From The LA Times

laopenings.jpgEach year I keep a running log to track restaurants slated to open each month. When this January rolled around and I started my new list, I fully expected the pace of openings to slow to a trickle.

That hasn't happened. Instead, despite the curdled economy, L.A.'s restaurant scene this year has busted out with new energy and invention. And it continues to inspire the entire country. I can't tell you how many New Yorkers and even, gasp, San Franciscans have told me that Los Angeles is now their favorite eating town. It's about time we got some deserved attention.

Instead of treading the tried and true, L.A.'s restaurateurs and chefs are experimenting with the wild and crazy, with pop-ups, crossovers and new genres. This year's crop of new restaurants includes sandwich shops, noodle joints, izakaya, wine bars, far-flung cuisines, wood-burning-oven specialists, plenty of communal tables and oddball bar concepts. Diverse doesn't begin to describe what's happening now.

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ImageToday I discovered a half bag of brown rice, a lone red bell pepper, some leftover celery, and an onion. Since Mardi Gras is coming up, why not make a jambalaya? So with this adapted trinity (the typical trinity uses a green bell pepper) I created a festive and healthy dish. I could have added chicken and sausage to keep it traditional, but since I did not have either, I decided to make a vegetarian version. In the end I had a paella-like Cajun side dish that I could pair with anything even leftovers. Using the brown rice rather than white made it even more nontraditional, but it made it more interesting and healthier.

Since it's a whole grain, brown rice is a much better choice than white rice. It's high in fiber, more nutritious, and has a slight nutty flavor. Its texture is chewy, akin to al dente pasta. The only downside is that brown rice has a shorter shelf life than white. In its original packaging brown rice can last for about six months before going rancid, but it stays longer in an airtight container. Brown rice is really a satisfying replacement for white in this spicy and flavorful dish.

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dijon.jpgI never expected to visit Dijon. But on my first trip to France, I asked my Parisian friends for suggestions for where to go and they said Dijon and nearby Beaune, so off I went. The historic capital of Burgundy, Dijon is a dramatic looking city with lots to do and see. It has many museums, churches, medieval buildings with gargoyles and stunning geometrically patterned roofs of green, white, yellow, black and terra cotta ceramic tiles.

When most people think Dijon, they think mustard. But Dijon is in wine country, home of Coq au Vin, Boeuf Bourguinon and lots of other rich and rustic dishes including the classic preparation of Escargot in garlic, butter and parsley. In addition to Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Gamay and Aligoté, the region is also known for Cremant de Bourgogne and cassis. It's worth noting that you can get to Dijon in under 2 hours from Paris if you take the TGV.

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brussels-sprouts-and-wild-rice-024Many would say the only way to prepare Brussels sprouts, the cruciferous vegetables that look like a miniature cabbage, is to roast them. I do love the ease of preparing roasted Brussels sprouts. The nutty flavor they develop in a hot oven is magnificent. But, there is another way to prepare the little green sprouts that offers wonderful flavor and crisp texture.

I’ve discovered that by slicing Brussels sprouts into thin ribbons, they can be stir-fried with other vegetables.

A little time with your chef’s knife is all it takes to prepare the sprouts for stirring up in a hot pan with onions, peppers and garlic. Add some honey and vinegar for a sweet and sour flavor. Then, just stir in some cooked wild rice. Viola!

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cinespia.jpgCinespia screenings on the side of the mausoleum at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery have been staples of Los Angeles summertime since their first screening in 2000. Still, I was too afraid to attend until last summer. I thought watching icon filled movies amidst the sleeping corpses of the icons themselves would be too tempting to their ghosts. Would not an actor or director or musician—narcissistic by trade—want to take a final curtain call? Wouldn’t the music of applause be enough to wretch their resting spirits from eternal slumber? So I left the screenings to burgeoning hipsters and longtime cinephiles and chose to rent classic movies at Vidiots instead.

I now love the screenings, so last Saturday when my friends asked me to join them at the cemetery to watch Elia Kazan's Cain and Abel classic East of Eden starring the James Dean, I said yes. However, like the great films themselves, going to the Hollywood Forever screenings is quite a production. 

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