Archive for January, 2010

Caviar at Home

I am a huge copier of restaurants. Usually I do caviar with blinis and make the blinis to order, but this is not a relaxing, leisurely meal for me and not exactly appropriate for 2 people. So I “stole” from Etoile, Domaine Chandon’s fine dining restaurant  in Yountville.

Caviar with all the accompaniments:

Etoile had capers and chives as separate accompaniments that I eliminated. But I did do chopped shallots (much better than onions), chopped egg yolks, chopped egg whites, creme fraiche with snipped chives (the chives really added a lot to the creme fraiche) and not pictured toast points. A great dinner and if you have extra accompaniments leftover, a terrific egg salad.


Drago – Santa Monica

One of our favorite lunch places is Drago in Santa Monica.

We always start with Arancine as an amuse.

Gooey and gorgeous inside of the Arancine

Mozza’s Arancine – little balls of nothing

BYO White Wine

Grilled Shrimp with Citrus Vinaigrette, Mandarin Orange, Fennel and Frisee – delicious

BYO Red Wine

Spaghetti al Cartoccio “Seafood Spaghetti, light Garlic-Tomato Sauce -this dish can be a disaster if the seafood is overcooked – not at Drago – perfect mussels, excellent shrimp, tender scallops and squid

On the left Fettuccine alla Bolognese and on the right Risotto with Sausage – my husband always asks for a split order and they are more than accomodating.

Cheese to finish the red wine

A perfect lunch.

Pizzeria Mozza

I thought I had come up with a clever idea. Have an early dinner at Mozza and then order 3 pizzas to go for Sunday football watching game day. I had planned on ordering one dish at a time so this wouldn’t be an in and out one hour meal. Our server convinced me to order everything, including take-out, at the same time, assuring me that he would slowly pace the meal. His idea of pacing and mine are very different. My husband described this meal as “And they are off – you have to make the finish line in 62 minutes.” If the food had been good, I might have handled it better. This has to rank as the one of the worst meals ever. At least 3 of the dishes will make the worst dishes of 2010 – quite an accomplishment.

White wine off their list

Beer for my husband off their list

Chicken livers, capers, parsley and guanciale bruschette – excellent – I ended up giving my half to my husband because I didn’t want to fill up. What a mistake as this was the best dish of the night.

Within five minutes, the next course was served – pacing not even close.

Arancine alla bolognese – tiny balls of nothing, My husband ate half of one ball and I took a bite of the other half of the ball. To the restaurant’s credit they took this off the bill. We would not be so lucky as the meal progressed.

Now this is Arancine done right at Drago.

Fried Squash blossoms with ricotta – our server said this was a favorite antipasti at Mozza. Why?  Tiny fried blossoms with a teaspoon of ricotta stuffed inside is not a wonderful stuffed squash blossom. We each ate a half of a blossom. Full charge.

A barely stuffed squash blossom

Notice the difference between the blossom from Mozza and the perfectly plump blossom from Vin Bar.

To replace the arancine, I ordered the bone marrow al forno. I was looking forward to lovely roasted bone marrow like at Church and State and Comme Ca. No such luck.

The first picture looks wondrous and I was expecting wondrous bone marrow.

This is what we got – a lump of fat. We each had 1/4 of a teaspoon. Full Charge.

Comme Ca’s Bone Marrow

Church and State’s Bone Marrow

Being from Boston, I love Ipswich clams so of course I ordered the Ipswich clam pizza. Someone in the kitchen is in love with red pepper because that is all you tasted. The clams were buried in “heat” and basically the pie was inedible – one bite only. Full charge.

Egg, bacon, Yukon gold potatoes and Bermuda onions – this was decent and at least edible.

We canceled our take-out order which made the maitre d’ or GM furious. We had planned on ordering dessert and coffee while the take-out was being made so we can’t be accused of leaving them with already made pizzas, unless they decided to make them ahead of time.  We paid the bill and after 62 minutes, we were in the car driving home hungry, weary, and poorer. In retrospect, if we had ordered one dish at a time, we would have left after the arancine and gone to Craftbar, Bazzar or Spago. Anything would have better than this disaster.

Worst Dishes of 2009

We have been very lucky as the list of worst dishes is not that long. To be listed as the worst, the dish had to be executed poorly. This was not a matter of personal preference, but rather a very, badly prepared dish.

Sonny Mcleans – Santa Monica

Fried Clams – these don’t look horrible but take a look up close

This was all breading – the clam is on the far right – smaller than one joint of your little finger

Real Fried Clams with the bellies – Neptune’s Oyster – Boston

The Lobster – Santa Monica

Lobster Roll – Where oh where is the lobster? This should have been called a Mayo Roll.

A Real Lobster Roll – Neptune’s Oyster – Boston

Santa Monica Seafood

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. My husband complained and they did take this off the bill.

Craft Bar – Century City

Calamari and White Anchovy  – the white anchovy was a tapenade and basically added little or no flavor. The calamari was tough, chewy and basically inedible.

La Cachette – Santa Monica

Lightly creamed lobster and blue crab bisque – completely tasteless – one taste only. To the restaurant’s credit, this was taken off the bill.

Ariadne- Boston

Tuna Sashimi with avocado, passion fruit, peanuts, miso & pea sprouts

This was an $18 slightly larger course of 5 small slices of tuna that you needed a magnifying glass to find. It was topped with a huge “salad” of grated daikon, carrots and other assorted “stuff.” I kept thinking there must be more tuna under all the stuff on top. No such luck. Why the peanuts is a mystery to me. I would say that the food cost for this dish was approximately 10% if that. Absolutely dreadful.

Bistro Jeanty – Yountville

Deep-fried smelts with spicy aioli – For some reason the coating kept falling off – not even close to the wonderful smelts they used to do

Smelts at Jeanty done right.

Enoteca Drago – Beverly Hills

Breakfast  Pizza – Onion, Mushrooms, Bacon & Eggs – I am imagining a runny yolk. Do you see that pitiful hard one yolk? Where oh where are the caramelized onions? To the restaurant’s credit, they remade the pizza.

The pizza redone – quite a difference.

XIV – West Hollywood

White Asparagus, Risotto, Porcini, Chervil, Castelmagno Cheese – This was awful – undercooked risotto – think tiny hard bits of rice.

Yang Chow – Chinatown

Steamed dumplings – horrible

Tavern – Brentwood

No photo

Fried Oyster and Bacon Brochette with Tabasco Aioli – I was imagining lovely fried oysters that would take me back to New Orleans. No such luck. This version was a lump of 3 oysters on a skewer that tasted as bad as it looked; heavy breaded greasy mushy oysters, bordering on “bad” oysters with barely cooked bacon – a mess.

I edited in a photo of Galatoire’s oysters en brochette:

Galatoire – New Orleans – perfect

Xi’an – Beverly Hills

No Photo

Crispy Onion Pancakes – soggy pancakes that were tasteless – one bite only.

Bazaar Brunch – West Hollywood

It is with great sadness that I have to report that Bazaar will no longer be serving brunch on Saturday and Sunday after Feb 13. I love Bazaar’s brunch – it is not a scene and the food is delicious.

The menu – very extensive, even at brunch. Unfortunately the egg dishes are not on the dinner menu.

The bar area – also prep is done in this area as well.

Nicole – our cute server who also has a French Bull dog, Camilla, who seems to be as spoiled as our 3 dogs.

We tend to order the same things again and again so many of the descriptions are repeats as the dishes themselves.

Bloody Mary – “Freshly-made tomato juice, celery-wasabi foam” – 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. Nicole suggested that we choose Ketel One Vodka as it is the purest. We did as we were told.

Bagel and Lox Cone” –  a cone made out of brik filled with salmon eggs, crème fraîche and topped with a sprig of dill – a one bite of deliciousness.

Fresh Kumamoto oysters, lemon, black pepper – presented in a tin. The tin is just for show as the oysters were freshly shucked.

BYO Chamapgne

Jamon Iberico de bellota Fermin – acorn-fed, free-range Iberico ham – Absolutely had to have this again and just as delicious as the first time. The jamon is served with Catalan style toasted bread with tomato; eat the jamon and bread with tomato separately. The bread with tomato was perfect as well as the jamon.

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, crispy bacon and topped with some diced chives. I love this dish, I love this dish, I love this dish.

Croquetas de pollo- chicken and bechamel fritters – perfect

Inside of the croquetas.

BYO White Wine

Chef Yancy Windsperger – this goes into the record books as the world of wine and food is a very small one. Yancy worked at Cotes Basque in New York, then Bayona in New Orleans, a restaurant in Miami and finally found his way to Los Angeles. Well, Ron and Regina Keever co-owners of Bayona witth Susan Spicer are two of our closest friends!

Foie Gras, Quince, Brioche Buns – perfect as always

“Not your everyday Caprese – cherry tomatoes, liquid mozzarella” – this was a gift from Yancy – it was essential that you ate every element together – air-bread, pesto, liquid mozzarella, Jimenez reduction, olive oil, tomato impregnated baby basil – another winner

Butifarra Senator Moynihan – Catalan pork sausage, white beans, mushrooms – this time my husband remembered to take the picture.

I will greatly miss the brunch at Bazaar, but there is always dinner and just maybe they will put Huevos a la Cubana “Andy Garcia” on the dinner menu.

Bar Bouchon – Beverly Hills

Bar Bouchon is now open continuously from lunchtime through dinner. No reservations, but there is table dining outside and bar seating inside. On a lovely, warm afternoon in Los Angeles, there is no better place to lunch. The tables overlook a “park” (my husband called it the most expensive park, recently created) with the Montage Hotel on one side and Bouchon on the other. Bar Bouchon has a limited menu, but there are still plenty of options.

The “park”

First wine bought from their list

Bagaduce Oysters from Maine – at Bouchon upstairs they have an assortment of different kinds of oysters. Bar Bouchon features just one kind, but it changes daily.

Tartare of blue fin tuna, pickled red onion, haricot verts, strains of seaweed, gribiche sauce with won ton crisps flecked with seeds – delicious

Snails in garlic-parsley butter topped by puff pastry – this is an absolute must order

The puff pastry flipped

The snail about to be eaten

BYO Red Wine

Tartiflette, russet potatoes, bacon and Reblochon – actually this was a “potato pancake” with crispy shredded potatoes and onions, topped with soft Reblochon cheese, bacon and a frisee salad – another winner

Poached hen egg on toast rounds with a ragout of French green lentils with diced garlic sausage – as we were splitting all dishes, my husband asked for 2 poached eggs – no problem!

The lovely runny egg yolk

Apple tart – we asked for no ice cream

Espresso and Coffee rounded out the lunch. I heartily recommend both Bar Bouchon and Bouchon.

Best Dishes – 2009

It was very difficult to just limit myself to a couple of dishes so I ended up with much more than I intended. There is an over-representation of dishes from the French Laundry, Manresa and Urasawa. These are my favorite restaurants in the States. As we didn’t go to France this year, there are no favorite dishes listed from there. We also cut back on our travels so all restaurant dishes are from Northern and Southern California.


Hang-town fry – Jidori Hen Egg Omelet filled with Hobbs Smoked Bacon, Deep-Fried Island Creek Oysters, Oyster Foam, White Sturgeon Caviar

Hen Egg Omelet, Santa Barbara Uni, Red Ribbon Sorrel, White Sturgeon Caviar, Creme Fraiche

Russet Potato Gnocchi, Uni, Uni Emulsion, Australian Winter Black Truffles were added tableside

Heirloom Tomato Tart – Puff Pastry

Fresh Water Eel with Akita Komachi Rice, Marinated Trout Roe and Perilla Leaves

Santa Barbara uni, candy cap mushrooms, cippolini onions, foam of Blis maple syrup.

Black truffle encrusted turbot, stinging nettles, crispy bone marrow, French laundry baby carrots, bordelaise reduction

Thomas Farm Squab “en cocotte”, stuffed with Moulard Duck foie gras wrapped in Savoy cabbage, pear-roasted chestnuts, black truffle, watercress and sauce Perigourdine


Beef Tartar –  Prime New York steak,  young ginger, allspice, Dijon, shallots, gribiche and the yolk was cooked sous vide


Eggs in all its guises


Shrimp Caesar Salad with avocado and bacon


Fork Crushed Fingerling Potatoes with Purple Cabbage from the Garden, Dill Ice Cream

Assorted Shellfish in tuna broth gelee, toasted seeds – the shellfish included crab, octopus, littlenecks, mirugai

Crispy Chicken Confit, Slow Egg (one hour), Crispy Garden greens – fennel, purple mustard, celery and chicken broth to finish

Seabream with Shellfish (octopus, giant clam, crab) in a green tomato broth with Joe Schirmer’s Strawberries from Dirty Girl Farm

Black Cod, Chervil Cream, Cippolini Onions, Onion Consomme with Bone Marrow

Young Potatoes, Unopened Squash Blossom, Romano Beans, Fiorelli, Bonito Butter

Duck Roasted in Chestnut leaves and salt with Black Trumpet Mushroom Tapenade


Fried Tomales Bay oysters, fingerling potato salad, frissee, hard boiled egg dressing


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, crispy bacon and topped with some diced chives

Jamon Iberico de bellota Fermin – acorn-fed, free-range Iberico ham

Philly Cheesesteak- air bread filled with oozing cheddar cheese and topped with Wagyu Beef

Cotton Candy Foie Gras


Sardines, cherry tomatoes, white beans, arugula

Pate de campagna with green peppercorns, Duck liver with hazelnuts, Jambon persillade, rabbit pate, saucisson sec

Beignets de Brandade de Morue, salt cod, saffron aioli


Crispy Farm Egg, Salmon eggs, Cucumber, Frisee


Chorizo, Cantaloupe, Cornichon –  chunks of cantaloupe, onion ice, an intense flavor of chorizo

Crispy Veal Sweetbread, Foie Gras, Asian Pear, Imaginary Charcroute (actually sauerkraut gelee- upper right corner), Mustard

Chocolate Cup Cake, Foie Gras Chantilly, Candied bacon, Almonds, Maple


Tonno di Tonnato, big eye tuna, tonnato sauce


House-Smoked Salmon served on a Lemon Herb Blini with Dill Crème Fraiche, Chives and Salmon Eggs

White Corn Agnolotti, Shaved White Truffle

Risotto with Maine Sweet Shrimp,  Santa Barbara Uni and Baby Japanese Zucchini


Beef Tongue


Toro, monkfish liver. Shiso, mirugai, turnip from Kyoto, scallion, Japanese red leaf, shiso flower

Salmon eggs from Hokkaido, small ebi (shrimp), shitake mushroom, mizuna, edame tofu, topped with gold leaf

Beef from southern Japan served as tartare topped with caviar and pickled radish

blue fin tuna, red snapper, a pickle from Kyoto, nori, uni, caviar and gold leaf.

On a small brazier, hairy crab from Hokkaido sits in its shell. It is topped with shrimp, uni, mizuna, crab brain

Urasawa Shabu Shabu


Boudin Noir – blood sausage with potato puree and caramelized apples


Scallop and Crab Tartare with caviar and chives


Priest’s Chokers with mozzarella and oxtail ragu

Even though we didn’t travel, it was still a wonderful year of food.