Archive for August, 2010

Wilshire – Santa Monica

Congratulations to Andrew Kirschner, executive chef of Wilshire. He can’t discuss any of the details, but do start watching the Next Iron Chef on Oct 3.

From Feast:

“Season three of The Next Iron Chef, hosted by Alton Brown, will be filmed in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and New York City. The season kick-off is on Sunday, October 3 at 9 P.M.. Andrew Kirschner, Executive Chef of Wilshire, in Santa Monica will be among the top toques contending for the glory”

Another huge surprise, my good friend Simon Majumdar will be one of the judges! For those who don’t know Simon this is his resume:

“Simon Majumdar is a food and travel writer, broadcaster and co-author of Dos Hermanos, one of the most popular food websites in the U.K. and internationally. GQ magazine recently called Dos Hermanos “Michelin Starred Blogging,” and in 2008, Simon was voted one of the 1,000 most influential people in London by The London Evening Standard. He left his book publishing job in 2007 and set out on a quest to travel the world and “go everywhere, eat everything.” The experience took him to more than 30 countries in one year and resulted in his best-selling memoir, Eat My Globe. He has continued traveling and eating around the world, and his latest book, Eating for Britain, was published in May 2010″

See here for Simon’s take:

Wed. – August 25th post

Wilshire is not haute cuisine – it is solid food with a huge emphasis on market fresh vegetables and herbs.  Also Chef Kirschner adds many Asian elements to his cuisine – a personal favorite of mine. We tend to order our favorites, knowing that Andrew always adds different market fresh vegetables to the main protein.

BYO Champagne

At our favorite table, fish swim in a small pool and the fire pots keep you toasty.

Kumamoto oysters dynamite, wasabi tobiko caviar, panko breadcrumbs on a seaweed salad – we have had this before and really liked it. For some reason this was just too dry.

Hamachi, ponzu, wasabi, cilantro with a “salad” of radish and cucumber – another repeat dish with sushi quality fish

Soft shell crab, corn, braised bacon, avocado, tomato, red onion, lemon – the soft shell was done perfectly, but the wow of the dish was the accompaniments.

BYO Red Wine

Crispy sweetbreads, chanterelles, grilled figs, bresalo – a nice combination of complementary  flavors

Grilled pork loin (that had been brined then grilled), hamhock polenta, swiss chard, huckleberries – the pork was moist, the outside crunchy and I could have had an extra side dish of just the polenta.

Bottom line – a lovely evening at our favorite table with excellent service.


Xmas Tree Lights – Solved

File this under it is never too early!

I love a Christmas Tree. I love a big Xmas tree. I love looking at decorations that I have been collecting for years. BUT, and this is a huge BUT, I hate putting on the lights. I hate climbing a ladder to put on those lights. I hate having to to bury all those light strings so you don’t see them. For years, I spent many, many hours swearing at string after string of lights that didn’t work from one year to the next. For years, I sweated and ached from hours and often days of going up and down that horrible ladder to put the lights on the tree.

Then a couple of years ago, I discovered The Christmas Light Guys. They are THE answer to all my years of aches and pains. As most of you know, I rarely, if ever, recommend a company, but these guys are the best. They buy the tree to your specification. They install the lights and bury the strings. They supply the stand, the lights (they all work – no last minute shopping for lights) and even the Xmas Tree skirt. Plus, after Christmas, they remove the tree. They even clean up every single bit of mess. The only responsibility you have is to lovingly remember each decoration you bought and carefully put it on your tree and then just put the decorations away until next year.  They are so nice that they even put my decorations on the top limbs of the tree so I don’t have to climb the ladder at all. They are clean, efficient, honest, trustworthy and one of my all-time best finds.

My gift to you for a great holiday season – book early so you won’t be disappointed.

The Christmas Light Guys

19528 Ventura Blvd

Tarzana, Ca 91356


Even though their address is Tarzana, the Christmas Light Guys will come to you, wherever you are in the Los Angeles Area. Just call.

Tree up without days and days of work – just enjoyment.

Ham and Melted Cheese

This is a silly non-recipe

I am going to date myself big time – fondue pots were all the rage as wedding presents many, many years ago. Well, what do you do with those fondue pots, collecting dust in the back of your cupboard? Use them, but in a different way.

Get whatever ham you like – just not the pre-sliced stuff in a package. You want quality ham. Also buy the best French bread you can find.  You can buy the fondue in a package, if you are pressed for time.  I told you this was a non-recipe – you notice the emphasis on buy. Have all ingredients ready on the table  so each person builds their own sandwich.

Melt fondue in pot and lightly toast bread. Arrange ham slices on a plate. Each person then “makes” their own sandwich – bread, ham slices, spoon fondue on top.

The composed sandwich

Vin Bar/Valentino

I am going to be redundant, but Vin Bar/Valentino is one of the best, if not the best Italian restaurant in Los Angeles. Irene Virbila, LA Times’ critic got it right when she awarded Valentino 3 stars. This really is a must restaurant. The current chef, Nico Chessa from Sardinia is absolutely wonderful; he is just getting better and better and there is no better host than Piero. As I mentioned before we never BYO so Piero chooses the wines and Nico creates the menu. What more could one ask for?

First wine

Nico mentioned that he remembered how much we liked uni.

Uni, bottarga shavings, blood orange segments, blood orange dressing – light, flavorable with sushi quality uni.

2nd Wine

Crabmeat salad, pecorino, celery with tiny bits of uni as the “glue” or holding the crabmeat salad together. On top was a crispy  tomato. Poured around the salad was a red beet soup with green basil oil —  Summer on a plate.

Grilled Octopus and Calamari, Chiodini Mushrooms, Fregola (Sardinian couscous), Squid Ink. The red sprinkles are actually dried and ground lobster eggs. It was essential that the lobster eggs be mixed with the entire dish. This was delicious.

3rd Wine

Seafood Risotto with sepia, scallops, lobster, clams, parsley, parmesan and mascarpone, instead of butter, used for the creamy quality – what a lavish extravaganza of seafood in perfectly cooked risotto. I particularly loved the use of the mascarpone.

4th wine

Quail en Porchetta “stuffed” with Lamb Tenderloin, Kurobuta Pork Tenderloin on a bed of lentils with zucchini and carrots, Haricot verts wrapped in carrots, Heirloom cherry tomatoes, Potatoes steamed in saffron – what an extraordinary meat dish – every bit of incredible meat goodness in each bite with market fresh vegetables.

Malloreddus (little gnocchi) with Venison Ragu – nobody does pasta better than Valentino not to mention perfect saucing.

Explanation from this site:

Malloreddus is a pasta made from semolina flour and water. Each piece will be about 1 inch (2.5 cm) long and 1/4 inch (.5cm) wide. The front of each piece is open like a canoe; the back of each piece has very pronounced grooves on it to catch sauce. Though the grooves used to be made by pressing the pieces of pasta against straw baskets, now of course there are machines that do that. For home production, Sardinians used a piece of specially-designed glass with grooves in it, called a “ciurili.”

Malloreddus pasta is made in Sardinia, Italy.

5th Wine

Truffle Cheese from Tuscany on Fig Bread topped by Fig “Salami” with fruit mustard, dried apricots, walnuts – a lovely cheese course

Davide Giova – pastry chef

We were getting quite full and I just didn’t do justice to Chef Giova’s desserts.

Chocolate Budino, Prickly pear Sorbet, Strawberries marinated with Balsamic

Milk Chocolate Mille-feuille, Sicilian cassata – sponge cake with ricotta topped with candied fruits and “frosted” with pistachio mascarpone

What a fantastic meal with incredible service and innovative, well-executed cuisine. As I mentioned earlier, Valentino is a must restaurant. I urge everyone to just go and enjoy.

Petrossian – West Hollywood

We really like having a late lunch/early dinner at Petrossian. They have livened up the room with bright oil paintings and a lovely flower arrangement.

The room

Chef Benjamin Bailly was there and came out to greet us. He said he had devised a tasting menu for us and was that OK? What’s not to like? Of course, the answer was absolutely yes.

BYO Champagne

Chilled Cauliflower Panna Cotta topped by Classic Alverta White Sturgeon Caviar from Northern California – this was similar to the famous FL panna cotta – perfect.

Cold Capellini with crushed and pureed tomato (almost gazpacho-like) and chives topped with Classic Alverta caviar – the combination of the gazpacho-like tomatoes and caviar was an unexpected taste sensation. The capellini was cooked al dente without one hint of that mushy quality.

Napoleon tartare – Hand sliced hangar steak tartare topped with President Alverta caviar and a  fried quail egg surrounded with micro-greens. This is one my favorite Petrossian dishes.

Crostini for the tartare

Crispy egg, shaved cold asparagus, dill creme fraiche, ossetra caviar – another Petrossian favorite dish with the asparagus replacing the cipollini onion soubise.

The luscious crispy egg revealed – trust me, this tasted as it good as it looks.

BYO White Wine (When we were in Los Olivos, we stopped by Longoria – one of our purchases)

Crab risotto with pressed caviar – this was very, very rich but well-executed and delicious.

Caviar pizza, creme fraiche, chives, capers, red onion, ossetra caviar – we have had this before, but never with ossetra –  an extra special treat

Of course, Petrossian’s cuisine features caviar and if you are not a caviar lover, this is not the restaurant for you. We happen to love caviar and even bought a small jar to take home. You can never have enough caviar.

Harris Ranch – Central California

There are very few places to “dine” on route 5 between San Francisco and Los Angeles. You can eat at plenty of fast food places, but that is not exactly my “cup of tea.” The only half-way decent place is Harris Ranch. We like the adult only Jockey Club room – seating is prompt and the service is excellent and attentive.

Wine from their list

Beer for John

West Coast Panini – marinated slices of chicken, bacon, avocado, provolone cheese and basil mayonnaise pressed between crusty Italian bread with coleslaw and potato salad

Ranch Hand Breakfast – 3 eggs sunny side down with bacon and hash browns

Homemade Buttermilk Biscuits and Gravy with 2 sausage patties

Beats McDonald’s any day and the bathrooms are nice.

Bouchon- Yountville

For some it might seem silly that we go to Bouchon in Yountville when we go so often to Bouchon in Beverly Hills. However, the vibe is completely different – Yountville feels like a bustling bistro in Paris. We wanted a light supper – nothing fancy, just simple bistro cooking. A girl can only eat so many 2 and 3 star meals. (I must be getting old as I used to do this all the time in France).

Bouchon Wine

Oysters – so many places don’t shuck oysters properly – not at Bouchon – perfect slurping oysters – who needs a fork?

Peter’s Point – Mass

Shiny Sea – Prince Edward

Penn Cove – Washington

Fanny Bay – British Columbia

A gift from the kitchen – Salmon Tartare surrounded by chopped up egg yolks and egg whites, diced red onions, capers, chives topped with a creme fraiche quenelle. This was superb.  I definitely want to make this at home – see page 106 of the Bouchon cookbook for the recipe.

Pate de Campagne – country style pate with watercress, cornichons and radishes – to be honest this pate was better than the pate at Beverly Hills – bursting with flavor.

Tarte Flambee, tart of onion confit, creme fraiche, gruyere cheese and lardons (just one piece pictured) – another iffy photo that doesn’t show how perfectly executed this was done –delicious.

A light supper that just hit  the spot.