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Another Take on Voltaggio's ink.sack

I completely agree about the tuna. It was sloppy with mayonnaise, not spicy, and not delicious at all. I didn't bother to finish it. The tuna was dry and almost stringy.

I tried the Maryland Blue Crab Chips and loved them even more than the regular chips. I loved the Old Bay and the spiciness. Addictive!

I even felt the quality of the Banh Mi was inferior to my first visit. Really heavy on mayo. I was wondering if things were not quite up to snuff because Voltaggio wasn't there making the sandwiches.

I'm going back for sure, but I was kind of bummed that things weren't as stupendous as the first go around.

Sep 08, 2011
jacqueline f in Los Angeles Area

The Tasting Kitchen

scottca075- you are funny and too kind! thank you!!

Aug 19, 2011
jacqueline f in Los Angeles Area

Another Take on Voltaggio's ink.sack

For those of us itching for Michael Voltaggio's new Los Angeles restaurant to open, there are not one but two glimmers of hope. The first being that according to rumor Ink will finally open some time in September. Hooray! The second is that to tide you over, you can check out Voltaggio's newly opened sandwich joint, ink.sack.

With great anticipation we went there on Wednesday around half past twelve and there was definitely a little swarm gathered in front of the smallish storefront. Most waiting to order or to pickup. There really isn't much room to eat there, just a bit of counter space, so it's mainly in and out.

I have to say that the menu board certainly adds to the excitement. Which one/s (limit four per person) will I choose? There's something for everyone. Unless you're a vegetarian. Which thankfully I am not. These diminutive sandwiches are meat-centric all the way.

I opted for the banh-mi and the cold fried chicken, and while rather small the fillings are rich and delectable and I could only polish off one and a half sandwiches. I did steal tastes of the luscious CLT, which features one of my all-time favorite things, chicken-liver mousse. The creamy mousse along with the curried chicken skin and perfect slices of juicy summer tomatoes must make this one of the best choices on the menu. I plan to return straightaway to sample everything else on the menu, so I can confirm this for you -- who am I kidding? -- for myself.

The banh-mi was outstanding, showcasing tender pork cheek and pickled vegetables. But the knock-out on this sandwich was the inclusion of the crispy chicharones. Very clever idea, indeed. Even with the greasy chicharones, this sandwich still feels fresh thanks to the vinegary pickled vegetables and fresh cilantro.

The cold fried chicken sandwich was quite tasty, although not as revelatory as the other two. The chicken itself is moist, with a beautiful golden crust. The house made ranch cheese didn't make a strong impression on me, and the lasting feeling was that this sandwich was a tiny bit dry.

And that brings me to the bread. I'm pretty sure that the bread was responsible for any dryness. The bread they are using is completely unspectacular and really just a package for delivering Voltaggio's scrumptious fillings to your mouth. Rita mentioned Subway. Mo. felt the bread didn't detract from the experience, but certainly didn't add to it. I believe that almost any other bread -- be it baguette or squishy store-bought french rolls -- would be an improvement. I can't believe they are baking it themselves, so they ought to simply change purveyors.

You'll also find a tempting selection of house-made snacks, including paper-thin house-made potato chips that crack in your mouth gloriously. Salty and intensely vinegary, these potato chips won me over at the first bite and between you and me, I generally have zero interest in potato chips. There's also bbq pork rinds, watermelon with sriracha and lime (why didn't I pick up some of this), and cookies!

Is it too much to go back across town two days later? Will Fe. want this for lunch today? I've got a mean hankering for the spicy tuna with sriracha mayo and I'm dying to try the José Andres, filled with lots of meats -- serrano ham, chorizo, lomo -- and cheese.

Ink.sack is a smart idea for a little storefront restaurant. Though the place was crowded, the folks running the joint -- Voltaggio included -- are impressively efficient. We didn't wait long to order or to receive are little black sack lunches. The prices are very fair. Some complain the sandwiches are too small, but at four to six bucks a pop, I believe you're getting a great deal.

Plus, it's fun to see Michael Voltaggio hard at work, tattoos very much on display. I've been impatiently awaiting his next big thing ever since A. and I had an exceptional dinner at The Dining Room at the Langham back when Voltaggio was at the helm. Ink.sack is lots of fun and plenty delicious, but sign me up for Ink. Please.

ink.sack
8630 Melrose Avenue #107
Los Angeles, CA

posted with photos:
http://rocketlunch.blogspot.com/

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ink.sack
8360 Melrose Ave, #107, Los Angeles, CA 90069

Aug 19, 2011
jacqueline f in Los Angeles Area

Paris - La Régalade - Saint Honoré

In 2003, my sister and I went to Paris to visit our darling friend Brian, a foodie par-excellence and quite a stellar chef, to boot. We had the most indulgent vacation. Lots and lots of eating. Two pairs of Louis Vuitton shoes! We were high on lights and wine and the scintillating sensation of running wild in one of Europe's most beautiful cities.

The evening to beat all evenings was the one we spent at La Régalade, way out in the 14th arrondissement. I have vivid memories of the older French couples at the table next to us -- who were getting completely sauced -- flirting shamelessly with all of us. The meal was one of the top five meals of my life. The food was exquisite rustic French and I have never experienced such convivial ambiance before or since. I remember hearing Francis Cabrel on the radio in the cab after dinner and dissolving into a happy emotional mess from the sheer satisfaction of the entire experience.

So you can imagine that I was hoping to return to La Régalade. When I went back to Paris in 2005 with A., things didn't pan out. A. was not feeling game and I was sorely disappointed. In 2011, things would be different. We were going to La Régalade.

But then I started reading all the blog entries and the Chowhound posts and I began to feel discouraged. It was no longer Yves Camdeborde's restaurant. Now there were two La Régalade. How would I know which to pick? I mentioned my phone bill to France. No fewer than seven of those $3.25/minute calls were to Les Régalades. I had a miserable time getting through. The connections were always crackly and disjointed at best, and my French was terrible. I think the folks at La Régalade in the 14th, must have hung up on me twice in dispair.

I managed to get through to La Régalade Saint-Honoré and was able to secure a reservation for our Tuesday evening meal. Then the nerves starting kicking in. Would it live up to my expectations? I had read enough positive feedback to have hope. But then I started worrying that A. wouldn't like it, that he would doubt me, that the whole thing would be a flop.

And you know what? Being A., he did doubt me a little bit before we got there. Asking questions, like what makes you think it's going to be any good? My husband is loaded with skepticism. Loaded. But you know what else? When you're dealing with a skeptic like A., there is nothing sweeter than a success.

And that's what we had on the Tuesday night at La Régalade Saint-Honoré. A big fat success. It didn't matter that we were stuck along the wall with all the other Americans (isn't that the worst?), or that the space itself is not nearly as charming and old-school French as the original. It didn't matter a wit, because the service was spot-on and the food was divine.

Just as with my previous experience, the meal began with terrine à volonté and a mason jar of vinegary cornichons and pickled onions. The country-style poultry terrine was a delicious and warm welcome to the evening. I love that style of generosity. It conveys kind hospitality and it is how you would greet friends and loved-ones.

I chose the gambas sautées ail et persil, jambon d'Espagne, risotto crémeux à l'encre de seiche (sautéed shrimp with garlic and parsley, Spanish ham, and risotto with squid ink). A. selected the petite lasagne de légumes confits, mozzarella di buffala, jambon cru et basilic (lasagna of confit vegetables, buffalo mozzarella, raw ham and basil). Honestly, I was thinking to myself that A. was crazy to order Italian food when we had only barely arrived in France, but as is usually the case, he was absolutely right with his selection.

But so was I.

The dish was scattered with toasted garlic slivers. The shrimp were succulent and sweet. So often I can take or leave risotto, and for the most part I have been relatively indifferent to squid ink, but this risotto sung of the sea and salt and was indeed miraculously crémeux. The Spanish ham added a subtle porkiness that enriched the flavor of the dish. I'm searching for the right adjectives and embarrassing terms like heaven-on-Earth are coming to mind. Sorry!
The lasagna that A. ordered was a revelation. Showered in fresh herbs the entire dish had an emerald green flavor. The pasta was nearly transparent, the mozzarella luscious. The pesto and tomato sauce celebrated summer deliciously. This was lasagna, yes, but it was also anything but, in the sense that it transcended lasagna completely.

I'm pretty sure that I managed to order the richest dish on the menu, if not the richest in Paris. The poitrine de cochon fermier moelleuse de chez Ospital, la couenne croustillante, lentilles vertes du Puy cuisinées comme un petit salé (Ospital Farm pork belly with crispy pork rind and lentils du Puy) was a salty and fatty heart-attack in a soup plate. I mean that in a good way.

There was absolutely no way -- even with A.'s help -- that I could finish that massive hunk of pork belly surrounded by froth and crispy nuggets of pork rind. The earthy lentils helped to anchor the dish, yet it was still deathly rich, and entirely perfect. The dish embodied a traditional petit salé, but managed to elevate the pork to an entirely new plane of porcine pleasure.

A. had a hankering for the John Dory, but apparently so had the other patrons that evening. None left. He settled on the pavé de cabillaud de Bretagne demi-sel cuit dans un bouillon de poule, pousses d'épinards ravigotées, pignons de pin et vinaigrette de soja (filet of salt-cooked (not positive exactly what they mean here) cod in chicken bouillon with warmed spinach leaves, pine nuts, and soy vinaigrette).

The presentation was beautiful, lots of vivid green herbs and spinach contrasting white flesh and brick-red oven-roasted tomatoes. The pine-nuts provided a pleasantly subtle crunch. I liked his dish fine, but I'm not wild about cod or about uncooked spinach, so this was not my favorite of the evening.

You may have noticed that I don't often write about desserts. In fact you won't find a single dessert recipe on this blog (something to work towards!). The only time I've had a sweet-tooth was when I was pregnant and for a bit while I was nursing. I've developed an appreciation for sweets, but not much of a craving. That being said, I got cozy -- real cozy -- with desserts in Paris. We indulged almost every single night.

At La Régalade, we consumed more desserts in one night than I normally eat in one month. We ordered the soufflé chaud au Grand Marnier (warm Grand Marnier soufflé) and the fraîcheur de rhubarbe et fraises, fromage blanc et marscarpone à la vanille (rhubarb compote with strawberries, fromage blanc, and vanilla marscarpone). Apparently the chef felt that the soufflé was dragging its feet, so he sent out the petits pots de crème à a vanille gelée de fruits de la passion (vanilla pots de crème with passion fruit gelée). Only thirty seconds later did the souflé arrive. I'll confess with no shame that we ate every drop of all three desserts.

I have never in my life had a soufflé that captures the true meaning of the word soufflé so well. The Grand Marnier soufflé was indeed as light as a breath. Certainly, I've enjoyed soufflés in the past. We used to make the chocolate variety in Santa Cruz, but they were as dense as a pudding compared to this whiff of a dessert.

The other two desserts were all dreamy creaminess. I adore pots de crèmes, be they chocolate, vanilla, pistachio or caramel. These did not disappoint. The vanilla was potent and the bright acidic flavor of the passion fruit was a smart juxtaposition. The textures of cream and gelée also played off of each other superbly.

Rhubarb and strawberry are a classic combination for a reason. Throw in cream and vanilla and then a little crumble over the top for crunch and you've pretty much got my favorite dessert. Another hit!

Add a glass of Armagnac and I was over the moon.

I cannot recommend La Régalade Saint-Honoré enough. Chef Bruno Doucet is doing a swell job. It's definitely not haute-cuisine. Think elevated rustic French and you're in the right ballpark. At 35 euro for the three course prix-fixe, this is without a doubt one of the better deals in Paris. In the end what can I say? A. & I had a thoroughly marvelous time. You shouldn't miss this.

Posted with photos:
http://rocketlunch.blogspot.com/

Jul 18, 2011
jacqueline f in France

Brunch in Seattle

Thanks so much! We had an awesome brunch at Spring hill. Perfect with the little one. The saiman was delicious as was the bloody mary!

Jul 07, 2011
jacqueline f in Greater Seattle

Brunch in Seattle

My sister, Mother-In-Law and my 2 1/2 year old son will be in Seattle this Sunday morning. I thought it would be nice to have brunch in the city. I'd love recommendations for an interesting brunch. I'd like it to be slightly different. I'm personally not that excited about pancakes and french toast. The last meal I ate in Seattle was at Poppy, and I was stoked. I looked at the menu for a place called Spring Hill and I thought it looked great, but is it appropriate for a child and do you folks have any idea of the price range? The prices aren't included on the menu online. I also heard that Portage Bay was good.

Any thoughts?

Thank you so so much for your help!!

Jacqueline F.

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Spring Hill Restaurant & Bar
4437 California Ave SW, Seattle, WA 98116

Portage Bay Cafe
4130 Roosevelt Way NE, Seattle, WA 98105

Jun 23, 2011
jacqueline f in Greater Seattle

please critique my paris list for 3-night stay, thanks

We dined at La Regalade St. Honore a few weeks ago and it was marvelous. We were delighted with everything.

Jun 15, 2011
jacqueline f in France

Paris - Chéri Bibi

I can't confidently recommend taking an Ambien on the flight to Paris from Los Angeles. I thought I had it all figured out. A nonstop 1 p.m. flight would land us in Paris at 8:55 a.m. (Paris time) the following morning. So I took the sleeping meds about seven and a half hours before we arrived. Well, I was in something of a jetlagged fog for the next three days. While A. was recovering in less than two. Sleep bedevils me all the time. I cannot conquer it, and Ambien never really helps.
I had planned ahead for the fog, and reserved a table at a bistro near our B&B in the Montmartre district several weeks earlier. In fact I made a quite a few calls to Paris in advance of our trip, struggling with poor connections and seriously rusty French. I was denied a number of times, but was successful a satisfying four (more to come!)!

Unamusingly, I just received the phone bill that reflects my earnest attempts to secure divine dining in Paris. I'll tell you this, but don't tell A. The bill came to $313.11.

We could have gone out for at least one more dinner!

I'll keep my feelings about AT&T to myself, but really, $3.25 per minute to France makes me feel rather murderous.

Cough. Sorry for the rant! Back to what matters.

I'd read about Chéri Bibi in Alexander Lobrano's handy Hungry For Paris: The Ultimate Guide to the City's 102 Best Restaurants. One hundred and two! Funny number. In any event the restaurant was one of the one hundred and two and was walking distance from our B&B, the lovely and very clean Au Sourire de Monmartre, (highly recommend it!). Possessing only one dollar sign out of a possible four rating, this was inexpensive by Paris standards, and perfect for us.

We managed a nap, and strolled around the Sacre Coeur and later the Champs Elysée, but our lids were heavy and we lacked our usual pizzazz. Why are jetlag and plane travel such killers? It was almost too much to motivate to stay up for dinner.

Chéri Bibi was the perfect antidote to our fatigue. The staff was kind and forgave us our grammatical embarrassments. It is a smallish bistro with warm lighting and folding glass doors which open onto the sidewalks on summer evenings, run by a youthful crew of gorgeous French folk. The menu is written on a chalkboard and you might have to twist about to get a look at the wine list on the wall. Casual and comfortable (and comforting), this bistro has a hip and exciting buzz about it.

Not too far into our meal, I was bemoaning the lack of restaurants like Chéri Bibi in Los Angeles. It's the kind of place that I would love to have down the street from my house, something like a Canelé in Los Angeles, but way more French and far more delicious. I started thinking that I should open a bistro like Chéri Bibi, but that's not right.

I want someone else to do it.

The menu is 26 euros for an entrée, un plat (main dish) and a dessert. I opted for the plump violet asparagus from Landes that I had already seen in many of the vegetable shops around the city. They were lightly steamed or poached and dressed with a fruity olive oil, a sheep's milk cacciota and cracked pepper. These asparagus were stunning in their simplicity. We don't see asparagus this delectable in Los Angeles. Or at least, I haven't.

A. selected the shrimp with piment (might have been paprika or more likely piment d'espelette) and coriander. These were succulent beasts. We chomped the heads and all.

The food at Chéri Bibi is supposedly terroir style cooking. Meaning that it harkens back to an older time in Paris when the cuisine was heartier and more rustic, more of the earth. This may be the case, but somehow I managed to order in a different vane. I was delighted by how fresh and light everything seemed (except les pommes de terre).

Of course, I wasn't the one who ordered the lamb shoulder cooked in milk from the Pyrenees and duck fat. That was A. I've never seen lamb shoulder served on the bone here in the States as it was at Chéri Bibi. When A. saw it presented at another table, he wondered if it might be the duck magret.

Um, not quite. But let's face it, he isn't that familiar with fowl. The lamb was scrumptious and I suppose you could call it rustic. It took quite a bit of carving to finish it off, but I felt it was well worth the effort.

Each main dish comes with a choice of sautéed vegetables, mashed potatoes, house made fries, or a salad. It must have been the sound of pommes purées in French that had me ordering mashed potatoes with my lieu jaune (pollack) tartare. I never order mashed potatoes (and certainly not with a fish tartare). They are far too heavy and fattening to justify.

But, whoa! If it is possible, these were a revelation in potatoes. They were as buttery and decadent as any dessert. Just as sinful and equally as satisfying. It was a entirely different potato experience. My eyes have been opened anew.

Can you see all that butter? When the general guilt surrounding eating in Paris wears off, I am going to prepare some potatoes like those at Chéri Bibi. Those alone were worth staying awake for.

My pollack tartare with pesto (not as glamorous sounding as Le Tartare de Lieu Jaune au Pesto), impressed the hell out of me. The fish was remarkably fresh and clean tasting. The coarse pesto atop the fish complemented it suprisingly well, as did the olive vinaigrette drizzled alongside. These strong pesto and olive flavors are so often paired with a stronger main-player, but this absolutely worked without overpowering the delicate fish.

After a glass of champagne, a bottle of wine and very little sleep, I was too wiped out to remember to take pictures of our desserts. We shared an adequate albeit runny rice pudding with caramel (nothing compared to the rice pudding later in our vacation) and a sheeps milk cheese with an herbaceous ruby jam of Corsican cherries and thyme.

We stumbled out of the cozy glow of the restaurant into the warm night for a tour past the Sacre Coeur and a short walk home. We were sated, exhausted and happy.

Jacqueline F.
Original post with photos:
http://rocketlunch.blogspot.com/

Chéri Bibi
15 rue André-del-Sarte
75018 Paris
18th. Arrondissement
01 42 54 88 96

Jun 15, 2011
jacqueline f in France

[Paris] Le Chateaubriand -- March 2011 report

Thanks!

May 18, 2011
jacqueline f in France

[Paris] Le Chateaubriand -- March 2011 report

wow! awesome write-up. thank you for all the details.

how does the ordering work there? is it a set menu for everyone? what was the damage?

thanks!

jacqueline f.

May 17, 2011
jacqueline f in France

Paris trip report

What a super report! Thank you for your detailed portrait. I will definitely be referring back to this when we visit Paris next week!

May 16, 2011
jacqueline f in France

Berlin Currywurst

SilverlakeGirl- You singlehandedly made my day! Thank you for the good words.

I'll obviously have to give the fries another chance. Maybe they were having an off day.

Mar 29, 2011
jacqueline f in Los Angeles Area

Berlin Currywurst

A. really wanted to try Berlin Currywurst. I sort of did, though I had doubts.

We had a day to ourselves and part of me really wanted to go to town. I was thinking Aburiya Toranoko. I have a Blackboard Eats coupon burning a hole in my pocket. But the day after a seven course tasting menu with wine pairings at Drago Centro (more later!) is not really the day to go off.

So we popped over to Silver Lake and waited in line for over thirty minutes at Intelligentsia. Do people do this on a regular basis? The coffee is swell, but waiting in line for that long sent me back to clubbing days that I would just as soon forget.

After the caffeine issue was settled, we waltzed over to Berlin Currywurst. Yes, it's true the interior of the tiny spot is lovely and modern. There is just the right balance of bare white wall, black and white photo-murals, brick, and exposed filament light bulbs. Plus, I like the hip wood and metal furniture too.

A. is, generally speaking, a big fan of sausages and hot dogs and while I enjoy them as well my love is more measured. I worry about stomachaches and often I want some vegetables too! Not just french fries.

The menu is simple. Pick a sausage -- pork, beef and pork, pork with paprika and garlic, or perhaps tofu -- and then a heat level. One through four are on offer. I'd read here and there that even the lower levels are hot, so I didn't go all the way. But understanding that I am a bit of a heat fiend, you'll know I had to start at level three.

There is some kind of choice of additional flavors. I didn't manage to get to the bottom of this. Apparently for eighty-nine cents something in the flavor of your wurst experience will be altered.

I personally did not notice a need for alterations. Really not at all. Or not with the currywurst anyway. I opted for the pure pork bratwurst. A. chose the one with paprika. We were both more than a little enthused.

Honestly, I don't think I really understood currywurst. I know Richard Blais did a variation on it during the most recent Top Chef episode, but I was so pissed that Antonia went home and that Mike Isabella was left standing that I had completely forgotten. I was actually expecting a sausage on a bun, even after I had read all the reviews on Yelp. I guess I wasn't concentrating.

Apparently currywurst is not some sort of hybrid German/Indian food. The owner made this clear. It is German food with the addition of curry that British soldiers brought to Germany. Wikipedia informs that a German housewife may be responsible for its invention. Thank goodness for Herta Heuwer!

The sausage is cooked and cut into thick slices and served in a rather addictive sauce of tomato paste and yellow curry. Vinegar and perhaps worcestershire sauce are probably lurking in there too along with some other mystery ingredients. I've read that the owners won't give away the secret recipe. Too bad! On the side is a terrific soft country-style German bread.

Two bites in and I was telling A. that I would most likely be licking the plate clean.

I was perfectly shocked by how much I was loving that lunch. The wurst itself has a satisfying snap to its skin. There are just the right amount of fatty bits within to keep the meat juicy and delicious.

And the sauce was ridiculous. I was easily imagining the development of mad cravings. It balances sweet, spicy and tangy exceptionally well. The charming owner let me sample the fourth level of heat after I told him that I thought I could hack it. It wasn't too bad, especially if you like a little eyelid sweat.

I wish they served beer! This food is made for it.

The only mild negative is the french fries. The idea of topping them with slightly-cooked onions is very good. I have no idea what the other choice of jambalaya topping is like. Next time! Unfortunately the fries themselves are not quite right. Somehow they are oily on the outside but the oil doesn't penetrate far enough inside and the middle of each fry seems a little dry. Hopefully they can sort this problem out, because that is my only complaint.

The food is cheap. It's a five-spot and change for the sausage and bread and unless you are a really big eater, you don't need anything else. Not even the fries. They're just added decadence. It's a great deal and a super addition to the neighborhood.

Our big star spotting at this tiny Silver Lake eatery was none other than snowboarder extraordinaire, Shaun White! I loved his mirrored glasses and tight black and white striped pants. Funny funny.

As I sat at Berlin Currywurst, I could easily imagine a line around the block in the not too distant future. A. was busy imagining a mightily successful franchise.

It's clear that Berlin Currywurst is going places.

JacquelineF
posted with pics:
http://rocketlunch.blogspot.com/

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Berlin Currywurst
3827 W Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90026

Mar 27, 2011
jacqueline f in Los Angeles Area

Mozza - Mangiare In Famiglia -- Tuscan Beef!!

Thank you! It costs $75. Wine is extra.

Mar 17, 2011
jacqueline f in Los Angeles Area

Cochon 555- May 1st LA- aka Pig Cookoff

I want to go to there!

Mar 16, 2011
jacqueline f in Los Angeles Area

Mozza - Mangiare In Famiglia -- Tuscan Beef!!

We did not feel like dying after the Tuscan Beef dinner at Mozza three Fridays ago.

In fact, when I woke up the next morning I was ready to do it all over again. That morning.

They've really nailed it over there. And by they, I mean Chad Colby and his crew. The six course dinner featuring beef in the style of Tuscany was -- of the three Mangiare In Famiglia I have attended, so far -- the best.

The not dying part was actually a really big deal. Because after our Heritage Pork dinner, things were not looking so good for A. and me. We way over did it. Colby has managed to keep the family style dining experience in tact, while reining in the portions. It's a lot harder to gorge yourself like a pig now. You won't be helping yourself to thirds of the second course when all the heaviest fare is yet to come.

And thank goodness. While you might want another crostoni topped with beef tartare, you'll be glad you couldn't go down that path when you're staring at the glorious oxtail on your plate.

The Manzo Toscano (Tuscan beef) dinner at Mozza was exquisite. From the first bite of focaccia to the last slurp of ice cream sundae, we were all besides ourselves.

A. and I had booked the reservation almost two months prior, so there was plenty of time for the anticipation to build. By the week of our dinner, I was racing about my life, positively buzzing with excitement. I knew we would be having a stellar evening.

I had no doubts at all.

If I hadn't had such a wonderful time, my photos might be better. I apologize.

I was tickled when Chad Colby greeted me with a hello and a the last time I saw you, you were eating pig's blood soup. Yep, I bumped into him and Mozza's terrific bespectacled server -- whose name I regrettably don't know -- at Sapp Coffee Shop some months back. That soup is not to be missed.

We were again enthusiastically welcomed with a glass of Prosecco and a wedge of focaccia. That focaccia is exceptional. There was sage and onion, olive, and another round that featured peppers. This chewy, oily, crispy beauty is a must. The good news is that you don't have to sign up for a five or six course meal to enjoy it. You can simply pop into Mozza2Go after 2 p.m. and order a slice.

Don't even wait. Stop over there on the way home tonight. You will not regret it. Even if it takes you an hour out of your way.

The tables were laid with platters of raw baby vegetables and bowls of bagna cauda. Bagna cauda in general -- and this one in particular -- is divine. We joyously dipped the raw beets, butter radishes, baby carrots, slices of fennel, and treviso into the warm bath of garlic, anchovy, olive oil, and butter. I was going nuts over this course. I didn't want to stop. I need to make this at home post-haste.

The first beef course was one of my favorites of the night. Carne Cruda - carciofi e Parmigiano-Reggiano. This was essentially a steak tartare on a lengthy crostoni topped with shaved raw artichoke and Parmigiano-Reggiano. The beef is cut in much thicker chunks than your usual tartare, thus delivering a more interactive experience in the mouth. The beef is doused in olive oil that gushes into your mouth with every bite. The flavor is the most refined essence of beef --raw, minerally -- pure cow.

The Breve Costoletta Alla Griglia with salsa verde is a whole new experience in grilled short ribs. Think Korean barbeque style cut, flat and thin. These ribs are building a reputation of their own, being prominently featured in the December 21st 2010 Dining and Wine section of the New York Times. A kiwi marinade! A porcini rub! The accompanying salsa verde seems to be a standard at these Mangiare In Famiglia. We've happily lapped up the emerald-green condiment at every one so far.

I couldn't help myself. I whispered to a friendly server that perhaps the extra slab at the end of the table was available. He smiled and assured me he'd be right back. And he was, ribs in hand.

The Coda Alla Vaccinara - brasati sedano or braised oxtails served with braised celery was next. Colby reminded us not to forget to try the celery. It's delicious, too, he quipped. These luscious oxtails rested on a heap of braised celery, and the whole affair was showered with a celery leaf garnish. A bowl of the braising liquid was passed around to ladle over. How thoughtful! This was my other favorite of the night.

I have never had oxtails cooked this perfectly. They were impossibly meaty and tender. I am a big fan of celery. The humble vegetable sadly gets very little recognition, but all the naysayers would change their tune after one bite of these supple melting stalks.

At the end of meal, I managed to extract the recipe for the oxtails out of Chad Colby (thank you, Chef!), so stay tuned. There is a mess of oxtails in the refrigerator as we speak.

The final beef course of the evening was Bistecca Fiorentina - fagioli et swiss chard, cippolini al forno. These gigantic porterhouse steaks greeted us from their perch on the cooking island at the start of dinner, challenging us to save room for them.

And we did! Plenty of room for a sliver of New York and a rosette of fillet. And who could say no to the comfortingly soupy beans and swiss chard, and the gorgeous roasted onions with their caramelized edges?

Not I.

When I noticed that Sundaes were the dessert of the evening, I was a little disappointed. I don't really dig dessert all that much to begin with, and ice cream with toppings sort of seemed like a cop-out.

Wrong.

Sundaes for dessert was a dynamite idea. It brought back all the excitement of making them with my grandpa. I felt like a silly kid again. The vanilla, gianduia, and banana gelati were all stand-out. The ultra-salty peanuts and Luxardo maraschino cherries were magic atop a very healthy drizzle of chocolate sauce.

I can't help but sing the praises of the Mangiare In Famiglia. There just isn't a better deal or dining experience to be had in town right now. Strangers seated around the table that night were nearly moved to tears, discussing the virtues of this dining experience. And there's so much more to come. This month features seeds and grains, and April will welcome in the spring harvest. Chad Colby also mentioned a dinner focused on chiles.

Sign me up!

Mozza2Go/Scuola Di Pizza
6610 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90036

323-297-1130

JacquelineF
posted with photos:
http://rocketlunch.blogspot.com/

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Sapp Coffee Shop
5183 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90027

Mozza
641 N Highland Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90036

Mar 16, 2011
jacqueline f in Los Angeles Area

Mozza2Go: Mangiare in Famiglia REVIEW

I wish I hadn't missed the citrus dinner! I'm trying beef in a couple weeks. So cannot wait. Thanks for the report!

Feb 03, 2011
jacqueline f in Los Angeles Area

Cassoulet - Paula Wolfert Style or How to Spend One Week Accomplishing Only One Amazing Thing

You just made my day!

Dec 29, 2010
jacqueline f in Home Cooking

Cassoulet - Paula Wolfert Style or How to Spend One Week Accomplishing Only One Amazing Thing

I wanted to share my insane cassoulet making experience with you folks...

You may remember that about six months ago, my friend, Joseph, and I put together a batch of duck confit, with the hopes of preparing a cassoulet that could compete with the best Toulouse had to offer.

Well, we did just that a few weeks ago.

Joseph and I were going back and forth regarding what recipe to use, because this is in no way a prepare-off-the-top-of-your-head kind of dish.

Not at all. It requires research.

I'd made cassoulet twice before, using a solid recipe from Gourmet. The Canal House Cooking recipes intrigued us, but in the end we wanted to try something a little more traditional.

When Joseph forwarded a recipe from Food & Wine that indicated the cooking was to be accomplished over four days, I thought that he was more than a little bit crazy. As if anyone, has time to prepare a four day recipe, let alone the mother of a toddler.

Yes, I was skeptical.

After a number of attempts at reading through the lengthy recipe, I realized that it was an adaptation of a Paula Wolfert recipe from The Cooking of Southwest France (fantastic cookbook -- just ask Jonathan Gold). Of course, a Paula Wolfert recipe would take four days -- she is the grand dame of slow cooking.

I decided to climb on board.

Big props to Joseph for his enthusiasm and willingness to take on a seemingly ridiculous project. Never in a million years would I have chosen to do this on my own. But in the afterglow of this project, I am so glad that we did.

Having chosen the recipe, the flurry of shopping began.

Where do you find pig skin?

What about Tarbais beans? Scratch those -- too hard to find -- we'll settle for cannellini.

Fe and I headed out to the Farmer's Market at Third and Fairfax, and hit up Monsieur Marcel, Huntington Meats, and Marconda Meats.

I hardly ever make it to Monsieur Marcel, but I dig it there. They had the Piment D'Espelette that I had been searching for. And even at $27 for a tiny jar, I figured it was my lucky day. They also had all the pancetta, prosciutto, Toulouse sausages, and cannellini beans that my heart could desire, so we were very well on our way.

Huntington had the ham hocks, and pork shoulder, and Marconda had the salt pork. The Grove graciously provided all the twinkling lights and water fountains that Fe could hope for, so it really turned out to be a perfect outing.

The other shocking aspect of this cassoulet recipe -- besides the time factor -- is the sheer amount of meat required. Not only would we be using our duck confit, we would be adding pork skin, pork shoulder, salt pork, prosciutto, pancetta, Toulouse sausages, two ham hocks, and duck fat.

Honestly, I felt mildly horrified by it all. Although strangely, when we were enjoying the final results, I quipped that the dish actually seemed innocent. The meat had all fallen apart. The fat had melted. You could barely tell how much artery-clogging-delight you were consuming.

So I began on a Tuesday night. The beans needed soaking, and the pork shoulder needed to be cubed. The shoulder, skin, and hocks were placed in a bowl and seasoned lightly with salt and pepper, and then tucked away into the refrigerator to spend the night.

That was simple enough. Except for the fact that I screwed it up. Fresh ham hocks. I glossed over that little word, fresh. What we had ready to go on Wednesday were smoked ham hocks.

Not really the same thing.

I had a minor panic attack. If it were just me -- no big deal. But I was letting Joseph down. I'm not used to cooking with other people. It adds a whole new level of responsibility!

Racked with guilt, I made some phone calls. My former beau and knower of all things food talked me off the ledge. He convinced me that there were certainly folks living in the French countryside whose secret ingredient to exquisite cassoulet were ham hocks that were specifically and particularly smoked.

Phew. I believed him. And yes, it was definitely okay.

The next night, Wednesday, was a big night of cooking, involving simmering salt pork and pig skin, tying up skin bundles, melting duck fat, browning all manner of pork, and lots more simmering of the resulting pork ragout. An hour and a half's worth.

By the time the first simmer was completed, the clock was slipping past 9 p.m. Rita had seen to our hunger by bringing over food from the outstanding Pollo a la Brasa (lips burning from green sauce). Yet there was still an additional two hours of simmering to go, once the beans were added.

Staying up late was the only option. The beans finished cooking and cooling and much past my bedtime, I was asleep.

This recipe requires commitment. Joseph was back at my house by 8:40 the next morning.

The recipe instructs you to remove as much solidified fat from the surface of the pot. We didn't find an obvious layer of fat to chip away at. I think it may have seeped into the cannellini beans.

The slabs of prosciutto and pancetta that were browned the previous day and simmered in the ragout are to be plucked out and cut into bite-size pieces. The meat should be removed from the hocks. So much of the meat had already shredded itself during the simmering that this process was rather quick and easy -- not to mention that Joseph was the one doing it.

Strangely our bouquet garni had vanished entirely. The celery ribs were nowhere to be found! Mysterious. There had been a whole head of garlic that simmered away in our ragout, and those cloves were to be squeezed out to purée with the salt pork and raw garlic. Impossible. The garlic had completely worked its way out of its wrapping all on its own.

I did purée the raw garlic with the salt pork. We added that to the ragout and simmered for 15 minutes longer.

We had to taste. The excitement began to build. The dish was already pretty damn amazing and we had four major steps in the recipe to complete, including adding the duck confit and Toulouse sausages. It felt like we might have a real winner on our hands.

That was Thursday morning. Amusingly, we had finally finished the do ahead part -- only took three days! -- of the cassoulet recipe. We were free until Saturday afternoon!

Saturday night was designated as the cassoulet orgy, so Joseph and I got busy again on Saturday afternoon. The duck confit had to be retrieved from its hiding space, buried deep within a jar of duck fat and far back in the depths of my refrigerator. It had been quietly resting there for about six months.

The confit was heated through, removed from the bones, and then shredded. Those funny looking pork bundles were untied, and placed on the bottom of an old french earthenware casserole that I dusted off for the occasion.

No, we didn't spring for the $100 cassole. Maybe next fall.

The confit and the bean ragout were layered and the remaining broth was added to the cooking liquid.

Wait a minute. Here we had questions that were not obviously answered by the recipe.

Just how liquidy should the ragout have been? Ours was not liquidy at all. We added a bit of additional stock to make up for this, but then were left second guessing ourselves in the final stages of the recipe. Was the cassoulet too wet and did we need to cook it longer to reduce some of the liquid?

My only real complaint about the recipe is that it is almost punishingly long and detailed, but does not provide enough detail as to what your results should be throughout the journey. For such a commitment to the recipe on our part, I wanted the recipe to hold our hand a little bit more along the way.

But back to the process. At this point, because there was not quite enough animal fat in the cassoulet you add about two more tablespoons of melted duck fat. You know, just to be safe.

The cassoulet is then baked for an hour and a half. During that time the Toulouse sausages need to be browned in a little bit more oil, and cut into pieces, ready to be mixed in.

After the initial hour and a half of baking, the sausages are added and -- wait for it -- two more tablespoons of melted duck fat are stirred into the pot. The top is dusted with bread crumbs and the whole shebang is baked at a reduced temperature for just one more hour. After that the precious mix only needs to recover quietly on a cloth-lined rack for twenty minutes, before you can finally sup.

Writing this, I am struck by how insane the whole process was; how any realistic person would never even consider a recipe such as this. And quite honestly, I believe myself to be heavily based in reality.

But to be frank, this was so much fun. Even though I had trouble even reading through the entire recipe in one sitting, it was a project well worth tackling. Definitely something to do with a pal. And certainly a meal to be shared with deserving friends and family, perhaps even during these chilly winter holidays.

The results were dynamite.

The beans were luscious from absorbing so much pork and duck fat. The consistency seemed right -- not too soupy and not too stiff -- after we added a little extra stock and let it cook for a little extra time. I'm glad we added additional breadcrumbs on top as well. A crisp crust is essential to a great cassoulet. Next time, I would probably try to find a way to work the duck skin into the crumb topping to give it even more crunchy texture and contrast with the soft beans and meat.

On a cool fall evening the cassoulet went superbly with a bracing salad of romaine, rocket and pears, and several bottles of tannic red wine. We were sated, but not crippled by the meal, which to me equals success.

And on a final note, I cannot recommend highly enough making your own duck confit. It was fabulous. We ate the rest of it four nights later. Crisped up in a sauté pan and served with an acidic salad and potatoes roasted in duck fat, we were transported to the French countryside. Stellar.

Here is the link to the Paula Wolfert cassoulet recipe as adapted by Food and Wine.

http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/toulouse-style-cassoulet

Jacqueline F.
Original post with lots of photos:
http://rocketlunch.blogspot.com/

Dec 22, 2010
jacqueline f in Home Cooking

The Tasting Kitchen

As of last Tuesday, A. and I have been married for four years. This time around we've been together for about eight and a half. Long ago, when we were in college we spent a rocky two and a half years together. Adding that up, we come to eleven years all together.

Not bad! Some might even say surprising.

We decided to wait until the Friday evening to really celebrate. With Fe. slumbering at my parent's house, the night was our's.

There is a lot of pressure to pick the right restaurant for all of the important occasions. Last year we went large and dined at The Dining Room at the Langham, with Michael Voltaggio at the helm. That was extraordinary. I wish I had been blogging back then.

This year, with only one of us gainfully employed, we weren't going that big. I was thinking Lazy Ox or Osteria Mozza again, because I love love love them both, but A. had something else in mind. The Tasting Kitchen in Venice.

I had read good things and was game.

Running this plan by our dear friends and partners in many foodie escapades, RiRi and Jophes, as Fe. calls them, I started having doubts. Maybe The Tasting Kitchen wasn't special enough, or was the kind of place at which you dined only if you happened to have another reason to be way the heck out on the other side of town. I started thinking Mélisse and began to lose confidence.

A. suggested I get a grip. I calmed down.

The doubts started resurfacing when we were driving down Abbot Kinney. My god, it was insanity. There were people and food trucks everywhere. What on earth had we stumbled into? I later was informed by my sister that this madness happens every first Friday of the month on Abbot Kinney.

Too many people.

There were more doubts when we walked into the restaurant. A. turned to me and asked, "is this what Portland is like, now?" Right. We kept reading about how the chef, Casey Lane, came from Portland and had imported his Portland aesthetic to Los Angeles.

What we witnessed was more west side night life than Portland. The young folks clad in black seemed more interested in having a hip place to drink and shout at each other over the music (at least it was BeachHouse!) than in dining in a restaurant that focused on serving honest, local, seasonal food.

I was very skeptical. But I swore to A. that I would forgive the restaurant its scenster-vibe, if only the food would deliver. I'm like that every time we go to a new restaurant -- optimistic and hopeful, always ready and willing to be wowed. I am rooting for the restaurant -- on its side completely, until it lets me down.

Though I was rather unimpressed by the casualness of our waiter, I must admit that he did not once lead us astray. We ordered cocktails. He suggested something with Rye and Apple Jack, which I loved. It was a little bit like a less-sweet Manhattan. A. had a Rotten Scoundrel, which contained aquavit, fernet, and something else.

The menu is intriguing. At first, it was hard to puzzle out how best to order. The waiter led us in the right direction, suggesting that we start with a cheese and charcuterie platter. Or maybe that was A.'s suggestion. In any event, the waiter had us on track in no time, even suggesting a great bottle of wine to complement our meal.

The meat and cheese board that we received was extremely well curated. Forgive me for not remembering the specifics, I was very busy getting caught up in the moment. There were four cheeses, three of which were satisfyingly stinky. Two were from Ireland, including a blue. Nestled between the cheese were figs and walnuts and a sticky smear of honey.

I had been hoping for the rillettes, even asked the waiter to put in a good word for us, but no such luck. I thought I'd be just a little heart-broken, but the rustic country paté was so good that I got over it fast. The prosciutto was sweet and striped with fat. There were also two salamis; the best possessed a little heat.

In reading Yelp, I noticed that everyone was gaga over the bread served at The Tasting Kitchen. It's understandable. People do tend to go nuts over warm, crusty bread. It doesn't hurt that there was apple butter and sweet butter with Maldon salt to spread all over. Just stop by La Brea Bakery and ask for the peasant loaf, and you too can be enjoying this at home. Be sure to throw it the oven for a spell, to insure maximum satisfaction.

Next we shared the Fritti Misti. This was a completely different experience than the Fritti Misti we enjoyed at Mozza, two weeks prior. This batter was sharp and crackly -- really really good. There were squash blossoms stuffed with ricotta, thin wedges of sweet onion, and delicate leaves of crisp parsley. The ping pong-size balls of house-made mozzarella were pure salty and gooey pleasure. I'm not sure I've ever tasted deep-fried olives before, but the Lucques were a definite hit. All could be dipped in a perfectly acceptable aioli.

The pastas at The Tasting Kitchen are supposed to be excellent. We decided to share one -- rigatoni with lamb and anchovy. The presentation wasn't much (and the rigatoni looked strangely like penne), but it didn't matter a lick, once we tasted the dish.

The braised lamb was gorgeous, rich and deeply satisfying. The use of anchovy was very clever. They go so well together. The anchovy gives the lamb added body and a mysterious savory element, while not tasting a bit fishy. Anchovies are such brilliant and delicious chameleons.

I liked the wisps of dandelion greens hiding here and there, and the shaved Pecorino Romano lent the dish a solid salty finish. I am anxious to try to recreate this at home.

Thankfully we were on to our final dish. I say thankfully, not because the food was lacking or we weren't having a super time, but because we were so tired. Our reservation was at 9:30. That is really a bit too late for us to start these days. With Fe. keeping us on an early schedule, we conk out earlier than we used to. The other issue was the extended waits between dishes. The place was packed, so I'm guessing the kitchen was slammed, but the service was seriously slow-go. I can't take that when the evening starts late.

By the end, all I wanted to do was lie down. I was completely passed out in the car on the way home.

Having said all that, I am glad we ordered the cod with parsnips and shaved black truffle. Very glad. All the menu said was -- cod, parsnip, truffle $35. I wasn't sure what was coming. It turned out to be black cod that was cooked beautifully and sported a perfectly crisp skin. The fish was resting on a bed of mild parsnip purée. The shaved black truffles were strewn over the top.

I can't complain about perfectly cooked fish and black truffles.

I wish we had possessed the stamina and appetite for dessert, but by nearly midnight we were done. I would happily revisit The Tasting Kitchen in Venice for cocktails and/or dinner. For us it was a success.

Jacqueline F
posted with photos:
http://rocketlunch.blogspot.com/

Nov 16, 2010
jacqueline f in Los Angeles Area

Momed -- Duck Shawarma & More

That sounds so delicious! I have to go back soon!

Nov 15, 2010
jacqueline f in Los Angeles Area

Mangiare In Famiglia at Mozza - The Veneto Region

Porthos- I am dying to try the beef dinner. Sadly no sayori. Just calamari, rouget, and prawns. So delicious, though.

Nov 10, 2010
jacqueline f in Los Angeles Area

Mangiare In Famiglia at Mozza - The Veneto Region

When A. told me that he was using the money from his prestigious Founder's award at work to go with his team to a Mangiare In Famiglia at Mozza, I thought he was super-cool. When he explained that spouses, including me, would not be attending, I turned a vile color of green.

I was ugly inside.

I'm not sure I have ever felt so consumed by envy. I tried to keep most of the feeling bottled up inside, because I was on the verge of a toddler-style tantrum about the whole thing. Very very unattractive.

I dropped hints for weeks and hoped that somehow, someone would drop out at the last moment. I went so far as to book our babysitter for the evening, in the off chance that things went my way.

I think I would have been jealous, even if I hadn't been to Mozza's five-course Mangiare In Famiglia featuring Heritage USA pork. But I had, and that knowledge and experience fed my longing.

I shaved my legs and plucked my eyebrows on the Friday afternoon, knowing full well that I wasn't going, but still clinging to a tiny shred of hope. At about 4:30 p.m. I picked up my C.S.A. vegetables with Fe., leaving my purse in the car.

When we hopped back in, I grabbed my phone and noticed that I had missed two calls, and had messages from both A. and our good friend and A.'s co-worker, Joseph.

I am not exaggerating when I say my heart started racing. I was giddy before I was even told that one sorry soul had dropped out at the last minute.

I was in!

At 7:30 p.m. we were walking into the Scuola di Pizza at Mozza looking at the welcoming spread before us. Chad Colby and Nancy Silverton know how to whet your appetite for a feast. There was a generosity to the prelude of the evening that was exceptionally inviting and indicative of what lay ahead.

Spread out on the lengthy table that seats about 22, were platters layered with pink curls of prosciutto. House-made grissini were lying in stacks within everyone's reach. Not far away was a little pot of perfumey truffle butter. There were also plates of long red peppers cloaked in green -- a salsa verde of sorts (my memory is already messing with me here).

Mere moments passed and glasses of Prosecco were being passed and then came the offer of the exquisite foccacia. I've never experience foccacia like this anywhere else -- perfection! Right out of the wood-burning oven, it was crispy and chewy and oily in precisely the way you would want.

Tragedy struck when there was no more to go around.

At the same time, I really had learned my lesson last time. The trick with these meals is pacing yourself. And though the temptation is great to gorge on every last piece of prosciutto that does not make it a good idea. We hadn't even started the first of the five courses from the Veneto region.

While the welcome food-wise was superb, I must say that the warmth of the welcome from the staff this time around didn't seem as enthusiastic or engaged. Nancy Silverton did not greet us at all and Chad Colby spoke with us briefly much later in the meal.

Perhaps the excitement of a new endeavor was still in place during our first family dining experience at Mozza. This time the service seemed sloppier and the heartfelt welcome was absent. It seemed more like a professional operation and less like an intimate party that we had luckily been invited to. Nothing grave -- just a small observation on my part and A.'s.

I hadn't read about the Veneto dinner in advance, so the menu was a complete surprise. To my delight and everyone else's at the table the first course was Fritti Misti - gamberi, triglia rossa e calamari. For those of you not fluent in Italian, that was large prawns (head on!), rouget or red mullet and well, calamari.

Fritti Misti is a pretty easy sell. Most folks get excited about good fried food. This was outstanding fried food. All of it was cooked perfectly. The rouget was gorgeous -- almost as soft and creamy as a panna cotta. The batter that coated all the sea creatures was crisp and light. I'd guess beer or seltzer.

The accompanying garlicky aioli was extra runny and heavy on the citrus, absolutely exactly how I prefer it for this application. I was very nearly ladling it onto my plate.

The next course was Risotti -- porcini, mollusch, monello di mare. If you are a big fan of risotto, the porcini, clam, and sea urchin risotti would likely drive you wild.

I'm not entirely certain, if it was me or the risotti, but I was not over the moon for this course. I may just not be that turned on by risotto. Listening to the conversation at the table, people had very differing takes on all three. Some felt the clams were strong. Some felt the porcini was perfect, others said too strong and salty. Everyone's taste buds seemed to be having a different experience.

I felt the flavors were quite good. The sea urchin was very subtle, sweet and ever so slightly metallic. I liked the lemony clams. The porcini was assertive, but satisfying for it. I heard some comments about saltiness. That might have been thanks to the busy little risotto taster who was tossing in salt by the handful.

Literally.

Reflecting on that course, the rice seemed slightly too al dente to me. I'm not Italian, and I'm no risotto expert, so maybe I'm off the mark. Honestly, I could have easily done without the risotti.

In many ways, I loved the Polenta al Anitra Ragu, but it was't perfect either. A rich, salty duck ragu with olives and chanterelles can be hugely satisfying. Unfortunately, this ragu was too one dimensional. I was dying for a gremolata of some sort, or just more chopped parsley (the parsley that was present helped a lot) and a healthy dose of lemon zest. The ragu was begging for a hit of acid or something else bright to bring it to life.

There were comments about the dish not satisfying texturally -- too much soft on soft. I disagree. On a brisk evening, ragu over polenta is comforting like nothing else. I can't imagine this being served on rice, although wide slippery ribbons of pasta, perhaps.

The Fegato di Vitello alla Veniziana was challenging for many. People just don't eat veal liver as much as they used to. Although the offal craze that is currently under way may be starting to change that.

There were comments at the table about liver being remarkable due to it's possessing the texture of pre-chewed food. I don't know about that.

I haven't had calf's liver or veal liver in a long time. I liked the mildly bitter flavor and appreciated the earthiness of the mushroom accompaniment. I'll confess that I did fatigue of the entire dish rather quickly. Again, I can't say for certain if this had to do with preparation, my personal taste, or both.

Our fourth course was the Bolliti Misti -- a mixed boil that included tongue, chicken, brisket, and the sausage called cotechino. This was a pretty great dish. The meats were served with a bright, herbaceous salsa verde and a nostril clearing pear mostarda.

And as if that were not enough, sautéed spinach and mashed potatoes were presented alongside. I shout hurray whenever I get a plate of greens, so that alone pleased me. And the mashed potatoes. Oh, the mashed potatoes! I've never tasted any so creamy and smooth before. Dyn-o-mite!

The tongue! It was so soft and luxurious -- a pleasure to have in my mouth. The brisket was beautifully fatty and falling apart. The chicken didn't make much of an impression, but the cotechino's salty, greasiness made me wish there was a little bit more to sample.

It must be tough for the kitchen to strike the right balance between too much and too little food. At the pork dinner, there was an absurd abundance of food. This time around at our tasting of the Veneto region, I noticed that some folks were searching around for more of certain courses - the foccacia, the fritti misti, the bolliti misti. Sadly the people on my left barely got to sample all of the bolliti misti offerings.

And then, dessert.

Why didn't I listen more carefully to the pastry chef describing the process for making her riso gelato?! What I would do for just one more bowlful!

The dessert was off-the-charts fabulous. The Torta di Polenta or polenta cake was moist and chewy. Covered with crunchy hazelnuts and dusted with confectioner's sugar this not-too-sweet cake went swimmingly with the gorgeous rice gelato. There were pieces of rice in the gelato that had somehow plumped up, but retained a texture like nothing I've experienced before in my interactions with the grain. The texture was almost chocolately, but without the melting.

I'm not even a dessert person, as you may have noticed, but this was tops -- truly brilliant.

Later that night, I am happy to say, I did not feel like dying. Yet another difference from our pork tasting experience at Mozza's Scuola di Pizza. While this meal didn't quite live up to our first Mangiare In Famiglia, I am deeply grateful to A. for managing to squeeze me into the experience. Minor complaints aside, this was a remarkable evening.

I am already lustfully eyeing this month's offering, Beef in the Style of Tuscany.

Jacqueline F.
posted with photos:
http://rocketlunch.blogspot.com/

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Mozza
641 N Highland Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90036

Nov 08, 2010
jacqueline f in Los Angeles Area

Momed -- Duck Shawarma & More

While I can absolutely appreciate the draw of Zankou's tarna, I think the duck "shawarma" at Momed is an entirely different caliber of cuisine. The Momed duck is more of a special indulgence and Zankou is for quick, inexpensive eating.

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Momed
233 S Beverly Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90212

Oct 13, 2010
jacqueline f in Los Angeles Area

Momed -- Duck Shawarma & More

I've heard a fair amount of buzz about the newish "modern Mediterranean" place called Momed on South Beverly in Beverly Hills. I finally got to check it out, when my kind mother took pity on grouchy, exhausted me and offered to wrangle Fe. for the day.

Freedom! Lunch and a movie with Mo!

Naturally, we opted to try Momed. Cough.

Momed is an inviting clean white, with near perfect lighting. You order at the counter from an array of delectable salads, dips, and olives. There are also a whole host of items to chose from on the menu. These include soups, mezze, pide (Turkish flat breads) with a wide selection of toppings -- soujuk sausage, piquillo peppers, haloumi and akawi cheeses.

The dips are what you would expect to see in any decent Mediterranean restaurant -- hummus, baba ganoush, muhammara, and tzatziki. We were particularly moved by the vivid, green avocado hummus, so that's how we started our meal. Ultra creamy and quite tasty, this hummus was quickly devoured with house-made pita.

And the menu doesn't stop there. There are pita hand rolls, the obligatory skewers, and bowls of rice pilaf and dirty potatoes (roasted Weiser Family Farms potatoes tossed in olive tapenade) to be had.

Mo and I took quite a while deciding, because there were so many tempting offerings. I wasn't sure about the skewers, especially the chicken. I thought it might be too ordinary, but when I saw the chicken skewers cooking on the grill in the open kitchen, I was justly swayed.

The yogurt marinade and the chickpea aioli, kept the chicken moist and exciting. With the skewers, you may choose two sides. We opted for some of the fantastic Muhammara that showcases roasted red peppers, walnuts and pomegranate, and a cucumber salad. Sadly the cucumbers were completely forgettable -- the only low note of our meal.

I don't spend a lot of time in that part of town, now that my career in finance is on hold -- hopefully forever. But I'd be willing to trek across town to Momed for the duck "Shawarma" alone.

I wish I had a more evocative photograph to share. This one does not come close to doing this dish justice.

The house-made, whole wheat pita hand roll is stuffed with duck confit whose spices will instantly transport you to Morocco or some other exotic land. The aroma of cinnamon wafts over you, the moment your order is placed on the table. The oven-dried tomatoes and fig confit tucked within add moist acidity and sweetness that play gorgeously off the rich duck meat. Add a bit of garlic spread and bright green mache and you've got a new addition to Jonathan Gold's Essential 99.

At $14, this is not a cheap wrap, but its succulence (I don't use this word lightly!) makes it worth every penny.

There is a nice selection of beverages including beer and wine, yogurt drinks (my favorite!), smoothies and intriguing sodas. If you are so inclined, which we were not, there are some pretty fabulous looking desserts at a back counter that looks to serve all manner of espresso drinks, featuring Intellisgentsia beans, as well.

I wish there was a Momed East located in Echo Park, because I would enthusiastically sample most of the menu. Not only is the food good, but they deliver!

jacqueline f
posted with pictures:
http://rocketlunch.blogspot.com/

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Momed
233 S Beverly Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90212

Oct 11, 2010
jacqueline f in Los Angeles Area

Cookbook in Echo Park

Great news, here in Echo Park!

Now if you want a terrific bottle of olive oil, a creamy pint of Dr. Bob's ice cream, some McGrath Farm Swiss chard, or a tub of fresh Gioia ricotta, you just need to hop over to the hipster block of Echo Park Avenue to visit the new green grocer, Cookbook. No need to trek over to Silver Lake or Los Feliz, anymore.

We've finally got something to call our own! And thank goodness it is not another vegan restaurant! Absolutely nothing against vegans or vegan restaurants, I just think one per block is sufficient. I want some new cafés, affordable bistros, and boutique markets that offer up dynamite food.

Heck, I'd celebrate a decent grocery store.

Thankfully, we now have Cookbook. Cookbook is a tiny storefront (about 500 square feet) that houses an extremely well curated selection of flowers, dry goods, cheeses, produce, bread, and prepared foods.

And cookbooks!

So many of those for sale are already much beloved editions in my own collection. If the space itself hadn't won me over the moment I stepped inside, the copies of The Zuni Café Cookbook, Canal House Cooking, and the Chez Panissse cookbooks would have. Also well represented are Claudia Roden, David Tanis, and Paula Wolfert. I think you can trust people who stock their shelves with volumes like these.

The owners, Marta Teegan (a chef, master gardener, and neighbor!) and Robert Stelzner have a wonderful idea to have their caterers, Heirloom L.A., feature dishes from a different cookbook each week. Imagine sampling the recipes of a book that you long to buy, right out of the prepared food case, just down the street from your house. Fantastic!

A. and I thoroughly enjoyed a bass confit sandwich and roasted vegetable flat bread made by Heirloom L.A. for lunch yesterday. And let's just say, by the taste of our lunch and the looks of what they're doing on their blog and website, I'd seriously consider hiring them if I had the need.

Besides lunch, I snagged a small bucket of ricotta, a crusty baguette, and a bottle of Bariani extra virgin olive oil from California. I was taking it easy, but I would happily purchase the Creminelli salumi, the Celles sur Belle butter, any of the fresh pastas, San Marzano tomatoes, or PG tips.

Two minutes from my house, this is the place I will turn to, when in a last minute panic about what to make for dinner. Their hours are conveniently 8a.m. to 8p.m., so stopping in for a cup of coffee and a wedge of focaccia in the morning is as easy as picking up some heirloom tomatoes, a bunch of fresh basil, a pound of pasta, and a ciabatta on the way home for work.

And all this, in Echo Park. Hooray!

The fact that the produce selection was almost depleted on Saturday indicates to me that this store is every bit needed and desired in Echo Park. Let's hope that this is just the beginning of more good things to come.

Cookbook
1549 Echo Park Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90026

Jacqueline F.
See Photos here:
http://rocketlunch.blogspot.com/

Sep 07, 2010
jacqueline f in Los Angeles Area

Mangiare In Famiglia

Oh my goodness! I want to try beef and tomato in a BIG way! Nice review by the way. :)

Aug 29, 2010
jacqueline f in Los Angeles Area

Mozza2Go: Mangiare in Famiglia REVIEW

Awesome write-up! I thought I couldn't handle another meal like this for a while and now I am craving the BEEF!

Also super interested in a seafood/fish experience!

Here's my pork write up:
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7305...

Aug 28, 2010
jacqueline f in Los Angeles Area

Mangiare In Famiglia

In the wee hours of Sunday morning, while clutching my somewhat distended belly, I wondered -- who the hell do I think I am? Who in their right mind eats five courses of pork in one sitting?

No one with an ounce of sense would do something so gluttonous and potentially dangerous!

Unless you're a true foodie, a fan of eating nose to tail, or a devout member of the cult of Nancy Silverton.

Check.

Check.

Check.

If you've checked all three, pick up the phone and call 323-297-1133 to reach Mozza2Go and the Scuola Di Pizza. You'll want to reserve a spot on a Friday or Saturday night or Sunday at lunchtime for Mangiare In Famiglia.

This festive family-style dining experience is one of the most exciting meals I've had in Los Angeles in a long time. Silverton takes the notion of nose to tail cooking and spins it, asking her diners to eat it all in one sitting.

Fridays are a Feast of Five Feathers, featuring duck, quail, pheasant, guinea hen, and chicken. If you've been reading along, you know that was not in the cards for me, because A. won't touch our feathered friends -- none of them.

Good news! Saturdays are Pork, and they feature some of the very best pigs around, Heritage USA Berkshire pigs. We partook heartily.

But not to worry, if you don't roll with the swine. Sunday lunch features beef in the style of Tuscany. From what the marvelous chef and charcuterie master, Chad Colby told me, diners on Sunday would be lunching on tartar, bone marrow, braised oxtails, short ribs, and four-pound porterhouses.

I saw the meat myself, and folks, it looked like the most exquisite heart attack waiting to happen.

But we ate pig. Happily.

The whole affair takes place in the Scuola di Pizza that is tucked in between Mozza2Go and Osteria Mozza. The room is large and the ceilings high. There is a large rectangular table running the length of the room that cozily fits twenty-two. Behind that the open kitchen runs the length of the back of the room.

Oh, to cook in a space like that! The impossibly high BTUs stove top! The grill! The gorgeous marble counter tops! And most of all the wood burning pizza oven!

The festivities began at 7:30 with a hearty welcome from the affable Mozza staff, a glass of Prosecco, and the suggestion to mingle with the other guests.

Make yourself comfortable. Take any seat you like.

A wedge of absolutely unreal onion focaccia followed directly. Being offered food and drink immediately upon arrival is the mark of a good host or hostess. Clearly, Nancy Silverton knows how to entertain.

I must dwell on the focaccia for just another moment. The crisp crack of the crust followed by its glorious chewiness was brilliant. The sweet onions and slight olive oiliness leave you embarrassingly grasping for words like heavenly and perfection.

Damn you, Silverton!

The anticipation was overwhelming. We all knew we were in for something remarkably unique. Nancy Silverton and Chad Colby, the man splendidly running the show while Silverton saw to Osteria Mozza, spoke with us enthusiastically about what was in store.

No one could have guessed at the generosity of the first course.

The Salumi e Paté Nostrano course was outrageous -- easily a whole meal of charcuterie in itself. Included were such gems as salame and Parmigiano-Reggiano, slightly funky (in a great way!) liver paté wrapped in caul fat with spicy mustard, ham with horseradish, and a beautiful vegetal head cheese. All perfect with the grilled bread served alongside.

But these crazy people didn't stop there. We were offered boards of coppa, bowls of pickled green and yellow beans and shallots, and marinated summer squash with garlic, all to be passed around.

The ciccioli was what Colby referred to as pork butter. Ridiculous! All the softness of butter and fat were present, but with the flavor of pure pig. It is very similar to the French rillettes, just a whole lot smoother.

And were those fried pieces of bread?!? A lesson in decadence.

The thing is though, that you absolutely do no want more than a little bit of any of this. A modest taste of each is all we had, but I swear we were already filling up.

With four more courses of pork to go!

The Mozza folks are skilled at pacing, giving us just the right amount of time to recover without letting us get anxious about when the next installment would arrive.

The second course was Salsiccia Fresca. The fresh sausage was served with grilled broccolini. Very smart to serve the plump, fatty sausages with the contrasting charred and slightly bitter broccolini. Not only did the broccolini provided a bit of relief, it knocked our socks off. Our entire end of the table was a-buzz about recreating it at home.

That is not to say that the sausages were anything but delicious. Their juiciness burst in your mouth, making you so sorry that you couldn't eat more.

The smart folks held back.

There were actually two sausages offered -- the regular and then my favorite -- the sausage with liver. One bite of the livery sausage sent me right back to my childhood. It must have been a memory of eating liverwurst. Fantastic!

Up next, something light -- Soffiata Di Parmigiano-Reggiano with Ragù di maiale.

Ahem, maybe not so much. That's Parmigiano-Reggiano soufflé with pork ragu, to you!

This course was sublime. Soft, warm, luscious. Everything you'd want to warm you on a chilly autumn evening, but yet absolutely desirable in the middle of summer.

It took an assembly line of men to plate this course. Slicing into these lofty soufflés required absolute focus. A light hand with the ladle was necessary for the saucing. And a quick flick of the wrist scattered the Parmigiano-Reggiano over all.

The course that followed was the epitome of how I like to eat. The Arrostito Spalla Di Maiale was an absurdly beautiful roast shoulder of pork served with a chicory salad. Rich roast meat with a bracing salad is the stuff of deep longing.

Oh, pork shoulder! I adore you!

The shoulder is a fatty cut of meat that yields the most succulent results. This was no exception -- salty, unctuous and divine.

Just look at that roast!

The bite of the emerald salsa verde was an exceptional counterpoint to the sweet pork. I liked that this particular salsa verde was very heavy on the parsley. The flavor provided a clean green lift to the swine.

Our final pork course was Costelleto Di Maiale with cippolini al forno. As you might expect, this was not your run of the mill pork chop with roasted onions. Not by a long shot.

Please notice the girth of these chops.

They sat perched upon their porcine post gloating at us throughout the meal, waiting for the finishing fire before joining the sticky sweet alliums on our plate -- the pig's final hurrah!

Chef Colby was kind enough to let us know that of the entire pig his favorite bit was the fat near the bone on these chops. That announcement sparked a spontaneous group gnaw on the bones-o.

A nibble then pass to the right!

No doubt about it. This is family dining!

The chops were liberally dusted with fennel pollen. I bought a tin of this powdered gold, when I first purchased Silverton's A Twist of the Wrist. The pollen has an earthy flavor that comes close to capturing the essence of wild fennel. Perfect with the moist meat.

Exhausted and full as never before, I didn't think I would have the stomach to try the Gelati E Sorbetti, let alone the coconut almond biscotti. But a funny thing happens when you've been gorging on such culinary mastery.

You can't help yourself.

You dive head first into the vat of plum, greek yogurt, and fruit of the woods gelato and sorbet. And the plum! Oh, my. It smacks you in the face with a plum flavor that is almost more pure than biting into the most luscious Santa Rosa.

This epic experience costs $75 a person without wine. There are five wines to choose from running from $48 - $85. Or you may select one of three beers on the menu, all priced at $7.

You will likely have spent a fair amount of money once you're through at the Scuola, but in the end this feels like the best deal in town. And although it took us until Monday to fully recover, I cannot recommend Mangiare In Famiglia enough.

Jacqueline F.
Posted with LOTS of photos:
http://rocketlunch.blogspot.com/

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Mozza
641 N Highland Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90036

Osteria Mozza
6602 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90036

Aug 27, 2010
jacqueline f in Los Angeles Area

Three Ingredients! -- Soy Chicken Wings

Sorry, for the late response! I was out of town. The wings don't really get crispy. They develop a really delicious, sticky glaze that I can't imagine would actually result if cooking these in a slow cooker. They wings would probably braise in the slow cooker and the sking would likely be loose and unappealing. Sorry!

Aug 17, 2010
jacqueline f in Home Cooking