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

What’s New at smoke.oil.salt

(Chef Brian Gregg)
(Chef Brian Gregg)

After the success of his Peruvian pop-up, ONCE, James Beard nominee Ricardo Zarate didn’t sit idle. He was busy cooking in the kitchen of smoke.oil.salt. with chef Brian Gregg.

Restaurateurs Adam Fleischman and Stephen Gelber recently selected Zarate to be the Executive Consulting Chef at smoke.oil.salt.

Gregg and Zarate have created a new three tapas “happy hour” special for $19. Pair them with a glass of Spanish wine, sparking cava, fruity sangria or kalimotxo, (a Spanish cocktail made with equal parts red wine and a cola-based soft drink) for $7 during 5:30 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.

(Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Crispy frito chicken – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

I brought my friend Carole with me to watch Zarate and Gregg in action and enjoy some of their tapas. We ordered a glass of Spanish sparkling wine before sharing the crispy frito chicken with serrano ham and a lovely, slightly spicy red brava sauce.

Next, two grilled scallops on a pea puree arrived adorned with crunchy hazelnuts and a tangy lemon aioli. Our third tapas was Pintxo de Iberico, a toasted sourdough bread layered with a slightly smoky, unpasteurized sheep’s milk, and delicious Iberico ham.

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

The atmosphere was lively with friends meeting up to enjoy after-work cocktails and tapas before moving on to dinner.

Zarate and Gregg have also collaborated on new Sunday Brunch menu. This time I brought my husband with me to sample some of the new creative toasts they serve as part of Sunday brunch fare.

The bread used for the toast dishes comes from a Basque bakery in Hawthorne, known to have the some of the best Basque sourdough bread in the world. “It’s the same bread that Musso and Frank serves,” Gregg said.

The decor in this dining room on the bar side of the restaurant ia a tomato red wall with interesting cat and music artwork. The bar has four high stools and two lower ones where guests sit and savor the Spanish flavors from Gelber’s extensive wine collection with a few tapas and toasts. Gelber stores over 130 bottles of wines, sparkling cavas, and sherries representing every region of Spain. He also selects 30 wines by the glass to be served with brunch and dinner.

Chopped salad - photo by Jill Weinlein)
Chopped salad – photo by Jill Weinlein)

Looking over the two page menu, we started with shaved Brussels sprouts and kale molded into a dome and mixed with sliced Medjool dates, pea puree, chopped candied walnuts and a light pimenton vinaigrette. Pimenton is Spanish paprika, an essential ingredient in Spanish cooking. The first toast we ordered was Crostini con Angos made with four different mushrooms and sherry-braised cipolini onions, served cold, which surprised us at first, yet we enjoyed every mouthful.

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

Another toast we tried was a Spanish twist on eggs Benedict. The serrano Benedicto is made with charred Basque bread and layered with Hollandaise aioli, thin slices of serrano bacon (a deeper color and richer in flavor than American bacon), and two poached eggs. It’s served warm, and as I cut the toast in half, the bright yellow yolk flowed over the layers of ingredients. The flavors transported me to a cafe along the grand La Rambla, in Barcelona.

What would brunch be without potatoes? These talented chefs make crispy potatoes with a brava sauce topped with a chorizo salsa and aioli. Gregg said preparing the potatoes is a laborious process. “We first rinse them in cold water, then boil them, and then fry them twice to keep them soft and creamy inside, yet crisp on the outside,” he said.

(French Toast - by Jill Weinlein)
(French Toast – by Jill Weinlein)

The Torrija is a Spanish-style French toast that is far less sweet than traditional French toast. The sweetness comes only from the natural sugars from the mixed berries on top. Even the vanilla bean whipped cream with a dash of mint oil is subtle.

(Uni toast - Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Uni toast – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

Another toast favorite is the soft scrambled eggs with uni (sea urchin) on the Basque toast with oven blistered tomatoes and a dash of chili oil. The uni makes this dish especially decadent and very satisfying, and it pairs wonderfully with a grapefruit essence sangria.

They serve carafes of bottomless Spanish cocktails or the friendly servers will happily refill your glass of cava during brunch.
For dessert, try the brazo gitano made with rolled sponge cake, dulce de leche and a passion fruit curd.

(Photo by Rick Weinlein)
(Chef Ricardo Zarate – Photo by Rick Weinlein)

Before leaving I asked Zarate how long will he be at smoke.oil.salt. “I’ll be here for a while until I get my own brick and mortar. Maybe until March 2016.” he said. Until then, come into smoke.oil.salt. to have two esteemed chefs prepare authentic Spanish fare that will excite your tastebuds.
Zarate just released his cookbook, “The Fire of Peru: Stories From My Peruvian Kitchen,” highlighting many of his modern Peruvian dishes, reflecting a dash of Japanese, Chinese and European influences.

Open for dinner nightly from 5:30 to 12 a.m. Brunch is served on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. $$ 7274 Melrose Ave. (323)930-7900.

This article was featured in the November 19, 2015 Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News.

FIG & OLIVE – Mediterranean Diet Friendly

DSC_0988Research has shown that the traditional Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of heart disease, cancer, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. The key components of the Mediterranean diet include a splash of olive oil, instead of butter, and a variety of fruits and vegetables, lean meat, whole grains, legumes and nuts. A glass of red wine is acceptable too.

Fig & Olive’s menu offers dishes that are ideal for the diet, as Executive Chef Pascal Lorange’s prepares his Mediterranean dishes with herbs, spices and some of the finest olive oils from the Mediterranean region to enhance his dishes.

I recently dined with a group of friends at Fig & Olive on Melrose Place to enjoy chef Lorange’s new Spring menu Mediterranean dishes. We sat in the back dining room with elegant limestone stucco walls. The restaurant has live green rosemary and olive trees offering the essence of the Mediterranean. Visually, the open kitchen is illuminated by shelves of colorful olive oil bottles.
Guests receive a plate of rosemary olive oil bread with small dishes of three distinctive extra virgin olive oils from Spain, Greece and Italy.

We each chose a glass of wine or champagne from over 30 varietals from the South of France, Italy, and Spain. I sipped a nice French Rose’ made with Grenache/Syrah from the Château La Coste “Cuvée Bellugue” Côtes de Provence. It was floral, with hints of white fruits.

DSC_0985The wine paired well with a variety of crostinis. My favorite was the savory caramelized onion with goat cheese and chive. I also liked the Manchego with sliced fig and a Marcona almond.

Since the Mediterranean diet traditionally includes antioxidant-rich vegetables, Chef Lorange’s includes on his new menu, a cold gazpacho Andalucia with minced tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, red onion, basil, Sherry vinegar and a splash of basil olive oil. There is a small scoop of Ayala goat cheese to enhance the dish.

Another winning dish is his rainbow heirloom tomato Caprese with luscious burrata and sliced figs to add a delightful sweetness. It’s lightly dressed with 18-year balsamic vinegar and basil green olive oil.

The crab and heirloom tomato appetizer is made with jumbo lump crab. It looked and had the texture of an elegant tuna salad.DSC_0991
To help promote health and prevent disease, fish is approved on the diet. Fig & Olive offers six different pescatarian dishes that include Mediterranean branzino; Chilean sea bass and yellowfin tuna a la Provencale. The Riviera salmon is also an excellent choice with seared salmon served with grilled asparagus and a flavorful braised fennel. The dish is decorated with a pea puree, Koroneiki olive oil emulsion and a spritz of lemon zest.

The most visually spectacular dish of the evening was the rosemary lamb chops served on a plate with a glass dome cover. Once the cover was released, a smokey vapor of Herbs de Provence was released into the air. The chops were accompanied with grilled polenta, braised eggplant, roasted bell peppers and a drizzle of rosemary garlic olive oil.

I’m not sure if the creamy fig and gorgonzola risotto made with Arborio rice qualifies as a Mediterranean dish, because it is so rich, yet it’s so satisfying and worth the splurge. It’s pure comfort food in a bowl.

Grains are important in a Mediterranean diet, so Chef Lorange offers a red quinoa salad with a variety of vegetables and dresses it up with a Arbequina olive oil.

DSC_0999All of the pasta and risotto dishes are vegetarian, however guests may add a grilled chicken, salmon or shrimp for some protein.
On the diet, poultry can be consumed twice a week. A good choice is the Provence roasted free range chicken from Mary’s farm marinated with Herbs de Provence and garlic. It arrives with a side of ratatouille and roasted potatoes.

My favorite is the colorful Fig & Olive Tajine with Moroccan spiced chicken cooked with figs, carrots, olives, apricots, zucchini, cipolini onions, tomatoes, toasted almonds and a couscous blended with cilantro and harissa. The olive oil enhancing this dish is Arbequina, an aromatic, buttery oil from Melgarejo in Andalucía, Spain.

Since red meat should be consumed no more than a few times a month, the filet mignon is an excellent choice. The 8 oz. Creekstone farm filet is marinated with thyme, garlic and rosemary before its grilled and served with farro risotto accented with black trumpet mushrooms, and two cheeses – manchego and mascarpone. The Béarnaise sauce for the steak is made with Arbequina olive oil.

For those seeking a romantic dinner, Fig & Olive offers a few tableside-for-two entrees that include a whole two-pound Branzino; 16 oz. Creekstone farm Black Angus Chateaubriand; and a 36 oz. Cote de Boeuf Creekstone farm bone-in Ribeye.

Save room for the light panna cotta a l’ orange with a cookie crumble. There is also a lavender creme brûlée with lovely lavender ice cream and a crunchy thyme shortbread cookie.

While at Fig & Olive, you can bring Mediterranean ingredients home with you to maintain the diet. The restaurant offers a retail collection of over 30 different types of extra virgin olive oil ranging from a fruity and delicate varietal from Provence to a peppery Tuscan olive oil from Villa Lucia. The restaurant also sells infused olive oils with truffle; basil, and lemon.

Open for lunch starting at 12 p.m. Monday through Saturday and Sunday brunch at 11 a.m. Dinner service begins Monday through Thursday at 6 p.m. on Friday through Sunday, dinner service begins at 5:30 p.m. $$$ 8490 Melrose Place (310)360-9100.

Wine and Spanish Cuisine – smoke.oil.salt

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Brian Rosman, Jill Weinlein and Chef Perfecto

The scent of wood burning on open flames lures interested diners in to smoke.oil.salt. We were led to a table in the slightly more formal area, and Sommelier Arby Artoonian poured us a sparkling glass of Cava as we looked over the tasting menu.

Photos of the Spanish surrealist, Salvador Dalí, adorn the walls.

Entertainment Executive Stephen Gelber along with Umami founder Adam Fleischman (Choco Chicken, Red Medicine, 800 Degrees and Roadhouse LA) and hospitality expert Jason Berkowitz opened a cutting-edge Spanish restaurant, different from any other in Los Angeles. For several years they scouted for the right space and the perfect chef. Finally, the stars aligned when Fleischman discovered that Angeli Caffe on Melrose Avenue was vacant and hired Executive Chef Perfecto Rocher. Perfecto comes from a lineage of authentic Spanish chefs, including his grandfather and father.

Gelber, Fleischman and Berkowitz found Perfecto after he left the Lazy Ox downtown. They convinced him to help them open smoke.oil.salt.
As a Creative Director, writer and producer at Capitol Records, Gelber used to enjoy business lunches at Angeli Caffe. He remembers the day when chef-restaurateur Evan Kleiman opened the restaurant in 1984.

As we nibbled on olives with toasted almonds and tiny cubes of Manchego cheese, Gelber described the restaurant’s layout.DSC_1052
“It fit the bill of wanting a slightly more formal sit down service on one side and fun, causal side with communal tables for people to talk, share food, wine and socialize,” Gelber said.

We enjoyed red and white Spanish sausages on crunchy bread with a dazzling Catalan tomato jam.

Gelber searched for a legitimate Spanish chef who would prepare dishes from his native country and not pander to American tastes.
“There are great Spanish chefs and restaurants in London and New York, yet I couldn’t find any in Los Angeles,” Gelber said. “Chef Perfecto prepares dishes from his grandfather’s and father’s recipes. Two-thirds of the dishes are old school style, and one-third is New World cuisine,” Gelber said.

One of my favorite dishes of the evening arrived in a black skillet filled with a light and airy artichoke omelet topped with a mosaic of sliced pickled fennel, celery, mint and cauliflower with very distinctive flavors.

Gelber has curated some of his favorite wines over the years to enhance and reflect the flavors of each dish. We enjoyed a Spanish white wine with the cold oyster and mussel soup marinated in tiger nut milk, the original Horchata. Originally from Valencia, tiger nuts are ground with water and sugar to make horchata.

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The Sea Urchin dish

The bravas trencades skillet of fried cubed potatoes, slices of Serrano ham, chorizo sauce and a luscious fried egg on top would make a stunning brunch dish as well as satisfying dinner fare.

The calcots of traditional smoked spring onions arrived on a plank with a Romesco sauce made with hazelnuts, chile, garlic, tomatoes, mint and lemon.

Many rave about the sea urchin flan served in a Mason jar with caviar and shrimp chili oil drizzled the top. For those who love calamari, Chef Perfecto serves Monterey Bay calamari with warm cranberry beans.

The piece de la resistance of the entire evening was the pluma Iberica, a butcher’s filet of Iberico pork that is wood-fire grilled. The pork is lean, tender and red and filled with succulent flavor.

For dessert, we finished with a dense chocolate pate served with a dollop of crème fraiche whipped with olive oil and sea salt.

The restaurant is open Tuesday through Sunday evenings for dinner. Every Sunday they offer a prix-fixe Paella dinner that includes a choice of a starter, a medium plate, and a shared paella plate with a choice of meat, seafood or vegetables plus dessert. The Sunday meal is offered with an optional wine flight pairing. DSC_1059

Gelber offers an exciting array of rare wines that guests can pour and enjoy by the glass using the Coravin system. This device keeps the cork in the bottle, where it’s been since it was first sealed in the winery, so it doesn’t oxidize or disturb the natural aging process of the wine. It also allows guests who only want one glass of wine to not have to commit to an entire bottle. $$- $$$ 7274 Melrose Ave.
(323)930-7900.

This article was also published in the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News on June 5, 2014.

Best BBQ in Los Angeles

IMG_8476Walking on Melrose Ave. near Crescent Heights, I could smell the aroma of smoky BBQ wafting outside of the IMPROV. As I peeked inside, I saw a recycled wood interior with various patrons feasting on brisket, mac n” cheese and triple fried fries. At the bar, there were guests sipping beers on draught, creative cocktails and even apple-pie moonshine.

My friend Linda and I stepped into Roadhouse LA to experience Executive Chef Kyle Schutte’s BBQ. Other foodies have told me that this is not your typical backyard barbecue. This is creative and innovative global fare.

Upstairs is a cozy spot for private parties. It looks a little bit like the inside of the Little House on the Prairie television set with aged metal milk jugs, an old ice box freezer and creative farm house light fixtures.

Downstairs in the main dining room is a big window that rolls up to let in fresh air inside and the aroma of delicious BBQ outside to entice pedestrians on Melrose.

While looking over the menu, our server Jim recommended a few dishes that we must try – the crème brulee mac & cheese, corn bread pudding and housemade root beer. We ordered one of each.

When the root beer arrived, it looks like ice tea, instead of the usual dark, thick carbonated, sweetened beverage. This root beer is made from hoja-santa leaves from Mexico. It’s mixed with vanilla, cinnamon, five Chinese spices, lime extract, sugar and Balinese long peppercorn. I loved it.

Chef Schutte arrived at our table to share his philosophy of BBQ and a platter of his famous Roadhouse LA brisket. His dishes are infused with global influences.IMG_8472

The brisket is a deconstructed brisket sandwich. It arrives on a plate with slices of meat that have been prepared and cooked for five days. First, the grass-fed beef is brined for two days. Since it is not corn fed, the meat is not as fatty as most brisket. Then it is cooked for 36 hours at a low temperature. Afterwards its smoked for 24 hours and taken out of the smoker to rest. Then it is sealed with a secret butter sauce and cooked for another 12 hours. “When we run out of brisket, guests don’t realize that the recipe is a five day process,” said Schutte.

The brisket is served with thick Texas toast, a small dish of beer cheese made with stout beer, cheddar cheese, cream and jalapenos. It’s fantastic. There are also fat carmelized onions, kimchi coleslaw and housemade pickles and peppers. The in-house fermented kimchi cole slaw has a dash of chili oil and vinegar that gives a flash of heat to the cabbage.

You can eat them individually or stack them all on the Texas toast and eat as an open-face sandwich.

The chef recommends guests to order the wilted beet greens with the brisket. It’s cooked in ginger beer with dried blueberries, pickled beets and crystallized roses. If you don’t like to eat greens, you will love this dish. The acid and floral notes bring down the heaviness of the meat.

The crème brulee mac n’ cheese arrived in a black skillet with brown caramelizing on the top from the bourbon and honey. I don’t think I have ever tasted a creamier mac n’ cheese with a hint of sweetness.

IMG_8466Before walking back into the kitchen, Schutte shared with us that originally he wanted to be a football player growing up, however due to an injury, he had to change his life career goals and major in Psychology.

While at the Hula Grill in Maui, Schutte had an epiphany when he bit into a housemade ice cream sandwich. The flavors brought him back to a wonderful childhood memory. Schutte realized then, that he wanted to be a chef that made dishes that took other people back psychologically to a favorite memory. Food is meant to be fun to eat.

When he started as a young chef in Washington D.C., Schutte was told by an Executive Chef what to do, yet never “why” it was done that way. He left the restaurant and enrolled in the Atlanta Culinary Arts Institute to learn “why” as well as “how.” Soon he gained a reputation for making refined, contemporary, locally driven, innovative food that led the way in culinary trends.

When Adam Fleishman of the mega successful Umami Burger empire, 800 Degrees, smoke.oil.salt, Red Medicine and Formosa Café met Schutte, they flirted with the idea of working together. Fleishman called Schutte one day when the original Executive Chef at Roadhouse LA didn’t work out. Schutte started working the next day.

At first he wasn’t sure how the kitchen staff would receive him. He completely overhauled the menu in less than four weeks and taught the staff how to prep and execute dishes differently.

Schutte thought that many wouldn’t be receptive to change and would shut down, however the majority of his culinary team embraced his new ideas and gave him 100%. “I have such a great staff, we really work together as a team,” said Schutte. “We don’t cook what BBQ should be, we cook what BBQ in Los Angeles can be,” said Schutte.

This chef thinks out of the box for flavor combinations and artistic plating style. Take his corn bread pudding: he makes corn bread into a bread pudding. Artistically IMG_8481presented, I almost didn’t want to cut into it. The bread arrives on a plank with a scoop of jalapeno butter that looks like vanilla ice cream. Then this talented chef adds drops of olive green colored tequila and cilantro jelly and tops them with tiny purple flowers. There are shavings of citrus charcoal adorning the dish. It offers such a “wow” factor that diners at a nearby table decided to order one too.

Be sure to try the chicken fried watermelon poppers. The sweet red watermelon with the salty fried coating is an explosion of wonderful flavors with each bite that is beyond a diner’s expectations.

Also the triple cooked fries are thick and not greasy. They are served with two dipping sauces; a house smoked ketchup and black garlic aioli. I actually dipped my fries in the savory beer cheddar sauce that was served with the brisket.

Roadhouse LA is located at the historic Hollywood IMPROV Comedy Club. Dine here first before the show, and the staff will reserve good seats for you while you are enjoying creative barbecue fare or try some BBQ fare or a libation after the show. You don’t need to see an IMPROV show to dine at Roadhouse LA. It’s open to everyone for dinner every evening except Mondays.

Roadhouse L.A.’s has dubbed the month of May “Moonshine Month” and will be offering $12 specialty cocktails and $8 Ole Smokey shots all month through National Moonshine Day on June 5th. These beverages go great with BBQ fare. $$ – Open Tuesday through Sunday from 6 to 11 p.m. 8162 Melrose Ave. (323)556-2700.

This article was published in the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News on May 22, 2014.

 

Enticing Edible Arrangements

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Scott Greenberg

Walking inside the Edible Arrangements store on Beverly Blvd. near the Beverly Center I smiled. It’s a cheerful store with bright colors on the walls and stuffed bears holding soft hearts. The day I visited was right before Mother’s Day. Mylar balloons decorated the ceiling and customers kept coming in to pick up arrangements.

This store and the Edible Arrangements store on Melrose Ave. near Cahuenga is owned by the affable, motivational speaker Scott Greenberg. He took me on a tour of his kitchen and introduced me to his staff. I got to see the refrigerator, chocolate dipping station and wrapping station.

Scott was born in Los Angeles and grew up in San Diego. His father was a franchise owner, so Scott grew up in that environment. However, he wanted to be a screenwriter. After graduating from UCLA, he received a scholarship to NYU film school.  Moving to NY and just starting film school, he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Disease. The doctors found a tumor the size of a softball in his chest. He left film school and started aggressive treatment.

When his grandmother, a “Schindler’s List” Holocaust survivor saw him months later, she said, “The way you look reminds me of Auschwitz.” Since she survived the atrocities of the Holocaust, Scott found inspiration to fight for his life. One year after chemotherapy and radiation treatment, Scott went into remission.

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Scott Greenberg and Jennifer Satzman

Instead of going back to NYU, Scott became a motivational speaker. His strength teaches others to live life to its fullest. He has traveled Internationally and every to 50 states in America. When he married and adopted his first child, he wanted to stay home more. Nine years ago, while flying to Connecticut, he saw an ad about Edible Arrangements in an airline magazine.

He first opened his Beverly Blvd. store and years later opened in Hollywood. In 2010 his store won the Edible Arrangements “Best Customer Service” award (out of 972 franchises worldwide). The following year his store received “Manager of the Year.” His manager is Jennifer Satzman. Scott originally meet Jennifer at his son’s preschool. Scott knew she would be perfect in helping him run his Edible Arrangements stores, while he traveled to various speaking engagements.

Service and sales helps them maintain a repeat customer base. “My staff is very important to me,” Scott said. “I hire slowly and fire fast.” Scott told me that they are not in the fruit basket business, “We are in the celebration business. If you come here and place an order, it can be delivered in one hour,” Scott said. Edible Arrangements is a sweeter alternative than flowers. It appeals to multiple senses and is more of an experience than flowers.

Scott offered me a sampling of his fruit dipped in semi-sweet dark chocolate and white chocolate. My favorite was the heart-shaped pineapple dipped in chocolate. With one bite, the pineapple juice dripped down my mouth. It was delicious. I also liked the green apple dipped in chocolate, strawberries and the banana pieces dipped in dark and white chocolate.

When they have left over fruit at the end of the day, the staff boxes it up and donates it to SOVA Community Food and Resource Program. His stores are two of the only certified Kosher stores in Los Angeles. The chocolate is Kosher Dairy.

The stores offer a Cheer Me Up Bouquet, Get Well Treats, Thank You Chocolate Dipped Fruit Box, Birthday Celebration arrangements Pineapple Pops and Confetti Fruit IMG_8949Cupcake to name a few. Just pick a size and arrangement, choose a fruit to dip and add a balloon, plush bear or Edible Number.

Just like See’s Candy, when you come into the store to place an order or pick up an order, the staff is happy to offer you a sample or two.

Next time you want to give someone a special occasion gift, call Scott and his staff at Edible Arrangements. You will bring smiles to the faces of those who receive a colorful box or arrangement.

8453 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles – 323-651-2233 and 5870 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles – (323)462-6666. EdibleArrangements.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fig & Olive Melrose Place

Fig & Olive 011Halle Berry and I have something in common, we both enjoy dining at Fig & Olive Melrose Place. Almost every item on the menu is topped, sautéed or dressed with various olive oils. No butter is used at this restaurant.

After a trip to the South of France last summer, Chef Pascal Lorange returned to Los Angeles inspired by the produce he sampled in Mougins and Cannes. With the produce he purchases locally from Kenter Canyon Farms in Sun Valley, Lorange marries these fresh items with an assortment of signature olive oils and spices that duplicates the aroma and character of dishes from the South of France, Italy and Spain.

Chef Lorange’s Fall harvest menu offers some exciting dishes that I longed to try. I joined two friends for lunch to experience some of his new appetizers, entrées and desserts.

The restaurant is attractively decorated with a flourishing olive tree dominating the center. Planters of fresh rosemary bushes are sprinkled throughout the room.

We started with a pretty pink flute of Bellenda Rose sparkling wine with notes of strawberry and raspberry.

First, we received slices of Housemade rosemary bread with three small dishes of olive oil for dipping. The mildest olive oil was buttery with fruity notes and a hint of artichoke. The medium flavored oil from Greece was greener tasting. The most assertive tasting oil was from Portugal and offered a slight bitter finish. The restaurant sells nine different oils and infused olive oils too. There are orange, basil, lemon and white truffle oIive oils available to sample and purchase.

The assistant general manager Chris Gonzalez shared a witty description of the bread with oils. “The rosemary bread dipped into one of the olive oils is a culinary equivalent of a hot bath.”

An appetizer of six crostinis that included shrimp, avocado, cilantro and tomato that looked enticing was deliverd to a table near us . We opted to order the 3-course lunch menu offering selections of wonderful soups, salads and appetizers for the first course.

To read the rest of my review, click on this link, courtesy of the Beverly Press http://parklabreanewsbeverlypress.com/news/2012/11/fig-olive-new-fall-harvest-menu-a-taste-of-the-french-riviera/ Published on Nov. 28, 2012.

ROFL Cafe – Making Diners Happy on Melrose

It’s all about positive energy at the casual ROFL Café on Melrose. Walking into the restaurant you are surrounded with uplifting words running along the walls. “Love, Joy, Happiness and Laughter.” They are also etched on the drinking glasses, menu and servers aprons. In the kitchen, a large green painted sign above the grill states “Every Pizza I make is a Masterpiece.”

ROFL is a new creative concept by Chef Govind Armstrong specializing in local California cuisine. Armstrong started his culinary career working for Wolfgang Puck at the iconic Spago’s in West Hollywood.

Later, he became a co-owner and chef at Table 8 in Los Angeles and Miami. Then he opened 8 oz. Burger in Los Angeles and became an overnight sensation when Gayle King from the Oprah show flew 2,000 miles to try Armstrong’s grilled cheese and pulled short rib sandwich at his Melrose Ave. location. Armstrong transformed 8 oz. Burger into the new ROFL Café, which opened in July. Armstrong also is the Executive Chef at Post & Beam in Baldwin Hills.

ROFL stands for Republic of Laughter. The décor is light and bright with green, brown and pastel colors. A bowl of coffee beans sits in the middle of the each table with a little oil lamp in the center allowing the essence of coffee to waft around the room, offering pleasing aromas.

“The idea for ROFL was inspired by the findings of Japanese author and entrepreneur, Masaru Emoto,” shared Sergey D., one of the ROFL managers. “In his book, ‘Hidden Messages in Water,’ Emoto claims that human consciousness has an effect on the molecular structure of water.” High quality water, when frozen, produces beautiful crystals, he said. Emoto believes positive changes to water crystals can be achieved through prayer, music, or by attaching written words.

To read the rest of my review, click on this link http://parklabreanewsbeverlypress.com/news/2012/11/rofl-cafe-making-diners-happy-on-melrose/

Courtesy of the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News, published 11/21/12.

Eins, Zwei….G’Suffa! One, Two…Cheers for Wirsthaus

Ladies and gentlemn, don your traditional Bavarian dirndls and lederhosen for a spirited Oktoberfest celebration with live music, every Fri. and Sat. at Wirsthaus until October 8.

The owner, Bjoern Risse, and his girlfriend Christy, the general manager, opened an authentic German restaurant with a beer garden on Labrea, serving hearty classic, comfort food in a friendly and lively atmosphere.

Long wooden tables and German décor invite guests to relax and enjoy this authentic German pub, serving 35 German beers.

The German Consul, Michael Ott, tapped the restaurant’s first ceremonial keg of traditional Munich Hofbrau beer to kick off Oktoberfest on September 17. The party continues for the next two weekends.

Click here to continue reading my review courtesy of the Beverly Press and published on Sept. 29, 2011via Eins, Zwei….G’Suffa! One, Two…Cheers for Wirsthaus.

M Café -Healthy Dining = Healthy Living

Walking into the brightly lit M Café on Melrose Avenue, my daughter and I both commented on the European feeling while perusing the menu. What added to the continental vibe were three Italian men with charming accents placing their order in front of us. We felt as if we were transported back to Florence, Italy.

(Read the article by clicking on via M Café.) Courtesy of the Beverly Press / Park LaBrea News. Published on June 30, 2011.

 

Blu Jam Cafe

Walking into the Blu Jam Cafe off Melrose Avenue, we immediately noticed the colorful artwork hanging on the wall. I asked the owner/Executive Chef, Kamil Majer, about the whimsical pop art. “I display different artists each month to keep it fun,” Majer said.

Fun is a good description of Blu Jam. Read the rest of the review via Blu Jam Caf.

 Courtesy of the Beverly Press/Park LaBrea News and published on 6/2/11

Hollywood Glamour at Tar Pit

After watching Chef Mark Peel win a cooking challenge, I was eager to try his restaurant Tar Pit on La Brea Ave. From the outside it lacks curb appeal. Inside it has a 1940s Hollywood glamour supper club feel with its Art Deco ironwork separating the beige banquettes.

As a native Californian, Peel worked in a series of kitchen jobs in high school and enrolled into the hotel and restaurant program at Cal Polytechnic University in Pomona. While in college, he landed a job with Wolfgang Puck peeling vegetables at Ma Maison. Later, he became the sous chef at Michael McCarty’s restaurant, Michael’s in Santa Monica. While working with McCarty, Peel met and later married the pastry chef, Nancy Silverton.

With an opportunity to work with Puck again, he became the original head chef at Spago in 1982. Years later, Peel and Silverton opened La Brea Bakery and Campanile restaurant on La Brea Ave. just a few blocks south of Tar Pit.

Not in a drinking mood, we forgo the amusing cocktail list. The cocktails are arranged on the menu by categories: More tart than sweet, Crushed, A little Adventure and Spirited & Direct. Like other high end bars in Los Angeles, the bartender squeezes fresh fruit juice into the glass, has a variety of housemade simple syrups, good bitters and charges $12. There are no draft beers on tap, however Peel has a limited selection of great beers in bottles for $6.

Glancing at the whimsically designed one page food menu, I noticed a lot of fun dishes and light meals. Pickled deviled eggs with bacon, fried oysters with crisp ginger and preserved lemon remoulade, and macaroni and cheese with Gruyere, cheddar, mozzarella and Parmesan.

We ordered the crab salad with large lumps of blue crab, sliced fingerling potatoes, diced roasted red peppers, celery, chervil, chives and tossed lightly with a subtle saffron dressing. It was scrumptious.

Next, arrived juicy duck confit sliders with crisp little cracklings rendered from the duck meat after roasting and topped with an orange gastrique to add a citrus flavor to the meat. They were presented with a small frisee salad on the side.  Still a tad hungry we noticed almost every table had a heaping plate of Tar Pit fries, so we ordered one to see what the buzz was about. Crisp on the outside and tender inside, the potatoes are sprinkled with a spicy lemon salt, although I couldn’t taste the lemon, especially after dipping the fries into the heavenly housemade garlic aioli.

Why did Peel name his restaurant Tar Pit?  Our server explained that he was inspired to name the restaurant after watching the movie “My Man Godfrey,” with William Powell as Godfrey. Godfrey, a down and out man in the beginning, opens a fabulous bar at the end of the movie called, The Dump. Its location is at the exact spot where he was discovered in the beginning of the movie.

Peel seems to have good luck with his restaurants on La Brea Ave. He spends half his time at his successful Campanile and the other half at Tar Pit. He is very hands on. While we were at Tar Pit, the ice machine broke down. Peel arrived quickly to keep the restaurant running smoothly while the machine was being repaired.

We finished our meal with two desserts. Fortunately, they weren’t huge. The apple tart tatin arrived with sliced apples, kiwi fruit, spiced walnuts, puff pastry with a generous dollop of whipped crème fraiche and embellished with caramel.  My favorite was the chocolate caramel tart with little scoops of bitters and orange ice cream bathed in chocolate sauce.

As we paid our bill, we were invited to come back on Sunday evening to hear the live rock/blues band, Vintage Trouble. Their influence is Ray Charles, Prince, Ike & Tina and The Rolling Stones. The band starts playing at 9 p.m. Check the Tar Pit website to see the band’s monthly schedule. On Mondays, Peel has a burlesque show that begins at 9:30 p.m. 

With an affordable menu and live entertainment, I can see why this elegant supper club is packed with people nightly. Open for dinner and late night dining from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. Happy Hour begins at 6 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. 609 N. La Brea Ave., (323)965-1300. $-$$ http://tarpitbar.squarespace.com

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