Archive for September, 2011

Villetta

Villetta is just too convenient for us and as a result there is definitely an overload of Villetta posts. One advantage of Pippa’s cuisine is that I can usually spot what is freshest and best on the menu as it is generally a new preparation. Therefore, although we go often, we can usually order new and different items each time.

BYO Champagne

Luna Oysters on the half shell with champagne mignotte and redogo seaweed – we just slurped perfect oysters and skipped the mignotte.

Wild King Salmon crudo with avocado, cucumber, baby lettuces and salted flat bread  - I want to marry Pippa’s fish purveyor – incredible fish done perfectly without all the “extras” that ruin a great ingredient.

BYO White Wine

Frisee with seared Jidori chicken livers, pancetta and a four minute egg – nobody does this dish better than Villetta – plump chicken livers bursting with flavor, crispy diced pieces of pancetta, a runny egg yolk – what more could one ask for?

Madeira macerated foie gras canapes with crab apple butter and brioche – the only miss in this dish were the truffles – just not the ultimate in quality.

Cacciuo with black cod, prawns, clams, mussels and calamari with shell beans, roasted peppers and tomato broth – a complete winner of a dish – the freshest fish executed with brilliance.

Red Wine from their list

Roasted Kabocha squash ravioli with sage and amaretti butter – excellent

As always, a lovely evening.

FarmShop – Brentwood

Finally after months of delay, FarmShop will be open for dinner starting Sept 16th. We were invited to a pre-opening dinner for family and friends. Let me state up front that Chef Jeffrey Cerciello, former culinary director of the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group, did a terrific job. I have loved Jeffrey’s food at Ad Hoc so I knew I would love his food at FarmShop. Michel Darmon, GM has assembled a first-rate FOH team and the room glowed with lovely candles.

As you enter there is a wooden farm table filled with a luscious array of fresh berries, gorgeous fruit, just-picked tomatoes and home-made preserves.

Jeffrey Cerciello in front of what will be the larder where fresh eggs, hobb’s bacon, market-fresh produce, wine plus artisan wares from edibles to tabletop items will be for sale.  I can’t wait!

Michel Darmon, GM

The room

Another view of the room

The open kitchen

There is an extensive speciality cocktail list based on wine and beer. Our choices:

Margarita – tequilla flavored soju, lime-lemon juice, organic agave and lime salt

Kir Royal – Gruet rose sparking wine and cassis de dijon

The approach is much like Ad Hoc in that only one menu is offered (last night it was 3 courses) served family-style. FarmShop plans to post their nightly menu on line so you can know in advance what is served.

I do applaud them for adding this to the bottom of the menu: “Cellphones, tweeting and e-mailing have been proven harmful to other diner’s appetites, please refrain.” Hooray for FarmShop!

FIRST COURSE

Heirloom Tomato Salad – Black Zebra and Green Zebra Tomatoes, Reed Avocado, Pickled Red Onion, Surrey Arugula, Opal Basil and Fennel Pollen served with

House-made Ricotta and Pistachio Salsa Verde

Rustic Bakery Flat Bread Chips with Olive Oil and Sea Salt

This was an absolutely sensational first course – farm-fresh tomatoes, exceptional avocado slices, an addictive ricotta spread on equally addictive chips

Red Wine

SECOND COURSE

Herbed Fried Chicken (Jeffrey, as of now, plans on Sunday being fried chicken night. He also has thoughts of doing fried chicken 3 different ways). I dream of the Ad Hoc chicken from the very first time I tasted it in Yountville and then when it was a special at Bouchon in Beverly Hills – for the record they are doing the Ad Hoc chicken at Bouchon on Monday Sept 19th from 5:30 to 9:30. Do go and taste the best fried chicken in the country. If you miss Bouchon’s special you can now get Jeffrey’s fried chicken at least once a week at FarmShop. It was served with

Sweet corn and peppers

Cabbage, fennel, cucumber and poppy seed slaw

I was so hoping Jeffrey would do the fried chicken for family and friends and I wasn’t disappointed. It was just as good as in my dreams. The sweet corn was a perfect compliment as was the slaw. Let’s just say I was one very happy camper.

THIRD COURSE

Poached Peaches – Frog Hollow Farm Peaches, Lemon Curd and Oatmeal Cookies  - what a perfect ending to a wonderful meal.

I urge everyone to go to FarmShop and enjoy the freshest of the freshest produce done with the utmost respect for the ingredients. What a treat for families, couples young and old and just anyone who loves good food.


Villetta

Villetta is just getting better and better and as a result busier and busier. I strongly suggest that you make reservations. I continue to be impressed not only by the superb quality of the ingredients, but also by Chef Pippa’s restraint, focus and dedication to letting the ingredients shine. Even with a full restaurant, the service is spot-on.

BYO Krug to start

Pizza with burrata, artichokes, cherry tomatoes, olives, basil pesto – Starting with a pizza is a perfect way to begin a Villetta meal. We normally eat about half and bring the rest home for snacks the next day.

White wine from their list

Blue fin tuna crudo with almonds, jalapenos, cilantro and radishes served with won ton chips – the quality of the tuna was sushi grade – A+. The tuna was cubed and resembled a chunky tuna tartar – an absolute winner.

Santa Barbara spot prawns a la plancha with garlic, lemon zest, crushed red pepper, caviar served on a bed of white beans – Chef Pippa had just gotten these prawns in and they were the freshest and most succulent prawns I have ever eaten.

Notice the “juice” from the prawns – I used bread to mop up every bit of the “juice” – these were without a doubt unbelievably “just plucked from the ocean” tasting prawns cooked to perfection.

Mezze Maniche pasta (similar to penne but shorter and broader) with hot and sweet sausage, peas, tomato and cream – unlike Il Pastaio this didn’t need extra sauce on the side as the ratio of sauce to pasta was perfect. The sauce itself was a lovely balance of sausage meat to tomato – excellent.

BYO Red Wine

Bone-in Kansas City Porterhouse Steak with lobster and chanterelle mushrooms and shaved summer truffles with spicy broccoli rabe – terrific. Next time, though, I will ask for extra mushrooms – they were that good.

What a wonderful restaurant – certainly the best Italian restaurant among the overabundance of other Italian restaurants in Brentwood.

Il Pastaio

Il Pastaio in Beverly Hills has become more about the scene than the food. It is THE place to sit outside on a lovely Los Angeles afternoon while people watching and being watched.

Wine from their list

Our terrific waiter – Porcu Vincenzo

Beef Carpaccio served with capers, shaved parmesan cheese and mustard dressing – good but not extraordinary

Soft polenta served with morelle and porcini mushrooms and fresh black truffles – this was an indulgence on our part – very pricey at $45 a serving. The polenta was way too loose – more like a thin soup. I think the problem was that it was served immediately – after it sat on the table for a while, it became the proper consistency. The truffles were not worth the up-charge – not even close to great let alone good truffles.

Lasagna Bolognese – Homemade Lasagna pasta served with meat sauce. Where or where was the meat sauce? John asked for extra bolognese sauce and was able to create a better version of the lasagna.

John’s reworking of the lasagna

John also likes a lot of parmesan cheese on top, probably to the horror of many Italians!

Linguine con Crostacei – Linguine pasta with half lobster and crab meat in a light spicy tomato sauce – good but not even close to the great pasta dishes at Vin Bar/Valentino.

This was a pleasant afternoon but just not great cuisine – I would rather go to Vin Bar or Villetta.

Vin Bar

Vin Bar/Valentino is just getting better and better. This is just a perfect Italian restaurant with fantastic food and equally superior service. As usual we rely on Piero Selvaggio, Paul Sherman and Chef Nico to plan our evening.

What a surprise  - a red sparkling wine from Le Marche, part of the Adriatic Coast. “Le Marche is a beautiful wine region, with miles of untamed coastline, picturesque fishing villages like Portonovo, Renaissance gems like Urbino (where the painter Raphael was born), medieval hamlets such as Urbania, rustic mountain villages like Carpegna and wild expanses of nature that culminate in the splendorous peaks of Monti Sibillini.”  The DOCG Vernaccia di Serrapetrona is a unique red sparkling wine that has been made since ancient times and is even mentioned in Dante´s Divine Comedy.

Just look at that color!

A newly created dish by Chef Nico – Tuna carpaccio, served slightly warm on top of a pappa al pomodoro base. Pappa al pomodoro is “a bread and tomato “minestra“, that is, a thick soup, and one of the oldest and most typical dishes of the Siena area. It is definitely one of the most representative dishes of the Tuscan cucina povera, the poor people’s culinary tradition.” The tuna was crusted with mint. This was an absolute A+ dish.

Close-up of the tuna

Wine #2 – Grillo also known as Riddu is a white wine grape variety and is widely used in Sicilain wine-making.

Baked Ricotta Cheese, brown sugar on top, thyme,  rhubarb sauce, shaved summer black truffle – what a perfect combination of savory with a hint of sweet – Chef Nico does favor combinations that are always superb.

Wine #3 – also from the Adriatic coast

Galloni proscuitto, aged 24 months with a baked fig, shaved parmesan and a touch of moscatto sauce – The proscuitto is from F.lli Galloni S.p.A. which is a single-product company specialized in the production of superior quality Parma ham for close to 50 years – the quality of the proscuitto was extraordinary.

Duck cannelloni with dried fruit – cucumber, cherry, orange and a mostarda sauce with duck jus – the cannelloni was perfect as was the duck filling.

Crispy buffalo ricotta gnocchi, pancetta, fava beans, dots of goat cheese, foie gras, light cream sauce – another winner and I don’t know of another Italian restaurant in Los Angeles that does pasta, gnocchi, cannelloni as well as Valentino.

Lamb chops with a mint pecorino crust drizzled with a bit of honey, roasted asparagus, salty, crispy leeks, mashed potatoes – perfect is an over-used word but again an A+ dish.

On the side what Piero referred to as peasant spaghetti. He mentioned that this is a family guarded recipe that has been an old Valentino favorite for years – ingredients include fresh tomato, proscuitto, pecorino cheese, garlic, olive oil, parsley – John inhaled this dish.

Cheese plate – pecorino sardo, provolone, fig salami, apricots, figs, candied walnuts

What a fabulous meal.


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