Terrific Trejo’s Tacos

IMG_6360Driving along South La Brea just below Wilshire Blvd, I’ve noticed very few changes through the years, until recently when a Taco Bell became vacant. I wondered what would replace it, hoping it would be a unique dining destination, instead of another corporate chain restaurant.

A few months ago, I was thrilled to notice a Spacecraft Design Group sign posted in front of the abandoned building, with construction starting behind the black wood security fence.

FullSizeRender-274Recently, a Trejo’s Tacos sign was installed with a familiar face sporting a long thin mustache. It’s actor Danny Trejo, known for his famous role as Machete. My friend Taylor is a big fan of Trejo, so I invited her to join me for lunch last week.

As we approached the sleek outdoor patio, we were welcomed by one of the partners Jeff Georgino. He is one of the trio in Trejo’s Tacos, with the other two partners being film actor Danny Trejo and film producer Ash Shah. Shah and Georgino were roommates at USC. Georgino started working for Playboy Enterprises and Shah made movies. Trejo was cast as an intimidating and violent character in the Bad Ass films and the two became friends.

FullSizeRender-275Unfortunately Trejo wasn’t at his restaurant the day we dined, because he is one of the busiest film actors in Hollywood. When he isn’t filming, we learned he likes to come in and chat with employees and customers.

By 11:30 a.m. a line was forming with Los Angelenos ordering organic street tacos, crispy tostadas, freshly made agua frescas and Coolhaus ice cream sandwiches.

Vegans were tweeting about the black pepper tofu tacos with serrano chilies, caramelized onions, and cilantro. They also love sipping a glass of vegan horchata made with almond milk that is sweetened with dates and dazzled with a pinch of cinnamon.

Georgino led Executive Chef Ramses Walker out from the small kitchen to meet us, as we sipped two agua frescas. My favorite was the fresh watermelon juice with a touch of mint. Chef Ramese makes this refreshing beverage in 16 quart containers and only adds 1/2 a cup of sugar. It’s the quintessential summer beverage.IMG_6334

He and his team cut fresh pineapples in the morning for another winning beverage. They add a touch of cumin to give it pizzazz.

As Chef Ramses sat with us while his team were making our tacos, we were introduced to Justin the his local organic produce purveyor from Worldwide Produce. Justine brings all the produce and organic tortillas and organic chips.

Ramses told me, “We used to make the tortillas and chips, but couldn’t keep up with the demand.” He believes Justin’s chips are as good as his, because they use canola oil to appeal to our vegetarian and vegan customers. The chef also really likes the tiny radishes Justin brings to him. They are a seasonal item that he adds as a garnish to elevate every taco in appearance and flavor.

Chef Ramses makes all of the salsas, sauces and guacamole inhouse. The chunky red salsa is made the night before, while fresh guacamole is made in the morning with serrano, chopped pistachios, a little lemon and onion. His Trejo’s Hot Sauce is on every table. “It’s a two week process and is never refrigerated,” Ramses said. It’s also available to purchase on the patio, along with a Trejo T-shirt, trucker hats and baseball caps.

FullSizeRender-269The smooth fermented red and green sauces are fresh and don’t need to be refrigerated. “Every week I tweek it up a notch,” said Ramses. Dipping a chip into the sauces, it offers an after effect that is pleasing.

Ramses laughs while telling us that he is in the process of unveiling a XXX hot sauce. “I’m a baby about hot sauce, Hot Cheetos are too hot for me.” His fiery red sauce doesn’t leave your lips or tongue pulsating, yet it does offer a tickle of heat.

This talented chef told us he didn’t dream of being a chef. In fact after three months at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) he quit. When he enrolled in the Art Institute in San Diego, he was known as the class clown, while trying to figure out what he wanted to do in life. Joseph Ejah from Arts Institute was very influential in pushing Chef Ramses to be what he is today. “I really appreciate all of the mentors in my life,” said Ramses.

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Chef Ramses

While working at the Marriott Hotel in the Gas Lamp area of San Diego, Ramses soon mastered every task in the kitchen within one year.

His resume includes working in the kitchen at the Hyatt Century City, before it became the InterContinental, a three year stint as the youngest chef to run the L’ Ermitage restaurant, and leading a team inside the Figueroa Hotel.

When the Figueroa Hotel closed for renovations, he received an opportunity to work in a restaurant on the East Coast. He told us he turned it down, because he’s a “Cali guy and needs to surf.”

When the Trejo’s Tacos trio approached Ramses, he thought it would be a lot of fun. This chef gets the partners and staff excited. He comes in early and leaves at 9 p.m. to help prep and clean the kitchen. He is also a perfectionist. When Jared brought out one of each taco on the menu and a shrimp tostada to our table, Chef Ramese inspected each one and told Jared to take one of the tacos back to the kitchen. He pointed to something and said, “They will know exactly what I am talking about.”

IMG_6491Healthy taco options include braised pork with red fermented sauce, red fresh onions and chopped cilantro. Another is a grilled chicken taco marinated in a achiote paste, then topped with pico de gallo and a crunchy cole slaw.

While biting into the beef brisket taco, I enjoyed the pico de gallo, crisp tortilla strips and a sprinkling cotija cheese flavors.

My favorite taco is the fried Jidori chicken pieces served in a cool butter lettuce cup with a spicy slaw made with white and purple cabbage and a tangy chipotle cream.

Chef Ramses and the partners are playing with a fish taco recipe right now, “It might be blackened style,” Ramses said.

Another popular taco is the grilled marinated carne asada taco. It’s an old traditional recipe with a twist, as Chef Ramses adds a pepita (pumpkin seed) pesto with a slaw.

IMG_6665Appetizers include a fresh wild caught grilled Mexican white shrimp tostada sprinkled with Tajin spice. It’s layered with sliced fresh Haas avocado, serrano peppers and blood orange wedges. The citrus wedges are seasonal. Ramses enlightened us that one week you might see blood orange segments, another week might be Cuties or another type pf orange with the shrimp. It’s a delightful balance of smooth and crunchy, citrus and spicy.

On tap they offer Kombucha and Nitro Cold Brew Coffee. The coffee they serve is Trejo Latin America house blend. Chef Ramses and Georgino told us that they are looking to open a donut & coffee shop in LA this summer. They also have plans to open another Trejo Tacos in Hollywood soon. This location will stay open until 2 a.m. and offer a larger bar area. “As we move forward, we may get a little wilder,” said Chef Ramses.

As we got up to leave, we met a family from Murrieta and Fresno, who drove to Trejo’s Tacos for a birthday lunch. It was their son’s 28th birthday and this was where he wanted to celebrate with his parents and friends. I was shocked. Of all the taco places in Los Angeles, he chose Trejo Tacos? Wow, word has spread quickly beyond foodies in Los Angeles.IMG_6351

Since this is an area in Los Angeles that is not known for valet parking, I was surprised to see a valet stand out front. It made sense when I learned that sometimes during the week, the kitchen staff is making upwards of 1,000 tacos in five hours. Soon they will be extending their 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. hours to include dinner, beer and wine.

I commented to Georgino about the professional landscape design in the front of the restaurant. He told me he personally installed the drip line and all of the hand planted drought tolerant plants. This neighborhood enhancement is a welcome sight to the community. “I’ve worked 45 days straight, and finally took a day off last week,” Georgino said. Now with more restaurants to open this year, he probably won’t be taking any vacations soon.

$ Open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. 1048 S La Brea (323)938-TACOS.

Parts of this review were also featured in the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea Newspapers on April 21, 2016.

This article is available on the mobile GPSmyCity App – https://www.gpsmycity.com/gps-tour-guides/los-angeles-631.html

National Pretzel Day is April 26

Who doesn’t love a big, warm and soft pretzel? Especially with a swipe of yellow mustard? Today you can have one for FREE.

wetzels-pretzels-oCelebrate National Pretzel Day on April 26 with a FREE pretzel at Wetzel’s Pretzels Glendale Galleria or another location. No Purchase Necessary.
Wetzel’s National Pretzel Day offer begins at the opening of Wetzel’s Pretzels store operating hours and ends at the close on April 26, 2016 or while supplies last. Customers who click Like/follow on any of Wetzels’s social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram or Twitter) and show the Like/follow via mobile device or printout can choose to upgrade from a FREE Original Pretzel to a free order of Pizza Bitz. To find the nearest location, go to http://wetzels.com/

unspecified-30Rock & Brews is giving a Free pretzel with the purchase of a stout flight. They call it the Twist & Stout – Find a location at http://www.rockandbrews.com

Passover Celebrations in Los Angeles

iStock_000005471576SmallThe eight-day festival of Passover is celebrated in the early spring, beginning in the evening of Friday, April 22 to the evening of Saturday, April 30. Here are 7 destinations in Los Angeles to enjoy the festivities and have someone else cook for you –

FullSizeRender-272 copy1.Canter’s Deli

Open 24/7 – Canter’s Restaruant and Bakery is serving a complete Passover Dinner with Matzo. Los Angelenos come her during the Jewish holidays to pick up their favorite traditional foods. It’s an ideal spot to order platters for family parties. Canter’s is famous for their chicken soup. I guarantee it will make you feel better. Open 24 hours, seven days a week and all holidays, except Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. 419 N. Fairfax Ave. (323)651-2030.

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The Canter’s – Marc, Albert and Jacqueline – Photo by Jill Weinlein

2.CULINA BEVERLY HILLS

Chef Denis Dello Stritto has created a three-course Passover dinner menu at Culina available Friday, April 22 through Sunday, April 24. Start with a charoset medley of chopped apples, walnuts, blueberries, cranberries and citrus. Salads include grilled pear with almond ricotta and escarole salad with apricot and Meyer lemon gel. Enjoy matzo ball soup and select an entrée of roasted Jidori chicken with mushrooms and horseradish fingerling potatoes; cobia with sautéed Brussels sprouts and carrot puree; or sliced tri-tip with wild arugula and cherry tomatoes. To finihs, enjoy hazelnut milk chocolate mousse with torched meringue and candied hazelnut and lemon panna cotta with citrus marmalade and candied almonds. The three-course Passover dinner including soup or salad is $54 per person; $69 for the four-course dinner, excluding tax and gratuity. Sommelier wine pairings and cocktails are available. 300 S. Doheny Drive, (310)860-4000.

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(Suzanne Tracht of Jar – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

3. Jar Passover Seder

Jar is serving house-cured salmon, potato pancakes, crème fraiche, chives and Auntie’s chopped liver for Passover dinner on Friday, April 22 at 5:30 p.m. The first course is matzo ball soup with lemongrass broth. Asparagus and spring radish salad with hard-cooked egg will also be served. The main courses are Jar’s signature pot roast with carrots, caramelized onions and fingerling potatoes and sautéed Alaskan halibut with fava scallion butter and horseradish mashed potatoes. Finish with bittersweet chocolate, pecans, toffee and sea salt matzo. The dinner is $135 per adult; $60 for children 12 and under. The price includes tax, gratuity, house wine, coffee or tea. 8225 Beverly Blvd., (323)655-6566.

4. Taste on Melrose

Enjoy an à la carte selection of kosher items by chef Brian Sheard at Taste on Melrose from Friday, April 22 through Saturday, April 30. Dishes include matzo ball soup made with Mary’s organic chicken; apple and pomegranate salad with honey champagne vinaigrette; pomegranate glazed salmon; and roasted chicken breasts with roasted baby carrots, caramelized onions, toasted millet and lemon honey glaze. Dessert is chocolate budino made with coconut milk, fresh berries and meringue kisses. 8454 Melrose Ave., (323)852-6888.

image003-85. Spago Beverly Hills – Passover Seder dinner

Spago is hosting its 32nd annual Seder dinner on Saturday, April 23 beginning at 5 p.m. Proceeds will benefit Mazon: A Jewish Response to Hunger. Menu highlights include Spago’s chicken and vegetable soup with Judy Gethers’ matzo balls and braised beef short rib flanken style with vegetable ratatouille and roasted Moroccan carrots. Finish with matzo toffee, fromage blanc cheesecake and Passover puffs with caramel sauce. The holiday meal is $190 per adult; $80 for children under 9. Advanced reservations required. 176 N. Canon Drive, (310)385-0880.

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(Barbara Lazaroff and Pastry Chef Della Gossett – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

6. Huckleberry Bakery & Café Passover catering menu

Order Passover fare after 2 p.m. any day through April 30 from Huckleberry Bakery & Café and it will be ready within 24-hours. Huckleberry offers charoset with apples, walnuts, raisins and cinnamon; Rutiz Family Farms potato pancakes with crème fraiche and applesauce; Creekstone Farms braised beef; gluten-free and flourless apple honey upside-down cake; and traditional and chocolate-covered coconut macaroons. Housemade matzo in olive oil with fleur de sel or onion flavors is also available. 1014 Wilshire Blvd., (310)451-2311.

7. Chocolate dipped matzo

Valerie Gordon, of Valerie’s Confections offers matzo layered with velvety bittersweet chocolate, Valerie’s signature almond toffee and soy salt, making it a perfect Passover dessert or gift. It’s available through the end of the month and can be purchased at Valerie’s Confections’ three locations in Silverlake, Echo Park and in the Grand Central Market downtown. Online orders can be shipped nationwide. 3360 W. First St., (213) 739-8149; 317 S. Broadway St., #E3-4, (213)621-2781; 1665 Echo Park Ave., (213)250-9365.

Photo courtesy of Pereg
Photo courtesy of Pereg

Kosher food producers are offering up some great new items to help celebrate in delicious, gourmet style. Here are a few if you are planning to make dinner at home – 

Pereg Natural Foods – http://www.pereg-gourmet.com, a leader in gluten-free products as well as all natural spices and ancient grains, introduces Kosher for Passover gluten-free flours in three varieties: Coconut, Almond and Quinoa. These flours are 100% natural, non-dairy, non-GMO Project approved, and certified kosher by the Orthodox Union (OU-P). Pereg is proud to offer these healthful alternatives to white flour, for Passover and year round baking. Each is packaged in 16 oz. re-sealable stay-fresh bags, retailing for about $5.49.

quinoa-pasta-thumb2.jpg.ashxPereg Natural Foods also offers an extended line of quinoa based products: quinoa mixes, plain quinoa, red quinoa and tri-color quinoa, pre-seasoned quinoa, as well as quinoa flour, quinoa pasta, and quinoa pops cereal. They also produce lines of flavored basmati rice, couscous, salad toppings and salad spreads.

pereg_spice_group_thumb.jpg.ashx-2Pereg Natural Foods spice up your Passover with more than 40 all natural and pure spices, from Kosher for Passover Mexican chili pepper and smoked paprika to shwarma, sumac and turmeric.

Visit Pereg Natural Foods at www.pereg-gourmet.com Follow Pereg on Facebook.com/pereggourmet, Twitter @pereggourmet and Instagram @peregnatural. Click here for recipes – http://www.pereg-spices.com/Blog/

This article was featured in my restaurant news column in the Park LaBrea News and Beverly Press.

 

 

Fabulous French Passion Jura Wines

IMG_6757In the eastern region of France are 200 estates producing Jura wines. They account for less than 1% of national wine production from all of France’s wine regions, yet this area is known as “the grandest of the small wine regions.” With 5 distinct varietals there is an ideal wine to enjoy as an aperitif to digestif. The varieties include – Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Ploussard, Trousseau and Pinot Noir grapes.

I had the opportunity to taste several wines from 20 different estates at Hinoki and the Bird in Century City on April 19, thanks to my friend Allison Levine from Please the Palate.

The event Passion Jura event started with a Jura wine seminar with wine educator DJ Kearney. Afterwards there was a walk around wine-tasting at various tables set up by the following participating wineries:  Cellier des Tiercelines; Château d’Arlay; Domaine André et Mireille Tissot; Domaine Baud; Domaine Benoit Badoz; Domaine Berthet-Bondet; Domaine Cédric Joly; Domaine Désiré Petit; Domaine Dugois; Domaine de la Pinte; Domaine de la Touraize; Domaine des Ronces; Domaine Grand;Domaine Jean-Louis Tissot; Domaine Pierre Richard; Domaine Rijckaert; Domaine Rolet; Fruitière Vinicole d’Arbois; Juravinum and Domaine Wicky.

(PASSION JURA Tasting - Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(PASSION JURA Tasting – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

Levine welcomed me, handed me a wine glass and guided me to begin tasting Passion Jura wines. I recognized some of LA’s finest sommeliers, including Sommelier Emanuele Rizzo of Pizza Romana on La Brea in Mid-City. This handsome Italian man knows how to pair wine with pizza, meat, and pasta better than most. Read my review of how he became a sommelier – http://beverlypress.com/2016/03/pizza-romana-when-the-moon-hits-your-eye-like-a-big-pizza-pie-thats-amore. I also recognized a few restaurateurs, importers and journalists at this event.

Here’s what I tasted and learned at the PASSION JURA Los Angeles – Annual Grand Tasting –

(Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Photo by Jill Weinlein)

DOMAINE ANDRE ET MIREILLE TISSOT – Stephane Tissot created wine in 1962. Later this vineyard became a biodynamic viticulture with grapes untouched by chemicals. Natural yeast is used in the fermentation process. They have 24 people working year-round to produce 35 different cuvees. Their sparkling is 50% Chardonnay and made with natural yeast. Their Arbois Chardonnay Patchwork is grown in limestone, while the Chardonnay Les Graviers offers a spicy finish.

Hinoki and the Bird spread (Photo by Jill Weinlein)
Hinoki and the Bird spread (Photo by Jill Weinlein)

When attending these enlightening wine events, I do take a sip and swallow each wine presented, instead of spitting it into a silver spittoon, unless it is awful. There is always plenty of bottled water and food, so no one walks out too tipsy. The food buffet at Hinoki & the Bird offered an array of beautiful cheeses, meats, nuts and breads. The platters were adorned with tiny pansy flowers.

(Beautiful AOC Arbois Ploussard - Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Beautiful AOC Arbois Ploussard – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

The AOC Arbois Ploussard offered a lovely orange-red color with a light musky smell to the nose and aromas of red berries. On the palate it offered a fruitiness with well-balanced tannins. There was an earthy, almost pine essense. The Arbois Chardonnay is from big barrels offering aromas of citronella, honey and white flowers with a salty essence. It’s great with fondue and seafood.

(Each wine is unique - Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Each wine is unique – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

The Cotes du Jura Tradition offered almonds and hazelnuts to the nose and a fruity and spicy finish.

(Domaine Des Ronces makes a great sparkling wine - Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Domaine Rijckaert wines- Photo by Jill Weinlein)

DOMAINE RIJCKAERT – Created in 1998 by Jean Rijckaert and Florent Rouve to focus on purity and freshness. Their handpicked harvest, slow pressings and indigenous yeast offers some really great wines that are served at some of the finest tables in France. Visitors can stay overnight at the more than 100-year-old home, built in the middle of the vineyards at Leynes, in the south of Burgundy. The outbuildings store wine and the vat rooms house  casks where the white wines such as the Chardonnay – Arbois – En Paradis matures.

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(Domaine Des Ronces – Kevin Mazier – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

At the Domaine Des Ronces, founded in 1950 by George Mazier, it’s a family enterprise. In 2010, Mazier’s son Michael started managing the winery. By 2010, Michael Mazier and his son Kevin practiced organic farming and focused on biodynamics with a range of diversity from white to white floral wines and red Poulssard. The Trousseau is more of an orange tint in color due to staying one more year in the cask. Their Cremant Du Jura is 100% Chardonnay.

(My favorite red wine  - Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(My favorite red wine – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

One of my favorite wine pour was from DOMAINE DE LA TOURAIZE. Eight generations have made wine since 1704 with Etienne Morin making the first bottle. There were five tastes with three whites and two reds. My favorite was a good summer wine with notes of Rose’, yet its a brilliant red wine, the Ploussard La Cabane.

(Domaine De La Touraize - Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Domaine De La Touraize – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

Walking to the Domaine Rolet table, I sipped a sparkling Du Jura Blanc Brut made with 70% Chardonnay. This would make a fine wedding toast bubbly wine. Pierre Rolet and Franny Breuil have worked 70 years making their unique wines that also include Arbois Pouldard Vielles Vignes made with Poulsard and Pinot Noir. It was one of the few tables that had a female representative.

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If you are in New York, there will be a Passion Jura seminar and tasting from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Studio 450 – 450 West 31st Street – New York, NY 10001 RSVP: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/passion-jura-new-york-annual-grand-tasting-april-21th-2016-tickets-22182931746

Female Chefs Reign at 2016 WCR National Conference

(Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Photo by Jill Weinlein)

I was invited to cover the 2016 Women Who Inspire Awards at Paramount Pictures Studios on April 18. It was the closing event during the two-day Women Chefs & Restaurateurs: Conference. WCR is a professional association that supports women from all walks in the food & beverage community. WCR President Ruth Gresser welcomed guests and introduced the Awards Presentation. Co-Hosts Ron Ben Israel and Waylynn Lucas announced the nominees and winners of the various awards. The first WCR Golden Glass Award went to General manager/partner Bella Lantsman of Chinois on Main in Santa Monica. She has been at the restaurant for over 32 years. Restauranteur and Interior Designer Barbara Lazaroff was so proud. Her Executive Pastry Chef Della Gossett won too.

It’s always fun to enter inside the gates on Paramount Pictures Studios and see the chefs and restaurants I write about and review. Here are 11 of my favorite experiences at the WCR Event-

(Fun Night in Hollywood)
(Fun Night in Hollywood)
  1. Beer & Chocolate – My first stop was at the Callebaut Cafe for a refreshing beer and cup of chocolates. I felt as if I was in Paris sitting at a bistro table while I nibbled on salted caramel chocolate balls and sipped a delightfully fruity beer. Callebaut is a Belgian chocolate brand, owned by the Barry Callebaut group. It was founded in 1911. http://www.callebaut.com/usen/homepage

    (Photo by Jill Weinlein)
    (Photo by Jill Weinlein)
  2. Sara Kramer and Sarah Hymanson from Madcapra – Biting into a falafel with labneh, pickled cauliflower, flowering cilantro, mint and celery on butter lettuce. Not only are this dynamic duo the darlings of DTLA Grand Central Market, but they shared with me they are working on opening Kismet Hollywood and Vermont in the Los Feliz area will open in about 6 months. I can’t wait – it’s fate they met, and destiny to feed Los Angelenos with their amazing food! http://www.madcapra.com

    (Chefs Sara Kramer and Sarah Hymanson - Madcapra - Photo by Jill Weinlein)
    (Chefs Sara Kramer and Sarah Hymanson – Madcapra – Photo by Jill Weinlein)
  3. Superba Food & Bread – Chef Vicki Fan made an amazing scallop with hazelnut butter and cauliflower caponata. The bread display wow’d guests. There are two locations with one in Venice and the other in El Segundo. http://www.superbafoodandbread.com/#about
    (The Superba Team - Photo by Jill Weinlein)
    (The Superba Team – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

    4. Shirley Chung from Twenty-Eight Restaurant from Irvine – made an octopus dish that was the talk of the evening. It was superb. Chung is a BRAVO Top Chef finalist, and enjoys creating California flavors and cuisines from all over the world. Born in Beijing, China this dynamic chef has a sweet and playful personality. Her restaurant is located 19530 Jamboree Rd. between Fairchild Rd. and Centerpointe Rd. It’s adjacent to Google and Equinox. http://www.twentyeightoc.comIMG_6697

    5. Barbara Lazaroff and Award winning pastry chef Bella Gossett enjoyed the evening as winners! Della’s honey dessert was visually beautiful and even had a tiny confectionary bumble bee on a honeycomb wafer cookie. You can experience Della’s pastry delights at SPAGO Beverly Hills.http://www.wolfgangpuck.com/restaurants/fine-dining/3635

    (Restauranteur and Interior Designer Barbara Lazaroff with Pastry Chef Della Gossett - Photo by Jill Weinlein)
    (Restauranteur and Interior Designer Barbara Lazaroff with Pastry Chef Della Gossett – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

    6. Suzanne Goin of Tavern must be very proud of her Chef de Cuisine – Amy Deaderick. This talented chef’s braised pork cheeks was on a plate with pickled green tomatoes, cornbread panzanella, mustard creme fraiche and spiced bacon was heavenly. The pork was so tender and flavorful. Tavern is located in Brentwood – http://www.tavernla.com

    (Chef Amy Deaderick - Tavern - Photo by Jill Weinlein)
    (Chef Amy Deaderick – Tavern – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

    7.  I was so happy to see one of my favorite female chef’s – Megan Logan. I first met Megan at Patina Groups’ Nick & Stef’s DTLA. When the restaurant closed for a few months for reservations, celebrated restaurateur Nick Valenti and leading chef Joachim Splichal, didn’t want to lose Megan, so they moved her into the kitchen of their world-class premium Cafe Pinot. While talking I noticed that she is pregnant and due this summer. She plans to work up until the baby is ready to be delivered. At the WCR event she made a delightful octopus with Israeli Cous Cous. Cafe Pinot is DTL next to the Library Tower. https://www.patinagroup.com/cafe-pinot

    (Talented Chef Megan Logan - Photo by Jill Weinlein)
    (Talented Chef Megan Logan – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

8.  The Executive Pastry chef Jen Shen and her staff at Wolfgang Puck in the Hotel Bel Air dazzled guests with her trio of desserts. https://www.dorchestercollection.com/en/los-angeles/hotel-bel-air/restaurant-bars/wolfgang-puck-at-hotel-bel-air/

(A dessert trio - Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(A dessert trio – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

9.  Another pastry favorite was the take-home cookie box filled with a variety of cookies by Vanilla Bake Shop. There was a gluten-free Brownie Crackle; Salted Chocolate Chip with Maldon Sea Salt and an Everything Cookie with walnuts. The Vanilla Bake Shop has 3 shops with one about to open in Old Town Pasadena. http://www.VanillaBakeShop.com

(An array of beautiful, soft and pleasing cookies by Vanilla Bake Shop- Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(An array of beautiful, soft and pleasing cookies by Vanilla Bake Shop- Photo by Jill Weinlein)

10. I was excited to see Chef Valerie Gordon of Valerie Confections. She had a cookie bar too with Durango Cookies, Chocolate Chip with Fleur de Sel, Ginger Snaps, Maple Brownies and a beautiful Floral Sugar Cookie. http://www.valerieconfections.com/

(Valerie Gordon's Cookie Bar - Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Valerie Gordon’s Cookie Bar – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

11. Chef Rebecca Merhej from Love & Salt made an amazing dish with roasted lamb, cucumber salad and olives. Her housemade labneh was superb. http://www.loveandsaltla.com

(Love and Salt - Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Love & Salt – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

Chefs from all over attended this lively event, including women chefs from Alaska, New York, California, The South and Canada. I recommend attending the WCR Conference in 2017. You will be pleasantly surprised to learn that female chefs are the “Rock Stars” in the culinary world.

A Night in WeHo I Will Never Forget

I was invited to attend the West Hollywood Community Housing Corporation’s (WHCHC) 30th anniversary celebration. It was scheduled to be held on the rooftop of The London West Hollywood, below Sunset Blvd. With rain looming, the venue was moved into one of the hotel’s Grand Ballroom.

Walking into the hotel, I approached the reception table, stated my name and was given a program and table assignment card. Without my readers on, I thought it said I was at Table 5.

Writer with Award Winning Actress Lily Tomlin and The Honorbale Sheila Kuehl
Writer with Award Winning Actress Lily Tomlin and The Honorbale Sheila Kuehl with adorable photo bomber.

The crowd was abuzz with celebrities, WHCHC Board Members and politicians. The first person I recognized was one of my favorite comedic actresses, Lily Tomlin. I have fond memories of watching her in the 1970s with her breakout roles of Ernestine the snippy and snorting telephone operator and precious young Edith Ann on the variety show Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. She was my favorite actress on the show.

Currently Tomlin stars with Jane Fonda on the Netflix series Grace and Frankie as Frankie Bergstein. She was nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series in the 2015 Primetime Emmy Award.

Once the doors opened, I walked over to Table 5 and sat next to Bobby and Jeffrey. I learned that Bobby would speak to the crowd of 200 people about his success story and involvement with WHCHC. He went from a homeless young man to now a husband and homeowner. “The people at WHCHC who build apartments for seniors, homeless and those with medical disabilities have compassion to help those in need,” Bobby said.

First Course at the WHCHC Gala at London West Hollywood - Photo by Jill Weinlein
First Course at the WHCHC Gala at London West Hollywood – Photo by Jill Weinlein

As the program was about to start and the first course was being served, Lily Tomlin and The Honorable Sheila Kuehl sat next to us. I pinched myself. One of my favorite celebrities, Lily Tomlin was sitting next to me. We chatted about the event and how she would be presenting the “Game Changer” award to the honorable Sheil Kuehl. We also discussed how West Hollywood Mayor Lindsey Horvath (present at the Gala) had just declared to the media that “Trump is not allowed in West Hollywood.” Tomlin shared with me that she was recently at an event with Mayor Garcetti, and while delivering a speech at the event, her microphone mysteriously was turned off.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti - Photo by Jill Weinlein
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti – Photo by Jill Weinlein

The Gala co-chairs Karl Lott and Jason Illoulian introduced “WHCHC: 30 Years of Changing Lives.”  We learned that for the past 30 years, WHCHC has developed safe, decent and affordable housing with the help of AvalonBay Communities in West Hollywood, Los Angeles and Glendale. They help those in the Los Angeles area that are struggling to find a decent and an affordable place to call home.

Photo by Jill Weinlein
Photo by Jill Weinlein

Los Angeles Mayor, Eric Garcetti presented the 30th Anniversary Community Vision Award to the City of West Hollywood. In the 1980s the City of West Hollywood gained local control of rising rents, public safety enforcement and to help LGBT and seniors living in what was an incorporated city in the County of Los Angeles.

Today there are 17 WHCHC apartment communities in the City of West Hollywood. Many are permanent apartments for people living with HIV/AIDS and older seniors. This includes two new apartment communities about to open in WeHo with 384 more units. They take parking lots and turn them into housing. Abandoned commercial spaces, become architectually significant housing communities. Their goal is to get people off the street and into a home. A healthy city is people living normal lives and being part of the community.

In the City of Los Angeles, there are an additional 209 units designated for seniors, families and homeless to give them a home away from the streets. Their goal is to stabilize their life and thrive.

While taking notes and talking with Lily Tomlin, I received a tap on the back and was told I was in someone’s seat. Shocked, I found my table assignment card, put on my readers, and read Table 7. Even though there weren’t name tags on the table and I really wasn’t in that woman’s seat, I was at the wrong table. Yikes! Without my readers it looked like a 5, but was actually a 7. I apologized, said goodbye to Ms. Tomlin, Ms. Kuehl, Bobby & Jeffrey and moved to Table 7. Unfortunetly all the seats were taken at that table, so I moved over to table 10.

Honorable Sheila Kuehi and  Fascinating Lily Tomlin - Photo by Jill Weinlein
Honorable Sheila Kuehi and Fascinating Lily Tomlin – Photo by Jill Weinlein

Once Lily Tomlin presented Honorable Sheila Kuehl the “Game Changer” Award, I moved up to the front to take notes and photos. I learned that the big -hearted Sheila Keuhl was an actress, before she became a people’s politician. She became the first openly gay person elected to the California legislature. She was also the first woman in California history to be the Speaker pro temp ore in the state Assembly. In 2000 she was elected to the California State Senate. She wrote a Senate Bill 1234 to protect Californians from hate crimes.

During her current leadership, Keuhl makes sure that personal freedoms are protected and fights to keep marriage equality. Currently she is a Los Angeles County Supervisor working hard to protect and assist foster children. This women deserves multiple awards.

The WHCHC Board of Directors took the stage after Executive Director Robin Conerly presented AvalonBay Communities a “Building For The Future” award. Chair Karl Lott, Vice Chair Ed Campbell, Vice Chair and WHCHC resident and volunteer Clara Denson (this woman had a smile that lit up the room), Ken Sofge, Treasurer, James Duke Mason, Sectretary and others were on hand to congratulate all of the award recipients.

Part of the WHCHC Board - Photo by Jill Weinlein
Part of the WHCHC Board – Photo by Jill Weinlein

The evening was inspirational, enlightening and full of Hollywood glamour. At the end while waiting for my car, I met the talented and beautiful Kat Kramer, daughter of the late American film director and producer Stanley Kramer. Kat’s father tackled films about social issues including racism (in The Defiant Ones and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner), nuclear war (in On the Beach), greed (in It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World), creationism vs. evolution (in Inherit the Wind) and the causes and effects of fascism (in Judgment at Nuremberg). His other notable films included High Noon (1952, as producer), The Caine Mutiny (1954, as producer), and Ship of Fools (1965).

She told me she was also booted out of table 5 by the same woman. I learned that Kat and Lily Tomlin are good friends and Kat has performed in two special Tributes twice for Lily Tomlin. Not only can this dynamo sing and dance, but like her father, she makes socially conscious and powerful films that include – Teach Your Children Well, dealing with bullying in schools. Her screening series includes The Cove, exposing the slaughter of dolphins in Japan; Elephants and Man: A Litany of Tragedy, about the suffering of elephants in captivity; and Barbra Streisand’s Yentl, which focused attention on women’s equality.

As the London West Hollywood valets brought our cars up to the main entrance, Kat and I exchanged cards and promised to keep in touch.

It was a night I will always remember and now a cause that I will passionately write about and support. Helping those in need to have a home and live productive lives with integrity, uplifted spirits and surrounded by people who care.

To learn more about WHCHC go to www.whchc.org

 

 

 

Kinky Boots Back in Hollywood

1434623236_h_975x250.KinkyBootsLast night my publishers gave me their two tickets to the Grammy and Tony award-winning musical Kinky Boots currently at the Pantages Theatre. IMG_6499

The red carpet was ready for celebrities and VIPs to find a spot under the bright lights, as the media captured their attendance of the Opening Night show. Some of my favorites were Jhazz Fleming who plays Young Lola. He and his proud momma soaked up the adulation of fans, as this youngster was about to make his theatrical debut in Kinky Boots. This handsome boy trained with the Newark NJ Symphony Hall Summer Performing Arts Academy as a dancer, singer and performer, before being cast in this show.

Photo by Jill Weinlein
Actress Brooke Engen with (Young Lola) Jhazz Fleming – Photo by Jill Weinlein

Fleming excitedly posed with the pretty actress Brooke Engen, the twin of lead actress Tiffany Engen (Lauren) in Kinky Boots. Brooke and Tiffany have performed in “Rock of Ages” on stage at the same time, just different venues. Tiffany played “Regina,” at the Venetian in Las Vegas, while Brooke performed in a “Rock of Ages” production for Norwegian Cruise Line.

In Kinky Boots, Tiffany Engen has the audience in the palm of her hands with her performance in “The History of Wrong Guys.” She is the new Lucille Ball, with her comic timing that has the audience laughing throughout the musical. Her quirky movements and adorable facial exaggerations deserve a standing ovation at every show.

Photo by Jill Weinlein
Corbin Bleu with fiancee Sasha Clements – Photo by Jill Weinlein

Fleming and his mother were also excited to see the charming and talented model, actor, singer, and dancer Corbin Bleu with his lovely fiancée and actress Sasha Clements. Bleu started acting in commercials at the ago of two and his modeling career took off at the age of four. Everyone knows him for his role of  “Chad Danforth” in the Emmy award-winning Disney Channel original movie High School Musical. He was in both sequels High School Musical 2  and High School Musical 3: Senior Year. With his singing and songwriting career taking off, he recently was contestant on the 17th season of Dancing with the Stars, partnering with professional dancer Karina Smirnoff.

Posing with young Fleming, I asked him, “Do you remember when you were his age enjoying all of this?” With a wink and winning smile he said to me, “I sure do” before entering the theater to take his seat.

Photo by Jill Weinlein
Actors Corbin Bleu, Jhazz Fleming, and actress Sasha Clements -Photo by Jill Weinlein

Pop icon Cyndi Lauper (Girls Just Want To Have Fun) created the music for this inspirational musical production. It’s based on a true story written by Tony Award winner Harvey Fierstein (La Cage Aux Folles, Hairspray). The musical uses a twelve-piece orchestra consisting of keyboards, percussion, bass, guitars, reeds, violin, viola, cello, trumpet, and trombone.

What makes this show so fun, beyond the outrageous costumes, stiletto shoes and outstanding set, is the cast and crew directed by two-time Tony Award winning director and choreographer Jerry Mitchell (Legally Blonde & Hairspray).

J. Harrison Ghee playing Lola is bigger than life on stage at the Pantages. The minute he takes the stage, he captivates the audience with his beauty, charm and vocal prowess. Lola’s “Angels” add to a romping good time, especially “Land of Lola” “Sex Is in the Heel” and “Raise You Up/Just Be.” The choreography of the treadmill scene is brilliant.

Adam Kaplan shined on stage as Charlie and has perfect chemistry with Lola and Lauren. The audience is rooting for this trio throughout the show.

Others worth noting are Shawna M. Hamic for her comedic talent, Jim J. Bullock as the lovable George, and Aaron Walpole as the character Don eventually accepting and embracing people for who they are. He is the first character we see before the curtain parts and the last we cheer for at the end.

Go enjoy the talented cast of Kinky Boots. It’s a playful story of a young man’s struggles to save his family shoe company and himself! This feel good ending has the audience up on their feet and clapping until the curtain closes.

The show is recommended for children 10 years old and up.

Go online now to www.HollywoodPantages.com or www.Ticketmaster.com to get your tickets, because it is in Hollywood for only two weeks.

 

Beaming All Day Long

What do supermodel and television host Chrissy Teigan, Hip-Hop artist Common and singer Ellie Goulding have in common with me? We all visit Beaming for a midday pick-me-up or healthy meal.

The acai bowl of granola and berries is a source of energy, immunity and vitamin C. (photo courtesy of Beaming Cafe)
The acai bowl of granola and berries is a source of energy, immunity and vitamin C. (photo courtesy of Beaming Cafe)

Beaming’s owner Lisa Odenweller was a director at numerous Silicon Valley software companies including Oracle and Broadvision. She grew tired of climbing the corporate ladder and was inspired to change her lifestyle after attending a health and wellness conference. While learning how to cook and eat healthier, family and friends encouraged to open her own organic superfood cafe in Del Mar in 2012.

Her café promotes good health, happiness and vitality serving delicious and nutritious plant-based foods. With its success, she opened others in San Diego and Los Angeles. Now she has six cafés. The newest just opened on April 6 in the La Costa Equinox.

At Beaming cafe on La Cienega, customers sample juices at a tasting counter where bottles of juice rest in bowls of ice.

My favorite is the Balanced Green which aids in digestion, boosts immunity and is an anti-inflammatory. It’s made with all organic cucumber, celery, spinach, parsley, fennel, Fuji apple, lemon and mint.

There are at least three pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables in each of their cold pressed juices.

Beaming is not a juice-only café. They sell packed snacks, salads, flavorful soups, freshly made smoothies and elixir shots.

Many of the customers come in after a yoga, pilates or cycling class to pick up refueling items and bring them home, back to work or sip in the car.

Beaming (photo by Jill Weinlein)
Beaming (photo by Jill Weinlein)

I visited Beaming with a friend ,and we tried the Immunity antioxidant elixir made with alkaline water, coconut water, ginger juice, lemon juice, mint, cayenne and salt. It’s touted for its energizing and anti-inflammatory benefits.

For lunch we enjoyed a warmed carrot and ginger soup served with kale, quinoa, and a crunchy cashew nut topper. It had an earthy and pleasing flavor.

My friend preferred the chilled arugula curry soup. We tried two salads from the cold case. My favorite was the falafel salad with butter lettuce cups. The falafels are made with quinoa, pea, alkaline water, coconut oil, miso paste, oregano, flaxseed, brown rice crumbs, tahini, onion and garlic. The salad has sliced cucumber, pea shoots and Beaming’s lemon, tahini dressing with a dash of Good Maca hot sauce to give it a zing.

The second salad was a blend of spinach and romaine, sliced red cabbage, red bell peppers and tossed with Beaming’s teriyaki, sesame-almond and ginger dressing.

Throughout the juice bar are words of wisdom on the walls proclaiming, “The World is brighter when you’re Beaming.” Another from Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine.”

One thing that bothered me was that Beaming has no reuse or recycle bins at the La Cienega location. After drinking a vitality shot of elixir, I felt guilty throwing the small plastic bottle away. In the trash were empty cold-press juice bottles, too. With Earth Day approaching, the Beaming team should reduce, reuse and recycle.

Before or after an early morning workout, the acai protein bowl is very popular. It’s made with organic, unsweetened, non-GMO Acai. Beaming’s superfood plant protein, is added to the homemade granola. What make this a superfood is the coconut butter, a natural fat burner. Also, the bowl is filled with antioxidants to give eaters energy, immunity and vitamin C.

For dessert we tasted samples of the superfood desserts. They are all gluten and dairy free and made with nutrient dense sprouted flours. The banana chocolate chip bread has 14 grams of protein. It’s made with a gluten-free combination of almond, chia, hemp and buckwheat. It was very satisfying, yet not as sweet as traditional banana bread.

We finished our lunch with a bright yellow vitality shot, aimed at achieving optimal wellness with a combination of nature’s most powerful preventive medicine and age defying secrets. It left us Beaming all day. $-$$

Beaming has three Los Angeles locations: 605 N. La Cienega Blvd., (310)299-7691; 1426 Montana Ave., (310)299-7622; 131 S. Barrington Ave., (310)299-7538.

This article was featured in the April 14 issue of the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News.

Eat. Drink. & Watch Kobe Tonight in LA

“Lakers Pride Burger” ($14) loaded with two (three-ounce) burger patties, pig candy, habanero mayo, and a red wine reduction.
(“Lakers Pride Burger” ($14) loaded with two (three-ounce) burger patties, pig candy, habanero mayo, and a red wine reduction. Photo courtesy of Plan Check Kitchen + Bar.)

What better way to commemorate the NBA all-star, Kobe Bryant’s final Laker game tonight, Wednesday, April 13 then to sit and watch among other fans.  Shout, high-five, and fist pump with family and friends at one of these two LA venues.

  1. LA’s modern American eatery, Plan Check Kitchen + Bar (Sawtelle, Fairfax, Downtown) will serve “Lakers Pride Burger” for $14. It’s loaded with two burger patties, pig candy, Habanero mayo, and a red wine reduction. Guests can order these burgers starting today until  Sunday, April 17. This burger special features cheese two ways – Americanized dashi cheese and port-infused Gruyère & parmesan. The colors pay homage to Kobe’s classic yellow and purple team colors. To learn more, go to http://plancheck.com

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    (Cocktail #24 – Photo Courtesy of Taste on Melrose.)
  2. Today marks the end to the Black Mamba, Kobe Bryant. To commemorate one of the NBA’s most legendary and impressive careers, Taste on Melrose will host a “Kobe’s Last Hurrah” party on Wednesday, April 13. The night will kick off with a showing of Spike Lee’s “Kobe Doin’ Work” at 5:30pm followed by a live streaming of the game with sound on the restaurant’s Atrium screens at 7:30pm. Guests can say goodbye with Kobe-Themed Happy Hour bites, such as BBQ Kobe Meatballs; “Mamba Cakes”; and toast to each 3-pointer with the Cocktail #24, made with Bulleit Bourbon, lime juice, ginger beer, and blueberry floaters. Full menu and details below. Let me know if you have any questions or need more info!
    View Spike Lee’s “Kobe Doin’ Work” documentary | 5:30pm
    Lakers vs. Jazz Game Time | 7:30pmHAPPY HOUR BITES At Taste on Melrose
    BBQ Kobe Meatballs | American Wagyu Beef, caramelized onions, pine nuts, golden raisins, parmesan cheese, papaya BBQ sauce, roasted corn salsa
    Kobe Slider Platter | paired with risotto “mini-basketballs”
    “Mamba Cakes” | potato cake with crème fraiche, chives
    Cocktail #24 | Bulleit Bourbon, lime juice, ginger beer, blueberry floaters, orange peel. To learn more, http://ilovetaste.com

The Magnificent Masters of Taste

The Just Opened Venue - Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(An ideal culinary venue for foodies inside the historic Rose Bowl – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

It was a spectacular day to savor the finer things in life on the field of the historic Rose Bowl during Masters of Taste on Sunday, April 3.

The new outdoor, luxury culinary festival opened at 3 p.m. to the public as a fundraiser for Union Station. Approximately 2,000 influential food and beverage enthusiasts enjoyed small plates from some of L.A.’s finest chefs and notable sweet masters.

There were multiple opportunities to sip signature handcrafted cocktails and tastings from over 25 beverage masters from top cocktail bars.

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(The friendly wine staff from Alexander Valley Vineyards -Instagram: @AVVWinery – Twitter @AVVWinery – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

Participating wineries include Alexander Valley Vineyards from Healdsburg, Paso Robles’ Anglim Winery, the premium boutique winery Ascension Cellars and Ventura’s Four Brix Winery. Guests can also enjoy pressed juices, hand-roasted coffee and entertainment.

Chef Bernhard Mairinger served crispy pork belly crostini w/ fava bean and radish.
(Chef Bernhard Mairinger served crispy pork belly crostini w/ fava bean and radish.)

Here are some of my favorite participating chefs and what they served at the event.  Matt Bata, from Alexander’s Steakhouse; Bernhard Mairinger, of BierBeisl; Michael “Mick” Schepers, of HACHÉ LA; Yoya Takahashi, of Hamasaku; Carolos Tomazos, of Inotheke; Sean Popcock, of Made in Brooklyn; Kyle Schutte, of Wood & Vine; Neal Fraser, of Redbird; and Isaias Pena, of Spare Tire Kitchen & Tavern. Brewmasters include Alosta Brewing Co., Bootlegger’s Brewery, Iron Triangle Brewing, Indie Brewing Company and Golden Road Brewing.

(A good cause to help those in need at Union Station for the Homeless - Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(A good cause to help those in need at Union Station for the Homeless – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

Proceeds from Masters of Taste benefitted Union Station Homeless Services, a nonprofit organization based in Pasadena and committed to helping homeless men, women and children rebuild their lives. Services include street outreach, meals, shelter, housing, case management and career development.

I hope this event was a huge success and that they will organize another Masters of Taste in 2017. Here’s who I met –

  1. Made in Brooklyn Pizza Food Truck – HOLD IT. FOLD IT. EAT IT. http://mibpizza.com Instagram @MadeInBrooklynNYPizza – Twitter @MIBPizza
(Chef Sean Popock made in Brooklyn Pizza Truck – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

2. Kelly’s Kookies served individual plate of various cookies to each guest before entering the center of the stadium.They were delicious. http://www.kelleyskookies.com/  Instagram @KellysKookies – Twitter @KellysKookies.

Kelley's Kookies - Melting Moments - Chocolate dipped & lemon shortbread
(Sweet Masters Kelley’s Kookies served Melting Moments – Chocolate dipped & lemon shortbread – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

3. San Antonio Winery served a variety of their wines and offered foodies a chance to win a beautiful wine basket. http://sanantoniowinery.com Instagram @SanAntonioWinery – Twitter @SAWineryLA

San Anotonio Winery basket went to one lucky winner - photo by Jill Weinlein
(San Anotonio Winery basket went to one lucky winner – photo by Jill Weinlein)

4. BAI – Bai is the Mandarin Chinese word for “pure.” It’s also an acronym for “botanical antioxidant infusions.” Bai uses only natural flavors without artificial colors to create our fresh, delicious, 5-calorie beverages. http://www.drinkbai.com Instagram @DrinkBai – Twitter @Drink Bai.

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5. I recently reviewed Executive Chef Neal Fraser‘s newest culinary endeavor Fritzi DLTA https://dineandtravel.me/2016/02/05/fritzi-dtla-is-fabulous/ and was happy to see him representing Redbird. Instagram @RedbirdLA – Twitter @RedbirdLA

Jill Weinlein with Neil Fraser Redbird while making Ricotta Gnudi with guanchale & spicy tomato sauce.
(Jill Weinlein with Neal Chef Fraser)

6. Spare Tire Kitchen + Bar – I always enjoy seeing Executive Chef Isaias Peña and owner Paul Boettcher. I’ve reviewed this fun gastropub on Wilshire Blvd. along the Wilshire Corridor – /http://beverlypress.com/2015/02/spare-tire-kitchen-tavern-more-than-a-fun-gastropub/ Instagram @SpareTireLA – Twitter @SpareTireLA

Chef Isaias Peña and owners Owner Paul Boettcher and son - Spare Tire Kitchen + Bar
(Chef Isaias Peña and owners Owner Paul Boettcher and son – Spare Tire Kitchen + Bar – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

6. HOOCH is a private cocktail app for your smart phone. The App is free to download to check out. If you decide to become a member, membership is $9.99 per month, less than the price of one cocktail. https://hooch.co Instagram @HoochApp – Twitter @HoochApp

HOOCH - Mixwell - Brugal Anejo Buck Rum Cocktail
(HOOCH – Mixwell – Brugal Anejo Buck Rum Cocktail – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

7. Massage Envy offered complimentary massages to ticket holders. http://www.massageenvy.com

Massage Envy offered complimentary massages to guests.
(What a treat to get a massage – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

8. Choctál representatives offered four tastes of chocolates and four spoons of their vanilla ice cream. The chocolates were from Ghana, Kalimantan, Costa Rica and Dominican Republic. The vanilla beans used to make the vanilla ice cream are from Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Madagascar and Mexico.  The ice cream is elegant, smooth and intensely creamy. http://www.choctal.com Instragram @Choctal – Twitter @Choctal

Choctal Cutie
(Choctal Cutie serving tastes to festival attendees – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

9. Executive Chef Brendan Collins of Birch was at the festival. He had his book – Cooking, Blokes and Artichokes – A Modern Man’s Kitchen Handbook for all to admire. http://birchlosangeles.com Instagram @BirchLosAngeles – Twitter @BirchLA

Executive Chef Brendan Collins
(Executive Chef Brendan Collins – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

10. Golden Road Brewery Crafted in Glendale/Los Angeles since 2011. They served tastes of Wolf 3D and 329 Lager. Did you know there are 329 days of sun in So Cal? 329 Lager is full-flavored and easy-drinking with a clean, crisp finish. http://www.goldenroad.la Instagram @GoldenRoadBrew – Twitter @GoldenRoadBrew

Golden Road Brewery brought lively staff members who were enjoying the event.
(Golden Road Brewery brought lively staff members who were enjoying the event – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

11. Indie Brewing Company – I met (L to R) Brewmaster James Mancuso, who loves every Indie brew. Kevin O’Malley – a graduate of the Introduction to Practical Brewing Course at University of Davis, California, one of the top brewing schools in the U.S. His favorite beer is the Indie’s Porter offering a complex rich taste with a drinkability he has never experienced with any other porter. Connor Forbes, an expert at brewing, drinking, and loving beer. These guys were a lot of fun and had a great time at Masters of Taste. http://indiebrewco.com Instagram @IndieBrewCO -Twitter @IndieBrewingCo

(Happy guys from Indie Brewing Company - photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Happy guys from Indie Brewing Company – photo by Jill Weinlein)

12. The Raymond – 1886 Bar opened a cocktail program was created by Aidan Demarest and Marcos Tello (The Edison, 7 Grand, Tom Bergins) with a strong foundation in classic techniques. They make perfect Manhattans, Old-Fashions, Sidecars, and Sours with fresh juices and hand-cut chunks of ice. Every syrup, infusion, tincture and foam is house-made and perfectly tailored to suit the recipes. Bar 1886 offers over 600 off-menu house cocktails. http://theraymond.com/1886-2/ Instagram @1886Bar – Twitter @1886Bar.

The Raymond in Pasadena
The Raymond in Pasadena

To learn more about Masters of Taste, go to https://mastersoftastela.com

A Little Rain Didn’t Damper PDFW

All week I was so excited to drive two hours from Los Angeles to the Palm Desert Food & Wine James Beard Gourmet Luncheon with my friend Toni. We drove in her snazzy Prius along the 210 and 10 freeways to get there before 11:30 a.m. With rain clouds looming ahead, we beat the rain just in time and had a few minutes to shop at the Coachella Valley’s famed The Gardens on El Paseo before the gates opened to the event.

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(Palm Desert Food & Wine)

Who knew the rooftop parking structure of the The Gardens on El Paseo, could turn into an elegant culinary and fashion show affair. Many Coachella Valley residents dressed up for the “Modern Pairings” James Beard Luncheon featuring celebrity superstar chefs Suzanne Tracht (Jar in LA), Valerie Gordon (Valerie Confections in LA), Food Network’s darling Cat Cora (Cat Cora’s Kitchen in airports) and television personality, chef and restauranteur Gale Gand.

We were encouraged to grab a flute of sparkling brut with fresh raspberries to kick-off the luncheon. The friendly Killian served us champagne and later all of the wines paired with the multi-course lunch. We moved inside an elegantly decorated Ferguson Better Built tent, just in time. Those ominous clouds hovering above us, opened up and large rain drops fell to the ground.

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Initially I had a reserved seat in row CC and my friend’s ticket was for a seat in row DD. The white canvas tent could not withstand the pelting of the heavy rain, and soon I noticed a stream of water dripping right behind me. I looked at Toni and noticed a steady drip at her seat too.

As I approached a kind PDFW staff member about our situation, she encouraged us to find an empty seat away from the leaks. I spotted a few empty seats in the front row and near the live music playing by Michael Holmes Jazz Trio.

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(Palm Desert Food & Wine)

Killian was happy to have us in her section. I learned these seats were reserved for VIPs of the Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa.  They were one of the partners for this three-day event. We told her we were prepared to find another empty space, if they arrived. Killian encouraged us to stay put and promised to take good care of us.

Toni and I sipped a glass of Australian William Hardy Chardonnay, while listening the three piece band play “Come Fly With Me,” while waiting for our first course of an English Pea Puree prepared by Suzanne Tracht. The white wine offered a big bouquet of peach and melon, with a nuttiness and smooth creamy finish. It was a vibrant Chardonnay with a slightly citrus essence.

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(Suzanne Tracht’s apppetizer wow’d guests – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

Our First Course arrived while Tracht demonstrated how to make English Pea Puree with sliced Spring radish and a sprinkling of Humboldt fog cheese. We were to spoon this onto a crunchy crostini.

Known for her divine pot roast, chef Suzanne Tracht opened her restaurant Jar in Los Angeles with chef de cuisines Preech Narkthong in 2001. She has been named “Best New Chef” by Food & Wine magazine and appears on television often for her culinary expertise. She gives back to the community by donating money and time into community food and resources programs.

(Executive Chef Suzanne Tracht - photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Executive Chef Suzanne Tracht – photo by Jill Weinlein)

What a perfect start, even if the rain was dripping into the venue and the Masters of Ceremonies had to grab an umbrella to continue on with the program.
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Second Course: Next was a demonstration on making a Spring salad by confectionary queen Valerie Gordon. I was surprised she would be making the salad and not dessert course, because she is known for her restaurants in Los Angeles and for her cakes, pastries and artisanal chocolates at Grand Central Market. Her chocolates are so good that she has starred on the Cooking Channel’s Unique Eats, Food Network’s The Best Thing I Ever Ate, and Bravo’s Top Chef Just Desserts. She had a high school student named Karen as her assistant up on the stage.

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(Valerie Gordon’s Salad – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

Gordon demonstrated how she made the Little Gem salad with a lemon confit, blanched & pickled asparagus, sliced avocado with a garlic creme fraiche vinaigrette. We learned to never toss a salad with tongs, “It breaks the lettuce,” Gordon said. “Toss with your hands.” This course was paired with a red Australian Flegenheimer Paisant Grenache-McLaren Vale. Wine Advocate gave this wine a .91 points for its silky tannins, raspberry jelly and slightly peppery bouquet. The grapes are grown in deep rich clay with a location just a few miles from the sea.

I’ve heard about Celebrity Chef Cat Cora, but have never seen her in person. This petite gal has an effervescent personality. She lit up the stage with her assistant and student Jessica Rodriguez.

While demonstrating how to prepare a sticky glaze Satsuma-habanero sauce for the wild Troll King salmon, Cora, this mother of four, engaged the audience about growing up in Mississippi, studying at the Culinary Institute of America in New York, and where her Cat Cora’s Kitchens are in various airports around the U.S. Next time I am flying into San Francisco, Houston, Salt Lake City or Atlanta, I must stop for a visit.

(The talented Cat Cora with assistant Jessica Rodriguez - Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(The talented Cat Cora with assistant Jessica Rodriguez – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

We learned to saute the salmon over high heat at 400 degrees for 3 to 4 minutes to get that medium rare filet cooked beautifully. Fortunately we all received a booklet with a recipe of each course, so I didn’t have to take copious notes.  I will make this dish for my family dinner soon. It was delicious.

Cat appears regularly on the Food Network, NBC and Bravo. She wrote – “Cooking as Fast as I Can: A Chef’s Story of Family, Food and Forgiveness.” In 2004, Cat founded Chefs for Humanity, a non-profit that promotes nutritional education and global hunger. She is an American Academy of Chefs Culinary Hall of Fame inductee.

(Chef Gale Gand's dessert - photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Chef Gale Gand’s dessert – photo by Jill Weinlein)

Last Course was prepared by Chicago Chef Hall of Fame and winner of the 2001 James Beard Foundation Award for Outstanding Pastry Chef – Gale Gand.  She is the founding pastry chef and partner of the beloved Chicago restaurant Tru. We learned a lot about this dynamic chef while she demonstrated how to make her elegant, almond ginger tea cake. It was adorned with pink grapefruit creme legere, half a lychee and sugar dusted rose petals.

Here’s what we learned – Gale’s late father Bob Gand was a professional musician. He taught Gale and her brother Gary how to play instruments. As a child, Gale toured all over the United States with her family as the Gand Family Singers.

At the age of 19, while waitressing in a restaurant in Ohio, a line chef didn’t show up to work one day, so Gale was forced into cooking by the owner. “I didn’t choose the occupation of a chef, the restaurant business chose me,” she told the crowd of over 200 guests.

In 1996, Gand was chosen by legendary chef Julia Child to appear on two episodes of the PBS show Baking with Julia. Later she hosted the Food Network series “Sweet Dreams,” the first nationally televised all-dessert show for eight years.

(Grgich late-harvest wine is a perfect pairing for Gale's tea cake - Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Grgich late-harvest wine is a perfect pairing for Gale’s tea cake – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

With this last course we sipped a sweet 2012 Grgich Hills, Violetta Harvest, Napa Valley Estate wine. It is a late-harvest wine that offered a remarkable depth of flavors that tickled and lingered in my mouth. A perfect pairing for Gale’s dessert.

Vintners Hall of Fame Inductee Miljenko “Mike” Grgich became an international sensation 40 years ago with his Judgment of Paris award-winning wines. Recently his Mike Grgich’s autobiography “A Glass Full of Miracles,” made its debut.

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(We enjoyed the gifts to take home too.)

Talk about timing, by the time the luncheon was over, the rain stopped and we didn’t have to use our umbrella. We took our gift bag filled with Rum Chata, gourmet salts and spices, and a new stadium chair out to the car. It rained off and on throughout the drive back to LA, but hey, we need this rain.

Thanks Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa for your seats. Even though they were just a few rows away from our own, they were dry and the views of the talented chefs and musicians were perfect.

The Palm Desert Food and Wine festival is from April 8 to April 10 with three fun-filled days of gastronomic adventures. To learn more, go to http://www.palmdesertfoodandwine.com

 

 

Dine Like a Celebrity at BOA Steakhouse on Sunset

(BOA Steakhouse -photo by Jill Weinlein)
(BOA Steakhouse -photo by Jill Weinlein)

Driving into the parking garage of one of the most prestigious pieces of real estate in West Hollywood, I noticed an impressive array of Bentleys, Ferraris and Teslas lined in a row.

The stunning modern high-rise tower on Sunset Blvd. was the headquarters of renowned architect Charles Luckman. In 2009, architect Stephen Kanner re-clad and re-skinned the exterior giving it modern lines, blue-tinted glass and a light-colored facade. The revocation attracted elite entertainment companies and the Innovative Dining Group (IDG) to open BOA Steakhouse on the street level of the building.

With its elegant decor, professional service and indoor and outdoor patio dining space, BOA Steakhouse has become an ideal power lunch and dinner destination for actors and models visiting Ford Models office, Abrams Artists or Atlas Entertainment and Media Talent Group located in the 14-story building.

In 2010, the private, members-only Soho House took over the two-story penthouse on top of the building, which served as Luckman’s personal residence, before he sold it to the Mani Brothers Real Estate Group.

(Celebrity Rob Reiner with writer)
(Celebrity Rob Reiner with writer)

I’ve dined at BOA Steakhouse for lunch twice and both times I have seen a few familiar faces. Recently, I enjoyed seeing actor, comedian, producer and director Rob Reiner. He stopped at our table and shared with me that he has two movies coming out, with one premiering in May, 2016.

What brings people back to BOA Steakhouse is the talented Executive Chef Jose Melendez. The amiable chef was formerly at Patina Restaurant Group before coming over to IDG. He creates the best chicken chilaquiles in LA. Who knew a steakhouse would make a plate of fresh tortilla chips layered with a green tomatillo salsa, cotija cheese and an egg on top. This egg is cooked to 61 degrees. When our server Corey pierced the egg with a fork, the sunny yellow yolk oozed onto the chips and Chef Jose’s secret lemon crema sauce dotted with a pinch of microgreens. It’s a heavenly combination of smooth and crunchy, mellow and slightly vinegary. The perfect balance and this dish is only available on Mondays during the lunch hour.

(Photo Courtesy of BOA Steakhouse)
(Photo Courtesy of BOA Steakhouse)

I enjoyed these chilaquiles with a group of six friends sitting at a circular booth outside on the patio. After this winning dish, we shared a Wagyu Flat Iron steak with Baby Gem salad. The beef is aged for at least 40 days and brushed with a glistening butter and red wine sauce when grilled. It’s sliced perfectly in a row, framing the Baby Gem lettuce leaves that are crowned with pickled mushrooms, breaded and crispy onions and shallots, and then dressed with a zesty Dijon vinaigrette.

(Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Photo by Jill Weinlein)

We also tried a variety of Chef Jose’s new sandwiches on the Spring menu starting with an avocado and Burrata toast. He chars the edges of a sliced baguette, before spreading a thick and creamy white burrata cheese on top. Then he adds toasted hazelnuts, sautés king trumpet mushrooms, and adds a few spicy baby greens with a sprinkle of truffle vinaigrette. It’s served with either a salad, french fries, sweet potato fries, onion rings or fresh fruit.

(Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Photo by Jill Weinlein)

A favorite at the table was the layered grilled chicken torta. Chef Jose calls this the “East LA meets Hollywood,” sandwich. He grills a chicken breast and chars panela cheese. It’s one of Chef Jose’s favorite cheese, because when he heats it, the cheese softens, but doesn’t melt. It’s a white and smooth cheese that is similar to Indian paneer, and exquisitely absorbs the flavors of the housemade escabeche vegetables of diced cauliflower, carrots and baby tomatoes. This is not a boring chicken sandwich, especially with the black bean chips layered between the two slices of bread.

An interactive sandwich is the smoked Wagyu Tri-tip that arrived to our table under a glass dome. The General Manager Brad Stewart removed the glass slowly, so we all could see and smell the smoke swirl out and dissipate upwards. That smoky essence continues between two pieces of bread with sliced Brie, roasted red peppers, thinly sliced Wagyu beef and a flavorful black pepper aioli.

(Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Photo by Jill Weinlein)

The roasted turkey sandwich isn’t dull either, with its sliced turkey enhanced with smoked mozzarella, oven dried tomatoes and pickled chow-chow made with a variety of vegetables in a mustard slaw.

We all enjoyed the BLT with slightly sweet applewood smoked bacon, crisp lettuce, avocado and a pleasing creamy bacon dressing.

Lunch entrée salads include a blackened salmon quinoa salad with smoked artichokes, roasted peppers and lemon vinaigrette. Many of the starter salads on the menu are vegetarian and can have grilled chicken, salmon or shrimp added for protein.

Another popular lunch option is the three course Executive lunch with a starter of a Caesar salad, mixed salad or soup of the day. Entrees include a brick chicken with lemon roasted Weiser farms pee-wee potatoes, charred Spring onions and a dark green, fringed mizuna leaf that is a mild peppery flavor and less spicy than arugula.

(Photo of writer taken at BOA Steakhouse)
(Photo of writer taken at BOA Steakhouse)

For dessert with the Executive lunch, diners receive a generous scoop of ice cream with a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie. If it’s your birthday, they will insert a sparkler into the ice cream to make it a festive event.

When the sun sets on Sunset Blvd., BOA Steakhouse offers Happy Hour specials from 5 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday in the sophisticated lounge with comfortable, oversized furniture and in the bar area.

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(BOA Steakhouse -photo by Jill Weinlein)

During the dinner hour the restaurant transforms into a romantic setting serving prime Omaha 40 day dry aged New York Strip and the bone in Rib Eye. They also grill up seafood, chops, and premium American Wagyu with a choice of rubs and house made sauces, including BOA’s own J-1 sauce.

A rolling salad cart is pushed throughout the restaurant for an interactive, custom-made Caesar salad presentation.

Sit back, relax, and scan the room, you never know who will be dining next to at this elegant steakhouse.

Valet parking is available or park in the building. Lunch is served Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Dinner service begins daily at 5:30 p.m. $$$ 9200 W Sunset Blvd. (310) 278-2050.

This article was featured in the April 7, 2016 Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News.  – This article is available on the GPSmyCity app –  https://www.gpsmycity.com/gps-tour-guides/los-angeles-631.html