Archive for October, 2011

Michael’s – Long Beach

Roving Reporter Report

Michael’s on Naples for Long Beach residents is a great local place.  I’ve been taken to Michael’s a few times and it is a very good. The restaurant is well worth a short detour.   Recently, I sent a bored, frustrated Swedish visitor to Michael’s from Anaheim where he was attending a convention.  He wrote that it was the only good food he had in 5 days.

Wild Boar Sausage with Lentils.  The Sausage was a little over cooked and dry for my taste. But over-all it was a very nice dish with good flavor.
My friend ordered the arugula salad – fresh and delicious
Beef with gnocchi…My friend said that this was superb
Lasagna Verde Alla Bolognese–home made lasagna spinach pasta layered with meat sauce, mozzarella, parmesan and tomato guanciale sauce.  Terrific!
’08 Barbera d’Alba Pio Cesare…his wines don’t disappoint…under $40.00…a bargain with great flavor.


Valentino – White Truffles

This is a heads-up post.

On December 8 Valentino is having a white truffle dinner with Fiorenzo Dogliani of Beni di Batasiolo Estate.  Fiorenzo Dogliani will actually bring a white truffle that he will pick up at the TRUFFLE MARKET in Alba (Piemonte, Italy) the day before flying! So, this should be the best truffle of this season served in LA.

By the way I mentioned above Alba/Piemont, Italy, because some of the truffles that are currently available are not form Alba – Alba being the very best for white truffles….
Here is the menu:

 A white truffle Piemontese Evening

with Fiorenzo Dogliani wines “Beni di Batasiolo”

WHEN: 6:30 pm Thursday December 8, 2011


Il Menú


Gavi DOCG 2009

 Trito di Carne all’Albese e Tartufi

Beef Tartare with quail egg, ricotta “spuma” and truffles

Barbera d’Alba DOC 2008

Porcini e Tartufi

Tortino of Porcini, truffles and fonduta

Barbera d’Alba, Cru “Sovrana” DOC 2008

Uovo in Raviolo al Burro di Nocciola e Tartufi

Soft egg filled Raviolo, hazelnut butter & truffles

Barbaresco DOCG 2008

Tagliolini al ragù di piccione

Tagliolini with pigeon ragù

Brasato di Manzo al Barolo con Polenta Bianca Bramata

Slow braised beef shank with polenta & Castelmagno

Barolo DOCG 2006

Formaggi e Miele al Tartufo

Italian artisan cheeses with truffled honey

Barolo Vigneto Cerequio, La Morra 2000

 Gianduja Hazelnut Chocolate Budino 

Moscato d’Asti “Bosc d’La Rei” DOCG 2010

 $200 per person exclusive of tax and gratuity

For reservations please call Valentino at 310-829-4313 or email them at: 


One of the things that distinguishes Chinois is its consistency, stability and reliability. Chinois has been in operation for 28 years (a small miracle in Los Angeles) and you can always count on quality food with gracious service. One thing we have learned is that we order one dish at a time and our waiters are kind enough to divide the main dish and serve us individual portions.

BYO Champagne

Japanese Yellowtail Sashimi with Yuzu Sesame Vinaigrette – sushi grade quality fish

BYO White Wine

Tuna seared in a hot dry wok with garlic and ginger, reduced soy based sauce, mixed green salad with seaweed topped with crispy onions – the tuna was top-notch quality and seared perfectly while still rare.

Moo Shu Shell with Pork Belly and Julienne Vegetables in a Hoisin Oolong Tea Sauce – this is a must order – delicious

BYO Red Wine

Crispy Glazed Quail with Grilled Pineapple – another favorite

Grilled Lamb Chops with Cilantro Vinaigrette, Warm Potato Salad – this is a classic Chinois dish and it deserves to be.

Chinois deserves to be in business another 28 years.

Vin Bar

Vin Bar/Valentino again – this really is a perfect restaurant for us. I won’t go into as much detail re the wine as I normally do, but just let me state that I highly recommend this restaurant.

First wine

Fritto Misto of calamari, shrimp, scallops and artichokes and zucchini – not one hint of grease – just top-rate fritto misto

The fritto was served with 3 sauces – an aioli of mayonnaise and garlic, taleggio cheese and an arrabiata sauce

Pappa al Pomodoro soup topped with burrata cheese – traditional, executed perfectly – lousy photo. 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.”

Tuna Carpaccio, Blood orange, blood orange sauce dressing paired with

Blood Orange Salad, Shaved Fennel, Arugula, Blood Orange sauce, topped with Botarga – Piero mentioned that it is typical of Sicilian cuisine to pair tuna with citrus.

Second Wine

This is an old-fashioned Sicilian dish that Piero named Tortino Ragusano. Piero grew up in the province  of Ragusa, the smallest and the youngest of the Sicilian provinces that covers an area of roughly 1600 square kilometres in the south-western side of the Island. This dish consisted of zucchini slices, sliced mushrooms, Caciocavallo cheese, Ragusano cheese, Swiss Chard Sauce and Olive Oil – absolutely delicious.

Third Wine

Mezze Maniche pasta with parmesan, pecorino and black and red pepper. Mezzemaniche or mezze maniche is a cut similar to shortened rigatoni – a stout cylinder with raised edges to help hold sauce. The name of this cut of pasta comes from the Italian word maniche meaning sleeves. This was a dish with just 4 ingredients that added up to a spectacular dish.

Fourth Wine

John’s favorite pasta and what Piero calls peasant spaghetti. 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.

For me – Egg in Truffle – Pasta ravioli was on the bottom – when you cut through the dish there was spinach, ricotta, parmesan, a coddled egg with a lovely runny yolk and shaved white truffles on top – John can be a peasant while I will go for the luxurious!

Chicken Valentino – This is another classic Valentino dish  – circa 1973. Piero said he has served this about 5 times in the last 10 years. My thought – serve it more often and classic doesn’t mean “out of date.” Piero described this as the quintessential American-Italian dish. It consisted of grilled chicken, Italian sausage, olives and bell peppers – mama never cooked so good!

Cheese Plate – I didn’t write down the names.

As far as I am concerned this is THE Italian restaurant in Los Angeles. As a side note, we happened to have a guest in town who wanted to go to Valentino the night before this meal. We went two nights in a row and didn’t have one duplication – two nights – two completely different experiences – two wonderful meals. By the way you don’t have to be a regular to get the best of Valentino – Piero does it every night for every guest. Of course, you could always mention that you might like a Refined Palate experience.


It has been way too long since we have been to Providence. This last visit reminded me how much I love Providence and reinforced my feeling that this is a true Michelin 2 star restaurant. Chef Michael Cimarusti is a true artist – his plating and presentations are exquisite. Not only are the plates lovely to look at but they are equally delicious as well as imaginative and executed with precision. The entire Front of the House team is equally first rate from GM Donato Poto, Sommelier Drew Langley and our server Stephen.

BYO Champagne

Bread Service is not an afterthought – terrific bacon brioche and Nori Focaccia

A dish is first presented with Oyster Plant leaves

Then the oysters are presented. On the left is a cucumber reduction with horseradish and yuzu. You are instructed to dip the oyster plant leaf in the cucumber reduction and then sip the rest of the reduction. On the right is a Kumamoto oyster with lime, jalapeno and cilantro – a perfect slurping oyster with just the right amount of “kick.”

On the right  Grilled Monterey Bay Abalone and on the left Grilled Japanese Sword Squid with Chorizo – again inventive plating plus delicious.

This was an ingenious course – absolutely A+. You are presented with what amounts to a hallowed out Oyster Cracker. (John had visions of me making these crackers untill Stephen said they were very labor intensive). Starting from the left, the first cracker contained creamy mozzarella with tiny dice of tomato on top, then smoked char confit topped with a salmon egg and finally scrambled egg topped with caviar. I was in heaven!

Chef Michael labeled this “Caprese Bubble and Tomato Soup.” I am assuming that the “bubble” was made much like the Mojito Raviolo in that it is made with two chemical agents sodium alginate and calcium chloride. Rob of the Hungry in Hogtown blog writes, “sodium alginate, which is derived from seaweed, is a common emulsifier and thickener in the food industry…. When sodium alginate meets calcium chloride, the sodium ions in the alginate are replaced by calcium ions, thus creating a polymer skin that holds everything inside.” The “bubble” combined tomato, mozzarella and basil. The tomato soup was a yellow tomato consomme topped with fennel foam.

BYO White Wine

Big Eye fatty tuna, uni, salmon eggs (ikura) with dashi – 4 ingredients that were a perfect marriage of taste and texture.

Top Shell (sea snail), Matsutake Mushrooms, Goeduck (Giant Clam), Scallions – I adore Japanese food and this was a definite nod to Japanese cuisine. My one thought was who needs a sushi bar?

Uni Canape – on toasted brioche that had been spread with truffle butter was Santa Barbara Uni topped with small discs of preserved summer truffle

We decided to cut the brioche into 3 pieces, creating 3 canapes. I adore uni and this was a definite winner.

“Peel and Eat” – Santa Barbara Spot Prawns cooked over Binchotan Charcoal.

“Binchotan (備長炭) or white charcoal (白炭) is a traditional charcoal of Japan. It dates to the Edo period, when during the Genroku era, a craftsman named Bitchū-ya Chōzaemon (備中屋 長左衛門) began to produce it in Tanabe, Wakayama. The raw material is oak, specifically ubame oak (Quercus phillyraeoides), now the official tree of Wakayama Prefecture. Wakayama continues to be a major producer of high-quality charcoal, with the town of Minabe, Wakayama producing more Binchotan than any other town in Japan.”

“The fineness and high quality of Binchotan are attributed to steaming at high temperatures. Although it is often thought that Binchotan burns hot, it actually burns at a lower temperature than ordinary charcoal but for a longer period of time. Because it does not release smoke or other unpleasant flavors, it is a favorite of unagi and yakitori cooks.”

On the left is Spot Prawn Butter for dipping the prawns (also delicious for bread dipping) and on the right Maldon Salt

Notice the copious amount of roe in the prawn – my favorite part

BYO Red Wine

Just Grilled Wild Japanese King Mackerel, Rosa Bianca Eggplant Puree, Roasted Scarlet Grapes and Braised Fennel – just perfect

Wild John Dory wrapped with Cured Pork Belly, Summer Black Truffle encased in feuille de brik pastry, fresh celery on a mussel and Serrano Ham foam – At this point in the meal, you would think we would be suffering from palate fatigue but Michael’s cuisine is so vibrant that the opposite holds true – you just want more!

Wild Japanese Alfonsino, Sweet Potato Puree, Braised Sweet Potato Cake, Butter/Nori Sauce, Dehydrated Nori Seaweed, Green Onion – I sound like a broken record but this was a spectacular combination of flavors.

This was our last course before cheese. You will notice that there was no meat in our tasting menu as well as no dessert course. Chef Michael devised our menu and he knows our penchant for small courses, generally just fish and no dessert. This menu was created just for us and as such we owe a huge thank you to the chef.

Cheese – I didn’t write down the names.

Enough to say this was a superior meal and we won’t wait so long to return to Providence.

Vin Bar

I have one comment about Vin Bar/Valentino – just go. All wines are from their list and all food is orchestrated by Chef Nico. We have one responsibility – just enjoy.

Vino Spumante to start

Fried Zucchini Blossom stuffed with Gorgonzola cheese on a bed of fresh tomato and basil – delicious

2nd wine – Fiano di Avellino from the estate of Colli di Lapio. The grape is from the Campania region of Southern Italy. Paul Sherman likened this to a “fat Reisling.”  The Colli di Lapio estate “was established in 1994 and it is family run. Up to 1999 a traditional press was used, then a pneumatic press and a bottling machine were purchased. The wine has been successful since the first vintage, winning many awards. Clelia now also offers an Irpinia Aglianico and a Taurasi produced from 2 hectares of vineyards in the Taurasi area. The family supervises the Aglianico grape production and the wine is vinified at the estate.”

Summer Figs wrapped with Speck, with spicy oil (the oil had been infused with peppers) and micro greens. The speck was from the Northern part of Italy, closest to Germany and lightly smoked. Another absolute winner.

Eggplant tortino, Cavalo, Coulis of sweet tomatoes and sweet red pepper and micro basil – The eggplant puree was like a soufflee in texture and taste and was absolutely perfect. One of the things that I love about Chef Nico’s cuisine is that it is executed masterfully but with a modern and innovative sensibility.

Red Wine – Pinot Noir- Paul Sherman likened this to a “mouth feel of a Syrah grape.”

Lousy photo but another perfect dish – the chef gets an A, the photographer a D+. Crepes filled with duck, bean cotta on a bed of a red wine sauce  topped with dried fruit with mustard, spinach leaf on the side

Quail wrapped with proscuitto and lardo, aged 12 months stuffed with Riso al Salto sitting on a risotto cake, drizzled with Marsala sauce, sage leaf on top – a marriage of classic cuisine and extraordinary technique – my initial comment about Vin Bar/Valentino – run don’t walk is totally applicable.

Next wine – Paul Sherman selects the appropriate wine for our courses – As an aside this is the one of the few restaurants that we never BYO – I want to drink from their list as most of the time you are having little known producers that have been discovered by Piero and match perfectly with the food.

Porcini and abalone mushrooms cooked in parchment with baked cherry tomatoes and shaved parmesan on top – this was the equivalent of a meat course – earthy and could almost make me a meatless fan.

Pici pasta (a thick, hand rolled pasta, like a fat spaghetti, originating in the province of Siena in Tuscany) with braised duck ragu, mushrooms and pecorino cheese – another dish that John inhaled

Close-up of the pici

Fusilloro pasta with pecorino, black olives, extra virgin olive oil and parsley – One of the things that I love about going to Vin Bar/Valentino is that it is above and beyond just dining; it is a learning experience. Piero is kind enough to really explain the intricacies of Italian food. Now a brief history of Fusilloro:

The Fusilloro pasta is produced by Verrigni:

“The history of Verrigni Pasta began in 1898. In that year Verrigni, began suppling the noble families of ROSBURGO (now Roseto degli Abruzzi) a special “pulp” obtained by a unique and natural process of stone-grinding wheat. Since that time, for more than a century, the Abruzzese pasta has been popular because those who make it maintain the passion and creativity of their ancestors.”

“Gaetano Verrigni and his wife Francesca Castelli Petrei continue this great tradition. They are leading a new “era” of “pastificio” marked by respect for this great tradition of pasta-making that this region emboddies, and the constant quest for the highest in quality. Innovative packaging, an effective distribution network, and the innovative use of specially crafted, gold die has allowed their pasta factory to become a brand leader among Italian culinary products of excellence.”

“At the basis of their success is the selection of the best organic Italian durum wheat, grown and harvested in the Abruzzo farm of Gaetano’s wife Francesca. The Old Rose GardenPasta Verrigni produces about 80 different types of pasta, from traditional types to the more modern. Varieties are made with durum wheat semolina from organic agriculture certified dall’ICEA (Institute for Ethical and Environmental Certification), full meal, Kamut, Senator Hats and spelt. Verrigni was one of the very first pasta factories in Italy to explore the world of organics, and it’s high quality has been consistently recognized by distributors, merchants and consumers.”

“Another special feature of Verrigni pasta is its special process used in drying. Their dough is dryed very slowly and at low temperature – between 45 ° and 50 ° C – with a duration of up to three days. This ensures that the delicate character of their precious organic wheat is not altered. It also allows for the natural fermentation process that helps give Verrigni pasta its unmistakable flavor.”

“Perhaps few people know that pasta actually has a flavor,” says Gaetano Verrigni. “But it does. Our pasta helps them to begin to enjoy it.”

Mr Verrigni’s success has been based on his sensitivity to the evolution of modern taste, and to his new techniques for allowing the dough of his pasta to bring out its real flavor.This has been one of the key’s to the success of this great pasta company.

Package of Fusilloro


“In collaboration with the artisan jewelry Sandro Seccia, Verrigni pasta has created “spaghettoro” and “fusilloro.” These innovative products are made using, for the first time ever, die made of gold. Unlike other die, this unique instrument of pasta making give this brand of pasta a texture that is different and more refined.”

“Scientific research utilizing a blind test by a senior laboratory found that people experience increased satisfaction in the eating experience of “spaghettoro” and “fusilloro” in comparison to ordinary pasta. This is likely due to the reduced stress that the dough experiences when it comes in contact with this most supple and refined character of gold. The result is a texture characterized by a unique roughness, a subtle sweetness and a distinctive note that is charming to the palate.”

“In collaboration with the artisan jewelry Sandro Seccia, Verrigni pasta has created “spaghettoro” and “fusilloro.” These innovative products are made using, for the first time everdie made of gold. Unlike other die, this unique instrument of pasta making give this brand of pasta a texture that is different and more refined.”

“Scientific research utilizing a blind test by a senior laboratory found that people experience increased satisfaction in the eating experience of “spaghettoro” and “fusilloro” in comparison to ordinary pasta. This is likely due to the reduced stress that the dough experiences when it comes in contact with this most supple and refined character of gold. The result is a texture characterized by a unique roughness, a subtle sweetness and a distinctive note that is charming to the palate.”

All the above information can be found here:

Gnudi with parmesan and ricotta – in a word delicious

Cheese Course – Asiago, Boschetta, Pecorino Sardo, Cacio Romano with walnuts, figs and apricots, and puree

A fantastic meal at a fantastic restaurant – I urge everyone to go and revel in the hospitality of Piero, the terrific Paul Sherman, the graciousness of Giuseppe and the exquisite cuisine of Chef Nico and Chef Fabio. This is our “go to” restaurant for any occasion – just for an evening out as well as a special occasion.