Wolfgang Puck Opens all-day Ospero

Located at the former House of Blues site on the Sunset Strip, Wolfgang Puck recently opened his new all-day restaurant Ospero at the new boutique hotel, Pendry West Hollywood. The entrance is at street level, looking out to the Comedy Store, and is within blocks of his first Spago restaurant that he opened in 1982.

It’s been over 10 years since Puck, one of L.A.’s most famous chefs, has opened a restaurant. Puck became a household name for his award-season dinner parties, one-of-a-kind restaurants around the world, popular airport eateries and a line of culinary delights available at grocery stores.

Sit outside in the afternoon and watch the people and cars go by on Sunset Boulevard. In the evening, if you seek a quieter spot, ask to sit at the back of the restaurant on the al fresco dining terrace. The twinkling lights of the residences at the Pendry and views of greater Los Angeles are beautiful.

At Ospero there is a long dark blue bar and an open pizza kitchen. The low, soft leather teal-colored chairs resting on the Saltillo tile floor create an Italian trattoria feel.

Step into the lobby of the Pendry Hotel in West Hollywood and push the elevator to the 3rd floor to dine at Ospero.

We sat at a table for two at one of the coveted green velvet banquette tables and opened the dinner menu on our smartphones. Ospero features some neighborhood-friendly favorites that Puck made so popular during his days at Spago. There are iconic and innovative salads, pastas and wood-burning pizzas. Ospero also offers vegan dishes, proteins, a really good burger, breakfast favorites, grab-and-go items and a full bar.

We started with Puck’s chopped Chino Farm vegetable salad that our server had the kitchen split into two bowls. It was a generous portion of chopped lettuce with a variety of crunchy cube-shaped vegetables dressed lightly with a balsamic vinaigrette and dusting of parmesan cheese shavings. The salad was very fresh, healthy-tasting and offered layers of pleasing flavors.

Other popular salads and share dishes include a grilled tuna niçoise salad with a soft-boiled egg and meatballs al forno, bathed in a tomato, garlic and basil sauce with whipped ricotta.

Puck’s signature smoked salmon pizza with dill cream and salmon pearls is on Ospero’s menu, along with five others, including a wild mushroom pizza that we ordered and enjoyed. It arrived with Puck’s famous crust, thick and perfectly browned by the wood fire. A generous sprinkling of mushrooms topped a basil pesto spread, and chopped roasted garlic, caramelized onions and melted cheese medallions finished off the pizza.

Other pizzas include a house made lamb sausage with Calabrian chiles, mushrooms and onions; a spicy chicken with melted leeks; and a squash blossom and goat cheese pizza.

The Pendry displays one-of-a-kind art

There are four different pastas, including one named My Grandmother’s Cheese Ravioli, and fresh pappardelle with braised oxtail ragout and fava beans topped with pecorino cheese.

Those seeking grilled fish have a choice between Atlantic salmon served with a fresh arugula and fennel salad on top, or a tender wood oven cooked branzino served with a delicious gremolata and Tuscan kale.

The table next to us ordered the prime beef burger topped with melted white cheddar cheese, a slice of grilled red onion and garlic aioli spread on the bun which comes with fries.

Other proteins include a half Jidori chicken served with Tuscan potatoes and broccolini, and a grilled prime skirt steak served with rosemary and garlic fries.

Stay for dessert and order the creamy Basque cheesecake topped with a farmers market strawberry sauce and the pie of the day. Both are ethereal, rich and is sliced large enough for two to share.

Executive chef Mark Andelbrandt oversees the kitchen with Puck and has enjoyed an extensive culinary resume with the Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining Group. Besides being the executive chef at Spago at the Bellagio Resort & Casino, he works alongside Puck to create one-of-a-kind globally influenced fare.

Now he is managing the kitchens at both Ospero and the more exclusive Merois, which offers stellar views from the Pendry’s penthouse level, creating a fine dining menu using French techniques with an Asian spin.

The night I dined at Ospero, Merois was just opening to hotel guests and private club members. I’ll have to save that experience for another night. Puck’s son, Byron Lazaroff-Puck, oversees both of these restaurants.

Come in for breakfast at Ospero starting at 7 a.m. Lunch service begins at 11:30 a.m. The grab-and-go and pizza menus are available between lunch and dinner. Dinner is served nightly starting at 5 p.m. $$ 8430 Sunset Blvd., (323)918-3420.

This review was featured in the Beverly Press – https://beverlypress.com/2021/05/wolfgang-puck-opens-all-day-ospero/

Burke Williams Spa Day at Home

One of the leading luxury spa destinations in California is Burke Williams Day Spa. I used to visit the spa in Sherman Oaks with a friend on our birthdays. We celebrated friendship, wellness and relaxation while soaking in the whirlpool tub. After receiving a facial or massage, we would sit in the women’s lounge area in our BW robes and slippers sipping tea and nibbling on nuts. Due to Covid, we didn’t get to do that this year.

There are now 11 Burke Williams Day Spa facilities across California, however they are all temporarily closed due to government and county pandemic mandates. However they are offering products, at-home gift kits and gift cards for those special people in your life seeking a spa experience.  There are many options to fit any price point, and Burke Williams gift cards never expire.

The ‘Luxurious Escape’ gift box includes a super soft Burke Williams robe, a canister of aromatic BW Vanilla-Lemongrass Tea, BW Eucalyptus ShowerSpa Mist, a Sonoma Lavender Eye Pillow for aromatherapy, BW Serum for the face, and a BW Gift Box.

These spa kits have everything for a safe and relaxing date night in your own home or weekend beauty day. There are many options to fit any price point:

  • Healing Touch ($35) – Includes Sacred Earth Warming Massage Lotion, Sacred Earth Muscle Rub, and Burke Williams Self-Massage Tool.
  • Taste of Burke Williams ($50) – Includes Burke Williams Vanilla Lemongrass Tea, Body Bliss Lavender & Vetiver Bath Soak, and Lemongrass + Eucalyptus ShowerSpa Mist.
  • Sweetest Dreams ($100) – Includes Burke Williams Vanilla Lemongrass Tea, Body Bliss Lavender & Vetiver Bath Soak, Lemongrass + Eucalyptus ShowerSpa Mist, H2V Beyond Facial Masque, and Sonoma Lavender Massage Oil.
  • Luxurious Escape ($155) – Consists of one Burke Williams robe, Vanilla-Lemongrass Tea, Eucalyptus ShowerSpa Mist, and Sonoma Lavender Eye Pillow.

When Burke Williams Spas open, you or a loved one can use these special gift card packages at one of the following locations in Hollywood, Marina del Rey Simply Massage, Mission Viejo, Orange, Pasadena, San Francisco, San Jose, Santa Monica, Sherman Oaks, Torrance and Woodland Hills. Burkw Williams gift cards never expire. 

  • Irresistible Relaxation ($165) – Includes an 80-minute Pure Relaxation Massage or Spa Style Facial, an enhancement of your choice, and a $25 H2V Skincare Bonus Card to use toward the purchase of H2V skincare products in spa.
  • Timeless Serenity ($270) – Includes an 80-minute Pure Relaxation Massage, 50-Minute Spa Style Facial, an enhancement of your choice, and a $25 H2V Skincare Bonus Card.
  • Perfect Match ($330) – Includes two 80-minute Pure Relaxation Massages or Spa Style Facials, two enhancements of your choice, and two $25 H2V Skincare Bonus Cards.

Pricing and services for these offerings will vary by location. Go to Burke Williams to learn more.

Free to See: Sparkling “Spectrum” On Vine

Leaders in art, design, media and entertainment came together virtually on Dec. 1 for a public art unveiling showcasing the new On Vine Netflix campus in Hollywood, CA. Project partners provided viewers with behind-the-scenes footage and high-fidelity aerial cinematography to uncover the first-ever public glimpse of “Spectrum.”

According to John Kilroy, CEO, Chairman of Kilroy Realty, “On Vine is our second mixed-use concept in Hollywood, our first was Columbia Square.” Since he is passionate about art, On Vine is a creative urban workplace and luxury residential complex within a 3.5-acre city block incorporating landscape architecture and art.

“Spectrum” by photographer and artist Maggie West, pays homage to Hollywood glamour. West worked with SparkleMasters to construct a 65 x 17-foot, five-story-tall image made with 39,000 powder coated steel sequin mosaic. Each 3 x 3-inch square sequin is laser cut, custom painted and hung to create a vibrant, eye catching portrait. The image is brought to life with sunlight and a gentle breeze.

A few months after construction of the 600,000 sq. ft., project, Netflix leased 100% of the workplace and production space. This is the first Netflix campus with a full service kitchen entire complex and 260 seat theatre for marketing and publicity. Bridge passageways connect buildings together.

“We all need art. Now more than ever, we need avenues that inspire,” said John Kilroy, CEO of Kilroy Realty. “In a post-pandemic world, the role of public art will be even more important. While we cannot visit museums and galleries in person or even experience outdoor public works to some degree, we still wish to honor our new public art installations. ‘Spectrum’ is helping to shape the current Hollywood culture and honor Hollywood’s heritage. This virtual event is our way of responsibly celebrating with a larger audience and rejoicing that something beautiful is waiting to be discovered in Hollywood.”

This is the first outdoor piece for Jeremy Kirsch, owner and artist, SparkleMaster. “We use plastic sequins for most of our indoor installations. Inspired by a sequin gown, “Spectrum” is made with 39,000 metal sequins in 15 different colors to create a mesmerizing result from any distance vantage point.”

Heather Carmichael, Executive Director of 501c3 My Friend’s Place and Sam Polk, CEO from Everytable shared how Hollywood is reeling from a pre-COVID homeless crisis, now worsened by the pandemic. Kilroy is working towards a brighter future through the built environment and strategic partnerships with 501c3 My Friend’s Place, a Hollywood-based organization helping youth experiencing homelessness to move toward wellness, stability and self-sufficiency. In providing a $10,000 donation alongside 2,000 pre-prepared meals in partnership with Everytable, Kilroy aims to support some of Los Angeles’ most vulnerable populations and kick-start a long-lasting partnership with this impactful community resource. 

Toca Madera: a dazzling Mexican culinary experience

One of the most beautiful restaurant interiors in Los Angeles is Toca Madera in Beverly Grove. Designer David Krumins of Davis Ink incorporated a mix of distressed metal, with concrete tiles, quartz stone, hanging rope, plush upholstery and leather accents throughout the dimly lit lounge. In the center of the room is a dramatic mammoth crystal quartzite center bar. The bar staff carefully pour cerveza, wine and ignite dramatic fiery cocktails.

Plantain chips and guacamole, as well as tortilla chips with salsa

Guests passing through on their way to the outdoor dining patio will notice an intimate lounge area behind the bar, with an in-house DJ spinning lively music that seductively pulsates throughout the restaurant. Moorish lights illuminate sexy Dia de los Muertos art that hangs on the walls.

The evening my husband and I dined at Toca Madera, the back patio area was full, so we sat in front at one of the sidewalk tables looking out to Third Street. Toca Madera translates to “knock on wood,” and throughout the evening, we felt lucky to dine at the upscale Mexican-style restaurant. Our server Whitney recommended we try the new chef’s signature menu prepared by executive chef Pablo Ibarra and his team. Each dish made quite an impression when it was delivered to our table. Both the food and drinks are decorated with edible micro flowers, and the smoky ones dazzled our senses.

Besides tortilla chips and salsa, guests receive a pretty bowl of creamy guacamole sprinkled with lime-enhanced pepitas and bright red pomegranate seeds.

I enjoyed the guacamole with my cocktail, La Vida, which is made with Espolon Resposado, fresh carrot and lemon juice, fresh ginger and wildflower honey.

Space heaters kept us warm throughout the night, which started with ahi tuna that arrived on three thin white medallions of jicama. On top was pickled kohlrabi, samba aioli, daikon sprouts and fried garlic. My only wish was that the base was thicker to hold all the layers, so I could pop each one into my mouth, instead of using a fork.

The second starter, taco el padroni, was spectacular. It was served on a circular wood base under a smoking tall glass lid. Once lifted, the aromatic vapors rose and evaporated, revealing an exquisite small blue tortilla that was topped with grilled Japanese A5 Wagyu. Dots of bright orange escabeche puree, made with pickled carrots and onions, elevated this taco to a new level. On top there was a slightly sweet and creamy whipped creme fraiche, sprinkling of micro greens and shimmering and edible gold leaf shavings.

For entrées, we ordered the Branzino Zarandeado served Jalisco-style. Chef Pablo butterflies the whole fish and grills it until the skin is crispy. It’s gorgeously presented on a platter with more escabeche purée, grilled tomatillos and avocado salsa, charred cherry tomatoes, sliced radish, cilantro and a sprinkling of greens and tiny purple flowers that tasted like oysters.

Another entrée on the chef’s signature menu is a 40-ounce American Wagyu named the Toca Tomahawk. It’s rubbed with a chipotle charcoal and artisanal salts, and cooked with garlic and truffle butter.

New side dishes include truffle mac and cheese, truffle fries and street corn in a bowl. The corn is cooked in boiling water with spices, herbs and salt and cut off the cob. It’s then mixed with lime juice, a little queso fresco and chile powder. It was simple, light and delicious.

Save room for the visually impressive desserts, especially the three-layer tres leches cake served with mixed berries, a mint leaf and flower. We also enjoyed a small key lime tart made with a slightly sweet graham cracker crust, and meringue that was torched gently until caramelized. Pretty yellow flowers offer a pop of color on the plate.

Sitting outside under warm heaters to enjoy thoughtfully curated food and beverages will ignite an unmatched sensory experience for guests dining at Toca Madera. $$$ Open weeknights at 4 p.m. and weekends at 11 a.m. 8450 W. Third St., (323)852-9400.

This article was featured in the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News on Nov. 12, 2020

Canter’s Can-Do Spirit

Last weekend, I went into Canter’s to pick up some comfort food. As I approached the front door, I noticed a robot on wheels stopped on the sidewalk and a Canter’s employee placing a bag filled with sandwiches, bagels, soup and beverages into its storage box. When the lid closed, the Postmates robotic delivery system blinked its lights twice and took off navigating along the sidewalk towards Melrose Avenue.

“The Postmates robot comes to Canter’s daily,” Marc Canter said as he greeted me at the entrance of the iconic deli restaurant. “I’m not sure if that one is Lola; they each have their own name.”

Canter’s relationship with Postmates has become more important since the pandemic changed the restaurant world.

“Postmates is one of the only delivery services we work with at some of our kitchens,” Canter said.

Before the pandemic, Canter’s to-go and deliveries were about one third of their business, but right now, it is 100%.

“After COVID-19 took away all our interior seats, people still came in for our food for takeaway or logged into Postmates,” he added.

When restaurants had to close their dining rooms in March, Canter’s provided essential grocery items for the community.

“People in the neighborhood came to us seeking milk, eggs and bread, while other restaurants and stores were closed,” Canter said.

Canter’s continues to serve its popular Reuben, pastrami and juicy burgers, while adding healthier options for a growing demand from customers. When he asked if I would like to try some of his newer vegetarian items, I said sure.

“Wait until you try our new vegetarian matzo ball soup,” Canter said.

Developing vegetarian items started when Canter received a call from Temple Israel about an upcoming event, before the virus outbreak. They asked if he could make the matzo ball soup in a vegetarian version. Canter said of course, and found a great vegetable base and added the same chopped parsnips, carrots, garlic and celery.

He said they also created a vegetarian Reuben that has become very popular.

“We take a garden patty, add cheese, sauerkraut and Russian dressing on rye bread,” he said.

I love their turkey sandwich on rye, so Canter suggested I try the Matt Miller sandwich. White turkey is piled high and topped with cole slaw, melted muenster cheese and their tangy Russian dressing on grilled challah bread, instead of rye bread.

The restaurant opened in 1931 in Boyle Heights. The family purchased an old movie theater in the 1950s and converted it into the current Canter’s Deli Fairfax location. In the 1970s, Canter’s was one of the busiest late night restaurants.

“People would go see a movie and come in afterwards for drinks and food,” Canter said.

The dining room and bar would be packed because Canter’s was one of the only restaurants open in the late evening.

“Because we don’t have to pay rent on the building, we have been able to survive the ups and downs,” he added.

During the civil unrest in May, Canter put bottles of water out for protesters.

“We stayed open, and they didn’t bother us,” he said.

While most of the staff stayed home the next couple of days, Canter made food for the community.

“People would come in because we were open, asking for milk for their baby or food to feed their family. Others helped outside, cleaning up along Fairfax,” he said.

The community came together and protected the deli, beloved by customers and employees alike.

The day I visited, it was Canter’s deli manager, George’s, birthday. He started working for the Canter family in 1964.

George said his secret to longevity is eating well.

“I loved Marc’s grandfather and beautiful grandmother; they all are family to me.”

He shared a birthday card from Marc’s sister, Jacqueline.

“She came in this morning to give me this card, a bottle of wine and other gifts,” he said. “I’ve known Marc and Jacqueline since they were babies. I love what I do, and the people I work with, maybe that’s the best secret to a full and long life,” George said.

I took my Canter’s sandwiches, soup and a couple cupcakes home to share with my family. We first tasted the vegetarian Reuben and the consensus was that it is as good as their traditional Reuben, with less fat.

I served the vegetarian matzo ball soup in a large bowl for my father, a soup connoisseur. Looking into the bowl, he remarked, “That matzo ball is the size of a baseball.”

The Matt Miller sandwich was also a game changer. The cole slaw and tangy Russian dressing on grilled challah bread, instead of rye is brilliant.

Inside the pink bakery box were three cupcakes – an angel-food cake with fudge-like chocolate icing, a white cupcake with white icing and shredded coconut on top, and a carrot cupcake with raisins and nuts.

Treat yourself to Canter’s Deli this week and be sure to say hello to Marc, Jacqueline and George.

Order Canter’s online at cantersdeli.com, and it will direct you to order from Postmates from the Fairfax location or one of their ghost kitchens to have it delivered throughout the Westside, Pasadena areas and downtown L.A. $$

Open 24 hours, 7 days. 419 N. Fairfax Ave., (323)651-2030.

This review was featured in the Beverly Press.

The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel offers a pandemic break

For those getting COVID fatigue, the iconic Hollywood Roosevelt may just be the answer to renew your spirits. The L.A. landmark built during the luxury Golden Era of architecture has reopened. According to General Manager Don Jacinto, the hotel has pivoted its current offerings and operations to accommodate guests, while maintaining the highest levels of health and safety.

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Photo courtesy of the Hollywood Roosevelt

Named after the 26th President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, the historic hotel used to be home to actress Marilyn Monroe, writer F. Scott Fitzgerald and actor Montgomery Clift while filming “From Here to Eternity.”

Now pandemic weary leisure travelers can escape to an urban destination and reserve a “Work From Home Rockstar” special package offered this summer.  Spend the day in a poolside Cabana Suite starting at 9 a.m., and receive a plethora of perks.

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Cabana Suite – photo courtesy of the Hollywood Roosevelt

This early access to your suite package includes complimentary parking for one car, Wi-Fi, and plenty of coffee, tea and water to drink. Make a reservation to use the gym for complimentary access (based on availability and Los Angeles City and County COVID-19 mandates, reservation basis to limit the amount of guests). After working in your new environment, take a refreshing swim in the David Hockney mural Tropicana pool. You can invite a friend, as the rate includes access for one guest. Rates start at $159 for a Cabana Garden or Balcony room, available Monday-Wednesday. If you want to make it a staycation, extend for the night for $50.

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Photo courtesy of the Hollywood Roosevelt

For those looking for the freedom to drive, become a “Road Trip Warrior” reserve a two night or more trip to explore the heart of Hollywood. In partnership with fashion influencer DJ Lola Angusta, guests can enjoy access to a custom Spotify playlist from Lola and an comfortable room starting at $249 per night. Enjoy complimentary valet parking, and lunch to-go for two guests. Roadtrippers are guaranteed reserved spots at the Tropicana pool relaxing on the socially distanced lounge chairs. A two-night minimum stay is required.

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Tropicana Pool – photo courtesy of the Hollywood Roosevelt.

 

Healthy Impasta operates Cloud Kitchen in Hollywood

When a friend described to me her new favorite low carb dishes at Impasta, a cloud kitchen in Hollywood, I went online to look at his menu. Cloud Kitchens are licensed commercial food production facilities offering chefs rental space. Anywhere from one or two to dozens of restaurants rent space to prepare delivery-optimized menu items. There is a front counter that drivers from various delivery platforms walk up to, show an order on their smartphone and walk out with a bag to be delivered.

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Looking at Impasta’s menu, I noticed 8 appealing pasta bowl choices and four different cauliflower pizzas. I ordered three different bowls, one “Impizza”, and one cauliflower rice bowl to pick up and bring home for lunch.

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Driving to the cloud kitchen, I parked right out front on and noticed a few delivery people walking past red cones into the Melrose Food Co., and followed them in. I walked up to the counter, and stated my name and Impasta pick up order. Metal racks behind the counter held stapled brown bags with items from Impasta, Fat Sal’s and other eateries. Within minutes Chef Ozzy Juarez from Impasta came out with a pizza box and a bag holding the other items I ordered, all in eco friendly containers.

I learned while talking to Chef Ozzy for a few minutes that his culinary niche is creating favorite pasta dishes with a lot less carbs and gluten. He believes you shouldn’t sacrifice your favorite pasta dishes to eat healthier. Instead of grain pasta, he substitutes with spaghetti squash, zoodles made from zucchini, gnocchi made with cauliflower, shirataki noodles, and hearts of palm. He makes 8 different popular sauces from organically sourced ingredients and adds proteins that include grilled chicken, shrimp and tofu on top. Chef Ozzy graduated Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts-Pasadena, before working in the kitchens of The Ritz Carlton, Sunset Tower Hotel and The Standard Hotel.

This affable chef said that the best way to eat these dishes is immediately, while they are still warm, so I drove to Silver Lake and parked near the grassy park by the water to have an outdoor Impasta picnic.

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First I lifted the pizza box lid and discovered an appealing barbecue chicken pizza. Chef Ozzy’s housemade cauliflower crust is thicker than most and pleasantly chewy, instead of soggy like many I have tried. After one bite, I declared it is one of the best cauliflower crusts I have tasted. He tops it with mozzarella cheese, thick, organic grilled chicken strips, red onion, and parsley. This crust is completely gluten and grain free. I enjoyed the first slice so much, that I had a second slice before tasting each of the Impasta bowls. Other pizzas on the menu include a fresh Margharita; a pesto with ricotta cheese pizza; and a white truffle pizza with an egg, sage leaf, truffle oil and shavings.

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Twirling the spaghetti squash with a fork, I discovered it has a similar texture to angel hair pasta. It’s tender and chewy, offering a mild and nutty taste. When topped with the tomatoes, burrata and fresh herbs, it’s earthiness is enhanced. Later when I researched spaghetti squash, I learned it’s one of the most common pasta alternatives, and contains only 31 calories, 10 grams of carbs, and  2 grams of fiber per cup. Spaghetti Squash also offers calcium, potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus. It’s ideal for gluten-free, soy-free and vegan diets.

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Since I love gnocchi, I was eager to try the cauliflower gnocchi pesto bowl. On the side was a container of ricotta cheese to add if desired. In Italian, pesto means “pounded” and this vibrant green pesto is made with pounded basil leaves, olive oil, pine nuts, garlic and a little parmesan cheese. Normal gnocchi is a thick, small and soft dough dumplings made from semolina, wheat flour, egg, cheese, and potato. Chef Ozzy makes a healthier cauliflower gnocchi with shredded cauliflower, cassava flour, a gluten-free flour made from yuca, maybe some potato starch, olive oil, and a pinch of sea salt. Chef Ozzy’s is better for you and isn’t as salty or heavy.

My last Impasta bowl had shirataki noodles with a pleasing and healthy puttanesca sauce. Shirataki noodles are long, white noodles, made from glucomannan, a type of fiber that comes from the root of the konjac plant that grows in Japan, China and Southeast Asia. The fiber is usually mixed with water and a small amount of lime juice and boiled together to form a noodle shape. They’re are gluten-free, soy-free, vegan, low in digestible carbohydrates and calories. Mixed with tomatoes, olives and capers, it’s a delicious alternative to grain pasta.

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For those who want to build their own low-carb pasta dish, Impasta offers zoodles made from julienne zucchini and from hearts of palm. They can be topped with a brown butter sage, Impossible bolognese, pink sauce, pesto with ricotta, four cheese, puttanesca, pomodoro, and cherry tomato with burrata.

Cauliflower rice bowls are filled with roasted cauliflower, grilled vegetables and a protein. I selected tofu, however you can add grilled organic chicken or shrimp on top.

While staying #saferathome, Impasta is a healthy meal to enjoy that can be delivered through different delivery platforms to Beverly Hills and the La Brea area. Additional areas include Hollywood, Culver City, Central LA, Downtown, Silverlake, Echo Park, Los Feliz, and Glendale. Delivery apps include Postmates, ChowNow, Uber Eats, Doordash, GrubHub and Caviar. To order go to http://www.impastacompany.com or pickup at 615 N. Western Ave. $-$$

Featured in the Beverly Press on August 6, 2020.

Kismet Rotisserie pick up and enjoy at home

L.A. chefs and restaurateurs Sara Kramer and Sarah Hymanson are no strangers to creating new concepts. The dynamic duo behind Kismet, the popular Middle Eastern bistro specializing in housemade labneh, mezze and natural wines, launched their more casual eatery, Kismet Rotisserie, earlier this year. In the face of the challenges of 2020, the team has utilized their creativity and tenacity to conceptualize new ways to enjoy Kismet’s cuisine from home. Kismet in Yiddish means fate and destiny, and fortunately, these two eateries on Hollywood Boulevard near Vermont Avenue remain open.

When Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that restaurants must close their indoor dining due to spikes in the coronavirus, Kramer and Hymanson offered online ordering, pickup and delivery for both Kismet and Kismet Rotisserie.

The chefs connected with Frontline Foods and made meals to support frontline workers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. To keep their relationships with their suppliers, they soon started selling produce boxes and other goods from various local farmers at Kismet.

At Kismet Rotisserie, they continue to offer some of the best free-range Sonoma slow-cooked, antibiotic-free chicken paired with hummus, brightly colored salads, pita sandwiches and vegetable sides.

To support the chefs, I recently ordered online and used the contactless pay option before driving to pick up lunch. Stopping along the curb in front, I called to announce my arrival, and within minutes, a staff member wearing a mask and gloves walked out and handed me my order while I sat in my car.

In this golden age of takeout, a restaurant’s to-go presentation can be the factor that makes the meal a cut above the rest. Kismet Rotisserie is no exception, and I thoroughly enjoyed my “unboxing” experience. As I began to carefully unpack my plentiful Kismet Rotisserie bag, I first opened a box to reveal a quarter-cut chicken with glistening, crispy golden brown skin. The chicken plate meal included creamy hummus and an iceberg lettuce wedge salad with shaved radish, scallions, parsley and a pleasing miso poppy seed dressing. The plate is completed with Kismet’s delicious soft, warm and puffy pita bread.

Be sure to order the tzatziki with toasted fennel seeds. It’s made with cucumber and yogurt and is an ideal dip or great poured onto the golden-brown chicken.

Next, I unwrapped a chicken pita sandwich stuffed with shredded rotisserie chicken and roasted onions enhanced with turmeric. A dollop of yogurt, a few raisins and sprigs of arugula brightened the sandwich and enhanced the savory flavors of the chicken and onions. After one bite, I vowed to definitely order this sandwich again.

They also offer a comforting chicken soup with a lemony broth, sliced celery, carrots, shredded chicken and a sprinkling of dill.

Their salads are excellent and most certainly should be enjoyed with their ethereal pita bread. I split a disc open and filled it with the roasted cabbage salad bathed lightly in a yogurt dressing, and topped with toasted fennel seeds. The crunchy and tasty salad offers a slightly sweet and subtle licorice essence.

Opening yet another container of deliciousness, I discovered bright orange shredded carrots dressed with citrus zest and a light coriander vinaigrette. The fresh carrots are a perfect accompaniment to the meal.

For those looking for something heartier, Kismet Rotisserie’s “Schmaltzy” crispy potatoes, tossed with toasted garlic and chicken drippings are sinfully delicious and a must-have. Vegetarians can order crispy potatoes tossed in toasted garlic oil only.

For little ones, they offer a chicken plate with rotisserie chicken, pita, hummus and veggies. They also have a kid’s roasted veggie plate with tahini for dipping.

For something sweet, Kismet Rotisserie offers tahini chocolate chip cookies and halvah pudding cups.

If you are looking for a satisfying, wallet-friendly, gourmet mezze-style meal, definitely check out Kismet Rotisserie. Chefs Kramer and Hymanson have adapted their take-home experience to be safe, delicious, and up to par with their dine-in standards. Grab your next meal to-go at Kismet Rotisserie (wearing a mask, of course!). Call to order and pick up, or go online and use the Caviar or Doordash option for delivery. kismetla.com/kismet-rotisserie-order. $-$$ 4666 Hollywood Blvd., (323)400-3700.

This article was featured in the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News 

Universal CityWalk Hollywood reopens

Universal CityWalk Hollywood has excitedly reopened the about 40% of their dining venues and shops. Guest parking is complimentary right now, and each visitor will enter the Jurassic Park parking garage to have their temperature taken. Guests are required to wear face coverings throughout their visit.
A friendly staff member with an EXTECH non-contact forehead InfraRed Thermometer allows guests without a temperature to enter. Guests with a temperature of 100.4 degrees or greater will not be admitted.
IMG_9103The staff have been trained to aggressively cleaning and disinfection procedures and will be frequently cleaning all of the high touch services. All team members undergo temperature checks and wear face coverings and gloves.
IMG_9102 2Social distancing floor markers are placed throughout the area. Visitors are asked to stand on the floor markings until the group in front moves forward. Health and safety signage and audio recorded messages are broadcasted frequently throughout the area. 
IMG_9099Buca di Beppo just in time for Father’s Day on June 21, celebrate the World Greatest Dad in your life by ordering two great Buca di Beppo packages starting at only $12 per person. 
IMG_9132-2Each package comes with our fresh baked house bread, choice of salad, choice of pasta or entrées (depending on the package) and chocolate chip cannoli. Dad will also get a Sweet Treat & a “World’s Greatest Dad” Koozie. 
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The Portland based Voodoo Doughnut is now open at Universal CityWalk offering sinfully delicious, unconventional delectables such as their classic Bacon Maple Bar, Grape Ape and Voodoo Doll doughnuts. Wedding ceremonies are performed here. Guests wait outside and are welcomed in for social distancing ordering to order and take home an iconic pink box. 

Other dining establishments include Johnny Rockets, Blaze Pizza, Starbucks Coffee, Crepe’ Cafe, KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut. Stores that have reopened include Shoe Palace, Skechers and Guess Accessories. More to reopen soon.

IMG_9138Guests are encouraged to wash their hands with soap and water often for at least 20 seconds. Hand sanitizing machines are strategically placed around CityWalk.City Walk is open daily from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. Check back for updated hours. 
Universal Studios Hollywood theme Park remains temporarily closed as they enhance sanitization procedures and implemented additional measures for distance spacing and screening. Click here to check on reopening dates.

Arts Bridging the Gap for All

On Sunday morning, June 7, 2020, before thousands of peaceful protestors marched on Hollywood Blvd., the corner at Hollywood and Vine had a small group of professional artists and volunteers painting peaceful messages of love, hope and solidarity on plywood boards.

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The beginning of Amy Smart’s Art

It all started when Wally Moran, General Manager of Wood & Vine Restaurant & Bar boarded the front windows of the restaurant facing out to Hollywood Blvd. He needed to protect the restaurant located in the historic Taft Building, from damage from potential looters that targeted DTLA, the Fairfax District, West Hollywood and Santa Monica.

Days after the boards were secure, Moran noticed offensive messages tagged on his boards and reached out to his friend Georgia Van Cuylenburg, founder and organizer of Arts Bridging the Gap, a youth social justice organization. Together they organized “Paint Your Peace” to transform plywood boards into meaningful works of art.

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SeYxYes mural of hands holding 1 heart on Vine.

Starting at 10 a.m., almost 30 people designed and painted colorful messages to promote a positive change for Hollywood and the world. “First the artists starting painting along the block of Wood & Vine, and then we extended up to Katsuya and the Hollywood and Vine Lift Building,” Moran said via text.

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Amy Smith’s completed piece

Artist Amy Smith claimed the board in front of Wood & Vine, painting a stunning pink piece of civil rights activist Maya Angelou. Smith’s mural is a multi-layered collage emphasizing Black Lives Matter.

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Peace & Love by LA.Nice

Talking to Georgia by phone, I inquired about how she and Moran organized this peaceful event. “Growing up in Australia, Hollywood was a dream,” she said. “I arrived at the age of 18 years old. (Georgia has a long Hollywood resume as a comedian, performer, writer, and producer) social work fuels my heart,” she said.

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Art by Ari Nichol (Before)

“Wally is an incredible leader in Hollywood,” said Georgia. “When he called with this request, I immediately agreed.” There are now almost 20 colorful mural messages along Hollywood Blvd. “We can add more,” she said, because Wally and Georgia are able to get swift approval from the Hollywood Entertainment Council. With her work at Arts Bridging the Gap, she not only has an artist’s mind, but can also efficiently get the paper work done to get approvals quickly.

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Completed mural by Ari Nichole

Since Georgia has worked with several of the artists involved, it was easy to contact them and tell them about the vision. “I said to each one, here’s the deal, we have an incredible opportunity in Hollywood,” she said. “What happened that day was magical.”

As the professional artists started painting, people contacted Georgia to see if they could have a board to express themselves. She looked at their ideas and IG sites and soon gave them approval. One was Marcus, a security guard working nearby, who wanted to spread a message. He painted George Floyd with the words Value Human Race.

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Marcus has his piece at Soprano on Hollywood & Vine

According to Georgia, a black mother and her two young boys, dressed in super hero costumes, walked up to this powerful piece and stood proudly for a photo. Marcus told her, that he never felt “seen” until he painted this yesterday. Now the Hollywood community and world will see how this talented man has such a influential message to share with us all.

Another surprise artist was Zook58. He approached Georgia to paint a board. “He sent me his beautiful design and was so kind, that I immediately agreed to allow him to express his message of an officer and young black boy kneeling together,” Georgia said.

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Reaching out to this artist, he shared that “AP news captured it for the cover of an article titled – Cops on air for 33 seasons, dropped by Paramount Network.” I learned this piece took about 4 to 6 six hours to paint, like many of his other murals. His colorful and meaningful images can be viewed in Studio City, on Melrose Ave., and Los Angeles. Check out his IG account @zook58.

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@MikeMDS is featured at APL Restaurant

Moran informed me that “Wood & Vine is still closed (as of June 10, 2020), but soon will be hosting the artists for drinks to celebrate.” He added that when the boards come down and the restaurant reopens, the art will be displayed inside the restaurant. “The Pantages Theatre said they want to do the same, and Georgia wants to do a show [displaying some of the pieces] later this year,” he said.

Want to help make Hollywood and surrounding communities beautiful? Art Bridging the Gap is looking for donations to help pay for supplies and expand their programs to empower youth all over Los Angeles. Click here Art Bridging the Gap to learn more.

Part of this article was featured in the Beverly Press on June 10, 2020.

 

Carefully crafted sushi at Sōgo Roll Bar

A new Japanese restaurant, Sōgo Roll Bar, opened last month in the former location of McConnell’s Ice Cream on Hollywood Boulevard in Loz Feliz.

Restaurateurs Andy Paxson, David Gibbs and head chef Kiminobu Saito of Sushi Note opened a quick-service dining experience along with Dustin Lancaster and Sarah Dietz of An Eastside Establishment (L&E Oyster Bar).

Located in what is becoming East Hollywood’s restaurant row, Sōgo Roll Bar shares an outdoor patio next to the expanding Go Get Em Tiger coffee bar.

Inside the light and bright space are reclaimed wood floors and a light wood counter that runs the length of the room.

While waiting for a seat, I met Lancaster and learned how he has been part of the neighborhood for over a decade. He noticed a void in Japanese sushi restaurants in the area. After a soft opening serving lunch only, the restaurant is now serving dinner to locals who are returning more than once a week to enjoy the variety of unique and flavorful hand rolls, he said.

The bright sushi bar at Sogo is as inviting as the friendly faces of the servers and sushi chefs. It’s becoming quite popular on Hollywood Boulevard’s east side. (photo courtesy of Sogo Roll Bar)

Sōgo Hand Roll offers a tiered set of three to six hand rolls or à la carte items, much like Sugarfish’s concept. Guests sit back and watch their order being made right before their eyes, before being handed a roll with an explanation of the ingredients.

Rolls can be plated and cut upon request. For those in a hurry, rolls can be made fresh and ready to go in custom curated boxes.

Roll makers use two sizes of fresh, crisp nori rolled in a box-like shape so the filling stays put and doesn’t come out of the bottom. Their warm rice is enhanced with rice vinegar and topped off with a pinch of sugar and salt.

For the salmon, snapper and cucumber avocado rolls, each is intensified with a green sauce that has a citrusy yuzu zing. Our three favorites were the scallop hand roll with fresh lemon and mayo, the crab roll and the Gravlax hand roll made with sour cream, chopped wasabi root marinated in soy sauce and salmon that has cured for three days.

The restaurant is an ideal solo dining spot. A person can come, sit at the counter, order different rolls and be entertained watching the action behind the counter.

A photo of chef Saito when he first arrived in Los Angeles from Japan in the 1970s hangs in the kitchen. His goal was one day to own his own restaurant. Now, with the help of Gibbs and others, his dream has come true.

Sōgo Roll Bar is open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. $$ 4634 Hollywood Blvd., (323)741-0088.

This article is featured in the Beverly Press.

 

The New Black Star Burger

When Plan Check closed on Fairfax Avenue, I was eager to see what would open in its place. Located down the street from Jon & Vinny’s, Supreme and Canter’s Deli, Black Star Burger has become one of the trendiest food and clothing destinations in Los Angeles.

The very first Black Star Burger opened in Moscow in 2016 and became so successful that 20 locations opened across Eastern Europe.

For the grand opening of its first American location, Black Star Burger partnered with Jason “Poo Bear” Boyd, a songwriter, American record producer and singer who co-wrote many of Justin Bieber’s hit songs. When he hosted the grand opening in November, celebrities Justin and Hailey Bieber and “Dancing with the Stars’” Val Chmerkovskiy attended the party to support their friend. Also attending the opening was one of the founders of Black Star Burger and Russian rapper Timati.

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Since there are a lot of burger restaurants in Los Angeles, I hoped Black Star Burger would offer something different than all the other casual burger chains. Last weekend, I brought my daughter to join.

A large menu screen at the entrance of the restaurant lists four beef, two chicken and two vegan burgers, side dishes, a kids menu, drinks and desserts.

The burgers can be made the “L.A. Way” with a lettuce wrap instead of a gluten bun.

The hemp-seed burger piqued my interest, so I ordered it with a side of sweet potato waffle fries. My daughter ordered a grilled Beyond Meat burger the “L.A. Way” with a side of fried “Cali” flowers and a beverage.

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With booths along the wall and tables in the center, the dining room features an ice cream counter with a long bar with stools. Guests can try an array of beer on tap that includes Peroni, Blue Moon, 805 and a New England-style hazy IPA.

Within a few minutes, my name was called to pick up our food. On the tray were a pair of food-grade, latex-free black gloves in a clear, sealed package.

My daughter appreciated the gloves while biting into her juicy “L.A. Way” Beyond Meat burger wrapped in lettuce. The theory of these gloves is that you use less napkins while eating.

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My hemp-seed burger was a delicious, high-protein, sustainable meat alternative topped with vegan pepperjack cheese and a special Black Star vegan sauce. Each hemp burger offers a full spectrum of omega fatty acids, 21 grams of protein and six grams of fiber.

The sweet potato waffle fries were served warm and crispy, and the small “Cali” flowers were delicious. Both were served without dipping sauces.

The Black Star chicken breast sandwiches can be fried or grilled. One is slathered with spicy mayo, pickles and slaw, and the other is enhanced with a house ranch dressing, tomatoes, mixed greens and pickles.

On the kids menu, younger guests can choose from a cheeseburger or grilled American cheese combo. Both come with potato wedges and a drink. For dessert, the ice cream counter offers different flavors and 10 candy toppings for customized sundaes.

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At Black Star Burger, you can enjoy a gourmet burger and beer in a fun environment for a quick meal, or hang out and listen to the music. You never know who might come in to support their friends in the music industry. Open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

$ 351 N. Fairfax Ave., (323)433-7792. This review was featured in the Beverly Press on Jan. 16, 2020.

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