Eat, drink, rock ‘n’ roll at Market Tavern

Gary Twinn is an affable presence around the Original Farmers Market at Third and Fairfax. This charismatic British expat moved to the U.S. in the ‘90s to pursue a musical career. For the past 10 years, he has been the bar manager at E.B’s Beer and Wine, named after the market’s founder, Earl Bell Gilmore. Twinn also manages Farmers Market Bar 326, and performed and booked live music on the West Patio before COVID-19.

You may recognize Gary Twinn from Bar 326 at the Farmers Market, now running the Market Tavern. (photo courtesy of Gary Twinn/Bar 326)

Twinn always dreamed of opening a lively British pub in the former Johnny Rockets space, and when its latest occupant closed, Twinn approached the market’s management about opening a pub. Finding favor, he then spoke to well-known chef Brendan Collins of Fia, Birch, Waterloo & City, who agreed to help launch the venture.

Collins, a fellow Brit from Nottingham, is classically trained in French technique and puts an elevated spin on British fare. I first met Collins in 2016 at Birch on Cahuenga in Hollywood and gave him a stellar review in the Beverly Press.

With Twinn as the (properly masked) front man and Collins in the kitchen, Market Tavern is elevating British bites true to its menu’s promise, “just like your mum used to make…but better.”

The space has a distinctive U.K. rock ’n’ roll vibe, with one wall displaying an artful collage of British movie and concert posters, and British album covers screenshot on the side of the pub menu. Twinn curated the background music that includes songs by well-known British bands the Who, the Rolling Stones and the Kinks. He said live music performances would eventually begin happening outside on the nearby patio.

“Brendan and I wanted to create a dining experience where guests feel as if they just walked in off a street in Chelsea, only with much better weather outside,” he said.

The menu includes an array of British pub standards prepared with their own particular twists like fish and chips, bangers and mash with onion gravy, full English breakfast with all the fixings and five different savory pies served with minted whole new potatoes and seasonal greens. Twinn highly recommended we order the British pies on the menu. “They are Collins’ specialty, not just any ordinary British pies,” he said.

Our server, Molly, wearing a face mask and clear plastic face shield for added protection, introduced herself and recommended we start with one of their specialty cocktails. We opted for a refreshing Pimm’s Cup made with amber colored Pimm’s No 1, ginger ale, mint and cucumber, along with Take the Mickey, which is similar to an Aperol Spritz made with Prosecco, Lo-Fi Amaro and a double orange peel twist. It offered the aroma and flavor of sweet citrus fruit with hints of ginger and spice.

Twinn, a beer aficionado, curated an interesting list of craft beers that are categorized from light and crisp, toasted and nutty, hoppy beers, brown ales, and dark and roasted stouts. He also lists sangria ciders, sour ales and a tart and funky hard kombucha. The wines are mostly from California, and the sparkling wines and champagnes are from France and Italian wineries.

We started with cauliflower, enhanced with chimichurri made with chopped parsley, minced garlic, olive oil, oregano and red wine vinegar, and avocado. The Brussels sprouts arrived in a cast-iron dish with crispy and airy pink and white prawn crackers on top. Each sliced sprout was soft and glazed with a pleasing Thai dressing.

The lobster pizza was sensational with a thick outer crust, blistered from the heat of the oven, while the center was thin and layered with garlic butter, San Marzano tomatoes, mozzarella and pieces of Maine lobster dotting the top. Other pizzas include a Margherita, spicy Italian sausage, wild mushroom and arugula, and Brussels sprouts with smoked bacon, cream and a fried egg on top.

My husband ordered an Old Speckled Hen English Pale Ale to enjoy with his Billingsgate fisherman’s pie filled with generous pieces of seafood in a creamy sauce. Another pie on the menu is filled with tender pieces of steak cooked with vegetables and English ale, then expertly wrapped in a flaky buttery crust.

Large plates and share items include Collins’ enormous fried fish and chips. A huge piece of local rockfish is drenched in beer batter and fried golden brown and crispy. It rests on top of thick hand cut chips (fries) and is served with a container of house-made tartar sauce and ketchup.

On Sundays, Collins prepares his traditional Sunday roasts, just like he did at Birch. From noon to 4 p.m., walk into Market Tavern and you might overhear an array of British accents enjoying a pint along with their traditional Sunday meal. Depending on the day, diners might enjoy comforting oven-cooked roast beef with horseradish, half a roasted chicken with sage and onion stuffing, or lamb leg with a mint sauce, each with all the trimmings including peas, roast potatoes, gravy, a couple small Yorkshire puddings – or “Yorkies” – carrots, cauliflower and Brussles sprouts.

For those looking for vegetarian and vegan dishes, Collins makes Beyond Meat Bangers and mash with onion gravy, as well as mushroom “steak” and chips with tomato, watercress and avocado.

For dessert, Collins’ sticky toffee pudding features a moist cake with a fabulous caramel toffee sauce, along with a scoop of caramel ice cream for a toothsome ending.

$$ Open for lunch starting at 11 a.m. Dinner and drinks until closing at 11 p.m. 6333 W. Third St., #706, (323)452-9299.

This restaurant review was featured in the Beverly Press on August 27, 2020 https://beverlypress.com/2020/08/eat-drink-rock-n-roll-at-market-tavern/.

King Tut’s Guardian unveiled at the Farmers Market on August 30, 2018

The Original Farmers Market is debuting its tallest visitor in history – a 32-foot tall, 2-ton replica statue of King Tut’s Guardian, from the KING TUT: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh exhibit at the California Science Center. This supersized replica flanked the sealed the entryway of King Tut’s tomb when it was discovered 1922. The public can come see this statue for the first time next to the iconic Farmers Market Clock Tower from August 30 through Sept. 27 to celebrate Metropolitan Fashion Week.

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As part of Metropolitan Fashion Week from Sept. 27 through Oct. 7, designers will showcase one masterpiece gown or costume inspired by KING TUT: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh. The original Guardian stands about six-feet tall. The larger reproduction was recreated in detail to stand guard around the world during the final tour of his treasures.

The completion of the 3-story statue is on display on the morning of Thursday, Aug. 30. Councilman David Ryu, Miss California USA Kelley Johnson, and 160 Hancock Park Elementary School students from third, fourth and fifth grade will be in attendance.

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Visitors who post photos with the statue to their social media platforms and enter a sweepstakes to win prizes including exhibition tickets, signed catalogues from world-famous Egyptologist Dr. Zahi Hawass, Original Farmers Market gift certificates and passes to the Metropolitan Fashion Week Closing Gala and Fashion Awards at City Hall.

Photos must be posted to Instagram or Twitter from August 30 to September 27 using #KingTutTour, #Sweepstakes and also tag @farmersmarketla & @kingtuttour. Terms accessible at: https://www.kingtutexhibition.com/en/terms.php/

The statue will be located in the Farmers Market Plaza next to the Clock Tower, adjacent to the Fairfax parking lot. Media parking will be validated for the Farmers Market surface parking lot or The Grove parking structure. The Original Farmers Market – 6333 W 3rd St. Los Angeles, CA 90036

Click here to read my review of the King Tut Exhibit featured now at the California Science Center.

Authentic Mexican Cuisine in LA

Executive Chef JImmy Shaw
Executive Chef JImmy Shaw

“Mexico City has the largest population of Mexican people. Los Angeles has the second largest and Guadalajara has the third,” said Executive Chef Jimmy Shaw during a two-hour lunch with him and a friend at Lotería Grill.

Shaw is an affable chef that was raised in Mexico City and cooks the Mex-Mex way, not Tex-Mex or Cali-Mex. “Mexican food from Mexico City tastes much different from the food many Mexican restaurants serve in the states,” said Shaw.

Due to a series of pleasant serendipitous events, Shaw opened his first Lotería Grill in the center of the Farmers Market in January, 2003. He wanted to create a restaurant that Mexicans living in Southern California would instantly recognize and also appeal to Los Angelenos.

Shaw’s brother advised him to use the Lotería cards as a theme for his Farmers Market restaurant. Lotería is a beloved Bingo game in Mexico that is as popular as Monopoly is to America. It’s a game of chance with various images and a name on a deck of 54 cards. When a cantor or singer picks a card, he sings out a riddle to tell the player what card has been drawn. Shaw said, “For the sun card, the caller would sing out – A poor persons blanket.”

Our sweet server Ginger couldn’t have been more friendly and professional as she brought out one delicious dish after

Tasty Tacos
Tasty Tacos

another. The first was a plate of three tacos. Shaw taught us the proper way to eat a taco. First, you pinch the taco together with one hand. Next, you slightly tilt your head and wrap both your top and bottom lips around the tortilla to take a bite. This is how you don’t get the filling in the taco to fall onto the plate or worse on your clothing.

Shaw always loved preparing and eating food. After attending the University of Pennsylvania, he became a personal chef to American cinematographer Garret Brown. Brown created the Steadicam back in the 1970s – later the SkyCam, DiveCam and MobyCam.

Two years later, Shaw needed his green card and found a job in a Spanish language ad agency in Los Angeles. His clients included Honda Motor Company.

Living with four roommates, Shaw enjoyed chopping, cooking and entertaining in his free time. “My favorite time was sobremesa,” said Shaw. “It means the comfort and warmth of good food and great friends with laughter at the end of a delicious dinner.”

Loteria Grill at the Farmers Market
Loteria Grill at the Farmers Market

Even though he was a success in the advertising world, he dreamed of owning a Mexican restaurant. On a flight home from a business meeting in Washington D.C., Shaw put his dream into words and wrote the concept for Lotería Grill.

In November of 2002, he was fortunate to receive an offer by the A. F. Gilmore Company to take over a Mexican food stand in the Farmers Market. “When the stars line up the right way in the restaurant business you jump on in and ride the wave,” said Shaw. “Every Thanksgiving I give my thanks to Hank Hilty, president of the A.F. Gilmore Company, that owns the Farmers Market. He believes in the small merchant. He believed in me.”

Shaw hired a storyboard artist to design the colorful theme of Lotería cards. When he opened his first restaurant, he didn’t hire a publicist. Instead, he invited his friends to come eat his various dishes and spread the word. “A plate of food at Lotería is the best advertising,” said Shaw. He worked over 12 hours every day of the week at his Farmers Market location.

Six years later he opened his second location in Hollywood, next Studio City, then Westlake Village and Santa Monica. Soon Shaw will have a downtown Los Angeles location and at Terminals 5 and 7 at LAX.

A plate of quesadillas arrived and looked much different than the quesadillas I’ve had at other Mexican restaurants. It wasn’t a big flour tortilla folded in half and stuffed with cheese. The Quesadillitas de Plaza is a plate of three fresh corn masa turnovers. One was filled with fresh squash blossoms, the other was Huitlacoche corn truffle and the third has strips of chile Poblano and Oaxaca cheese. It’s served with crema Mexicana, salsa verde cruda and queso fresco. Shaw told us to cut the turnovers in half and place a dollop of crema, salsa and queso on top. I did this with the squash blossom quesadillitas and received a pleasing explosion of wonderful flavors.DSC_0036

Every Sunday, Shaw goes to the Hollywood Farmers market to buy 50 to 60 pounds of fresh squash blossoms. His favorite supplier fills up five extra large clear trash bags with ten pounds of blossoms and has them ready for Shaw’s arrival.

When listening to Shaw’s wonderful personal stories, a large plate of chilaquiles arrived at our table. “This is the classic Mexican breakfast cure-all,” said Shaw.  Crisp tortilla strips are sautéed in salsas and served with black beans. Shaw took the bowls of queso fresco, crema Mexicana, and a green tomatillo sauce and pour them over the chopped onion and cilantro. It’s a nacho type of dish that is very popular for breakfast. I enjoyed them thoroughly for lunch. “In Mexico, dinner starts at 10 p.m. and can last until the early morning hours,” said Shaw. “Chilaquiles are great after a night out on the town.”

The moles made at Lotería are smooth and made with over 26 ingredients. “Moles in Mexico are the curries in India, there are a million different types,” Shaw said.

Last we shared one of Shaw’s favorite dishes, the red snapper Vera Cruz. This plate is a marriage of Spain and Mexico with IMG_4945Spanish olives, capers, onions and tomatoes. The pan-seared snapper is bathed in a luscious red sauce and adorned with fried plantains.

For dessert, we split a bowl of tequila ice cream. “That is one thing that I like to make in the Hollywood kitchen,” said Shaw. “I also make a great cinnamon hot-chocolate ice cream.”

In Spanish the word loteria, means lottery. Jimmy Shaw won the lottery in California with his wonderful authentic Mexican restaurants. $-$$

Farmers Market – 6333 W 3rd St. (323)930-2211, Hollywood – 6627 Hollywood Blvd. (323)465-2500, Studio City – 12050 Ventura Blvd. (818)508-5300, Westlake Village – 180 Promenade Way (805)379-1800 and Santa Monica – 1251 3rd St. (310)393-2700.

The majority of this article was published in the Beverly Press on Sept. 26, 2013.

Magee’s – The first restaurant in the original Farmers Market is still going strong

Phyllis MageeDuring the Great Depression and before the Farmers Market opened in July 1934, Blanche Magee and her husband Raymond had a couple of stalls at the Grand Central Market in downtown Los Angeles. They sold their famous peanut butter and horseradish.

One day while visiting a vacant lot at the corner of  3rd and Fairfax, the Magees noticed a group of farmers selling their produce from the back of their trucks. Blanche recognized a few of the farmers and gave them some sandwiches and potato salad to eat.

The next day she returned with a basket of sandwiches for the farmers. Some of the customers wanted to buy her goodies too. When Earl B. Gilmore opened the Farmers Market at this location, the Magees negotiated a deal to open the first restaurant. Today, Magee’s Kitchen is the only original surviving business in the iconic marketplace.

It was known for its salads, pickled pigs feet, horseradish and ham. Later customers gathered on St. Patrick’s Day for Magee’s corned beef, boiled potatoes and cabbage.

The Magees opened a peanut butter and mixed nuts business at the Farmers Market in the 1930s – naming it Magee’s House of Nuts. Blanche was the first in Los Angeles to sell a bag of roasted fancy mixed nuts. Today, they churn daily a variety of butters that include almond, cashew, and macadamia butter. Annually, they sell around 100,000 pounds of fresh peanut butter.

Magee’s sells nine varieties of jams to go with their famous butters to make great sandwiches.

When I took a Melting Pot tour of the Farmers Market, my group sampled the famous freshly made peanut butter. One of the staff members showed us a copy of a letter written and signed by the Beatles dated 1964. The letter read, “Thank you for the peanut butter. It was FAB.” The Beatles were fans of The Farmers Market when on tour in Los Angeles.

The current owner of Magee’s Kitchen and Magee’s House of Nuts is the personable Phyllis Magee. She joined the Magee family enterprises at the Farmers Market in the 1960s. Later, she fell in love with the owners’ son, Paul Magee and married him. When her mother-in-law Blanche Magee retired in the 1970s, she and Paul took over the stores.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Blanche died in 2000 at 102 years old.

“During the early days, it was very hard for a woman to be a business owner, because the men wouldn’t work for a woman in charge,” Phyllis once told an interviewer.

Today, Magee’s still offers homemade dishes to Los Angelenos and tourists who visit the Farmers Market. They serve a variety of salads, including their famous carrot and raisin salad. The corned beef plate with parsley potatoes and cabbage is still one of the most talked about items on the menu. The French dip sandwich is very popular and a full line of Mexican dishes are offered, including tacos, tostados and burritos, plus three types of enchiladas with rice and beans.

Phyllis feels good about what she’s accomplished at the Farmers Market. “I’ve got employees who’ve been with me for over 40 years,” she said in a previous interview with the Park Labrea News and Beverly Press. “There aren’t too many places in the world like our Farmers Market. I’ve done a lot of traveling and I know this is such a unique place. I’ve been blessed to be here. It’s been a great ride.”

Magee’s Kitchen, open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to  9 p.m., Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sundays, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. 6333 W. 3rd Street, (323)938-4127, Stall #624. Magee’s House of Nuts, open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sundays, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. 6333 W. 3rd Street, (323)938-4127, Stall #218.

This article was published in the Sept. 19, 2013 issue of the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea Newspapers.

Planet Dailies – A Daily Dose of Fun

An A-list of celebrities attended the grand opening of the Planet Dailies last April. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jennifer Lopez, and television and radio personality Mario Lopez all attended to sample some of cocktail master Salvatore “The Maestro” Calabrese’s creative cocktails, and Executive Chef Adrian Tenorio’s enticing dishes.

Larry Fink, vice president of public relations for Celebrity Entertainment, was also there to make sure everyone had a good time. This is the second Planet Dailies to open in the United States; the first opened in Las Vegas when Planet Hollywood took over the former Aladdin Hotel and Casino.

In March 2007, Robert Earl, from Earl Enterprise, had a vision to open a 24-hour diner next to the hotel’s casino. He hired the amiable Chef Tenorio to create an extensive array of ultimate coffee shop food. Dishes are made from scratch and are plentiful. The restaurant became a huge success.

Tenorio was the obvious choice to work with Earl in planning the opening of Planet Dailies in Los Angeles, and the Original Farmers Market is the ideal location for the new farm fresh menu. Tenorio visited every stall in the Market while the restaurant was being built, working with some of his neighbors in providing creative dishes. Tenorio took the Las Vegas menu and ramped up farm fresh and healthier dishes for the Los Angeles clientele.

Tenorio starting cooking at age six while living in Austin, Texas. One morning he stood up and said, “I can’t take this anymore” to his mother, because he didn’t like the eggs she prepared. He got out a frying pan and made his own breakfast. “My brother tells the story better than I do,”  Tenorio said. “I was mad and decided to take the matter into my own hands.”

Finish reading my review by clicking on this link – http://parklabreanewsbeverlypress.com/news/2012/06/planet-dailies-get-a-daily-dose-of-fun/. Courtesy of the Beverly Press. Published on June 28, 2012.

Short Order: Long on Flavor

My daughter chuckled as I tried biting into the thick Ida’s Old School Burger made with a large grass-fed beef patty and layered with melted cheddar cheese, pickles, heirloom tomatoes, savory grilled onions, crisp iceberg lettuce and Executive Chef Christian Page’s secret sauce. “Our beef doesn’t come from the smelly cattle ranches along the 5 freeway,” divulged Page, a hipster with a Bavarian hat and charming attitude. “We work with four small farms up in Northern California. Where we get our cows, you would want to sit down and have a picnic in the pasture.”

This delicious burger is named after the daughter of Suzanne Tract (Jar restaurant). She is a personal friend of two award winning chefs: Nancy Silverton and Amy Pressman, the creators of Short Order and Short Cake. This dynamic duo became friends in the early 80s, while working in the pastry kitchen at the legendary Spago restaurant off Sunset Blvd.

Silverton later opened La Brea Bakery as the head baker and Campanile as the esteemed pastry chef with her ex-husband (another Spago alum) Mark Peel. A few years ago, Silverton opened the mega successful Pizzeria Mozza and Osteria Mozza.

After her stint at Spago’s, Pressman worked as a pastry chef at Pasadena’s Parkway Grill and later opened Pasadena’s Old Town Bakery.

Courtesy of the Beverly Press – Park La Brea News. Published on 1/12/12. Click here to read the rest of my article via Short Order: Long on Flavor.

The Veggie Grill

Last year, The Veggie Grill on Sunset Blvd. offered a 50% donation for every paid order one evening to benefit Larchmont Charter School. By the end of the night, the West Hollywood school raised $500 for needed supplies.

Last August, The Veggie Grill at the Original Farmers Market offered a similar donation to Bark Avenue Foundation, where 50% of the food and beverage purchases were donated back to the non-profit organization to help pay for food, surgeries and medicine for homeless animals.

I was impressed by the restaurant’s generosity, and giving back to the community.

The idea of opening The Veggie Grill started while two friends enjoyed a day at the beach. Upon retiring young in life from lucrative careers, Kevin Boylan and T.K. Pillan realized there was a need for healthier fast food that tasted better than most the bean and sprouts places in town.

My friend is well acquainted with Boylan, and he joined us for lunch, sharing some of the secrets of the restaurant’s success.

“About 90% of our clientele eat meat,” Boylan said. “They dine here knowing that the restaurant doesn’t serve any meat or dairy products. The key to making our dishes taste meaty and flavorful is our sauces, marinades and glazes.”

For lunch we started with cups of lentil soup. It’s a purée of lentils with vegan broth, ground onion and wonderful spices. As I finished my cup, I kept thinking of the famous line in the movie, Oliver Twist, “Please, sir, I want some more.” It’s an ideal soup to take home on a cold day and curl up near a fire with a fluffy dog sitting at your feet.

Click here to read the rest of the review, courtsey of the Beverly Press via The Veggie Grill.

Monsieur Marcel for Lunch? Mais OUI!

Strolling through the original Farmers Market, I always enjoy walking past the Monsieur Marcel bistro and gourmet store. There are always a few patrons sitting together speaking French, while sipping a glass of wine and sharing a plate of cheese or enjoying a croque monsieur.

The Monsieur at Marcel is Stephane Strouk, a charming Frenchman, passionate about cheese, wine and gourmet food. I sat down with him last week to learn more about this European hot-spot.

“My first solid food as a baby was cheese,” he shared with a smile. “I eat one pound of cheese a day. It’s what keeps me fit and healthy,” winked Strouk. “When you love cheese, life is good.”

Courtesy of the Beverly Press and published on Sept. 22, 2011 via Monsieur Marcel for Lunch? Mais OUI!.

Melting Pot Tours- A Historical Tour of the Original Farmers Market

Joining a small gathering of people in front of the iconic clock tower at the original Farmers Market on the corner of Third and Fairfax, I was introduced to an orthopedic surgeon and his daughter from Newport Beach, a mother and son from New Jersey, a young woman from the high desert, and a stylish public relations gal. We each received a Melting Pot Tours backpack as our hostess and guide, Diane Scalia previewed the highlights of our walking and dining tour.

A history lesson of the area began while strolling to Bob’s Doughnuts for hot Ethiopian Blue Nile coffee and freshly baked donuts. Bob Tusquellas bought the doughnut store forty years ago. Staff members arrive around 4 a.m. to make the fresh dough. After allowing it to rise for three hours, they churn out 1,000 doughnuts daily.

While enjoying our sweet treats, Scalia informed us that in the late 1800s, the Farmers Market area was a swamp area rich with minerals and ideal for farming. The Gilmore family came here from the Midwest and purchased this land for a dairy farm. While drilling holes for water, they struck oil, and lot’s of it. They got out of farming and into banking, property management and oil. 

When the Great Depression hit, the Gilmore’s continued to prosper and in 1934 they allowed local farmers to park their trucks on the land for 50 cents a day to sell produce. They called this area Farmers Market and it became the local meeting spot for families.

Nearby, Patsy D’Amore Pizza has been serving New York style pizza since 1949. Frank Sinatra helped them open the first pizzeria restaurant in Los Angeles. We admired the photos of Sinatra and the owners lining the wall.

Next door, we met butcher Dan from Huntington Meats. Dan has become a bit of a celebrity with his recent debut as an expert on beef and various cuts of meat on Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution television show.

Adjacent at Monsieur Marcel, we explored the chocolate counter, olives from the Mediterran, freshly baked breads, wines and unique chesses with over 205 varieties from 15 countries. Caviar cheese is their most popular cheese made and packaged at this location. Topped with caviar, its a secret family recipe of creamed cheese and seasoned with smoked salmon. We sampled it spread on slices of baguette with some olives. Everyone agreed it was heavenly.

Blanche Magee was the original caterer making sandwiches for the farmers as they set up their stands and sold produce to residents in Los Angeles. Magee’s Kitchen was the first restaurant in the market and Magee Nuts is where roasted mixed nuts were invented. They sell around 100,000 pounds of fresh peanut butter every year. As we walked over to the store and sampled the famous peanut butter, Scalia showed us a copy of the thank you letter written and signed by the Beatles in 1964. They wrote, “Thank you for the peanut butter, it was FAB.”

Little John’s English Toffee House has been at the Farmers Market for over 60 years. We sampled buttery English Toffee, while watching Mike the candy master make fresh toffee.

Another highlight of the tour was to learn about Bill Thee’s champagne bottle cake with pink elephants. This was where the magic of frosting and decorating originated and the whimsical cake has become a sensation coast to coast.

We admired the colorful produce at Farm Boy and Farm Fresh while biting into sweet strawberries as then moseyed over to at Pampas Grill Brazilian Churrascaria.

While sampling cheese rolls and deep-fried yucca sprinkled with Parmesan cheese (better than French fries) and a plate of grilled meats, Scalia showed us how to spilt the cheese roll in half, grab a piece of bacon wrapped chicken, Portuguese sausage or beef and eat it as a slider. Now I understand why there is always a line at Pampas Grill. One can enjoy a terrific meal for around $10 to $12.

As we finished the Farmers Market part of the Melting Pot Tour, I developed a new appreciation for the landmark that has successfully been in the heart of Los Angeles for 77 years. It’s still and ideal meeting spot for families and friends to share a great meal and shop for fresh produce and specialty items. 

The Melting Pot Tours, not associated with the Melting Pot restaurants, is offering a special for Mother’s Day. In honor of moms, guests will receive $10 off their order for each two tickets purchased for any May 5 to May 8 tours. Just use promo code MOMS2011 when you book online or by phone. They also offer an Old Pasadena and Latin Spice tour. Go to www.meltingpottours.com or call (800)979-3370.

Courtesy of the Beverly Press/Park LaBrea News on April 28, 2011 via Melting Pot Tours.

Little Spain – Tasty Tapas and Paella

As a third generation of Barcelona restaurateurs, Alejandro Pages comes from a tradition of serving royalty and commoners. His grandfather used to serve

As a third generation of Barcelona restaurateurs, Alejandro Pages comes from a tradition of serving royalty and commoners. His grandfather used to serve the Duke and Duchess of Barcelona and his family has had over twenty restaurants in Spain.

 Alejandro fondly remembers being in one of the restaurants before he could walk. “I sat in the kitchen and ate chips,” he shared with me recently when I dined at Little Spain in the Farmers Market. I bet it was exciting for this little lad to watch chefs prepare food and servers whisk the dishes away to guests in the dining room. “When I was ten-years-old, my family taught me how to make Crème Catalana. I’ve been perfecting it for the past 27 years,” boast Pages.

While on vacation in California, Pages fell in love and married an American girl.  He wanted to open a restaurant to support his new life with a wife. After studying Operations and Business of the Restaurant Industry at UCLA, Pages learned how to run a restaurant in America and opened Little Spain two months ago.

Sitting on the heated patio facing Third Street, we enjoyed authentic Catalonia and Valencia recipes from his family. The flavors brought back fond memories of our visit to Barcelona last summer. Alejandro cooks in the true Spanish style, slow cooking with the finest ingredients.

Our server, Belen (born in Spain), landed this job by going to a Facebook site for Spainards in Los Angeles. Pages announced the opening of his restaurant; Little Spain, and Balen contacted him for an interview and was hired immediately. She feels a sense of family working here.

Our dining adventure started with a glass of their white sparkling sangria with apples and oranges and various tasty Tapas. “The Albondigas en salsa, tastes just like the meatballs my family made at home,” Belen shared with a smile. “Alejandro’s great grandmother made this recipe and he follows it exactly,” stated Belen. The firm meatballs cook for hours in a scarlet red tomato sauce with onions, soft sweet peas, carrots and potatoes. It’s exquisite, better than most of the meatballs served in Spanish kitchens.

We also enjoyed the bite-size Croquetas Espanolas with chicken. Served with fries, they are not like the South American croquetas filled with rice or potatoes.  This tapa is cooked very slowly with vegetables and chicken, then breaded and fried.

Another favorite tapa was a dish of little shrimps coated with garlic, paprika and red pepper. Not too hot in flavor, but the red pepper and paprika gave it a little pizzazz. The Bombas are fried potato balls filled with spicy meat and the charming Empanadas are served with a side salad. All the tapas were an excellent value at $4.50 each.

Another pleasing appetizer that accompanies the refreshing sangrias is the Montaditos; small bites of bread with “something on top.” Pages places divine dried cured Spanish ham, dried cured meats, and Spanish cheeses that he imports from his home country. Three Montaditos are $4.5 and five are $7. If you love the taste of these Montaditos, Alejandro sells over 14 varieties of Spanish cheese and dried cured meats in his store attached to his restaurant.

Another good value is the seafood Paella for $12. It’s large enough to share with two to three people; depending on how many tapas you nibbled on first. The dish arrives with a mound of saffron rice, clams, mussels, scallops, calamari, shrimp and vegetables. The Paella Valencia offers chicken, mussels, shrimp and vegetables and the vegetable Paella is 100% vegan.

Little Spain offers a nice selection of Spanish wines. We had a glass of a delightful red, Tapena Garnacha and a hearty Valdubon Crianza with our paella.  For dessert we had to try the Crema Cataluna. It arrived looking like a crème brulee, yet with a sweeter and creamier vanilla custard.

Pages stands firm on providing authentic Spanish food in a casual and comfortable setting. His dishes are similar to what his great grandfather presented to royals many years ago.

6333 W. 3rd St, #120, (323)634-0633, www.littleSpainLA.com

Published in the Beverly Press 1/20/11 via Little Spain.

Ulysses Voyage- Great Greek Food

For some of the best people watching in Los Angeles, sit on the patio of Ulysses Voyage at the Farmers Market, just adjacent to The Grove.

While sitting on the patio of Ulysses Voyage at the Farmer’s Market, I learned that most Greek restaurants in Los Angeles don’t serve traditional Greek food.  Instead, they offer Middle Eastern food. At Ulysses Voyage, the owner’s mother, Voula, from Kalamatos, Greece created the menu. She flies to Los Angeles four times a year to visit her son, work with the kitchen staff and fine-tune some of her tried and true recipes.

Eight years ago, when the real estate firm Curuso Affiliated built The Grove next to the Farmer’s Market, they renovated the area where Ulysses Voyage sits. The patio looks out to various retail stores, while inside there is a warm and cozy fireplace for more intimate dining.

My dining adventure began when I ordered the Caviar Taramosalta spread. It’s a lightly pink salmon egg dip with lemon and garlic, then whipped with Kalamata olive oil. Momma Voula only uses Kalamata olive oil in her recipes. It’s served with whole wheat and plain pita bread. The pita is warm and soft with a slight crunch at the ends. I learned from the manager, that a traditional pita does not have a pocket to stuff spreads, instead it’s a flat bread that you scoop up some spread and fold or wrap it before taking a bite. Whole wheat has become a popular request in the health conscious Los Angeles culture, so they added it to the menu. Ulysses receives a daily supply of pita bread from a nearby bakery that is half-baked, then placed on a flat oven to warm up and finish cooking.

Another divine spread is the Saganaki “Ouzo Flamed.” It’s a cheese, similar to Irish cheddar that arrives at the table with a spectacular entrance. My server poured a little Ouzo on top and lit the cheese to create a vibrant fire. It’s extinguished with a squeeze of lemon and presented to the table. The Ouzo gives the cheese a slight licorice flavor and is hot, gooey and savory on pita bread.

Many Greek salads have romaine or iceberg lettuce as a base, at Ulysses, the Greek salad is bright in color and filled with fresh and organic produce from Tutti Fruitti farms. There is no lettuce, just Persian cucumbers, tomatoes, red onion, green, red and yellow bell peppers and Kalamata olives dressed nicely with Kalamata olive oil, fresh sea salt, lemon, oregano and pepper. It’s topped with a sizable chunk of heavenly feta cheese.

Ulysses does not have a lamb-laden menu, instead there are many vegetarian, chicken and beef dishes. My favorite dish is the Moussaka. Peter’s mother, Voula layers the dish with ground chicken, grilled eggplant, grilled zucchini and a layer of potatoes. On top is an exquisite Béchamel sauce that is baked until the cheese bubbles with a caramelized light brown topping. It’s light and filled with pleasing flavors, not heavy and thick like many Middle Eastern restaurants. The ground chicken has just the right amount of spices and herbs to give it a zip, yet doesn’t overpower the luscious Béchamel sauce. One can order it with ground beef or a vegetarian version with tomatoes and feta cheese.

Recently added on the menu is a lamb burger with Greek fries and a small salad.  The owner Panayiotis “Peter” couldn’t wait for Momma Voula’s next visit to the U.S., so he called her to get her lamb burger recipe. It’s scrumptious with a seasoned 8 oz. lamb patty, served on a grilled sesame bun with a slightly spicy feta spread and grilled onions on top. The Greek fries have a little bit of garlic and parsley to differentiate them from American fries. Peter explained that this burger is very popular, because lamb is a leaner and healthier red meat. His lamb does not have a strong, distinctive gamey taste or offensive smell. The first day Peter introduced his lamb burger on the menu, he sold 80 burgers by the end of the day. Women order as many lamb burgers as men.

Another popular burger is their Turkey burger with lettuce, tomato, hummus and mozzarella on a grilled sesame bun and for vegetarians there is a Feta burger.

Fully satisfied, I left my table and walked past a couple enjoying an octopus dish and something that looked like fries on their table. When I inquired, they said the dish was fried smelt. While squeezing a lemon over the smelt, they offered me to take a few. Never trying smelt before, I reached in and grabbed one. Not bad, in fact it was quite tasty.

Ulysses is a great place to dine before a movie or after a day of shopping for a delightful Greek meal. Who knows, maybe Momma Voula will be in town making one of her quarterly visits. 6333 West 3rd. Street #750, (323)939-9728.

via Ulysses Voyage.