Tag Archives: los angeles

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. – 

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 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.

i8tonite with LA’s Revolutionario Chef Farid Zadi & Fennel and Carrot Slaw Recipe

i8tonite with LA’s Revolutionario Chef Farid Zadi & Fennel and Carrot Slaw RecipeIn our global world, food is often the first thing that changes. Chinese noodles appropriated by the Italians after Marco Polo’s visit. How about al pastor brought to Mexico by Lebanese immigrants, or the deliciousness of a French-Vietnamese banh mi, which features tons of crunchy vegetables and savory pork stuffed into a baguette? This is the case for the much-lauded Revolutionario, near the University of Southern California, helmed by Chef Farid Zadi and his wife Susan Park. The couple came up with an ingenious concept of marrying North African diaspora (Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Libya) tastes with Mexico. The successful result is a delicious fusion of international flavors as noted by the alternative paper, LA Weekly, The Los Angeles Times, and the queue of college students and food-oriented people standing at the counter ordering their $3.00 tacos.

i8tonite with LA’s Revolutionario Chef Farid Zadi & Fennel and Carrot Slaw Recipe
Revolutionario

Zadi’s career started in his birthplace of Lyon, France, ultimately leading him to working in Michelin starred restaurants throughout the world, including stints in Seoul, Korea, and Scotland. Upon coming to the United States, Zadi focused his epicurean talents on being a chef consultant and culinary educator, teaching cooking classes – for the beginner to the accomplished – at such places as Sur La Table, Whole Foods Market, and Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts.

i8tonite with LA’s Revolutionario Chef Farid Zadi & Fennel and Carrot Slaw Recipe
Makroud (Algerian Date Newtons)

Last year, he and Susan wanted to create something different. Park says, “We saw the market going in a different direction towards a fast casual experience. Millennials didn’t really want to participate in the sit down service.” Along Jefferson, Revolutionario is not hard to find, as there are hordes of people waiting for service. Together, the couple have created a refreshing and unique melding of cultures…and the world was ready. Algerian butter and Mexican crema top a cob of corn. An Algerian roasted chicken with rasa al hanout – a Northern African spice mixture — called mechoui — is served up with feta and tortillas to wrap the bird. Wood-roasted cauliflower is also a standout when bound in a corn tortilla.

i8tonite with LA’s Revolutionario Chef Farid Zadi & Fennel and Carrot Slaw Recipe
Mexican Street Corn with Algerian Creole Butter, Crema, and Cotija

Park comments, “North African tacos are an interesting cuisine. Food writers, those who are well-traveled, and people exposed to unique flavors love our food. Where else can you get merguez sausage served like a burrito?

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

How long have you been cooking?
34 years professionally

What is your favorite food to cook?
Dover sole with lemon butter sauce

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Butter, cheese, and cured meat.

i8tonite with LA’s Revolutionario Chef Farid Zadi & Fennel and Carrot Slaw Recipe
Merguez and Crispy Potato Tacos

What do you cook at home?
Nothing

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer?
Openness

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer?
Don’t know what they want

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
Pyrex

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Beer in the summer, wine for fall and winter

Your favorite cookbook author?
Clifford Wright

Your favorite kitchen tool?
Chef’s knife

Your favorite ingredient?
Water

Your least favorite ingredient?
Lard

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
Home stove that doesn’t burn high enough

i8tonite with LA’s Revolutionario Chef Farid Zadi & Fennel and Carrot Slaw Recipe
Roasted Sweet Potato and Crispy Kale, Yukon Gold with Lentil Chili or Charred Vegetables.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Mediterranean and Californian

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Beef

Favorite vegetable?
Potatoes

Chef you most admire?
Pierre Gagnaire

Food you like the most to eat?
Buttered pasta

Food you dislike the most?
Calf’s brain

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
None. Never.

Recipe: Fennel and carrot slaw

i8tonite with LA’s Revolutionario Chef Farid Zadi & Fennel and Carrot Slaw Recipe

• 2 medium fennel bulbs
• 5 carrots, coarsely grated
• 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
• 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
• 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• 1/4 cup Spanish green olives, pitted and finely chopped
• 1/4 teaspoon dried Aleppo chile or Espelette pepper flakes (optional), or to taste
• 6 sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained and very thinly sliced
• 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

Chop enough fennel fronds to measure 3 tablespoons and reserve.

Discard remaining fronds and stalks. Cut bulbs into thin matchsticks and toss with carrots in a bowl.

Whisk together lemon juice, vinegar, oil, olives, Aleppo chile (if using), and salt to taste and toss with vegetables.

Chill, covered, at least 30 minutes (for flavors to develop).

Photo WILLIAM ABRANOWICZ

– The End. Go Eat. –

i8tonite with OC’s Las Brisas Chef Johannes Bernau and Recipe for Coca Cola Carnitas

i8tonite with LA’s Las Brisas Chef Johannes Bernau and Recipe for Coca Cola Carnitas“The cuisine at Who Song’s & Larry is meant to be fun. It’s Mexican-inspired food,” say 32-year old Chef Johannes Bernau. “The food at Las Brisas finds its inspiration in Mexico, but is really Southern California.”

Born in Utah to a Japanese mother and Dutch Indonesian father, the talented man behind the Real Mex Restaurants stove holds the unwieldy title of Corporate Chef for Specialty Brands. Behind that long designation lies a thoughtful human who creates delectable South of the Border-encouraged dishes at Las Brisas, an iconic cliff side eatery overlooking California’s famed Laguna Beach, and Who Song’s & Larry’s, a newcomer to the restaurant scene. Real Mex also owns additional Southern California chains such as Acapulco, Chevy’s, and El Torito Grill. Bernau oversees the kitchens of the single standing operations, which include the aforementioned, but also El Paso Cantina in Torrance, CA and New York City’s Sinigual.

i8tonite with LA’s Las Brisas Chef Johannes Bernau and Recipe for Coca Cola Carnitas

“Like every chef, I started out helping as a kid in the kitchen, then I started inviting my friends over for barbeques that I would make,” Bernau recalls. “I worked at a pizza place between the ages of 18 – 19. Today, I still crank out a pizza for family (staff) meals.”

Seafood Tower Las Brisas. i8tonite with LA’s Las Brisas Chef Johannes Bernau and Recipe for Coca Cola Carnitas
Seafood Tower Las Brisas

The food at Las Brisas, with its breaktaking views of Laguna’s golden sand beaches and Pacific Ocean waves, is a must for every traveler and visitor to the legendary ocean community. The white tablecloth eatery serves dishes such as the fruta del mar, a mixture of lobster, scallops, shrimp, and the catch of the day with a saffron sauce. Also, surf and turf plates exist with Latin flavors, such as the New York Strip with Mexican Shrimp. Adding to the overall theme of Southern California dishes are starters such as ceviche and Ahi Tuna Poke.

i8tonite with LA’s Las Brisas Chef Johannes Bernau and Recipe for Coca Cola Carnitas

Who Song’s & Larry is themed more like a cantina with lustful eats, including Hangover Fries. Created by Chef Bernau, the dish is crispy fries covered in carnitas, bacon, green chili sauce, melted pepper jack cheese, pico de gallo, a fried egg, and fresno chiles. Served in a small crock, the mighty curative sounds overwhelming but in truth, it’s delicious with bold flavors to settle anyone who might be leaning too far after a night of drinking. “The inspiration was from the Canadian poutine and from my love of smothered fries…plus a fried egg can go on anything,” chuckles Bernau. “It was so popular we named our brunch after our fries.”

Hangover fries. i8tonite with LA’s Las Brisas Chef Johannes Bernau and Recipe for Coca Cola Carnitas
Hangover fries

 

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

How long have you been cooking?
Since I was able to crack eggs… (Mom and dad probably ate plenty of egg shell omelets…)

What is your favorite food to cook?
Anything off the grill, especially Steak.

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Surge (classic soda from the 90’s) – they took it away once… not going to let that happen again.

What do you cook at home?
Mac and cheese.

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer?
Their love for food.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer?
Customers that want their steaks well done.

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
Rubbermaid

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Beer

Your favorite cookbook author?
Ferran Adria

Street Corn - Who Song and Larry's. i8tonite with LA’s Las Brisas Chef Johannes Bernau and Recipe for Coca Cola Carnitas
Street Corn – Who Song and Larry’s

Your favorite kitchen tool?
Chef’s Knife.

Your favorite ingredient?
Thyme – everything could use a little more thyme.

Your least favorite ingredient?
MSG

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
When I was a young cook, one of my jobs was to peel grapes.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Tacos

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Beef

Favorite vegetable?
Broccolini

Chef you most admire?
Jose Andreas – worked for him back in the day & learned how to cook with liquid nitrogen.

Food you like the most to eat?
Ramen (not instant)

Food you dislike the most?
Natto, a Japanese dish of fermented soy beans.

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

Recipe: Coke Cola Carnitas

i8tonite with LA’s Las Brisas Chef Johannes Bernau and Recipe for Coca Cola Carnitas
Photo Wikimedia Commons: Mike McCune

5 lbs of large chunks of pork butt
1 onion chopped
1 sprig of thyme
1 sprig of oregano
1 can of coke
1 can of beer
2 TBSP salt
1 tsp pepper
Water

Put everything in crock pot on medium before you go to work.

Eat after work. With tortillas and cheese.

– The End. Go Eat. –

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: 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.