Wednesday, April 23, 2014

First Look: smoke.oil.salt


Opening tomorrow is smoke.oil.salt, a Spanish restaurant and wine bar from restaurateur Adam Fleischman (Umami) and chef Perfecto Rocher (Lazy Ox) in the former Angeli Caffe space on Melrose. The menu is inspired by the Catalan and Valencia regions of Spain and boasts both traditional offerings such as seafood paella and perfectly crisp patatas bravas (my favorite dish of the evening) as well as original dishes like flam d'erico, or fresh sea urchin flan (sure to be a hit with our uni-crazed city). The spot will also offer an extensive wine menu of over one hundred wines, perfect to accompany dinner or tapas in the vinoteca-like space adjacent to the dining room. Bonus: the spot will be open late. There's a decided lack of authentic Spanish food here in LA, so I was muy emocionada to check out smoke.oil.salt during a preview dinner. Here's a look:


{The dining room}


{Wood Fire Stove}


{A glass of Cava to begin the evening}

Olives amb Bitets at smoke.oil.salt

{olives amb bitets: olives, toasted almonds, Manchego cheese}

Pa Amba Tomaca il Llangonisses at smoke.oil.salt

{pa amb tomaca il llangonisses: Catalan tomato toast with homemade red and white sausages}

Truita de Carxofes at smoke.oil.salt

{truita de carxofes: artichoke omelet, meyer lemon aioli}

Salpico d'Orxata i Ostres, Clotxines at smoke.oil.salt

{salpico d'orxata i ostres, clotxines: oyster and mussels cocktail marinated in tiger nut milk}

Bunyols de Bacala at smoke.oil.salt

{bunyols de bacalla: cod croquetas, citrus aioli}

Bravas Trencades at smoke.oil.salt

{bravas trencades: fried potatoes, Serrano ham, chorizo, fried egg}

Calcots at smoke.oil.salt

{calcots: traditional smoke spring opnions, salbitxada sauce}

Flam d'Erico at smoke.oil.salt

{flam d'erico: sea urchin flan, caviar, shrimp chili oil}

Calamars Amb Mongetes at smoke.oil.salt

{calamars amb mongetes: Monterey Bay baby calamari, warm cranberry beans}

Espencat Amb Mongetes at smoke.oil.salt

{espencat de moixama: roasted wood-fired eggplant, red bell pepper, marcona almonds, salt-cured Valencia tuna}

Pluma Iberica at smoke.oil.salt

{pluma Iberica: wood-fired grilled butcher's filet Iberico pork, smoked green onions, xato sauce}

Chocolate Pate at smoke.oil.salt

{pate de xocolata: chocolate pate with organic olive oil and smoked salt}

*Food and drink were hosted.

7274 Melrose Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90046

Monday, April 21, 2014

Trois Mec

Trois Mec

To celebrate our anniversary this month (our sixth!), Justin and I dined at Trois Mec. We'd made plans to visit once before, but a nasty case of bronchitis sidelined me, making this dinner long overdue. So, we followed the glow of a Raffallo's Pizza sign to a worn-out strip mall and prepared to celebrate and feast.

Trois Mec comes from French slang for "three dudes"-- those dudes being Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo of Animal and Son of a Gun and Ludovic Lefebvre, famous for his innovative LudoBites pop-ups. Diners can snag one of the restaurant's 26 seats by logging onto Trois Mec's website on alternate Fridays at 8:00AM and purchasing a ticket. Tickets run around $75 per person (depending on the rotating menu and before tax and gratuity) and include a handful of "snacks," 5 courses, and mignardises.

Trois Mec

After being seated at the bar, Chef Ludo generously sent over glasses of bubbly to start our meal. With champagne in hand, we settled in to watch the action in the kitchen.

Kitchen at Trois Mec

Chef Ludo at Trois Mec

Bon soir, chef!

Dinner began with a quartet of snacks, which were all meant to be eaten with your hands.

Snacks at Trois Mec

First to arrive was a tiny bowl of crispy, puffed buckwheat popcorn electrified by rice vinegar. The texture and tang of these nibbles made them a delight to eat.

Snacks at Trois Mec

Next up was a cube of seasoned tapioca, which was perfectly crisp on the outside and chewy within.

Salt Cod Onigiri at Trois Mec

Justin adored the salt cod onigiri, a bite-sized morsel of sushi rice filled with fish and garnished with salt cod cream and mustard flowers.

Garlic Bread at Trois Mec

The standout snack for me was a miniature garlic brick toast topped with butter, parsley, and chives. If given the option, I could have easily been convinced to eat twenty more of these and nothing else for the rest of the meal.

Avocado, Citrus, Crab Ceviche at Trois Mec

The first of our five courses was a bright King Crab ceviche, served beneath slices of creamy avocado. Fresh fruit, cubes of citrus gelee and more buckwheat popcorn imparted a snappy acidity to the dish.

Nantucket Bay Scallops at Trois Mec

As a gift, chef Ludo sent out an additional course. For Justin, a plate of Nantucket Bay scallops and crunchy sesame brittle over a bed of cauliflower puree and lemon curd, generously dusted with tandoori powder.

Radishes, Carrots at Trois Mec

For the "princess" (i.e. pain in the ass who doesn't love all seafood equally), chef Ludo prepared a stunning medley of salted beets and thinly shaved radishes and carrots, crowned with cilantro flowers. The white chocolate olive oil that dressed the vegetables was a revelation. Since I couldn't bottle up their supply and stash it in my purse, I did the next best thing: licked my plate clean.

Grilled Cabbage at Trois Mec

A leaf of grilled cabbage brought us back to Trois Mec's regularly scheduled programming. Atop the cabbage was a disc of umami-laden miso flan and rounding out the plate were whipped horseradish, a smoked almond milk anglaise and fennel pollen. This dish was best enjoyed with a little bit of each component in every bite. Leave it to chef Ludo to make even cabbage interesting!

Potato Pulp at Trois Mec

Next to arrive was the much buzzed-about Potato Pulp, a mountain of riced potatoes and onion soubise (a French onion sauce) ensconced in brown butter, a French cow's milk cheese and bonito flakes. It's easy to see why this dish--at once both homey and completely unique-- has become the restaurant's signature dish.

Beef, Charred Broccoli at Trois Mec

Our final savory course was a beautifully composed plate of tender, juicy rib eye cap, charred broccoli, crispy shallots and, wait for it, smoked peanut butter. This dish best encapsulated the spirit of chef Ludo's pop-ups of days past for me-- unexpected, inventive and damn good.

Apple Butter, Creme de Brie at Trois Mec

For dessert, apple butter, creme de brie and a fluffy hay whipped cream blanketed with barley crumbles. Even this serious sugar addict had never experienced a sweet like this before. At once both surprising and refreshing, I enjoyed this to the last bite.

Mignardises at Trois Mec

Our sadness over the end of our meal with tempered with mignardises, a funky but addictive black garlic caramel and chestnut petit choux.

Our meal at Trois Mec was one of the best I've eaten, anywhere. I could re-eat this dinner for the rest of my life and be happy. However, I love knowing that our next experience there will likely be entirely different. This was just the ticket to make our big night an unforgettable one.

Trois Mec
716 N. Highland Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90038

Trois Mec on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Goy's Guide to Passover from an Honorary Jew

CakeWrecks Sassover

Quick: why is this Passover cake a fail in more ways than one? No clue? Read on, my Gentile friend.

Yesterday marked the beginning of Passover, the eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt. The traditions observed during the holiday encourage the Jewish people to reflect on and, to a degree, relive the history of their ancestors to better appreciate their experiences. Justin often jokes that Jewish holidays revolve around eating and drinking under the guise of religious observance, and food and wine certainly play a starring role during Passover. If you're headed to a Seder tonight and are looking for a goy's guide to the holiday, this honorary Jew has covered the basics for you:

The Hebrew term for Passover. The word means to pass through or over, symbolizing God passing over and sparing Jewish households during the slaying of the firstborn in Egypt.

Perhaps the most significant observance during Passover is the elimination of chametz, or leavened grains, which commemorates the fact that the Jews fleeing Egypt did not have time to allow their bread to rise. Goodbye, carbs. Anything made from the five major grains (wheat, rye, barley, oats, and spelt) that has not been completely cooked within 18 minutes after first coming into contact with water is considered chametz and is not eaten during Passover. Some families even clear their homes of all chametz (and do a thorough cleaning any surface that may have come into contact with it) leading up to the holiday. Full disclosure: my Hawaiian shortbread cookies are still in our cupboard. Depending on someone's ethnic origins, they may also avoid rice, corn, and legumes, which are grown and/or processed near chametz. These items are referred to as kitniyot. Symbolically, the practice also encourages one to remove the puffiness (i.e. arrogance) from their lives--a little dose of Jewish guilt for when people are feeling sorry for themselves and missing bread.

Ah, matzoh. These cracker-like unleavened sheets of bread take the place of chametz during Passover. If you begin to opine that matzoh "isn't that bad," you will annoy everyone at the table who will invariably be sick of the stuff in two days.

The Seder:
The focal point of Passover is the Seder, a fifteen-step family tradition and dinner observed on the first two nights of the holiday (i.e. this is where you come in, Gentile). During the Seder, someone will read from the Haggadah, a liturgy that tells the story of the exodus from Egypt and explains the symbols and practices of the holiday. See? Instructions are built-in! Follow along and you'll be fine. Bonus: you get to drink four glasses of wine. You know, to commemorate freedom.

The Seder Plate:
Each item on the Seder plate has a symbolic meaning relevant to the Passover story. 

Seder Plate

*Shankbone (Zro'a): A roasted shankbone symbolizes the lamb that the Jews sacrificed as a special Passover offering before their exodus.

*Egg (Beitzah): A hard-boiled egg represents the traditional offering at the temple in Jerusalem that was required on every holiday. The roundness of the egg also symbolizes the cycle of life-- even in the most difficult of times, there is hope for a new beginning. In the words of Rust Cohle...time is a flat circle.

*Bitter Herbs (Maror): Bitter herbs such as horseradish serve as a reminder of the bitterness of slavery.

*Charoset: This mixture of apples, nuts and wine represents the mortar used by the Israelite slaves as they constructed buildings for the Pharaoh and is delicious.

*Karpas: A green vegetable, usually parsley, that represents the initial flourishing of the Israelites during their first years in Egypt. During the Seder, the karpas is dipped in either salt water or vinegar in order to taste both the hope of new birth and the tears the Israelite slaves shed over their strife.

*Hazeret: A second bitter herb-- to really drive home the bitterness/suffering point. Like how your friend's mom keeps nudging him to find a nice Jewish girl.

So, what do I bring?:

Matzoh Ball Soup

If you really want to dazzle your hosts, I recommend contributing this Matzoh Ball Soup, which yields fluffy matzoh balls and was the perfect appetizer to my and Justin's dinner last night. If you have a sweet tooth, this Almond-Coconut Berry Tart (to which I added a layer of chocolate) has a special place in my heart. Early in our relationship (six years ago!), Justin invited me to celebrate Passover with him and, after some clueless Googling of the holiday and burning myself in one of my first ever attempts at baking, I showed up with this dessert, which he says is the moment he fell in love with me.

There are many finer points and details about the holiday (it is eight days, after all), but, if you're simply looking for an overview and not to embarrass yourself during your friend's/boss'/neighbors'/new significant other's Seder, you should be all set. Chag sameach!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Faith and Flower

The glamour of the Gilded Age and the Roaring '20s has been revived at Faith and Flower, downtown LA's newest hot ticket. The restaurant is a collaboration between restaurateur Stephane Bombet (who opened Mo-Chica, Picca, and Paiche with Ricardo Zarate) and David Bernahl and Rob Weakley of Coastal Luxury Management (Restaurant 1833 and Cannery Row Brewing Company in Northern California; Rose.Rabbit.Lie in Las Vegas; LA Food and Wine Festival). In the kitchen are executive chef Michael Hung, former chef de cuisine at La Folie, and pastry chef Ben Spungin, formerly of French Laundry. With this team behind the restaurant, my dining partner Justin and I were particularly excited about this one.

Faith and Flower

Faith and Flower

In celebration of the late 1800s and early 1900s, Faith and Flower eschews the spare, modern aesthetic in vogue nowadays in favor of a plush, luxurious look. Sumptuous tufted sofas line the space, beautiful plates sit at the tables and in the entryway hangs a chandelier that would make even Jay Gatsby envious. The decor also pays homage to downtown LA's historical entertainment ties: the host stand is the original ticket booth from a downtown theater, and one of the doors forming a feature wall is from one of Bob Hope's dressing rooms. You can keep your concrete floors and exposed Edison bulbs; I absolutely adored this space.

Faith and Flower

Faith and Flower

Behind the bar is mixologist Michael Lay, who has previously worked with Coastal Luxury Management at Restaurant 1833 and Rose. Rabbit. Lie. The cocktail program features both updated takes on throwback drinks as well as original recipes.

Faith and Flower

Stormy Phosphate at Faith and Flower

The Stormy Phosphate with Lost Spirits Navy Style Rum, lime gum, acid phosphate, and house-brewed ginger beer was fizzy with a nice ginger kick.

English Milk Punch

The English Milk Punch was made with Smith & Cross, Appleton and Barcardi Rums, Bulleit Bourbon, Battavia Arack, Pernod Absinthe, pineapple, sencha tea, and milk clarification (a process that takes three days). The complex but deceptively simple-looking drink was incredibly smooth and balanced-- our favorite of the night.

Angel's Flight at Faith and Flower

The refreshing Angel's Flight combined Denizen's Rum, yuzu, and palm sugar and was finished with a keffir lime leaf.

Deviled Jidori Eggs at Faith and Flower

Properly boozed up, we began with a plate of Deviled Jidori Eggs in which deviled eggs were spiced up with a cap of kimchi and sprinkling of Korean chili.

Spring Garlic Soup at Faith and Flower

One of the evening's standout bites arrived next: the Spring Garlic Soup, a creamy, garlicky bowl teeming with confit pork shoulder, yellow wax beans, and the most darling miniature black pepper biscuits. This might just be my new favorite soup in town.

Crushed New Potatoes with Faith and Flower

We enjoyed munching on these creamy Crushed New Potatoes with vadouvan-spiced creme fraiche, which were tender with a few delightfully crispy bites mixed in.

Dungeness Crab Toast at Faith and Flower

Another favorite of the evening was the piquant Dungeness Crab Toast in which chunks of succulent crab, jicama, pickled sea beans, diced avocado and "Green Goddess aioli" were layered upon a slab of thick, crusty toast. No skimping here! Nearly every bite of this refreshing toast yielded a taste of crab.

Braised Boneless Veal Shortrib

The Braised Boneless Veal Shortrib, arriving atop a bed of barley polenta and sweet and sour cabbage, was almost impossibly juicy. The veal's crown of greens nicely brightened up the dish's hearty flavors.

Oxtail Agnolotti at Faith and Flower

My friend Cathy of Gastronomy Blog who'd dined here the night before let me know that the pastas were not to be missed. We heeded her advice and ordered the Oxtail Agnolotti, a plate of pillowy, al dente pasta filled with shredded oxtail and bathed in bone marrow butter. Tangerine salsa and puffs of beef tendon chicharrones set the dish in motion. This inventive rendition of a familiar dish really hit the mark for us.

Eggs Benedict Pizza at Faith and Flower

Our final savory course was the one that most caught my eye-- the Eggs Benedict Pizza, a decadent marriage of bacon strips, eggs, spinach, and hollandaise drizzles atop a chewy, nicely charred crust. This is the perfect dinner indulgence... or hangover cure!

Goat Yogurt Panna Cotta at Faith and Flower

My choice for dessert was the Goat Yogurt Panna Cotta, a crisp, abstract plate of creamy goat's milk panna cotta and icy yuzu granite accompanied by puffed wild rice, honey and laced with bee pollen. I combined a little panna cotta, honey and wild rice in each bite and finished with the granite. Yum.

Stumptown Coffee Bean Creme at Faith and Flower

It was the Stumptown Coffee Bean Creme that called Justin's name, a whimsical plate with dollops of thick coffee creme, star anise meringue, a quenelle of coconut sorbet and shreds of almond sponge. From the pure coffee flavor of the cream to the unique, sponge-like texture of the cake, everything about this dessert was pretty remarkable. 

Faith and Flower is an outstanding addition to the downtown LA dining scene in an area in need of it. If the restaurant is this strong right out of the gate, I can't wait to see what happens next. 

Faith and Flower
705 W. 9th St.
Los Angeles, CA 90015
(213) 239-0642

Faith & Flower on Urbanspoon

*Food and drink were hosted.