Gelato Festival box of flavors delivered to your door

Here’s a fun idea for the holidays- Order a gelato tasting box and enjoy a variety of different cool and creamy gelato flavors for dessert. The 2020 Gelato Festival is a little different this year due to the pandemic.

The 2020 American edition Gelato Festival is hosting three COVID-friendly and socially distanced competition events, as well as a newly added coffee making competition. Families and individuals will be given the opportunity to purchase a sampling box for $69 and be the judge of the best gelato, along with Honorary Judge, Giada de Laurentiis.

The gelato boxes are available until December 9th, and will be shipped shortly thereafter. Each box includes four QR codes that allow consumers to vote for their favorite flavor and ultimately take part in picking the winner of this year’s tournament, to be announced in January. Gelato Festival is also be offering a vegan gelato box made with Califia Farms plant-based milks. 

Executive Chef Luca Moriconi

The winners will move on to compete in the World Finale which is set to take place in September 2021 in Italy. One of my favorite Italian Executive Chef’s, Luca Moriconi from Culina Restaurant at the Four Seasons Los Angeles at Beverly Hills, just won the Gold Medal in the first round of technical competitions with his Hazelnut Truffle Stracciatella gelato.

Luca’s winning flavor was able to edge past competitors NYC based Chef Vincenzo Grasso’s blood orange and almond sorbet “Mimosa Siciliana” followed in third place by Chef Joseph Maatouk’s vegan pistachio and orange blossom “Dama Pistachio” by receiving high marks in the Flavor, Appearance, Structure, Creativity and Verbal Presentation categories.  Luca was also able to snag a top spot in the coffee competition, placing third behind Chef Carlo Piccinini from Gelato Italyano, and Chef Peter Macias from La Peer Hotel, scoring points based on Flavor, Appearance, and Speed of Production.

Luca’s first place winning flavor will be soon available for purchase at Gelato Festival’s flagship store on Melrose Avenue.

The other eleven competitors still have the opportunity to advance to the world finale by winning their week’s Popular Jury competition. For the Popular Jury round of competition, competitors will amass votes based on the QR codes scanned by at home participants who have purchased one or more of Gelato Festival’s Gelato Boxes, which are available to order from their official website  until December 9th.

The Chefs and Jury Members

 In 2019 Gelato Festival opened its Flagship store on Melrose Avenue serving the world’s best gelato, in the heart of West Hollywood. A community-oriented concept and experience dedicated to artisanal gelato and coffee, and recently opened its second location at Hollywood & Highland at the Dolby Theatre.

Culina’s ‘Friends & Family’ Mondays offers Heart & Soulful Specials

5423A3D0-3412-4565-A48E-B0C26C678432Monday nights at CULINA just got better at the Four Seasons Resort Los Angeles in Beverly Hills. Executive Chef Luca Moriconi created a new “Friends & Family Mondays” menu.

This talented chef has a big heart and it shows in the dishes he prepares. The Monday menu features 8 different ANTIPASTI dishes for $12. There is Prosciutto E Melon, Insalata Caesar, and an tangy octopus and potato salad with taggiasca olives.

PRIMI offerings are $15 each and include potato gnocchi with four cheeses; classic beef bolognese lasagna that is based on Chef Luca’s mamma’s recipe; and the most delicious ricotta and spinach cannelloni topped with an appealing beschamel sauce.

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Chef Luca is hand tossing PIZZE and baking them in his new top-of-the-line pizza oven. He makes pies with cotto ham and olives; burrata and speck with arugula and tomatoes; lamb sausage with black olives, peanuts and mint pesto; and a simple and delicious Margherita pizza. He even offers two vegan options topped with cashew cream or San Marzano tomatoes.

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Photo by Shaena Engle

Since I was dining during the debut of this Monday night dinner, Chef Luca invited a small group to make pizza pies with him.

He taught us how to “pinch and slap” the dough, shape it (I made a heart shaped pizza) spread San Marzano tomatoes, break off sprigs of basil and top with fior di latte mozzarella. We slid my pie into a beautiful pizza oven and watched it bake for about three minutes, before I took it to a table to take a bite.

SECONDI dishes include a breaded “heart shaped” IMG_8175chicken breast parmigiana, veal scaloppine in lemon and capers, grilled swordfish and a baked eggplant parmigiana.

Guests finish with four different desserts for $9 each. DOLCI items include apple crostata with vanilla ice cream, chocolate tart with salted caramel sea salt gelato, adffogato profiterole with espresso and vanilla gelato and a vanilla bean pan cotta with short bread and stewed berries.

Enjoy culinary sitting outside on the garden patio with serene fire and water features. Cocktails are $12 and include an Aperol Spritz and Negroni. Since pizza goes well with beer Culina offers Peroni Nastro Azzurro, and Spumanti, Bianchi, and Rosso wines by the glass.

IMG_8132Other culinary specials include PRONTO Lunch. The Market inspired buffet includes a selection of salads, cheese and charcuterie with a choice of protein. Dessert includes a selection of fresh fruit and more. It’s $35 per person and available Monday – Saturday starting at 11:30 a.m. – 2 p.m. For more information and to reserve, please call Culina at (310) 860-4000

Four Seasons Los Angeles in Beverly Hills – 300 Doheny Drive, Los Angeles

 

 

 

Fine dining with a steady beat at Culina

Artistic and modern Tuscan cuisine is the focus at Culina, the Italian restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills.

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Chef Luca and his staff provide a fine dining experience

Last weekend, my husband and I enjoyed an intimate dinner in Culina’s refined and comfortable atmosphere. The main dining room features sophisticated décor and excellent service. For a more private experience, dine in the glass-enclosed Grappa Room, which can accommodate up to 12 guests at an impressive table made from a 200-year-old fallen Magnolia tree.

Culina also features a top-notch culinary experience from Chef de Cuisine Luca Moriconi, now in his second year at the restaurant. However, he’s been part of the Four Seasons Hotels family for years, beginning as a junior sous chef at the Michelin-starred Palagio Restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel Firenze before serving as the resident Italian chef at the Four Seasons Hotel Damascus, Amman and Palm Beach.

An additional talent this chef displays, that is different from many other chefs, is drumming. I learned it’s one of his passions. Studies have shown that drummers have an innate ability to problem-solve and change those around them. They are better able to keep a steady beat, which are all important skills in a kitchen.

Our meal started with two types of bread, which were delivered to our table with a side plate of Italian delights. One bread was sliced thick, displaying a soft interior and beautiful baked crust outside. The other was wafer thin, a crisp flat bread broken into different sizes. Both could be enjoyed with enhanced butter ribbons, crispy fried and dried red chilies, small Italian olives and taralli, or crunchy olive-oil biscuits shaped like mini doughnuts.

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Culina also offers a creative cocktail menu. We selected the La La Lupe, comprised of El Tesoro Tequila, ginger cordial, lime juice, St. Germain, agave and orange bitters. It arrived in a clear old fashioned glass with a slice of lemon and beautiful orange flower. My husband ordered the Silk Sheets, which features Ketel One vodka, Amaro Nonino, Lillet Blanc and Peychaud’s Bitters, to sip with our starters.

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Each dish is a work of art.

The night we dined, Chef Luca debuted his new spring menu. We started with the Tonno Rosso, a raw ahi tuna mixed with chopped sweet and spicy peppers. Its presentation looked like a work of art with the bright red fish placed on top of thinly sliced cucumbers arranged as floral petals. Slightly toasted pine nuts gave this dish a buttery and mild pine flavor, and the Carasau flat bread crackers inserted into the middle gave the dish height and crunch. Our attentive server, Orsola from Italy, recommended pairing this dish with a pour of Montenidoli Fiore, a dry white wine that elegantly complemented the fish.

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Charred octopus peeks out behind earthly leaves

For our next course, Orsola recommended a pour of Fattoria Sardi Rosé from Toscana to pair with the charred octopus salad. The soft salmon pink-colored wine was well-balanced in minerality and acidity and offered a crisp, clean and refreshing aroma with notes of dried rose hips, raspberry and melon.

As for the salad, four pieces of an octopus tentacle peeked out under frilly watercress and frisse leaves. Each tentacle was moist, not chewy, rubbery or dry. Again, Chef Luca presented this dish in an artistic arrangement with a cauliflower and smoked potato puree in the center for dipping and al dente green beans to round out the dish.

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To accompany the next course, a decadent risotto biancorossonero, we had a glass of 2016 straw-colored Vorberg Bianco, which cut the richness of the dish. Chef Luca shaved a generous amount of seasonal black truffles at our table. The northern Italian rice was mixed with mushrooms and sottocenere cheese, a cow cheese with a rind of ash, truffles, herbs and spices that offers an earthy flavor profile. A spoonful of truffle caviar and carabineros deep-sea prawn crudo added a pop of cardinal color.

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Ethereal lasagna just like Chef Luca’s momma makes in Italy

Chef Luca’s signature dish is his mother’s lasagne di Grazia, where he creatively recreates a classic beef lasagna and adds layers of pleasing béchamel sauce – a velvety white sauce that is more flavorful than ricotta – and a generous sprinkling of Parmigiano Reggiano. The perfectly cut square of his lasagna, which comes in a beautiful blue glazed ceramic bowl with a sienna-colored interior, is the most heavenly lasagna that I have ever tasted.

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Bass with a caper emulsion

Our last main course was roasted striped bass served on another beautiful blue plate. Underneath the perfectly cooked moist fish was sautéed spinach, and on top was julienned zucchini and a pleasing caper emulsion.

For dessert, we had a classic Millefoglie featuring vanilla cream, honey gelato and more shaved black truffles on top from Pastry Chef Federico Fernandez, who is known for his creative confectionery offerings. This talented pastry chef also makes tiramisu, brown butter cake, panna cotta, and an array of vegan ice cream, sorbetti and gelati. For those who choose to sip their sweets, grappa and dessert wines are available by the glass.

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My new friend Natalia – one of the sweetest servers in Los Angeles

On our way out, we were once again struck by the décor, this time for the flower- and artwork-adorned lobby with exquisite floral pieces from celebrity floral designer and artist Jeff Leatham. A life-sized statue by American artist and sculptor J. Seward Johnson depicts Marilyn Monroe in her famous white dress blowing above a subway grate, one of the most iconic scenes in the 1955 film “The Seven Year Itch.”

Between the atmosphere and the food, dinner at Culina is an elevated culinary journey that is artistically and thoughtfully presented by Chef Luca and his Four Seasons team.

Culina and the attached Vinoteca wine and small bites lounge are open for dinner every Sunday through Wednesday from 6 to 10:30 p.m. and every Thursday through Saturday from 6 to 11 p.m. The restaurant is also open for breakfast and lunch daily. Culina and Vinoteca offer a Sunday brunch buffet from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. 300 S. Doheny Drive, Beverly Hills, (310)860-4000.

This review was also featured in the Beverly Press 

 

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