Au Fudge: Eat. Drink. Play

It’s always fun walking along the fashionable Melrose Ave. in West Hollywood. I park in the public parking lot next to the West Hollywood library, and enjoy walking towards Lisa Vanderpump’s Sur, Craig’s restaurant and over to the vegan favorite, Gracias Madre. In March, the stylish restaurant Au Fudge opened on Melrose.

Elegant and Whimsical dining at Au Fudge. Photo by Jill Weinlein
Elegant and Whimsical dining at Au Fudge. Photo by Jill Weinlein

Last month, I met a friend there for lunch. Stepping inside the lively pink, white and black decor space, a hostess dressed in similar colors ushered me past the light and bright outdoor dining patio. The centerpiece of this room is two white decorative trees providing columns to frame a wall with a large, shiny mirror.

Photo by Jill Weinlein
Photo by Jill Weinlein

I was led to another dining room in the middle of the restaurant with a handsome marble bar top with stools, natural woods, and chic furniture. Behind the bar are shelves displaying a variety of spirits and a wine list offering sparkling and rosé wines, whites from France, California and Italy and reds from Washington State, Argentina, California and Italy. They serve a handful of craft beers and cocktails named Mo Momma, Jessica Rabbit’s Rabbit and The Little Prince.

Looking around the restaurant, I noticed it was filled with young mothers and children. Au Fudge was designed to be a community social gathering space for families to enrich their lives with food, classes, and even au pair services at a nominal fee.

Celebrity Jessica Biel is part owner. Other partners include Greenleaf Gourmet Chopshop founder Jonathan Rollo and his partner Joey Gonzalez of Barry’s Bootcamp, along with fashion stylist and interior designer Estee Stanley and children’s book author Kimberly Muller. Just after opening the cafe, Muller debuted her newest book – “The Story of Au Fudge,” with illustrations by Kristen Doyle and Melanie Vugich.

Photo by Jill Weinlein

At Au Fudge, parents can feed their children, and then finish a conversation, sip a glass of wine and slowly enjoy dishes from the Cal-French influenced menu, while their children play and create art with others. Kids like finding the secret door bookcase with steps leading up to a treehouse for imaginative play.

Stokks Pram - Photo by Jill Weinlein
Stokke Pram – Photo by Jill Weinlein

The creative room is filled with high quality Stokke’s baby diaper bags, car seats, strollers and high chairs for their little ones. Pop-up shops reserve this room to showcase their newest line of products.

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Photo by Jill Weinlein

Looking over the pink and white menu, I noticed quite a few vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free items. We started with a plate of grilled crostini, naan and crudités that came with a trio of dips that included hummus, tapenade and muhammara (made with red pepper and walnuts). Next, we ordered the heirloom tomato and burrata plate with an eggplant caponata, hazelnuts and balsamic reduction.

Two mothers and their children at a nearby table were nibbling on corn lollipops dusted lightly with parmesan cheese, and dipping cheesy pretzel bites into yellow mustard. On the children’s menu, items include chicken tenders with whole grain mustard, ketchup or ranch dressing; mini all natural burgers; butter pasta with freshly grated parmesan cheese; and pepperoni pizza.

Photo by Jill Weinlein
Photo by Jill Weinlein

Comfort plates include a grilled cheese sandwich cut into sticks to easily dip into warm tomato soup, panko crusted mac and cheese, a BLT and fried egg sandwich on a pretzel bun.

Heartier entrée items include a grilled steak with frites, a variety of burgers, seared fresh fish, grilled Mary’s chicken, and spaghetti with turkey meatballs.

The signature dessert is a fudge flight offering pieces of their milk chocolate, peanut butter and peppermint fudge. They also serve cobblers, s’mores dip, churros, tarts, and build your own ice cream sundaes.

Our server shared with us that throughout the month, they offer classes and special events that include a toddler French music class, parent and me cooking class, story time and donut decorating.

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Wise words to live by – Photo by Jill Weinlein

Along the back wall in neon lights are The House Rules – The first letter of each rule is highlighted perpendicularly to spell out Au Fudge – Always Believe, Unicorns are Real, Fudging Behave, U Must Take Turns, Don’t Whine, Give Hugs and Eat. Drink. Play.

Upon leaving, I visited the marketplace boutique filled with unique toys, colorful candy and lollipops, scarves, reusable bento boxes, baby items and a bakery case filled with an array of cookies, baked goods, rice crispy treats, gorgeous cakes, and of course trays of fudge. This is a good spot to pick up a sweet treat for your good girl or boy.

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Photo by Jill Weinlein

The restaurant and marketplace are open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. It opens one hour earlier on the weekends for classes and brunch. $$ 9010 Melrose Ave. (424)204-9228.

This review was featured in The Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News on October 27, 2016 –http://beverlypress.com/2016/10/au-fudge-eat-drink-play/

Smoke. Oil. Salt. Celebrates Its One Year Anniversary

Recently Executive Chef Perfecto celebrated the restaurant’s one year anniversary with a ten-course dinner featuring IMG_8645his fan’s favorite dishes. It was a sell out with photos of his dishes displayed on Instagram.

Over one year ago, Hollywood producer turned restaurateur Stephen Gelber, along with Umami founder Adam Fleischman, Lee Weinberg, and hospitality expert Jason Berkowitz, opened a cutting-edge Spanish restaurant on Melrose.

Guests have their senses heightened with the scent of wood burning on open flames as they take a seat in one of the two dining area. One side is more formal for an intimate dinner, while the other side offers communal tables for people to share food, sip wine and socialize.

Gelber has been collecting a variety of Spanish wines through the years, and offers some of his favorites on the menu to enhance and compliment the flavors of each dish.

Locals rave about Perfecto’s cod croquette, beet gazpacho, and smoked spring onions with a salbitxada sauce made with almonds, peppers, garlic, tomatoes, red wine vinegar, parsley, olive oil, salt and pepper.

His caramelized cauliflower and artichokes with hazelnuts, garlic, spicy chili is a vegetarians delight, while the skillet of fried cubed potatoes with slices of Serrano ham, chorizo sauce and a picturesque fried egg on top is a heartier dinner option.

Inspired from the sea are dishes that include smoked octopus, and a cocktail of marinated oysters and mussels.
Perfecto uses that aromatic wood-fire grill to cook quail; whole sea bass; butcher’s filet of Iberico pork, and dry-aged NY skirt steak.

The evening culminates with a Catalan custard with passion fruit ice cream. Muy Bueno!

On Sunday the restaurant offers a prix-fixe four-course Paella dinner with an optional wine flight pairing. $$- $$$ 7274 Melrose Ave. (323)930-7900.

This article was featured in the Summer 2015 Beverly Press Dining Guide. – http://issuu.com/beverlypress/docs/plnbp-dining-and-entertainment-2015

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.

 

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.

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