Saint Martha restaurant is pleasant surprise

Saint Martha interior

Saint Martha interior

It’s rare that a restaurant truly surprises you. Sure, I’ve thought that many dishes at many restaurants were good — very good, even. But to find what is almost literally a diamond in the rough is simply a delight.

That’s what I found in Saint Martha, a new restaurant in a Koreatown strip mall serving up modern American cuisine. Following in the footsteps of Chef Ludo Lefebvre’s Trois Mec and Petit Trois, Saint Martha restaurant offers a fine-dining experience in an unassuming location. Named for the patron saint of cooks and servants, Saint Martha is the brainchild of the Farmer’s Daughter Hotel and TART restaurant team. Executive Chef and partner Nick Erven (formerly of Mess Hall) and General Manager and Sommelier Mary Thompson have put together a food and drink menu that would be impressive even if the restaurant weren’t in a strip mall.

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17

08 2014

ArcLight Hollywood introduces new cafe menu

This post is by ShopEatSleep contributor Eros David, an e-commerce professional on the everlasting quest for the perfect animated gif response. Having lived in both California and New York, he is no stranger to street food and streetwear. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, InstagramGoogle+ and Tumblr.

ArcLight Cafe

ArcLight Cafe

With the release of the food culture-centric film “The Hundred-Foot Journey,” ArcLight Cinemas on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood took the opportunity provide a preview of the upcoming menu for its ArcLight Cafe, including courses from the new menu as well as dishes inspired by the film. Using the classic dinner (with drinks) and a movie formula, I was taken on a group date with ArcLight and didn’t even have to text a friend for a rescue.

To shake off the LA traffic on the way to Hollywood, I was greeted with an ArcLight Sour — skillfully made and topped with an ArcLight “A” on top. It was a fine “hello” and a refreshingly light version of a whiskey sour with bourbon to help welcome in the evening’s courses.

ArcLight Sour

ArcLight Sour

The Spicy Southwestern Bacon Cheeseburger was the star of the new menu items. First off, the obvious point: you can’t go wrong with a burger. Secondly, this burger performs the balancing act of being casual enough to order at a movie theater cafe, yet still quality enough to actually make you want to go to the movie theater cafe to eat. For this Southwestern version of the burger, the fresno chili was a great choice to add a kick without overpowering the juicy beef patty. Let’s call it a gentle kick – a kind greeting from your future food baby. Southwestern flavor accents run throughout, but they aren’t used as a crutch as compared to some burgers that tend to rely on the toppings more than they should.

Spicy Southwestern Bacon Cheeseburger

Spicy Southwestern Bacon Cheeseburger

Keeping with a beef theme, the Beef Bourguinon a la Hassan is a dish from the movie inspired by the main character’s take on the French dish. Using a red wine sauce along with pearl onion and mushroom, no one was left hungry after this course. I actually halted conversation to focus on eating this. Of course, conversation picked right back up when we were deciding what to choose for the next round of drinks.

Beef bourguignon

Beef bourguignon

But first, dessert. We ended the night with Banana Cardamom Creme Brulee. The crisp top cracked open when lightly struck, and the custard underneath was the perfect consistency. There will be other fruit choices on the new menu, but it was banana’s night to shine.

Banana creme brulee

Banana creme brulee

ArcLight’s take on the Dark ‘n Stormy, the Perfect Stormy, was my companion for the movie. The local-made bitters and specially selected ginger beer are the highlight of this white rum cocktail. I grabbed a carton of popcorn, sat in my seat next to my alcoholic (beverage) date, and enjoyed the tale of an Indian family learning about Michelin stars in France.

Perfect Stormy

Perfect Stormy

The new menu debuts at the ArcLight Cafe in September, and while “The Hundred-Foot Journey” is in theaters, you can order select dishes inspired by the film.

Arclight MovieMenu sizedNote: This event was hosted.

10

08 2014

Choco Chicken’s chocolate fried chicken is a thing

Old School at Choco Chicken

Old School at Choco Chicken

By now, you may have heard about Los Angeles’ latest food innovation — chocolate fried chicken from Choco Chicken. The brainchild of Advantage Restaurant Partners’ Adam Fleischman (Umami Burger, 800 Degrees pizza), Choco Chicken offers all kinds of chocolate-infused foods, including mashed potatoes, french fries, meatballs and cocktails, in addition to the fried chicken.

The fried chicken, which is marinated in a secret sauce and fried in a batter mixed with chocolate and spices, isn’t as strange-tasting as it sounds. It’s kind of like the fried version of chicken mole, Oaxaca, Mexico’s famous dish. It’s much more savory than it is sweet. The chocolate-dusted fries and white chocolate mashed potatoes are just sweet enough to make them interesting, too. The cocktails are on the sweet side, though, but I suppose that’s less surprising.

Chocolate fried chicken

Chocolate fried chicken

Choco Chicken fries

Choco Chicken fries

Choco Colada

Choco Colada

The standout dish here is the Old School (pictured at top): a chocolate fried chicken thigh on a butter biscuit topped with white gravy. This is comfort food at its finest. Every component of this dish is rich with flavor and complements each other perfectly. The butter biscuit — order this one over the bacon one, if you’re going a la carte — is a revelation in fluffy butteriness.

Caramelized bacon biscuit

Caramelized bacon biscuit

Note: This meal was hosted.

31

07 2014

Bashan Restaurant serves up frill-free fine dining

This is the first post by ShopEatSleep contributor Shirley Lau, a proud native of Los Angeles who loves all things food and travel. She’s eaten at some of the swankiest restaurants in the world and — thanks to her stomach of steel — at some of the grimiest street-side food stalls. Her passion to see the world has taken her to more than 20 states and 18 countries. A seasoned communications professional, Shirley is a freelance writer and editor who, when not gorging on food and jetting off on a plane, loves to spend time with her two dogs.

Pork belly adobo at Bashan Restaurant

Pork belly adobo at Bashan Restaurant

Every year, my husband and I approach dineL.A. Restaurant Week with enthusiasm and caution. We’ve had our share of great experiences — my favorite by far was Spago — and several not-so-memorable ones (and that’s putting it nicely). Bashan Restaurant in Montrose/North Glendale falls somewhere in the middle.

At first glance, Bashan Restaurant may look a bit out of place. Located on Verdugo Road, the restaurant seems to be one of the only sit-down eateries along that stretch. And when you add fine dining to the mix, it becomes even more of a head-scratcher.

But this fine dining establishment is different from the rest — it’s casual. It’s the kind of place you can go in flip-flops and jeans and feel perfectly comfortable. The brainchild of Chef Nadav Bashan, whose impressive resume includes working at Michael’s in Santa Monica and Providence, the restaurant offers a menu that is both seasonal and farmers market-driven. Infusing California, Mediterranean and Asian practices, Bashan Restaurant incorporates classic French technique in all its preparations.

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25

07 2014

Travelogue: taking in the arts in Scottsdale, Arizona

Taliesin West

Taliesin West

When I think of Scottsdale, Arizona, spas, golf and swimming pools come to mind. But now, after having spent some time there, I know that art — in all forms — is just as integral to the city’s identity.

I had the opportunity to visit two of Scottsdale’s cultural centers: the Musical Instrument Museum and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West. I would go back to either in a heartbeat. Each was a unique experience that left me wanting more.

The Musical Instrument Museum, which is actually in neighboring Phoenix, houses more than 6,000 instruments from 200 countries and territories. This collection makes for hours of fun education for anyone interested in music and world culture. The upper level is categorized by region of the world, and the lower level features special collections, including an exhibit of self-playing instruments and an experiential gallery. There’s even a concert hall with live performances. Allow at least half a day here. Our two hours were not enough!

Guitar exhibit

Guitar exhibit

Chinese instruments

Chinese instruments

This fall, on Oct. 18 and 19, the museum will host an outdoor, two-day music festival celebrating musical traditions from all over the world, with musical performances, dancers, street performers and food trucks.

We also toured Taliesin West (pictured above), architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s West Coast home, studio and instructional campus. We took the 90-minute tour of the grounds and house that includes a lot of historical information from informed docents who clearly enjoy what they do.

I’ve also heard that the Museum of Contemporary Art is a must-see as well. This fall and winter, from Sept. 28 through Jan. 11, 2015, the museum will house the Donald Rumsfeld-inspired “Covert Operations: Investigating the Unknowns,” an exhibit from 13 international artists based on the idea of expansion of federal power and infringement of constitutional rights in the wake of 9/11. Given Arizona’s Republican leanings, this should be an interesting show.

So next time you’re thinking about taking a trip, especially one within driving distance of Los Angeles (6 hours by car), then consider Scottsdale. You can relax at the spa, play the links and take in some culture.

Note: These visits were hosted.

19

07 2014

Wood and Vine’s new summer menu is best yet

Burrata and peaches at Wood & Vine

Burrata and peaches at Wood & Vine

Hollywood’s Wood and Vine has gone through a few changes over the years, but the restaurant’s new summer menu from Chef Marc Johnson might be its best yet.

With a sharing-plates concept, you can try many dishes at Wood and Vine — a good thing, considering the high quality of each.

Start with the burrata and peaches (pictured above) served with prosciutto crisps and micro basil. I love stone fruit, so summer is always exciting for me, and the peaches in this dish pair well with the smooth cheese and crunchy ham.

Move on to the braised bacon with fried grits, cheddar, pickled ramps and jalapeno. The pork belly is super tender, and the fried grit balls topped with the pickled veg are an interesting way to get a creamy sourness in as an accompaniment.

Braised bacon

Braised bacon

For your pasta course, get the basil capellini. The basil-flavored pasta topped with charred cherry tomatoes, proscuitto, mushroom, preserved lemon and duck egg yolk is somehow light and substantial at the same time. My favorite part is the lemon.

Basil cappelini

Basil cappelini

The striped bass comes on top of an interesting concoction of nduja (spreadable salami), peaches and cauliflower, and is topped with fresh peppercress. The fish is perfectly cooked with delightfully crispy skin, and its lightness paired with the flavorful meat combo is a pleasant complement.

Striped bass

Striped bass

For dessert, get the butterscotch pot de creme. No question. Its sweet-and-salty combination makes me happy.

Butterscotch pot de creme

Butterscotch pot de creme

Don’t forget the cocktails! Wood and Vine’s bar manager Justin Stidham’s summer drink menu includes some good ones. The Black Star, with House Spirits rum, Giffard Banane (banana liqueur), housemade orgeat, Angostura bitters, fresh pineapple and lime, is summer in a glass served over crushed ice. And the Street Spirit, with its slightly sour combo of Buffalo Trace bourbon, fresh lemon juice, strawberry balsamic shrub, sherry, ginger beer and lemon peel, might not be for everyone, but it is certainly for me.

Black Star

Black Star

Street Spirit

Street Spirit

Note: This meal was hosted.

13

07 2014

Neapolitan heaven at DeSano Pizza Bakery + pizza making class

Margherita pizza

Margherita pizza

Do you love pizza? Like, really, really good pizza that has the perfect balance of toppings and cheese on a crispy-but-chewy crust? Then we share this love, you and me. So let me tell you about DeSano Pizza Bakery, a Neapolitan pizza joint in East Hollywood where you can not only eat these delicious pies but also learn how to make them.

Tomorrow, July 12, DeSano’s proprietors, Italy natives Marino Monferrato, formerly general manager at Cecconi’s, and pizzaiolo Massimiliano Di Lascio, will host a pizza-making class that includes tastings and your own dough to take home. Maybe you’ll get to make the classic Margherita (pictured above), with San Marzano tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, basil and garlic. Or maybe you’ll make the San Gennaro, a sweet-spicy-tangy combination of sausage, peppadews, buffalo mozzarella, garlic and caramelized onions.

San Gennaro pizza

San Gennaro pizza

You’ll use ingredients sourced from the Campania region of Southern Italy, and you’ll be firing up these pies in one of the restaurant’s four 6,000-pound, 900-degree wood-fired ovens imported from Italy and traditionally named after Italian saints.

DeSano's pizza ovens

DeSano’s pizza ovens

While you’re there, try a calzone. The Vesuvio, with spicy salame, prosciutto, pepperoni and garlic, is a meat lover’s dream.

Vesuvio calzone

Vesuvio calzone

For dessert, get a housemade cannoli or biscotti, or a small-batch gelato made by local Alessandro Fontana (his is the recipe over at Cecconi’s, too). Or get more than one; no one will judge. The blood orange sorbet is amazingly creamy, given its lack of dairy.

Ricotta cannoli, left, and chocolate cannoli

Ricotta cannoli, left, and chocolate cannoli

Blood orange sorbet, left, and salted caramel gelato

Blood orange sorbet, left, and salted caramel gelato

This is the third location for DeSano Pizza Bakery (the other two are in Nashville and Charleston, South Carolina). DeSano’s space is cavernous, so you can bring a bunch of friends, order a bunch of pies, and eat them with abandon — hopefully with a bottle of something Italian soon (wine and beer will be served here as soon as the license gets worked out — a notoriously difficult process).

More information on the Neapolitan pizza-making class:

Saturday, July 12
3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
$40 per person, which includes personal instruction from Massimiliano DiLascio, a tasting of the pizzas prepared and dough to take home.
Call (323) 913-7000 for reservations (ask for Marino Monferrato)

DeSano Pizza Bakery
4959 Santa Monica Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90029

11

07 2014

Set yourself free at Unplug Meditation

Unplug Meditation

Unplug Meditation

Life can be overwhelming. Sometimes, you just need to slow down. Easier said that done, though, right?

That’s where Unplug Meditation comes in.

Unplug, located on the eastern edge of Santa Monica in West Los Angeles, is a studio dedicated to the art of meditation with 30- and 45-minute drop-in classes that focus on everything from simple mindfulness to stress reduction while driving in traffic. Many of the studio’s guides have advanced degrees and are trained in mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) techniques. Unplug Meditation’s founder, Suze Yalof Schwartz, is a former fashion editor who opened the studio as part of her own spiritual journey.

I recently took one of these classes. I was curious to see how the guiding process would go, considering my idea of stress reduction has been yelling, “Serenity, now!” Rest assured, there is no yelling at Unplug Meditation. My guide was Natalie Bell, who calmly and gently guided my small group to be present in the moment. She didn’t tell us that we had to put all thoughts out of our minds, but that we should allow our thoughts to come and go as they please. We sat on the floor on comfy pads that could be flattened or folded up like chairs in a darkened room with soft, soothing music. Interestingly, my classes consisted of three men and me. For whatever reason, I thought there would be more women, but maybe it was just my particular class that day.

I left Unplug Meditation feeling relaxed — maybe too relaxed. It took me a while to kind of snap out of it. Luckily, there are 15 minutes between classes, so you can take your time leaving. And the first class is free, with no obligation to sign up for more. No stress here. (Pro-tip: LivingSocial is currently offering a deal on classes, for when you decide it’s for you.)

Note: This class was complimentary, as are all first classes.

06

07 2014

Travelogue: Fairmont Scottsdale Princess resort in Scottsdale, Arizona

Fairmont Scottsdale room

Fairmont Scottsdale room

I recently visited Scottsdale, Arizona, and had the opportunity to stay at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess resort. Located in North Scottsdale, it’s a little out of the way, but that may just be the whole point.

The Fairmont Scottsdale is a sprawling resort complete with multiple pools and eateries, as well as a two-story wellness spa, for maximum desert-style relaxation.

First, the rooms. Our room had ample space, with a walk-in closet, desk, seating area and private balcony. The bed was comfy, and the bathroom had both a stand-up shower and a tub, as well as Le Labo bath products. No complaints.

View from our room

View from our room

Welcome amenities at Fairmont Scottsdale

Welcome amenities at Fairmont Scottsdale

Amply stocked minibar at Fairmont Scottsdale

Amply stocked minibar at Fairmont Scottsdale — with my fave Macallan 12

Fairmont Scottsdale bathroom

Fairmont Scottsdale bathroom

As Scottsdale is known for its luxurious spa experiences, I naturally partook in a treatment at the resort’s Well & Being at Willow Stream Spa, which offers everything from traditional spa treatments and a rooftop pool to aerial yoga classes and nutrition and fitness consultations. I opted for a full body scrub and light massage with natural Body Bliss and Naturopathica skin products, all of which are derived from natural and/or organic ingredients. My provider Mistie made me feel comfortable right away and explained everything to me. And with access to the open-air pool, grotto waterfall, steam room, Swedish dry sauna, eucalyptus inhalation room, Swiss shower, hot whirlpool and cold plunge pool, as well as a full spa cuisine menu, you can easily spend a full relaxing day here. Oh, and fitness classes are included in your booking. Score!

Aerial yoga

Aerial yoga

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30

06 2014

Eat better with The Better Chip + World Cup recipes

the better chipYou like snacks. More specifically, you like chips. But you struggle to balance your desire for delicious crunchy goodness with eating healthily. (And by “you,” I of course mean “me.”)

Enter The Better Chip. They’re made with few ingredients that are actually recognizable, are gluten-free and vegan-friendly, and are non-GMO Project verified. What also makes these chips stand out is the use of whole foods baked right into the corn chip base; I spied part of a kale stalk in one of my chips, so they’re legit.

I’ve tried all The Better Chip flavors: corn, beets, spinach & kale, chipotles, and jalapenos. I like them all, though beets doesn’t have as much flavor as the others. Chipotles and jalapenos are spicy — remember, the peppers are baked right in! — so watch out. The chips are a bit on the heavy side but are still crispy, so they make for a good nacho base.

Speaking of nachos, The Better Chip has come up with some World Cup-themed recipes that you can enjoy while watching the games (most of these teams are still in contention, too!):

  • Germany Kraut Nachos: The Better Chip beet chips topped with sauerkraut, finely diced bratwurst, diced bacon and drizzle of brown mustard
  • Ghana Tatale Nachos: The Better Chip chipotle chips topped with grilled marinated beef, fried sweet plantains and fresh baby spinach, sprinkled with unsweetened coconut
  • Greek Salad Nachos: The Better Chip spinach & kale chips topped with hummus, chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, black olives and feta cheese (grilled lamb optional)
  • Japanese Sashimi Nachos: The Better Chip jalapeno chips topped with chopped up yellow tail, diced avocado and a drizzle of wasabi-infused soy sauce
  • Mexico Authentic Nachos: The Better Chip chipotle chips topped with marinated carne asada, pinto beans, crumbled queso fresco, cilantro and guacamole
  • Brazilian Samba Nachos:  The Better Chip corn chips topped with feijoada (Brazilian black bean and meat stew) and a fresh mango, onion, cilantro and tomato lime salsa
  • American Hawaii Style Nachos: The Better Chip jalapeno chips topped with pulled pork, grilled pineapple and a drizzle of melted cheese

    Greek Salad Nacho

    Greek Salad Nacho

Even if you’re not into soccer, these recipes would make for some fun international-themed party eats. I even made some satisfying gringo-style nachos with the chipotle chips topped with melted shredded cheddar cheese, refried beans and salsa (don’t judge — it’s all I had in my fridge), so anything is possible.

Note: These chips were complimentary.

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25

06 2014