If you should find yourself visiting a much-more-hip-than-you relative in the much-more-hip-than-where-you-live section of L.A. called Silver Lake, stop in at a wee restaurant called Sqirl. It’s worth the humiliation of being the least hip person in the neighborhood on a Friday afternoon.
Sqirl is famous for their jams (like Santa Rosa Plum and Flowering Thyme, or Shady Lady Tomato) but the menu rocks with lots of other treats, some vegan, some decidedly not, like the Famed Ricotta Toast, which was my pick. (I loaded it with Snow Queen Nectarine jam.)
I told my daughter I could eat it every day for breakfast. She pointed out that if I did so I would end up the size of a house.
So, no, I won’t be having this every day for breakfast. But I will have it again next time I cross the hipness border into Silver Lake.
My husband’s birthday was coming up. As it approached, I kept coming up with ideas. “Surf and Sand in Laguna?” I asked, as he passed me in the hall. Nothing. A few days later, “Malibu Beach Inn?” Nada. A week later, I added what I thought was a fresh idea, “Ojai Valley Inn?” Still, no response.
These are MY ideas of what to do on a birthday. We usually end up at a beach somewhere because, well, we should do something, right? Then, with less than a week until the actual date, he reminds me that it’s HIS birthday. What?!! Incredulous. And now he’s thought about it and really wants to go to Photo LA, the annual photo show, which is no longer held in Santa Monica, but at the LA Mart, downtown.
DOWNTOWN? But there’s no beach. I needed a few moments to come to terms with this. “Okay,” I peeped. He said let’s get a room for the night and check out all the hipness we keep hearing about downtown. He mentioned the Standard Hotel. But I remembered everyone, meaning my son, talking about the Ace Hotel. My husband took charge and booked it. I think he feared I would switch it behind his back to a beach hotel. He said restaurant reservations were up to me. He thinks of that as my territory. And, well, it usually is.
When relatives come for the holidays in the words of the Eagles, it can be “heaven or it can be hell”. In our case it was delicious!
My favorite Aunt and Uncle escaped the blistering cold of NYC during this past holiday season and came to visit my family and get a bit of LA sunshine. My uncle is a man who loves his food. It is second only to his wife, my aunt who he’s been married to for 32 years and he is still as gaga and giddy as a love struck teenager. It is quite beautiful to behold. As is his wide eyed appraisal of a good menu.
It is fortunate, indeed, that my uncle has done very well financially so he can indulge in both of his passions; spoiling his wife and satisfying his taste buds. Living in NYC and traveling the world they eat in the best restaurants so needless to say when they come to LA, we eat well. Since they stay at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel and enjoy driving in LA traffic about as much as we do, we confined our restaurant hopping to Beverly Hills.
Breakfast this weekend was punctuated with a pronouncement from The Mom. “The best fish I ever ate”, this from a women who has been eating cured, smoked, salted, baked salmon for 94 years. I may be a native Los Angelena, but you can’t deny eastern European roots when it comes to a love of cured fish.
The silky texture with a touch of resistance, the fishy flavor transformed somehow, depending on the method of curing, into a deeper sense of the sea. And with kippered or baked salmon a perfect solidity of texture imbued with a hint of smoke and black pepper.
Los Angeles is rapidly growing into a world-class eating destination. That peak fish experience didn’t come from a mail order delivery from Russ and Daughters in NYC or a couple of peachy orange translucent slices begged “under the table” slices of Wexler’s smoked salmon still unavailable by the pound to take home.
There’s a lot to talk about when it comes to Gjusta, the new Gjelina food hall project from Travis Lett, Fran Camaj and several culinary and managing collaborators.
I went into Edelweiss Chocolates in Beverly Hills, not to buy chocolates but to buy their white Jordan almonds which I always keep handy in a silver sugar bowl.
“That’s it?” the lady behind the cash register said, casting her eyes in the direction of the case full of beautiful chocolate confections.
“Yeah, that’s it,” I said.
But Steve Zahir, the owner of the shop who was busily arranging his inventory, does not tolerate indifference to chocolate.
“Come in the back. I’ll show you how we do it,” he said.
“Oh,” I said, surprised. ”Okay!” I love it when a minor adventure presents itself unexpectedly.
Four employees were busy in the spotless back rooms of the shop, meticulously cutting toffee bars and dipping pretzels in dark chocolate.
Bread. I love it, especially when it’s well made. But I freely admit that I try to avoid it. I’m of a certain age and weight when the dangers of too much free carb styling can take a toll. But how hard is that to do now? It’s really hard with all the neighborhood bakeries opening all over town. Yesterday I checked out Bread Lounge in DTLA. Tucked away on the southeast corner of 7th and Santa Fe the location is an indication of just how much DTLA is thriving.
I walked in on a Friday during late lunchtime and it was filled with people dining in and taking out. If you park in the back and walk through to the front the first display you see is packed with all manner of packaged sables, biscotti and other little nibbles.
The production area is on display to your right and there is bread everywhere from large boules and batards to skinny crusty baguettes and a good selection of whole grain and white sturdy sandwich breads. And of course there are the small coffee cakes and viennoiserie that we’ve come to expect.
Located on Broadway and Hill between 2nd and 3rd, The Grand Central Market reflects the changes sweeping over Downtown Los Angeles. Long before farmers markets appeared all over LA, the Grand Central Market provided the Downtown community with fresh food at affordable prices.
The shoppers who filled the aisles, bought fresh produce, fruit, fish, meat and poultry. Freshly made tortillas traveled down a conveyer belt where they were stacked in plastic bags and sold still warm in the open-air tortilla factory that once stretched along the southern wall close to Broadway.
The Market specialized in health products, fresh fruit juices, herbal teas and homeopathic remedies from around the world. And where there are shoppers, they will be places to eat. Dozens of stalls sold Mexican tacos, enchiladas, ceviche, whole lobsters, plates of fried fish and shrimp in the shell. Anyone who needed an old-school Chinese-American food fix could eat at China Cafe and Broadway Express.
Greenspans is tiny and sandwiched (no pun intended) in between a bar and some tacky Melrose clothing store on the old Tommy Tang strip of Melrose, where Evan Kleiman opened Angeli Cafe all those years ago. Back then all of the good actors in town could be found in Milton Katselas’s Mon and Wed night class at the Zepher Theater just across the street, and Chianti was down the block serving up perfect stracciatella soup. That stretch was something back in its day. (Pardon the walk back 30 years).
Well, seasoned chef Eric Greenspan’s Grilled Cheese is going to bring that block back. It’s good. It’s real good.
My friend Sandy emailed me last week. “Just came back from a place that’s right up your alley”. My friend Sandy is a woman in the know and she certainly knows what alleys I frequent.
She’s also very discriminating and not prone to false alarms or wasting anyone’s time, so my interest was piqued. When I heard the name, Greenspan’s Grilled Cheese, I was more than curious, I was out the door. Not being a lady who lunches, my friend Sandy was a bit surprised, and I hope delighted, that I emailed her straight back asking for a lunch date.
RivaBella Ristorante is in West Hollywood on the border of Beverly Hills and within sight of the Sunset Strip. From the outside, RivaBella has the look of an expensive fine dining restaurant. Walk inside and the friendly bar men will offer you a cocktail or a glass of premium wine, then you'll enter a dining room with rustic wooden tables, brick walls and a massive hearth. The spacious restaurant has the feel of an upscale country inn.
RivaBella balances elegance with casual dining. On the evening we had dinner, some diners were dressed in business suits while others wore shorts and colorful sport shirts. A retractable ceiling opens to the sky. Natural light floods into the room through floor to ceiling windows. At night, candles on the tables and strings of white lights give the room a romantic, festive aura. You'll experience the restaurant's theatrical side when you enter the dining room and pass the DJ who is working through a play list of pop songs. Order the mushroom risotto and the waiter brings a cart to the table heavily laden with a Parmigiano Reggiano wheel large enough to fit on a Mini-Cooper.
It has been a long time since I have been to a restaurant that actually inspired me to write about it. In the period of time from my last write up, I have been fortunate enough to go to a couple Michelin star restaurants, and those did not inspire me. They were great, but I think I expected it. My experience at the newly opened Saint Martha, stirred something in me that had been dormant for a while. Until now. My husband took me to Saint Martha on a Thursday evening, partly to treat me after having some tough work weeks, and partly to celebrate his birthday.
You can find Saint Martha at a little complex in Koreatown. Yes, I said Koreatown. Frankly, I think it’s the only sign that is in English; that should tip you off! The restaurant is named after the saint of cooks and servers, and after some food and wine you’ll think these people are all saints as well!
Sometimes, a restaurant has a wine list that shines, and a food menu that is just average, or vice versa. Not the case here. Wine and food menus can both stand on their own. The food alone was so creative and delicious.
London - British Isles
by Nancy Ellison