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Wood-fired grill "off" flavor - Grace & One Pico

My bf & I have experienced an "off" flavor several times now in the past year at restaurants here in LA that insist they only have "wood" for the grill. Last night we ordered a grilled pork chop at Grace, and it was essentially inedible because of some kind of chemical/starter fluid/gas/NON-WOOD flavor. When we mention it to the servers (this has happened more than once), they often get defensive and say that they don't use gas and that their wood is not treated in any way. At Grace, the server said that they use white oak, but that they do use a starter log to get the fire going. Maybe our chop was over the starter log or it left residue on the grill to which we're sensitive?

We had a similar experience at One Pico about two weeks ago... and at another place (can't remember where) within the past year. Places like Houston's or Bandera (yes, we frequent Hillstone Group restaurants as well...) never have this unpleasant flavor on their grilled meats.

Has anyone else experienced this... and more importantly, does anyone know what causes it and how it can be avoided? Thanks!

Feb 12, 2009
WLA_gal in Los Angeles Area

how to carry lots of appetizers?

I belong to a cooking club where I sometimes bring lots of (already assembled) appetizers. I would like to get something where I can stack trays so that I don't have to stick each one into a separate carrying box. Catering suppliers seem to focus on food transport systems that use pans (that can be set up at a buffet) and keep food warm. They are heavy and expensive.

A google search came up with lots of patents for food tray carrying systems... but I couldn't find any actual products to buy. I see carts... but I'm looking for something small and portable.

Thanks!

Oct 25, 2008
WLA_gal in Not About Food

Mac & Cheese

I'm partial to the "baked macaroni" from Violet. Very smooth & creamy. The chef shared the recipe (I think it was in a magazine or newspaper, so he already had it electronically) - it includes parmesan cheese, gruyere, cream, serrano ham, leeks and is topped with breadcrumbs. I agree with the previous posters that much of what people like is what they are used to... if you aren't used to a creamy, adulterated (with leeks and ham) mac & cheese you may not find this to be bliss. I do. And I can make it at home!

May 27, 2008
WLA_gal in Los Angeles Area

New Foodie Openings in LA?

I'm going to the opening of Gordon Ramsay's restaurant (woohoo! I've visited several of his places in London)... but I'm very curious to see how Palate Food & Wine in Glendale turns out. Octavio Becerra (Patina alum) is involved... and his food is v-e-r-y tasty!

I'm also on the "contact list" for Anisette... but I don't trust those lists... it seems that they never actually get around to "contacting" the people on them...

The Cafe R&D in Newport Beach is nice, but nothing to write home about.

My 10 cents (inflation, ya know...)

May 07, 2008
WLA_gal in Los Angeles Area

Breakfast near Runyon Canyon (post hike)?

A few of us (4-5 people, no pooches...) are meeting to hike near Runyon Canyon (Vista just north of Hollywood Blvd) and then would like to eat breakfast.

Any good local recommendations for Sunday mid-morning?

Thanks!

Feb 28, 2008
WLA_gal in Los Angeles Area

Melisse- LA's first Michelin 3 star Restaurant

I mostly agree that Melisse is a wonderful experience, but I would not quite put it on the 3-star level until the service is polished a bit. My guess is that it is VERY difficult to get truly professional staff in Los Angeles.

I went with my family to celebrate my parents' wedding anniversary. It was incredibly awkward to pre-pay for a bottle of Champagne that should have appeared as we were seated. The glasses appeared, but it took a while for the Champagne itself to arrive (sort of spoiled the surprise).

They did not immediately seat my parents at the seats that had the "happy anniversary" cards, even though we made it very clear when making the reservation that the couple who was celebrating their anniversary was "older" (they are in their 70's the rest of us are in our 40's).

While the breads were delicious, the person who described them did so in a soft voice at one end of the table only. Therefore, those of us at the other end didn't know what the breads were.

We didn't try the cheese plate - we've lived in France, and frankly are spoiled by the selection there. Maybe next time :-)

Feb 16, 2008
WLA_gal in Los Angeles Area

Where to buy caviar AND accessories for serving/eating

I sort of agree that the mother of pearl spoons are more "necessary" than the Baccarat crystal bowl.

Of course, I could always use a plastic spoon - ugh!

I'll see what they have in BH... Petrossian, NM & BH cheese store will be on my target list of stores for caviar & accessories...

Feb 13, 2008
WLA_gal in Los Angeles Area

Where to buy caviar AND accessories for serving/eating

Are there any places in LA that sell really good caviar? I've read that there are two producers in NorCal who farm & sell online. Petrossian has a shop in BH, but I've never been & don't know if their pricing is good. Any other suggestions?

I'd also like to get something to serve it on & the mother of pearl (or horn) spoons. I'm having a REALLY hard time finding those in LA! I guess it's the wrong time of year...

Thanks!

Feb 12, 2008
WLA_gal in Los Angeles Area

Bar Pintxo - REVIEW

I've been anticipating Bar Pintxo's opening & missed the first week because the general craziness of this time of year...

I wandered in with my boyfriend late Sunday afternoon & we took our seats at the bar. The place is tiny - the capacity over the door says 30 people - there are about six seats at the bar and then tables with stools in the rest of the room.

We shared a number of dishes and each had 3 glasses of wine. Much of the food seems to be assembled in advance and is on display in the case in front of the bar. When things are busy, this probably works well... plus you can see a dish before ordering. However, the avocado/jicama/radish skewer sitting in front of us had a very tired, brown avocado staring at us that wasn't particularly appetizing.

The portions are generally quite small - often a single slice of grilled baguette bread with a hefty amount of topping. Unless otherwise noted, the dish is one grilled baguette slice with a generous amount of topping. Here's what we had & what I thought:

Jamon Iberico - $18(!!) we started with this because we were chatting with the waitress about various ingredients... I remembered that only recently the FDA allowed this specific ham to be imported into the US. We decided to try it - I agree that it is delicious, however, I was a bit shocked at the price, which included a few slices of baguette and probably 10 1.5 inch square pieces of ham. (That being said, when I looked online and saw that the hams cost $1,400 each, I realized that this probably wasn't a huge rip-off.) However, if someone DOESN'T know about jamon Iberico (or "pata negra") they would be shocked at the price. (Similar to someone who orders white truffles on pasta & has no idea why it cost 4 x the normal pasta plate.)

Tuna salad w/anchovies - $6.00 The cross of white marinated anchovy (in a previous post, I had been searching for fresh anchovies to MAKE my own marinated anchovies) with a salted anchovy over a mound of tuna salad caught my eye. It was good - they used top notch tuna... but I would have preferred a bit more anchovy and less tuna. That's probably just me... I love marinated anchovies!

Chorizo and fried quail egg - $4.00 There's a cute fried quail egg on top of cubed potato and a couple of slices of Spanish chorizo. It's delicious, but a bit messy to eat with your hands. Think about it as breakfast (egg, potato, sausage & toast) all in one...

Gambas al ajillo - $6.00 We had 3 very tasty and highly seasoned shrimp - lots of garlic, parsley and some bite to it (lemon or lime juice). They serve the shrimp shelled but with their heads right there... I've never seen it served that way... there's no messy shell to deal with, but there is a head to look at! I guess that fills up the plate a bit - 3 shrimp all alone would look pretty skimpy...

Paella - $10.00 This is a more "substantial" dish, and the only time utensils were brought out. There were a number of different fish & shellfish in it... and all were cooked correctly (probably in advance & then warmed up). The octopus was soft & not rubbery, the clams were juicy and the various fish were tasty as well. I thought the dish could have had a bit more saffron aroma/flavor, but my boyfriend pronounced it the best paella he'd ever had.

Bacon wrapped date - $4.00 (for one) this is a huge date with a piece of Cabrales cheese inside wrapped with bacon on the outside and held together with a toothpick. It is baked in advance and warmed up on the grill once ordered. I make bacon wrapped dates with a piece of chorizo (dry, Spanish kind) inside & I've had the ones at AOC with another cheese inside... and I thought that the blue cheese added a nice dimension. I may have to try this variant myself at home!

Croquetas with ham & chicken - $5.00 for two golf ball sized croquetas. By this time, we were getting full, but I wanted to try them anyway. Not exactly light... thick bechamel with ham & chicken, breaded then fried. Crispy texture on the outside, but a bit bland on the inside... however, since there is salt (and a pepper grinder - yay!) at the table, the dish improved immensely with the addition of a bit of s&p.

Here are the wines we sampled - all are Spanish, and we enjoyed them all. (We tasted first - there were a few wines that did not make the cut.) The red wines were sitting on the counter... the room was not too warm, so the wines were an acceptable temperature, however, if they had been any warmer I would be unhappy. (One of my pet peeves is red wine that is served too warm in restaurants and bars.)

Joan D’Anguera Montsant Finca L’Argata - $8.00 (our favorite, but they ran out)
Anima Negra An/2 - $11.00
Luberri Seis - Rioja - $7.00

Our total was just under $115 (excluding tip). Not inexpensive, but we didn't hold back on food & wine. That was dinner for us and we were both full by the end. I enjoyed the variety, which is why small plates/tapas appeals to me.. I didn't feel that there was anything I couldn't do myself (for a fraction of the cost), but tapas are casual snacks not haute cuisine... and I believe that in Spain they aren't a "meal" but rather something that tides you over before dinner (which starts at 11PM).

Right now, Bar Pinxo is open noon to midnight seven days a week... I imagine that it will be pretty quiet mid-afternoon & I wonder if those hours will last.

I'll definitely be back because I enjoyed the food & the ambiance... and it is close to where I live.

Dec 31, 2007
WLA_gal in Los Angeles Area

Where to buy fresh anchovies on westside?

No luck... I went to SM Seafood, and the first guy just said "no" and when I insisted "do you EVER have them," "do you know where I might be able to get them" the guy went to someone more knowledgeable who said they can be seasonal, and this is not the season. (I think he said summer.)

In any case, I checked a fish book I have by Rick Stein, and he specifically mentions how hard it is to find fresh anchovies because a) they are a pain to deal with and b) they spoil quickly (they are shipped whole and the entrails can cause them to spoil faster).

I've read a few posts (chowhound & other places) where people talk about finding anchovies at farmers markets, etc., but I think now is not the time.

Of course, there may be fishermen here & there who are using them as bait...

Thanks for the suggestion of Seafood City - we'll check it out & report back if there is anything of note...

Oct 30, 2007
WLA_gal in Los Angeles Area

Where to buy fresh anchovies on westside?

Whole Foods in Santa Monica. They are prepackaged in a little white tray. Marinated in vinegar with a few unnamed spices/herbs.

They were good, but I've had much better ones in restaurants & thought I could reproduce that if I could only find the plain, fresh anchovies! We will be getting the ones from Seafood City and I'll also double check SM Seafood later today.

Oct 30, 2007
WLA_gal in Los Angeles Area

Where to buy fresh anchovies on westside?

I think that the ones at Seafood City HAD been frozen... I definitely prefer the texture of fish that have never been frozen.

Our plan was to marinate our own fresh anchovies using an Italian recipe. I did find already marinated anchovies from Italy... they were good, but we figured that if we marinated our own fresh anchovies they would be even better!

My friend called one of the big places downtown and they didn't have them either.

I'll call SM Seafood again... or maybe stop by to speak with the manager. Last time I was there she was very helpful.

Thanks!

Oct 30, 2007
WLA_gal in Los Angeles Area

Where to buy fresh anchovies on westside?

Hi Liu!

Thanks for the tip. We called Seafood City, and they do have them, although they are frozen. So far, no luck finding fresh ones. Sigh.

Oct 30, 2007
WLA_gal in Los Angeles Area

Where to buy fresh anchovies on westside?

For an upcoming cooking club dinner party, I'd like to marinate fresh anchovies. I've had them in restaurants & just love them... so I thought I'd give it a try to do it myself!

I called SM seafood and the woman who answered the phone said that they don't have fresh anchovies & had no advice as to where I might find them.

Any suggestions? SM Seafood is my "go to" place for fish... so I'm now stumped. Thanks!

Oct 29, 2007
WLA_gal in Los Angeles Area

Comparable to Nook?

I think that Violet still has the 7 before 7 deal... Tues - Thurs (not open Monday, no "deal" on Friday). You might want to check first, though. 310-453-9113.

Upstairs 2 is also a good bet, but only open Wed-Sat night.

Oct 15, 2007
WLA_gal in Los Angeles Area

The Mint - anyone eaten there?

thanks for the responses.

I ended up reserving a table for dinner. We didn't have high expectations for the food, and were pleasantly surprised. The chicken quesadilla was very tasty (had carmelized onions and smoked gouda), the beef tacos were also good, but the cobb salad had too much vinegar in the dressing for my friend (so he ate one of our beef tacos - go figure - the girls order beef tacos & the guy orders a salad!)

The prices were reasonable, the service was friendly...and it's true, the "booker" (Deana) who takes the reservations also greets you at the door & is very warm and charming.

Aug 21, 2007
WLA_gal in Los Angeles Area

The Mint - anyone eaten there?

I'm going to The Mint (music venue) later this summer, and I see that they also serve food. Has anyone tried it & if so, how is it? If you go for dinner, do you get a better seat? Thanks!

Jun 27, 2007
WLA_gal in Los Angeles Area

Looking for hip restaurant in H'wood or Santa Monica for anniversary dinner

As long as you don't have too high of expectations on the food, you will really enjoy the Penthouse. On the downside, the food is hit & miss (can be really good, can be, well, not so good) & it is noisy... but the location is EXCELLENT and when the food is good, the experience is divine. If the food misses... well, you still have a great view. I've not found the people watching/"scene" to be anything great... but the place is already crowded enough, so who needs even more people showing up trying to catch a glimpse of someone or rub elbows with the tragically hip?

Jun 23, 2007
WLA_gal in Los Angeles Area

Best Restaurant in Santa Monica area? (not incl. Melisse)

I was less than impressed with Capo. High prices, big attitudes, and FOOD that didn't live up to the hype. If food is the main point, then I'd give this place a miss.

Jiraffe is consistently tasty, they have excellent seasonal cocktails, but the room can be noisy.

I DO like La Botte - I've eaten there many times, and every time the food has been excellent. I've also recommended it to friends who have also enjoyed it. I like the decor, and it isn't too noisy. Wine is pricey, though.

I enjoyed the view at the Penthouse (Huntley Hotel) and the food was tasty. My friend's steak arrive RARE and he ordered medium-well... as the previous poster mentioned, this is fixable, the other way isn't. So it seems that the staff ask, and then the kitchen doesn't deliver what the customer ordered! But the place is so noisy that I would think twice about going there on a special occasion.

The environment at Michael's can't be beat, but the food isn't what it used to be.

Beechwood and Wilshire have that split personality that can be fun... a very separate dining room and lively bar. I've enjoyed the food at both, but the outdoor space at Wilshire is more festive.

Enjoy your meal!

May 10, 2007
WLA_gal in Los Angeles Area

Guanabana (soursop) puree in WLA?

Thanks for the suggestions... I tried Ranch Market at Adams & Redondo... lots of Goya fruit purees, but *not* guanabana.

Based on another thread, I checked out Camaguey Market - and they had it! Also frozen Cherimoya (although with the latter available fresh in the farmers' markets, the frozen isn't really the thing right now)

Camaguey Market
310-839-4037
10925 Venice Blvd (between Sepulveda & Overland)
Los Angeles CA 90034-7015

So now we'll have the guanabana sorbet for our party!

May 10, 2007
WLA_gal in Los Angeles Area

Guanabana (soursop) puree in WLA?

I'm looking for frozen guanabana puree for a sorbet. Any ideas on where this can be purchased?

Posts from a few years ago mentioned Vons and Albertsons, but when I called to local (Santa Monica) stores, they had no idea what I was talking about.

Thanks!

May 08, 2007
WLA_gal in Los Angeles Area

Sat lunch in Westwood Village - ideas?

that would explain why I couldn't find anything about it online! It's a shame that it's gone because I'm a big fan of the one in Century city.

Feb 20, 2007
WLA_gal in Los Angeles Area

The Penthouse in SM -- Reactions Sought

Was just there this evening (Tues 6:30 - 8:30) for a drink. As we stepped out of the elevator, there was a pleasant "buzz" - lively, but not overwhelming noise. It was busy, but not a crush. We did not have a problem finding a place to sit - in fact, we got a booth by the window. View was impressive. They have an extensive cocktail list & it seems that a lot of them are made with fresh juices (very important to me). My friend got a pineapple coconut mojito (sounds weird, but was very good) and I got a drink with pomegranate liqueur which was OK. Cocktails were about $12-$15.

We got a flatbread with tomato/basil/burrata which was very tasty - the dough was slightly chewy which is how I like it (I'm not a fan of everything crispy when it comes to breads).

I'd definitely go back - it was a cool atmosphere without being achingly trendy or with an attitude (was at the W on Friday night & will not be going back there). And the view is the best. I think that the restaurant side has the best view, so I'll have to go back for that...

Feb 20, 2007
WLA_gal in Los Angeles Area

Sat lunch in Westwood Village - ideas?

Almost any cuisine is fine, except sushi - one person has an aversion to it. I read somewhere that Damon & Pythias was gone, although that may just be the SM location. We don't want to leave the village - I felt like walking around.
thanks.

Feb 20, 2007
WLA_gal in Los Angeles Area

Sat lunch in Westwood Village - ideas?

I'm going to a basketball game at UCLA & would like to have lunch in Westwood Village before the game (3PM).

Things always seem a-changin' in Westwood, so I was wondering if there were any "gems" I'm unaware of. I like Pain Quotidien (but have been there many times - want to try something new) and The Gardens (can't stop calling it Hamlet Gardens...). I heard that there is a Clementine in the Hammer Museum - is it any good? Are they open on Saturday?

Any other ideas? We're looking for tasty & fun.

Thanks!

Feb 20, 2007
WLA_gal in Los Angeles Area

Cooking Courses -- In instructor's home or facility?

In addition to taking the classes from Tim Ross at his home in Silver Lake, I've taken a class at La Cachette. Jean Francois (the chef) is very knowledgeable and entertaining (two key factors for making a fun cooking lesson in my book) BUT it is expensive (twice as expensive as Tim's) and you won't have an exclusive party (ie, there will be other people - not in your party - there). He also pretty much only does one lesson a month.

Jan 16, 2007
WLA_gal in Los Angeles Area

Recs for Thai in Santa Monica (or nearby)

What about Chan Dara on Pico?

epop - why do you like/dislike some of the restaurants?

Oh, and my out-of-town friend will have her little one with her, so it needs to be stroller/kid friendly.

Jan 16, 2007
WLA_gal in Los Angeles Area

Supertasters Unite!

My first inkling that I was perhaps "different" in terms of perceiving bitterness was in 10th grade biology class. We were given a strip of paper to chew on... most of the class couldn't taste a thing... I spat it out because it was BITTER!!

I love "chowish" food, but can't eat really dark chocolate - too bitter. Same goes for coffee, unless it is REALLY smooth, properly roasted and made... I can drink strong espresso w/o sugar in France or Italy, but usually have to put milk and sugar in it here to coat my tongue and cut the bitterness. Actually, I've pretty much given up on coffee...

I can only take radicchio in small doses... also too bitter for me.

I even had to change my flour because it was processed with a chemical that had a bitter taste... and when I tasted raw cookie dough or pastry crust, I could taste the bitter.

So, what do I do? Avoid things that are truly bitter (dark chocolate, coffee, lemon pith, etc). I don't have any other serious "aversions" other than to fake/chemical foods (margarine, that odious "tropical" iced tea, etc), so I am fine with most "whole" (ie, no processed) foods.

So how did I become a chowhound despite being a supertaster (of bitter)? Well, luckily, bitter is not in THAT many cuisines... as long as you use the non-processed stuff (I don't like the fake/chemical taste of a lot of processed food - not to mention that it isn't as healthy as homemade). My mom cooked everything from scratch, so I didn't grow up with an "open the can" or "make brownies from a box" mentality. My idea of a quick snack is an apple & some cheddar cheese. Or sourdough toast with real (Plugra) butter on it. I am very adventurous with food, and will try pretty much anything... and it takes at least 3 tastes for me to completely reject something.

Anyway, good luck with your supertaster in the house!

Jan 16, 2007
WLA_gal in Not About Food

Recs for Thai in Santa Monica (or nearby)

A friend is visiting from Boulder next week and is craving good Thai food. Since I don't know much about Thai cuisine or where to go locally, I figured I'd ask here for recommendations! Thanks.

Jan 15, 2007
WLA_gal in Los Angeles Area

Cooking Courses -- In instructor's home or facility?

I saw a post on Daily Candy about Tim Ross of Be Gourmet, and contacted him. As it turns out, we were in the same freshman dorm in college (!!) and after catching up a bit, I booked a class with him for me & a few friends. He has the class in his kitchen in Silver Lake - so you don't have to worry about having the space/knives/pots/pans/ingredients/etc. He's French-trained and a lot of fun. I've had 2 classes with him & everyone has always had a great time. He provides the food, you bring the wine... and everyone eats dinner together afterwards at his big table. Pricing is VERY reasonable.

he can be reached at 323.610.1082, and his website is
http://begourmet.home.att.net

If you do talk to him, tell him "Lisa from Branner" sent you!

Jan 15, 2007
WLA_gal in Los Angeles Area