Eat well at Spaghettini & the Dave Koz Lounge happy hour

Spaghettini Fish & Chips. Photo by Eric Hameister.

Spaghettini Fish & Chips. Photo by Eric Hameister.

You don’t always have to spend a pretty penny when dining out in Beverly Hills. Spaghettini & the Dave Koz Lounge — yes, jazz musician Dave Koz — offers not only dinner and a show, but it also has a generous happy hour.

Every Tuesday through Friday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., Spaghettini’s Social Hour offers special food items, regular menu items at a discounted price and a rotating drink menu.

Bar Manager Lauren Trickett highlights a different spirit each week in two classic cocktails, in addition to a selection of wines, sparkling wines and craft beers on tap — all for $8 each.

Spaghettini & the Dave Koz Lounge Old Fashioned

Old Fashioned

When it comes to food, Executive Chef Scott Howard designed a happy hour menu that includes Spaghettini & the Dave Koz Lounge favorites Pommery Shrimp with Pommery mustard, citrus and mache ($15, regular price $24) and the rich Smoked Gouda Orzo Mac & Cheese ($8, regular price $10), as well as Social Hour-specific items such as the Spaghettini Burger with aged white cheddar, onion jam and arugula ($15) and Fish & Chips with tartar sauce and malt vinegar aioli ($12) — one of my personal favorites.

Spaghettini & the Dave Koz Lounge Orzo gouda mac and cheese

Smoked Gouda Orzo Mac & Cheese

And if you grab a seat at the bar, you don’t have to pay for the entertainment cover charge to enjoy the live music. Another perk of being frugal.

Note: This visit was hosted.

Further reading:

Spaghettini & the Dave Koz Lounge by eaterLA

An evening at Spaghettini Beverly Hills by Los Angeles Times

22

03 2015

Treat yo self: Quality food and drink at good prices

Asa Meza ceviche

Asa Meza ceviche. From Asa Meza.

If you’re like me, you want to enjoy the finer things in life, but you can’t always afford it. That’s when knowing where to score some reasonably priced eats (sometimes free!) at some of Los Angeles’ up-and-coming restaurants and bars comes in handy.

Two new deals from Asa Meza and Now Boarding should whet your appetite.

On Thursday, March 19, Latin- and Asian-inspired restaurant Asa Meza is hosting a Hollywood Social Night from 6 to 10 p.m. Go to check out the menu, craft cocktails and beers while also enjoying complimentary appetizers.

Asa Meza
1718 Vine St.
Hollywood, CA 90028

Blackjack Smash at Now Boarding.

Blackjack Smash at Now Boarding. From Now Boarding.

At Now Boarding, a travel-inspired bar in West Hollywood, Sunday nights are now “You Don’t Know Jack” nights. Starting at 9 p.m., enjoy free live music from funk, soul and R&B bands, as well as happy hour-priced $9 specialty Jack Daniels cocktails. Considering these kinds of cocktails are usually $14, this is a bargain.

Cocktails include:

~Tiny Dancer with Jack Daniel’s whiskey, Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur, passion fruit and prosecco
~Blackjack Smash with Jack Daniel’s whiskey, lemon juice, sugar, blackberries and mint
~Jackalope with Jack Daniel’s whiskey, pineapple, coconut and Ancho Reyes ancho chile liqueur
~Elda Fitzgerald with Jack Daniel’s whiskey, St. Germaine elderflower liqueur, orange, lemon, sugar and egg white

Now Boarding
7746 Santa Monica Blvd.
West Hollywood, CA 90046

15

03 2015

Experience an ode to the 80s with Dear John Hughes

Dear John Hughes by For the Record

Dear John Hughes by For the Record

If you’re a fan of the movies The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles and Pretty in Pink (and if you’re not, we can’t be friends), then you’ll want to check out the musical theater show Dear John Hughes presented by For the Record.

For the Record shows string together music from one auteur’s films to create a cohesive live musical stage show. Dear John Hughes weaves songs together from The Breakfast Club (celebrating its 30th anniversary this year), Sixteen CandlesPretty in Pink, Weird Science, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Some Kind of Wonderful to create a new story while still holding true to the originals. You’ll hear Simple Minds’ “Don’t You (Forget About Me),” David Bowie’s “Changes,” Suzanne Vega’s “Left of Center” and many more while enjoying cocktail and food specials inspired by the 80s (read: sweet drinks and Jiffy Pop). It’s basically one big party.

Evan Rachel Wood in Dear John Hughes

Evan Rachel Wood in Dear John Hughes

Joining the For the Record cast this time around for Dear John Hughes is actress Evan Rachel Wood (Thirteen, Pretty Persuasion, The Wrestler), who shines as Basket Case, i.e., Breakfast Club Allison, Ferris Bueller Jeanie and Some Kind of Wonderful Watts. Wood is passionate in her role and has a great set of lungs to boot. When Wood isn’t performing, Rumer Willis plays Basket Case. If her performance in For the Record’s Baz Luhrmann is any indication, she’ll also be great in Dear John Hughes. And don’t overlook Alex Wyse’s portrayal of Brain, i.e., Anthony Michael Hall characters as well as Ferris Bueller. He’s amazing.

Dear John Hughes shows every Friday through Sunday through April 5 at DBA in West Hollywood. Baz Luhrmann shows on Thursdays through the end of March. Buy tickets.

Note: Admission to both Dear John Hughes and Baz Luhrmann were complimentary.

16

02 2015

Introducing putxero on Mondays at Smoke Oil Salt

Putxero at Smoke Oil Salt

Putxero at Smoke Oil Salt

Adding Monday night to its business operations, Smoke Oil Salt is introducing Monday Night Dinners with a proud salute to Chef Perfecto Rocher’s childhood in Valencia, Spain.

Served in a trayed fashion, his Putxero Valencia Amb Pilotes is made with lamb, beef, pork, pilotes, chickpeas, cabbage, potatoes and short noodles. The ingredients can vary with what is available in the region it is made, but the pilotes is the main attraction of this traditional Spanish stew. Large oval meatballs made with minced meat, egg, parseley, cinnamon, pinenuts and light seasoning with salt and pepper are cooked in broth and wrapped in cabbage. If this meal were the 2001 Los Angeles Lakers, the pilotes would be Shaquille O’Neal winning the Finals MVP.

What makes everything on the platter great is that all items are seasoned subtly and perfectly. You’ll notice you won’t be immediately overpowered by flavors trying to beat you into submission. Rather, your taste buds will welcome their new best friends for the evening and ask them to stay a while, getting to know one another slowly but surely.

The fried chicken is very inviting, and the texture of the skin is so crisp and light you almost want to shed a tear of praise when you realize the meat comes off the bone with very little coaxing. All those years of letting drivers change lanes in front of you and holding elevators for people have finally paid off. At last, good karma has come back to you in the form of stupidly delicious, almost-too-easy-to-eat chicken wings.

It’s recommended you take bites of everything as you go rather than finishing each item one at a time, and it makes sense. Although they are separated by tray partitions, all the components go together. Like its cafeteria lunch brethren, putxero is meant to be a complete and balanced meal. While the cafeteria style serving is a nod to Chef Rocher’s childhood, this is leagues beyond a basic TV dinner or anything Red might serve you on “Orange is the New Black” (sorry, Red!). These Monday Night Dinner trays are proud presentations of tastes, techniques and history.

Monday Night Dinners launches Feb. 16 and putxero platters will go for $35 each. Wine and dessert will be available à la carte. The restaurant will be open from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. every Monday night, making it now open seven days a week. Smoke Oil Salt is located at 7274 Melrose Avenue in the Fairfax District.

Note: This meal was hosted.

Further reading:

Smoke.Oil.Salt Review: Spanish Tapas in West Hollywood by LA Weekly

Jonathan Gold reviews smoke.oil.salt by KCRW

Smoke Oil Salt by kevinEats

09

02 2015

Bring back the pho burrito at Komodo cafe

Komodo cafe's Phoritto

Komodo cafe’s Phorrito

I’m just going to cut to the chase: Komodo cafe should bring back its special Phorrito, its Mexican-Vietnamese fusion of pho soup components rib eye, lime, bean sprouts, jalapeno, onions, Thai basil, cilantro, hoisin, Sriracha and rice noodles all wrapped up in a tortilla. It’s almost like a huge spring roll, but better (because I’m not a big fan of spring rolls).

So what’s the deal with Komodo cafe? A food-truck-turned-brick-and-mortar restaurant, Komodo offers a mash-up of Asian, Latino and Californian (which, let’s face it, has a lot of Asian and Latino influences as it is) cuisine. So even if you can’t get the Phorrito (bring it back!), the cafe has a lot of other tasty dishes for you to try.

Komodo tacos

Komodo tacos

Komodo cafe shines in its taco menu. My favorites are the ones that come topped with an egg — because everything is better with egg, right? — as well as those that feature carb-on-carb action. The Loko Modo with seared ground Angus beef, green onions, a sunny-side-up egg, white rice and pineapple-teriyaki sauce is one of these, and I normally don’t like teriyaki sauce. The other is the MP3 with top sirloin steak, tater tots, a sunny-side-up egg, garlic aioli and cilantro. The crunchiness of the tots are key in this taco.

Other tacos that I enjoy are the Asian Marinated Chicken with grilled chicken, jalapeno stir-fried rice, green onions, mandarin oranges, sesame seeds and a sweet soy glaze, as well as the Java with Indonesian pork rendang braised in coconut milk, tomato cucumber salad, green onions and fried shallots. One of the strangest-sounding combinations — the Fish n’ Grapes with deep fried Alaskan cod, concord grapes, roasted almonds and a sour cream salad — is also one of the tastiest.

There are two restaurant locations, in addition to the truck, for Komodo cafe, one on Pico Boulevard near Robertson Boulevard and one in Venice. The newer Venice location just launched a beer program and will be introducing a brunch menu in February.

There’s something for everyone on the Komodo cafe menu, including healthier plates and salads, as well as naughty dishes such as the Brutus Salad, dubbed the “ultimate anti-salad” with tater tots topped with steak, bacon, cheddar cheese, sour cream, pico de gallo, jalapeno aioli and cilantro. But you can’t go wrong with the tacos, which kicked off the menu back in Komodo’s food truck-only days.

Note: This meal was hosted.

Further reading:

Komodo: Los Angeles Food Truck by Behind the Food Carts

Los Angeles Tacos: Komodo Truck’s New Brick-and-Mortar Cafe on Pico by serious eats

26

01 2015

Beauty product review: Origins GinZing moisturizer

Origins GinZing moisturizer

Origins GinZing moisturizer. From Origins.

I think I’ve found a new favorite moisturizer in Origins GinZing moisturizer. Formulated with ginseng and coffee beans, this creamy gel provides a get-up-and-go kick beyond just hydration that makes my skin look brighter and more alive.

But let’s talk about that hydration, shall we? For my oily-to-combination skin, Origins GinZing moisturizer provides near-perfect coverage. My skin feels hydrated without feeling greasy, and unlike my previous favorite moisturizer, Origins GinZing doesn’t leave my skin wanting more in its drier places. This is all kinds of amazing.

Origins GinZing moisturizer doesn’t include sunscreen, but since it’s not oily, it layers nicely with my still-favorite Jan Marini Antioxidant Daily Face Protectant.

I’ve also been using Origins GinZing eye cream with favorable results, so I think I’ll be sticking to this skin care line for a while.

 

 

16

01 2015

Travelogue: NYC’s Estela restaurant

Beef tartare at Estela

Beef tartare at Estela

Named No. 3 Best New Restaurant by Bon Appetit in 2014, Estela restaurant is a self-described “beverage-driven” eatery from the minds and palates of beverage director Thomas Carter (Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Essex House) and James Beard Award-nominated chef Ignacio Mattos (Isa, Il Buco) in New York City. With shareable plates, an interesting wine list and solid cocktails, Estela focuses on “American food with European influences.”

I visited Estela restaurant earlier this year in the fall, and enjoyed its famous beef tartare with fried sunchoke chips, which give the dish a welcome variety in texture and subtle sweetness.

My dining companion, my cousin Phillip who is studying to become a sommelier, chose a funky white wine for us to drink, as well as the burrata with salsa verde and charred bread, one of the dishes the Obamas ate during dinner here less than a month earlier.

Burrata

Burrata

We also had the razor clams, which come topped with tons of freshly grated horseradish. I’ve never had a dish like this before, and I liked its spiciness, especially because it didn’t overpower the delicacy of the clams.

Razor clams

Razor clams

Since Estela restaurant is beverage-focused, we of course got cocktails. The Il Vittelone, with whiskey, sherry, amaro and vermouth, and the Tuxedo #2, with gin, white vermouth, maraschino, absinthe and bitters, were both winners. Il Vittelone is the bolder of the two — a “real” drink — and the Tuxedo #2 is a smooth operator.

Il Vittelone, left, and Tuxedo #2

Il Vittelone, left, and Tuxedo #2

Estela restaurant is pretty small and gets crowded, but we were able to walk in on the early side of dinner on a Friday night without a problem. It’s kind of great, actually.

Further reading:

25 Things to Do When Traveling Solo to NYC by Diana Takes a Bite

29

12 2014

Status Kuo brings neighborhood rotisserie to Mar Vista

Status Kuo isn’t just a good pun, it’s also a good restaurant.

From the minds of Executive Chef and owner David Kuo, his wife, Maki, and Chef de Cuisine Keith Silverton (Messhall, La Brea Bakery), Status Kuo is a neighborhood joint serving up solid dishes with a focus on rotisserie.

Located just off Venice Boulevard on a trendy stretch in Mar Vista, Status Kuo is designed for no-fuss dining and takeout with flavorful and often healthy meals. Some dishes include Asian elements, reflecting Kuo’s heritage.

The rotisserie chicken is perfectly cooked with herbs and nicely rendered skin while still maintaining its juiciness inside. Served with a salad of mixed greens, fruit (this time it was persimmon) and edible flowers, this is a healthy and tasty dish. And at $14 for half a chicken that can feed two, this is a deal.

Rotisserie chicken

Rotisserie chicken

Kicking things up a notch is the whole roasted branzino with lemon, fried capers and rayu (Japanese red chili paste). At $28, this dish is a splurge for this menu, but it’s well worth the higher price tag.

Mediterranean seabass

Mediterranean seabass

The most interesting dish I tried was the Taiwanese Sunday Gravy, Kuo’s modern interpretation of classic Taiwanese flavors. I was expecting long, Chinese-style noodles, but what came to the table was more of an Italian pasta dish flavored with braised pork, pork belly and pickled mustard greens. I’m familiar with Taiwanese food and had just returned from a trip to Taiwan, so I was curious to taste Kuo’s version. While it was kind of strange to have these flavors coupled with short, European-style pasta, I enjoyed the dish. Though I did wonder where the “gravy” was.

Taiwanese Sunday Gravy

Taiwanese Sunday Gravy

Status Kuo is also making its own sodas and desserts, both admirable. While the hibiscus and blood orange soda was just OK for me, the baked apple hand pie — a healthier version of McDonald’s famous pies — was top-notch, as was the house-made frozen custard that accompanied it.

Kuo has plans for whole roasted suckling pigs and to hold roasts at the nearby Mar Vista Farmers Market on Sundays. After failing to open a restaurant in Culver City last year after investors pulled out at the 11th hour, Kuo hopes Status Kuo will become a mainstay for the Mar Vista neighborhood.

“I wanted to put my name on the restaurant as a guarantee,” Kuo said. “You know who is behind the restaurant and who will be in the kitchen cooking for you. The menu is designed around food I would serve my family.”

Note: This meal was hosted.

Further reading:

Status Kuo by hoopLA

Spit-tacular by Clean Plates

Status Kuo–New Rotisserie Restaurant in Mar Vista by Nosh With Me

22

12 2014

Holiday gift guide for foodies

Still working your way through that holiday gift list? If you’re shopping for someone who likes food more than your average Joe, then check out these goodies in this holiday gift guide for foodies.

Pretzel necklace from Food52

Pretzel necklace

Pretzel necklace

Food52 also carries necklaces with pendants shaped like whisks, rotelle pasta, crawfish claws and more. All are adorable. All should be on holiday gift guides. Because food jewelry.

The Chef Says book

The Chef Says

The Chef Says

Chock full of funny and insightful quotes, The Chef Says makes a nice gift for that person who is really into what his or her favorite chef may have to say, even when not in the kitchen.

Clean Plates book

Clean Plates

Clean Plates

For the healthful eater, there are the Clean Plates books, which bills itself as “Zagat with a healthy twist.” So far the books are available in Los Angeles and New York City versions, and are also able to be personalized.

Huckleberry cookbook

Huckleberry cookbook

Huckleberry cookbook

From the creative mind of Zoe Nathan, pastry chef extraordinaire at Huckleberry Bakery & Cafe, comes the cookbook of the same name. This is great for the baker on your list, as it contains recipes of many of the bakery’s favorites, both sweet and savory.

Anthropologie gold monogram mugs

Anthropologies gold monogram mugs

Anthropologie gold monogram mugs

Because who doesn’t want their initial in gold?

16

12 2014

Bruce Kalman elevates dining with Union Pasadena

Spaghetti alla chitarra at Union Pasadena. Photo courtesy of Union.

Spaghetti alla chitarra at Union Pasadena. Photo courtesy of Union.

Chef Bruce Kalman’s Union Pasadena in Old Town is good — not just good for Pasadena, but good for anywhere. That’s good news for Pasadena, but not so good for those of us who live nowhere near there.

No matter. You’ll want to try Union Pasadena’s food in any case. The menu by Kalman (The Misfit, Urbano Pizza Bar, The Churchill) is described as a “seasonally Californian interpretation of Northern Italian cuisine,” but all you need to know is you want all the pasta. Yes, the other dishes are tasty, too — pork meatballs with San Marzano tomatoes, lardo and caper berries, and wild mushrooms over Grist & Toll polenta topped with Pedro Ximenez sherry vinegar — but Kalman’s house-made pasta is where it’s at.

The spaghetti alla chitarra (pictured above), with San Marzano tomato, garlic and fresno chili pepper, is a classic kicked up a notch with a Californian ingredient. It’s simple and satisfying.

But when Kalman starts getting creative, that’s when he really shines. The squid ink garganelli served with lobster, fennel, meyer lemon and truffle butter is holy-moly good. The toothsome pasta sucks up all the flavors, including the richness of the lobster.

Squid ink garganelli

Squid ink garganelli. Photo courtesy of Union.

In keeping with the seasonal theme, some dishes in the pasta section change periodically. One of these seasonal dishes is a duck agnolotti with pickled fiddlehead ferns, another rich dish featuring expertly crafted pasta and two of my favorite ingredients.

Duck agnolotti

Duck agnolotti. Photo courtesy of Union.

When it comes to mains, don’t overlook the pork chops. It’s not a sexy cut of meat, but boy are Kalman’s juicy (that sounded really dirty, didn’t it?). The version I had with mushrooms, root vegetables, Marsala sauce and sage was the best I’ve had in recent memory.

I really wish Union Pasadena were closer to where I live, but that would just be selfish. I guess now I have a reason to make the “trek” to Pasadena.

Note: This meal was hosted.

Further reading:

Bruce Kalman Ups the Ante at Union Pasadena by estarLA

Pasadena’s Union is not your same ol’ Old Town by Los Angeles Times

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07

12 2014