Warren’s Blackboard

They make a terrific Mai Tai here
They make a terrific Mai Tai here

There is an innovative food and drink workshop, Warren’s Blackboard, located next to the Beverly Garland Hotel. Esteemed Executive Chef Warren Schwartz creates imaginative fare and beverages while waiting for his restaurant, The Frontyard, to open next door, later this year.

Inside Warren’s Blackboard, the décor has a bit of a coffee shop feel with its fabric booths, dried floral arrangements, and grasscloth light fixtures. What gives it pizzazz is an entire chalkboard wall listing the dishes of the day.

While glancing at the creative cocktail menu, the Mai Tai caught my eye. It’s strong and served in a tall glass filled with light and dark rum, fresh citrus juice and almond syrup. It’s garnished with a maraschino cherry, slices of orange and lemon and a straw-like stick of sugar cane.

Just blocks from Universal Studios, tables are filled with international tourists, entertainment business professionals, and foodies who have discovered this culinary gem.

We met the striking 6’ 4” tall Schwartz on a busy Thursday night as he visited guests throughout the dining room. When he stopped at our table, he shared with us how he started his career as a chef. After going to cooking school in Northern California, Schwartz moved to Southern California to work with Joachim Splichal at the original Patina.

“Kitchens weren’t as politically correct as they are today,” Schwartz said. He told us he feels responsible for his staff’s growth and offers student chefs opportunities in his kitchen to foster their culinary skills.

On his blackboard, he pays homage to the well-respected Splichal with a beautiful dish of seared ahi with Asian vegetables and thin fried wontons in a ponzu vinaigrette.

We started with a festive looking plate of fresh burrata sprinkled with pomegranate seeds, salt and pepper and served with watercress and a poached pear. My daughter and I both commented that this dish has a sweet and salty element that would also make a satisfying dessert. This appetizer paired nicely Justin Sauvignon Blanc 2011 with its crisp notes of grapefruit, lemon-lime and a mild palate of white peach and touch of green apple.

Our server Jonathan
Our server Jonathan

Our server, Jonathan was a likable chap from an area near Leeds, England. He recommended we order the popover appetizer. Jonathan guaranteed it’s a dish that is hard to find in any other restaurant in Los Angeles. The au jus gravy splashed over the vegetable filled popover with bacon was divine.

I asked the chef what inspired him to make popovers.

“My grandmother used to make them all of the time for breakfast with homemade pomegranate jelly. She was inspired by the popovers she ordered at Neiman Marcus in Dallas, Texas,” Schwartz said.

I also asked Schwartz what was the story behind his White Boy fried rice. It arrived in a bowl with large pieces of fried egg, Spam, broccoli and tomatoes.

He shared that when he was the managing partner and Executive Chef at Westside Tavern, he invited pastry chef, Rose, and her sister over after work. They were hungry, and there was little in the pantry. He found some rice, Spam, eggs and vegetables and fried it up. Everyone thought it was so delicious, that he added it to his menu.

Schwartz enjoys visiting the Farmers Market in Hollywood on Sundays. He recently purchased a variety of wild mushrooms that he incorporated in a bowl of rectangular shaped handkerchief pasta with sliced artichokes and burrata.

As we ordered dessert, Schwartz proudly boasts that Rose (the aforementioned pasry chef) made the dulce de leche artisanal ice cream served with churros. She also made

Great desserts
Great desserts

spiced honey ice cream paired with a rustic apple crostata with salted caramel sauce. Both were pure bliss with every bite.

There’s truly something for everyone at Warren’s Blackboard. You have the opportunity to experience the workshop now during dineLA Restaurant week. During lunch from January 21 through January 31, a two-course lunch is $15 and a three-course dinner is $35 per person.

Some of the dishes Schwartz is preparing for lunch include a black tuscan kale Caesar salad for starters with Parmesan croutons and a lime honey Caesar dressing; salmon sandwich with sweet pickled cucumbers, capers, roasted tomatoes, arugula, and honey wheat bread with a side of fries; and a shortrib grilled cheese with roasted tomatoes and sweet peppers on country bread.

During the dineLA dinner, some of the choices include the popover with sautéed mushrooms, bacon and asparagus to accompany a pasta dish with lamb, pork chop or scallops with Kabocha squash risotto entrée.

For dessert, he is serving the freshly made churros with luscious dulce de leche ice cream that we enjoyed, or a chocolate pot de crème with hazelnut cream.

Also, there is a special three-course menu planned on February 14 for $55 per person. $$ The restaurant is open at 6 a.m. seven days a week serving breakfast and closes by 10 p.m. on weeknights and 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturdays. The bar opens at 3 p.m. until midnight, except Friday and Saturday when it stays open until 1 a.m. 4222 Vineland Ave. (818)255-7290.

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