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Best French Toast in LA?

thanks so much everyone for the great tips

Jul 21, 2009
megababedeluxe in Los Angeles Area

Best French Toast in LA?

I'm willing to travel within a 20 mile radius of downtown...

Jul 20, 2009
megababedeluxe in Los Angeles Area

Poll: What restaurants do you eat in most often?

this topic is great and everything, but I have to tell you that I could NOT stop laughing at the I'm available for adoption response - I am LOL right now as I type. And once the outburst subsided after several solid minutes, I scrolled down and read some of the other responses and then remembered this response and again burst into laughter, closing the window in hopes that none of my neighbors thinks I'm nuts. Thanks for making my day.

Aug 26, 2008
megababedeluxe in Los Angeles Area

making fresh ricotta

Thanks everyone, I will get back to you with my results - really appreciate the tips and recipes! What did we do before the internet.

May 30, 2007
megababedeluxe in Home Cooking

Napa trip

I know, it's just that for us, coming from LA, it's a long full day's car ride to get there, so while each place isn't necessarily in Napa proper, my husband and I call it that because it's a big trip to the area in general for us, and an easy way to express it.

May 30, 2007
megababedeluxe in San Francisco Bay Area

making fresh ricotta

I will try your recipe too, mnosyne - my problem is the curds are so hard by the time it has curdled, that letting it sit and draining doesn't seem to have any effect - one minute it's milk in a pot and the next it's curds with milky whey and melted butter. Your recipe is very specific about the temperature, but I read the epicurious recipe farmersdaughter posted below, and it less specifically says slowly bring it to a rolling bowl. Is the trick the temperature, or adding the acid after taking it off the heat?

May 29, 2007
megababedeluxe in Home Cooking

making fresh ricotta

thank you, I will try the book.

May 29, 2007
megababedeluxe in Home Cooking

Napa trip

I posted full write-ups on Cyrus and Chez Panisse below in this thread - will get to Redd and Bouchon in the next couple days - one winery recommendation would be David Coffaro, in Geyserville on Dry Creek Road - I wrote about him in another post. He does a lot of blends, some zins, a sangiovese, a real mixed bag, but excellent wines, IMO, and the prices are way more than fair, especially if you buy futures, but even for the current vintage (20-35 bucks a bottle). He's a no-attitude, no-frills kind of guy whose barrels flank a large garage/small warehouse punctuated with a big screen TV and sound system on which he watches his beloved Raiders games, or whatever other game is on. His helper, Matt, is very helpful, and gave us a barrel tasting of the futures. The most no-nonsense, relaxed winery I've ever been to.

May 29, 2007
megababedeluxe in San Francisco Bay Area

Napa trip

Yes, that's right wolverine, we schlepped to Berkeley because we were on a Food Pilgrimage, and Alice Waters is a shoe-in, and the "Napa" people refer to is a collection of different cities that some disagree on whether they're Napa or not. Berkeley is definitely not Napa, and keep in mind, RVP, that it takes at least an hour, depending on where you're staying, to get from Napa to Berkeley. We stayed in a B&B in Cloverdale that we loved, but it was definitely out in the boonies and took us hour and a half just to get there. But we were on a mission. I was on the mission, and my husband got dragged along, and surprisingly, Chez Panisse was his favorite meal of the trip - he loved it. For me, Chez Panisse was like hearing the Beatles' Revolver for the first time - for someone who went to Chez Panisse when it opened, it must have been like a revelation, but when a music or a food influences a generation of music and food after it, you hear Revolver, and you're like, That's great, That is really excellent, but it's not revelatory because everything that came after it borrowed from it so heavily. That having been said, it really did have the specialness I was hoping for - the feeling the cookbook gives you about neighborlyness and quality, organic, seasonal ingredients prepared in a loving yet worldly yet welcome-to-my-comfortable-and-comforting-restaurant-1970s-yet-still-today-and-even-
more-so-now kind of way. And really the dishes they had in the Cafe upstairs were not dishes I would be able to find at any other restaurant - they are dishes you would hope your friend's mother, who is an amazing cook and has travelled all over so her cooking is influenced by so much, would cook for you at her arts-and-crafts-movement-inspired house.

We had several things because when would we be back? :
Belgian endive salad with cream, garlic, and bottarga di muggine (a very salty shaved fish condiment), delicious; grapefruit and artichoke salad with spring onions and chervil, simple and delicious; Brandade with fennel, capers and meyer lemon - both my husband's and my favorite starter; red beet soup with creme fraiche and chives - very very simple, my husband loved it. for entree we had bucatini with sardines, pine nuts, raisins and wild fennel - very, very good; wild king salmon with cucumber and beet relish, also simple and delicious. dessert: rhubarb tart w/vanilla ice cream - very beautiful with the formation of opposing lines in the way the rhubarb stalks were laid down, and very delicious. The service was excellent - our server recommended a bottle of wine we loved (Navarro Vineyards Pinot Noir ) - very friendly and worldly.

That is the way I would describe the experience overall, starting with the maitre d' - friendly and neighborhoody yet worldly. The food is simple and delicious, not as complicated as all the restaurants this restaurant became a benchmark for, and the quality is excellent, unable to disappoint. HOWEVER, if you are not familiar with the mark Alice Waters made on California cuisine and all cuisine in America, and you are not on a pilgrimage, some may think that over 2 hours total in a car is a little far to travel. I don't, and my husband, not really knowing anything about the ball this restaurant started rolling, loved it.

May 29, 2007
megababedeluxe in San Francisco Bay Area

Napa trip

One thing I forgot to mention about Cyrus in my post below - the tendency to finish the dishes at the table is especially nice, and so old school, you don't really see that a lot anymore. At least 3 of our dishes were finished at the table, and it really makes the service showy, which I also liked.

May 29, 2007
megababedeluxe in San Francisco Bay Area

Napa trip

I'll start with Cyrus, and base my comments on the already very thorough post called "Perfection at Cyrus," entered April 10, 2007 (our experience at Cyrus was less than 2 weeks after this).

Overall, my husband and I had the exact same excellent experience as far as the service goes, except we didn't notice any "bobbles" due to any space limitation. While I agree with the other review, that the service at FL was flawless, it was also very obviously tempered in order to let the food shine, which isn't a bad thing, just different. On a side note, we had a stellar experience food-wise at FL as well, unlike a couple of other reviews. But back to Cyrus - the service was much more talkative than FL, which made us feel very welcome, and at ease. The champagne cart is a grand introduction, and the Maitre d' was extremely friendly. We ordered a glass each of champagne, my husband the Roederer Estate (CA sparkler), and I the Bonnaire (both delish, the Bonnaire our fave). One of our canapes was actually a Middle Eastern-influenced tiny falafel, and there were 2 other canapes on the plate, and unfortunately my only memory of them was that they were delicious, and not your standard canape. Maybe it wasn't a canape, but an amuse bouche, but there were 3 different tiny balls that bursted with flavors and one of them was not salt, which I find to be a common flavor in restaurant food. In general, the tiny amuse bouches (the other of which the other review mentions - a sashimi on a spoon) bursted with a breadth of flavors you would not expect from such a tiny preparation. To call it just sashimi on a spoon doesn't explain it at all, you'll just have to try it.

We did not do the tasting menu, but rather ordered a la carte, and asked the sommelier to help us choose wines by the split. We had the Robert Sinskey 2005 Pinot Blanc, which was light and went very well with the below. My husband had the cauliflower soup with raisin, caper and white pepper emulsion, and toasted almonds, and this was actually more cream than cauliflower for my husband's taste, but very good. He also had the artichokes a la Barigoule, excellent, with what the photo I took leads me to remember as fresh favas and carrots, and I had the sweet pea ragout with baby carrots, radish, and saffron nage, as did the other reviewer. Best I've ever had, just like the other review, except that I LOVED the pea shooter with lavender whipped cream - such a great way to juxtapose 2 pea preparations. Very impression-creating.

palette cleanser of mango something something lollipop on stick - delish.

I had to go overboard and order the sea bream AND the hoisin squab, my husband keeping it real and ordering just the hamachi. Whatever. All I can tell you is, each and every of these three dishes was excellent, showed great control of contrasting and unexpected flavors, the unexpected showing up, in particular, in the sea bream, in which the coconut milk broth was done as a foam. The cheese cart came around, and this was my husband's favorite "dessert" - We elected 3 cheeses and the service includes spiced nuts and grapes, I can't even remember the 3 cheeses now, except that one of them was a triple cream, one a sheep's milk, and the 3rd a hard cheese. I'm not a food writer, just go there for your special occasion. We marveled in amazement over the taste of this course as well. For these courses, we had a split of Daumas Gassac, and it was exactly as the sommelier described, my husband loved it, and it also went very well, amazingly, with both the squab and hamachi, and the cheeses.

The only area where we differed from the other review was the dessert: we felt let down, for 2 reasons: both our desserts (caramel soup with kettle corn; and creme fraiche cremeux, pistachio bobka, and white grape and olive oil sorbet - SOUNDS great, doesn't it?) swung too wide in the artistic category without satisfying as a sweet ending to a fabulous meal; and the caramel soup was too sweet for us. Every single thing that hit the table was a hit for us until we got to dessert, and then the presentation was really impressive - a work of art - but in the mouth it didn't satisfy as a great ending.

Overall, an incredible experience, verging on a tie for best fine dining experience ever (FL being the other best - keep in mind I haven't been to Per Se or any of the famous restaurants abroad) - the command over combining a breadth of flavors without using salt and fat to bring it all together was pretty cool.

May 29, 2007
megababedeluxe in San Francisco Bay Area

Napa Valley Trip

I second the recommendation for Taylor's Refresher - great burgers. I would also go to Redd if for no other reason than the pastry chef - 2nd best dessert experience I have ever had, period. We had very good service there - except at the bar, where the bartender was very very nice, but didn't recommend any of the really interesting cocktails and let my husband and me order a regular old greyhound and a champagne cocktail. It wasn't until we got to the table that we discovered Reddington is a mixologist too, and I would've rather had the cocktail before our dinner started.

For wine, my husband's and my favorite is an unassuming winery on Dry Creek Rd (I'm pretty sure) called by the name of the winemaker, David Coffaro. Absolutely no attitude or smoke and mirrors at all, but some great tasting zins, cabs, and a really nice blend called Block 4, for rock bottom prices for what you get, IMO (between $20 and $35/bottle, futures almost half the price). He let us try futures from the barrels too. Don't expect a big Napa dog and pony show at this winery, but expect generosity, hominess, great wine, and all your questions to be answered. You're basically in his large, temperature-controlled warehouse-garage tasting wine and watching a Raiders game surrounded by barrels if it's football season.

May 29, 2007
megababedeluxe in San Francisco Bay Area

making fresh ricotta

does anyone have any tips? I've tried 2 different recipes, and I get hard curds instead of creamy gooey.

May 27, 2007
megababedeluxe in Home Cooking

Napa trip

My husband and I recently went on Napa food tour for my b-day, and ate at Redd, Cyrus, Bouchon, and Chez Panisse upstairs. If anyone is looking for feedback on any of these places, let me know. Just a few very brief standout impressions: pastry chef at Redd was excellent, best dessert experience of the trip, 2nd best I've ever had (FL=1st). The control of a crazy breadth of flavors without relying on salt at Cyrus was amazing, as of course was the service. This was the best overall experience of the trip, and as good for service as FL, IMO, except more welcoming. Bouchon = French Bistro, period. The bakery across the street had obscenely good French macaroons, we got every flavor. Chez Panisse was also very very welcoming service, and a very good meal with ingredients that were practically still alive, as you might expect. This was my husband's favorite. Like comparing apples to oranges a little. It was all very good, and we came home feeling lucky.

May 27, 2007
megababedeluxe in San Francisco Bay Area

Elf Cafe anyone been recently

My husband and I just got back from Elf and a movie tonight (Wednesday night) - it was excellent. We went at about 7pm and did not have to wait at all. Our server told us Thursdays seem to be the busiest night for them. I had read several reviews under another chowhound thread about this place, a few of which mentioned the hipper-than-thou vibe - we did not pick up on this in the least. The personnel were totally friendly, as other reviewers have said, and I can't say enough good about it. It's a great neighborhood place, the prices are not too high IMO especially for organic, and the food was excellent. This is not a vegetarian place, this is a place that serves good food and happens to be vegetarian. There is no sense of meat-substituting. Elf delivers fresh plant-based food in a way that highlights the plant. They don't have a website, they don't have a phone, and they aren't open Monday and Tuesday, and there's still no sign, and it's BYOW w/$5 corkage. The appetizers on the menu tend toward Mediterranean-style tapas dishes: they have a lentil and caramelized onion stew in a small crock, a fava bean puree (fool mudammas - sp?) served with pita, and of course the raw kale salad with citrus dressing, sesame seeds, and avocado that everyone is mentioning, all of which are very good, in addition to a tahini avocado dip and a few other things that we'll be trying on our next visit, next week (we live right by). My husband had the tagine, also a popular dish with other chowhound reviewers, and it was delish (not served in a tagine, but with Moroccan spices, cous cous and a VERY spicy harissa, served on the side). I had the roasted tomato feta tart, which came with a perfectly dressed balsamic salad, and I was told the tart crust (which comes closed like an envelope, not like a pie) was vegan (!) which is a miracle because it was flaky, buttery, and delicious. Then we couldn't help ourselves and had to order the special, which was a beautiful vegetable torte made in a springform pan with phyllo dough, red onions, spinach, cherry tomatoes, feta, and squash (?), and it was also delicious. I keep saying delicious, but that's what it was. We also saw a portabello sandwich, mentioned in other reviews, and a kind of baked pasta pie go by, and can't wait to try those, in addition to the fresh peach tarte tatin with cream we saw, and the mac and cheese we heard about. Lots of work goes into good tart crust, phyllo dough, and caramelizing onions, apparently a staple on their menu, so I don't think the prices are high at all. Did I mention it's only 9 tables? And most importantly, and most overlooked by other reviewers, all this wonderful fresh and high quality yet downhome-ish food is served out of a shoebox of a kitchen that, minus the refrigeration, could probably be packed up and shoved into a cargo van and set up somewhere else. There is no sautee line, only a very small electric oven, 3 or 4 electric stove tops, a soup warmer, a small steam pan setup, and a miniature garde manger area, and 2 cooks kicking butt. To think that some reviewers have liked this place better than the much more well-endowed Canele. Amazing. I say, Go, Elf!

May 24, 2007
megababedeluxe in Los Angeles Area

Canele

My husband and I went to Canele the day before Valentine's, a Tuesday, at around 8pm for their Farmer Freeze Relief Menu (Canele was one of several restaurants and food suppliers, like Lucques and Angeli, to donate goods and services to an evening of meals, the profits going to freeze-affected farms). It was packed tight, it was friendly, it was hip-ly home-y, and we enjoyed it. The hostess was a pro, and I loved the open kitchen and how you can see the finished dishes put up for delivery. The special Freeze Relief menu included Niman Ranch-donated pork as the main. I don't eat pork, unfortunately, as I'm sure that would have been delicious, and the chef very nicely indulged my being a pill by saying she would more than gladly sub chicken for the pork. The Freeze Relief Tahitian squash soup with creme fraiche was delish (creme fraiche brought it to delish level); my husband's flageolet with basil oil and evoo soaked crostini was excellent (that's a regular menu item); The chicken was a crispy-skinned outside and the apples and cabbage were delicious, as was the sauce. The chicken meat was cooked perfectly, but was a bit bland, which is something I often find with chicken we eat - it's killed too young after too much time in one place being overfed, producing a tender but bland muscle. The Freeze Relief dessert was a candied kumquat bread pudding a la mode, a nicely firm and satisfying bread pudding given an interesting brightness by the kumquats. I have no idea what a good canele is supposed to taste like, but I liked the nice closure to our experience provided by the same pro hostess, who greeted and seated us, offering us one from a cloth-covered tray on the way out the door. The canele (again, the caveat that I've never had it before) was crispy and dense.

Feb 16, 2007
megababedeluxe in Los Angeles Area