Archive for May, 2009

Spago – Beverly Hills

Spago for lunch, particularly on Friday, is magical. The patio is THE place to sit.

laurent

Laurent is one of the best dining room managers anywhere. He always organizes our meal and I have yet to look at a menu.

 

champagne

BYO Chmpagne

 

tuna

Signature dish of Spicy Tuna Tartar in a sesame tuile 

 

Salmon Blinis - Spago

House-Smoked Salmon served on a Lemon Herb Blini with Dill Crème Fraiche

 

hamachi - Spago

Hamachi Ceviche with Baby Beets served in a Chinese spoon

 

bacon en croute

Bacon en Croute – an old favorite

 

inside bacon

Inside of the bacon en croute

 

sorbet

Japanese Cucumber Sorbet with Diced Cucumber and Daikon – a nice palate cleanser before the main part of the meal

 

bread

Bread Service

 

crab

Duo of Crab 

 

crab 1

Panko Crusted Soft Shell Crab with Scallions, Ginger, Marinated Cucumber Salad and Pickle Vinaigrette – the soft shell was perfect – light, not a hint of grease

 

crab 2

Maryland Crab Cake, Basil Aioli, Tomato Vinaigrette – what was excellent about this crab cake is that it was pure crab – no filler, just crab

 

bass

Pan-roasted Black Bass on a bed of carrot puree and wild ramps

 

bass1

Then artichokes, tomatoes and a wild ramp vinaigrette and olive oil vinaigrette is added table side to the bass – delicious, light, plus seasonality at its best

 

the women at Spago

Jackie Collins lunching at Spago

 

red wine

BYO Red wine

 

risotto

Risotto with Maine Sweet Shrimp,  Santa Barbara Uni and Baby Japanese Zucchini – what is not to like? – uni, shrimp and risotto

 

duck= Spago

Pan-Roasted Liberty Duck Breast, Onion Soubise, Porcini Mushrooms, Huckleberries, Natural Jus – excellent

 

starw 1

Friase de bois, Shortcake, Raspberry

 

straaw 2

Close-up

A lovely lunch, well-orchestrated by Laurent. I often say that Spago is two restaurants in one. The best way to go is a tasting menu. Let the staff orchestrate the menu and you will have a fine dining experience.

Aquitaine Bis- Chestnut Hill

Aquitaine Bis is a French bistro type restaurant in the suburbs of Boston – Chestnut Hill.  Is it chef driven cuisine – no.  Is it fine dining – no.  Is it on a par with Church and State in Los Angeles – no. But, it is safe, bistro food and for the most part executed well.

Sunday Brunch:

eggs benedict

Eggs Benedict with Canadian bacon, hollandaise & fines herbes, lyonnaise potatoes – I didn’t taste this, but this is my Dad’s favorite and he loved it.

 

omelet

Omelette Alsacienne – with mushrooms, leeks & chevre, lyonnaise potatoes and toast – the eggs were a bit dry, but OK.

 

As Boston was packed during this time period (graduation time all over the city), we were relegated to where my Dad was a regular. So back to Aquitaine Bis for dinner on Tuesday.

Belgian Endive Salade with apple, roquefort, walnuts & watercress – not pictured

 I will have to let the photos tell the story as I didn’t taste the food from our dining companions.  I am assuming they liked what they had as each dish was completely eaten. I also didn’t take notes as this was a strictly social evening.

fish - aquitaine

Lemon Sole Meunière with pommes purée and diced tomatoes 

 

another fish - aquitaine

Potato Crusted Atlantic Salmon with butter poached asparagus, mango & papaya chutney and beurre rouge 

 

scallops - aquitainee

Seared Dayboat Scallops with spring vegetable succotash, sweet corn beurre blanc 

 

soft shells - aquitaine

Crispy buttermilk soft shell crabs – I am guessing that the saucing was the same as the scallops – a sweet corn beurre blanc. Also I have a vague recollection that the waiter said the soft shells were coated in panko – it did have a tempura quality.

No cheese and no desserts – an adequate meal with good service.

Capital Grille – Boston

Capital Grille is essentially a chain restaurant – they work on a formula, strive to use quality ingredients and basically do straight forward food and work on the theory of not messing it up. This was not a food trip; it was a reconnect with my Dad trip so  food was secondary. 

 

bread capital

Bread Basket

 

Caesar - capital

Caesar Salad | $9

 

oysters- capital

Wellfleet Oysters on the Half Shell (6) | $15

 

steak -0 capital

*Dry Aged Sirloin Steak 14 oz | $40 – split to share

 

steak 1 - capital

Close-up of steak

 

onion rings - capital

Vidalia Onion Rings | $8

 

This is not fine dining – it is safe dining.

Neptune’s Oyster – Boston

One of my favorite restaurants in Boston is Neptune’s Oyster in the North End. I have a weird way of ordering the fried Ipswich clams with the bellies. I order a half order at a time so the second batch is as hot as the first batch. This time I ordered  1 1/2 orders and got an half order first and then a full order second. Vinny pictured below was terrific and when I gave him the order he asked if I was lizziee from LA. I don’t know if this is a good thing or a bad thing, but I certainly have a reputation.

Neptune is a small restaurant with most of the seats at the bar. As they take no reservations, I usually plan my flight from LA to land on the early side so I can have a late lunch at Neptune and not be stuck in a long line waiting to be seated. What a girl will do for fried clams with the bellies!!

vinny

Vinny

 

oysters at Neptune

The oysters at Neptune are terrific and you check off from the list what you want.

 

oysters 1

Oysters

 

clams

My first order of fried clams were stupendous – lush bellies, juicy, just perfect.

 

lobster

My Dad ordered the Maine Lobster Roll with fries

 

close-up of lobster

Just see those beautiful chunks of lobster, perfectly cooked.

 

clams 1

Unfortunately my second order of fried clams had been overcooked – a couple in front were OK, but most were dry and shriveled. To Vinny’s credit, it was taken off the bill.

Now, I did a sort of no no and decided to take a photo of what our neighbors were eating as most of my photos from Neptune are nothing but fried clams. Descriptions are edited versions from the on-line menu.

 

closde-up of lobster next table

Maine Lobster pan roast, grilled corn, chorizo-spring onion, littlenecks, blueberries

 

scallops next table

Seared Georges Bank Scallops, Israeli cous cous, English peas, Littlenecks

 
This is essentially a gastropub version of a clam shack – fun, casual, very busy, great service with a very friendly neighborhood vibe.

LUDO IS BACK!!!!!!!!

 

ludo 1

 

 

LUDOBITES

A note from Chef Ludo:

 A Taste of LudoBites

Just as a concept reflects its creator, LudoBites is a true reflection of myself.

 I consider myself to be a chef like no other, and I created LudoBites to be a restaurant like no other. 

Only with the generosity of BREADBAR can this special concept come to life in the toughest economy since the great depression.  BREADBAR and Ludo will share the BREADBAR location on 3rd to deliver two completely different dining experiences, BREADBAR for breakfast and lunch and LudoBites for dinner.

LudoBites is a completely new kind of restaurant experience, reflecting today’s world of change and LudoBites revels in change.

You’ll find no maitre d’ at LudoBites, no reservation table, no tablecloths, no separation between the kitchen and the dining room. I want to receive each guest just like they were coming to my home.  I will be the deejay, the cook, the waiter and I may even clean your table. 

 The other members of my team will all provide the same kind of personal service dressed not in a uniform, but comfortably and casually attired, just as we want your experience to be:  comfortable and casual.

In this day and age, when we’re more concerned with the image of the cook than we are with the cooking, I want my T-shirted crew to be considered among the elite–not for the image they project, but for the quality of their cooking.

LudoBites cuisine will be developed using a combination of bistro type ingredients and the gastronomie cooking techniques, rigour and order.

At LudoBites, we call this Bistronomie.

The idea behind LudoBites is to seamlessly blend fine cuisine with a new type of bistro, where the best products available are served up in humble simplicity with some unpredictable flavors and creative mostly French  techniques; a romantic reconstruction of classic French dishes. Joyful, playful, tasteful, creative, personal and the most important the taste because I never forget about the taste, taste and taste.

Serving innovative dishes in a welcoming, lively, yet relaxed atmosphere is the key, along with balancing creativity and affordability.  That’s important to me.  I want to prove that you don’t need a trust fund to afford haute cuisine.  I hope to introduce my food to a whole new audience by offering food that is affordable to the public and in a non-intimidating environment. 

At LudoBites, because the size of the kitchen and small staff, you will create your own menu choosing between three appetizers, three entrées, and two desserts or cheeses.  You may choose to have an appetizer and entrée; or an entrée and dessert; or an appetizer, entrée, and dessert–all at reasonable and fair prices. The decision is yours.

LudoBites menu will be small and constantly changing, just as the seasons change, offering an array of different tastes every week. 

Here is a sample of what you can expect to find at LudoBites today:

 

 Appetizers:

-     Squid ink “crepe”, chorizo, egg, ham and cheese

-     Rare tuna sliced, pink beets, red berries, smoked vinegar

-     Lobster gazpacho, parmesan marshmallow, exotic fruits

-     Heirloom tomato salad, cucumber, red onions, feta mousse

-     Mussel Mariniere, verbena

 

Entrées:

-     Caramelized cod, blood orange, fleur de sel and broccoli

-     “Bird and strings” , fried chicken & homemade pommes fries

-     Braised lamb, black curry, ratatouille, harissa

-     Pork ribs, English peas guacamole “Francaise style”, with wasabi and imaginary choucroute

-     Monkfish, sake-honey soy sauce

 

Desserts:

-     Rum baba, aloe vera, passion fruits

-     Rose ice cream, rice with milk, cookies

-     Spicy chocolate mousse, orange juice, extra virgin olive

-     Apple gaufrette tart, caramel

 

My staff and I invite you to join us for a taste of LudoBites today, and experience our special blend of Bistronomie served in a casual and comfortable restaurant that is like no other.  LudoBites is a fun, relaxed environment where you can leave the stresses of the world behind and join our intimate little party for a night. 

LudoBites is for a limited time only at Breadbar.  May 19th-August 22nd.  Who knows where it will be next. 

 

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

 

APPETIZERS

-Foie Gras Miso soup with Root Vegetables

-Pot au Feu, Yellow Carrots, Citrus, Bean Sprouts, Cilantro, and  Peanut Vinaigrette

-Rare Tuna, Pink Beet Bath, White Beets, Watermelon, Tapioca Pearls, Smoked Vinegar

 

ENTRÉES

 -Asian Fried Chicken, Herbes de Provence, and Basque Vegetables

-Cassoulet of Cod, Fava beans, Garlic, Fresh Herbs

-Braised Lamb with Black Curry, Rosemary Polenta, Harissa

 

DESSERTS

 -Chocolate Mousse, Orange, Extra Virgin Olive Oil

-Strawberry Soup, Rhubarb, Hibicus, Marshmallow Ice Cream

-Fromage Du Jour

 

 APPETIZER & ENTRÉE: $33

ENTRÉE & DESSERT: $33

APPETIZER & ENTRÉE & DESSERT: $39

 

I don’t know about you, but I will go wherever Ludo goes.

See here for a retrospective of some of Ludo’s creations:

http://lizziee.wordpress.com/category/southern-california/bastide-beverly-hills/

Church and State – Downtown LA

This restaurant is just getting better and better. The sourcing of the ingredients is extraordinary and way above bistro quality.

butter

How many bistros do you know that serve echire butter? From their website: “A famed artisan French butter, from the milk of cows of the small village of Poitiers and La Rochelle. Known as one of the best butters in France, Echire butter is served in the finest dining establishments (which is why the French covet this butter and keep 85% of the production within France). This sophisticated butter won AOC protected status, and is produced mostly by hand. A light texture, light salting and subtle flavor make this butter just about divine.”

 

gougere

Light as air gougeres

 

cod

Salt cod beignets with saffron aioli. These are addictive and the aioli (not pictured) would make Chef Manzke a fortune.

 

oyster

oyster1

Iced Kumamoto Oysters – I love Kumamoto oysters and anyone can say what’s the big deal about oysters on the half shell as long as they are fresh. Well, if you shell them badly you end up with grit. These were shelled perfectly!

 

white wine

BYO White Wine

 

sardine

Sardines, cherry tomatoes, white beans, arugula – an absolutely A+ dish. The white beans were actually a puree with rosemary, sage and olive oil. The dish was a bottom layer of toasted bread, then the white bean puree, then the sardines, the cherry tomatoes and topped with a bit of arugula – OH MY.

 

gambas

Gambas a la Nicoise – Santa Barbara spot prawns with cucumber, tomato, olives and a saucing of olive oil and lemon. We had these the last time we were at Church and State and what I wrote last time still applies: “look at the dice on the vegetables – it could have come out of the French Laundry kitchen.”

 

red wine at Church

BYO Red Wine

 

chacut

chacu 1

Pate de campagna with green peppercorns, Duck liver with hazelnuts, Jambon persillade, rabbit pate, saucisson sec – wild boar and one with black truffles that cost $30 a pound – bistro – not even close.

 

rileetes

Rillettes de Porc – Berkshire pork, prune confiture  – this was even better than last time – absolutely perfect

 

foie at Church

Terrine de Foie Gras, port wine gelee – delicious

 

brioche

Brioche, Croutons and Pickled vegetables with the foie, rillettes and charcuterie

 

asparagus at Church

Hog Farm’s Asparagus, Morel Mushrooms, Poached Egg and a glorious mushroom/stock jus – this was one of the best asparagus spears I have ever tasted and Chef Manzke said it was his favorite. Again, this is just not bistro food – The sourcing of this is asapargus is extraordinary. Hog’s farms is the brainchild of Ray Franscioni who also owns Gary’s vineyards.

http://www.montereybayfarmers.org/aptos_vendors/hogFarm.html

Ray and Dan Franscioni
PO Box 7537
Spreckels, CA
831-455-9375

Markets: Aptos, Monterey and Carmel

Products: Asparagus

History/Philosophy: Hog Farms got its name years ago when owner Ray Franscioni first drove out to see the property where we would eventually plant asparagus. As he tells it, the first thing he saw when he pulled up (besides the beautiful land, of course) was a pen with two HUGE hogs in it. He knew what he would name the farm right then and there. The hogs are no longer at the farm, but their spirit definitely lives on!

The farm was established over 30 years ago. Ray and Dan are second generation farmers and third generation when it comes to sales and marketing of the produce grown at the farm. In addition to asparagus, Hog Farms grows artichokes, spinach and mixed baby greens.

http://www.garysvineyard.com/garys.html

 Gary Franscioni
Gary’s roots in the Santa Lucia Highlands are quite deep. His family has farmed here for over 100 years. After graduating from Cal Poly with a degree in agribusiness, Franscioni took over management of the family farm business, which owned and managed more than 200 acres of row crops in the Salinas Valley. Recognizing the region’s potential for premium wine grapes, Franscioni turned his focus to viticulture. He and long time friend Gary Pisoni partnered on the Garys’ Vineyard in 1997. In 1996 Gary planted the 50-acre Rosella’s Vineyard – named for his wife – on their estate property just a few miles north of the Garys’ Vineyard. Both vineyards are among the most celebrated and coveted in California. 

 

turbot

Turbot, English peas, Apple smoked bacon, Meyer lemon, Shimeji mushrooms – the turbot was cooked perfectly, but the “veggie” accompaniments were extraordinary.

turbot up close

Turbot – up close

 

cassol

Cassoulet de Toulouse – duck confit, pork belly, pork shoulder sausage, white beans – I was getting very full – this is not food for the faint of heart. I ate a bit of this, but then asked for a doggie bag and this was my Mother’s Day dinner – who needs France when you have Chef Manzke in the kitchen.

This is a wonderful restaurant and I only wish it was closer to the westside.

Update on Renny

Yes, he is cute.

renny-cute1

 

He has learned to be be like his “brothers” and get treats before yoga.

yoga-feedding

 

However, he has seriously limited our eating out unless I get a sitter. His new trick is to move our temporary fence around the pool. He will gnaw on the fence and then push the bricks out of the way. Sometimes he just sits there and you can almost see him thinking of ways to outwit me. I think I have solved the problem (very heavy railroad ties) but I am not willing to leave him alone until I am sure.

 

fence

 

Introduced Renny to the pool – a little swim and he seems to being staying away from the pool, at least for the moment

renny in pool


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