Los Angeles

rive1RivaBella 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.

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saintmarthaextIt 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.

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malibuseafood.jpgMy mother used to tell me she would drive to Malibu several times a week.  She wouldn't stop there, just drive there and back.  To relax…to write in her head...to figure things out. She doesn't do it anymore, because of the price of gas, it's wasteful...but every once in awhile I'll wake up early and do the drive myself...watching the coastline as I speed by...I'd pay more for a movie...

When my parents first split up they weren't exactly on the best of terms. My time was divided. I spent way more of it with my Mom, and distinct brackets with my dad. My Mom and I had an easier time hanging out, satisfied with doing nothing.  One Wednesday, in the middle of the day, she drove me along the coast. 'Where are we going,' I thought to myself, but I didn't dare ask, for one because she wouldn't have told me if I had, but also because she probably didn't know herself. She stopped at one point and we got out of the car. She disappeared up a small trail you would barely notice, and I followed her up the mountain.

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hatfields_logo.jpgMarriage is a beautiful thing: the union of two people who perfectly complement one another.  So be it with food.  And what better way to appreciate them both than at Hatfield’s, an epicurean labor of love for husband-and-wife chef team Quinn and Karen Hatfield.

Due to both poor time management and navigational skills, we arrived unfashionably late on a Friday night.  Despite our tardiness, we were graciously welcomed like old friends, albeit old friends who are known for being late.  Bourbon, lemon juice and prosecco played nice (for once) in the perfect, pre-dinner French 95 cocktail.  Flaky cheddar biscuits were served with perfectly spread-able butter, and it is well known that butter serving temperature is an art form not easily mastered.  By the time our delightful amuse bouche of quail eggs and parsnip soup made its way over, we knew we’d be back.

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currywurstoutsideKai Lobach's “baby” is Currywurst, the hole in the wall sausage restaurant on Fairfax Avenue that he opened a few years ago and is fighting to keep alive and well. Small, compact, and beautiful as it is, it has not had the proper attention it deserves! Maybe it’s because in Southern California we don’t appreciate sausage stands. They are a common site, though, in Germany and are as popular and ubiquitous as Mickey D's here in America. We don’t think in terms of sausages for lunch…or dinner…and not too much for breakfast anymore, truth be told.

No, when making a lunch plan, sausages, (pork, chicken, or veal), served on a delicious homemade brioche bun, with a choice of different sauces on the side, (including my favorite aoili mayonnaise) doesn’t come readily to mind. But it should, the way Curry Wurst makes it! Served with excellent French fries on the side. My Heaven. The French fries are so good; in fact, they could be the main act.

Kai Lobach goes way beyond interesting and catapults risk-taking to new heights. He also seems to be quite fearless, but I suppose one has to be to lead a life guided by passion. Make that plural…passions.

Kai is a chef who has his own event planning business one could call celebrity driven or sustained. Born, raised and schooled in Germany, and having attended European culinary institutes, it would be natural to assume that food and cooking are his main passions. But haven’t we all been taught, assume nothing. Or, as my growly teen puts it, assuming makes an ass out of you and me. Collecting art and what he lovingly refers to as his “baby”, take first position.

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