Tag Archives: hollywood
Comfort Food & Moonshine? HECK YES!
My first bites at George Abou-Daoud’s Township: Kitchen Americana & Saloon…
District has closed, but luckily we now have Township!
George Abou-Daoud’s District On Sunset is my kind of hangout. A casual, friendly bar with killer food including a raw oyster bar, SPAM (woot!) Sliders and a Venison Relleno with Goat Cheese, that recently made GQ Magazine’s “Best New Dishes in America” list.
L.A. Times Food Critic, S. Irene Virbila wrote: “It’s a little bit steampunk, a little bit West Village back in the day. First of all, there’s the bar, a glorious hunk of mahogany that stretches from the front to the back of the long, narrow space. It was built in 1913 in France; you can’t help but wonder at all the changes and characters it must have seen in its many years.”
I think the space is a lot like its proprietor (who also owns several other eateries including the Mercantile next door). District is elegant yet so welcoming, with a surprising bit of sass on the menu.
Guess where I’ll be celebrating this New Year’s Eve?
Photos from District:
Note: This restaurant is now CLOSED.
District On Sunset
6600 Sunset Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90028
Dinner at RH restaurant has been one of the best all-around dining experiences I’ve had in quite a while. It’s not just the sleek surroundings of the restaurant, the attentive staff or even the food writer’s dream of an open kitchen. It’s mostly about the straightforward, yet sumptuous market-driven cooking of French-trained Chef Sebastien Archambault.
Having grown up in the 70’s, I also loved the fact that I was dining at the “Riot Hyatt” (RH), the center for all rock ‘n’ roll badness way back when. One of the best-known stories of the infamous hotel was when (as Wikipedia notes): “Led Zeppelin rented as many as six floors of the hotel in the mid-to-late 1970s for the band members and entourage. Drummer John Bonham was reported to have driven a motorcycle along the hallways”.
If you’ve seen the film “Almost Famous”, you’ll remember the hotel scene where Penny Lane takes William to meet with the band. Director Cameron Crowe did a wonderful job replicating the hotel’s free-spirited fun of the era, and even though I never got to actually stay at the “Riot Hyatt”, a few years ago I did come very close.
In 2004, my husband Peter rented out the legendary Whisky-a-GoGo club for my 40th birthday party. He knew that as a kid, I used to sneak out to see bands like “X” and “Motley Crue”, so it was a real treat to play guitar on the same stage.
The Whisky is just up the street from the hotel, so after our gig we loaded up the band equipment, then dropped off Greg and his mates at the legendary flophouse. The hotel was renovated in January 2009 and is now called the Andaz West Hollywood.
The food at RH Restaurant is more “French Brasserie” than “Sunset Strip Room Service”, but take one bite of Chef Archambault’s “RH” Burger and you’ll feel like a self-indulgent, spoiled celebrity. The Black Angus beef is topped with a piece of perfectly seared foie gras, morel mushrooms, and it comes with a side of TRIPLE-fried french fries with fresh truffle shavings (not just truffle oil).
The RH Burger is absolutely my favorite burger and fries combination EVER. On top of that, the rest of the meal was excellent as well.
What we ate:
RH at Andaz West Hollywood
8401 Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90069
(323) 785-6090 Website
Dining Date: 7/1/09 with Peter, Julian & Wendy
My brother Greg’s band (in 2004) playing at my 40th birthday
“Riot Hyatt” clip from “Almost Famous” (scene starts at 1 minute in)
“Almost Famous” on IMDB
“Almost Famous” DVD
All my RH photos on Flickr
With my brother Greg, on another legendary L.A. stage
I just purchased my ticket to Taste of the Nation 2009, and wanted to share a few photos from last year’s event. If you’ve never been before, it’s a great opportunity to taste wonderful food from many of our top L.A. restaurants.
My favorite part (besides all the food) was chatting with the chefs in a relaxed, fun atmosphere… all while supporting Share Our Strength’s fight to end childhood hunger. It’s a “fill up and feel good” event for sure!
From the Share Our Strength Website:
“Share Our Strength’s Taste of the Nation is the nation’s premier culinary benefit, featuring top chefs and mixologists — all of whom are coming together to donate their time, talent and passion to end childhood hunger in America.
More then forty of the area’s finest restaurant and wineries will participate in Taste of Nation Los Angeles, bringing a memorable afternoon that will highlight some the best food and wine that Los Angeles has to offer. Come join us for an afternoon in Culver City, enjoy a strolling buffet, entertainment, live auction and much more. Join us as we work to create a hunger-free generation. 100% of ticket sales benefits Share Our Strength’s fight to end childhood hunger.”
Taste of the Nation Los Angeles
Sunday, June 14, 2009
Corner of Venice Blvd. & Culver Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232
Note: The “Early Bird” ticket price is no longer available on the Taste of the Nation site. Thanks to SinoSoul for letting me know.
Tickets are $125.00.
Price at door is $135.00. (I know this seems expensive, but last year there were over 40 restaurants at the event, and it was worth every penny to try a taste from each!)
2008 Participating Restaurants A-K
2008 Participating Restaurants L-Z
My friend Laur invited me to lunch yesterday and suggested we go to Sri Siam Café, our favorite, local Thai joint. She wanted me to meet her niece Sherry, an intensive care nurse visiting from Chicago. I was totally fascinated with all of her exciting hospital stories, especially about the time she got to hold someone’s lungs during surgery (she said they felt “spongy”). Obviously it wouldn’t be appropriate lunch conversation for everyone, but for three gals with iron stomachs (sitting there filling ourselves with fiery Thai goodness), it was perfectly lovely.
I ordered the Spicy Basil Seafood with pan-fried Squid, Mussels, Shrimp, Sole, Peppers and Chilies. The dish came with rice and an eggroll and is not on the regular menu. Look for it on the “All Day Special” menu. $11.50
On each visit I’m trying to taste a new dish, but the one thing I have to order EVERY time is the Crispy Rice Salad with Sour Sausage (Nam). It’s tangy, spicy deliciousness!
Sri Siam has over 100 dishes listed on the regular menu, plus ten dishes on the “Specials” menu. If none of those delights interest you, then you can always check out the “Off Menu” items listed here (you may need some help with the translation).
Sri Siam Café
12843 Vanowen St.
North Hollywood, CA 91605
Sri Siam Café Website
Dining Date: 2/26/09 (Visit #4)
For my third visit to Sri Siam Café, I invited my good friend Bob for lunch. This time I was determined to eat Thai food the way I’ve always eaten Thai food… very HOT and very SPICY. Not all food has to set my mouth on fire to be pleasurable. There’s just something about Thai food that doesn’t quite taste “authentic” without the extra heat. I think it’s because when I first tried it (twenty years ago) the dishes were always extra hot and spicy.
For lunch I suggested Bob and I start with the Nam (crispy rice salad), which has Thai sour sausage mixed with roasted peanuts, ginger, green onion and crispy rice. The unusual sour sausage almost tastes like it was soaked in lime juice, and the crispiness of the individual rice kernels are a surprising, savory crunch. The spicy Nam had been my favorite bite from lunch the week before, so I wanted to share it again with Bob, and he LOVED it.
When I asked for “very hot and spicy” on my first two visits, the waitress smiled and brought me what I thought was a medium heat, which is totally understandable since I was a new Sri Siam diner. She probably assumed I didn’t understand how hot and spicy Thai food could be, and didn’t want to throw out perfectly good food just because I ordered incorrectly.
On this visit I asked our server (a waiter this time) which dish was the “spiciest” on the menu. He pointed directly to “Poh Tak” (spicy seafood soup). It’s a hot pot filled with mussels, shrimps, crab, fish and squid in a sour spicy broth. I ordered the Poh Tak and made sure the waiter understood that I wanted it extra spicy. I made a point of saying that my food wasn’t spicy enough before and to please ask the chef to make the soup extra HOT and VERY SPICY. The waiter then raised an eyebrow and was probably about to ask me “are you sure?”, when I butted in and pleaded “I need my food to be very, very spicy PLEASE!”.
When my hot pot of spicy seafood soup arrived, I gave the waiter a look of “hmmm… this looks a little spicy, but we’ll see if you succeeded here”. He graciously scooped out the first little bowl of soup for me and then I went ahead and started in on the beautiful (and delicious) green mussels. Bob ordered the Panang Chicken lunch special, which came with steamed rice, soup and a vegetable egg roll. After I took a few sips of my soup, Bob asked me a question and it was the strangest thing… even though I was trying to answer him, my mouth wouldn’t work. Right then my eyes started blinking and I sat there with my mouth open, struggling as I mouthed “OH MY GAWD”. This was the hottest (and spiciest) thing I had ever tasted in my life, and it was truly a whole new level of fire in my mouth.
I know spice and heat are all relative, but I just want to note that I can easily handle blazing habanero chilies (even with the seeds intact). One of my favorite spicy treats I make at home, is a dessert I saw on tv a few years ago called “Fire and Ice”. It’s half of a habanero chili filled with lemon sorbet. The fire and ice gets under your tongue and it’s sort of paralyzing (in a good way) for a second.
Back in my 20’s I read (in some glossy, fashion magazine) that rubbing a slice of jalapeno on my lips would make them plump… a cheap alternative to lip injections. On the morning I decided to try this “natural” method, I was also scheduled to meet my new boss, who was flying in for the day to check on his photo gallery. Following the magazine instruction, I cut a dime-size piece of the jalapeno and pursed my lips while I rubbed the chili round and round. At first, nothing… then came the screaming and crying. NOTHING took the pain away and I ended up with a large, uneven, red outer ring that looked like “double” lips. If you can remember “Wax Lips” candies, then you get the picture.
Later in the day, when my new boss shot me a strange look, I just laughed and said my lips were overly chapped and did my best to hide in the office. I never admitted that I’d purposely rubbed jalapenos on my tender, perfectly fine, natural lips.
Currently, I have my fridge stocked with habanero stuffed olives that I order online from Primos Gourmet. The habaneros are perfect little, painful explosions that make me do the “happy eating dance” around the kitchen.
Just how hot are habaneros? Chili peppers are rated by Scoville units. As noted on Wikipedia: “The number of Scoville heat units (SHU) indicates the amount of capsaicin present. Capsaicin is a chemical compound which stimulates nerve endings in the skin”. For example, on the Scoville scale, a bell pepper would measure 0 (that’s zero, zilch, nothing). Jalapeno peppers would measure from 2,500-8,000.
The hottest chili pepper I’ve ever eaten is the habanero, and it would measure approximately 100,000-350,000 on the Scoville chart. Culinary Masochism? Well, if that means I’m getting intense pleasure (go endorphins!) from intense pain (gastronomically speaking), then fine, I admit it…. I need a little C&M in my life.
Sri Siam’s spicy seafood “Poh Tak” soup felt like it was OFF the Scoville chart, and at first I thought it was way too fiery for me. After the initial shock wore off in my mouth I absolutely LOVED the broth, and from then on it was a heavenly seafood feast of squid, crab, shrimp and those delicious green mussels. Poor Bob had to watch me wipe the sweat off my brow, and he laughed as I dashed to the restroom several times to deal with a heat-induced runny nose. This meal was the perfect Thai experience I’d been after.
When we finished lunch, I went back to the kitchen and thanked the chef. He gave me a little smile and looked a little baffled, so I wasn’t sure if he understood what I said to him. I can’t imagine it, but maybe it was the first time he’d ever heard, “Thank you, thank you… thank you for making me hurt so good“.
A few photos in the Sri Siam Kitchen, and the wonderful crew.
Sri Siam Café Website
12843 Vanowen Street (at Coldwater)
North Hollywood 91605
818 982- 6262
Dining Date: 1/16/09
Twenty years ago when I lived in San Diego, my ex-husband and I loved eating at Karinya Thai Cuisine. The restaurant was up the street from our home in Pacific Beach, and it was our “go to” dinner place when we entertained visiting family and friends. We usually requested to eat in the “traditional” dining room . This meant we had to remove our shoes before going in, and sit on the floor atop beautiful Thai triangle pillows.
The head chef (an American) had married into the Karinya Thai family. Since we were regulars, the chef always took a few moments to tell us wonderful tales of his trips to the Far East. One of the best was about the first time he visited his wife’s family in a remote village in Thailand. He was shocked at the amount of time it took to shop for groceries each day. The entire family, led by the grandmother, would get up very early and drive for hours to pick up a particular type of chili, then go a couple of hours in the opposite direction to buy some galangal, and finally another hour south to pick up fresh kaffir lime leaves. By the time the shopping was done, they had driven five or six hours to get ingredients for THAT evening’s dinner. I found it fascinating that each ingredient was so special and distinct, that it was worth all that time and trouble.
The first time we invited our buddy Spencer (who was like a second grandfather to me), he laughed when he learned he had to remove his shoes for dinner. And after that first meal at Karinya, anytime we’d make dinner plans with ol’ Spence, he would ask “Are we going to the ‘shoeless place’? …if so, I’ll have to check my socks for holes”.
Two of my favorite dishes at Karinya were the “Gai Rad Prik” (they prepared it with deep-fried chicken covered in a super-spicy chili sauce) and “Shrimp Sarong” (shrimp wrapped with egg noodles, deep-fried and served with a sweet and spicy chili dip).
From my research, it looks like the original owners of Karinya sold the business in 1998. I moved to Studio City in 1994 and halfheartedly tried to find a new Thai restaurant near me (in the San Fernando Valley) to love, but nothing tasted as good or seemed as authentic as Karinya. There were no “foodie” sites on the New World Wide Web way back then, so I had pretty much given up on finding a Thai place I could call my own.
Then on January 1, 2009 I had lunch at Sri Siam Café. Peter (my husband) and I met up with our far-east-food-expert friend Jeffrey, for an incredible, unforgettable New Year’s Day Lunch. Jeffrey is a regular at Sri Siam and has not only eaten at all the best Thai places in Los Angeles but all the best Thai places in Thailand.
The best part about Sri Siam Café (besides the outstanding food) is that I won’t be pining for Karinya any longer. I can finally move on… and luckily for me… my new Thai joint is literally just up the street!
My Favorite Bites at Sri Siam Café:
For me, the fish cakes were just a vehicle for the relish. I ended up just spooning it out and eating it like gazpacho!
Update: 1/8/09 (Visit #2)
This morning my ex-husband Perry called from Santa Monica airport. He and his co-pilot John asked if I wanted to join them for lunch. They fly a private business jet and had a five hour layover, so I grabbed my friend Laur and we met them at Sri Siam!
I wrote (above) that twenty years ago, one of our favorite dishes from our old Thai restaurant in Pacific Beach was “Shrimp Sarong”, and that’s the first thing Perry ordered today. They were exactly the same to me, except Sri Siam calls them “Crispy Shrimps”.
It was sort of a sentimental moment for me. Sitting there with Perry eating a wonderful old favorite and talking about our families. He and his wife Karen have two beautiful kids, and I feel so grateful that we can still be in each others lives, especially when it’s over a plate of delicious food!
Before I left for lunch I sent my husband Peter a text message, to let him know I was meeting Perry at Sri Siam. Peter sent the following message back: “Well, just so you know, I’m really JEALOUS… really jealous that I’m missing the food! Say hi to Perry.“…
I know… lucky me.
Sri Siam Café
12843 Vanowen St.
North Hollywood, CA 91605
Sri Siam Café Website
It’s Not About Gordon Ramsay
Anticipating our dinner at Gordon Ramsay at the London, I hopped online and began researching what I should order. I browsed through all the usual food blogs and sites including Chow (raves about the Pork Belly), Yelp and Eater…. and then I read Virbila’s review on LATimes. She mentioned one of her favorite dishes was the braised “Pig’s Head”. DONE. I knew what I was ordering. Pig’s Head and Pork Belly. My fellow diners (husband Peter, FoodWhore Baub and Andrew) could pick out the rest.
Peter and I arrived early to have a drink and bite at the bar. We ordered a couple of vodka tonics and one order of an asparagus/avocado sushi roll. It was delicious. A quick FYI here… we had another order of the avo roll to share with our friends at dinner, and it was a much smaller version of the bar order.
As we sat down at our table, we noticed a familiar face walking towards us. Jared Heber is a former high school pal of FoodWhore Baub, and is a sommelier that previously worked at Osteria Mozza. Currently Jared is the wine director at ‘Gordon Ramsay at the London’. When he saw us he laughed and said “YOU FOUR AGAIN?”. We so enjoyed his service at Osteria and we were thrilled to see him again. He really made the night extra special by taking us on a private tour of the massive kitchen. It was a fantastic rush. Of course we didn’t expect to see Gordon Ramsay there expediting our dinner order, but I was personally hoping for a glimpse of Christina, the recent Hell’s Kitchen winner. I didn’t see her around, but I have to say it was pretty darn cool to stand with Jared and watch head chef Andy Cook yelling out orders a few feet in front of us.
As we got back to our table I thought… “this place isn’t about Gordon Ramsay really”. Of course we went there because of his celebrity, but I certainly didn’t “feel” his presence in the dining room, kitchen or even the food. He wasn’t missed at all.
I absolutely loved the look and vibe of the restaurant. It’s sexy. You feel sexy sitting there. It sounds silly to say that now, but it’s true… I was sitting there eating my Pig’s Head and Pork Belly feeling SEXY.
Pork Belly with Roasted Scottish Langoustine, Celeriac & Apple. We had one as an entree… then I ordered another for desert!
Monkfish wrapped with Crispy Chicken Skin, served in a Lemon Thyme Consomme’. Delicious and I would order again.
Gordon Ramsay at the London
The London West Hollywood
1020 N San Vicente Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90069
Dining Date: 07/12/08