I think a question often abhorred by food writers is the impending, "What is your favorite restaurant?" I however love this question and feel that if you have a passion for food, you always have a favorite - even if it's changing quite often. My favorite at the moment is Wolfgang Puck At Hotel Bel-Air.
The renovation of Hotel Bel Air has caused a bit of upheaval among certain folks. It was thought of as a landmark and we angelenos are very protective of the two or three landmarks this city has. Alas, change is inevitable. But the good news is Hotel Bel Air is looking up...
I have now been several times, a birthday brunch for a friend, a couple times for dinner and another time for lunch. My most recent visit began with a visit to the famous bar. It's worth noting that the bar is still very, very special. A fireplace still glows bright in one room and a new and impressive cocktail list makes both locals and visitors happy. I settled on a tequila cocktail with cucumber and basil. I could have drank 5 of these but thought better of it. It was smooth and refreshing. The perfect drink for a warm summer evening.
After enjoying our cocktail we moved over to the restaurant and were luckily sat in one of the booths. The patio is my current favorite in all of LA. Heaters and a retractable roof make it the perfect setting for our varying LA weather and particularly lovely on those rare warm summer evenings.
The menu reads similarly to Spago in some ways (the pastas and the seasonal ingredients) but is more American in style.
We started with a tasting of the fava bean soup. My was it spectacular. I've never had fava bean soup and while it could be too green, this was perfect and a wonderful reminder that summer is here.
A must order is the fresh pasta. I dare say Wolfgang Puck makes ravioli better than anyone else in this town. They are always buttery and delicate - little pillows of heaven. I almost feel guilty eating them but they are so, so incredible. Most recently they've been filled with artichokes and mascarpone, but no matter what they are filled with, order them! You will not regret it!
For entrees, I've become infatuated with the lamb saddle. Mediterranean in preparation, it comes with yogurt and smoked eggplant and a lovely lamb sauce. I could eat this dish once a week. Maybe even more. The lamb is from Colorado and so tender. The smokiness from the eggplant and the coolness of the yogurt provide a great juxtaposition.
Enjoy the lamb with the Bordeaux by the glass and savor every moment... It doesn't get much better than this!
This is one of those restaurants where you feel like you are celebrating just for being there. And life is short, so we should celebrate as often as possible!
When it comes to food, I have one major vice: sugar. I love it in pretty much any form and for a very long time, I've made a little ritual of one dessert a day. I always have my dessert after dinner and often tend to go a little overboard. I will eat a huge slice of cake and pair it with some artisinal ice cream (lately I've been enoying LA Creamery and Strauss the most). If not cake or cupcakes, fresh baked chocolate chip cookies also do the trick as do brownies, or any other nostaligic tempting treats.
Other than my little dessert rampages, I am quite healthy. I try to go light on the carbs and eat a lot of fish, fruit and veggies. I do appreciate a good steak (or lamb), and pasta and will indulge a couple of times a week. But I want to see if I feel differently with out the refined white stuff, so I've decided the sugar needs to go. I'm giving it up for a couple weeks. Summer is coming and thus bikini weather and I want to feel as good as any mid-twenties can in my "itsy bitsy teeny weenie"!
I will still be eating natural sugars and had some pretty delicious whole wheat pancakes with a light maple syrup for breakfast, but I am going to take some time off from desserts. I've committed to two weeks and we'll see if I last that long as I am already really missing my little routine. It's day 2 and frankly I don't feel any thinner yet. But I am thinking it will take some time.
I've also realized that the enjoyment I get from desserts is fleeting and very temporary. Perhaps it's the habit that I'm addicted to more than the dessert itself. I'll be watching several things pretty closely: sleep, weight, skin, tummy fat and energy. All things that are said to improve when you stop eating sugar. Time will tell!
A French film about chocolatiers had us craving chocolates, and we aren't talking See's or Godiva. We wanted the authentic chocolates that are like a fine art. My boyfriend was determined the best would be from Paris. A quick internet search landed us at Chapon. A quick online order and within 5 days we had the most incredible chocolates delivered to our door. Surprisingly quickly considering they used USPS...
The boxes were chic and in unique shapes - one shaped like the Eiffel Tower and the other like a large "S," meant to evoke a musical score.
One bite of the little morsel and I was hooked. I tried a heart shaped one that had a praline like center. Delicate and sweet. Another one had even more of a crunch and a third had a creamy texture with hints of Madagascar. These are definitely the real deal.
If only they were closer! Although it's probably best they are located across the world as these tempting little bites are too good not to eat.
I will say that when chocolate is this good it is so incredibly satisfying. One bite takes you away for just a moment... It takes me to utter bliss! And I wouldn't even call myself a real chocolate lover. But anyone would appreciate these sort of delicacies. These would make for a wonderful gift! Especially with Valentine's Day right around the corner.
Despite the fact that I have driven by it probably 800 times, Petrossian remained unfamiliar to me. The crisp white table clothes and caviar centric menu never really called my name. It's not that I am averse to caviar, but I only appreciate it when treated appropriately... As a delicacy, and one that enhances already wonderfully flavored foods to make them better. And thus I never sought caviar out, but would have a bite here and there when it's featured on a tasting menu or as a garnish.
Most recently a friend pressed the issue. Petrossian is her love. Not only does she know the menu inside and out, but she spent some time working there. Always up for a new challenge, I was more than obliged when she suggested a girls lunch there. I had read that there was an eager young new chef who was mixing it up and I was curious.
Giselle Wellman proved to be just that and more. It's always telling to meet a Chef and far and wide they are not the social type. However, Giselle is extremely personable. She exudes passion, friendliness and curiosity. She is not afraid to push the envelope yet maintains the viewpoint that food should be approachable. As most Chefs come to the dining room for a quick hello and run back to the cave they call "kitchen," Wellman was excited to share her inspirations and techniques.
Lunch was a small sample but last night I was able to get the full monty, so to speak, with a 9 course tasting meal.
The beauty of this restaurant is the ability to have an incredibly knowledgeable and experienced chef at your fingertips. Usually chefs with Wellman's credentials are far too busy to pay attention to any one table. However, the intimacy of Petrossian encourages just the opposite. Wellman admits she has time to play with new dishes regularly and loves the freedom a small operation offers. And how many people have kilos of caviar at their disposal to be creative with?! With this freedom comes new twists on classics like a beautiful muscovy duck breast topped with meringue or a grilled cheese with caviar.
The 9 course meal started with an "Caviar Papierusse"- brioche, egg yolk and dill, and the papierusse is a gelatin type sheet of caviar. An incredible garnish, it added just a little "umph" to an already decadent bite.
Things got event more interesting. A small cup of butternut squash soup had the molecular gastronomy components of a scientist. Wellman wasn't showing off (even though she could as she's worked at Bouchon, Jean-Georges and more) but is balancing a dish. Brown butter, sage, sherry and creme frache brought new dimensions to the rich liquid.
The salad duo of baby beets with truffle fondue (even better than it sounds) and caviar salad showed just how good a salad can be. After surprisingly rich starters the salads were a nice palate refresher. The caviar replaced crutons in a way and gave a new texture and flavor that was a little treat in every bite.
Striped bass seems to be what Wellman keeps getting written up for. Caviar powder delicately coats the white fish as do citrus bread crumbs, capers and a lemon foam.
My favorites of the night were the moscovay ducky breaks with sweet potato puree, pecans, sour cherries and duck jus and the roasted jidori chicken with brussels sprouts, chestnut puree and apple cranberry chutney. This showed Wellman's appreciation for the seasons and the familiar. This dish was an upgraded version of the holiday dishes we all know and love. Wellman hits a high note with these dishes.
Espresso caviar atop a vanilla panna cotta finished us off with a cardamom shortbread cookie and almond meringue. I would have like a slightly more rich dessert, especially after a decadent meal, however, somethings must remain in the French fashion, after all, it is Petrossian!
Eating at Petrossian provides you the luxury to have a very talented chef focusing on you. Ask to meet her, try her creations. You can see the same devotion in her face that you taste in her food.
Watch out LA... There may be a new "best" burger in town. I got to stop in today and try what I must say was a really, really delicious burger.
Plus the space is modern, hip and fun. Located on the Cahuenga corridor, they are making quite the statement by opening just a block down from Umami, and I think that statement is, "We're bringing it!"
They serve beer, wine and sake and will be making some really interesting cocktails out of these normally unhindered alcohols. Today I tried a beer with apple sake, and although I am not normally a beer drinker, I loved how the sake lightened up the beer and gave it a hint of apple!
I tried the fuku burger and the chicken katsu. Both were awesome. I asked for ketchup before even biting into the burger (as I unabashedly am a ketchup fiend) and took my initial bite with no ketchup. To my surprise and delight this burger needs no extra sauce. It's perfect just the way it is. I particularly fell in love with the bun. Super soft and oh by the way, it's made in house. So are all their sauces, as like I said, they are bringing it.
The chicken sandwich was also awesome. It came with a hefty helping of slaw, which gave it the perfect crunch. And again was served on that magical bread. Yum.
There will be 6 burgers, plus a gourmet sausage and a rice bowl.
They officially open on Tuesday. Burgers are $8 and pitchers of beer can be had for $15... Quite the deal if you ask me! Plus they'll be open til 4am.
Fukuburger 1634 N. Cahuenga Blvd.
I received a little box of treasures last week full of tiny treats packed with flavor. The selection ballotin comes with their four most popular aromatic families: balsam, citrus, roasted and fruity.
Despite their petit size, each piece has a ton of flavor and is very pleasing. I loved the modern presentation with the white box and feel these would make an excellent hostess gift or even better party favor.
Most importantly, the chocolates come with an identification sheet so you know that you are trying candied grapefruit or strawberry before you take a bite.
My favorites? This was easy... The roasted had me at hello. In flavors like almond, hazelnut and walnut, they may not be your everyday roasted chocolate varieties but they are sure to win you over. In the future I would forgo the other varieties and stick with the roasted.