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Best week of the year: dineL.A. Happy Hour Week

Terrine's Pimms Pong

Terrine’s Pimms Pong

Little known fact: my favorite meal is happy hour. With discounted drinks and food, what’s not to like? So when I found out that dineL.A. is holding a Happy Hour Week April 27 through May 1, I thought it was about time!

Happy hour is a great way to check out a restaurant or bar without having to fully commit to a whole meal. It’s an especially good deal for those pricey restaurants you’ve had your eye on but haven’t pulled the trigger on yet.

The good news is dineL.A.’s Happy Hour Week includes not only restaurants with regular happy hours but also those that normally don’t have happy hour specials, such as Terrine and Redbird. That means you should definitely get the truffled chicken liver toast for $9, something you normally can’t get except as part of Terrine’s charcuterie board, and barman Ryan Wainwright’s Rosewater Sour for $9 (regularly $12) or Pimms Pong for $10 (normally $13). Even the storied Polo Lounge is getting in on the act with an entire food and drink menu priced at $10.

Before visiting, make sure to check out the hours for your intended restaurant, as some are doing traditional evening happy hours, while some are doing just late night (and some are doing both).

I’m personally looking forward to five days of drink and food specials all over Los Angeles — because cocktails and bar bites are always a good idea.

Follow dineL.A. and #happyhourweek on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for the latest info.

23

04 2015

French with a Chinese twist: David Feau’s Coin de Rue 13eme pop up

Raw shaved carrot salad

Raw shaved carrot salad

Chef David Feau (Patina, The Royce, Le Ka)’s Coin de Rue pop-up restaurant has made its way to Chinatown and has an Asian-inspired menu to match. Now dubbed Coin de Rue 13eme, after Paris’ predominately Chinese 13th arrondissement, Feau is serving a French-Chinese menu at Michael J’s Pizzeria & Bar after his stint serving classic French bistro dishes in the old Red Medicine space.

The three-course dinner menu, with optional supplements, is small but varied. If you want to go with lighter fare, start with the tempura asparagus with truffle honey and sea salt or the raw shaved carrot salad. Then move on to the clay pot-baked Alaskan halibut with mushrooms.

Clay pot halibut

Clay pot halibut

If you want a more flavorful experience, start with the soft scrambled eggs with cabbage, sea urchin and crab bisque (this dish reminds me of the Chinese scrambled egg with shrimp and scallions). For your main, choose the chicken oyster and scallops with leeks, fava beans and poached egg.

Sea urchin scrambled eggs

Sea urchin scrambled eggs

Chicken oysters and scallops

Chicken oysters and scallops

For dessert, go with the brown butter caramel ice cream and pretzel crumble. It’s more salty than sweet, allowing your taste buds to end on a clean note.

Brown butter caramel ice cream

Brown butter caramel ice cream

As for supplements, Feau offered two this past weekend: a spring roll with seared foie gras, forbidden rice, lettuce, toasted shallots and duck sauce, as well as pan-roasted frog legs with parsley root juice, bone marrow and spring garlic. Neither dish is overpowering but both are interesting, so getting either one would make a nice complement.

Seared foie gras roll

Seared foie gras roll

Pan-roasted frog legs

Pan-roasted frog legs

Coin de Rue 13eme is taking place again this weekend and next, April 23-25 and April 30-May 1. The prix fixe menu is $49 for three courses, with supplemental entrees for an additional $18 each. Wine pairings are available for an additional $20. First seatings start at 7 p.m., and last seatings start at 10:30 p.m.

But wait, there’s more. From 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. each night of the pop up, enjoy special bar bites ($10-$12) from Feau and a cocktail menu ($12-$15) from mixologist Garrett McKechnie (The Raymond, 1886). The peppercorn croquembouche with chicken liver and foie gras mousse is my personal favorite, with the rabbit rillette on country toast served with peach mustard another good choice. When it comes to cocktails, go with the light and sweet Countryside, a combination of Calvados apple brandy, honey, kumquat and tarragon, or the dark and bitter An American in Paris, with rye, byrrh, amargo Angostura bitters and a cherry.

Peppercorn croquembouche

Peppercorn croquembouche

Rabbit rillette

Rabbit rillette

Countryside

Countryside

An American in Paris

An American in Paris

Coin de Rue 13eme at Michael J’s Pizzeria & Bar
643 N. Spring St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Reservations 213.604.3421

Note: This meal was hosted. 

Further reading:

David Feau’s Coin de Rue Pop-Up Goes to Chinatown by Eater L.A.

David Feau’s Coin de Rue French bistro pop-up heads to Chinatown by Los Angeles Times

Coin de Rue Pop-Up by kevinEats

20

04 2015

Cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant: Tim Ho Wan dim sum in Hong Kong

Tim Ho Wan

Tim Ho Wan

I’m not the biggest dim sum fan, but when I visited Hong Kong for the first time this past fall, I knew I had to try the food in its city of origin. So why not go for the best?

Tim Ho Wan offers the cheapest Michelin-starred food in the world. Dishes start at about US$1, so you can eat your heart out without breaking the bank (and with the US dollar rising in value, now is a good time to go). Even though my mother and I were on our own, we still ordered a respectable 10 dishes — not as many as the table next to us, which, judging by the number of piled-up bamboo steamers, I’m pretty sure ordered the entire menu.

I visited the Sham Shui Po location in Kowloon, the only restaurant of the four in Hong Kong that actually has a Michelin star. It wasn’t the easiest location for us to get to — my mom actually said to me, “This better be worth it” — but Tim Ho Wan’s dim sum was easily the best I’ve ever had. Every dish was just as you’d expect and more, with high quality ingredients crafted by a subtle hand.

My absolute favorite dish was the char siu bao (barbecue pork bun), which is baked instead of steamed here at Tim Ho Wan. The best part was the sweet flaky topping reminiscent of the kind found on Chinese pineapple buns (named for their appearance and not for their ingredients), which provided another layer of texture. I still drool thinking of these!

Char siu bao

Char siu bao

Keep reading

13

04 2015

Travelogue: MilkWood restaurant in Louisville, Kentucky

Toy Tiger cocktail at MilkWood restaurant

Toy Tiger cocktail at MilkWood restaurant

When I saw Chef Edward Lee on “Top Chef: Texas” cut his hand, pull on a glove and keep cooking while the blood pooled in it, I thought, now that’s a badass. So when I last visited my husband’s hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, I knew I had to see if Lee’s food tasted as powerful as he cooked on the show. So of course I had dinner at MilkWood restaurant.

Lee’s MilkWood restaurant, located on the lower level of the Actors Theatre of Louisville, recently celebrated its second anniversary. I visited last spring, and the menu, a melange of Southern and Asian influences with some classic French thrown in for good measure, has helped to elevate the local restaurant scene, which has lately experienced a boom in artisanal cuisine.

A Brooklyn native of Korean descent, Lee also owns 610 Magnolia, an upscale contemporary Southern restaurant. Together with Chef Kevin Ashworth, Lee has taken his more refined tastes found at 610 Magnolia and punched them up with bolder flavors at MilkWood.

The pork burger on a pretzel bun, with napa kimchi, cracklins, havarti cheese, remoulade and cilantro, is just an example — rich and flavorful.

MilkWood pork burger

MilkWood pork burger

The seasonal fish and pork dishes I tried, as well as a spicy preparation of sunchokes, were also bold in flavor. MilkWood is not a place for the faint of heart.

MilkWood sunchokes

MilkWood sunchokes

The cocktail menu is equally forward. The Toy Tiger, with Old Forrester bourbon, vermouth and bitter orange, is a potent take on the traditional Manhattan — just how I like my drinks.

I look forward to going back to MilkWood restaurant, this time for the bowls of ramen. The one featuring pork belly and country ham follows Lee’s lead, but the Mazeman Ramen with egg yolk, parmesan cheese, roasted garlic, pancetta and uni butter is the one that intrigues me more. I hope Lee keeps doing what he’s doing.

Further reading:

Fork in the Road: A Top Chef’s Next Course by Garden & Gun

29

03 2015

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

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

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29

12 2014