Oru Inlet Box-to-Kayak in 5 minutes

When I was approached to review the Inlet Kayak by Oru Kayak, I excitedly typed YES! Those who know me, know that I love kayaking. I’ve kayaked along the coastline of Catalina Island, Los Cabos, Hawaii and Greece.

When a cardboard box was delivered to my door, I wondered how difficult it would be to assemble. It’s small enough to fit in the trunk of a car and can easily be stored in a cabinet at home, garage or even under your bed. 

The first place I thought to take it was Marina del Rey. Mother’s Beach is an ideal launching area. It’s flat and calm with easy access into the water. With a lot of travel still on hold, the Inlet by Oru allows people to easily explore nearby waterways with a new perspective. 

Developed by Oru Founder and award winning Chief Design Officer Anton Willis, the origami folding pattern produces a streamlined box-to-boat in less than 5 minutes. Measuring 10’ and weighing only 20lbs, there is no need for a roof rack. It’s easy for one person to carry from the car to the water’s edge to unfold. The box about the size of a guitar case (40”x19”x10”). 

The company spent 10 years of research and development to make a durable, custom made and lightweight double-layered, corrugated plastic polypropylene with a 10-year UV treatment. This makes it waterproof, puncture and abrasion-resistant, and has a strong hull to withstand shallow-water obstacles, rocks and sand. 

My husband assembled the kayak while I read the informational assembly guide book aloud. This great starter kayak is ideal for first time paddlers and beginners. It’s easy to assemble by unfolding, cinching straps, velcro and snapping pieces in place. This stable cruiser has a large and open cockpit for one person, and can also accommodate a small child or dog with an adult paddler.

The white Oru paddle comes in four pieces, so it’s easy to stow inside the kayak when it is in box form. Made with a lightweight fiberglass shaft and super-tough ABS plastic blades, the quick-clamp connector allows you to adjust the length of the paddle, and the angles of the blades.

There is a fully adjustable footrest to provide maximum comfort for any paddler height, and a comfortable backrest and seat pad that snaps into place.

Marina del Rey is an ideal waterway for The Oru Inlet Kayak. I saw sea lions and water fowl up close while I was smoothly paddling along. After a one hour ride, the kayak didn’t take in any water and was easy to break down to put in the box. It comes with detailed easy to read instructions. There is also a 5-minute video assembly guild to watch, and the Oru support team is available at info@orukayak.com, for questions and helpful tips.  

There are 5 different types of Oru Kayaks that range in price from The Inlet by Oru at $899, to the rugged expedition Coast XT retailing at $2,199.

Waterfront Dining in Marina del Rey

Executive Chef Job Carder prepares California coastal cuisine with a fusion of French flair that is visually as pretty as the silhouette of sailboats in Marina del Rey.

I met this chef years ago at a private holiday party, when he was the executive chef at The Proper in La Cañada. His grandfather co-founded Norm’s Restaurant in Los Angeles.

Later working under the direction of Joachim Splichal at Patina, Carder developed an artistic flair for presenting colorful salads, savory beef and fresh seafood dishes.

6CD0D673-A819-4897-A9BD-B113927E2F4C

Now at Cafe del Rey, he runs the kitchen smoothly and is preparing exciting fare starting with the warm cheese and rosemary crusted bread. It’s served with a garlic and olive tapenade.

IMG_6466

A selection of beverage options includes a Cucumber Del Rey cocktail made with Hendrick’s Gin, lime, white cranberry juice and a sliced cucumber float.

Cafe del Rey serves Tavistock Reserve Collection sparkling, white and red wines, including wine from the Platinum Collection. Other vineyards include Duck Hunter, Epiphany, Cline Estate, the Pessimist and Justin.

IMG_6471-2

I chose a Santa Barbara Epiphany grenache blanc to pair with a colorful Caprese salad. Creamy burrata is placed in between bright red, yellow and orange thick medallions of organic heirloom tomatoes. The plate had a few roasted pistachio nuts placed on top of pools of pesto, with fresh lavender-colored garlic flowers and micro-basil on top. It’s visually stunning.

Another winning salad is the soft baby beet confit, sliced and served with heirloom charred carrots. A sprinkle of feta cheese, a few mâche leaves and a drizzle of a fig balsamic and sherry vinaigrette balance the earthy flavors.

IMG_6502

The talented chefs prepared the most artful dish – hamachi tuna crudo. It arrived looking like a holiday wreath with a base of leek puree, topped with tuna wrapped to look like flowers. Pickled cauliflower, tiny shimeji mushrooms, bright red radish, pea and popcorn shoots are arranged in a perfect circle. To dazzle this dish even more, Japanese flying fish roe (tobiko), borage blossoms, a yuzu vinaigrette and smoked shoyu finish out the presentation and flavors.

The branzino filet is deboned and butterflied before arriving to the table. On top of the light fish is a stack of sautéed haricots verts, chopped earthy toasted almonds and a semisweet amaretto-butter sauce. This esteemed chef takes small red currants, pickles them and adds a few of the tiny deep red berries to heighten the bright acidity to the branzino filet.

IMG_6488-2

Another popular dish is a crispy Lake Superior whitefish served with a small lobster claw and white and green asparagus. Mushrooms, fava beans and brightly colored Chioggia beet puree offer a pretty pop of color.

Diners receive an elegant Laguiole steak knife made by the internationally renowned Jean Dubost when ordering the Australian wagyu, filet mignon or New York strip steak. Cutting into a sizable piece of wagyu, the tender and flavorful marbled steak offered a buttery flavor and caramel-crusted bottom with every bite.

IMG_6494

The short ribs entrée is prepared and served two ways. The plate arrives with braised short rib and an agnolotti filled with short rib. It’s served with pretty watermelon radish, crispy sugar snap peas and parsnip puree.

Cafe del Rey’s French pastry chef Salima Eddadsi makes a decadent royal chocolat filled with rich and dark chocolate mousse. It’s layered with a hazelnut dacquoise and thin, crispy feuilletine praline. The cocoa glaze on top makes this an exquisite dessert worth every calorie.

IMG_6500-3

Come enjoy a multitude of lunch, brunch and dinner dishes that are visually as stunning as the waterfront views at Cafe del Rey. $$-$$$ 4451 Admiralty Way, Marina del Rey. (310)823-6395.

This review was also featured in the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News.

10 Fun Fourth of July Venues in LA

Since I’m staying in town this Fourth of July, I researched where some fun Fourth of July food, drink and firework viewing spots are in So Cal. Here’s 10 destinations to cool down and nourish yourself on July 4, 2018 

  1.  Marina Del Rey Hotel’s July Fourth Red, White and BBQ Celebration! Enjoy picturesque Marina views, while soaking up the sun at the oceanfront pool. Order BBQ favorites fresh from the grill and visit The Event Lawn’s Beer Garden featuring samplings from 16 breweries. There is live music, and fun for all ages, including a water balloon toss, pie-eating contest and the best view of the fireworks show on the pool deck, beginning at 9 p.m. with synchronized music. For additional information and tickets: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/4th-of-july-block-party-tickets-47181134042 image008
  2. Party like a patriot at the greatest pre-firework party on the Westside. Brennan’s is grilling up favorites like hot dogs, brats, burgers, skewers, corn on the cobb, and more! Enjoy Cold Tall Boys, Corn Hole Tournament, Badminton Tournament, and Live Music from 12 to 7 p.m. Brennan’s is at 4089 Lincoln Blvd, Marina del Rey, CA 90292.
  3. Start celebrating Independence Day with brunch at The IndependenceSanta Monica’s favorite drinking and dining destination will be offering bottomless mimosas, toast towers, banana french toast, hangover poutine, and more from 10 am to 3 pm at their beach side eatery. 205 Broadway, Santa Monica, CA 90401
    (310)458-2500.image001-2
  4. Red, White & Blue at Viviane – Chef Michael Reed is preparing a gourmet feast of takeaway dishes for your Fourth of July party. Pre-order family-style salads, grain bowls and sandwiches for a picnic at the beach, park or however you plan to celebrate Independence Day. Viviane at the Avalon Hotel in Beverly Hills will be open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. so visitors can enjoy dining poolside. 9400 W. Olympic Blvd., (310)407-7791.

    IMG_3661
    Caroline Styne, Herbie Hancock and Suzanne Goin
  5. The Larder’s Fourth of July takeaway menu – Let Suzanne Goin’s cuisine delight and wow your guests at your backyard Fourth of July party. The Larder in Brentwood and Burton Way offer takeaway menus for cookouts and picnics. A full array of appetizers, platters, fried chicken, barbecue-ready burgers with toppings, and Larder Baking Company breads and rolls are available. Be sure to pick up some cookies, peach pies with crème fraîche whip or a delicious cornmeal cobbler with summer berries. The Larder’s extensive à la carte menu includes seasonal salads, prepared foods, pastries and desserts. Wines curated by Caroline Styne are ideal for entertaining guests or gifting to a host and hostess. Wines can be added to any takeout order. All July 4 orders can be ordered in person, online or by phone by July 2. Both locations will be open for business on July 4 with limited hours. The Larder at Burton Way is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Tavern is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; and The Larder at Tavern is open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. The Larder at Burton Way, 8500 Burton Way, Los Angeles, (310)278-8060. Tavern and The Larder at Tavern, 11648 San Vicente Blvd., Los Angeles, (310)806-6464.IMG_7197
  6. Sparklers on July 4 at Vinovore – Coly Den Haan’s Virgil Village wine boutique is offering complimentary sparklers on top of 10 percent off every six-pack of wine. Stock up and bring some lady-made red, white and rosé wines, and Champagne to your Independence Day party. This female-driven wine shop is open on July 4 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. 616 N. Hoover St., Los Angeles, (323)522-6713.IMG_6958
  7. Fourth of July barbecue at Melody – On July 4 in Virgil Village, chef Justin Abram is grilling out on the patio from 4 to 10 p.m. The new “lazy French” restaurant is serving burger patties, veggies, oysters and wine. Sip red, white and pink wine while playing corn hole. 751 N. Virgil Ave., Los Angeles, (323)922-6037.
  8. All-American barbecue at Prank – This fun DTLA location is hosting a barbecue with specials on beer and boilermakers on July 4. Chef Ricardo Sanchez is grilling racks of ribs and chickens to be served alongside mac and cheese, coleslaw and fries. This festive meal is from 2 p.m. to midnight. 1100 S. Hope St., (213)493-4786. IMG_7181
  9. Best firework viewing in the valley at Castaway – Celebrate Independence Day at Castaway in the scenic hills of Burbank to watch this year’s fireworks. The restaurant is offering a Fourth of July special celebrating some classic American dishes. In addition to Castaway’s à la carte dinner menu, chef Perry Pollaci is preparing a grilled peach salad with arugula, citrus and ricotta salata. His barbecue Jidori chicken has a Jack Daniel’s maple glaze. Baby back ribs are glazed with chipotle and brown sugar. Burger lovers will enjoy the Castaway house-blend beef burger with pepper jack cheese, smoked bacon, arugula, shallot marmalade and chipotle aioli. Finish with a warm apple pie à la mode. Reservations can be made at OpenTable. The celebration is from 5 to 11 p.m. There is a $20 fee for patio seating and $10 fee for window seating.  1250 E. Harvard Road, (818)848-6691.IMG_7207

10. Trejo’s Donuts for Fourth of July – For Fourth of July, Trejo’s Coffee and Donuts is making a lemon curd doughnut topped with meringue, and a pastry and Chantilly cream doughnut with strawberries, blueberries and toasted coconut. Bring a dozen to your red, white and blue-themed party. 6785 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, (323)462-4600.

This was also featured in the Beverly Press 

Cafe del Rey: Beautiful Seaside Dining

9098314_f520In the 1970s and 1980s, Marina del Rey was “the place” in Los Angeles for singles and young couples. Now, with tech start-up companies flocking to Southern California, Marina del Rey and the surrounding communities are experiencing a resurgence of young professionals to the community, which is commonly referred to as “Silicon Beach”.

One of the culinary hot spots in the area is Cafe del Rey, which offers creative cocktails and farm-to-table fare. Executive chef Chuck Abair said he loves walking out of the kitchen and enjoying the view of the harbor with boats bobbing in the water.
Previously a sous chef for chef Michael Cimarusti at Providence, Abair joined Cafe del Rey in 2011 as the chef de cuisine, working alongside former executive chef Daniel Roberts. His background in preparing seafood dishes has allowed him to create menus highlighting seasonal flavors and emphasizing seafood paired with housemade ingredients.

Chef Abair is a graduate of Le Cordon Blue California School of Culinary Arts in Pasadena, and has more than 10 years of culinary experience. His passion for cooking started as a child, when he enjoyed watching “The Galloping Gourmet” and Julia Child.

I was joined by a friend for lunch at Café del Rey, where Abair prepared a wild caught Hawaiian moonfish with chanterelle mushrooms, roasted purple pearl onions and 9096370_f520a moist chick pea cake topped with pan jus. Abair is a whiz with grilled fish, with rave reviews of his swordfish, salmon, barramundi and yellowtail.
He also makes an incredible cheeseburger with Brie cheese, oven dried tomatoes, arugula, caramelized onions and a mustard aioli. The burger is served with crisp French fries and housemade ketchup.

Other specialties include Dungeness crab cakes, grilled cheese on brioche with tomato soup and a lamb burger with harissa-spiced fries. Regulars often enjoy the daily Cinque Terre, offering a selection of five small dishes with a Mediterranean influence.

We saved room for his maple berry pie with cinnamon ice cream, and also sampled the chocolate tower adorned with an orange sauce, and his luscious butterscotch flan.

With fall approaching, Abair is preparing a new menu with dishes made from ingredients found at farmers’ markets. Last year’s fall menu included sweet potato gnocchi, salmon with butternut squash, and lamb osso buco with mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts and pine nut gremolata.

Abair said he is planning another “Permission to Come Aboard” half-day fishing expedition that gives seafood lovers and adventurous diners an all-hands-on-deck experience. The cost for the fishing excursion is $55, which includes equipment and a fishing license. Abair shows guests around Marina del Rey before they drop lines. The boat later docks at Cafe del Rey for a barbecue lunch with the freshly caught fish from the trip.

Cafe del Rey offers a casual, yet sophisticated experience for lunch, brunch and dinner. $$-$$$ 4451 Admiralty Way, (310)823-6395.

This article was published in the Sept. 4 issue of the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea Newspapers.

Harbor Views at Cafe del Rey

IMG_3140Restaurants near beaches and harbors are generally known for serving fresh fish and Café del Rey is no exception. However, Executive Chef Daniel Roberts serves an incredible beef tartare that has the L.A. culinary scene buzzing. I wanted to try this delicacy and gathered a group of friends to taste the innovative summer menu at Café del Rey.

Chef Roberts has been cooking since his teens. In the late 1990s, he worked with his brother at G! Café in Queens, serving as a chef and co-owner. Five years later, he came out to the West Coast and worked in Los Angeles as the executive chef at Asia de Cuba, at the Mondrian Hotel in West Hollywood, and Baleen, at the Portofino Hotel and Yacht Club. In April 2011, Chef Roberts joined the 22-year-old Café del Rey, and set out to revamp the menu and add some pizzazz.

As an avid fisherman, Chef Roberts enjoys working next to the ocean.

“I like to use the freshest ingredients in my cooking and that includes fresh seafood from near the marina,” Roberts said.

With floor-to-ceiling windows offering views of sailboats bopping in the harbor water, Café del Rey has a vibrant, contemporary interior.

We started with a few new cocktails. I ordered the inventive skinny pineapple mojito made with pineapple vodka, fresh lime and muddled mint. The drink only has 100 calories, yet packs a punch. A friend enjoyed the scorching sunset cocktail with El Jimador tequila, serrano chili and blood orange juice.

We immediately ordered the highly-touted beef tartare. The American Waygu beef was mixed with black currants, almonds, olives, shallots and a splash of harissa vinaigrette. TheIMG_3145 dish, served with housemade gaufrette potatoes sprinkled with truffles, had a sensational smooth texture. Gaufrette is a fancier name for ruffle potato chips, and were ideal to scoop the tartare.

Other great appetizers included the burrata salad with arugula and a blood orange, avocado and basil oil. What makes this salad burst with flavors is saba, a sauce made from grapes and cooked to taste similar to balsamic vinegar.

A beautiful mixed beet salad arrived with sliced julienne apples, friseé, Point Reyes blue cheese and Marcona almonds. A housemade lemon poppy seed honey vinaigrette complemented the fresh ingredients.

A heartier first course is the Dungeness crab cakes with lollipop kale and sections of ruby red grapefruit, surrounded by tiny and sweet heirloom tomatoes.

The aroma of truffle filled the air as the truffle pizza was served. Made with truffle cream and topped with caramelized onions, shaved truffles, fresh thyme and grana Parmesan this pizza is marvelously delicious.

For an entrée, I ordered the grilled halibut with fresh roasted corn and green chickpeas with capers and roasted garlic. Chef Roberts made a colorful honeydew, watermelon and cucumber relish elevating the corn side dish.

My friend ordered the sea scallops cooked perfectly and paired with sautéed parsnips, fava beans, Basque chorizo and a mushroom mix.

Other entrées were veal Saltimbocca wrapped in prosciutto and mozzarella with sautéed spinach and crispy baby Yukon potatoes and duck breast with cippolini onions and a blueberry sherry reduction. My favorite dish to try was the hand cut black linguini with a generous serving of lobster and caramelized fennel that was lightly dressed with an exquisite lobster white wine cream sauce.

IMG_3168We saved room for dessert, and enjoyed the house made bacon ice cream. It was creamy, smooth and offered a hint of savory bacon essence. It sat next to a scoop of corn and blackberry ice cream. Other scrumptious desserts were the Meyer lemon olive oil cake, blueberry peach upside down cake, Neapolitan chocolate cake with strawberry mousse and white chocolate mousse.

During July, Pastry Chefs Tonye Dunn and Matthew Weiczman are “churning” it up a notch by making a selection of sweet and savory fruit and vegetable-infused ice creams and sorbets. Guests can choose from an array of daily made flavors that include corn, bacon, red beet and strawberry ice cream. Sorbets include honeydew, watermelon, blueberry, strawberry and chocolate. New flavors will be made year-round based on the season.

Save the date Oct. 5 to fish and dish with Chef Roberts. For $40, seafood enthusiasts will join him on a half-day fishing expedition and then motor back to Café del Rey for dinner, with a complimentary course including an option to have the chef cook up the fresh catch of the day. The boat departs from Marina del Rey. Boat fees and a fishing license are included.

Café del Rey is open for lunch, Sunday brunch and dinner. Valet parking is complimentary during lunch. $$-$$$ 4451 Admiralty Way. (310)823-6395.

Published in the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News.

 

The Pleasing Paiche

IMG_1420Chef Ricardo Zarate’s newest restaurant, Paiche in Marina del Rey, opened earlier this month to a standing-room crowd. I was invited to a pre-opening “hard-hat” tasting a few days earlier and saw two young artists with brushes in hand applying gold paint on to floor to ceiling cobalt blue posts. They were replicating the scales of the Paiche fish, the restaurant’s namesake.

“Paiche is a large freshwater fish found in the Amazon,” Zarate said. “The babies can be around 10 to 14 pounds. The adults grow up to over 400 pounds.” The bigger fish are known to come out of the water to snatch small land animals walking along the Amazon basin.

Cooking has been a part of Zarate’s life from an early age, he said. With 12 brothers and sisters, he often helped out in the kitchen. “I’m number 11, one of the youngest,” Zarate said. “I didn’t realize I wanted to work as a chef until I was 16-years-old. I just knew that I enjoyed cooking for others,” he said.

Later, he studied at Institute of Americas Culinary School and after graduating, settled in London. He worked at various restaurants and consulted with Gordon Ramsay before coming to Los Angeles and opening Mo-Chica in 2009, his first of three restaurants.

Located in downtown Los Angeles, Mo-Chica is named for the language of a pre-Incan civilization. Zarate’s authentic Peruvian food became so popular, that he had to move to a bigger space on 7th street in 2012.

Next came Picca, which means, “to nibble.” It’s a Peruvian cantina with a Japanese cuisine influences. Zarate has a chef’s counter where guests can dine and watch the chef and his staff prepare creative nouvelle dishes.

Paiche is the third creation from Food & Wine magazine’s Best New Chef in 2011. It has a Japanese Izakaya feel with lacquered wood tables and Zen-like Steelite International plates.IMG_1435 Small smooth stones are at each place setting for guests to rest their chopsticks.

Ricardo puts passion into his creative plates and enjoys using yuzu, an aromatic Japanese citrus fruit.  We tasted yuzu with the seared albacore salad topped with a hard-boiled quail egg. He also adds a hot pepper sauce called aji in many dishes. It has been used in Peru since the times of the Incas, and is a staple in Peruvian cooking.

Since Chef Ricado Zarate has hit L.A.’s restaurant scene, he has opened three restuarants, Mo-Chica, Picca and now Paiche. He was named “Best New Chef” in 2011 by Food and Wine magazine. One of my favorite dishes was the eggplant with a slightly spicy aji and miso sauce. Microgreens and shaved Parmesan cheese topped this vegetarian dish.

We tried various fish dishes and really enjoyed the crispy fish with a slightly tart lime yuzu dipping sauce.

Zarate is known for his beautifully presented ceviche dishes. The seared tuna tartar was ceviche style, topped with caviar and served with crisp wonton chips.

A satisfying plate of yellowtail and salmon served sashimi style arrived with a sweet miso sauce and topped with garlic chips. Another dish of seared albacore and halibut is bathed in a pool of aji amarillo aioli.

IMG_1446Three pieces of Amazonia paiche were plated in an aji amarillo lemon vinaigrette with a sweet potato mousse on top and a crunchy sweet potato chip. It was a light, buttery type of fish. Now I know why this is the most requested fish in South American restaurants.

One of the most dramatic looking dishes to be sent to our table was a Santa Barbara prawn with its head and all, wrapped in filo dough, fried and slicked with a spicy jalapeno ponzu dressing. The sauce was tart and a dark brown color.

King crab legs accompanied Diver scallops with a red chili rocoto amarillo sauce.

We gave a thumbs up to the bite-size stuffed yucca beignets filled with Manchego cheese and topped with grated Parmesan cheese.

Patiently, we waited for the dessert of a puff pastry filled with sweet potato and topped with a pumpkin cream with caramel and toasted pecans.

The residents of Marina del Rey are fortunate to have Paiche and Ricardo Zarate in their neighborhood. It’s an exciting culinary destination for foodies to sip a glass of wine, sake, or creative cocktail as they experience a rollercoaster of pleasing sensations. Open for lunch daily from 11:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Dinner begins daily at 5:00 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. 13488 Maxella Ave. (310)893-6100.

This review was published in the 4/25/13 issue of the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News.