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The official dates for the 2009 GOURMET INSTITUTE event in NYC.
SAVE THE DATES: October 23-25, 2009.
Peter and I had a great time when we went, especially mingling with the likes of Eric Ripert and the great Mario Batali!
Check out the promo video from last year. I was totally surprised to see myself and Peter featured on the video! Actually, him more than me… I’m standing behind him (tipsy from wine tasting!) when he’s speaking on camera.
I’m definitely going again this year!
After multiple visits to the Bazaar (this being number eleven), Peter and I get most excited when we’re bringing in “Bazaar Virgins” (first timers) to the restaurant. It’s even more fun when they’re big time foodies like our friends Ron and Diane. Thanks to the wonderful staff (William, Felix, Alison, Audra!), we were seated at my favorite table in the Rojo room, with a direct view of the open kitchen.
It’s always a delight when Amanda rolls up to our table with the liquid nitrogen cart (or caviar or cotton candy). And I love when servers that aren’t even working our table (Calvin and Hugh) stop by for a quick hello. I’ve had several people ask me why I keep returning to the Bazaar, when there are so many other places to try, and honestly… besides the incredible food and fun atmosphere, it’s because they make me (and my “virgins”) feel perfectly welcome on each and every visit.
THANK YOU to everyone at Bazaar and SLS!
The Bazaar by José Andrés, SLS Hotel
465 South La Cienega Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 9004
Dining date: 4/26/09
Finally, Domenico Ristorante in Silver Lake is open!
I first met the restaurant’s executive chef last December, when I attended a molecular gastronomy class he taught at Sur la Table (at the Grove). Chef Michael Young spoke about his passion for Italian cooking, but the various classes I took from him were mostly about making groovy foams and far-out spherifications. I was really looking forward to trying his authentic, Italian FOOD, not just the modern recipes we made together in class. And finally, five months later, I got my first taste.
After making the reservation for Saturday night, I suddenly felt a little nervous. What if, by chance, I didn’t like Chef Young’s cooking? Just because I thought he was a great instructor and could make perfect fruit “caviar”, didn’t automatically mean that he’d be a great chef too.
The motto for my blog is: “If I like it, I share it… If I don’t, I don’t!”. Which means, if I don’t like something I’ve tasted on a restaurant’s menu, then I simply don’t write about that particular dish. Someone once told me that I’m “doing a disservice to the public” if I only write about positive experiences, but that’s just who I am, and I want my site to reflect that. I feel so grateful that I get to eat at all these wonderful places, and my favorite part (besides the actual eating) is sharing all the tasty photos. Plus, I figure with so many bloggers writing about the same restaurants in Los Angeles, it’s easy to figure out what dishes NOT to order.
We had a 7pm reservation on Saturday night, but Peter and I arrived early so I could take a few photos of the restaurant exterior. Our friends Julian and Wendy joined us a few minutes later, and soon we were nibbling on fried olives and sipping glasses of luscious primitivo wine. The restaurant doesn’t have a liquor licence yet, but you can bring in your own wine with no cover charge (for the time being).
A Mano primitivo wine is our favorite Italian red, and we first learned about it from the great Mario Batali himself. He recommended it during a seminar we went to in New York, and it’s been a staple in our home ever since. Not only is it deliciously robust (think zinfandel), but at $10 a bottle we can afford to drink it all the time.
Looking over the menu, I wasn’t sure what to order at first. Domenico Ristorante is so new that I found barely a “yelp” online. One thing I did read about was the “wild boar ragu” so I definitely wanted to try that, but overall I felt lost without my regular “must order” list for the evening. Peter was in worse shape than me, since he never even looks at a menu when we go out. I’ve usually selected what we’re sharing ahead of time, and he actually likes not having the pressure of deciding.
The restaurant’s owner, Domenico Frasca, must have noticed we were a bit perplexed, and asked, “would you like the chef to select dishes for you”? The four of us giggled with anticipation as we handed over the menus. We spent the next three hours happily working our way through Prosciutto Riserva, Fried Parmesan with Balsamic, Crudo of Scottish Halibut, Risotto with Winter Truffle, Rootbeer-braised Kobe Beef, the Wild Boar Ragu and more!
Dinner wasn’t just “great”, the entire evening was exceptional: From the sexy decor (white, leather banquets), to the gorgeous waiters (I only remember Paolo’s name because he wrote it down along with the name of a pasta), to the friendly and cordial Domenico himself. Of course, it’s Chef Michael Young’s cooking that will have me coming back for more, and you can bet I’ll be trying each and every positively delicious bite on the menu!
1637 Silver Lake Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90026
Sur la Table Classes (locations & calendar)
Chef Walter Manzke’s smile is infectious. Wait, maybe I shouldn’t say “infectious” since we’re in the middle of the H1N1 Flu scare (I refuse to call it the OTHER name because I love my bacon).
On my first visit to Church and State, I didn’t get to meet the chef until evening’s end, when I stole a few seconds of his time to tell him how much Peter and I enjoyed the restaurant. During our entire dinner though, from across the room, I was carefully watching him as he expedited orders and finished off each plate in the open kitchen.
Between bites of the luxurious beef short-rib bordelaise and the perfectly baked (and cute) tiny ramekins of escargot, I would look over and see Chef Manzke’s face beaming. It’s almost like I could feel his joy drifting through the kitchen, then up above the beautiful, antiquated string of lights, and finally, smack down onto my plate.
Delicious food always makes me happy, but seeing chef Manzke’s ear-to-ear grin in the kitchen definitely made me more aware of the joy and care he (and his crew) puts into each dish.
I love everything about this restaurant; the exterior, interior, the decor. It resides in a beautiful, old brick building that used to be the loading dock for the Nabisco Biscuit Company, and the downtown location makes me feel like I’m in New York City, or at least “New York Street” at Universal Studios. I was shocked how nearby it was as well: Door to door (with no traffic), it’s only fifteen minutes from our home in Studio City.
The bistro is casual enough for jeans and charming enough for a little, black dress. But personally, it makes me feel like dressing up in a boho-chic skirt, over-sized hoop earrings and chunky, cork platforms (something I imagine Ali MacGraw wore in the seventies, on fabulous trips to Paris).
The bar sits directly across from the kitchen, and we were seated near the large, front windows on our first two visits, with perfect views of both. There’s an antique absinthe dispenser on the bar counter which reminded me of the vintage absinthe spoons I started collecting back in 2001, when Peter worked on the marketing campaign for “Moulin Rouge!”
I think Toulouse-Lautrec himself would have loved one of the small tables along the cool, brick wall along the back. And just because I want to try a different view of the gorgeous room, that’s where you’ll find me on my next visit. Just look for the platform shoes and over-sized hoop earrings.
Steak Frites: French fries, Sauce Béarnaise. Classic and DELICIOUS, we got the smaller “Petite Assiette” (small plate) size for $15 (full size, $25). Note: All the main dishes or “Plats Principaux” are offered in two sizes.
Apricot Tart, Pot de Crème au Chocolat, I loved the quenelle next to the chocolate (if I remember correctly, there were tiny delicious bits of toasted hazelnuts underneath), Apple Galette (I think), Croustade aux Fraises: Warm strawberry crips, vanilla ice cream.
I didn’t have the heart to tell the chef that I’m not really “into dessert” (one bite and I’m good). Luckily, Peter is INTO dessert, so even though we were full from dinner, we finished most of it!
Our perfect dinner was made even better by a chance meeting with Tasting Table’s Lesley Balla (former Eater LA editor). We’re “friends” on Twitter and Facebook, but it so was nice to say hello in person!
1850 Industrial St
Los Angeles, CA 90021
Beef Short Rib Bordelaise that we had on our first visit
Dining in the new Saam restaurant makes you feel special. It’s located behind a secured, nondescript door near Bar Centro, at the Bazaar by José Andrés. Each of the twenty courses (one or two bites each) are brought out on individual plates, while you sit at one of the exclusive, coveted tables. To me, it feels like a sleek and sexy modern-day speakeasy.
The service? Impeccable. I haven’t been to Alinea yet, but I’m guessing the experience is close, or at least as close as we’re going to get here in Los Angeles! It’s like flying first class, where you’re treated like a celebrity and you know it. Especially true for an early dinner on opening weekend. We were one of the first to be seated for the Saturday evening service, and at times there were four staff members looking after the two of us.
The food? It was my ninth visit to the Bazaar and I knew the menu backwards and forwards, so I was pleasantly surprised to find each dish “kicked up a notch”, and thrilled to try a few new bites as well. I found myself mouthing “wow” to my husband Peter, especially when we were served updated versions of dishes we tried on previous visits.
“Saam: The Chef’s Tasting Menu” is printed on top of each take-home menu (rolled up and tied with a little black ribbon), a great souvenir to remember an elegant evening. But throughout our wonderful dinner, I couldn’t help but feel there was something missing. The food was the best I’d ever had at the Bazaar, so that wasn’t it. Our server Charlie was attentive, engaging and throughly knowledgeable. Carolina was nearby in case we had any needs or questions as well. Managers William and Felix stopped by to ensure that we (and later, each and every table) were enjoying the evening, but my dinner still felt incomplete. Why?
Because “Saam: The Chef’s Tasting Room” was missing the one thing I love most about the Bazaar (besides the food), it was missing the chefs.
My favorite tables at the Bazaar are one of the two “Tron” tables in the Rojo room. They’re not officially called “Tron” tables… that’s just what we call them because they have cool laser-like red lights beneath the surface. The few times I’ve been lucky enough to have a seat facing the open kitchen was at one of the these tables. I loved watching Chef Voltaggio warm up the “smoking” gun to finish off the salmon dishes. And as a fan of the show “Top Chef”, could there be anything better than seeing Chef Marcel Vigneron working the foam? By the way, I think the show portrayed him as an arrogant nitwit, because in person he’s a real sweetheart.
After we finished our evening at Saam, we made our way to the Rojo kitchen where the kitchen staff was in full swing. It was busy, crowded and the room was filled with the frenetic energy that I missed. It sort of felt like I had been at the wrong party earlier.
Do I recommend Saam? Absolutely. Especially if it’s your first visit to the Bazaar. It’s quieter and more focused than either the Rojo or the Blanca room, and you’ll be carefully guided through a palate pleasing, high-flying experience. Heck, it’s not that I don’t like flying first class (the few times I’ve experienced it), it’s just that I like watching the crew even better.
Tasting Menu is $120 per person.
Course #4: Olive Oil Bonbon This was such a treat!! I first saw this being made on “Gourmet’s Diary of a Foodie” by Chef Andrés and his Minibar Chefs: Ruben Garcia and Katsuya Fukushima. It’s like a candy shell filled with olive oil. Into your mouth and it crumbles. SO AMAZING.
Course #8: Jose’s Ham and Cheese. I LOVED the Jamón Ibérico with the soft La Serena cheese inside the “air bread”. This was one of the “kicked up” dish updates, similar to “Philly Cheesesteak”. La Serena is a creamy, aromatic (aka really stinky which I love!) cheese from Extremadura in Western Spain.
Course #17: Tournedos Rossinii 2009. Wagyu beef, truffle and foie gras. MORE PLEASE!
Course #18: Dragon’s Breath (caramel popcorn “cooked” in liquid nitrogen). Currently only served in the Saam room, we’ve enjoyed it several times before. It’s FUN!
465 South La Cienega Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 9004
Watch the episode with the Olive Oil Bonbon!
In the kitchen with the chefs
To commemorate “Earth Day 2009”, I officially gave up bringing home plastic and paper bags from the market. Check out the beautiful, reusable bags I picked up yesterday! (read “I’m Doing It” )
Also, I took lots of photos from last night’s “Battle of the Chefs” in Hollywood. It was fun hanging out with my girlfriends, and especially meeting chef Joanne Weir. I’m a big fan of her show on PBS, so it was a HUGE thrill to hear her say she reads MyLastBite! Thanks for the invitation Akasha!
Read “I’m Doing It” (Earth Day)
B Happy Bags Website (SO MANY cute designs!)
Sunday night at the Bazaar with Phil from “My Life As A Foodie”, his wife Katrina, and fellow food-lovers Dean and Stephanie.
When we were seated at the “Chefs Table” in the Rojo Room, Peter and I made sure that he and I were the two diners facing AWAY from the open kitchen. We had four eager “Bazaar Virgins” with us and for them to get the most of the experience, they faced the chefs, giving them first-class seats to the “show”!
We shared many of what I now call “essential” tapas from both the Blanca and Rojo menus. These are dishes we get every visit and include: Jamón Ibérico, Chicken and Béchamel Fritters, Sea Urchin with Avocado in a Steamed Mini Bun and Philly Cheesesteak Air Bread (photo links below).
This was my eighth dinner at Bazaar. Had I tried everything on both the Rojo and Blanco menus? Well no, to be honest there were still a few vegetable dishes I’d been avoiding. It’s not that I don’t like veggies, it’s just that when presented with a choice between plump butifarra (sausage) or brussel sprouts… I’m going to always insist on the meats (or seafood or foie gras) first.
Our evening was made even more delightful when Chef Voltaggio presented a NEW, elegant salmon dish that he wanted us to try. The “Smoked” Salmon was cooked sous vide (French for “under vacuum”), served with cucumber “noodles” and set on top of a small potato blintz. This was all presented under a glass dome and served on a piece of black slate. Before leaving the kitchen, the dome was lifted slightly and Chef Voltaggio “smoked” the salmon with a culinary *smoking gun. When the servers brought the salmon to the table, puffs of smoke gently wafted from under the glass as the domes were removed. It was cool (and tasted heavenly).
General Manager, William Douillet, seemed to always “magically” appear when there was the slightest inquiry. Thoughtful and courteous, he always makes each visit a “special” occasion. Our four friends, no longer “Bazaar Virgins”, still haven’t stopped talking about the experience.
Tapas we tried on this visit:
Cheese from right to left: This was my first taste of La Serena, a creamy, aromatic (aka really stinky which I love!) cheese from Extremadura in Western Spain. Valdeón is a rich, creamy, intensely-flavored cow and goat’s milk blue cheese, saltier than Stilton and not as intense as Cabrales. Idiazábal is the national cheese of the Basque country, is made from sheep’s milk and is usually smoked. Served with Picos (Spanish crispy bread) and Quince jam. 3 Quesos $15
The “Smoked” Salmon, cooked sous vide with Cucumber Noodles, then “smoked” with a smoking gun, served over a small Potato Blintz. The flavors and textures were OUTSTANDING… perfectly cooked salmon, with faux cucumber noodles on crispy potatoes.
Wild Mushroom Rice with Idiazábal Cheese, $10. A creamy, savory tapas version of the rice dish Marcel surprised us with on visit #4 (sans truffles).
“Essential” Bazaar Tapas that we get on every visit:
Jamón Ibérico (Iberian Ham)
‘Pa amb’ tomaquet (bread with tomato in Catalan)
My Bazaar Photos on Flickr
Bazaar by José Andrés, SLS Hotel
465 South La Cienega Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90048
Dining Date: 3/29/09