the city including Providence, Mozza, Mud Hen Tavern and Trois Mec. To the south, one can wander to Republique or Odys + Penelope.  It’s a hidden gem of an Italian eatery although a favorite among the celebrity set. However, the trattoria has been under the radar since its inception over four years ago. Why? Partially, says chef and owner Franco de Dominicis, “I didn’t have a beer and wine license. It was BYOB but now I do and things have changed.”

Originally born in Venezuela to Italian parents, de Dominicis was then raised in Paestum, Italy about a hundred miles south of Naples, renowned for its Greek and Roman archeological sites. The 2600-year-old settlement has also been known as the second largest agricultural center in Italy, the first being in Umbria. De Dominicis had an excellent childhood and gained a love of cookery via his family. He had formal culinary training at a Naples based school which supplied him with European apprenticeships. Now, in the States, the food he makes is indicative of his European and Italian roots, staying true to his youth.
IMG_3359Proudly, de Dominicis makes all of his own pasta, ravioli, and lasagna. Many of the recipes are adapted recipes from his mother and childhood. He also sources as much as he can from the farmers markets throughout Los Angeles. It’s a true Los Angeles-based trattoria serving up Neapolitan fare without having to travel to Italy.

Franco on Melrose is a lovely place with a sidewalk awning extending out to the valet. Its roof is canopied and during the summer is open to the stars. The best thing about the new Italian-centric wine menu which was personally selected by de Dominicis it’s priced so reasonably you can imbibe with that second bottle while looking at the stars.

Chef Questionnaire: 

IMG_1877How long have you been cooking? Since I was 13.

What is your favorite food to cook? Meat and fish and pasta.

What do you always have in your fridge at home? Milk, juices, herbs, prosciutto, burrata, eggs.

What do you cook at home? Sometimes I get together with friends and I love to do brunch with roasted beef tenderloin and rack of lamb.

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer? An open mind to try different things.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer? Unwilling to expand their palate.

IMG_1242Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex? Rubbermaid.

Beer, wine or cocktail? Definitely wine. A full body red and champagne.

Your favorite cookbook author? Julia Child.

Your favorite kitchen tool? Hand mixer

Your favorite ingredient? Extra virgin olive oil.

Your least favorite ingredient? Okra.

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen? Stirring for hours.

FullSizeRender (3)Favorite types of cuisine to cook? Italian, French, Caribbean,

Beef, chicken, pork or tofu? Beef.

Favorite vegetable? Haricot vert and brussels sprouts.

Chef you most admire? Gordon Ramsey.

Food you like the most to eat? Breakfast items.

Food you dislike the most? Russian.

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food? None.

Franco on Melrose’s Roasted Chicken and Pears

  • 3-4 lbs. chicken, whole roasting
  • 3 Anjou pears (Peeled and cut into quarters)
  • 3 shallots (Cut into quarters)
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 celery stalk
  • 2 cups white wine
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh thyme
  • ½ a tablespoon of freshly cut sage. Or thereabouts.
  • Salt and pepper

To Make: Pre heat oven a 400 degree. Take the chicken and stuff it with the whole pears, some thyme, some sage, and 1 shallots cut into quarters. Tie the legs back with twine. Place the chicken in a roasting pan, with all the carrots and celery, cut into  pieces, add the rest of the shallots cut in ¼ as well, disperse the herbs around, poor the wine and salt and pepper to taste. Cover the chicken with aluminum foil and place in the oven for about 45 minutes. Uncover the chicken and let it finish cooking, for another 15 to 20 minutes, until a nice golden brown and juices run clear.

The End. Go Eat.

i8tonite: Sex on The Table’s Chef Fed Comes to Los Angeles: Recipe for Brie Fondue, Smoked Duck and Apricots

Chef Fed: Photo Courtesy of Chef Fed
Chef Fed: Photo Courtesy of Chef Fed

Chef Fed made a culinary name for himself in New York City. Teaching and pairing wines under the pop-up moniker of Sex On the Table, a showcase of edible aphrodisiacs,  he established a considerable following among the discerning palates of the nation’s Big Apple. He’s even garnered a lot of media attention appearing on Chopped, The Today Show, E! News and profiled in Cosmopolitan, New York Daily News and Maxim to name a select few.

Now, the city  of Los Angeles will have the opportunity to dine on Chef Fed’s noted cuisine. Every Friday and Saturday evening, over the next two months, Chef Fed – whose real name is Juerg Federer – is cooking at his pop-up, Fedish, in the former Scratch|Bar Space on Beverly Hills Restaurant Row. It will be an opportunity for Angelenos to dine on the food of who may be the next rising star on the world’s gastronomic stage.

Chef Fed
Chef Fed

Chef Fed’s background and cooking credentials are so appetizingly delicious that without tasting his food but viewing the planned menu, there should be no hesitation in paying for your dinner in advance. Born in Switzerland, Chef Fed attended European culinary school. He then went to work with two Michelin-starred chefs (see below), one who helmed the kitchen at the greatest restaurant in the world – heads to New York City to ply his trade; then, needs change. Warmer weather and close proximity to California’s famed agriculture brought the trained European cook to California. Of course, the story also conjures other notable immigrant chefs who traveled to the West Coast such as Christophe Eme, Wolfgang Puck, Joachim Splichal, Piero Selvaggio, and Ludo Lefebvre. There is no question the five-course tasting menu will be worth the $75 price of admission (an extra $49 for wine pairings) . Where else are you going to have a New York dining experience cooked by a famed European chef in the balmy weather of Los Angeles?

Angelenos will have the opportunity to partake of his cooking class, Sex on The Table. It’s a new year so do something new, fun and exciting. Besides, Chef Fed is very smart, funny, talented and resembles a cooking Gabriel Aubry when in the kitchen.  What more do you want?

Chef Questionnaire with Chef Fed:

Brie Fondue: Courtesy of Chef Fed
Brie Fondue: Courtesy of Chef Fed

How long have you been cooking? By the time that I was tall enough to overlook my mom’s kitchen counter, she wasn’t safe anymore. I graduated from culinary school 15 years later. And that was exactly 20 years ago.

What is your favorite food to cook? It changes with the seasons. But I certainly have a thing for dishes that develop over a long cooking time. What never changes is my childish excitement for super fresh, sustainable and organic ingredients.

What do you always have in your fridge at home? Besides a light bulb and a box of baking soda, there are always some fresh limes, ginger and unsalted butter (the real one).

What do you cook at home? For my next cookbook, I’m actually developing all the recipes at my house because I want to create the recipes in the same environment as my readers will cook them. When I cook for myself, I focus on greens, grains, and beans. And the occasional Swiss Cheese Fondue with my girlfriend…

Chef FedWhat marked characteristic do you love in a customer? I love it when they’re adventurous eaters. The most exciting customer for me is the person that knocks on my kitchen door and says: “Hey Fed, me and my friends are hungry. We eat everything. Here’s my credit card, we’ve got to be somewhere in 2 hours…”

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer?It can be tough when the customer thinks in boxes. When you’re basing your expectations on your experiences, you stop creating. That’s true for chefs and customers alike.

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex? You’ve got to love it when a brand a becomes so dominant that even their competitor’s  product takes on their name: Tupperware.  My company’s called Sex on the Table, so a rubber has different uses in my vocabulary. And Pyrex, I mean I love German engineering, but that applies more to my car than to my kitchen utensils. I’m going with Tupperware on this one. It reminds me of home.

Beer, wine or cocktail? Yes please, exactly in that order.

Chef Fed 2Your favorite cookbook author? My mother is pretty cool. Her last cookbook was on vegan cuisine, though. That’s a tough sell with me. But she autographed it for me.

Your favorite kitchen tool? My Bob Kramer knife. Don’t even think I would ever let you touch it.

Your favorite ingredient? Agave Nectar, Fresh Lime Juice, and homemade chicken stock share the win for this one.

Your least favorite ingredient?  Everything genetically modified, especially canola oil.

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen? Cleaning the freezer tops my most hated list.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook? I was born and raised in Zurich, which comes with a weird mix of Mediterranean style and Bohemian precision. I believe that, even though I traveled far and I explored a lot, when you get to the bottom of it you will always find that little boy in me that was surrounded by French and Italian chefs growing up.

Beef, chicken, pork or tofu? What the hell is tofu? It makes your manhood go away, did you know that? It’s a testosterone killer. A Rib Eye from Flaca Vaca farm in upstate New York would be my last meal on earth.

Favorite vegetable? My favorite vegetable is a flower: The artichoke, where the heart’s the best.

Yes-ChefChef you most admire? My first executive chef has no fame, and he’s still cooking the same menu from 20 years ago. His name is Meinolf Zarnitz, and he had a huge impact on me. But you probably want to hear some celebrity names. I have a lot of respect for Marcus Samuelsson. His book “Yes Chef” made me cry twice.

Food you like the most to eat? I’m on a lifelong quest for the perfect burger. They’re so relaxing to me that I never put them on any of my menus.

Food you dislike the most? Ever been to McDonalds?

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food? I don’t know, can you eat a lion?

Recipe from Chef Fed: Brie Fondue with Grilled Apricots & Smoked Duck (Serves 2). 

  • Grilled Apricots
  • 1 apricot (can be frozen and may be substituted with Peaches or Red Pears)
  • 1 tsp champagne Vinegar (or any other white acidity that you may have handy)
  • 1/8 tsp chili Flakes
  • 1/2 tsp honey
  • Nutmeg
  • Cut the fruits in wedges, marinate in the seasoning, then dry roast them in a skillet or on the grill. Set aside.

Brie Fondue

  • 1/2 Cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 lbs. Brie
  • 3 oz. Mascarpone
  • Black Pepper, coarsely ground
  • Nutmeg
  • 1 sprig of mint cut to Chiffonade
  • 1/2 Breast of smoked Duck (hey, if you have leftover chicken breast or a little bit of chorizo, feel free to substitute the duck. What you’re looking for is smokiness… Did I mention thick cut bacon?)

Bring the wine and the spices to a boil. Melt the brie and mascarpone without boiling them. Keep warm. Before serving, slice the duck breast and pour the fondue in a soup bowl. Plate the fruits. Arrange the duck in a fan shape on top. Garnish with mint chiffonade.

The End. Go Eat.

i8tonite: A Road Trip with My Mother, Baked Sweet Potatoes for Thanksgiving

As I do every year, I picked my mother up for Thanksgiving from her San Bernardino home. She will stay with us for a couple of days but instead of Los Angeles, the drive is from Phoenix, a round-trip excursion through the Sonoran desert. We will laugh, and I will tease her about her hearing as she’s asked me the same question three times, which I’ve answered three times.

I will finally state:  “I think we need to get batteries for your hearing aids.”

She’ll roll her eyes in amusement and swat at me, laughing in annoyance, “Brian! You know I don’t wear hearing aids.”

I respond, “Exactly.”

She’s aging and frankly, so am I; these car journeys won’t be happening forever. My mother gave me a love of road trips. We took them often from Duarte, California, where I was born to wherever she wanted to go. Disneyland. Pasadena. San Diego. Santa Monica. The best voyage was when my parents divorced. She wanted her maternal family closer – they lived in South Carolina — and her best friend lived in Baltimore. The ink was barely dry on the papers, and she packed up the red Pontiac Firebird with the vinyl top.  It was game on, a car trip through the southern half of the United States – East Coast bound.

She drove that car – a single woman and a kid — through Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas (two days), all the way to South Carolina in the early seventies. The AM radio was blaring Helen Reddy, Tony Orlando and Dawn, Vicki Lawrence, and The Carpenters. Wolfman Jack’s raspy baritone kept the truckers company and single family station wagons happy on long stretches of nothing. I recall a preacher man who drove his van around the dusty highways, solely to assist stranded drivers with broken cars. After fixing our ruined timing belt, his payment was joining him in prayer. My mother’s not a religious woman, but she believes in God. She was incredibly grateful for his help, so we held hands on the side of the two-lane desert highway and prayed.

This time, as we crossed the Colorado River, the border between California and Arizona, I was driving. She was the passenger, and the music was coming from an iTouch playing singalong Cher, Dusty Springfield, America and maybe Florence and The Machine. I threw in Elvis for my mom. The road has expanded from one car in each direction to a six-lane thoroughfare, at times almost eight – half going east, the others going west.  I’ve rented a car, so I don’t have to worry about breaking down. I will call the rental company and be on the road in no-time.

Yes, it will be a good holiday.

Baked Sweet Potatoes (No recipe) (“It’s not Thanksgiving without them,” my mother’s declares)

Find the largest sweet potatoes you can grab. Wash and then dry thoroughly. Determine where the top of the tuber is and poke a line along the length of the skin. Then do the same with the center width (You should have a cross.) Rub with vegetable oil, wrapping in aluminum foil. Bake for about an hour or until done. Serve with crème fraiche (my favorite) or butter (my mother’s favorite). Throw some chives and serve.

Happy Thanksgiving.

The End. Go Eat.

i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet for Dining in Los Angeles’ PicFair Village


i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet for Dining in Los Angeles' PicFair VillagePic Fair (Pico-Fairfax) Village is a demographically rich neighborhood, one of Los Angeles’ true and last assemblies of people with different cultural backgrounds — African-American, Latino, Asian, and Caucasian, middle-class and poor – some very wealthy.  It’s not one of the communities that LA decided to christen by its ethnic majority, such as Koreatown, Little Ethiopia, Thai Town, Historic Filipino-town, or Little Armenia. It’s a quiet microcosm of the United States and is a showcase of classic Southern California architecture along its wide, tree-lined streets with stunning Spanish duplexes and red-shingled single family homes built in the 1920s. At one time, the area was home to many upper-class African American families.

Extending from Hauser Boulevard on the east, Crescent Heights to the west, Olympic Boulevard on the north,  and to the south, Venice; I lived the longest in this area – meaning that for seven years of my life, I lived in one building, one spot – so I hold this place very dear to my heart.

i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet for Dining in Los Angeles' PicFair Village
Bloom

In the early to mid-aughts, the region started to become youth-oriented and a small coffee shop opened — Paper or Plastik — along with a restaurant called Bloom. Both of these places focused on local residents for support. Neither had a public relations campaign or had the local papers tout how good they were, although it did happen eventually. They became a part of the community’s multi-cultural quilt by just being there.

Pic Fair is a great neighborhood for an afternoon stroll or a quiet place to get away from the rest of City of Angels.  You won’t find the paparazzi hiding behind bushes. This is the real L.A…young families with their strollers, same-sex couples walking their dogs (and strollers), a diverse mix of people in a quiet urban enclave getting along with the rest of the world….peacefully.

i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet for Dining in Los Angeles' PicFair Village
CJs Cafe
  • Breakfast: CJ’s Café.  This is an institution. I can’t be for certain but at one time it was an African-American owned diner, much like its highly-touted neighbor Roscoe’s Chicken & Waffles down the street. There are two locations, Pico and Baldwin Park…but this is the rock-star. They make up fresh juice smoothies. Saturday and Sunday the place is packed until after 3pm; during the week it’s easier to get a table.
  • My suggestion: Huevos Rancheros or Chicken Wings (with honey) and Eggs.
  • Price: Varies. Nothing over $12.95
  • Hours:  7:00am – 4:00pm
  • Address:  5501 West Pico Boulevard
  • Phone Number: (323) 936 – 3216
  • Website: http://www.cjscafe.net/
  • Lunch:  Olson’s Swedish Restaurant. Opened since 1948, it was recently purchased by Christian Kneedler, the former maître‘ d of Dan Tana’s, a famous Hollywood, checkered table-cloth eatery. A Swede by birth, he took over the place and has transformed it into a Southern California outpost of Swedish tastes. Along one wall is a bulk bin of Swedish
    i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet for Dining in Los Angeles' PicFair Village
    Olson’s Deli

    candies and the menu offers better than Ikea Swedish meatballs and, of course, house-cured gravlax. They also have a large menu of cheeses and deli meats such as the dense and meaty goteborgskorv, a form of Swedish pate.

  • My suggestion: Their Swedish pancakes – which are more like a thicker crepe or a thinner pancake – are stunningly delicious. Served warm with preserves such as lingonberry on the side just like in Sweden.
  • Price: $8.00
  • Hours: 10:00am – 5:00pm, Monday – Sunday
  • Address: 5660 West Pico Boulevard
  • Phone Number: (323) 938 – 0742
  • Website: www.olsonsdeli.com
  • Snack Time:  A family-owned neighborhood place, Paper or Plastik is the coffee joint that started it all. Like the song goes, “my milkshake brings all the boys to the yard”…so it is with coffee and hipsters. Each time I go in here, the eatery has small changes – such as the pastries have gotten better, a little flakier and more butter; although they don’t make them here. The iced-coffee is heavy and will put hair on your chest…just the way I like it. With great Wi-Fi, it’s easy to do research and write your next screenplay, to meet a
    i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet for Dining in Los Angeles' PicFair Village
    Paper or Plastik

    friend for a mid-afternoon snack, get a caffeine fix or an afternoon glass of wine. At one time, the menu had been created by Chef Jeremy Fox, a one-time chef of Napa Valley’s Ubuntu and winner of Food & Wine’s “Best New Chef”.

  • My suggestion: The iced coffee. Although, they now have a beer and wine license.
  • Price: Expensive, clocking in at around $3.50 for a 12 ounce cup. But really black and really caffeinated. It will make you the Energizer bunny.
  • Hours: 7:00am – 10:00pm
  • Address:  5772 Pico Boulevard, LA, CA 90019
  • Phone Number: (323) 935 – 0268
  • Website: http://paperorplastikcafe.com/
My Two Cents. i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet for Dining in Los Angeles' PicFair Village
My Two Cents
  • Dinner: My Two Cents. Healthy soul food.
  • My suggestion:  Soul food normally conjures up images of heavy-battered fried chicken, grits and collards with bacon. Here, Chef Alisa Reynolds removes some of the butter and lard by using a lot of vegetable stock. It’s quite good and doesn’t have the heavy richness that you expect of a soul food restaurant – but make no mistake, this is soul food. My Two Cents serves up gluten-free fried chicken, small tender shrimp and grits…and my favorite, the grit fries. There is nothing like these grit fries….I know they can’t be that healthy…but they are sooo delicious.
  • Price: $5.00 Grit Fries
  • Hours: 12pm – 10pm. Closed on Mondays.
  • Address: 5583 West Pico Boulevard, LA, CA 90019
  • Phone: (323) 938 – 1012
  • Website: www.mytwocentsla.com

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i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet for Dining in Los Angeles' Picfair Village

The End. Go Eat. 

I8tonite: Chef’s Questionnaire with Kelly Chapman, Chef and Creator of Studio City’s Macolicious

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Chef Kelly Chapman is a rare find in the culinary world. Her Macolicious, a restaurant serving up the comfort of macaroni and cheese, located in Studio City, California is from the heart. She has an earnestness not seen in the restaurant industry showcasing “paying-it-forward”, honoring recipes from her elders and good old-fashioned, taste-bud loving cooking. Chapman’s pasta and cheese started off as a food truck which road-tripped throughout the Los Angeles, Santa Monica and San Fernando Valley before becoming a brick-and-mortar in September 2014. Currently, her menu features over 12 different variations of macaroni and cheese, all of it baked with it’s base being a sharp cheddar. (” …although The Dreamy Creamy Mac is prepared stove top because that’s the way kids like it”.) There are fancy versions such as “Frous Frous”  which is made with blue crab;  “5 Cheeses” which includes Asiago, Fontina, Gruyere, Parmesan and cheddar and “American Mac” which combines asparagus and bacon two of Chapman’s favorite ingredients. Some of the proceeds of her restaurant goes to Kelly Chapman’s Ministries Mobile Pantry which has fed over 20,000 people in her hometown of Cleveland, Ohio including low-income families, battered women and single mothers.

How long have you been cooking?   Since I was 7 years old making breakfast pancakes with Mom.

What is your favorite food to cook?  Macaroni and cheese of course!

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What do you always have in your fridge at home?   Cheese, blackberries, raspberries and pecans

What do you cook at home?  Bacon, eggs, pancakes and cheese grits

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer?  They appreciate the little details, like our pillows, the grass, the mac’n’cheese covered lamps or the noodle knobs in the bathroom.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer?  Cheap and uninformed.  They don’t know the difference between “cheese” and “cream”, or “fresh squeezed juice” and “bottled fresh squeezed”.  Even worse?  The customer who is miserable.  They arrive miserable and want to make everyone else suffer.

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?  Pyrex all day long because it cleans easily, and withstands various temperatures.

Beer, wine or cocktail?  Wine because it tastes great in a glass or in your food.

Your favorite cookbook author?   My late stepmother introduced me to Norma Jean and Carole Darden, Authors of Spoonbread and Strawberry Wine.

Your favorite kitchen tool?  A fork and knife so I can eat; second, my Crofton electric wine bottle opener.

CROFTON ELECTRIC WINE BOTTLE OPENER - -- USED

Your favorite ingredient?  I put cheese on everything.

Your least favorite ingredient?  Curry.

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?  Grate cheese.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook? Southern cuisine, soul food or Italian.

Beef, chicken, pork or tofu?  Eat Right for your Blood Type says a B- needs red meat.  #lovebutton

Favorite vegetable?  Asparagus but I just heard that it makes your pee a bit stinky.  Oh well…

Chef you most admire?  First, my mom and second, B. Smith.

Food you like the most to eat?  Cheesy baked potato skins.

Food you dislike the most? Any type of fish.

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?  None, but if I did you would see 4 noodles at the nape of my neck with the words #maclove.

Macolicious Logo

Kelly Chapman’s Breakfast Casserole

Breakfast Casserole

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound of Hot Sausage
  • 8 slices of bread
  • 4 cups of Sharp Cheddar Cheese
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Dry Mustard
  • 5 Eggs
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 can evaporated milk
  • 1 can mushroom soup

Layer in an baking dish starting with the bottom layer:

  • 8 slices of bread – cubed
  • 2 cups of sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 pound of sausage cooked and drained

Second layer

  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 5 eggs (beaten)
  • 2 cups of milk

Third layer

  • 1 can of mushroom soup mixed with 1 can of evaporated milk

Forth layer:

  • 2 cups of sharp cheddar cheese

Bake at 300 for 1 1/2 hours. Cut into squares.  Serve with fresh fruit, Cheese Grits, and banana bread or a muffin.

Extra: Freeze squares in individual sandwich bags placed in one large freezer bag.  Thaw overnight and broil for 5 minutes.  If you must microwave — you can.

-The End. Go Eat. –

Dining Out: Pastrami, LA Style

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It’s been awhile. So much for creating a fan base for this blog. So, let’s look at this as an exercise in writing…for enjoyment’s sake. I need to generate the blog without any expectation, on my part, because clearly I can’t even keep to my own desired timetable.

February was a very busy month with new clients, tastes and dining out opportunities. Admittedly, for a long time, going out wasn’t my favorite thing. Noisy. Congested. Expensive. Hipster women hitting the back of my head with their over-sized purses as I sit in a crowded bar is not my idea of fun. This last month, however, I did experience several great Los Angeles meals which I feel compelled to discuss beyond my circle of cohorts. It’s because of these personal experiences, I’m feeling more optimistic about dining out and spending my hard-earned cash.

I’m not a reviewer. I’m a publicist. Granted a publicist who eats a lot and has traveled a fair amount. My resume is long in the luxury category especially for being a gay person of color who’s eaten at many Michelin-starred restaurants and placed my head on many five-starred hotel pillows. I do have a certain experience level.

One of my food clients is Carvery Kitchen, based in Santa Monica. It’s this exceptional deli, with homespun Russian/ Uzbekistan recipes such as brisket and pastrami, “roasted and toasted” by Chef Roman Shishalovsky. It’s from this delicious vantage point that I decided to embark on a taste test of LA’s best pastrami sandwiches as decided upon by dining reviewers and Yelpers. (The latter being a term that embodies a controversial, over-generalized set of the eating out public.) It would be a taste excursion between Carvery Kitchen (the newcomer); Langer’s, the historic, award-winning stalwart of LA’s Jewish delis and Wexler’s Deli, chef-driven (Micah Wexler) and loved by most restaurant critics. Each one was different but two were stand-outs.

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 Langer’s is a James Beard award-winner, the culinary world’s Oscar equivalent, and is considered to be a destination eating experience; one of the “must-dos” in a city that most culinary aficionados’ write off as not having great dining. Essentially, Angelenos don’t do carbs but we will if it’s written in history books.

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 It was a packed dining room when Nick and I went to eat. We were told that the wait would be 20 minutes for a table so we opted for a pair of empty counter seats. It felt more like an East Coast deli than sitting at a booth. We ordered up the French Dip with au jus at $15.55.  Once it came, on the diner’s oval plate, we needed to wait for the au jus. The meat was blubbery and tepid with shards of fat dangling over the bun’s edge. The dipping sauce was salty and seemed to come from a jar. It was black, too dark for it to come from a roasting pan. Not my favorite but I’m glad I went. I will never criticize people who need to eat there as it’s a place of dining history.

After sharing half of the Langer’s sandwich, we went to Wexler’s Deli at Grand Central Market. Wexler’s is that new kid, not too far from Langer’s, just a short LA drive. It’s located in another palace of eating history, LA’s Grand Central Market, recently crowned by Bon Appetit as a Top Ten “restaurant,” which it isn’t. It’s a compilation of food stalls, once occupied by a variety of vendors, mostly Latino, selling fruits, vegetables, tacos, burritos and menudo. Now, it’s becoming a food mecca with upmarket experiences such as organic butchers, noted chefs and cheese-mongers serving up designer treats to lessees of downtown LA lofts.

Wexlers

Wexler’s is counter only unless you grab one of the community tables situated “anywhere” in the market. Subway tiles and ‘50s wooden stools surround the small crescent shape “deli”…it’s actually more of a kiosk.  The idea behind Wexler’s is to recreate that famed experience of the Jewish American deli. Unfortunately, you can’t unless you do a little bit of revisionist history which is what Micah Wexler has gloriously accomplished at his tiny eatery. His cold pastrami, which is the only thing we had, was hand-sliced and lavishly swollen between two pieces of rye bread with coleslaw . It was better than I think history has envisioned. Fresh and smoked, with that little bit of peppery textured bite. Housemade pickles with that beautiful crispness and snap.  Definitely worth the effort of parking and eating. (I will admit I’ve always been a fan of Grand Central Market before the re-gentrification. I loved the Latin families bringing their kids and watching them pick out vegetables and fruit together. You don’t see that anymore.just Caucasian college-aged kids not appreciating what used to be there… only what is.)

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Lastly, there is the Santa Monica Carvery Kitchen which opened last year and is the savory, roasted and toasted brainchild of Chef Roman Shishalovsky. His pastrami which is roasted for 24 hours is simply divine. A succulent, masterful meat-lovers dream, saturated in richness but without the oily blubber. One bite and the hand-carved meat starts to dissolve on the tongue. The bread, made off-site just like Wexler’s, is a family recipe like the pastrami. Born in Eastern Europe and a transplant to Southern California, Shishalovsky uses his own family’s Russian/ Uzbekistan techniques in making his meat which is served as a salad, a plate or a sandwich in your choice of a wrap, Panini or as a “French dip” freshly made off the just roasted meat. It’s worth the trip to eat. Carvery Kitchen is one of those low-key, dining experiences that once it’s had, you will start to crave it.

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As much as I Iove old-school experiences, sometimes it’s great to move on. Nothing can change history. It’s set in stone but others can become as much a part of it, and even recreate it such as Wexler’s and Carvery Kitchen. Funny, though, how pastrami, so much a part of New York’s Lower Eastside has now become of the greatest ways to make brisket and can rival even Texas BBQ. That’s America.