Dinner – E.A.K Ramen – September 18, 2017 – Los Angeles, CA.

Housed in a fairly simple building in the trendy neighborhood of Melrose, is perhaps the best Ramen you will ever happen to stumble on. There are so many Ramen restaurants now in Los Angeles; it has become a real foodie phenomenon. What E.A.K. has that no other Ramen restaurant has, is truly delightful food, with many menu items and very friendly staff.

Info about Ramen and E.A.K. Style Ramen:

What is IEKEI?

IKEI is a style of Ramen that is marriage between Tonkotsu style from the West (Kyushu) and Shoyu style from the East (Tokyo). It is a very distinct thick broth, which is a mixture of chicken and pork, topping of spinach instead of green onions; with chashu, a large piece of nori, aji-tama egg, and the noodles are thick, bold and straight.

The Story

E.A.K. Ramen was born from their philosophy of wanting to spread IEKEI style of ramen to the world. In Japan, they are known as Machida Shoten as well as many other names within the IEKEI style of ramen world. They have direct outlets as well as franchises that cover a large part of Japan that add up to roughly 400 stores. Internationally, they have presences in Singapore, Taiwan, Philippines, Italy, China and Thailand.

However, after capturing a major portion of the Japanese IEKEI market, they decided that it was about time to cross the ocean and make their mark in the US market. Up until now, the US has been introduced to a limited amount of Ramen styles and some stores did try to make an IEKEI style but fell short. They saw an opportunity to spread the wonderful IEKEI style of Ramen and branded their style as E-A-K for the phonetic pronunciation of IEKEI style.

In their broth they use only natural chicken and pork bones and they take 18 hours of love and care to prep, boil, cook, stir, and perfect the broth. Their noodles are custom made for E.A.K., using their distinct formula that no one else uses. It is thick, bold and straight. Their tare recipe is known only by the owner himself; and is a close kept secret to keep their flavor from changing.

Here is what I tried:

Appetizers:

Garlic Edamame, with garlic aioli sauce and anchovies. These are perfect, they melt in your mouth, with a nice fragrance of garlic aioli sauce.

Takoyaki, savory round octopus pancake with a sweet and spicy sauce. These are something you just can’t describe, they are crispy on the outside and soft melty on the inside, just remarkable.

Karaage fried chicken, with lightly salted crispy fried chicken thighs served with sauce of your choice: ponzu sauce, sweet chili, curry, honey mustard, spicy garlic, and homemade tartar. You can try these with their dipping sauces but the seasoning is so great, I loved these little nuggets just on their own with no sauce.

Homemade Cucumber Kimchi, spicy pickled cucumber kimchi. Truly delicious but get ready for the kick, because these are very spicy.

DIY spicy salmon & avocado hand rolls, wrap your own, great for sharing with side of nori and lettuce. This is quite the creative idea and it really works. You get to do all of the work yourself and the payoff is fantastic.

Homemade ginger gyoza, with homemade grilled dumplings filled with seasoned pork, chives and ginger. They flip over these pot stickers in the pan, so you’re left with a yummy film that is the pan sauce, sweet and delectable!

Salads:

Superfood salad, with baby kale, spinach, seaweed, hijiki, cucumber, and shoyu based onion dressing. This is my kind of salad, it’s super fresh and healthy, the dressing is just fantastic. The little bits of seaweed on top are my highlight. This is the kind of salad you can order and eat every day and feel great about this healthy choice.

Rice:

E.A.K. fried rice, with pork-fried rice served table side in a piping hot iron skillet. This is such an interesting presentation. They use an iron pan which they serve the rice in the middle, done table side, then they pour an egg on the outskirts and scramble it right on front of you. It makes for one wonderful fried rice dish.

Oyako Mini Bowl, with chicken and egg marinated in soy sauce, mirin and dashi with radish sprouts on rice. This bowl is very tasty and the price is incredible.

Ramen:

The Original The E.A.K. shoyu, with Pork and chicken broth, pork chashu, seasoned egg, spinach, nori. You can see why E.A.K. is so special, this Ramen is super rich with great meaty flavors, and it really hits the spot.

Seasonal Specials:

Tan Tan Men, spicy yet refreshing. This Ramen is served cold and is vegetarian. Once again, this is a dish that you could eat every day and not have one ounce of guilt from the simple pleasure of good smart eating.

Drinks:

Beer:

Kirin – pale – Japan, super refreshing and very light, perfect with the Ramen.

Sapporo – pale – Japan, wonderful and very drinkable, it works perfectly with anything that has a little kick.

Cocktails:

Very Berry Soju with strawberry ice and strawberry puree, soda, and soju. This drink is more like a smoothie but with a nice Soju kick, it is super fun and delicious.

Green Apple Pen with green apple, soda, soju, and lime. It is very reminiscent of an apple martini, but done with Soju. I would highly recommend this over-the-top cocktail.

Sake:

Makiri sake (Premium), Takenotsuyu, Kurosawa nigori, Un-filtered, Semi-Dry, Mio Sparkling Sake.

Each Sake was recommended to me by the lovely Meadow, she selected each and every one of them, she did a great job. They were all different, each with a complete great characteristic. My favorite was the Makiri, it went down super easy and has some nice floral nuances.

This is Ramen at its best and all of the other menu items will make you never go anywhere else for your weekly Ramen fix. There are other Ramen places that have great accolades but E.A.K. is just the best of the best. Their prices are extremely affordable, and there are so many menu options. From big huge Ramen bowls to tapas style smaller dishes that will leave you completely satisfied. My vote, next time you’re in the mood for Ramen try E.A.K.

E.A.K. Ramen
7455 Melrose Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90046
http://eakramen.com/

* Note some content was taken from their website.

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Black Rabbit Rose/Crying Tiger – Dinner – Sept. 14, 2018 – Hollywood, CA.

When you walk in the door you are taken back to a speakeasy type of environment. There is the lounge and then the showroom; where they have shows nightly. I did not see a show so I can’t comment on that event, but what I can talk about is the food. This is truly great Thai food at its beat.

The building itself was a very hot spot in the 50’s and 60’s, with, lots of young actors and Hollywood types. In the 1994 earthquake the building sustained a lot of damage an it was retrofitted a few years after that.

My lovely bartender Sandra is very talented, she handles the cocktail shakers like she is doing a juggling act. She is also a yoga instructor, so no acting for her, which is what you would think everyone here is doing as well as working at this very hipster establishment. She said that everyone has seen signs of ghosts here, Sandra saw glasses flying off of their shelves in the bar area once or twice. She said she had also heard of a couple of murders that happened in the building and that Marilyn Monroe once lived there. In any event Black Rabbit Rose is a very colorful place.

Here’s What I Tried:

Cocktails:

The Freddy Naf Rye Whiskey, with tamarino, Angsitura bitters, and flamed lemon peel.

Dove Tail Irish whiskey, with scotch, cassis, lemon, and egg white.

Dark Arts, with lemongrass vodka, lime, aloe, and activated charcoal.

Zig Zag Lady, with house-blended rum, black currant juice, lime, ginger and mango candy.

Each drink that I tried was hand crafted and made to perfection. The bar is truly a fun scene and the bartender Sandra made all of her magic creations look so easy.

Food:

Wok Tasted Nuts, with cashews, peanuts, sea salt, green onion, Serrano peppers, and bell pepper. A great way to munch your way to the appetizers that will be coming out.

Pola’s Egg Rolls, with ground pork, bean sprouts, shitake, cilantro, carrots, bamboo shots, and glass noodles. These are wonderful eggrolls, crispy and perfect.

Papaya Salad, carrots, tomatoes, green beans, garlic, tamarind, lime, peanut, shrimp. This is a big refreshing version of this Thai staple.

Lettuce Cups, with grilled shitake, fried tofu, water chestnuts, eggplant, onion, edamame, carrot, topped with crispy noodles. I just loved these cups, they have everything you would expect and want.

Shui Mai Dumplings, ground chicken, water chestnuts, onion, shitake, garlic, white pepper, cilantro, egg, served with house made soy sauce. The outside is soft and silky and the inside is packed with flavor.

Salt & Pepper Popcorn Shrimp, with fresh black pepper, white pepper, Serrano peppers, chopped cilantro, served with spicy seafood aioli. This dish is one of their many showstoppers, just fantastic.

Tamarind Orange Chicken, with karake chicken glazed with spicy tangy tamarino, cilantro and dried chili. You must order this amazing dish when you come to Black Rabbit Rose.

Drunken Noodles, Flat noodle, red bell peppers, onions, garlic, Thai chili, tomato, sweet basil, mushroom, with beef. This is a great version of this always-delicious dish.

Tiger Fried Rice, with crabmeat, Chinese sausage, egg, edamame, onion, green onion, and cilantro. The crabmeat and sausage is what makes this rice so special.

Pad Thai, with thin rice noodles, chicken, tofu, bean sprouts, green onion, tamarind sauce, lime, crushed peanuts, with chicken. This Pad Thai has just the right amount of flavors to make it spectacular.

The interior is very Victorian, with original brick walls exposed, old time double fans that are attached together by one cord. There are old scratched mirrors with very authentic banquets, a bar that seats 7, with lots of regulars and show goers. You will marvel at the interior, and they will tell you about the haunted myths, but really come here for the food, you will not be disappointed.

I met Nathan sitting next to me at the bar; he was the manager at Butchers and Barbers, so he knows a lot about the past history of Black Rabbit Rose.

My lovely host Fern Kaewtathip Chef and owner, was so gracious to invite me for this amazing foodies dream, everything I tried was just spectacular, and the vibe is just so fun, a true find in this hipster neighborhood.

Black Rabbit Rose/Crying Tiger
1721 N. Hudson Ave.
Los Angeles, CA. 90028
www.blackrabbitrose.com

 

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Hold on to Your Hats LA Weekly’s Brunch at The Races is Coming

Sunday Oct. 15, 2017 be ready for one of the most fun days of your life.

Brunch at The Races has ever thing you would ever want from a Sunday afternoon in Southern California.

Enjoy samples of over 30 of the best brunch spots in Los Angeles.

You can buy tickets the day of or go to their website and buy online.

11:00 AM – 2:00 PM – Santa Anita Park

https://brunchattheraces.laweekly.com/

I will see you there!

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Del Frisco Grille – Dinner – August 27, 2017- Pasadena, CA.

On a balmy Sunday summers night I made it to this lovely part of Pasadena, Lake Street which has many great eating establishments. Del Frisco Grille offers an elegant but casual dining experience.

There are 3 Del Frisco Grille locations in Southern California, Santa Monica, Irvine and Pasadena. They have many other locations in these areas: Atlanta, GA , Brentwood, TN, Brookfield Place, NY, Burlington, MA , Cherry Creek, CO Chestnut Hill, MA , Dallas, TX , Fort Worth, TX , Hoboken, NJ , Houston, TX , Huntington, NY, Little Rock, AR , Nashville, TN – Now Open , New York, NY , North Bethesda, MD Pasadena, CA, Plano, TX , Southlake, TX Stamford, CT , and Tampa, FL. Company Del Frisco also owns Sullivan’s and Double Eagle, two great steak houses as well.

Here’s What I Tried:

Cocktails:

Martini, a very proper martini, just what I love to drink to start my meal.

The VIP Sweet Hawaiian Pineapple-infused Svedka Clementine vodka. This drink is so refreshing, very light and tropical.

Cosmopolitan, vodka, cranberry juice. A very light cocktail with a nice amount of ingredients.

Food to Fight Over:

Cheesesteak Eggrolls, sweet & spicy chili sauce, and honey mustard. This is an interesting take on an egg roll, with Philly cheese steaks inside, go figure.

Ahi Tacos, tuna tartare, avocado, spicy citrus mayo. These are super fresh Ahi Tuna tacos with a nice spicy citrus mayo.

Deviled Eggs, truffle-chive vinaigrette. I have never tasted anything like this, really great flavors in these little devils.

Fire Roasted Artichoke Meyer lemon vinaigrette, parmesan-black pepper aioli. The artichoke is smoky and warm while the sauce is cheesy and spicy, all together a great appetizer.

Wild Mushroom Flatbread with fontina cheese, caramelized onions, baby arugula, and white truffle oil. This flatbread is outstanding. There is so much great mushroom flavor and the caramelized onions really are sweet and delectable.

Soup & Greens:

Sweet Corn Bisque with tortilla, and crema. This is a very sweet creamy soup with a nice soothing texture.

Iceberg Lettuce Wedge with bacon, tomato, and blue cheese dressing. A nice healthy helping, with a huge quartered iceberg lettuce. The dressing is very subtle, but the bacon makes all of the difference.

Mains:

Oscar – Prime Rib Eye 16 oz. with jumbo lump crab cake, cajun lobster sauce, roasted asparagus, and jalapeño bacon mashed potatoes. What a great astounding dish, so many great flavors and the combinations are just off the charts.

Sides:

Truffled Mac & Cheese, another amazing menu item, wow! The truffle comes out in every bite.

Desserts:

Salted Caramel Pudding Jar and whipped cream. This pudding is just so luscious with its great salted caramel flavors; it is a wonderful dessert item.

Coconut Cream Pie and white chocolate shavings. This pie is so decadent. It is their signature dessert and after trying it you will know why.

Wine:

Chardonnay, The Seeker, 2013, Central Coast, CA. A nice fragrant wine that went great with the wedge salad.

Chardonnay, Au Contraire, 2013, Russian River, CA. This is my kind of wine with its great buttery, caramel flavors; it worked great with the crab cake.

Red Blend, Black Ink, 2014, CA, Zinfandel, Syrah, Merlot, and Malbec. This is a very cherry type wine with so many complicated flavors, but it was so perfect with the rib eye.

Red Blend, Del Frisco’s Grille 2013, CA, Cabernet, Petite Sirah, and Zinfandel, by Robert Foley. A nice well rounded blend with more spicy nuances. It went great with the wild mushroom flatbread.

Del Frisco’s planted its roots in Dallas more than 20 years ago. They embody the rich tradition of fine American steakhouses, amazing guests through their impeccable chef-driven cuisine, extensive award-winning wine list and unparalleled hospitality. They offer their guests an unforgettable experience in a stunning, energetic atmosphere, perfect for special occasions, business affairs or a grand night on the town. Del Frisco is modern, stylish and fun, taking the classic bar and grill to new heights. Del Frisco’s Grille draws inspiration from bold flavors and market-fresh ingredients. Their menu is a tempting mix of prime steaks, fresh seafood and twists on American comfort cuisine. The energetic bar, a destination in itself, creates a buzz throughout the restaurant and sets the stage and tone for an amazing dining experience.

Del Frisco’s Grille Awards; Wine Spectator – 2014, Wine Spectator Award of Excellence, Jezebel – 2014, Top Restaurants in Atlanta. Buckhead Business Association – 2013, Best New Business, New York, Wine Spectator – 2012-2013, Award of Excellence, Concierge Choice Award – 2012, Best Casual Restaurant NYC, Wine Spectator – 2013, Award of Excellence, Little Rock, Wine Spectator – 2016, Award of Excellence, Dallas, Open Table – 06-2013, Top 100 Hottest Bars in the US, Open Table – 06-2012, Top 100 Hottest Bars in the US, Wine Spectator – 2012-2013, Award of Excellence, Washington, Wine Spectator – 2013, Award of Excellence, Nation’s Restaurant News – 2012, Hot Concepts Award, Houston, Open Table – 2013, Diners’ Choice Award, Open Table – 2013, Top 100 Hottest Bars in the US, Stamford, Open Table – 2015, Diners’ Choice Winner, Hoboken, Open Table – 2015.

The interior is very inviting with 3 distinct dining areas and huge oblong bar with leather comfortable seats. There are large glass partitions that separate the 3 dining areas making it earthy, warm and inviting. They have wood tables, hanging lantern type lamps, and an open kitchen for viewing. There is also a draped private dining room and an outside patio with streaming white lights.

My server Danielle Aguado came from McCormick and Schmicks. She was posed and knowledgeable, and made my experience happen flawlessly.

They have a wine flight event, as well as happy hour and brunch. Check out their website for more details.

Del Frisco Grill
55 Lake Street
Pasadena, CA.
delfriscosgrille.com
* Note some content was taken off of their website.

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Grand Opening of Buffalo Wild Wings – Saturday August 25, 2017 – Mid City – Los Angeles, CA.

What a great event with food, fun people and being able to watch the Mayweather vs McGregor fight at the same time.

About Buffalo Wild Wings:

Minority Business Owners, Karim Webb and Edward Barnett, Bring Buffalo Wild Wings to Koreatown. Karim Webb (L), Co-Founder, PCF Restaurant Management, Trevor Ariza (C), Houston Rockets, Edward Barnett (R), Co-Founder, PCF Restaurant Management | Photo Credit: Earl Gibson III. Karim Webb (Co-Founder, PCF Restaurant Management), Edward Barnett (Co-Founder, PCF Restaurant Management), Trevor Ariza (Houston Rockets), Nadine Velazquez (Six), Sebastian Ridley Thomas (Councilman), and over 200 community members, friends and family.

As minority business owners, Webb and Barnett are excited to be expanding their footprint into a new and ethnically diverse area. They pride themselves on being responsive to unique needs of each community their units serve and their ability to engage stakeholders therein.

Over the past 6 weeks, PCF has worked closely with Korean Churches for Community Development (KCCD), in partnership with Community Career Development, Inc. (CCD) to fill over 130 job opportunities. Through the API JOBS (Job Opportunities & Business Success) Initiative, PCF was able to do the majority of hiring locally. Currently, there are no other national brands owned by African American’s in Koreatown and PCF is excited to change that.

“It’s about service. Serving our Team Members and our Guests. That’s where success in our business comes from. We’re excited to be a part of the burgeoning Koreatown community.” – Karim Webb, PCF Restaurant Management.

“It was a great turnout, we appreciate everybody from the community coming out to support. Part of our mission is to be a good community partner providing job training and employment opportunities to the young people and we are excited to put to our new BWW in Koreatown.” – Ed Barnett, PCF Restaurant Management.

“Tonight was a special night, a lot of people came out and we had a good time. I think the things going on here are helping people. It made me see that everything is attainable and there are a lot more things we can reach. There is a lot of potential here.” – Trevor Ariza, Houston Rockets.

“We are so pleased to have Buffalo Wild Wings open in Koreatown. Thank you for your commitment to Koreatown.” – Hyepin Im, President, Korean Churches for Community Development.

The fight night event was hosted by Big Pee Wee, 102.3 KJLH and music was provided by DJ Ron C. Roughly 200 friends, family and prominent community leaders were in attendance to support, eat wings and watch the Mayweather vs. McGregor fight. Event sponsors included Effen Vodka & Courvoisier. Proceeds from the evening’s event went to Korean Churches for Community Development and the Brotherhood Crusade. BWW Koreatown opens to the public on Thursday August 31st at 11 am.

They served many of their delicious wings: hot, sweet, and crispy; all amazing. Also, I got to taste some other bites on the menu; ultimate nachos, potato wedges, mac & cheese balls, cheese quesadilla and mini corn dogs. They had some nice cocktails to choose from for the night. The perfect delicious food to go with this wonderful high profile group of people, all watching this very entertainment fight. There were so many flat screen TV’s, big and small, but truly they were everywhere so you couldn’t miss any of the fight.

All in all, I was so happy to have been invited and I had a marvelous time at Buffalo Wild Wings, I can’t wait to come back and taste the rest of their menu.

Buffalo Wild Wings – Koreatown

3150 Wilshire Blvd. Ste. 100

Los Angeles, CA 90010

www.lawildwings.com

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Drago Ristorante – Lunch – August 20, 2017 – Petersen Automotive Museum- Los Angeles, CA.

I just love the Drago brothers, each one of them are kind and add so much to our culinary world here in Los Angeles. Their newest collective incarnation is just the best thing I’ve experienced in a very long time. It’s a fresh, fun and modern cuisine at its finest.

Inside the Petersen Automotive Museum is the perfect foodies’ oasis. Drago Ristorante is located inside the newly renovated Petersen Automotive Museum on Wilshire Boulevard, along Museum Row in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles. The Petersen Automotive Museum is one of the world’s largest automotive museums, housing more than 300 vehicles and specializing in automobile history and education.

When you’re hungry and tired from looking at all of the classic cars there’s a wonderful restaurant right there. This location was completely overhauled very recently and when they renovated it they brought in Drago which used to be Johnny Rockets.

Then there’s my old friend Oscar who I know from the great Nonna’s restaurant on Sunset that I reviewed twice a few years back. Seeing Oscar made me feel right at home. The food and ambiance is just so remarkable. Simple and modern, elegant and subtle, it’s everything you would want from dining in a great establishment.

Here’s What I tried:

Cocktail:

Pomegranate Martini, served in a proper martini glass, not too sweet, more on the sour side, but a great starter.

Antipasti:

Calamari Fritti Con Verdure, fried calamari and vegetable, lemon caper tartare. It’s light and fluffy, the tartare sauce is so delicious.

Delizie Vegetariane, caponata, marinated roasted bell peppers, seasonal roasted vegetables, pea puree, toasted ciabatta bread. The best part of this dish for me was the pea puree, you would mistake it for guacamole, but once you taste it you too will fall in love with its rich pea flavor.

Salads:

Mozzarella Caprese, mozzarella cheese, heirloom tomato, roasted bell peppers. A nice well rounded salad with the perfect heirloom tomatoes.

Cosa Buone chopped salad, tomato, romaine, beans, avocado, cheese, salami. I have tasted many chopped salads but never like this one, really fantastic.

Cesare – Caesar Salad, romaine lettuce, Parmesan cheese, croutons. This is the perfect Caesar salad, nice light anchovy dressing, truly great.

Mele e Indivia, pink lady apple, smoked bacon, candied walnuts, frisee, mixed lettuce, champagne vinaigrette. The bacon and the candied walnuts really make for one elegant salad.

Carne e pesci:

Burger, Beef Burger, caramelized onions, Portobello mushrooms, Fontina cheese, truffle fries. What a burger, is all I can say.

Salmon, pan roasted Atlantic salmon, season sauté vegetables. This salmon is very fresh and light and the vegetable are cooked to perfection.

Filetto di Brazino alla Livornese European sea bass, tomato olives caper broth. Its got a crispy skin and the flavors will make you come back for more.

Pasta:

Bucatini Carbonara con Piselli bacon, peas, egg yolk, cream, and Parmesan cheese. Just the right amount of creaminess and the smoky bacon adds to the over all precision is in the dish.

Spaghetti Frutti di Mare, shrimp, calamari, bay scallops, salt spring mussels, Manilla clams. This one has a bit of a kick to it, probably from the pepperoncini that they don’t tell you about, but the seafood is wonderful and the tomato sauce is rich with goodness.

Linguine Vongole, linguine, Manilla clams, garlic, fresh parsley. The clams are tender and pop in your mouth, with a very delicate simple sauce.

Lasagna Bolognese, baked meat lasagna. It is served in a mini casserole dish, with a nice meaty sauce, one of my favorite lasagnas.

Risotto Porcini e Mascapone risotto with porcini mushrooms and mascarpone cheese. This is a creamy, rich, mushroom packed risotto, very wonderful.

Fusilli Vodka fusilli with prosciutto and vodka. Springy type noodles lap up the sauce. It is a simple and direct sauce that has nice vodka nuances.

Culurgiones Sardi, black and white shrimp filled pasta, lobster bell pepper sauce. This was by far my favorite dish of the day. It is rich with shrimp goodness and the black and white kidney shaped raviolis are just amazing. The black part is a squid ink pasta; this complicated dish is so worth tasting.

Pizza:

Funghi e Peperoni mushroom, salami, mozzarella. They have a wood burning pizza oven so of course the pizza would be fantastic.

Salmone Affumicato, smoked salmon, srugula, dill, pickled onions, capers, and salmon caviar. This is kind of a Spago’s type salmon pizza but with more elegance, I just loved it.

Desert:

Crostata de Cioccolato e Caramello chocolate and caramel tart. A nice chocolate caramel ending to my incredible lunch.

Cream Brulee Limone e Lavanda lemon lavender cream brulee, the lemon adds a nice nuance to this special brulee.

Wines:

Sauvignon Blanc, Cakebread cellars, Napa Valley, 2015, I would drink this with the salmon or branzino, and both work perfectly with the fruit forward grapes in this wine.

Chardonnay, Ronco del Gelso, Sietvignis, Friuli Italy, 2014, anything that has shrimp in it will be a great pair with this wine.

The history of the Drago kitchen: Born and raised in the Messina area of Sicily, are the four Drago brothers, Celestino, Tanino, Calogero and Giacomino. They have owned and operated some of the Los Angeles area’s most prolific Italian restaurants. Celestino Drago immigrated to Los Angeles from Sicily in the mid-1970s, and held his first job with Osteria Romana Orsini on Pico Boulevard as a chef before leaving to launch Celestino, “his seminal Italian restaurant in Beverly Hills (now defunct but re-created in Pasadena under the same name)”. He brought over three of his brothers from the family restaurant in Messina. Celestino parted ways with investor Art Vella in 1999. The restaurants feature hand-cranked pastas, pizza, fresh-baked bread. Drago Ristorante offers elevated, yet authentic Italian fare and a heavy dose of classic Italian hospitality that the Drago brothers have been providing Angeleno’s and visitors alike for over three decades.

The Drago family has owned and operated some of the most famous high-end Italian restaurants in Los Angeles, California since the 1980s. They are known for their homemade pasta dishes. Past and present Drago restaurants include: Celestino (in Beverly Hills until 1991; now operating in Pasadena), L’Arancino (closed), Celestino Steak House (West Hollywood, closed 2009), Drago, Santa Monica (closed), Il Pastaio, Enoteca Drago Beverly Hills wine bar, Drago Centro (a Stanley Felderman designed restaurant in Downtown Los Angeles, opened 2009), Osteria Drago (West Hollywood, opened 2012), Tanino Ristorante Bar, and Panzanella Ristorante Sherman Oaks.

Drago has a catering and special events division. They offer full catering and production services for any event, from wedding receptions, elegant dinners, corporate cocktail parties and charity galas. With award-winning menus that change seasonally, Drago Catering Special Events has an ongoing commitment to bring innovative, high quality food and impeccable service to all catered occasions.

I am awestruck with this new addition to the Drago’s fleet of restaurants, each one has its own specialties, but this new Drago really has my attention. The design is very modern with a view to the first floor cars at The Petersen. But what sets this new one apart is how they were able to do everything in such a small compact space. They will be opening up their patio soon, which will add some more tables, but the intimate small setting for me makes all the difference in the world. Once they have completed their renovations for the patio they will have dinner service as well. Being able to have a luxurious lunch and then tour the cars is just the right amount of fun for my Sunday.

Bon appetito, enjoy Drago at The Petersen it will put a big smile on your face like it did mine!

Drago Ristorante
Open Daily: 11:00am – 6:00pm
6060 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Inside the Petersen Automotive Museum
323.800.2244
http://dragoristorante.com/
* Note some content was taken off of their website

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Tlayuda L.A. – Lunch – August 12, 2017 – Hollywood, CA.

Located right on Santa Monica Blvd. in a primarily Hispanic neighborhood, this is best Oaxacan food you will ever eat. Truly this is the little engine that could and can!!

Here’s what I tried:

Starters:

Guacamole and Chips, the guacamole has a great flavor and the chips are large blue corn, which makes for some pretty good dipping.

Tlayudas:

Classic Supreme Tlayuda, extra large toasted tortilla, a spread bean puree, lettuce, tomato, onion, avocado, cheese, meats tasajo beef, cesina pork and chorizo. Kind of pizza kind of tostada, whatever it is, it’s unique and very delicious.

Plato Mixto, with Grilled pork loin (cesina), chicken, rice, beans, salad, pico de gallo, cheese and tortillas. This was my favorite dish, the flavors of the grilled pork and chicken are just so perfect, the right amount of seasonings and the right amount of grilling time, just superb.

Enchiladas Verdes, 3 chicken enchiladas served with a side of rice. There is no sauce on the enchiladas, so you can really taste the full flavors of the meat and combination ingredients.

Burrito, with a flour tortilla, your choice of meat, black beans, cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion and avocado. A huge king size burrito, for me I can take this home and have 3 other meals off of it so be warned.

Tacos, served on a handmade tortilla with black bean puree, Oaxaca cheese and avocado, two beef tacos, two chicken tacos, two mole sauce tacos. These are not any run of the mill tacos, each one individually great, and each made with the perfect tender meats and accompaniments. My favorite was the mole sauce taco, with lots of rich chocolate type sauce, amazing.

Dessert:

Cheesecake, served with a chocolate caramel sauce, so amazing.

They don’t serve alcohol, but their own made Aguas Frescas are more than satisfying! I also had a hot pour over coffee which was so great, it hit the spot with the cheesecake.

Everything about Tlayuda L.A. has an artsy, colorful style from the walls to the food! You’re greeted with delicious aromas and friendly faces from the moment you walk in. Masterpieces from local artists, a trendy mural and whimsical Oaxacan creatures are painted around the restaurant. Once you have a bite of the rich guacamole or savory meat, you’re hooked. All of that has been carefully designed by Laura Guerrero, whose passion is creating the best customer experience. Laura opened her first business in 2010 and why stop at one? Laura’s successful local and online businesses were flourishing and her desire had always been to own a restaurant. I knew I wanted something that was “pretty, that tastes good” and the Tlayuda definitely exceeds that requirement! “It’s such a great plate and it’s not a main dish in most Oaxacan restaurants; most people don’t even know about it. I wanted to give life to it!” As a lifelong foodie, Oaxacan cuisine has always been a favorite. It’s different and something most people have never tasted before.

Tlayuda L.A. brings together the Oaxacan flavors with a contemporary twist – it’s not your traditional Mexican restaurant! “It’s even better than I expected!” is a frequent exclamation from customers enjoying our Oaxacan cuisine for the first time. Our Oaxacan-trained chefs keep the essence of the flavor while creating new tasty dishes. Our signature dish is the Tlayuda, a Mexican pizza served with succulent meats and cheeses. The fresh, savory food is certainly “Instagram-able!” and has gained a loyal following already. Within two months of opening, we already had regulars coming in multiple days a week!

Whether we’re your usual Taco Tuesday or a date-night destination, Tlayuda L.A. is one experience you will enjoy every time!

About Oaxacan Cuisine:

Oaxacan Cuisine:

Oaxacan food is based on the Mexican staples such as corn, beans and Chile peppers. The appeal of Oaxacan cuisine comes from the variety of ingredients and unique preparation. Oaxaca cheese is one of the most notable items. They make this mozzarella-like string cheese through a complicated process involving stretching the cheese into long ribbons and rolling it up like a ball of yarn. Another popular snack and topping are chapulines which are toasted grasshoppers with a sour-spicy-salty taste of garlic, limejuice and salt. Tlayudas, Oaxacan style tamales and mole sauce are some other favorites.

Oaxaca, Mexico:

Oaxaca is known for its unique cuisine and traditional cultural experience. Oaxaca is a beautiful state in southwestern Mexico with a long coastline and mountainous, tropical terrain. The communities have been preserved because they are so isolated throughout the valleys in the area. The large indigenous population have maintained their individual languages, customs and traditions – in fact about one in six people don’t speak Spanish! The Oaxacan culture has been passed down for hundreds of years.

I am telling you, this was quite a surprise, I would tell you to go out right now and grab some of this very authentic Oaxacan cuisine.

Tlayuda L.A. Mexican Restaurant
(213) 261-4667
5450 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90029
* Some content was taken off of their website.

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Dinner – El Floridita – August 5, 2017 – Hollywood, CA.

Forget ever getting on a plane and going to Cuba, right in the heart of Hollywood lays a Cuban Restaurant and dance club that will never make you miss your Cuban roots. The food is spectacular and once the music gets cranking you are exported to a Cuban nightclub, with all of the hot Latin sounds and people.

Woman are wearing scantily clad dresses with high heels, while men are wearing Panama hats, and Hawaiian type shirts. It is very colorful with the fashion and the personalities.

I met Sandra Bonaparte at a few food events and she graciously invited me to come in, as assistant manager, she is owner Armando Castro’s right hand gal. She was a regular back in the day, then she got married, then divorced came back into the fold and Armando asked her to work for him until she found another job, she has been there since.

Armando Castro has a way of booking amazing talent as entertainment, performing at El Floridita gives musicians credibility. Once the band starts you just can’t wait to get out of your seat and Salsa, and thank god for their 8:30 salsa class open to everyone. This class will teach you the basics so you will be ready to get up and dance. Then the great band Clave Dura sets the night on fire. They have a calendar of their entertainment online.

Here’s What I tried:

Cocktails:

Floridita Mojito Don Q Rum, blackberry puree. Fresh mint and soda, after taking a salsa class this drink hit the spot.

Hemmingway Daiquiri Cubano Don Q Limon Rum, sweet and sour, splash of OJ, with crushed ice, done in a coupe glass it is good, named after Ernest.

Cadillac Margarita Patron Repasado, Patron Citronge lime and orange juice, agave nectar, topped with Grand Marnier. This is one great margarita, sweet, smooth, and goes down really well.

Belvedere Bay Breeze Belvedere Vodka, pineapple, ad cranberry juice. This drink is very tropical and inviting.

Starters:

Mojito Rum and Shrimp with Shrimp with garlic, rum, and mint. Served with garlic plantain chips. There is a lot of garlic in this dish, so if you’re planning on kissing someone after eating it be warned. But it is truly delicious and worth it.

Combination of Cuban finger foods – Chicharron de pollo, Croquettes, Papa Rellena, Empanadas, Yuca Fries, Tostones. Each one is amazing, my favorite were the empanadas, crisp light outside dough and beautiful flavored meat inside.

Soup and Salad’s

Soup of the day – Lentil, rich and thick, this soup is a great way to start your meal.

Ensalada Mixta, Tossed green salad with avocado. A very nice fragrant dressing round out all of the Cuban flavors.

Mains:

Paella, Cooking time is 20-30 minutes, but well worth the wait. This seafood casserole is baked with yellow rice, chicken, pork, Spanish sausage, clam, lobster, shrimp, white fish, crab legs, onions, green peppers, tomatoes, Spanish wine, and olive oil. Garnished with peas and pimentos. My dish didn’t have any lobster, but it had lots of fresh scallops, which I love as well. This is a very flavorful rendition of Spain’s most celebrated food.

Sol, Mar, y Tierra, Grilled shrimp, filet mignon, and grilled chicken filet made with Cuban mojo. The seasonings on each and every piece of meat are off the charts, and the onions and peppers really add something special to each bite.

Sides:

Yuca Con Mojo, the Yuca is steamed; it is like a potato but much sweeter, I just love the way they did this side dish.

They walk around during your meal with a huge bowl of beans to accompany your delicious dishes.

Dessert:

Ice Cream Sundae, wonderful and refreshing, just save some room.

Flan, probably the best flan ever tasted!!

Wine:

Concha T Toro Casillero Diablo Chardonnay, this wine was good but really did not add anything to the food.

Sterling, Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, this would be my wine choice with all of the seafood dishes, truly a lovely fruity wine.

Terrazas Altos Del Plata, Malbec, Argentina, this wine was very jammy and was ideal with the filet mignon.

Greystone Cabernet, 2014, CA. I liked the pepper, leather quality is this glorious Cabernet, and it went great with the chicken and the filet mignon.

Their world famous salsa Monday’s were made popular by the late Johnny Polanco – Johnny Polanco Y Su Conjunto Amistad played every Monday for 24 years. He was one of the most sought-after bandleaders in the U.S. and gained the distinction for making the type of contagious Latin Music that is truly appreciated by salsa dancers and musicians worldwide. Prince was one of his biggest fans and would often fly into town just to hear Johnny play. Johnny is no longer with us, but the legacy he helped to create lives on, every Monday, week after week.

El Floridita Restaurant in Hollywood was founded in 1987. El Floridita is named after the famous Bodeguita in La Habana Cuba, made famous by Ernest Hemingway, which was there for 300 years. It is the most authentic Cuban experience in all of Los Angeles.

My waiter Diego Hernandez has been at El Floridita for 30 years, he has seen a lot of people come and go. People come from all over, lots of European and Japanese as well as locals, regulars. So its a great special occasion location, including birthdays, and anniversaries.

The interiors very basic, with café style wrought iron chairs and maroon tablecloths. There are white lights that are strewn over the entire place which makes for a very festive experience. The stage is smack dab in the middle of the room so as not to miss anything in any seat. They have a wood dance floor and a bar area. If you don’t want to eat dinner but just want to come to dance you can pay a $15.00 cover charge and hang out at the bar. There are many regulars that come every weekend. Some of them met here and have since fallen in love; it is all so sweet and romantic.

Whatever your passion is you will find a new one here at El Floridita, where the Cuban food will tantalize you and the dancing will lift your spirits. Regulars know the drill and how El Floridita is like one big extended family, it is so much fun that I too will become at regular. El Floridita has offered live entertainment every Monday, Friday, and Saturday for over 30 years. My biggest advise, pace yourself, because you’re in for one unique wild ride. I would say give this place a whirl, from its fancy Latin cuisine to its hot beats you just can’t go wrong!!

Hours: Mon: 11:00 am – 2:00 am, Tue: 11:00 am – 9:00 pm, Wed: 11:00 am – 9:00 pm, Thu: 11:00 am – 9:00 pm, Fri: 11:00 am – 2:00 am, Sat: 11:00 am – 2:00 am, Sun: 11:00 am – 9:00 pm

El Floridita
1253 Vine St,
Los Angeles, CA 90038
(323) 871-8612
elfloridita.com
* Note some content was taken off of their website.

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Stout Burgers and Beers – Dinner – July 31, 2017

In the heart of Hollywood in a really happening neighborhood lies a burger oasis. Big bold meaty flavors will make you believe that there is a burger fairy. You know what they say, so many burgers, so little time.

Chef Alexandros Kagianaris said, “When we decided the burger would give us the best palate to create unique pairings, I went to work designing recipes to honor my love of craft beer. The next few months were a culinary & beer lovers dream. I experimented with multiple gourmet burger & craft beer combinations. Working every night on the Stout menu, after 10-hours days, I created the food to pair with the perfect beer.”

Kaglew partners Charles Lew and executive chef Alexandros Kagianaris have created Stout, a neighborhood restaurant that is a simple, upscale restaurant redefining the idea of the local pub – offering a vast selection of artisanal draft and bottled beers from around the world as well as an emerging list of wines together with the finest burger option in Los Angeles. Stout is the authoritative destination for the casual connoisseur, where club goers meet the culinary elite for burgers and beer. Their mission is to serve the finest selection of unique, hand crafted draft micro brewed beers, along with fresh, creative food. Their dedication is to the community by providing extraordinary service in a comfortable atmosphere, which is conducive to increasing our guests’ knowledge of and interest in micro brewed beer while providing its guests with tasty, California light and healthy burger option to enjoy anytime-lunch, dinner, and after-hours.

Here’s what I tried:

Burgers:

Meat:

Truffle Shuffle, with sautéed mushrooms, Brie, truffle aioli. I love the mushroom flavors in this scrumptious burger, yum.

The Morning After, with Rosemary Bacon, Egg Over Easy, Aged Cheddar, Chipotle Ketchup. For breakfast or any time, this burger will rock your world like it did mine.

Six Weeker, Brie, Fig Jam, Arugula, Caramelized Onions. This was by far my favorite burger, the sweetness and the caramelized goodness is off the charts.

Goombah, Parmasiano Flakes, Smoked Mozzarella, Crispy Proscuitto, Lemon Basil Aioli. This burger has a big Italian thing going on, so if that is in your wheelhouse then by all means try it.

Mr. America Aged Cheddar, Lettuce, Fresh Tomato, Red Onion, and Ketchup. Truly All American, the meat is super rare and juicy, a delicious burger.

Chicken:

The Low and Slow, with Stout BBQ Sauce / Cole Slaw / Fire Roasted Chiles / Aged Cheddar / Fried Onions). I heard raves about this menu item and it is all true.

B 56, with, Emi Gruyere, Fresh Tomatoes, Arugula, Rosemary Bacon, Thousand Island. An extremely hearty burger, as a healthy chicken option, it is superb.

Veggie:

Bollywood, with Chutney Mayonnaise, Sharp Cheddar, Arugula, and Roasted Tomato. Very spicy, but you would never miss the meat.

Extra:

Tater Tots, these little gems pop in your mouth, amazing.
Seasoned Fries, the perfect cut, and cooked so that they are crunchy on the outside and moist on the inside.

Sweet Potato Fries, a nice healthy option.
Beer Battered Onion Rings, I love a good onion ring, these hit the spot.

Salads:

Wedge Salad (Iceberg Wedge, Blue Cheese Crumbles, Cherry Tomatoes, Red Onion, Bacon & Blue Cheese Dressing). Right up there with the great steakhouse wedge salads, this salad was right on point.

Arugula Salad (Lemon Vinaigrette Dressing, Parmesiano Flakes, and Crispy Onions). A nice healthy option, with great dressing.

Stout Caesar (Romaine Lettuce, House Caesar Dressing, Parmesiano Flakes, House Croutons). It has all of the great Caesar flavors; I liked this salad as well.

Beer and Wines:

Pale Ales
Oneida Modern Times

Wheat Ales
Apricot Flats – Hangar 24, Redlands, CA wheat ale 7.2%

Belgian Goldens

Curieux – Allagash, Portland, ME bourbon bbl aged tripel 11%

Each beer has its own characteristics and went great with the burgers.

Wine:

Tangent – Sauvignon Blanc, 2014, Edna Valley, this wine went great with the low and slow burger.

Eberle – Chardonnay, 2015, Paso Robles, the veggie or B56 is a perfect match.

Boomtown – Merlot, 2014, Columbia Valley, a very bold lively wine, went great with any of the meaty burgers.

Llama – Malbec, 2015, Mendoza, a big rich wine, went great with any of the beef burgers.

Morgan – Syrah G17, 2014, Santa Lucia Highlands, lots of berry goodness, you can pair with any of the beef as well.

At Stout, they aspire to serve the new-style burger: beef cooked medium rare, organic ground chicken, or a quinoa based veggie option, dressed with a variety of homemade toppings such as onions cooked down to the sweetness of maple syrup, specialty cheeses, smoky bacon, arugula and roasted tomatoes. It will be worth dropping in just for a mid-afternoon burger, and a craft beer.

Tom Hanks and is family are regulars because two of his kids have worked at Stout. Stout really gets cooking as an after-hours eating spot. The clubs get out at 2:00 am and partygoers want to soak up the alcohol and have a place to hang, so business after 2:00 am is really great, and they are opened until 4:00 am.

They grind their meat everyday. Their meats are organic and their chicken is free range, made and delivered fresh every day. They get their breads from Melrose bakery everyday.

Manager Kevin Kuhn took great care of me. There is no competition, they don’t make a typical burger, no substitutions, you can take away but you can’t add. They don’t want to take away from how these recipes were intended. Some of the burgers are named after different places that the chef has traveled to.

The interior is very industrial with a copper round bar back splash that highlights all of their great beers on tap. Distressed concrete floors, recycled glass chandelier made by one of the owners Massai Dorsey, industrial metal chairs, wood table tops, the base is made of plumbing flanges and pipe connectors with t-joints. Flat screen TVs for sports viewing, and a cool out door patio.

So far they have three Stouts in California, also one in Tennessee, and one in Kentucky. They are slated to open three more in California soon.

Stout is Fun, lively and different, next time you’re near one of their three Los Angeles locations give yourself a treat and try it out.

Hours – Every Day | 11:30 am – 4:00 am

Stout
1544 N. Cahuenga Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90028
(323) 469-3801
stoutburgersandbeers.com

* Some content was taken off of their website.

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Friday July 28, 2017 – AltaMed’s East LA Meets Napa and La Rioja – LA Live, Downtown Los Angeles, CA.

You get to feel the warm sun while tasting some of the most amazing Latin inspired dishes ever. As the sun goes down the partying really takes flight, with the hot sounds of some very famous recording artists, it is more then a wine and food tasting, it’s a dancing extravaganza.

Some of the notable talented chefs; Hugo Molina of Seta, making a great paella, Ronaldo Linares of Sabores De Cuba, Denise Portillo of Forking Good, Sandra Cordero of Gasolina, Alejandro Ochoa of La Huasteca, Jonathan Perez of Macheen, David Fuerte, and many others. The food was so inspiring, so many choices with everything being fantastic. I especially liked the 2 completely different paella’s, that were served up by two different chefs. One had more meat and the other just seafood with great flavor. The wines were terrific, always make me love the back-stories of migrant farm workers picking grapes in Napa valley to discover that they to can be wine makers and owners and living this incredible dream.

East LA Meets Napa & La Rioja Restaurants: Bistro Provincia, Breadcrumbs Catering, Casa Oaxaca, Chago Tortas Ahogadas, Chef Joshua Gil, Chef Ronaldo Linares, Chichén Itzá, Del Frisco’s Grille, Don Chente Bar-Grill & Lounge, El Chef Amateco, El Coraloense, El Floridita, El Incomparable Peruvian Cuisine, El Paisa, El Portal Restaurant, El Tepeyac Café, Forkin Good Café, Gasolina Café,Gloria’s Restaurant & Bar, Holbox, King Taco, L.A. Paella catering, La Carmencita, La Costa Restaurant, La Fonda de Los Camperos, La Huasteca, La Monarca Bakery, La Parrilla, Macheen, Made for Chefs, Mama Cheesecakes, Martin Purefoods Corp., Mascarpone Cheesecakes by Chef Turok, Pez Cantina Coastal Mexican Kitchen, Piaggio On Wheels, Porto’s Bakery and Café, Prospect Gourmand, Rocio’s Mexican Kitchen, Roe seafood, Señor Fish, Setá Dine Lounge, Spana Life, Tepeyac Restaurant & Tequila Sports Bar,The Chori-man, The Knotted Apron,The Maincourse restaurant, Tlayuda L.A.,Villa Roma Argentine & Italian Cuisine, Yuca’s, and Zapien’s Salsa Grill.

East LA Meets Napa & La Rioja Vintners: Justicia, Llamas Family Wines, Renteria Family Wines, V. Sattui, J. Lohr, Gustavo Wines, Mi Sueno Reyes Winery, Rioja Wines, Cuatro Cuatros, Feliz Noche, Bodegas De Puente Rus, Ceja Vineyards, Jose Wine Caves, Delgadillo Cellars, Pavo Real, Trujillo Wines, Maldonado Family Vineyards, Mario Bazan Cellars, Voces Cellars, Herencia Del Valle, San Antonio Winery, Robledo Family Winers, VYVA, Encanto Vineyards, Honrama Cellars, and The Main Course Special Reserve By Mario Medina.

East LA Meets Napa takes you on a wine tasting journey, stretching from the famed Napa Valley through many of Spain’s and the Guadalupe Valley quaint countrysides and vast wine regions. It’s new location: L.A. LIVE in Downtown Los Angeles, guests enjoyed tastings from more than 80 top LA restaurants, world-renowned celebrity chefs, and premium vintners from a variety of regions in Spain. This year’s slogan is “Savor, Celebrate, Support AltaMed.”

The event featured music performances by: Ozomatli, Poncho Sanchez, Jose Rizo – Jazz on the Latin Side All Stars, Boogaloo Assassins, Cale – Flamenco, on 2 separate stages.

East LA Meets Napa is the only food and wine festival in Los Angeles that celebrates the richness of Latin food in Los Angeles and the success of Latino-owned vineyards in California. All for a good cause! All proceeds from the festivals will benefit AltaMed’s initiatives and services that create access to health and dental care, senior and HIV services, teen mentoring programs, and more to underserved families in Los Angeles and Orange counties.

LA Live
800 W Olympic Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90015
http://www.altamedfoodwinela.org/

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