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Superba Food & Bread opens in Venice, carb lovers rejoice

Superba pastries

Superba pastries

Venice just got another great place to eat. And it’s not on Abbot Kinney Boulevard.

The recently opened Superba Food & Bread on Lincoln Boulevard is what proprietor Paul Hibler, of Pitfire Pizza and East Borough fame, called the good sibling of Superba Snack Bar. Indeed, Superba Food & Bread’s menu is lighter, but the baked goods more than make up for any differences in calories. And what tasty calories they are!

The brioche sticky bun and pretzel croissant are two of my favorites. Both have great texture and balanced flavors — not too sweet or salty. But the porchetta di testa croissant is a revelation. Porchetta di testa, made from marinated and braised pig’s head, is sliced paper-thin and layered into a pretzel croissant. Savory and sweet at its finest. Thank you, Pastry Chef Lincoln Carson, for bringing this into my life.

Brioche sticky buns

Brioche sticky buns

Pretzel croissants

Pretzel croissants

Porchetta di testa croissant

Porchetta di testa croissant

And Executive Chef Jason Travi, formerly of Fraiche and concurrently of Littlefork, should be thanked for his concoctions, too.

The pain au levain toasts are a great way to start a meal. For something sweet, go for the kaya version with coconut jam, pickled fresno and cilantro, and for something savory, go with the burrata, muhammara (walnuts and roasted peppers), pickled radish and parsley combination.

Kaya toast

Kaya toast

Burrata toast

Burrata toast

When it comes to sides, the roasted and raw sunchokes with green goddess sauce, as well as the crispy cauliflower, are standouts.

Sunchokes

Sunchokes

While I didn’t favor the vadouvan leg of lamb (I rarely like lamb, so this is a personal preference), I did enjoy the seared arctic char served with snap peas, rhubarb and mint. Execution is definitely not an issue here.

Arctic char

Arctic char

While two of the dessert options, a strawberry basil pavlova and vanilla caramel custard with orange, were too floral for my taste, the Superba “candy bar” with marcona almonds, chocolate and sea salt was on point for me. It’s rich, sweet, salty, smooth and crunchy — basically, everything you could ask for. You can also savor some Stumptown coffee while you enjoy your dessert or pastry.

Candy bar

Candy bar

I can’t wait to go back!

Note: This meal was hosted.

Further reading:

First Taste: Superba Food + Bread in Venice Opens Tomorrow by estarLA

Superba Food & Bread Testa Croissant (Food of the Week) by Food GPS

15

04 2014

Celebrate National Grilled Cheese Month this April

Short rib grilled cheese

Short rib grilled cheese by Govind Armstrong. From Epicurious.

April is National Grilled Cheese Month, and Los Angeles has lots to offer in this department. We’re not just about vegan-gluten-free-macrobiotic juice cleanses, OK? We like to eat, too, and that includes gooey melted cheese on perfectly toasted bread.

The grilled cheese that really changed the way I look at this particular sandwich was Chef Govind Armstrong’s short rib grilled cheese with red onion marmalade. The first time I bit into this ingenious concoction was at the now-shuttered 8 oz. Burger Bar on Melrose Avenue, and I loved every flavor-packed bite, making me realize that the lowly grilled cheese could be anything you want it to be — which in this case meant stuffed with slow-cooked meat and onions. You can still get it at Armstrong’s Post & Beam, thankfully.

Then the Grilled Cheese Truck came along, with its Cheesy Mac and Rib carb-on-carb sandwich (short rib, caramelized onions, and macaroni and cheese) and delightful dessert grilled cheeses. There’s a reason why the lines for this truck are so long. And the brick-and-mortar/truck combo The Melt has a good spicy version in The Mission made with pepper jack and jalapeno on sourdough.

And while we wait for Chef Eric Greenspan’s temple to this comforting sammy (simply called Greenspan’s Grilled Cheese) to open, which is slated for April 11, and lament the end of the Grilled Cheese Invitational on April 12, we can visit BLVD 16 at the Hotel Palomar through Sunday, April 13, for specials, including a prosciutto, truffle pecorino and arugula pesto grilled cheese.

Or, we can make some of our own interesting combinations, courtesy of Loews Santa Monica Beach and Loews Hollywood hotels.

You may recall the pastrami doughnut sandwiches I sampled at the Loews Hollywood recently. Now a similar version called Mister Crunchy will be offered all month at the hotel’s H2 lobby bar. And Loews Santa Monica’s Fireside Lounge will have its Fiesta Grilled Cheese, appealing to our Californian tastes. If you want to try your hand at making these yourself, check out the recipes:

Mister Crunchy

- 1 “Telera Style” yeast/raised doughnut roll
- 3 oz. thinly sliced Virginia Smoked Ham
- 1.5 oz. thin-sliced Wisconsin Cheddar
- 1 oz. thin-sliced Monterey Pepper Jack

Split the doughnut roll. In a Teflon pan, over low/medium heat, lightly brown the cut side of the roll until crisp. Turn roll sides over to lightly brown the outer sides of the roll. Preheat the top broiler in the oven to 500 degrees. As this is taking place, layer the ham and cheddar slices on each side. Cover pan. After the cheese begins to glisten, place the 2 halves together to form the sandwich. Top the sandwich with the Pepper Jack cheese, and glaze under the top broiler. Cut and serve.

Fiesta Grilled Cheese

- 3 oz. jalapeno pepper jack cheese
- ½ avocado
- 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
- ½ lime juice
- ½ teaspoon lime zest
- 2 slices sourdough bread
- 1 tablespoon butter

Coat grill with butter and heat. Spread butter on both sides of sourdough bread slices and place on grill. Add cheese to both slices of bread and let melt. Add ½ of avocado sliced along with lime juice and lime zest. Remove from grill. Sprinkle roughly chopped fresh cilantro on top of the avocado. Put two slices of bread together and slice.

07

04 2014

Sips and bites at Stocking Frame

Mary's chicken tacos

Mary’s chicken tacos at Stocking Frame

The Stocking Frame in downtown Los Angeles is a great go-to no fuss, no muss restaurant and bar. It’s just trendy enough to please modern palates, but it’s not so trendy that it’s a turn-off. The space is large, so there’s plenty of room to enjoy food and drink with friends, too.

I’ve been here a couple of times, and so far I like the food better than the cocktails, which are fine but nothing special. A recent seasonal menu included a nice concoction of Bulleit rye, Nux walnut, Cynar and sea salt, as well as a fun mix of a spiced mezcal punch with lime and mint. The bourbon, Apple Jack and winter spice drink, which I thought I would like, was a bit too sweet for me.

rye, bourbon and mezcal drinks

From left: rye, bourbon and mezcal drinks

During happy hour (Stocking Frame refers to this as “Mid Day”) from 3 to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, you can choose from an abbreviated menu that includes the most delicious chicken tacos (two for $4) topped with a spicy mole sauce (pictured above). These are my favorite food offering here, so too bad they’re available only in the middle of the day.

My second-favorite item that I’ve had here so far is the Pig & Egg BLT with maple pork belly and chipotle mayo. It’s available only on the lunch menu.

The SF Pie with sopressata, wild mushroom and jalapeno is a decent pizza, though I wouldn’t say it’s a standout. I had this at lunch, but it looks like Stocking Frame has been tinkering with its menus because now it seems to be available only at dinner. And the beer cheese with crispy chicken skin, which was on the dinner menu last time I visited, is tasty, though it might be a bit on the salty side for some. I wish the pieces of toast that come with this were bigger, too.

Beer cheese with crispy chicken skin

Beer cheese with crispy chicken skin

Stocking Frame seems to be still finding its footing, with menu change-ups and a back room space whose purpose was still to be determined at last visit. Hopefully it figures out its identity soon, as it’s one of the better options abutting the South Park area.

23

03 2014

Loews Hollywood classes it up with renovated hotel

After nearly two years of renovations, the Loews Hollywood Hotel is now sleek and modern. And with the unveiling of its new H2 lobby bar, the hotel is now a legitimate place to relax with a drink away from the hustle and bustle of Hollywood Boulevard, and even the Hollywood & Highland complex located right next door.

Loews purchased the former Renaissance property back in 2012, and it’s a good thing it did. I remember the old hotel, with lots of primary colors (green and orange stands out in my mind) splashed across its walls and carpets. It was not what one might consider posh.

The new version is much improved. I had the opportunity to stay overnight in one of its renovated rooms, which offer lots of space with an average of 400 square feet each. You get free wifi in your room and throughout the hotel (score!), and Loews properties are pet-friendly (double score!).

King room at Loews

King room at Loews

Sofa area

Sofa area

Bathroom

Bathroom

View from my room overlooking Hollywood & Highland

View from my room overlooking Hollywood & Highland and the pool

The H2 lobby bar just opened last week, so its food and beverage menus are still being worked out, but until then, if you tell the bartender what kind of spirit you like, he’ll make you something that will surely please. I got a nicely crafted New York sour, complete with a pretty red wine float.

New York sour

New York sour

I also sampled some dishes that are currently being considered for the bar menu. The pastrami sandwich on doughnut buns was a big hit, and I was pleased to find that the doughnuts were not frosted (because that would be, like, ew).

Pastrami doughnut sandwiches

Pastrami doughnut sandwiches

The lobster pups (mini lobster corn dogs) were some of my favorites, too. It’s fried. It’s lobster. How can you not like this?

Lobster pups

Lobster pups

As part of our tour, I was able to visit the hotel’s helipad and take in the view with a glass of champagne. Ah, the Hollywood life. Word has it that the Loews Hollywood is planning on offering special experiences on that helipad in the future. So if you’re looking for a way to pop the question or celebrate some other notable milestone, the hotel’s helipad might be just what you’re looking for.

Overlooking Highland Avenue from the helipad

Overlooking Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue from the helipad

Note: The visit to the lobby bar and the overnight stay were complimentary.

10

03 2014

East Borough brings amped up Asian food to Culver City

Daikon rice cakes at East Borough

Daikon rice cakes at East Borough

East Borough, which recently opened in downtown Culver City, brings something new to the fast-growing area: Asian food. And not just any Asian food but amped up Vietnamese. John Cao and Chloe Tran, who own a more casual version of East Borough in Costa Mesa, teamed up with Paul Hibler, owner and creator of Pitfire Pizza and Superba Snack Bar, and Jason Neroni, executive chef of Superba Snack Bar, to create this new concept, which focuses on traditional Vietnamese flavors and dishes while also re-imagining some of them.

The menu starts with appetizers familiar to those who know Vietnamese cuisine. The Imperial Rolls made with pork and taro and fried to a bubbly crispiness are flavorful and well-balanced, as is the banh xeo crepe, which in this case is stuffed with lots of crab.

Imperial Rolls

Imperial Rolls

Banh xeo

Banh xeo

The daikon rice cakes (pictured above) served with eggs, shiitake mushrooms, cilantro and spicy soy sauce are dense and kind of a mouthful, but the flavors are nice. Actually, there is a lot of richness at East Borough. The nuoc mam sauce reduction makes the cauliflower and long bean vegetable dish really strong, and the Phocatini, a playful take on Vietnamese pho and Italian bucatini, is almost too rich. The oxtail, hoisin and Sriracha combination nearly make for too much flavor, but it’s still one of the most interesting dishes on the menu.

Phocatini

Phocatini

The cocktails here are serviceable, but I wouldn’t say they were some of the best I’ve ever had. The Mo Bourbon, with bourbon, Averna, St. Germain and apricot was on the sweet side for me, but I do like the mix of bourbon with stone fruit. At least the drink prices are reasonable: $9-10.

Mo Bourbon, left, bourbon sour and The Golden Axe

Mo Bourbon, left, bourbon sour and The Golden Axe

Note: This meal was hosted.

23

02 2014

Travelogue: Santorini, Greece

Oia, Santorini, Greece

Oia, Santorini, Greece

Our third major stop in Greece was the island of Santorini. Yes, it’s touristy, but for good reason. It is one of the most amazing places I’ve ever seen and experienced. Just thinking about it makes me want to go back immediately!

Also known as Thera or Thira (you will find that many places have multiple names in Greece due to its history of invasions from other cultures), this is the island that you often seen in photos showing blue and white domed buildings perched high up on a cliff. That cliff is the side of Santorini’s famous caldera, which was formed by ancient volcanic eruptions.

Keep reading

09

02 2014

Get healthy at The Hotel Wilshire

The Roof on Wilshire restaurant at the Hotel Wilshire

The Roof on Wilshire restaurant at the Hotel Wilshire. From Eater LA.

So, January is nearly over. It’s time to take stock of your new year’s resolutions. Personally, I don’t really buy into this once-a-year resolution idea, but I think it’s always a good idea to improve your health. And so does The Hotel Wilshire (this is Los Angeles, after all).

The Hotel Wilshire’s Live Like a Local program offers complimentary bike rentals, in-room yoga service and access to gym LA Fitness. On top of that, the hotel’s New Year New You package ($325/night) includes welcome amenities of bottled water, fresh fruit, healthy snacks and a jogging map; two vouchers for a complimentary yoga class at nearby Hot 8 Yoga; and a $50 dining credit for breakfast at the Roof restaurant or Roof on the Move picnic offerings.

Since Chef Eric Greenspan is at the helm at the Roof, the food should be top notch. Some of the healthier offerings on the breakfast menu include a yogurt granola parfait, steel cut oatmeal, and an egg white scramble with kale, squash, avocado and sriracha. There are also some tonics, including the Greendog with kale, green apple, almond, cucumber and cinnamon. Most items on the Roof on the Move menu are pretty healthy: think seared tuna with lentils, olives, cauliflower and dates.

So next time you’re visiting Los Angeles or looking for a staycation, The Hotel Wilshire will be there to make sure you have a good, healthful time.

Kimpton’s The Hotel Wilshire
6317 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90048

New Year New You Package
Through March 15, 2014
Rate code NYOU

26

01 2014

Top 5 takeaways from New Media Expo

Dino Dogan at NMX

Dino Dogan at NMX

I attended the New Media Expo in Las Vegas this year, and I thought that if you’re reading this blog — and you got here via social media — you’re most likely interested in what I learned at the digital content creation conference.

First off, I want to point out that everyone I met at #NMX, formerly BlogWorld, was genuinely nice and helpful. There’s a real sense of community. I felt free to nerd out and not feel like a nerd.

I came to the conference to learn from two different angles: from that of a blogger and that of a social media brand manager, which I do for my day job. What I learned spanned the theoretical and the practical, giving me some useable tips, as well as food for thought. Here are my top five takeaways, in no particular order:

1. Always create value.

Whether it’s through blog posts or social media, make sure that what you’re putting out there is valuable to your audience. Good content will always trump the bad. Scott Stratten, president of UnMarketing and a hilarious speaker, said in his keynote speech that you have to give back to the social community, don’t just take. Feed the ecosystem. And as Lee Odden, NMX keynote speaker who writes at TopRank and is author of Optimize: How to Attract and Engage More Customers By Integrating SEO, Social Media, and Content Marketing (which I’m reading right now), says, empathize with others and relax the self-promotion on social media. It’s not all about you or your brand. When all you’re doing is promoting your own stuff with little or no engagement with your audience, then that’s not very valuable to anyone else, right?

2. A small audience isn’t necessarily bad.

Even if you don’t have a lot of followers on social media or your blog, that doesn’t mean you can’t create a loyal following. In fact, these fans might just be your best advocates. During his session “Crowdsourcing Influence,” Triberr founder Dino Dogan said that 92 percent of people trust recommendations from those they know, and 70 percent trust consumer opinions posted online. Fewer people — 58 percent — trust branded websites for information. Therefore, if you’re a company (or work for one) get content creators to create content for you that others will trust. Or, if you’re a blogger/content creator, make sure to engage with your community and feed it valuable content that they’ll trust. Martin Jones, who blogs for coxblue.com, Cox Communications Business Solutions’ blog, says that 57 percent of consumers make decisions before ever getting to the actual brand via an online search. So, a small, dedicated and vocal audience will help you in the long run.

3. Your brand is how other people see you, not how you see yourself.

Even if you’re just a casual blogger, you have a brand. And if you’re not telling your brand’s story, someone else probably is, says Jones. He says that people don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. Humor blogger Luvvie Ajayi says that your brand comes with expectations and emotions, and it’s important to make those expectations that others have of your brand align with what you want your brand to be. Ajayi suggested looking at the Twitter lists you’re on, and if the kinds of lists you’re on don’t line up with where you want to be, then change the conversation. Color also matters when it comes to branding, as different colors evoke different feelings — something the designers out there well know, but it’s a good reminder. If you’re looking for a resource to help you with your brand, check out the Finding Your Brand Voice post from Social Media Explorer.

4. Pinterest is much more interesting and useful than I thought.

Cynthia Sanchez, who writes Oh So Pinteresting — an entire blog and podcast dedicated to getting the most out of Pinterest — opened my eyes to how much more the social media platform could be. Sanchez says that Pinterest drives more traffic than Twitter, Linkedin and Reddit combined, so it’s a site not to be overlooked. While Pinterest is billed as a place to digitally keep your own interests all in one place, that means as a brand you need to make sure you’re curating those interests well. Create useful boards for your audience, including seasonal ones, if it makes sense. Images with text get lots of repins. RichPins, which are available for businesses and offer added functionality — including notifications of price drops for merchandise! — are a new, useful choice. Also, Kludgy Mom has a helpful post about how to use Pinterest (thanks, @AmandaJoy).

5. Don’t build your house on rented land.

Don’t put too much into any one social media site. You don’t own it, and it could disappear quicker than you think. Companies that have a Facebook page but no website — I’m talking to you. Also, lots of companies think that they have to be on every single social media platform. But not all platforms are appropriate for all brands. Jones says to start a blog instead because you own this real estate. It’s not as dependent on the whims of the social media world.

12

01 2014

Fashion I’m currently coveting

What inevitably happens to me every Christmas is I end up either buying a bunch of stuff for myself, or if I’ve managed to stop myself from buying something then, I’ll keep thinking about it. And thinking about it. And thinking about it. Until I covet so much that I write a post about coveting fashion.

So here are some fashion items that I hope to get this year. Some are of-the-moment, but many are staples that I’ve been looking for but haven’t yet found “the one.”

Chunky cardigan sweater

Love the look, but it always seems to look better on a hanger/obnoxiously skinny model. I can’t figure out how to not look “chunky” in it. Maybe it’s not meant for me?

Chunky cardigan sweater

Chunky cardigan sweater

Aztec-patterned cardigan sweater

This one is just for fun. Big pattern on a layering piece means I can remove it if I decide it’s too much. But worn as a statement piece, it should work just fine.

Aztec-patterned cardigan sweater

Aztec-patterned cardigan sweater

Flat-heeled booties

I want an alternative to flats or sneakers for a casual-yet-stylish look. And I want to be comfortable. Always.

Flat-heeled booties

Flat-heeled booties

Perfect light-colored clutch

So many times I’ve found myself in need of a light-colored clutch, but have been empty-handed (literally). Also, an empty foldover clutch looks lovely, but what does it look like when there’s actually stuff in it?

Fold-over clutch

Fold-over clutch

Perfect black bag

The albatross of handbags. Does anyone actually find this? Here are a couple of styles I’ve been eyeing (imagine them in black, obviously).

J.Crew Teddie Satchel

J.Crew Teddie Satchel

J.Crew Biennial Hobo

J.Crew Biennial Hobo

Moto jacket

I’m especially loving moto jackets made with mixed materials. And that sideways zipper just screams cool.

Leather and wool moto jacket

Leather and wool moto jacket

If you have any suggestions that fit these bills, let me know. I’d love to hear and see what you think!

05

01 2014

The Wallace brings international flair to Culver City

Broccoli

Sprouting Broccoli

From former SBE corporate chef Michael Teich comes The Wallace, a shareable plates concept in downtown Culver City featuring an internationally influenced menu and a respectable cocktail menu from Mixologist Holly Zack, who also hails from SBE.

My favorites here include the sprouting broccoli served with tahini, marinated feta and dukkah (pictured above), as well as the braised pork cheeks with lentils, apple, horseradish and red onion agrodolce. Both pack flavorful punches.

Braised pork cheeks

Braised pork cheeks

The chicken liver mousse with balsamic onions and five spice and the roasted bone marrow with parsley, radish, tarragon and pickled shallots are solid choices, though I wouldn’t say they were the best versions I’ve ever had.

Chicken liver mousse

Chicken liver mousse

When it comes to dessert, if it’s available (I think this was a special when I went) get the house made gelato, sorbet and cookies. The marshmallow ice cream and  ginger cookie combo was my favorite, followed by the cream cheese ice cream and pumpkin cookie. The cherry sorbet with chocolate cookie was my least favorite, but I personally don’t like cherry-flavored things that much.

Ice cream, sorbet and cookies

Ice cream, sorbet and cookies

As for Zack’s drinks, the stirred pleased my palate more than the shaken (though that’s to be expected from me). I liked the Day Rate, made with coffee-infused scotch, cognac, honey syrup and chocolate chili bitters, as well as the Roundtrip with Angel’s Envy bourbon, byrrh, persimmon syrup and sour cherry bitters. I did like the Warm Fuzzies, a shaken drink made with Blackwell rum, cognac, Cynar, egg, lemon and simple syrup.

Day Rate, left, and Roundtrip

Day Rate, left, and Roundtrip

Warm Fuzzies

Warm Fuzzies

I really wanted to like the, ahem, Morning Sex, with bourbon, chai fennel syrup, passion fruit, lemon and Peychaud’s bitters, but it was just a bit sweet for me. It’s pretty, though.

Morning Sex

Morning Sex

While I’m glad to see new restaurants opening up in a neighborhood so close to my ‘hood, I’ve grown somewhat weary of restaurants that offer dishes from a what seem like a myriad of influences made from whatever is in season. Not that I’m opposed to fresh, seasonal ingredients — Teich shops at the Culver City farmers market located just steps outside his kitchen, and I think that’s great — but I sometimes feel like restaurants use this as an excuse to not choose a focus. I’ve read in more than one place that Teich’s menu is influenced by Italian food, but when I see a dish such as lamb with farro risotto, chickpeas, harissa and yogurt on the same page as duck confit with hoisin sauce, noodles and a sesame tortilla, I get confused. I appreciate having many choices on a menu, but it can also be a head-scratcher. To each her own, I guess.

Note: This meal was hosted.

Further Reading:

Vegetables Take Center Stage at Soon-to-Open Wallace in Culver City by Los Angeles Times’ Daily Dish blog

Wallace Serves Up Playful Sustainable Fare in Culver City by Where LA

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24

12 2013