Archive for August, 2009

Bazaar – Brunch

Jose Andres’s Bazaar at Brunch is one of my favorite restaurants. It is fun, innovative and the food is very, very good.

Service is exceptional; Joey takes very good care of us and Ryan is the best server.




ryan - B



Bloody mary - B

Bloody Mary – the base is a mix of tomato juice, vodka, Worcestershire, lime juice, salt and pepper. It is topped with celery-wasabi foam that is created by loading wasabi-infused lime juice and celery puree into a CO2 canister.


Krug - B

BYO Champagne


caviar buns- B

American Caviar, Creme Fraiche, Blinis – The blinis were more like a Chinese steamed Bun – a good start


egg - B

Tortilla de Patatas “New Way” – warm potato foam, caramelized onion with a slow cooked egg 63 and topped with chives – excellent and perfect when you mix the runny yolk with the potato foam.

Ryan explained that the egg was cut with a laser. The closest utensil I could find on the web is the ultra carver.

I use the Japanese egg cutter discovered by Michel Richard.

See here:

I intend to “steal” Bazaar’s presentation and will look for slate. I have the glue gun!


lox and eggs- B

Bagel and Lox Cone – actually a cone filled with salmon eggs, crème fraîche and topped with a sprig of dill


sweet potato - B

Sweet Potato Chips with a Greek Yogurt, Tamarind, Star Anise Dip


white wine - B

BYO White Wine


12 eggs - B

12 Tiny Eggs Sunny side up – Huevos a la Cubana “Andy Garcia” – a crispy rice cake was topped with 12 fried quail eggs, crispy shavings of Jamon Serrano, dabs of an intense, spicy tomato puree and topped with some diced chives. I love this dish – the combination of flavors is perfect.

I explained the reference to Andy Garcia on an earlier post but I will repeat it here.

 “As a youngster, Andres “Andy” Garcia dreamed of playing professional baseball. Born on the Island of Cuba, Garcia’s family fled to Miami Beach, Florida in the United States of America following Fidel Castro’s communist revolution. At Natilus Junior High School and later at Miami Beach Senior High School, Garcia excelled in baseball. In his senior year, illness prevented him from playing and he drifted into the drama department. He studied acting with Jay W. Jensen. Jensen was a South Florida legend, counting among his numerous students, Brett Ratner,Roy Firestone, Mickey Rourke, and Luther Campbell. Following his positive high school experiences in acting, he continued his drama studies at Florida International University. From there he traveled to Hollywood, California to make his mark in movie-stardom. To his friends and fans in Miami Beach, Andy Garcia will always be remembered as a friendly, down-to-earth, all-around good guy.”


oysters - B

Fresh Kumamoto oysters, lemon, black pepper – presented in a tin. Absolutely do not think canned food – the oysters were fresh and briny.


asparagus - B

White Asparagus, Greek Yogurt, Creme Fraiche topped with Black Olive Powder – this functioned as a light transitional course – almost like a palate cleanser.


eggs Benedict - B

Eggs Benedict “New Way”, Serrano Ham, Tarragon, Toasted Brioche – The eggs are poached in a cryovac machine at 63 degrees for about 40 minutes. Some of the ham slices were crispy and some were thin slices of room temperature ham. The eggs were just not warm enough. There are 2 tapas bars, each with their own kitchen. At brunch, they use the Rojo kitchen, although you are sitting in the Blanca space. My guess is that the distance from Rojo to Blanca makes it very difficult to serve “warm” eggs.


mogo - B

Moho 1 - B

mojo 2 - B

Mojito with mint, rum and lime with the cotton candy functioning as the sweetening agent. Ryan threw this in for fun. Unfortunately they don’t serve the foie gras cotton candy at brunch so he added a cotton candy drink.


Red wine - B

BYO Red Wine


foie - B

Foie Gras, Quince, Brioche Buns – this reminded me of the foie that used to be served at Spago – I do wish Spago would go back to using foie instead of duck liver


Philly - B

Philly Cheesesteak- air bread filled with oozing cheddar cheese and topped with Wagyu Beef – our friends were in heaven with this dish so was I.


Hilly - B

Hilly Cheesesteak – air bread filled with oozing cheddar cheese and topped with Royal Trumpet Mushrooms


drink 1 - B

Tableside “Nitro” Blood Orange Screwdriver: Frozen liquid nitrogen blood orange and vodka

What follows is a blow by blow of Ryan preparing the Screwdiver:

drink 2 - B

drink 3 - B

Whisking the mixture stops it from freezing and sticking to the bowl

drink 4 - B


drink 6 - B

drink 7 - B

drink - finished - B

 Expresso is scattered on top – a “refreshing fun “dessert.”

What a wonderful brunch with exceptional company.




Santa Monica Seafood

I have been going to this fish market for years. Recently, they opened a Cafe and it seemed like a good idea to sit at the Oyster Bar and have a quick bite with some good wine.

SM Wine

The BYO wine was terrific.


SM Oysters

Oysters: Coromandel, Kumamoto, Sinku, Malpeque and Fanny Bay – they were freshly shucked – the best were the Kumamoto


SM Clam Chowder

New England Clam Chowder – absolutely horrid and inedible – tasted like tin. This should never have been served and if a cook tasted it, I have questions about the tasting ability of the cook. I was going to buy a quart to bring home – I wouldn’t have bought one teaspoonful. John complained and they did take this off the bill.


SM Calaramari

I asked our server if the calamari fritti was lightly battered as I was debating between that and another couple of dishes. I was assured that I would love the calamari – think heavy, zero flavor and a waste – two bites only was enough. Paid for this in full.



Vin Bar’s exquisite calamari – I hope the photo tells the story.


SM Salmon

Instead of the soup, John ordered their lox with bagel, avocado, HB egg and cream/mayo dressing (???) Think absolutely soggy bagel, barely, if at all toasted, and no one in his/her right mind would want it, let alone eat it. I suggested that John deep-six the bagel and just eat the lox with the avocado and some of the dressing. Edible.

Santa Monica Seafood used to be one of my favorite fish markets. This is a joke – I used to look at whole pristine fish, carefully laid out on crushed ice and “talk” to the fishmongers about which fish would be best for a certain preparation. I was going to buy some fish, but one look at piles of prepared sliced fish, convinced me not to bother. Of course, the absolutely lousy lunch wasn’t exactly a major plus factor.

Bottom line:  I wouldn’t go back if they paid me. What a shame!

Riva – Santa Monica

I have been a huge fan of Riva in Santa Monica. I love the concept of small plates and the crudo is some of the best in the city. Susan Miller, The GM, is doing an outstanding job and the service is exceptional. That being said, lunch is just not the equal of dinner. The menu is limited – no crudo, although the pizza fans will be happy. Execution is not as crisp and seasoning is a hit or miss affair. To be fair, Riva has concentrated their revamped menu on dinner and it shows. The lunch menu needs work. Also, I am not one of those ladies who “lunch” crowd and just want salad with dressing on the side. I like to dine whether it be at 11:45 am or 8 pm.


Krug - Riva

BYO Krug Champagne


Mushroom salad - Riva

Wood-fired mushroom salad, mixed lettuces, parmesan – this should have been called just mixed lettuces as there was a very small  amount of mushrooms relative to the greens. I ended up deconstructing the dish and separated out the mushrooms, topped it with some of the parmesan and used a small handful of greens on the side. 


Stella - Riva

Stella, our excellent server


White wine - Riva

BYO White Wine


Mussels - Riva

Mussels, Vermouth, Tarragon, Sausage – the problem with this dish was a lack of vibrancy of flavor. I think if I didn’t know what the kitchen is capable of i.e the tonnato sauce on the tuna, the house made mustard with the cured Ocean Trout, the Bacon Sabayon with the Beef Tartare, the Hamachi Parfait, the Wood Fired Tuna Meatballs to name just a few, then I wouldn’t have been so disappointed. This was just flat.


Mussels Riva 1


Mussels Riva 2

We ended up taking the mussels out of the shell and making it more of a soup.


Riva - pizza

Molto Maiale Pizza – Sausage, Bacon, Meatballs, Caramelized Onion, Tomato – still excellent.

Riva at lunch is a work in progress. Dinner is an “A” experience and I just hope that for those of us who truly want to dine at lunch, Riva can add some zest to their lunch menu.

Estacion Atocha – Costa Rica

Refined Palate’s roving reporter from San Jose, Costa Rica.

The husband whose normal responsibilities within the Refined Palate organization are [1] drive [2] take photos, and [3] pay was in San Jose, Costa Rica this week.

Normally, there are very few meals of interest when John visits Costa Rica.  The food is not bad, the value is generally good, but there are very few places he would take Liz or recommend to her readers.

For many years he has enjoyed Casa Luisa, a small, almost exclusively locals sophisticated restaurant in an old house.   He found it several years ago through some web research.  Meals there have been very good with great service and some unique dishes.

When John asked YoYo Fernandez, their travel coordinator in San Jose to make a reservation, she was unable to get an answer on the phone.   Information and the web had nothing to contribute. What to do?  Yoyo said, “let’s drive by, perhaps we can find out something” 

We got lucky and met up with a security guard who told YoYo where they had moved to.   He did not know that the name had changed also.  Because Ms. Fernandez is a local she was able to figure out the address for our driver and we drove a few miles to check it out.

Maria Jose Guzman Mora who looks like a teenager, explained the situation that she and fiancé Francisco [not sure he is business partner] had a “situation” with the former owner.  Obviously, things got a bit “nasty” and the former owner would not let Maria Jose keep the phone number or put a sign on the building directing people like us to the new location.


Maria Jose Guzman Mora 

We made a reservation and asked for the mixed Paella for 8:30 that evening.



Menu – Estacion Atocha is the old commuter railroad station in Madrid



 A wine deal, 2005 Marques de Caceres Rioja from Spain.  Buy the 750 ml  and get the 350 ml FREE.  John brought the baby bottle home to share with Liz this week.   Excellent and a good value at $ 44.00 (My editorial comment – at least I didn’t get a lousy T-shirt).

Appetizer–tomato spread and tuna spread… Roving reporter was slow so no photo. This was served as 2 pieces each for a party of 3…very simple and nice start 



 Mixed salad–huge, we all shared



  Superb lentil soup with egg and croutons


soup 1

Soup with the eggs and croutons added by the diner



paella 1

Paella–mixed seafood, pork, chicken…done beautifully and quite a value at $ 26.00 for 2 — you must order 24 hours ahead.



 Sea Bass for another guest

The result, a superb meal well served in a beautiful setting.   A top recommendation for San Jose if you are in the neighborhood.

Ludo – Goodbye for now

I am astonished that Ludo is all of a sudden a “found” sensation by the food community of Los Angeles. He is NOT an overnight sensation. He has worked at his craft for years. I have enjoyed his food at L’Orangerie, absolutely adored his food at Bastide and loved how he was able to transform Breadbar into LudoBites under very trying circumstances. I only hope his new found fans will follow him wherever he goes. I know I have and will continue to do so.

In case you missed his Bastide retrospective, it is here:

Cheesecake – Bon Appetit

This is a recipe from Bon Appetit, June 1994. They called it Graduation Day Cheesecake and it is spectacular.


swirl cheesecake

My cheesecake


Cheescake from the Magazine

Cheesecake Photo from the magazine



1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup all purpose flour

 1 cup almonds (about 3 1/2 ounces) lightly toasted, coarsely ground

1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar


4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 1/2 tablespoons water



2 pounds cream cheese, room temperature

2 cups packed dark brown sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

4 large eggs



1 cup sour cream

1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar


20 whole almonds – lightly toasted


For crust:

Preheat oven to 350. Butter 10 inch diameter springform pan with 2 3/4 inch high sides. Using electric mixer, beat 1/2 cup butter and vanilla in large bowl until smooth. Add flour, almonds and sugar; mix until well incorporated and small moist clumps form. Press dough evenly onto bottom (not sides) of prepared pan. Bake until edges start to brown and crust is set, about 20 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool 5 minutes. Maintain oven temperature.

Combine chocolate, 2 tablespoons butter and water in heavy small saucepan. Stir over low heat until melted. Spread 2/3 of mixture over crust. Reserve remaining chocolate mixture.


For Filling:

Using electric mixture beat cream cheese, sugar, vanilla in large bowl until smooth. (Be sure to scrape the bowl). Add eggs 1 at a time, beating just until blended. Spoon filling over crust. Bake until cheesecake puffs, sides are set and center moves only slightly when pan is shaken, about 65 minutes (cake may crack). Transfer to rack; cool 5 minutes while perparing topping. Maintain oven temperature.


For Topping:

Rewarm reserved chocolate mixture over low heat. Mix sour cream and sugar in small bowl until smooth. Spread sour cream mixture over cheesecake. Drizzle about 1 tablespoon chocolate mixture decoratively over topping (I use a knife to lightly swirl in the chocolate); reserve remaining chocolate mixture. Return cheesecake to oven; bake 3 minutes. Transfer to rack; cool one hour.


Reheat remaining chocolate mixture over very low heat until melted. Dip each almond halfway into chocolate; arrange around top edge of cake. Cover; chill overnight. (Can be made 2 days ahead.)

Riva – Santa Monica

Riva has a new menu!!! No more pizza is served on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday at dinner.  Jason Travi and his team have introduced Stuzzichini or Italian tapas – meant for sharing.


Riva menu


Not pictured – Krug Champagne to start


Riva tapenade

Black Olive Puree, fresh herbs, anchovy with crostini – my husband ate every bite, but be forewarned you must be a lover of black olives and anchovies


Riva - sea bass

Crudo – Sea Bass, pink peppercorns, lemon oil – sushi quality fish, lightly dressed


Riva - tuna

Crudo – Tonno di tonnato – Big Eye tuna with tonnato sauce – outstanding and a must order crudo



Riva - tuna 1

What makes this absolutely delicious is the tonnato sauce


Riva - white wine

BYO White wine


Riva - scallop

Crudo – Hokkaido Scallop, Santa Rosa Plums, Basil Oil – Superb Hokkaido scallops with Farmer’s market plums, but the balance was off with way too much basil oil.


Riva- scallop 1

My husband came up with ingenious method of deep-sixing most of the basil oil; he used the bread as a blotter so we had wonderful fresh scallops with plums minus a lot of the basil oil. Our general feeling was why mask a quality ingredient with so much oil. (We didn’t eat the bread; it was just a blotter).


Riva - trout

Crudo – Cured Ocean Trout, House Made Mustard, Dill – the ocean trout was very similar in taste and texture to gravlax


Riva - trout 1

The mustard was more like a creme fraiche sauce than a mustard


Riva- squash

Deep-fried Squash Blossoms, ricotta, orange zest, almonds with a tomato based puree – I liked this better than my husband. The batter on the squash blossoms was tempura-like – not at all greasy. John found it too “safe”  and  boring. I enjoyed the transition between the crudo and then the fried squash blossoms.


Riva - gratin

Potato, Summer Green Fig, Gruyere Cheese Gratin – very thinly sliced potatoes served gratin style with the cheese and topped with the sliced green figs served bubbling hot. 


Riva - beef

Hand Cut Beef Tartare, Chives, Bacon Sabayon – usually I tend to like beef tartare finely minced served the traditional way with capers, parsley, mustard, worcestershire and a raw egg. However, this was excellent and Jason could package the bacon sabayon as THE accompaniment to anything.


Riva - beef 1

The tartare was served with Crostini – I ate mine minus Crostini with lots of sabayon.


Riva sorbet

Mint Basil Puree, Watermelon Dice, Cantaloupe Soup, Lemon Sorbet – a light refreshing palate cleanser 


Riva - dessert 1

Milk Chocolate Cremux, Coconut sorbet, Candied Pecans, Brown Butter Ganache – for me the pecans and the coconut were decadent enough – my husband went for the chocolate.


Riva is just a fun neighborhood restaurant with excellent food. There are many items on the menu that I want to try and as the menu changes with what is available at the farmer’s market, this is truly seasonal cuisine. Let’s just say I didn’t miss the pizza at all.


Current menu here: