Los Angeles

 

darya painting sm
In Persian, Darya means sea

Darya in West L.A. 

 

I wish my comfort food was as simple as mac and cheese or ice cream with chocolate sauce and gobs of whipped cream.  But I grew up with a Persian mother and nothing makes me feel better than basmati rice with saffron; eggplant and zucchini in a tomato stew with veal; filet mignon kabobs, marinated and then grilled to perfection – the dishes that she raised me on.  Back in high school and even to this day, my friends still invite themselves over for dinner in hopes that my mother will be cooking her legendary rice served with one of her Persian stews.

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bazaarcaviarcones.jpgTo great acclaim, José Andrés recently opened four restaurants (Rojo, Blanco, Saam, & Patisserie) and a bar (Bar Centro) on the ground floor of the SLS Hotel (465 S. La Cienega, Los Angeles, CA 90048; 310/246-5555). Collectively called The Bazaar, the space reflects Andrés' elegance, playfulness, energy, and love of food.

Serving an eclectic menu, Andrés uses foam and flavor essentials reflecting his relationship with Ferran Adrià. Serving the best hams and cheeses cements his connection to the Spanish tapas bars where working people gather to eat, drink, and talk.

Over several visits to the Bazaar, I enjoyed wildly extravagant treats like his crispy cones filled with cauliflower cream and topped with American caviar or the whimsical, delicious sticks of foie gras wrapped in cotton candy, but the most memorable dish was something extraordinarily simple: an appetizer of salt crusted potatoes with a cilantro-parsley dip.

 

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greenspans1Greenspans 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.

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ImageI try really hard to be a health-conscious dancer. I go to the health food markets and buy spinach and avocados and turkey breast and trail mix. But the truth is, I am a carb monster. "C stands for cookie. That's good enough for me." But for me, the real C stands for croissant, and I just couldn't find the perfect one. Until one day I was walking around the neighborhood and saw it. Tarte Tatin. In that little mini-mall on Olympic and Oakhurst. Yep; the one with the frozen yogurt place and the nail salon.

Owner Kobi Tobiano (the former pastry chef at Charles Nob Hill in San Francisco) makes everything in-house from all natural ingredients. It's perfect. Clean, cozy, and filled with croissants! Their almond croissant has become an almost daily indulgence for me--buttery and rich, made from real almonds, not that disgusting paste everyone else in town seems to be using.

If you are a freak of nature and almond croissants just aren't your thing, try to the cinnamon vanilla swirl or the fluffy, powdered sugar covered brownie (or if you are like me, maybe you should get all three). Their egg salad is light and fresh, made with homemade mayo and on fresh baked bread. Their muesli is nothing short of a work of art.

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Image Artisan cheese in the display case, turkey meatloaf you wish you could make at home, fresh lemonade that’s just the right amount of sweet and sour,  strawberry jam for sale on the shelf, Nicky (and Paris) Hilton at the back table but nobody cares because the Chinese chicken salad is perfect and everyone else has too much to do. Did I mention the cupcakes?! It’s the perfect place to stop when you’re busy, when you barely have time for lunch, but it’s also, the perfect place to hang out.

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