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

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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

Beach, Beer & BBQ in Los Angeles

Any time an event pops up on my radar that claims “All-Inclusive” I am all over it.  This one even got Chris’ attention, all you can eat bbq and all you can drink beer at the beach — a 10 minute walk from our house!  Sold!

Slow-smoked, succulent pulled pork, fiery hot but sweet bbq sauces, beers of all colors and alcohol percentages rounded up in one dynamic spot under the speculation of the LA BBQ snob community (if there is one) and/or simply those who have become Drink-Eat-Play obsessed.

LA BBQ Fest featured chefs and bbq houses from Jersey, Kansas City, Chicago, San Diego, Santa Maria and Kentucky all representing their local flavors with a specialty to sample, however many times you wished.  The BBQ stole the show, quite the opposite outcome of the typical Drink-Eat-Play events I have been to.

On Saturday afternoon we sat in the Santa Monica Pier parking lot at checkered covered tables and filled our stomaches with some some truly fantastic bbq.  The crowd although relatively tame, were excited to sample as much bbq and beer as they could before they burst, but the lines were almost non-existent and the Johnny Cash/Tom Petty tribute band, Petty Cash, added to the laid-back atmosphere.

The Festival Stars … (in my opinion)

  • David’s Unforgettables – Balsamic BBQ Sauce – Available in hot or mild.  This BBQ sauces was unlike anything I have tasted.  It had the rich bite of balsamic but the sweetness of molasses.  As ridiculous as this statement is — it was unforgettable.  It’s a must try!
  • Kentucky BourbonQ Pulled Pork Wrap with Pappy’s Moonshine Madness Sauce – It was unconventional as it was BBQ served in a flour tortilla, the pulled pork was moist and flavorful and top it off there was a crunchy slaw nestled in next to the pork.  The sauce was one of the hottest sauces I have laid my tongue on.  WARNING: This is no joke!  However I did buy a bottle because it was that good!
  • BigMista’s candy bacon – with a hint of cayenne, brown sugar, and salt these pieces of candied bacon were well like candy!
  • Maple Bacon Cupcake – How often do people boast about cupcakes these days — however I must partake.  These were to simply die for.  They were sweet with the flavor of maple syrup and salty like bacon.  You can hunt me down now, because for the life of me I cannot remember who provided them!  If anyone know please fill me in on the secret!

1. David’s Unforgettables – Balsamic BBQ Sauce  2. Kentucky BourbonQ Pulled Pork Wrap  3. LC’s BBQ Kansas City, Spare Ribs & Baked Beans  4. Maple Bacon Cupcake!

Drink-Eat-Play is preparing one last event before the 2011 year comes to a close.  Be sure to check out Septemberfest, LA’s attempt at a tribute to bringing in the fall season with a ton of beer.

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:

New Outdoor Movie Scene

Outdoor movies.  Why do they make me so giddy?  Perhaps it’s the part where your defying the everyday movie experience you have grown accustomed to?  Or the fact that you are enjoying nature and technology at the same time?  But what about an outdoor movie in a mall?  Does that still get your blood pumping?

Check this.  Santa Monica Place — the brand new outdoor “experience” mall is hosting FREE outdoor movie nights. Movies in a mall, in the recent years have walked hand in hand.  You cannot visit a mall without finding a movie theater attached.  The combination of shopping, entertainment and food have become commonplace.  This event, coined “Classic Favorites Under the Stars” sets a new precedent of what is possible within a mall.

If you haven’t already visited Santa Monica Place then you don’t know the Dining Deck.  An open air, roof top deck lined with privately owned restaurants and a food court that rivals gourmet.  Did I mention the view of Santa Monica State Beach and the landmark Santa Monica Pier?

Santa Monica Place Dining Deck

On Wednesday nights they showcase classic feature films that are prime for every audience.  A date, family, or friends.  On Monday nights they drum up some independents.  Invited to bring your own chairs and blankets and make your self at home.

The night we made it out was an evening in mid-March, in which we were lucky enough to snag two comfy lounge chairs, a space heater, curl up under a blanket and enjoy a screening of The Godfather.  Pizza Antica the adjacent restaurant to the Dining Deck offered free pizza samples and wait service to those that were enjoying the film.

Pizza Antica offered up wait service for their entire menu to be enjoyed under the stars

Have I failed to mention that this is completely FREE.  Oh yes!  It costs nothing.  Not a donation, not a suggested fee.  So if your ever feeling spontaneous on a Monday or Wednesday evening in the next few weeks.  Stop by, and check out an experience unique in its own right.

The Godfather

UPCOMING SCHEDULES:

Monday Night Independent Films:

  • April 4th – Vicky Cristina Barcelona
  • April 11th – Napoleon Dynamite
  • April 18th – My Big Fat Greek Wedding
  • April 25th – (500) Days of Summer
  • May 2nd – THe Kids Are Alright
  • May 9th – Kung Fu Hustle
  • May 16th – L’illusionist
  • May 23rd – Harold and Maude
  • May 30th – Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Wednesday Night Classics:

  • April 6th – E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial
  • April 13th – Shrek- This movie night is hosted by Zengo and co-hosted by “Shrek” the Musical.  The first 100 people to arrive will receive special SHREK ears and a chance to win tickets to the musical at the Pantages theater. You wont want to miss this!
  • April 20th – Raiders of the Lost Ark
  • April 27th – Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
  • May 4th – The Breakfast Club
  • May 11th – West Side Story- This movie night is hosted by La Sandia.  You won’t want to miss special treat and surprises for all in attendance.
  • May 18 – Goldfinger
  • May 25 – Viewers Choice Movie

Pizza & Soup from Pizza Antica

In The Kitchen: Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken Tikka Masala

Spice Station, a local Los Angeles spice shop is bringing the hipster vibe to the spice scene.  With locations on Main Street in Santa Monica and Sunset Blvd in Silver Lake, this new cooking enthusiasts dream is drawing in the crowds.

An expertly blended medley of tikka masala from Spice Station made it nearly impossible to mess this dish up.

 

Spice Station - Silver Lake

Spice Station - Santa Monica

Chicken Tikka Masala

Prep Time:   1 1/2 hrs

Total Time:  2 hrs

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken, cut in 1 inch cubes
Chicken Marinade
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground red pepper
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 piece minced ginger (1-inchinch” long)
Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 jalapeno, minced
  • Tikka Masala spice blend (2 teaspoons ground coriander, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1 teaspoon paprika, 1 teaspoon garam masala)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Instructions:

Combine marinade in a plastic bag with rinsed and cleaned chicken cut into 1 inch cubes.  Place chicken and marinade in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

While the chicken is  settling in the marinade, begin the sauce by melting butter on medium heat.  Add garlic & jalapeno; cook 1 minute. Stir in Tikka Masala spices or coriander, cumin, paprika, garam masala & salt. Stir in tomato sauce. Simmer for at least 15 minutes.  Stir in cream; simmer to thicken about 5 minutes.

While sauce is simmering, grill, broil or saute chicken, turning occasionally, to cook through about 8 minutes. Remove chicken from skewers; add to sauce. Simmer 5 minutes.

Garnish with cilantro Serve with basmati rice, naan or pita bread.

Santa Monica Active Living

Santa Monica Community Garden - Main St

Whether you have to or choose to live in Los Angeles, there are a few cities that stand out as fabulous places to reside.  However no community is as closely committed to community and “Active Living” than Santa Monica.  Having lived here for over a year now has enabled me to experience and enjoy some of the community facilities, activities, and efforts that make this a great place to live.

The community motto is to strive for Active Living, the integration of physical activity into our daily routines.  Countless recreational facilities  alongside Southern California’s consistent climate, provides Santa Monica residence with a slice of paradise.

Santa Monica Community Gardens is a fantastically executed concept that not only promotes sustainably living, but adds spots of green beauty to this beach side city.  The gardens provide residents the opportunity to practice sustainably living, grow organic fruits, veggies, and flowers, to meet neighbors with like interests, and of course get some exercise. With three different locations throughout the city, garden sharing and active community, these gardens thrive with passionate gardeners and delicious nutrients.

Local working in her Garden

Annenberg Community Beach House

Have you ever driven down PCH and dreamed about spending even an hour in one of those house that sits on the countries end with one of the best views in the nation?  Live in Santa Monica?  Guess what you now have the opportunity!

Annenberg Community Beach House - View From the Beach

The 5 acre Annenberg Community Beach House property previously owned by William Randolph Hearst for Marion Davies in the mid 1920s.  In 1947 converted into the  Oceanhouse, “America’s Most Beautiful Hotel” and the Sand and Sea, limited member-only beach club.  In 1959 the property was turned over to the state of California.  In the 1990’s the city of Santa Monica gain control over the property and ran the club as “415 PCH” until the historic 1994 Northridge Earthquake, in which the property suffered massive damages.  After the damages a massive re-haul began on the city of Santa Monica and a project to restore the property was put into play.

Today the Annenberg Community Beach House stands on 5 acres of some of the most sought after property in the US.  Situated directly on PCH it is open to the public to enjoy!  The house is composed of a beach side pool, Sand & Sea fitness center, beach volleyball, soccer fields, tennis courts, canopies, meeting/celebration rooms, parking and a cafe.

Pool at the Beach House

Wow!  Amazing, whats the catch?  How much does it cost?  This is the shocker as those questions roll through you mind you can leave them at the door, a day a the Annenberg Community Beach House on the weekend will run each person in your party — $7.00.  Don’t let this opportunity pass you by!  It’s a must check out!

To be covered next time on Santa Monica Active Living: