Archive for June, 2009

Bazaar Brunch

A weird chance of fate had us sitting next to Matthew and Christine at Ludobites. 

Their food blogging websites here:

A number of emails later and we arranged to meet at Bazaar for brunch. My husband had to work, but he generously donated a Dagueneau Silex, one of our favorites, for the occasion.

Meeting and talking with Matthew and Christine was a real treat. However, I think I talked way too much and I do apologize to them for that. I ended up doing the ordering and decided to focus on those dishes that I knew were superior and more brunch oriented.

sweet potato - med

A gift from the kitchen. Sweet Potato Chips with a dipping sauce of yogurt, tamarind, star anise – absolutely addictive


bloody mary

A perfect Bloody Mary with celery-wasabi foam on top


cones- med

Bagel and Lox Cone – actually a salmon cone with creme fraiche and salmon eggs. This was much better than the caviar cone served at dinner.


eggs benedict -med

Eggs Benedict “New Way” with Serrano Ham


better pic of egg 2

Savory Spanish Torrijas, Iberico Ham, egg 63, Idiazabal Cheese – I think this was Christine’s favorite.


better pic of egg 12

12 Tiny Eggs Sunny Side Up – Huevos a la Cubana “Andy Garcia” – I love this dish.

See here for full descriptions:



“Philly Cheescake” – I really could have eaten 3 more of these – delicious.



Foie Gras, Quince, Brioche – the quince with the foie was perfect



Our wonderful server, Ryan.

We were under a time constraint and probably could have ordered a lot more, but it was a wonderful time and Matthew and Christine are an exceptional couple and wonderful company.


Craftbar – Century City

We actually like Craftbar better than the formal dining room at Craft. Our preference is for small plates of a lot of different tastes and Craftbar fits that style of dining perfectly. Also, you can order from the regular Craft menu at Craftbar, but can’t order the Craftbar menu at Craft ; in other words you have the best of both worlds.

The service at Craftbar/Craft is super A+++++. 


Wonderful Peter Carillo

Peter Carillo was our favorite waiter at Providence – his knowledge, his graciousness, his warmth, his hospitality – there is no one better. Peter is now the service director at Craft/Craftbar and he has assembled an incredible team. Under his leadership, the service is extraordinary.



Equally wonderful Gustavo Tadeo – Gustavo is a wonder man who used to spoil us at Spago. He is worth his weight in gold. 



Kelly, our server, we met for the first time and you can see from her face that her enthusiasm is infectious.



Zachary Steinback was stuck with us toward the end of the evening. It turns out we both grew up in Newton, Mass and I insisted that he go to Neptune’s Oyster for fried clams the next time he is in Boston.

As you can see this was quite a line-up of super FOH staff. (Not pictured is Dana who was also wonderful).


Originally, I had worked out a menu from their web site, but Peter suggested that we just leave the decisions to him and we basically did.



Aperitif – Champagne



Kumamoto, Kusshi, Malpeque Oysters on the half shell – I don’t use anything but lemon on my oysters and slurp them – no fork!  Excellent.



Japanese Hamachi, Prosciutto, Figs, Pine Nuts and Aged Balsamic – sashimi grade hamachi – another really good dish.


frisee salad

Baby Dandelion Salad, Frisee, Pecorino Crumbled Croutons, Capers, Caper Dressing  – good, but basically a salad of greens


BYO white wine

BYO White Wine



The pumpernickel anise bread is incredible



Artichoke Salad, Frisee, Cashews, Parmesan – the artichokes had been marinated with Dijon. A much better salad than just the greens – more substance displaying more culinary technique



Lahvosh with smoked salmon rillettes in the jar (barely pictured) The salmon had a decidely smoky taste and had been pureed with rosemary



Pork Sausage poached in Red Bordeaux from the Right Bank, Charred Pineapple, Broken Vinaigrette – the sausage was in a word delicious and the charred pineapple a wonderful “fruit” note to the pork.



Country Pate (Pork and Chicken Liver wrapped with Bacon on the outside), Pickled Crosnes and Baby Carrots, Mustard, Croutons. Crosnes are also known as Chinese artichokes or chorogi. It is a perennial root vegetable and a member of the mint family. Good charcuterie, almost on a par with Church and State.



Ricotta Agnolotti and Eggplant Caviar- unlike the pasta we had had before at Craftbar, this was cooked al dente with a lovely pillowy filling of creamy house-made ricotta.


John dory

Roasted John Dory, Picholine Olive, Shaved Radish, Crushed Potatoes with Agrumato Olive Oil – the John Dory was superb, but the crushed potatoes with the olive oil was just an “OH MY” accompaniment.



Peruvian Octopus and Greek Yoghurt with Chickpea Panisse – This was the one dish that I asked to try. What a mistake. The octopus was absolutely horrible – more like shoe leather. I had Peter take a look and asked him to try it in the kitchen to see if maybe I was wrong. I was right, somebody goofed and the octopus was taken off the menu for the night.


octopus 1

Close-up of the Octopus



Anson Mills Hushpuppies and Smoked Maple Syrup – this just wasn’t as good as the first time we had them. For some reason these were too doughy and heavy.


inside of hushpuppies

Inside of the Hushpuppies


June 11 huspuppies

First time we had the hushpuppies that were absolutely perfect


dessert 1

Beignets with Honey and Chocolate Dip – unlike the hushpuppies, these were light and not at all doughy.



On the far right chocolate pudding, chocolate chip cookie and white chocolate, in the middle Bing Cherries with GrandMarnier, left the Beignets

We will definitely go back to Craftbar and can’t wait to see the FOH staff again, particuarly Peter.

Riva – Santa Monica

Our next date lunch Wednesday was at Riva- Jason Travi’s new venture in Santa Monica. (I am not counting Marty’s on Pico as I don’t consider 30 minutes gulping down burgers on a plastic park bench with the pigeons as date lunch fare.)

Wednesday at Riva is a pleasure. The Wednesday Santa Monica Farmer’s Market is one of the best in Los Angeles. Susan Miller, the GM, explained that  Jason shows up with a wheelbarrow of “goodies” every Wednesday with the “best” from the market.

The room is casual with an open kitchen.

riva room

Manny, our server, was wonderful. I didn’t see crudo 3 ways on the lunch menu and asked was it possible if the kitchen could do it? Minutes later, he returned beaming.  Yes, not only could they do it, but the fish had just come from the farmer’s market and they were indeed fresh as fresh.

A word about the service – this is a casual restaurant, but the service is exceptional. Not only was Manny attentive and perfect, but everyone from the hostess on the phone to Susan Miller, the GM couldn’t have been more accommodating. We are not regulars; in fact this was our first time at Riva. When my husband made the reservation, the hostess thoughtfully mentioned that there is no valet parking at lunch. The first batch of rolls were served cold and my husband asked if they could be served warm. No problem. In fact that seems to be their modus operandi – no problem.


Warm La Brea Rolls

white wine

White wine from their list


crudo 3

Crudo 3 ways

From left to right – salmon trout with dill, seabass with red peppercorns and olive oil and tuna with capers and tonnato sauce


close-up of salmon

Close-up of the salmon trout

close-up of seabass

Close-up of the Seabass

close-up of tuna

Close-up of the Tuna


red wine

BYO Red Wine ($15.00 Corkage)



Wood-fired Molto Maiale Pizza –  sausage, bacon, meatballs, pancetta, caramelized onions – absolutely delicious and a carnivore’s dream



Chicken Panini with bacon, avocado, gruyere – we asked to split this and the kitchen was nice enough to split it in the kitchen. Normally, I nibble at the greens, but they were definitely Farmer’s Market fresh and worth every bite. The panini was equally tasty and comforting food at its best.



Tiramisu – mascarpone zabaglione, expresso soaked ladyfingers – this was the only miss. For some reason the zabaglione was tasteless, the meringue “fingers” flat. To the restaurant’s credit, this was taken off the bill and substituted with:



I am not exactly sure what this was, but there was a citrus granite plus fresh fruit and berries – my husband ate every bite.



Pressed Coffee


dessert wine

Dessert Wine

Riva is definitely a keeper and we will return for dinner. The service, the food, the seasonality and freshness of the ingredients all make for a wonderful dining experience.

Website here:

Rules of the Plate – Bloggers

I take blogging and this site very seriously. It is just a hobby and I don’t make a cent from doing it. However, I am well aware that yelp, chowhound, citysearch and those with personal blog sites can significantly hurt a restaurant business. I am all for free speech, but I think our comments and reactions should be written responsibly. A friend of mine wrote the following: 

Rules of the Plate.

Thoughts for Bloggers Who Write about Restaurants

 1.     Understand that a restaurant is a serious business for the owners,

It is not fun, it is not a hobby…chefs, and everyone from the front of the house to the back of the house have their lives on the line.  Negative comments on the web especially hurt when they are from people who don’t know anything about the business, or worse, have an ax to grind.

2.  Accuracy:

Knowledge, knowledge, knowledge:  For example, your first time tasting sweetbreads does not make you an expert on sweetbread preparation. Experience, knowledge, and awareness are vital.

3. Objectivity:

If you personally don’t care for a dish, you have a responsibility to say that it wasn’t to your liking, but not that it was executed poorly. If you don’t know proper execution of a dish, you can’t comment that it was executed poorly.  If you don’t like something, is it because the preparation is “wrong” or is it an ingredient, group of ingredients or combination of ingredients or cooking technique that doesn’t work for you?   If you know enough to make a professional assessment of the chef as a professional fine, but otherwise think before you write and edit so you can defend your position intelligently.

4. Understand service in a restaurant

Don’t ever go to a quality restaurant without a reservation.  Always arrive on time.   Understand the process of seating and the difficulties a restaurant can have getting you seated at your exact time because someone else is holding over at the table that is assigned to you.  Never “no show”…don’t make three or more reservations around town and then decide at the last minute where you are going and leave the other restaurants hanging.   This really hurts the restaurant’s business.

5. The Chef’s Goal and Your Reactions: 

Cuisine is both an art as well as science.  Understanding the goal of a chef will help you appreciate his cuisine and give perspective to your reactions.

6.  Quality restaurants are fragile beings–if you like dining in nice places being well served, take the time to write intelligently and considerately about the places and people who are trying to serve you.   You will be the real beneficiary.


Ludo is back!!!!! I can’t begin to express how much I miss our meals at Bastide with Ludo.

This is what I originally wrote:

There is no way that I can do justice to the many, many meals we had at Bastide with Ludo Lefebvre. It was a sorry day when he left Bastide and even more a bigger shame when he left Los Angeles to open a restaurant in Las Vegas. I loved our meals at Bastide. Ludo’s creativity was incredible, but it was not innovative cuisine just for shock value. Instead his food was all about the layering of flavors and textures. I said after one of my meals at Bastide that Ludo’s food was very masculine. It was assertive; there was nothing prissy or overwrought about Ludo’s cuisine.

As a tribute to Ludo, here is just a fraction of some of the dishes we were fortunate to experience at Bastide.

See here:

Well LudoBites is not Bastide, but Ludo is still Ludo and the creativity remains as strong as ever. 


Ludo – still cute



Krissy – his wonderful, hard-working and also adorable wife.



Painting on the far wall



I asked why the Rooster is Ludo’s symbol. In typical French fashion, Ludo repsonded he likes roosters, they are very French and they are a proud bird. Enough said!



BYO Krug Champagne



The bread was delicious, but the house-made butter was wondrous – an incredible combination of butter, honey and lavender. If Ludo wants to make a fortune just sell the butter.



Cherry Gaspacho, Spanish Blue Cheese,Toasted Chopped Hazelnuts, Borage, Castelas Olive Oil – The gaspacho is a true gaspacho soup made with bread, onion, olive oil etc. How to describe this taste? It was fresh, light, summery with an incredible layering of flavors.


Salmon cube

King Red Salmon Cube, Salmon Eggs, Watermelon Cube, Basil Chiffonade, Orange Confites, Smoked Vinegar and Soy Sauce, Sesame Oil – The salmon had been marinated with smoked vinegar, obviously created by Ludo. We were instructed to eat the salmon first and then immediately chase that with the watermelon. In good sushi bar form, I deep-sixed the fork and popped the salmon in my mouth and then immediately the watermelon. Again, this is what Ludo is justly famous for – flavor and textural combinations. What a super four bite dish.


shrimp sweet and sour

Shrimps, Daikon, Sweet and Sour Emulsion, Rosemary, Lemon Zest – The shrimp was the bottom layer, then topped with a thin daikon slice. The sweet sour emulsion was sherry vinegar, honey and grapeseed oil. Again, this was another all in one bite dish. There are just no words to describe how good this was – perfect aptly describes this dish.


egg 65

Poached egg 65 degrees, Bread Toast, Sauce Mornay, Crispy Bacon Bits


egg 65 1

The egg is done in a circulator at 65 degrees for at least 2 hours, but will hold for 6 hours —  65 degrees because the yolk coagulates at 68 degrees and the white at 62.  The egg is a cross between a poached egg and a very soft boiled egg. 


egg 65 2

Another view – again what is not to like – toast, egg, bacon, Mornay sauce


asparagus veloute

Holland White Asparagus Veloute, Parmesan Marshmallow, Shaved Fennel, Lemon Zests – the greatness of this dish was the contrasting textures –  the slippery fennel “noodles”, the light as air parmesan marshmallows, the smooth, luxurious asparagus veloute


veloute 1

Another view of the veloute



Beef Tartar, White Holland Asparagus, Shallots, Peanuts, Anchovy – I was getting very full and next time I go to LudoBites (yes, there will be a next time) we will order one for 2 for each course – There are times when you question why Ludo pairs one ingredient with another – anchovy, beef,  asparagus???? It works. Why? I don’t know and that is why Ludo is THE chef. My only negative on this dish is that I wish there was more of a binder with the tartar – maybe egg yolk, worchestshire???

red at Ludo's

BYO Red Wine


Not pictured – John gets a F for photo taking on this one.  – Miso Soup, Foie Gras, Rhubarb, Hibiscus, Turnips, Beets and on the side of the dish lemon paste. The foie gras had been simmered in the miso soup for 2 minutes and in Ludo’s culinary vocabulary the foie replaces tofu. Again, disparate elements that somehow work both in a culinary sense and a textural sense.


cod at Ludo's

French Cod, Spicy Butter, French Porcini Mushrooms, Fresh Almonds, Tonnato style – I like to think of this dish as Ludo gives a nod to Italy – sort of a culinary French/Italian bonding. The cod was perfectly cooked with just the right amount of “kick.” The tonnato sauce was superb and I wish I had some right at this minute. Wonderful mushrooms and crunchy almonds (not even close to the stuff in the market) and you have a creative, masterful dish.


sweetbreads's at Ludo

Crispy Veal Sweetbread, Foie Gras, Asian Pear, Imaginary Charcroute (actually sauerkraut gelee- upper right corner), Mustard – My notes say A++ Again, the flavor combinations and textural contrasts were remarkable. Ludo could package that gelee and make his second fortune after the butter.

Krissy is a gracious host, Ludo is a remarkable, talented chef and I urge everyone to try LudoBites. What an experience.

Scenes of Yountville

A little over a month before we go back – can’t wait. 2 meals at French Laundry  and unfortunately our last with Corey Lee there. Please wish Corey luck though as he is opening a restaurant in San Francisco. Stayed tuned for details.




Yountville 1

Yountville 2


Yountville 3


FL Sign


FL Backyard

French Laundry Back Yard

Takao – Brentwood

We have known Takao for years and never look at a menu. We just rely on Takao’s ability, his sense of what is the best fish and we are perfectly content to let him organize an Omakase menu.


BYO Champagne

BYO Champagne


Takaao seaweed

Junsai –

“Junsai is a summertime delicacy. A member of the water lily family, junsai grows in clumps in natural ponds and irrigation reservoirs. A perennial water grass, junsai’s flower is a deep maroon-red. It is the young, unfurled sprout covered in a slippery, transparent jelly, which is the culinary item prized by so many Japanese.”


Takao abalone

Steamed abalone and uni, pickled ginger, cucumber, scallion topped with gold leaf flakes – the abalone and uni combination was delicious plus the textural contrast between the crunchy abalone and the smooth uni was perfect.


Takao abalone 1

Close-up with the abalone “uncovered”


Takao scallop

Scallop and Crab tartare with caviar and chives – oh my – an A+ dish.


Takao caviar 1

Close-up of the tartare


Takao squid

Squid Sashimi dusted with “powdered” nori, curled carrot, peashoots in a soy sauce based sauce. The presentation, as you can see, was gorgeous. We were instructed to just dump the squid in the bowl.


Takao squid 11

Close-up of the squid 


Takao toro

Seared Toro, Scallion greens, mustard


Takao grilled fish

Grilled Spanish Mackerel, Radish, Daikon, Grilled Green Chili Pepper – this was the only miss for me as the Spanish Mackerel was somewhat dry and needed more of a sauce component.


Takao dish

A beautiful bowl


Takao tempura

The bowl uncovered revealed tempura hamo with asparagus, eggplant and tomato and topped with crispy fried noodles


Takao tempura close-up

Close-up of the hamo – Takao used only the tips of the asparagus because John has an aversion to asparagus stems. How Takao remembered this is unbelievable! This was delicious.



Another Takao dish

Another covered bowl


Takaao salmon

Uncovered – Salmon teppanyaki, Shimeji mushrooms, onions in a red miso sauce – The plate was blazing hot, much like cooking on a hot stone, and Takao said if we wanted the salmon cooked more, just let it cook on the bottom plate. No way – I like Salmon rare.


Takao salmon skin

Salmon Skin Hand Roll


Takao uni

Uni sushi


Takao tuna maki

Toro Roll

This is a neighborhood restaurant that belongs in everyone’s neighborhood.