Crisped rice over chocolate, chocolate peanut butter bar
The Farmer’s Market at Third and Fairfax is a Los Angeles landmark. However, when my out-of-town friends used to ask me to take them, I always suggested we walk around there, grab a donut at Bob’s and perhaps an appetizer at Loteria, and have a full meal elsewhere. Since the opening of Short Order and Short Cake at the Farmer’s Market, I’ve been the one suggesting to friends that they Meet Me at Fairfax and Third.
Short Cake is one of my favorite bakeries in Los Angeles. In addition to offering one of the largest selections of consistently delicious treats, you can get your coffee fix with Verve coffee from Santa Cruz, and enjoy savory open faced toasts.
More pastries at Short Cake
Front: Cereal cookie topped with cornflakes
Rear: Brunette with pine nuts & thyme
Short Cake baker Hourie Sahakian
Armed with excellent recipes and a heart-warming smile, pastry chef Hourie Sahakian took an unlikely path to running such an impressive bakery. Short Cake was the passion project of renowned pastry chef Amy Pressman. Pressman met Hourie at the gym, and before she know it, Hourie was working the line with Pressman at Test Kitchen. Following Pressman’s devastatingly premature passing at the age of 53, Hourie went from protégé to running the show. Fortunately, Short Cake is in great hands.
Jam crumble bar, Nancy's Favorite Chocolate Chip, and Genevieve's Walnut Shortbread
They just keep on coming
Short Cake, just like Short Order, takes pride in using fresh and local ingredients.
Black Forrest Custard Shake
If you love milkshakes, Short Cake is going to be your new favorite place. I couldn’t stop drinking this Black Forrest Custard Shake, despite my stomach already hurting from my irresponsible binging on pastries. Fortunately Mark of iFlipForFood helped me with the pastries, and a run-in with a couple distinguished friends meant I had help with the milkshakes.
Nastassia Johnson enjoys a Short Cake milkshake
I don’t know why I was even surprised to find dessert connoisseur Nastassia “Let Me Eat Cake” Johnson and Julie “Hunter of Cool” Wolfson (plus her sweet daughter) sitting at Short Cake’s inviting counter. Mark and I had no qualms crashing the ladies who lunch gathering.
A peek inside the Short Cake kitchen
I also appreciate that Short Cake is an open kitchen where you can see the talented crew at work.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t warn you to show more restraint than I did with the pastries in one visit, because you’ll want to visit Short Order upstairs. Chef Christian Page, formerly of Eva, is using only the highest quality ingredients to make great burgers and other dishes.
Chef Christian Page at a pop-up at Harvard and Stone bar
My first time at Short Order, I was sitting at the bar, enjoying a couple cocktails from LA’s finest Julian Cox, and polishing off a burger while periodically glancing at Short Order partner Nancy Silverton a few seats down to see if she was enjoying some new menu items. I had never met Chef Page before, but he made his way down the bar excitedly telling me and a few other patrons about some new grass-fed beef he was excited about. He asked if I’d want to try it. I obviously said yes, expecting a few bites of ground beef. Nope – he brought me out another full beef patty. It was so delicious I polished off the whole thing. Normally I feel pretty gross after a whole burger, but after having two burgers made with high-quality meat, I still felt great. Short Order recently launched a new menu and I’m looking forward to checking it out.
Disclosure: pastries were hosted
Short Cake 6333 W. 3rd St. Stall #316
Los Angeles, CA 90036
I know summer is officially here for three reasons: most of my drinking occurs during daylight, I can’t bring myself to wear anything besides shorts, t-shirts and rainbow sandals, and Chaya Downtown’s patio has once again been converted into a beautiful Japanese beer garden.
Beef tongue, mushroom, & date skewers ($2-3)
The menu hasn’t changed much from last year, but you won’t be hearing any complaints from me because it’s affordable and delicious. OK, fine, I do have one complaint: they aren’t offering my favorite dish from last year, but that’s because the coffee BBQ pork stayed on the menu looooong after the Beer Garden concluded last year.
King Salmon Sashimi Salad $6
Fearless Sake Flight $14
You can’t come without trying at least one skewer cooked on a yakitori grill, but since meat on a stick is not exactly a balanced diet, order the King Salmon Sashimi Salad to add some ruffage to your diet.
When it’s time to wash it all down, you can of course get beer and cocktails, but I’d recommend trying a flight of sake. I like my sake on the dry side, so the fearless flight was a no-brainer.
Spicy Tuna & Shishito Pepper Tempura 7$
I love shishito peppers, so this was a must order for me. By the time it reached my table and took a bite, I completely forgot it was stuffed with spicy tuna. It was a pleasant surprise, to say the least.
Grilled White Corn with Feta Cheese $5
Do not skip the corn. Creamy, crunchy, and a little spicy. I’ll take another, please.
One item not on the menu last year that I tried was the brussels sprouts. Brussels sprouts are having a moment here in LA and this version yielded a lovely crunch with the addition of citrus bringing out more subtle flavors.
Once again, Chaya Downtown transformed their patio into a beautiful spot to grab inexpensive eats and sip on beer, sake, and cocktails after a long day of work.
525 S. Flower Street, Los Angeles
Monday through Friday, 4 pm – close
Through Aug. 31, 2012
Jaymee of Drago Centro guest bartending at Neat for Sangrita Tour
LA’s best boozy party last night wasn’t in Hollywood or on the Sunset Strip. It was in a small, dark bar tucked in a strip mall in middle-of-nowhere Glendale. And I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Neat is a welcoming, come-as-you-are bar in Glendale. Serving primarily neat spirits accompanied by a refreshing sidecar, Neat provides a glimpse of how bartenders drink when they aren’t behind a bar. Local cocktail legend Aiden Demarest (The Edison, First & Hope, The Spare Room, Seven Grand… impressed yet?) opened Neat last October, and it’s laid back vibe and talented bartenders keeps the place busy despite being an area without any foot traffic.
Cari doing her Sangrita thing at Neat in Glendale
One of Neat’s talented bartenders is Cari Hah (formerly of the Blue Whale Bar) and Cari’s got sangrita on the brain. Cari and Jaymee Mandeville (Drago Centro) “crafted with love” five original sangritas and the beautiful, spunky duo is taking the menu on tour.
Last night’s sponsor was Milagro Tequila and Siete Leguas will be sponsoring the tour’s next stop at Las Perlas on Tuesday May 29, 2012.
Anthony Polcino of Soft Pipes and Beat Club DJing at Neat
Bringing the fun(k) was DJ Anthony Polcino. He had quite the challenge – while half of the people were there to do some serious sangrita drinking, there was an Armenian graduation party taking up most of the place. We’re talking catered food, balloons, and they even brought their own Armenian dance CD.
Anthony is the kind of guy that wants every single person to be happy, so catering to this mixed crowd was probably frustrating for him and hilarious for the rest of us. As always, he pulled through. You can find him DJing at City Tavern Fridays and Saturday nights, or rocking out at clubs like The Viper Room and Harvard and Stone with his awesome bands Beat Club & Soft Pipes.
Jaymee making me the most wonderful deconstructed Whiskey Sour
My dear new friend Cari and my dear old friend Bulleit Rye
It was so much fun, that for the second time in my life, I walked out on my tab. Apparently, The Minty and I drank more than we thought – the tab we split was just hers, not ours. Treasure Tip: If you want to get away without paying your tab, don’t friend the bartenders on Facebook.
Jeremy Back of City Tavern getting drunk with me, per usual
Jaymee slows down just long enough to strike a pose
Someday I’ll be able to afford the car payment and have a place where I can handle a dog so I can finally steal Jaymee away from Jeremy.
Aiden, I love your bar, but you must be stricter about kicking out fools that lay down in Neat. They act like they own the place or something.
Jaymee & Cari doing... wait, what is going on down there?
Sharing some Westside Love with Neat
The Ultimate LA Question: Was it worth driving across town for?
Hell ya. I’ll see you for Round 2 at Las Perlas on Tuesday!
“Walk in my shoes and cross my path
Game was for grabs, making ’em crash
Took in a section and giving they back
Fuck the money, fuck the fame, this is real life
An insight to my trill life”
If I could move anywhere in LA right now, it would be downtown. When the sun finally sets and the super moon comes out, I get an uncontrollable desire to hop on the 10E, throw on some M83, and discover every nook and corner of our city’s new center. You know, because the city is my church. Here are five places that I’m constantly drawn to downtown:
Pig Ear Salad at UMAMIcatessen
Trying to decide on a downtown restaurant to meet up with a few friends? Make your life easy and tell everyone to meet you at UMAMIcatessen. You’ve heard restaurants bragging that they offer something for everyone; Umami actually does.
If you are an Angeleno and haven’t had an Umami burger yet, you are out of excuses. There are eight locations in Southern California, and many, many, many more on the way. Don’t be surprised if you see Umami’s gourmet burgers ($10-12 mostly) paired with local craft beer & fun sides available in all corners of the country in the next 7 years.
When Umami was ready to offer downtown residents easy access to its Truffle Burger (a must try Umami bomb featuring truffle cheese & glaze), Manly Burger (beer-cheddar cheese, smoked-salt onion strings, & bacon lardons), and vegetarian Earth Burger, just another Umami burger outpost wasn’t going to cut it. This is downtown we are talking about.
You can still get these delicious burgers at UMAMIcatessen, but there is plenty more on offer. Umami Burger founder Adam Fleichman tells TreasureLA what makes UMAMIcatessen so special, “UMAMIcatessen is unlike anything on the West Coast. There are a lot of creative food options all under one roof. From Pigg by Chris Cosentino to Umami Burger to the great deli items at The Cure to Spring for Coffee, you could eat here every day for a year and always get something new.”
To make UMAMIcatessen unlike anything on the West Coast, Fleichman called on the help of some friends. Instead of doing the coffee program himself, he asked his go-to coffee shop (also one of mine) Spring for Coffee to man the espresso machine and offer pour-overs from the finest roasters like Sightglass and Stumptown.
The restaurant also features a reliable cocktail menu courtesy of the busy Adrian Biggs. Don’t feel like a burger? Get your deli on with bagels, fish, and soup courtesy of Chef Micah Wexlar of Mezze. Rounding out The Cure’s menu is corned beef, a chicken salad, and the recent hot topic – a thick-cut pastrami sandwich, all from the in-house Umami team.
For kick-ass charcuterie, Adam brought in Chris Consentino from San Francisco’s Incanto. Consentino is famous for his creative devotion to offal, but I found myself surprised at how traditional most of the menu was on a recent visit to Incanto. For UMAMIcatessen, Consentino was allowed to loosen his tie and have fun with his cured pork products. His rotating pork elevator in the beautiful dining room is my favorite reason for visiting UMAMIcatessen.
Unlike some of the other spots on this list, UMAMIcatessen isn’t for foodies looking for something you can’t get elsewhere. Instead, UMAMIcatessen is one of the five places to visit downtown because it does so many things well, all in one place.
On far too many Friday afternoons, when my friends ask where I want to go to dinner to kick off the weekend with a bang, I yell, “Baco!”
What is a baco you ask? It’s a bread taco with brilliant and aggressive Spanish-inspired flavor combinations. I’m not going to waste my time telling you all the virtues of Baco Mercat. Make a reservation, get your butt in a seat, and just start ordering everything. Bacos, great cocktails, vegetable dishes – I haven’t had anything bad on the menu yet. Now that Chef Josef Centeno has left Lazy Ox Canteen and devoted his time fully to Baco Mercat and his upcoming Tex-Mex concept Bar Ama, you’ll be seeing his name buzzed about for years to come. Baco Mercat
408 S. Main St
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Mexicali Taco & Co.
The moment I sent in my deposit for grad school this coming fall in Boston, I got the most intense urge for tacos. I immediately jumped in my car and barreled down the 10E to get to my hands on a Mexicali Vampiro – a cheesy quesadilla-like creation featuring wonderful carne asada and an addictive garlic sauce. My craving was satisfied, but for only about 15 hours. The next day, I was back at Mexicali for another Vampiro, as well as cachetadas (crispy open-faced corn tortilla, more bomb meat, chipotle aioli), carne asada fries, and pretty much everything else on the menu.
On most days, you’ll find co-founder and Chef Esdras Ochoa at the register, walking you through the menu, and ensuring you have an awesome experience. Whether you dine-in or take-out, you’ll be leaving with a doggy bag full of positive energy, smiles, and a desire to return immediately. Enough of my blabbering – here are some excerpts from an interview I did with Edras:
“We started as a street vendor on 1st & Beaudry, and it was imperative to us that we stay in or near Downtown LA. Our initial search was within a 5 mile radius of the parking lot that we started at, and once we saw our current location, we knew right away that the space had potential while still serving the direct community around us. We received so much love at 1st & Beaudry that we really wanted to stay in the area because of the personal relationship that we established with our patrons.
“Currently, DTLA is one of the hottest spots in LA in terms of the food scene…and not just with high-end type restaurants, but restaurants that serve great ethnic foods in a comfortable setting that allows customers to feel relaxed in their dining experience. In our case, we really want to bring the common taco experience from Mexicali with a slightly modern twist in terms of our dining room decor. It is simple and minimal in decorations, but with the benches and colors, should give you a slightly rustic yet homey feel. The DTLA diner is sophisticated with their palates, but also different from Beverly Hills diners, so we feel that DTLA is really ‘home’ for us.”
“We have been overwhelmed with the support that we have received since becoming a brick and mortar. People come in with smiles saying how happy they are for us to have a restaurant, and of course they leave with smiles after having some good food! It was very important to us to bring the same type of ‘backyard grilling’ feel to an enclosed restaurant. There is something about cooking outdoors with the DTLA night skyline behind you that was very attractive for not only us, but all of our patrons as well. It almost felt like a food adventure to pull up to the street stand and order your tacos while we were grilling.
“Nothing has ‘surprised’ us as we entered the transition thinking that it would be a great challenge. There are a lot of business aspects that have to be taken care of and it is a lot of hard work overall with the long hours, etc. However, there is no greater satisfaction than to have happy customers smile while they enjoy our food and give us a compliment or handshake as they leave the restaurant. That truly makes our day!
“In addition, the biggest personal gain for myself, Javier & our business partner Paul is all the friends we have made through Mexicali. We hope to serve great food, but also place a lot of importance in making sure the people we serve know who we are, we know them, and thus makes the food more enjoyable. Every person that walks through our doors is not only a patron, but could be a true friend–which has happened on many many occasions. That is the greatest reward from this venture, and we hope to continue it for years to come!”
As my departure date for Boston approaches, I have a feeling I will be gorging at Mexicali Tacos all the time – all the while realizing that I’ll never find anywhere in Boston that can satisfy my taco cravings like founders Esdras Ochoa & Javier Fregoso can.
If City Tavern is my go-to midweek drinking spot, Villains Tavern is my weekend getaway. Nestled in downtown not far from Handsome Roasters, Villains Tavern is close to the bar of my dreams.
No cover? Check.
Beautiful design? Check.
Live music every night, with an Americana folksie twang? Check
Craft beer and a good cocktail list? Yes, please.
Villains Tavern is a place where everyone is welcome, it’s lively without being uncomfortably crowded, and the people are always friendly. Best of all, need a break from the music and dancing? You can hang by the bar or the other side of the patio and you wouldn’t even know that there’s a concert going on.
As a bonus, co-owner Dave Whitton creates seasonal cocktail lists that are more ambitious than the space requires. Formerly of Seven Grand, Dave has even created a shrub menu to feature one of my favorite cocktail trends – infusing vinegar instead of simple syrup with flavor.
Treasure Tip: When the place gets packed on the weekend, I skip the main bar and go to the bar by the stage. You can’t get a shrub cocktail there, but you can get a shot and a beer for $12. Choose any craft beer – Craftsman, Golden Road, Eagle Rock, they are all there. For shots, I always go with Bulleit Rye or Fernet. Delicious, quick, affordable – it will get you right back to the dance floor or shuffleboard.
Dave explains, “I wanted to do the shrubs to add layers and complexity to the spring menu while not turning off the everyday drinker. Making them accessible to everybody was the challenge and a really fun, tricky process. I want Villains to always feel like an escape from the norm, a place you want to take everyone you know. A bluegrass/Americana circus with live music that is always at a moderate level. An experience – Jack the Ripper meets Jimi Hendricks.”
Transmission LA: AV Club at Geffen Contemporary at MOCA
Me wandering the trippy halls of MOCA Grand
I wasn’t able to get this up in time before the short-lived Transmission LA: AV Club exhibit at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA closed, but I wanted to give them a much-deserved shout-out. While LACMA, the Gettys, Norton Simon, and Huntington Library have all found their groove and identity, MOCA is still searching for theirs. The long-awaited and massively popular Art in the Streets showcased MOCA Contemporary’s ambition and desire to attract a young, hip crowd, but it’s poor curation also showed an institutional focus on style over substance. The Under the Big Black Sun Geffen Contemporary exhibit was simply bad, with few redeeming qualities.
Just when I was starting to lose interest in MOCA Contemporary, they sucked me back in with Transmission LA. Mike D of the Beastie Boys did a wonderful job curating a worthwhile exhibit, but thanks to a big check from Mercedes, MOCA was able to do much more. Enter Roy Choi doing a Kogi pop-up during free outdoor performances by big names like James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem, Diplo, Santigold, and Thom Yorke (!!!).
For a couple of weeks, MOCA succeeded in doing something quite difficult: bringing all different kinds of hipsters under one roof to party. Music hipsters, foodies, art hipsters – all having a great time under the … well, even if you can’t see the stars downtown, they are there. Bravo to MOCA for doing something truly special.
The most exciting time for cocktail geeks is when a new temperate season begins because it means brand new cocktail menus. Spring must be just around the corner because new menus are popping up all over town.
Bending Over Backwards to Entertain
I was recently invited to check out the Spring cocktail menu at Naya Sunset in Silverlake. I was skeptical at first because on a previous visit to Naya, I was not too impressed with the drink list. Once I read the fine print on the invitation, I discovered that the new cocktail list was created by Joel Black (Caña, Doheny, Comma Ca). That was the only hook I needed, and the night was full of more surprises. In addition to passed Indian street food from their new lounge menu, Naya brought out a DJ, a fire-eating belly dancer, and a couple drummers for accompaniment. Naya knows how to throw a party in their beautiful Spacecraft-designed lounge.
My favorite drink of the night was the Rocky Patel. Chivas 12 Year blended Scotch whisky, smokiness from Laphroig 10 Year Islay Scotch whisky, and Zaya 12 Year old rum with a 15-minute infusion of espresso beans. Coffee beans were floated on top, giving me a pleasant surprise when I’d take a mid-conversation sip without looking.
If you are going to swing by Naya, I recommend spending some time in the lounge on Wednesdays and Sundays. Wednesday entertainment the band Stellar, Elvez Del Toro, and dance artist Push from 8-11pm. On Sundays from 8-11 pm, there are belly dancers, fire eaters, percussionists, and a DJ.
3705 West Sunset Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90026
Drago Centro head bartender Jaymee Mandeville
You can always rely on Drago Centro to have an interesting new cocktail list each season thanks to talented head bartender Jaymee Mandeville. For the Spring, she crafted ten inspired new libations that will be sure to satisfy any palate.
Stepchild, Night and the City, Nebbia Rosa
I started the night with the Stepchild. This will satisfy someone looking for a sweet drink, without actually being too sugary. Black Grouse Blended Scotch, Cardamaro, Kumquat Cordial, Orange Juice – nice rich mouthfeel on this one.
Perhaps the best and by far the most complex drink of the night was the Night and the City. This loose riff on the Bloody Mary includes Hayman’s Old Tom Gin, Bittermens Hellfire, Miracle Mile Candy Cap Mushroom Bitters, Heirloom Tomato Shrub, Black Pepper and Squid Ink Syrup, and Fresh Horseradish. The smoke and peppery flavors were memorable.
The Nebbia Rosa is a pleasant Mezcal negroni with Del Maguey Vida Mezcal, Campari, Bittermens Citron Sauvage, and Dolin Blanc. The bitter Campari dominates, but ends with a nice smokiness from the Mezcal. While the Night and the City is a destination cocktail to begin a night, the Nebbia Rosa is the variation on a classic what I’ll turn to when it’s time to reflect on an eventful evening.
Head bartender Jaymee Mandeville telling a story
I’m always a sucker for Fernet, and I’m trying to explore tequila more so The Airstream libation started off my second round of ordering. Pueblo Viejo Blanco Tequila, R. Jelínek Fernet, Toasted Coconut Infused Demerara, Fresh Lime, Kaffir Lime Leaves, Egg White – the creamy drink was less complex than the rest of the menu, but it’s single note did have a nice flavor.
Yellow Jacket Fever
The prettiest cocktail of the night was the Yellow Jacket Fever. Nolet’s Silver Dry Gin, Yellow Chartreuse, Chamomile Infused Honey, black peppercorns. This is the drink to order if you want to impress your date or business client.
Once again, Jaymee has put together another successful list to launch the new season. If I win the lottery, I’m going to hire myself a personal driver so I can go back to Drago to finish the rest of the cocktail list.
525 South Flower Street
Los Angeles, CA 90071
Picca Launches Julian Cox’s Pisco-Centric Cocktail Menu
Picca Twig and Berries cocktail
Just the other day I wrote, “Rivera, Playa, Short Order, Picca, Sotto – when I go to any restaurant serving Julian Cox’s cocktail creations, I don’t even bother looking at the wine or beer list. Cox’s lists are among the most reliable in the city.” For Cox fans like myself (please don’t read that out-loud), any new cocktail menu release is a cause of celebration.
Picca is a rare breed of restaurant that seemed to have gotten everything right. A lovely space, strong management, a great mixology program that was designed to fit the concept, and most importantly, an extensive menu by one of LA’s most exciting chefs that begs for frequent visits just so nothing is missed.
After trying Julian’s complete new menu, the two pisco stand-outs on the new list are the Twig & Berries (above) and an untitled cocktail that was the subject of a fierce naming competition. Twig & Berries includes pisco, blueberry coulis, creme de peche, fresh lime, wray & nephew canela tincture, and blueberry foam. Stunning.
Everyone who came for the cocktail menu launch was given an entry form and a free taster of a cocktail featuring Sloe gin, Pisco Torontel, hibiscus tea, lemon juice, evaporated cane juice, egg white, and a cherry on top. The winning entry and this delicious cocktail’s new name? “Sloe Motion Fo’ Me.” Nicely done.
9575 West Pico Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90035
Even if you heard about the recent screening of Christian Marclay’s The Clock at LACMA, judging by my friend’s reactions, there’s a good chance you were still confused about the event. In a nutshell, Marclay put together a 24-hour montage of TV and film clips that depict clocks and the passage of time. When I stopped in at 8 pm, most clips included a clock or watch showing the exact time. It was quite the trip.
Coloring and eating donuts Around the Clock
While I believe that The Clock was Mar. 24’s most unique event, it was the 24 Hour Donut City companion event that got all of the attention. LA may be the film capital of the world, but Angelinos really go crazy for free donuts.
For Your A$$
Founded by Bettina Korek of For Your Art, “Around the Clock: 24 Hour Donut City” took place across the street from LACMA. For 24 hours, visitors could stop by for free donuts from many of LA’s top donut shops chosen by writer Krista Simmons. Selected shops included Nickel Diner, Stan’s, Fonuts, The Donut Man, Umamicatessan, and Bob’s Coffee & Doughnuts. It was amusing seeing people sheepishly ask the guy working the door, “Soo… I heard something about free donuts?”
Come for the donuts, stay for the diabetes
Unfortunately the specialty donuts were only available for a short period of time every two hours, so I was stuck with a dry Krispy Kreme donut. Fortunately, there was more to the event than saving myself a drive to Glendora for an excellent Donut Man “Strawberry Donut.” Visitors were encouraged to color donuts and hang them on the gallery wall. It may seem silly, and a little silly fun is part of the point – but the coloring allowed Angelinos to interact with others and think critically about our city.
Get in my belly!
The front of the donut program asked the simple question, “Where’s Your Center?”
“Los Angeles has also been likened to a donut in a more spatial sense – a series of interconnected suburbs without a center. This ‘sprinkling of centers’ allows the city to boast multiple hubs of energy and culture, each with its own distinctive personality and flavor,” the program explained.
This is not a donut
“If L.A. is still a Donut City, it’s been recently jelly-filled. Downtown L.A. is now a center it was never meant to be, a pulsing, young hub of the city. In the same decade that New York’s millenials had to flee Manhattan for affordable rents in outer boroughs, our 20-somethings inherited L.A.’s over-speculated urban core, and in fact now make a lot of good doughnuts there – try the spirulina churro at Via Dulce in Little Tokyo for evidence. Note, too – that a churro is a doughnut extruded sideways, like Wilshire.” – Joe Day, 2012
What time is it?
For your viewing pleasure, some of my favorite donut drawings at “24 Hour Donut City.” Share your favorite in the replies!
Always start a Playa visit with a Julian Cox cocktail
Loyal readers of TreasureLA already know that it’s an exciting time to be a food-adventurer in Los Angeles. There is always a talented new chef, interesting new concept that usually involve the word “fusion,” and our stable of established and top-tier chef’s like John Sedlar continues to grow.
With over 60 institutions participating in the SoCal art celebration Pacific Standard Time, it’s also an exciting time to be a museum curator groupie. If you are like me and consider yourself both a food and museum lover, you must get over to Playa or Rivera by Mar. 31 for a “secret” menu conceived by Chef Sedlar, Mixologist Julian Cox, and artist/Del Maguey founder Ron Cooper.
The space itself I preferred over Sedlar’s more formal and splintered Rivera restaurant. The beautiful bar, the lighting, mirrors, brick, movement – it all reminded me of the vibrant LA that I love. In fact, this was the first meal I can remember in a long time where couples on both sides of me engaged me in small talk (I do take pity on nice people on bad dates in cozy restaurants) – I much preferred this over the grandiose booths at Rivera. It was a great place to celebrate food, drink, and art in SoCal.
The first dish of the night was a crudo assortment of fresh and smoked seafood served with kumquats, fresno chiles, lime, and red seaweed. The crudo was served on a print of Beatrice Wood’s 1970 piece “Fish Platter,” featured at the Santa Monica Museum of Art PST exhibit “Beatrice Wood: Career Woman.” The dehydrated seaweed brought the dish (crudo & artwork) together for me, and the copita of chichicapa mezcal that accompanies the dish is a lovely touch that awakens the dish’s subtle flavors.
LACMA on Fire
The main course on PST menu is fire-grilled breast of chicken with Cobb salad quemada, goat cheese, and “incendiary” salsa, plus a welcome heavy hand with the kosher salt. I’m reluctant these days to order meat that has been cooked sous-vide, but the moist chicken in this deconstructed Cobb salad was cooked beautifully. The plating, from the chicken to the salsa and bacon around the poached egg, brings Ruscha’s 1968 painting “LACMA on Fire” featured at the Getty Center to life. The flavor, texture, and presentation all had me saying, “So good, right?”
Thai Tamalli ($14)
You know what has been missing from every Thai dish I’ve ever had in LA? Fresh corn. Playa’s spicy Thai shrimp tamale was not on the PST menu, but still presented with some flair – on a James Dean feature in Esquire. Fresh corn masa, shrimp, basil, mint, cilantro, lemongrass, Thai chiles, ginger-garlic salsa – this I will be ordering again.
The only dish of the night that didn’t live up to expectations was the Octo-Palm. The dish featured grilled octopus, palm hearts, scallions, oven-dried cherry tomatoes, and oven-dried red onion. Nothing was improperly cooked, and it was still tasty, but the sum of the parts didn’t add up like in the other dishes. Of course, you can’t call any dish plated on top of Katy Perry’s cleavage a complete disappointment.
Maize cake wild mushrooms
The meal rebounded quickly with another non-PST dish: a maize cake with black garlic and olive “soil,” exotic mushrooms,
l’explorateur cheese, porcini espuma, and chives. At first I noticed the intensity of the ground-up and salty mushroom ash. Then I played with the foam, but I wasn’t plunged into a state of nirvana until I got a bite of the goat cheese with the ‘shrooms. I’m a fungus fanatic, and the kitchen did the beautiful mushrooms justice.
Maize cake with mushrooms - another look
Rivera, Playa, Short Order, Picca, Sotto – when I go to any restaurant serving Julian Cox’s cocktail creations, I don’t even bother looking at the wine or beer list. Cox’s lists are among the most reliable in the city. One of my favorite cocktails of the year so far is the Manhattan-variation “Untitled” on Playa’s PST menu featuring chichicapa mezcal, cocchi vermouth di Torino, Olorosso and grapefruit peel. It’s inspiration is from Larry Bell’s 1964 untitled piece at the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego. I loved it so much that I begged Julian to make me one on a recent visit to Picca.
A Oaxacan the Clouds
A Oaxacan the Clouds features Single Village Mezcal, fresh lemon juice, agave nectar, roasted tomatoes, crispy sage, and Piment d’Espelette. The acidity from the roasted tomatoes was a nice contrast to the sweet and smoky flavors. Even better use of the Single Village Mezcal was the Ball Drop inspired by Ron Cooper’s 1969 work at Cal State Long Beach. Joining the mezcal was London Dry Gin, fresh lime, Velvet Falernum, yuzu tincture, and cayenne – the tingle on my lips from the cayenne proved a nice finish.
A trio of “sorbet splashes” served on Carlos Almaraz’s 1982 piece “Beach Trash Burning” at the Fowler Museum marked the meal’s end. Smoky roasted pineapple mezcal, spicy poblano chile lime, and sweet hibiscus pomegranate – each sorbet worked well individually but the ability to combine either smoky, spicy, and/or sweet into each bite really made this dessert memorable for me.
While I had a memorable one-night stand with the pricey escort that goes by the name Rivera, Playa is the girl-next-door that I fell in love with. And I can’t wait to bring her chocolates and flowers, hoping she still has some undiscovered talents and new talents to show me.
The 3-course, $37 Pacific Standard Time menu at Rivera and Playa ends Mar. 31, 2012.
7360 Beverly Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Pet Peeve PS: Can we stop calling things a secret if the restaurant tells everyone? Playa handed every diner a separate PST menu, which is worse than Umamicatessen printing the words “Secret Menu” on their menu, where you have to at least ask what’s on the menu.
Echo Park’s Mohawk Bend was on my radar long before it even opened. With 72 mostly local craft beers on tap, this hop head knew several trips to the Eastside were ahead.
On my first late-night visit, I must have studied the beer list for 20 minutes. Craftsman, The Bruery, Russian River, Strand, Hangar 24, Ladyface, Eagle Rock, Lost Abbey – all of my ol’ friends were represented. And you can always count on Golden Road being on at least a couple of the taps – Mohawk Bend is owned by Tony Yanow of Tony’s Dart Away and Golden Road Brewing fame.
Huevos Divorciados ($11)
There was a lot to love about Mohawk Bend on my first visit. The location, the beautiful space, and the service were all impressive. Unfortunately, the food left something to be desired. It was adequate to soak up the hops, but nothing worthy of its taps list.
Fried eggs and ham ($13)
When I heard that Mohawk Bend brought in Mike Garber (BLD, Whist at the Viceroy) as its new Executive Chef, I realized it was time to give the food another chance. And let me tell you, I’m sure glad I did.
Just about every dish I tried off Garber’s new brunch menu was a hit. From the vegetable scrapple (leftover scraps of vegetables fried with tofu), to the huevos divorciados (fried eggs, chilaquiles, red & green salsas, queso fresco, crème fraiche), the dishes were what I crave for brunch: a nice combination of familiar and novel. Fried eggs and ham are always a nice way to start off a morning, but I bet your mother never served them like you see above. Serrano ham, roast root vegetables, arugula, fried poached eggs – I loved the differing textures and presentation.
Elvis French Toast with bananas, peanut butter syrup & bacon ($10)
To wash down the peanut butter syrup served with the Elvis french toast, your options include organic coffee from Jones Coffee Roasters in Pasadena, a few cocktails, and if you are like me and can’t resist Pliny the Elder for breakfast, the 72 tap beers are also available. I definitely recommend the Bloody Mary – this is one of the first Blood Mary’s I’ve truly enjoyed.
Breakfast All Day Pizza (canadian bacon, egg, parmesan, mozzarella & spinach) $14
On a subsequent dinner visit, the dishes I tried were decent, but nothing reached the levels of their brunch. Upon investigation, it turns out that the brunch menu is all Chef Garber’s, but he is still rotating in new dinner menu items. While some favorites from the old menu will remain, like the JJ kale salad, he’s slowly making the menu his own. He’s changed the Mohawk Burger recipe, introduced new pizzas, and offers seasonal specials throughout the week. Garber has also begun a monthly dinner series to spotlight the out-of-state- brewery featured each month on Mohawk Band’s taps. On March 28, Garber will be cooking up a $35-45 special menu to be paired with this month’s guest, Epic Brewing.
With a new chef in the kitchen, Mohawk Bend has addressed its main weakness, and is now one of my favorite Echo Park spots. Beautiful outdoor patio, plenty of TV screens for March Madness viewing, amazing beer list, and an extremely vegan friendly menu means you can finally share some beers and break bread with your hipster friends without sacrifice. Cheers!
2141 W. Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90026
Note: The brunch was hosted, several dinners were not
Quite possibly the most beautiful veggie plate in the city
Le Comptoir is Chef Gary Menes’ 5-month and counting “pop-up” at Tiara Cafe in downtown Los Angeles. Chef Menes has worked in a number of impressive kitchens since 1995, including Patina, Ritz Carlton San Francisco, French Laundry, Firefly, Palate Food & Wine, and Marche in Sherman Oaks. Le Comptoir, as they say, is a different beast.
While the main draw of Le Comptoir is the excellent food, it’s the feeling that you are taking part in something special that will make you eager to return. I was the first to enter through Tiara Cafe’s doors for a 6 pm seating one Friday night. The lights in the dining room were dimmed, begging you to ignore the sizable space and focus on the brightly-lit counter containing 14 seats. As I looked over the 5-course vegetarian prix fixe menu ($46 at the time, now $52), and the protein supplements available for an additional charge, more eager diners trickled in – but the noise level never rose throughout the meal. Was it the early seating, the unusual atmosphere, or were they like me and too focused on watching the food being prepared mere feet away to discuss anything else?
If for some odd reason sitting at the counter of a large, empty cafe worries you more than it excites you, your concerns will vanish as soon as you try the amuse. On this particular evening, I was blessed with a gorgeous mushroom croquette to sink my teeth into.
Mention Le Comptoir to anyone who has already been, and the first question they are likely to ask is “What soup did you have?” The soup may change, but you can count on a delicate, beautiful, and delicious bowl of veggies and cream. The soup was the highlight of the night – if only I could stop by Le Comptoir anytime I am downtown for soup and mushroom croquettes.
After devouring two outstanding dishes that were prepared right before my eyes, I was ready to shower Gary Menes with compliments. Only problem was, he wasn’t there. This particular weekend, Menes was out of town and trusted the menu with his sous-chefs Wes Avila and Christina Galtman. It’s a great complement to Menes that he has assembled a small but talented team that can execute the ever-changing menu so well without him.
Wes Avila preparing foie gras
Christina Galtman & Wes Avila manning the store without Gary Menes
A wine pairing is also available for $24, or you can bring your own for a $16 corkage fee. I’m glad I only split a wine pairing, since I wasn’t too fond of the wines selected. However, it’s a good value and the wines are always changing, so I’d try my luck and give it another try.
Sunny side-up egg, young lettuce (added after picture), herbs, jus vert
The sunny side-up egg was fun and interactive (mix in the butter, add in the lettuce & herbs, etc..), but it was the only dish that didn’t impress me taste-wise. The vegetable plate (top of the post), on the other hand, pleased both visually and as I delicately savored each vegetable. See if you can identify all of the vegetables: squash, beets, fennel, onion petals, scarlet turnips, radish, cauliflower, kohlrabi, fava beans, carrots, brussels sprouts, blue berry, and mustard frill.
Petite pois francaise, hearts of romaine, barbara's potatoes, English peas, smoked scallions, caramalized onion jus, truffle froth
The lovely “petite pois francaise” (mmm… truffle froth) is a slightly reworked version of the dish that appeared during the chef’s “Vegetarian Feast” at the Test Kitchen pop-up. The vegetarian-centric Le Comptoir menu is an extension of what he was hoping to accomplish during that Test Kitchen dinner:
“Chef Menes is ‘testing’ a vegetarian tasting menu to show the broad range of flavors that can be coaxed out of what would be traditionally used only as an accent and or garnish. He wants to share his love for vegetables and showcase their ability to be stars in their own right, and hopes to change people’s mind about the way they look and feel about vegetables and to be more creative in meeting vegetarian needs. He wants to approach a vegetable grown in the most respectful way ie. Barbara Spencers farms, Romey Coleman’s farm, like a chef would approach a lobster from Brittany France or a lobe of foie gras. He will be as creative with the flavor combinations, textures and techniques as he would with a loin of a 12 grade waygu rib eye cap. In short he wants to take the guest on a textural and intellectual journey. And when it’s over I want them to say that was great and I didn’t even miss the protein.”
paquet de porc, glazed berkshire pork rillettes, pearl barley, purple broccoli, white wine braised leek, greans
The regular menu is vegetarian, but you can choose to substitute in a couple meat options for a supplemental fee. Friends have raved about Le Comptoir’s foie gras supplement, but I passed since foie is not one of my favorite ingredients (gasp!) and I was trying to keep the price down. I did opt for the lovely pork rilletes to add some more protein to the meal, and was very pleased with my decision.
Yogurt orange cake, almonds, graham cracker crust, sour cream
The meal ended with a simple, relatively light, and pleasing dessert of yogurt orange cake with a graham cracker crust. I chose the early seating because I had tickets to see the Lucent Dossier Experience. Halfway through the meal, I was getting my iPhone out to see when the nearby Starbucks closed – I was going to need something to counteract the wine and get me pumped for some dubstep and fire. Fortunately, Le Comptoir thinks of everything – I was able to order a single-origin pourover (ladies, if you incorporate single-origin pourover into a pick-up line, chances are you’ll be at least getting my number). If you follow Gary Menes on Facebook (you should, I love seeing how proud he is of his produce and how he is constantly learning), you’ll see that he brought in Chris Owens of Handsome Coffee to dial in their espresso machine.
Le Comptoir feels special without being gimmicky, treats each ingredient with the utmost respect, and most importantly, is delicious. I also consider this required dining for vegetarian foodies – it’s one of the few places at this level where you won’t feel limited.
You’ll be able to find Le Comptoir at Tiara Cafe Thursday, Friday, Saturdays at least through May 2012. I’m hoping to save up a few bucks to come back and see how the menu changes, and it would be nice to see Menes do his 3-star magic in the kitchen. But with skilled knife slingers like Wes Avila taking over when he’s gone, I’m sure I’ll be in good hands next time I slip into a counter seat.
Any self-respecting Angelino, “foodie” or not, has a favorite place to get a sub-$2 taco. Task forces are assembled, best friends threaten each other bodily harm when deciding which truck to sober up at 2 am, and pickled jalapeños and carrots are thrown. When it comes to fine-dining and modern Latin food, consensus is easier to come by. There is little arguing that Chef John Sedlar of Rivera and its newer, more casual cousin Playa, does it best. Born in Santa Fe, NM, Sedlar has been cooking for over 40 years. After a 15-year break from running a restaurant, he opened Rivera in DTLA in 2009 to much acclaim.
Rivera cocktails - yes that is a hickory smoked jerky garnish
Before you sit down in one of Rivera’s three rooms with separate but overlapping menus, be sure to grab a stool at the bar. The bar program headed by mixologist-about-town Julian Cox, who also created the cocktail lists at Playa, Sotto, Picca, and Short Order, is worth a visit to Rivera in its own right. In fact, one sharply-dressed middle-aged group had been at the bar for 8 hours already by the time I got there (I appreciated the free, and sloppy, entertainment). Tailor-made for Sedlar’s Latin cooking, you can expect plenty of tequila & mezcal drinks on the “Rivera Classics” section of the menu. If that’s not your bag, there’s an equally enticing “seasonal” cocktail menu. I started my night with the Barbacoa (choice of tequila or mezcal, chipotle, bell pepper, ginger, and hickory smoked jerky), but it definitely wouldn’t be the last drink of the night.
Choros al vapor
The highlight of my meal was the Argentine mushroom carpaccio with a chimichurri sauce and kaffir lime. The delicate king oyster, bluefoot, and chanterelle mushrooms not only melted in your mouth, but also looked like a work of art.
Another favorite of the night was the choros al vapor. The mussels and chorizo were spot-on with a nice spiciness, but the dish really came together when I dragged my bread through the aji amarillo pisco broth.
I enjoyed the sweetness the golden raisins added to the piquillos rellenos (stuffed spanish peppers with chorizo, and gruyere) but overall the dish was just ok.
puerto rican mofongo
The Puerto Rican Mofongo was another hit that I look forward to ordering again. White sea bass fillet with latanos refritos, garlic, and lardo ibérico – it was another melt-in-your-mouth winner.
The most filling dish of the night was the duck enfrijolada. Fatty duck with blue corn tortillas, black bean puree, chevre, red wine chile sauce – paired with another cocktail or two – I was falling hard for Sedlar’s cooking.
Spanish olive oil cake
For dessert, I first tried the Spanish olive oil cake featuring lemon extra-virgin cake, creme fraiche ice cream, strawberry sorbet, and a jerez vinegar reduction. It was pleasing, but the xochimilco dessert won the evening. Ancho chile chocolate cake, avocado mousse, and lime pepper sauce – a lot more interesting than the olive oil cake.
Rivera certainly lived up to its reputation. Even my least favorite dishes were quite good – they just didn’t excite like the others. I felt sorry for Red O, where I was having dinner the following night. Even with a chef as celebrated as Rick Bayless, how could they compete? Next up, Playa’s secret Pacific Standard Time menu!
1050 S. FLOWER ST #102
LOS ANGELES CA, 90015