Eats I Have Been Dying to Mention

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks with the Holiday season flying by, ringing in the New Year and getting back into the swing of things!  I have done a ridiculous amount of eating that I have been dying to share with you all!  Check out my latest hot spots!

Larry’s – Venice, CA

24 Windward Ave  Venice, CA 90291-4102
(310) 399-2700

Larry's sits steps from the Venice Boardwalk

Larry's sits steps from the Venice Boardwalk

Mark and Erwin Sokol (of Hotel Erwin) have teamed up with Waterloo & City chef Brendan Collins to bring affordable gastropub-ish plates to the art community of Venice Beach.  Larry’s opened in August 2011, was named after local artist Larry Bell, a pioneer in minimalism.  The interior bar

Larry Bell, local artist and a pioneer of California minimalism was the inspiration for Larry’s, his accomplishments and style was carefully used in the design and interior features that make this new spot shine.  The eats are nothing short of extraordinary and unique creative masterpieces.  SHRIMP & LOBSTER RAGOUT, capellini pasta, lobster tomato sauce, basil & truffle, GREEN CURRY MUSSELS, ginger, fresno chile, charred bread for dipping,  PIZZA, green chorizo, egg, chipotle, tomato sauce. The menu although foodie eccentric, never tops a $15 price tag making this the new hot spot for every local generation.

Ahi Tuna Tartar, white soy ponzu, prawn crackers, pickled vegetables

Ahi Tuna Tartar, white soy ponzu, prawn crackers, pickled vegetables

Bacon Wrapped Organic Salmon, roast beets, gnocchi & horseradish

Bacon Wrapped Organic Salmon, roast beets, gnocchi & horseradish

Dry Aged Beef Burger on ciabatta bun, house made pickle & fries

Dry Aged Beef Burger on ciabatta bun, house made pickle & fries

Hostaria del Piccolo – Santa Monica, CA

606 Broadway St  Santa Monica, CA 90401
(310) 393-6633

Hostaria del Piccolo

Hostaria del Piccolo

Opened just this year, Hostaria is the latest venture of Vittorio Viotti and chef Bobo of Venice, Italy’s Piccolo Venice, said to be one of the very best restaurants in Venice.  The menu is adorned with antipasti options that cause any palate to water.  ORECCHIE  crispy fried pigs’ ears and salsa verde, CINGHIALE  roasted wild boar sausage: soft polenta, MAIALI  selection of exclusive Italian cold cuts and VERDE arugula, spinach, avocado, pine-nuts and Parmesan crisp.  The pizzas have been rated nothing short of excellent and the staff is friendly and actually Italian!  When visiting Santa Monica next its a must try whether you’re looking for lunch of dinner, it’s not to be missed.  Perhaps than you can fly to Venice and sample Piccolo to compare notes.

Frittura, crunchy fried calamari, shrimp, white smelt fish

Le Pizze Bianche without sauce - squid ink dough, mozzarella, tomatoes & basil

Le Pizze Bianche without sauce - squid ink dough, mozzarella, tomatoes & basil

Gnocchi Marinara

Gnocchi Marinara

Bottega Louie – Downtown Los Angeles, CA

700 S Grand Ave  Los Angeles, CA 90017
(213) 802-1470

Bottega Louie

Bottega Louie

Walk by Bottega Louie on any given day and it will be packed, you will automatically decide its pricy and perhaps unaffordable — if your like me it’s best not to torture yourself and keep it in mind for another time, another place.  However, a tiny bit of research will prove your instincts immensely incorrect.  Bottega Louie may look to be a $30 a plate dining spot but its affordable and utterly brilliant.

Walk through the front door and your smacked across the face with an aisle of pastries, mini desserts, macarons, and tarts that scream beauty and perfection.  To the left you’ll see a cocktail bar that sends you back to the 20’s and off to the right a stainless steel open kitchen with 15 maybe 20 chefs and sous chefs cooking and plating dishes with the utmost care and precision.  The lunch and dinner menu may set you back $20 – $25 a person, but plates are enormous, pizzas feed 2+ and you will not leave disappointed.  Beware that they do not take reservations and a wait time can range from 10 minutes on a weekday to 2 hours on a prime weekend!

Mini Meatball Sliders

Mini Meatball Sliders

Portobello Fries

Portobello Fries

Infamous Bottega Louie Macarons

Infamous Bottega Louie Macarons

Bottega Louie Desserts

Bottega Louie Desserts

Cal Shabu – Santa Monica, CA

930 Broadway, Santa Monica, 90401

Cal Shabu - Santa Monica

Cal Shabu - Santa Monica

Shabu Shabu is an act of cooking, the dish is prepared by bring a pot of water to a boiling point and submerging very thin slices of meat and vegetables meanwhile swishing it back and forth until cooked to your desired doneness. In fact the swish-swish sound directly translates to Shabu Shabu. The cooked meat and vegetables are then dipped in a ponzu or sesame seed sauce and served with a bowl of rice.  Once you have devoured this simple yet delicious meal, the leftover broth from the pot is combined with the remaining rice, vegetables, and noodles and eaten as a soup.

The experience in itself is just a ton of fun and Cal Shabu does a remarkable job at making you feel as if you are dining at home.  The restaurant is located off any Santa Monica main drag and therefore the staff is genuine and it’s patrons all locals (they are literally located 6 buildings from our apartment!).  Next time you’re looking for something to warm you up or are in need of some comfort, Cal Shabu should be your first and only choice.

Two Item Combo - Prime Beef & Mussels

Two Item Combo - Prime Beef & Mussels

Soup made from cooking broth with fresh veggies and noodles

Soup made from cooking broth with fresh veggies and noodles

Happy Hour at Cal Shabu, Santa Monica

Happy Hour at Cal Shabu, Santa Monica

26 Beach – Marina del Rey, CA

3100 Washington Blvd  Marina Del Rey, CA 90292-5551
(310) 823-7526

Twenty Six Beach - Venice, CA

Twenty Six Beach - Venice, CA

Most notably known for their massive burgers, acknowledging and not letting it’s patrons forget that they have several times over been voted home of the “Best Burgers in L.A.” is my latest find.  I cannot prove the above theory as I stumbled on 26 Beach for brunch, but their brunch menu is not ordinary sporting entire sections of “Pasta Scrambles”, “The Royals – Eggs over brown rice” and somewhere around 20 French Toasts varieties that you will find creeping into your foodie dreams.  The atmosphere is eclectic and memorable and food is fantastically executed.  I am not sure while dining if I realized just what we had stumbled upon, but now looking back I am dying to test out the french toast and the infamous burgers.

Panchetta & Eggs Pasta Scramble

Panchetta & Eggs Pasta Scramble

Twenty Six Beach Outdoor/Indoor Patio
Twenty Six Beach Outdoor/Indoor Patio
Corned Beef Hash Scramble

Corned Beef Hash Scramble

Los Angeles Food & Wine Highlights

Since I literally ate and drank my way through the 1st Annual Los Angeles Food & Wine and then hopped directly on a flight to London, I never got a chance to share with you the remarkable eye-opening experience!  Check out my favorite moments & highlights below.

The Magic & Seduction of Cheese & Wine Pairing

This cheese and wine “seminar”, I use that word loosely, was more like an eye-opening journey through the talents and palates of two masters at their trade.  Cheese expert Laura Werlin and winemaker Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon Vineyards showed the eager onlookers what it’s like to have a palate so in tune that taste unique flavors, ingredients, and even creation techniques with your tongue.

Pairings I fell in love with…

  • 2007 Le Cigare Volant – Bonny Doon Vineyard
    • Blend: 60% Grenache, 32% Syrah, 4% Mourvèdre, 4% Cinsault
    • Description:  “On the palate, fresh cherry, currant, and red bramble fruit. Peppery and lively with good acidity around an earthy, savory core.” – Bonny Doon Vineyard
    • Where to Buy: Bonny Doon Vineyard – $35.00 a bottle
  • Dunbarton Blue – Roelli – Shullsburg, Wisconsin
    • Milk: Cow
    • Cheese Family: Cheddar Blue
    • Description: “A hand crafted cellar cured cheese with the earthy character of a fine cheddar coupled with a subtle hint of bleu flavor.”
    • Where to Buy: Whole Foods
My favorite (mostly because of the cheese)!!
  • 2009 Le Cigare Blanc Reserve – Bonny Doon Vineyard
    • Blend: Roussanne & Grenache
    • Description: “Farmed biodynamically , surrounded by wilderness, and sheilded from the cool Pacific coast winds by the Santa Lucia Mountains, these vines grow complex, concentrated and mineral intensive grapes.” – Bonny Doon Vineyard
    • Where to Buy: Not available
  • Mt. Tam – Cowgirl Creamery – Petaluma, California 
    • Milk: Cow
    • Description: “It’s a smooth, creamy, elegant, 10-oz, triple-cream – made with tasty organic milk from the Straus Family Dairy. MT TAM is firm, yet buttery with a mellow, earthy flavor reminiscent of white mushrooms” – Cowgirl Creamery
    • Where to Buy: Mail Order from Cowgirl Creamery or San Francisco

Other Extremely noteworthy cheese & wines:

Guy Fieri’s Brew B’Que

Celebrity chef and Food Network rock star, Guy Fieri hosted an afternoon on the pier filled with decadent food innovations and 100+ brews from around the world.  There was no shortage of satisfying grub at this event.  Celebrity chef’s like Roy Choi (of Beachside Kitchen & Kogi), Ray Garcia (of FIG), Roy Yamaguchi (of Roy’s), and Charles Phan (of Slanted Door) served up dishes that caused us to “ooh” and “ahh”.  Meanwhile Uncle Cracker made a come back with the Santa Monica ferris wheel and the Pacific Ocean glistened in the background.

Brew BBQ on the Santa Monica Pier

Celebrity Chef, Guy Fieri, hosts Brew BBQ

Having a blast at the Brew BBQ

Lexus Grand Tasting

An opportunity to taste and explore over 300 wines from 200 wineries and devour delicious tastings from over 30 celebrity chefs.  The Lexus Grand Tasting was a remarkable experience to be a part of, an up-close and personal experience that was every foodies dream come true.  Guest Chefs: Rick Bayless (of Red O), Eric Greenspan (of The Foundry on Melrose), and Masaharu Morimoto (of Morimoto Napa)

The Grand Tasting

Me & Iron Chef Morimoto

Los Angeles Food & Wine

All in all the Los Angeles first ever Food & Wine was a grand success.  I owe a massive thank you to my parents for the best birthday gift a foodie could ever ask for!

The Misfit

The Misfit - Santa Monica

I have to preface this short but sweet review with the fact that I fall hard for places with small plates, no matter the type of cuisine.  It’s the ability to taste several different things across the menu that makes the dining experience shoot to the top of my favorites list.

You may recognize the image above and think — perhaps I have been there?  However the location was once home to the critically acclaimed chef, Alain Giraud’s Anisette Brasserie, a “proper” French bistro.  However Santa Monica locals & workers didn’t care for the price tag and the tourists desired more “American” fare.  Anisette Brasserie only lasted two years, but the building it lived in had potential.  An old clock tower located around the corner for Third Street Promenade now houses The Misfit, a place that will send you back in time while the food and drink keeps you anchored in the present.

The concept is comfort food in small plates allowing you to taste plenty and discover your favorites.  The Misfit is intended to be a back to basics bar — offering you a chance to enjoy your favorite beers, cocktails and plates on a regular basis.  It’s a must try for the locals and must not forget for Santa Monica visitors.

Our small plate favorites:

Small Plates of American Contemporary Cusine

1.  little baker potatoes with la quercia pancetta, weiser farm, french sea salt, organic sour cream  2.  basil gimlet, tito’s vodka, fresh basil, lime zest, agave nectar  3.  the misfit burger, grass fed paso prime beef, edmond fallot dijon, cheddar, toast  4.  rosa’s baked goat cheese + san marzano tomato gravy, garlic toast  5.  prime rib french dip sliders, seasoned + sliced to order, homemade au jus

The Misfit
225 Santa Monica Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90401
310-656-9800
official website

The Craft Beer Storm Has Begun to Take Los Angeles

San Diego in the last 10 year’s (+) has made an enormous impact on beer culture in the U.S. The now nation-wide recognized San Diego originators — Karl Strauss, Stone Brewing, Green Flash and Pizza Port have taken the craft-beer world by storm.  Beer cities like Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Denver were given a run for the money when beer became something to truly be tasted and understood.  San Diego County now has over 30 small micro-breweries with a population of only 3 million!

I know your asking why this post is title “Hidden Los Angeles” if I am going to simply boast and brag about the beer world in San Diego!  Well honestly the first reason I bring it up is –boy do I miss it, I miss walking into almost ANY restaurant/bar and having an overwhelming amount of good beer selections.  But the most important reason I mention San Diego’s beer accomplishments is because it’s rumored to have caused some jealousy in the small, but existent beer community of Los Angeles.

That’s right!  The LA beer enthusiasts are demanding bigger and better things out of this city in terms of the beers being offered and the types of places serving them.  Possibly one of the more exciting parts of the new energized beer lovers community — is that a grip of them are taking it on themselves — to simply brew what this city is missing!

Bars are now sprouting up everywhere with the sole focus of creating a well thought-out excellent selection of brews and doing their job to educate locals on the art of brewing and drinking craft-beer.

Los Angeles Breweries

Angel City Brewing - Located in the Oldest Brewery in Los Angeles

Angel City Brewing

Owned and operated by an award-winning home brewer, Michael Bowe, Angel City Brewing, is bringing craft brew to LA.  Angel City is nothing fancy, but offers a laid back place to hang out on a Saturday afternoon in the recently revamped Arts District in downtown LA. The brewery is said to be the oldest in Southern California, resembling a large half empty warehouse that they commonly use to host art exhibitions.  Doing their best to display enormous canvases on kegs of beer.

Street Brewed Exhibit - April 29th - July 10th

Now on to the good stuff — Angel City brews about 13 different beers ranging from mild lagers and hefeweizens to a nice well-rounded 7% IPA.

A Few of Angel City’s spotlight beers:

  • Angel City “CHE” – Gold Medal at the Los Angeles International Beer Competition
  • Angel City Ale
  • Angel City Vitzen- Another Gold Medal at the Los Angeles International Beer Competition
  • Angel City Lager
  • Angel City Belgian IPA

Want a taste of Angel City Brewing?  The Beer Garden is open Thursdays – Fridays, from 5:00pm – ? and Saturday & Sunday from 2pm – ?.

Angel City Brewing

A Few Local LA Breweries that are helping to put us on the map:

And of course the Beer Bars to help introduce us to new things:

Have you heard of the Beer Mapping Project?  An anonymous entrepreneur has taken it upon himself to map out all beer related locations – breweries, brew pubs, beer bars, beer stores, and homebrew stores.  See the LA Beer Map now!

A Dinner in the Dark

Opaque - Dining In The Dark - V Lounge, Santa Monica

Tonight I dined in the dark.  I am not trying to be metaphorical or creative in my writing, but rather I actually ate a 3-course meal accompanied by a glass of Cabernet in the pitch darkness.  Imagine an hour and half meal without any visual stimuli.  No basis on how the food is presented or the reaction from eyes to brain — that causes your stomach to rumble and your mouth to water.  The sense you most commonly rely on has been abandoned and you are left to conquer a meal, both food and conversation, without sight.

After 9 months of cancellations (our own fault) and packed houses, we got a reservation for Opaque – Dining in the Dark, Santa Monica.  I don’t often question a dining experience of any kind, whether it be a stop at the local taco shop or an evening out at the locally reknowned hot spot, but tonight I questioned myself.  Why in the world do I feel the need to subject myself to an experience of discomfort? One in which I am giving up the very thing that allows me to throughly enjoy the food, the atmosphere, the company.

We entered V Lounge, a night club, that on the weekend is filled with bodies looking to enduge, to drink, to mingle, but tonight it is empty with the exception of a matre de.  She welcomes us to Opaque, offers a menu and encourages a decision, here they will take our order. I choose an Heriloom Tomato Cucumber Salad with Kalmata olives, blue cheese, and a red wine vinagrette; the seared Ahi Tuna Steak with mango sauce, garlic broccoli sprouts, parmesan sticky rice; and for dessert a Mango Panna Cotta with coconut crème anglaise, a puff pastry stick, mint and fresh strawberries.

Once we choose our indulgance we are introduced to our waiteress, Margarita.  She is wearing a pair of sunglasses and encourages me to place my right hand on her right shoulder, and Chris’ on mine.  We are led into the darkness by this fearless leader.  I instantly trust her as my most reliable sense disappears into the darkness.  I can no longer make out the shape of Margarita, the surrounding room, or my hand on her shoulder.  I try to focus, not on my sight but rather on her movements and her voice.  She warns of a pole to our left, then tables on both sides, encouraging me to place both hands on her guidance as not to knock over the neighbors wine glass.  As we near the table, or so she warns, she places my hand on the corner and guides me to a chair.  I inherently know my place and take a seat.

As we take a seat and Margarita leaves us alone in this darkness I immediatly become aware of my surroundings.  The volume of the room, the laughter, the discomfort, the concentrated conversation and most of all my excited discomfort.  I can’t decide whether I should simple close my eyes or keep them open — there is no difference.  This is a darkness I cannot ever remember experiencing.

We are soon after presented with our drinks, a basket of bread and butter and of course silverware.  Our first test in touch.  I inherently grab my napkin roll and unravel the silverware.  I place the two forks on my left and knife on my right.  It catches me surprise that I can appropriatly place my silverware on the table.  Test two is one of taste, I slowly locate my glass of wine and take a sip.  My tastes are intensified, every sip makes me think, contemplate deeper than normal.  An enjoyment passes through my veins that I can’t describe.  My discomfort is abandoned.

We are elegantly served our courses, hands guided to each plate.  I develop a technique to manage the food onto my fork, without pushing it straight into my lap.  A hand cups the plate to ensure no runaways find their escape.  I keep stopping to really appreciate the experience, to be thankful for not only my eyesight, but the remaining senses I do have.  I can taste every morsel, hear every sound, smell the flavors so intensley you can only be grateful.

The experience it’s self is one I believe every foodie or adventurist should try.  Learn to stop and appreciate the things you take for granted everyday.  Enjoy a meal unique from all others.  Step outside your comfort zone and learn to abandon your fear and constraints.  Indulge in a meal and experience like no other.

Opaque – Dining In the Dark Locations:

Hidden LA: Poke Poke

Wasabi Poke with Avocado served on Rice

One of my all time favorite food loves is raw tuna, okay, truth be told I actually toe the line of obsession with this one.  I don’t care how it is prepared, what it is served with, but that melt in your mouth fish is something I can never pass up.  Tuna sushi, tuna tartar, seared tuna, tuna ceviche, or tuna poke — whatever it is you can count on me ordering it.

To be honest, I can’t even remember now how I stumbled across this tiny tuna serving spot online, because the thought of what they were offering and realization of their proximity to my immediate location drove me to grab my bike and sprint out the door.  You think I am joking?

On Venice Boardwalk directly across from Muscle Beach you can find three extremely off beat food windows.  By off-beat I don’t mean your typical boardwalk fair of corn dogs, 14 inch slices of pizza, and burger patties, but rather small windows serving up gourmet delicacies under unique company mottos.

Secret Gourmet Windows on Venice Boardwalk

Secret Gourmet Windows on Venice Boardwalk

Aloha Poke - Aloha Shoyu, Rice Wine Vinegar & Crushed Red Pepper.

Poke-Poke – The Surfer’s Sashimi

Serving up deliciously fresh poke anyway you want it.  Choose from their four original creations or create your own, every cup is made-to-order.  No worries about your poke sitting in the kitchen for eight hours in marinade.  Quite the opposite poke is mixed and seasoned as you wait with your ability to add things like avocado, jalapeno, kale, crushed macadamia nuts, crushed red pepper, pickled ginger, watermelon radish and masago.

Poke-Poke Menu

Honestly I can’t say it gets must better than perfectly seasoned tuna, but get this —  you can get a ridiculously large cup of poke with rice for $10 or without for $12!  Next time your on the boardwalk craving a bite to eat don’t settle for a dog on stick, check out Poke-Poke, Sababa, & Schulzies for some delicious alternatives.

Sababa – Middle Eastern, focused on high-quality delicious food served at affordable prices.

Schulzies – 108 different flavors of bread pudding (I will be trying this shortly!).

Where can you find Poke-Poke, Schulzies, & Sababa?

1827 Ocean Front Walk, Venice, CA 90291

Beach, Bike & Brews – Santa Monica to Manhattan Beach

A day of enjoyed exercise, scenery, and delicious eats is perhaps my idea of a perfect Saturday.  When Chris suggested a bike ride to Manhattan Beach and back it crossed my mind that perhaps he had gone over the edge!  It takes us 30 minutes to drive to Manhattan Beach and you want to bike!?!  A quick Googled bike route informs me it is nowhere near as far has I had imagined.  Sure it takes 30 minutes plus in LA to drive to Manhattan beach, but I should know better.  A meer 14 miles there and back along a consistent bike path thru Venice, Marina del Ray, Playa del Ray and El Segundo.  Sure its further than I can ever remember biking in my 25 years of existence, but I got a new ride, good company, and a food reward in the middle!

Santa Monica to Manhattan Beach - Bike Route

Brand New Bikes

This ride is mostly a straight forward route as a beach bike path runs from Santa Monica to Marina del Ray then El Segundo to Manhattan Beach.  The only tricky part is finding the bike path that jogs around the Marina.  11 out of the 14 miles are spent beach front and the other 3 checking out LA’s elite fleet of yachts and sailboats.  It’s by no means a painful ride — add some craft brew hops and you got the perfect day.

Craft Brew Stops along the way…

Brew Co Manhattan Beach

With bottled beers that linger on the line of dangerous perfection (extremely high alcohol percentages) and 36 draughts that represent this country’s headway in the craft brew industry this beach front joint has it going on.  Brew Co not only boasts a bold and robust brew selection, but a menu that leaves you overwhelmed with delicious decisions that pair delightfully with your favorite beer.

Classic Burger from Brew Co

Steak Sandwich at Brew Co

Brew Co Manhattan Beach

Brew Co - 124 Manhattan Beach Blvd, Manhattan Beach, CA

Venice Ale House

A homegrown joint situated on the oddity that is the Venice Beach boardwalk, this place brings a new crowd, or a least keeps the crowd lingering on this prime piece of real estate.  Venice Ale House hosts a simply and organic grown menu paired with a carefully selected West Coast oriented flight of beer and wine.  Craving a beer created with palate and passion they bring some of the west favorites to the table — Kona Brewing Co, New Belgium, Oskar Blues, Stone Brewing Co, Green Flash, Lost Coast, Lagunitas, Deshcutes, Brouwerd Brewery and Napa Smith.

Venice Ale House

Venice Ale House

Venice Ale House - 2 Rose Ave, Venice, CA

Looking to plan your bike route?

Los Angeles Department of Transportation has recently been granted $2.675 million to expand the bicycle lanes, sharrows, bike parking and bike friendly streets throughout the city.  View the current Los Angeles bike friendly map to see where you can ride saftely!