71Above – Where the term “elevated dining” really means something

71Above, located on the 71st floor of the US Bank Tower, offers panoramic views of downtown Los Angeles and beyond. The OUE Skyspace, a 45-foot slide cantilevering outside of the high-rise building, while separate from 71Above, provides a thrilling start to an evening out.

Executive chef Javier Lopez prepares an elevated seasonal menu and adds a personal flair to many of his dishes.

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The restaurant is built around a unique 360-degree compass next to the floor-to-ceiling windows, which change in opacity as the sun moves across the sky, with an individual compass at each table.

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Sitting at a table overlooking Malibu to Palos Verdes, the uninterrupted panorama of greater Los Angeles is breathtaking during the day and very romantic in the evening.

Guests can choose from three different dining experiences: a reservation deposit for a prime window table, an edge table right at the window or one of the two chef’s tables that offer a direct view into the kitchen.

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Both the lunch and dinner menus are prix-fixe, with a two-course lunch menu for $35. Guests can also select an optional wine pairing for an additional $24 during lunch.

Our friendly server went over the menu and shared the staff favorite: a creamy and rich black squid ink pasta layered with shredded crab and slightly spicy Calabrian chili peppers.

First course items on the menu include a parsnip soup with pickled apple mostarda made from mustard seeds, shaved walnuts and pretty nasturtium flowers. Other selections include a burrata with sliced persimmon, and fried Brussels sprouts glazed with a Mandarin green apple curry sauce. We chose a yellow tail hamachi, a market salad and a roasted beet salad as our starters.

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The market salad was a colorful bowl displaying green and purple endive and Bibb lettuce. Thinly sliced Asian pears, parmesan cheese, chopped almonds and a light olive oil dressing delivered an earthy profile.

Artistically arranged with two rows of Japanese yellow tail, half of the hamachi was wrapped with thinly sliced cucumber and topped with sliced grapes, while the other half was topped with red beet medallions and sprigs of micro-greens.

Roasted beets were placed on a bed of ancient farro with a sprinkling of buckwheat grains on the top. This dish was dressed lightly and the texture of the grains balanced the smoothness of the beets.

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For the second course, we selected the New Zealand salmon filet. Cooked in a miso brown butter with coconut, the filet was served with three types of squash including a maple glazed squash and a puree.

Two large pan-seared diver scallops were served on a bed of farro risotto. Crunchy julienne leeks and a creamy leek foam dazzled the top of this dish. The third entrée was the staff’s favorite squid ink pasta.

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We finished with a bowl of coconut custard hidden under a bright green basil gelée. Dollops of Key lime curd, a scoop of strawberry sorbet, freshly cut strawberries and crunchy, flavorful sesame brittle decorated the top. The complexity and textures of this dessert offered an array of bright and clean flavors.

The second dessert was a round, crisp ginger snap tuile wafer on top of dark chocolate cremeux, smoked banana ice cream and a salted peanut crumble. Both desserts were pleasing in presentation and flavor.

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Pastry chef Vanesa Beltran oversees the program and will introduce a wide range of new artistic desserts including vegan and gluten-free sweets for the lunch and dinner menus.

Spur-of-the-moment guests can come in for dinner and sit in the bar or lounge without a deposit reservation. On a first-come, first-served basis, diners can order from the a la carte Bar Bites menu prepared by the same fine dining kitchen.

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Items on the menu include oysters, a potato and two-cheese fritter with truffles, a falafel with za’atar and pickled onion, and dates wrapped in bacon and blue cheese. Shareable plates include roasted beets, charcuterie with selected cured meats and marinated olives, and a chef’s selection cheese plate. Heartier fare includes steak tartare, octopus and Nduja Bolognese pasta.

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The bar makes cocktails inspired by neighborhoods in Los Angeles, including the Hollywood, which offers a spicy grapefruit essence made from jalapeño Grey Goose vodka and grapefruit cordial. The West Hollywood is made with apple-enhanced Hangar 1 Vodka, apple brandy, and apple and cinnamon cordial. Beers include a Lagunitas Czech Pilsner, Saint Archer white ale, North Coast Old Rasputin Russian Imperial, and Almanac Sunshine and Opportunity sour beers.

71Above will be offering a special four-course Valentine’s Day dinner menu on Feb. 14 for $150 per person. Lead sommelier Catherine Morel will introduce some of her favorite wines with a supplemental $75 wine pairing.

Reservations for lunch during the week are recommended, but not required for the main dining room starting at 11:30 a.m. The restaurant is open nightly for dinner starting at 5 p.m. Reservations can be made on the restaurant’s website, and payment in full gives you a “ticket” with the number of guests and time of the reservation. Pricing varies and depends on the menu. $$$ 633 W. 5th St., (213)712-2683.

This article was featured in the Beverly Press on Jan. 23, 2020

Caruso’s at the Rosewood Miramar Beach

Driving up to the American Riviera, also known as Santa Barbara, for a summer getaway, we stopped at the new oceanfront restaurant Caruso’s for dinner. Named after the real estate and lifestyle developer Rick Caruso, it’s a fine-dining supper club located at the new luxury Rosewood Miramar Beach Hotel.

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Located below the Miramar Beach Bar, Caruso’s is in the center of the East Beach House and West Beach House where rooms look directly out to the sandy golden strand of Miramar Beach, the Pacific Ocean and the Channel Islands in the distance.

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One feels as if they are dining on a luxurious yacht with teak wood plank floors, and a stylish color palate of navy blues and crisp white. A wall of interior mirrors reflect the unobstructed views and add a touch of glamour.

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Sitting at a table for four on the dining terrace, we enjoyed a glass of Flowers Vineyards & Winery Chardonnay from Sonoma County, while looking over Executive Chef Massimo Falsini and Chef De Cuisine Paul Osborne’s menu. There is an extensive selection of local Santa Barbara and Santa Ynez Valley wines, plus a selection of  and international wines.

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It’s an ideal summer wine to sip while enjoying the tastes of Southern Italy with a local influence. We started with a Santa Barbara Farmer’s Market Salad layered with organic greens, shaved fennel, dried apricots and a blackberry vinagrette. The Tutti-frutti Toy-Box Tomato Salad is made with a variety of red and yellow heirloom tomatoes, along with double 8 Buffalo Mozarella cheese, that resembled buratta cheese, and roasted pistachios on top.

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Hyper-local ingredients from the ocean include Santa Barbara prawns and uni, charred Pacific octopus, crispy Monterey King salmon, seared Channel Island white sea bass and San Francisco black cod. The Santa Barbara Harbor Cioppino has octopus, calamari, seared Ling cod, clams and mussels, spot prawns and Dungeness crab. Chef Massimo arrived at out table to pour his ethereal sauces around the fresh sea bass and black cod that we ordered.

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Homemade pastas range from the chef’s signature Carbonara, pasta with Santa Barbara prawns and Uni Tagliolini. For red meat lovers there is a certified Angus filet château cut, “Steak and Potatoes…My Way” offering Snake River Gold Wagyu NY Strip with a Syrah jus, Dry Aged Pan Roasted Liberty Duck and Casitas Valley Rabbit in Cacciatora.

Executive Pastry Chef Benjamin Kunert makes an exquisite Baked Alaska and cheery crostata. While the food was exquisite, the professional service is relaxed.

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After dinner we took a stroll next to the grand lawn, and two swimming pools (one for adults with a scalloped edge, and a lively family pool with yellow and white cabanas) to the East Coast Hampton-style manor house. Peeking into the all-day Malibu Farms restaurant, we noticed a wedding reception taking place on the patio next to this farm to table restaurant. Each room throughout the Manor is designed with graceful lines and furnished with formal pieces. The walls display an array of whimsical artwork.

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Last Spring, actor and Montecito resident Rob Lowe told Rick Caruso and his guests at the ribbon-cutting ceremony “We have been through a lot in the past two years, and I feel the positive and uplifting energy all over this place.” I agree.

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Caruso’s dinner hours are Sunday to Thursday: 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Friday to Saturday: 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. The restaurant is also open for brunch on Saturday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. 1759 South Jameson Lane, Montecito, CA 93108. (805)900-8388.

Here are my other Rosewood Miramar Beach Resort articles to learn more about this spectacular vacation destination.

Magnificent Rosewood Miramar Beach

Spring Blooms at the Rosewood Miramar Beach Hotel

 

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrate The Holidays at La Quinta

IMG_0128.jpgA dear friend of mine comes to La Quinta with a group of twenty friends annually to stay in a historic casita clustered around one of the 41 pools.

Some play golf on the PGA West golf courses, others play tennis on one of the 23 La Quinta tennis courts.

Kids ride Razor scooters around the 45 acre grounds, while parents take turns watching them and then sneaking into the 23,000 sq. ft. luxury La Quinta Spa for a massage, facial and quiet time.

Since my family has had a home in the desert for over 20 years, I’ve never stayed at La Quinta or any of the wonderful desert properties. Last year, we finally sold the family home, and now “homeless,” we reserved two nights just before Thanksgiving to see what everyone is raving about.

IMG_0124.JPGFirst of all, La Quinta Resort is a Waldorf Astoria (Hilton Hotels) property. Walking into the historic entrance with conquistadors on each side of the door, you feel as if you have been transformed into an Old World era.

There are a multitude of 620 California hacienda-style casitas and villas with different floor plans. Some offer patios, others offer pool views and the Starlight casitas are up a flight of beautiful Mexican paver tiles to a balcony patio with a large conversational couch, table with four chairs and outdoor fireplace. One can sit out on their private patio, flip on the electric fireplace with dazzling blue glass, recline on the couch and count hundreds of stars at night. While the weather is warm, this area is inviting to sleep outside, since you have a private and locked gate at the patio entrance.

In the morning, this area is visually stunning as the sunrise bathes the Santa Rosa Mountains and verdant green palm trees.

I learned that La Quinta’s fine dining restaurant Morgan’s in The Desert is one of the top Open Table reservation destinations, just behind French Laundry.

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(Sommelier Lisa Tussing at Morgan’s in The Desert) Photo by: Jill Weinlein

The Executive chef Jimmy Schmidt offers a themed three-course prix fixe with wine pairing twice a month with Morgan’s Sommelier Lisa Tussing. She is the youngest female Level 2 sommelier in AZ and one of the best in the desert. Together they created a one-of-a-kind Heirloom pear and Artisan duck menu, that I had to try.

Our servers Erik and Sal were extremely professional, friendly and informative about each dish. Sal shared with us his favorite dishes on the a la carte menu and recommended the soup of the evening – a fennel soup infused with roasted red peppers, cipolini onions and dazzled with chive oil. There was no cream in this elegant, purely vegetarian warm goodness.

IMG_0086.jpgWe started with  housemade garlic rolls with French Plugrá European-style Butter that is a slow-churned to create less moisture content and a creamier texture, before the soup and my first core of  Bosc pear and shredded crispy duck confit salad arrived. With a little Mache and frisse, Schmidt tossed the ingredients with a pear cider dressing and topped it with a flash fried duck oil egg. Visually it was interesting, taste wise- it was exquisite with the sweetness of the pear, savoriness of the egg and wonderful flavors from the duck. Schmidt cooks the duck slowly and for a long time to get this confit so tender. It was paired with a glass of 2013 Zind Humbrecht Pinot Blanc from Alsace, France that was light with a fruity essence.

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(Chef Jimmy Schmidt knows how to prepare local ingredients into spectacular dishes. Photo by Jill Weinlein)

The main course was pear cider cured sliced duck breast that was pan roasted and served with an elevated vegetarian dish that looked like ravioli, yet was made purely with caramelized pears stuffed with a French soft-ripened triple cream cheese and Italian Gorgonzola. It was beyond good and should be a staple on the menu with or without the duck. The dish also had a savory grilled leek, shallot and red Bosc pear salad. The chef and sommelier paired this with a red 2013 Federalist Zinfandel wine from Lodi, Ca. Tussing felt this Zin was light and offered more to this dish than a Pinot Noir.

The Mahi-Mahi my husband selected was dusted with coriander seeds and served with a mild chopped celery root and roasted leeks with lots of microgreens. Coriander is the dry seed from cilantro. It offers a pleasantly sweet and lemon essence to the fish.

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(Fresh corn cut from the cob with coconut milk and ginger – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

The two side dishes we tried included the ginger scented Indio sweet corn sliced off the cob and intensified with coconut milk and crispy ginger. The Brussels sprouts are amplified with Wagyu beef bacon. Not pork, but beef bacon from the belly of the cow. It was better than any pork bacon I have tasted. Not as fatty as pork bacon, Wagyu crisps up beautifully, yet offers a delightfully chewiness. There were also some exquisite Pearl onions complementing this side dish.

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(Popcorn flavored ice cream with salted caramel Cracker Jack style popcorn on top- Photo by Jill Weinlein)

We ordered a trio of desserts. My favorite was the pear sorbet on top of the red pear galette with a pomegranate caramel. The most visually spectacular dessert was the butter popcorn ice cream parfait served in a parfait glass with salted caramel house made Cracker Jack popcorn. Our server Sal told us that at 4 p.m. the restaurant smells like a movie theater with popcorn popping. It’s heightened with bittersweet chocolate fudge and sea salted caramel.

The last dessert was too sweet for me, after enjoying the first two sweets. The twisted S’mores of chocolate offers house made fire kissed marshmallow ice cream and an almond brittle that was like an Almond Roca on steroids.

Since we were one of the last to close down the restaurant, Tussing took us into the extremely clean kitchen to give us a tour. We tasted the house-made ice cream kept in freezer drawers, walked into her wine storage closet and had the opportunity to thank the chefs.

It was an evening of fine dining that I will never forget. Outstanding service, food and culinary experience at Morgan’s in The Desert. If this peaked your interest, Morgan’s in The Desert is offering a special Thanksgiving and Holiday menu that features some of the dishes I enjoyed, plus a few extras.

Make your reservations by calling (760)564-4600 or go to Open Table.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shhhhh! The Whisper Restaurant and Lounge is Terrific

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General Manager Jonathan Strong

Stepping into the dark and cozy Whisper Restaurant and Lounge on a cold winter night, it took us about a minute for our eyes to adjust to our surroundings, as we sat down at a high back banquette table and were handed our menus. The restaurant’s interior is elegant with its tall ceilings, mood lighting and festive holiday decor. It reminded us of a romantic supper club or modern speakeasy with Big Band music playing in the background.

We started our evening with two specialty cocktails: a Fizz Krabappel made with Prosecco, Stoli apple and cider, and a rum and apple cider mixed drink.

While sipping our aperitifs and looking over the engaging menu, the General Manager, Jonathan Strong, greeted us. A few minutes later, to our surprise, he brought the owner of the restaurant and The Grove, Rick Caruso, over to meet us.

The Grove at Farmers Market is his most successful complex, attracting visitors from all over the world. He also created the Americana at Brand in Glendale, 8500, The Commons at Calabasas, The Promenade at Westlake, and the Marina Waterside.

When Caruso opened The Grove, he developed The Whisper Restaurant and Lounge as his restaurant. It’s located near the valet reception and next door to his corporate offices. I’ve been told Caruso stops into The Whisper Restaurant and Lounge weekly to greet guests and check in with the staff.

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Executive Chef Anthony Jacquet

Caruso hired the accomplished Executive Chef Anthony Jacquet seven years ago to prepare award-winning dishes at Whisper Restaurant. Growing up in Los Angeles, Jacquet went to college in San Diego before enrolling in the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. After graduating, he interned with a well-known tapas chef, Barney Brown and later Chef Jean Francois Meteigner at La Cachette. Before becoming the Executive chef at The Whisper Restaurant and Lounge, he was the Chef de Cuisine at the Getty Center Museum.

Every few months he redrafts the menu to reflect the season based on what he buys at the farmers market. Right now he is incorporating pumpkin, pears, cranberries, and pomegranates into many of his dishes. Jacquet cooks with confidence and attention to detail. We enjoyed the braised short-rib croquette with spicy brown mustard and thinly sliced red pepper amuse bouche he delivered to the table.

Jacquet’s parents are from Indonesia and the Netherlands. His upbringing is incorporated into his cooking. We were told these croquettes are very popular in the snack bars in Holland. They were a nice start to a delightful evening.

Next, we tried a flatbread with grilled broccoli and burrata that had some fire to it from diced garlic and calabrian chiles. These small, red and spicy Italian chiles pack a punch. Slices of Italian pork capicolla

Exquisite appetizers at Whisper Restaurant and Lounge
Exquisite appetizers at Whisper Restaurant and Lounge

intensify the appetizer.

Strong recommended a Spanish white wine from the Northwest part of Spain near Portugal, a 2011 Morgadío Albariño. It’s a smooth wine with great minerality and nice peach notes to accompany the heirloom beets and burrata salad with sliced pear, crunchy pecans and pomegranate dressed in a light vinaigrette. It also paired well with the tuna tartare with black and white sesame seeds and a citrus-ginger vinaigrette. I couldn’t get enough of the intricately laced flavors.

For our entrees, we chose the braised short ribs and scallops. The short ribs were served on a bed of brown butter mashed potatoes and wonderful glazed root vegetables of turnips, carrots, onion and celery with a braising jus. A fitting hearty dish for a cold night.

The hand-harvested Maine scallops were placed on a purée of pumpkin-banana squash and bed of delightful black quinoa. To boost this dish even more, Jacquet paired it with sautéed bacon with mustard greens.

Before dessert arrived, we sipped a delightful Neige apple ice wine from Quebec. It’s made from apples harvested in the fall and pressed at

Save room for the desserts. They are worth every calorie.
Save room for the desserts. They are worth every calorie.

Christmas time. Served chilled, the color was a golden yellow with an aroma of ripe apple notes and a crisp taste with a striking intensity on the palate, balancing the sugar and acidity.

Desserts at the Whisper Restaurant and Lounge range from a pumpkin brulée with candied pecans, a chocolate croissant bread pudding and apple fritters with an apple compote and cream cheese ice cream. We sampled all three and were overwhelmed with pleasure.

Enjoying the atmosphere, service and cuisine, I told my husband that I’d sign up for a permanent table if I could. I also commented that the Whisper Restaurant and Lounge should change its name to that of the insightful man who created the restaurant, Caruso.

Open for lunch and dinner, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sun.-Thurs.,  and open until 12 a.m.  Friday and Saturday. 189 The Grove Dr. (323)931-0202.

 This article was published in the December 12, 2013 issues of the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News.

Sensational SimonLA

Trained at the Culinary Institute of America in New York, chef Andrew Vaughan was working at the luxury Windsor Court Hotel in New Orleans when hurricane Katrina hit.  In just a matter of hours, Andrew’s home, life, and job as a chef vanished.  His family lost everything and Andrew moved into the convention center.  A few days later, FEMA offered to give him a plane ticket to any city in the United States.  He chose Los Angeles, where he could explore the culinary world on the West Coast and avoid hurricanes.

SimonLA takes s’mores to a new level. And it tastes as good as it looks! (photo by Jill Weinlein) SimonLA takes s’mores to a new level. And it tastes as good as it looks! (photo by Jill Weinlein) 

A friend offered him a place to live while he volunteered at the award-winning Lucques on Melrose.  Owner/Chef Suzanne Goin introduced him to our city.  Months later he landed a job to help open the new SimonLA at the Sofitel across the street from the iconic Beverly Center. His talent was immediately noticed by the executive chef for whom the restaurant is named, Kerry Simon, and within a month Andrew became the Sous-Chef. Today, he is the Executive Sous-Chef and prepares an innovative menu that leaves patrons smiling and wanting more.

You can often tell a lot about a restaurant by its bread basket.  At SimonLA, diners receive a basket filled with blue cheese crackers, herb and Parmesan cheese cracker bread, corn bread, pretzel bread, and buttermilk biscuits, very creative and tasty.  I could hear my mother saying “Don’t fill up on the bread,” as I took a bite from each one.

We started with a gorgeous Farmer’s Market apricot salad with sweet gem lettuce (blend of romaine and bib), caramelized walnuts, bright orange sunburst tomatoes, and sweet apricots dressed with homemade Point Reyes blue cheese dressing. Next arrived a deeply delicious sushi-grade, blue fin tuna dynamite roll with lump of crab.

For an entrée, our waitress, Christy, recommended the bamboo steamed fish with lemon grass, ginger, kaffir lime and bok choy.  I opted for the grilled swordfish with little roasted heirloom potatoes, Chinese broccoli, cashews, and a kumquat sambal. My husband selected the tender filet mignon with toasted garlic, rapini (similar to a broccoli) and fragrant olive oil poached tomatoes.

The two sides we selected were the cauliflower gratin and truffled macaroni and cheese.  This is not a kid’s mac-n-cheese. Instead it’s a sophisticated adult version with loads of garlic.

For dessert, Christy brought out the cutest homemade s’more. The delicious chocolate ice cream bon-bon was the face of this dessert, with a burnt-to-perfection marshmallow hat and a thin graham cracker wafer as the brim.

Next, she brought a plate of freshly spun, pink cotton candy. I had to grab a handful to reminisce about summer evenings at the county fair. I declined the junk food platter that was delivered to guests in the next booth. It was filled with freshly made snowballs, ding dongs, caramel popcorn, rice crispy treats, cotton candy, and ice cream. We will save that for another time when we visit with a larger group. SimonLA, at the Hotel Sofitel, 8555 Beverly Blvd. (310)358-3979. http://www.simonlarestaurant