Wellness Santa Monica Shore Hotel

For those flying coach to Los Angeles sitting in the dreaded middle seat, not only will you get off the plane a little hangry, but probably tired and possibly a little jet lagged too.

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If you book a room at Santa Monica’s oceanside, wellness-minded Shore Hotel, and show proof of being seated in a coach-class middle seat on any arriving flight into Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), the staff at the hotel will upgrade guests to an ocean-view room when checking in between January 28 and March 31, 2020, subject to availability.

A recent study about airplane design shows that airline seats have shrunk as much as 4 inches over the years, now offering a minuscule 28-30 inch pitch, and only 18-inch wide. Non-reclining seats are becoming increasingly more uncomfortable, causing millions of air travel trips to be cancelled or avoided, because people hate long security lines and flying.

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Once they arrive to the Santa Monica Beach hotel, and check into their room, guests can sit out on their outdoor balcony featuring two chairs and a table for first class views. Rooms overlook the famous Santa Monica Pier, and a bird’s eye view of Ocean Avenue, the beach, and Santa Monica’s famous sunsets, all from ocean-facing balconies.

Wellness opportunities include soaking up some sun and swim in a large solar heated pool warmed to the temperature of 86 degrees. Nearby is an even warmer bubbling whirlpool. More than 75% of the hotel’s roof surface is covered in solar-reflecting panels. The outdoor center also offers an alfresco cocktail bar, flowing water feature, and patio dining at Blue Plate Taco.

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Guest rooms are visually appealing in bright orange and pretty aqua blue colors. A see-through glass enclosed rain shower features local bath products by LATHER. Pillow top mattress’ have hypoallergenic pillows and duvet covers. Each room offers free high-speed Wi-Fi 55”, a LED HDTV with cable and Showtime, plus a iHome docking station. There is a fully stocked private mini bar, and a coffee/tea maker with in-room organic and fair trade Wolfgang Puck coffee. Two white plush bathrobes are located inside the closet. Slippers can be brought up for guests by staff upon request.

Onsite chefs prepare food using organic local produce and free trade food such as free-range poultry, eggs, meat, wild-caught salmon, organic coffee and organically grown fruit and vegetable whenever possible.

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Reservations can be made here or by calling (310) 458-1515. In order to receive the upgrade, guests must have a pre-existing booking with Shore Hotel and show their boarding pass at check-in.

The Shore Hotel is located at 1515 Ocean Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90401

Holiday COOKIE GOODness

You know that feeling when you receive a package and unwrap it? Well what if inside the package is a stack of beautifully colored cookies. You take your first bite of a perfectly baked cookie and you detect a slight crunch through that crisp exterior and then enjoy the chewy center. It’s that little buttery essence with slightly sweet and salty notes that tantalize your tastebuds and make you take a second and third bite. This sensation floods your brain with happiness and feeds your soul, putting an instant smile on your face. This is what the founders of Los Angeles based Cookie Good want to create daily for cookie lovers.

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The founders are perfectionists in making the perfect cookie and bar. They use the best ingredients starting with chocolate from Callebaut & Van Leer, Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla, and AA sweet creamery butter.

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A regular-sized cookie begins as a 48 grams dough ball (that’s 1¾ oz) and baked to measure about 2 ½- 3 inches across. Their larger-sized cookies are about 78 grams (2¾ oz) and measure about 3 ½ inches across. Each one of their bars are measured by a ruler and cut 2 ¼ by 2 ¼.

If you live in Southern California, you can walk into their upscale Santa Monica brick and mortar store, to select a variety of cookies. Bakery boxes can be filled with one to five pounds of cookies, brownies, bars and gluten-free options.

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Cookie Good has gone pink in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month by donating a portion of all sales to Breast Cancer Care & Research Fund – bccrf.org during the month of October. They also have gone orange and purple for Halloween.

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Bring a box of holiday themed cookies to your Halloween party tonight. Gourmet bakery Cookie Good is baking Halloween flavors that include Monster Mash, Sour Patch Kids, Flamin’ Hot Cheetos & Trick or Treat. After Halloween the bakery is making more more than 200 unique flavors of cookies and brownies based on their favorite cereals, candies and other treats for Thanksgiving and the upcoming holidays.

 

So Cal Mexican Cuisine at Tallula’s

Eager for some elevated Mexican fare, my husband and I drove to Tallula’s in Santa Monica Canyon for Sunday Brunch. The owners Josh Loeb and Zoe Nathan acquired a former Japanese restaurant, that later turned into the legendary Marix Tex-Mex near the beach. Pulling up to the parking lot, we realized Tallula’s is where my husband and I met over margaritas 32 years ago.

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The Japanese blue tiled roof is still intact, but the Japanese pagodas have been removed. Along with Colby Goff, they hired design firm ORA to upgrade the interior into a colorful eye-catching dining room and bar, reminiscent of something you would discover in the Mexican beach town of Tulum or Loreto.

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Similar to a Spanish hacienda, the interior has terra cotta floors and a coastal color palette inspired by nature. Walls are turquoise blue sea, peach sunset, and green palm. Artistic hand-embroidered macrame pieces, along with vintage Mexican posters and Californian artwork hang on the wall.

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Original features from Marix days, include the beautiful large oak and glass doors, dark wood beam and paneled ceilings, rustic columns and ornate Hawaiian Koa wood banquettes, now with turquoise blue leather seating.They also saved an array of vintage orange glass lanterns and added some hanging basketweave lighting.

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Loeb and Nathan named the restaurant after their daughter Tallula, and the pink neon sign displaying “Felix’s Bar,” is named after their youngest son. The bright hand-painted Mexican Talavera tiles by Silverlake’s Further Store are featured throughout the bar area and patio. The bar showcases one of the largest collections of Mexican spirits including mezcals, tequilas, rum and lesser-known spirits from small-batch producers in Mexico. There is also a nice selection of craft beers, and their margaritas are made with housemade syrups and fresh produce from the market. 

Rustic Canyon Family Wine Director Kathryn Coker crafts the eclectic wine list, featuring wines from boutique producers in Mexico, Spain, Argentina, France and California.

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What used to be the host stand, is now a colorful lounge area with rich leather and wood chairs. The staircase is now a vertical garden of pots with greenery acquired from Potted, of L.A.’s Atwater Village. It leads up to a private event space and bar for a 50 person standing cocktail party, or private seated dinner for 32 people. 

Looking into the open kitchen from the main dining room, James Beard six time nominee Executive chef Jeremy Fox oversees Executive Chef Saw Naing and his team. Together they prepare familiar Mexican dishes using seasonal fresh ingredients from the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market and other local purveyors. Naing graduated from Pasadena’s Le Cordon Bleu, and worked at Joachim Splichal’s Café Pinot, and Thomas Keller’s (now closed) Bouchon in Beverly Hills, before with Fox.

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While we were dipping chips into guacamole, we noticed Fox walk in with his family and friends. That is always a good sign, when a chef is not working in his kitchen, that he comes in to break bread or tortilla chips with loved one.  

As the assistant manager Max Mueller welcomed us to Tallula’s, he shared that the restaurant takes “family” to heart, including the staff and guests to feel at home, be inspired, nourished and leave satisfied.

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The imaginative, home-cooking includes fresh chile pastes and salsas, and heirloom corn masa for fresh tortillas. We ordered their signature Caesar salad that arrived in a bowl with long Little Gem leaves loaded with crunchy pumpkin seeds, shaved parmesan, anchovies, garlic and lemon juice. 

The chefs at Tallula’s also make the best blue corn pancakes and chilaquiles. The pancakes arrive in a black skillet topped with fresh berries, and a pour of unrefined Mexican cane sugar called piloncillo syrup, powdered sugar, chopped mint and whipped cream.

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The chilaquiles are artfully arranged in a beautiful terra cotta serving dish, layered with corn tortilla chips, salsa rojo, black beans, cilantro, red onion, cheese, pico de Gallo and a fried egg on top.

Be sure to order the crispy potatoes with a drizzle of chipotle aioli. They are a little hidden on the menu, and delicious.

Other Mexican fare includes a rotating Taco del Día, wet breakfast burritos with verde sauce, pork, eggs, potatoes, crema and pepper jack cheese, and local Channel Islands rock cod tacos.

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Heartier options include grilled carne asada with grass-fed hanger steak, is served with house-made tortillas, carrots, blistered shishito peppers and chipotle tamarind sauce. 

Zoe Nathan Mexican-inspired dessert recipes, including a tres leches cake drizzled with honey, chamomile and fresh market berries, are lovingly made by the Tallula team. 

Tallula’s is part of the Rustic Canyon Family, a collection of chef-driven dining destinations that includes Rustic Canyon, Huckleberry Bakery & Cafe, Sweet Rose Creamery, Milo & Olive, Cassia, Esters Wine Shop & Bar, Milo SRO, Cassia Rice & Noodle Kitchen and Birdie G’s. 

Weekend brunch is served 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Happy Hour is all-night long on Mondays and from 4 to 6 p.m., and every Tuesday through Friday in the bar, lounge and patio. Weekday dinner service is nightly at 5 p.m. and 4 p.m. on the weekends. Tallula’s is offering a takeout and delivery-only menu starting at 5 p.m. $$ 118 Entrada Drive (310)526-0027.

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

20th Anniversary for The Lobster in Santa Monica

The Lobster, at the entrance of the historic Santa Monica sign, is a popular fine-dining seafood restaurant. Recognized as a one of the most picturesque sunset dining destinations in Southern California,  in 1923 this building was a final stop of Route 66 in the west. It’s as much a part of Santa Monica’s history as the historic Santa Monica pier below.

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Lobster cake by Sweet Lady Jane Bakery

In the 1950s one of the dishwashers Mateo Castillo took over the iconic restaurant and turned it into a beloved “seafood shack” that residents and tourists frequented in the 1950s through 1980s.

The Lobster shut its doors for several years and reopened in 1999, after a family of investors refreshed and expanded the original structure and added a new entrance. They enhanced the space into a more modern, two-story cantilevered building with glass walls. The dining room now can seat more than one hundred guests.

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On July 22, 2019 the owners and Executive Chef Govind Armstrong hosted a special VIP friends and family 20th Anniversary Party.

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Celebrity Chef Govind Armstrong, Mayor Gleam Davis and others.

Celebrity chef Govind came out of the kitchen for a toast and ceremonial cutting of the Sweet Lady Jane Bakery life size lobster cake. Mayor Gleam Davis did the honors, as Santa Monica dignitaries and locals cheered her on.

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There was an elevated seafood bar featuring shrimp Kusshi oysters, crab legs and claws on ice. Servers passed trays filled with crab cakes, large shrimp, vegan hearts of palm cakes, lobster and fried clam rolls.

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The “Rockette” made with Roku Gin,

Specialty Cocktails for the 20th Anniversary celebration included a “1909 Old Fashioned” made with Markers Mark Bourbon; “Sunset & Ocean” made with Gray Goose Vodka, “You, Me & Tequila” made with El Reposado Tequila, and the “Rockette” made with Roku Gin, lime and wild arugula. The craft cocktails dazzled with micro flowers.

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Chef Govind was born in Inglewood, CA and raised in Costa Rica, before coming back to Los Angeles to work under culinary legends that include Wolfgang Puck, Mark Peel and Susan Feniger. He became a master of California Cuisine opening his own restaurants Table 8,  Willie Jane and Executive Chef at Post and Beam. This busy chef also has multiple 8 oz. Burger Bar locations, and has been a guest judge on the Bravo series Top Chef, as well as the Food Network series Iron Chef America.

His artfully composed seafood dishes, California Spiny Lobster and Maine Lobster are crafted with only the freshest, locally sourced, and responsibly farmed ingredients.

Here’s to another 20 years of success! Click here to look at The Lobster menu . 

Hours: Sunday through Thursday 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Happy Hour Monday through Friday is 3 to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday The Lobster stays open until 11 p.m.

The Lobster is located at 1602 Ocean Drive, Santa Monica (310)458-9294.

Wine and Dine at Rustic Canyon

Wine dinners at Rustic Canyon celebrate the best things in life – great farm to table food and vine to bottle wine. The restaurant opened after founder Josh Loeb held a series of successful dinners inside his beautiful home nestled in Rustic Canyon. Recently, the restaurant received a one-star distinction in the newly launched 2019 MICHELIN GUIDE CALIFORNIA.

Executive Chef Andy Doubrava is passionate about visiting local farmers markets. He has developed a great relationships with farmers and gives their names top billing on his changing menu.

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Ferdinando Mucerino, the wine manager and sommelier at Rustic Canyon invites wine makers to collaborate in a comfortable setting to provide informative wine pairing dinners. The restaurant’s wine representation includes an array of local artisan, hand-crafted producers throughout California, Oregon, Italy, France, and Spain.

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Last week I joined Steve Beckmen of Santa Ynez Valley’s Beckmen Vineyards and a small group of oenophiles at Rustic Canyon. The evening started with Mucerino pouring two Beckmen wines – a lovely pink colored 2017 Purisima Mountain Vineyard Grenache Rose’ and crisp Viognier.

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We sipped these wine with hunks of Milo & Olive bread, while spreading cultured butter all over or dipping into bowls of ENZO olive oil. Large Luna Garcia designed bowls made in Venice, CA held freshly picked gem lettuce with a sprinkle of herbs and drizzle of light shallot vinaigrette. Beckmen shared that he keeps the skin contact on his Grenache Rose’ grapes a little longer than a French Rose’ to add richness and depth of flavor to his wine.

He also informed us that his 2017 Purisima Mountain Vineyard Viognier grapes are farmed bio-dynamically and he is part of the Ballard Canyon AVA. This light yellow wine wasn’t too sweet, yet offered tasting notes Fuji apple, jasmine, passion fruit, white ginger, pineapple, guava, melon, and apricot. It’s long clean finish with lasting acidity paired well with a dazzling Rustic Canyon dish of quartered beets and whole berries with chunks of JJ’s avocados, crunchy red quinoa and chopped pistachios. Some of the nuts were pulverized into a fine powder that chef calls “pistachio dirt” on the menu.

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For the next course Mucerino poured glasses of 2016 Beckmen Curvee Le Bec and Beckmen Santa Ynez Valley Grenache. Both went well with one of the most popular dishes at Rustic Canyon – ricotta fritta.  It arrived with three fried sticks floating in a luscious yellow sauce with a mound of sautéed greens, a shaving of cheese and micro flowers adding a touch of beauty. When Mucerino noticed my excitable facial expression as I finished my first bite, he told me chef uses Kong’s broccoli, Maggie’s green leaf sorrel, and orange French mimolette cheese. “The fried ricotta sticks taste similar to broccoli and cheddar soup meet a mozzarella stick,” he said. They are heavenly and a must to order. After a few sips of the Beckmen Grenache, I appreciated the white pepper and raspberry jam aroma with lavender, nutmeg and strawberry tasting notes.

The Cuvee Le Bec offered more bright fruit and spices on the mouth, and fine tannins carrying the flavors on the long finish.

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Two hearty entrees arrived at the table with two bottles of Beckmen’s Syrah. The first poured was a 2016 Purisima Mountain Vineyard Syrah that we all enjoyed with a platter of grilled grass-fed “melt in your mouth” hanger steak with Bay blue cheese, Zuckerman’s asparagus and chile de arbol. Next a platter of different pieces of roasted Autonomy Farms chicken arrived bathed in hot honey and a sprinkling of chopped California pecans. Pours of 2017 Purisima Mountain Vineyard Syrah Clone #1 offered notes of plum, blackberry and chocolate with pleasing minerality. It’s a little like a taste of the sea, because these grapes grow in limestone near the Pacific Ocean.

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We finished with an artisan plate decorated with three different cheeses, thin slices of moist and dense sunflower bread, a puddle of raw honey and sweetened baked rosemary walnuts. Beckman urged us to enjoy this with a pour of his 2008 Purisima Mountain Vineyard Syrah Clone #1. It’s made from a UC David Shiraz clone from vines planted in 1868 in Victoria, Australia’s Best Vineyard. Beckmen told us that these 2008 grapes were hand harvested in mid-October to ensure great concentration of flavor. It was an ideal finish to a fabulous meal.

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Save the date for Rustic Canyon’s next Farmer & Vegetable Dinner Series. It’s on Tuesday, June 25 and tickets are available now. The Weiser Family Farms & Tehachapi Grain Project will feature winter vegetables that have been fermenting for months and beautiful fresh melons, along with heirloom grains from the Tehachapi Grain Project. Tickets are $85/person (plus tax and gratuity). 

Rustic Canyon opens Sunday through Thursday from 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday it stays open until 11 p.m. $$ 1119 Wilshire Blvd. (310)393-7050.

My review is also featured in the Beverly Press .

Beach level dining at Coast Beach Cafe and Bar

The casual restaurant Coast Beach Café at Shutters on the Beach offers an all-day menu of California favorites, a lovely brunch and themed dinner nights. Overlooking Santa Monica beach, hotel guests and locals can walk down a flight of stairs or take the elevator to sit outside on the sunken patio, or indoors near the lively bar. The ground level location is prime territory for watching beach-goers stroll by the craftsman-style restaurant.

When Shutters on the Beach opened in 1993, it was the only Santa Monica hotel with direct beach access. Coast Beach Cafe and Bar opened in 2007 offering grilled seafood, salads, sandwiches and burgers.

Since the weather is warming up, its an ideal Sunday Brunch destination.Sitting on the shaded patio, my family and I started with a variety of fresh juice from the juice bar. Blends include a sweet pineapple, apple, lemon and mint, and an earthy kale, celery, cucumber, lemon, parsley, romaine and spinach juice. 

The menu offers a variety of breads including a freshly baked blueberry, raisin bran, carrot or chocolate muffin and butter, almond or chocolate croissants. We ordered an almond croissant to enjoy while looking over the menu.

Selecting the avocado toast, it arrived on pieces of thick grilled country bread. Guests can add shrimp on top for protein. I chose a grilled Waygu burger that arrived with melted cheddar cheese on a soft brioche bun. This burger is a meal in itself, loaded with crisp lettuce, purple and red heirloom tomato slices and grilled red onions. It’s served with either a side salad or crispy French fries.

My husband ordered the lobster roll filled with generous pieces of lobster meat that were enhanced with a lemony aioli inside a buttery brioche bun. Be sure to try the fries, because they are better than most. These still have their skin, are crispy on the outside and soft and warm on the inside. They are served in a little silver fryer container with a ramekin of ketchup. 

Hearty brunch fare includes the classic Eggs Benedict served with home style potatoes. Sauteed spinach or smoked salmon can be added to this breakfast favorite. The chefs also make a “Bulls-Eye” breakfast skillet layered with roasted eggplant, spicy tomato, and eggs. 

Healthy salads include a grilled salmon salad topped with sliced avocado, asparagus, cucumber and radish. It’s dressed with a light lemon citronette.

For sweeter fare, the signature lemon ricotta pancakes with mixed berries on top are a local favorite. They aren’t too lemony and they aren’t too dense. They arrive stacked with powdered sugar sprinkled on top, and a carafe of maple syrup.

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Our server informed us about the daily theme dinners during the week. On Monday the chefs offer a Burgers & Beers night. My wagyu enhanced burger is one of the burgers served with a craft beer for $30. The chefs also make a turkey burger topped with Portobello mushrooms, Pecorino and Romano cheese. For fish lovers they also make a salmon burger topped with capers, housemade cole slaw, and horseradish cream on a knot bun. Vegetarians can enjoy a burger made with brown rice, cannellini beans, spinach, Burrata cheese, lettuce, basil aioli, and vine ripped heirloom tomato slices on a soft vegan bun.

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All these burgers are paired with a California craft beer. Some of my favorites on the menu include Santa Monica Brew Works, 310 Blonde ABV Knee Deep extra pale ale, ABV Angel City Pilsner, and ABV White Rascal Belgian style White Ale. 

On Tuesday’s the theme dinner is Pasta on the Patio. Wednesday is raw seafood bar night, and tacos on Thursday. All of these theme dinners start at 5 p.m. Happy Hour is every Sunday through Friday from 4 to 6 p.m., and brunch is Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Since we were going to walk along the beach and out to the end of the pier after brunch, we splurged and ordered a slice of coconut cake. A variety of cakes are on display near the entrance including Southern red velvet cake, a chocolate cake, and carrot cake. 

$$ 1 Pico Blvd. (310)587-1707.

This review was featured on May 16, 2019 in the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News

Flavor Bombs at Heroic Deli & Wine Bar

Over the last ten years, Adam Fleischman, an avid foodie and successful restaurateur opened his first gourmet hamburger restaurant Umami Burger. Next he partnered with Chef Anthony Carron and opened 800 Degrees Pizza, as part of the Umami Restaurant Group. I’ve enjoyed writing about his innovative restaurant concepts including Umamicatessan, a gourmet food court in the renovated Orpheum (closed), authentic Spanish restaurant Smoke.Oil.Salt. (closed), and PBJLA in the Grand Central Market offering a creative array of nut butter and jelly sandwiches, and Cold Cocked Coffee Co. in Koreatown. His cookbook with Tien Nguyen called “Flavor Bombs – Umami Ingredients that make Taste Explode” is a perfect description of his newest endeavor with his famous eating partner, Jeffrey Merrihue, founder of XtremeFoodies.com. Merrihue is also a gastronome, having dined at all of the award winning “The World’s Best 50 Restaurants” since 2005. He too wrote a cookbook “The History and Science Behind the World’s Best Pizzas.” Together these food and wine adventurers, partnered and opened Heroic Deli and Heroic Wine Bar, an intimate new Italian eatery with a wine room located in downtown Santa Monica.

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The name Heroic offers a double meaning. First it signifies their signature Italian “Hero” sandwiches served on the deli side, as well as the “Heroic” ambitions of the kitchen on the wine bar side.

They reinvented the classic Italian Hero, as the next-level sandwich experience for adventurous eaters. Not only are their eight different sandwiches made with the finest imported Italian premium meat and cheese cuts, they are served on warm, freshly toasted, crunchy ciabatta bread.

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In the kitchen Executive Chef and Cordon Blue trained Barbara Pollastrini prepares “Cal-Italian” fare. Pollastrini, whose deep traditional skills are rooted in Roman gastronomy, enjoys combining a Modern California approach into new Italian cuisine.

Not only has she won numerous awards as a food stylist for the motion picture “He’s Just Not That Into You” and “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, she was also a contestant on the Food Network’s “Cutthroat Kitchen.”

Meeting a group of friends inside the Heroic Wine Bar, I admired the Roman garden design by Los Angeles hospitality designer Alexis Readinger of Preen Inc. Sitting at the 16-foot bowtie shaped communal table, we noticed couples sitting in intimate leather booths tucked into the front windows. Upstairs overlooking the wine tasting dining room is the private dining area with for 12 guests. This “Segrata” Room offers exclusive dining experiences. Looking up at the indigo colored ceiling is a hand painted mural of stars and celestial representations of the zodiac.

The night we dined one of the “Hero” deli sandwich makers serenaded us with a beautiful aria while standing on the stairs. Besides singing opera, he makes an incredible O.M.G. sandwich, layered with imported Italian prosciutto, capocollo, porchetta, salame, mortadella, smoked mozzarella, artichokes, roasted tomatoes and a spread of truffle mayo and mustard. Giving this an extra zing is the housemade Italian pickle relish called giardiniera. It’s a mix of chopped bell peppers, celery, carrots, cauliflower, garlic in oil and vinegar. Other sandwiches that will have you smiling include Chicken Tetrazzini, “Pizzandwich” and The Vegan.

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I learned from Merrihue’s daughter (It’s a family affair) that the bread is made in the San Fernando Valley and baked 80%, before delivery to Heroic. Here they bake the ciabatta just a little longer to give it that snap of crunch on the outside and light and porous inside. The deli side also makes a handful of salads, homemade potato chips and an Italian corn soufflé.

While sipping a flute of bubbly Canella Valdobbiadene Prosecco, we noticed on the Wine Bar menu that guests can order a prix fixe for $50. There is a choice of ordering one item from the Primi, Pasta, Secondi and Dessert sections. Chef Barbara’s signature dish “Santa BARBARA” a house-made pasta topped with a trio of seafood of live uni, crab, and caviar all sourced from Santa Barbara in an ethereal butter sauce is $10 extra.

My favorite dish of the evening was in the Primi section, a heavenly tomato soup “Soupfle” – It’s a thick seasoned tomato soup, almost like a stew that is topped with burrata, sliced tomatoes and fresh pesto. Merrihue coined the name “soupfle” for its flavorful soufflé consistency.

Next, I enjoyed a lamb ragu rigatoni with crispy artichokes, before my secondi of a hearty roasted pork topped with fresh rosemary, sautéed king oyster mushrooms and a garlic cream sauce.

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Wines are easy to order here. There is an array of high quality of California and Italian wines rated 90+ points. Order a glass of white wine for $12 or a bottle for $40. Red wines are $14 by the glass or $50 a bottle. They also offer some premium wines ranked 95 points and above. I enjoyed a lovely Sauvignon Blanc from Heritance Taub Family vineyards with my four-course prix-fixe. The wine offered nuances of melon and Asian pear with good acidity and crispness, followed by a smooth lingering finish.

Other menu choices include a seared steak tartare; giant eggplant parmigiana ravioli; and cioppino stew filled with calamari, octopus, clams, mussels, fresh tomato, garlic and parsley.

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After one bite of the sweet and creamy Barolo panna cotta, I asked for a second serving. What makes this dessert is a coulis of intensely flavorful red wild Amarena cherries and crumbled pieces of twice-baked and crunchy biscotti cookie sprinkled on top.

Fleischman has another unique gastronomic winner. Visit Heroic Italian deli to pick up picnic fare for a day at the beach or return in the evening to enjoy a romantic, flavor exploding Italian dinner with reasonably priced wines.

Heroic Deli is open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. 516 Santa Monica Blvd. and Heroic Wine Bar is open Wednesday through Saturday from 5 to 9 p.m. $$ 514 Santa Monica Blvd. (310)490-0202.

This review is featured in the February 21, 2019 issue of the Beverly Press  page 15.

 

 

Santa Monica Restaurant Week

Celebrate California Restaurant Month in Southern California by dining at one or more of Santa Monica’s award-winning, health-conscious culinary destinations. The chefs are crafting delicious and healthy custom dishes centered around the persimmon. Now through Jan. 13 nearly 30 Santa Monica restaurants are participating in Santa Monica Restaurant Week.

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Persimmon is a versatile fruit that contains key minerals and fiber, which promote heart health, reduce inflammation, support healthy vision and keep the digestive system healthy.

Last Wednesday my daughter and I were invited to the Santa Monica Farmers Market. Colorful persimmons were on display. Laura Ramirez of JJ’s Lone Daughter Ranch is one of the many farmers who grow and sell the fruit. At Caffé Bella they are making a Persimmon Sorbetto using JJ Lone’s Persimmons. It’s Vegan, dairy-free and only 90 calories per scoop.

Here’s where to find persimmons and other Farmers Market produce in Santa Monica:

  1. Diners at Water Grill can order farmed New Zealand King salmon crudo with persimmon confit and crème fraiche.
  2. The Independence Tavern is offering persimmon toast and a Fuyu persimmon salad  filled with radicchio, shaved fennel, Tuscan kale, feta cheese, pomegranate, toasted pistachios and a citrus-cardamom vinaigrette during Santa Monica Restaurant Week.
  3. Azulé Taqueria is making Roasted Acorn Squash and Pickled Persimmons Taco filled with epazote, requeson cheese (ricotta) and spicy almonds.
  4. Bondi Harvest is making a Persimmon Pomegranate Salad.
  5. Dolcenero Gelato Persimmon Sorbet and Vanilla Sauce – it’s a new creation combines the pulpy and sweet taste of persimmon with a warm hint of vanilla.
  6. El Cholo Santa Monica – Chipotle Glazed Carnitas Tacos with Persimmon Salsa. Three slow roasted pork tacos in a handmade corn tortilla topped with persimmon salsa, served with black beans and cilantro rice.
  7. Élephante – ‘Nduja toast with stracciatella and persimmons.
  8. Esters Wine Shop & Bar – Arugula Salad with persimmons, walnuts, manchego and champagne vinaigrette; Available during lunch, dinner and weekend brunch.
  9. FIG Restaurant at Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows – Orange Salad with Delicata squash, thumbelina carrots, red kuri squash, chocolate persimmons and walnut vinaigrette.img_8401

10. Funnel Cakes on the Pier – Persimmon Pacific Park funnel cake topped with powdered sugar, whipped cream, and drizzled with sweetened persimmon compote.

11. Inotheke – Persimmon and Goat Cheese Salad with lemon, dill, arugula and red onion.
12. Kye’s – Persimmon Cucumber Salad with fresh mint and lime dressing.
13. Lunetta – Caramelized Pork Chop with fresh persimmon chutney, wild rice and smoked bacon and persimmon sauce; Available for dinner
14. Malbec Argentinean Cuisine- Persimmon Salad with Pomegranate and Walnuts.

15. Massilia –Crunchy Kale and Persimmon Salad with shaved fennel, toasted sunflower seeds, Comté and Jerez vinaigrette (add chicken $4, hard-boiled egg $2, ahi tuna $5, smoked salmon $5, ratatouille $5, shrimp $6, grilled salmon $6, rotisserie lamb $6).

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16. Meat On Ocean –Duck Rilettes with Persimmon Marmalade and Goat Cheese
17. Obicà Santa Monica –Gelato Castagna e Cachi ia a chestnut ice cream with Brandy-spiked persimmon sauce and Amaretto dust.
18. Red O –Salmon and Persimmon Aguachile served with winter citrus, habanero and nori
19. Seaside on The Pier – Roasted Persimmon Pizza; Grilled Salmon with Persimmon; Persimmelon Margarita- The house-made pizza crust with garlic, olive oil, roasted persimmon, prosciutto, shaved parmesan and arugula with a balsamic drizzle; Grilled salmon with persimmon glaze, grilled persimmon and green beans, persimmon and cilantro garlic rice; Tequila, persimmon, watermelon, lime, agave and passion fruit
Pizza; Salmon; Persimmelon Margarita.

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20. Stella Barra Pizzeria –Persimmon Pizza with Taleggio cheese, hobbs bacon, fresno chili and herbs.
21. STRFSH – Mahi Mahi with Persimmon Chutney arugula and pickled radishes.
22. Sushi Roku – Sashimi Sushisu Vinaigrette Salad with Cucumber, mizuna, micro shiso, red onions, daikon, persimmons and pomegranate seeds.
23. The Curious Palate – Persimmon Upside Down Cake
24. The Penthouse at Huntley Santa Monica Beach –Burrata – Persimmons, pine nuts, pomegranate, basil, 30-year aged balsamic and heirloom tomato.
25. The Veranda Restaurant at The Georgian Hotel –  Persimmon Mozzarella di Bufalla Salad is a Persimmon gremolata, buffalo mozzarella, prosciutto, pomegranate seeds, pomegranate gastrique, arugula, basil.
26. Tiato – Fall Persimmon Salad with roasted Brussels sprouts, baby wild arugula, red cabbage, pomegranates, grapes, balsamic glaze and red onions (add chicken $3; add shrimp $5).

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27. True Food Kitchen
Persimmon Toast with almond ricotta, spinach and balsamic vinaigrette.
28. Upper West – Roasted Persimmon Tartine made with Burrata, arugula, lemon, hazelnut, reduced cider vinegar with fennel.

Share a photo of the dish on social media using #SMRestaurantWeek for a chance to win a $500 gift certificate.

Italian Food & Art at Luigi al Teatro

The Chateau Paintings displayed at Michelin-starred chef Luigi Fineo’s restaurant Luigi al Teatro, adds to the theatrics of the Santa Monica California seafood with a Southern Italian flair menu.

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Michelin-starred chef Luigi Fineo

Luigi al Teatro has an artistic past as once the historic Powerhouse Theatre. Inside the dining room on the walls are painted faces of actors looking towards the kitchen where Executive Chef Luigi Fineo prepares his Italian specialities. Outside on the al fresco dining patio, art is the focal point among greenery and a wall of herbs for the chef to cultivate and use for sauces, garnish and decoration.

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Artist Lisa Gizara

A few weeks ago, I met resident artist Lisa Gizara during her art opening reception at Teatro di Luigi in Santa Monica. While sipping Prosecco, Gizara shared with me her “once in a lifetime” experience in France at The Chateau Orquevaux. “The chateau was about 3.5 hours East of Paris, between Champagne and Dijon,” said Gizara. “I would wake up in the morning, look out my window and feel so lucky.”

IMG_4443Her two week residency brought her close to other artists from around the world. The 2018 Artist-in-Residence program received applicants from artists in over 25 countries including Canada, South Africa, and Egypt. There is a two-week and four-week residency program. Gizara stayed for two week in a studio room on the top floor. “We would eat breakfast, lunch and dinner together, paint and share wine together. It was magical,” said Gizara.

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Since 1990 she has only painted black and white paintings, however after living at the chateau for weeks, she was moved to incorporate colors on her canvas. “For the first time since college, I totally immersed myself in art while at the chateau,” said Gizara.

Born in upstate New York, Gizara started painting at the age of 13. She fondly remembers painting New England landscapes and farmers in fields. While attending U Mass Dartmouth, she discovered that she wanted to be an artist full-time and moved to Santa Monica in 1986. “I started painting monochromatic images in black and white with a little bit of gray and olive green,” she said.

Her work has developed a Hollywood following, with her limited edition portfolio of both photograph & paintings included in the 2014 Oscar Nominee Gift Bags. Her work has appeared on Entertainment Tonite, The Insider, Access Hollywood and the The Ellen Show.

Actress Jennifer Lawrence and actor Bruce Dern display Gizara’s artwork in their private collections, and Disney executive Sean Cocchia has some of Gizara’s Los Angeles photographs.

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Come see Gizara’s artwork until December 3, 2018 during brunch or dinner at Luigi al Teatro.

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Brunch dishes include a variety of toasts topped with smoked salmon, crème fraîche and capers. I enjoyed the luscious avocado, burrata and pickled onions, and mint. Another offered a soft poached egg on top of layers of prosciutto, arugula and a cherry tomato. For something sweet the ricotta with fig jam and fried rosemary is a winner.

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Salads include a brightly colored heirloom tomato with burrata, and baby gem lettuce drizzled with an orange bourbon vinaigrette. Fineo also makes a spinach quiche, baked eggs and a sea urchin omelet. Brunch is available on Saturday starting at 11 a.m. and Sunday at 10 a.m. Dinner service begins at 5 p.m.

3116 Second St., Santa Monica, (310)328-0000 – Click here to see the dinner menu http://www.luigialteatro.com. 

Sweet Sunday Brunch at Herringbone

With whimsical marine décor and artwork displayed among the interior’s cool blue and green hues, Herringbone allows beachgoers to revel in the seaside without the crowds of the Santa Monica Pier just a few blocks away.

On a beautiful day, the best way to experience this California coastal restaurant is with brunch on the al fresco patio.

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Walking inside Herringbone’s Thomas Shoos-designed space, diners immediately notice the striking entrance offering taller than normal beautiful carved wood doors, and leafless life-size trees in large planter boxes. Hanging from the bare branches are an assortment of long spike puffer fish. This California coastal restaurant is just a couple blocks from the Santa Monica pier and beach, inspiring the interior’s whimsical marine decor and artwork displayed among pleasing blue and green hues.

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The colorful mosaic tiled raw bar is a piece of art made with an array of broken and cut Mediterranean tiles. This is where the oysters are shucked and served on ice with classic mignonette and samba cocktail sauce. Behind this bar, chefs assemble seafood platters filled with oysters, Alaskan king crab, Maine lobster and jumbo shrimp. During dinner and brunch hours, diners can splurge and share an order of a dozen oysters and a bottle of wine with a loved one for $55.

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Nautical rope and glass lights hang above marble top tables and metal chairs resting on wood flooring. Throughout the dining rooms are shallow fishing boat hung upside down with dropped ropes and Edison lights as functional art, similar to a sculpture one would admire in a Museum of Modern Art.

Beautiful light blue water glasses add a touch of color on the top of the white marble tables.

One wall is textured with brick and decorated with painted wooden fish hung to appear as if they are swimming in a school. It’s near the cocktail bar with an impressive skeleton of a large marine mammal suspended above.

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On a beautiful day, the best way to start off brunch at Herringbone is out front on the al fresco patio. Brunch goers can get into the seaside spirit sipping rose’ wine all day while enjoying lobster rolls filled with Maine Lobster and a squeeze of lemon. 

Seeking something sweet, we started with chef Ashley’s oversized cinnamon bun. It’s large and sticky from the caramelized cinnamon and sugar swirl, and mountain swirl of cream cheese frosting on top. Another sweet starter we enjoyed was the moist banana bread topped with hazelnut streusel crumble. It arrived on a plate with three slices surrounded with a handful of bright red and purple berries and dollop of cream cheese frosting.

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The General Manager Ricky Ortega visited guests around the room to make sure everyone is pleased with the service and food. He introduced himself and encouraged us to order some of the savory dishes including chilaquiles smothered in a ranchero sauce. If you like spicy, this dish will please your senses, however I found it offered too much heat for my liking. The “Smoked Salmon Benny” is a twist on a traditional Eggs Benedict. Presented on a regular English muffin, it’s topped with ribbons of thinly sliced salmon, and a watercress, chimichurri and hollandaise sauce. The sauce was a tad too salty on the day we dined.

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Brunch toast includes stone crab and avocado decorated with watermelon radish, a fried egg, arugula leaves and sprinkle of Meyer lemon vinaigrette. I enjoyed the fresh red tuna poke topped with chopped macadamia nuts, sliced red onions, a sprinkle of sesame seeds and a handful of arugula leaves. It’s served with crunchy black and white nori chips for scooping. 

Feeling fortified we finished brunch and hopped on two electric scooters parked out front of Herringbone to explore neighborhoods near the beach in Santa Monica. 

Brunch is served on Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dinner begins daily at 5 p.m. 1755 Ocean Ave. (310)971-4460.

This review was featured in the Nov. 8, 2018 issue of the Beverly Press.

BOA Brunch is Better than most

Entering BOA on Ocean Ave. in Santa Monica, we were welcomed by a hostess offering us a tray of deviled eggs, while we waited to be seated. This wasn’t an ordinary deviled egg, because BOA Steakhouse isn’t an ordinary restaurant. It’s extraordinary.

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The elevated egg snack is called Green Eggs & Ham. The chefs at BOA slice a hard boiled egg in half and adds pesto to the hard yellow yolk before re-filling it into the carved out cooked white egg and topping it with crispy prosciutto slice.

While sitting in one of the square shaped booths overlooking the Pacific Ocean, our server Brandon welcomed us and recommended a few new dishes on their lunch and brunch menu. These dishes are available at both the Santa Monica and West Hollywood locations. 

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Brandon told us the American Wagyu meatballs in a pomodoro sauce is his favorite. It’s made with tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, onions, herbs and a pinch of sugar. They are hearty and served with slices of grilled ciabatta to swipe the slightly sweet red sauce.

BOA Steakhouse is known for it’s salads. During dinner service, the classic Caesar salad is rolled to your table and prepared in an entertaining manner right before your eyes. Servers also provide cart entertainment when preparing tableside steak tartare. 

Another interactive item that appeals to your senses is the smoked American Wagyu tri-tip on ciabatta bread. It arrives under a smokey glass dome that releases a pleasing aroma of smoke when the glass is lifted. Visually it was exciting to watch and the smell peaked my senses. This sandwich is layered with a black pepper aioli, juicy roasted peppers and melted brie.

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We also ordered a Caprese chicken burger made with moist chicken thigh meat that is topped with creamy white burrata, a smear of sun dried tomato aioli, chopped sweet basil, and a splash of balsamic vinegar. Taking a bite, it was so juicy and delicious, that I took another mouthful before putting it back on my daughter’s plate.

The BOA chefs are conscientious to every guests dietary needs. Vegan diners will enjoy the classic Impossible vegan meat chili with vegan American cheese and mustard on a vegan bun. For those who prefer gluten free fare, the grilled chicken pizza is topped with sun dried tomatoes, mozzarella, and arugula.

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Feeling creative, I ordered the new BOA Bowl. It’s a heightened take on the poke craze, where diners can start with a base of either brown rice, black beans, quinoa or kale. Next choose one protein of either grilled salmon, chicken, or hanger steak. Top with a veggie – braised mushrooms, artichokes, or a broccoli salad. Then select either crispy garlic chips, smoked almonds, nori or furikake (a dry Japanese seasoning mixture of dried fish, sesame seeds, chopped seaweed, sugar, and salt) as a topping. Finish with a sweet soy sauce, tahini dressing or avocado cream. 

I selected brown rice, grilled salmon, artichoke, crispy garlic chips and a tahini dressing on top. The soft artichoke quarters mixed with crunchy garlic chips was a nice balance of textures. 

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Desserts include a carrot cake, coconut cake, S’mores, BOA cookies and a new Snickers served in a rectangular slice with three layers made with chocolate Bavarian cream, and a honey nougat peanut butter center. On top are chopped roasted peanuts and a scoop of caramel ice cream. On the side is a small cup of warm chocolate sauce to pour on top.

I ordered two scoops of housemade sorbet. One was made with carrot and ginger, and the other white peach and orange. Both were refreshing and not too sweet. 

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Walking out I learned that BOA offers a special Happy Hour with $7 drinks on Monday through Friday from 5 to 7 p.m. When you dine on Sunday, they offer 50% off any bottle of wine, excluding the captain’s list. $$$

9200 Sunset Blvd #650 (310)278-2050 and 101 Santa Monica Blvd. (310)899-4466.

Candytopia is Santa Monica’s Sweetest Spot

Don’t suffer from FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), get your ticket to one of the the most colorful and sweetest experiences in Los Angeles.

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Photo of Tyra Banks Courtesy of Candytopia

The night I toured Candytopia, Tyra Banks and Josh Duhamel followed right behind me. Banks stopped in the candy art gallery and admired the Prince portrait made with 1.5k pieces of candy.

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Prince – Photo by Jill Weinlein

The best Josh Duhamel moment was when he and his son jumped and played in the marshmallow tsunami pit.

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Photo by Jill Weinlein

Located in the Santa Monica Place for only a limited four-month run. Attendees may nibble on samples in each room as they make their way through Candyland and explore an imaginative confectionary wonderland.

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Colossal candy creations, arts and flying unicorn pigs provide fun photo opportunities.  At the end is a candy boutique filled with retro and popular candy, clothing, stuffed animals and tumblers.

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Tickets are selling fast, especially Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets must be purchased in advance and are $30 per person, $23 for children 4 to 12 years old, and free for children under 3. Hours are Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. 305 Santa Monica Place, #142. Click here to get your ticket Candytopia