Tag Archives: critique

The Flirtini Incident

The last time Peter and I hosted Easter brunch at our house, it was sort of a disaster.

We invited my sister Janet, Peter’s sister Susan and both their families for a late Sunday brunch. I spent a few days getting the back garden perfectly decorated with new flowers, and set up a long dining room table outside with my great aunt’s hand-painted china. I even got out my Scottish (clan Maxwell) grandmother’s antique linen napkins and gently ironed each piece, which wasn’t so easy to do because of the hand-embroidered “M” sticking up on the corners.

It was a gorgeous Easter Sunday and our backyard looked like a page out of House & Garden magazine, especially with the flea-market chandelier hanging above the table. Peter secured the heavy fixture to a large branch on our oak tree, even though we didn’t need the light of course. The glass made the garden so pretty, twinkling in the sun through the leaves.

I always like having a “signature” cocktail when I entertain for a large group (even for brunch!). It makes it easier for the hostess (so I don’t have to set up a full bar) and it makes it fun for the guests, especially if the drink is something new.

A few weeks before the disastrous Easter, I was watching the Sex in the City episode where Samantha befriends the transvestites in her new apartment building. Throughout most of the episode she and the “ladies” were arguing over late-night noise outside her bedroom window and Samantha couldn’t get any sleep. After an ongoing catfight with the “guys”, including throwing water on them from her apartment window, she finally decided it would be better just to make nice, and hosted a roof-top barbecue for the whole gang. The episode ended with Samantha raising a glass, toasting Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda and her new “girl friends” with a cocktail called, “Flirtini”.

Samantha’s Flirtini Recipe:
2 oz. Vodka
1/2 oz. Apricot Liquor or Triple Sec
1/2 oz. Pineapple Juice
Splash of Champagne, garnish with a strawberry

I thought it would be so fabulous to serve Flirtinis for Easter lunch. They sounded so “fresh and fruity, like springtime”! It was about noon when our guests arrived and the grown-ups started drinking the first of several pitchers. I had never gotten a buzz so fast before (I’m sure it was the vodka mixed with champagne), and by the time we sat down to eat, we were all stinking DRUNK.

What type of food did I serve for our beautiful Easter brunch? I can’t remember (or maybe I don’t want to remember). I had a hangover by late evening and spent the next two days cleaning and packing up the antique dishes. All that effort setting up the garden, gathering our family together, and the memory of the day is just a painful blur.

I haven’t had a Flirtini since, and only remembered it when I suggested to Peter that we should host Easter at our house this year. But he had a much better idea: How about we treat our family to Easter brunch at the Bazaar?

*Brunch at the Bazaar by José Andrés [visit 10]

Bazaar Brunch, MyLastBite.com
Huevos a la Cubana “Andy Garcia” (12 Tiny Eggs Sunny Side Up), $12. One of the three new brunch items on the menu at the Bazaar by José Andrés. I know this LOOKS like a lot of yolk, but these were small quail eggs. Lightly crispy underneath with a savory tomato sauce on top.

Bazaar Brunch, MyLastBite.com
Eggs Benedict “New Way”, Iberico Ham, $18. So beautiful that I couldn’t stop turning the plate and taking photos! The piece of ham was CRISPY and crackled when I bit into it, and the foam tasted like butter. I’ll never be able to have Eggs Benedict anywhere else again.

Bazaar Brunch, MyLastBite.com
Savory Spanish Torrijas: Iberico Ham, Egg 63 (egg was poached at  63ºF.) and Idiazabal Cheese, $18. This was my favorite new brunch item. It was very similar to french toast under the ham… but so much better of course!

Along with the new brunch items, we shared dishes (that I’ve had several times before) from both the regular Traditional and Modern menus including:

Bazaar Brunch, MyLastBite.com
Tuna Ceviche and Avocado Roll, $12. My sister Janet’s favorite.

Bazaar Brunch, MyLastBite.com
Crab Meat Steamed Buns with Pickled Japanese Cucumbers, $18. Three per order (about two bites per little sandwich), never enough!

Bazaar Brunch, MyLastBite.com
Croquetas de Pollo (Chicken and Bechamel Fritters), $8 This is ALWAYS a favorite at the table. Perfect bites (like large tater tots) of little “chicken pot pies”.

Bazaar Brunch, MyLastBite.com
Bloody Mary: Freshly made tomato juice with a celery-wasabi foam, $16. Definitely could have been a meal in itself! I loved the wasabi foam on top.

Bazaar Brunch, MyLastBite.com
In front: Tableside “Nitro” Blood Orange Screwdriver: Frozen liquid nitrogen blood orange and vodka, $20. House-made Lemonade (freshly squeezed lemon juice, rosemary syrup), $6. Bloody Mary (back, left).

Bazaar Brunch, MyLastBite.com
Felix Meana making the “Nitro” Blood Orange Screwdriver: Frozen liquid nitrogen blood orange and vodka. I love when the liquid nitrogen cart comes rolling up to the table. This screwdriver was velvety smooth and strong! We all loved it.

Bazaar Brunch, MyLastBite.com
Clockwise from top left: Jade (partial), my nephew Cody, Peter’s niece, Chanel.
Top Right: My niece Kindal and Cody’s girlfriend Jade.
Bottom Right: Peter’s sister Susan and her boyfriend, Jerry.
Bottom Left: Chanel, Peter and Miles (Peter’s nephew).

Bazaar Brunch, MyLastBite.com
Clockwise from top left: Miles and my friend, Laur.
Top Right: Susan, Jerry, my sister, Janet and nephew, Chace.
Bottom Right: Jo (me!) and Peter.
Bottom Left: Cody and Chanel.

Bazaar Brunch, MyLastBite.com
Clockwise from top left: Miles digging into dessert, Chace gets comfy on the Blanco couch. With the twins, Chace and Kindal.

Bazaar Brunch, MyLastBite.com
Peter holding court in the Blanca room! The Rojo room was closed for the restaurant’s first official brunch.

Bazaar Brunch, MyLastBite.com
Chef Marcel Vigneron invited the twins (my sister’s kids, Chace and Kindal) back to see the kitchen. They are both fans of “Top Chef” and have been cooking since they were really little, so this was heaven! Thanks Chef!

Dishes we also shared, that I’ve had on previous visits:

Sweet Potato Chips with Yogurt Tamarind Dip, $10

Philly Cheesesteak Air Bread, $8

‘Pa amb’ tomaquet (bread with tomato in Catalan)

Foie Gras and Quince on mini Brioche Bun, $15

Nitro Coconut Floating Island Dessert, $10

We also shared a pitcher of Sangria Rojo, $42. (no photo)

The Bazaar by José Andrés, SLS Hotel
465 South La Cienega Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 9004
(310) 246-5555
Dining date: 4/12/09

Bazaar Brunch, MyLastBite.comAn extra treat for me was meeting Chef Katsuya Fukushima (in photo, at right). I had seen him on an episode of “Gourmet’s Diary of a Foodie” and was wowed by his knowledge of “modern” cuisine. Chef Fukushima works closely with José Andrés at MiniBar in Washington D.C.

A very special THANK YOU to Bazaar Manager, Felix Meana (also in photo) for taking such good care of us. You made the day extra special.

Thanks also to William and Audra for organizing our large (table of twelve) reservation!!

All my Bazaar photos on Flickr

Mentioned above:

Sex in the City: Episode 48

Top Chef

The twins cooking

House & Garden

“The Flirtini Incident” originally published April 15, 2009

The Bazaar no longer serves brunch.

18 Comments

Filed under Eating Out, Food Stories (written by me), Molecular Cooking

Charlie’s, Malibu

THIS RESTAURANT IS UNFORTUNATELY CLOSED.

I’m always dragging my friend Laur with me to try out new restaurants. From casual gastropubs up the street like Laurel Tavern, to “modern (molecular) cooking” at The Bazaar across town. She’s always up for a new dining adventure no matter where we go.

When she invited me to dinner at a new place in Malibu last month, I thought to myself, “Seriously, does anyone DRIVE to Malibu just for dinner?” I wondered if trying to get there during rush hour would be worth all the trouble.

If you live in Los Angeles, you understand the hell that is our freeway system, especially during the work week. Sometimes it can take hours to crawl across the 405 freeway, and even shortcuts are clogged with hungry diners trying to make that 7 or 8pm dinner reservation.

It wasn’t just the thought of midweek traffic that bothered me: it was also the general consensus (I think) that Malibu proper is for locals only. I’ve lived in Studio City for fifteen years now, and I can remember driving to Malibu only once for an actual dinner. It was an intimate gathering at some restaurant (can’t remember which one) for a friend’s 40th birthday party. 

Family Beach Vacations, MyLastBite.comDon’t get me wrong, I LOVE the beach. I lived in Pacific Beach (San Diego) for ten years before marrying Peter, and totally embraced the casual lifestyle of a beach community. Over the years, Peter and I rented a beach house in Newport (near Balboa Island) several times, and invited our families for fun, group vacations. Luckily, we also have friends that own a beach house steps from Hollywood Beach in Oxnard, and they let us use it whenever. By the way, the BEST breakfast in the world is nearby at a place called “Mrs. Olson’s Coffee Hut”.

Those three SoCal beaches I’m most familiar with (Pacific Beach, Newport Beach and Hollywood Beach) are all very laid-back: and growing up, they really never sounded as glamorous as Malibu. I don’t recall Mattel making a “Newport Beach Barbie” that’s for sure. “Malibu Barbie” was, and is still (in my opinion), the best Barbie doll ever. I still have mine tucked away, although her “self-tan” is now blotchy and streaky.

In the early sixties, Roger Vadim and Jane Fonda epitomized the casual (yet still glamorous) Malibu lifestyle that I fantasize about visiting. Photos of them at their Malibu bungalow are included in a book by Dennis Hopper called, “1712 North Crescent Heights”. It’s one of my favorites: a large, black and white coffee table book filled with photos he took around Los Angeles, before he filmed “Easy Rider”. Another favorite shot in the book is of Peter Fonda jamming on an acoustic guitar. He’s just sitting on a large piece of driftwood in the sand, looking cool, but I guess everyone looked cool hanging out at the “Colony” back then. It always makes me laugh when celebrities reminisce about living in the “Colony”, they never say “Malibu Colony”, it’s usually just “The Colony”, as if no other “Colony” would matter in their world anyway.

From Wikipedia: Malibu Colony was one of the first areas inhabited after Malibu was opened to the public in 1929 and it is one of Malibu’s most famous districts. It is located along Malibu Road, westward of the Pacific Coast Highway, on the opposite shore of the Malibu Lagoon State Beach and adjacent to the Malibu Bluffs Park. Long known as a popular private enclave for wealthy celebrities, the Malibu Colony today is a gated community, with multi-million dollar homes on small lots. 

Life in Malibu, MyLastBite.com

The new Malibu spot my friend Laur wanted me to try is called “Charlie’s”, a steak and seafood restaurant on Pacific Coast Highway (in the former Allegria space). Peter decided to join us for dinner, so we headed out to Malibu on an early Thursday evening. I was surprised the drive from Studio City only took about an hour. Guess what? Malibu’s not that far away after all! What was I thinking?

Charlie's Restaurant, MalibuFrom photos I saw online (before I went), Charlie’s looked like a large space, but in reality it’s more like an elegant bistro than a classic steak house. The decor is very stylish (leopard print chairs by Dolce & Gabbana) but easygoing at the same time. I’d be comfortable there wearing a cocktail dress and heels or a little sundress with sandals. 

The three of us were seated in a beautiful booth with a panoramic view of the restaurant. And I must say, as we sat there looking over the menu and sipping our wine (Fess Parker Syrah), we were as comfortable as any local would be. And looking up from the table was the most beautiful hand-blown glass chandelier. It really gave the room (and us!) a nice glow. We felt great and heck, because of the gorgeous lighting, we looked great too!

Our server Amy was terrific and patiently went through the menu with us. Laur had been to the restaurant several times before, and always ordered the Braised Beef Short Ribs. I was in the mood for pasta and went for the Spaghetti Bolognese (made with veal). Peter went for the manly-named Greg Norman Premium T-Bone.

We pretty much shared the six dishes we ordered, including green mussels, crab cakes and a refreshing, roasted beet salad (no photo). I have to say that Laur was right about the short ribs. My pasta was delicious; hearty, savory and perfectly cooked, but next time I’ll be having my own plate of those killer short ribs (and not sharing either!)

Charlie's Restaurant, Malibu. MyLastBite.com
New Zealand Green Mussels Meuniere in lemon, garlic and white wine, $12.
A wonderful, aromatic way to begin dinner by the sea. Delicious, with plenty of broth left over to soak up with bread.

Charlie's Restaurant, Malibu. MyLastBite.com
Crab Cakes with Bell Pepper and Sweet Corn Compote, $14. Gone in Sixty Seconds, so good we almost ordered another plate.

Charlie's Restaurant, Malibu. MyLastBite.com
Greg Norman Premium T-Bone (organic signature selection),$42 with an order of Crispy Sage on the side, $4. I wasn’t sure about this “sauce on the side” idea at first. I’m sort of from the school of “eat what the chef has thoughtfully prepared for you”, but honestly, it’s a great way to customize that already gorgeous piece of meat! 

Steak Sauces to select from ($4 each) are:
Crispy Sage
House Barbecue,
Course Grain Mustard
Bourbon Peppercorn
Creamy Porcini Muchroom
Roasted Garlic Demi-Glace
Classic Bearnaise
Port wine with Walnuts & Stilton Cheese

Fried Sage, MyLastBite.com
Crispy Sage, $4. I swear these were cooked in ghee (clarified butter). They were so good, the three of us ate them like potato chips!

Charlie's Restaurant, Malibu. MyLastBite.com
Classic Roasted Veal Spaghetti Bolognese, $18. I was SO ready for this bowl of comforting goodness, and it did NOT disappoint.

Charlie's Restaurant, Malibu. MyLastBite.com
Braised Beef Short Ribs, Truffle Demi-Glace Drizzle, $26. My favorite dish of the night. No knife required (or teeth for that matter). Slow-braised and quickly eaten by the three of us!

Charlie's Restaurant, Malibu. MyLastBite.comCharlie’s
22821 Pacific Coast Highway
Malibu, CA 90265
(310) 456-3132 

Executive Chef Eleano Camboni

http://www.charliesmalibu.com/

Dining Date: 3/26/09


Mentioned Above:

1712 N. Crescent Heights by Dennis Hopper

Mrs. Olson’s Coffee Hut

Malibu Barbie

Celebrities, Malibu Colony

Wikipedia – Malibu Colony

Laur & Peter

Fess Parker Wines

The Bazaar

Charlie's on Urbanspoon

6 Comments

Filed under Eating Out