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Gardens of Avila restaurant at Sycamore Springs resort, Avila Beach

Brian Collins was amazing at Lido - but is still amazing the times I've been able to eat at Full of Life in Los Alamos. There is something just as special about Chef Trester. Something I left out of my review is that the wine list is frequently changing based on my visits and is almost all local to Paso and the Edna Valley. A great list to discover things, and celebrating the farm-based menu and the area's bounty, if you bring a local wine in to dinner--I brought in one of my Pinot's from the Edna Valley--they waive corkage completely.

Oh, and I see this dish on his Twitter, that I definitely ordered while up there a few weeks back. It was sublime, roasted beets:

http://ow.ly/i/1BryF

Mar 04, 2013
George in California

Ice Cream at Rite Aid [moved from Los Angeles board]

Oh, it's been 7 years since I first posted this, I've definitely had a cone...or 20....

Mar 03, 2013
George in General Topics

Gardens of Avila restaurant at Sycamore Springs resort, Avila Beach

I've been meaning to post this for some time. My wife and I travel from LA up to the SLO area quite a lot for vacations. We love the area and the wineries of the Edna valley, and many of the restaurants. A few years ago, when Chef Brian Collins was working at the Lido in Shell Beach, I thought I had found my restaurant - a place I would return to again and again. It didn't turn out that way as Collins returned to Full of Life Flatbread down in Los Alamos. But in doing so, I've discovered that amazing place and go there each time I'm passing through on a weekend. But I digress. When the old Gardens chef moved to the Lido, a new chef started at Gardens at the Sycamore Springs resort. Robert Trester. I don't enjoy the Lido anymore, but the loss of Brian Collins has been offset by the arrival of Trester at Gardens. I first visited the restaurant just after his arrival last summer. Some of the menu was held over at first from the old chef. But by late summer/early fall, there was a lot of new things going on with the menu - I remember being super impressed by the food, although back then it seemed the chef was using sous vide cooking in almost every main course. I wondered if that would survive, or if clients would accept it - I have friends into that Modernist Cuisine tome, and in cities like LA and NY it is everywhere, but I had doubts. All of this was put to rest last month on my latest visit to the area, while staying in Sycamore Springs itself.

We had a package where we had our breakfasts in the restaurant each day, and we thought we would eat there one night for dinner. We loved our dinner there so much, everything was so amazing--better by far than most restaurants we visit in LA, even on the top level--that we chose not to go to SLO for dinner, or Shell Beach, and just eat all our meals at Gardens. Breakfast pastries in the morning--homemade, and baked fresh. The use of the "farm" on the resort property. The skill and inventiveness of the chef himself. I was really blown away.

While I didn't take photos or record everything we ate--the breads are all baked in house, there are changing amuse dishes sent out by the kitchen--from the Winter menu we tried dishes such as the "garden salad, roasted beets, carrots, and their purees," the "roasted brussels sprouts, pancetta, parmesan, grapes," the "slow cooked beef shortrib, potato emulsion, crisp mushooms, pomegranate gremolata," the "roasted organic chicken, garden peppers, jamon serrano, butternut squash gnocchi," a homemade pasta dish with duck I believe, a sublime soup --

I was just very impressed by the specific way of the chef, the California cuisine lifted and changed in ways that are hard to describe/name. Definitely a chef using the farm and farmer's market. Definitely some influences from fusion cooking--other global cuisines. Everything totally delicious, and wait staff unpretentious and fun, the place not over-crowded.

Which is why I want to post. This place should be drawing in anyone from the area who loves food and great cooking - or others vacationing here or even passing through. Something very special is going down in this kitchen - I don't know the chef, this post is just from a (new) fan. I hope he stays here for a while, and I hope the success of the restaurant is assured. I hope the Sycamore Springs knows they have a real talent on their hands, someone very special. My wife and I will be back, as often as we can with this chef running the restaurant. I was told he is changing and expanding the farm/garden, and the menu seems in constant developement...dishes changing all the time, so what you see online on the hotel website is only of partial use.

I found this good intro article from the newspaper online:

http://www.newtimesslo.com/food-wine/8080/garden-redux/

And the chef seems to be using Twitter now to get the word out on his farm, his new dishes, other news about the Gardens of Avila. Lots of good photos here:

https://twitter.com/ChefAtGardens

Mar 02, 2013
George in California

Where to Buy Monkfish in LA

That's Pete and his business West Coast Seafood. He doesn't have monkfish every week, you should call ahead and see if he can/will bring it. But whenever he has it, I buy some and it's always amazing quality.

http://www.westcoastseafoodsimi.com/L...

Sep 04, 2012
George in Los Angeles Area

Best gourmet ice cream and patisserie?

Seriously, this place is amazing. Walked in at 9 pm on a Friday night, and it was empty, though it looked from the ice cream case like they had been busy. I used to live in Paris; I would agree with comparisons to Bertillon. Tonight we had salted caramel, the chile chocolate cinnamon, creme fraiche, the rosemary butterscotch. It wasn't too sweet. Some of the flavors I sampled were indeed more on the savory side. (Lemongrass curry coconut.) The shop is attractive, between Martel and Vista on Melrose. I can't believe they don't have lines out the door like Milk. The ice cream is so much better than Milk. Only comparison I have in LA is to Bulgarini. I totally loved this place. Will be rushing back.

Aug 03, 2012
George in Los Angeles Area

looking for fresh sardines

Pete of J & P West Coast Seafood had fresh sardines on Monday morning at the WeHo farmer's market in Plummer Park. He doesn't have them every week though. Best to call first.

Jul 28, 2011
George in Los Angeles Area

which farmers market can I find La Boulangerie bread?

I asked Thierry about his full list of Farmer's Markets. As of now, here is his schedule:

Thursday: City Hall

Friday: Echo Park ; and Bank of America DownTown

Saturday: Calabasas; and Americana Glendale

Sunday: Larchmont; and Agora Hills; and Westlake; and Mar Vista; and Pacific Palisades

Monday: West Hollywood.

No markets as of now on Tuesday and Wednesday....Go find Thierry!

May 09, 2011
George in Los Angeles Area

which farmers market can I find La Boulangerie bread?

Monday mornings Thierry is at the FM in WeHo, Plummers Park. He is the best in LA.

May 08, 2011
George in Los Angeles Area

Fromage Frais in the L.A. area anyone?

More specific than fromage frais, but I just finished off the delicious goat milk faisselle that Laurent Bonjour is selling out of his cheese truck at local Farmer's Markets: Laurent Bonjour's Cheese Corner.

May 07, 2011
George in Los Angeles Area

Grand Central Market - best lunch?

I did the jury duty excuse for lunch at Grand Central Market experience this week and have to confirm the well known excellence of Sarita's Pupuseria. But I also went to Roast To Go and asked the woman there to show me the buche, which she did proudly and so I jumped in a got a taco de buche - it was really, really, really delicious. Very spicy salsa roja, lots of onion and lemon to interact with the pig stomach. It was amazing, though I don't know if my fellow jurors in the later afternoon shared my opinion, I'm sure given how large and messy it was that I smelled like a taco de buche for some time.

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Grand Central Market
317 S Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90013

Sarita's Pupuseria
317 S Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90013

Roast To Go
317 S Broadway Ste 23, Los Angeles, CA 90013

Mar 19, 2011
George in Los Angeles Area

Boccalone in LA?

Thanks for responding to this old post and for the info. Back when, Cube wasn't selling it, but happy to hear that has changed. Love Cube.

Nov 26, 2010
George in Los Angeles Area

Whole Roast Pig from Chinatown?

I just logged on to look up old threads on Sam Woo and see this post at the top of the day's list. Years ago, on this board, someone told this then recent transplant from NYC that I should replace my longings for New York Noodletown by going to Sam Woo. But 6 years later, I've never been. Is there any agreement on which Sam Woo location is the "best"? I'm thinking of going in a few hours.

Aug 13, 2010
George in Los Angeles Area

ISO small eccentric but good Napa wineries

and if 'experience' is what you are looking for, then I would recommend Round Pound. It is a beautiful vineyard, but I would recommend reserving a place at their olive oil tasting, it is really informative and fun.

Jul 29, 2010
George in San Francisco Bay Area

ISO small eccentric but good Napa wineries

when i've been to Van Der Heyden in the past, the owner himself poured the wines, in a trailer out in the back of his yard, with his grandkids toys scattered about outside. he was fun and the experience unique, but i didn't go back on this recent trip. if you would enjoy visiting a beautiful spot, with picnic opportunities and room to languish and hang out (the bocce court for example), then Dutch Henry is fun. It is indeed eccentric though--the pourer was a musician, and was playing his country-western CD during our time there, offering signed copies. If you are looking for a small vineyard with great tasting room experience--you don't hang out on a vineyard while there so much--then I recommend Elyse. I enjoyed it more, for the wines. As a postscript, I have noticed that a cheaper Elyse wine, not offered in their tasting, is being sold now by a big store like Trader Joe's.

Jul 29, 2010
George in San Francisco Bay Area

michel richard's pâté

agreed--it is fantastic there

Jul 11, 2010
George in Los Angeles Area

michel richard's pâté

funny to see this post resurrected tonight. For I have just signed on after my dinner, my wife and I had earlier today stopped by the new Maison Michel--it is very attractive and can't wait to eat there. But we were buying pates to take home, and I literally just finished eating the duck pate, and the parsleyed ham terrine. Also the salmon wrapped around a poached egg in aspic. So classic and so good.

Jul 10, 2010
George in Los Angeles Area

ISO small eccentric but good Napa wineries

I wanted to report back after my trip. My wife and I tried many of these suggestions, although we didn't make it to Terraces. Elyse was really great, very much like Havens used to be across the street (the Havens site stands abandoned looking, though the vineyards around it are being worked; the Elyse people said it was being sold again very soon by the company that took it over and went bankrupt). You do have to make an appointment, small tasting room, one white and about seven reds including the port at the end. The port was the only thing I didn't think was fantastic. The two cabernets and the syrah priced at 65/bottle were too steep for me to buy, but I enjoyed them and purchased their pinot and a cab from Tietjen vineyard priced around 40/bottle. The dog, a 13yr old pointer, was by our side as we tasted, very friendly, and informative, in fact some women came back with their friends for a 2nd tasting in as many days, to introduce the friends to the place. Really recommended. Dutch Henry is a beautiful spot on Silverado, you can bring a picnic if you plan ahead, and they have tables amid olive trees, airedale terriers, some pretty bold and funny cats, and a bocce court. It is a fun place. The wines were good, not extraordinary, but the thing I tasted here that I like best was their olive oil. It is made from the olives growing along the drive outside the tasting room--we were told the olives are brought to a nearby monastery. Was he pulling our leg? I don't know, but the olive oil is 28/bottle and is really fantastic.
Last: Barlow. This is a really lovely place, very much a family vineyard, very close to Dutch Henry and both to Calistoga. You have to call ahead, as you cannot drive onto the property without the code to their front gate. After opening it with the code, you drive up a beautiful lane surrounded by the vineyards, cross a bridge and climb up a steep hill toward what is essentially the winemakers' home. It is a father and son's place, the father retired from his career down in Orange County to Napa and seems now to be in his 80s. You taste the wines in his home, in our case at their dining or kitchen table. The wines are really fine--not typical big Napa explosive wines, they were subtle and even the Zinfandel was a great food wine it seemed to me. I purchased several and really loved the wines I tasted, most all of them unfiltered and made from estate grown grapes. So I am basically just writing to add these details, and reiterate the recs you all made to me, and with my thanks!

Jul 04, 2010
George in San Francisco Bay Area

ISO small eccentric but good Napa wineries

thanks everyone these suggestions and the elyse report are great. I leave next Wednesday so if you have other ideas.......

Jun 25, 2010
George in San Francisco Bay Area

Olema Inn vs. Osteria Stellina...or something else?

ate there last summer as my wife and I passed through Pt. Reyes Station. I still remember the goat. It was the highlight of our trip (we are from LA).

Jun 23, 2010
George in San Francisco Bay Area

ISO small eccentric but good Napa wineries

Thank you. I'm looking into Dutch Henry. That thread reiterates Van Der Heyden, so thanks I hadn't read it yet. Near Havens on the same small road was another vineyard called Elyse.
http://www.elysewinery.com/
I wonder about trying them.

Jun 23, 2010
George in San Francisco Bay Area

ISO small eccentric but good Napa wineries

Thanks, I changed it.

Jun 23, 2010
George in San Francisco Bay Area

ISO small eccentric but good Napa wineries

I apologize in advance, I know there are a million postings and I have been searching and reading them. Here's my question though:

I'm coming up to wine country from LA next week. I'm wondering if the two vineyards that I have enjoyed the most--smaller places, individual or family proprietors--suggest immediately other lesser known vineyards that one would want to seek out.

Years ago, visiting my brother in SF, we drove out to Napa and fell by complete chance into this place:

http://www.vanderheydenvineyards.com/

It became a legendary visit for us, and we regularly exchange the wines with each other using mail order from afar.

More recently, another find: after a bottle of their wine at dinner at Ad Hoc one night while visiting, and then asking about them at a bigger vineyard the next day, the pourer there said--you are just 10 minutes away, I know them and used to work there, they are about to close but rush over and I'm sure you will find them still there. We rushed, they were closing, but to set up a French country style outdoor party with the vineyard next door, including food and live music, so amazing, and they of course welcomed us and set out the tasting wines for us. It became a favorite and I try to return on any visit. The vineyard was called Havens.

But I have just read online that it has been closed down! Kind of crushed about that.

Do these smaller places immediately suggest similar favorites for those who know the area better than I? I guess I'm saying, ultimately, that the big places and tastings leave me cold. I loved Havens for the French-style wines they were doing, like Côte du Rhone, the rosés too were amazing. I'll be staying in Calistoga, so anywhere up and down the valley is fine.

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Ad Hoc
6476 Washington St., Yountville, CA 94599

Jun 23, 2010
George in San Francisco Bay Area

ISO steamed buns

that is a beauuuutiful photo. yes this is the kind of bun i am looking to purchase. I'll check 99 Ranch.

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99 Ranch
17713 Pioneer Blvd, Artesia, CA

Jun 02, 2010
George in Los Angeles Area

ISO steamed buns

Basically I'm making my own version of the Momofuku steamed pork (belly) buns and I'm looking for a source for frozen buns for steaming. Any ideas/markets you know that carry them?

if you know a resto that makes pork buns that will make me forget momofuku, I'm also all ears. I expect in LA it is not a tall order at all.

Jun 02, 2010
George in Los Angeles Area

ISO Morels

And West Hollywood Farmers Market (Mondays, Plummers Park). No rush on the morels here.

May 31, 2010
George in Los Angeles Area

michel richard

really amazing eclairs

really amazing patés

May 23, 2010
George in Los Angeles Area

Chichen Itza catering?

dommy - i just went to the website to salivate as i sometimes do, and see they are offering lechon/suckling pig sunday mornings (?) until 2 pm. Does anyone know anything about this??

May 09, 2010
George in Los Angeles Area

michel richard

i went in this afternoon for a fix of eclairs to go. got them, and couldn't resist the ham/parsley terrine and salmon rilletes to go as well. All was as good as ever, but wanted to post for I overheard that they are moving -- after decades the lease is up, and they will move in a month to Fairfax and Melrose.

May 08, 2010
George in Los Angeles Area

What's the story with the huge live prawns at the Little Tokyo Marketplace?

the video of russ parsons and providence is here on this website, under chow videos, the category "The Perfect"--it is great to watch.

Apr 01, 2010
George in Home Cooking

Is Sa Rit Gol actually closed?

Very sad. Does anyone have any leads on a place that specializes in the delicious black cod casserole that Sa Rit Gol made?

Mar 26, 2010
George in Los Angeles Area