Congratulations Top Chef!
Peter & I were so honored to be with you
and celebrate your win last night!
Photo taken at Michael’s viewing party
Top Chef Season 6 Finale 12/9/09
The Langham in Pasadena
What is Hatchi?
A little background (by LA Weekly):
“The Hatchi series, a collaboration between Breadbar and chef Noriyuki Sugie, began this past June and showcases a guest chef the last Thursday of each month. The series menu features 8 small plate courses at $8 a dish–“hatchi” means 8 in Japanese–and guests order a minimum of three dishes. The chefs, who are picked for their rising-star talent, are given a budget and must stick within it; Sugie is on hand to mentor, watch, and (one hopes) taste a few dishes. The previous chefs to run the floor were Debbie Lee (The Next Food Network Star, now at Gyenari), Michael Voltaggio (now chef de cuisine at The Langham) and Santa Barbara-based private chef Roberto Cortez.”
I love these “guest chef” dinners, and do my best to attend each one. So far I’ve been to three (links below), and highly recommend it! It’s just a really comfortable and inexpensive way to try out a chef’s new menu.
Upcoming Events: 1/28/10 Ricardo Zarate
Chef at Mo Chica
Hatchi Theme: Peru Much Gusto
voltaggio top chef
BreadBar Century City
10250 Santa Monica Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90067
(310) 277 3770
WebSite (check for upcoming Hatchi dinners)
Follow BreadBar on Twitter @BreadBar_LA
It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Chef Michael Voltaggio. Luckily for me, I also get to call him a friend.
Ever since I first tasted Michael’s food at the Bazaar by José Andrés last year, I made sure to keep an eye on the man that chef Andrés selected to open (as Esquire Magazine recently coined), the “Restaurant of the Year”.
The L.A. Times even gave the Bazaar a rare FOUR STAR review, and yes… I understand that the restaurant, menu and concept belong to the great José Andrés (I adore him too). But it was primarily Michael Voltaggio I saw in the kitchen each time I sat down for dinner in the Bazaar’s Roja room.
Michael now runs the kitchen at the Dining Room in Pasadena, which is located in the Langham Hotel. Before starting this most recent gig, he took some “time off” to compete in Bravo’s Top Chef – Season 6 (which is currently airing). He even squeezed in time to helm a one-night-only Hatchi guest chef event at BreadBar Restaurant in Century City, and it was there that I got to taste creations that were finally, truly his own.
BreadBar describes the Hatchi Series as a “unique venture featuring a different guest chef every month preparing an original, one-night-only suite of eight plates, including six ‘savory’ dishes and two ‘sweet’ creations”. Hatchi means number eight in Japanese: 8 Plates offered at $8 each. I love the Hatchi dinners, and do my best to attend each one!
The best part about Michael Voltaggio’s Hatchi dinner, surprisingly, wasn’t about the food. OF COURSE the food was STELLAR, it’s Michael Voltaggio for goodness sakes, but my favorite part was meeting and getting to know Michael’s mother, Sharon and his stepdad, Bob.
Top Chef 6 hadn’t started airing yet, and there was a lot excitement and anticipation at the restaurant that night. Sharon and I now email each other every Wednesday night after the show has aired, so we can dish about how her TWO sons are doing on the show. In case you don’t watch Top Chef, Bryan Voltaggio (Michael’s equally talented big brother) is also competing for the title this year. Sharon is certainly one proud mom, that’s for sure!
Michael Voltaggio’s incredible Hatchi menu:
An Experience of Texture and Flavor
BreadBar Century City
10250 Santa Monica Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90067
310 277 3770
Dining Date: 7/30/09
With friends Afaf & Ray.
Hatchi Dinner: 8 Plates for $8
See website (link above) for upcoming Hatchi dinners!
More awesome Voltaggio tattoos (posted with permission)!
Voltaggio, Voltaggio, Michael Volaggio, Bryan, Top Chef Las Vegas, Voltaggio Brothers Voltaggio, Voltaggio, Michael Volaggio, Bryan, Top Chef Las Vegas, Voltaggio Brothers
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
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!
Watch the episode with the Olive Oil Bonbon!
In the kitchen with the chefs
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]
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.
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.
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:
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).
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.
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).
Clockwise from top left: Miles digging into dessert, Chace gets comfy on the Blanco couch. With the twins, Chace and Kindal.
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:
‘Pa amb’ tomaquet (bread with tomato in Catalan)
We also shared a pitcher of Sangria Rojo, $42. (no photo)
An 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
Sex in the City: Episode 48
The twins cooking
“The Flirtini Incident” originally published April 15, 2009
* The Bazaar no longer serves brunch.
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